Title: The Martyrdom of St. Edmund
Disclaimer: I do not own the Chronicles of Narnia.
Rating: T for references to violence
Note: The answer to challenge 7: Wisdom. So, one day I idly decided to look up the name Edmund on Wikipedia, as I knew there as least one King Edmund in England at some point. Turns out there a few English kings named Edmund, one who was called the Just and the Magnificent and another who was martyred by the Danes. Despite the connection with the titles for the former Edmund, the story of the latter Edmund was a bit more interesting.
Note 2: Sorry for the delay in getting this out. First I had Christmas, then family vacation, then the flu. Still getting over that last one, actually. Anyway, hope you like this!
Deep in the Western Woods, a Badger sat beneath a grove of trees as the leaves fell, her hands occupied with her knitting, still steady despite her old age. A group of young Animals, nymphs, and fauns sat in a circle around her. All were on the cusp of adulthood and would soon be leaving their teacher to set off on their own. Still, they sought what knowledge they could from the old Badger, minds still bright with the desire for more. "Oswin, will you please tell us a story?" asked one young Fox, to begin the lesson.
Oswin smiled. "What story would you like?"
"Tell us a story of the Kings and Queens of Old."
"King Edmund!" interjected one of the nymphs, who had a slight crush on the Just King, long lost to history though he was.
Oswin pondered, and decided that these young ones were ready to know the harsh price that came with being king of Narnia. "Some years into the reign of the Four, King Edmund was in the West, staying for a time at the outpost near Brookangle…"
Seated at the head of the classroom, the English teacher checked off attendance in his ledger with a firm hand. Before him, a classroom of boys sat at the desks, uncomfortable in their stiff collars and scratchy wool clothing. The teacher's eyes roamed the room for his first victim. He settled on the one boy who did not seem the least bit nervous concerning the day's assignment. "Mr. Pevensie, if you would present your piece in front of the class."
Peter Pevensie, age 14 (for the second time), calmly stood up and walked to the front of the room. After speaking in front of foreign dignitaries who had the ability to declare war on you for the slightest misstep, presenting a reworking of an old tale could not frighten him. Still, he wished he had been given a different subject; this one hit too close to home. "My story is a retelling of the martyrdom of St. Edmund." Clearing his throat, he began his story: "Edmund, as it is told, was king of the East Angles, and beloved of his people: not because of his great prowess in battle, for he despised war as a necessary evil on account of the destruction it brought upon all peoples. No, the Angles loved him for he always followed the just precept 'If thou art appointed lord, do not exalt thyself but be among men like one of themselves.' King Edmund followed this doctrine, and more, with every fiber of his being; protecting his people but also living among them, aiding them in whatever way he could, even by giving his wealth and health for…"
"…their benefit. So when news came of a tribe of werewolves harrying the Narnians in the northern part of the Wood, King Edmund hastened to come to his people's defense. Before he even reached his destination, though, a Crow messenger came from the werewolves, mocking the Narnian king. The leader of the werewolves had declared himself King of Narnia, and demanded that King Edmund and his siblings bow to his authority or die. King Edmund would hear none of this. Sending word to his brother in Cair Paravel, the Just King determined to save his people, who were being murdered, and rid Narnia of this usurper.
Though he had only a small guard, no match for the strong and numerous werewolf tribe, he knew he had to fight: for his people's sake, to hold off their slaughter until the High King came with the Narnian army. He trusted his soul to Aslan and sent the Crow back to the werewolves with his message: 'Thou shalt never rule Narnia, for I and my siblings and our country lie in the paws of Aslan. Never shall we submit ourselves to one…"
"…who does not hold Christ as his lord.' So King Edmund spoke, and the messenger returned to Ivar, that wolf of the Danes. The answer, so brazen for one with little means to defend himself, infuriated Ivar. How dare this little king defy he who had conquered Northumbria and destroyed her people; who led his tribe of pirates to bloodthirsty slaughter, conquering everyone in his path!
So Ivar hastened southward to take his ire out on King Edmund, who awaited him defiantly with few weapons and warriors. It was left to Edmund to trust in God and keep watch for the approaching…"
"…werewolves. Though vigilant, he and his men were not able to sense the terrible enemy until the monsters were upon them. Valiantly they fought, but the guard was too few and the werewolves overpowered them. His guard slain and himself disarmed, King Edmund stood before the leader of the werewolves, his eyes defiant and strong as he waited for his death.
The King's bravery further maddened the werewolves and so, instead of killing him outright, they sought to first break him. They dragged him to a tree…
"…and, tying him with torturously tight bonds, the Danes began beating Edmund with whips and branches, seeking to inflict as much harm as possible. Throughout the terrible beating, Edmund would not be shaken from his faith. He cried out to As…to Christ, seeking either freedom through rescue or through death.
This only enraged Ivar and the Danes further, and they began piercing King Edmund with the sharp claws of their arrows, until the blood from his wounds drenched the earth below him. When Ivar saw that Edmund would not be broken by any torment, he ordered that the King be beheaded with a sword…"
"…But among the inhabitants of the Northwood lived a lone Wolf, whose pack had been lost to the machinations of the White Witch many years before. He, whose heart lay with Aslan, came upon the werewolves about to slay King Edmund and, despite his age and weakness, he darted forward, freeing the King from his bonds with his sharp teeth. The King, weakened to the point of death, collapsed to the ground at the moment the leader of the werewolves lunged to kill him. The werewolf pulled back, seeing the old Wolf growling protectively over the fallen king.
Though he could have easily overpowered the grey Wolf, a golden light shining behind the Animal caused even that terrible werewolf to quiver. He ordered his tribe to retreat, saving face by declaring the King already dead and good only for carrion-eaters. The Wolf, drained of what strength Aslan had given him to save King Edmund's life, could do little but pull his king a few short feet in order to hide him…"
"…in a bramble. Meanwhile, the people, assembled by a hidden witness to King Edmund's death, searched long for his head, to reunite it with his body in the grave. They wandered the forest day and night, crying out for their king, tears of grief and fear mingling with their shouts. One day, to their amazement, the head of King Edmund answered their call. Excited, they…"
"…rode towards where they had heard King Edmund's weak cry. The High King rode before all, desperate to find his brother, fearing that he was already too late. Queen Lucy rode close behind, face grim as she fingered her cordial of healing, knowing from the blood they had found that her brother would need it.
The Narnians came upon the bramble bush, astonished to see the bloodied body of King Edmund curled in the protective embrace of…"
"…the wolf. They were amazed that the animal had not followed the way of his kinsmen and savaged the head. Instead, the head remained untouched. Rejoicing despite their sorrow, the people took up the head of King Edmund and…"
"…brought him back to Cair Paravel, healed of his wounds…"
"…carried it back to the settlement, where they buried it with King Edmund's body…"
"…The Wolf was honored for his bravery and given rooms in the castle…"
"…The wolf returned to the forest, his appointed task done…"
"…while King Edmund, despite his sisters' pleas, rode out again to join his brother in bringing justice against the werewolves. They were successful and, after all was finished, the Narnians gathered in the Western Woods to mourn the dead and celebrate the rescue of their Just King. So it is told."
"…while the East Angles honored their king as a martyr for the faith. The body was miraculously restored so that it seemed that no wound had marred the King. For centuries afterward, King Edmund was patron saint of England for his faith and for his willingness to die for God and country."
The young students were silent for a moment after the story ended. Then the young fox spoke up. "Why did King Edmund fight the werewolves if he thought he would be killed?"
Oswin smiled sadly. "That is the duty of a king. A king or queen, a good one at least, must not put themselves above others, but below everyone else. To be the greatest of kings is to be the lowliest of servants. King Edmund, and his siblings, knew this well and lived it in their lives. And, in this case, King Edmund served his people to the point of death, saved only by Aslan's grace through the Wolf and Queen Lucy's cordial."
The old badger set down her knitting and looked each of the young Narnians in the eye. "Remember the wisdom in this story, young ones. It is not only kings and queens who serve, but each of us as well; for all are meant to serve Aslan and each other."
The students nodded, each heart pondering the lesson they had learned. The young fox twitched his tail. He decided he should go home and tell his younger brother the story. Edmund Fox still had the youthful tendency toward selfishness, and Peter Fox thought his brother could do well to learn the wisdom of his name-sake.
The teacher eyed Peter with pursed lips. Technically, the story and its delivery were nothing short of perfect. Still, he had to find something wrong with it. "Mr. Pevensie, Aelfric's story relates that the Danes hid the head of St. Edmund, not that the wolf stole it from them."
Peter nodded. "I know, but I thought to change the story some to make the wolf a more sympathetic character, especially in relation to Ivar as 'wolf of the Danes'. Aelfric pictured the wolf far more blood-thirsty than he was…that is, than the wolf could have been portrayed. I thought it would give a sense of a divine hand making the wolf other than what the Angles would have considered him to be."
The teacher frowned, not able to find an objection to Peter's explanation. So he just decided to ignore it and growled at Peter to take his seat. The other boys, previously dozing or letting their minds wander, now squirmed as they silently pleaded not to be called on next. Peter shook his head at his classmates' educational reticence before sinking down into his seat. His hands trembled slightly as he now allowed himself to release the emotion that had threatened to overwhelm him as he had relived the story in his mind. Peter decided then that he needed to find his brother after class. After all, Edmund always knew how best to help and support the High King.
Oswin leaned back against the tree under which she sat. The young ones had departed, leaving the old Badger to her musings. She glanced over to the iron tree that gave Lantern Waste its name. As was her family's duty, Oswin held on to the memory of the Four Sovereigns, hoping for the day when Aslan would return them again to Narnia. Until then, she waited and kept watch, holding on to her faith through the stories such as the one she had just told. "Thus to Aslan be all glory, forever without end," she murmured softly, and returned to her knitting.
The formatting isn't great, sorry about that. I tried to fix it, but no luck. Hopefully it's readable.