Chapter One: Primary Effort
Disclaimer: Mr. Lewis is rolling around in his grave right now and we know it.
"If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles…" Matthew 5:41
Edmund Pevensie, of the Hartbee's School for Young Men, was smirking at the piece of paper he held in his hand. From his right elbow, a handsome boy by the name of Peter Pevensie (a spectacularly close relative) was peering at his own slip of paper, with a sort of ill-disguised glee. As one, the boys turned their heads to examine their counterpart's paper, grins growing ineffably as their eyes darted from left to right.
A class mate of theirs, called Jay by his friends, scowled at the bright aura that abounded from the brothers, hunching his broad shoulders in an effort to shield his cloaking despair against their sunny dispositions.
"What are you lot so happy about?" he muttered grumpily, "We have Physical Education all week."
The Pevensie brothers, it would seem, could not be more thrilled about this matter, and the whole school was rather quick to pick up on the reason why.
Now, the young men of Hartbee's had been given a week to settle into their dormitories and jaw with their roommates, giving them plenty of time to laze about and complain about being bored. Seeing how the boys received their papers on a fine Saturday morning over breakfast, and how the young men of Hartbees' School did not have classes but for weekdays, it was not until that following Monday, that the two grinning boys arrived for their first P.E class of the new term.
The class was run by a Mr. P. L Hamilton, son of a long line of drill sergeants and stock brokers. Mr. Hamilton had decided to make his father proud and join this fine tradition, even if in a rather unorthodox method. Having been dismissed from the army for his bad knee, the air force for his bad eyes, and the navy for his seasickness, Hamilton took up the cross at the Hartbees' School for Young Men, where he was free to use his powerful voice to bark out orders, never had to follow them himself, and remained on the solid land.
Mr. Hamilton was, by no means, an arrogant man. Nor was he abusive, or irrational. He and his darling wife (Sylvia) had two lovely little girls (Sara and Samantha). It is to be noted by the reader that he was the most tender husband and "bestest" father, in their little cottage at the edge of the countryside. He even helped with some of the laundry, devoted man he was, and had become fairly proficient at darning stockings.
But this was not his little cottage.
"This," he loudly informed the two, straight lines of young men, who desperately tried to appear the least possible to ridicule, "IS YOUR PERSONAL HELL!"
One might have believed his impressive shibboleth, if not for the two broadly smiling boys standing side-by-side in the front row.
Through his spectacles, Hamilton zeroed in on them with a fierce scowl.
Both of them were fairly tall chaps, though one was much broader in build and retained another good foot of height over the other. The tall one was blond, with a darker face and light eyes. The shorter one was far thinner, with pale skin and dark eyes, accented by his equally dark hair and eyebrows.
Their shoulders skimmed a bit as they stood, though neither made any move to alter that fact.
"Sir!" They exclaimed in unison, a feat so perfectly executed that Hamilton allowed his mind to wonder what his aging father would have given to hear it himself. Then he shook himself loose of his thoughts and hardened his features to stern displeasure.
"We'll see if you two troublemakers are still grinning when I'm through with you."
There was a brief instant in which the class exchanged disbelieving glances; Hamilton's eyes must have been very bad indeed- these were the Pevensie brothers he was talking to! Within the week their ways had become a prime subject for public dissection. Surely he knew that they were the biggest pair of goody-two-shoes in the entire school?
"You! Blond. Step up," he went to wriggle his finger to motion the boy towards him, but found that the tall young man had already come forward, his smile only slightly tempered, but his eyes sparking. Hamilton cleared his throat.
"Peter Pevensie, sir."
The other boy discreetly cleared his throat, and the eyes of Peter twitched a bit as he shifted his feet. Hamilton focused on the other and made a similar hand motion, as he had done before. The youth stepped smartly forward, head held high, and hands clenching and unclenching.
"Edmund Pevensie, sir."
Hamilton allowed himself a thoughtless blink.
"We're brothers, sir," Peter offered.
"Yes, I caught that," he turned on Edmund, "How old are you?"
"And which class is this?"
They blinked in perfect unison, and Hamilton marveled.
"Gym class, sir."
A few of their classmates snickered appreciatively.
"I meant for you to tell me what graduating class the pair of you are in," Hamilton emended gruffly.
Edmund spoke up this time.
"Well, sir. Peter is in his final year. And I'm technically in my third," then, as if sensing Hamilton's' confusion, extenuated, "They only let me into the same classes as Peter's because I- well-"
"He's smarter than anyone in his class, sir," Peter said, not looking at his brother, but an unmistakable puff of pride swelling his chest all the same. Edmund turned an amazing color of red, to which many of the other boys whistled at and were once more thrown to the mercy of their own giggles. Hamilton scowled.
"But gym," he asked of Peter, eying the wiry frame of his younger brother in an untrusting manner, "Is he all right to handle the same physical exertion of seventeen year olds?"
"He is," said Edmund, border-lining an indignant tone.
Hamilton looked to the older brother, who smiled knowingly, shooting his brother a sidelong look.
"All right then," without further ado he clapped his hands together and placed the dreaded silver whistle to his lips, shrilly blowing and causing many a lad to clap his hands over his ears.
"Enough talk! You ladies had your fun for the year! Now hit the track! Go! Go! Go! Four times around should warm you up! One mile girls! Move your britches!"
And move they did. Hamilton paced the side of the track with his stopwatch, clocking each boy as he passed a lap, then pretending to tally their mark into his grade book. Several boys caught on (or, at least thought they had caught on) to his scheme, and picked up the pace. If they knew they weren't being graded, after all, they may not have put forth the effort. Hamilton knew that was the trouble with young lads nowadays.
As the lap wore on, the initial band of boys that had clotted the beginning of the track had thinned into stragglers and leaders, with a few who managed to keep a decent pace in between. At the very end of it walked Jacobs, a sybarite who notoriously put forth little, if any, effort. His marks were dreadful. His manners were nonexistent. Yet in the times he cared to attempt assignments, his intelligence could not be debated. Boys like that, thought Hamilton, as he "marked" another boy, were wasting their gifts.
Into the third lap, Hamilton's eyes sought out the Pevensie brothers, and spotted them with the boys in the front herd, both entirely focused on moving their arms and legs at the exact same rhythm of the other. The older one was saying something, and every now and then, the younger one would respond, though his breathing appeared more labored than that of his brother. Hamilton found his ears straining for sound as they neared him, and (being his healthiest of five senses) his ears heard quite clearly that they were speaking…
Mr. Hamilton raised his eyebrows as he squinted and rubbed his ear nervously.
It sounded almost like Latin, but (as he had studied it for three years) he could tell this was not. German? No! German was a throaty language- Guttural. This, whatever this was, flowed through the air from the very front of their mouths. It rolled off of their tongues and was lapped up in sound waves. It caressed like a sharpened knife.
He shrugged, and shook himself. Now was not the time.
He watched them finish the fourth and final lap curiously, observing them as they continued to speak in low tones, occasionally laughing at something the other had said. They finished the course with light breathing, barely recognizing the laborious pants and gasps of their classmates that sounded around them. When he kicked the lot of them to the field once more to begin press-ups, the result was the same:
Peter and Edmund positioned themselves next to one another, continually speaking as they pumped their arms to push themselves up and slowly level themselves back to the ground. Sweat ran from the little brother's forehead, running down his face and off of the tip of his nose. The older brother's muscles bulged and flexed, impressing upon the gym teacher just how hard the younger was working to keep up with him, and how truly fit the older brother was. 'Goody-two-shoes,' indeed.
Despite popular belief, teachers know the gossip of the school very well.
"All right! Time for crunches, everyone on their back…"
As the ever-faithful groans started up in chorus, Hamilton raised his voice to shout over them,
"Save your breath you whinging crybabies! Jacobs! Stop napping and get your tail over here!"
Grumbling, Jacobs sauntered over to sit, Indian style, next to his only alliance: Thomas Macintosh.
"Ready! Up! Down! Up! Down! Up…!"
Peter and Edmund were no longer speaking their odd language at this point, but seemed to egg each other on with their eyes, shooting each the other a glance every time their brother slowed or demonstrated signs of weakening. The look seemed to be a challenge within itself, and their comrade would instantly surge upwards again with extra vibrancy, raising their eyebrow as if to say, "See? I can handle this- can you?"
It was rather interesting to watch, especially when the others began to slowly wind down and struggle to reach their knees with their foreheads, mumbling complaints and (for some) expletives under their thinning breath. Hamilton wondered how often these rich boys managed to get outside to exercise or have fun. It was likely that this was the most physical exertion many of them had ever encountered.
Yet in the center of the field, Pevensie brothers were carrying on in silence, staring each other down in the most intimidating way. The look was so intense, that Hamilton swore he felt a violent chill rattle down his spine at the sight alone.
Who were these Pevensies?
The bell soon rang from the school and Hamilton started, lost in the mind-numbing repeat of "UP! DOWN!" Around him lay the bodies of exhausted and gasping boys, some too stiff to move. Peter and Edmund both gained their feet, breaking their locked eyes and stretching out their cramping legs a bit before they attempted to help a few of their classmates up.
"Easy, there, Jay, you may have strained your calf with that last one; take it easy, here, let me help you up-" Peter was saying, causing Hamilton's ears to prick up.
"Nasty bruise, Macintosh. How on earth did you manage that? Let's get some ice for it," Edmund said, sounding almost impressed. Jacobs was staring at the back of his head in an odd manner, as if her were trying to place something together, or remember some obscure fact that continued to elude him.
Hamilton waded through his students to the brothers and pushed them both out of the way.
"Any injuries can be brought to me, boys, understand? Don't you know you can make something like this worse if you don't treat it right? There now- ah! Thought so. Come on, I'll help you to the locker room. We'll wrap it- Pevensie!"
"Sir!" The duo snapped to attention smartly, and Hamilton tried hard not to applaud.
"Get to class, you two hooligans. Don't make me write you up for cheek."
They smiled understandingly, first at him and then at each other, and nodded, collecting their stuff to go to the showers and change. Jacobs glared after the younger Pevensie until his dark head as Peter drew Edmund to his side for a brief hug, and as Edmund shoved him away with a single hand in a surly manner. He watched until the pair were concealed behind the school walls.
Hamilton shook his head.
"Tell me about it," Jay said, as he hobbled precariously on a single leg, resembling an awkward flamingo, "Those chaps are absolutely nutters."
Ineffable- too great to be described
Shibboleth- an old slogan or principle that is still regarded as essential by some members of a group (in this case, the Gym Teacher Organization ;))
Extenuate- making an offense seem smaller by offering a partial excuse or explanation
Sybarite- a person who is fond of comfort and luxury