Title: Nor Cease In Singing Twilight
Disclaimer: I do not own the Chronicles of Narnia.
Note: The answer to challenge 27: Sunset. I've had the idea for this in my head for some time, and even the last paragraph written, but only just now was able to write it all down. Well, actually, when I first thought this up I thought the challenge word was 'Twilight' or 'Evening', but since those are both synonyms with Sunset, it still works.
Can't really say much without giving it away. I will tell you that the warning is in the title. And that there is absolutely nothing about sparkling vampires in this. *shudder*
Fifteen-year old Queen Lucy grinned at her siblings, practically bouncing in excitement. "Come on! The horses are saddled and waiting for us!"
"Slow down, Lu," laughed Susan as she took the picnic basket from one of her handmaidens. Thanking the Cat, the elder queen quickened her steps to keep up with her little sister. "It is midday, you shall overheat, faint, and miss the entire outing."
Edmund and Peter shared a grin at their youngest sister's exasperated pout. After seven years as Kings and Queens of Narnia, they had gotten used to Susan's patient mothering, and mostly enjoyed it. Except in times like this, where Lucy was anxious to begin the family outing, and had no time for things like 'slowing down'.
With all the work that went into ruling a country, the four siblings rarely had time just to spend together. After two weeks of barely seeing each other, Peter had put his foot down and insisted that the family take one long afternoon and just ride through Narnia, away from the cares of state. It was a peaceful time in the country, and so the two kings – heads of Narnia's security forces – felt comfortable in taking the excursion with only a few guards. The others had been delighted with the High King's plan and Susan had insisted on preparing a picnic dinner, so that they could spend as much time as possible together. Two days after Peter first put forth the idea, the four siblings were setting off, each smiling and excited.
From the moment they swung into the saddles of their horses, the sovereigns of Narnia felt many of their daily burdens fall away. The afternoon sky was a brilliant blue, pierced only by an occasional cloud of purest white. The air was sweet with the scent of early summer flowers, mixed with the salt floating in on an ocean breeze. Lucy laughed as she nudged her horse into a gallop across green fields, followed closely by her cheerful siblings. She let the wind untie her hair from the pins that held it up, happy to ignore convention for freedom.
Peter shouted as his horse surged past his youngest sister's, but Lucy just grinned. It was wonderful to see the High King look so carefree. She knew the recent campaign in the north-west had been hard on him. First he had fallen terribly ill, nearly coughing himself to death before Lucy had arrived with her cordial. Then Peter had almost been killed by a Fell assassin that had slipped into the army's camp. Only his own quick thinking, and Edmund's quick blade, had saved the High King's life. In fact, it was not until just recently that he had started to look healthy again. It was one of the reasons his siblings had been so quick to agree to this excursion.
The race ended as it usually did: with Peter, Edmund, and Lucy having to rein in their tired horses and Susan darting past them, having saved her horse's energy for the last surge. Steady Susan waited for them at the edge of the small southern wood, a smug look on her gentle face. "I believe I win again. And why is that, do you think?"
Edmund rolled his eyes. "Yes, we know, Su. We should not give our horses rein so freely." At Susan's playfully superior sniff, he continued: "Of course, we daren't take your advice, sister, lest we deny you the pleasure of reminding us so thoughtfully of our youthful follies." All four chuckled as Susan good-naturedly smacked Edmund's arm, and the younger king faked a pained grimace.
Their race done, the four sovereigns walked their horses through the lightly forested wood, chattering about everything and nothing at all. After a while, Lucy drifted out of the conversation, content with listening to Susan relate the latest escapade of the youngest members of the court to her brothers. While the story of the young Hounds and their problems with Braadaan, the Ram Lieutenant in Susan's guard, was amusing, Lucy just sighed with the pleasure of listening to her siblings talk and laugh and joke. It had been too long since they had done this, too long since they had let themselves forget that they were kings and queens.
Lucy felt a shadow fly over her, and she looked up to see Etro, one of Edmund's Raven scouts, as he took up the forward perimeter. The younger queen frowned. "Edmund?" The dark-haired king broke off from sniggering at poor Braadaan's current predicament to look at his younger sister in question. "I am surprised Etro came instead of Sasha. Is she alright?" Sasha was the most experienced scout in the Raven corps, and Edmund usually had her assigned to any outing involving his siblings.
Edmund smiled. "It surprises me you did not hear the news: Sasha decided to retire from the scouts. She and her husband are starting a family, and she wants to spend her time – and her energy, most like – caring for her nestlings."
Lucy's grin returned to its proper place. "Oh, that is so wonderful, Edmund! You must give her my congratulations when next you see her. And, oh, we must schedule a visit once the nestlings come. Susan, isn't it just lovely?"
Susan matched Lucy's smile. "It is. Sasha is certainly deserving of that happiness. I must say, this must be the time for starting a family. Hanlus and Mala are expecting, as are Thilla and her husband. And Alseia is planning on seeding any day now."
"It is a time for new life, is it not?" commented Peter. "With peace now in all Narnia, I do suppose that many feel safe enough to start a family." Lucy could hear the happy satisfaction in his voice, and knew that Peter was glad to see the fruits of his and Edmund's long labor on the battlefield come to bear. The look on Edmund's face told her that he felt much the same way. Lucy knew it had been hard on the younger king to guard his brother in his illness, to have the burden of leadership on his shoulders as Peter recovered, to fight so many long, bloody wars. She thought, perhaps, that hearing of their people living safe and happy lives made that memory easier to bear.
Susan, apparently seeing that the discussion was likely to fall into a darker discussion on war and strife, gracefully turned the conversation. "Come, dears, it is a little over an hour to sunset. We must eat our dinner before I have no light to see whose sandwich is whose. And I do not wish to hear Edmund complain about eating the anchovies I put in Peter's food."
"Disgusting," muttered Edmund as the others laughed. Settling into a large clearing, Peter and Edmund laid out the picnic blanket while Lucy helped Susan hand out the food. Soon they were all eating and chatting, sometimes both at the same time for which Susan sternly reprimanded them. As they were finishing, Peter began teasing Edmund with one of the anchovies, while Lucy shouted her encouragement.
Edmund gave his sister a mock glare. "My lady, you believe this matter to be laughable? That our own dear brother would mock not only me, but good taste itself by consuming those…those things in such a manner?"
Lucy smiled widely. "I do so, sir."
With a wicked grin, Edmund stood, picking up two long, sturdy sticks. "Then, lady, I would seek to prove my taste to be in the right. And since I could not, in good conscience, raise a blade against the High King – no matter his detestable appetite for that fishbait he calls food," he added with a salute to Peter, who returned it with a laugh, "I therefore challenge you, Queen Lucy, to be his champion in this contest."
Lucy jumped to her feet and eagerly accepted the stick from her brother. "I would never refuse to champion the High King of Narnia." She struck a ready poise which Edmund mirrored. "Your strike first, dear brother."
So the two fought in the light of the fading sun, to the sound of their eldest siblings' laughter. Though Edmund was a head and an inch taller than Lucy, she held her own for quite some time. She might even have won, but Edmund began making exaggerated faces at each blow, which caused Lucy to go into fits of giggles. When he somehow managed to make a perfect impression of her sword-tutor's face when she had accidentally slammed his fingers in the barracks door, Lucy could not help herself; she gave Edmund a salute of surrender, than let out a great peal of laughter, clasping her hand to her stomach.
Edmund stepped forward and accepted her 'sword'. He grinned as she struggled to pull her laughter to a stop. "The Valiant Queen yields the battle? Remarkable, I thought I would die before…"
At first Lucy thought the liquid that sprayed her face was the beginning of an evening rain. But rain is not warm and sticky and it never leaves a horrid metallic taste in her mouth. It does not cause Susan to scream and Peter to let out a strangled cry. Rain does not pool crimson around the assassin's arrow that pierced through Edmund's throat as he falls with an obscene grace to the hard ground.
And around the four sovereigns, the world faded into the grey twilight.
Er, sorry? I know, probably not what you were expecting at the end. But I did warn you, indirectly, with the title. Nor Cease In Singing. NCIS. In the episode of the TV show NCIS called Twilight, one of the characters dies in pretty much the same way as Edmund, just as the show ended; and NCIS has a way of filming where the last "scene" turns grey, hence the grey twilight.
I'm sorry, don't hate me?