A/N – Out of all seven books, Prince Caspian has always been my favourite, probably because it satisfies my craving for ancient once-and-future kings, invading tyrants, and single combat. An introductory character piece focusing on Peter, with warnings for late night, drunken philosophy.
Disclaimer – I don't own the Chronicles of Narnia, any of the canon settings, characters or situations.
Peter knows that chivalry is a farce.
He'd been raised on tales of Richard the Lionheart and Saladin, of Arthur and his knights, of Roland at Roncesvalles. But his first taste of real violence had been the brutal grey wolf, snapping and snarling as it leapt for him, its breath gusting hot and foetid against his vulnerable throat. He'd been filled with desperate fear and hatred, and the hot, blood-red tide had come to his rescue, giving him strength beyond his years, driving him to hack and slash and finally to ram his sword through the wolf's flesh, pinning it down as it howled and struggled and finally went limp.
His first taste of war had been the great battlefield of Beruna, where the Witch and her vicious minions had shown no mercy. There had been no glory, no flying pennants, and the Narnians, a makeshift gaggle with little to no fighting experience, had been slaughtered in their hundreds –
And yet at the worst of that terrible day, his hands and face streaked with mud and blood, his heart and mind numb with the certainty of defeat, Peter had looked up to see Aslan silhouetted against the sun, and he'd wept with joy.
And that was when he'd understood that swords alone would never have been enough.
Subsequent campaigns, exultant victories and grinding defeats, had finally won Narnia security. The kingdom grew in wealth and beauty, luxuriating in peace and freedom, and Peter, his hands strong, calloused and scarred, re-introduced the rules of chivalry, that the strong would use their strength to protect the weak, and the blood-red tide of violence would be constrained by discipline, by honour, and by mercy.
It was, he knew even then, a luxury. In the end, it had not been enough to protect Narnia against the hungry Telmarines.
Just as, in the end, this charming ceremony of single combat, with its painstaking etiquette, polished armour and gaily-coloured surcoats, is no more than an empty charade. In the dark, contemptuous violence in Miraz' eyes, the eyes of a warrior-tyrant who seized power and held it by the sword, Peter recognises his own dark mirror.
It is a recognition that he despises.
And so, when Miraz stumbles, Peter steps back.
Because he can. And because Miraz would not have.