A/N: I wrote this piece as a contest entry on NarniaFans. It's a scene that's been bouncing around in my head for some time, though I intended to include it as part of a larger fic. Nevertheless, I jumped at the chance to finally get it out of my head. It may make a reappearance in a different format in a piece of mine at some later date, but this shall suffice for now. In regards to the title, I seem to be fond of Greek when I write pieces focusing on relationships... as I said for 'Adelphoi,' I think it captures a deeper sense of relationship than any English ever could. If I'm remembering my Greek right, the title should translate to something akin to 'I love you like a brother.'
"There was no one with him that spring morning except his dearest friend, Jewel the Unicorn. They loved each other like brothers and each had saved the other's life in the wars."
Once again we all found ourselves in the heat of battle. We'd all walked this road before, including our opponents. Those resilient giants had once again pushed the borders, and once again we were forced to try and drive them back. Every skirmish had proven successful thus far, most likely aided by the less than stellar strategy employed by the other side – but we were never without losses. Always there were losses... I myself had nearly been one of them once.
My sword flashes and I catch the glint of Jewel's deep indigo horn not far from me. Always have we found ourselves near each other on the battlefield, with good reason. Several of them, in fact. Not only has he loyally remained by my side, he is an accomplished warrior in his own right, and near the thick of things in every battle. So too do we know each other's fighting style – we know how to build off of each other's efforts quite well, and thus it does the both of us well to remain side by side as often as we can.
The enemy begins to retreat, sulkily as always, and I know that we have given the unintelligent brutes another lesson, one that will suffice for a time again. One of the smaller of the giants remains, almost defiantly, as if he wishes to prove his worth somehow, even in a loss. I shake my head, finally letting myself drop my defenses for a brief instant.
It is in that instant that I hear the piercing whinny.
The lingering giant and I both turn our heads at the sound, searching for the cause. I feel my own eyes widen as they fall upon the source – none other than Jewel himself, on the ground, an arrow lodged in his flank.
Some errant archer must have accidentally sent an arrow flying in his direction. Where it came from is not my first concern, though. For I have also seen the malicious grin on the face of the one remaining giant, and I know what my course must be.
I turn to the centaur near to me, issue the simple command of 'cover for me,' and am off before he can even breathe to protest.
Despite my weariness, despite what could quite possibly occur from my choice, none of that is on my mind as I race towards the unicorn. Indeed, all thoughts have flown from me, save one memory – the memory of the day our roles were reversed.
It was a skirmish not unlike this one, really. Except I had pushed myself far harder than I should have in coming to it, and the harsh sun was unforgiving. The exhaustion, the exertion, it had all taken its toll on me, and as hard as I tried to fight it, it was an adversary that would not be ignored. Eventually it had become too much for me, and I succumbed. I wavered, and a giant noticed.
All that occurred then passed as a blur, though each detail is sharp in my mind, the details that one notices when one believes one is living their last few moments. Too weak to move, to defend myself, I could only stare as the giant smirked down at me and raised a massive booted foot to crush me. For some reason I remember clearly the image of the sole of that boot – worn in several places, as if it had seen many fall beneath it. It seemed I would be its next victim.
I fell to my knees, both from exhaustion and to thank the Lion for the life I had been given to live, and to protect His subject as I could not in my state. The thought that I may see the Lion Himself face to face before long somehow encouraged me, and I closed my eyes, accepting the fate I thought to be mine.
It was then that I heard the cries. No, that is not true. Then that I heard the single cry. Many cried out in the moment I hit the ground, fearing for their liege in the few split seconds he had left, but a single shout rose above them all, and it was the shout that saved me.
Never has a memory been more vivid in my mind than that sound. It was but a single spoken word, but the thoughts and the feelings it evoked were too great to allow me to ever forget it.
It was no more than my name: the sound of Jewel the Unicorn shouting "TIRIAN!" as loudly as he could as muster as he shot to my aid like a streak of white lightning.
No more than that, and yet it was so much more.
For within that single utterance of my name was all the love and concern and genuine loyalty found in true friendship. Of all the things he could have shouted as he rushed to my side, of all the titles he could have used, he instead chose to use the one that meant the most to him.
Many would die to save their king. Nearly any of the army behind me would give their own lives to save the life of their liege. Jewel, however, was different. Yes, he too would die for his king, but he proved that he was also willing to put his very life on the line for the man. He had not acted out of loyalty to his king, desire to protect the ruler of his country. He of course held both, but far more important to him was the simple act of coming to the aid of a friend who needed it.
There was a cry of pain, a blend of a deep groan and a sharp whinny, and I opened my eyes. Two centaurs and a few leopards were busy rushing after a giant who was hopping around on one foot. Jewel stood by me, looking pained with his head in a position that looked rather uncomfortable. Apparently he had used his horn to pierce the giant's boot in a worn spot on the sole, reaching through to his foot, but taking a considerable amount of force himself. He remained unconcerned, however, with his own pain as he turned his gaze to me.
"Are you all right, Sire?"
He moved closer to support me, and I lifted myself with his aid, leaning upon his flank. We both were pained, but still alive. And despite the fact he had resumed his noble upkeep (unicorns are well known for their own nobility, after all, and do make sure to keep propriety wherever possible), I knew that he was not asking how his king fared. He was expressing genuine care for how I was – not Tirian the King, not Tirian the battle chief, not Tirian the leader of Narnia... but simply Tirian. And that was worth more than anything our victory had earned us that day – the reminder that no matter how many titles I was buried under, no matter how many people saw only the names and positions and no further than the surface they gave, there was one who would lay down his own life for me even were those titles no longer mine.
All this flashes through my mind in but an instant as I rush to Jewel's side as best I can. No matter how fast I urge myself, I continually worry it will be too late. Somehow, though, I manage to reach his side, just as the brutish giant swings.
I had been able to get myself into a position between the giant and the unicorn, and barely have time to raise my shield, though I know it will not absorb the blow fully. Sure enough, I find myself reeling from the force, and all is confusion to me for several moments. Once I regain myself, it is to discover the giant running away howling, several wolves giving chase, and myself in the strong arms of the centaur I'd told to cover me.
"Are you all right, Sire?"
I ignore the question and instead struggle towards Jewel. "Speak to me, my friend..."
Jewel lets out a low whinny, and the centaur places a hand on my shoulder. "Be at ease, my King. He shall recover."
I let out a sigh of relief. This centaur is not only a skilled warrior, but well versed in the treatment of wounds, and if he is confident Jewel will recover, recover he will. I place a hand on the white flank, and smile faintly. "Then I am content."
Jewel smiles a little himself, as best he can, and manages to rasp out, "And you, Sire?"
"You are all right, and thus so am I."
The unicorn lets out a soft whinny that suffices for his chuckle. "Sire... why put yourself at risk to save me? Narnia needs its King..."
The reply leaves my lips before I have even time to think of one. "And so too does that King need a true friend. I could not leave mine to die."
Jewel seems satisfied by this response, but I am not. I find my eyes misting as I speak on: "You saved my own life once, do not forget. And whatever it may have looked like... you and I both know you did not save your King. You saved your friend. And would a friend be worthy of the sacrifice if he is not willing to return the favor?"
A soft laugh escapes the unicorn, and we two remain there as the centaur lets us alone and surveys the field after the battle. It is over, victory is once again ours, and once again, the prize I have won is great.
Today, I have won another day with the dearest friend a man can ask for.