This story is based in the early days of the Golden Age as Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy learn to be Kings and Queens of Narnia. There will be action, evil creatures, hurt/comfort and brotherly bonding. It is eleven chapters long, mostly complete aside from some polishing and spell-checking. There might be a few days between updates while I do this and listen to the advice of my marvellous beta elecktrum.
As always, I would dearly love to know what you think of this. Reviews can be long, short, critical, adoring, anonymous, public, private... actually, any feedback at all would be wonderful. Even 'I read this' is appreciated more than chocolate!
Summary: Peter's failure to learn an important lesson in the training ground will put him and Edmund in danger when they lead a rescue of the wild horses of the Narnian forests.
I still don't own Narnia. Was there who thought I did?
It was a perfect day to begin outdoor training, Peter thought as he ran through stances in the practice ground. The sun shone, not too hot to be uncomfortable or so low that it caused glare, but warm and bright as the best spring morning. Blossom was beginning to brighten the trees and the sound of creatures about their business filtered down from the Castle. Edmund was perched on the fence reading a book with his practice sword beside him.
They had been dressed early this morning and had arrived before their tutor. A long winter of lessons and training in the Great Hall had meant that both boys were delighted when Oreius had announced that they would be back to using the practice areas in the grounds of the Castle. He had also announced, mysteriously, that he had 'something interesting planned,' and that piqued their interest.
The great centaur joined them and bowed.
"Good morning, Sires."
Edmund grinned as Peter said, "It is a fine day for training, Oreius. What is this interesting thing you have planned for us?"
"I think he wants to torture us with fauns," said Edmund.
Two of the goat-legged creatures had followed Oreius and now they stood at a respectful distance with their heads bowed. "Come, ladies," Oreius said. "May I present High King Peter, and King Edmund, Monarchs of Narnia."
Edmund waved brightly, until Peter thumped his arm.
"And these two ladies are the sisters of Barberini."
Peter wasn't aware of any particular significance in the name, but Edmund recognised it instantly. "Really?" He jumped off the fence. "I read about your family. Did your father really forge Peter's sword? And fight the in Dwarf rebellions. And you... they say that you're the best sword-fighters in all of Narnia."
The fauns nodded in mute agreement. Edmund turned to Peter, "They're legends, Pete. I've read books about the things they've done."
Peter smiled at his brother's enthusiasm, but his pleasure was tempered with the reminder that Edmund had read such books because he had spent most of his first winter in Narnia closeted in the library and snapping at anyone who tried to pry him away. He had stopped eating too, and the nightmares had been so bad that Peter had moved into his room. The three Pevensie children had stepped on eggshells until spring arrived.
The boy who was eagerly shaking hands with the sisters looked like a different child. His dark eyes were no longer haunted and there was at least a hint of colour in his cheeks. Susan still complained that he was too thin, but he was eating enough to make up for it. And he was grinning broadly.
"Do you think we're ready to face legends?" Edmund asked.
"You are always ready to learn lessons from your betters, my King. Now, ready yourselves!"
Four hours later Peter wondered why Oreius thought the best way to learn lessons was getting beaten black and blue by practice swords. He had been floored so many times that even his backside ached. His wrist hurt from the constant impacts, and the only thing he had learned was never pick a fight with a faun from the greatest sword-fighting pedigree in Narnia. He was covered in dirt and sweat and he must look quite a sight, but if he was honest, he was loving every second.
He was facing off against the elder of the sisters, and he was keeping up with her this time. For a second he allowed himself to think that he might at least get one contact on her before she threw him into the dirt again.
When she dropped her blade momentarily, the opening was too good to miss. Without thinking he lunged for the unprotected area. Unfortunately, it was just a feint. The faun raised her practice sword again and gave Peter's arm a solid knock that sent his sword flying harmlessly into the dust. Inevitably, she tripped him up with a second blow and he landed on the ground.
Peter lay there, panting, as the faun held out her sword in the formal pose. "Yield?"
"It was a good fight," she said as she helped him to stand.
Peter knocked the worst of the dust off his jerkin before answering. "Would you teach me that move?"
"It would be my great pleasure, Sire. My grandfather's father first used it, and then it was adapted by my Aunt who..."
Oreius interrupted before she could get too caught up in ancient history. "Peace, faun. You can tell the High King the rest over luncheon. I would like to debrief both of your majesties," he indicated Edmund, who was still fighting, with a nod of his head, "before we break."
Edmund was even dustier than Peter, but at the moment he was holding his own against the parry and thrust of the little faun. She was hardly breaking a sweat, while he looked like he had run a marathon.
The faun was pushed back a step and Edmund advanced the way he had been taught. Her cloved hoof stepped on a rock in the dirt and she stumbled. Peter tensed, expecting Edmund to take advantage of the opening, but he did not. With four further quick parries she recovered, and with a skilled flick she sent Edmund's practice sword to join his brother's. At least he wasn't on his back this time.
Oreius dismissed the second faun and she joined her sister. They trotted from the training field arguing happily about whether the boys fought like their father Rebeus the faun, or their great-aunt Felicity. No creature found family history quite as fascinating as a faun, and they would talk on the subject for a year and a day without encouragement. Normally Peter would use any excuse to avoid listening, but today he would have preferred that to the berating he was sure he was about to receive from his teacher.
Both boys stood in the now empty training field and faced the centaur. His expression was fixed into a serious frown. Peter steeled himself for a lecture on the failings of his techniques.
Instead, Oreius broke into a wide grin. "You have done well."
The boys glanced at each other before Edmund found his voice. "I died eight times, and it's not even lunch."
"The sisters are among the best swordfighters in the whole of Narnia. There is much still to improve about your footwork and your mastery of the blade is not yet complete, but I am pleased with your progress. You are both diligent and hard-working."
This was high praise, and Peter shared a pleased smile with his brother.
Oreius frowned again, to temper the compliments. "There is still much work to be done. You, High King Peter, are still reckless. She took you in like a baby squirrel. If you had been watching her hooves, you would have seen her true intent telegraphed there. And if you hadn't rushed in, you would possibly still be fighting."
"If I hadn't rushed in, I would have missed the opportunity."
"Better a missed opportunity than receiving a fatal blow," the centaur summed up. Then he turned to Edmund. "Opportunity should not, however, be missed consistently. Why did you not strike your opponent when she stumbled?"
Oreius stamped a hoof. "If a thought cannot pass through your head in a heart beat it is taking too long. Aslan save me from Kings who think too much," he said to Edmund, then he turned to Peter, "and those who don't think at all. One of you rushes in, and the other hesitates. Now go. I will see you back here in one hour. That will give the sisters time to tell you about the time their great uncle bested me in single combat. They delight in that story. I do not know why."
Edmund retrieved their swords and limped back to Peter. "I think we were both complimented."
"We were beaten by a pair of girls, Ed."
"Really, really great sword-fighting girls."
Peter sighed as he replaced his practice sword on the rack. "Let's go and find Susan and Lucy. You know how Lucy loves listening to Faun family history, and who would want to miss a story like that."
Despite the camaraderie, they walked to the Castle in silence. Peter considered how he was supposed to think more in the heat of battle. From the frown on his brother's face, it seemed Edmund was wondering how he could think less.
After a week of training, Peter did not think he was making any progress. He had taken to picking out seats with cushions in the Great Hall and he had to eat left-handed to protect his aching wrist. Edmund was no better. He did not seem to end up on his back as often as Peter, but a winter of being indoors was telling on his stamina. When training was over for a the day, he would collapse into a chair and sleep until dinner time. His black eye and loose tooth were from a glancing blow from Peter's practice sword as it was thrown through the air again, and it lent him a rakish look.
Despite this, both Oreius and the fauns were enthusiastic about their progress. They claimed that the boys were making vast improvements on their footwork and sword handling, although Peter was still inclined to rush in and Edmund tended to hold back when he should press an advantage.
But despite the injuries and aches, both boys admitted that it was marvellous good fun.
The messenger arrived on the eighth day of their training at the hands of the Berberini sisters. Tumnus announced the young satyr as Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy were enjoying their dinner. Or as much as it could be enjoyed left handed and perching on the edge of the most cushioned chair Peter could find.
"News. News, your majesties. I bring you news of great importance." The satyr bowed low, and waved its hat with a flourish.
Edmund mumbled something into his bread roll that might have been, "Well, get on with it."
Susan scowled at him, then stood to formally acknowledge the satyr. "Pray, tell us your news, good satyr."
"I report sightings of fell creatures, your fair majesty. In the forest, only three days from Cair Paravel."
Peter grinned and he saw Edmund do the same. The chance to fight something that hadn't been handed its first sword by great uncle Sebistus as a baby faun was very appealing.
"How many?" Peter asked.
"What were they doing?" said Lucy.
The satyr looked from one monarch to the other, caught out between which to answer.
Again Susan glared at her siblings. "Tell us what you saw. I promise we shall wait until the end before interrupting again."
The Pevensies were good to Susan's word and did not interrupt the tale. The satyr, who introduced itself as Mer from the line of Eastern Satyrs, was an apprentice of the Watch. During a patrol of the forest edge, it had disturbed a group of around thirty fell creatures feasting on the carcass of one of the wild horses. The satyr had been lucky to escape with its life, and it had rushed to Cair Paravel without stopping.
Food and drink was brought and the satyr devoured all that was put before it. Peter had to restrain himself from asking for more details. It was obvious that it had not eaten since it had been sent on its mission and everyone knows that satyrs require almost constant feeding.
Edmund was using the lull in conversation for the same purpose and he ate at almost the same rate their guest. The girls remained composed and patient.
Finally, once the satyr reached its fill, it said, "I am ready now."
Peter said, "Do you have any idea of numbers? What creatures did you see? Do you have any ideas of leadership or structure?"
"I am sure Oreius will ask all the pertinent questions, Peter," Susan said a little haughtily.
"And I am King, and I will need to know these details to organise our response."
"Surely you are not planning to lead the force?"
"The wild horses need our help. Surely you don't suggest just leaving them to the mercy of the Witch's creatures?"
"That's not the point, Peter. You are the High King. You shouldn't be putting yourself in danger for every band of wicked creatures. You could send any of your retinue and they would deal with this in swift order."
"I promised to protect this country and I intend to do so."
Susan frowned, and Peter could tell that she was hiding nerves with her anger. "It isn't about helping. You want to be the hero again."
Peter didn't deny it. "What's the point of learning warcraft if we don't use it to help."
"But you are just learning! Look at what happens when you fight those fauns. I've seen you land on your back a hundred times. You can barely land a blade on them."
"None of her creatures know how to fight like the fauns."
"I would have to concur, your majesty," Oreius said. "The sisters are something quite special in their prowess, and the progress..."
Susan interrupted, "And you're no help either. You shouldn't be encouraging him. Very well, so be it. Go out and get yourself killed on a fool's mission." She turned to Edmund, who was helping himself to seconds of treacle pudding. "And you're as bad as Peter."
"I didn't say anything."
That didn't satisfy her. "Idiots," she said angrily as she marched out the room.
Lucy shrugged. "I'd better speak to her. When you go, you will be careful, won't you?"
"I haven't said we're going anywhere."
"You will, though. I understand. Susan does too."
Edmund shrugged at his brother. "Girls," he said disparagingly, although the effect was spoiled by his mouthful of treacle pudding.
They were right, though, Peter acknowledged. He did intend to take the fight to the Witch's creatures. He glanced at Oreius, who nodded his consent.
"All right. Let's get this planned out."
They stayed up into the early hours with notes spread across the dinner table. The satyr fell asleep curled in the corner of the room.
It was agreed that speed and the element of surprise were of the greatest importance, so they would leave the next day. Oreius insisted on accompanying them with a group of his finest soldiers. Edmund volunteered some suggestions that made the centaur nod in approval and the boy beamed with pride. When the details were finalised, Oreius told them to go to bed.
Peter slept well despite his excitement.
He only woke once. Edmund was tossing in his own bed and called out in fright, as though caught in a nightmare. By the time Peter was fully awake, Edmund had settled again. He had always been a restless sleeper, and in the morning neither boy remembered it at all.