Title: Malum Somnium
Disclaimer: I do not own the Chronicles of Narnia and receive no monetary gain from this story.
Note: Answer to challenge 19: Night. This fic has been giving me nothing but trouble. I literally started writing it almost exactly a year ago, soon after the Prince Caspian movie came out. It took me this long to finish it. Yes, it is a story about Peter having nightmares, a theme that has been almost done to death, but I have been encouraged to post this anyway. I hope that it is different enough from the others to be fun to read. I did focus a bit on the structure and POVs to try and make it more original. I hope it works out.
Warning: For vivid nightmares of death and battle.
The gate is down. Peter can only stare at it in horror, stare at the soldiers, his soldiers, trapped behind it and falling one by one to the cruel bolts of the Telmarines. How has this happened, how! Guilt tears at the High King's heart as the soldiers yell, some trying to get through the impassable gate, others standing stoically and waiting for the end to come.
Time seems to slow, and Peter is hardly aware of Susan and the others yelling for him to cross the bridge, of the trapped soldiers shouting at him to leave, save himself. How can he save himself when his people are trapped? He is a king: first in every desperate attack, last in every desperate retreat. He should be back there, fighting and dying alongside his soldiers!
Those same soldiers who are now pleading with Peter to go. His heart breaking, he nearly does as they ask when his world shatters. A voice, a horribly familiar, dearly loved voice breaks through from behind the trapped warriors. "Peter? What in the name of the Lion is he doing?" A small body pushes through beside Suncloud the centaur, grasping the iron bars of the gate. Dark eyes glare at the High King. "Peter! Get across the bridge, now! Go!"
Peter can't tell if his heart is stopped or beating so fast as to make it seem so. "Edmund!" he screams, his whole being focused on his little brother, trapped and without hope of escape. No, this couldn't be happening. Not Edmund, not his brother!
Edmund's eyes catch his, the ghost of fear passing over them, but also full of resignation and the fiery determination that always filled them during battle. "Go, Peter," Edmund whispers, but Peter can still hear him over the cries of the dying and the shouts of the soldiers behind him. With those last words, Edmund turns his back to his brother and draws his sword. "For Aslan!" he cries; and as Peter turns away and jumps his horse over the lifting drawbridge he can hear his brother leading a final, desperate charge against the Telmarines.
As the bridge cuts off the last sight of the courtyard, the sounds are already fading away and Peter knows that the trapped soldiers are all dead. Edmund is dead. His brother, his baby brother is dead. And it is all his fault.
Peter's eyes flew open, at first not taking in his surroundings, his mind still stuck on the terrible image of his brother…He bolted upright, his body tangling in the sheets of his bed causing him to fall onto the hard, cold floor. Edmund, where's Edmund? His thoughts raced, frantic with worry when he didn't see his brother in their room, the bed across from him empty. Peter desperately tried to untangle himself, knocking over a pile of books by his bed in the process. He heard several groans and a pillow flew through the air, hitting him on the head.
Puzzled, he picked up the pillow, forcing himself to take deep breaths to steady himself. Peter lifted his head and remembered that he was not in the bedroom he and Edmund shared in Finchley, he was not in his chamber in Cair Paravel, and he most certainly was not in the small cave they had slept in at Aslan's How. He was at school, and apparently he was bothering his roommates by making too much noise too early in the morning. The empty bed that had frightened him so much didn't belong to Edmund; it had been Jameson's before he had left school to help his mother, after his father was reported killed in action.
Even knowing that Edmund was sleeping in the dormitory of his own form two stories below could not calm Peter's racing heart. He wanted to see his brother, hear his breathing, know that Edmund was alive and not riddled with Telmarine bolts. Peter sighed, realizing that he was too agitated to fall asleep again. After returning the pillow to its owner with a quiet apology, he got back into bed and pulled out his torch from the bedside table. Grabbing one of his schoolbooks, Peter settled in, absently flipping the pages as he tried to keep his mind from his nightmare.
It didn't really work. The image of his brother, trapped behind the gate, drifted in front of his eyes. Guilt pounded at Peter's heart, guilt for the Narnians who had died, guilt for nearly causing the deaths of his brother and sister in that awful raid. And this was only one of the nightmares that plagued him. How many nights had he revisited the past in his sleep, fate cruelly changing to deprive Peter of those he loved most in two worlds? Sometimes it was Lucy, sometimes Susan, most often Edmund, for his brother was the one who almost always followed Peter into danger without a second thought.
Peter knew he was losing much needed sleep. He did not need a mirror to know that there were dark circles perpetually under his eyes, nor a teacher's reprimand to give notice that he was falling asleep in class. But the nightmares never stopped, and he couldn't sleep without seeing for himself whether Edmund was alive or dead. So Peter read his book and prayed for morning to come quickly.
One bed over, Henry Merton, prefect of 5th form, sighed with relief. At least Pevensie remembered his promise from last term. Though Henry had considered himself rather good friends with Peter ever since they were little, he barely recognized his friend anymore. The autumn before, after the summer evacuations, Pevensie had returned to school a completely different person. He looked lost, as if he didn't even belong in his own body. He barely spoke to his friends, preferring the company of the younger brother whom Henry had been fairly certain that Peter had hated just a few months before.
And then there were the nightmares. Henry had never known Pevensie to have nightmares, but that autumn they afflicted him with a vengeance. How many times had the dorm been awoken by heart-rending screams and moans? Pevensie never told anyone what they were about, no matter how much Henry asked, but he could guess that they had to do with his siblings. This Henry surmised by the fact that when Pevensie had nightmares but didn't wake everyone up with his screams, the blond-haired boy somehow managed to sneak out of the room, down two floors, and into his brother's room without being noticed by anyone until Robert Thomsen, the prefect for the younger form, found him sleeping on the floor the next morning.
Not thought Henry wryly that I didn't have my share of finding Edmund on the end of Pevensie's bed. It was a tense term, both Henry and Thomsen worrying that the two Pevensies would be caught by a teacher, which would get the prefects themselves in trouble. Finally they had confronted the brothers and insisted that they stop sneaking out of the rooms. The older Pevensie looked ready to argue, but the younger one had stopped him with a gentle touch and promised the prefects that there would be no more trouble.
At first the nightmares had gotten worse, but as the year progressed Henry noticed that Pevensie seemed plagued by them less and less. But again this autumn…Henry grimaced into the dark. More dreams and these seemed to come more often and affected Pevensie even worse. Now the blond was barely getting any sleep, weighed down by some unknown ghost. He held back a sigh as he heard Pevensie turn the pages of his book. This really couldn't go on much longer.
cogitare: to turn over in the mind, to reflect, to plan