Despite the wrath he had poured out on Caspian not an hour before, Peter does not let that stop him from coming to the prince's aid. His heart beats loudly as he realizes that Caspian is entranced by, impossibly, an image of the White Witch. His mind automatically turns to his brother who runs into the Stone Table room by his side, but there is little time to contemplate Edmund's feelings at seeing the Witch, with danger so imminent. Yelling "Stop!" Peter rushes forward, intent on ridding Narnia of the White Witch yet again, before she can hurt anyone else as she had him and his siblings so many years before.
Peter pushes Caspian out of the circle of ice, ordering the Witch to keep away from the young Telmarine and raising his sword to defend them both. His mind flashes to the past, when the Witch came for his brother's blood, when she stabbed Edmund with the very wand that stands before him, stuck in the sacred stone. As then, even now Peter feels his anger boiling, combining toxically with the guilt he still harbors over the disastrous raid.
The Witch is only startled for a moment, before an icy smile touches her pale lips. "Peter dear, I missed you." She reaches out to him, seeking a drop of his blood. Despite his knowledge of the Witch's evil, Peter begins losing himself in her cold eyes, losing control over his actions. Despair wells in his soul as she mocks his efforts "You know you can't do this alone." He knows he cannot. He has just proved that with the deaths of all those soldiers. The Witch is terrible and cruel, Peter knows this, but so are the Telmarines. Perhaps…could it be possible for one evil to destroy another?
In that moment of doubt, as she reaches her hand towards him, Peter is lost. His sword lowers and, almost against his will, his left hand wipes the wound on his head and stretches the blood towards the Witch. Even as he hears Edmund's shouts of denial, coming from somewhere behind the wall of ice, the two hands touch and Peter is blinded by a flash of blue light.
His sight clears and there, standing tall before him, is the Witch, once more bearing her wand and the sword she has stolen from a now stone Caspian. Still transfixed, Peter watches in horror as Edmund attacks her. Though a better swordsman than he had been at the Battle of Beruna, the Just King is still no match for the Witch's evil power and she disarms him after only a brief battle. Peter tries to rush to his brother's rescue, but his feet refuse to obey him. He hears Lucy behind him, screaming as Trumpkin drags her away from the room in search of help, but still he cannot move.
Edmund is now unarmed and helpless before the risen Witch, but there is defiance and anger in his glare. "You may kill me here, Jadis, but Aslan will defeat you. You will never win."
The Witch laughs. "Aslan! Aslan has abandoned you. Narnia is mine once more, and my winter will have no end!" Seeing that her triumphant words did nothing to change Edmund's bold faith, the Witch glares briefly before giving Edmund a chilling smile. "And I do not think, my dear Edmund, that I will sully my hands with your blood again." She moves so that she is standing right behind Peter. He can feel her cold hands stroke his cheek, like ice running down his skin. Peter barely hears Edmund desperately ordering her away from him, as the High King tries in vain to flee from her grasp. "No, I think I will have my new servant kill you for me."
With those words, Peter knows his face has lost all color. He tries to yell as his feet move forward against his will, but no sound emerges. His eyes fix on his unarmed brother, whose own shocked comprehension mirrors Peter's. The High King moves closer as Edmund yells his name, trying to wake Peter from the enchantment. It is no use. Peter continues shouting silently, even as he grabs Edmund and pushes him roughly against one of the stone pillars, holding him there with his left hand.
The worst part is that Edmund does not struggle, though he continues to plead with Peter to fight the Witch. Peter knows that if Edmund fights back, there is a chance that the younger king could wrest control of Rhindon. But Edmund will not risk hurting Peter, as would be likely in any fight between the two. And perhaps he believes, with the innocent faith he has in his brother, that Peter will stop before the final blow. So the Just King only stands, eyes filled with desperation as he tries to say something, anything that might break the spell and free the High King of Narnia.
No words can help Peter now, though. Fighting against the enchantment with all the strength left in his mind and body, still he cannot escape, and his silent shouts turn to screams and sobs as he drives his sword through his brother's body. He feels Rhindon's blade slide through flesh and muscle and internal organs before lodging in Edmund's spine. Blood covers his hand, Edmund's blood, his brother'sblood and he wants to be sick but all he can do is look into Edmund's dark gaze, eyes that are filled with agony of both body and soul. "Peter," he hears Edmund whisper, as if not believing that his beloved brother had just sliced into his gut like he was nothing more than a fish caught for dinner.
Then Edmund's eyes are filled with nothing because all that made Edmund, his fiery soul, wise mind, loyal heart, is gone.
Peter's silent screams turn inhuman, but the Witch does not allow him to move a single finger from the sword that remains fixed in his brother's body. They stay there in a bloody tableau for one long, silent moment before Peter hears the Witch come up behind him. Staring at Edmund's motionless body, the pale face frozen in heartbreaking bewilderment, Peter can only wish for her to put him out of this torture of his own making.
Even that one comfort is denied Peter, the hope that perhaps in death he can follow Edmund to Aslan's country. He realizes the Witch's utter cruelty as he feels his own body turn to grey, hard stone, watches as the stone spreads to Edmund's corpse. The Witch has her revenge: one king dead, the other forced to spend eternity killing his beloved brother. Smiling, she turns away from the two statues, to go and claim her kingdom.
Peter just screams.
Edmund wanted to bang his head against the wall in frustration. This Mrs. Willows was still trying to throw him out, two hours after Peter had been drugged to sleep. Of course, Edmund was not about to go anywhere; and so he and the nurse quietly but fiercely waged a battle of words some few feet away from Peter's bed. Edmund was fairly certain he was winning, when suddenly winning the argument became irrelevant as they were interrupted by the spine-chilling, tortured scream that tore from Peter's throat.
Within seconds, Edmund was at his brother's side, seizing his hand tightly to try and wake him up with the sudden movement. It did no good as Peter began thrashing in his sleep, still screaming that terrifying cry. Edmund desperately tried to hold down Peter's body to keep him from hurting himself, all the while begging him to wake up.
The screaming stopped, but the silence was filled by Peter's distressed jerks, as if he was trying to escape some terrible enemy. Edmund heard Mrs. Willows start shakily walking toward them, but the sound of footsteps was overshadowed by another scream, more raw and animalistic than before. Edmund sat on the bed, holding Peter tight against his chest and trying to ignore the piercing noise that threatened to deafen him. "Peter. Wake up, Peter, it's just a dream. Wake up," he begged as the agonized screaming continued. "Peter, wake up!"
The screaming tapered off as Peter began gasping for air, his breaths sounding more like sobs. The tension in Edmund's shoulders lessoned when Peter's eyes flew open; but Edmund quickly tightened his hold as Peter struggled in his arms, not really seeing or understanding his younger brother's presence. "Calm down, Peter, it's me. It's me, stop moving. It was a dream. You're alright, you're with me." Edmund tried to keep his words calm and soothing. "You're alright, I'm here, I'm alright."
Peter's struggles ceased, though his body still trembled uncontrollably. "Ed?" he whispered, voice hoarse from screaming and filled with fear.
Edmund shifted so that he could put his head near Peter's ear, let his brother feel his words. "I'm here," he spoke softly, knowing almost instinctively that Peter needed to know he, Edmund, was alive and well. "You had a nightmare. It was just a nightmare. We're all alright: Lucy, Susan, you, me, we're alright."
Now the shaking was from Peter trying to hold back tears as he turned and buried his face against Edmund's chest, as though he was the younger and Edmund the elder brother, the parent. "Don't leave me, please don't…"
"I'm not going anywhere." Edmund answered the terrified whispers with a firm voice. Then he let Peter cry out his fears, not caring how uncomfortable his position was, caring only for the brother who had seen too much in their long-short lives. Edmund was not sure how long it took, but Peter finally settled down and fell asleep again, his skin still hot with fever.
Edmund gently stroked Peter's sweat-soaked hair, before looking up and glaring at an ashen-faced Mrs. Willows. "No more sedatives," he declared, his voice low and dangerous.
The nurse looked at the boys before her, remembered the screams that she had only ever heard before on the battle-front, and nodded shakily. "No more sedatives.
Peter's fever didn't break until the next morning. When he woke again from a sleep filled with vague terrors and shadows, the first thing he knew was that he still lay in his brother's arms. They were loose, as Edmund was deeply asleep, but they were there. Edmund was there and, frankly, that was all that mattered to Peter at the moment.
The nurse kept him in the infirmary for another day and, surprisingly, she allowed Edmund to stay with him; Peter wondered what exactly Edmund had done to the poor woman, since she would not look either of them directly in the eye. Honestly, though, he almost wished she would keep him longer; being released meant that the brothers would be separated again, forced to their individual dorm rooms. But Peter's fever was gone and he was feeling strong enough that there was no reason for him to remain in the infirmary.
Therefore, Peter spent that night in his dorm room, thrashing from nightmares, waking in a cold sweat without the comfort of having his brother nearby. The same thing happened for the next three nights; it didn't matter that he saw Edmund as soon as he possibly could the next morning, the dreams still tormented him in a way they never did when he could even unconsciously sense his brother's presence in sleep. Peter knew Edmund was keeping a sharper eye on his health during the day, and wasn't very happy at what he saw, but the High King was helpless to do anything: he could not control his nightmares.
So Peter spent his days working and his nights screaming, and nothing seemed to change. The fourth day after his release from the infirmary, however, was a different story. Coming back from his history class, Peter walked into his dorm room and dropped his books by his bed. Before he could flop down on the bed himself and start his readings, his eyes settled on the bed next to his. Though stripped bare since Jameson left, now it was made up again. A pile of jumbled and wrinkled clothes lay on the bed, along with half a pair of black wellies.
A rustling sound caught his ears, and Peter turned to see Merton reading on his own bed. "'lo Pevensie," was all he said, eyes on his book.
Peter's brow furrowed. "Is Jameson coming back?"
"Nope." Annoyingly, Merton still didn't even glance up. Though, granted, Conan Doyle was always an interesting read.
Before Peter could ask anything else, the door slammed open and the High King whirled around to see a familiar, dark-haired boy staggering in, carrying a heavy box of books. He scowled at the two boys already in the room. "A little help here?"
Peter's mouth dropped open. "Ed?"
The younger boy opened his mouth to speak, but he also took a wrong step at the wrong time and began toppling over. Fortunately, Peter regained his senses quick enough to catch his little brother before he, or the books, hit the floor. "Thanks, Pete."
Peter automatically helped Edmund carry the box across the room, wherefore the younger boy unceremoniously dumped them onto Jameson's old bed. Wincing, as usual, over Edmund's treatment of the books, Peter shook his head. "Ed, what are you doing?"
Edmund rolled his eyes. "What does it look like? I'm moving in."
He was answered not by Edmund, but by Merton, who finally looked up from The Empty House. "Apparently the Head isn't happy when the son of one of the school's largest financial contributors is nearly gutted when stupidly trying to wake a sleep-walking student who, apparently, routinely carries a knife on him at all times."
Peter's mouth dropped open a second time and his eyes widened. "Edmund!"
The younger king had the grace to look embarrassed. "The other boys forgot to warn him about that."
"How in the world were you not thrown out?" It was no secret that the headmaster would not hesitate to put continuing financial support before keeping a boy on partial scholarship in the school.
Though Merton had looked uncomfortable when relating the sleep-walking incident, this part seemed to amuse him. "According to my sources," which meant Thomsen, "Nurse Willows spoke up on his behalf, saying he had been upset by your illness; and convinced the Head that the problem would be solved by moving him to our room since you, as his brother, knew how to keep him from sleepwalking and thus would protect us helpless students."
There was silence as Peter processed that. He turned slowly to his brother. "Ed…."
The younger boy raised an eyebrow. "What?" he asked, as if challenging Peter to question him further; about why he had been sleepwalking, why he was carrying a knife while he slept. Why Mrs. Willows had fought for him despite the fact that Edmund made the woman nervous with just his presence.
Of course, Peter already knew the answer to all those questions: simply, because he was Edmund. So the High King just sighed. "Fold your clothes and put your books away nicely. Honestly, Susan would kill you if she saw how you were treating them." Edmund smiled and went to do as he was told. Peter rolled his eyes at Edmund's version of 'fold' and 'nicely', and flopped on his bed, picking up his biology book.
The sounds of Edmund struggling to get his shirts folded, complete with muttered curses, was comforting. Despite the noise, or perhaps because of it, Peter's eyes began drifting shut, not able to pay attention to Mendel's Law of Independent Assortment. Soon enough, he was fast asleep.
The Telmarines are everywhere, coming from every side. This is their last stand, their last chance to survive. Praying for Aslan to arrive, praying that Lucy has found him, Peter fights with everything he has left after that grueling duel. He, Edmund, and Caspian fight in a circle around Susan, allowing the Gentle Queen to use her bow to fuller effect. It will not last long, he knows, for soon the Telmarines will overwhelm them all.
He feels helpless as he glances over at his brother. Edmund is fighting with two swords now, a whirlwind of steel cutting through Telmarine ranks. Fighting, fighting…falling. Peter watches in horror as Edmund falters in his movements, disarmed by the faceless enemy. It is a moment that lasts seconds and hours at the same time as the younger king falls beneath Telmarine steel with a surprised, gargled cry.
Peter shouts in horror, but then frowns in confusion. Edmund is gone, dead at Telmarine hands, but Peter can still hear him breathing. Can still feel his presence, as if he is right by him and not trampled under armored boots. He hears a loud scrapping, feels something nudge his shoulder and he turns, startled to see Edmund, alive and whole, smiling at him. The incongruity of it shakes the world, and the armies, Narnian and Telmarine, fade into mist.
Peter blinks, eyes groggy. He was only half-awake, but aware enough to look over to his side. The light from the window was lower, and Edmund was there, sitting on Jameson's – no his – bed and reading a book by lamplight. The bed was closer than Peter remembered and he realized that his brother must have moved it– the sound he had heard in his dream.
As if feeling Peter's eyes on him, Edmund looked up from his book. He smiled at the older boy. "Go back to sleep, Peter. I'll wake you for supper in an hour."
Peter returned the smile before burying his face in his pillow, heart feeling lighter despite the nightmare. Edmund was there. And he would always be there.
So Peter slept.
eripere: to snatch away, to rescue