Trumpkin shifted again, certain he had picked the single most uncomfortable bit of ground in Narnia. All of the bruises and cuts he'd sustained over the past few days seemed to conspire with the hard ground to make sleep seem not only elusive, but nearly impossible.
Sighing, the dwarf shifted once more so that he was facing Edmund, and was surprised to see the young king sitting up, staring out into the darkness beyond the campfire.
"Your majesty," he said quietly, not wanting to wake the others.
"Hullo, Trumpkin," Edmund murmured without turning around. Trumpkin studied him for a moment, noting how the young king's sword was within arm's reach, how alert his posture was. He looked almost as if…
"You're on watch," Trumpkin said finally, and Ed turned around, a half-smile on his face.
"Old habits, I suppose," he offered with a small shrug, and Trumpkin looked at him quizzically, suspecting that there was more of a story here than Edmund was saying. Edmund looked down and blushed.
"It's just…it's just that…well, it's a bit of a long story, really…" Trumpkin looked at him and raised his eyebrows.
"I've got nothing better to do," he said in a hushed tone, and Edmund snorted.
"Nothing better to do except sleep," he chuckled, then sighed. "Fine. A few months after our coronation, so we were still figuring out how to behave like royalty. Peter and I were headed south. We were trying to meet a good majority of the Narnian population, those who didn't fight and who didn't even know about us, you know, involve them and all that.
"Well, we'd been traveling for two days already, and made camp that second night with no thought to a watch or anything of the sort. Stupid, really, and I should have remembered, but it didn't even cross my mind. One minute we're sleeping, the next I'm woken up to growling and something heavy falls on me.
"It happened so fast, and I still don't know exactly what happened, but I was a bit banged up and…and I was unable to help Peter fight off our attackers, something I still feel a bit guilty over.
"I woke up back at Cair Paravel sometime later, and Peter had gotten himself hurt. I promised myself then and there that Peter wouldn't get hurt because of my stupidity ever again, so long as I could help it, and from then on I was on watch or had someone I trusted implicitly on guard. It's never gone away, not really; sometimes I caught myself staying up all night back in Britain, and, well, tonight was no different, I suppose." Trumpkin and Edmund both went back to staring into the fire, a comfortable silence settling between them.
Trumpkin was quite certain that Edmund had downplayed certain events; he was convinced that for him to not immediately rush to Peter's aid, Ed would have had to have been more than a "bit banged up."
Looking at the young king across from him, Trumpkin noticed just how tired he appeared. The dwarf realized suddenly that he wasn't just tired because of lack of sleep, he was tired because of the burden he took upon himself, the burden of taking care of his family. And then it hit him.
This was Edmund the Just. This was the very same man that he'd grown up hearing tales of, that his mother and grandmother had portrayed as honest, fiercely loyal, always fair, the king who would follow his brother anywhere and who would protect his family no matter the cost. And, it seemed, to Trumpkin, there had indeed been a cost, aged a boy even beyond his extra years.
A sudden urge to help the solemn king struck him.
"King Edmund," he began, his voice a bit gruff. Edmund looked up.
"Edmund is fine, or Ed," he corrected gently, and Trumpkin nodded.
"Edmund then. Let me take watch." He could see Ed thinking, considering the dwarf's offer, before he nodded and settled down into a comfortable position.
"Thanks, Trumpkin." Trumpkin knew what the young king wasn't saying: I trust you. He smiled as Ed's gentle snores filled the air.
"That's not how I remember it, you know." Peter's voice startled Trumpkin, who quickly glanced at the High King. Peter was lying on his back, arms tucked under his head, staring up at the night sky. Trumpkin remained silent, allowing him to speak.
"Ed started it out well enough, but not having a watch was as much my fault as it was his, probably more so.
"Anyway, I woke to growling, and for a second, I was so confused that I wasn't sure what was going on, then Edmund started yelling. It was so dark, and all I knew was that something was hurting my brother. I drew my sword and ran toward him, and just as I reached his side the moon came out of the clouds, and I could see.
"Neither of us had given any thought to those Fell Creatures that had made it out of Beruna or that hadn't fought there in the first place, but I realized the full implications of that oversight that night. There were two wolves on Edmund, one biting into his right shoulder, another into his left arm." Trumpkin did not fail to notice the pale hue Peter's face took on as he continued his story.
"I think I caught the first wolf by surprise, as I killed him easily and without problem, but the second was not so easy. We fought there in the moonlight, and I could see Ed lying so still, unmoving, just beyond us. I thought I was too late, Trumpkin.
"I finally finished the thing off, but not before he managed to gouge a chunk out of my calf. I limped over to Edmund, terrified of what I'd find. He was lying on his back, blood leaking into the dirt around him, his face so pale…I dropped to my knees next to him, reached a shaking hand to his shoulder." Trumpkin realized, looking at the visibly shaken boy across from him, just how much the experience must have affected him, still affected him.
"He opened his eyes, Trumpkin, and even in the dark I could see the pain in them, but all he said was 'Sorry Pete' before he passed out again." Peter drew a shaking hand across his forehead and took a deep breath.
"I remember sobbing as I bound his wounds as well as I could, then quickly binding my own leg up. The ride back is a blur, and the next thing I knew, I woke up with Edmund in the bed next to me. I realize now that his injuries probably weren't as severe as I thought they were, but I was panicked and scared and…" Peter's voice trailed off and he shrugged.
"You've never talked to him about this?" Trumpkin asked, realizing that Edmund had no idea how worried the incident had made Peter.
"No. I couldn't, Trumpkin." Peter shrugged again, then settled back down with a yawn. "It's nothing, now, just a memory," he whispered as he fell asleep.
As Trumpkin listened to the four sets of breathing, some gentle, some snoring, he shook his head. He knew it was more than a memory, and he suspected that Edmund needed to hear from Peter just how much he meant to the High King.