The fox on the left looked familiar, he was certain of it now. Something in the tilt of the head or perhaps in the distinguished white-tipped tail tantalized his memory, though for the life of him he couldn't recall whom he was reminded of. Tilting his own head, he peered at the fox and said quietly, "And who are you, little one?"
There was no reply and Edmund sighed. Collapsing back into the pillows with poor grace he transferred his gaze to the ceiling. First sign of madness, a snide voice in his head whispered, talking to tapestries.
And of course the voice was right. Talking to tapestries was absolutely mad, worse even than talking to yourself. Yet if he were forced to spend one more day convalescing, he would count himself lucky not to be holding conversations with the furniture. The very thought made him growl, and he raised his head just long enough to look daggers at the blond huntsman near the center of the elaborate, fox-featuring tapestry. He'd been glaring at that huntsman rather a lot over the past few days.
After all, it was the closest he could get to glaring at Peter.
But Peter was another matter entirely, one he didn't have the energy to get angry over at the moment. Or perhaps it was more that he knew his anger at Peter was misplaced. In fact, he wasn't entirely sure that he was still angry with Peter.
Edmund shook his head and sighed. Too much circular thinking and he would drive himself mad even faster. It was being stuck in this room, he decided suddenly. That was the source of his anger, and the driving factor in his quick decline into insanity. It was a very fine room, to be sure, with thick rugs and fine tapestries and a roaring fire when it was needed. Yet after being stuck in it for four days, Edmund was ready to trade the whole thing for a hole in the ground if he could only move around.
Just and patient Edmund might be, but he was not born to be idle, especially not while confined to a bed. He needed stimulation, something he could normally count on having in droves, or he began to… slip.
It hadn't been so bad in the beginning. He'd slept for hours at a time, drifting in and out of consciousness. There was always someone waiting by his bedside when he woke to offer food or drink or medicine. When he'd shaken off the fever, he was still tired enough to relish the thought of lying about doing nothing. And so the second day had passed pleasantly. And then the third day had dawned and he had felt well, or as well as he could considering that he had three broken ribs and a head wound that would have given a Centaur pause. He had wanted to be up and about, or at least allowed to move about in the rooms Lune had so graciously provided.
Lune's physician, however, had other ideas. Being inclined, in Edmund's opinion (which he had voiced loudly), to over-caution, the elderly man had prescribed at least three days of bed rest, to be enforced physically, if necessary. The physician had added that last part rather too gleefully to suit Edmund's tastes, but his protestations of perfect health had fallen on deaf ears.
And so it was that he lay in bed on the evening of the fourth day talking to tapestries. And not just talking to them- he'd given every huntsman depicted a name and a history, and rather elaborate histories at that. He was only a few more lonely hours away from mapping out complex family trees and making up stories about their descendants. Really, it wasn't such a bad idea: that one on the far left could have a son who would go on to defeat the son of Peter-Huntsman in a duel…
No. He shook his head sharply and forced himself to look out the window, though whatever view he should have seen was obscured by the fact that it was pitch-black outside, and cloudy to boot. He was fairly certain that he would have been staring at a mountain in any case, but mountains could be fun to stare at. There was always the chance of catching a glimpse of a hunting party…
But as it was there was nothing to see out the window, leaving him with several options, none of them very appealing. He could create family trees for the tapestry huntsmen, thus giving up his last vestiges of both sanity and dignity. He could stare at the ceiling (Oh, the joy, the snide voice put in). Or he could call for a servant.
Grimacing at the thought of the last, Edmund shifted, ignoring the pain the motion caused his broken ribs. It wasn't that the servants at Anvard were any less polite than those at the Cair; far from it. It was simply that they weren't entirely comfortable around Edmund, and so Edmund in turn could not be entirely comfortable around them. He could imagine the resulting conversation easily enough: it would begin, as they always did, with the servant asking, "Is there anything you need, your Majesty?" and would progress downhill from there, gaining momentum as the desire for conversation and the need to vent warred within Edmund until he would finally admit defeat and send the servant away again.
Who he really wanted, of course, was Peter, despite being unsure if he was angry with Peter or not. But Peter was understandably busy, what with the three-way negotiations between Narnia, Archenland and the Islands still being in session. Peter stopped by every few hours to check on him and give him sympathy, but a check-up wasn't the same as the in-depth, long-range conversation that Edmund desperately needed.
There was a fourth option, though it was dangerous beyond telling. He might be as good as ignored now, but Edmund knew that if he so much as put one foot on the ground without the permission of Lune's wizened old physician, he'd have a sleeping draught poured down his throat before he could cry mercy. If would almost be worth it, he mused dryly, just to have a little conversation.
A quiet knock on the thick door interrupted his increasingly dark thoughts and a timid voice said, "Your Majesty? May I enter? I've your supper, Sire."
"Please, by all means," Edmund called, sitting up in bed. Supper was always a high point- it gave him something to do with his hands and, if he were desperate, he could always try to guess the herbs added to each dish. The fact that, in Archenland, they tended to limit their use of herbs to rosemary, basil, and sage put rather a damper on his guessing game. Still, though, mental stimulation of any kind was more than welcome at the moment.
The door was opened by a young maid whose name Edmund thought to be Calaine. She dipped him a brief curtsy (a remarkable feat, considering that she was carrying a loaded tray) and the heavenly smell of freshly baked bread wafted into the sick room. As the-maid-Edmund-thought-to-be-called-Calaine approached, he harbored momentary but brilliant hopes that he would be allowed to rise and eat at a table for the first time in four days. But no… there, she'd brought the tray specially designed for use by invalids, with little legs and all. He sighed dramatically.
As the-maid-Edmund-thought-to-be-called-Calaine gently smoothed his bedcovers and went about arranging the tray so that he would be comfortable, he let his eyes wander over the food selection. Bread, as he already knew, some sort of roast, potatoes. And a goblet of wine. He grinned to himself; the physician's opinion on this meal obviously had not been solicited, for Edmund could remember quite clearly the man's words about the dangers of alcohol when combined with a head wound.
"Is all to your satisfaction, your Majesty?"
"Yes, thank you… Calaine," he added hesitantly.
She beamed gratefully at him and asked, "Is there anything else your Majesty needs?"
Edmund had the sudden, horrible urge to request a bottle of wine to go with the gobletful he already had. It would serve everyone right- the physician in particular- if he got himself absolutely, magnificently drunk. And it would be a novel way to pass the time. But even in his maddeningly bored state he had no desire to have the massive headache that would entail while at the same time trying to recover from a head injury. Still, it was a tempting thought, and it was with great regret that he answered, "No, that will be all."
"Your Majesty." She bobbed another curtsy and exited, leaving Edmund alone with his dinner.
Sighing in resignation (sighing was becoming rather a habit of his, Edmund noted), he lifted the goblet and toasted the tapestry. He had not yet taken a sip when there was another knock on the door. Suspecting that Calaine had forgotten something he called, "Enter!" and went back to his meal.
The door opened, but there was no greeting. Frowning, he looked up from his study of the potatoes (there was sage and something else in there) only to see…
"You," he managed eloquently.
"Ah, yes." Peter shifted, setting a pair of satchels on the floor and looking rather sheepish. "Me."
Edmund glared at him, and was pleased to see that Peter actually took a half step back. Apparently practicing the look on Peter-Huntsman hadn't been wasted. Still trying to decide if he were angry with his brother, he went back to poking at his potatoes.
"Edmund? Look, I'm sorry, I know I promised I'd visit earlier but…well." Peter sighed, scuffing his booted foot over the intricate rug. "Ed? Say something, please."
Sage and thyme, Edmund realized. It was a new combination; he would have to send his congratulations to the kitchens. With the mystery of the potatoes solved, he turned his attention to the anger that was still vying with anticipation at the thought of conversation with someone who wasn't trying to shove medicines down his throat. Suddenly coming to a decision, he asked pleasantly, "So I suppose you ran out of diplomats to talk to?
"Come now, that's not fair! You know I would have stayed with you all day if I could." Edmund said nothing but only stared at his brother. Peter sighed again, angrily this time. "Fine. I'm too tired to deal with this right now. I'll just go."
Peter turned to do just that and Edmund realized, with a little twinge of regret, that all his anger at Peter had dissipated, along with his desire to thrust his frustration off onto someone else. "Peter," he said hesitantly. The retreating figure froze. "I'm sorry- that was uncalled for."
"I'll say," Peter muttered, but there was no malice in the words.
"It's just- I feel useless, and such an idiot. And then there's the likelihood that I'll go mad if I'm forced to stay in this room one moment longer."
"Nonsense," Peter snorted, a smile breaking over his tired face. "You're already as mad as you could possibly get."
"Oh, Peter, you wound me, really, you do." Back onto comfortable ground now, he took a drink of his wine, frowning in distress upon realizing that it had been generously watered. It wasn't enough for them to lock him in this room, now they were watering his wine as well. Looking hopefully up at his still-smiling brother, he asked, "I don't suppose I could convince you to break me out of here?"
"Much as I love you, I'm absolutely terrified of Lune's physician. You should have seen the look he gave me when I came in here. Enough to melt steel, that glare. Here," he added, watching in slight amusement as Edmund tried to set his dinner aside, "let me take that."
"No," Peter said again, once the tray was safely out of harm's way, "I can't break you out, but I did come bearing gifts."
"Really?" Edmund asked with poorly veiled interest. It was just so boring, convalescing. And the chance to see Peter had come only too rarely these past few days. "What?"
"First of all, I have something to ease your boredom, so maybe you won't snap next time." With that, Peter dropped a heavy leather satchel into Edmund's lap. "All the reports from the Western border, missives from the navy outposts, and something long and terrifyingly detailed from Susan. I don't even think I want to know what that's about There are a couple of trade agreements I'd like you to look over, if you can stomach them, and we'll need to talk about the contract with the Mt. Calarmot Eerie. But that can wait till we're back at the Cair."
Smiling gleefully, Edmund flipped through a sheaf of heavy parchment, running his eyes over a few of the trade stipulations. Already there were a few things he thought he might need to look over. Though he had never in his life ever expected to say this- praise Aslan for paperwork. And Peter.
"Peter," he said, putting as much sincerity as he could into his voice, "you are an absolute saint. I'd give you half my kingdom for this, but seeing as you're already the High King…"
"I just wish I could have gotten it to you sooner. I know how bored you've been in here and besides that, I need you." Sinking down on the bed, Peter stuck his elbows on his knees and sighed. "I swear, if I have to put up with one more day of listening to conceited diplomats talk to hear their own voices, I'm going to drag the entire council session into this room and let you deal with them. But enough about business," he said suddenly, smiling. Turning to face Edmund he said, "My second gift is for the both of us, and if you tell anyone I've brought it I'll kill you myself."
"Such brotherly love," Edmund murmured, shoving the papers back into the satchel and setting it aside. The work could wait until Peter was gone. "If it's wolf pup or anything of that nature, I'll have to ask you to wait. I can't really chase small animals around at the moment…"
"Ha! So you admit that you aren't fully healthy? And what was that rant yesterday about being ready to get back to your duties?"
"Shut up, Peter," Edmund tossed back, amiably nudging his brother's ribs to reinforce his point. "What's the second gift?"
Peter threw in one more triumphant smirk before retrieving the second satchel, forgotten until now, and revealing a goodly sized jug and a pair of goblets. "There's a cook in the kitchens," he explained as he struggled to remove the cork, "who felt quite sorry for me. Apparently I looked rather pitiful after today's negotiations."
"So she gave you wine?" Edmund asked, half in exasperation, half in admiration. "One has to wonder what kind of a reputation we've built for ourselves in Archenland."
Peter loosed a small, rather wolfish, smile. "One has to wonder, indeed. Particularly since your... fall from grace."
There was a brief silence during which Edmund glared, Peter sipped his wine innocently and the blond huntsman smiled beatifically from the tapestry. And then Peter, recently crowned High King of Narnia, gave a cry of alarm and a rather loud thump as he hit the floor. The goblet skittered across the floor with, to Edmund's ears, a gratifying clamor.
"What- I-," Peter sputtered. "Edmun-"
"Don't," he said pleasantly, pointing at Peter, "try to get up. "You deserve that floor, brother, and you'll stay there until I say otherwise."
Edmund grinned a grin that never failed to set Susan's teeth on edge and would, in the years to come, send enemies fleeing through doors, windows and other conveniently placed small openings. Thinking of their recent ride with Lune, and Peter's ecstatic comments about the particular beauty of a certain ledge near a waterfall and the desirability of attaining that ledge, and all the events that followed, he simply raised his goblet and his brow. "My physician would love to see me drinking, don't you think?"
Peter paled and sniffed. "Fine. But- and mark me on this- this is the last time I'll be saving you."
Moments of contented silence followed, eventually broken by Peter, still seated on the floor, and his quiet question. "Do you think that fox on the left looks familiar?"
This very odd, pointless and rather rambling bit is my response to Lara86's (the 200th reviewer) innocent innocent request for "something happy." I do apologize to her, and can only say that I've never been very good at following simple directions.