Title: Christmas Days
Disclaimer: I do not own anything.
Note: The answer to challenge 24: Day. In the midst of exams last year, while listening to some classic Christmas music, a plot bunny bit me. Bing Crosby was crooning White Christmas, and I knew I had to write a story about it (not a song fic, just based on the song). Picking out three more songs (most from the 40s, to be chronologically sound about it), I wrote a series for the Christmas season; well, I wrote three chapters and then Lucy's chapter just gave me a headache and I only finished it yesterday. Anyway, for each chapter I'll give you the song and the version that inspired me. I hope you enjoy, and Merry Christmas!
White Christmas – Bing Crosby
The first snow in Narnia after the White Witch's defeat fell on Christmas Eve. Being forewarned by the far-seeing centaurs, the Narnians prepared themselves adequately – in stocking up in essentials, and in preparing themselves emotionally for dealing with their first non-enchanted snow. The four kings and queens of Narnia, in particular, threw themselves into these preparations, their smiles and laughing reassurances bolstering the courage of their subjects. Soon, the prospect of having a (non-enchanted) white Christmas was something to look forward to, not fear.
Edmund himself was all smiles during the days before Christmas, happily helping Peter hang pine boughs through the halls of Cair Paravel, baking cookies with Lucy and the Beavers, following Susan's directions on writing invitations without complaint. He conspired with Mr. Tumnus to find and wrap Lucy's Christmas gift, he found the perfect gifts for Susan and Peter. All the while, he gave plenty of reassurances to his people, that this icy Christmas was not to be feared but enjoyed. To everyone, including his siblings, he was just as excited about having (non-enchanted) snow for Christmas as the rest.
He did not tell them about his dreams. Dreams of last year's white Christmas. Snow lying heavy on the ground, glistening on the treetops; it wasn't beautiful, it was a suffocating terror. Because always, always, behind that snow, behind the pleasant ringing of silver sleigh-bells, was her, looming tall like a Giant over him as he huddled in the foot of her sleigh, gasping for breath as the swift, bitter wind stole it from him. She was there, always there, with the Dwarf and the stinging whip and the cruel words that hurt more than anything else she could do to him.
Edmund did not tell the others about his dreams, dreams that grew more and more intense as Christmas and the impending snow approached. No, he was determined not to let his nightly distress destroy his siblings' Christmas, destroy his Christmas. This was their first Christmas together as a family, a real family, for such a very long time; and since that was his fault, Edmund refused ruin this Christmas as well. If his siblings knew about his nightmares he knew the light in their eyes would fade. Lucy would try and tamper her outgoing joy in sympathy; Susan would purse her lips and want to scale back the celebrations that she was so looking forward to, and had worked so hard to prepare. And Peter, Peter's face would go white, as it always did when he thought of the White Witch, or saw the scars that Edmund still carried from last Christmas. Edmund refused to let that happen.
So, instead, he tried to brush away the effects of his dreams. It was fairly easy to do in the light of day, with Lucy's smile banishing shadows, Susan's embraces to warm his heart, and Peter's laughter brightening the pale sun. Edmund truly enjoyed preparing for Christmas, enjoyed helping his subjects get ready for the expected snowfall. The joy of the days diminished his fear of the nights, no matter how dark they became. He sometimes even felt true excitement when he thought about the upcoming snow.
That excitement, however, did not last long; and on the morning of Christmas Eve, Edmund found himself in that place between waking and sleeping where the cold of his room in Cair Paravel mingled with his nightmare of biting ice and biting whips, and cruel, white laughter. Even when waking overtook dreaming, he could not shake the terror that lingered. As Edmund left the warmth of his bed, he stepped lightly on the cold floor, freezing his bare toes, and drew back the heavy curtains that covered his window. He shivered as he looked out over the city that lay beneath Cair Paravel, covered with a deep blanket of snow. The centaurs had been right – they would have snow for Christmas. So Edmund took a deep, frigid breath, forced the nightmare from his thoughts, and prepared the face the day.
If the weeks before Christmas had been filled with excitement, Christmas Eve was positively abuzz. Last minute preparations sent the entire Cair into a tizzy, while Susan was a whirl of energy that matched even Lucy. Through it all, Peter and Edmund decided to be smart and just do whatever their sisters told them. It paid off, as the Christmas party began in the last hours of daylight. Music played gaily, and the ballroom floor was crowded with dancers, including both queens. Peter preferred staying by the buffet table with a few of his knights, jealously guarding the cream puffs (not that any sane Narnian would dare try and take a cream puff from their High King).
Edmund lasted for as long as he could handle the joyful spirit that hung in the air. He danced with Lucy, stole a cream puff from Peter (which only solidified his reputation for bravery), and complimented Susan on a successful celebration. But then a faun struck up a ballad, reminiscing on Christmases past: before the Witch, lost Christmases during her reign, and, of course, last year's Christmas, which had been greeted with such utter relief and joy by all Narnians. Edmund left the celebration, before the grimace on his face could be noticed by anyone.
He did not have any particular destination in mind, so Edmund was unsurprised when he found himself in the northern garden. His feet sank into the snow, but he hardly noticed it; his leggings were, after all, warmer than the short trousers he had been wearing in the snow last year. Idly brushing the snow off of one of the benches, Edmund sat, ignoring the ice that seeped into his clothes. The young king scowled, angry with himself for running from the party, from the ballad. He had be so determined not to let her ruin this Christmas for him, and yet here he was; alone and cold, just like last Christmas.
Suddenly, his dismal thoughts were distracted when he heard a soft mewing. Frowning, Edmund stood, and followed his ears to toward the pitiful sound. It was coming from…there! Gently knocking the snow off of a holly bush, Edmund could just see two frightened, golden eyes, deep within the shadows of the plant. "Hello there, are you stuck?" Edmund asked the creature, likely a feline of some sort by the shape of its eyes and the sound of its voice. The animal just mewed helplessly, and so Edmund figured it was likely just a mute housecat. The poor creature had probably got caught in the prickly bush; from the weakness in its voice, it may have been stuck in the cold for a good long time.
Edmund grimaced as he looked at the thick holly plant; it was a rather large bush, and the sharp leaves were close together. But he couldn't just leave the cat there, alone and cold and frightened. Breathing in deeply, and wishing he had a pair of gloves and a thicker tunic, Edmund started pushing back the holly branches, wincing as the leaves cut into his hands and wrists.
The cat was far back, caught between the trunk and a piece of stone that jutted from the wall against which the holly leaned. Gritting his teeth, Edmund ducked his head so that his face was somewhat protected by his arms, and burrowed farther into the bush, all the while speaking soft words to the frightened animal. "It's alright, cat, I'll get you out of here, it's alright." The cat seemed to understand that this strange creature was here to help it, and so stopped struggling as much as it had been before; waiting for its rescue to come.
Leaves and branches cut at Edmund's arms and hands, but he ignored it as he reached the cat and pulled back the trunk as best he could. The cat scrambled free, and Edmund was about to back out; but then he saw the cat trying to get through the spined leaves, getting only sharp cuts for its efforts. Frowning, Edmund reached out again towards the cat. "Here, cat, let me help you. It's alright; I'll help you get out." The cat looked at him suspiciously. Apparently, though, he passed muster, and the cat moved carefully towards him. Gently wrapping his arms around the small feline, Edmund slowly backed out of the bush, branches scratching at his now exposed face.
By the time he fully emerged from the holly, his hands and face ached from all the scratches he had accumulated. But, as he fell back in the snow, the cat curled happily in his lap and Edmund realized he did not really mind the pain of the cuts. It was worth the pain to have the content feeling he had from seeing the cat freed from its prison, freed from the fear it had at being trapped and hurt. The cat rubbed its head against Edmund's chest, purring loudly, and Edmund felt the despair he had been feeling fade away. Yes, the memories were sometimes still painful, even as the scratches on his hands and face were painful; but the memories, the cuts, paled in comparison to the joy of freedom, the joy of others' freedom and love, which they were celebrating this Christmas.
Edmund gently scratched the cat behind its ears. "Thanks," he whispered, despite knowing the cat wouldn't understand him. The cat bumped its head against his stomach, before jumping off his lap into the snow. Turning its head to look at Edmund, the cat seemed to mew out a farewell, before leaping gracefully through the snow drifts towards the garden wall. Edmund smiled and shook his head. "I guess I should be going too." Though, how he would explain his face to his siblings and subjects, he had no idea.
He did not really care at the moment, however. His heart lighter, Edmund stood, wanting nothing more than to go and be with his family and friends. Looking around him, the snow on the ground no longer seemed to be a bitter memory of the past, but a clean slate on which to write a new future – a future of joyful, white Christmases. So, with a new contentment in his soul, Edmund made his way back inside, to join those whose love were worth all the pain he had gone through. From now on, there would be no reason for him to fear Christmas; even if all his Christmases were white.
And from atop the garden wall, a cat watched the young Narnian king leave the desolate snow to join his family, a knowing, loving light glittering in his golden eyes.
More tomorrow, possibly.