The two kings continued to couple late into the night, resting only enough to regain their breath before joining their bodies again to slake what seemed an insatiable thirst for each other. Like fledgling birds who had taken to the air for the first time, they reveled in their new-found joys, exploring the depths and heights of pleasure and delighting to find how easily, naturally, and freely they could soar. When at last they landed, it was with the gentleness of falling snow, their heated skin fitting together as though they had never been born as two separate creatures. It was bliss, purer and more powerful than they had known was possible.
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Peter kissed Edmund's shoulder while clutching him to his chest, marveling at how perfectly they fit together and how wondrously smooth and warm the younger boy's skin was against his lips. Edmund sighed and leaned back against his love, turning to claim those lips with his own. Minutes slipped by unnoticed as they savoured the sweetness of mutual adoration.
"Oh, Ed," Peter murmured, unable to form his feelings into words.
"Mmm... Peter," Edmund whispered in return, knowing exactly what he meant. He twisted round to nuzzle his neck and lick at the freckles that he knew were there, even in the darkness. Peter laughed at the ticklish sensation, then retaliated by licking his brother's cheek, wondering if it tasted so delectable because of his beauty or some other innate quality. They both were seized by a fit of giggles, subsiding into a comfortable silence in which Peter stroked Edmund's stomach and was rewarded by happy whimpers that swirled around his own insides like a swarm of bees – much like how Edmund had described his love-sick nervousness, only in a pleasant way, as though the imagined insects were contentedly and busily working at making honey. Peter kissed Edmund's forehead, thinking he would never have his fill of kissing his precious, most handsome lover.
"Ed... I'm so glad... you let me do this."
"As am I!" Edmund declared. "It's no less wonderful for me, I'm sure."
"I can't imagine ever doing this with someone else... let alone a girl," Peter confessed.
"You needn't, you know." Edmund took Peter's hands in his own, playing with his fingers while he looked deep into his eyes. "I'll always be willing to do this with you... and I'd much rather you didn't get married... even if she's the nicest girl in all of Narnia."
Peter slipped one hand out of Edmund's grasp to card through his damp, curly hair. The High King was overawed to realise that his dearest wish had been granted – that Edmund loved him with as much strength of feeling as Peter loved him – and was speechless for a moment. When he finally did speak, it was with conviction and resolve.
"Well, then... that's settled." He moved closer to press a chaste kiss on his brother's lips. "I shall never get married, Ed... for I could never love anyone else as much as I love you."
Stunned, Edmund stared back at Peter, reading the surety there in his eyes.
"Oh, Peter!" he cried, disconnecting their bodies only to throw his arms about his lover. "You can't possibly know... how happy you've made me!"
"I think I have a fair idea," Peter replied with a smile curling his lips. They were soon smothered in another kiss, much deeper and more passionate than the previous ones, as the two young kings discovered just how much they could tell each other without the use of words. By the time they settled into a restful slumber, Edmund's tears of happiness had been nuzzled dry by his now confirmed and unshakeable lover.
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The new dawn cast its first rays of golden light on the rumpled covers that Peter had managed to pull over Edmund and himself. They were a tangle of limbs, sticky and smelling of sweat and seed, but neither had slept so soundly before. The shrill notes of the dawn chorus, comprised mostly of male Wrens in the vicinity of Cair Paravel, woke Peter with the expectation of a glorious day. Finding Edmund nestled in his arms, his head pillowed on his chest, Peter was amazed anew to know that their coupling had not been a dream.
The evidence of their nocturnal activities was obvious, however, and removing it took priority over even the powerful physical desire to mate once more. Wrinkling his nose in distaste, Peter began to gingerly extract himself from his brother's embrace, but Edmund woke and rubbed his eyes.
"Hey-ho! Is it morning already?" he yawned.
"I'm afraid so. And we must get cleaned up before everyone else is up. We're a frightful mess," Peter told him. Edmund's grin was untroubled.
"I doubt we can wash the sheets on our own, but Mrs. Dumplesugar will understand. She knows all about 'Man Cubs,' after all."
Peter sighed but could not help but agree – at least with the first statement. The sheets on his bed were far too large for them to hope to wash and dry on their own, even in the bathtub.
"Well, let's at least get ourselves washed and... presentable," he advised, hunting for his nightshirt which had been discarded on the floor sometime during their passionate lovemaking.
Edmund grimaced at the state of his own nightshirt but put it on for lack of other options, then demanded a quick kiss of Peter before padding back to his bedroom for a clean set of clothes. He joined his brother in the bathroom to use the cooled bathwater from the previous evening to wash, both of them shivering but glad to at least smell less odious. The chill of the water quashed any chance of their joining their bodies again soon, but Edmund persuaded Peter to join him in his smaller, still-clean bed for a few minutes to warm up. They snuggled under the light summer blanket, listening to birdsongs and simply enjoying their newfound closeness, until they heard the light clopping of Mr. Tumnus' hoofs in the hall. While the Faun first went to rouse Peridan, the brothers exchanged a last, lingering kiss, then Peter returned to his own room to strip the sheets off his bed.
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The two kings approached Mrs. Dumplesugar after breakfast – Peter blushing crimson with embarrassment and Edmund struggling to look equally abashed, due to his now immeasurable happiness – and confessed that they had both been overcome by their carnal desires while Edmund had been visiting Peter in his room. Peter could not bring himself to admit that he had chosen to mate with his own brother, not knowing what the Narnian Beast might think of such a perversion and not wishing to find out. Posed with the problem of the dirty bedding, however, the kind Raccoon only heaved a sigh and placed her paws on her hips.
"Eh! No more than I should expect of Man Cubs at your age, I suppose. At least you kept it to one bed rather than soiling them both." She waddled over to the linen cupboard and pulled out several thick, sturdy towels. "But if you wish to save me the hassle of washing those great sheets so often, you can set these out when you start to feel the yearning. They're much easier to manage."
"Thank you, Mrs. Dumplesugar," Peter said with sincere gratitude. "We shall try to be more careful."
"It wouldn't be amiss to try to find yourselves some mates, either," she pointed out. "I don't know why you didn't bring home one or two of the Daughters of Eve you met at Anvard."
"Oh, golly, Mrs. Dumplesugar!" Edmund protested. "We're much too young to be married yet!"
"Nonsense, my dear – if you've got the yearning, of course you're ready to be married! What else is it for but to have cubs of your own?"
"I... I don't think our kind is used to marrying quite so soon," Peter explained. "We're not yet grown up, you see. I'm only seventeen, and back home most chaps don't marry until they're at least two-and-twenty, after they've finished their schooling and all."
"What? So you've near five more years of yearning without a mate?!" she cried out, aghast. "That's unnatural, that is! And poor King Edmund must wait even longer?"
"It won't be so bad, truly, Mrs. Dumplesugar," Edmund reassured her. "Now that we have these" – indicating the towels – "we won't make such a mess all the time."
"And you must remember that we can live a very long time," Peter added. "Three-score years and ten, which is more than most Beasts, even in Narnia. So we must choose our mates with care."
The Raccoon still looked astounded, her dark eyes opened wide in shock, but she threw up her paws in resignation.
"Well, then, you must do what's wise and sensible, but if you'll heed my advice – and mind you, I don't say this for wanting less laundry, my dears – you ought not pass up any opportunities for meeting suitable Daughters of Eve. I say the sooner you find a good mate, the better, and the happier and healthier you'll be."
"Oh, I don't doubt that, Mrs. Dumplesugar," Edmund replied with a genuine smile. "I'm sure you're right about it."
"Yes, indeed," Peter agreed, trying not to blush when his brother and lover turned that beautiful smile towards him. "I'm sure finding the right person to love is... the most wonderful thing in life."
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That morning Sageion chose to instruct his young charges on the intricacies of the Narnian treaties with Calormen, and although Peridan found it interesting since he had lived in Archenland – which had its own treaties with the southern country and was more frequently visited by trading ships and caravans from there – Peter and Edmund could scarcely stifle their yawns as the Centaur droned on about the fair exchange of fruits for lumber and the current prices, in Calormene crescents, of various precious stones mined by the Moles and Dwarfs in Narnia. Peter managed to quell most of his yawns, but Edmund was forced to bury his nose in a book on Narnian history every so often as though he were looking up some reference in it. Both boys were glad and relieved when they finally broke for lunch.
Since the weather was mild and they had no appointments in the afternoon, the girls suggested a picnic in the meadow nearest the castle. The impromptu outing was quickly arranged, with each member carrying a share of the provisions. An added benefit to eating out of doors was that the Horses could come by and chat with them while munching on sweet grasses. The Centaurs were invited also but they politely declined; the two young kings' difficulty in attending that morning had not gone unnoticed, and Sageion shrewdly judged it best to let them rest their minds and refresh their spirits for the remainder of the day.
After everyone had eaten his or her fill, it was very tempting to stretch out on the blankets and close one's eyes, listening to the busy drone of the bees. Edmund fell asleep on the instant, leaving Peter to stare at his lissome, prone form. The very curve of his back sent thrills of desire through the High King, who suddenly realised that lying face-down was a good way to hide some embarrassing physical reactions. He followed suit and very soon started up a low, rumbling snore. The girls giggled and whispered so as to not wake their brothers, while Peridan asked Aristides and Phillip about the different wildflowers that were in bloom around them.
The music came to them so quietly at first, wafted on the breeze, that even keen-eared Mr. Tumnus did not notice it until it grew decidedly closer and louder.
"Pipes!" he breathed in delight when he caught a strain. "My cousins, the Satyrs, are out dancing!"
"And coming this way, it would seem," Aristides remarked, flicking his ears forward the better to hear.
The two queens suggested that they go out to meet the dancers to prevent them from coming closer and waking their brothers, so the party left the sleeping kings in the care of Elsa the Panther, who preferred basking in the sun to dancing, and ventured into the woods in search of the musicians. They did not need to search long, for the Satyrs – about a dozen of them, though it was hard to count them as they whirled around in circles and figure eights – had chosen a grassy meadow near the edge of the Great Wood for their revelry. Mr. Tumnus flung himself into the dance at once, and before they quite knew how, the girls and Peridan were caught up in it as well. Even the Horses stamped their hoofs in time to the merry music, while Mrs. Hoppinger jumped around the outer circle and Mrs. Dumplesugar clapped her paws.
"What, friends, is the occasion?" Susan asked breathlessly during a slight lull.
"What occasion do we need to dance and make merry?" laughed one of the Satyrs. "It is summer, and a good harvest is sure to follow, and the wind is calling us to sing!"
"Although it is specially nice to have a full moon tonight," added another.
Soon the troupe was joined by a handful of Dryads and the Naiad of a nearby spring, making the dance even more intricate. Peridan found himself paired with a young Satyr – judging from his beardless face and small, stubby horns – and was mesmerised by his nimble partner's graceful movements and piercing, intense gaze. The Satyr, whose bare chest was thick and well-muscled, showed no signs of tiring even when Peridan grew winded, and his grip was strong as he guided the boy through complicated steps. When Peridan was forced to pull out of the circle to catch his breath, the Satyr followed.
"You are a Son of Adam, are you not?" the Satyr asked.
"Yes... I believe that is what you would call me," Peridan replied, feeling a little shy. He had met many other Satyrs, even took swordfighting lessons from Apheridys, the Captain of the Royal Guard, but there was something slightly unnerving in the intent way this one was studying him.
"And yet you are not one of our kings, for I have met both of them."
"I am Per – Sir Peridan, a Knight of Narnia and Squire to King Edmund."
"Ah! I am pleased to make your acquaintance, Sir Peridan. And I am Scipio, a humble pipe-maker of Fairdell," he said with a courteous bow. "Did you also come from the world of Spare Oom with the Royal Children?"
"Oh! No, I came from Archenland," Peridan explained.
Scipio seemed genuinely interested in the southern country, having never traveled that far himself, so Peridan described what life was like in Anvard and how he had come to Narnia. Then Scipio told him how he lived not far from the castle along the banks of the River Rush, harvesting, drying, and carving reeds to form pipes of all sorts for himself and his neighbors. They sat down with their backs to a large oak tree while Per recounted the battle with the Harpy in the Western Woods and Scipio told of the hardships his people had suffered under the reign of the White Witch. All the while the dancing and music continued, making Peridan forget the passage of time. When Scipio placed his hand on Peridan's where it lay on the ground, the boy was startled, and yet when he looked into his new friend's shining eyes, he felt as though it were the most natural thing in the world.
"I believe, if I may be so bold," Scipio began softly, "that as young as you are, you are no stranger to pleasure..."
Peridan flushed, his face turning red-hot, but managed to answer, "I am... not so young as I may seem. And... yes, I am familiar with the ways of Men."
"Ah! But are you familiar with the ways of Satyrs?" Scipio asked with a teasing smile.
"Not at all," Peridan replied, feeling a familiar flutter in his stomach that grew down into his nether regions. He thought the Satyr, for all his wildness, was very handsome, and the strength in the hand that held his own sent surges of heat throughout his body.
"Would you like me to show you... a more... intimate dance?" Scipio whispered.
"Oh! Yes," Peridan said without hesitation, surprising himself with his audacity. There was no doubt in his mind as to what the Satyr was suggesting...
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