The Walsburg Pub
Disclaimer: I would die and go to Heaven the instant anyone told me otherwise, so it defeats the purpose.
"You save the humble, but bring low those whose eyes are haughty," Psalms 18:27
The Walsburg Pub was a decent sort of place.
The rub with people nowadays, is that the moment they hear the word "pub" they think of drunken brawlers falling over themselves or flinging bar stools at the walls in some sort of inebriated frenzy. Maybe the word "pub" is even interchanged with its lesser cousin, the "bar." But a bar is a place within a pub. And a pub is a public place. At least in this time. True, the lure of alcohol is too much for some men to bear, but, as I said, the Walsburg Pub was decent.
Well, in those days, the Walsburg was running like a well-oiled machine. Soldiers loved a good pub almost as much as they loved a bar, families flocked to the tables in search of the best hot-meal money could buy, and children crept in after school to shyly exchange their pennies for ice-cream. It was a decent sort of place, with a decent sort of owner named Chesser Walsburg.
Chesser was about as thin as his translucent skin. Kind and terribly old-fashioned. Strict yet eager to please. He had inherited the business from his uncle at the age of thirty-two, and had been operating from behind the gleaming counter top for well over twenty-seven years. Now creeping up on his sixth decade of life, Chesser struggled to maintain the vivacity of his youth.
It was actually due to his age that he took on an employee for a single summer, just before he'd suffered his second heart attack and willed the pub to his nephew. He had not gone looking for the chance, but had been seriously considering it, and wondering how he would go about it when, lo! A young man strode through his door so confidently that every eye was instantly latched on his handsome face.
"Peter Pevensie," the young man had said, shaking his trembling hand over the gleaming counter top, "I can start Monday, if that's all right with you, sir."
It was, indeed, all right. He hired Peter on the spot and never once regretted his decision- that boy brought in more customers by his genteel manner alone than Chesser had ever managed with his Half-Priced Nights. Girls, more so, but still girls that were willing to offer up a few shillings for themselves and for their friends if it meant that Peter was waiting on them.
The most peculiar part was that, though the boy was clearly well-admired, Peter only thanked the girls for their business and went on with his job. Ever professional in his attitude.
Chesser asked him if he'd ever been like other boys his age; once the young men of the town learned the Walsburg pub was a hot-spot for female activity, they began cramming themselves in at odd hours to flirt while Peter carried on, as mild-mannered and cordial as ever.
"I went to the country one summer when I was a kid," Peter answered him; "It did wonders."
Mention of the countryside was how Chesser learned about Peter's siblings.
"I'm the oldest," Peter said first, like one who was well adjusted to the role, "And then there's Susan, my brother Edmund, and Lucy. Susan's off at parties with some of my school friends for the summer, and Edmund and Lucy are just trying to stay occupied."
Chesser smiled, thinking of his older sister, "I'd love to meet them."
Peter smiled back before assisting a young lady that was batting her eyes for a Lemon ice.
Three weeks after his hiring, Peter was already thick as thieves with some of the regulars, particularly one dark-headed boy with a crooked spine that frequented the ice-cream bar. When Peter saw the boy enter, he would beam and put down whatever he was doing in order to greet him and help him to a stool.
He assumed it had to do with Peter missing his brother, who he talked about more than anyone. Sometimes, Chesser would find his worker and the dark-haired boy talking in low, animated tones over the counter- Peter's arms crossed and his head hanging low as they conversed, the boy explaining things by making diagrams from folded napkins and milkshake straws.
"Remind you of Edmund?"
Peter had looked up quickly, brow raised.
"That boy. Is he very like your brother?"
Peter's eyes had shifted to the door, where the boy was hobbling out on his cane, and bit his lip, "Exactly."
A decent boy for a decent pub. Chesser could not have been prouder and the Walsburg pub could not have been better blessed, than with Peter Pevensie.
Especially when the Walsburg was in danger of becoming indecent.
They came in just before closing.
The day hadn't been all that exciting, unless you considered almost running out of pretzels. By the time the night came, the last of the customers were straggling out the door full of good food, and they walked in laughing, collapsing into a back table where one of the boys pulled out a cigar and lit up. His aviator jacket rustled against the fabric of his seat, and the big-boned chap across from him was taking off his wool coat. A young woman was with them, red hair loose and curled tightly.
Chesser had thought they were just expelling the typical enthusiasm of youth.
Peter would not wait on them.
"Peter!" Chesser exclaimed, his dim eyes wide.
The bell on the door chimed. Peter's gaze flickered to the entrance, where their dark-haired and hobbling regular had entered, inching towards a small table by the door and looking around expectantly.
Peter's handsome face turned grim.
"Pevensie," Chesser said, feeling he should be firmer with his staff, "Take their order. I'll get that young man that just came in."
Chesser went to carry out his plan, but Peter suddenly shot out a hand and gripped the elderly man's arm, effectively holding him in place.
"What are you doing? Let me go!"
"Can I speak with you in the back, sir?" Peter asked, but his eyes were still on the group, and he was easily pulling Chesser backwards, whether the man wanted to or not.
Peter clapped a hand over his mouth and dragged him into the back room, never looking at the owner for a second. On the way, the boy palmed a hefty blade from the polished counter, and Chesser began to experience true fear. They did not stop until they were in the middle of the back storage room where poor lighting disguised iceboxes and wooden crates, throwing a few of the extra tables and chairs into haunting blobs. Above him, Peter's breathing had fairly ceased to reach Chesser's ears, and his eyes flashed with the scant light from the window next to the streetlamp.
It suddenly occurred to him that Peter was a very large and disturbingly strong boy- one that he would not be able to fight off if the boy decided to harm him.
Then Peter released him.
Creeping back to the door on cat-feet, he peeked through it with the old blade at the ready; leaving the old man to tremble in the exact spot he'd been left.
"Sir-" Peter's tone was alert and sensible, "Can you get out the back door to the alley from here?"
"I- I think so." Goodness, but his heart felt about to fall out of his chest!
"Good. Go now and find the nearest police box. In ten minutes, if I haven't found you, or sent someone to find you, I want you to call and tell them that the Walsburg has been robbed and two people are injured. Do you understand?"
"You can't seriously believe-"
"At least two of them are armed."
He began to realize was his employee was about.
"Armed?" Chesser's hand fluttered anxiously to cover his withered chest, "You can't stay here, then! Come with me!"
"I can't," Peter answered readily. Calmly, as a matter of fact.
"Don't be a fool!" Chesser hissed, and marched over, gripping Peter's arm and trying to pull him away from the door. Alas, Peter was not moved in the slightest. "Are you seriously going to put yourself in danger for that money in the safe?"
"Get going, sir. Remember: police box, wait ten minutes, call in two injured."
"Two injured what?"
But Peter was already slipping back through the door, and Chesser thought his heart might give out.
"Oh, fiddle. Oh sakes alive!" Unable to move, the poor man turned his eye to the crack between the door and its frame, watching Peter make his way back to the counter. Would he call them out? Would he tell them his boss had gone for help? Surely he wouldn't do anything reckless-!
"Sorry, we're closed," Peter said loudly, his tone as genteel as ever.
Chesser saw the more handsome of the three kids sit up straight inside his bomber jacket, grinning as if Peter were telling a joke.
"We're closed for tonight. I'm sorry, but you'll have to come back tomorrow."
The boy in the bomber jacket continued to grin slyly, smiling at his friends before he turned back to the counter, puffing on his cigar.
"Don't be like that! All we want is a couple of drinks, then we'll be out of your hair."
Peter picked up the soapy rag and began to swab, never looking towards the group who supposedly owned weaponry on their person. Peter's shoulders were as relaxed as ever Chesser had seen them. The children watched him for a moment, apparently decided Peter had given up the fight, and so the red-headed beauty of the group flicked a balled-up napkin at him. It bounced off of his upper arm and landed on the damp surface of the bar, soaking up liquid like a sponge. He paused to look at the soggy paper, and then looked up at the group.
"What about those drinks, huh, cutie?" she asked with an inappropriate smirk, "Why don't you join us?"
"Don't be like that, Tanya," the boy in the bomber jacket laughed, "The poor bloke's just trying to do his job."
"We are his job, Jack" Tanya purred, and fiddled with another napkin as she shot Peter a look from beneath thick eyelashes, "Don't be shy, sweetheart. Why don't you sit down and we'll talk?"
"I think she likes you, mate," commented the second boy, who's short hair emphasized the rolls of muscled fat on the back of his wide neck, "Tough luck."
"Wally-" Jack began saying to the fat boy, but Peter had finally dropped the rag and was looking flatly at them.
"By this time tomorrow," Peter said, and Chesser could hear an odd sort of steel beneath his words, "Tanya Hennessey will wish she never set eyes on me."
The change in the group was startling. One moment, they were lax and cockily cheerful. The next, they were wide-eyed and stiff as boards. Tanya, in particular, looked terribly spooked, her thick eyelashes twitching as her gaze shot from Peter to the entrance, then to the back door, where Chesser dove back into the shadows, breathing a little shallowly with fright.
"You little snitch..." she whispered, leaping to her feet, "You little snitch! You sent the old man out for help!"
Laughter broke out in the Walsburg Pub, and all eyes turned to the solitary figure sitting by the front window, his dark head bowed in amusement while his hands clung to an old wooden cane for support. Chesser remember that he had entered just after the group, and briefly wondered if the dark-haired boy was the reason Peter had been adamant about staying.
"Believe me: you'll need all the help you can get," the boy chortled, rubbing his mouth with thin fingers.
"What-" the overweight boy was flummoxed, and Jack and Tanya fared no better. The boy at the front of the pub was easily five years their junior, and crippled to boot. He sat awkwardly, as he had for the past month: as though there was something wrong with his spine.
It wasn't long before their surprise morphed into embarrassed rage.
With a jerk of her arm, Tanya flipped out her blade, the heart-stopping fwick! causing Chesser's vision to momentarily waver. She held it out like a flaming torch, her face vindictive. Jack and Wally flanked her, both drawing knives from beneath their jackets.
"Who do you lot think you are? A goody-two shoes and a beat-up kid! I'll slit both your throats if that's what it takes to keep your mouths shut!"
"Murder, Tanya?" the crippled boy wondered, leaning forward on his cane, "You don't have it in you."
"Ed..." Peter warned. From the angle behind the counter, Chesser could see him anxiously flipping the old knife around in his palm.
But the dark-haired boy, Ed, seemed to be on a roll, and fixed black eyes on the armed girl with a distinct curl to his lip, "If there's one thing Tanya loves- it's attention. She's already robbed three other businesses across London. And she might have gone unnoticed. But she just can't seem to shut up about herself."
Tanya let out a high-pitched shriek, and lunged at Ed- her blade swinging downwards to strike him in the chest-
-And suddenly she was standing with her right arm cradled in her left hand, the stiletto skittering across the floor. Ed was still seated, but his cane was up in the air, falling back to his side after he'd thrown it up to counter her attack.
"Last warning," Peter rang out, stern and terrifyingly calm, "Hand over your weapons or we take you in ourselves."
Tanya's eyes were locked with Ed's. Both looked at each other with incredible levels of dislike. Her right arm was quickly developing a long, thin welt of scarlet, roughly the width of Ed's ancient cane, and Ed's face was a smooth, frozen surface, white as snow.
"There are scarier things than death and injury," the boy murmured, and Chesser might have thought his tone was even gentle, like a concerned friend, "There are more thrilling things than power."
Tanya stared at him.
"Hey-" Jack yelled to the entranced girl, causing her to start and blink, "Let's get this over with, already!"
"Let's," agreed Peter, before he threw the bottle of gin.
Jack barely ducked and the glass container soared over him to shatter against the far wall. At the same time, Peter vaulted over the counter to kick Wally in face with a heavy boot, the kitchen blade deftly twisting outwards in his fingers to cleave the other knife from Jack's hold in a powerful swipe of Peter's arm. Jack yelled- his wrist sliced and blood freely flowing- so Peter came around to knock him clean across the jaw with his left fist. The boy stumbled backwards, fell across the top of a table, and lay still.
Peter rounded on Wally, who was searching for his missing tooth on the quickly dirtying tile, the purpose of the blade in his right hand forgotten until the tall shadow fell over him.
"Oh, bloody h-"
Peter kicked him onto his back and planted a boot on his chest, leaning his full weight onto the plush skin while he reached out a quick hand to pluck the weapon up and fling it across the room, where it stuck in the wall, still quivering.
"Good Lord," exclaimed Chesser, struck otherwise dumb from where he stood. He hadn't hired a gentleman- he'd hired a mercenary!
Ed was frowning openly at the blond boy and struggled to stand, using the table for support as he hobbled around a gasping Tanya Hennessey.
"Won't your boss be upset by the mess? Blood's awfully hard to get up."
Peter exhaled, face relaxing and smile returning like a flip switching. He used a sleeve to wipe at the flecks of crimson dotting his cheek, inspected the cloth, the smiled again up at the younger boy.
"It's only on the tile- I'll have it clean by the time he comes back."
"See that you do," Ed countered with a wry grin, "I'm going to go pick him up- You told him fifteen minutes, right?"
"Ten. There were only two of them."
"Package them up nicely for the police. I think I'll leave Tanya here with you. No- No. It's all right. Peter won't hurt you," Ed told the now frightened girl almost kindly, when she took an obvious step away from the same boy she'd been blatantly flirting with, "I promise. Now- help him clean up, will you? It'll be less incriminating for your friends if it doesn't look like they've made as much of a mess."
With a vivacity he had not felt since his youth, Chesser was out the back door and down the street, one hand cradling the phone against his ear, the other poised to summon the police.
He waited impatiently, his mind churning out thoughts like cloudy water. What had he just witnessed? What if that one boy was dead? What would he tell Peter's parents? What if-
He swallowed and almost hit the call button right then and there.
-What if Peter was in league with the robbers? What if his first three weeks had only been some elaborate ploy to rob the pub right out from under Chesser's nose?
For what felt like hours, Chesser waited in the police box, listening to dogs bark at passing trains and stray automobiles chivvy down streets. But his watch showed that ten minutes had finally passed, and he made a quick call, amazed at how level his own voice had sounded. With the promise of 'help is one the way' ringing in his ears, Chesser hung up.
Then a pale hand rapped on the glass.
Chesser jumped, fingers twitching towards the phone again, and the door was wrenched open to reveal that tall and lanky, dark-haired boy.
"Evening," Ed said, "Peter says you can come back now- Ah ah ah. No need for that."
Chesser had been about to redial. The boy had reached out and pulled the phone out of his hand to replace it on the cradle.
"You've had a rough night," the boy said, helping a speechless Chesser out of the box with one hand, "Robbers, late-night telephone calls, Peter being his usual idiotic self... Yes, I'd say you've earned yourself a sip of brandy."
Up close and actually speaking with him for the first time, Chesser realized that the boy could hardly be older than fifteen. He walked with a hobble that was less pronounced with each step and leaned lightly on his ancient walking cane with a de-varnished grip, as though it were more of a prop than a necessity. Dark hair was plastered to his forehead with obscure liquid, bright teeth flashed under street lamps.
Still somewhat bewildered by the events of the night, it took a moment for Chesser to make the connection.
"You're the boy with the- You've been putting on!"
"Observant, aren't you?" the boy asked, eyes crinkled with amusement while his mouth was set straight, "I could hardly throw off my disguise in front of the idiots I followed in. People would expect more instead of less."
"Followed...?" Chesser dazedly wondered. It was all so bizarre- an elfin child that was both young and not-young guiding him around from the dark alley to the lit porch of his own pub, speaking about such a terrifying and indecent event as though it was run-of-the-mill for him.
"Yes. Followed. A chap has to have something to do something during the summers, you know. Oi! Peter!"
They had returned to the Walsburg, and the front door swung outwards, causing the "CLOSED" sign to wave wildly from its chain on the door window. Peter Pevensie held it open with an outstretched arm, smiling widely and breathing a little more quickly than he normally would. His shirt was newly tucked and his hair was freshly combed. Odd, what one paid attention to when they were in shock.
"All right, Ed?" he asked of the boy, who smirked.
It was only under the light of the porch that Chesser realized the boy's face- Ed's face- was covered in what appeared to be...
"Are you bleeding?"
Ed swiped at his bang and stared as his bloody palm, distinctly unimpressed, "Humph."
"Ed!" Peter chastised, his normally mild-mannered face twisting into panicked alarm, "You said she didn't touch you!"
He wiped his hand across his trouser leg, "You of all people should know about how head-wounds bleed. Let's get Mr. Walsburg inside, shall we?"
The three sidled indoors, and Peter settled Chesser gently into a chair by the bar, giving him a small fifth of brandy, which dulled Chesser's remaining panic quite well.
The Walsburg pub was in its normally graceful array. Tables were pushed back into line, chairs straightened and gleaming from being freshly washed. In the end, only a small patch of the floor where the stilettos rested was coated in blood. Along the side wall, the two boys of the gang three criminals were tied up with rope from the back room. Jack's slit wrist was taped shut, and Wally was chewing on a rag for his bleeding gum. Tanya, meanwhile, was trying to hide behind them, and squeaked with fear whenever Peter glanced her way.
Chesser poured himself a second fifth of brandy.
"Come' on, Ed-"
He watched as Peter fairly picked up the smaller boy beneath the arms (with a familiarity that was disconcerting for Chesser to see) and hefted him to perch on the edge of a bar stool. Peter tipped back Ed's head and glared into his eyes under the dull sheen of the overhead lights.
"No concussion..." Peter murmured, completely centered on his examination. He carefully peeled back the sticky bang of bloodied hair and applied a little alcohol to the spot, causing Ed's eyes to flicker with pain, but otherwise remain trained Chesser's employee, "And, actually, this scrape isn't too bad."
"No surprise," Ed quipped, feet kicking a little where they dangled above the tiled floor, "She fought like an Englishwoman. Lucy could have taken her. "
"You're brothers!" Chesser blurted, triumphant. Apparently brandy killed inhibitions just as indifferently as panic.
Peter and Ed stared at him.
"Speaking of concussions," Edmund- the brother Peter always talked about- said, eyebrows arching.
"He's a lightweight," Peter explained, waving his employer off with a free hand, "Here- Hold this on that scrape to stop the bleeding."
"I know how to stop a scrape from bleeding, mother."
"Ruddy good, brothers too, I reckon!"
Peter took the brandy bottle away from Chesser just as the police rapped on the front door.
Peter Pevensie left for University at Oxford that fall, having inducted his employer into a lovely group of people called the Friends of Narnia. It was there that Chesser learned the truth about his employee and his siblings. It was there that he learned about the grace and majesty of Aslan. And if Chesser accidentally wrote in a fourth digit to Peter's final salary check, he supposed he could blame it on old age.
And if he died before Peter could realize the mistake and return the check, then he supposed that could be because of old age, too.
The New Narnia was a decent sort of place.
I wanted to write about Narnia when lo! The Narnia theme started playing on my Pandora radio. And then this story was born.
So: Peter's summer job is explained, and we see Edmund working on the Friends of Narnia and rooting out evil in the streets of London. That definitely makes this story in the P.E universe. And we'll be seeing more adventures that better explain exactly what Ed's up to later... ;D
Please contact me with any grammar/spelling/factoid mistakes that you notice so that I can go back in and fix them.
Thanks for reading!