A/n : This a Christmas gift I wrote for 2011 to Almyra. Almyra and I have worked on lots of fanfic together, generally speaking in the Narnia fandom. We have written stories which are "reflections" of each other, orbiting around the loves and enemies of Peter's life. In her stories she gives him Margaret the nurse as a wife and the evil redhaired witch as an enemy. In mine, Peter has Captain Margaret the military interrogator as an enemy (although the heroine of the story kills her) and the beautiful flame-haired magician Bronwyn as a wife and companion.
In "my" universe, Edmund became a priest and was excused military service. But in hers, he was not so lucky – and so Almyra requested a story set during the Malayan emergency. A few notes about this piece; I based my research on some fairly cursory Wikipedia studies, so there might be errors. It takes place just after the assassination of the High Commissioner in October 1951, and makes reference to some real-world events and people (including Sir Gurney and Mike Calvert – both of whom you can look up).
Based on the timeline established by Lewis and the history of National Service, Edmund would have served 18 months starting January 1949. It would make sense for him to have been selected for officer training and brought into the newly re-formed SAS (again, based on Wikipedia searches) before he was demobilized. Almyra wanted the events to take place later, but there was no way I could justify that historically. So, I had Edmund do his service before he meets Maureen at the bus stop (in her as-yet-unwritten story of the same name) and get called back for King and Country. Of course, he would only have to serve 20 days at a time – but I have fudged this for the sake of the narrative and the idea Edmund is in the jungle fighting in the Malayan Emergency.
There are a lot of little references in this piece, to mine and Almyra's work and also to other things. One of the more interesting are the references and quotes from "The Golden Road to Samarkand", a stanza of which is included on the SAS memorial.
Finally, I am very grateful to Smoltenica (a native of Australia) who helped me with some of Maj. Hogan's dialog.
The tropical rain fell on the roofs of the buildings of one of the New Villages, making an ever-present staccato accompaniment to the nervous beating of unsure hearts pacemade by frayed nerves. Surrounded by a barbed-wire stockade studded with police posts and floodlights, the village was part of the British plan to defeat the Malayan Races Liberation Army by denying access to the civilian population and – thereby – denying access to food, shelter, support and sympathy. The ground underfoot was a perpetual sea of mud with ever-eroding and shifting islands of merely damp land, but the buildings were solidly-constructed and dry, many of them with running water and electricity and some given over to education and medical care. It was October 1951, and the hearts-and-minds portion of the Briggs' Plan was proceeding well.
As well as the usual mixture of rural Malayans and ethnic Chinese this village was home to a small detachment of Commonwealth forces, officially designated as something innocuous and unremarkable. They were a hodgepodge of differing nationalities and disciplines, a hastily-throw together collection of men drawn from every corner of His Majesty's colonies. Underneath the mud and repairs, their uniforms were different but to a glance they all looked much the same.
At the door of the detachment commander's hut a slender woman waited. To an untrained observer, she might have looked like the pretty daughter of a Chinese farmer, but when one looked closer it was clear she was older than any rural peasant of her beauty had a right to be; hard labor in the rubber plantations had not scratched and scoured her loveliness from her. And she was not dressed like any farmer's daughter – in her long, flowing kimono of black silk she was urbane and sophisticated, her manicured face and lacquered hair as perfect as any pleasure girl in the cities. She was wearing sandals with thick wooden soles that held her skirt above the muddy ground and she carried a small umbrella over one shoulder, carefully holding it so it shielded not her but a puddle at her feet.
She was looking down, fascinated by the small circle of still water created by her parasol, gazing at her perfect face, looking beyond it and through it. The locals were avoiding her, talking about her in whispers, entirely uncertain. It had taken only hours for the Chinese's instinctive awareness she was not one of them to be passed to the Malayans.
The commander of the Commonwealth detachment emerged from his hut, rain dripping off the peaked brim of his cap. "Better come inside, ma'am," he said softly. He was an Australian, with a mustache sandy as Ayers Rock bristling beneath eyes blue as the outback sky. "You'll catch your death out here."
She did not turn to him. "You mean death will catch me," she said in a sharp, staccato soprano.
The officer sighed. "Ma'am, he'll be here. Waiting outside won't make him come any quicker."
She gestured at the puddle beneath her. "I enjoy the reflection," she said.
He laughed, unsure. "I've got a mirror in my office," he said.
She turned her head, looking at her face at a different angle. "You do not appreciate the vicissitude of your language, Major," she said.
"I just don't use it." He spoke abruptly, almost urgently. "Directness is an asset in my job. Come inside, will you? You're making the locals nervous."
She lifted her head, smiled at him as water cascaded down her face. "It seems it is an asset now," she said with a smile.
She turned and followed him inside the Nissen hut. It was arranged as a small office cum sitting room, with a door leading to the Major's bedroom firmly closed behind his desk. The Malayan batman stood as they entered and bowed his head. "Tea, sah?" he asked.
"Yeah, Kim-hock," the Major said. "Thanks." He sat down behind his desk while the woman elegantly folded her umbrella and seated herself opposite him. Kim-hock tried to not look nervous as he poured her a cup of tea, but when she darted out one slender, ivory hand to grasp his wrist his hands trembled so much he nearly dropped the teapot.
"Leave it," she said firmly, settling the steel pot on the surface of the desk and admiring her reflection in it. She ignored her tea as the Australian officer heaped sugar and milk into his.
"I'd say you were self-absorbed," he remarked, sipping at it.
"I would not hear you," she barely answered.
There was an uncomfortable silence in the office for dreadfully long minutes, as the rain beat white noise against the metal roof and the tea cooled in the pot. The officer busied himself with papers on his desk and the woman gazed reflectively at the curved metal surface. She was a shuttered mirror; reflecting everything but revealing nothing, the endless internal refractions of closeted glass. Finally, there was a knock at the door. "Come in," said the Major gratefully.
The door opened on the tropical twilight, the dim illumination of the fading evening blocked by a ragged figure wearing a wide-brimmed hat beat down by the rain and a long oilskin cloak sewn with patches and strips of camouflage fabric. He stepped into the room, mud and rainwater dripping off him onto the linoleum floor. Dangling from his right hand was a standard Lee-Enfield, well-worn but expertly maintained and incongruously completely spotless. The rest of the soldier was mired in mud and jungle slime. Beneath the grime his face was grizzled with several days' dark beard. For an instant, as they caught the light, his eyes flashed yellow beneath the brim of his hat. "Guards at the gate said you wanted to speak with me, Sir," he said. His voice was tight and clipped, sophisticated and well-educated.
"The High King requested my presence?" Weary from the battlefield, the gross language of humans unfamiliar in his mouth, filth in every crevice of skin and dreadful knowledge in his heart. "What report shall I make?" How much can you endure? How much guilt will you try to take for me, not knowing you cannot take any and you only corrupt yourself?
The Major stood up as Kim-Hock fumbled for a bowl of water, cake of soap and towel. "I wouldn't have minded if you'd got cleaned up first, Lieutenant," he said. His voice held no hint of accusation of the man currently messing up his office. It was impossible to keep clean out in those jungles, and the Major secretly welcomed the opportunity to have the details of the war come into his behind-the-lines life.
Palominus scampering to bring a bowl of water scented with bergamot and strewn with rose-petals, holding it out to him. Blood and muddy sweat dripping off his hands, staining the surface of the cleansing water.
"Just as you say, Sir," the Lieutenant answered, "but I'd rather report immediately, if I may."
Brushing the Faun away, dismissing the one who lurked in safety under the shield he provided, addressing the one who fought the same war on a different battlefield. Brothers in arms, brothers in blood, brothers in utero.
The Major shrugged and reached behind him, picking up a bottle of spirits. "Brandy?" he asked.
"You need a drink, Eddie." The promised anesthetic of alcohol, wine to wash away the bloody taste of raw meat, to quiet the horrible dreams. An embarrassed skewering, knowing the knowledge of who you are is known.
"If I can take the rest of the bottle for my men, Sir." The Lieutenant's voice was blunt and direct. "They've been on patrol for four days, Sir."
"The pack has injured." My own discomforts are nothing, my pain unimportant. See to my people before you try to see to my hurts. I can only bear so much of their suffering.
He lifted his left hand to his mouth, pulling his dirty glove off with his teeth, and reached inside his jacket and extracted a sheaf of crumpled papers. "This is the preliminary intelligence, Sir. I can make a full report now if you like, but I would prefer to be able to dismiss my men." The Major set two glasses down, pouring a large measure into each. He recorked the bottle and made to hand it to his batman, but the Lieutenant's voice stopped him. "She's not a guest?" he asked. "Or is she a Mohammedan?"
The Dryad in the corner, keeping her own counsel with her mouth closed and ears open. Green and sinuous, a sensual figure of womanhood wrapped in vines and deceit, seductive and dangerous.
The Major blushed and reached for another glass and the woman stood, bowing to the Lieutenant. "I am Ookami," she said in her staccato accent, but before she could get any further the Lieutenant had grabbed the handle of her parasol, twisting and pulling. A reed-thin stiletto blade slid of the shaft of the umbrella and he reversed it and drove the point into the surface of the table. The slender sword remained upright, quivering softly.
"This is Hedera, she has been in hiding since the Witch came to Narnia. She was part of the resistance against Jadis." Hiding. Hiding so well she was not at Beruna, not at our coronation.
"Sorry," he said flatly. "I get nervous when women with Japanese codenames carry concealed blades near me." He shrugged. "Jungle patrol makes a man paranoid." He gestured at her tightly-lacquered tresses. "You can keep the two pins; they're holding your hair in place so we'll pretend that's their main function," he added. She smiled.
"And your purpose here, Hedera?" Blown like a leaf and tossed by the waves, is your allegiance to the strongest?
"Your intelligence service was right about you, Lieutenant Edmund Pevensie," she said. She put her head on one side. "Conscripted in January 1949, served your year and a half loyally and well, rising to the rank of Lieutenant without ever really wanting or trying to. Made part of the reformed Special Air Service in 1950 and served here, in what your merchants insist is called the Malayan Emergency." She dimpled her oriental beauty. "How quaint you nation of shopkeepers are!"
"Why, the same as yours, Your Majesty – to see the defeat of the Witch's forces, to see Narnia restored to the Narnians." Too easy to read something into that, too tired to untangle signal from substance.
"You read my curriculum vitae, well done," said Edmund, "and this war is not for trafficking alone." He turned to the Major. "Sir, if you wouldn't mind?" The Major nodded and lifted the brandy bottle.
"I'll go see them myself, Lieutenant," he said. "Have a bit of barney with them, get the smell of the jungle in my nostrils, you know?"
"I think I'll speak with the wolves, Eddie."
"Think the men might like to wash it off if you can spare the water, Sir," Edmund said quietly. The Major blushed.
"They might not have much to say."
"Right," he laughed nervously. He opened his desk drawer and held out a folded piece of paper. "Orders from Brigadier Calvert, your eyes and mine only." Edmund took the paper, noticing the seal was unbroken. He unfolded it and scanned the few lines it contained. "Ookami is assisting our intelligence efforts here." Edmund folded the paper and very deliberately looked straight at the woman. "I'll get to your men," the Major said. He gathered his batman up by eye. "Come on, Kim-hock, let's go see if these SAS boys want one of your famous curries."
"Hedera has come here to help, Eddie." A warning note in the voice of a man leaving quickly so he would not be contaminated by whatever realities of war his brother fought. A fearless warrior realizing he should not try his courage too much, an idealistic king knowing certain ideals cannot stand the fire.
"A former Japanese spy, working for the British to aid the Malayans," said Edmund when the officer had left. "That is a story at least as interesting as mine." She shrugged.
"We bear no great love for the Communists," she explained, "and I have no home to return to." His face must have registered incomprehension, because she gestured at his mouth. "Your accent doubtless has an origin. Mine comes from Nagasaki," she explained. He did not offer sympathy and she did not expect it. "I haven't switched sides – our troops fought your insurgents during the War, when they were called the Malayan Peoples' Anti-Japanese Army." She smiled, once again, at the multiple-meanings of English. "Of course," she remarked, "they are doubly your insurgents – you trained them."
Ambush and counter-ambush in the Lantern Waste, silent assassinations, victims killed quietly and corpses dragged away in the night with sleeping spouses left alone and undisturbed. Hit and run attacks on the flanks of marching armies, harrying the stragglers, striking from the shadows and slinking back into them without a sound.
Edmund shook his head. "Not me, Ookami," he assured her. "I wasn't doing that during the War."
"Ah, yes," she corrected herself. "Too young?"
He and Peter falling silent as Lucy walked in, shifting the conversation clumsily to something innocuous and innocent, nervously crumpling maps and orders and casualty reports into fists. "I know what you're doing!" No, no you don't.
"Not any more." He knocked his brandy back in one. "So, what do you want?"
"I want to reflect on you, Lieutenant."
He smiled and shook his head. "No such luck, Ookami. I came here to do a job, not to get my head examined by you."
"But you came back here?" she asked. "You had been demobilized."
"Placed on the reserve." He made a particular distinction between the two concepts. "When the King calls, I answer."
How many times had he answered his brother, his captain, his king's call to stand and fight? How many times had Peter asked him to solve a problem no-one else could, to wade into the darkness once again with his skills and his determination and his allies? How many times had Narnia called on King Edmund the Just to do deeds in the darkness and the light for the defense of the realm? Was there ever really an end to duty?
"And your friend Brigadier Calvert, no?" she asked. "He asked for you personally."
He smiled. "You don't refuse a warrior named Michael, Ookami. Mike and I are old drinking chums. We understand each other."
She nodded. "And you and Major Hogan? You understand each other?"
The bright warmth of a Summer morning after a bloody battle, a crisp Autumn evening unsullied by the mud of the field. The laughter and gaiety of the revels of Narnia exulting in victory. Peter leading the singing and the games, stopping abruptly as Edmund and the wolves walked into the clearing and the music stopped. The questions which Peter did not want to have answered in his eyes, and the shuttered blankness of unreflective knowledge in Edmund's. And then Peter smiling and laughing, clapping his brother on the shoulder and pulling him into the warm circle of his family's love. Exultant praise and cheers from a hundred throats, but one whispered accolade that was worth so much more. "Thank you, Edmund. One day, we can stop this."
"Well enough," he answered shortly. "With respect, I have duties – and if there is nothing pressing here I would like to get cleaned up and get to my billet. I've got a patrol in less than eight hours."
"I know – you are sweeping east, trying to find those who killed the High Commissioner." He nodded, wary of how much she knew. "It is a waste of time – you might find them, but I think his death as as much of a surprise to them as you. That was no targeted assault, they did not know who they were killing."
"Sir Gurney's just as dead," Edmund said flatly.
She nodded. "Very true, but I think he did not die in vain. My network tells me the Malayans find this development disturbing – it shows the man in the street is not safe. The support for the Communists among the natives is waning, the Malayan Races Liberation Army may soon have to change its tactics to less terrorism and more politics."
"And this is a good thing?" Edmund asked. She shrugged. "It may lead to some kind of political schism, an overt declaration of rebellion which could lead to civil war. I am no regular soldier."
She inclined her head. "Major Hogan, it seems, is. That is why he was chosen for this posting, I think."
His troops returning to the Cair, harried and wounded with the hounds of the Giants snapping at his heels. Coming to his brother in shame and disgrace, admitting his diplomacy had failed, that the Giants of Harfang had refused his treaty and made massive territorial gains in a lightning campaign, leagues of the Marshwiggle's homelands south of the Shribble falling to their monstrous armies. Peter listening without judgment, shrugging when he finished and reaching for his sword, calling for Coriadine. "Some you lose, Eddie. Even you."
Edmund sighed. "Why are you telling me this? Mike wants me to do, what? Afford you full co-operation? What does that even mean? What are you hoping to accomplish?"
"Armed with my intelligence and knowledge of the Communists, you and your men can place pressure on the Malayan Races Liberation Army, forcing them into pursuing more political means to their ends." She smiled. "And then you could go home sooner. If you are not a politician, and this becomes political, maybe they won't need you."
"You don't know the ways of warriors, Ookami," Edmund said. "Politicians will always need people like me."
The aftermath of the Battle of Glasswater, his brother standing over the final broken remnants of the Witch's army. Thanks to Peter's battlefield leadership and personal heroism, nothing lived on the field than did not owe fealty to the Empire of Narnia. Everyone convinced the war was over. But there were dark shadows scurrying under the eaves of the forest, running away once again to nibble like maggots at the raw edges of the kingdom. Peter turning to him. "Finish this."
She did not smile. "Perhaps you are right. Do you have something to return to? I heard your cities were bombed like mine."
The thundering, explosive roars of bombs falling on London, glass smashing, brick shattering, ancient stone sundered. The horrible cataclysm of a peaceful city overtaken by war. Two boys, crouched under the kitchen table, their arms wrapped around each other, the younger one shivering and crying with terror, the older one managing to hold in his own fear for his brother's sake. "Be brave, it can't last forever."
He allowed himself a very slight twist of sympathy. "Not like yours."
"Nothing is," she agreed. "Do you have something, someone, to return to?"
The ice-white darkness of endless cold, of a Winter without limit or expression, by turns numbing and shattering. The beauty of snow-pale skin and night-black hair, lips red as love. Whiteness painfully sweet, lacquered licorice and sticky raspberries. The dark haired woman of his dreams and nightmares, the temptress, the seductress, the vampire sucking in and never giving out, biting down on him and drawing all the warmth from him and into her thirsting, yearning, desert-cold core.
The reflections finally broke through to the surface of his personality. "Y . . . yes, yes I do," he stammered.
The softness of the pretty, shy girl two years below him, the grin of gratitude at the bus stop, the flutter of possibility. Letters exchanged, walks in the park. A tearful explanation of Calvert's request and His Majesty's orders. A knowledge twenty days would be too-short an estimate, and a promise any length of time would not be too long to wait.
She cocked her head quizzically, like a bird, as he broke away from her and paced the small office. "You seem unsure. Did you have your dreams and did not think of her?" She shrugged when he did not answer. "What will you do when you return?"
He had stopped behind the Major's desk, looking at the polished brass trumpet hanging from the wall. Hogan had been a member of the regimental band while he rose through the ranks. Edmund had heard him play – the clarion calls of military marches, but also the sweet sounds of jazz. He looked at the instrument, his image shown to him in the warm, curved, feminine surfaces of well-loved brass. "I think I will . . . reflect," he answered eventually.
She came and stood next to him, looked at the instrument, did not touch it. "Do you play?" she asked. He shook his head. "Maybe you should start."