Disclaimer:I do not own anything to do with Narnia
Author'sNote:I know this wasn't one of the stories I mentioned on my user's page that I would finish up, but honestly I had forgotten it at the time. This was the original chapter I had written for Edmund's chapter in "Christmas Days", but it got to be too long compared to the other chapters. So I tossed this, and wrote the chapter that ended up in that story. But, as a little Christmas present, I present to you this hurriedly-finished story. Merry Christmas!
Edmund didn't know what he had been thinking. Perhaps that a ride alone in the northern grasslands would be refreshing. Perhaps that he could escape the frantic excitement that had taken over Cair Paravel in anticipation of the first Christmas after the defeat of the White Witch. Perhaps he had been thinking of one of their scouts, a Mink named Siveon, who had been called to guard duty at the Cair so unexpectedly after Jin the Weasel fell ill that he had not had time to bring his wife and children with him – meaning they would be spending this Christmas apart.
Perhaps Edmund wanted to escape the memories of last Christmas, memories which still haunted his dreams despite his best efforts to overcome the past.
Regardless of his reasons, Edmund had set off two days before Christmas with only his horse for company, heading to Siveon's den. His arrival had been a pleasant surprise for Siveon's wife, Steli, who nearly burst into tears when Edmund offered to take her and her four kits to Cair Paravel for Christmas. The kits had been ecstatic at the thought of going to the castle, and Edmund spent much of that evening trying to help Steli calm them down enough to go to sleep. Edmund had spent the night in the Minks' den, thankfully big enough to fit him since it used to belong to some other, larger Animal before the Minks moved in.
That night, the night before Christmas Eve, Edmund dreamt of a snow-covered Christmas, the harsh sting of whips, and a voice of ice.
It was the smallest kit, Lidae, who woke him the next morning, her somber face a startling change from the bright eyes and happy laughter of the night before. "King Edmund, it's snowing." Edmund felt his heart sink, and he scrambled out from under the blankets Steli had provided for him. Pulling on his boots, sword, and cloak, Edmund stepped outside the den with Lidae, joining a solemn-looking Steli and the three kits – Mus, Vora, and Niv – who huddled near their mother, eyes wide with a fear that would surprise anyone until they remembered what snow meant to most Narnians.
Edmund, though he had only spent a few days in the Long Winter, still felt that same fear. The blanket of snow that lay on the grass and the sparse trees, which covered the frozen river, was naught but another terrible reminder of last Christmas. The frozen wind whistled by his ears, mocking him with icy whispers too much like Her voice, and his shivers were not just from the cold.
Little Vora whimpered, and Mus put his arms around her, trying to comfort his sister despite his own wariness. Steli looked at Edmund, her lips tightly pressed and he knew she was feeling the same thing he was: anger. Anger at the evil that would cause even these small children to fear a ghost of winters past and Christmas lost. Edmund grit his teeth before pasting on a smile and turning to the kits. He was about the try and comfort them, when his gaze was caught by the willow copse that stood behind the den.
His smile faded. The evening before he had secured his horse under those trees. There was no sign of even the lead rope now. His horse was gone, and with him hope of getting back to Cair Paravel for Christmas. The snow was already nearly half a foot deep and still falling; Edmund was smart enough to know that he wouldn't have the energy to slog through that, and he didn't dare even think about taking the kits through this. Even now the wind and snow was picking up, and Mus was already herding his sisters and brother inside to escape the cold.
After a few words with Steli, Edmund headed out to see if he could find his horse. His hopes that the animal had not wandered far were soon dashed, and the growing storm forced him to return to the Minks' den. Steli met him outside, seeing by the look on his face that his search had been unsuccessful. She placed a paw on Edmund's arm. "You will stay with us, of course; you can't try to return to the Cair in this."
Edmund sighed. "And they dare not send anyone from the Cair for us; Narnians know better than to be out in this kind of weather." He gave Steli an apologetic smile. "I am sorry to impose on you, my lady. It seems my intentions to help you have only added to your burdens."
Steli shook her head, her tiny eyes sparkling with kindness. "My burdens? To have one of our Sovereigns stay at our den? Elido down the way will be green with envy! And the kits will remember this Christmas forever as the one where King Edmund stayed with us. It is certainly no burden."
Edmund thanked her for kind words and dutifully followed her back inside the den, carefully removing his cloak and boots so that he didn't trudge in snow. The kits were arranged in front of the fire, Mus distracting Vora with a story while Lidae and Niv had dug out a pair of playing cards and were presently playing some game that Edmund did not recognize. Without a pause, Steli began busying herself in the kitchen, adamantly refusing Edmund's help. So the Narnian king sat on the floor and let Lidae and Niv teach him 'Rabbit Pairs'. Soon, little Vora had crept into his lap, and Mus began helping Lidae beat their brother, and laughter began replacing the fear that the snow had planted in their hearts.
But as the snow fell harder outside the den, and the wind howled, the shadow still remained.
The snow fell all day that Christmas Eve, only letting up as the afternoon drew to a close. It was only then that Steli hesitantly approached him and asked if he would make sure supper did not burn, since she needed to shovel some of the snow off the top of the den. Apparently too much accumulation might cause the roof to cave in, as a few of the support beams were rather too old to hold much weight; shoveling had been one of Siveon's steady chores for most of their married life.
Edmund would not hear of it, insisting that Steli let him do the shoveling. Bundling up, Edmund soon found that shoveling was very hard work. Despite the now gently-falling flakes, he soon had his hood pushed back and was contemplating taking off his cloak as he struggled to heave off the last bit of wet, heavy snow. Apparently just in time, as the door to the den opened and Steli came over to him, Niv bounding through the drifts behind her. "Supper is ready. I hope you do not mind fish again."
Anything sounded good at the moment and Edmund told her so. Steli laughed at his obvious hunger and was about to speak when Niv interrupted by bouncing between them. "Mumma, Mumma!" His voice was shaking in fear.
"What is it, dear? What…" Steli stopped speaking suddenly, her sensitive ears catching what must have frightened Niv. Without warning, the Mink flattened herself on the snow, herding her kit behind her. Edmund followed suit, wincing as snow was pushed down the front of his tunic. He strained to hear what had alarmed Steli and Niv, silently cursing the fact that his ears were not as good as the Mink's. After a moment, though, a soft sound trickled through the dusk's air, a sound that sent a shock of fear through Edmund.
For a moment, Edmund felt himself pulled back to a year before, to a Christmas before spent at the bottom of that terrible sleigh, the Witch looming above him, the Dwarf sneering at him and flicking that whip, as silver bells jingled in mocking laughter from the harnesses of the Witch's reindeer slaves. The moment passed, but the fear did not – not for Edmund, not for Steli, and not for little Niv who had been trained from birth to listen for the dreaded sound of sleigh-bells in the snow.
Shifting closer to the Minks, Edmund got up, still crouched low to the ground, and motioned for Steli to take Niv and head for the den. The Mink looked about ready to protest, but was silenced as Edmund slowly drew the sword that always hung at his belt when away from home. He gave her a determined look and Steli responded to the silent command, crawling towards the door of the den, hovered protectively over her kit.
Edmund moved forward, sword in hand and ready to protect the Mink and her kits from whoever was approaching, the sound of bells coming closer and closer. He sent a silent prayer to Aslan for strength and courage, even as his hands shook…from cold, he told himself. The bells drew nearer, and the dark shape of a sledge pulled by reindeer emerged from over the frozen river. Even in the light of the reflected snow, Edmund could not quite make out the shape of the person who drove the sledge. The craft drew nearer, stopping just feet away from Edmund.
His hand tightened around his sword, as a shape emerged from the sledge, sinking into the snow but still looming larger and taller than Edmund. The figure, humanoid by Edmund's reckoning, took a few steps towards the Narnian king before pausing. Edmund fell automatically into a defensive stance as the figure suddenly reached up and threw make the hood of his cloak. With a sharp intake of breath, Edmund faltered. The figure was an older man, his hair white and his beard full. He wore a suit of dark red velvet and burnished brown leather, and wore a longsword on his belt.
The man smiled at him, his hands on his hips. "Merry Christmas, your majesty."
Edmund lowered his sword. He had never met this man, but his siblings had, and had described him in detail. "Merry Christmas, sir." Looking at the man's bright, twinkling eyes, Edmund was almost ashamed of the fear that had caused him to suspect evil of him.
For, of course, how could anyone think ill of Father Christmas?
Stepping towards Edmund, Father Christmas gave a low bow. "I hope I did not startle you too much, your majesty."
Edmund felt his cheeks redden as he sheathed his sword. "A bit, sir. The, uh, bells frightened one of the kits." It was not the whole explanation, but Edmund had the feeling that Father Christmas knew the truth anyway.
"I am sorry for that, but it is understandable. It takes time for the hard-earned fear to fall away." The kindness in the old man's eyes told Edmund that he was not just speaking of Nev.
Edmund turned away from that understanding. "We need to tell Steli that all is well." He knocked on the door; a moment later, a cautious Steli opened it, relieved to see that it was only Edmund. The king smiled at her. "It seems you have another visitor; one the kits might like to see."
Curious, Steli went and retrieved the kits, who had been hiding in the bedrooms, and followed Edmund outside. Five pairs of eyes widened, and it was Vora who broke the stunned silence. "Father Christmas!" she shouted and struggled to bound through snow that was taller than her.
Father Christmas laughed and scooped her up from the ground. "Merry Christmas, Vora. I see you have been a very good girl this year."
The little Mink nodded vigorously. "Very good, sir. Do I get a present?"
Laughing, Father Christmas put her down in the foot of his sleigh. "Yes, you all get presents. But not yet."
This puzzled Vora as much as it did her family and Edmund. "What do you mean, sir?"
Father Christmas smiled at them all. "First, I have to deliver some very special presents to Cair Paravel." As understanding dawned on Edmund and the Minks, Father Christmas's eyes twinkled with mirth. "That is, if you don't mind a ride in my sleigh."
Edmund was almost surprised at the fact that the idea of riding in a sleigh again did not bring a rush of fear to his heart. Perhaps it was because the light in Father Christmas's eyes and smile reminded him a little of Aslan, but Edmund only felt relief. Relief and joy, as the despair of spending another Christmas away from his family – despair he had tried hard to suppress – melted away. The Narnian king smiled back at the one who would grant him his wish to be home with his family. "That is exactly what I wanted for Christmas, sir," he said, and Father Christmas laughed.
The sleigh ride was everything Edmund had not expected. Unlike when he was a captive of the Witch, Edmund sat beside Father Christmas, Steli squeezed in between them. Edmund held Vora and Lidae in his lap, while their brothers wound themselves around his and Father Christmas's necks. The sleigh raced across the ground, the reindeer seeming to fly atop the snow. The wind rushed by Edmund's face, but instead of frightening, it was exhilarating; instead of howling, it was laughing.
The Mink kits were laughing as well. Lidae kept nearly slipping out of Edmund's hold as she tried to stand up and look out over the top of the sleigh. Mus was shrieking in his ears, shouts of such happiness that Edmund could not complain of the noise. Even Steli seemed to be enjoying the ride, though she kept a tight grip on Edmund's arm. Despite the late hour, none of the passengers in the sleigh seemed the slightest bit tired as they watched a snow-covered Narnia fly by.
They reached Cair Paravel near midnight. No one seemed to see them as the sleigh worked its way through the streets to the castle; Edmund supposed it was the magic of Father Christmas. The gates of the Cair opened without sound and without doormen, allowing them to enter the main courtyard, where Father Christmas brought the reindeer to a stop. Nimbly leaving the sleigh, and setting Niv down next to his mother, Father Christmas grinned mischievously. "I believe a few certain Narnians heard my sleigh and should be coming out soon. I prefer my presents to be a surprise, though."
Edmund grinned back. "We will just stay here, then, sir. Wouldn't do to ruin the surprise." Father Christmas chuckled, and turned away; as he did, Edmund felt a rush of magic, and he got the feeling that the contents of the sleigh were invisible again to those outside.
The door of the castle opened, and Edmund felt his heart leap at the sight of the three figures that stumbled out, cloaks and boots looking out of place over night-clothes. The smallest figure shouted out, "Father Christmas!" and rushed towards the old man, giving him a hug that was giant for someone of her size. That was Lucy, though, and Edmund could not help but smile at the sight.
Peter and Susan were more dignified as they approached – as dignified as one can be in one's night-clothes. "Merry Christmas, sir," they chorused.
"Merry Christmas, your majesties" chuckled Father Christmas. "But…why the long faces?" And, indeed, behind the smiles were dulled eyes; beneath the wishes of merriment was a sound of longing.
It was Lucy who answered. "It's just…it's the snow, sir."
Father Christmas frowned. "There is nothing to fear from this snow, your majesty," he stated, and Edmund felt the truth in those words.
"Oh, we know," said Susan morosely. "It's just…"
"…we were so happy to be able to spend Christmas all together," continued Lucy with a slight pout. "And now, because of the snow, we can't."
Still not giving anything away, Father Christmas reasonably asked, "Why ever not?"
The look on Peter's face as he answered was so depressed that it took all of Edmund's willpower not to jump out of the sleigh then and there. "Edmund left yesterday to get a… a Christmas present for one of our guards and…and he hasn't come back."
"Hmm," murmured Father Christmas, with a twinkle in his eye. "And where is this special guard?" Peter carefully indicated the shadows to their left with a nod of his head, and Edmund saw the dim outline of a Mink carefully watching over his siblings. The kits were practically bouncing with anticipation at the sight of their father, and Steli smiled fondly. Father Christmas moved back to his sleigh. "Ah, well, I have a present for him as well, which I think I'll deliver before I give you yours, your majesties, if you don't mind. Siveon, if you will."
The startled Mink froze in place, but Susan smiled at him in encouragement and so Siveon slinked towards the sleigh. The guard's eyes lit up in surprise and joy as four Mink kits tumbled onto the snowy ground and into his waiting arms. The kits' chatter rose in the air as they all tried to relate their Christmas experience at such a rate and volume that nothing was actually heard. Steli came up behind them, eyes filled with happy tears as she moved to embrace her husband. The small family was together for Christmas, and in their joy seemed removed from the rest of the world.
It was Lucy who first made the connection, and turned to Father Christmas, her eyes wide. "If you brought them here, then…" her words stopped with a hitch before continuing, "…our present?"
The hope in her voice was so strident that Edmund jumped out of the sleigh before he could even think. In a flash he was hugging his little sister, lifting her feet off the ground as best he could. "Merry Christmas, Lu!"
Lucy squealed in his ear when she got over her initial shock, but he did not care, and soon he found himself surrounded in the embrace of all three of his siblings, all of them laughing and crying and happy, none of them caring about the softly floating snow or the sound of bells on the wind. They were together, and it was everything Edmund had wanted for Christmas: to be with his family, to know they loved him, to be able to make them happy. And as the two families rejoiced in their gifts, Father Christmas smiling over them, Edmund knew that, as long as this was the result, he would not care if allhis Christmases, for the rest of his life, were white.
There won't be a commentary for this one, but I hope you liked it!