Disclaimer: The Pevensies and all the characters and situations in the Chronicles of Narnia belong to C. S. Lewis and not to me.
"I'm terribly sorry, Your Majesty, but you said you wanted to know."
The Hedgehog in charge of the castle laundry held up one wool sock. Except for the grime and the holes worn into the part where the sole of the foot would go, the pale gray yarn looked crisp and new.
"I just made those!" Susan snatched it from her, startling the little laundress with a growl of frustration. "Are they all like that?"
"I'm– I'm afraid so, Your Majesty. I'm most awfully sorry."
Susan forced a tight smile. "No, please don't be. It's certainly not your fault."
With a few more hesitant apologies, the poor creature bowed her way out of Susan's sitting room. The Gentle Queen stared at the ruined sock, waiting for her not-so-gentle temper to cool. What exactly had those two been doing?
Preferring foot wraps and leggings, Narnians weren't much for socks. In fact, socks had been virtually unknown here before the coronation eight years ago. Still, as this past autumn had turned to winter, Susan had overheard her brothers talking about how they sometimes missed the warm socks they had worn in that Other Place, so she had surprised them each with a pair at Christmas.
Somehow those two pairs of socks had lasted not even a month. Saying something about how hard armor was on anything worn beneath it, Peter and Edmund had made the most charming and persuasive pleas for her to make them replacements. The replacements were ruined in less than two weeks, and Susan had told her brothers she wouldn't be making any more. But again they had pleaded with her.
"We could really use two or three pairs each," Edmund had told her, his head tilted a little to one side and an impossibly sweet and disarming smile on his face. "Our feet get so cold while we're out there in all weather. Fighting. Risking our lives." He had batted his thick, dark lashes. "Protecting you."
"We'd be most awfully grateful, Su." Peter had turned his big blue eyes and golden smile on her. "You're the only one who can make them just the way we like. So nice and thick and soft."
Certain even then that she should have known better, Susan had relented and presented them each with four new pairs of socks knitted from the finest wool yarn the Raccoons could spin. The pitiful rag in her hand right now was all that was left of their work and hers.
She stood up and put a determinedly serene smile on her face. Edmund called it her dangerous smile, useful in bending all of creation to her will. She would get to the bottom of this.
She found the boys in the library having their usual after-dinner chess match.
"Check," said Peter, moving his golden bishop into position to take Edmund's silver king.
Edmund smiled slightly, a gleam in his dark eyes. "Are you sure you want to do that, Peter?"
His hand still on the bishop, Peter froze and then narrowed his gaze. "Why not?"
Edmund shrugged. "Go ahead. You know best."
Peter studied the board, a fierce frown on his face. "Edmund–"
"No, really. Go ahead. It's a sure thing."
Peter looked at Edmund for a long moment and then put the bishop back to where it had been. Instead, he moved his rook, not taking anything with it.
With a smirk, Edmund moved his silver knight. "Mate. Oh, and it really was a sure thing."
"Aaaaargh! Why do I always let you do that to me?"
"Because you love me, brother mine." Edmund sprawled back in his chair, still smirking as he stretched his arms over his head. "Admit it."
"True enough, brother mine," Peter confessed. "But that doesn't mean I won't kill you the next time we–"
"The next time you what?" Susan asked coming into the circle of hearthlight that illuminated them.
"Susan." Peter glanced at Edmund and then smiled innocently. "Uh, hullo, Su. How are you?"
"The next time you what?" she repeated.
"The, uh, the next time we play chess," Edmund said. "Would you like to play, Su? I'm sure you can beat Peter."
"I'd like to beat you both," Susan said, her dangerous smile plastered on her face as she held out the ruined sock. "Would either of you care to explain this?"
Again her brothers exchanged a glance.
"I think," Edmund ventured, "it's a sock?"
Peter snickered and then sobered at the look on Susan's face. "We did tell you about the armor. Sometimes it just, uh, happens that way, doesn't it, Ed?"
"Yes, it does. Awful, isn't it, Susan?"
"Armor," she said with a terrible calmness, "does not wear out socks like this."
"We're very, very sorry," Peter said looking devastatingly and boyishly penitent. "Do forgive us, won't you?"
"Please do," Edmund pled.
Susan could never resist Peter's boyish look or the way Edmund's dark eyes could seem so vulnerable and helpless. "Well . . . "
Edmund gave her an appealing little smile. "And make us some new ones?"
Eyes blazing, she flung the tattered sock into the middle of the chess board. "No more socks!"
But once she had stormed back to her sitting room and drank a nice, soothing cup of tea, she took out her knitting needles and a large ball of gray wool yarn and began working. Those two were definitely up to something, and she was going to find out what it was.