A/N: I've been away from FF for some time with exams and suchlike, but I'm back again for the summer! I wasn't going to follow that last one up, but quite a few people wanted to know what became of the boys after the last chapter, so here it is. Enjoy!
In some small, rational part of his mind, Oreius can't help but wonder whether he is a murderer or a soldier.
There was, some would argue, little difference. Others would say that there was a distance as wide as honour between the two, and honour as wide as a soldier's heart. Oreius had once heard it said that one was not a murderer unless one killed for hate, and it was to this that he adhered his principles. He did not hate the enemy, that would be unprofessional. They were an obstacle to his ultimate objective, be it freedom for himself or others, avenging another's death or the defence of his Kings and Queens. They were a blockage that required a little force for their necessary removal. He was a soldier, not a murderer. He was a cold administrator of death, a master in the art of killing. He did his duty.
Today is different.
Today he relishes the warm splatter of enemy blood across his flank, across his armour. His own blood rushes to the symphony of the battle, metal on metal, metal on skin and muscle and bone, pumping out of a wound on his hind leg. His fury is making him reckless. Ten yards behind him, King Edmund fights with the same savage exhilaration. He watches the young colt weave and duck around a goblin for a few moments, before quickly and neatly sliding his sword through its throat. It gargles on its blood and collapses choking to the floor, stilling as King Edmund snatches a small knife from its belt and flicks it through the air. It slices through the noise of battle and embeds itself in the eye of an Ogre that had been about to smash his monstrous club down onto King Peter's chest. He staggers back, roaring, gouging deep marks in his own face, trying to claw away his unexpected blindness.
Oreius spares half a moment to be proud of the dark colt King, and then turns to meet his next enemy.
Oreius wrenches his broadsword slippery and glistening with enemy blood from the back of a Hag who'd lain quivering in the mud, feigning death. The post-victory hush that has settled over the battlefield seems heavier than usual, and Oreius's ears are still ringing with the song of his sword. As it begins to fade, he makes out a low, desperate muttering behind him. King Edmund is knelt in the mud at his brother's side, his sword standing upright in the earth next to him, its point buried in the muck. Both of their finely crafted helmets have been cast to one side and Oreius can see the thin rivulet of red threading down King Peter's ashen cheek from his lips. The infantry soldiers keep glancing anxiously over at them as Edmund's murmurs become steadily more frantic. The pallor of Peter's face is stark against the bright, rich red of his blood.
"Come on, Pete, stay with me. You'll be alright. You'll be alright. Please, just hang on. Just a bit longer. You'll be alright, you have to be..."
It continues in a desperate babble, half to his brother, half to himself. The victory had been narrowly and bloodily won, and if it had not been for the arrival of Queen Susan with another battalion of infantry soldiers and one of the archers' regiments, then the lot of them would easily have been massacred. By the time the reinforcements had arrived, the enemy had already penetrated back to the medical tents, defended by Queen Lucy and the military Healers. Oreius wonders briefly if the Queens have been informed of the condition of their eldest brother. They did not, of course, actually fight on the battlefield, and therefore would not be aware.
King Edmund's flow of comfort becomes suddenly raw and panicked, sobs catching in his throat and his words slurred in his hurry to choke them out. He is on his elbows in the dirt now, curled next to his brother, stroking back his hair which is dark with sweat, begging him not to leave. Oreius hears the sound that he dreads most from one of his Kings-the telltale bloody rattle of death in Peter's chest.
"Oh, Aslan, no! Please, please, don't take him, not yet-I can't-I can't-Don't let him leave me, Aslan, please-"
Edmund's cries become confused and stricken, and Oreius can tell that grief is blurring his thoughts. Something is burning in the pit of his stomach. He has failed. He charged back to save King Peter, but he couldn't do it, and now his life bleeds out into the cold mud of the battlefield, and along with it Edmund's mind. He has failed. He lost Peter, and so he will lose Edmund also. How often had he told them that their greatest asset was each other? His heart twists as Peter gasps in another painful, ragged breath, and Edmund's words finally explode into a broken howl, and the troops look on in fright.
A new sound splits the air-a high, female cry, and salvation flies across the battlefield in a stream of honey-coloured hair and flapping, forest green skirts with dark blood stains spilt down them. Queen Lucy stumbles, slides in the mud, but doesn't slow down. She skids to her knees at Peter's side and wrenches the tiny, crystal bottle of life-giving cordial from her belt. Her hands shake so badly that she can barely loose the stopper on it, but she forces calm on herself and slips a drop of the amber liquid between Peter's white lips. As she does, Queen Susan comes dashing over to her siblings and drops her legendary bow carelessly in the muck, collapsing to her knees by Peter's head and then gently lifting it into her lap. She carefully selects a clean section of her skirt and wipes the blood from his cheek. They wait in taut silence.
Then comes a slow, even breath, and a pair of summer blue eyes crack open. A wild, hysterically relieved laugh splutters out of King Edmund, and Queen Lucy bursts instantly and noisily into tears, throwing herself down onto her brother. Queen Susan tilts her face up to the sky and mouths a silent 'thank you,' helping Peter to sit up. He leans heavily back against her, pale and exhausted, but alive. She gives a tearful smile and runs her fingers through his hair, pressing her lips to it as he allows his head to fall back onto her shoulder. Edmunds grabs him into a rib-cracking embrace, kissing his temple soundly, and then allows Lucy to worm in between them and cuddle against Peter, hiccoughing wetly. Peter looks up out of his nest of siblings, catching Oreius's eyes, and his lips twitch into something resembling a tired smile of gratitude. Oreius returns the gesture with a slow nod. Once again, they have fought their way out of an impossible situation. They are experts at surviving against all odds. And he, with this strange emotional attachment to them, can only vow that never again will he leave one of them behind.
A/N: Oreius is a strange one to write, especially as he is mostly just an observer here, but he is quite refreshing. I hope you enjoyed it, and reviews are much appreciated :)