Disclaimer: Edmund and Peter Pevensie and all the characters and situations in the Chronicles of Narnia belong to C. S. Lewis and not to me.
Edmund straightened his shoulders and smoothed his new doublet as he stood waiting to be summoned before the Queens and the High King. Made especially for the occasion by the mice who tailored his clothes, the doublet was jet black and trimmed with an intricate silvery sort of cording of which the mice were justifiably proud. Edmund preferred something more practical, something that would stand up to riding and hunting and such, and Lucy, though very complimentary about his new outfit, had agreed. But Susan, who had insisted on inspecting him ahead of time, said it particularly suited his coloring. After that, Peter had taken to calling him Snow White, and the hope of any sort of civil conclusion to the discussion had at that point been fairly well abandoned.
It was good to have things back to normal. Good to see Lucy's eyes glowing with laughter. Good to have Susan fussing over him. Good to know Peter was well enough for merciless teasing and even a bit of roughhousing behind Susan's back. It was good to be home.
Somehow, though, he felt nervous now. He'd spent half his lifetime appearing in the throne room before dignitaries and important personages of all ranks and from all the lands. He was well used to standing before his people and speaking. But the last time he had been formally summoned here, it was to hear his brother and High King pass sentence upon him for his supposed treason. Now he knew he was to have a very different reception.
Finally, with a brassy fanfare, the doors swung open, the throng of courtiers parted, and Edmund walked towards the four thrones escorted by a pair of Tigers and a Gryphon, the High King's guard, this time a guard of honor. When he stood before his brother and sisters, he bowed his bare head.
"My Liege Lord and High King. My noble Queens."
Peter returned a regal nod. "Edmund Pevensie, you are welcome to us and to this company. Before we begin, our General has a matter to address."
He looked to his right, and Oreius came forward and stood in front of Edmund. He made the usual Centaur bow and then, to Edmund's astonishment, bent his forelegs, as a human would kneel. Lowering his head, he offered up a gleaming sword flat across his palms. Edmund's sword. The one that had been broken. It was whole now, perfect and shining.
Edmund took it from him, tears swelling his throat, making his voice come out rather choked.
"I am ashamed, My King," the proud Centaur began. "I allowed myself to be deceived when I should have known you for who you truly are. I submit myself to whatever discipline Your Majesty thinks most meet, along with my removal as General of your army."
Edmund looked helplessly at his brother. He hadn't planned on this. Surely Peter would never–
Peter merely nodded at Edmund, leaving the decision in his hands.
Edmund turned to the Centaur again, remembering that very first terrifying sight of him as he was rescued from the Witch's camp, remembering clinging to him when he had his first even-more-terrifying glimpse of the Lion, remembering everything the Centaur had done in the ten years since to teach him honor and chivalry and kingship.
He made his expression stern. "Then hear your sentence, Oreius. You are condemned from this day forward to serve as General over Narnia's army, second only to us and to the High King himself, with all the courage and faithfulness you have shown since our arrival here."
Oreius looked up and then bowed his head again. "Surely, Your Majesty, I should not be allowed–"
"Further," Edmund interrupted firmly, "you are condemned to never again concern yourself over what is past, to remember only whatever wisdom Aslan has taught you through the experience and to know we are well aware that everything you thought or did was in unwavering care of our brother, our sisters and our kingdom."
"Lastly, you are condemned to hold to the oath you made to our High King in that first battle on Beruna's field." Edmund put one hand on the brawny shoulder. "To him and to all of us."
Edmund's hand was swallowed up by the Centaur's, holding it there where it was. Then the General lifted his head, dark eyes fixed on Edmund's.
"To the death."
He stood at last and, with another bow from the waist, backed gracefully to one side, leaving Edmund there alone before the four thrones, his gleaming sword still in his hand. Before he could sheathe it, Lucy stood up, regal in her flowery silver crown and her gown of rich forest green and with her fair hair falling in loose curls to her waist. She reached out her slender hand.
"If you please, noble sir."
He gave her the sword.
"Kneel," she commanded, her usually merry face stern and queenly, and he obeyed.
"Though you were made so by the very paws of the Great Lion Himself, we before all this company, before our kingdom and before all the worlds affirm that you, Edmund Pevensie, are a Knight of the Noble Order of the Table, and neither in word nor in deed have you ever shown yourself unworthy the title. Bear this sword in might and in right. Bear these blows and no others." Lifting it with both hands, she brought the flat of his blade down on one shoulder and then the other and then returned the sword to him. "Take your own back again, Sir Edmund, and may any foolish enough to seek to take it from you perish in the attempt."
She leaned down and kissed his forehead and sat again in her throne. As he knelt there still, Susan approached, her crown of golden flowers bright against her lush black hair and her fair skin aglow against the vivid red of her gown.
"Though you were made so at the pleasure of the Great Lion Himself, we before all this company, before our kingdom and before all the worlds affirm that you, Edmund Pevensie, are the Duke of Lantern Waste, and neither in word nor in deed have you ever shown yourself unworthy the title. Bear this seal as always you have, in justice and in truth, upholding Aslan's laws and Narnia's." She took his hand and slipped his heavy seal ring again onto his finger. "Take your own back again, Duke Edmund, and may any foolish enough to seek to take it from you perish in the attempt."
She, too, kissed his forehead, gently caressing his cheek before she returned to her throne. Then Peter stood, his crown almost lost against the gold of his hair and his eyes bluer for the deep sapphire of his doublet and cloak. Before him he held the heavy silver crown that had been stripped from Edmund along with his titles what now seemed a very long time ago.
"Though you were made so at the unalterable word of the Great Lion Himself, we before all this company, before our kingdom and before all the worlds affirm that you, Edmund Pevensie, are the Just King of Narnia, and neither in word nor in deed have you ever shown yourself unworthy the title. Bear this crown as always you have, in honor, in wisdom and in strength." He set the glimmering silver on Edmund's head. "Take your own back again, King Edmund, and may any foolish enough to seek to take it from you perish in the attempt."
"My Liege Lord and most noble High King," Edmund said, beginning to stand, but Peter held up one hand, silencing him and signaling him to remain where he was.
Edmund glanced at his sisters and then again looked up at his brother. They hadn't discussed doing anything more than what had already taken place.
"As all Narnia now knows, these titles, Knight, Duke and King, were by ourself wrongly and most foolishly taken from you," Peter said, and there was a flash of anger in his eyes, "and it is no more than right that they should be restored. But, in saving not only our kingdom but our reason and our very life as well as the lives and honor of our noble sisters, it seems most meet that something more be done. Because, rather than leaving us to destruction in revenge of the wrongs done you, you risked your own life and traveled far into the wild to bring back the cure to the Snake's venom and otherwise delivered us and ours from ruin, you have, by your valor, wit, and strength at arms, by your own ability and by the grace of the Lion, earned the title and rank of Count of the Western March."
He nodded, and Susan and Lucy both stood. Lucy handed him a ring of fine gold set with emeralds, and Peter put it on Edmund's hand. Then Susan gave him a heavy chain, also of gold, the links an inch wide and two inches long, and Peter draped that around Edmund's shoulders. Then he leaned down and pressed a kiss to Edmund's forehead.
"We bid you receive this same title from us along with our gratitude and deepest affection." Eyes warm, Peter clasped his shoulder with his left hand and laid his still-bandaged right hand on Edmund's head. "Edmund Pevensie, be known henceforth as Count of the Western March in this our realm."
"My Liege Lord–"
Edmund ducked his head, hardly able now to remember the words he had rehearsed over and over again, struggling to bear himself as a King and Knight and not an overemotional sap. He drew a hard breath and began again, this time a bit more steadily than before.
"My Liege Lord and most noble High King, here do I swear, with mind, heart and body, with all that I have and all that I am, fealty and service to you and to our noble Queens and to Narnia herself, to stand true to this Kingdom and to Aslan, the Great Lion who rules us all, upon my honor and without reservation until Your High Majesty departs his throne, death takes me, or the world ends, so say I."
Peter nodded, still with his hand on Edmund's dark hair. "We hear and shall never fail to remember. And for our part, we do swear fealty to you, Edmund Pevensie, to protect and defend you with all our power, to serve you as our King, until we depart our throne, death takes us, or the world ends, so say we as High King of Narnia."
"And so say we as her Queens," the girls added together, "and before Aslan do swear."
There was a moment of expectant silence, and finally Edmund looked up, eyes questioning. His brother hadn't moved.
"One thing more." Swallowing down the sudden thickness in his voice, Peter brought Edmund to his feet. "Before all and above all, we do make declaration in the hearing of this company and to be known as well by all out of our hearing, whether in this world or any other, that we have wronged our trusty and well-beloved brother and King and here, in the presence of our subjects, we do ask his pardon."
Peter dropped to his knees, his golden head bowed, and Edmund's eyes brimmed with tears.
"Peter, you've already–"
"I disgraced you in public, Eddie." His words little more than a whisper, Peter refused to stand. "It's only fitting that I should apologize in public. Please forgive me."
Edmund nodded. For Peter's sake, it had to be done.
He put his hand on Peter's head. "Hear now, all you present here and be it known throughout all the lands, that any wrongs done to us or to any of our subjects are rightly to be charged against the false Knight, Gilfrey Becke, and his machinations. It is impossible that, of his own volition, our beloved brother and honored High King could do wrong to us or anyone. But, here before him and all this company, we swear we do freely and irrevocably forgive and forget any such wrongs he lays to his own charge. And we here beg that he forever forgive them himself." He turned Peter's tear-stained face up to him and looked into his eyes, adding softly, "Please, brother mine."
"It is well urged, High King."
At the rich, golden voice, there were low murmurs and gasps of surprise. All those in attendance knelt as from among them came the Great Lion. Edmund dropped to his knees beside his brother, and their sisters did the same on either side of them.
"Aslan." Peter bowed his head. "We are honored."
"I have come, Peter, to confirm all you have done here today and to commend you for doing it. It is a wise king who gives honor where honor is due." The Lion fixed his golden eyes on the High King. "And a wiser one who pays heed to good counsel."
Peter nodded. "Yes, sir."
"And you will do as your brother asks?"
Peter opened his mouth as if he would raise some objection, but then he only smiled a little sheepishly. "Yes, Aslan. I will."
"Now, High King, let Me see your hand."
Peter frowned and curled his bandaged hand against his chest, covering it with the other.
"Please, Aslan, I want to keep–"
He broke off at the Lion's stern look and, after removing the wrapping, he held out his hand, supporting it with the other. It was still healing, and the wounds across the palm and fingers, though closed, were still angrily red and no doubt painful. Edmund gave it a pitying glance and then looked pleadingly at Aslan.
The Lion inhaled and breathed sweet warmth over Peter's hand. At once, the redness and swelling vanished and all that was left were three faint scars.
"Is that reminder enough, Dear Son?"
Peter flexed his fingers and made a tight fist and then smiled. "Yes, Aslan. Thank you."
Edmund grinned at him and clasped his shoulder.
"Now, Susan," Aslan said, turning to the elder of the Queens, and she dropped her eyes to the floor.
"Dear Daughter, do you not know, in all of this, how long I waited for you to call on Me?"
Her head was still bowed, and now a tear slipped down her cheek. "I'm sorry."
"Know, Child, that I will never, never leave you. I will always hear you when you call on Me."
Aslan nuzzled her face, drying her tears and breathing a different sort of warm healing upon her. A smile like springtime bloomed across her face, and she threw her arms around the Lion's neck. An instant later, her sister joined her.
"Oh, I'm so glad you've come."
Aslan chuckled and turned to look into Lucy's bright eyes. "Are you, Dear One?"
"Yes, of course. Thank you, dearest Aslan, for watching after us."
"I am always watching after all of you, My Little Lioness. Should not you, too, be commended and rewarded for your bravery and faithfulness?"
"But I have been," Lucy insisted, and she took her brothers each by an arm. "You've brought us all back together again and set everything right. I don't know of anything else I could want."
Aslan pressed a Lion's kiss to her cheek and then turned to Edmund.
"And you, Beloved Son, you have had what was lost restored to you and with advantage. What more would you ask?"
Edmund bowed before him, remembering His words that night at Anvard, called, chosen, not rejected, and remembering how He had been with him, with Lucy, and even with Peter and Susan though they hadn't always seen it. Every step of the way, He had been there. What more could he ask?
"Only your blessing on us and our kingdom."
And that He gave above what any of them could have thought to ask.
It was Christmas night. Lucy sat down before the library hearth and poured Mr. Tumnus another cup of tea, returning his fond smile.
"It seems, dear Queen, that I chose a very bad time to spend a year researching ancient Calormene texts." The Faun looked dismayed and sympathetic as Fauns are wont to do. "I might have been of some help to all of you in the dark days you've suffered."
"We missed you." She squeezed his hand. "I missed you. But Aslan was always with us."
"You know," Tumnus said as he took a sip of his tea, "you never did say how you were rescued when The Dove went down. But perhaps I know now anyway. Someone hailed me as I was coming off the ship from Calormen and asked me to return this to you."
He laid something next to her plate, glittering and razor edged, and she grinned as she snatched it up.
"My dagger! Oh, thank you. I thought it was lost."
The faun gave her a teasing grin. "And I'm to tell you, and I quote, 'The King of the Merfolk would be delighted to have a visit from the Queen Lucy at any time convenient. She need not wait until her ship is sinking.'"
She giggled. "As I told you, Aslan was always with us, taking care of us even when things looked awful, no matter what that Snake did."
Lucy thought one final time of Gilfrey Becke and how he had nearly killed them all and taken Narnia from them. She had at the beginning, like Susan, been grateful to him for what he had done for Peter in Ettinsmoor, but Edmund had been wary of him from their first meeting.
"How did you know?" she had asked him at the ball last night. "Why didn't he take you in as he had almost everyone else?"
Edmund had clasped both her hands and kissed her cheek under the mistletoe. "He had no music in him, Lu. 'The man that hath no music in himself, nor is not moved with concord of sweet sounds, is fit for treasons, stratagems, and spoils.'" He had spun her around and pulled her into the throng of dancers. "'Let no such man be trusted. Mark the music.'"
Giggling, she whirled with him around the room. "Goose. He never said anything about music or whether or not he liked it."
"I know. But he was only fit for treasons, stratagems, and spoils, so obviously he had no music in him."
She raised one eyebrow at him. "Sooooo . . . you knew you couldn't trust him because he had no music in him, and you knew he had no music in him because you couldn't trust him?"
He had smirked at her, dark eyes twinkling. "Exactly."
"You know, that doesn't really explain–"
"Just dance, Lu."
Like everything else, she could only set it down to Aslan's leading. Without it, they and Narnia would have been lost.
She glanced over at her sister sitting on the floor before the fire with her back against the settee. There were red and green ribbons woven through her black tresses and her voluminous white-velvet skirts were spread around her. Their brothers both lay sprawled on the floor with her. Peter's head was propped against her leg. Edmund's head was in her lap, but he was turned on his side, so he was leaning against Peter's shoulder, too. They were both soundly asleep. Susan merely stared into the fire in dreamy contentment, one hand resting against Edmund's cheek, the other toying with Peter's hair. None of them could ask any more of Christmas than this. Christmas at last. Christmas together. Christmas at home.
And Lucy smiled.
narniagirl11 made a marvelous trailer for this story at:
www .youtube. com (slash) watch?v=zw4jXOGtEmE
Ariyah (Ariel_of_Narnia) made another one at:
www .youtube. com (slash) watch?v=-TUOOipJP1o
They're both wonderful! Do watch them and let me know what you think.
(Don't forget to remove spaces and use an actual slash instead of the (slash).)
Edmund's quote about a man with no music in him is from Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice. Thanks to OldFashionedGirl95 for the idea of Edmund being given a new title due to his heroics in this story.
To OldFashionedGirl95 and Laura Andrews who have been tremendous help at every step along the way and to all of you who have faithfully read and reviewed each chapter I posted, what can I say but thanks and thanks and ever thanks? This has been a longer and more involved journey that I set out to make, but it's been a fun one and one I feel has helped me grow as a writer. Blessings on all of you!
PLEASE NOTE: My stories "Amity" and Clarity" are companion pieces to "Counted Among the Traitors" and give a little more information about some of the things that happened in this story. If you enjoyed this one, you may like those as well.
P. S. And a belated but VERY happy birthday to Foreverchanged. I'm sorry I couldn't get this posted on June 18th, but consider this a little gift for you.