When Miraz learns who has come as envoy, he cannot contain the quick double-beat of excitement his heart gives. Telmar has its stories of the old kingdom of Narnia, and he has always felt a kinship to Edmund. The younger son, waiting his turn for the throne and meanwhile cleaning up his brother's messes, fixing his mistakes. And there must have been a great many of them. Peter is exactly as the tales paint him, martial and fierce with a sword in his hand, but a temper just as hot. Edmund is the clever one, as the stories go, though no soft scholar. Peter obviously never brought Edmund to the same crisis Miraz faced but, then, a valiant warrior is harder to dethrone than a feckless gadabout more concerned with his favorites and his pleasures than his people. Miraz only regrets not striking four months sooner. (In the early years he questioned whether the boy was his brother's son at all; the queen declaring her pregnancy just after her husband's death was terrible convenient after six barren years of marriage. But as the boy grew he shed the looks of his mother's house for those of the Caspians and his parentage could not be denied. Which complicated some matters extremely, but at least he would not have left the throne to a bastard. A base-born bastard at that, given the rumors about the queen and her guard.)

Of course he cannot show his excitement. The Shadow Prince is here as an envoy from his enemies, so no matter how eager he is to meet the man he had only glimpsed during the battle, a dark figure like the shadow he's named, Miraz knows he must keep his wits sharp. He has the delegates wait while his lords assemble and he practices his court face. He can't even rehearse what he'll say – this can't be a surrender, but he can't imagine what the Narnians hope to accomplish. Perhaps a peaceable exit of noncombatants. They must have wounded, and they may have women and children. He might agree to that, simply for the pleasure of matching wits with Prince Edmund. The vermin can always be hunted down later if need be.

He gets a second shock when Edmund is ushered into the pavilion. The Narnian prince is only a boy! He'd looked small in the glass, granted, but next to a giant and a centaur any man might. This youth is no older than the horse boys who travel with the cavalry, not even old enough to run away to soldier. If he'd presented himself as a recruit, Miraz would have laughed and sent him home until his voice settled.

Nothing about the armored figure is comical, however; Edmund holds himself with more confidence than many soldiers twice his age. Miraz has no doubt that he is royalty and returns the slight nod - nothing that could be called a bow - Edmund offers with grave courtesy.

"Lords of the Council, I bear a message from the High King of Narnia," Edmund says without preamble, unrolling the scroll he carries.

"By all means," Miraz replies, with a small gesture toward the message. Edmund lifts the scroll, reading out the words there. It's all for show, of course. The form is slightly different, a Narnian version, but a formal challenge is a formal challenge and Miraz is certain Edmund has the words memorized.

'Usurper' stings more than he'd expected, though.

Single combat. Just the sort of thing a boy whose pride had been pricked by retreat and failure might be expected to think of. Miraz studies Edmund as he reads, considering what he thinks of this plan. His brother's recklessness will doom them all, even worse than the ill-fated assault on the castle. Which, if Miraz is honest with himself, would have gone very differently had he awakened to Peter's sword at his throat rather than Caspian's. In such circumstance, he would probably never have awakened again.

In the stories, Edmund is the one to temper Peter's rash moods, the one who makes certain there will be an army and a kingdom left when the king is done riding in great charges. Miraz thinks on the long years bearing such a role, shouldering all the work while the glory is heaped upon a less worthy brother. He thinks of Edmund waiting for every battle to be his brother's last and the plans that must have lurked, waiting, being polished in quiet moments, for the day he could claim the crown himself. He remembers the burning resentment and the tearing indecision: brother or country?

It would take, he thinks, very little to push such a man to the crisis point. Just the right pressure, the right offer, to soothe both his pride and his honor. There is land in Narnia gone fallow for fear of the demons of the forest. There are the wilds in the west that tales say were once part of the old kingdom, the one Edmund would have known. And there are worse things to have on one's borders than a clever king who owes you his throne, his brother's life, and his people's safety.

Edmund lowers the scroll, raising his gaze to take in the Council's reactions, though he must have been watching covertly while he read. Miraz lays a hand on the table, sitting forward a little. The right pressure... "Tell me, Prince Edmund-"

"King." Edmund's attention has drifted to the scroll he is rolling up, as if the Council and Miraz himself are of no consequence now that the message has been delivered.

Caught off-guard, Miraz takes a moment to rearrange his thoughts. The word doesn't make sense; it isn't a form of address, nor an answer to any unspoken question. "Pardon me?"

Now Edmund does look up, his hands still busy with the scroll. "It's King Edmund, actually. Just king, though. Peter's the High King." His lips curve just slightly. He meets Miraz's gaze clearly, and Miraz is suddenly absolutely certain Edmund knows what he meant to offer. Knew it long before the words left his mouth. "I know, it's confusing."

Miraz sits back, tasting ashes. Two kings? Confusing isn't the word. Impossible! But they are waiting for him to speak. He seizes on the first thought that comes. "Why would we risk such a proposal when our armies could wipe you out by nightfall?"

Somewhere along the line, he lost control of this meeting. His lords are goading him; he knows they are goading him, but his pride whips hot and he dances to their tune anyway. Glozelle is the last straw; that his general, a man who owes everything to him, should cast his lot with the court jackals sets his temper to blazing. On his feet, over an outstretched sword, he sees Edmund - King Edmund - smile, and abruptly he knows he lost the moment a legend walked into his court.