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.
CHAPTER ONE: LAMENTATIONS 3:52-53
"Your Majesty! Your Majesty!"
At the panicked cry, Peter looked up from the freshly killed stag, his reddened hunting knife abruptly still. Their Terebinthian hosts, Lord Arren and his brother, Lord Darreth, had gone with Edmund, tracking another deer. Why had Arren returned alone?
"Over here!" Peter sprang to his feet, careless now of the bloodstains on his shirt and breeches. "What is it?"
The young nobleman, perhaps five or six years Peter's senior, rushed out of the trees, his bearded face red and gleaming with sweat. "My Lord," he panted. "My Lord, your royal brother, he's–"
"What happened?" Peter seized the man by his shoulders, shaking him. "What happened?"
"An old cistern." Arren bent over, hands on his thighs, still gasping. "Hasn't been used in years. He fell in and we fear he may be–"
Not waiting for more, Peter flung his hunting knife into the grass and sprinted into the forest. They had passed the old settlement when they saw the first sign of the deer early this morning. Peter could only imagine this cistern had been concealed in the vegetation that had grown up since it had been abandoned. Please, Aslan, don't let him be hurt.
"Edmund!" Peter burst out of the trees and vaulted over a low stone wall, half crumbled and overgrown with ivy. "Edmund, hang on."
Darreth stood looking down into the deep hole, worry and helplessness etched on his face. "Hurry, Your Majesty. I fear he is badly hurt. He does not respond when I call to him."
"Yes, hurry," Arren said, still panting as he followed behind Peter. "I pray we are not too late."
Dreading what he would see, Peter leaned over the side of the cistern. Edmund lay down at the bottom of it, looking up at him, his dark eyes enormous with fear and a desperate warning. He wasn't hurt. He was bound and gagged.
Peter spun on Arren and Darreth, eyes blazing. "What are you–"
Rushing at him, the Terebinthian lords seized him and flung him into the hole with his brother. Peter landed hard and then scrambled to his feet. He stared up in disbelief, but he couldn't see the brothers anymore.
"Arren? Darreth! What game is this?"
They made him no answer, and he could hear them quarreling above him. He knelt at his brother's side, his hands trembling with fury as he unknotted the filthy rag that had been used to gag Edmund.
Edmund worked his jaw briefly and then licked his dry lips. "Peter. What are we–"
"Shh." Peter shook his head as he untied Edmund's hands. "Listen."
"You fool!" he heard Arren say. "He was supposed to already be dead."
"I– I couldn't." Darreth's voice was low and shaky, betraying his youth. He was no more than two years older than Edmund. "He's my friend. They're both our friends. I couldn't–"
"You should have told me you were a coward before we began," Arren hissed. "Now there is no turning back. Now I'll have to see to both of them myself."
Peter heard the rustle of grass as Arren stalked towards the pit again.
There was more rustling, and then silence. Peter and Edmund looked at each other and then looked up again, waiting.
"Well?" Arren demanded finally.
"Don't kill them," Darreth pled. "They're Aslan's chosen Kings. If we spill their blood, a curse might come upon us."
"And if we don't, it definitely will. Do you think they will merely forgive this and say no harm done? Do you think they'll not have our heads for even the thought of this betrayal? You are a greater fool than I first imagined."
"It's simple," Arren raged. "Either we kill them or they kill us. Which would you prefer?"
"What if–" Darreth's voice was hurried, unsteady. "What if we could be rid of them without having to stain our own hands?"
Peter and Edmund exchanged another glance.
"What if they were gone and could never return?" Darreth continued. "Would that not be as good as killing them? Could the rest of it not be accomplished?"
"How?" Arren demanded.
"Serkan." The younger Terebinthian paused, waiting for his brother's reaction, continuing only when Arren did not immediately tell him again that he was a fool. "I heard that he starts another pilgrimage today. I am certain he would be willing to take along two more."
There was another long silence.
"What if they tell Serkan who they are?" Arren asked finally, considering.
"Then he will sell them for the proverbial Kings' ransom, the Tisroc will make away with them and immediately take Narnia." Darreth sounded confident now. "They dare not speak."
"And if they escape from Serkan and return to Narnia?"
"No one ever escapes, Arren. You know that. Live or die, they will be gone and we will not have soiled our hands with them. And Narnia–"
"Narnia will be in turmoil." Arren chuckled. "An easy mark. And the Queens–"
The two Kings stared up at the circle of sky they could see above them, fury and terror in light and dark eyes. Susan and Lucy–
"May as well pine after a star," Darreth scoffed. "The Queen Susan will be the jewel of the Tisroc's harem. It's already been decided."
"There are two Queens, are there not? After all we have done and will do to help him to what he wants, surely the noble Tisroc will not insist on keeping all the treasures for himself."
"Faugh, the Queen Lucy is what? Twelve? Thirteen now?"
Arren laughed nastily. "Once she is mine, she will grow up quickly enough."
In a blind rage, Peter flung himself at the sheer side of the cistern, bloodying his palms as he slid helplessly down to the bottom again.
"Peter, no," Edmund urged, his voice low. "Let me up on your shoulders. Maybe I can jump from there."
Still trembling, Peter looked up to the top of the pit, eyes narrowed, calculating. "It's too high, Ed. You'll never–"
"I have to try. Come on. Before they come back."
Peter braced himself against the cistern wall and bent his knees. Edmund scrambled up onto his shoulders.
"Not high enough," Edmund said softly, not wanting to alert their captors. "Can you stand straight?"
Peter obliged, straightening his legs and sliding his back up the wall. "Now?"
"Not enough," Edmund said with a little huff of impatience.
"Stand on my hands."
"Peter, you can't–"
"Just do it, Ed. They'll be back for us any time now."
Peter put his already-scraped hands on his shoulders, palms up, and Edmund stood gingerly on them. At fifteen, his little brother was still all legs and coltishness and too thin if Susan was to be believed, but he was tall and, Peter realized, heavy enough. It was almost impossible to get any leverage at this angle. Steeling himself, Peter pressed upwards, straightening his arms as far as he could. Edmund scrabbled up the wall, stretching his fingertips towards the rim of the cistern.
"Almost," he whispered. "A little more, Pete. Come on."
Panting, Peter pushed himself onto his toes. He felt Edmund do the same, and his arms started to shake.
"Ed, hurry," he gasped. "I can't–"
Abruptly, Edmund's weight was gone. Peter dropped his trembling arms and looked up to see Edmund's boots vanish over the edge of the cistern.
"And now you, High King, if you please."
Arren smiled down on him as he dropped a sturdy rope into the pit.
They had been too slow.
Author's Note: Yes, it's me again. Despite my best intentions, it seems I have started another long and angsty tale about Peter and Edmund in trouble together. This, apparently, cannot be helped. I hope you'll let me know what you think of it and if I should go on with the story.