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 TWENTY-SEVEN: PROVERBS 11:9

Edmund realized he was surrounded by water. He could feel the darkness– not the ordinary dark of blindness, but deeper and colder. This wasn't the warmer water near the surface of the summer sea. Where was he? What had happened?

He remembered those two sailors, Tinz and Blinn, threatening to take him back to Tashbaan for Lady Cemil's reward. He remembered leaping over the side of the ship, praying somehow Aslan would help him find his way from there. He knew that leap was madness, he'd known it before he made it, but in that moment he could think of nothing else to do. Then he had felt a tremendous blow to his shoulder and to the side of his head.

There had been nothing else until now. Now he was somewhere deep in the sea. Had he hit the side of the ship? Perhaps he had fallen into the sea unconscious and drowned. His head and shoulder ached fiercely, so he wasn't dead. But if he wasn't dead already, why wasn't he drowning now? Why weren't his lungs bursting for lack of air?

He started to swallow and realized there was something in his mouth, something hard and smooth, small and spherical, and he was reminded of when he was a very little boy and had nearly choked on one of his mother's pearls. He lifted his hand to his mouth, meaning to find out what it was, but the movement was stopped by something, someone, grasping his wrist. Then he realized someone's arms were under his, holding him, moving him swiftly through the water. Aslan, what was it? His salvation or his doom?

He didn't know whether or not he should struggle, so he waited. The water was rushing past him now, dragging at his hair, his clothes, his sodden, heavy boots, but they sped on. He didn't know how long, how far, until he realized the water was warmer. It was somehow lighter, and by some instinct, he began to move his arms and legs, fighting upwards. Whatever was holding him moved with him, pushing him, almost lifting him until, with a sudden rush of air and sound, he broke the surface.

He gasped, the air warm and painful in his lungs, and he realized they had been utterly still until now. The spherical object in his mouth rolled out, and whoever was still holding him up caught it against his chin and took it away.

He could hear his own hard breaths and the little moan he gave at each one. He was trying to say something, to call out for whoever might hear, to ask who it was who yet held him up, but all he could manage was these hard, wheezing groans.

Near his ear, he heard a voice, piercing and rich and musical, calling out to someone. A name he knew. He was certain he knew it. Then there was a shout and the sound of galloping hooves through water. Strong arms seized his and pulled him upward, up out of the water, up into a half-crushing embrace. Then they shifted to hold him under the shoulders and knees and cradle him like a child.

"King Edmund."

Edmund started to shake and, in spite of himself, the tears welled into his eyes.

"Oreius."

He managed to whisper that one word, and then he knew no more.

OOOOO

Peter stood, still shackled, looking into Prince Shahrivar's eyes.

"Answer me, High King," the Prince said, his voice still low and silky smooth, the butt end of his riding crop still under Peter's chin. "Your Master, your Great Lion, He has betrayed you, has He not?"

"He would never betray me."

The Calormene barked a harsh laugh. "You stand here beaten and in chains, prisoner of one who could snuff out your life at a whim, and you say you are not betrayed? Then He is too weak to help you. He has stood by helpless while Tash delivered you into my hands."

"If Aslan has allowed me to be brought here, then it is for a reason." Peter looked on the Prince with nothing but cool disdain. "He will make His reasons clear in His own time, not mine."

"All the world believes you dead, High King. How is it you are instead a slave in Tashbaan?"

"As I said, Aslan has His reasons." Peter rubbed his palm over the raised marks in his forearm. "It is enough that He delivered me from death. He is always with me."

"And what of your royal brother, the King Edmund? Is your Lion also with him?"

"I pray so."

"Then he is alive."

Peter pressed his lips together and said nothing.

Shahrivar prodded Peter's breastbone with his riding crop. "Answer me, barbarian. Where is he?"

Peter only clenched his jaw more tightly and was silent.

The Prince slid the handle of the riding crop from his chest to his throat, pressing it lightly into his skin. "Where?"

"Where he is safe," Peter said evenly. Be safe, Edmund. Please be safe. Don't do anything stupid.

"In Tashbaan?"

"Where he is safe."

Peter steeled himself, ready for a blow across the face or chest, but Shahrivar merely increased the pressure on his throat.

"If you are a slave, it is likely he is as well," Shahrivar mused. "Perhaps that dog of a slave trader knows more of his whereabouts."

Peter caught a hard breath. Serkan knew. He knew Edmund had been sold to Harkan. If he told Shahrivar as much, and there was no reason he would not, it would be nothing for the Prince to have Edmund tracked down. Even over Lady Cemil's objections, Peter had little doubt that the Tarkaan would turn Edmund over if Shahrivar requested it. No, Aslan, please. Keep him safe. Keep him safe.

The Prince smiled a nasty, knowing smile. "I see he does. I must speak to Serkan before we leave this place. As for the Terebinthians who claimed to have seen your bodies torn and lifeless, they are the liars and cowards I had all along expected they were. That will make them all the easier to dispose of once our plan has been fully implemented. And then you and your brother . . ."

Again he smiled that nasty smile.

Peter kept his expression cool. "If you mean to kill me, then why don't you do it? Or why don't you turn me over to your father?"

"The Tisroc (may he live forever) has no appreciation for irony." The Prince moved his riding crop away from Peter's throat, holding it instead in both hands. "He would merely strike off your head and have done. I, however, find it most amusing that you have fallen into my hands so unexpectedly. It would be a pity to end your visit to my kingdom before you knew what was to happen to yours."

"And what is that?"

"My father the Tisroc (may he live forever) sent a gift to your fair sisters. A box of tiny, luminous winged creatures as lovely to hear as to see."

Peter narrowed his eyes. "What were they?"

"An ancient and very rare creature from deep in our desert. They are called Aned Tahwen."

"Aned Tahwen?"

"Silver Plague. Your Queens were sent thirteen of them. By now they have multiplied into thousands, and those thousands will have Narnia stripped bare within a month unless she surrenders herself to us."

Peter found he could not speak. He could not even swallow down the dryness in his mouth. Narnia. Stripped bare. Oh, Aslan.

"And the Queens," Shahrivar continued, "if they wish to have the cure for this plague and save their subjects, must submit themselves to my father's will. He has already decreed that the Queen Susan shall go to his harem. Along with a portion of the Kingdom, the Queen Lucy was to have been Duke Arren's for his aid in putting Narnia's Kings out of our way, but I see Arren has failed at the little he was given to do. Now there is no reason why the younger Queen should not be mine along with your kingdom."

"Lucy is thirteen!" Peter gasped. "Even if she were grown up, she would never marry you. She would never–"

"I said nothing of marriage, King Peter."

Peter clenched his fists, his whole body trembling with the desire to strike the smug expression from the Prince's face.

"But do not be dismayed, High King, for indeed you shall help save Narnia." Prince Shahrivar smiled once again. "For me."

Author's Note: Thanks to OldFashionedGirl95 for her invaluable prose poking. Do let me know what you think, Gentle Reader. What do you think will happen to Peter now? What about Edmund?

WD