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.
IN THE FULLNESS OF TIME
"You have to let him go," she says, the elder of our sisters. "It's time now. Come on."
And the younger merely pulls my head down to nestle against her, breathing kisses against my hair as the elder gently unclasps my fingers, unlooses my arms, and pulls my heart and soul in half, taking him from me. I clasp our younger sister tight and tighter still, clinging to that living, breathing body.
"Please," the elder says to the Mourning Dove who attends her, "go to the Dwarfs. Ask them, if they would, to prepare–"
"No." I push myself away from the tender arms that hold me. "I don't– I don't want them to."
Both of them look at me, wide eyed, somehow fearful, and I reach my hand out towards our brother lying cold and still in the shelter of the elder's embrace.
"They must," she says, her voice quiet but firm. "It has to be done."
She takes my hand, infinitely tender, and lays it against his bloodless cheek. Then she looks into my eyes, her own swimming with tears.
"It has to be done."
I take her and him both into my arms, weeping aloud for the first time, feeling her and our younger sister, too, weeping against me. Then I kiss both girls, a tender kiss of blessing on the sweet crowns of their heads, and draw a shuddering breath.
"I will do it. Myself."
I dig down and down, deeper and deeper into the rich Narnian earth, dig until I can stand at full height and still be below the level of the ground. I stand a moment looking up at the sky, a sky so blue, so clear, it seems a painted mockery of the real one. Is it what he will see? From here? How will he feel, lying here, as we cover him over with earth?
I lie down in the place, the place I have made for him, and look up, imagining the faces of those who love him, imagining them watering the earth with their tears. And I know somehow he would want to lie here against the very ground he so often fought and bled for.
It is one of the Tigers, golden eyes looking on me with concern. I don't know how long I have been lying here in this earth, this resting place, this sanctuary. I stand up, only able to offer a wan smile in response, and then I clamber out. I am grimed with dirt and sweat, muscles aching after my fierce tearing of the ground following so many, many days of quiet, hopeless vigil, but I feel calmer now, more at peace. I have made him a place.
Someone, I am certain it was the oldest of our sisters, has arranged a bath and fresh clothes for me, the rich somber clothes I will wear when we say our last farewells. I accept both gratefully, glad these decisions have been made for me, and then I go back to him. He, too, has been bathed and dressed in royal raiment. King, knight and warrior, he lies on velvet cushions, sword clasped in hands now too impossibly white and thin to wield it. But he need never again. His days of battle are past and only his glories remain.
A silken pillow lies above his head, a pillow intricately embroidered with his name, his many titles, his crest, by the skilled, gentle hand of our eldest sister, the work of many a weary night keeping watch over him. And, nestled on that pillow, lies his crown, gleaming still as if to say here yet lies a King.
Tears pooling in my eyes, I lean down and touch my lips to his forehead, and then I slip my arm under his shoulders. "I will carry him."
Our sisters look at me and then at each other and then at the ornate casket beside him. How exquisitely the Dwarfs fashioned it. It seems a pity now to let it go to waste, but it must.
The eldest of our sisters looks at me again, and there is a faint horror in her expression. "The casket– He has to–"
"No," I tell her, and I can't seem to say anything more. "No."
But I can't seal him away from her, from beloved Narnia. Those dark, suffocating boxes are for that Other Place, that England of rigid expectations and grim formality. This is free Narnia and, by Aslan, my brother will be free. He will.
"No," I say again, leaving no room for dissent, and our youngest sister touches her arm and gives her a slight shake of the head, and the elder yields.
There on my knees beside him, I bury my face against his shoulder as I had so many times before, for comfort, for assurance, but this time there is no strong embrace in answer.
"Brother mine," I mourn, pulling him to me, heedless of the sword and the crown and the sobs of our sisters on either side of me, but in answer there is only silence.
Finally, I am aware of the lengthening shadows that fall across us all. It will be dark soon.
"It is time," our youngest sister says, and once again they try to take him from me, to lay him again on the cushioned bier, to set the sword again in his hands and the crown above his head, but I do not allow it.
"I will take him."
Our sisters make no more protest. I lift him in my arms, imagining him merely sleeping as his tousled head falls against my shoulder. Our sisters following after, the younger bearing his sword and the elder his crown, I carry him through marble halls, out through the courtyard and into the trees. I carry him to that place I have readied for him, that sanctuary, and behind us streams a whole kingdom of courtiers and soldiers and Beasts, those who had followed and loved, served and been served by this King.
I carry him to that place, that sanctuary I prepared, and I find it lined with thickly leaved branches of oak and birch, with fragrant lilies and bright daisies, all brought by the loyal Beasts of the forest that he might lie cushioned in their fresh and sweet embrace. I lay him down on them. With his crown and sword, I lay him down, and then the gentle Beasts cover him over, first with daisies and lilies, then with branches of birch and oak, and then with Narnia herself.
It is finished. No one says a word. All this while, there has been only silence. The sun is dropping out of sight now, and I know there is no more to be done. I have made him a place and laid him gently in it. We are both at peace.
I look up and, just visible in the gathering darkness, I see the great Lion at the edge of the trees, golden eyes heavy with mourning, shimmering with tears. And, yet, in Him I see something else, the promise that mourning is a thing of only a moment and that His country is a place of reunions and lasting joy. In the fullness of time, I will know that joy.
I go to Him.