What the Bards Did Not Know
Summary: Edmund knows he's found the lost prince. He just needs not to lose him again. Set during HHB.
Rating: PG, brief decapitation (hehe)
A/N: Originally written for the Narnia Fic Exchange. This beast of a fic was birthed in a night after a very painful delivery in which C.S. Lewis's grasp on Narnian geography and I did battle, and I finally lost. Many thanks to my fairy godmother rthstewart who taught me the most efficacious handwave technique and was ever so instrumental in the birth of this story, and to my excellent beta snacky who caught all the midnight mistakes. Many additional thanks to the original prompter, Ruan Chun Xian, for giving me such an AMAZING prompt to work with! Hope this satisfies your Edmund craving. Also, there's lots of dialogue from the book, so if you recognize something that wasn't written by me, obviously it belongs to Lewis and Co.
Original Prompt that we sent you:
What I want: Awesome!Edmund in the Golden Age, references to The Horse and His Boy (doesn't have to be huge plot points, just mentions).
Any or all:
"For this is what it means to be a king: to be first in every desperate attack and last in every desperate retreat…"
"When Alexander saw the depth of his empire he wept for there were no more worlds to conquer."
"Always forgive your enemies; nothing annoys them so much."
"What a slut time is. She screws everybody."
"The world is not a wish-granting factory."
What the Bards Did Not Know
"Didn't you already hear this story sung at Cair Paravel?"
"Yes, but we want to hear your version!"
"Don't ask me to sing, or the deal's off."
"Fat chance of that– OW, Pole! Wotchit!"
"Children! Ahem. Now then. The story…"
From the moment they raised anchor and set the Splendour Hyaline on a silent path away from the Tashbaan shore, Edmund's spirits began to rise. They had done it. They were sailing home. The ruse had worked and no Calormene vessel would stand a chance of catching up to them.
As they picked up speed, the old comforting sensations of the moonlit sea brought refreshment to his body and mind: the salt taste on his lips, the crisp breeze against his face, the little zephyrs that rifled through his hair and seemed to whisper kindly in his ears. Yes, it was good to be on his ship once again, his family and charges safe, the perils of Tashbaan behind them, and only a few days' journey from Cair Paravel.
There was but one troubling thought that kept returning to his mind. The boy. He could not forget the shock of discovering that the Corin he thought he had found was in fact a doppelganger, while the real Prince was currently strutting about on deck with a fat lip and a gloriously purple eye, telling anyone who would listen about how he knocked down an entire Watch of men.
Edmund would like to think he could tell an imposter from a real prince, particularly one who hadn't triedto come to them – he had in fact caught the boy himself. Was his eyesight failing in his advanced age of four-and-twenty? Surely the sharp-eyed Raven would have mentioned if the boy were a charlatan!
He briefly considered the possibility of black magic but quickly decided it was unlikely. They had the real Corin after all, and the other boy had felt quite honest to him, including when he could only stammer, "I don't know" to all his questions.
That left only one other logical possibility. And that, of course, meant that they had most probably just left the rightful future King of Archenland and its foretold savior in the treacherous depths of Tashbaan. This was not good at all.
On the fourth morning since it had set sail, the swan-necked ship pulled into the harbor at Cair Paravel. Edmund always loved to watch their castle's shining walls come into view from the bow of the Hyaline. He was doubly anxious on this occasion to set foot on Narnian soil once again, and to confide his council to the one person who would most certainly not think he was insane.
An unusual sight greeted him as they drew up to the landing: there upon the dock stood a noble Stag, his head raised in greeting. Beside him was Lucy with her arm about his neck, and the Raven Edmund had sent with news of their arrival sitting on her shoulder. And strangest of all, Lucy was dressed in chain mail and trousers and boots, her Gifted dagger slung around her waist, and she looked as anxious as he was for them to land.
It seemed a great while (though in fact it was only a few minutes) before they could disembark, and the moment Edmund and Susan stepped onto the dock Lucy threw herself in their arms (upsetting the Raven greatly) and made several indecipherable squeaks before clearing her throat and saying, "Welcome back, dear brother and sister! Oh, wait until you hear the news good Chervy brings to us!"
"Greetings, your Majesties," said the Stag, bowing. "I shall make no delay in telling my message: two hundred horse under Prince Rabadash ride out upon Anvard; they lay siege as we speak."
"Nay!" cried Susan. "This cannot be!"
"I heard it straight from a boy who had seen this grave thing with his own eyes, my Queen," said Chervy.
"What's this?" asked Corin, who had bounded up beside them in time to hear the Stag's news. "War on Archenland? We must warn Father!"
The words spread through the Narnian delegation that was unloading from the Hyaline behind them, and they pressed close around them to hear the news.
Edmund felt the weight of Peter's absence settle around his shoulders, and he squared them for the task. "Then we ride to Anvard this very hour. We must gather every strong and swift warrior we can muster – our fiercest Cats and finest Dogs, centaurs and fauns and any mounted soldier that has not yet been sent to the Giant Wars."
"I knew you would say that," said Lucy, hugging him fiercely. "I've already sent for everyone, just as soon as Chervy came to me. We've just been waiting for your arrival before we departed."
"That would explain the chain mail," Edmund noted with a glance at his sister's current fashion.
As they hurried from the harbour up to the castle grounds, Lucy said, "Thank Aslan for your safe return. I had had no word from you for more than a week! We were beginning to fear the worst. I take it negotiations with Rabadash didn't go well?"
"Not well at all," muttered Edmund.
"Most poorly," agreed Susan. "I was very nearly made his Queen by force. I feared we would never leave that city alive!"
"Oh Susan, how awful!" Lucy paused to slip her arm around her sister. "You must have been out of your mind with worry!"
"There were several times I would have been glad to have my bow at the ready," Susan acknowledged, adding with a glance at Edmund, "in case words were insufficient dissuasion."
"I fear, though, our departure has brought harm upon Anvard," said Edmund gravely. "Rabadash is rapacious in his passions, and his lust for land is only rivaled by his foul desire to possess you as his own, Susan. It is in my mind that by attacking Anvard, Rabadash seeks a foothold by which to conquer both Archenland and Narnia, then claim you for his prize."
Susan's dark eyes glinted dangerously. "Oh, that vile – horrible – despicable – CAD!" she settled for at the end. Obviously her vocabulary was insufficient to describe the qualities of Rabadash. "I myself shall plant an arrow through his heart for this wickedness! Here, page!" she called to a passing boy from the outer grounds. "Ready my steed and fetch my bow and quiver. They will not miss their aim," she vowed.
Lucy grabbed her arm. "You're not thinking clearly, Susan. You can't go."
Susan opened her mouth to dissent, but Edmund cut in, "I agree, sister. We know not what waits for us beyond the Great Wood – ambushes, spies, or worse. Your presence would only jeopardize our cause and draw Rabadash straight to us. We risked our lives to save you from his clutches; now, the best thing you can do for Narnia is to remain here, far from danger."
This plan did not seem at all agreeable to Susan, but further discussion was cut short as they came to the Tilting Field, where already a good many men and beasts were waiting there prepared for the march. They greeted the returning monarchs with cheers, and Lucy and Susan moved among them to ensure each was properly equipped for the coming march. Edmund began taking count of their numbers, knowing full well that their most battle-ready warriors were in the North. Nevertheless, he was encouraged that they could depart quickly with a small yet able-bodied force. Speed was of the utmost priority, and they could not wait to summon more Narnians.
"You can count me in too," said Corin eagerly during the roll.
"That I shall not do," said Edmund without hesitation. "You would be nothing but a liability to our cause."
"I can ride and fight and – "
"That's not the point! You are not to ride into battle."
"My brother speaks wisdom, Corin," said Susan, coming to the prince's side and laying a hand upon his shoulder. "We shall await their return and send for further reinforcements…and then perhaps, you and I shall lead the charge." She smiled, the look on her face both knowing and a little sorrowful, and Edmund saw an answering knowing look on Lucy's face behind her.
Their army accounted for, Susan accompanied her brother and sister (minus a defiant Corin) to the armoury. And before they left, she made sure Edmund's sword was sharpened to a razor-sharp edge and personally tested Lucy's bow for its trueness of flex and aim. "Take your best shot for me," Edmund heard her whisper to Lucy before kissing her goodbye.
They were but a league from Cair Paravel when Edmund caught wind of Corin's unmistakable boyish voice from the midst of the horsed riders. He wheeled around to draw up beside the prince, jaw set tight. "This is no place for children, particularly ones who disobey my orders."
"It's my country to defend too," Corin said, the first bit of sense Edmund had ever heard from him.
Edmund considered the likelihood that Corin would in fact stay at Cair Paravel if he sent him back in anything less than chains. The odds were not in his favor.
"It is with great displeasure," Edmund said with emphasis, "that we shall allow you to journey with us. But you are to obey our every word henceforth, and Thornbut here – " he gestured to the Red Dwarf who was riding next to Corin " – shall be your guard and constant companion."
"The honor is all mine, Sire," said Thornbut dryly.
On the afternoon march into the Great Wood, Edmund found his mind returning to the reflections that had preoccupied him before they had landed. He guided his charger close to Lucy's and wordlessly beckoned her to ride up a little out of earshot of the others.
Lucy looked curiously at him. "Something weighs on your mind," she observed. "Not just the war."
Edmund nodded. "We must reward the Stag for his faithful dispatch," he began.
"Of course," said Lucy. "He ran impossibly fast all the way from the Southern border, just to tell us as quick as he could. But that's not what is bothering you."
"Did the Stag mention the boy that brought him the news, or where he was at the time?"
"Now that I think about it, Chervy did mention a companion, a Dwarf who lived just north of the Archenland pass, who was with him when they got the news. I didn't hear much about the boy. You know how the Animals think all us Humans look alike."
"Not all of us," said Edmund. "Don't you think it odd for King Lune to send a boy for help under such duress?"
"Yes, that doesn't sound like him, does it?" Lucy said, a thinking kind of look crossing her face.
"Lucy – there's something else we found in Tashbaan. Something we thought was lost many years ago."
"Whatever do you mean?"
"A baby," said Edmund. "Do you remember? You were so young, only eight when you held him."
Lucy gasped. "Of course I remember, Ed! We were there when they brought the twins to the Centaur. He said Cor would be the salvation of Archenland from its deadliest danger. Susan picked up Corin – she always did like him best – and I held Cor. I thought he looked small even in my arms. I was so careful with him. What do you mean, you found the baby?"
Edmund told her the entire story – from discovering their runaway in the marketplace and his dazed and forgetful state to the shock of coming upon Corin bruised and bloodied and very obviously not the boy who had just been lying memory-less in their chambers. "I can think of no other explanation. Who else could be so perfectly mistaken for another's likeness? And, moreover…" he paused. Lucy would understand. "It felt like him."
Lucy's mouth was wide open this whole time. Her eyes shone glassy-gray with the beginnings of tears. "You believe then – Cor still lives?"
"I do, with all my heart. Lucy, he was there. He was right in front of me! It had to be he. And I missed the signs."
"And he is still in Tashbaan?" she said, brushing at the tears that escaped at the thought.
"I know not, but something in the Stag's tale puts it in my mind that we may find our lost prince near the pass, if he was indeed the boy who saw the army and sent the message. That would meet the terms of the prophecy nicely, don't you think?"
Lucy's face brightened considerably with this revelation, though drops still clung to her cheeks. "Oh, would that not be the most wondrous miracle of all?" she exclaimed. "I pray that it is so! Just think of how delighted King Lune will be at the news!"
"Lucy, you must promise not to tell Lune or anyone else for that matter," Edmund said firmly, although the way she was glowing and becoming more elated by the minute, her disposition would be a serious cause for suspicion regardless.
"Why ever not?"
"The King must decide for himself," Edmund said. "It is his own story to tell."
They rode for an hour or so, discussing the merits of various arrangements of their disparate forces in the coming battle, though there was not much point making a final decision until the Eagles returned with their reports of Anvard's situation.
At the mention of their flighted messengers, Lucy looked slyly at Edmund. "Should we not send even one tiny note to Lu– "
"Sometimes, brother," said Lucy with a shake of her head, "you don't seem so very Just."
"There's something I didn't mention when we were readying the army."
Edmund raised an eyebrow. "Should I be afraid?"
"Very," she nodded. "While we waited for you to arrive on the Hyaline, I sent word by albatross to the Giants that live by the River Shribble. The friendly ones, you know. They should be catching up with us sometime this evening, I think." Lucy smiled impishly. "I told them to bring their spikey boots."
Grinning, Edmund inclined his head in acknowledgement of her ingenuity. "That may prove useful."
The Giants arrived past nightfall, when they had already made camp at the southern edge of the Great Woods. Edmund glanced warily about as they lumbered into the assemblage, for there was no telling with Giants if they would always remember to check their footstep before placing it above one's head. The Eagles' arrival was a much less trying event, particularly since they brought welcome tidings of Anvard's holding fast the gates. So they were not too late. Edmund breathed a sigh of relief.
In spite of, or perhaps because of, all the demands of their hard ride and the stress of the looming battle ahead of them, he found he had little trouble drifting off to sleep that night, the familiar bedroll and blanket reminding him of the many similar ventures they had made early in their reign.
Lucy was not so fortunate.
"Ed! Are you still awake?" she whispered beside him.
"Of course I am," he grumbled. "You're talking. Don't talk and I won't be."
"Aren't you the least bit excited we could find the prince in the morning?"
"I will be. In the morning."
"I can't sleep," she confessed in a whisper. "I keep thinking about Cor and the battle and where exactly everybody should go…"
"By the Mane, woman, count some Sheep. Silently," he ordered.
Lucy snuck her hand into Edmund's. He left it there.
It was only an hour's ride in the morning before breakfast until they broke through the trees of the Great Wood and came upon the Dwarf's cottage in the clearing. There Edmund called the order to halt and have a bit of breakfast, though he himself circled his horse around and swept the area for any signs of enemies before dismounting.
That was when he saw him, standing right next to Corin, like a reflection in a tall mirror. Edmund knew right then and there. Lucy came up behind him and put a hand on his elbow. She knew it too.
"Who is your Highness's friend?" said Edmund with a thespian precision that could have graced any stage, or he at least thought so.
"Don't you see, Sire?" said Corin. "It's my double: the boy you mistook me for at Tashbaan."
Edmund could sense Lucy's tangible delight beside him. "Why, so he is your double!" she exclaimed with such exuberance that Edmund very nearly stomped on her foot. He settled for a stern look, and she said primly, "As like as two twins. This is a marvelous thing."
"Please, your Majesty." Cor spoke for the first time. His voice had hints of strange accents, half Calormene, half seasider, which they surely would have noticed in Tashbaan had he not been too stunned to say much. But here he spoke earnestly and with obvious truthfulness. "I was no traitor, really I wasn't. And I couldn't help hearing your plans," he continued in a rush, "but I'd never have dreamed of telling them to your enemies."
Edmund felt a strange ache in his chest at Cor's words and appearance. The lad looked so thin and neglected, now that he could see the twins side by side. He suddenly wished Cor had been found much, much sooner.
Tenderly Edmund laid his hand on Cor's fair hair. "I know now that you were no traitor, boy," he said, his voice almost catching at the word, traitor. "But if you would not be taken for one, another time try not to hear what's meant for other ears."
Cor looked a little stricken at this.
Edmund smiled at him. "But all's well."
Lucy and Edmund had a brief furious discussion in whispers over what to do about the Twin problem. Lucy was in favor of bringing him along and keeping him under lock and key with Corin. Edmund did not want to see the boy anywhere near the battlefield and planned to ask the Dwarf, Duffle, and his brothers to keep a Very Close Eye on the lad. In the end, Edmund convinced her with dire depictions of the many fates that could befall the woefully unprepared Cor in the heat of battle. Stricken, Lucy was only too glad to offer to speak to Duffle herself, and as the army prepared to set off once more, Edmund was reassured to see a glimpse of the boy waving in farewell to them before he turned his horse to the course.
(After the boxing incident with Thornbut, Edmund very nearly made Corin stay there too, were it not for his firm belief that the feckless Prince would find some way of escaping and ending up in the battle anyways.)
By 11 o'clock, they were on the march again, thoughts turning to the coming battle at Anvard. With Sir Peridan to advise them, Edmund and Lucy came up with a serviceable battle formation for their somewhat ragtag army. ("But we have six – six! – spikey-booted giants!" Lucy pointed out.) Edmund turned the plans over and over in his mind, searching for any possible weakness. He did not much pay attention when Lucy inquired after that goosecap Corin; it was good enough for him that the prince was nowhere near the front lines.
It was late afternoon by the time they had crossed the Pass single-file and spilled out into the lower hill overlooking Archenland. They could not see Anvard from the ridge, nor could Rabadash's army see them, which was the chief advantage of their location.
Edmund shouted the orders of formation – Cats to the Left, Giants to the right, Men and Dwarves and Centaurs with him. This took some time, as the ridge was somewhat narrow, and with the passing minutes Edmund felt a growing sense of both urgency to come to the aid of Anvard and unease at the impending duty of sending these beloved men and beasts into battle.
Lucy's voice rose, calling her archers to follow her to the rear. As she rode past Edmund, she sent him one last, unfaltering glance that seemed to know what he was thinking. In her eyes he read courage, trust, faith in him to the bitter end. They spoke to him as no words could.
Edmund rode up and down the line, scanning the arrangements, making sure every soldier was ready and every piece in place before he struck. He would never have admitted it, but his heart was in his throat, and the closer he came to issuing his army forth, the more his fingers trembled on the reins. For he knew that it was by his lead that the Narnians would triumph or fall.
Edmund was a man of few words, so he did not give any rousing call to battle as Peter might have done, but his eyes met many of the warriors' that day, and it was many a proud soldier who would later tell their daughters and sons of the day King Edmund looked them in the eye and found them worthy.
The Just King breathed a last prayer to the Great Lion. Then he called to the trumpeter to sound the call. Long clear notes echoed between the gorges as the Narnian army streamed down the ridge and into the valley bellow.
The line of mounted Calormenes that rushed to meet them was not as great as they had feared, but still an imposing sight to be seen galloping full-tilt at oneself. Edmund knew their own numbers were much smaller, and as the wave of Calormenes surged ever closer he never once faltered but charged ahead with sword drawn and knees gripping his horse tightly, knowing full well the count that was laid at his feet to dispatch.
And when the lines met at last and harsh curved scimitars clashed against the Dwarf-forged Narnian straight swords, Edmund was first to raise his blade in battle with each of the glittering commanders, dealing them mighty blows and sharp swings that flowed through his arms like a kind of magic. One after another he overwhelmed his well-trained opponents by the vehemence of his attack and the unexpected timing of the fierce strokes.
After each combat, Edmund glanced about him, trying to account for his men and measure the success of the conflict amidst the dizzying confusion of the ever-shifting battlefield. The archers' arrows had considerably diminished the line of seated cavalry in their initial melee, and the Giants were making quick work of the remaining riders on the right. He could see that the Cats had done their work and were now leaping on the rams-men who abandoned their post and tried in vain to flee. The now horseless Calormenes who had not ridden out in the first place were running for the surrounding woods, though the horsed soldiers fought on with Edmund's men in slowly dwindling numbers.
And then the gates of Anvard opened, and King Lune with thirty of his men came riding out to surround the enemy from behind. Edmund saw this and cheered silently to himself, though his focus was occupied by the brutal warlord before him who was pressing him as hard as he could. Edmund leaned out of the way of one wicked swing, feinting sharply to the left, then in one clean stroke slashed the Calormene's head off.
With the promise of victory near at hand, Edmund was now able to allow himself the luxury of pursuing Rabadash personally. Drawing near to the very gate of the castle, he found the foul prince fighting on foot, a horrible grin upon his face. Edmund quickly dismounted, sending his horse to find another mountless Narnian while he spun about on Rabadash. The prince's eyes flared when he saw Edmund, and he rushed at the King with a guttural cry.
Edmund was ready for him. He met Rabadash blow for blow, parrying the attacks with a sure hand and returning a volley of strikes that sent Rabadash reeling backwards. Edmund pressed him further and further back toward the wall, relentlessly blocking and hounding his enemy into retreat. Rabadash glared ferociously at him as he fought, and with his back against the fortress he spat at Edmund and hissed, "I should have taken your cold sister when I had the chance!"
"By Aslan's grace, you never shall now," Edmund said grimly, preparing to pounce upon the cornered prince. But Rabadash, casting his eyes wildly about at the name of the Lion, gave a great, "HA!" and leapt to the side and up onto a mounting block that lay nearby. There his height gave him the advantage against Edmund, and Rabadash stood there raining down blows on Edmund from above.
For a moment Edmund felt a panic seize him, and then he heard a beloved voice cry from a great distance, "Fie, vile snake!" and an arrow split the air and Rabadash had to jump to avoid the point that flew through the space where his head had been half a second ago.
Oh, well done Lucy! She had afforded him a valuable moment to catch his breath and regather his strength. But Edmund knew that henceforth he must fight on alone.
"Stay your hand, sister," he shouted, raising his sword to the archers behind him and the group of soldiers who rushed in, eager to reinforce him. "For no hand but mine shall slay the foul villain!"
Rabadash snarled at Edmund and howled, "The bolt of Tash falls from above!" And with these words, he bounded up and to the side with a tremendous spring –
And Edmund would never forget the sight of the infidel prince of Calormen strung up by his hauberk on an iron hook on the wall, like a piece of washing hung up to dry, thrashing helplessly and wriggling half out of his chain shirt till he looked like a very angry turtle.
A great laugh rose in Edmund's chest and burst forth, hearty and clear across the battlefield, and the glorious sound spread through the troops and caught fire, and as they caught sight of the ridiculous scene, a wave of laughter rose and swelled from the Narnians and Archenlanders until it reached a resounding roar.
"Edmund, my friend! Well met indeed!" boomed King Lune, shaking his hand with a crushing grip across the abandoned battering ram. "What marvelous deeds hast done this day!"
"And you, friend," replied Edmund warmly. The relief of victory filled him with pervasive joy, and reminded him of the wonderful knowledge he had lately gained. He smiled at the thought of Lune's joy when they would be reunited.
Edmund would gladly have accepted the incapacitated Rabadash's challenge of hand-to-hand combat to the death, but King Lune's insistence that the traitorous prince deserved no such honor was irrefutable, and Rabadash was hauled off to Anvard's dungeons, shrieking ominous curses and insults in both Calormene and Narnian.
Edmund then could take stock of his army, finding to his satisfaction that the vast majority of corpses on the battlefield were Calormene, and he could count the Narnian losses on one hand. Amid the throngs of rejoicing soldiers, he discovered Corin, covered head to toe in blood and dirt and beaming like a Cheshire cat.
"What is the meaning of this?" Edmund asked sternly.
"I killed three men," exclaimed Corin, bursting with pride. "Didn't I fight grand? All your lessons paid off! Of course, Shasta didn't do so well, not sure where he's got off to…"
Shasta. He meant….
Edmund's face went white. "What have you done, foolish boy?" he demanded. "Did your double ride in the battle?"
"He certainly did," answered Corin, "though he dropped his sword first thing and was knocked clean off his pony as soon as a lance came his way. Haven't seen him since then. I stayed on my horse the whole time," he added boastfully.
With racing heart, Edmund urgently scanned the vista of moving beasts and men, finding no trace of the boy, then steeled himself to search through the motionless bodies that still littered the battlefield.
Corin, seeing his face, said quickly, "Don't worry, I'll find him!" and slipped away into the crowd before Edmund could pull him back.
Edmund did not think he could face Lune if his negligence had proved to be fatal to the boy and Lune lost his son all over again. His heart was sick at the thought.
Almost despairing, Edmund strode the lengths of the field looking desperately for any small sign of Cor – perhaps he was wounded and could be saved with swift attention. He tried not to consider the alternative.
Then, like the shining rays of the sun that was setting in the West, fell the boyish call upon his ears. "Here he is, Father! Here he is!"
Edmund ran hard and when he had reached the gates he saw, to his endless astonishment and ecstasy, the twin figures of the two boys standing together, whole and smiling and alive, wondrously alive. And he arrived in time to see King Lune, tears in his eyes, embrace Cor in a great bear hug, looking as though he would never let him go, and kiss him in joy, before presenting him to the cheering Archenlanders as their lost Prince.
And suddenly Lucy was beside Edmund, laughing and crying all at once, her arms about his waist. "He found him," she said with a happy sob. "He found the baby."
Jill stared at him, blinking. "You can't just end it there! What about Rabadash? And Aravis? And Cor and Corin?"
"I thought the bards told that part already," said Edmund with a smirk.
"I was falling asleep by then," admitted Eustace. When Jill gave him a look, he shrugged. "What? We'd had a long day. You didn't get pushed off a cliff that morning – OW! Stop kicking me, Pole!"
She huffed loudly. "Well, I heard the part about bringing Rabadash out at the feast, and how he was a right blighter to you all when you were nice enough not to chop off his head. And then Aslan showed up, and that's where it got confusing. I remember the bard singing something about Rabadash turning into an ass, and I couldn't tell if it was a bit of poetic license."
Edmund grinned. "That part was quite literal."
"O-ho, so that's what happened to Rabadash," said Eustace. "Seems too good for him. I would have stuck him while he was hanging there on the wall."
"That's where we differ, cousin," Edmund said. "If you want my advice, always forgive your enemies. Nothing annoys them so much."
Jill thought this was quite funny. "What an end for a prince! And how exciting, that you saw it all and helped find the lost prince of Archenland!"
Edmund glanced up at the person who suddenly appeared in the doorway to his room. "I had some help," he conceded, smiling at Lucy. She was much shorter than the Lucy of his memories, and her hair only reached her shoulders rather than tumbling down her back in long golden waves. But her face was the same.
Lucy smiled back. She came in and snuggled down on the last remaining spot on the bed, right between Edmund and Jill. "I heard the last bit – you've been telling them the story of finding Cor then?"
"Oh yes!" said Jill. "It was a thrilling story. You were so brave, Lucy!"
Lucy shook her head. "It was Edmund who was the bravest of all." She looked mischievously at her brother. "I'm sure he's left out the best bits about himself. Now I can tell you my version…"
Lucy snuck her hand into Edmund's. He left it there.
"For this is what it means to be a king: to be first in every desperate attack and last in every desperate retreat…"