"The Magician's Cousins"
Chapter One: Doddering
Disclaimer: I own Creature and Wisp, but none of the lovely human characters...
*Just a quick note- this takes place after "The Silver Chair" and one year before "Last Battle." Edmund is seventeen, Peter is twenty, Lucy is fifteen, and Eustace is fourteen.
"Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit, "
I Corinthians 12:4
None of the Pevensies had it, that was for certain. They had been using the Old Narnian language for years, in private, in public, before Aslan and before battle. It sat on their tongues well ahead of English, just as their nobility was difficult to smother with the attitudes and outlooks of typical teenagers. But not one of them had ever used Old Narnian in that sense- They simply didn't have the Mark of a Magician.
"Oh," said Eustace Clarence Scrubb. "Oops."
They all stared at Creature. Edmund's hands were white-knuckling his hair.
"Oops?" the Just King demanded. "You decimated my bike!"
"I could- I might be able to-"
There was no way that Eustace could, or would be able to do anything. The bike was decimated: shredded into little cubic inches, reduced to a pile of motorcycle blocks.
In the autumn-shaded back lawn of the Pevensie home, tucked inside the leaning shack that held most of Edmund's experiments, the four had gathered to talk (as usual) about Narnia. After about an hour of just reliving the memories of the winds and the waters and the feel of the Narnian sun, the discussion had led to Peter's idiotic recovery of Old Narnian. This was something that happened as he was browsing through the Cair's library one day. After he brought the dusty book to Edmund, it hadn't taken long for the two to figure the language out and start using it on one another.
In fact, as they related this tale, Edmund and Peter had fallen to jibing one another in that very dead language, much to Lucy and Eustace's amusement.
And Eustace, like a baby that doesn't understanding any part of a language but is very eager to learn, had repeated them.
Peter was still trying to decide if he should be grateful, impressed, or terrified. Lucy was wondering if she'd have to restrain Edmund from flying at their cousin. The only thing that came to Edmund's mind was months of hand-crafting and fine-tuning and double checking. They stared at Creature's remains a while longer.
Peter decided on an underhanded employ of fairness; "Creature didn't work anyways, Ed."
"She was going to," Edmund moaned. He released his hair to stagger towards the scrap metal and leaking kerosene. "I had all kinds of revisions for her..." He dropped onto his knees and touched the pile with reverence.
"I'm sure when I'm older, I'll understand," Lucy said.
"You wouldn't understand, Lu," Edmund sniffed. "It's a boy thing."
"More like an Edmund thing," Peter muttered to her, not wanting his sister to get the wrong idea.
Eustace was feeling more and more the guilt of what he had done. He stepped towards his mourning cousin with palms up, helpless but wanting to help. "For what it's worth, I'm really, really sorry, Cousin."
Edmund fell forward so that his forehead was buried in the oil-stained rubble. "Just leave me here to die."
It was at this point that Peter put a hand on Eustace's shoulder and steered him around back towards the kitchen. "Don't worry about him, Eustace. Ed tends to get a little, er, melodramatic about his projects."
Lucy nodded from Eustace's other side. "Remember the hurricane that washed away the Eastern roads?"
Peter did remember and grinned. "He'll get over it," he confided in Eustace. "To be honest, he loves the challenge of utter defeat."
"Great," mumbled Eustace.
Lucy slapped her brother on the arm and replaced him at Eustace's side. She walked him through the kitchen door and sat him at the table, placing a tin of chocolate biscuits in front of him. A three-legged cat leaped onto the table beside it and Lucy lifted it up and off with one hand.
"No," she said, pointing at the cat.
The cat looked up at her, unimpressed, and tried to hop back up, but Peter caught it in mid-leap. From there he held it against his chest, nestled grudgingly into the crook of his arm.
"Why don't you see Edmund?" he asked it. He stroked a finger up the bridge of its nose and back down, smiling when its eyes rolled into its skull. "I'm sure he'd appreciate your company, cousin."
"Hmm?" Eustace asked, looking up from the tin. His cheeks were stuffed with half-soggy chocolate crumbs.
"Not you, Cousin. This cousin." Peter gestured to the cat with his chin.
Eustace looked strangely at the animal, but as soon as he did, the cat began to writhe in Peter's arms, trying to get away. It fell out and onto its three feet, looked back to hiss, then disappeared through the cracked door into the streaming sunlight.
"Even his cat hates me," Eustace said mournfully, dipping back into the tin for comfort. "I really didn't mean to break the bike. It was an accident. I just said-"
Lucy clapped her hand over his mouth and shook her head once. When he'd nodded back, she released him.
"... I said the Narnian word that I'd heard you say. That's all. And then Creature was in pieces."
"First of all," she said, "Edmund doesn't hate you. Secondly, whatever you meant to do, I think it's rather obvious what came out of it."
Lucy looked meaningfully to Peter, who had crossed his arms in thought.
"I can't see another reason," he admitted to her.
Eustace paused his emotional eating long enough to glance suspiciously between the royal siblings.
"What? What aren't you two telling me?" Eustace demanded. "You're using that blasted Pevensie-mind-reading ability again, aren't you?"
Peter looked at him, but seemed to stare through him, and when he spoke again, it was still to Lucy; "The Professor?"
"At the very least," she replied. "I know Edmund's dealt with that type more than us."
"But is he up to it?" Peter asked her.
Lucy smiled slyly at him. "Edmund loves the challenge of utter defeat."
"Now that's just insulting," Eustace objected. "I'm not that bad off, whatever is wrong with me."
"That bad?" Eustace asked weakly.
The station around them roared with engines and the clashing crush of voices. Smoke and steam and the smell of sausages filled the air. Eustace's stomach rumbled longingly. At his side were a few suitcases and his cousins. Peter and Lucy dressed lightly, but Edmund, with his own suitcase, carried his coat and hat like a sort of armour.
"That bad," Edmund confirmed.
"Not that bad," Peter teased. He shook hands with Eustace and kissed him on the forehead. In an undertone, he said, "Whatever his mood, Edmund won't let you out of sight."
Eustace was not overjoyed to hear that he would have a warden- or such a stony one at that. All the same, he watched curiously as Peter repeated his actions on Edmund, and as Lucy traded Peter for a last embrace with her cousin. Over her shoulder, Eustace spied Edmund dragging Peter into a rough hug. The brothers exchanged something, probably in Old Narnian, because the sound filled Eustace's ears like music, but he could make neither head nor tail of it.
"Try not to break any windows," Peter called to Edmund, as they boarded the train.
"Try not to get lost on the way to the cabbie," Edmund retorted.
They saluted one another with matching grins and Eustace felt a deep pang. Not for the first time, he missed his own best friend, Jill Pole, like a severed limb.
"Write us!" Lucy called. The train began to pull away and Edmund hung out of the door to wave. "Ring us!"
"Don't let Mum throw Creature in the rubbish!" Edmund called. "And make sure Wisp eats!"
Eustace watched with Edmund until Peter and Lucy grew into tiny, faceless nothings. Only when they vanished completely did Edmund climb into the corridor of the swaying carriage, pushing his suitcase before him like a bowsprit. They found an empty compartment towards the middle with cramped seats and the nostaglic aroma of the nineteenth century.
"You still haven't explained why I need to leave London," Eustace pointed out to his cousin, once they'd settled.
"When we've reached an less populated area."
It really was that bad, then.
They sat rocking along the tracks for good quarter-hour before Eustace tried to restart conversation. He said the first thing that came to his mind;
"I've been wondering," Eustace said. "Why does Peter kiss us whenever we leave? Is it part of some kind of ceremony you all had in Narnia?"
Edmund stared out of the window, dark eyes tracking the racing landscape. "Imagine if whenever Jill left you, it was so that she could go to war. Half of the time, she comes back missing an arm or bleeding out or raving from weeks of torture; You'd start making sure she knew how you felt, wouldn't you? It'd become quite the habit, wouldn't it?"
Eustace didn't quite know how to answer. The very idea disturbed that calm and stable part of him, forcing him to try to order how to return to his former peace. He fell into deep, silent thought, and did not speak for the rest of the journey.
It wasn't until much later that Eustace realized that had probably been Edmund's intention all along.
"... The Professor knew we were coming."
Edmund was tapping his foot. Eustace had learned that this was a Very Bad Sign. It typically manifested itself when Eustace missed a swing or dropped his sword point or made any number of missteps with his footing. It preceded only the Truly Terrible Thing, which involved a wooden sword, a flurry of movement that Eustace could not hope to follow, and the satisfying rush of wind being kicked out of his lungs as he hit the ground.
"Traffic?" Eustace wondered.
Edmund's eyes bore down the dusty road for a moment longer, then he reached down for his suitcase and jumped off of platform onto the gnarled grass below. Eustace quickly followed, but his suitcase spilled open on impact and he had to jog to catch up a ways down the path.
"There's not a soul in sight," he noted.
Eustace turned as he walked, craning back his neck to find the treetops and the burning sun. The air was pure and fresh and smelled of gentle decay; Autumn was late this year.
"Nice day," he said, but Edmund did not deign to reply. Eustace found that the longer Edmund kept mum, the further he was falling into his old temperament. Bitter, soured little seeds of thought starting sprouting around in his head: Edmund didn't trust him. Edmund didn't like him. Edmund would rather be anywhere but here.
So they walked along the road in absolute silence, with Eustace' eyes drilling into the back of Edmund's head and his broken suitcase threatening to spill out of his hands again with every other step. He inspected it a little closer. The buckle was dented, insufficient. It grabbed at the case a little, but couldn't hold on. He would simply have to order a new one or else borrow from the Professor. What a way to start an adventure! said the little bitter seeds. Already owing allies. Already alienating friends.
Reep would have his sword out by now, he reflected. Jill would have sussed out a clue.
He kicked a pebble. It struck off from his shoe magnificently- arcing through the air and hitting Edmund square between his shoulder blades.
Edmund stopped. Eustace balked.
"What?"Edmund turned to ask him. He was irritated, but not volcanic. If anything, he seemed a little grateful for the chance to surface from his thoughts.
"What are we doing here?" Eustace asked. "In the country. What's wrong with me?"
Edmund squinted. "Nothing's... wrong with you, Eustace."
"Something's wrong." Eustace swallowed hard, the truth of it perhaps hitting him for the first time. "I decimated your bike. With one word!"
"Please," Edmund said. "At your caliber, you need more than one word. You had to say a string of them, didn't you?"
Eustace felt his eyes bulge. "What does that even mean?"
"Well, that depends, Eustace." Edmund's face became very somber. He stepped up to Eustace and gripped him by the shoulder- one noble to another;
"How do feel about doddering around in dressing gowns?"
Part One of a Two-shot (maybe three) of Eustace Clarence Scrubb's admission to magician-hood.
I think I said something on Facebook about Eustace's natural propensity for science being a good basis for this sort of Gift. How many of us have read fantasy books that explain magic in a scientific way? To be fair, Eustace's power doesn't extend beyond technology. But we'll see more on that later.
Also- keep an eye open for certain de-Narnianized Centaurs!
Like it? Hate it? Upset about Merlin ending this year? Leave a review or PM me!