MFB17: King Lune’s Request

Peter had been kept busy entertaining the pair of young ladies during the course of the noonday meal and had not seen his brother slipping out of the courtyard. When he finally saw that the party at Prince Corin’s little table had completely dispersed, he excused himself and turned to his sisters.

“I say, Lu — where’s Edmund gone off to?”

“What? Oh, I don’t know… He was there a minute ago. Su, have you seen Ed?”

“I think he left after Corin was taken up to his room. Maybe he’s gone to freshen up?”

Peter was debating whether he should go look for Edmund when King Lune precluded it.

“My dear King Peter, I have some business to discuss with thee which… would be best accomplished in private. Perhaps in my council chambers?”

“Of course,” Peter responded immediately, mindful of his manners regardless of how close he and the older king had become. “I’m at your service, Sire.”

King Lune’s council chambers were a comfortably-appointed set of three rooms, with a sculpted map of Archenland and its environs in one, his enormous desk and his secretary’s desk in another, and a long table with enough chairs for all of his nobles in the largest room. He led Peter to a cozy pair of armchairs by the window behind his desk and poured them each a small glass of sherry.

“Before we attend to business, I must first thank you for the liberal hospitality in which you indulge us, every time we come,” Peter said with his glass raised in salute. “I count it as one of the greatest joys of ruling Narnia that we can rely on such a neighbour as Archenland, and on such friends as you and your household.”

“Ah, it gladdens my soul to hear it!” his host replied, and they both took a sip of their drink. “Now then,” began the older king, “I trust thou hast found all of the accommodations suitable—”

“More than suitable, my Lord,” Peter broke in to assure him.

“And the boy I assigned to thee and King Edmund — has he been… satisfactory?”

“Of course! We have enjoyed getting acquainted with him; Edmund especially, I think, since they are close in age. And I had meant to ask you a little favour regarding Per, now that you remind me…”

“Ask on, my friend.”

“When next you come to visit us, I was hoping you might bring Per with you — perhaps on the pretext of having him keep an eye on Prince Corin. My brother has been talking to him about some of our Creatures, and he has expressed a desire to see them for himself. He is about the same age as I was when I first came to Narnia, and I think he would profit from such an exposure to different Creatures and Beasts, much as I did myself.”

“I should like nothing better,” King Lune beamed, his eyes twinkling warmly. “In fact, it is about his situation that I wished to speak with thee.”

Peter looked at him with interest. “We have heard a little of his history… about his father being one of those who had aided Lord Bar, from Per himself. And how you have sworn your protection over him.”

The older king nodded, and seemed not so merry as he had been a moment before. “Aye, I have. It shames me to admit it, but it was necessary, even in my court; for his father was none other than the knight who took my Cor in a small boat and left the ship before we could force it to surrender.”

Peter drew in a sharp breath, for this certainly cast a new light on the matter. It was bad enough that Per’s father had abetted the traitor; but for him to have been the very one to have escaped with the infant prince, never to be seen or heard of again, was a vile tarnish upon not only his but also his entire family’s honour.

“That is indeed a dark cloud for the boy to live under,” Peter replied slowly, “although I cannot help but wonder if his father had been coerced. I find it hard to believe that so many of your men would have willingly broken their oaths to you and done harm to your son. And you had told me, once before, that you found some of them had obeyed Lord Bar only under threat of harm to their families.”

“Forsooth, they had. And Per himself, after the whole sorry business, wast found in a village near Bar’s stronghold — a good twenty leagues from his father’s house. He was sent there under the guise of fulfilling his squire’s duty, but had been removed from the service of another knight (who had been well pleased with him) and for no good reason that anyone could perceive. So I think it safe to assume that he had been wrested from his place to be brought under Bar’s influence, and thus his father was helpless to withstand the traitor’s demands.”

It was with a sigh that Peter responded, “So it seems that Lord Bar was truly wicked to the core, and well deserved his hanging. And yet it must yield some comfort — slight as it may be — that those men had not all willingly recanted their oaths of fealty to you. Perhaps they counted on you to be just, even in your anger, whereas Bar would have been cruel.”

“Perhaps thou art correct, my friend,” King Lune pondered, looking much older than his years, as he did whenever he spoke of his lost son. “But however we may argue for the boy’s innocence, the fact is that all in my court know of his father’s misdeed, and it will forever be ingrained in his repute.”

“A hard bias, for one so young and full of promise,” Peter remarked.

“Indeed. And it is concerning that, my good King Peter, that I wished to ask thee.” King Lune hesitated, and Peter waited for him to speak, anticipating what came next. “If thou and thy kind siblings would be amenable… would it be possible to claim Per for thy court, rather than mine, where he would be free from the burden of his father’s fatal mistake — for I must tell thee, that until his ill-fated departure with Bar upon that vessel, his father had served me as a tried warrior and true; and were it not for his betrayal under what (I believe) were mitigating circumstances, his loss should have been mourned with all the honour due a worthy knight. I hope for no less for his son; yea, I hope for better for the poor boy, for he has borne the indignity of his father’s shame with patience and fortitude, despite his youth.”

“If it were up to my judgment alone,” Peter answered without hesitation, “I should be glad to have him serve in our court, for I have observed much the same attitude in him as have you. I shall present the proposal to my brother and sisters, and do my best to persuade them if necessary; although I rather doubt that they will require any argument. However, as one not far removed from him in years… I would hesitate to decide his fate without hearing his own thoughts upon the matter.”

“Thou art entirely right in that. It was my hope that we could secure a place for him in your court first — perhaps as thy brother’s squire or thine — before presenting him with the opportunity. Then the boy may decide as he pleases, though I would feel secure in betting my finest Pointer that he will choose to go with thee.”

Peter smiled at the rhetorical wager, for King Lune was very fond of his hunting Dogs.

“You must pardon me for not betting against you, for I predict that he will choose to leave his sire’s shackles behind as well,” he mildly replied. “Although I daresay the Talking Dogs in my country would be happy to teach yours a few tricks, were they brought together for a hunt.”

“That sounds like a most pleasant excursion!” King Lune said, brightening. “I may be tempted to bring a few on our next visit North, if it is agreeable with thee.”

“All Creatures are welcome in our court, my good Sir, as you well know,” Peter grinned.

‹‹‹‹‹ ж ›››››

Now that he had a legitimate reason to speak to his brother, Peter was determined to find Edmund, but Edmund was nowhere to be found. Instead, he found Susan and Queen Primela at their embroidery, chatting merrily as they worked. A few whispered words in his sister’s ear were all it took to gain her approval for the plan, for once she knew of Per’s father, she thought straightaway of the blot on the boy’s name, and would have suggested that very thing.

Lucy was labouring at another table over a portrait of Edmund this time, for the image of him in swordfight was fresh in her memory. However, she was not happy with how it was turning out, and when Peter approached, she asked for his critique of it before he could mention anything else.

“I think you’ve got the angle of his arm wrong,” he pointed out, peering over her shoulder. “And his sword is too close to his face — he would cut himself if he did that in battle. And you’ve made him a little short in the torso…”

“Perhaps you might sketch the proper outline on a new sheet, and Queen Lucy could fill in the details,” the Lady Avenel suggested (for she was also drawing), hoping that King Peter might tarry with them.

“Oh, please do, Peter! I don’t mind drawing in the shading and such, but I have trouble getting the proportions right,” Lucy implored him.

“Well, I might not do any better at it,” Peter said, complying and sitting beside his sister, “especially with this bandage, but I’ll try.”

“Oh! Does it hurt still?” Lady Avenel asked, horrified that she had not thought of it.

“No, not at all. It’s mostly healed already, and I can probably take this off now, but since Mrs. Dumplesugar has been so kind as to dress it, I feel obliged to leave it on yet a little while.”

He took Lucy’s pencil (an invention that they had explained to the Dwarfs, who had then made them by the dozens, allowing the children to share them with their friends in Archenland) and paused, recalling that it had been Edmund who had dressed his wound last. While he tried to picture his brother in his mind’s eye, he felt the familiar ache in his heart constricting his chest, making it difficult to breathe. But as the charcoal point slid across the paper, a most accurate representation of the younger king began to appear — for who had studied Edmund’s features and beauties more than the one who loved him against all reason and propriety? The graceful, lissome curve of his limbs; the youthful energy with which he wielded both the sword and shield; the delicate, fine-boned face with eyes that seemed to take in the world entire at a glance — all formed seemingly by magic upon the flat paper, as the artist struggled with the depth of feeling that the mere remembrance of those features caused to boil up within him.

“Oooh, Peter! That looks so like him!” Lucy cried, clapping her hands in delight.

“Indeed, it looks almost as though your martial brother will step out of the drawing!” Lady Avenel agreed.

“Well, I’ve been on the receiving end of that sword often enough,” Peter demurely replied. “I should hope I know what he looks like when he’s fighting.”

When he had added a few more lines, he stood up and asked Lucy to take a short walk with him, saying that she must have been sitting for quite a while. Glad for the diversion, she jumped up to go with him, her hand slipping naturally into his (the uninjured one) as they walked up the stairs to the top of the curtain wall. The Lady Avenel, not having been invited and too well-bred to force her company upon them, stayed behind and admired the High King’s handiwork.

Peter informed his sister of Per’s predicament, and she agreed at once that the best thing for him was to come away with them to Narnia where he could start anew.

“And I think it might be better for King Lune and Queen Primela, too,” she pointed out shrewdly. “Think how awful it must be for them to be reminded of losing Prince Cor every time they see Per about the castle! I know they wouldn’t mean to, but of course they can’t help it. Oh, I do so hope he chooses to come!”

“I only need to find Edmund and get his approval, and then King Lune can tell Per our plans,” Peter said. “I rather think he will come, myself, and I believe he’ll make an excellent addition to our court. Plus it’ll be nice for Edmund to have someone his own age to run around with. By the bye, you haven’t seen Ed around recently, have you?”

“No, I haven’t. I wonder where he could have gone off to?”

‹‹‹‹‹ ж ›››››

What none of his siblings knew was that Edmund had, after having a good cry under Mrs. Dumplesugar’s watchful care, crept back to his room with the Raccoon silently leading the way to make sure that there were no people in the passages. For he was quite ashamed of having blubbed on the ramparts, where several of the soldiers had seen him, and was hoping desperately to avoid the word getting out (any more than it would already, anyhow) that the younger king of Narnia was a soft one.

Once cloistered in the sanctuary of his room, he washed his face and lay down, keeping the damp, cool cloth folded upon his eyelids as a remedy for their swelling. Mrs. Dumplesugar offered to stay and keep him company, but he politely declined, telling her that he needed to think.

“Well, then, I suppose I should leave you to it,” she said, patting his hand where it lay listlessly on the covers. “But if you happen to start thinking nonsense like your dear brother not caring for you as he does your sisters, you must remind yourself of all he has done for you. Eh, child, there’s nothing he won’t do for you if it’s for your good! And if you’ve quarreled with him over some silly thing (as I suspect you have), you’d best speak to him directly and get it out of your system. No good ever comes from harbouring resentment in your heart, and that’s the truth. Take it from one who’s learned the hard way!”

When she finally did leave him alone in the room, he tried to sort out all that Peter had said. He began by remembering the sound of his voice and the look of misery on his face when he had made the terrible pronouncement that morning. The fact that Peter had been miserable had almost slipped Edmund’s mind as he foundered in his own torment, and was a good thing for him to remember.

“He said he’d enjoyed what I did… that it felt better the second time, even,” he mumbled to himself. “So maybe… maybe it’s just as hard for Peter to give up doing that, as it is for me…”

Although the reasons which his older brother had given for why their actions had been wrong were still unclear to him, it gave Edmund some comfort to know that it was a sacrifice for Peter, also.

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