MFB24: Understanding and Education

Mr. Tumnus was startled when he entered King Edmund’s room, expecting to find King Edmund, and instead found King Peter sleeping there. Something odd was going on with the two brothers, and the Faun had come to his own conclusion over the past few days. He gently shook the High King’s shoulder.

“Time to rise, your Majesty!” he said with his usual cheerfulness. “It looks like we might get some rain today, for which the Dryads will be glad!”

Peter rubbed his eyes and yawned before sitting up.

“So they will,” he agreed, “as will all of our farming folk.”

The Faun observed him carefully until Peter realised where he was.

“If you’ll pardon me for asking, your Highness,” Mr. Tumnus began, “is there anything the matter with King Edmund? Is he, perhaps… suffering from nightmares?”

“W—What makes you say that?” Peter asked in return, somewhat flustered by the question as well as his surroundings.

“Well, he seems to be craving your company, especially at night. And having had a few bad dreams myself of the White Witch, from time to time…”

“Have you, indeed? I’m very sorry to hear that,” Peter said sincerely.

“Yes, well… nothing a good cup of tea doesn’t settle,” the Faun dismissed. “But your brother was a mere child at the time, and I can’t help but think that it must have been… well, much more terrifying for him.”

“Yes… I believe you’re right,” Peter replied thoughtfully. “He hasn’t mentioned it to me, but it may very well be why, as you say, he’s been craving my company…”

“Of course, one can see why he would seek your company for something of that nature, rather than his sisters’ — even though they are paragons of kindness,” Mr. Tumnus pointed out, “since I’m sure it would be… er… a rather tender subject for a young man of his years. A matter of… his royal dignity.”

This threw a new light on the situation for Peter, and he nodded as he reflected on Edmund’s recent behaviour.

“Yes. Quite understandable,” he murmured.

“I presume that King Edmund, then, is in your room?”

“Yes. He fell asleep after he brought me some chamomile tea, and I couldn’t carry him all the way here, so I let him stay there for the night.” Peter pulled on his bathrobe and stood up. “I’ll see to it that he wakes up, Mr. Tumnus. And thank you. I hadn’t considered how having been a prisoner of the White Witch might leave one with… some rather nasty memories, and I appreciate your perspective on the matter.”

“Glad to be of service, Sire,” the Faun replied with a neat bow, and retreated from the room.

Peter stood there for a moment longer, debating as to how to handle his toilet. Since he was planning on awakening his brother and sending him back here to his own room, he did not want to use Edmund’s chamber pot. Despite his need, he decided to leave off relieving himself just yet of his manly burden, and crept into his own chamber where Edmund lay sleeping.

“Ed… Wake up, Ed!” he said, shaking his younger brother, who only groaned before sinking back into slumber. His pale face was turned away from Peter, but the delicate line of his jaw and neck made the High King swallow in an effort to quell his desires.

“Ed, come on! You need to get up,” he pleaded, shaking him with more force this time. Finally, Edmund’s eyes opened, blinked, and opened again.

“Peter,” he mumbled happily. “Good morning.”

“It looks like rain,” Peter laughed, “but yes, it is a good morning. And you need to get back to your own room.”

“Oh,” Edmund replied, glancing out the window before getting up. He was still wooly-headed, and watched vaguely as Peter selected a clean set of clothes to wear; however, his eyes were keen enough to notice the bulge under his brother’s bathrobe. It reminded him of his own need, and he stared longingly, even hungrily, at Peter’s hands as he fussed with his clothes (waiting for Edmund to leave). The bees were buzzing inside of him, all the way down to the tip of his straining manhood.

“I say, Peter,” he began, sitting back down on the edge of the bed, “I still don’t understand why we can’t… you know, help each other out, like we did when your hand was hurt. I don’t see why it’s such a bad thing… And you haven’t given me a good reason yet, like you promised.”

Peter turned to him in dismay.

“I—I know, Ed. And I’m sorry. I just… I haven’t come up with a good way to explain it all. And I’ve been — we both have been, rather busy, these past few days…”

“I know. I don’t mean to rush you or anything, it’s just that… well, you need to take care of that” — indicating what was hidden under the bulge — “just like I do, and it worked so well when we did it for each other, so it seems a shame that we can’t keep doing it that way. At least, it felt really great for me when you did it, although I suppose you were being nice when you said I’d got on as well…”

“No, I… I wasn’t lying, Ed,” Peter said, blushing up to his ears. “You did great! But… it’s just not right. Of course it felt good and all, but that’s… that’s because it’s supposed to.” Struck with a burst of inspiration, he continued, “Don’t you see, Ed, that it’s meant to be better — more satisfying — when you share it with someone else? Because that’s how it’s supposed to be! It’s supposed to be something that you share with the… the one person you love more than anybody else in the world.”

Peter felt faint from the crushing weight on his heart, realising that that person for him was none other than his brother Edmund, who was currently regarding him with unspeakably lovely brown eyes. But he forced himself to go on.

“You’re supposed to share it with the person you marry, and discover how much more wonderful it can be. It’s supposed to be something special, a secret that you share with that person alone, and… I should never have helped you with it, Ed… I’m sorry. I led you to think that it was all right to do it with someone else (even if it was just me, as your brother), and that was wrong. I’m so sorry…”

“Oh, Peter!” Edmund responded, jumping up and coming over to throw his arms around him, making his brother’s physical condition even more dire. “I don’t think it was wrong at all! I know, I know — you’re saying that that’s the whole problem, but… I just can’t believe that it is. I couldn’t have got through my first time without your help, Peter, and that’s the truth! So I don’t want you beating yourself up over doing what had to be done. Maybe if we’d been in England, I would’ve figured it out on my own, but the fact is we were here and I hadn’t. All right?”

Peter couldn’t help but smile, albeit wanly, at his brother’s fierce demand.

“All right. I won’t beat myself up over it. But I need you to understand that… there are certain boundaries — important ones — that mustn’t be crossed. Can you at least see that?”

Edmund nodded, then buried his face against his brother’s shoulder.

“I can see where you’re drawing the line. I don’t necessarily like where it’s at, but I can see it,” he mumbled.

Peter sighed, and slid his hands over Edmund’s back, embracing him as the younger boy clung to him.

“All right. I guess that’ll have to do… for now.”

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After Edmund returned to his own room, he relieved himself by remembering how warm his brother’s hands had been (even through his nightclothes), and wondered afterwards if even that was a forbidden pleasure. Peter, in the next room, was sure that it was, but guiltily indulged in reveries of his brother’s ivory skin, soft and warm under his lips, and gasped Edmund’s name as he released his male seed. Both arrived somewhat late to the breakfast table, where their sisters were chatting with Per.

The two queens found out that the boy had not been as well educated as they might have hoped, and Susan in particular was determined that he should have the benefit of learning from the Centaurs as they did. The sorts of things those venerable Creatures taught were really quite useful, unlike certain subjects in our schools, and even Narnian history was far more interesting than the ordinary sort — perhaps because there were so many extraordinary people (including Beasts) in them. Per had managed to learn most of his letters, but reading anything more than a simple list was a chore, so Lucy offered him her Narnian primer and Susan volunteered to be his tutor.

The kings and queens of Narnia availed themselves to all Narnians, down to the smallest thrush, to give audience to their petitions and (more rarely) complaints; their subjects only needed to make their appointments in advance, which was not very difficult. This morning there were no appointments, so the children gathered in the study off the main hall with their teachers, the Centaurs Glordus and Sageion, for their lessons. Per shyly joined them, and Sageion asked him questions to assess how much he already knew, and agreed with Queen Susan that the first thing the boy needed to do was practice reading and expand his vocabulary.

While Glordus asked Lucy and Edmund various questions that required thought as well as math to solve, Sageion assigned chapters of books for Susan and Peter to read and write extracts of, then left them to their tasks while he patiently listened to Per read Lucy’s primer. If the Centaur was appalled at his lack of learning, he was too polite to show it, but he helped the boy with the longer words and explained to him the ones that he did not know until it was almost time for lunch.

“He has a good mind, well worthy of cultivating,” was all Sageion said to Peter before leaving, but it gave Per enormous satisfaction to know that the wise Creature considered him worth the trouble to teach.

After lunch they had some time to do as they wished, and although Edmund was ready to drag Per around the rest of the castle, Lucy intervened on Per’s behalf, noting how tired he looked. The boy confessed that he was feeling rather worn out.

“And no wonder,” Peter added kindly. “You’ve been at your book all morning! Why don’t you take a turn in the garden with us? It will do your eyes good to see all the growing things.”

Per thanked him and followed him and Lucy (who was, as usual, clinging to her brother’s arm), and Edmund and Susan fell into step behind them.

“I say, Ed,” Susan remarked in a low tone, so as to not be overheard, “Peter’s looking rather well lately. I wonder if he’s been sleeping better?”

“I hope so,” he responded, with a grin. “I’ve been making sure he drinks some chamomile tea every night, and I think it’s helping.”

“I’m so glad you thought of it!” Susan beamed.

“Me, too,” Edmund agreed, and glanced ahead to where Peter was pointing at a flowering shrub and telling Per its name. He felt a momentary stab of pain, as from one of the pesky hornets, which surprised him a great deal.

I really must stop this nonsense, he thought, scowling to himself. I’m too old to get jealous at every little thing! And I am glad that Per is here and learning how to be a Narnian. He’s my squire, after all!

With that, he determined to be more sensible about his feelings, never considering that his heart might not be so easily controlled by his mind.

‹‹‹‹‹ ж ›››››

The rest of the afternoon was spent in swordfighting practice for the boys and archery practice for the girls. Edmund enjoyed the physical activity, as any healthy boy might, and almost forgot to restrain himself when he was paired with Per. His new squire had not been trained every day by some of the best warriors of the land — instead being made to clean equipage and do other mundane tasks — and could hardly be expected to possess the same degree of skill as the young king. After Edmund’s first glancing blow nearly caused the boy to stumble, he took more care in how he attacked him, making sure not to overwhelm or injure him. It required more skill, in fact, to do this, and gave Edmund a new appreciation for his own teachers.

Peter was training with Morchaeus, a Minotaur, and was forced to exert every last ounce of skill and strength to keep from getting clouted on the head (lightly, compared to what the great Creature was capable of, but a resounding blow nonetheless). He did manage to get in a few good slices and jabs with his wooden sword, which made Morchaeus bellow with laughter; for the Minotaur was quite a jolly soul, and loved nothing more than seeing his royal charges grow in skill. The noise caused Per to jump, startled, in the next circle, since the boy had never seen a Minotaur before, much less heard one laugh — and indeed, Edmund had to explain to him that it was a laugh, and nothing compared to the fearsome battle cry the Creatures could emit when the occasion called for it.

By the time their training ended for the day, Peter was soaked in sweat, and three Dwarfs helped him remove his armour and cleaned off the metal pieces immediately so that the hinges would not rust. Susan and Lucy rejoined them, still fresh from their more leisurely activity, and both queens wrinkled their noses.

“Phew! Peter, you need a bath,” Lucy declared.

“I’m sure I do,” he laughed, unfastening his gorget. “I say, I wonder if the River is warm enough to bathe in? I’m hot enough for a dip, at any rate.”

“I’ll go with you,” Edmund offered, and while the High King thanked the Dwarfs for tending to his gear, the younger king said to Per, “You can come with us if you like. It’s still too cold to go in the water unless you’ve worked up a sweat like Peter, but it’s a nice walk down and back.”

“You’ll need towels if you’re going bathing,” Susan reminded her brothers, and before she had finished saying so, Mrs. Hoppinger dashed off to fetch them. Peter quaffed a whole flagon of water while they waited, then Edmund and Per took the towels from Mrs. Hoppinger and carried them for Peter (to keep them relatively clean). Then the three boys trotted out of the courtyard through the western gate and sprinted across a field to where the Great River rushed past, nearly at the end of its journey to the sea.

“Is it safe?” Per asked anxiously as Peter discarded his boots and plunged into the deep, swift current.

“Oh, sure — Peter’s an excellent swimmer,” Edmund assured him, watching his brother’s flaxen head bob above the surface. “Mind you, I stay closer to the banks, myself, but he’s got a few years on me.”

“I fear I’ve never learned how to swim,” Per admitted.

“No? Well, when it gets warmer we’ll show you how. It’s not so hard, once you get the hang of it.”

Peter crawled up the bank, drenched and shivering.

“That was cold! Refreshing, b—but cold!” he spluttered, gratefully wrapping himself in the towels. He caught Edmund in the face with some drops that were flung off from his hair, making his brother flinch, so then he teasingly shook his head (like Dogs do when they’re wet) and sent droplets flying everywhere. Edmund ducked in vain, and both of the younger boys were spattered with water as Peter laughed and then started running back to the castle. With a shout Edmund chased after him, followed by Per, so that by the time they returned to Cair Paravel — panting and warm from their exertions — all three of them needed to bathe properly.

Queen Susan had foreseen as much, of course, and had asked the servants to ready the royal bath, so Peter (upon the other two’s insistence) went first. Edmund was next, but since Per was prepared to assist him with bathing, he told his squire to strip down so they could bathe together, and although Per was somewhat shy, Edmund was so nonchalant about the whole thing that he soon set Per at ease. Mr. Griswold was helpful, too, and made sure that both boys washed behind their ears.

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