MFB26: Per Settles in and Edmund Finds Stars

Over the next few days, Per settled into a routine at his new home. On mornings that the royal children gave audiences to their subjects, he polished King Edmund’s armour and saddle gear until the Dwarf-wrought metals — down to the buckles on the stirrups — gleamed like silver. If they were studying with the Centaurs, he would join them and be tutored by Sageion. During combat training, he stood by to assist his knight or (more often) was trained separately by Apheridys, a Satyr and the Captain of the Royal Guard. Although he found it rather unnerving to cross swords with the fearsome creature, Apheridys was a patient and thorough instructor, pointing out the boy’s faults in ways that he could easily understand, and Per himself could tell that he was improving quickly.

He had also become well acquainted with the castle’s varied staff through Mrs. Dumplesugar. On major washing days he helped the Raccoons and Otters carry the bedding downstairs to be washed, then to the southern terraces to be hung out to dry — for even the smallest of blankets was a serious load for the Beasts, especially when wet. He laughed to see the furry washer-women cavorting in the water to get the laundry thoroughly clean, and did not mind in the least when they sprayed him with soapy water as they shook themselves dry.

He also made himself useful in the stables on rainy days, offering to brush any Horse who cared to be groomed; for once he had grown accustomed to the fact that they could talk, he felt quite at home with them. As some of the Horses came from the farther reaches of Narnia with news for the kings and queens, they also took back news of the goings-on at the castle, including word of a young but very capable Son of Adam who was now King Edmund’s squire.

From the very first night that he had gone down to the kitchens to help his knight with the tea tray, Felicity had insisted on making up a little plate with tasty treats just for Per, which the boy gratefully devoured when he retired to his own room. He would never have dreamed of joining the two royal brothers in their late-night snack, since he was used to being a mere servant; in fact, the generosity bestowed upon him by not only the Pevensies but also the rest of the Narnians was at times overwhelming. He often pondered how lucky he was as he ate his cakes and biscuits, sipping the warm milk that Felicity had prepared for him.

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One afternoon Per and Edmund were sitting on the steps of the courtyard, resting after their archery practice, when they saw Felicity bounding towards the gate on all fours with a basket slung around her neck, which bounced along with her on her narrow back.

“Where are you going, Miss Felicity?” Per asked curiously.

“To the West Meadow and possibly beyond, to gather some herbs,” she replied, pausing to answer him and bow to Edmund. “We’re beginning to run low on chamomile, so I’m hoping to bring back a few plants to grow in the gardens.”

“Oh!” Edmund said, startled. “I thought we already had some in the gardens. Have we been using them up too quickly for Peter’s tea?”

“Not at all, not at all, King Edmund!” she squeaked. “We simply haven’t needed to grow it here before, and were getting some already dried from the woodland folk. Now that we know it helps King Peter sleep, the Voles are preparing a special bed where we can plant it.”

“In that case, I ought to help you gather some, at least,” Edmund remarked, standing up. “I can’t tell you what a relief it’s been to all of us, knowing that Peter’s sleeping better now. Besides, I hate to think of you carrying that basket back by yourself.”

Felicity was hesitant to accept his help, but Edmund knew how to be persuasive, and she eventually relented. Per insisted that he would enjoy the opportunity to see more of the countryside, too, so the three of them set out together for the woods.

Peter had been picking out a few roses in the flower garden with Susan, and saw them just as they were leaving through the gate. He felt a pang of longing at the sight of his brother telling Per some anecdote with great animation. Per was thrilled at the opportunity for an excursion, despite being tired from his chores of the day, and laughed happily as he kept pace with Edmund.

“I wonder where they could be going?” Susan commented, coming to stand next to Peter. “I do hope they won’t be late for supper.”

“I’m sure they won’t be,” her brother responded with a forced smile. “After all, Felicity is with them.”

The High King had been sleeping better since the institution of bedtime tea by Edmund, but it had less to do with the chamomile and more to do with the company of his lovely brother. Every night they reflected on the events of the day, the news from various parts of their kingdom, and the sometimes humourous grievances brought to them by their subjects, who (now that the White Witch was gone) could and did renew petty arguments which had lain dormant (or at least frozen) for a hundred years. Occasionally the two kings discussed more serious misunderstandings, often caused by the different perspectives of the different Creatures who happened to live in close proximity, but even then King Peter found it refreshing to exchange ideas with his insightful younger brother.

It was with some regret that he now turned to follow his sister inside the castle, knowing that he should try to read the book assigned to him by Sageion, but knowing also that he would not be able to concentrate much on the printed pages. His first instinct upon seeing Edmund leave with the others was to run after them and join them on whatever errand or adventure they were embarking, but he had restrained himself.

It’s good that he’s spending time with someone his own age, Peter admonished himself silently. And the less time I spend with him, the less likely I’ll be to do something inappropriate.

At least the book on Narnian history he needed to read was quite interesting, especially since he could recognise some of the places that came up in it, but every so often his eyes would wander to the window, waiting to catch sight of his brother returning.

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The two boys and Felicity did return in time for dinner, her basket filled with herbs and the boys’ arms filled with uprooted chamomile plants, which they left in the vegetable garden for the Voles to tend. When Peter heard the purpose of their jaunt beyond the castle walls, he felt a pang of guilt, knowing that the chamomile was mainly for him, even though the effectiveness of the tea itself was debatable.

“I hope it wasn’t too much trouble. I don’t need to have it every night, you know…” he remarked.

Edmund had made peace with the bees in his stomach over the past few days, coming to welcome their friendly buzzing whenever he was with Peter, but now they swarmed and made his hungry stomach lurch. The thought of giving up what had become a nightly ritual was almost unbearable.

“It’s no trouble at all!” he protested. “It grows wild all around the forest, and now we’ve got some in the garden. And Felicity can sniff out a clump from over fifty paces away!”

“We also met some Horses who told us where to find a large patch,” Per added. “There was more there than the two of us could carry.”

“One of the Horses was Phillip’s cousin,” Edmund mentioned, more calmly. “Per’s been grooming them when they come in to the stables on rainy days, so they were already friends. I had no idea!”

“That’s certainly very industrious of you,” Peter said to Per with warm approval.

The boy blushed, murmuring, “I’ve always liked working with Horses, your Highness. And it’s very interesting to be able to talk to them.”

“Well then, I’m glad that it’s worked out for you,” Peter responded, passing a bowl of fruit to Mr. Tumnus.

“I do hope you like being here,” Lucy said, addressing Per as well, while she buttered a hot bun. “I’d hate to think we took you away from everything you knew, if you don’t like it here any better than Anvard.”

“Oh, Queen Lucy!” Per cried, quite overcome. “There’s no fear of that, my lady — I cannot imagine a better life than what I have now!”

“We’re all glad to hear it,” Susan said with a smile, making the boy blush even deeper.

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Later that evening, Peter was waiting for Edmund again — this time on the balcony overlooking the sea, since it was getting warm enough, even after the sun had set, to lounge in his bare feet on the stone porch outside his bedroom. He had built a little fire in the fireplace just for boiling the water, although the room needed no more heat to be comfortable. Soon there was the familiar tapping on his door, and before he could cross his room to open it, Edmund and his faithful squire let themselves in to set the tea things on the hearth.

“I swear Felicity is trying to fatten us up like little pigs,” Edmund told Peter without preamble. “Tonight she baked strawberry tartlets and a sticky toffee pudding!”

“I say,” Peter replied, looking over the desserts in awe, “we ought to share some with the girls, too. I can’t see us eating all of that, can you?”

“My thoughts exactly!” Edmund agreed, already cutting up the toffee pudding (which is really a cake). “We can split the pudding and the tartlets and still have a feast! Here, Per, hand me your plate — you need to help with this, too.”

Per had already received his own plate of tartlets, to which Edmund now added a generous wedge of the pudding. The rest he divided equally between two plates, and Per was happy to take one of them to the queens who (Peter assured him) were both still up, drying their hair.

Once alone, Edmund settled into Peter’s lap, sitting sidesaddle across one of his thighs though with his weight on the floor. Peter had found that by folding up his other leg he could create a natural backrest for his brother, and so comfortably situated, they nibbled on the tartlets while they waited for the water to boil.

“I really must have a chat with Felicity about not getting carried away with cooking, although I know she enjoys it,” Edmund mentioned in between bites. “I mean, I hate to be wasteful, when all of our food is brought in by our people.”

“Quite right,” Peter agreed. “A little snack is one thing, but this… this is a tad extravagant. I can speak to her, too, if need be.”

“I don’t think so… She can be sensible enough if you can just get her to slow down to see reason.”

Edmund licked a smudge of strawberry from his fingers before snuggling against Peter’s chest, and his elder brother nearly dropped a tartlet when he felt Edmund’s finger stroke his neck.

“It’s like Vramar, just a little west of due north,” Edmund commented.

“W—What?” Peter stammered, not knowing what he meant.

“Your freckle, here. If the middle of your neck is due north, it’s just a little to the west of it, like Vramar, the Birds’ Compass.”

The star was so named since migrating Narnian Birds (and possibly Non-Talking birds as well) used it to navigate their long flights home. Finally realising that his brother was referring to his mole, Peter tried to regulate his breathing while he set the tartlet down on his saucer.

“I have several moles, here and there. I suppose you could even make constellations out of them,” he said, with a slightly shaky laugh.

“Of course. The Centaurs would find deep omens in the great constellation, ‘Peter’s Chin,'” Edmund replied with a giggle.

“Oh, really?” Peter retorted, dropping his knee so that his brother fell back with it and was forced to look up at him, as he glowered down with mock ferocity. It only served to make Edmund giggle harder, and Peter could not stop the grin that formed on his own face as well.

“If I’ve got constellations on my chin,” Peter declared, “then you’ve got the Milky Way on your cheeks and nose.”

Edmund had been feeling as though the bees were tickling his insides, and now as his brother leaned over him to gaze down at him, he thought that the bees had doubled in number, making his whole body tremble as he squirmed in discomfort. And yet he could not stop his nervous laughter.

Peter pulled him back up in a gentle caress, nearly overwhelmed with the urge to kiss those soft, laughing lips, and hoping to allay it by tucking the younger boy close against himself where he could not see his brother’s beauty. The temptation to lay claim to Edmund’s every freckle — so like the stars of the world where they were born — with kisses and declarations of love left Peter quite breathless.

Edmund sighed in his own effort to control his breathing, and slipped one arm about his brother’s waist in the narrow space for it against the wall. He could hear Peter’s heartbeat with his ear pressed against that broad chest, and to his surprise it was racing faster than his own. But Peter’s hand on his shoulder was moving slowly and tenderly, helping him to relax, and he closed his eyes in perfect satisfaction.

They were forced to separate when the kettle began to sing, and Edmund got up to steep the tea. After the cups were filled with the pale liquid, he sat by Peter’s side while they sipped it, not wanting to risk spilling it by clambering on top of his brother. But he kept his thigh pressed against Peter’s, not knowing how much the heat of that touch was troubling the responsible firstborn — though of course, in preparation for being in such close contact with Edmund, Peter had made sure that his normally loose undergarments were pulled tight to prevent his wayward member from betraying his lust.

They munched on the sticky pudding in companionable silence, washing it down with chamomile tea and trying to lick the toffee off of their fingers. When that proved to be futile, they washed their hands in the basin, each pouring the water out of the ewer for the other.

“Well, goodnight then,” Edmund said hesitantly as he stood by the open glass door to the balcony.

“Goodnight, Ed,” Peter replied, gazing at his brother’s form as though seeing something bright from a distance. Suddenly he stepped closer to Edmund, wrapping him in strong arms and placing a damp kiss on his forehead. Before the startled younger boy could respond, his brother had stepped away, gently prodding him through the door. “Sweet dreams,” Peter wished him as he closed the door behind him.

Somewhat dazed, Edmund entered his own room and crawled into his bed. The bees seemed confused, too, as they darted around within him. Part of the problem was that his stomach, which had been so full just moments ago from all the pastries, felt as though it had disappeared entirely from his body. But it had been replaced with a warm glow that stayed with him until he drifted off to sleep, a happy smile curling his lips.

Peter, meanwhile, had waited until he was certain that Edmund was in bed, then finally freed his manhood from its prison of cloth. With fervour and haste he sought his release, the silken touch of his brother’s skin still lingering on his lips, and released his passion while gasping his brother’s name. It was with shame that he dragged himself into his bed, but notwithstanding his self-revilement, the physical exertion allowed him to fall into a deep sleep, haunted only by the giggling laughter of Edmund, his love.


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