MFB32: A Luncheon and a Lesson

WARNING: Graphic explanation ahead!


The rest of the Archenlandian visitors were still settling into their rooms, so when Edmund entered into the Great Hall with Corin perched on his shoulders, they were greeted mostly by the Narnians who were setting out tables for the welcoming feast under the supervision (and sometimes with the assistance of) the High King.

“Ah! There you are,” Peter said, turning to them with a warm smile. “Did you have fun in the garden, Corin?”

“We play hide-and-seek!” the young princeling crowed, pulling on Edmund’s hair with excitement.

“Ow!” Edmund protested.

“Here, let me get him off,” Peter offered as he stepped closer. For a moment, Edmund’s breath caught in his chest, for Peter was wearing his new royal-blue tunic that made his eyes sparkle like sapphires, and as the High King beamed at the mischievous boy, he looked truly Magnificent. Grasping Corin by the waist, Peter lifted him and set him down on a chair where he could see the preparations going on, but Edmund could not even help. As strange as it seemed (even to him), he suddenly felt shy around his brother.

“We should be ready in no time,” Peter remarked to not only Edmund but also Darian and Per, who had followed him in. “If you’d like to wash up, there are some basins over on that table.”

“Thank you, your Majesty,” Darian bowed, as did Per, and they walked over to make use of the amenities. Edmund stood there stupidly for a moment before following suit; the bees were buzzing loudly in his stomach — so loudly that he wondered if Peter might be able to hear them, too. But his older brother was talking to Corin, pointing out the different dishes that were being brought out from the kitchens.

“I say, Corin, you’ve got dirt on your hands!” Peter laughed. “And on your knees, and your shirt… just about everywhere, it seems. We don’t have time for a bath, but let’s see how clean we can get you.”

Good-naturedly holding the boy (heedless of the dirt that would transfer to his own clothes), Peter joined the others at the table, which made the bees start stinging Edmund’s insides. He was thankful that Per and Darian lent their aid, since he himself was feeling rather unequal to the task. They got most of the smudges off of Corin’s clothes and were scrubbing his hands when his royal parents returned.

“Ah! There is our little scapegrace,” King Lune declared, “making a nuisance of himself already!”

“Not at all, your Majesty,” Peter assured him, handing Corin over with an expression which, while being very lordly and dignified, was also thoroughly genuine — a rare thing in any world.

Edmund caught himself admiring his brother in a way that would have made him blush just a few short years ago. Taking a deep breath to steady himself, he took his seat next to Lucy, who had entered the hall laughing and chatting with Queen Primela. To Edmund’s horror, he realised for the first time (since he had run off with Corin almost as soon as they had arrived) that not only Lady Verinia but also Lady Avenel had come with the party. Lady Verinia, for all her good breeding, he still felt to be some sort of threat; and Lady Avenel, with her long, dark tresses, he thought Peter had smiled at excessively during their visit to Anvard. Both of them made the bees inside of him turn into hornets, and he squirmed as he felt his stomach twist into a knot.

Of course they like Peter, he reprimanded himself, struggling to be reasonable. He’s handsome, and kind, and the High King of Narnia! It’s no wonder they’ve come chasing him all the way here. If there were some other king like him around, I’ll bet even Susan and Lucy would be drooling all over him.

The thought made him snort, startling Lucy and making her turn to him, so he had to pretend to cough.

It was a shame that he had no appetite, since Felicity and the other kitchen staff had outdone themselves. They started with a chilled tomato soup flavoured with orange and lemon juices, sprinkled with parsley picked only minutes before in the herb garden, and a salad of roast vegetables mixed in with fresh greens, served with a mustard herb dressing. The main course was fresh ocean fish fried in bread crumbs and chopped almonds, which melted in one’s mouth (and of course there were no bones, because the Beasts had used their tiny claws to ensure that the fillets were totally clean). The roast potatoes were drowning in butter, the roast carrots as sweet as yams, and the asparagus were tender and the perfect shade of green.

Just when everyone thought that they couldn’t eat another bite, the dessert was brought out, and they all decided that they could eat just a little bit more, for the cakes filled the Great Hall with the scent of oranges and had fresh strawberries and orange-flavoured cream heaped upon them. Everybody was sated, happy, and beginning to be somewhat drowsy when Mr. Tumnus announced that he had a special performance for the visitors, and in flew a flock of Meadowlarks to sing — in Birdsong first, then in Human Speech — some of the favourite lays of Narnia. The Archenlandians clapped full-heartedly, as did the royal children, who hadn’t known what the Faun had been about the past few days.

They were also entertained by a rendition of the Great Snow Dance in the courtyard, where Fauns and Dryads danced in a complicated circle while Dwarfs stood around them and threw snowballs (or, in this case, rather mushy apples left over from the previous year) through the dancers, to be caught neatly on the other side by other Dwarfs. Sometimes one of the players (for it was a dance very like a game, or else a game very like a dance) would misstep and get caught by a flying apple, but they had been practicing for the Archenlandian visit and were able to keep it up for most of an hour without a single mistake. Afterwards there was a round of special peach and orange flavoured wine for everyone, and the Bears obliged by finishing off the rather battered apples.

Queen Primela caught Corin rubbing his eyes and announced that it was time for his nap, which he protested loudly until Queen Susan promised to read him a story and led him upstairs, as docile as a lamb. Since King Lune made every indication that he was settling in for a nice long chat with King Peter over their wine, the Ladies Verinia and Avenel were at loose ends, but Queen Lucy graciously offered to show them the gardens. Seeing that he need not stand guard over his brother, King Edmund plucked at his squire’s sleeve and said, “We ought to see how the horses are getting on.”

Per nodded and followed him out to the stables which — although cool from the sea breezes let in by the new trapdoors that the Dwarfs had finished in time for this visit — were empty. They raced out to the West Meadow where they found half the herd (both Narnian Talking Horses and the ordinary ones from Archenland) rolling on their backs in the glorious summer sun. Per laughed at the sight of so many hoofs kicking in the air. Phillip got up, panting and blowing, and trotted over to meet them.

“A curry-comb is good for getting one’s hide cleaned off,” Phillip said demurely, “but nothing feels so satisfying as a good roll in the grass.”

“How are our equine visitors doing?” Edmund asked.

“They seem to be enjoying themselves. We saved some choice clumps of grass for them, and they’ve been tearing them up like grass from Aslan’s Country.”

“There are bags of oats in the stables, too, if they’d like,” Per mentioned.

“Perhaps in the morning, but we shall see. After being saddled for so long, I believe they’re quite happy just to be free to run about as they please.”

They chatted for a bit longer with Phillip, who wanted to know what Per had thought of the Great Snow Dance (having seen it for the first time), before turning back to the castle. Edmund walked at a slow, deliberate pace through the woods, so that Per was more or less expecting his question when it came.

“Earlier, when we were talking,” the young king began, as Per blushed at the mere remembrance, “I couldn’t help but feel that I was missing something — like a big piece of a picture puzzle. I saw you look at Darian as though you both wanted to tell me something important, but didn’t know how.” He paused and regarded Per thoughtfully, and was struck by another idea. “I say, we didn’t ruin your chances by bringing you to Narnia, did we? I mean, if you’d rather have gone with Darian…”

“Not at all, your Majesty — not at all!” Per quickly protested. “I have said before that I could not imagine a better life than what you have given me here, and I was sincere in that, King Edmund.”

“All right; but you know you can be honest with me, Per — you don’t have to feel beholden to me or anything. I just want to know that you’re happy.” Before the boy could interrupt with more ardent protestations, Edmund pointed out, “You were kissing Darian, after all!”

“I was not!” Per cried with such force that Edmund stopped and gaped at him. “It was not of my doing, my Lord! He caught me alone, and begged for the favour before we would be parted for good, and I had not the heart to refuse him. For he had been kind to me when we were both pages in the Court of Anvard, where there were other, older pages — and knights, too — who would have treated me ill, but he protected me. Even more than the good King Lune’s pronouncements, it was Darian who kept me safe; and for that I owe him a debt of gratitude that I can never repay.”

“Oh,” Edmund responded, trying to digest this. “So… he asked you for a kiss? Before he left Anvard to go home?”

Per nodded. “Yes. I thought he meant a… a chaste one, not the kind that… well, that it shames me to know you witnessed.”

“Well, if he forced it on you, you needn’t feel ashamed about it,” Edmund said reasonably as he resumed walking. “After all, he’s a good bit bigger than you — than either of us! It’s not like you could’ve gotten away once he had you in his grip.”

“Thank you, your Majesty,” Per replied, looking relieved as he followed. “I would willingly do any honourable service for him as thanks for all he has done for me, but I never encouraged nor wanted his… attentions.”

“What, exactly, do you mean by his ‘attentions’?” Edmund asked as he turned to observe Per’s response. He saw the other boy grow crimson to the very tips of his ears, and waited patiently as Per formulated his answer.

“Your Lordship mentioned earlier how… King Peter had shown you how to… relieve one’s manly needs,” Per began, blushing furiously but determined to get through it.

“Yes. The first time it happened, I thought there was something wrong with me,” Edmund admitted. “Comes from not being in school, I suppose… If I’d been around loads of other boys, I’m bound to have heard something about it, at least.”

“I am sure of that,” Per agreed. “But… when your brother the High King instructed you in what to do… that was a… giving of pleasure, was it not? Rather than a taking of pleasure?”

Edmund saw the difference at once, and thought he knew what Per was hinting at.

“Of course! Yes. So do you mean to say, when Darian mentioned how a man might ‘take pleasure’ in a boy, that he would force him to… to…”

“That is only a part of it,” Per interrupted to spare Edmund the embarrassment, knowing that there was worse in store and hoping to get over it as quickly as possible. “There are many ways, my Lord, in which a boy might afford his knight or master pleasure. Some are so detestable that I dare not speak of them in your innocent ears. But perhaps it would serve your Majesty best to know that it is possible — with some preparations — for a man to lie with a boy as he would with a woman.”

Edmund came to a complete halt, and stared at his squire in amazement.

“No! You can’t mean it. That’s simply not possible. Even I know that boys and girls aren’t made the same way, and girls have a special… well, a place for it to fit.”

Per thought he just might die of embarrassment, for now it was apparent that he would have to be quite clear in his explanation, and his face already felt as though it were on fire.

“Of course, it is meant to fit in a girl — or a woman,” he managed, “and from what I have heard, it is much easier to do so. But there is another… place, in a boy’s body, where… with some oil, and some… preparation… that is to say, some stretching of the… entrance,” he gingerly worded, “it is possible for a man’s… manhood, to fit.”

Edmund contemplated this for a long moment, his eyes growing wide as he breathed, “No! You can’t mean to say… Not the bellybutton?

Now it was Per’s turn to gape at him, although he recovered himself more quickly.

“No, I mean… one’s bunghole, your Majesty,” he blurted out in helpless resignation.

“What? Y—You mean…” Edmund sputtered, “it can actually fit in there?”

“Not easily, but yes. It needs to be gently opened, or it will be torn,” Per added with a wince, “but if done properly, it is quite as pleasurable to a man as a woman’s… special place. In fact, I know of several knights who prefer a boy to a maid.”

Edmund’s mouth hung open, making him look for all the world like a Pavender on the chopping block, waiting to be filleted. He lost his voice in the wonderment of it all and could make no sound, but Per (now that the worst was over) decided to elaborate upon his explanation.

“King Lune has forbidden his men from forcing such ‘attentions’ on any of the pages, of course,” he said in a low tone, “but there are still some who would disregard his edicts. I, because of my father’s guilt, might have been easy prey for those had not Darian watched over me with a jealous eye. He is himself too noble to force me into such service, but… he did make his wishes known. Alas, I could not answer him thus; but yet he declared his love for me, and wooed me as gallantly as any knight ever wooed lady.”

A little sigh escaped him, snapping Edmund out of his muteness.

“Why couldn’t you? He seems nice enough…”

“He is the noblest of men,” Per stated, “and I could almost have loved him. If he only wanted me to be his squire, not his lover, I would have gladly served him to the end of my life. But I cannot bear to be touched in that way…” He pursed his lips, a shadow crossing his face as he considered something, then finally confessed: “When I was taken into the service of Lord Bar’s knight… he used me thus, with no care for my comfort, and left me bleeding on many occasions. Ever since, I have feared such injury and recoiled at any man’s touch — even though I am certain that Darian would never cause me discomfort, let alone pain…”

“Oh, Per!” Edmund cried out in sympathy, although hardly able to fathom what the other boy had experienced. “I’m so sorry! And I promise you, if ever someone — even one of our guests — tries to do anything to you…”

Per smiled faintly and assured him, “I know full well that you would do all in your power to protect me, my Lord. And I think that King Lune asked you to bring me here, to this land where Men are few and the Creatures kind, so that I might live free from fear and… unwanted attentions, for the healing of my soul.”

Edmund rejoined with fervour, “I hope it shall be just that: a land of healing, and freedom, and peace for your soul.”

They walked silently back to the castle then, each lost in his own thoughts.


A/N: The recipes of the dishes described in this chapter are available at the “Cair Paravel (Welcome Luncheon)” menu at Food.com.


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2 Comments

  1. Oh gods Per, poor bae!
    (Edmund IS innocent, though. A cinnamon roll, too good, too pure, my dearest is)

    Reply

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