MFB41: Arguing with King Lune

“I don’t think even Aslan can help me with this,” Edmund responded wretchedly. “If Peter’s right, he wouldn’t approve of it. And Peter most definitely doesn’t approve of it.”

“Ah! Hast thou discussed this matter with thy brother, then?” King Lune asked, trying to find his footing in the quagmire of the two boys’ affections.

Edmund shook his head. “No. Well, that is… not specifically. But I’ve asked him about… you know, two boys doing that sort of thing… in general terms. And he’s been… pretty adamant that it’s improper an—and wrong. He won’t even entertain the idea…”

“I see. So thou hast not told him of thy… unusual infatuation?”

“No. How could I, since I only figured it out this morning, myself?” Edmund kicked at a small pebble, missing it but not really caring. “It gave me quite a turn, I’ll admit, since I’ve always avoided all that… romantic stuff. I thought it was just for girls, you know, so it came as a shock to find out that I’d actually fallen in love with someone myself. But once I realised that that was exactly what had happened, it all started to make sense — the jealousy, the pain, and the… the way I just want to be near him all the time…”

King Lune’s brow furrowed in concern with the prospect of both brothers discovering their mutual attraction looming, like a thundercloud, in his mind.

“My friend, if thou canst keep this knowledge to thyself,” he began slowly, “and not inform thy brother, I would urge thee to do so; for, if thou dost disclose it, it could be of no benefit — Peter loveth thee dearly as a brother, and it would only cause him pain to know that thou desirest of him that which he cannot — must not — give. Surely, thou dost not wish to burden him with a care that he cannot alleviate?”

“No! Of course not,” Edmund quickly answered. “I hadn’t even thought of telling him, since he’s so dead set against it. Besides, he… he’s already in love with someone, so… there’s nothing I can do…”

The older king observed the younger bite his lip in an obvious effort to keep it from trembling, and nodded with understanding as well as some relief.

“Indeed, it seemeth that neither of thy loves is destined for fulfillment, which is a hard thing; but thou mayest be a better help to thy brother in that thou now understandest the suffering which he must endure. And, as thou must keep from him the knowledge of thy own affection, so canst thou make allowance for the secret which he must keep from thee as well — a comprehension that should be a comfort to ye both.”

“I suppose,” Edmund agreed, though morosely. However, a moment later his head snapped up and he stared at the other man with sudden suspicion, demanding, “Do you mean to say… you knew that Peter was in love?”

“I did; he confided in me himself,” King Lune replied, nonplussed. “Wherefore doth thou ask?”

“Because it took me an effort to pry it out of him, and then he wouldn’t tell me who it was. And he still hasn’t, and won’t even tell me why he can’t, although I can guess that it’s someone we all know pretty well…”

“‘Twould be best for thee, and him, if thou dost not press him on this matter,” King Lune hastily cautioned. “He hath his reasons for it, else he would not seek so earnestly to hide it from thee, his most trusted counselor, brother, and friend.”

Edmund felt foreboding rise in his stomach as the swarm of hornets stung him in an ever-increasing frenzy.

“You speak of my brother’s reasons, Sire,” he said in a measured tone as he fought against the pain. “Do you mean to tell me that you know what those reasons are?”

Caught in the younger king’s piercing gaze, King Lune made no attempt to dissemble.

“Indeed, I do,” he answered.

“And do you,” Edmund began, then took a breath, desperately trying to retain control over his emotions. “Do you know… who it is?”

“Yes,” King Lune said with as grave a countenance as he could muster, hoping to discourage any further inquiry.

Edmund struggled against his natural inclination to ask, point-blank, who it was, and what reasons Peter might have for keeping everything so covert; for he knew that if Peter had informed their friend in confidence, it was wrong (and useless) to ask King Lune to divulge the secret. However, it rankled him to discover that Peter had confided in someone else rather than in him, his own brother. A moment of heavy silence passed between the two kings before Edmund realised another point of curiosity — one about which he could safely inquire.

“You knew that Peter was in love with someone already, yet you’ve been pressing him to acquaint himself with the young ladies of your court,” he pointed out. “What do you mean by it?”

“Mean? Only to provide thy brother with, er… a more suitable candidate for his queen,” King Lune responded. “I had hoped to distract him with their several beauties, in order that his… hopeless affections (poor soul!) might lessen or be transferred to another object.”

Edmund shook his head with a frown. “It won’t work, you know — at least, not with those girls. And I think it’s simply cruel to foist them on to him when it’s obvious that his heart is elsewhere. I don’t mean to be impertinent, but if one of your favourite hunting dogs got lost, it wouldn’t ease your mind to be given another one, would it? No, you’d probably spend days looking for the poor dog before you’d give up on it, and even if you had a hundred others, it just wouldn’t be the same.”

The good king opened his mouth to reply, then shut it again, having to concede to his young friend’s logic.

“Love — this kind of love, I mean — is so much stronger than anything else I’ve ever felt,” Edmund continued. “I don’t think it will ever go away… not completely. Maybe I’m wrong, and time really does heal all wounds, but it certainly doesn’t feel that way right now. And it seems rather… insulting, I guess, to expect someone to fall out of love so easily. As if it were even possible! After all, if you didn’t choose to fall in love, how can you decide to fall out of it?”

“There is still the hope that he might fall in love with another,” King Lune suggested. “I was merely trying to shew Peter that there is an abundance of lovely ladies in the world, and that he need not set his cap at one sole object, especially when… it proveth to be unfruitful. But thou made mention, a moment past, that the maidens of my court could not possibly tempt him — what, pray tell, did you mean by it?”

“Oh! I didn’t mean any offense,” Edmund quickly replied. “It’s just that… well, most of them are so silly that they’ll laugh at anything Peter says; and the few that are rather sharp are… well… conniving.”

“How so?”

“Ah… um…”

“My friend, spare not my feelings in this, for I desire to know what paradigm of womanhood thou dost wish for thy dearest brother, that I may seek out such a lady for him.”

“Well, I did notice that one girl… kept bringing him food and drink, when we were at Anvard. Not that he didn’t appreciate it, of course, but…”

“It smacked of artifice,” King Lune finished for him, nodding. “I see…”

“And it seemed rather… condescending, I suppose, for lack of a better word — to think that Peter would rely on his appetite to select a… sweetheart. Not that there’s much choice in the matter, as far as I know, but I hardly think that he’d be swayed by his stomach alone.”

“No, indeed,” the older king concurred. “So then, what dost thou encompass for a lady befitting thy royal brother? What qualities and virtues must she possess?”

“Well,” Edmund carefully reflected, “she has to be sweet and amiable, of course.”

“Naturally. And lovely to behold as well.”

“I’m sure that wouldn’t hurt,” he responded, even though the hornets stung him mercilessly at the thought. “All of the girls you brought are pretty — I shan’t deny that. It’s just that… none of them seem… quite right. Like there’s something missing…”

“Canst thou put thy finger on what is lacking?” King Lune queried.

“Well… he’d want a girl that’s sensible, you know, but not… crafty. She has to be honest and trustworthy to be a Queen of Narnia — I guess as Peter’s wife, she’d be the High Queen… She can’t be a squeamish girl, either, who might faint when she met a Marsh-Wiggle or one of our other unusual folk. Come to think of it, we do have a rather queer assortment of Creatures in Narnia, so she would have to be quite stout-hearted.”

“Brave and true… much like thy brother himself,” King Lune commented with approval.

“Yes, and willing to take on any adventure that might come our way,” Edmund added. “And of course she would have to love the Animals, although I think it would be hard not to, since our Talking Animals are no different from People and in some ways much nicer.”

“Quite right. I trow there would be little trouble on that account. What else?”

“Oh, I don’t know…”

Edmund cast his eyes back to the pavilion where the others were milling about to stretch their legs or simply visiting with friends both old and new. He caught a flash of movement as someone small — Lucy, he realised the next instant — darted out from between two Centaurs in pursuit of an even smaller person, who could be none other than Prince Corin. The tall figure of King Peter joined them and hauled the recalcitrant prince up on to his shoulder to take him back where he belonged. The pang of longing in Edmund’s breast nearly took his breath away, especially when his keen eyes saw (even at this distance) how affectionately Lucy clutched her oldest brother’s free hand, and the gentle smile which Peter turned to her.

Oh!” Edmund cried, as if he had been pierced by an arrow — which was how it felt to him, in truth. For a kernel of doubt had been planted in him by that sight, and from thence it had sprouted into suspicion, and had rapidly shot up into full-grown conviction in a matter of seconds.

“What is’t, my friend?” King Lune asked in surprise.

“I see it — I know who it is, now,” Edmund replied bitterly, his youthful face contorted in agony. “How could I have missed it for so long? Of course… It’s Lucy — his own sister!”

King Lune gaped, almost denying that supposition but catching himself, just in time, from saying anything that might narrow down the scope of possible candidates in Edmund’s mind. For he felt it as an incontrovertible matter that any admission of love from one brother to the other would lead to a reciprocal declaration, which would entail the immoral and ruinous consummation of their love — a circumstance which he was prepared to prevent by any honourable means. And so he found that he could say nothing to allay his young friend’s suspicions.

“Lucy… of course! She’s always been his favourite,” Edmund muttered as though to himself. “She’s sweet, and honest, and perfectly suited for him. How stupid of me! It was right in front of my nose the whole time… But of course poor Peter couldn’t breathe a word of it — not even to me, I suppose, for Lucy would feel just awful if she found out, and I’d already spilled to her and Su about Peter being in love… And what with her being a girl, it does matter that she’s family… Oh, poor Peter!”

However, the sigh that escaped Edmund’s lips then was perhaps only half for his brother; the other half was for his own heartache and disappointment, as (in King Lune’s silence) he continued to list his younger sister’s “qualities and virtues” in his mind, drawing less-than-flattering comparisons to his own character.

I’m more often sulky than I am cheerful, and I could never be as sweet as Lu, even if I tried, he thought with growing dismay. And what would be the use, even if I could? I’m not a girl, so Peter would never even consider me — even if I weren’t his sibling! Although since he fell for Lucy, I suppose I might’ve had a chance if I’d been a girl… but it’s no good wishing for that now…

Seeing him lapse deeper into melancholy, King Lune attempted to break in on his thoughts with something appealing.

“My dearest Edmund, I comprehend now that none of the young ladies from my court would suit thy brother, but perhaps one of them might assuage thy own heart? Or if not, perhaps if thou wouldst elucidate for me what manner of maid might tempt thine eyes…”

“I thank you, my Lord, for your kind attentions; but perhaps you would extend your kindness so far as to leave me be,” Edmund answered dully. “It would save you the trouble of exerting yourself for nought, and spare me the trouble of dancing and talking and smiling when I haven’t the least inclination to do so. Having only recently learned why I’ve been so drawn to my brother (unnaturally, as you may say) I can’t believe that my heart will be released from this state of… enslavement, almost, to his person, anytime soon. And I’d rather not give any girl the idea that I’m interested, when I’m not — so utterly and completely not.”

“What dost thou intend to do, then?” the older monarch asked, barely masking his anxiety.

“Do? Why, what is there to do?” Edmund responded, downcast. “There can be no hope for me, just as there is none for Peter… What can I do but bear it as best I can? But if Peter can bear it — and he has borne it, despite everything, like a true Man — I can do no less than learn from his example.”

“I’ve no doubt that thou wilt,” King Lune said as reassuringly as he could. “But wilt thou also abjure from addressing him so familiarly, and thus curtail his distress on that account?”

“What do you mean?” Edmund demanded, feeling panic rise like bile within him.

“Only that thou eschew embracing thy brother in full view of the court, for thy fervour may cause some to deduce the true nature of thy affection for him,” was the King of Archenland’s proposal. “As well, thou shouldst refrain from any intimate contact in thy private moments with him, for fear that it may lead to… shall we say, less than honourable communications between thee.”

Edmund bit his lip, making the blood rise to the surface, while his fair cheeks turned even more pale. Although he now knew the reason why he had so desired for and reveled in his brother’s embrace, and (for the most part) acknowledged that his friend’s advice was sound, the prospect of giving up his special time with Peter was deplorable.

“You mean I mustn’t sit on his lap anymore?” he gasped, blinking his eyes hard against the threatening tears. “But… I shall soon grow too big for it, anyway, and what’s the harm in a few minutes each night? Besides, Peter doesn’t seem to mind it, and it’s not like anybody else sees us when we’re like that — all right, you saw us that one time, but that was only because Corin ran into the room—”

“But doth thou not see, dear lad,” King Lune interrupted, pleading earnestly, “how it disturbeth thy brother’s composure? He may conceal from thee how greatly it doth, but surely thou art old enough to discern it. And if it didst not trouble him, why wouldst he ask me to speak to thee on his behalf?”

Edmund stared at the older man (until now, one of his most favourite people in the world) for a long moment while his words sank into his brain.

“What are you saying?” he finally whispered. “Are you telling me that… Peter asked you to tell me… not to do that?”

“Indeed,” King Lune replied, unaware of the deep consternation which he was causing Edmund. “He was at his wit’s end, knowing not how to apprise you of the… impropriety, and indecorum, of such intimacy between two men — let alone two brothers…”

Edmund scarcely heard the rest of his friend’s admonitions. The only thought ringing through his mind, over and over, was this conclusion:

Peter doesn’t want to hold me anymore!

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