MFB49: The Return of the King

His heart pounding in his throat, Per darted forward with his sword upraised and struck at the nearest talon; his blade hit the bony spur beneath the leathery hide and glanced off. As the wing rushed forward at him, the hooked claw intent on ripping him asunder, he instinctively warded off the blow with the closest weapon at hand: his torch. The fire singed the black membrane of the wing, filling the cavern with acrid smoke, and the Harpy drew back against the wall with a howl.

On her other side, Edmund had realised the danger thanks to Per’s warning, but although he had ducked to avoid the full impact of the blow, the claw curved down and caught him on his right shoulder. He could not help dropping his sword as streaks of pain shot through his arm like lightning; however, he also struck back with the torch in his left hand. The foul smoke made both boys retch, their eyes watering until they were nearly blinded, and the Fauns and Satyrs crowding behind them coughed as the stench filled their nostrils. The Harpy’s piercing shrieks reverberated throughout the cavern as well, assaulting their ears and threatening to shake loose the stalactites upon their heads.

Edmund winced in pain as he reached for his sword, but once the grip was in his hand, he did not let it go.

“For Narnia, and for Aslan!” he spat out against the smoke before bringing the blade down upon the Harpy’s neck. He did not have enough strength to sever the bone and flesh in one stroke, so the weapon bit into her spine with a sickening crack. Edmund pulled back the sword and, with practiced aim, hacked neatly at the same place a second time, then a third, while the Harpy screamed in helpless rage. Finally, the Creature’s head fell with a dull thud to the rocky floor of the cavern, its last cries echoed for a moment, then all was still save the lingering coughs of the little army.

“Phew! That’s nasty,” Edmund gasped, breathing through his sleeve as he stumbled back, looking for something with which to clean his bloodied sword. “Let’s go let the Horses know the good news. Ugh… I’m glad that’s over!”

‹‹‹‹‹ ж ›››››

Of course the worst part about battles (and what they don’t tell you about in most books) is that there is always more to be done before it is truly over. Even before he’d inhaled a few draughts of clean air at the entrance of the cave, Edmund realised that the bones of the Talking Animals devoured by the Harpy would have to be gathered and returned to their families – or at least, as much as possible. There were countless bones strewn throughout the cavern, and although some of the larger ones (like the Pigs’) were easy enough to identify, most of the smaller ones were a hopeless jumble. The Fauns and Satyrs solemnly carried them to the cave mouth, then lowered them in bundles and sacks to the Trees below, where the Squirrels and other Beasts sorted them with care according to their size and, when possible, the type of Animal to which they belonged.

Edmund knelt to help pick up a few bones near the mouth of the cave, but as he reached behind a stalagmite he was reminded of his injury by a sharp, searing pain running from the back of his shoulder all the way into his fingers.

“Ow! Oh, hang it all, she must’ve scratched me,” he muttered. Per was immediately at his side, peering at his torn tunic.

“We should have that looked at properly, Your Majesty,” he said, alarmed by the red gash in his Knight’s skin. “It needs to be cleaned, for who knows what sort of poison might have been on her claws?”

“I suppose so. I just don’t know if I can manage to jump on to a Flying Horse,” Edmund admitted with a wince.

“We can lower you with the ropes, King Edmund,” Mr. Tumnus said. “There are enough of us with strong backs to do so safely.”

Word of the King’s injury spread quickly and Nightplume was dispatched at once to the home of Galen, a Centaur well-known for his skill as a healer. While the Satyrs constructed a sling in which to lower Edmund, Echaphus approached him and asked, “What shall we do with the Harpy’s remains?”

“I would say burn it with the rest of the pitch, but the fumes would smother the one who set fire to it,” Edmund pondered aloud.

“Perhaps not, Your Majesty. We found a cleft in the rock deeper within the cave, where it appears water had previously flowed into it from above. If we disposed of the body there, the smoke would vent out of the opening.”

“Very well. Of your courtesy, supervise that task for me; I shall ask the Trees and Beasts of the Western Wild to fill in the hole with stones and dirt thereafter. I wish it were possible to fill this entire cavern to blot out the memory of that vile Creature.”

“I am certain that they would be glad to do so, however long it may take,” Echaphus gravely replied.

Edmund was successfully lowered from the cave into the hands of the Trees, and his wound was bathed with clean water from a spring while his bloodied tunic was washed and mended by some Otters. Many of the woodland Creatures had gathered to celebrate the death of the dreaded monster, but their joy was tempered by the sad sight of the many bones of their fellows – some even of their friends – being laid out upon the ground. When the last of them had been brought down and the Harpy’s body had been set ablaze in the deep recesses of the cave, the Fauns and Satyrs rejoined them by leaping on to the backs of the Flying Horses, who then carried them down to the clearing. It was a solemn assembly of mourners into which Galen the Centaur galloped with a sack of herbs strapped to his chest.

“I have heard that the King is injured! Where is the King?” he cried, in no mood to waste time.

“I am here, my good friend; and though I am not so grievously injured as you may have been led to believe, I do thank you for your haste in coming,” Edmund told him.

The Centaur examined his wound, sewed together the worst part of the gash with thread spun from spider webs, then boiled some herbs for a poultice.

“You must not use your arm for a fortnight at least, Your Majesty,” Galen instructed him as he wrapped his entire shoulder with bandages. “The skin will mend sooner than the flesh beneath. The dressing must be changed once in the morning and once in the evening; I shall fashion a sling in which to rest your arm. With proper care, there will be no lasting damage to the shoulder, but I must warn against using it before it is completely healed.”

“I can assure you of that, so long as there are no more Harpies to be slain,” Edmund answered with a brief, half-hearted smile. “I only wish I had been told sooner of the Creature’s wanton slaughter of our dear cousins; perhaps we might have been able to prevent so many from being murdered by the monster.”

The piles of bones were a sobering sight indeed. Lloyd the Badger’s were gathered up and wrapped in a clean cloth to be taken to his widow; Rupert the Pig had come, as soon as word had reached him of the Harpy’s demise, to claim what remained of his two brothers. He tried to thank King Edmund for avenging their deaths but his grief was too great for him to speak. Edmund nodded in understanding and shed bitter tears with him, gripping his shoulder. With a final, wordless bow, Rupert left the company to return to his home, carrying the bones of his brothers in a sack, weeping all the way.

“But what of the others?” the Beasts whispered amongst themselves. “What shall we do with them?”

“My friends, is there a place nearby where sunlight cheers the soul and flowers bloom through all but the coldest months?” Edmund asked.

“Aye, that there is,” an old Hedgehog piped up. “There is a field just a short walk south and east of here, on a bit of a rise. Our goaty cousins dance there on full moon nights with the Dryads, leaving it clear of brush and full of meadow flowers.”

“Would you consent to giving up a portion of that land as a resting place for these unfortunate souls?” Edmund said, addressing the Satyrs and Fauns.

“Yes, Your Majesty,” and “Of course,” they all replied in one accord. So the party formed a slow, silent procession with the Hedgehog leading them to the spot. There the Moles dug a trench along the edge of the trees on the north side of the clearing, where the sunlight shone the most, and buried the bones, covering them with the fragrant turf again. And, so that their places would not soon be forgotten, Edmund asked the Trees to break off pieces of the cliff-face as stone markers, upon which the assembled woodland Animals placed wreaths of wildflowers. Per wondered if the King might make a speech, as would be expected in Archenland, but after a few minutes of quiet reflection – and everyone was perfectly still, except for the occasional swish of a tail or buzzing of a bee – King Edmund led the mourners back to the foot of the cliff again.

“Stephen, Douglas,” he said to the Moles, “I wish I could destroy that cavern entirely… blow it up with dynamite, which is something Men in my world use to blast large rocks into sand, but of course I don’t have any here. Is it possible to fill it with dirt, stones, and rubble – fill it so that it can never again be used by a dark Creature as its den?”

“Aye, Your Majesty; that we can do, and with a will,” Douglas replied. “We’d just be needin’ some ’elp climbing down this ’ere cliff, Sire, since we’d be wantin’ to come ’ome to our families once it were over.”

The Winged Horses were happy to assist them in both the ascent to and descent from the cave, so in the warm light of the westering sun (which made them squint, though not painfully) the Moles rode up to the top of the cliff and began their work on burying the entire cavern – a task they continued through the night. They also sought out their long-lost cousins, the Moles who had, over long centuries, scaled the heights of the Western Wild and made it their home, so that there was a troupe of two dozen or more of them working at it. The Trees that lived on the top of the cliff helped as well, digging up boulders from elsewhere and rolling them into the crevice where the Harpy had been burned. By the next morning, they were pleased to report that the tunnel had been completely filled in.

Meanwhile, Edmund asked two local Dwarfs to carve an inscription on the wall of the cliff, directly beneath the mouth of the cave. It read as follows:

In the third year of the reign of Peter,
High King of Narnia and Lord of Cair Paravel,
I, King Edmund, brother to King Peter,
slew a most wicked, cruel, and impenitent Harpy
who sought to devour our sovereign subjects,
the Talking Beasts of Narnia, in this very place.
Let this inscription stand as an eternal warning
to any who would do harm to our People;
the Regents of Aslan shall not abide any Creature
so vile as to wantonly murder the Animals
entrusted by Aslan to be their loyal subjects,
nor shall they dismiss such violation lightly.
As Duke of Lantern Waste and Count of the Western March,
I pledge my sword, my honour, and my life
to defend the good denizens here against all such evil interlopers
and charge all subsequent holders of the office to do likewise.
Inscribed this XXIst day of the month of Shadewold
by the hands of Grimkin and Storblud of Rock End
Long live King Aslan!

“Although I rather doubt that Creatures like Harpies can read,” Edmund confessed to Per privately, “I think it sounds rather grand, and I hope it serves as a reminder to the folk who live here that I will come to their aid whenever they need it – all they have to do is ask.”

“Indeed, I doubt not that your conquest today will be spoken of for many years to come; they are not likely to forget it,” Per said with sincere respect.

Edmund blushed and mumbled, “Well, it was only one Harpy. And it’s not like I didn’t have help. And even then, I managed to get hurt.”

“Still, you fought the monster with your own hand, despite your injury,” Per insisted. “You courageously led the attack into the cave, even though you did not know for certain what awaited us there. Such noble deeds are worthy of being sung!”

“It’s not that I wasn’t scared – because I was, you know. Scared stiff. But someone had to do it, and that someone was me. I’m the King, whether I like it or not.” Edmund laughed at himself with a somewhat hollow feeling in his heart. “I used to think that being King meant living a life of ease on the backs of others… and I’m sure there are loads of kings like that in our world, maybe even in the southern countries here beyond Archenland. But after meeting Aslan, and knowing what he did for me… I understand now that a true King must live as a servant to all of his subjects – the first to charge into any battle, no matter how hopeless it might be, and the first to suffer any ills that may befall the land. It’s a much heavier burden than I had ever expected it to be… but I can hardly shirk my duties when Aslan did all that and so much more… for me.”

Unable to find any words equal to the awesome weight of Edmund’s crown, Per simply nodded.

‹‹‹‹‹ ж ›››››

When the original band of travelers returned to Beaversdam, Mrs. Beaver threw up her paws in despair.

“Eh! What a sight you are! A-begging Your Majesty’s pardon, but your shirt’s torn and tattered, you’ve broken an arm or two, and you look as though you haven’t eaten in days. We must fatten you up before we send you back to Cair Paravel, no doubt about it. And what a mercy I still have some cloth for to make you a new shirt! I do declare, Sons of Adam must be the hardest sort of Creatures to keep clean…”

They did indeed feast on the trout Mr. Beaver caught that day, as well as Mrs. Beaver’s fresh-baked bread and delicious turnip casserole. Edmund was glad to have a few days’ rest, just sitting in the shade and visiting with the local Animals while their kits, cubs, and pups frolicked with Per, their new-found friend; however, he was equally glad when Mrs. Beaver decided, at long last, that he had been “fattened up” enough and was fit for traveling back to the castle. It had seemed like an incredibly long time since he had bid farewell to Peter and his sisters; after his battle with the Harpy, his longing for his brother had, if anything, only increased. So it was with fond embraces and renewed energy that they took their leave of the Beavers and headed home.

‹‹‹‹‹ ж ›››››

Peter had finished a grueling swordsmanship training session with Morchaeus the Minotaur about an hour earlier and, after bathing in cool water, was sitting in a chair set out under a shady pear tree in the garden. He wasn’t dozing, exactly, but he wasn’t altogether awake, either, when Lucy ran up to him with a handful of wild blackberries.

“Look, Peter! Elsa found these,” she said as she perched (none too gently) on his lap.

“Ouf! Oh, Lu… you’re getting a little too big for this, I’m afraid,” Peter grunted, struggling to find a more comfortable position.

“You really think so?” Lucy said, her brow furrowed with worry.

“Well, pretty soon, anyway.” Peter helped himself to a couple of the berries. “These are delicious.”

Lucy beamed with pleasure. Elsa the Panther had found the bush and, though she had no interest in berries herself, the kind Beast had told the younger Queen about it for the express purpose of cheering King Peter up; for most if not all of the Creatures who lived in and around Cair Paravel had noticed how listless the High King had been of late, and they were devising sundry ways of lightening his mood.

Wingsong the Seagull glided into the garden just then, fluttering her wings for a moment before landing on the grass.

“Hail, King Peter!” she keened in her high-pitched voice. “I bring you good tidings: King Edmund and his party are even now approaching the castle.”

“Is he, indeed?” Peter asked in delight, sitting up with sudden interest brightening his countenance.

“Yes, Your Majesty – I saw him riding up through the woods but a moment ago.”

Both Lucy and Peter scrambled out of the chair and dashed to the western gate of the courtyard, arriving just as the guards atop the ramparts blew a blast on their trumpets, announcing the return of the King.


Previous ‹‹‹‹‹ ж ››››› Next

Leave a comment

22 Comments

  1. malcontent

     /  2013/01/05

    I must admit that this particular story is, by far, the most addictive I’ve ever had a chance to read. It’s also written in such a brilliant manner… and the boys, my lord, how precious the are! I’ve fallen for it and I’ve fallen hard.
    So let me worship you.
    Please.

    Reply
  2. malcontent

     /  2013/01/05

    I loved them too, apparently, they were all I was looking for to make my innocent childhood completed. Now, grown up and all, I’m looking for something… well, moaaar, and you give me that. So yeah, thankyou.

    Reply
  3. Awww How bad is it that Edmund can’t use his arm for a while, such a shame, now Peter will have to help him out ❤
    Anyway, I must confess that this story is so addictive I literally talked about it with my mum and she just didn't understand. I love your story, I can't wait for the next chapter 🙂

    Reply
  4. Luna

     /  2013/01/06

    ‘“You must not use your arm for a fortnight at least, Your Majesty,” Galen instructed him as he wrapped his entire shoulder with bandages.’ I see what you did there 😉

    Reply
  5. You’re a goddess! When you said you hopefully wouldn’t keep us waiting, I didn’t expect you to write it this fast! I bow before you and send you many hugs, though not at the same time, that would be a bit difficult. Edmund certainly got off lucky in my mind, with only his arm being hurt! Not that I would wish worse on him, but still… that harpy was vicious. It certainly brought a smile to my face right at the end when Peter was cured of his misery so quickly hahaha. I can’t wait to read what you have in store for us when they reunite!

    Reply
    • D’awww, thanks! I have work this week so I won’t be able to update as fast again, but I didn’t want to make everyone wait to find out what happened to Ed. 😉

      Reply
  6. Thank you

     /  2013/01/18

    This fic most definitely ranks among my very most favorite I’ve ever read. Typically I don’t read fics unless they’re completely finished because I simply can’t stand waiting for new chapters, but man is this one worth it. Thank you so much for writing it and I can’t WAIT for the new chapter! Especially now that the boys are reunited. Poor Peter must have been so despondent without his little brother.

    Reply
    • Thanks so much for your kind words! I’ll try to keep at this more regularly… sorry about the long waits, though. ^_^;

      Reply
  7. Elise

     /  2013/02/01

    I love this so much. I can’t believe how addictive this entire thing is; just spent who knows how many hours reading this non-stop. The suspense is killing…….. I can’t even…. This is simply a marvelous piece of work

    Reply
  8. James

     /  2013/02/02

    oh man I love reading this story, it is absolutely amazing, so addictive and I have fallen hard for it, can’t wait for the milestone of chapters which is next chapter (50) I bet it will be great

    Reply
  9. otp tears

     /  2013/02/08

    i feel like this is my favorite tv show and the season just ended on a cliffhanger ;o;

    Reply
    • I’m so sorry! I have a lot on my plate right now. Just imagine all the wonderful hugging the boys will be doing. 😉

      Reply
  10. Ryan

     /  2013/02/15

    Duuuude, dont leave me hanging!! I want MOREEEE!!!!

    Reply
  11. Dear Thea

     /  2013/02/20

    Don’t ever feel rushed or scared that we’ll leave you, because we love you and this story, and we’re patient and know you’ll update when you can! ❤

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

  • Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

    Join 302 other followers

%d bloggers like this: