MFB51: Vigil

The next morning the royal children gathered to study with the Centaurs after breakfast. Edmund and Per, having been absent for so long, had some catching up to do, but Edmund found it hard to concentrate on his book. The third time that Glordus cleared his throat as a gentle reminder, the young king had to force himself to tear his eyes away from the window. It was high summer in Narnia, when all the trees and flowers were growing and blossoming in wild, riotous colors and the young Beasts born that spring were testing their newfound ability to run, climb, or fly, so his inattention might be excused.

“Perhaps Your Majesty would prefer a more… open-air activity,” Sageion wisely suggested.

“What sort of activity do you mean?” Edmund asked, curious but not yet hopeful. “You said yourself that I mustn’t do any sword practise or archery yet.”

“I would not recommend anything so strenuous, of course, until your shoulder is fully healed,” Sageion agreed, “but something that would not risk worsening your injury, while allowing you to be out in the fresh air, may be a better choice than reviewing the history of the Great Fish and Frog Famine at this time.”

“What do you have in mind?” Peter asked. Sageion had all of the children’s attention by now.

“The poultice which Master Galen used upon King Edmund’s injury is a very useful one – one that cleanses the wound and also encourages the skin to grow,” the Centaur explained. “It would be beneficial for Your Majesties to learn the herbs that comprise it. Queen Lucy’s magic cordial notwithstanding, there may come a time when you stand in need of such a remedy. I propose that we venture forth into the woods to see where each plant prefers to grow and gather what we may find.”

This being agreeable to all of them, they collected as many baskets as they could carry from the kitchens and followed the Centaurs into the wood. Sageion taught them which leaves to look for, as well as how shady or light or wet or dry a spot the plants liked, and before long their baskets were filling up with healing herbs.

“It’s like a treasure hunt,” Susan remarked as she surveyed the varied contents of her basket.

“Or an Easter egg hunt,” Lucy added with a laugh.

And indeed, with all the woodland Creatures who popped out of their dens and nests to see what the Kings and Queens were about, offering to help them find things or even directing them to where the various plants were growing, it was very like a scavenger hunt. Soon they had a large retinue of Chipmunks who chirped so merrily and loudly that even Glordus had to raise his voice to be heard above their din.

“I say, this was a capital idea,” Peter said to Edmund as they picked the tender shoots off a bush.

Edmund beamed as though he had come up with it himself. “Sure beats staying indoors and trying not to fidget.”

The brilliance of the younger boy’s smile took Peter’s breath away for a moment; he was glad of the interruption when Per brought over a thorny branch with some dark blue berries on it.

“Those are left from last autumn for a reason,” Sageion told the boys. “It is poisonous to all but two kinds of birds. You’d best wash your hands in that brook – the poison will not kill you, but in large enough doses it can make you ill.”

As Per rushed off to rid his hands of any traces of the poison, Edmund leaned over to whisper to Peter, “I haven’t asked him about it yet, but I hope to after lunch.”

“Oh. Of course,” Peter replied, remembering in time what his brother was referring to. “I’ll leave that up to you.”

Edmund nodded before picking a few more of the leaves. He had to duck down to hide the grin that he could not prevent from spreading across his face. It felt good – no, better than good, absolutely joyous – to be home again and near his handsome older brother. He knew there would be times when they would, of necessity, be forced to spend time apart, but he fervently hoped that those times would not be often or long.

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When Edmund finally got a word alone with Per, it was well after lunch and after Sageion had taught them how to prepare the herbs. Some needed to be crushed fresh to get the most benefit from their juices, while others needed to be dried in the sun first; the children had enlisted the aid of Morchaeus (who was taller even than the Centaurs) to hang up their tidy little bundles of branches from the ceiling of a room facing the sea, where the constant breezes would allow them to dry without molding and the sun would bake them every morning. Their practical lessons over, the girls joined Felicity and Mrs. Dumplesugar in the gardens to help tend the vegetables as they had promised earlier. Peter had received a letter from the Governor of the Lone Islands, thanking him for the prompt delivery of fine lumber, which the High King was obliged out of courtesy to answer. So Edmund suggested a stroll out to the Horses’ favorite meadow, to which his squire readily agreed.

“Peter and I were talking last night,” Edmund began off-handedly as they walked out the western gate, “and we both think it’s high time that you be knighted – for your services of valour, you know, for fighting the Harpy by my side.”

Per stopped abruptly and stood there, rooted to the ground, his mouth agape and his eyes all but starting from his head.

“If I had thought of it, I should have knighted you right there on the field of battle,” Edmund continued, halting his steps to turn and face Per. “As it is, it’s rather belated, but it’s also more befitting that you should be knighted by the High King himself, since it’s his service that you’ll be entering now.”

“Do… Do you really mean…?” Per managed to gasp. He seemed to be having trouble breathing, so Edmund clapped him gently on the shoulder.

“I wouldn’t be saying so if I didn’t mean it, would I?”

“But… Your Majesty… I don’t… I don’t feel ready.”

Edmund made a point of looking directly into his squire’s eyes.

“You’ve already proven your worth to me, Per. A Knight of Narnia must be willing to fight – to risk his own neck and skin – to protect the Creatures of this land, and you’ve already shown that you’re willing to do that. Wouldn’t you do anything to keep the little furry ones safe? To ensure that the Talking Trees are free to roam the land, without fear of being hewn down?”

“O–Of course, Your Majesty! I would do all in my power, meager though it is.”

“Then you are ready to be a Knight of Narnia,” Edmund told him with conviction. “This isn’t about being a great swordsman or warrior; it’s about being ready and willing to do your part. Nobody could ask more of you than that. But it’s also no less than your everything.”

Per nodded soberly. “I understand, King Edmund. I… I will do my best, Sire.”

A wry smile curved Edmund’s lips as he replied, “I know you will. And if it’s any consolation, I didn’t feel ready to be King when Aslan crowned me, either, but I’ve managed to do all right. I’m just as glad that I’m not the High King, mind you, but I’ve found that I’m allowed to learn as I go. The folk here are generous enough to make allowance for the fact that we’re only children yet.”

As they continued walking to the meadow, Edmund told Per of the new name he had thought up for him.

“Although if there is another name you’d rather have, don’t be shy of telling me,” he quickly added.

“I… I could not have wished for a better one, Your Majesty,” Per said with sincerity, then spoke the name aloud as though testing it on his tongue and in his ears. “Peridan… Peridan… Similar to Captain Meridian. It is a great name, and one that I hope to grow into, to do it justice.”

“I’m sure of it,” Edmund stated. Then with an impish grin he noted, “Only it will be Sir Peridan.”

Per’s jaw dropped again. He shook his head slowly, half disbelieving, as Edmund began acquainting him with the sound of it.

“So I shall be saying things like, ‘Sir Peridan, would you join me for jousting practise today?’ and ‘We have a dangerous errand to be run – Sir Peridan is just the man for it!’ and ‘Sir Peridan, mind the Giant to your left.’”

Per was too overawed to even respond to Edmund’s teasing, and he was still wrapped in stunned silence when they came up to the Horses.

“Are you well rested now, my friend?” Edmund asked Phillip as the Horse plodded up.

“As well as ever, Your Majesty, and ready for another adventure whenever you should call for one,” Phillip answered with a whinny of amusement.

“Our next adventure shall be to find Sir Peridan a fitting partner in battle,” Edmund said with a twinkle in his eye. When he had explained to Phillip whom he meant by “Sir Peridan,” the Horse neighed in approval and called over the other Horses. All of them wanted to be the new knight’s “battle partner,” as Edmund had put it, but since there was only one of Per, the boy was not sure how the matter would be decided. However, Edmund had already given it some thought.

“Since Per is young for a Son of Adam, the Horse who carries him should be young, too, that they may forge a strong bond and be many years together,” the King told the assembled Horses. “Since our Mares have the great task of bearing and raising the young, it would be best for a Stallion to be his mount. Also, his Horse must be willing to take orders from him, like any soldier would from his officer, and be skillful enough to gallop and jump without unseating him. And since they will be entrusting their lives to each other, I should hope they will become great friends – so it should be a Horse of courage and noble character.”

While Edmund listed the required qualifications, a few of the Horses’ long faces seemed to grow even longer, but some heads were nodding in approval.

“King Edmund, if I may,” one older Mare spoke up. “I believe Aristides, a Colt of three summers, would be a good match. He is my sister’s grandson, and a more even-tempered and polite lad you could not hope to see. He’s quite light on his hoofs, too, and since his sire is of a good size, I’m sure he could carry the Son of Adam very easily even when he’s fully grown.”

Edmund thanked her and asked her to have Aristides come to the castle if he were willing to undertake such a duty.

“And if anybody knows of other Horses who meet these expectations, please have them come to the Cair, too,” he added. “We must make certain that both parties will be fond of each other, so even a fine young Colt like Aristides may not be the perfect match for Per.”

Per held his tongue but thought to himself that he would be grateful for any of the magnificent Narnian Horses who might be willing to carry him, into battle or on long journeys. Right now, though, Per felt as if he were walking in a dream, and practically floated back to the castle with his King and friend.

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Edmund was busy the next few days, preparing for Per’s knighting ceremony. He consulted the Centaurs for their predictions on the weather, since some rain clouds had been rolling in from the east (a welcome sight for many who tilled the land), and sent a formal letter to Anvard announcing the occasion. Although he did not expect any visitors from Archenland for the ceremony, especially on such short notice, it was a happy sort of communication to send. Breezefoot the Stag, who was famous for his speed, fairly flew down the path with the satchel – containing the official letter as well as the girls’ more newsy letters to Queen Primela – streaming in the air and bouncing off his back, held securely round his neck by a leather strap.

Once the day had been fixed, Edmund and Peter had asked Per how knightings were ordinarily done in Anvard, for the only sort that the brothers knew were their own, performed on the field of battle, and what they had read in books in our own world.

“I remember something about the night before, the knight-to-be must hold vigil in a chapel,” Peter mused.

“We don’t have any chapels in Narnia,” Edmund pointed out. “I wonder why.”

Peter laughed outright at that. “Why, you silly! As if Aslan could be kept in a building made of wood or even stone! All of Narnia is his land: the woods, the fields, the mountains, and the valleys. One place is as good as another to meet him, and he’ll meet you wherever he chooses.”

Edmund laughed at himself as well. “Of course! ‘He’s not a tame Lion,’ after all.”

Per looked a little nervous at the mention of the Great Lion. “Would… Do you think… Will Aslan really come?”

“I don’t honestly know,” Peter answered. “Like they say, he’s not a tame Lion, to come whenever we call for him. But he may, if he has his own reasons to.”

“Is it… Is he… safe?” Per asked, struggling to keep his voice from trembling. Peter shook his head.

“It’s not like that – he’s not like anyone else that I can describe. I believe Mr. Beaver said it best: ‘Of course he’s not safe, but he’s good.’ You’ll understand if you ever get to meet him, as I hope you will someday. But you needn’t worry about his eating you like a common lion or wild beast; he’s much greater than that.”

“And kind,” Edmund put in, thoughtfully. “He can be stern, too, and that’s worse than being scolded by your father and headmaster at the same time… but he’s very kind. Don’t worry, Per – you’ve nothing to fear from him. I had every reason to be fearful of him, but he dealt with me with more mercy than I ever deserved.”

Seeing his brother’s sober expression, Peter reached out to grip his uninjured shoulder and gave it a gentle squeeze. Per did not quite understand what Aslan was like, but he relaxed upon seeing how fondly, and reverently, the two kings regarded him.

“Getting back to the business of knighthood,” Peter began anew, “is there any ritual that the men of Archenland observe?”

“Your Highness mentioned holding vigil the night prior, and of that I know somewhat,” Per replied. “The men slated to be knighted hold vigil on the tallest tower of Anvard, from whence the Great Eastern Ocean can be espied, in order to swear fealty to the great Emperor-beyond-the-Sea. I was tasked with keeping watch over two of them, to ensure that they did not falter in their watchfulness through all the watches of the night. They knelt on cushions upon the stone, dressed for battle and cloaked to prevent the morning dew from chilling them.”

“Well there’s hardly a room at Cair Paravel that doesn’t overlook the Sea,” Edmund remarked, “so you can take your pick of spots; but kneeling on flagstones, even with a cushion, sounds awfully rough. You could keep vigil on the beach, where the sand will be less hard on your knees and you’d be as close as you can get to the Ocean. Nobody goes down there at night, so it will be nice and private.”

“That’s a jolly good idea,” Peter agreed. “We can ask a Dwarf or Faun to keep watch over you, just in case there are any wild animals roaming about.”

“I will keep watch, too, for the matter of that,” Edmund declared. “It’s my right and duty as his Knight.”

Before Per could open his mouth to object, horrified at the thought of placing such a burden on the young king, Peter spoke and made it official.

“Very well, then. I’ll leave you to choose the other honour guard.”

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Augustus, an older and battle-seasoned Faun, was selected to be the second honour guard. The three of them tried to sleep in snatches during the day before, but Per was so nervous with excitement that he was not successful at all. At least he was also too thrilled to feel weary as he knelt upon the sand that night, gazing across the dark waves and up at the bright stars above. He pondered on the many things he had heard about Aslan and his father, the Emperor-over-the-Sea, hoping that his small skills would be an acceptable offering to them, or at least inoffensive enough to pass scrutiny. Edmund and Augustus took turns to check on Per, making sure he was comfortable and awake.

When the first rays of light streaked across the waters, striking the beach with golden glory, Edmund and Augustus awoke with a start. Per was standing tall, drinking in the sunlight, his shoulders square and his head held high. As his two honour guards sheepishly approached him, he turned a broad smile to them.

“It’s all right, he said he had cast you both into a deep sleep,” he said without preamble. “He wanted to speak to me in private – he called me his son!

The wonder and the joy that shone in Per’s face was unmistakable. With a laugh that was half a sob of gladness, Edmund embraced his friend and fellow Knight of Narnia.


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Leave a comment

13 Comments

  1. s.

     /  2013/06/18

    I was so happy to see that this was updated! 😀 Flawless as always & I can’t wait for more. I adore Peridan here, and I love how he’s incorporating the rituals of Anvard –

    Reply
  2. The King Of Sass

     /  2013/06/20

    Amazing update soon. C:

    Reply
  3. C

     /  2013/06/23

    The ending of the chapter made me teary–I’m so happy for Per! Or Sir Peridan, rather. Thank you so much for updating, I can’t wait to read the next chapter, as always!

    Reply
  4. Kelsey

     /  2013/06/26

    Awweh, there was no naked prancing through the castle! XD Oh well, still a fabulous update.<3
    Hope to see some more updates soon, dearie. C:

    Reply
  5. JRoss

     /  2013/07/18

    wheezes because everything you write is so perfect and it makes me happy ♥♥♥

    Reply
  6. C

     /  2013/07/27

    Any news on how the next chapter is coming? No rush of course ❤

    Reply

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