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02 December 2013 @ 10:00 pm
Commentary: Under a Swift Sunrise, Chapter 15  
           Eustace had not followed the others through the jagged hole he had made in the prickly hedge. Lucy and Caspian had hurtled past him, chasing the terrible screams; Reepicheep and the other sailors had quickly followed, but Eustace stayed put. Surely it was enough that he had torn the hedge. That had been good, right? It’s a bit like Sherlock in the BBC series, asking John if what he did was “not good?”, because he’s not used to having to figure things like that out. Surely they were not expecting Eustace to go into the forest with them. He would not go, even if they wanted him to. Not with the tastes wafting back at him, tastes that disturbed him more than the sound of screams. His tongue was telling him of something in the forest. Eustace could not make it out, but it was a taste of hideous darkness and something worse, like the something else that surrounded Edmund. Pretty much death, yah.
            After the fifth time the second group of searchers had ended up back at the hedge for no discernible or logical reason, Reepicheep gave the darkness a name: enchantment. But enchantment did not seem to cover the something else, the taste that was ten times worse than the darkness. Without being able to use his tongue for words, though, Eustace could not articulate the issue. Instead, he just sat half in the surf – the others actually fit on the beach – and waited next to a worried and pacing Reepicheep.
            Figuring out the passage of time had never been Eustace’s strong suit, so he did not even try to figure out how long it took before there was a rustling in the forest. Mostly, I wanted to leave the length of time that Edmund, Caspian, and Lucy were in the forest a mystery. He tasted before he saw Lucy, Caspian, and Edmund emerge through the broken hedge, to the relief of those gathered. Reepicheep, his own relief evident in his smile, explained the enchantment that had kept the Narnians from following their king and queen, which Eustace’s cousins and Caspian seemed to take with easy understanding. Eustace was not a complete idiot, despite what the others seemed to think, and he saw that Caspian, who was describing the forest, was using the enchantment theory to avoid explaining what exactly had happened. The others didn’t need to know precisely what happened in the forest, so Caspian is just going with what the others think happened. The other might believe that an enchanted forest had made them all think they were hearing screams, made them run after Edmund who had been perfectly safe. Eustace, however, did not believe this for one moment.
            After all, he had tasted the horror in the air, tasted that something else that still clung to a silent Edmund.
            Unfortunately, Eustace could not comment on the something else, could not ask if his cousin was alright, ask why Edmund was so pale. While Eustace would be surprised if Reepicheep did not suspect something – the Mouse seemed to know everything – everyone simply accepted Caspian’s weak explanation and headed back to the longboats. The results of having an absolute monarchy, Eustace suspected. No one wanted to question the king. He’s still a little iffy about monarchism.
          
            The quiet group of Narnians began embarking on the longboats and Eustace held back a groan. As much as he wanted to leave this island and its lingering tastes, he was not looking forward to more flying. Still, as the longboats left the shore, Eustace followed behind without complaint – particularly as he could see that Lucy was worried about Edmund. He had not noticed it Before, but the taste in the air around her was unmistakably fear. And Eustace was beginning to wonder…was it the something else? Did Lucy sense its cloying presence, too? Did it mean…something really was wrong with Edmund? I think, in a way, she did sense it. She knows, deep down, that something is wrong, senses that she’s going to lose Edmund. But she doesn’t admit it, even to herself.
            There was a strange feeling again in Eustace’s chest at the thought. He did not want there to be something wrong with his cousin. The realization startled Eustace so much that he nearly veered a wing into the water as he approached the Dawn Treader. When had he begun caring?
            Eustace remembered Edmund talking to him on the island of gold, how his cousin had offered to stay there with him – and what Edmund had risked in doing so. Perhaps that was when Eustace had begun to realize that his cousin was not the distant, horrid, perfect being that Eustace had constructed in his memory. Eustace has always been a bit jealous of his cousins, Edmund in particular since he’s the closest boy to Eustace’s age. Edmund was a person, and Eustace was beginning to understand that there was something special about that. He’s realizing the worth of a person, of other people. With a flap of his leathery wings, Eustace looked on as Edmund and the others were hoisted on board the ship. He was surprised again to realize that he, well, he would like to get to know his cousin. That’s probably what Eustace mourned the most in the end – that he never really got a chance to get to know Edmund as a friend and as family.
            If only that horrible taste would go away.
            The wind had picked up, so Eustace was not pressed into dragging the ship towards the blue star, for which he was thankful. While it had actually felt…good to be of some use, the Dawn Treader was heavy and Eustace’s tail was still sore. Instead, Eustace flew alongside the ship, being careful to keep his long wings away from the sails and ropes. Because getting a dragon tangled in the sails would be a bad thing.
            However, Eustace did stay somewhat near the crow’s nest. He was not hovering, he did not hover as a rule, but he flew as near to the nest as he could. Eustace…you’re hovering. Eustace was not worried about Edmund, who had climbed up to the crow’s nest and was sitting there silently, with the something else still weaving in the air around him. No, Eustace just knew that it could be a good idea to keep an eye on his cousin, because who knew how stable that mast was, and Edmund being injured might slow the ship and Eustace would get tired again. Yes, that was why he was flying there. Just keep telling yourself that.
            From this vantage point, Eustace could also watch the others on deck. The captain was at the wheel, probably just as frowny as always. Caspian was casually leaning against the mast, sharpening his sword (which, apparently, used to belong to Eustace’s oldest cousin, Peter. It had taken Eustace an embarrassing amount of time to figure out that Peter was the ‘High King’ that everyone held in such great regard). Lucy sat on a barrel next to Caspian, ostensibly repairing a chipped harpoon, but she seemed to be looking upwards more than down at her work. The rest of the Narnians hurried about their work, more quietly than usual. Eustace did not see Reepicheep anywhere. Then again, the Mouse had darker fur and in the hastening twilight it would be quite hard to make him out against the dark wood of the ship. I liked to examine how Eustace sees others.
            Unlike the coat of another creature on the Dawn Treader. Eustace caught sight of a small bundle of yellow-white fur sitting on the dragon figure-head. A long, fluffy tail swished forlornly, back and forth, as Cream stared out at nothing. Eustace rolled his eyes. Was everyone on this ship moping? It had been bad enough that the cat seemed to keep a continuous, pitiful cry going since that one sailor left. Now Edmund was moping in the crow’s nest. Lucy and Caspian were worried, which was almost certain to turn to moping if Edmund did not soon reassure them that he was alright. And if all the – Eustace sighed – kings and queens kept moping, everyone else would probably follow their lead. Like I said, he’s still getting used to the idea of monarchy, and particularly the idea of his cousins as royalty. The Dawn Treader would become the Dawn Stare-morosely-into-the-distance. Funny how even a couple of days ago Eustace would have held a smug satisfaction at the others being as miserable as himself.
            Now he found the possibility rather annoying. Eustace is growing up.
          
            It must be said that the best intentions do not always result in good outcomes. This is especially true when those with the best intentions do not have sufficient knowledge and practice with doing good things. For example, Eustace did not know a lot about cats. Particularly, he did not know that it might not be the best idea to pick up an unsuspecting cat, fly her upwards, and then drop her into the unprepared lap of a distracted king. Eustace had this hazily-formed idea that, since cats are pets, Cream might be a comfort to Edmund. He did not think through the possibilities. This usually would not result in the intended consequence of cheering up both parties through mutual comfort. The usual result would have been a painful death, perhaps even for the cat.
            Thankfully, Cream was too utterly startled to do any harm. Edmund recovered from his shock first and quickly grabbed the cat’s scruff while wrapping his other arm protectively around her, keeping her cocooned in his lap. He waited until the cat’s heartbeat slowed down to the pace of a hummingbird’s before slowly releasing his firm hold on her scruff. As she settled down, Edmund began softly petting the cat and she unconsciously leaned into it. Since Pith’s sacrifice, Cream had not let anyone too near her. Now, removed from choice, the cat gave in to instinct and let the human pet her, allowing the smooth strokes to comfort her, despite the fact that he was not her human. If you don’t think cats can be particular about ownership, you never met my dad’s cat. Believe me, that cat is dad’s cat. Follows him around everywhere. And my mom's cat prefers her to anyone else.
            The action comforted Edmund as well. It is hard to remain stressed when petting a cat, particularly when she begins to knead her paws against your leg and starts purring. We call that ‘making biscuits’ because it looks a little like they are kneading dough. Edmund did not know what exactly Eustace had been trying to do, but after several minutes, Edmund found himself almost grateful to his cousin. “I suppose being turned into a beast is making him a bit less beastly. But, good intentions aside, you know he can’t really do anything to help,” he murmured idly to the cat in his lap. Then Edmund sighed, giving in to temptation and confiding in the dumb beast, “I don’t know if I can do this.” Cream twitched her tail, but did not look up from her kneading. “I know what Aslan said, and I want…I want to trust him. I need to trust his words, or I think I may go mad.” I am not sure all that makes sense, even in hindsight, and I can’t even remember what exactly I was going for. Mostly, I guess, that Edmund needs to put his fate in Aslan’s hands and not fear the death that is coming. Cream purred and kneaded particularly sharply. “Ouch! Yes, I get it, I should stop thinking of myself. It’s just…” Cream butted her head against him, leaning into his hand as she did so, a comforting movement, but an insistent one. Edmund smiled at the gesture, however unintentional it was on the part of the cat. “Alright, alright, I’ll stop wallowing.”
            Drawing in a heavy breath, Edmund focused his eyes on the eastern horizon. It was the grey-black of new night, but stars glittered in a swath across the sky, a path leading into the unknown. No, unknown was the wrong word. The shadowed known? The inevitable? Edmund shook his head and focused first on the blue star which lit their way. Then he looked down at Cream, who was staring at him with her eyes in slits; he had ceased in his attentions to her, for which she was displeased. My mom’s cat does this. “Sorry, girl,” Edmund said softly, “no more petting.” He paused. “Now, how in the world am I going to get you down from here?”

            In the end, Edmund decided that since he had created the situation, Eustace could help them get them out of it. After a bit of yelling and explaining, Edmund soon found himself lifted in the air with his arms holding tightly to a very disturbed cat. Within moments, he was falling the last few inches to the deck of the Dawn Treader. He dropped on his knees in order to not break his legs, and he released the distressed Cream at the same time in order to keep from being clawed to death. Which would have been a distinct possibility.
            Edmund quickly rose to his feet as Cream scampered off. Brushing the dust from the knees of his trousers, Edmund looked up as Lucy and Caspian approached, their faces wary. Edmund gave them a smile that was more real than it would have been a few minutes before. “No sign of land, and we’re not likely to see much in the dark. We’ll just have to keep a close eye on the blue star.” It was said so normally that Lucy and Caspian seemed caught off guard.
            They recovered quickly, glad to see Edmund at least acting as if he were well. Still, Caspian eyed him carefully. “Of course, I’ll let the next watch know.” Edmund was a bit surprised at what Caspian said next: “Now, you are to go with Lucy and have your arm looked at. And no arguing; how you managed to get up to the crow’s nest, I don’t know, but don’t think we didn’t notice that you mostly used one hand.” I’m not a medical professional, so I fudged about if it was possible for him to climb with his bad arm.
           In fact, Edmund had barely noticed it at all at the time. His bad arm had been nudged to the back of his mind; he vaguely wondered if Aslan had pushed away the pain during their meeting. Now, however, the reminder of his injury had brought back the pain in full force, plus some:  climbing to the crow’s nest had inadvertently aggravated his shoulder. Lucy took one look at his face, which was rapidly becoming blanched, and bustled him off to her cabin while Caspian set off to find the assigned lookout for this particular watch.
          
            As soon as the door closed, Edmund felt his knees begin to buckle. Thankfully, it was not far to the table near the window. With Lucy’s help, Edmund collapsed in one of the chairs, curling in against the agony of his right shoulder. “Let me see,” demanded Lucy in the soft but stern voice of a healer who would not be gainsaid. Almost petulantly Edmund shook his head with the slightest motion, not wanting to actually move. Edmund can still be a bit childish when it comes to getting injured. It took some coaxing and threats of sedation for Edmund to finally allow his sister to gently unfasten his vest and shirt in order to better examine his injured side.
            Edmund did not need’s Lucy’s pinched look to tell him that there was heavy bruising along his right side, or that his shoulder was swollen. He winced as Lucy turned a glare on him. “I…may have run into a tree when I fell off the cliff.”
            Lucy held the glare for another moment, then sighed. “You won’t be able to use that arm for several weeks if it’s left like that. Because healing takes time. And with our luck, we will probably have less than a day before we run into some trouble where you’ll need the use of both arms.”
            Edmund winced again, as Lucy moved his arm to check the extent of the swelling. “Let me guess: your solution is…”
            “Cordial,” they concluded in unison, and a giggle escaped Lucy before she collected herself into her usual ‘serious healer’ look. “Think of it as necessary for the good of the crew. Their lives may depend on you being able to move your shoulder without doubling over in pain.”
            “Somehow, I still don’t think that’s what Peter meant when he insisted you only use the cordial for mortal wounds,” answered Edmund, but he allowed her to administer the fireflower juice anyway; the sweet, fiery liquid worked quickly and soon his shoulder was as good as new, the bruises rapidly disappearing. It was not long before he was able to tie up his shirt again without hindrance.
            Lucy stoppered the diamond flask. “I doubt Peter would complain that I do whatever it takes to keep you healthy and alive.” Her voice was strained, and her face pinched despite the casual words. She’s still raw when it comes to thinking about Edmund’s death. The sounds of her concern hit Edmund hard, considering what had happened on the dead island, what Aslan had said. Edmund tried to hide his reaction, but Lucy caught it anyway. “Ed, what is it?”
            “It’s just…” What to say? Not the whole truth, certainly; Edmund did not want to think of it himself. Telling Lucy that he’s going to die when he goes back to England is not something he plans on doing. Ever. But perhaps he could at least give her some reassurance, try to help her understand before…Edmund spoke, hoping the right words would come. “Lu, Peter understands the risks we take, regardless of the consequences.”
            By the frown Lucy was giving him, she did not agree. “He told you this, did he?” she asked, her tone that of mocking disbelief – Susan would probably have sighed and complained about Lucy spending too much time around Edmund growing up. Susan would probably be right.
            Edmund, true to form however, just smiled crookedly. “Yes, in fact he did.” At Lucy’s curious look, he decided that it would be good – for both of them – for him to elaborate. “Well, you know I went to see him at the Professor’s in London before I shipped off on my first convoy…”

Flashback

            Edmund held his breath as he knocked on the door. He took a moment to be thankful that merchant seaman had no uniform, unless one counted the small ‘MN’ pin on his collar. I think I may have mentioned it before, but often the merchant seamen would be ridiculed at home, because many of them were obviously fit and yet weren’t in military uniform. So they began wearing pins to show that, yes, they were contributing to the war effort, and risking their lives just as much as any military personnel in the war. Then again, maybe it would be easier to show than to speak. Actually, it would be easier overall to continue to let Peter believe Edmund was with Lucy in Cambridge, but he could not do that to his older brother. Edmund has actually, so far, sent his letters to Lucy to send to Peter and has deliberately kept them vague; Lucy reluctantly agreed not to tell Peter anything, much like Susan had. It would be hard, but Peter deserved to know where Edmund was and what he was doing. Moreover, Edmund wanted the High King’s blessing, something he had never gone to war without before. They may not be in Narnia, but such ingrained duties were hard to discard.
            The door opened on his fourth knock, revealing the bespectacled, wizened face of Professor Kirke. The corners of the old man’s eyes wrinkled as he smiled, easily recognizing the young man on his doorstep. “Ah, young Edmund! My, this is a surprise. Come in, come in!” Edmund followed the professor into a tiny atrium. “You must know how sorry I am that I could not accommodate yourself and your sister here while your parents are away.”
           Edmund politely rebutted his apology, not wanting the man to feel badly for falling on hard times, for which the professor seemed grateful. As he let Edmund past, Professor Kirke apologized for not answering the door sooner – it was just that his translating work was engrossing and he had not heard the first few knocks. Caught up in a good book. “But I’ve taken up enough your time with this chattering. I suppose you’re here to see that brother of yours. He’s become one of my best students, always a nose in his books, when he’s not on Home Guard work. The Home Guard was composed of men too young or too old for military service, and were basically the last line of defense. At the beginning of the war they were trained in guerilla tactics in case of invasion. Later, they took on various duties in order to free up men for combat. I’m thinking Peter is 16-17, and so would be part of the Home Guard. Polly visits every so often to make sure we haven’t forgotten to eat. But that’s beside the point. Your brother is in the room at the top of the stairs, to the left.” Thanking him, Edmund started up the stairs, only to be stopped by the Professor’s parting sentence as the old man made his way to the kitchen; ‘Tell Peter to keep the shouting to the minimum when he sees that pin of yours The Professor is observant. – I’m in the middle of Clement’s Stromata.” I can’t remember exactly why I had the Professor translating Stromata, but I think it may be because, in the fourth book (on martyrdom) he talks about how good Christians are unafraid of death, though should not actively seek out a martyr’s death. And with that, Edmund was left alone to climb towards the inevitable confrontation.
          The door was closed when Edmund reached the top of the stairs. Steeling his nerves, Edmund knocked sharply, waiting for the sound of a muffled “Come in!” before closing his fingers around the doorknob and pulling. Edmund peaked around the door, and had to smile at the sight of Peter sitting at a small desk in a cramped room, his head hunched over a large volume of Greek. Before Peter could look up at him, Edmund decided to try and head off things: “The Professor says not to yell at me and disturb his reading.”
           At the sound of his voice, Peter leapt out of his chair and would have knocked it backward onto the floor had it not been hemmed in by the bed. It’s a very small room. It was rather amusing to watch Peter try to untangle himself from chair and desk, anxious to get to his brother as Edmund stepped into the room and closed the door behind him. As soon as the untangling finished, Edmund happily found himself with an armful of older brother. “Edmund! How on earth are you here? Is Lucy with you? Don’t tell me you’re skipping school. By the Lion, it’s been too long!”
           “Good to see you too, Peter,” said Edmund as clearly as he could, what with Peter doing his best to smother him. “And no, Lucy’s not here, though I’m sure she’ll have my head for not visiting before the convoy sets sail.” Not the most subtle way of going about it…
            Guilt pinged at Edmund as Peter’s joyful embrace froze. “Convoy? What…?”
           Edmund winced as Peter slowly drew back and held his shoulders at arm’s length. Blue eyes roved over his sailor’s clothes, focused intensely on the pin. Peter’s face went pale and his hands tightened almost painfully on Edmund’s shoulders. “Edmund, what have you done?” demanded Peter, his voice low and shaky. He knows but doesn’t want to believe it.
           Edmund could not prevent his own gaze from lowering at the fearful, hurt look in Peter’s. “I joined the merchant navy.”
           Peter exploded. “What! Are you insane! What in Aslan’s name possessed you to do such a thing?”
          “Shh, the Professor…”
          “Hang it all, Ed! You’re barely fourteen years old yet, you shouldn’t even be allowed in the navy!” Technically, he’s not allowed, but lying to get into military service is a tried and true tradition.
           Seeing that Peter was nearing either apoplexy or a dead faint, Edmund firmly gripped his brother’s arms and forced him to sit on the small bed. He sat next to Peter, entwining his right arm with Peter’s left and leaning against the older boy. “For one thing, they think I’m fifteen,” he said calmly. “And I’m simply a cabin boy.” He wisely refrained from mentioned the off-the-record training that the RNVR seamen were giving him in manning the large guns.
            Peter was not placated by these reassurances. “Cabin boys go down with sinking ships the same as anyone else,” Sadly prescient. he insisted heatedly, but his voice had thankfully lowered from its previous volume. Sadly prescient. “And how did you convince them you’re older than you are? There are records…”
           “The ship’s master didn’t look too hard,” Edmund admitted with a shrug, “and Dad helped with the rest.”
           “Dad?” Peter blinked and a look of fury fell over his face, though Edmund was not sure Peter was angry at their father or his younger brother. It certainly would take a long time for Peter to forgive his father after Edmund's death. Knowing Peter, it was most likely that Peter was furious with their father for falling for one of Edmund’s schemes. Edmund has a history of schemes.
            Deciding to move the conversation in a different direction – Dad would see anger enough whenever Mum found out about this – Edmund squared his shoulders. “Look, Peter…”
            “What ship are you on?”
            Edmund raised an eyebrow at the soft, firm question. “What?”
            Peter’s eyes were alight with determined fire. “What ship are you on?” he demanded.
            Of course, Edmund knew this question would come sometime and so had prepared a suitable answer accordingly. He knew Peter was get it into his head to follow Edmund to sea. “Hah! I’m not so stupid as to tell you that!” he teased. “Besides, the master has a full crew already, he wouldn’t take on an untrained landlubber who hates boats. Peter’s just not a sailor. And,” he added when Peter still looked to object, “I’ve already made friends with the secretaries at the ship line’s offices. Told them a sad story about how my older brother once contracted a severe illness that left him with intermittent lung problems so that he’s unfit for strenuous duties – despite trying to hide his health problems for the war effort, of course.”
             Peter stared at Edmund in disbelief. “But that happened in Narnia and Lucy healed me!”
            With a characteristically sly grin, Edmund shrugged. “Yes, but I didn’t tell them that, and so they kindly agreed to keep an eye out in case you tried anything. I gave them a very good description of you, by the way.” Peter’s face was really something to see; still, perhaps it should not be turning that specific shade of red. Oh well, in for a penny… “Always good to get the support of the secretaries. Administrative personnel hold the power. I did have a hard time keeping a straight face when they kept referring to you as ‘that poor lamb’.” Edmund’s trying to soften the blow with humor.
            “Ed!”
           “Pete.”
            The two brothers stared at each other for a long moment, Edmund calmly and Peter struggling to rein in his tumultuous emotions. Finally, Peter’s complexion lost its red tinge and settled at ‘a little too pale’. “Ed, why would you do this?”
            The disappointment and fear in Peter’s voice was hard to take. Sighing, Edmund did not even try to make a crack about escaping Eustace to keep his sanity intact. He knew exactly what Peter was asking, and could do no less than answer truthfully. “I spent four months fighting the Telmarines, Peter. Four months seeing what they did to our land. While in the ‘original’ timeline Edmund saw the sorrows of Narnia, he didn’t get that long to experience them, to let it sink in. Being a rebel for months, talking with the Narnians, hearing the stories, really influenced Edmund. Our people. Even accounting for hidden Creatures and sleeping Trees, there were so many fewer Narnians left than had lived before, even under the White Witch.
            There were stories, too, that Trufflehunter and others told me. About when the Telmarines conquered Narnia, the things they did. Knowing how the Telmarines were in our time Referencing the ‘Prince Darksilver’ story in ‘Letting Go’,” Peter’s hand tightened around his, “well, I didn’t disbelieve them.” Edmund looked down at the floor. “When we came back here, back to the air raids, the bombings, the propaganda that isn’t all lies…it’s like all of that, all that happened to Narnia is happening here. People had heard about things like the Holocaust, but most thought the reports were too outlandish to be real. Edmund saw enough in Narnia to believe that not all the reports were propaganda. And I couldn’t stop the Telmarines from conquering Narnia, from destroying Cair Paravel, from almost eradicating our people. His guilt and sorrow at failing to help his people grew in the months he was in Narnia, influencing him to want to do something in our world. But I can do something here. I can help the merchantmen run the Atlantic, bring supplies for our soldiers, for the people who are suffering.”
            Peter’s shoulders slumped, but he was not ready to give up. “And you have to join the merchant navy to stop the Nazis? You can’t work on a farm, or in a factory, or something that doesn’t make you a direct target of the enemy?”
           “Leaving aside my rather atrocious attempts at farming in the country before Hendon House was bombed…well, Hendon House, a school, was bombed. Quite a few places that weren’t military targets were bombed. Factories and farms are as much a target as any ship – which goes back to my point of wanting to fight back against the people who would do that. You’re in danger just living in London, let alone leading its Home Guard.”
           “I’m not in charge of all of it…” Though he is quickly becoming a leader there, due to his natural abilities and years of experience being a king and soldier.
          “Regardless. Peter, we’re all in danger. Why the merchant navy? For practical purposes, it was easier to circumvent the age restriction since it mostly involved dealing with an individual ship. Which, again, is why I changed the background from the Battle of Dieppe to the Battle of the Atlantic. Personally…they’re the connection between Britain and our allies, the lifeline of this island considering we’re pretty much only a couple of convoys away from starvation.” He smiled. “And of course, it’s nice to be able to go to sea knowing there aren’t any sea serpents in the water.”
          Peter did not share in his humor. “No, only U-boats.”
          Edmund looked directly at Peter. “I’m willing to take that chance. I need to do this, Peter. I need to do something to help the innocent people here, and I can do that with the merchant navy. Do you…do you understand that?” Please understand.
          A myriad of emotions played across Peter’s face. Edmund knew that Peter could relate to wanting to do more to defend the innocent, to protect their family. But he also knew that Peter loathed letting Edmund face danger alone, wanted him to stay in what safety was afforded Cambridge. Edmund also knew that Peter was the only person in two worlds who could command him not to go to sea and he would actually obey. A knowledge that would haunt Peter later. And it was as if Peter could read that fear in Edmund’s face, for the older boy closed his eyes and took a stuttering breath. “I…I understand.” Striking blue eyes opened, full of fear but also pride. Placing his hands again on Edmund’s shoulders, Peter placed a kiss on the top of his little brother’s bowed head. “Aslan be with you and protect you, my brother, and bring you home again.”
           Edmund smiled and answered the blessing: “Aslan will that I come back to you, my king, else may we meet in Aslan’s Country.”
           Peter shuddered at the reference and pulled Edmund into a tight embrace. “Don’t you dare die, Ed,” he whispered hoarsely. “Don’t you dare.” …I feel like a horrible human being.
           It was the order Peter always gave when they were sent separately to battle, and the only command that Edmund never gave an answer to, but had never yet disobeyed. A horrible, horrible human being. So instead of answering, Edmund just leaned into the embrace, memorizing the feel of his brother’s arms and the sound of his voice. The brothers would spend the rest of the day together: laughing, relating their favorite memories, and enjoying the biscuits that Polly had sent over the day before. Hah, caught an Americanisms here. Nearly had ‘cookie’ instead of ‘biscuit’. But for right now, they just held each other, praying that it would not be the last time.

End Flashback

            Lucy was quiet as Edmund finished telling her of Peter’s reaction. He had not told her every detail, the emotions he had felt during that time or the extent of Peter’s reaction, but Edmund hoped she would understand that Peter had at least accepted his choice to risk his life in war. By the look on her face, she still did not accept the same. “I think I can agree with Peter that I don’t want…Ed, I want to make sure you come home safely, too.” She’s still not willing to accept it, despite Aslan’s words.
            It was with great effort that Edmund kept himself from biting his lip, Aslan’s words echoing through his mind. What could he say? He could barely contemplate the words himself, let alone tell his little sister. Edmund did not even know if he could tell this to Peter if he were here. How could he…Suddenly, Edmund knew what he had to say, how to explain things to Lucy without acknowledging what Edmund was still trying to understand himself.
            Edmund covered Lucy’s hand, which was lying on the small table next to him. Looking her straight in her wide, blue eyes, eyes so much like Peter’s, he said firmly: “Lucy, it is not your responsibility to keep me alive.” He’s relieving her of responsibility.
            Instantly, Lucy protested. “How can you say that? I’m a healer and a warrior and your sister. How can I not do everything in my power to….to protect you, to save you?”
            Edmund squeezed her hand, keeping her from tugging it away in her upset. “I didn’t say you shouldn’t help me. I couldn’t stop you from trying to protect me anymore than I could stop trying to protect you.” He took the cordial from her free hand and set it on the table, before taking both her hands in his. “What I said is that you are not responsible for me. I know perfectly well that I take risks, I get in all sorts of trouble. I’m not blind, I know what it does to you and Peter and Susan and Caspian. I know I hurt you all by joining the merchant navy – it’s why I put off telling Peter until the last moment. You can’t know how much I hate hurting you. But Lucy…” he squeezed her hands again, gently. “Lu, it’s my choice. I’m responsible for what happens to me. I made the decision to become a warrior, I made the decision to join the merchant navy. I made, and will make, the decision to risk my life to help others. And if…if something happens to me because of that, you are not responsible.Less than a year before my friend died, I had seen him at my sister’s graduation. We exchanged a few words – the last words I ever spoke to him – and that was that. After he died, when I realized that the most likely cause of death of suicide, I felt guilty, like I should have realized and said something, or kept in touch and been there if he needed me. It took a while to realize I wasn’t responsible for what he had done, that he made his choice.
            “We know,” Edmund and Lucy both looked up, surprised that they had not heard Caspian slip into the room and close the door. The older king walked over and leaned against the wall next to them. “But knowing and accepting are two different things.” Caspian looked hard at Edmund. “Would you be willing to give in to such a dark fate?”
            Edmund slowly released Lucy’s hands and sat back in his chair. Although two sets of eyes rested on him, waiting for an answer, Edmund took his time to think. Here he was, asking his family to accept what fate lay in store for him; but deep within himself, he still burned to fight against it. That was a bit hypocritical of him, was it not? Was he willing to accept the path his choices would lead him to? With this conversation, I was having the hardest time trying to convey that Edmund wasn’t seeking death, but confronting it and accepting it without fear. I guess it really does go back to Clement’s Stromata and the difference between accepting death and seeking martyrdom. “I don’t know,” Edmund finally answered. “I just know that I don’t want either of you, any of you, feeling guilty for something I did. For something that’s out of your control.”
            “I want it to be in my control,” said Lucy, her soft voice lingering on the air. That is Lucy’s sin – wanted to have control instead of accepting the will of Aslan. She looked over at Caspian who gave her a sympathetic look that seemed no comfort at all.
          
            Edmund tried to think of something to say to that admission, but before he could there was a knock on the door. “Your majesties?” came the strident tones of Captain Drinian.
            “Enter,” called Lucy before either king could say anything.
            The captain entered and bowed. “Your majesties, land’s been spotted and the blue star has stopped over a tall mountain. Looks to me to be Ramandu’s Island, if I’m not mistaken.”
            All three stood straight at that. “Thank you Captain,” said Caspian. “We will be there shortly.” Drinian bowed and left.
            Edmund knew there would be no returning to their previous conversation, not now. As if agreeing, Lucy spoke up with false cheerfulness. “Shall we?” By the excited gleam in Caspian’s eyes, there would be no argument there. Therefore, without further words, the kings and queen made their way up to the deck.
            By the time they got up there, the ship had drifted near enough to plainly see the island. In the extraordinarily bright starlight and moonlight that was so prevalent in the Eastern skies, it was easy to make out the contours of their destination. Like in the book, the light is greater in the East. It looked exactly as it had on Coriakin’s map: steep, rocky cliffs overflowed with vegetation; waterfalls tripped over the sides, glittering in the starlight, and crashing into the lapping waves; and, towering above, a great mountain rose towards the diamond glow of the rising moon – the Mountain of Light.
            Edmund could almost see Caspian’s mind working. With the sky so bright, it would be feasible to go ashore, even in the slowing deepening night. The blue star shone alluringly above the island, and even Edmund felt drawn to go closer – he could only imagine what Caspian was feeling and what that would lead the older king to decide. Sure enough, Caspian turned to Drinian and ordered: “Captain, have the longboats readied.”
            Apparently Drinian had predicted the same as Edmund, for he answered: “The landing party has already been selected and awaits your orders.” Drinian is good at anticipating orders.
            Caspian looked over the assembled men and grinned. “Then let’s go ashore.”
          

Goodness, this was a hard chapter to write. I had to have Edmund contemplate Aslan’s words from the last chapter without explicitly stating what the ending of the story would be. I was hoping by now that most readers would be suspecting Edmund’s death and would get it without the exposition. Of course, it seems like everyone always expects me to kill Edmund, so…

I guess the most important part of this chapter was the flashback. I wanted to give a real, full cameo to Peter, and to have Peter and Edmund have their resolution and good-byes. I mean, I suppose the talk with Lucy is more important to the heart of the story, but the good-bye with Peter was what I wrote this chapter for. If there's one thing I wish I could have done more with this story, was add more of Edmund's relationship with Peter, playing off of the centrality that their relationship had in 'Letting Go'. It unfortunately just didn't fit in with the story to do more that what I ended up doing. That's one of the reasons this chapter is so important, because it gives a little resolution to their relationship.
 
 
 
Karen: Pevensies (England)autumnia on December 4th, 2013 01:35 am (UTC)
I was hoping by now that most readers would be suspecting Edmund's death...

I think after the horrors of the previous chapter, this is definitely where I began to suspect Edmund might not make it back to England. And all the different scenes in future chapters was pointing to that, though I did hold onto a bit of hope! :-)

And it would have been nice to have seen Peter more too, as well as Susan. I suppose that silly scene where Lucy turns into Susan in the film at least gave us a bit with the older Pevensies.
lady_lirenellady_lirenel on December 9th, 2013 02:37 am (UTC)
I'm glad it was starting to be slightly suspect, as foreshadowing is useless if it doesn't actually foreshadow! =D

Hope is still good too, though.

There was definitely not enough older Pevensies in the movie, though I suppose it was really the only way without changing canon too much. After all, we would have been incensed if one or both had managed to actually get onto the Dawn Treader!