House Pevensie Encampment
Thanks to the hard work of the remaining members of House Pevensie, the encampment was looking more and more habitable. The carpenter had seemingly worked day and night to create a long table, worthy and grand enough for a banquet, Peter thought. It gave him some comfort that he and his house could make a good life for themselves, even without Winterfell. Perhaps they would build their own castle, another stronghold for a Pevensie name to prevail. Peter felt better than he'd done in a long time.
Peter took a walk, stretching his legs as his men worked around him. They nodded with courtesy as he passed, and as Peter approached Rhince, the man stopped chopping wood and bowed deeply.
"Will you take the men hunting this afternoon?" Peter asked.
"Yes, your Majesty," he nodded.
"I'd like us to use the table tonight," said Peter. "The carpenter has done a fine job."
"I'll see it done, your Majesty," said Rhince.
Before Peter could thank his right-hand man, his ears pricked up. He could hear hooves in the distance. Peter and Rhince looked cautiously between them, hands immediately flying to the hilts of their swords. Through the trees, Peter could see flags, or banners, something red and gold. His breath hitched in his throat. Those were the Royal colours. Peter began to sweat. His time had run out.
He turned to Rhince. "Tell Glimfeather he must fly," he said. "The encampment is no longer safe." Rhince hurried off.
Peter cast his eyes back, seeing the Kingsguard crest through the trees, galloping forward with purpose, and then slowing to a stop in front of them. Peter noticed Prince Nathaniel appear behind his men, and dismount, walking towards Peter, who took his hand off his sword.
"Your Majesty," Peter said stiffly. "To what do I owe this pleasure?" he asked, giving a slight bow.
Nathaniel, eyeing him, stopped in front of Peter. "We ride to Winterfell," he said. "Are you out hunting?"
Peter choked back a laugh. Surely, Nathaniel knew what had happened. Peter wasn't naïve enough to think that the Telmarine's didn't have spies all over the North, perhaps some in Winterfell itself.
"No, your Majesty," replied Peter. "Not hunting. My cousin Eustace has usurped my position in Winterfell. It's a long story. Perhaps you'd like to come in and rest awhile?"
"Yes, I'm sure my wife would like that," Nathaniel said, dryly.
Peter's brow furrowed. His wife? He hadn't heard anything about a Royal wedding. Then again, he realised he wouldn't, being in the middle of nowhere. As Peter connected the dots in his mind, about who Nathaniel's wife was, he saw a woman appear between the banners on foot, clearly having climbed down from her horse, and made her way to the front of the fanfare.
Peter locked eyes with Susan. It had been so long. Peter felt sick and dizzy, his breath tightening, all at the same time as he processed the fact that she was standing in front of him. For the first time, in what felt like forever, he was staring at his beloved. He stumbled forward, wading his way towards Susan, who did the same, and soon they were running, footsteps thudding against the hard earth as they crashed together like waves on the shore. They wrapped each other in their arms, pressed together, the heat of their passion burning them up like a fireplace that crackled in the night. Peter said nothing, he couldn't muster a word, so just breathed out a strangled sound that sounded like the desperate cry of a child.
He tangled his fingers in her hair, letting her scent fill him up. "It's you," he finally said, stepping back to get a look at her. "You're here."
Susan nodded, tears cascading down her face. "I'm here."
"But you're…" he trailed off, realising that she was Nathaniel's wife. "You had to…?"
Susan nodded again. "Not here," she whispered. "Tonight, I'll come to you."
"Okay," he replied, wanting to kiss her.
Nathaniel approached them both, and placed his hand on Peter's shoulder, jolting him back into reality. "We thought you'd be pleased," he said.
Peter turned to Nathaniel, holding back his tears, and composing himself. "You must stay," he told Nathaniel, before realising his audacity to demand from the Prince. "We will have a feast."
"You are too kind, brother," said Susan.
"You must," Peter went on. "We have a marriage to celebrate." He wanted to celebrate that Susan was, above all else, still alive. "Come," he said, gesturing them both towards the camp. "My men will show you to your tent. Forgive me, we are not quite as well established as we would like."
"No matter," said Nathaniel, waving a hand.
"Rhince," said Peter, as they approached. The man had evidently returned from giving his message to Glimfeather. "Have our men see that the Prince's every comfort is taken care of," he told him.
"Yes, my Lord," said Rhince, changing his title as he knew he should. Anything more would have them executed on the spot for treason.
As the group walked forward, Peter held onto Rhince's elbow, hanging back. He leaned into his ear, speaking quietly so that no one would hear. "And tell the men to be on their guard," he whispered. "Sleep with their swords. We can never be too careful."
Rhince nodded without a word.
As instructed, Rhince and the men went out hunting, hoping to catch something big for the Prince and their celebratory feast tonight. Peter was desperate for a moment alone with Susan, but Nathaniel didn't let her out of his sight, and eventually, they were able to sit down at the grand table in the main tent with the collection of game that Rhince and his men had been able to secure during their hunt.
"Your Majesty, please accept my apologies for our meager display," said Peter, gesturing to the food that his men had laid out in front of them, as everyone began to eat. "Were we at Winterfell, we would be able to offer you so much more."
"Alas," said Nathaniel, drinking from his goblet. "It can't be changed. Tell me, Peter, what happened at Winterfell? I'm yet to hear the whole story."
Peter gulped. He didn't want to speak of it in front of Susan. He didn't want to have to tell her this at all, let alone in front of everyone, that their cousin had betrayed them. There were some parts of the story he had to leave out, as well, lest his head be at risk. "Eustace, our cousin, went to see his father, Lord Harold Scrubb, in the Western Wood," Peter began. "He returned and overthrew the castle with some Scrubb men in the night."
"He took the castle by force?" asked Susan, chewing on her rabbit.
"And you escaped with barely your lives, I assume?" asked Nathaniel.
"Men died," agreed Peter. "But we have set up a decent stronghold here. At least for the time being."
"I can't believe Eustace would do that," said Susan, shaking her head. "How could he betray you?"
Peter shrugged. "He denies it all, of course."
"Of course," Nathaniel agreed, finishing everything that was on his plate, and sitting back. "I feel I've been remiss in my duties, Lord Peter. We've shared meat and wine, but I haven't shown you the hospitality you deserve."
"Your Majesty?" questioned Peter.
"You have been done a disservice," Nathaniel went on. "Your cousin has betrayed your trust, sieged your castle, and force you to live on the land that you no longer protect. He has mocked you."
Peter gulped. "It has been difficult to know which way to turn. I'm sure you can empathise."
Nathaniel gave a murmur of agreement. "In fact, that really is no longer a need for you, Lord Pevensie," he said seriously. "Not anymore. And I owe my brother-in-law a wedding gift."
Peter looked over to Susan and watched as his beloved pushed back the cuff of Nathaniel's jacket to reveal locks of chain mail underneath.
"Susan, I –," Peter began but Nathaniel had already drawn a dagger from somewhere on his persons and thrown it. It lodged itself square in Peter's chest. He fell back against the wood of the chair behind, slumped and writhing in pain.
"PETER!" Susan bellowed, getting up, but was held back but a member of the Kingsguard. Around the tent, Susan watched every Telmarine take out their swords and slay the remaining members of House Pevensie. In one fell swoop, everyone was dead.
"Rhince," she breathed, as she struggled in the guard's grip. She saw the light leave the man's eyes as he stilled on the ground. She turned her attention back to Peter who was barely hanging on. She hoped that in the few seconds she had left, before Nathaniel got up from his place at the table, that she managed to express exactly what she felt for Peter in nothing more than in the way she locked eyes with him. She hoped it was enough. It had to be.
As Nathaniel got up, he leaned over and gripped the hilt of the dagger, drawing it out of Peter's chest. Susan watched as the blood started to pool and then pour out of her lover. "Peter!" she sobbed, relishing the way his name sounded on her lips.
Nathaniel loomed over him. "King Miraz sends his regards," he said, loud enough for Susan to hear and then slit her brother's throat.
The Wild Lands of the North
Edmund prayed they weren't far from Harfang now, or he was sure he and his men would soon die from frostbite. He overheard one of his brothers boasting how he had lost a few toes since they had left the Wall, but Edmund wasn't sure whether or not he was just exaggerating in more taste of keeping up morale.
"Puddleglum," Edmund muttered, as he leaned over to the Marshwiggle. "Puddleglum, I don't think I can carry on."
Everything about him was frozen, but most of all his thoughts, his sense, something which he needed to lead these men. If he didn't have his mind in shape, how could he make the right decisions for the group?
"We must, Edmund," replied Puddleglum. "We must be close now."
"But what if we're not?" Edmund asked. "What if we're to die here?"
"Hush," said the Marshwiggle, glancing over his shoulder. "Don't let the men hear you talk like that." Edmund nodded, but felt wary. "Let's make camp," said Puddleglum, daring to look at Edmund out of the corner of his eye.
Edmund nodded again and held up his hand to signal the group to stop. He slid down from his saddle and grabbed the shovel from where it hung on the horse. Everyone followed him, including Puddleglum. The men set to work shovelling down to where the snow was more compact, so they could get their tent pegs in.
"The winds might pick up during the night," Edmund said aloud. "We should pack some snow together and make a dam."
A few men nodded in agreement and set about doing what Edmund had suggested.
"I'll go and find something to burn," said Edmund to Puddleglum.
"Don't go too far," Puddleglum told him. "If you can't see us, we can't see you."
Edmund gave him a meaningful look and began wandering out into the white snow ahead of him. It was futile, he knew, as there was never anything to burn. Edmund wished on some sick level that they'd brought one of the horse's heads with them. That would burn alright. The next best option was to have the men shit in a pile and burn that. Edmund hoped they weren't that desperate yet.
As he walked, he kept turning around to make sure he could see the black cloaks in the distance. Eventually, Edmund gave up and began walking back to his comrades, that was until he heard the familiar crunch of footsteps in the snow. He turned back, and saw, coming through the blizzard, a greyish figure. Edmund's heart stopped, and as it got nearer, he could see it was lazily dragging its leg behind. A lost member of the Watch? Doctor Cornelius? Edmund didn't dare call out just in case.
As the figure drew nearer, Edmund was sure his cold-addled mind was playing tricks on him. It looked as though the person before him was dead, skin sagging from their visible bones, their flesh rotten and gnarled, calling out a throaty moan into the dead air. Edmund thought he was seeing the living dead. Then, there was not one, but two, the very same, followed by another, emerging through the snow. Edmund's heartbeat quickened, then stopped, as behind these figures someone else was developing into Edmund's vision. On top of a horse, which also seemed more dead than alive, was a figure that seemed entirely made of ice, down to the hairs on their head. Although their description should have provided some camouflage, they stood out against the backdrop.
These, Edmund realised, were White Walkers. They looked identical to what he had seen in Doctor Cornelius's books. Edmund turned on his heels and ran, not waiting to see if he had been spotted by these creatures and as he got back to the Night's Watch men, he began mounting his horse.
"We have to get back to the Wall!" he cried, loud enough for everyone to hear.
"What are you on about Pevensie?" asked a man. "We're going to Harfang."
Edmund turned in his seat and pointed. "White Walkers!" was all he could muster. Everyone stopped digging and turned. Sure enough, through the blizzard, the creatures emerged. They had seconds to get away before Edmund was sure they'd be spotted. He didn't even wait for his brothers to join him as he cantered South. No, it was every man for himself now. Thankfully, not long afterwards, Edmund saw Puddleglum out of the corner of his eye, keeping pace with him.
They didn't say a word, knowing that their life was hanging in the balance. They had to get back to the Wall, Edmund thought to himself. They had to warn them, strengthen their defenses, find a way to rid Narnia of these foul beasts. Or everyone they knew and loved would be dead.
Caspian sat by the window in his cabin, watching the waves lap at the boat. The anchor was still down, as everyone was waiting on his instruction for what to do next. But the truth was Caspian didn't know what he was expected to do. He'd had a mission to complete, as soon as he'd been smuggled out of Narnia, one that had affected every moment of his time since, but the shock of Lilliandil's death had stopped him in his wake. It had made him question everything.
The door to Caspian's cabin creaked open and in stepped Ramandu. No formalities spoken between them. They were past that now.
"Her body is resting in her cabin," Ramandu instructed. "Do you want us to raise the anchor?"
"No," Caspian shook his head, looking at his father-in-law. "Not yet."
Ramandu obviously didn't know what to say, so walked in further and sat down opposite Caspian in the bay window.
"What happened was a tragic accident," Ramandu said softly.
"It was an assassination attempt," Caspian countered, his voice curt, despite addressing his elder. "She was assassinated because of me."
"You can't know that," replied Ramandu.
"But I do," replied Caspian. "Somehow word must have gotten out that I'm alive. I don't see how because we're on a boat in the middle of nowhere."
"Or, it was a bad batch of wine, tampered with, meant for someone else," mused Ramandu.
"Meant for me," spat Caspian. "Don't you see how dangerous this is? How much is at stake?"
"Of course, I do. My daughter died today," said Ramandu, rounding on him. "You think I don't understand how much is at stake? It cost Lilliandil her life."
"You lost a daughter that day and I lost a son and my wife," replied Caspian. "Believe me, I know."
Ramandu sneered at him. "Yes, she was useful to you, I suppose. Growing your Prince in her belly. You never showed any care for her when she was alive, why now?"
"I never wanted this for her," spat Caspian, tears welling in his eyes. "Whatever my feelings, I never wanted her dead."
Ramandu sat back, composing himself, which urged Caspian to do the same. She would not want them fighting. If Caspian concentrated hard enough, he could almost hear her chastising them. He looked over to Ramandu, seeing a weak smile on his face, and knew he was thinking the same thing.
"We have to carry on," said Ramandu, catching Caspian's eye. He cleared his throat, obviously dissolving the lump that Caspian had as well. "We have to continue despite her death."
"We have to carry on because of it," Caspian agreed.
Ramandu nodded slightly, and then got up, walking back over to the door. He turned the handle in his grip and opened it. As he was about to step over the threshold, Caspian looked up.
"Ramandu," he said, calling after his father-in-law. The old star turned to him. "Tell them to raise the anchor," Caspian said. "We sail on."
To be continued in Part Four
after a hiatus.