Edmund sits before the library fire with a book open in his lap, his long legs outstretched and feet resting on a hassock. Besides him steams a mug of something that smells of apples and comfort.
Lanisen enters the library through the heavy doors to the east, shutting them gently behind him. Despite the care he takes, the sound echoes softly through the room and up to the high ceiling.
The young King lifts his head at the noise.
Lanisen discovers the fire first, and then who’s sitting in front of it. He starts guiltily, bows, and turns back toward the door.
Edmund shakes his head dismissively and gestures to another chair. “Sit, if it please thee. There’s room, and wassail what’s more.”
Lanisen says, “Aahh, I didn’t, I didn’t mean to disturb you, sir.”
Edmund says, “If I wished privacy, I’ve very fine apartments with fire and chair and tea service. Art a guest at Cair Paravel, and the library thine. I should as easily apologize for infringing on thine own respite.”
Lanisen looks like he doesn’t know what to say to this at all, but his eyes shift to the fire again, and he moves to join the king after another small hesitation.
Edmund gestures for a Faun who stands leaning against a nearby bookcase and perusing an open book to bring Lanisen a cup and fill it. “Uldus?”
Lanisen gets the slightly flustered, anxious look of somebody who is not accustomed to being served. “Oh! Thank you, er, sorry, thank you.”
Uldus gives him a big, amused grin. “Will you be having the massage and boot shine as well, sir?”
Lanisen darts a rather startled look at Uldus’s face to see in what spirit the joke is made, then laughs and relaxes a little.
Edmund laughs and scolds, “Uldus.” He says to Lanisen. “Mind not his teasing. He is nigh the most pampered servant in all the castle, and will only make use of thy squirming for his own amusement.”
Lanisen ducks his head to laugh again, rather embarrassed. “I’ll do my best not to squirm, then, I guess.”
Edmund sits in a large armchair at the fireplace at the end of the library hall, near where Lanisen sits. Uldus appears to be serving them some kind of hot drink as they speak. “Chlamash Tarkaan is meant to meet with me this evening, but I hope shalt not feel too out of place to stay. I’ve promised him a story that concerns the Great Lion. I think it might supplement thy present research.”
Lanisen doesn’t look uneasy, exactly, but he looks like he’s not sure he should be here. He sits on the edge of his chair and has yet to taste the cup Uldus gave him. “Oh–! That’s, um. I don’t, I don’t want to intrude…”
Edmund says, “Tis well thought. Shalt not be an intrusion on my part, but let us inquire of Chlamash whether he would not like company, then.”
Lanisen looks relieved, and nods.
Chlamash’s footsteps may be heard as he makes his way up the passageway and into the library. He pauses as is custom and bows to King Edmund and nods as well to Lanisen. “Good Evening, Your Majesty. Lanisen.”
Lanisen gets quickly to his feet as Chlamash approaches and bows.
Edmund inclines his head to the Tarkaan and gestures that he should seat himself. “Wouldst like a cup of wassail, Tarkaan?”
Chlamash says, “I should indeed, Your Majesty.” he replies, before finding a seat. “I trust I am not interrupting anything?””
Lanisen says hastily, “No, no, it’s, I’m, I’m the one interruptin’, I think, um–” He glances uncertainly at Edmund.
Edmund says, “Not at all. I wondered if you might grant me Lanisen’s presence for our communion this evening, or if you preferred we discourse in quiet. I fear this evening may involve more of my own talk than our usual exchange.”
Chlamash nods his head in acquiescence, “I do not mind your majesty, he has been a good companion during my research.”
Lanisen rubs his elbow, glancing at Chlamash with a small quick smile at this, though he hesitates before he resumes his seat.
Edmund smiles, and looks to Lanisen. “Does that suit you?”
Lanisen is still perched rather uncertainly at the edge of his chair, unwilling to settle in too comfortably just yet. “If it’s– If you don’t mind, your majesty, I’d– I’d be really honored.”
Edmund says, “It’s settled, then.”
Chlamash leans back into his chair, focused and ready to listen and accepts the cup of wassail that Uldus serves him.
Lanisen rubs his shoulder, glancing at Chlamash, and at Uldus, and finally down at the mug of wassail in his own hand.
Edmund says, “I had promised Chlamash a tale, but before I tell it, let us forestall redundancy. What do you each know of our early days in Narnia, and the Witch’s last?”
Chlamash says, “I fear I know little, Your Majesty. I believe the historian has told me that the Lion of Narnia killed her.””
Lanisen nods slightly to indicate that he’s heard this as well.
Edmund lifts his brows and chuckles. “How large our histories appear when art our own, and how small when they are not. Very well, the full story, then.”
Chlamash takes a sip of his wassail and waits for King Edmund to begin.
Lanisen settles back cautiously into his chair.
Edmund is quiet for a long moment, reflecting. Finally, he launches into the tale. He is oddly vague about the nature of his arrival to Narnia, focusing more upon meeting the Witch, betraying his now friend, the Faun Tumnus, to her, and leaving his family at the Beaver’s Dam in favor of seeking out the Witch and the promises she had made. His face is grave as he speaks, his words quiet and without euphemism.
Edmund continues with signs of the arrival of Aslan: the melting snow, the chirping of birdsong. The feast turned to stone he dwells on particularly, though he has already relayed it once to Chlamash. “T’would have been difficult for even the most petulant heart not to feel uncertain in the face of it — certainly mine was not a easy one to move. But the Lion had already a different fate in mind for me.”
Lanisen is quiet as the king speaks and doesn’t seem to know where to look. His face reflects in turns confusion, horror, wonder, and a sort of understanding.
Chlamash is thoughtful as the King speaks, though his face is more guarded than his companion, there is still surprise at various points throughout the story.
Edmund says, “When my brother and sisters met with him, the Lion sent his warriors — good, true Narnians Beasts — to rescue me from the Witch’s clutches. They did so, and much to my gladness, for I do believe she would have killed me that very night had I stayed with her but an hour longer. It was then, though at the time I knew it not, that the Narnian prophecy truly began to come into effect.” He explains about arriving at Aslan’s encampment, and the Witch demanding his blood, the old magic, Aslan disappearing to speak with her. “It was a wretched time. I knew I had done wrongly, yet I greatly feared the sentence that was my right, and that fear left me all the more wretched.”
Lanisen draws a long, slow breath, looking at his hands.
Chlamash seems to look at King Edmund with new admiration as the tale is told and his face shows genuine outrage or revulsion that the witch should have have tried to kill a boy as the king beside him must have been. However when Edmund speaks of the old magic and sentence, he too finds himself looking down at his hands.
Edmund says, “Twas Aslan himself bade me think no more on it. I thought it an impossible thing at the time. More impossible still when I later learned –” He stalls, and then begins anew, “The old magic demanded the Witch receive her due. The earth would tear asunder if she had not the sacrifice she demanded. And yet, here sit I beside you, a solid floor beneath our feet, sipping at wassail as casually as might a lazy dog her bowl. Does it not strike you?””
Lanisen shifts slightly, almost recoiling, surprised by the stakes. His forehead furrows and he narrows one eye in confusion, his mouth forming the beginning of a question. He glances furtively at Chlamash to see if he understands.
Chlamash studies his hands at King Edmund speaks, looking up in surprise at his question. “But then how Your Majesty?” He too seems confused, “For the gods are not easily trifled with and the laws and matters of the solid earth below us are beyond my knowledge.”
Edmund sets down his cup and folds his hands in his lap, tracing one thumb over the nail of the other. “Ah.” He begins. “Yes. Hast hit upon it.” He breathes out, still rubbing his thumb nail. “If an innocent takes the place of a traitor, the magic is appeased.” He pauses. “I wonder if you can gather it from that. Twas, I believe, the Lion’s actions on my behalf defeated the Witch, quite nearly as much as our feats of arms against her. For she was a part of the deep magic, too.” He looks up, glancing between them, seeming to will that they understand without his speaking further.
Lanisen seems from the look on his face to have understood at least partially, but he seems also to doubt his own comprehension. He looks at Edmund, trying hard to meet him halfway.
Chlamash says, “An Innocent in the place of a traitor…” he murmurs to himself thoughtfully he considers the matter. There is a spark of recognition in his eyes as something comes to him. It is written on his face the wonder, the awe, and the dreadful truth he guesses at. “He is dead then. I am sorry.”
Lanisen says, shaking his head in confusion and denial, “No, that’s not– I saw, I saw him!” He looks back at Edmund for confirmation.
Chlamash waits solemnly for the king to finish the tale of the story. As his listening companion speaks, he turns in surprise a quick raise of his eyebrows. He too waits for confirmation.
Edmund inclines his head to Lanisen. “That is what I mean. In your travels, I believe you mean to encounter the Stone Table. You will find it broken, but in those days it was whole. Some species of old magic lived in the table itself. I was not there but my sisters saw it, and I tell the truly it is no lie: the Great Lion died that night.”
Chlamash says, “Surely it cannot be. For the gods do not die, but man and beast do. And they do not rise.”
Lanisen is silent. He looks lost, and his hands curl around his mug of wassail.
Edmund looks at them frankly, his face very grave and his words slow, sometimes even lilting with emotion. “There was something in the magic that night which was altered. For the Lion required no sacrifice. There was no crime he had committed. He was not merely innocent of the crime accused, but of any crime, any treachery. In her wickedness, the Witch slew him nevertheless — shaved him of his great mane, mocked him, and slew him. My sisters saw it.” He repeats the last as if needing to emphasize the facts of it even to himself. “Twas not ’til the sun rose — whilst the High King and I fought enemies on every side — that they heard the crack, and looked up to find the Lion alive, bright and huge and magnificent, his mane restored, and he bore them to the Witch’s palace where he woke the Narnian Beasts long turned to stone and led that army to my brother’s, and only then did we prevail against the Witch, under the Lion’s guidance and with his aid.”
Lanisen watches the king searchingly as he speaks. He lowers his head and rubs a hand over his mouth.
Chlamash looks to the King seemly caught in a battle between skepticism of Aslan’s part in the story and a desire to believe the wonder and amazement of it. “Tis a marvelous story, Your Majesty. We are indebted to you.”
Edmund gives a short bark of a laugh. “To me? I think not.”
Lanisen stays quiet.
Chlamash says, “Your Majesty has shared freely of your own tale and I thank you.”
Edmund inclines his head, serious again. “I do not tell it lightly,” he admits. “My sisters did not tell me what they saw for many days after. But I felt it might be of use to you.”
Lanisen asks quietly, “How old were you, your majesty?”
Edmund takes a breath. “I was ten.”
Lanisen’s mouth opens slightly. His face twists a little with sorrow and wonder and something else harder to name.
Chlamash says, “Were yet a child, and to have been expected to carry such a burden. Your majesty is indeed a man of unforeseen depths.”
Chlamash reaches for his cup of wassail, drinking it slowly in thought.
Edmund says, “Each of us has our trials and private shames. Some less private than others. None, I think, less personal. Remember it well, when ye encounter another. The thought has aided me well when judging those I thought undeserving, or counseling those I deemed foolish. Many is the time I came to learn of some private misfortune, fear, or trespass I’d not considered, and which illuminated much.”
Lanisen looks down at his wassail to consider this, quiet.
Chlamash nods slowly, there is a look on his face of as of one who might have been quietly gently reproved and feels repentant. In fact the expression is rare, that one who did not know might wonder if one had truly seen it.
Chlamash says, “You have given me much to consider, Your Majesty.””
Edmund looks between them. “But I do not share this story to disquieten you. Rather, I share it that it may ease you, both of you, for I see it in your faces that you have each had your own trials, bear your own guilt and pain. I bid ye consider it, if the Lion will have done so much for me, who have betrayed mine own good family for a taste of sugar, what plans may he have for you? What may you be capable of, in his eyes? In your years twain at this castle Chlamash, I have found thee considerate and slow to assert thyself above another. Lanisen, thou have I known a shorter time, and yet thou art also of a thoughtful disposition, and kindhearted. Art both, then, of a nature inclined toward wisdom by my estimation. Do not treat thy virtues like feathers and thy shames like stones.”
Lanisen goes still at this assessment and charge, surprised and wary. He glances up at the king again after a pause.
Chlamash says, “”It was well told, Your Majesty. I shall give unto it the fullest measure of consideration, and I thank you again for the telling of it.” He rises, “If your Majesty, will give leave. There is much I desire to contemplate.” ”
Edmund says, “Certainly, mayest retire, Chlamash Tarkaan. Good even to thee.”
Lanisen stands quickly as Chlamash does, ducking a bow.
Edmund says, “Lanisen, stay a moment, if thou wilt.”
Chlamash bows first, a low bow to Edmund, and then to Lanisen. “I hope that you shall find much pleasure yet in your journey of Narnia with your companions.”
Lanisen says, “Oh– of course, your majesty.” To Chlamash, he says, “Thank you, sir. I’ve– it’s been… Thank you for lettin’ me join you, this last week.”
Chlamash says, “You are welcome.” He turns, nodding to each. “Good Evening, Your Majesty, Lanisen.””
Lanisen bows again.
Edmund says, “Good evening, Chlamash Tarkaan.”
Chlamash acknowledges both before turning and heading towards the door.
Lanisen turns back to face Edmund, searching the king’s face apprehensively to see if he’s in trouble for something.
Chlamash crosses to the east end of the library, disappearing through the southeast door.
Edmund waits until Chlamash has left to turn back to Lanisen. “Fear thou not. Hast done nothing worth reprimand.” he says in response to the other man’s expression. “My sister has me understand art looking to holiday across the rest of our good country.”
Lanisen rubs his elbow. “We’d– um, we’d planned to, if that’s–”
Edmund says, “It is quite within thy rights, but I wished to counsel thee, if wilt take it. I know a little of thy history.”
Lanisen tenses up slightly, some of the color draining from his face around his mouth. His eyes dart briefly to Edmund’s face again, dark and anxious, then he lowers his head and swallows. “I’m– Forgive me, your majesty, I wasn’t– I didn’t think to, to hide it, but it was– um, I can see how it would look that way. I’m– I’m so sorry, I should’ve been more, I should’ve said.”
Edmund shakes his head. “Apologize not, for it is not needed. I only meant to tell thee of thy one-time companions, the brigand leader and his wife.”
Lanisen shifts uncertainly.
Edmund asks, “Art aware of how and where they live now?”
Lanisen says, “Lantern Waste, last, last time I heard.”
Edmund inclines his head. “The woman has worked under the Northern Guard these four years. She calls herself ‘Adara’ here. The man, so far as I understand it, cares for their child.”
Lanisen nods, his eyes on the ground. “I had– one of the Wolves told me, a couple years ago.”
Edmund says, “It is…” he pauses. “It is not as it is with Darius. Adara has proven herself in the service of Narnia. Yet I know not what may come if their history returns to them. The commander, a Unicorn called Petraverd, reports to me that Myrd assists Adara with reluctance, and that Adara has attempted to contact her friends in Archenland. He knows not her exact purpose, only that she has been disappointed in it.” He frowns. “I do not meant to tell thee of their private business. Rather, I had meant to ask, hast thou fear of them? Dost wish we should send word ahead, that some kind of provision may be made, if not one so strict as with Darius?””
Lanisen is quiet, though his face flickers with confusion and a sort of puzzle-solving intent. At this last, he looks alarmed and shakes his head quickly. “Please– no, don’t, don’t… I don’t, I don’t want them to know I’m…”
Edmund says, “They are free people here. T’would not be strange that they and thou shouldst meet, whether they know of thy presence before or do not.”
Lanisen says, “But they, we might not.”
Edmund inclines his head. “May be.”
Edmund says, “Myrd keeps to himself, Adara does not.”
Lanisen says, “I’ll stay out of her way.”
Edmund looses a breath, drawing his two foremost fingers across his lips, but he agrees, “Very well. And shouldst thou meet her besides, hast considered what thou might do?”
Lanisen exhales, rubbing his right wrist. “Run?” he suggests with a sort of wry, shaky levity.
Edmund inclines his head again, a small, crooked smile crossing his features. “Tis one strategy.”
Lanisen pauses for a moment, looking down. “I’m not–” He stops again. “She was, she was kind to me, mostly.”
Edmund says, “I know not what transpired between you privately. Her transgressions are largely muddy and unproven, yet in our dealings she showed a defiance that did not befit her talent or intelligence. I do believe her improved, perhaps mended. But it may be thou seest in her what those of us who did not aid her crimes may not. If it may be thou canst mend between thyselves, my blessing on it. But foremost look to thy safety, and allow them their peace, if thou canst.””
Lanisen says, “I don’t– I don’t want to see either of them, it’s…” He grimaces. “It’s only I’m… less afraid to…”
Edmund allows him to finish without interruption.
Lanisen is quiet for a moment to line up his thoughts, still rubbing his wrist with a sort of absent anxiety. “If, if I meet her by chance then that’s– it would… I don’t know what would happen, I think it would be very strange, um…” He stops. “It’ll be strange, but I’m not… I’m not /afraid/, not of her, not the way…”
Edmund asks, “Dost believe him a danger toward thee even now?”
Lanisen hesitates, shifting his weight. “I don’t know,” he answers. “Maybe, maybe he’s changed, I don’t know.”
Edmund rubs his fingers over his lips, smoothing his small beard. “Tis a puzzle,” he admits. “Art free to do as thou likest. If it would ease thy mind, I may send word to Commander Petraverd, that he might put an especial eye toward thy safety, whilst still holding thy discretion.”
Lanisen hesitates again. “You’d… do that?”
Edmund says, “I think t’would not unduly affect their daily affairs, and would give me some measure of peace to know thou walked easier on account of it.”
Lanisen takes a breath. “I’d be in your debt, your majesty. And theirs.”
Edmund says, “I will write him, then.”
Lanisen bows his head. “Thank you, your majesty.”
Edmund says, “Art welcome to it, and any other aid we may in right conscience give.”
Lanisen shakes his head a little, overwhelmed. “You’ve been– you’ve been more than kind, sir, I’m– I know I can’t ever repay it all but if there’s ever any way I can… anything I can do, for you or for Narnia or anything, please…”
Edmund says, “Canst show its Beasts and Peoples kindness, and canst deal mercy when it is within thy power, and justice when it is called for. Canst store up the goodness shown thee and show it thence again toward those who cry out for it.”
Lanisen rubs the back of his neck and nods. He pauses briefly, and then says, “Thank you for lettin’ me hear your story, your majesty.”
Edmund says, “Art welcome to it. Wouldst find it recorded in the Athenaeum, if thou knew but where to look. Tis not a tale I am proud of, yet I think it one many may benefit from the hearing of.”
Lanisen shifts. “I’m glad to have heard it,” he answers quietly.
Edmund brushes his thumb and forefinger over his mouth. “Good. Now,” he picks up his forgotten wassail cup. “Tell me of thy friends and companions at the castle. It has been some time since I traveled the Archenland pass.”
Lanisen says, “Well,” and reaches for his own wassail, launching into an account of Prince Cor and the hounds.
Edmund settles back into his chair, listening with interest.