In Fire and Ice
A/N: Thank you. Feel free to keep any typos you find.
In Fire and Ice
Lucy was lugging a bag full of food toward the bedroom they had been banished from the night before, cursing her brother for being quicker than her. He had volunteered for fetching Su and Caspian before she’d had a chance to and now she was the one who had to manhandle food for six people through the How. It was times like this when she hated her childish body beyond measure.
She found Peter and Buffy awake and dressed – thank Aslan! – sitting next to each other, just holding hands and doing nothing. Lucy breathed a sigh of relief.
She, like everyone else in the How, had heard the two of them fight the night before and she had been close enough to hear when their words of anger had turned into choked sighs of a different kind. At first she’d been elated that they had gotten over their differences because Buffy and Peter were just amazing
together and so all had been well. But then reality had reasserted itself and she had, inevitably, started worrying.
Buffy had made her position very clear, refusing to get close to anyone at all at first and then, to get closer than simple friends. She didn’t want to get hurt and while the Valiant Queen found that a bit cowardly, she understood the motivation. Not everyone was as in love with life as Lucy and thus jumped in with both feet, consequences be damned. Peter had nagged and prodded Buffy, trying to get her to give in to him and it seemed that last night she finally had.
But that wasn’t how it had happened, the youngest Queen was sure. Her brother and Buffy had not gotten over their differences as much as they had simply jumped over them and gotten right to the aftermath. And Lucy, always a world class worrier when it came to her family, had spent hours worrying that their impulsiveness had destroyed whatever the two of them had.
But seeing them now, her worry eased. They did not look at each other, did not speak, but their held hands tightly and without hesitation. She put down the bag with food and upended it on the floor, revealing water skins, apples, bread and cheese enough to feed six people, three of them growing boys.
“Breakfast,” she chirped and got two soft smiles in return before Peter grabbed her around the waist and pulled her into his lap like he hadn’t done in a long time. His anger, Lucy realized, had finally burned out as he and Narnia got used to each other again, recognized the differences and made them work. Peter was Peter again and all that energy that had gone into his anger in England had been redirected into what Edmund called the ‘annoyingly overprotective big brother mode’. She got the full brunt of hit now as her oldest brother started inspecting her as if they hadn’t seen each other in weeks, all the while asking questions like, was she eating enough and had she slept. While he fussed, Lucy looked at Buffy who had released Peter’s hand but not moved away.
She, too, seemed to have lost some of her anger. It had turned into a nameless, winged thing, smaller, tamer. Waiting, perhaps, to be set free. In time, it might entirely disappear as old wounds healed and pains were forgotten.
This was where Lucy’s smile turned bittersweet and sad. In time
. That was the crux, the centre of all of Buffy’s hesitation. Since she had drawn her first breath in Narnia, the Valiant Queen had known, on some level, that this was not permanent. They would be sent back to England when Caspian was king. All four siblings felt it, knew it, and quietly consented to it because Aslan knew best. He always had.
But it hurt. Susan and Caspian were so tentatively falling in love with each other and Su was finally giving up on trying to be an adult so hard. She was getting used to who she was, a grown woman in a young girl’s body and Caspian somehow managed to make her happy while she was at it.
Buffy and Peter were brighter, louder, harsher, but no less true. During their reign, no woman had ever held Peter’s interest for long. They had either been gold diggers after his crown and wealth, or meek women, who let him and his siblings walk all over them. None of them had had what it took to stand next to a High King of Narnia and his siblings, the burning, the gentle, the lively and the harsh, the Just, the Gentle, the Magnificent and Valiant.
Buffy could. She did. She was. An equal for Peter and his mood swings, his insane plans and bloodthirsty urges. She had listened to Lucy’s tale of how Peter had wiped out the werewolves and she had not grimaced, had not flinched. She understood. She knew. She would have done the same. Peter finally had his equal and he would not let the blonde woman fall into the flat, dead mood she had been in when they had first met, pretending to care for nothing and no-one.
That all four of the siblings were still and always would be, madly in love with Narnia itself need not be mentioned.
And it would all be taken away from them. Caspian would stay, the siblings would leave and Buffy be sent to another world and another war. There would not be an in time
They had only today and whatever came after and nothing more. It made Lucy happy and sad at the same time.
But, she decided as Edmund entered the room, trailed by a prince and a queen, she would soldier on. Aslan knew best and she would do what he wanted from her and keep her siblings safe, keep them together. Narnia or England, child or adult, she was and always would be Queen Lucy, the Valiant and that meant never giving in and never giving up and helping your brothers and sisters, loving them until the pain of loss became bearable and they could walk straight again. Aslan knew best. When Aslan asked them to go back they would, and Lucy would remember for them all and keep in her heart the images of Susan’s tentative happiness and Peter’s fierce and burning love.
In the end though, she was only one silly little girl who never quite knew when to stop trying and she was scared, so very scared that it wouldn’t be enough.
Lucy barely ate, Buffy barely spoke, Susan spoke too much and Caspian and Edmund both ate with the grim determination of men waiting to die.
All Peter wanted to do was scream. They were outnumbered, outflanked, tired, exhausted and desperate for a sign that just didn’t want to come. Buffy’s hand kept finding his and clutching it tightly enough to hurt, but her gaze, when he managed to meet it, was vacant.
The damage was done, she’d said. Now she was getting ready for the pain that would inevitably follow. And while he might have still had the energy to yell at her the night before, now he could feel himself teetering on the brink of her abyss, waiting to follow her down. Before last night, what he felt for her had been wild infatuation born from circumstance and desire.
Now it was a thing with teeth and claws, digging into his middle, pulling, pulling downwards. And he wasn’t sure he wanted to fight it.
Eventually the sun rose beyond the false comfort of the dark How and it was time to get ready. For Susan and Lucy to ride out seeking Aslan and for Peter and the rest of them to face the enemy before them, in all his merciless glory.
By some silent signal, all six of them stood and started gearing up. Lucy tugged Buffy to the side once more as she had the day before, and pulled from her ancient chest the leather and chainmail armour she had once worn to battle. It was far too big for her now, describing the contours of a woman that did not exist except in the heads of four siblings and a lion.
Buffy hesitated because they all knew she did not need the armour. It would slow her down, hinder her movements. But she accepted the gift for what it was, a symbol from Lucy, smallest of the Pevensies. A symbol saying hello and in the same breath, goodbye.
One way or another, their time together was coming to an end and they could all feel it. Buffy let Lucy and Susan help her put on the chainmail dress, followed by the leather corset moulded to grown up Lucy’s chest and stomach. It fit, mostly. Next came the reddish belt, empty without any sheaths tied to it. Buffy’s swords had been left behind at the castle during the raid and she had since borrowed weapons every time she left the How.
“I’m my own weapon,” she told everyone who asked about it, but Peter remembered her longing looks when Lucy practiced with her dagger and now was his time. He dug around his pack for a moment before pulling out a clanking bundle and walking over to her.
“You need proper weapons,” he said, holding it out to her, “Trumpkin helped gather and sharpen them, but I’m afraid they don’t quite match.”
With a confused look, she accepted the present, looking around and finding only knowing faces. Everyone else in the room had, at one point or another, added to Peter’s collection. She knelt to unwind the bundle, revealing what lay inside.
A dozen gleaming daggers of varying sizes, all sharp as razor blades, only two of them belonging together. The rest had been cobbled together from their weapon stores and raids, gathered ever since Peter had found out that Buffy’s weapons of choice were daggers rather than swords. In the beginning it had only been a vague notion of wanting to see what she could do with weapons she actually liked
, but it had turned into a mission quickly enough. Something to give her. A symbol, like Lucy’s armour.
Buffy stroked every single one of the blades carefully, weighing them in her hands, testing their balance. A few of the smaller ones she threw, deftly catching them again. She did not speak. Then she stood abruptly, shoving the bundle at Lucy, who held it and watched a bit dumbfounded, like the rest of them, as the blonde grabbed the daggers and one by one, made them disappear on her body.
They went into her boots, her belt, her sleeves, down her dress, into her skirts and one particularly thin and long one, into her hair. Within a minute, a dozen daggers were gone without the slightest trace, leaving her looking as unarmed as before.
Then Buffy grabbed Peter by the collar of his armour, stood on tiptoes and kissed him until they were both short on air. “Thank you,” she whispered into his mouth before releasing him.
Susan and Lucy giggled. Edmund whistled, tentatively copied by Caspian. Peter pulled Buffy close by the wait and kissed her again, laughing.
Aslan knew, they needed it.
There was a semi-awkward moment when Caspian and Buffy suddenly found themselves outside a huddle of bodies as the siblings hugged each other tightly. For a minute it seemed they would stay like that forever, four sets of arms wound around the others, never to be parted.
Then they all let go and Susan started fussing over armour that didn’t sit properly and hair that obscured Lucy’s sight. Edmund and Peter exchanged some last minute warnings and directions and then Peter suddenly grabbed his younger brother by the neck and reeled him in to press a kiss to his forehead. The blessing of the High King, as precious and powerful as it had been thirteen hundred years ago. A silent declaration of love.
When the High King released his little brother, Ed pulled Lucy close and they hugged again, squeezing the other too tightly for comfort while Peter cupped Susan’s face and kissed her, too, on the forehead. He let her go into Edmund’s arms and bestowed one last kiss on Lucy while Ed brushed Susan’s hair behind her ears and grinned at her as only little brothers could.
“No goodbyes,” he said, echoed first by his older sister and then his other two siblings.
It was a ritual that had become a goodbye in itself and it was obvious that they had repeated it many, many times before parting to go headfirst into danger. Before the Golden Age, Caspian heard the Professor’s voice whisper in his ear, there had been an age of war. And those four had survived it.
The last part of the ritual came when Peter and Edmund clasped hands, warrior style and hugged again, tighter, harder, closer than any hugs before. It was the not-goodbye of men who knew the confusion of a battlefield and how easy it was to lose sight of a loved one there.
Then they all straightened and by some silent signs, split, Susan and Lucy heading toward the horse Caspian had prepared, the boys heading toward the front of the How.
To victory or death.
Caspian and Buffy, having watched it all, exchanged brief nods before, with a sigh and a roll of her eyes, Buffy flung her arms around the Prince and hugged him briefly but tightly. “I didn’t look after you for ten years so you could get killed now, got it buster?” she demanded.
And while Caspian had no idea what a buster was, he felt something warm and annoying tickle the insides of his chest and nodded quickly. Then he jogged after the girls.
He was almost out of earshot when he heard his protector call, “And Caspian? Remember the first rule.”
“What is that rule?” he called back, stopping.
Half an hour later, Caspian sat, well hidden, on one of the upper levels of the How, watching the forest where the two Queens had disappeared, still clutching Susan’s horn in both hands.
Because he might need her again, she’d said as she pushed it into his hands. He might not have been very well versed in the ways of the world, but he knew her promise for what it was. She intended to come back, for that horn at the very least. And until then, she trusted him to keep it safe.
And he knew he would, no matter how much it made him seem like a love sick teenager instead the monarch he was supposed to be. Lucy’s daisy crown had taught him that if nothing else: There was no shame in being yourself. A crown, made of gold or made of flowers, was still a crown, no matter what others thought.
He startled a bit as Buffy joined him suddenly, dropping down next to him soundlessly. One day he would ask how she did that. One day, he would ask her many, many things and then he would ask her again, if perhaps, she would consent to being his sister. He wanted her to be.
Not in the way he had wished for before, this stupid, childish fixation he had dreamed up when he had thought her dead, but something real. Something not based on half imagined childhood memories but reality. As equals. As people
As much as he loved the Professor, the man’s stories had instilled in Caspian the notion that people adhered to stereotypes and roles. That everyone he met was a character from some grand tale. But Peter was not a benevolent king of golden glory and Edmund was not always wise and collected. Susan could be anything but gentle if she wanted and Lucy was much more than valiant. Buffy, too, was not like he had wanted her to be. She was not some glorious saviour. She was a person. A good person. Someone he wanted to call friend, even family. And the first step toward that was, “I am sorry for that day in the woods.”
The day he had called her a foot soldier and told her off for trying to give him advice, thinking himself above and beyond her. Stupid, stupid child. Pride, humility, crowns made of flowers.
She patted him on the shoulder and offered, “You’re forgiven.”
Then she tensed suddenly, eyes fixing on something he could not quite make out. “Damn,” she snarled. “You better get us some horses right now
He didn’t ask. He didn’t hesitate. He just ran, knowing that somehow, someone had spotted the girls and was going after them.
“Ed?” Peter asked hesitantly, his helmet in his hand, standing just inside the How.
“Peter?” Ed returned in exactly the same tone, waiting, patient. Always there.
“I…,” how did he say sorry for pushing away the one person he knew he could rely on always? How did he say thank you for having my back when I didn’t want you there? How did he say I love you more than anything when he had been so cruel? How did he make up for all the stupid fights, the yelling, the cursing, the ignoring Edmund, his brother, his fellow king, confidante, friend, pillar and support?
Because Edmund knew and always had.
He pulled his brother around by his shoulder guard and bowed, formally, speaking words that were long forgotten in this age. “By heart, by sword, by crown.”
Brother. Soldier. King. Everything he was, belonged to Edmund. Everything Edmund was, belonged to him. He couldn’t remember which one of them had come up with the words, had poured enough meaning into them to mean everything that they would never quite say. But he knew what they meant, those words.
Edmund smiled a trembling, tremendous smile and returned the bow. “By heart, by sword, by crown.”
Brother. Soldier. King. And a bond that had been forged in fire and ice, quite literally, never to be broken.
Both kings straightened and unconsciously, so did all those around them. Until Edmund drawled, “Now put on that helmet or I’ll do it for you, Pete.”
Miraz eyed the gathered Narnians with something akin to apprehension. Minotaurs. Centaurs. Satyrs. Griffins. Drwarves. Talking animals. And amongst them all, like a beacon, that blasted boy in red and gold, shining brightly in the sunlight.
Glozelle stood next to him, composed and silent as always, scanning the enemy forces, unmoved by anything happening around him. The King felt the urge to throttle his General for seeming so utterly unfazed by these things they would be fighting soon.
That, however, wouldn’t do, so instead he pushed a crossbow at the other man and growled, “If it should appear to be going poorly…”
Glozelle’s glacial gaze fixed on his lord’s face and he nodded. “Understood, my Lord.”
Drawing his sword, the king stepped forward.
The weight of his sword, the copper smell of his helmet, the sluggish movement of chainmail along his limbs, Peter remembered it all. Remembered it and took strength from it. He had fought the White Witch. He had destroyed the werewolves, chased the pirates out of Narnia. He was the Magnificent, the burning, the deadly, golden terror. High King of Narnia. His head might have been confused, these past months, but his body had never quite forgotten. And now, after he’d finally stopped trying to figure things out and remembered what it was to have faith, to believe
and let things go their way, it all came rushing back.
He sent his little brother a brilliant smile that went mostly unseen under the visor and hefted his sword before stepping into the chosen arena and facing Miraz.
Buffy was ahead of Caspian, her slighter weight and better horse giving her the advantage as they raced to catch up with the Telmarines before they caught up with the girls and brought them down.
He almost froze in fear as the soldiers suddenly split into two groups, the smaller one galloping on, the bigger one veering slightly to the right. Susan and Lucy had split for some reason and that meant that one of them was on the ground, horseless.
His call of, “Go on!” was entirely unneeded as his blonde companion made no move to slow down, chasing the smaller group for all she was worth. Caspian followed the larger group into a small clearing, ducking wildly as an arrow came shooting past him, gold tipped and red feathered. Susan’s arrow. That meant she was alive still.
He pushed his horse faster, drew his sword and hit the clearing in a full gallop, using the flat of his blade to slam a Telmarine off his horse a split second before the man beheaded Susan.
For a moment prince and queen stared at each other, speechless through surprise and adrenaline, not quite sure what just happened. Then Caspian asked cheekily, “Are you sure you won’t be needing that horn after all?”
Susan, in the process of putting away an unused arrow, stuck her tongue out at him and then accepted his hand, pulling her onto his horse.
Deeper in the forest, Lucy was crouched low on her horse, riding faster than she ever had in her life and still not managing to get rid of her pursuers. Three men, one on either side of her, one behind, all with crossbows and showing no signs of tiring of the chase.
At this rate, she would be dead before she got even close to Aslan. And of course, because she was too small to properly use one, no-one had thought to give her a bow to defend herself. Her only weapon was her dagger and if she used that, there would still be two more coming at her while she was unarmed.
Aslan, she hated being small!
Suddenly a choked scream sounded behind her, followed by the unmistakable sound of a horse going down. Lucy steered her horse around a fallen tree and risked a look behind her, almost sobbing in relief when she saw Buffy, a dagger in each hand, aiming for the two remaining soldiers, an expression of fury on her face.
She threw the first blade and the one on Lucy’s left went down without a sound, dagger buried to the hilt in his neck. The last one ducked and put some distance between himself and the girls, making him harder to hit through the trees.
He was so intent on escaping the crazy blonde with the knives, that he never heard the rustle of footfalls on leaves, never noticed the shadow above him until the lion was on him, teeth in his throat, paws on his chest, ending his life in a flood of blood.
Lucy, rearing back in surprise at the sudden attack, tumbled off her panicking horse and landed hard on her butt, wheezing as Buffy came to a halt beside her, dismounting and immediately standing between the queen and lion.
The cat let go of the dead soldier, standing proud and tall, his gaze fixed on the two humans a few feet away. Buffy fell into a fighting stance as Lucy yelled, “Aslan!” and threw herself at the lion without reserve, hugging him for all she was worth.
The lion laughed and let himself be bowled over by the twelve-year-old, carefully steadying her with his paws, claws retracted.
Beyond Lucy, Buffy froze, her expression of worry melting into a mask of icy disdain.
“So you’re the great
Aslan,” she observed, voice like broken glass.
Duck, swing, parry, block, it was a familiar dance, a known thing. Jarred muscles, aching joints, limbs like lead and sweat dripping in his eyes, those were familiar, too.
A flurry of motion then, blades bright in the sunlight, screams from both sides, a tumble. Peter fell and rolled, scrambling for Rhindon. A foot came down on his shield, twisting his arm, dislocating his shoulder with an inaudible pop and audible pain. He bit back a scream, screwed his eyes shut, waited for the lightning stroke of agony to pass.
When it did, he rolled again, away from the sword coming for his neck like an axe. He gathered his arm close, trying to ignore the throbbing ache and stood, reaching for his sword and this time, finding it.
Another flurry of strikes and counter strikes and Miraz tripped, finally faltering when he had seemed as indomitable as the Witch before.
Panting hard he looked up at Peter and asked, mockingly and out of breath, “Does his highness need a respite?”
Pretending to consider, Peter almost melted with relief. It looked like Buffy wouldn’t get to yell at him for being an idiot after all. He was
going to die today.