"Over the realm of Calormen, brother, where the High King awaits for word of the enemy's plans and his second-in-command to join his side in his campaign. You would have to travel swiftly. I have selected five of our trusted and strongest men to join you ... and in no offence to the Old Narnians, only former Telmarines. You are to be in disguise as a young lord of Narnia instead of king as it is dangerous without our army and away from the borders of Narnia."
"Just... men? Why is that, Caspian?"
"It saddens me that Narnia is still the only place where talking beasts are acceptable, and away from Aslan's light, they are thought of as magical and unnatural. And magic to these strange lands are feared. Refrain from mentioning anything magical within those lands."
"Pity. Well, I will be ready in a few ticks-"
"I am going too, brother!"
"Su? Why ever for?"
"Peter needs a captain for his archers and I am capable of it."
"I am in no doubt about your talent, dear sister, but this is dangerous. We are going into a territory we barely know of even more than what lies past the Lone Islands."
"Our High Kings needs me, I think, even if he is too chivalrous to say so."
"Oh alright. Just make sure you tell Lucy before she throws a fit at being left out."
They thought that it was just another day in Camelot, right in the late season of spring where the chilled air still held a scent of flowers but with the warmth of summer making quick and short appearance carried by the strong breezes of Albion. Arthur, crown prince of Camelot, was out on patrol with a group his knights in the woods a few miles off of one of the villages at the outskirts of Camelot's boundaries when the attack happened.
It wasn't an attack per se, more of a stumble into the Camelot police that Arthur thought it was an ambush before he saw that what bounded between the trees and crashed in front of his crew were giant dogs, silvery white with smatters of grey and black in their unkempt and dirty but glorious fur. The dogs - wolves, Arthur realised with surprise that they would encounter such creatures in the woodland rather than in the higher altitudes of Albion - looked at them shockingly in an assessing nature rather than weariness that wild animals usually sport, when one of Arthur's guards drew out a bow and arrow from his pack. At that, the wolves set their teeth in a gutteral warning growl which in turn scared the horses into a frantic mess.
Arthur gritted his teeth as he tried to reign in his steed while trying to grab a hold of his sword on his side and he was certain the creatures knew what he was trying to do when one of them lunged at him at a speed he barely knew a creature that big was capable of doing , toppling him unceremoniously off of his horse before he could do more than dodge the sharp teeth aimed at his neck.
What came next was chaotic where Arthur tried his best to fight off the ferocious beast, his men doing the same with the other wolves, while dodging the skittish horses that they have not been able to push away from the melee. It was of no surprise that while minding the beast that attacked him, one of the horses crashed into the prince, knocking the young man to his knees. A little disoriented, he was just getting his proper grip back around his sword after that tumble when he found himself face to face with the fierce countenance of the wolf.
The moment that Arthur backpeddled away from the beast with his sword up in defence, the wolf made to lunge at him again but before it could even bring its hind legs off the ground, it came crashing down in an impressive way that Arthur could swear that the gound beneath him shook a little.
Imbedded in the wolf's back was a pair of arrows, red feather's shiny even in the forest light. But it took more than a few arrows to fall a beast that size because not long after the wolf was shakily but determinedly picking itself up. Arthur was so intent on the wild dog that he failed to notice the quick blur of motion behind the creature and in two winks, the head of the wolf came rolling on the ground in front of him, detached from its furry body.
When Arthur looked up, it was a young boy who was his rescuer and when the youth held out his hand to help him up, Arthur accepted, feeling more astounded by the boy's age that he has forgotten to feel slighted that someone years younger than himself saved him from probable death. The boy nearly staggered though, by Arthur's weight that the prince quickly held the boy to balance him, feeling the shift of wiry strength underneath the leather jerkin with pauldrons that the boy was wearing over his blue gray tunic.
The boy came with his own group of fighters, it seemed, because suddenly the human numbers was more than adequate to dispatch the other beasts from further injury to the men. But just as they thought that it has ended, one of the wolves jumped up from its defeated sprawl to quickly escape and the boy cried out, "Susan!"
A red feathered arrow flew towards the wolf and lodged itself into its neck, sending the already injured beast to its death.
Arthur looked back and saw a girl sitting calmly on her horse already cocking another arrow on her bow in preparation for any unexpected come-back.
"Yeah, thanks Su," the boy replied and the girl relaxed her grip, looking finally at the boy and Arthur.
"Are they dead?" the boy asked.
"Yes my Lord," one of the strange men announced.
"Alright?" the boy said, and it took a while before Arthur realised that the boy was adressing him.
"What? Oh yes..." Arthur replied, confused by the strangers' odd speech but understanding the meaning just the same. "You have my gratitude. It is strange to have wolves roam the woodlands, especially at this time of year. The villages will have to be warned..."
The boy blinked as he sheathed his sword into the scabbard hanging by his side. "Oh, they aren't from around here. We followed them from Narnia and I think we've gotten all of them before they reached their pack but you are right to be worried. Wolves don't normally attack people unless forced but in this case, wolves from Narnia attack when their master tells them to. Quite vicious, I'd say."
"Where we are from," the boy said distractedly as one of foreign fighters, dressed in a simple but more elaborate protective clothing of darker colour from the boy, brought forward a horse for the boy to look over.
"And you are?"
The boy looked at Arthur before breaking into a grin. "Oh sorry, where are my manners. It's Edmund, of Narnia. And this is my sister, Susan."
The girl jumped off of the horse and instead of curtseying like most female folk do when in the presence of a crown prince, she gave Arthur a slight bow in acknowledgement that seemed so regal that Arthur felt compelled to bow respectfully back in return.
"And I am Arthur, prince of Camelot." As he expected it did not take long for a look recognition to appear in their faces.
"Arthur of Camelot? Cor! In the flesh!" Edmund exclaimed, looking at Arthur in wonder.
"Oh do behave, Edmund," chastised the young girl, before turning towards Arthur with a smile. "It is a pleasure to meet your acquaintance, your highness. It is deeply regretful to have met your honour in such calamity."
After the uninhibited way of Edmund's common speech, Arthur was a bit taken aback when the boy's sister adressed him in a more genteel manner.
"It is of no loss, my lady. Especially when your brother and your courageous self saved us from these wild beasts. Although vicious, they are magnificent and I'd gather would make good hunting sport in different circumstances," said Arthur as he turned to look at the furry corpses that his men were busy looking over. The prince was half thinking of bringing one to show to his father, but now that the creatures were dead, it looked like other ordinary wolves one could find in the higher lands of Albion rather than the dangerous beast Arthur was nearly mauled by.
But Arthur's attention was quickly brought back towards the siblings when one of the Narnian fighters spoke up, bearing one of his companions who was leaning heavily on his shoulder. "Lord Edmund, Passarids is injured. It would be best that we find a place to heal his wounds before we set off any further."
Edmund's expression took on a grim countenance at his man's wound. "What I wouldn't do for Lucy's cordial."
At his sister's warning prompt, Edmund turned towards Arthur in surprise before smiling sheepishly. "Right."
To Arthur he asked, "Your highness, forgive us our presumptiousness if we ask that we be given directions to the nearest town with medicine and lodgings for our humble selves and our good men."
Arthur gave Edmund a piercing look before he said decisively. "The best medicine you will receive from our royal physician and while your man mends himself, you and your sister will stay in our castle as guests of the King, my father and myself. Your men will stay in the garrisson with our soldiers."
Edmund and Susan looked at each other for a long moment before Edmund finally spoke up. "We are humbled by your graciousness, your highness. But we would not want to be of any trouble..."
"Nonesense," Arthur said dismissively, "You fought the beasts for our safety and to assist in your recuperation is a show of our gratitude. Besides," and this the prince smiled at them charmingly, "after watching your sword fight, Edmund, I would be pleased if we have a proper spar and I know of a lady who would be happy to meet another of a talent in battle."
Edmund laughed while Susan smiled in indulgence. "Boys."
The King regarded the young siblings standing in the throne room with a speculative look that Edmund had to restrain himself to not fidget. His vast experience of attending royal audiences in Narnia was warring with his memories of standing in front of the headmaster in England during one of his less favourable moments of teenage missteps that he was grateful for the calming presence of his older sister beside him.
"Narnia? I have not heard of a place with that name," the King said, his gravelly voice cutting clear in the hall that he might as well be booming his words out loud. Edmund mentally winced, headmaster material.
"Narnia is east of Camelot, Your Majesty," Edmund explained, "We share the shores of the Eastern Ocean with Archenland and Calormen."
The man sat up a bit straighter at that. "That is leagues away from here. I heard that a Lord named Miraz reigns in those lands by proxy of his brother, Caspian IX."
"More of treachery than reigning by proxy, your majesty," Edmund said, "Narnia was at war when Miraz with-held the dominion from its rightful heir, Caspian X. King Caspian X waged war with assistance from the old allies of Narnia and Miraz was defeated, and by the grace of the King, Miraz's family and loyal men were given amnesty to renew their lives in the lands across the South Seas."
The King flicked his fingers to someone sitting to his left and the person - an old man with white balding hair and smartly cut pale beard, Edmund saw - nodded. The sound of the man's quill scratching quickly against rough parchment gave a hint that the man was probably an archivist not unlike the faun that the Court at Cair Paravel has employed to do records on important matters of the state.
"And why are you so far away from Narnia? When your guardians are only a few armed men to guard you and your sister in this perilous journey," the King asked, curious.
"Narnia is under attack, your majesty," Edmund replied unhesitatingly, "from the east, and it has taken all of the Kingdom's forces and assistance from Archenland to protect the shores of Narnia. Under orders of my brother, who guards our estate, that I take my sister to safety towards the west where she will be looked after by our distant cousins. After Susan is settled will I then travel back to assist whatever I can to protect the Kingdom."
The man on the throne seemed to sink all the information in before he gave a nod towards Edmund. "My condolences for your Kingdom's plight. It is admirable that ones so young have managed to keep a clear head in the face of danger and by what my son has told me, abilities to fend of threats and save lives. You, your sister and your men are welcome to stay here to gather your health and spirits before continuing on your journey."
Edmund and Susan bowed. "You Majesty, it is an honour."
After the two siblings have left the throne room, Uther turned towards his son and asked, "It is without a doubt that those two children are of noble blood. They carry themselves far too well for a commoner. What of their men? Their weaponry?"
"Their guards act like honoured men rather than soldiers for hire with deference they show to Edmund and Susan. The brother and sister must have come from a family of honour at least if not of noble blood. The girl has an impressive if not an archaic looking bow and the boy carries his sword with a skill I'd be pleased my knights to have."
"Hmmm." King Uther mused, rubbing his chin. "Let them rest and tomorrow night, invite them to dine with us. I am interested in what else those two can tell us of their kingdom of Narnia."
Arthur bowed. "Yes, father."
Ector gave an amused sneer as he watched the young boy tighten his leather vembraces while their prince picked up one of the two swords the prince's manservant were holding up for his choosing. The prince has forgone his armour pieces, leaving himself with only a chainmail over his Camelot colours. "Is this a child's training period or a fight? That's just a boy!"
"That boy can hold a sword and detach an animal's head in one swing, that I saw," Gareth told him, scratching the skin under the itchy bandage that is wrapped around his wrist. He was there with Arthur in the woods and has gotten scratched by one of the wolves in the attack. "Let's see if he can do more than that."
The leather of the gloves creaked as the hands gripped the hilt of the sword tighter, arms hitching up in position as the fighter faced his opponent. The person in front of him reciprocated the movement by unsheathing his own sword, the sound of steel rasp cuttingly in the suddenly heavy atmosphere. Almost at once the opponent lunged forward, his sword slashing in an arc from one side the the other to clang against his rival's sword with a jarring note. Both fighters held their ground and almost by agreement both pushed back to regain their control in the training arena.
The next few minutes had both fighters trying to score some hits on the other but it was evident that while the taller fighter was stronger and quicker in motion, the shorter one was cleverer and quicker in his thoughts. Arthur felt as if the boy seemed to know what he was going to do, anticipated it and strategised for his next plan of action the same moment it took for Arthur to bring down his sword to meet the boy's own.
Edmund gave Arthur a grinning grimace as he pushed the prince away again before they began again, their swords clashing and swinging in a beautiful form of fight and finesse that had the onlookers marvel at the sight. Somehow - Arthur had to mentally kick himself for his careless - Edmund found an opening and the flat of his sword managed to hit Arthur's side with calculated strength and precision that had the prince staggering, winded. But Arthur was nothing if not a trained warrior when as Edmund stepped forward to claim his victory, Arthur brought his hand up, grabbing the boy by the front of his jerkin and bringing Edmund down onto the ground on his back so hard that the boy had no time to do anything more than stare dazedly up at the prince who had the tip of his sword trained on his chest.
Arthur chest rose up and down rapidly in exertion, saying to the boy, "Do you yield?"
"I yield," the boy asquiesced, grabbing hold when the prince offered his hand and Arthur pulled the boy up, the both of them grinning at each other. Edmund then sheathed his sword while Arthur's manservant ran forward to take Arthur's sword for keeping.
Arthur clapped Edmund on the back and exclaimed, "That was well done, Edmund! Tell me, how long have you fought with the sword?"
"As soon as I was able to lift one," Edmund replied after a moment, thinking back on his first lesson with Peter not long before their first battle at Beruna more than a thousand years ago. And has been swinging his sword in every battle and minor skirmish in Narnia ever since then, fighting side by side with Peter, the centaurs, the dwarves and other brave Narnian creatures.
"It is of no wonder," Arthur remarked, "You are experienced, that I can tell."
Edmund was murmuring a humble reply when suddenly he saw Susan together with a beautiful woman with white alabaster skin, the woman's pale cheeks flushed with activity and her dark ebony hair weaved in a plait. The two were standing behind the safety of the fence of the training ground, apparently having been watching their fight and waiting to be acknowledged.
"Ladies," Arthur greeted, as soon and he and Edmund reached the two young women.
"Your Highness," Susan replied, giving him that small regal bow again, before turning to her brother, "Good fight, Ed?"
"That I had, sister," Edmund said good-naturedly and then looking at the lady beside Susan in question.
"Ah, yes, this is Lady Morgana Le Fay, ward to the King," Arthur said by introduction, before mumbling under his breath, "And sometime a pain in the-"
The glare Morgana sent his way cut him off abruptly. They rolled their eyes at each other before Morgana turned towards Edmund with a smile. "The match was an exciting display of skill though hardly fair. If you were of Arthur's build, it would have been a more interesting bout."
"A giant can be felled by a single well-aimed rock, my Lady. I am still at a fault that I have not yet able to perfect my aim."
Morgana nodded, pleased. "Such wise and humble words, young Lord."
"And how did you fare at the archery grounds?" Arthur asked.
The brunette tossed her head in playful arrogance. "It was wonderful. Susan taught me a few useful tricks. The bow and arrow will be another weapon that I can best you with."
Arthur scoffed. "The sword - that never happened! Only in your delusions, Morgana."
"I myself am not very much skilled with a sword," Susan butted in before the two could continue sniping at each other. She noted with amusement that they acted so much like siblings that Susan would not be surprised that even if one has the last word, it would just add more fuel to the fire for their next verbal joust.
"Peter, the eldest, is the skilled one between us," Edmund informed them, "You would have a better match with him than I. Although both of us are very near to equal in swordless combat."
"Well, when all that trouble in Narnia is over, you are welcome to bring you brother to Camelot to spar with us," Arthur said with an interested gleam in his eyes. "Very welcome, indeed."
Morgana sighed. "Meanwhile, for the rest of us who are not as mad with sparring as our crown prince, I'm taking Susan for a ride and a sit down on the grass in the afternoon today. The air is not too warm yet and it will freshen our spirits before dinner tonight."
"A picnic?" Arthur said disdainfully.
"Oh, it would be wonderful," said Susan, her eyes alight, "With all the travelling, we haven't had enough moments to enjoy the beauty of the land, even if only for a day. You will be joining us, will you Edmund?"
"If it pleases you, Madam," Edmund replied, with a flourished bow.
Arthur arched an eyebrow while Morgana giggled with delight.
Arthur only came along for the picnic because his new play-mate went. He would rather spend the rest of the afternoon sparring with Edmund just to test what the boy could fight with other than the sword but as it were since they were going on horse-back to the field where Morgana likes to spend her lazy times mostly during the end of spring when the air is not cold but not yet too hot, Arthur made a note to later challenge the boy on a horse-race when it would be time to get back to the castle. Already Arthur could see Edmund and his sister were adept on horse-back riding, their bodies straight, shoulders back and chin up like how he and Morgana were used to be trained when they were younger.
The picnic was an odd affair for Arthur wherein he was more of a spectator than the other man who was busy charming the ladies. From the moment they reached the field, Morgana was already smitten with the boy. It happened when Morgana's skirt was caught in one of the folds of the stirrup and before the woman could fall onto the ground by the twist in her clothes, Edmund was already beside her, catching Morgana by the hip. Edmund was only an inch shorter than the King's ward, and Arthur could fathom that Edmund was feeling the swell of Morgana's bossom against his chest as the boy reached forward to tug the woman's skirt free. When the boy pulled back to let Morgana go, the boy was smiling congenially while Arthur spied a slight blush on Morgana's cheeks.
"Thank you, Edmund," Morgana laughed, a little breathless.
"It is of no trouble, fair lady," Edmund replied, finally letting his hands drop from Morgana's hips to turn around and scan the surroundings, "This is nice."
The field was just a few miles away from Camelot's walls, away from the villages, overlooking green pastures dotted sparsely with rocks and boulders and the vast blue sky overhead. Gwen, Morgana's maidservant and Thomas, Arthur's manservant, set about laying the blanket and food and when they were done, the four nobles sat down, chatting and jesting amiably while eating their picnic meal. They had a lovely time - a good day with good food and among good company - and they realised too soon that they had to get back to the castle to get ready for dinner with the King.
Arthur not only get to challenge Edmund on a horse race but Morgana and Susan as well, the four of them laughing and nearly out of breath when they finally reached the castle gates.
In the dining room, the four young nobles sat with the King - Arthur to Uther's right with Susan beside him, and across the two were Edmund seated to Uther's left and Morgana beside the boy.
The meal was not of the elaborate spread as served in one of Camelot's feasts but the the kitchen have spared nothing to ensure a rich meal for the small and intimate party. While eating dinner, the King made polite inqueries of the time the two young guests have spent in Camelot and they responded with praises of the beauty of the kingdom.
By the end of the meal, Edmund chanced to compliment the King of the kingdom's police protecting the borders from outside attacks with well scheduled patrols and strategic posts of guards. It was in between light-hearted topics during their picnic earlier on that Arthur explained to the siblings how one of the top police force of Albion manage to secure peace for their people as well as their kingdom while the rest could only hope to emulate half of Camelot's military efficiency.
This seemed to perk the King's interest and soon Uther, Arthur and Edmund began discussing the expounding ways in which Camelot or a kingdom in general could further protect their people and their borders from foreign enemies. By that time, wine has already been served and Morgana has forgone her seat to sit next to Susan to chat with the young lady.
"You know as much about border security in theory and practical as most of my seasoned knights," the King commented to Edmund, "Does any of your houshold serve the knighthood in Narnia?"
"My brother, Peter," Edmund explained, "and the rest of us learn from his service, learning to fight with weapons or strategise or both."
"You need to have grown up so quickly," said the King, "What happened to your parents?"
"There was a war... we lost them as soon as we reached Narnia," Edmund replied, the boy allowing his hesitancy to be mistaken for sadness, "Yes, we grew up quickly but we have honourable people who guided, protected and respected us in the kingdom. We are fortunate in that sense."
The King nodded agreeably. "Indeed."
After dinner has ended, the five retired, Arthur escorting Morgana to her chambers while Edmund escorted Susan to hers.
Arthur saw the smile on Morgana's face and doubted that it was his company that put her in a good mood. He said as such.
"You're quite taken with young Edmund, it seems," Arthur also said as they neared the door to Morgana's chambers.
Morgana sniffed. "He is a charming young man - fun, courteous and brave. And strong. I didn't know he could be that fit."
"Didn't you see us spar this morning?" Arthur asked in disbelief before realisation hit him, "Did you fall off your horse on purpose just to touch him inappropriately?"
Morgana smacked him on the shoulder. "I did not!"
"He is too young as to have made you set your designs on him," Arthur said with sardonic arch of an eyebrow.
Morgana sniffed. "He is the most pleasing guest we've ever had recently and I do not have plans to push him in a corner and have my way with him. Besides, he is not that young."
But the blush on Morgana cheeks and the way she averted her eyes sounded her thoughts. Arthur scoffed in response.
"Susan is a lovely girl," Morgana said changing the subject, "I'm surprised you haven't noticed."
"Oh, I noticed," Arthur said non-chalantly before smirking at Morgana, "But unlike you, I don't fawn on children who looks as if they haven't yet been introduced to society. If I do have designs on Susan, I'd have the sense to wait until she's of age. I gathered she would be a beautiful lady by then."
Morgana hummed, no doubt gathering herself how Edmund would look like in three years time.
While Morgana and Arthur had their talk in the corridors outside Morgana's bedroom, the Pevensies had theirs in Susan's chamber.
"What's that, Su?" Edmund pointed to the small jewellery around Susan's neck. "I haven't seen you use that before."
Susan touched her neck and smiled, pleased. "Oh, this is from Lady Morgana. She came over before dinner to give it to me. Says that she has never had a companion that she could spend good time with and that it would please her that I use and keep it as a gift from her."
"You'd think, Arthur and Morgana... well, y'know... like in the books?" Edmund asked his sister as he sprawled on her bed, his feet hanging on the sides.
"I don't know," said Susan truthfully, "If this Camelot is in the same world as Narnia, things can be different here compared to where we're from. Besides, there are many versions to the story of Camelot that some things might just be myths."
"Like Guinever being Morgana's maidservant? And that Merlin, the greatest magician in history, is supposed to be in a kingdom where magic is punishable by death?"
Edmund thought for a moment before pushing himself up on his elbows. "Speaking of which, I've not heard any mention of Merlin."
Susan tapped her finger on her chin. "Maybe he's the reason magic is banned in Camelot. A doddering old fool who made too many mistakes and became an embarassment to the kingdom. Locked up or hidden somewhere from the rest of the people."
"What, like in a rock?"
It was not long after that Passarids, the man who was hurt by the wolves mended well under the royal physician's diligent care. A few days later saw the young guests of Camelot at the castle court yard, about to depart from the kingdom to continue to their journey east.
Edmund and Susan has already had a farewell audience with the King and Uther has wished them luck and a safe journey back. Arthur and Morgana saw them to their horses and after being packed with rations and a promise that they return for a visit when they are able, the Pevensies rode off with their men, their backs disappearing behind the gates of the castle.
As soon as they were a few miles away from the castle, Edmund slowed his horse to a canter to look back at the castle, its flags flying proudly from its turrets like how Narnia colours would look like fluttering from the towers of Cair Paravel.
"By the Lion's Mane," Edmund mused out loud to Susan, "Peter would be beside himself when he finds out we went to Camelot and met Arthur Pendragon."
"Then bear it inside you, brother, until the campaign is won," Susan advised, "Then, maybe, we can return and bring Peter back here with us before we return to Cair Paravel.
Emdund grinned, already imagining how Peter would react as soon as he finds out that he could have a chance to meet and spar with Arthur of Camelot. Turning towards Arlian, one of the commanders of the Narnian army and a knight of the Order of the Lion, Edmund said to him, "Let us be off. We have kept the High King waiting for too long."
"By your grace, Your Majesty," the man said and then the party were off again, galloping further away from Camelot and towards war.