Narnia is not to be tamed. She is not to be silenced, she will not bleed to death for us. We belong to her and only to her and Aslan we shall bow. – Sir Peter Wolf’s-Bane, the Magnificent, Emperor of the Lone Islands, Lord of Cair Paravel, Knight of the Most Noble Order of the Lion, High King of Narnia, first of the four Kings and Queens of Old
The Pevensies are terrifying. That is a truth universally acknowledged amongst the men serving in the same unit as Peter Pevensie, who is tall and gangly the way a lot of young men are, who is at home on a battlefield, with grim smiles and fluid movements. He didn’t know how to handle a gun, at first, looked at it with the same confused curiosity that his superiors have seen many times before.
He soon learned.
Quicker than all the others he turned the gun into an extension of his arm, fingers steady and calm, eyes sparkling with excitement. He didn’t get hurt a single time during training, always quicker, more aware than his peers.
Do not pick fights with Peter Pevensie, the soldiers whisper to each other, when they sit amongst each other, drinking beer and ale, telling stories about their superiors. Don’t piss him off, the whole world is a battlefield to that man. Once, another boy teased him about his language, his manner of speaking, how he walks into a room like he expects all conversation to come to a halt. The fight that erupted was brutal, was nothing like the play fights that happen everywhere so the soldiers can blow off steam.
Pevensie broke the boy’s arm, stood behind him with blood dripping from his own broken nose and called him an unknowing, petulant child.
The boy was just as old as Pevensie. But somehow, Pevensie is no boy. He does not grow a proper beard nor does his frame suggest ‘man’. But he speaks, all radiant smiles and charming phrases, talks about war and bloodshed as casually as if he was talking about his plans for dinner. He holds himself as if his years are far greater, commands the attention of a room.
Pevensie is a man.
Pevensie’s brother, like a shadow, with dark hair and the calm demeanor of a man justifying his every word to himself, learns guns much quicker, takes to them like breathing, as if he was coming home after long years of exile in a faraway land. He joins the unit two years later.
When the brothers find out that they were sent to the same unit, they celebrate. They do not go out on their free evenings, do not hug each other the way other brothers would.
Fencing is popular amongst the soldiers. It passes the time, and nobody gets hurt. That is, until the Pevensie brothers fence each other under the gazes of many gawking spectators.
When they pick up the swords, they look deadly, like the weapons they were supposed to be before fire flew over the battlefield. It doesn’t look much like a fight, at first, looks like a choreographed dance – until Pevensie breaks through his brother’s defence and manages to draw blood. This is not a dance, is not entertainment, it is a fight amongst two men who handle their swords with ease, like they fought with tools much like these far more often than with the guns that look foreign in their hands, and odd.
The mass of spectators grows eerily silent the second Pevensie’s little brother starts bleeding. But the man, for he is a man, for all his careful words and deliberate movements, for the way he talks without saying anything at all, cracks a grin and pushes forward. He doesn’t even bother wiping the blood away.
After that, nobody really feels like fencing anymore.
So, the Pevensies are terrifying, one loud, larger than life, commanding the attention of every room he enters, the other quiet and deliberate, always watching with wary dark eyes. They are also the best soldiers the unit has. They are quick and efficient and blood does not scare them the way it should scare men their age. The superiors blame it on the war. The children were sent to the country, they all came back different, wilder.
(They ignore the fact that the Pevensies are not wild. They came back different, came back polite and pleasant and adult. They came back and knew how to make a person believe they are given valuable information when really they weren’t given anything at all. They came back knowing how to wield knives, bows, swords, came back with longing in their eyes that couldn’t be for the country.)
There was a fight once, where in the midst of gunshots and grenades and lethal danger, Pevensie refused to listen to his superior, started arguing and wouldn’t take orders until his brother pushed him to the ground and screamed “This is not Narnia, Pete!”, in a voice much different from his usual quiet, hushed tones. “We aren’t there anymore, stay down or you will get shot!”
And of course, when one of the two most terrifying men of the unit screams at the other and the other listens, and the screaming makes no sense to an outsider, rumours blossom. And with the rumours comes the competition. What is Narnia, and why does it make Edmund Pevensie, of all people, lose his composure?
They never find out. They never hear Edmund curling into himself when the snow starts falling, never hear Peter calm him down with soft words and lullabies none of them can know. They never hear hushed conversations about Lucy, about Susan, about horrible cousin Eustace, about Narnia, about Aslan. They never read Helen Pevensie’s letter to Peter, about how Lucy plays with knives and talks to trees, never see Susan fade away. They never see Peter growing into himself whenever someone calls his name, never see Edmund gag on Turkish delight.
They do see Edmund, in dark corners, in pubs, his hands on young men’s hips, his lips on their necks. They do hear Peter defy his superiors time and time again, see that Edmund grows harder in the winter, and hostile. (They don’t know that the White Witch is still living in his veins, that he still thinks himself a traitor).
The Pevensies are terrifying, they are brothers, are men. And when they die in a train crash in 1949 and the whole unit attends their funeral, they say their condolences to a young woman wearing lipstick the exact shade of fresh blood, with a smile on her lips, wearing a tailored black dress and a pair of patterned nylons. She takes them, eyes fixed on their faces, not shedding a single tear.
The Pevensies are terrifying.
I have loved no woman in my life but Narnia. My devotion to her shall not be diminished, shall not waver until the stars rain down from her heavens and we shall join her once again. – Edmund, the Just, Duke of Lantern Waste, Count of the Western March, Knight of the Noble Order of the Table, King of Narnia, third of the four Kings and Queens of Old