nfe_gremlin (nfe_gremlin) wrote in narniaexchange,
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narniaexchange

Fic: The Eye of Man

Title: The Eye of Man
Author: bedlamsbard
Recipient: turkeyish
Rating: PG
Possible Spoilers/Warnings: violence
Summary: He wants this sword. This sword was made for him, and he wants it. Golden Age, post-LWW.

Author’s Notes: Movieverse. Title from William Blake: The roaring of lions, the howling of wolves, the raging of the stormy sea, and the destructive sword, are portions of eternity too great for the eye of man. Thanks to snacky for the lightning-fast beta!

1


“Beautiful,” Edmund says, hefting the sword in one hand. It’s lighter than he would have expected for a dwarf-made sword; the average dwarf has muscles like a minotaur and a disinclination to believe that humans are any different. Like Peter’s Rhindon, this one is a bastard sword, a hand-and-a-halfer, though a little slimmer and slightly shorter. The hilt reminds Edmund a little of a lion’s pelt spread-eagled before a hearth or pinned to a wall, though he doesn’t say so, and the longer he looks at it the more than impression is replaced by the idea of a living thing. The crossbars are the lion’s front legs, ending in paws tipped with tiny diamond claws, and the pommel is the lion’s head, his mane smooth waves of varying shades of gold, teeth bared in a snarl, with little sapphire chips for the eyes. It should be ostentatious, all gold and silver and fluid streaks of bronze and copper for contrast – the handgrip is leather, rough against his palm in the way that Edmund knows means it won’t slip, though he has the rather disturbing impression that he doesn’t want to ask what kind of leather it is. He has the feeling it might come from something that has a face and a voice – or had had a face and a voice, anyway.

After a moment of indulgence, he slides the sword back into the sheath, where someone had gone overboard with the knotwork the Red Dwarves favor, twining up and down the dark red leather of the scabbard in sweeping, sinuous lines of gold, copper, and bronze, gems winking out at odd intervals to catch the torchlight. No matter how hard he looks, Edmund can’t see where any of them actually are, and has to wonder for a moment if they’re actually there, or if it’s all just illusion.

“Beautiful,” he says again, and makes himself offer the sword back to Leferich, the clan chieftain who’d presented it to him proudly. Makes himself, because it’s a wrench; this is really a magnificent sword, fit for a king, and the hilt fits perfectly into Edmund’s hand in a way that the centaur-made sword at his side doesn’t.

“But,” he goes on, “I hate to tell you that Pete already has a sword.”

“Good thing that it wasn’t forged for the High King, then,” Leferich retorts archly. “We made it for you.”

“I already have a sword,” Edmund says automatically, but his fingers twitch on the scabbard of the dwarven sword even as he keeps holding it out steadily to Leferich. There’s the usual thrill of pride he can do even that – swords are heavy, and Edmund can already feel a warning tremor in the muscles of his arms. Susan spends three hours a day holding out her unstrung bow at arm’s length, calmly reciting various rules of manners and the leading politicians of neighboring countries, which makes Edmund feel like an underachiever (especially considering the fact that he’s not even certain that Peter actually sleeps), but he’s getting there. Slowly but surely, he’s getting there, benefits of sword-practice with a weighted wooden sword and more physical exercise than he’s ever had in his entire life.

Leferich nods at the over-long sword on Edmund’s hip. “The centaur sword you have is good enough for an emergency, but there’s nothing better than a dwarf-made weapon for battle. That thing will do you more harm than good right now.”

Edmund lowers the dwarf sword so that he can touch the hilt of the one he’s wearing, palming the familiar silver pommel with a little regret. Leferich’s right. This one is too long and too heavy, awkward for him to use; if he doesn’t have the scabbard sitting in the belt loops just so (and sometimes even then, depending on what shoes he’s wearing), it drags on the floor.

The dwarf chieftain watches him with a triumphant gleam in his one good eye (courtesy of a boggle at the Battle of the Red Plain, which is what they’re calling it now, that or the Defeat of the White Witch. Edmund likes the first one better). “Will you take it then, your majesty?” he asks. “It’s a gift made in good faith, and a bit of a belated coronation present. For if there’s anyone in Narnia who deserves the best sword in the world, it’s you.”

Edmund feels a slight flush heat his cheeks, because he doesn’t think that he did anything particularly brave in the battle, no more than anyone else did, and he did worse beforehand, but a gift is a gift, and it’s rude to refuse. And he wants this sword. This sword was made for him, and he wants it.

“Thank you,” he says, and takes the sword in both hands, drawing it again. There’s a slight wave in the blade where the metal’s been folded over on itself to the strength; the smith had incorporated this into a design Edmund had never noticed before, a faint etching of sea foam that springs into relief when he turns it slightly, catching the torchlight. He thinks there might actually be saltwater Narnians, selkies and mermaids and finfolk, leaping amidst the waves, but it’s impossible to tell with his merely-human eyes. There’s a sudden sweeping thought that even Peter might be jealous, because Rhindon’s a beautiful sword, but it’s nothing like this, but Edmund shoves that idea aside as ungracious for a king, especially when he’s in the good mood the sword has put him in.

“Put it on,” Leferich encourages, and Edmund slips the centaur sword out of the belt loops and replaces it with the dwarven one, shifting it until it hangs in such a way that feels comfortable. When he takes a few steps, it doesn’t drag on the floor.

“It suits you, your majesty,” says the clan chieftain, allowing a slight smile to crack his face beneath the braids of his rust-and-gray beard, with the streak of white running down from the scar on his face, all that remains of the wound that took his eye.

“Thank you,” Edmund says again. Then, a little hesitantly because he’s not entirely certain of dwarven custom, he adds, “Does it have a name?”

“The sword will tell you in time,” says Leferich. “You’ll know.”

2


“Gotten a bit above yourself, have you?” is what Phillip says when he sees the new sword, and Edmund firmly elects to ignore him, since he’s no less a king of Narnia than Peter is – he just happens to not be, well, the High King. Why shouldn’t he have a sword that suits a king?

There are straps on his saddle to carry a sword, or maybe a quiver – he’s not entirely sure, there being no one else in Narnia to use a saddle, and there are a lot of things on the saddle he knows nothing about. (He’s fairly certain that Phillip doesn’t know either, which makes him feel a little better.) Edmund bundles his old sword through them, tugging on the straps until they’re tight enough that he’s certain the sword won’t slip out, because even if the centaur sword with the flared pommel doesn’t suit him, it’s still a good sword, and it’s done good things for him.

It’s a quiet few hours back to Cair Paravel; this part of Narnia is safer than anywhere else – the forests of the west are full of the remainders of the White Witch’s followers, the north is a hotbed of unrest for reasons that may or may not actually have something to do with the White Witch, and the south borders Archenland, which has no concept of national boundary at all and seems to feel that the only thing to do is constantly encroach on Narnia’s territory. Phillip doesn’t speak, just jogs along without protest, occasionally humming a little to himself, and Edmund rests his reins on the pommel of the saddle and regards the brilliant spread of green around him.

Like everything else Edmund’s seen, Narnia takes summer to an extreme, creating a wild riot of wildflowers and greenery that’s been growing like mad ever since the snows melted into flooding. Everything in sight has put on new growth, including the Narnians themselves; Edmund and Phillip pass a herd full of extremely pregnant does and a few very satisfied-looking stags, a rabbit herding her babies along before her, a pair of griffins engaged in a mating dance overhead, and a stream full of naiads splashing each other playfully, who stop their frolicking to call invitations to Edmund that frankly make him blush.

The castle gates stand open, a pair of fauns leaning on their naginata by the walls, and Edmund rides Phillip into the courtyard and dismounts, walking over to the stables so that he can untack him, which Phillip stands for patiently before he goes darting off back through the gates with his tail held high. Edmund heaves the heavy saddle onto a rack and takes his old sword out of the loops, going across another courtyard, this one sunken and walled in pale marble, vines twining their way up and sprouting brilliant purple flowers, to the Royal Wing of the palace.

It’s still mostly empty; Edmund doesn’t see anyone on the way up to his rooms, which he takes to mean that Peter is either trying to micromanage the ruling of Narnia or learning how to turn himself into a killing machine, Susan is trying to keep him from going mad, and Lucy is off with Tumnus or the Beavers or playing with the dryads that live in the groves a few miles from Cair Paravel. Aside from them, there’s no one else that lives in the castle permanently – or there is, rather, it’s just that Edmund never sees said people, and it gives him the disturbing impression that the castle is providing for its new inhabitants all by itself.

This is not helped by the fact that he’s fairly certain he’s seen Peter talking to the walls before, which means that either he’s going crazy or his brother is. He’s fairly certain it’s Peter, since there’s no reason for him to think his brother is talking to the walls. And Peter doesn’t sleep, which probably makes him crazier than he already is.

His rooms have been cleaned sometime in the seven hours he’s been gone, every surface dust-free and gleaming, and Edmund passes through his sitting room into his bedroom, opens the door of his closet, and stuffs his old sword into the very back, where he can hopefully forget about it. There’s something in the sitting room that he thinks may be a weapons rack, but Edmund’s been taking care of his weapons by virtue of leaving them lying around on couches or chests; when he comes back, they’ve usually been cleaned until they shine. This done, he changes from his riding clothes, which smell of horse, into something fresh, and leaves the dirty things on the floor for the castle to take care of. Then he goes to see if there’s anything to eat in the kitchen.

3


It takes Peter the better part of a week to notice the new sword. Susan had noticed it at dinner on the first night, wrinkling up her nose and looking as if she’d been about to say something, but Peter had just given her a faintly bewildered look and asked, “Something wrong with your soup, Su? Here, you can have mine,” and traded bowls before she could say anything. Lucy happens to not actually be in Cair Paravel at the moment; she’s gone to stay with the Beavers for a few weeks, which Edmund had forgotten about until he’d asked and Susan had given him a look of absolutely scorching scorn. It’s not as if Lu hadn’t been talking about it nonstop for the better part of a week, after all.

Edmund has the feeling that Peter might never have actually noticed the new sword if Oreius hadn’t pointed it out. The centaur had looked down his long, horse-like nose at Edmund’s new sword when he’d drawn it to show a faun he knows vaguely from Aslan’s camp – Runis? Rourxis? – and noted, “Adding gold and gems will not make a better weapon or a more-skilled warrior.”

“What?” Peter said blankly, then looked at Edmund and did a double-take. “Where did you get that?”

If they were still in England, Edmund would probably have blamed the fact that Peter hadn’t noticed for a week on his brother being a prima donna blockhead, but in Narnia Peter has the excuse of only sleeping about an hour a night, if that, and Edmund feels generous enough to allow for the fact that Peter is exhausted as well as a prima donna. Possibly still a blockhead, though, since he doesn’t notice the new sword in the same way that he’d never noticed when Edmund came home from school with perfect scores on his math tests or with a trophy from a speech competition. Just a blockhead with more excuses.

Afterwards, though, Peter had come over and asked to see the new sword, and Edmund had stamped down hard on the urge to preen as he unsheathed it and offered it hilt-first to his brother.

“Fancy,” Peter had said, as if his own sword didn’t feature gold and gems and runes of its very own, and hefted it. “Good balance. Little light, though. The harpy leather handgrip is a nice touch; softer than I’d expected, but it feels like it will stay in your hand.”

“Er,” Edmund replied, since he’d expected the leather to come from something that looked less…human. Not that he has any particular sympathy for harpies, but still. That night, he puts the sword on the other side of the room and looks at it steadily, trying to decide if he actually has a problem with the fact that the dwarves had killed a living, sentient being (which he has no particular objection to, having done some of that himself), then skinned it, cured the hide, and slapped it onto a sword hilt. He decides, tentatively, that he doesn’t, but he also realizes that he’s much more comfortable than the olive wood hilt of his old sword, which is smooth enough to be comfortable and rough enough that he’s never lost his grip on it.

4


After the first time he uses his new sword in combat, the blade takes on a faint reddish sheen, the way he’d seen in a few of the dwarven weapons in Aslan’s camp but had never really thought of.

It’s just after twilight, and he’s out riding with Phillip and Oreius’s nephew, a young, earnest centaur named Anaxes. They probably should have been back at Cair Paravel by now – Narnia still isn’t safe after dark – but Edmund is feeling reckless, and after all, he’s a king of Narnia. Who’s going to attack him?

He doesn’t realize until afterwards that “king of Narnia” translates neatly to “target.” Peter, the unlucky bastard, has already survived one assassination attempt, coming away with nothing more than an ugly scar across his stomach thanks to Lucy’s cordial, but Edmund had dismissed that with the thought that he’s Peter, he’s Peter Pevensie and the High King of Narnia, of course someone’s going to want to kill him. Edmund wants to kill Peter himself an average of five times a day, though that’s gone down slightly since they arrived in Narnia. For one thing, he doesn’t see Peter five times a day. He can’t think why anyone would want to kill him, or one of the girls.

But that doesn’t stop them from trying.

There are six of them, a wolf pack, and they come fast and silent from the tall grass at the river’s edge. Phillip screams, striking out with his hooves, and Anaxes does the same, struggling to draw the big sword strapped to his side. The dwarf sword is suddenly in Edmund’s hand as quickly as if it had grown there and he lashes out around him, clinging to Phillip’s sides with his knees and legs.

The attack is over as quickly as it began, only one wolf fleeing off into the night, four of the others dead around them, and Phillip stamps on the injured one. Its bones break with a messy crunching sound and Edmund tumbles off Phillip’s back to be sick in the rushes. Anaxes, bleeding from a cut on his left flank, looks like he’s considering doing the same, but instead he gathers up a handful of the tall grass and cleans the blood off his sword.

When he’s finished retching, wiping the back of his hand over his mouth and spitting out several handfuls of water to clear away the acid taste of vomit, Edmund tries to do the same, but whatever he does, the blood won’t come entirely away from the sword, settling into the grooves of sea foam and giving the blade a pinkish tinge that makes Edmund want to be sick again. He sheathes it anyway, promising to give it a proper going over with oil and a polishing cloth when he gets back to the Cair, and goes to bind up Anaxes’s wound and check Phillip over.

5


Susan, understandably and predictably, panics when they get back to Cair Paravel, and Edmund barely manages to escape her well-meaning clutches and escape to his own rooms, settling down with his hair still damp from a hot bath and a flagon of spiced wine to one hand. Susan doesn’t approve, but then again Susan doesn’t approve of anything, and there’s not much of a kick to this wine anyway. Edmund’s already had his first hangover, after all, and it wasn’t from what the kitchens serve them.

He cleans the sword within an inch of its life, or tries to, anyway, and succeeds in producing nothing except a blade that gleams reddish with good care. The faun-colored polishing cloth doesn’t even have a pink tinge on it, no matter how much Edmund looks. He tosses it aside in disgust and leaves the sword unsheathed on the couch, hoping that whoever cleans his room at night will restore it to its former glory.

6


“That sword’s too small for you,” is the first unprompted comment Peter makes about his sword, when Edmund shows up to practice the next day, disgusted at the fact that his sword is still pink.

He looks at his brother in astonishment. “No, it’s not,” he says. “It’s perfect.”

“It’s too small,” Peter repeats patiently.

Edmund doesn’t see where he’s coming from; Rhindon’s perfect for him, so what would he know about fighting with a sword that’s too big or too small.

“It’s perfect now,” Peter corrects himself after a moment. “But you’re growing, and in about a month or so it’s going to be too small. You’re better off with your old sword; that one has more – more kick to it.” He shrugs a little. “And I like that sword.”

Edmund gapes at him, but Peter’s already turned away to go and do his best to beat a brawny satyr into the ground, which ends precipitously a few minutes later in the satyr sitting on his stomach and telling him everything he’d done wrong before letting him up to try again.

He turns back to his own arms tutor, which turns out to be Oreius today. The centaur regards him solemnly. “The dwarves reach their full growth young,” he notes. “You humans do not. Now,” he continues, “first position, please.”

7


The last thing Edmund wants to do is give Peter an excuse to say, “I told you so,” which he has surprisingly kept from doing over the past few months, but given the fact that Edmund can read it in his eyes every other time he looks at his brother – at least every time that Peter’s also looking back at him, which isn’t very often; more often Peter’s staring out into space or buried nose-deep in a pile of musty old paper – he’s fairly certain Peter won’t actually notice. Susan probably will, but Edmund has a plan that involves avoiding her for the better part of a week, so that by the time they do finally come face to face, it will be too late for her to actually gloat. He hopes.

Besides, it’s just a theory. Maybe Peter is, in fact, wrong, and Edmund will be proven right instead, which is what he’s hoping for when he digs his old sword out of the back of his closet and puts it on his unmade bed next to the new one, eyeing them dubiously. The old one is indisputably shabbier, and just as indisputably a good handspan longer.

Edmund unsheathes them both and puts them down again, studying the plain, undecorated blade of his old sword, the (pink) engraved blade of his new sword, their oh-so-different hilts. After a moment, he picks up the old sword and tries a few passes with it, then does the same with his new sword. They feel different, and Edmund can’t put his finger on what it is exactly, or even if one of them is right or wrong. Maybe there’s no such thing as a right or wrong sword and he really is just going entirely out of his mind. It’s a possibility he’s willing to consider, given all the unbelievable things that have happened to him in just a few short months.

“This is stupid,” he says out loud, because Peter is wrong, and Oreius is wrong, and the dwarf sword was made for him, it’s not just a secondhand weapon that someone shoved at him so that he’d have something to carry into battle. The hilt is battered, a chip taken out of the olive wood up near the pommel, and it needs cleaning; the pommel and crossbars are starting to look a little tarnished. It’s shabby. It’s not fit for a king.

Edmund reaches out with one hand to touch the lion’s head pommel on the dwarf sword, the gold smooth and soft as Aslan’s mane under his fingers, and then the lion’s head twists around and closes its teeth on the tip of his finger.

“Ow!” Edmund jerks his hand back, staring, but the pommel’s nothing but shaped gold again. Just shaped gold. He reaches out, then sees the two drops of blood beading up on his index finger and pulls back, eyeing them dubiously. After a moment, he sticks his finger in his mouth and sucks, and tastes bright iron, sickly sweet. It’s real blood.

“It’s just a sword,” he protests in case Aslan’s listening, and picks up the new sword defiantly. But he’s grown an inch over the past month since he got it and his hand doesn’t quite fit the hilt comfortably anymore. When he tries a few passes, the sword doesn’t hit where he thinks it should.

Edmund tosses it back down onto the bed and picks up the old sword reluctantly. It’s still too big for him, too long and a little awkward, and the wooden hilt is more slippery than the leather handgrip on the new sword. It wasn’t made for him. It’s just a sword.

But it’s the sword he broke the White Witch’s wand with, and if it hadn’t been for this sword, then the dwarves would probably never have forged the new sword in the first place. He runs his thumb thoughtfully down the fuller, cool against his skin, and remembers Oreius taking one of his twin short swords (for a centaur) off his back solemnly and handing it to him. He’d forgotten that this sword was a gift too, and one made in much more desperate circumstances.

Edmund puts it down slowly, arranging it and the new sword next to each other, then switching their positions a dozen times until he can’t remember which one is which. Aslan wants him to choose? He’ll choose.

Edmund closes his eyes and reaches out.

8


Peter doesn’t say, “I told you so.” Instead, a week later, he blinks at Edmund and says, “You’re not compensating for the length of your sword.”

“Who died and made you an expert?” Edmund grumbles, and Peter just grins at him and raises Rhindon in salute before putting down the visor on his practice helm.

Edmund does the same, and strikes.

Original Prompt:
What I want: Edmund-centric - a Golden Age missing moment.
Prompt words/objects/quotes/whatever: A sword.
What I definitely don't want in my fic: Romance, angst
Tags: narnia fic exchange 09
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