Chapter 1: Captive
It was dark. And cold. That much Edmund could tell. His hands were bound tightly behind him, and his ankles were bound and tied to a post. He could feel wet, cold stones beneath him. The room he was being held in had no windows and smelled of rot and decay. There were no other occupants, just himself, and the only sounds to keep him company was the constant drippings of water from the ceiling hitting the floor and his own ragged breathing. The Just King was surprised to not find himself gagged. Edmund tried to move, but could only hiss in pain as his sore muscles screamed at the attempt. Dejected, he rested his head on the cold stone wall, shuddering at the slimy consistency of the moisture on it, but too exhausted to do anything.
Edmund couldn't quite remember how he got here. He knew that he and Peter had been out hunting while their sisters were taking care of some things back at the castle. Peter had wanted the two of them to go alone, together, spend some time with each other. Edmund remembered that Peter had been trying to tell him something, something important when they were attacked by a group of bandits. if they truly were bandits. It was more likely they were some kind of enemy of Narnia, more humans that lived on the outskirts of the land.
“Oh good, you’re awake,” a voice drawled lazily, capturing the young king’s attention. Three men had entered the room. The speaker appeared to be the oldest, with greying hair and eyes sharp with malice and cunning. His chin jutted out awkwardly. The second was younger, with an almost identical face, a fat nose, coal-black eyes, and black hair hanging in a greasy mop. The third looked to be about Edmund’s age, late teens, and not nearly as excited to be there as the other two men. He stayed behind them, his tousled brown hair hanging in front of his eyes as he bowed his head.
“What do you want?” Edmund said, his voice raspy as it forced its way through his parched through. The two older men laughed. The sound was like metal scraping together, sending shivers down the young king’s spine and making him shudder.
“Information, of course! What else would we want from the likes of you?” the middle man with the greasy hair sneered. Edmund’s heart thudded in his chest, but he still scoffed.
“And what, pray tell, makes you think I’ll tell you anything?” Edmund asked with a small smile. These were bandits, petty thieves. They weren’t worth his time. Edmund’s smug train of thought faded when he saw the evil look in the older man’s eyes.
“You betrayed your family once, *Mio amico, why wouldn’t you do it again? Besides, if you do decide to keep your mouth shut, my son Pietro and I have our ways of forcing it out of you,” he said with a dark chuckle, and Pietro’s smirk widened. Edmund shrunk under their gazes. Both men let out another laugh before Pietro turned to the young man in the corner.
“Matteo, *porta l'ospite Nella sua stanza,” Pietro barked, grabbing the man by the arm and dragging him towards Edmund. Matteo stumbled for a moment before quickly grabbing Edmund, untying his feet and hauling him up off the ground and taking him by the back of the shirt. Edmund cried out in surprise and pain as he was forced from the small room, dragged down a dim, filthy hallway. Edmund fought against the other man’s grip, but he was too weak to even get one hand free. His stomach plummeted. He must have been drugged; his strength had never failed him before. Or perhaps he had just grown weak.
“You will be here for the duration of your stay unless my father or grandfather moves you,” Matteo said emotionlessly as he shoved Edmund into an even smaller, darker room. Edmund’s legs buckled underneath him and he had to hold out his bound hands in front of him to catch himself. Matteo grimaced and he gasped as his left wrist twisted unnaturally and cracked loudly. He groaned and clutched his arms to his chest, sucking in air through his teeth. Matteo hesitated before slamming the door shut, locking it with a resounding clang. Edmund swallowed, his face pale and clammy as his wrist throbbed with pain. He tried not to think about the fact that it probably wouldn’t be the worst thing that would happen to him while he was here. Edmund only prayed that Peter had made it back to the Palace safely.
* * *
Peter stumbled into Cair Paravel, clutching his bleeding side and fighting off the blurriness of his vision. He had to get to Oreius. He couldn’t let himself blackout. He faintly heard the sound of footsteps and shouting, and his sisters’ panicked voices. He looked up groggily, grabbing onto the person closest to him.
“Edmund...they’ve taken Edmund, he’s in danger,” Peter said, his voice slurred as he became more and more dependent on the person he was leaning against to stay upright. The person, who happened to be Mr. Tumnus, half carried and half supported the injured king through the expansive hallways of the palace.
“A search party has already been sent out, your majesty, as soon as you came inside without your brother. Now come, your injuries must be-”
“No!” Peter interrupted the faun, somehow getting out of his grip and stumbling back towards the doors. “If there is a search party I should be with them! Please…” Peter’s voice trailed off and he closed his eyes as a wave of exhaustion hit him. Tumnus was at his side once more, and so were Lucy and Susan, who had stayed quiet when Tumnus had been speaking.
“You won’t be able to help Edmund while you’re in this state, Peter,” Susan said gently, taking her brother by the arm. “Let’s get you to the infirmary. You’re as white as a sheet,” she continued, fussing over him slightly and leading him to the infirmary, a hand on his back and the other holding onto him. Lucy grabbed Peter’s hand for comfort and let him lean against her, still small but strong enough to hold her brother’s weight. As the two Queens led the High King to the palace’s hospital, Tumnus went off to join the search party for the Just King.
“Anything could be happening to him right now,” Peter rasped, gritting his teeth in pain as Susan helped him into the bed the nurses provided for them. “He could be being interrogated, or tortured, or-”
“Shh, it’s alright,” Lucy said soothingly, cupping her brother’s cheek and kissing his forehead. Peter hadn’t even noticed he was crying until Lucy gently wiped his tears away. He closed his eyes and laid back in the bed, his hands shaking slightly as he tried to slow his tears.
“There- There were so many of them, I couldn’t stop them, they just came and grabbed him and they were too strong, I couldn’t fight them,” Peter whimpered, his shoulders shaking as he began to sob. “I lost him again. S-Susan, I lost him again.” Peter was sobbing uncontrollably now, hiding his face with his hands in shame. Both Susan and Lucy sat on the edge of the bed, Susan taking one of Peter’s hands and gripping it tightly while Lucy wrapped her arms around his neck, burying her face in his shoulder.
“It’s not your fault, Peter,” Susan said, her own voice beginning to tremble. “He’s going to be alright. He’s strong; whatever is happening, Edmund will be able to get through it,” she said. Her words did nothing to reassure the distraught king.
“It should’ve been me,” Peter cried out. “Edmund has been through enough in this place! It should’ve been me!” he wailed, soul wrought with torment. Lucy’s eyes filled with tears and she held on to Peter tighter. Susan joined her little sister in embracing their oldest brother, gently stroking his hair. Peter’s body shook his sobs and he cried himself to exhaustion, too weak to even hold on to Lucy’s hands. The two Queens pulled away, letting Peter rest back against the pillows. Hiccuping and taking a shuddering breath, the young man began to speak until a nurse bustled over, carrying his basket of supplies.
“I apologize, your majesties, but I must be alone to inspect the High King. As soon as I am finished you may come back inside,” the dwarf said apologetically, bowing deeply to the two sisters until his beard touched the ground. Lucy kissed Peter’s cheek and Susan gave his hand a reassuring squeeze.
“It’s quite alright, we understand. We’ll be back, Peter,” Susan said. The King simply closed his eyes tiredly and nodded, his face still stained with tears. Susan took her little sister’s hand and led her out of the room, standing outside the door and letting go to fold her arms across her chest.
“Do you think Edmund’s alright?” Lucy asked quietly, looking up at Susan with her sweet, innocent eyes. The Gentle Queen fought back tears, looking away for a moment before turning back to her sister.
“I don’t know, Lucy. We can only hope and pray to Aslan for his safety.” And she left it at that.
*Mio Amico - my friend (Italian)
*porta l'ospite Nella sua stanza - take the guest to his room (Italian)
Chapter 2: It Begins
Edmund was woken up by a harsh kick to the side. He wheezed and curled into a ball from the pain, hands twitching in their bonds as his instincts told him to hold them out protectively. Pietro laughs at the young king’s efforts and grabbed him by the hair, dragging him out of the room. Edmund yelped in pain and tried to twist out of the man’s grip, but that only served to increase his pain. Instead he gained his footing, walking quickly by Pietro’s side rather than being dragged. He knew what was coming. He didn’t need to put himself through more pain or harm than was necessary. Pietro’s father was waiting for them. Edmund was shoved towards him and grabbed like some kind of animal. His bound hands were forced above his head, and looped through a hook that protruded from a wooden beam in the ceiling. Edmund bared his teeth and tried to kick out at the two men, but it was all in vain. All it earned him was a stinging slap to the face and Pietro spitting at him in disgust. When they successfully hung him up, Edmund’s feet dangled a few inches from the floor. He clenched his fists, sucking in a breath as the strain made his already sore muscles begin to ache. His heart raced as Pietro circled him, eyeing him like he was a piece of meat.
“There are a few ways we can do this,” Pietro murmured. Edmund growled as the man came in front of him. He merely chuckled. “You could tell us what we want to know now, and we will let you go. You could also put up a bit of a fight, and we’d use some methods of...persuasion.” His eyes went from Edmund to a table in the corner of the room. Edmund didn’t have the stomach to make himself look. “Or,” Pietro continued, “You can keep your mouth shut and we’ll use you as entertainment for my men until we decide to dispose of your majesty. So what will it be, boy?” His voice dripped with false respect and reason.
“I’m not telling you anything,” Edmund hissed through his teeth, trying to keep the temor out of his voice. Pietro clicked his tongue and sauntered over to the table, taking his time observing its contents before finally picking his first tool. Edmund glanced behind himself and shuddered. Pietro had picked up a Cat ‘o Nine Tails, the kind that had rocks, blades, and other harmful objects knotted to the ends so when someone would strike a person with the whip, it would rip and tear at the skin, causing even more damage and pain.
“Here’s how this is going to work. Daniél will ask you a question. If we don’t like your answer, or if you don’t answer at all, we will use this on you. Each question will be repeated until you answer, and for each unsatisfactory answer or silence a lash will be added. I’m sure you don’t want that,” Pietro said with a smirk. Edmund said his jaw, staring straight ahead, just above Pietro’s father’s head. The older man rubbed his hands together, a wicked smile on his face.
“Let’s begin then, shall we? I’ll start simple, even you should know this. How many troops are located inside if Cair Paravel?” Daniél asked, clasping his hands behind his back and looking up at Edmund. Edmund closed his eyes, taking in deep, shaky breaths. Daniél clucked his tongue, shaking his head in disappointment. “*Iniziamo con dieci. Sembra ragionevole,” Daniél said with a nod to his son. Daniél stepped towards Edmund, grabbing his shirt and pulling a knife from his pocket. The color drained from Edmund’s face but he didn’t flinch, keeping his head down and concentrating on staring at the floor. He would not betray his family again, no matter what it cost him or how simple the questions seemed. They all would have the same consequence. Daniél lifted Edmund’s chin with the blade, digging the tip of the weapon into the young kings throat and making him flinch. The old man smirked, lightly tracing the knife down Edmund’s body and creating a light trail of blood in its wake. He then used to knife to cut off Edmund’s shirt, leaving the boy’s back exposed to Pietro. Wordlessly, Daniél took a strip of the destroyed garment and wrapped it around Edmund’s head as a makeshift blindfold. Edmund’s breathing hitched and he instinctively kicked out at the man in front of him, only to be punched swiftly in the stomach, knocking the air from his lungs.
The first hit came out of nowhere. Edmund shouted, head snapping back as his entire body recoiled away from Pietro. There was a slight pause before Edmund’s back was struck again, the wicked devices tied to the ends of the whip ripping into Edmund’s pale, unmarked back. He tried to breath, but each strike from the whip sent another jolt of pain and Edmund screamed. There was so much pain he lost count. His knuckles were white as he clenched them into fists. He kicked out, trying to hit one of his tormentors, but was met with a harsh slap and another stroke of the whip.
“I will repeat the question again. How many troops are located inside Cair Paravel?” Daniél said, the location of his voice somewhere to Edmund’s right. He bit his lip hard enough to draw blood, his blindness causing his other senses to heighten. He jerked when a hand caressed his cheek; then his chin was grabbed harshly.
“What a stubborn boy you are. It seems like you haven’t learned your lesson,” Pietro purred, his breath brushing against Edmund’s neck and making him shudder. He stayed silent, gritting his teeth and refusing to speak another word. Pietro glared at Edmund and backhanded him, making his head whip to the side. “Foolish boy,” his hissed, snapping the whip against the floor. Edmund’s breathing hitched and he jerked instinctively. Pietro laughed, voice cold and devoid of any real humor. The beatings began again.
Edmund was gasping and shaking with pain, only able to let out a choked, pained whimper every time the whip struck his back. He couldn’t have answered any of their questions at this point even if he wanted to. That didn’t seem to stop the two men, however. They repeated the question over and over, whipping Edmund until his back had become shredded. Even then they didn’t stop. It could have been hours. It could have only been a few minutes.Edmund couldn’t even register their words any more, the edges of his vision swimming and everything sounding like a muffled shout. Each unanswered question led to more strikes from the whip, and Edmund was honestly surprised that he hadn’t lost consciousness.
“I think that’s enough, Pietro. The poor boy can barely keep his eyes open,” Edmund’s interrogator sneered, voice dripping with false sympathy. Edmund’s head hung low, his breathing shallow as his arms shook from the effort of holding all of his body weight. Daniél grabbed Edmund’s wrists, pulling the rope up over the hook before letting go and dropping Edmund to the ground. The boy groaned, a few tears rolling down his face as he curled up into a ball on the floor. They still hadn’t taken his blindfold off. Pietro grabbed Edmund by the hair and dragged him out of the room. Edmund, as pained as he would, could make no sound of protest or fight against the other man. His body was weak from loss of blood and having to dangle in the air with no support for so long. He was thrown to the ground, where he could only assume was his cell, and the blindfold was taken off.
“Matteo will come in a moment to tend to your wounds. Can’t have you dying on us on the first day,” Pietro sneered. He kicked Edmund in the side and spit in his face for good measure before leaving him, locking the door with a resounding clang. Edmund closed his eyes, tears leaking through his clenched eyelids. Oh, Aslan, why was this happening to him? Had the lion finally realized Edmund wasn’t worth it? Had he abandoned him after all? Edmund growled and shook his head rapidly. No. Aslan had not left him. He never would. Edmund could only hope that the great lion would soon come to his aid, or send someone to help him.
“I’m coming in,” Matteo said, opening the door and letting light flood in to the previously darkened room. Edmund squinted and sat up, but then immediately laying down again, his face draining of all color as pain shook him to the core. Matteo quickly knelt by Edmund’s side, who recoiled away from him.
“Stay away from me,” Edmund snapped, his pain and grief aiding him in regaining some of his defiance. Matteo set down the bowl in his hands and put up both hands in the air in a gesture of surrender.
“I am not here to harm you, King Edmund. It is as my father said. I’m here tend to your wounds.” A lump formed in Edmund’s throat as the other boy used his title. It left a bitter taste in his mouth. His tone was not mocking, but Edmund did not believe Matteo saw him for what he truly was. He saw him as his father and grandfather’s plaything. So, Edmund simply gave him a curt nod, carefully turning onto his stomach so his back was exposed. Matteo grimaced at the sight.
“This may hurt. Some of the marks have gone deep to the bone,” Matteo said after a moment of silence. Edmund closed his eyes and swallowed, nodding again. Matteo untied his hands and Edmund rubbed his wrists, casting him a grateful look. “Brace yourself.” Matteo dipped the cloth into the bowl and began to gently dab at the deep whip marks on Edmund’s back. The young king hissed with pain, clenching his jaw and struggling not to move. Matteo cleaned Edmund’s back until the blood was gone from it. The water in the bowl was a dark red from Edmund’s blood.
“Is that all?” Edmund asked. He was exhausted, in pain, and just wanted to get the little amount of sleep his captors would allow him. Matteo hesitated before nodding regretfully, pulling a bottle from his pocket and unscrewing it.
“This will prevent infection, but...it’s going to hurt. A lot,” Matteo said. Edmund took a deep breath.
“Go on then. We both know you don’t actually feel bad about any of this.” Matteo’s eyes blazed and he looked as if he were about to say something, but he kept his mouth shut. He carefully poured the contents of the bottle over Edmund’s back. Edmund gasped, his eyes shot open, and then he cried out in pain. The liquid, whatever it was, let off a foul odor as it reacted with the open wounds on Edmund’s back, eating away at any bacteria but putting the poor boy through excruciating pain in the process. Matteo had to forcefully pin Edmund to the ground so he wouldn’t hurt himself more than he already was. When it was finally over Edmund was breathing heavily, fresh tears of pain in his eyes and falling down his cheeks.
“Now bandages,” Matteo started, but Edmund moved away from him, keeping his eyes trained on the floor. Matteo’s eyes fell. “Please. I sincerely do not wish for any more harm to befall you than necessary. This will help you, and if my father sees the extent of your injuries he will wait until you are interrogated again,” he finished. Edmund scoffed, shaking his head in disbelief.
“You think I’m stupid or something? You don’t care! Why the hell would you? You’re with them. You’re in on this-”
“I want nothing to do with this,” Matteo finally snapped, his eyes blazing. “My grandfather is a fool, and my father a greater fool still. Narnia is a great kingdom that they do not deserve. You and your siblings have made Narnia and the surrounding lands more prosperous than they have been in centuries. I do not want you hurt, nor do I want Narnia to fall into their hands.” His voice was sincere and passionate, and Edmund couldn’t help but feel guilty for his words. After all, what had Matteo really done except tend to him?
“I’m sorry,” Edmund murmured, closing his eyes and resting his cheek against the cool, damp floor below him. “I’ve been unfair. I just...this isn’t exactly my idea of a good time and all,” he said, sounding a bit sheepish. Matteo smiled ever so slightly, getting out gauze and beginning to do Edmund’s bandages. He had to sit up, and his face went white again from the pain.
“Do not apologize, your majesty. You had every right to be angry and skeptical of me. Now you know you do not have an enemy in me,” Matteo replied. Edmund raised an eyebrow, but he said nothing.
“Tell me one thing...Peter. Is he alright? He was in the clearing with me when your father’s men attacked,” Edmund said. He tried to keep his voice calm, but Matteo could hear the panicked edge in his voice. He put a reassuring hand on Edmund’s shoulder.
“Your brother is safe. My father and grandfather only wanted you. I suppose it was meant as a sort of torture for Peter as well...the bond that the two of you share is not exactly a secret,” Matteo said. Edmund relaxed when he heard Peter was safe in Narnia, but his heart ached at the thought of his brother’s suffering at his absence. He knew Peter would blame himself. He always did, for every little thing that went wrong. Something like this...it would tear Peter apart. Matteo seemed to sense Edmund’s distress. He sat beside him, pulling his knees up to his chest and sitting in silence for a moment.
“What do your father and grandfather want? Really? They said they wanted to invade the castle,” Edmund said quietly. He dreaded the answer.
“They want to take over. What else would they want? Their hearts hold nothing but greed and malice towards the citizens of Narnia. This is why you must not tell them anything, no matter what they do to you.” Edmund’s breathing hitched and he clenched his fists, his knuckles turning white. Matteo placed a hand on Edmund’s shoulder, making him flinch in surprise. “Not all hope is lost. Your brother may come after you and you will be rescued.” Edmund’s heart fell.
“Don’t be so sure of that. I may be in danger, but I am not a priority. Peter is the High King. if I am lost, Narnia will not suffer for it.” Matteo’s eyes softened.
“That’s not true. Narnia would be at a great loss without you to help rule,” Matteo said reassuringly. Edmund glanced at him for a moment before looking at the floor again. He stared at the dark, mildew crusted tiles.
“Thanks,” he whispered. Matteo nodded and then got to his feet.
“I must go now. I’ll be back tomorrow morning. Try to get some sleep,” Matteo said, squeezing Edmund’s shoulder and walking out of the cell, the door once again slamming shut. Edmund’s world was once again plunged into darkness.
*iniziamo con dieci. sembra ragionevole (Italian) -Let’s start with ten. That seems reasonable.