Everything would have been fine had they just come back in a month like they said. Like they had planned. Like they were supposed to.
It had all started when, three weeks into the trip, their horses had nearly ran into the castle with how fast they came back. They came back, noticeably, with no riders. A panic was already starting to rise.
When the news reached him, Edmund was shocked. Then of course, came the disbelief. “Of course they’re not missing,” he said (mostly to himself, Mrs. Beaver, and Philip, his horse), “they’re just not here. But they’re somewhere. We just have to find them.”
And find them he tried. The creatures of Narnia searched everywhere they could, in caves, on mountaintops, in valleys, by rivers, in the treetops.
Four months had passed since they left. Three since they were supposed to return. Nothing had been found, not across all of Narnia.
The queens and High King of Narnia wouldn’t leave without a trace, right? (My siblings wouldn’t leave without a trace, without telling me, without trusting me, right?) So, naturally, foul play was assumed.
Of course, Susan’s horn wasn’t used during the disappearance, but it wasn’t found on her horse, Charlotte, either. Which could mean that they were kidnapped, that someone stole the horn before Susan could use it.
Charlotte (among many others) claimed otherwise; they claimed that she, and the other two horses, would have seen such a thing happening. That a ransom would have been called for at this point.
But Edmund was desperate. He wanted his family back. He was willing to do anything at that point.
That point. Five and a half months after they left. Four and a half months past when they were supposed to come back. The day Mr. Tumnus talks Edmund out of doing something drastic, like declaring war on Telmar on uncertain terms.
He said that he understood what Edmund was going through (Did he though?) but that Edmund was the king (But what did I ever do to deserve that title?) and he needed to step up, understand that they were gone, and bring the country back together again. (But how? I’ve only made it worse. Look at where we are now.)
Now. Six months after they left. Half a year.
They were supposed to be gone for a month it had been half a year where were they.
Narnia was grieving. After months of searching far and wide, throughout Narnia and every surrounding territory, they had found nothing. Three of their rulers had left, for good, and the fourth wasn’t doing much better.
Somewhere in the back of his mind, Edmund knew that he should have been able to rule on his own. He knew he had the strength, he had the kindness, he had the courage, and he definitely had the smarts. He knew that he had grown in the years since his coronation, physically and emotionally.
But he also knew that it wasn’t enough. He wasn’t who his people needed in this time, he wasn’t even who he needed in this time. He wasn’t his siblings, and while he might have been fine alone hypothetically, in practice, he shattered under the weight.
The longer Edmund waited to face his people, the more he feared that they hated him. And the more he feared, the longer he waited. His friends (Can I even call them that? I haven’t talked to them in… Oh, Aslan how long has it been…) would check on him often (or perhaps it wasn’t often at all, he couldn’t quite tell) and make sure he ate. Tried to get him out of bed. Try and get him to understand that his family was gone, and that it was ok.
But something in the back of Edmund’s mind told him that they weren’t gone. He knew that here was a piece he was missing, if only he could concentrate for long enough to fit all the pieces together.
He knew that they had disappeared in the lantern wastes.
He knew that they had walked into a thicket and disappeared without a trace.
This was all he knew for certain.
It was only two tidbits of information, two tidbits that seemed so insignificant at first glance, but there was something about them that seemed so achingly familiar to Edmund. He just couldn’t quite put his finger on it-
The thought hit him like a freight train, breaking down a wall of repressed memories, of a war, of different technology, of a different world, of a professor with a mansion in the countryside, of being a child, of a wardrobe.
How did he not figure it out before? How did he not see? How can he get them back? He hastily put on some clothes and sprinted down to the stables, ignoring everyone as he passed by. He knocked someone over as he ran, but barely noticed as he helped them back up and continued on his way as fast as he could.
Which brings us to today. Exactly one year since they left. Edmund, however, was unaware of the specific date, and was instead focusing on driving Philip as fast as he could through the current thunderstorm and to the Lantern Wastes.
Philip, for one, was not having a good time. By the time he finally reached the Lantern, he was out of breath and soaked to the bone. Edmund sliding off his back and promptly ignoring him was no help.
Philip watched as Edmund looked up at the lantern in awe, watched as he looked at the rain-soaked woods surrounding them and tried to remember everything. After a few too many seconds of this, the horse cleared his throat to try and get the King’s attention.
“If you don’t mind me asking, sire,” he said when Ed finally looked over at him, “but what are we doing here? You never explained at the stables.”
“Oh! I’m sorry about that, Philip. I’m just… checking something.”
“In the middle of a thunderstorm? I’m older than I look, you know.”
“Yes. And I’m sorry, truly. I know you’re tired, I shouldn’t have dragged you out here.”
Philip raised his eyebrows (the best that a horse could raise his eyebrows), but got no response besides a soft smile and nose rub. And then Edmund turned around and walked through the thicket.
As he walked, he paid close attention to the trees around him. Eventually, they started to change, and when he reached out and got a handful of fur instead of fir, Edmund started to run.
But he didn’t run far. Because he quickly found himself on the wet ground, staring up at the roof of the wardrobe and his nose feeling broken. Or, at the very least, smashed. He could feel the blood trickling down from it already.
Edmund sat up and tentatively reached his hand forward until it hit wood. The door of the wardrobe.
It didn’t move.
He pushed harder.
It didn’t move.
He started knocking on the door, crying out. He cried louder and louder until he was practically yelling at the door, punching it as hard as he could.
It didn’t move.
He was crying now, the tears mixing with the blood from his nose. How could he be so close and still so, so far? How could he fail so miserably? His punches became weaker and weaker until he was just resting his forehead against the door and sobbing.
It didn’t move.
Edmund felt someone next to him, someone who reached out and nudged his arm reassuringly. It was Philip.
“What’s this place?”
Edmund sniffled, wiping his face on his sleeve, grateful for the avoidance of the obvious topic at hand. “The wardrobe.”
“Wait, you mean the wardrobe? The one that brought you and the other Pevensies to Narnia?”
“The very same.”
“If, again, you don’t mind me asking, why are we here, sire?”
Ed sighed. So much for the change in topic. “On the other side of the wardrobe is England. Where I’m from -- my siblings, too, of course.” He turned his head to look at Philip, never taking his forehead off of the door. “I think they went back. To England, that is.”
“Oh. Not on purpose, I presume?”
“No, no! Oh, Aslan, I pray not.” Edmund wiped his face on his sleeve again, now taking his forehead off the door and instead leaning his back against it. It still didn’t move. “We… I guess we left the door open a crack when we came here, then forgot about it. And they ended up falling through it, right back to England. To who we were before.” He paused, considering this. “Damn, it must be hell for them, too, being on the other side of this.”
“Must be.” The two of them stood in silence for a minute, before Philip spoke again. “But you never really answered my question, sir. Why are you here?”
“I wanted to find them.”
“But if they’re in England, then h--"
“I was going to go back to England, Philip. If the door was open, I would have gone back and sent you home. And if it wasn’t, I would have sent you home anyways.”
“Sire, I could not leave you here alone.”
“You’ll have to.” Edmund looked over at Philip. “I’m asking you to now.”
“But sir, you’ll die out here if you’re al--"
“Sir. I am not leaving you.” When he got no response, Philip sighed and laid down next to the king. “At least tell me why you won’t come back.”
Edmund looked over at Philip, who looked right back at him, then also sighed and sat next to his horse. “I feel like I’ve betrayed them. Again. By not trying my best to find them as fast as I could, by not going on the fucking hunting trip with them, by -- by -- Aslan’s mane, I’ve even let Narnia down, the whole kingdom, Philip. I was supposed to be a good king! But look at me! I’m… I’m just as bad as a person as I was before I was king, but worse , somehow. Because I’m a different kind of bad, one that lets people down and can’t even make up for it.
“And all of this is bringing back memories of who I was before , and how horrible I was, and I can’t help but compare myself now to who I was then. And it -- it’s all lining up, Philip, I’m just as bad, except now I feel even worse about it. I feel like there’s no choice but to become who I was before, and I know it’s going to happen. Soon. If you’re on the verge of spiraling, well, why not just let it happen, you know?”
“Sir, if I may, I don’t think that’s true at all. And if I may, again, I think we should get out of this wardrobe, the walls here feel like they’re closing in on us.”
“Sure.” Together, they stood up, and Edmund let Philip lead him back to the lantern. The rain had let up, leaving the remaining droplets clinging to the trees, illuminated by the lantern. The rest of the world was dark, isolating the two of them in the sphere of light.
“Sir, as I was saying, what you said back there is not true. You have not betrayed your family, and you do not have to become the person you used to be. You are not a bad person, and if you think you are, there are ways we can work to fix that.” The horse paused, but Edmund didn’t respond, instead focusing on a leaf from the tree he was next to, so Philip continued on, “I don’t know what you’re planning on doing tonight, Edmund, but I implore you to not do it. Come back to the castle with me, please, you can work everything out there.”
“But I don’t want to go back to the castle.” Edmund was still looking away, and, having taken the leaf into his hands, was now picking at it absentmindedly. “I don’t think I can, to be quite honest.”
“Your Majesty, of course you can come back to the castle, it’s your castle--"
“It’s Pete’s castle, really.”
“The point is, sire, that you can go home. You are far more welcome there than you apparently think.”
“But it’s not home, Philip. Not without them.” Edmund had picked the leaf bare, and threw the remains to the ground, staring at them. “I have an idea.”
“Oh? What kind?”
“Probably not a good one.” Ed looked up. “But it’ll let me see them again.”
“How do you mean?”
“I can see that look on your face. I know you’re worried.”
“Of course I am! I care about you.”
“You shouldn’t,” Edmund muttered.
“What was that?”
“I said go home. I’m not going back to the castle, no matter what you say.” Edmund turned around, walking away, apparently done with the conversation.
Edmund paused, but didn’t turn. “Don’t follow me, Philip. I know you’re going to, but please , don’t.” Philip was silent. So Ed just sighed and continued, “Tell the People at Cair Paravel what you will, but I’m not going back there.” There was another pause, a heavy one, before Edmund called back one last “Goodbye” and walked forward. Philip didn’t stop him.
And so Edmund trekked north. He knew how to get to where he was going; it had been years since the directions were given, but it wasn’t exactly something you forgot. When an eerily beautiful, evil witch tells you where she lives, it tends to stick with you.
I took him a full day to get there, with the rain pouring on and off. A full day of wondering if this was the right plan. A full day of wondering whether or not She would do what he wanted. A full day of reassuring himself that this was the only way. It had to be.
The castle was in ruins, the gate crashed down and the towers crumbled. As Edmund walked forward into what was left of the courtyard, he felt ten years old again. So young, so afraid, starting to think that maybe this wasn’t the best idea. He paused, trying to ground himself.
But now, instead of coming here because he never wanted to see his siblings again, he was here because he needed to see them. And nothing was going to stop him from doing so. He wouldn’t rest until he saw them again. He continued on, stopping only when he reached the throne. Despite everything that had happened there, it was still intact. His hand and breath was shaky as he reached out and touched it. His breath fogged around him, the air suddenly growing cold; as his hand made contact with the chair, his finger burned as if it touched a block of ice. He jumped back.
“Son of Adam,” came a deep voice from behind him. Edmund spun around quickly, breaths coming out in short bursts. He could still see them lingering in the air, but the area was starting to warm up. When he saw who it was, he glared.
“What are you doing here?” he hissed.
“I was just about to ask the same of you, Son of Adam,” said Aslan, taking a step forward.
“Stop calling me that.”
“You never answered my question.”
Ed glanced back at the throne, then stared at the Lion. “What does it look like I’m doing?”
“Making a terrible decision.”
“It’s the only choice I have, Aslan.”
“No, it’s most definitely not. You need to go back to Cair Paravel. Narnia will be lost without you.”
“Yeah, well, they’ve been doing pretty fine without you around for a good while now. I don’t see why they’d need someone like me .”
“Your siblings are gone, Edmund, you are the only one left--"
“Yes! I’m quite aware!” Edmund’s shout echoed throughout the ruins, his face twisting to match his tone. “And you know what I just realized? That it was you, yes, you , the one who’s supposed to be the good one, who took them away . I can’t just forget that. I can’t just go back and pretend that I’m a good person, not after this! Pretend that I’m happy to be alive, pretend that I trust, that I -- I love the creature who saved my life twelve years ago, when just last year he ripped my life from my fucking hands -- This is the only choice I have. Trust me.”
“Edmund, you do not know what you are getting yourself into--"
“And have you heard nothing of what I just said?”
“You will see them again. It doesn’t have to be under these circumstances.”
“And it won’t be in this life, either!” Edmund’s voice broke on the last word, tears starting to stream down his face. Aslan, on the other hand, looked frustratingly calm. Frustratingly pitying .
“You were supposed to go with them. It was never meant to be like this .”
Edmund sneered, turning back to the icy throne. “Well, it’s too late now. It is like this, so accept your mistakes like the rest of us. And leave .”
There was no response, and the silence seemed to stretch into eternity. Edmund turned around, only to see that he was alone. Again. He sighed, and after a couple seconds of a final deliberation, sat back onto the throne behind him.
The cold engulfed him, stealing his breath away in shock. Looking out, Ed watched as shards of ice and stone shot out from the chair and floor, continuing until they hit the crumbled walls of the throne room. Only one path was clear in the whole room, one that went straight out from right in front of Edmund. At the end of the path was Her.
The White Witch.
Or, at least, what was left of her.
“Edmund, dear.” Her voice rang like bells as she floated closer to the throne. “You’ve grown quite a bit since I last saw you. And you’ve taken my throne as well, how… darin.” She was close now, close enough for Edmund to feel her breath across his face as she talked. He gulped. She smirked at his reaction, and continued in barely a whisper, “You must have been quite desperate to call on me for help.”
She laughed, never stepping back, always staying close. “And what is this thing that you’re so desperate about?”
“My siblings. They went back to England.”
“So I’ve gathered.” Jadis reached her hand up and started softly petting Edmund’s cheek, only following his face as he shied away from the touch. “Ironic, isn’t it, that when you first came to me you wanted nothing to do with them. And how much trouble that caused you. But look at you now! You’ve grown up, little prince.”
“I’m a king now. In case you haven’t heard.”
“Oh, I have heard! But I’ve also heard that you haven’t been a very good one as of late. Amazing, the things you hear when you’re a ghost, aren’t they?”
Edmund could feel her body growing colder, along with the throne. He felt frozen there, in every sense of the word. “I just want to see my family again. My siblings.”
Jadis clicked her tongue, finally drawing her hand back. “Well, there’s a problem with that. I doubt I could get you to England, with the limited powers I have. And any major spell I cast will be my last. No more me. And that would be the greatest tragedy of them all, wouldn’t it?”
“Oh, drop the tone, Pevensie. I was just about to say I had an idea, one that could help us both .” Her hand was suddenly back, now gripping Edmund’s chin, forcing his head onto the back of the throne and his face up towards towards hers. “Are you in?’
“Will it help me see my siblings?”
“Yes, of course. I’ve heard from somewhere that you wouldn’t rest until you saw your precious siblings again. This can help with that.”
Edmund thought. “And what will you be getting out of this?”
Jadis smiled, and icy smile that was colder than the air around them. “I want you to continue my legacy, that’s all. A simple transfer of power.”
Her face had drawn closer to Edmund’s as she spoke the last few lines; Ed could feel her breath going down his throat, freezing his insides. He was terrified.
But he was also certain. Certain that he needed to see the others again, certain that this would let him do that.
“Good,” she said, then leaned down and kissed him.
Edmund’s first reaction was shock, the fear he had been feeling suddenly amplified by infinity. He jerked back, trying to get away, but he was boxed in by the throne and his own frozen body’s lethargy.
And then he felt cold . It started from his mouth, spreading out until it reached his fingertips and toes. It felt like his blood was freezing, turning his entire being into ice, cell by cell, bit by bit. Which was, in fact, exactly what was happening. He wanted to scream, to break free, to do something , but the White Witch was still at his mouth, pinning him down and not letting anything come out. It was worse than anything he had ever felt before.
And then it was over.
And Jadis was gone.
Edmund kept his eyes closed for a second, letting the leftover feelings of the coldness wash over him, waiting for whatever process he had just been through to stop. When he opened them, he suddenly realized that he was still feeling a few things.
The most noticeable was the rage. I filled his whole being, fueling his body with enough warmth to get up and move. It felt stronger than it ever had before, as if it was all he was supposed to feel, a leftover emotion from before the Cold that was amplified to its greatest extent.
And then there was the longing, hiding beneath the layers and layers of anger and hatred. It gave him purpose, purpose enough to step out of the throne room and into the courtyard. He was looking for people. He was looking for his family. He could never forget that. And as long as he remembered, he knew that he would never rest until he found them, that nothing would stop him from doing so. And now, he had the means to do just that, and to do it for all of eternity.