Chapter 3: Caspian

Aslan may have thought Caspian ready to be king, but at this particular moment, Caspian was feeling very much unkingly and quite overwhelmed indeed. Cooperation seemed to be a commodity his attempts at diplomacy couldn't buy, and King Caspian X was almost at his wit's end. Even with the guidance of Trumpkin, Glenstorm, and a few trusted Telmarine advisors, he couldn't seem to make things work.

And today, Caspian X wants nothing more than to get away for a little while. He would very much like to ride off into the woods with Destrier and take a good few days off, but he knows that's simply out of the question. However, Glenstorm did manage to secure him a few hours, and he plans to take full advantage of them.

His state of mind isn't improved when thoughts of his uncle and father flood his overtaxed brain the very second he steps outside of his study.

Caspian briefly mulls over taking the liberty to tear down the hallway at the fastest sprint his body can manage, but after understanding how strange that would seem, he forces his steps to become measured and even. He keeps his head up, as he's grown accustomed to doing as king. Especially in council, he's found it to be very important that he give off a commanding aire – at least, as commanding as he can manage. Such a thing doesn't come very naturally to him in the midst of all his doubts.

What would his father think of his rule thus far? Would he be proud of his son for trying to unite the remaining Telmarines and the Narnians? Or disappointed in his son's nearly constant self-doubt?

Thanks to his uncle, he'll never know. Somehow, this bothers him even more than his struggling attempts at forging a sort of peace between the Narnians and Telmarines who had decided to stay in Narnia. One would think all or most of the disagreeable sorts would have left for the island Aslan offered, but a fair number of them remained. Caspian can only figure that the unknown of a world they couldn't see was more repugnant to them than living with his rule. Or perhaps they were sure he could be pawned about and bent to their whims. What on earth would his father have done with them?

He barely remembers Caspian IX, and maybe that's why he wonders so much what his father'd have thought of him.

And these thoughts were doing nothing to help him relax, which he was under strict orders to do from Glenstorm. For the next few hours, at least. So the troubled king breathes out his stormy thoughts and keeps his head clear for the rest of the walk to the stables.

Word must have traveled there about his few hours, as Destrier stands saddled and waiting when he walks into the stables. Caspian nods his thanks to the stable boy holding the reins, swings himself into the saddle, and takes off at a fast canter. If it weren't daytime, he could break into a gallop, but the city will be crowded, and he can't chance running over an unfortunate civilian. That just might put a bit of a further dent in his rule, young as it is.

So Caspian has no choice but to settle for a trot when he enters the city, and he tries not to let his impatience show on his face. He saves his smiles, and gives them away in gratitude when people dart out of his way, bowing as they do. It's still strange to be bowed to so much, but he's getting more accustomed to it. They bowed less when he was only a prince with an uncle they feared more.

That only turns his thoughts back to his uncle, his face darkening as he remembers Miraz's subtle confession to killing his father. Caspian's blood boils at that. Was the man so much a coward he had to kill his brother while he was asleep? To ensure he couldn't fight back?

Caspian's lips curl toward his teeth, and try as he might to let go of his hate, he simply can't, not with the memory of Miraz saying 'That was more or less true' when his aunt said she thought Caspian IX died in his sleep. He's so focused on his raging heart that he almost doesn't see the young woman in the street until too late.

Luckily Destrier dodges to the side to avoid her, and Caspian only just sees her dart to the side just in time. He's tempted to ride on as if it didn't happen, but she stumbles in her haste to get out of the way, and his conscience tugs at him. So he pulls Destrier to a halt and leaps off to apologize.

"I apologize my lady, I didn't see you in time," he rushes to say, only half paying attention to his words.

"Yes, so I gath- oh! Your Majesty! I'm sorry." Whatever she was going to say, she stops short when she looks up from brushing herself off and sees his face.

"No need," he answers shortly. He barely looks at her; not out of disrespect, but out of distraction.

"I won't keep you, in any case. A safe ride to you, Majesty."

Her voice, somehow firm in its deference, momentarily puts his distraction at bay. The flustered king stops for a moment and looks her in the eye for the first time.

Her face isn't overly pretty; it's quite plain, actually. There's nothing technically extraordinary about her, yet he looks for a moment longer than he perhaps should. For a second, he can't understand why. Then he realizes.

She has an honest face. A reserved face, a face with many secrets, but an honest one nonetheless. And she seems to understand him a bit more than he'd expect, just from looking at him. That sort of thing is new to him. And it keeps his eyes on hers for longer than they should be. Only when she colors slightly and looks to the side does he realize he was, in fact, staring.

"Thank you…?" He hopes she'll understand that he wants her name.

"Rosamar, Majesty."

He smiles at the unusual name and mounts Destrier again, still smiling.


With that, he spurs on his loyal horse, his smile still spread on his face.

He finds her to be on his mind for a little longer than he thought she'd be as he rides over the bridge and toward the woods. Then he realizes: he's seen her eyes before.

As Destrier crashes through the trees, he thinks hard and tries to remember. He knows he's seen her before.

After a few long minutes of thinking and thinking and thinking some more, it hits him. She was there at the Battle of Beruna. He saw her eyes peeking out from behind a tree.

(Battle of Beruna)

The river god brings the crumbling bridge to his face and breaks it into splintered logs as he splashes back down into the river, disappearing with ease back into the water. For long moments, Caspian simply stares as the water foams and crashes and eventually evens back out to its original state, the river god's passage marked only by floating pieces of the destroyed bridge, discarded Telmarine war masks, and a bit more white foam capping the waves in the water.

Peter, Susan, and Edmund all start forward to ford the now calm river, and Caspian takes a large step forward to keep in step, his awe still very much slowing his senses. Professor never mentioned the river god in the Old Tales. The prince very much wishes he had, but perhaps the surprise of it is just as sweet as knowledge would have been.

The water swirls around his battle-wearied legs, slowing his movements even more. Luckily for Caspian, it slows the King and Queen as well; the Gentle Queen especially. Her long skirt drags to the side, but she tries to keep her struggle discreet. Still, he notices, and subtly offers his forearm for support. Susan takes a moment to decide, and he keeps his face neutral. But she does take his arm, just long enough to get through the strongest part of the current. Caspian keeps his smile to himself. No need to advertise his slight infatuation with the Gentle Queen too much, with the aftermath of the battle to sort out.

Finally, or perhaps a bit too quickly, the four reach the other side of the river. The Great Lion Aslan sits regally, regarding them each with a warm and loving smile. They drop to their knees in respect, heads bowed.

"Rise, Kings and Queens of Narnia," says the Lion.

Caspian keeps his eyes on the pebbles under his knees and stays put. He's only a prince, and a Telmarine prince at that.

"All of you," Aslan says, a bit gentler.

The prince's brow furrows slightly as his eyes rise to meet the Lion's, mouth parted in surprise.

"I do not think I am ready," he quietly replies, eyes returning to the ground.

"It's for that very reason," Aslan says, "I know you are."

Caspian's eyes leave the ground once more, surprise and gratitude written in their depths as they meet the Lion's. Upon seeing Aslan's smile, he rises, hesitant and humble. His eyes flit from the ground and up again, and then to the Kings and Queens on either side of him. All of them fix him with welcoming smiles, and Caspian smiles a bit at the very new feeling of acceptance.

However, when he looks straight ahead again, he notices something out of the ordinary. There, peeking out from behind a tree a little ways behind the Valiant Queen and the Lion, are two Telmarine-looking brown eyes. A soft breeze blows a bit of wavy black hair out from behind the tree trunk, and Caspian wonders absently if this girl is from Beruna. But if she's Telmarine…why is there no fear in her eyes? Why is there only awe and hopeful wonder?

But then the eyes notice his steady gaze, and they quickly disappear behind the tree. And Caspian's attention quickly snaps back to the present scene at the dismal sound of a funeral song.

Peter and Caspian both step to the side to let the band of mice carrying a dying Reepicheep through. Lucy rushes forward with her cordial and drops a single drop into the mouse's open mouth, face drawn with worry. The Valiant Queen never ceases to impress with her deep compassion for all.

But the worry lines on everyone's faces transform into smiles when Reepicheep draws in a deep breath and sits up, healed and alive.

"Oh! Thank you," gasps the mouse, "Your Majesty. Thank you."

But not completely healed; Lucy smiles at her siblings and Caspian, who return the smile when they see a very important part of the mouse is missing.

"Oh! Hail, Aslan! It is a great honor to be in-" Reepicheep abruptly stops his speech when he pitches forward and almost lands on his face while attempting a bow. Several gasps of surprise and shock later, the mouse blinks bashfully and attempts to cover the stump where his tail ought to have been with front paws entirely too short to reach his backside.

"I-I am completely out of countenance," Reep stutters. "I must crave your indulgence for appearing in this unseemly fashion."

The four Kings and Queen behind the poor mouse trade looks of mixed pity and slight amusement as Reepicheep looks to Lucy.

"Um, perhaps, a drop more?"

"I don't think it does that," Lucy answers sadly.

"You could have a go," the worried mouse suggests.

All eyes turn to Aslan when the Lion lets out a rumbling chuckle, golden eyes shining with fondness.

"It becomes you well, small one."

"All the same, Great King," Reepicheep begins, drawing his sword, "I regret that I must withdraw, for a tail is the honor and glory of a mouse." The mouse pads forward and presents the blade to the Lion in open paws, but Aslan makes no move to accept the offering.

"Perhaps you think too much of your honor, friend."

"Well i-it's not just the honor. I-It's also great for balance." The Kings and Queens begin to smile, but Reep doesn't notice. "And climbing. A-and grabbing things," he continues, oblivious to the amused smiles behind him.

The amusement quiets when the sound of six other tiny swords bring drawn from their scabbards rings through the air.

"May it please Your High Majesty," says Peepiceep. "We will not bear the shame of wearing an honor denied to our chief." With that, the six mice hold their swords to their tails as Reepicheep turns to regard them all with surprise. For Caspian's part, the loyalty of these mice to their leader touches him and makes him hope he will be so lucky in his reign to have friends such as that.

"Not for the sake of your dignity, but for the love of your people," Aslan says.

Reepicheep turns to face the Lion once more, thus giving the five Kings and Queens behind him a full-on view as his tail grows back.

Peepiceep gasps, and Reepicheep perks up as the realization dawns on him. The hopeful mouse looks over his back, to see his new tail, immediately letting out a relieved laugh when he sees it there. His joy brings cheery laughs from the Kings and Queens and a wider smile from the Lion.

"Look, look!" Reep exclaims, clutching his new tail and brandishing his sword high in the air. "Thank you, thank you my Liege! I will treasure it always! From this day forward it will serve as a great reminder of my huge humility!"

Caspian laughs heartily along with the Pevensies and the Great Lion, but his eyes return to the tree hiding the owner of the brown eyes from his view. Ah, but there they are again, sparkling with the same amusement and happiness everyone looking on at the scene can express freely with laughter. Those eyes laugh in silence and sweep around to take everything in, stopping to stare in utter awe at the Lion's back. Caspian's eyes remain on the peeking ones, and they don't leave until those brown eyes meet his again, this time disappearing for good into the woods. He sees a lock of black hair dart out from behind the tree trunk as the eyes widen and their owner darts off into the woods.

Caspian returns his attention to the people and creatures around him, but the curiously fearless brown eyes stay in his mind's eye the rest of the afternoon. And when Edmund elbows him and asks if by jove, he's found himself a girl, Caspian tries to brush it off, but the one thing he can't do is stop his ears from turning a bit warm.

He saw the same eyes amid the crowd in the streets of the city during his coronation procession to the castle he can now call his own. At first, he didn't recognize them. But when they darted away from his gaze, he knew they were the same eyes he saw peeking out from the tree back at Beruna, even if he forgot about both occurrences until now.

And now she lives in the city just outside his castle. Caspian briefly wonders if there might be a way to talk to her, to sate his own curiosity as to her utter lack of fear at Beruna. But just as soon as he thinks it, he realizes it probably isn't possible. He hasn't even the faintest idea where in the city she lives, and some nagging sense of etiquette tells him that going door to door might not be the best plan he's ever had. After all, he is king now, and there are other things to tend to besides his curiosity about one young woman.

Destrier seems to sense his indecision, and picks up speed. The sudden rush of wind in his face helps Caspian X to think more practically. No, he shouldn't seek her out. In any case, it wasn't as if she seemed to be eager to speak to him. She was respectful, and nothing more. Withdrawn, even. Something short of distrustful, but not entirely welcoming either. Maybe that was simply her way, but Caspian didn't think she'd appreciate being sought out. She'd seemed intimidated enough when he stopped to apologize, after she saw who he was that is, even though it was only the polite thing to do, especially to a lady.

'So much for relaxing,' his mind comments ruefully. Caspian sighs in reply. Glenstorm would not approve.

Out of the blue, the restless king suddenly wonders what his father would have thought of her, the young woman with the curious eyes.

Suddenly Caspian isn't so willing to forget about her. Rosamar, that was her name wasn't it? Maybe he ought to ask Professor Cornelius's advice. He always seems to know what's best for him, and his advice has never failed yet. Yes, he would talk to the Professor about seeking out Rosamar.

Even if it was a foolish idea, it might turn out to be something unexpectedly pleasant. Some of the lords had been whispering concerns about his infatuation with the Gentle Queen still having a hold on him; maybe they'd quiet their worrying if he at least attempted to get to know another young woman.

And yet, he was almost sure that Rosamar would not quite be pleased with such a move on his part. She seemed the guarded sort; why would she welcome a troubled king butting his way into her surely busy life? She'd never outright say she didn't appreciate it, naturally, but he had serious doubts she'd wish for his attentions given the choice. Did he even have time to give them, in any case?

No, he has even less time to give them than she has to receive them, this he knows. This day of freedom was a rare day, that he found time to leave the castle. And the only reason he had the time now was because Glenstorm arranged it! No, it was foolish to think he could seek her out and expect either of them to want to explore any sort of friendship. Time and circumstances simply wouldn't permit such an action.

Why did that bother him? He was a King of Narnia! It was his duty, his happy responsibility to sacrifice his wants and desires for his country's needs. What a marvelous job he was doing of acting on that duty now, riding away into the forest when there was work to be done. What kind of a king was he? What would his father think, of his son running from the stresses of ruling for even a few hours?

'Disappointment, that's what,' his mind whispers.

Caspian swallows the knot in his throat and slows Destrier to a trot to safely turn around. He's about to spur his loyal horse into a gallop back toward the castle and his duties awaiting him there, but he notices the horse breathing hard. So he waits a little while. But as soon as Destrier is recovered, he rides back.

He has duties to fulfill.

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