Chapter 8: Caspian
Caspian had quite forgotten about the girl he'd almost run over until he saw her at the faire. Well, more like bumped into her by accident. He'd been surprised, pleasantly so, when she wound up as his partner in one of the group dances. He wasn't sure why he'd held onto her for more than his turn. But perhaps, after remembering she was the girl who wasn't afraid at Beruna, it made a bit more sense.
Caspian hadn't gone to his Professor after all, only because he was sure he knew to stay away and mind his kingly duties. He didn't have the time to go chasing after a girl, even one so different as Rosamar. He'd only held on to her during the dance because he was curious, intrigued even. Yes, that was it.
Still, in spite of that, Caspian can't help but perk up with interest when a slip of paper falls out of the mountainous stack at his desk – a slip of paper that mentions a quiet girl with black hair and a habit for sneaking around. Somehow, he knows it's Rosamar.
Wait one moment…sneaking around? That bit doesn't sound like her, though Caspian knows he can't profess to know her very well at all. But she doesn't seem the sneaking type. She wasn't the dangerous type either.
'Neither was your aunt Prunaprismia, yet she shot you in the arm,' his mind whispers.
The thought surprises him, but he can't deny its truth. He'd learned the hard way that people become quite different under pressure.
So he lets out a sigh he wasn't aware of holding and studies the note scrawled on a scrap piece of paper a bit closer.
To His Royal Majesty, Caspian X, King of Narnia and Telmar:
Your Majesty, I would not bother you lest I had good reason. I know you are very busy, and it is only out of the most sincere concern for Your Majesty's safety and well-being that I bring forward such a seemingly small concern to your attention. I hope you will forgive any breach of conduct or lack of manners on my part.
There is a young woman, new to the city, whom I think Your Majesty might wish to place a spy upon. You see, Your Most Gracious Majesty, she often sneaks off in the middle of the night, and sometimes even in the day. I have tried to follow her at times, but she is very careful to slip out of my grasp, almost as if she knows I am following closely. I only know that she disappears off somewhere in the woods, and I am sorry to say I know not where. Believe me, my king, I would if I could.
She also keeps a dagger on her at all times; rather, all the times I have seen her, it is there on her hip. I cannot help but find this odd, as the city is safe and the custom of carrying a weapon is not one found here, nor is it a custom I am aware of anywhere else in Narnia. Perhaps she was encouraged to do this at her hometown of Beruna, but I have heard no mention of such a custom. Even so, she did not carry a weapon for her first year here. I find it suspicious, Your Majesty.
I feel I must give you as much information on this young woman as I can if you deem anything must be done. Here is all I know:
She is a recent inhabitant, and I believe she moved to the city on the very day of your coronation. I confess I do not think so lightly of this either. She is a young woman of no more than twenty years, perhaps a year or so fewer. Her hair is long, thick, and black. She is of an average build, neither notably slender nor notably heavy, and of an average height as well. Her face is rather unextraordinary as well, its features plain and understated. Her eyes are a dark brown, her cheeks well enough defined, and her chin a pleasant enough shape. One could not easily pick her from a crowd. Her one defining feature is her lightness of step. Perhaps she loves to dance, perhaps she is naturally quick and quiet on her feet, or perhaps she trained herself that way. In any case, you will find few who slip easier through the shadows and the streets, and even fewer who do it with such grace. If her behaviors did not concern me so, I would no doubt admire her skill with her feet. Her hands too are graceful and quick, though not skilled in weaponry, I think. They do not have the callouses I would expect from a skilled swordsman (or woman). However, I do know she is a carder at the wool workshop in the west wing of the city. It's very easy to find, should Your Majesty find need to send someone there. Look only for the brightly colored florist shop two doors down the street.
I pray I have been some use to Your Majesty, and that this issue be not as serious as I have begun to fear it is. I do not mean to assume, but it almost seems as if she is meeting someone, or many someones, in the woods at night. This gives me concern, especially with Your Majesty's reign still so young.
With all due respect and love to Your Majesty,
A concerned citizen of the city
Well, what in the name of the Lion was he to think of that? Caspian reads and rereads and rerereads the paper until his eyes start to cross, and still he doesn't want to believe it. No, Rosamar had always seemed very sweet, reserved and guarded, but kind and good nonetheless. But then, Caspian really couldn't claim to know her very well. She could have everyone fooled. But her face seemed so honest…
No, best to reserve his opinion until he had proof of things being one way or the other. Perhaps he'd better consult his Professor on this. Yes, Professor Cornelius always gave good advice.
With that, Caspian rises from his admittedly comfortable chair at his admittedly cluttered desk and makes his way to the Professor's study. The door is cracked open, but Caspian knocks anyway. The Professor's hearing is starting to fray because of his age, and on more than one occasion Caspian's negligence to knock has given the old scholar half of a heart attack.
"Professor?" he calls, rapping his knuckles a few steady times on the thick wood.
"Yes, my king, do come in," the kindly old half-dwarf replies from somewhere within.
Caspian remembers that the Professor used to call him 'my prince.' He misses those days, in an odd little way. He was under his uncle's control to more of an extent than he cares to remember, but he was ignorant of many things that now serve to torment him whenever he's alone with his thoughts. Things had been a good deal simpler back then. Yes, he misses those secret, thrilling escapades the Professor took him from his bed at the most unearthly hours of the night and morning to the astronomy tower and taught him to chart the stars while telling him the old tales of Narnia.
"What are you working on, Professor?" Caspian asks, both out of politeness and because he's always interested in what his childhood professor is up to.
"For once, my boy, I've taken it upon myself to organize this library of mine. It truly needs the attention, don't you think?"
Caspian takes a few cursory glances around the study, a slight grin quirking his mouth at the many stacks of loose papers, piles of half-rolled scrolls, and highly unstable towers of books that fill the small study.
"As much as this state lends your study a well-loved feel, I do think a bit of organization could do it some good," he answers, still smiling a slightly-crooked smile.
"I couldn't agree more," the Professor replies. At least, that's what Caspian thinks he says; at the moment, his professor is buried behind a dangerously leaning stack of books, and his words come out a bit muffled.
"Now, what brings you here at such an odd hour, my king?"
That was very like Professor Cornelius; he seemed to have a sixth sense regarding Caspian's need for advice.
"It's a bit of a story. If it would be best I wait until another time-"
"Nonsense, my boy! Only come and give me a helping hand with these scrolls, and then we'll sit and hear this story of yours."
Caspian's beside the Professor and accepting an armful of scrolls within the half-minute.
"Why the sudden need to clean, Professor?"
"When an avalanche of precious books falls on you, you may well get the same notion."
Caspian laughs shortly and continues hauling scrolls and books and papers at the professor's direction. After a good quarter hour of this, there seems to be a lull.
"Alright, my king, let's hear your tale."
Caspian carefully lays down his current load of rather hefty tomes and gratefully - and very unregally – plops down into the armchair beside his Professor's.
"Do you remember what I told you of the Battle of Beruna?"
"Quite well, yes."
"Did I ever mention the girl I noticed, peeking out from behind the tree?"
At this, Professor Cornelius straightens in his chair and folds his wrinkled hands over his belly.
"I suppose I did not. In any case, I only noticed her after Reep got his tail back. I'd not have thought anything of it, but for her lack of fear. It was a strange thing to see, a young Telmarine girl unafraid, especially of Aslan."
"Strange indeed…" Professor murmurs in agreement.
"I saw her again when we paraded through the city. Once more, I gave it nothing but a passing thought. Up until a few days ago, I'd forgotten completely about her."
The Professor waits patiently for the king to explain. It was his way.
"That is, until I almost ran her over in the street. It was the day Glenstorm bought me a few hours to myself. I tore through the streets on Destrier, and I'm afraid I gave her quite the fright. She was all respect and deference, though she seemed to have a bit of a…I don't wish to say retort, as it had no mean spirit to it. In any case, I recognized her for a reason I couldn't identify. I remembered her eyes were the ones I saw peeking from behind the tree at Beruna once I'd left her, and I resolved to not go after her to inquire after her blatant lack of fear. It seemed rude, and far from something I had the time for. So I put it from my mind."
"That does seem to be a pattern." The lines of amusement around Professor Cornelius's eyes prompt a slightly sheepish shrug of Caspian's shoulders before he continues.
"I ran into her again at the faire, not two days ago. Something possessed me to keep her as a partner in the dance we bumbled into each other in, though we were not supposed to do so. I confess I did ask her about Beruna, and she only answered that her aunt told her stories, so perhaps that was why she was not frightened by the sight of a lion and a river god."
"And what seems to be the issue then, my king?" Professor Cornelius's eyes are twinkling now, and Caspian outright refuses to acknowledge precisely why that might be.
"I received a handwritten note warning me of a young woman with plain features and a natural grace sneaking off somewhere into the woods in the middle of the night and carrying a weapon everywhere with her. I know it refers to Rosamar; she has grace like no other. The writer fears she is up to something less than savory, only I am not inclined to think so. But how well do I know her, to make that judgment? I am at an impasse, Professor," Caspian finishes, running his palm down his face, the beginnings of his beard rough against his fingers.
"Well now, that is quite a story. The simple answer, my king, is of course to attempt to get to know this young woman better. However, if you suspect her motives to be less than safe to you, I would not suggest it. Your reign is young yet, my king, and not all dissent is worked through yet."
"The writer of the note said as much."
"Very curious, how they managed to get this note into your personal stack of papers…"
Caspian's brow furrows. That didn't occur to him before, and he knows it should have.
"Perhaps they have a friend here at the castle? A servant, perhaps?"
"As long as they are a friend to you, I should imagine it to be alright. But do we know that for certain, any more than we know of Rosamar's loyalty?"
"We cannot, I suppose."
"No, we cannot," the Professor agrees, settling further into his chair and shifting his hands farther up on his rather round belly.
"So which to trust, Professor?"
"I think I would like to hear your ideas."
Caspian tips his head, but obliges.
"I'd like to attempt to get to know Rosamar."
"For more reasons than one, I suspect."
There goes that twinkle in his eye again.
"Perhaps," Caspian answers, as dismissively as possible.
"Of course, you are free to do as you will. Though I would advise you to take caution in whatever you do."
"What do you think I should do, Professor?"
"I would have you set someone to watch this Rosamar. But if what you've told me of her is true, then you should be in little danger."
"We'd better hope she has not yet learned to wield her dagger with much skill," Caspian says with a smirk.
"Indeed." Professor Cornelius's eyes are glinting yet again, and Caspian once more refuses to understand the meaning other than amusement.
But when he rides into the city to find Rosamar's home and pay her a visit, he himself has trouble keeping the Professor's suspicions from creeping into his own mind.
'I have no time for infatuations,' the king reminds himself firmly as he rides up to the workshop closest to where he almost ran poor Rosamar into the cobblestones.
He dons his distantly polite face, the one he often employs when dealing with ambassadors and officials, and knocks on the door to the wool shop. There are the bright flowers two doors down, just as the note said.
It's an hour or so past sunup, and it seems as though work has just begun for the day.
"-After all, who in their right mind would come knocking during work hou-" The door swings open with an indignant squeak, and Caspian suddenly finds himself nearly nose-to-nose with a very intimidating woman. She might be pretty in her middle age, if her forehead wasn't pressed into firm lines of annoyance and her mouth wasn't pinched into a scowl.
"Now, what- Oh! Your Majesty!" Instantly, the annoyance flees, quickly replaced by surprised politeness. The woman sinks into a humble, if somewhat curt, curtsy and takes a step back so as not to be nose-to-nose with the king on her doorstep.
"I beg your pardon for any intrusion, madam-" he begins, only to be cut off by a firm shake of the still-intimidating matron's head.
"No no, quite alright! Don't worry yourself, Majesty. What can I do for you?"
"I'm looking for a young woman by the name of Rosamar. Does she take residence here?"
"She has a place around back, yes. Is everything alright?"
"Yes indeed, I only wished to speak with her. Is she not in?"
"I'm afraid not, sire. She's run off Lion only knows where. Though I must say, she usually saves her disappearing acts for nighttime, or so Lilia tells me," the woman babbles.
"She does this often?"
"Well this is the first day she's late for work."
"I apologize, I've been horribly rude. I never inquired as to your name, madam." Caspian suddenly remembers his manners in a flurry of etiquette.
"Oh no, the fault is mine. I am Sima, Majesty. You may drop the madam from your tongue."
Caspian has to hold in a shocked laugh at how easily yet gruffly she addresses him. It's certainly refreshing. He might have to make a point to visit often.
"My apologies then, Sima," he manages, free of laughter only by a gift of the Lion.
"None needed, Majesty. I am sorry you've missed her."
"Wait, Sima, is that…?"
"Yes, child, it is the king of Narnia, come to this very doorstep," Sima calls back into the shop. "Oh yes, my manners! Do come in, sire."
If he were not the king, Caspian feels Sima might have shooed him in with a few swats of her hand on his backside. This could well be the reason for the smile consistently present on his face as he obediently steps inside and takes a seat on a free stool Sima indicates to him.
"No couches here, I'm afraid," she says with more humor than true regret.
"It's perfectly alright." Again, Caspian fights the mirth in his voice. He wouldn't want to offend Sima, but by the Lion, she amuses him. What an unusual sort of person, to act as sarcastic as this to the king! He instantly decides he rather likes her.
"Oh lord Sima, why does Rose pick this day to be late?!" a young woman whose name Caspian doesn't yet know exclaims with her hands in the air, spinning wheel temporarily abandoned.
"You'd be wise to thank her, else his Majesty may have never had cause to set foot inside."
Caspian can't help his bemused smile, though he manages to confine it to the corners of his mouth.
"Oh! I'm Lilia, Your Majesty," the young woman says, turning to curtsy rather abruptly after standing so casually to address Sima.
"A pleasure," Caspian replies politely. "I would give you my name as well, but I fear that might be redundant."
Both Lilia and Sima chuckle, and Caspian feels even more at ease than before. If there were any ice, it is long broken.
The visit lasts no more than a half hour, but Caspian finds himself in quite a good mood at the end of it. Sima once more apologizes for having nothing but a stool for him to sit on, though with more dryness than before. She must have noticed him discreetly working the kinks from his legs. Caspian just grins and assures her he didn't mind one bit. Because, in fact, he didn't.
Both the women express regret that Rosamar didn't show while he was visiting, but Caspian good-naturedly dismisses their concern and says he'll simply have to come again and hope she reappears. Though he can't be too sad with how the visit with only the two of them turned out. Rosamar was lucky, to work with two women such as Lilia and Sima.
When he steps outside again, the door closing behind him with a carefree bang, Caspian lets his amusement bring a huge smile to his face. It makes his cheeks hurt a bit. They're not used to being stretched so much. Caspian doesn't smile big smiles very often.
Even though he didn't find Rosamar, he's looking forward to visiting again.