A/N: I've taken liberties and mingled book- and movie-verse in this story. It's also, I've discovered, surprisingly difficult to write Caspian's opinions of the Pevensies before he becomes friends with them, but I hope I've done them justice. Please enjoy!
Disclaimer: I owe this story and a large part of my wonder at the world to the wonderful C.S. Lewis.
Most Noble Order
They had all been certain of victory, and yet here they were staring into the eyes of defeat. Yet still, the kings and queens of old argued about armies and plans and Aslan, as if their triumph was inevitable. And Caspian had never had faith in a single thing, except himself and his professor and his father's goodness; so he listened blankly to them.
Now, Caspian made his way to the forge to speak to the two kings and Glenstorm about the configuration of the Telmarine army. Peter and Edmund and Susan had walked with grief in their eyes and on their shoulders these past days, and Caspian knew they could still hear the screams of their slaughtered people, for it also haunted his own dreams. But Lucy did her best to comfort them, and when she spoke of Aslan, their eyes brightened a little (even Peter, who had seemed so determined that Aslan would not help them). But the name of the Lion could bring no comfort to Caspian.
He adjusted the sword on his belt as he walked, but as he passed the corridor by the Stone Table, he heard voices and, ducked behind a rocky outcrop to investigate. There they were, Peter and Edmund, kneeling at the steps before Aslan's stone image, and Peter was speaking.
"…just standing there looking at us," Peter said, his voice so full of bitterness. "And we just rode away and left them."
"I know, Peter," Edmund said in a quieter voice. "Hush."
Caspian's eyebrows rose as Peter obeyed, at least for a moment. Edmund's head was bowed. Peter knelt motionless for a moment, then spoke again. "Edmund, they're all dead."
Edmund's voice was sharper and rougher as he spoke. "I know, Peter."
"And it's all my fault."
"Well, I think I should have my share of the blame, and likely Susan and Caspian too," Edmund said heavily.
Peter wiped his face as Caspian watched, and laughed humourlessly. "Yes, Caspian. I wouldn't be surprised if he regrets calling us. If I were him, I might refuse any and all help from us from here on out."
Edmund replied, with a voice full of something. "We didn't come to help Caspian. We came to help Narnia." Caspian gripped the wall where he was leaning as Edmund spoke and felt a touch of awe, and no small measure of envy. They might have been young and at war even amongst themselves, but they loved Narnia so fiercely, and without concern for their own sacrifices.
Peter was shifting restlessly again. "Ed, I-"
Peter bowed his head now, too. "Say something. Please."
Edmund was silent and Caspian held his breath. Then the young king took a long breath. "We have failed in our duty. We have heeded fear and doubt, and we have dealt terrible sorrow among our people. We have sent many of our cousins to you today; may they be received as honourable and faithful and good." Peter went to his hands and knees now. They were praying, Caspian realised with almost painful understanding. Edmund continued, "Give us strength now, and courage to follow in your word, and faith enough to lead our country in the manner that She deserves." Edmund took another shaking breath. "Aslan, make us worthy."
"Aslan, make us worthy," Peter echoed, his voice muffled by stone.
And there was a reverent silence, in which Caspian tried to understand what he had just heard.
They waited as Peter spoke with Glenstorm and Wimbleweather, and Caspian was tasked with bringing Edmund the scroll. He found the younger king by the Stone Table, leaning against it with folded arms and looking into the distance. "Thank you," he said to Caspian, as the scroll exchanged hands. Caspian had been reading it on his way down, though not in much detail, and expressed his amazement at all of Edmund's titles.
Edmund laughed. "Ah, yes. Peter has more, you know. Comes with being the High King."
"What is your brother doing now?" Caspian asked curiously. Peter had requested a private audience with Edmund's two intended companions to the Telmar camp.
"Probably informing them of all the things they shouldn't let me do," Edmund said with a resigned shrug. "Peter doesn't like to put us in danger. It's best to simply let him get it out of his system."
Caspian, an only child, did not have the experience nor the will to say anything to this. Instead, his gaze fell on the scroll in Edmund's hand. "May I ask about some of your titles?" Edmund's smile showed that he did not mind, and for a while, he explained to Caspian what Lantern Waste was, and the duties of a count, and those of a knight.
"Must one be a knight before one rules Narnia?" Caspian asked, and Edmund smiled.
"Certainly not. Neither of my sisters are knights."
Caspian thought this a rather strange thing to say. "In this, naturally, I am referring to the men only." Edmund's amused gaze met his own, and Caspian's eyes widened. "You mean…that is…are there female knights in Narnia?"
"Indeed, there are," Edmund replied, seeming rather entertained, albeit not cruelly so, at Caspian's amazement. "In fact, I have knighted a few myself."
Caspian thought of his aunt, and the ladies of the Telmarine court, in their fine, fancy dresses. Then he thought of the Centaurs; their fierce skill and loyalty across males and females; and the fauns and satyrs and all others. And finally, he thought of Susan and Lucy. "Why aren't your sisters knights?"
Edmund nodded at the question. "It is a question I have asked of them. Peter wanted to knight Lucy, you know, after the battle of Cauldron Pool – oh, you've heard the story?" Caspian nodded mutely; he had heard the story, but he had never known that Lucy had been part of it. Edmund leaned back against the Stone Table and gazed into the distance. "Yes, Lucy fought as hard as any of us that day, and she was the first to reach the heart of the battlefield; and she captured the enemy commander and forced him to surrender." Caspian's shock must have manifested itself on his face, for Edmund laughed. "The Queens of this country do more than sit on their thrones, Caspian. You must remember that for when you choose one."
Caspian flushed, then saw Edmund's teasing smile. "But High King Peter did not knight her in the end? Did he not have the power?"
"Oh, he had the power, and still does," Edmund said. "Peter knighted me, you know."
Caspian frowned. "Then why is the Queen Lucy not a knight?"
Edmund shrugged. "Lucy declined."
Caspian's eyes widened. "Can you decline a knighthood from the High King?" he asked in a hushed voice.
"You can when the High King is your brother," Edmund said with a grin.
Caspian had never been made a knight in Telmar, but he suspected it was a different concept that in Narnia. "Were there many knights at your court?" he asked curiously.
Edmund considered this. "No," he said finally. "Five in Peter's Order, and five in mine."
"Oh, you are not of the same order?" Caspian asked.
Edmund grinned again. "No, to be a knight in Peter's Order, you must prove yourself before Aslan himself. The Most Noble Order of the Lion is not one that is easily entered."
Caspian stared at Edmund. He had heard stories of King Edmund the Just. How he had smashed the White Witch's wand at his first battle, and how he had become one of the greatest judges in all the lands as king, and how they had feared his courage and his intellect in every country. "But surely, you-"
"I have never proven myself to Aslan the way Peter has," Edmund interrupted him. "I have a doubt that I ever shall."
"Oh, rubbish," a bright voice joined them, and both young men turned to see Lucy entering the How and rolling her eyes at her brother. "Hello, Caspian." He bowed his head slightly; Edmund smiled at his sister in greeting. "Don't believe it," Lucy said. "Edmund's just being modest, or dramatic. It's difficult to tell sometimes."
"Disrespect," Edmund accused. "Slander."
Lucy placed a hand on the Stone Table carefully and shook her head at them. "Peter did want to make Edmund part of the Order of the Lion, Caspian, but Edmund gave Peter the same speech he's giving you now, and naturally Peter caved in the end and gave Edmund his own Order."
"The Order of the Table," Edmund clarified when he saw Caspian's inquisitive glance.
"And Edmund knighted the most interesting people," Lucy giggled, then ducked when Edmund took a swipe at her head. "Peter and Susan often disapproved."
Caspian had the distinct impression that Peter and Susan would have disapproved of a great many of Edmund's actions; the young man was a most singular individual. "I knighted those who I judged had sacrificed above and beyond for Narnia and Her inhabitants, and would do again. After all," Edmund said, a light in his eye that Caspian did not quite understand, "that is what the Stone Table represents."
"Some of them weren't very nice, though," Lucy said, still with a laugh in her voice.
"They weren't so bad," Edmund protested. "And they proved to be some of Narnia's greatest defenders over the years."
"They swore an awful lot, though," Lucy said, although Caspian could tell she was simply teasing.
Edmund grimaced. "Yes, that was something I failed to curtail."
Lucy turned her gaze onto Caspian suddenly, and he felt the weight of all her years on him at once as she said seriously, "Tell about Beren, Edmund."
Edmund looked surprised, then somewhat reluctant. "I think Caspian might have better things to do than listen to our stories, Lucy."
Lucy waved her hand at him. "Beren was a Centaur, Caspian. And he…didn't like us very much." Edmund snorted at that. "So in the second year of our reign, he went to the giants in the North, who had been with Jadis, and who were always wanting to overthrow us."
Caspian's gaze flickered over to Edmund momentarily. He had heard of Edmund's relationship with the White Witch, but the other man's face betrayed no emotion now. Lucy continued. "Beren led the giants into Narnia, but Edmund had gotten wind of his plans and rode out with an army to stop him."
"And the giants were defeated," Caspian said.
"Yes," Edmund replied.
"And Beren was captured by some of our other Centaur captains," Lucy said, "who wanted to execute him for high treason." Caspian hummed in agreement. In Telmar, traitors died a terrible death. "But Edmund stopped them, and took Beren with him into the hills around Ettinsmoor and they stayed there for days-"
"Hours," Edmund corrected with exasperation. "Oreius really exaggerated this story when he told it to you."
"They stayed there for days," Lucy repeated with all the disrespect of a younger sister, and Caspian grinned. "And when they came back down, everybody said that Beren was so changed that they almost didn't recognise him anymore." Caspian glanced towards Edmund, who was looking down at his boots. "And he became part of the army. Two years after that, Beren was almost killed trying to defend Peter in battle."
"He saved Peter's life," Edmund said quietly.
"And you knighted him," Caspian said, awed, looking at Edmund with new respect. "But what did you say to him?"
Edmund's dark eyes were hazy with memory, but he only said, "I told him that there was such a thing as forgiveness. And what one must do to attain it."
"Forgiveness," Caspian repeated. "But why would he be forgiven?"
Edmund and Lucy exchanged a glance, then Edmund said, "Aslan will forgive any who truly understand their own actions, and wish to atone. It's an important thing to remember when you are king, Caspian. Aslan is always merciful. And we do our best to follow in his example. You must have faith in Him, for that is what it means to serve Him, and to serve Narnia."
"And you knew that this Centaur would be willing to atone for his actions," Caspian said, wondering at Edmund's wisdom and his understanding of others. "But how? He was a traitor."
And they looked in that moment, not like children at all, but like a true king and queen of a Golden Age; Lucy smiled at the question and at her brother, and Edmund looked Caspian in the eye and said quietly, like a promise from another time, "Even a traitor may mend."
Edmund relayed the tale of the challenge issued over dinner that evening, with equal relief, dread and curiosity. "Some of your uncle's lords were curiously eager for him to accept," he told Caspian. Peter's eyes flickered between the two as Caspian replied.
"I am confident that some of them wish to be rid of him." Caspian gripped his fork. "My uncle would not make a kind king. But that does not mean his lords are on our side."
"They would betray him?" Peter asked.
"Sounds like someone else we know," Lucy muttered, nudging Edmund, who pushed her head lightly.
"What's that mean?" Susan asked as she lifted a cup to her lips.
"Nothing," Edmund said immediately and Lucy laughed.
"Caspian asked us about knights of Narnia," she told her bemused elder siblings. "We told him about Beren."
"Lucy told him about Beren," Edmund corrected as Peter and Susan made identical faces. "They didn't like him," he added to Caspian.
"He tried to feed you to a giant," Peter said instantly, spreading his hands. "And then you knighted him."
"Like painting a big target on your chest," Susan joined in. "Honestly."
"Oh, give over," Edmund said hotly, although Caspian, leaning back against the rock, could see that none of them were truly aggravated. "A big target? Really? And Peter, don't forget that Beren saved your life before I knighted him. It wasn't just a throwaway decision."
"Oreius saved all our lives before I knighted him," Peter argued.
"Because apparently, only one of us was of too little value!"
"I did not-" Peter looked outraged. "Caspian, did these two tell you who else Edmund knighted?"
"We didn't," Lucy said helpfully, then grinned as Edmund glared at her.
"A former pirate-"
"She was a sailor with a false reputation, Peter; don't be so dramatic."
"-with the filthiest mouth you could ever imagine. An archer from Archenland-"
"He was as good a shot as Susan!"
"- who caused absolute scandal in the palace by telling the most frightening stories you can imagine to the children. And a Centaur who was charged with the murder of a Calormen soldier-"
"She was cleared of that charge. And she stopped Lucy from being beheaded!"
Caspian was laughing by the end of this exchange, and Lucy and Susan with him. "I can see that you are a very unusual king, my lord," he said to Edmund, whose eyes were sparkling with mirth.
"Unusual is one word for it," Peter agreed, then ducked as Edmund threw a piece of bread at him. "Shame on you, sir," he continued. "Is this how a knight of Narnia behaves?"
"What were your knights like?" Caspian asked Peter.
"Chivalrous and honourable," Peter said at once.
"Boring," Edmund said.
"I'll tell Oreius you said that about him," Peter fired back, then froze as he realised what he had said. A stony silence set in around them, and Caspian saw sorrow reflected in all of their faces for the friends they had lost.
Edmund spoke again. "When you are King, you shall judge for yourself what you value in a knight."
Caspian doubted very much that he would ever be able to discern a good soul from a bad quite the same way that Edmund could, or Peter or Susan or Lucy; for they had seen and experienced things that he likely never would. "What if I get it wrong?"
"Caspian," Susan said, "you needn't knight oddities like Edmund did." The subject of the statement scowled at her, and she ignored it entirely. "But you will know when the time is right."
"Just remember the one rule," Edmund said, stealing some bread off Lucy's plate.
"Sacrifice?" Caspian asked, and Peter turned his head to Edmund slowly, his blue eyes intent upon his brother.
"No," Edmund said solemnly. "That's my rule. You'll have your own. But there is one rule that is more important than any others for a knight of any Order." Caspian waited and watched, and Edmund met Peter's eyes across the warm circle they had made. "That they love Narnia, with all their heart and soul. And do good in Her name."
The Pevensies always spoke of Aslan with reverence on their tongues and wonder and love in their eyes, and it was until Caspian met the Lion that he understood why. For Aslan was love itself, with power and tenderness and mercy in his voice, and as Caspian knelt before him, he was filled with something – a kind of courage, or goodness, or strength – that he had never felt before.
"Now, Peter," Aslan said and Peter straightened immediately. "Bestow upon Narnia's newest king, a knighthood."
Caspian looked up in wonder as Peter drew his sword with a smile, and Edmund stood by his side. "Of what order, sir?" Peter asked the Lion, who made a noise like laughter.
"I believe King Edmund has always chosen his own knights, so therefore, we shall make Caspian a knight of the Order of the Lion."
Edmund bowed to Aslan with a grin, and Peter lowered the sword once onto Caspian's shoulder, then the other. "Rise," the High King said, saluting. Edmund drew his sword also, and all the other soldiers followed suit. "Sir Caspian, Knight of the most Noble Order of the Lion."
Later, Caspian, flushed with pleasure and excitement, found Edmund amidst the crowds of dancers and celebration. Edmund was clutching a goblet of wine and watching his sisters dance with the dryads. He smiled at Caspian and beckoned him over. "Caspian," he greeted. "How are you enjoying the celebrations?"
"It's all lovely," Caspian admitted. "And very unfamiliar; we didn't have anything like this while I was growing up."
"No," Edmund agreed. "Being a Narnian is very different from anything in life." He swirled his wine thoughtfully. "But wonderful too."
Caspian accepted his own goblet of wine from a passing nymph and smiled in thanks. "You taught me how to be one," he told Edmund. "You and your brother and your sisters. You taught me to be a Narnian, and you have taught me to be a knight, and now I am hoping you will teach me how to be a King."
Edmund looked very steadily at him, and said, "There is nothing to teach, Caspian."
"But there is everything to learn."
"Oh, yes," Edmund said with a laugh. "But you'll learn all those things on your own. Aslan has said that you're ready, and we all believe that you are."
"Because Aslan believes it."
"Oh, yes," Edmund repeated, and lifted the goblet to his lips again. The Sun was going down, and the stars showed themselves in their best and brightest, for the King of all Narnia, and all kings and queens under him were gathered there.
"So that is it," Caspian murmured. "The secret to it all. A servant of Narnia, and a knight, and a king – they must all follow Aslan."
"They must all have faith," Edmund said, and his voice rang true. "For in faith, we are brave and true and humble and curious. Without our faith, we have nothing." He gripped Caspian's arm and nodded with a smile to where the moonlight and starlight shone on their people.
"In faith, we find the best of what it means to be human." Peter, standing with Susan and Lucy, glanced over at the two of them, his blue eyes gleaming with joy. Edmund lifted a hand in greeting, then turned to Caspian with shining eyes. "And that is Aslan's greatest gift of all."
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