Chapter 10: Home Sweet Narnia
When Caspian woke up, the first thing he noticed was how refreshed he felt. The last two times he'd made this journey between worlds, he'd felt dizzy and disoriented upon waking. Even better - he felt content. Like there was nothing that could ever bother him again.
He stood up, noting he was on the doorstep of a small house. The Gateway sat beside him, although he didn't remember using it. Come to think of it, he didn't even remember how he came to be here. The last thing he remembered, Aslan had been telling him what to do once he arrived here, and he'd been feeling very sleepy, so he'd rested for a moment, and then ...
He rubbed his head, wondering what he was supposed to do now. There was a tidy garden in front of him, with a quiet looking street beyond. The sun was shining brightly in the sky, and there was a gentle breeze in the air. It was hard to believe this was the same world he'd visited earlier.
The sound of voices reached his ears, and he picked up the Gateway and stepped closer to the door. People were laughing ... talking excitedly. Perhaps he should knock.
Within a minute, the door was opened by an aging man who had a look of great wisdom about him. He took in Caspian with a single glance, and then smiled widely.
"You must be his majesty, Caspian the Tenth, King of Narnia, Lord of Cair Paravel, Emperor of the Lone Islands and Knight of the Most Noble Order of the Lion," he said, clearly very proud of knowing all that.
"Uh ... yes," Caspian said, taken aback. Judging by the manner in which he'd been greeted previously in this country, he'd been expecting something more like 'what in the blazes do you want?'. If Aslan hadn't sent him here, he'd think he was in the wrong place. "How did you know?"
"Well you're certainly not from around here! Come on in, we've been expecting you." He turned back into the house, and called, "He's here!"
Caspian stepped over the threshold, looking around with interest. The hallway beyond was lined with bookcases, and there were interesting sculptures on small display tables. He also recognized the telephone device from the police station, resting beside a sculpture. He placed the Gateway beside it.
"I'm sorry, I forgot to introduce myself," the man said, turning back to him. "Professor Digory Kirke."
"Digory," Caspian repeated, in surprise. "Not the same Lord Digory from the old stories ... who came into Narnia with the Lady -"
"Polly!" the professor said, as a lady of similar age entered the corridor from an adjoining room. "It's him, all right."
"Delighted," she said. "I was hoping you'd show up - the others have told us so much about you. Now, we must get you a drink."
Caspian gaped for a moment, and then quickly remembered his manners. He took her hand and kissed it.
"My lady," he said, "this is an indescribable honour."
"Oh, you charmer," she said, smiling and turning a little pink.
Caspian immediately wanted to start asking questions - about whether it was true they owned a flying horse, and such, but suddenly he was being clapped on the back, and having his hand shaken, and the High King Peter was asking him how he'd arrived here.
"Your majesty," Caspian said, wondering how many more surprises he could handle. "I never thought I'd see you again ... are your siblings ...?"
"I wish," Peter said, pulling him through a door. "Susan's in America - that's another country, over an ocean - and Edmund and Lucy are staying with our cousin Eustace in Cambridge. I've heard all about the great voyage you had together - I can't tell you how envious I am!"
Peter had led him into a sitting room, where there were more books and a study desk. Caspian felt a rush of relief when he saw Trumpkin, sitting in the depths of an armchair and sampling a plate full of cakes.
"Your majesty," he said, cheerfully. "Glad you could join us."
"I'm overjoyed to see you," Caspian said, grinning. "But where's -"
"Outside, to our favour," Trumpkin said. "He's more excited than Pattertwig when he's found a new source of nuts."
"He went racing off when he heard a rumble," Peter said, "saying something about seeing the flying machine. I suppose he meant an aeroplane."
"Aeroplanes!" Caspian said. "So that's what you call them. We saw one before. How do they stay up?"
"They really aren't that interesting," Peter said.
At that moment, Drinian returned, and it was clear he disagreed with Peter, judging by the grin on his face. It grew wider when he saw Caspian.
"Ah, praise the Lion," he said. "Caspian, you must see this!"
"See what?" Caspian said, bemused. Trumpkin was right about Drinian's excitement, as his friend would normally never call him 'Caspian'. But a moment later, he too, was as starry eyed as Drinian.
His friend held up an ornament that was resting on a nearby desk. It was a hard bluish sphere, mounted on a wooden frame that allowed it to spin around. There were multi-coloured patches on the sphere, but there appeared to be no rhyme or reason to their placement.
"What is it?" Caspian asked.
"The world!" Drinian declared, spinning it around. "This world!"
"It's round!" Caspian said, reaching out to stop it spinning. "It's really round!"
"Please, show us where we are again, your majesty," Drinian said to Peter.
Peter rolled his eyes like he thought they were more than a little mad, and then pointed to a small shape up the top. "Somewhere around there."
"They tell me this world is so large, this entire street would be too small to see on this map," Drinian said, setting the thing spinning again. "Will you look at all this ocean! It took thousands and thousands of sailors to chart it all. Oh, and I've been reading all about their famous navigators," Drinian said, gesturing to a pile of books on a nearby chair. "I haven't had a wink of sleep."
"I know," Trumpkin put in, sounding weary.
"I couldn't put this one down," Drinian said, picking up a book titled The Illustrated Voyages of Captain Cook.
Caspian looked through the rest of Drinian's reading pile, and found himself becoming more excited with every word. A Guide to Sea Creatures, Great Ships of the World, Great Ocean Explorers, Pirates: The Facts Behind the Legends.
"Are these ... real?" Caspian asked, opening the one about great ships. The pictures were unbelievably life-like.
"I just saw another machine with wings," Drinian said. "It flew through the sky like a ... like an albatross. They tell me it carries people between lands ... I don't think there is anything that is not real in this place."
"Yes, it's all glorious and wondrous and everything else," Trumpkin said. "But if it's all the same with you gentlemen, I think I'm ready to go home. I don't much like the idea of missing my birthday because too much time has passed in Narnia."
"Oh, don't worry about that," Caspian said. "It's all sorted. The Gateway will take us back to the exact moment when we left. Aslan arranged it."
"Ah, so you've finally spoken to Him, then," Drinian said, with a knowing grin.
"Yes," Caspian said, seriously. He then added, "I owe you both an apology."
Drinian merely clapped him on the back to let him know all was well, and then resumed playing with the spinning model of the world. Caspian glanced at Trumpkin, expecting a less amiable reaction, but even he was smiling.
"When we were sitting in that prison cell, I'd have said you jolly well do, your majesty," Trumpkin said. "But not now. We've had a wonderful time here, thanks to the High King, and Lord Digory and Lady Polly. I only wish Trufflehunter could be here."
"It was better that he wasn't," Peter said. "He wouldn't have ended up in a prison ... he'd have ended up in a circus, or worse, a laboratory."
"What's a circus?" Trumpkin asked, at the same time Caspian asked, "What's a laboratory?"
"Just the thought of you three, wandering around asking everyone you met if they knew Lucy or Edmund," Peter said, shaking his head with a grin. "You honestly thought someone would have heard of them, out of all the hundreds of thousands of people who live here?"
"We thought you'd be famous," Caspian explained. "Great explorers, with tales of your adventures told far and wide."
"We didn't tell anyone we'd been to Narnia," Peter said. "Who would believe us?"
Caspian shared a confused look with Drinian.
Peter was saved from explaining further by the return of Digory and Polly. Digory was carrying a tray with glasses and a bottle of some drink Caspian did not recognize.
"Now, you Narnians are most welcome to stay for lunch," he said. "No hurry to get back, is there?"
"None at all," Drinian said, immediately.
"Well," Caspian said, a little unsure. "What do you think, Trumpkin?"
"If Lord Drinian wants to stay a bit longer, I'll oblige," Trumpkin said. "But after the meal ..."
"I agree," Caspian said, looking at Drinian. "I wish we could stay here for hours and talk about everything, and those books offer many temptations -" He glanced back at the globe. "- but Narnia is our home, and we belong there."
Drinian nodded, but he didn't meet Caspian's gaze.
The meal was a pleasant and happy event, and Caspian enjoyed sharing stories of Narnia with Peter, who wanted to know everything that had happened since he'd last been there. Trumpkin and Polly had taken up an involved conversation about cake recipes. Drinian sat next to the professor at the other end of the table, and Caspian could not hear what they were discussing, but judging by his friend's expression, it was something about the ocean.
Afterwards, they helped with the clearing up, and said goodbye to Polly, who had a train to catch. Then Caspian and Trumpkin shook hands with the professor, and Peter gave them both hugs. Trumpkin reminded Caspian to collect his sword (they'd stored them in one of the bedrooms).
It wasn't until Caspian was picking up the Gateway, and setting it up in the sitting room, that he realized they hadn't seen Drinian since they'd finished eating.
"It isn't like him to wander off without saying anything," Caspian said, concerned. Drinian was usually the most responsible of his friends.
"He's been behaving oddly since he got hold of those stupid books," Trumpkin said. "Bewitched him, no doubt. They must hold some strange magic."
"There's no such thing as magic here," Peter explained. He pointed out the window. "Drinian is sitting on the back porch."
Caspian immediately went to talk to him, while Trumpkin said, "No magic? Really?"
"Well, that is debatable," the professor said, sitting down in an armchair. "Let me tell you about my uncle ..."
Caspian went through the back door, and found Drinian was sitting on a wooden bench, immersed once again in the volume about Captain Cook's voyages.
"Drinian," Caspian said, "we're all set to leave, my friend. Are you ready?"
He stood up, leaving the book on the bench.
"Actually, Sire, I've been thinking," he said, looking out over the small back garden. He clasped his hands behind his back. "I want to stay here."
"Is this a joke?" Caspian said, raising an eyebrow. He wouldn't put it past Drinian to tease him like this.
"Nay," he said, quietly.
"You're not serious," Caspian said, in disbelief. Drinian was always so ... reliable. "You don't belong here."
"I think I might," Drinian said, turning to face him. "Your majesty, they have ships here that can survive at sea for months ... they even have vessels that can travel in the depths of the ocean. They call them submarines. It's like something out of a dream."
"I'm sure there are many things we don't yet understand about this world," Caspian said. "It would be too dangerous to leave you here, with no means of returning."
"Sire, aren't you the least bit curious?" Drinian asked.
Caspian took a deep breath, doing his best to keep his focus. "No," he said, stoically. He'd told Aslan he wouldn't be tempted. Drinian gave him a look that was clearly disbelieving.
"Of course I am!" Caspian admitted. "But temptation is often just one's mind playing tricks ... making promises it will never deliver. Remember when the Dawn Treader reached the eastern edge, and I wanted to go on?"
"Yes, and I've been meaning to apologize for the lack of understanding on my part," Drinian said.
"I was going to say that if I had gone, it would have been the most foolish decision I ever made," Caspian said. "I was lucky to have good friends like you, who would never have let me make it. And now, I extend to you the same loyalty. You're coming home with Trumpkin and I. Besides, what would I say to Trufflehunter if I left you behind?"
Drinian didn't say anything.
"Well, if your heart is really set on this," Caspian said. "I will have to stay as well. Trumpkin can go back alone."
"But Narnia needs you -"
"I know," Caspian said, "but I can't just abandon you while you make a mistake."
A distant look came into Drinian's eyes for a moment, as if he was remembering something. At that moment, Peter and the professor appeared in the doorway.
"Everything all right?" the professor said. "I don't mean to rush you, but Trumpkin is saying he'll use the device alone if you don't hurry up, and I think that dwarf means business."
Caspian smiled. "We're coming. Right, Drinian?"
"I suppose I must," Drinian said, sadly. "But I leave part of myself here."
"You don't want to stay, do you?" Peter enquired, as they walked back into the cottage. "Lord Drinian, having lived in both worlds for many years, I can tell you without hesitation that, given a choice, I would choose Narnia a hundred times over."
"Why don't you take these books back with you?" the professor said, handing them to Drinian. "I've no doubt you'll enjoy them far more often than me."
"Thank you, sir," Drinian said, cheering up slightly. "Everyone will think I've brought back books of childish fairytales."
"Especially when we say the world here was round," Caspian said, staring at the sphere again. He was half wishing the professor would offer them that, as well, but such maps were probably rare valuables in this world.
Trumpkin was already waiting next to the Gateway, twirling a large feather around in his fingertips.
"Trees and tornados! Are we leaving?" he asked, impatiently. He had an expression as if he knew what they'd been discussing outside, and didn't think much of it.
"Yes, Trumpkin," Caspian said, taking the feather. He activated the Gateway, and then, after some thought, handed the feather to Drinian.
"Perhaps you should do the honours."
Drinian studied it. "This is an albatross feather," he said, curiously.
"Is it?" Caspian said. "I don't know where it came from. Aslan left it with the Gateway and told me we could use it to return."
"Well," Drinian said, suddenly sounding more certain, "I must say my goodbyes. Thank you for your hospitality, professor. And your majesty," he said, bowing to Peter. "I never imagined I'd have the honor of meeting you."
"I hope this isn't the last time we'll meet," Caspian said.
"Oh, somehow I doubt it will be," the professor said.
With those hopeful words, they held on to each other, and Caspian braced himself for the sensation that was becoming familiar. Drinian held the feather into the green light, and it became much brighter. The professor, Peter and the room itself faded into white, and then there was a peaceful silence.
"Hmmmm," Caspian mumbled, rolling over. His bed felt strangely hard.
This was followed by a paw on his chest, and a wet nose poking at his face. He quickly sat up, and found himself looking into the furry face of Trufflehunter.
"What happened, Sire? Are you all right?"
"I'm fine," Caspian said. "Never been better. How are you?"
"I think I better go and fetch Gilamaud," Trufflehunter said.
Caspian looked around, and found Drinian and Trumpkin were resting nearby. Everything suddenly came back.
"No, really, I'm fine," he said. "I'm so sorry about what happened. Forgive me?"
"I came back to apologize myself," Trufflehunter said, looking relieved. "I overreacted - I'm sorry."
They shared a warm hug, and then Caspian stood up.
"Help me wake the others - you won't believe what happened to us."
"I thought the Gateway had killed you all for a moment," Trufflehunter said, shaking Trumpkin.
"No, it worked perfectly," Caspian said, rousing Drinian. "We went to the other world, and we saw King Peter, and Lord Digory and Lady Polly, and -"
"But I only left an hour ago," Trufflehunter said, confused.
"Just what I want to hear," Caspian said, grinning. "Would you mind standing back for a moment?"
Trufflehunter obliged, staring at him in bemusement. Caspian drew his sword, and brought it down on the Gateway. There was a momentary green flash, then the thing snapped in two and lay in pieces. The noise caused Drinian and Trumpkin to shake off the last of their drowsiness, and soon they were standing up beside him.
"Waterfalls and whales! You destroyed it?" Trumpkin said. "You destroyed the Gateway?"
Caspian shrugged. "It wasn't any use anymore, anyway. I no longer have Edmund's torch. At least, I don't think so," he said, thinking. The last he'd seen of it was when he was stuck in the past. Maybe it was buried underneath Cair Paravel somewhere. It hurt his head to think about it.
"I still have these books," Drinian said, pointing. "They're from the other world. We could have used them."
"I forgot," Caspian said, grinning at Drinian. His friend looked disappointed for a moment, and then shared his smile.
Over dinner that night, they told Trufflehunter the entire tale, and Caspian learnt what had transpired after he'd left the police station. He shared the story of how he'd ended up among the ruins of the ancient Cair Paravel, much to Drinian and Trumpkin's amazement.
"I'm glad we didn't all end up there," Trumpkin said. "Imagine having to fight Miraz for Narnia all over again. Once was enough, thanks all the same."
"And we'd have to put up with two of you, my lord," Caspian said.
"And two of you, your majesty," Trumpkin countered. "How would that work, eh? Two kings. They'd have ended up fighting each other, no doubt."
The debate over who would win such a fight, and whether Trufflehunter would side with an older or younger Caspian, took them to the end of dessert, by which time they were all growing tired. Drinian, especially, who had nearly fallen asleep between courses, due to his lack of rest during their adventure.
He retired early, leaving the rest of them to talk a while longer. When Caspian finally made his way to bed, he was surprised to find his ocean-loving friend on one of the east-facing balconies.
"I thought you'd be asleep," he said, joining him.
"Just needed a few lungfuls of the salty air," Drinian said.
"Glad to be home?" Caspian asked.
"Aye," Drinian said, "I honestly don't know what came over me. One story about some South Sea navigator, and I was like an over-excited sailor on his first voyage."
"If you don't mind me saying so," Caspian said, "I always knew there was an adventurer behind that steady and reliable exterior. You're simply better at hiding it than I am."
Drinian smiled. They listened to the waves for a moment, and Caspian breathed in the air, smelling the salty freshness that Drinian loved so much. His friend was twirling something between his fingers, and Caspian glanced over.
"Is that the feather we used to get home?"
"Aye," Drinian agreed. "Sire, do you mind if I keep it?"
"Of course, friend," Caspian said. "It will make a nice addition to your room décor, with all those shells, rocks, maps and model ships." He grinned at Drinian. "Goodnight, shipmate."
Just before Caspian reached the exit to the balcony, something occurred to him, and he turned back to Drinian.
"Drinian, I know it's been a long day ... but do you ever feel like taking the Dawn Treader for another voyage?"
"We'll start planning it first thing tomorrow," his friend replied, without a moment of hesitation.
A/N: Thanks all for reading and big thanks for those who reviewed.