Warnings: Slash, meaning a sexual relationship between two people of the same sex, in this case Edmund and Caspian. Underage sexuality (although I've never been able to think of the Pevensies as being as young as the timeline places them). Mild language and violence. If you don't like it, leave now. Very much bookverse – if you haven't read Prince Caspian and The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, you most likely won't understand it very well.
Disclaimer: All characters were created by C.S. Lewis. Parts of dialogue were lifted directly from Prince Caspian and The Voyage of the Dawn Treader but were altered at the author's discretion. Contains references to The Iliad and The Odyssey.
The Blurring of Memories
Edmund knows, with a sinking feeling in his gut, that it is over.
He stands at the edge of the world, his sister's hand clasped tightly in his own, and he knows that they will never see Narnia again. No, this is the end of kingship and adulthood, of being the savoir of beasts and the golden idol of a nation, of looking his God straight in the face and talking with him as Jesus must have talked with the apostles, of his lover's lips on his neck . . .
They come upon a Lamb.
Edmund must somehow go back to being the schoolboy. It is a beginning of sorts; the beginning of life as other people live it. Was Narnia a crutch all along? A way for them to escape from the world, have adventures, be important? A way to learn all the life lessons he probably never would have figured out on his own? Edmund realizes, increasingly, that they needed Narnia as much as Narnia ever needed them. He only needs to look at his cousin, Eustace, and his miraculous transformation into a likable person to know that this is true. How could he have never seen it before? In his siblings, and especially in himself. Narnia bound them together, taught them courage, faith, love.
"Please, Lamb," Lucy asks the gorgeous creature, "is this the way to Aslan's country?"
"Not for you," the Lamb answers her. Edmund squeezes her hand. "For you the door into Aslan's country is from your own world."
Edmund starts, surprised. "What! Is there a way into Aslan's country from our world too?" he asks, eagerly.
The Lamb changes, grows into a Lion, tall and golden. "There is a way into my country from all worlds," Aslan tells them.
Edmund might have known. The lion and the lamb. So it was all a metaphor. Or maybe not a metaphor, exactly, but Aslan didn't mean it in the way that Edmund wanted him to mean it. Aslan was often like that.
"Please, Aslan," Lucy addresses the Lion. "Before we go, will you tell us when we can come back to Narnia again?"
Edmund flinches at his sister's naiveté. Hasn't she figured it out yet? Doesn't she remember their last trip to Narnia when Peter and Susan were told they could never come back?
"Dearest," Aslan's voice is gentle. Too gentle. "You and your brother will never come back to Narnia."
"Oh Aslan," Edmund exclaims, right along with his sister. Hearing it said aloud by Aslan is more of a blow than Edmund had expected. He knows now with certainty that his suspicions were correct. He hopes that he will handle it as well as Peter. Peter, who goes from ruling a country to working a grubby little summer job in between studying for exams with grace and fortitude. Peter, who always tells Edmund that it's not so bad, knowing that he will never go back to Narnia, when Edmund knows that his brother's heart and soul are bound up in the place. He suspects that he won't be able to handle it as Peter did, however. Somehow, Edmund has never been able to deal with things quite as well as Peter.
Lucy is weeping. "It isn't Narnia, you know," she cries. "It's you. We shan't meet you there. And how can we live, never meeting you?"
Edmund regards Lucy, her eyes swollen with tears, with a bit of guilt. Of course her mind would immediately leap to Aslan. If Peter's heart is constantly turned toward Narnia, Lucy's is always on Aslan. This, Edmund knows, is what he should have been thinking.
Aslan tells them that he will make a door in the sky. Edmund struggles frantically to commit everything that has ever happened to him in Narnia to memory. To take years of a life, only half-real and fit it into a tiny ball in the back of his mind. Already, he has forgotten so much of that first time. The earlier memories; of the White Witch and her terrible minions, of becoming the traitor -- a point he never managed to quite live down --Edmund has tried for years to push these into the back of his mind, but now they come to him more clearly than the years that followed. Edmund's reign as king is blurred together in a mass of banquets, balls, battles and hunts. He can barely remember any of the names of the beasts, fauns, satyrs, nymphs, dryads, naiads, giants, dwarves and various other creatures who adored the Pevensies as their saviors, rulers, and darlings. Even his human friends – and the young men that Lucy referred to as his "good friends" -- run together in his mind. Often, he has to go to Lucy, who remembers these things better than any of them and ask her tell him a name or an event that has faded for him. Lucy reminds them all. Sometimes he thinks Susan would forget completely if it weren't for his younger sister's enthusiasm.
Yes, so many of Edmund's memories have coalesced into a bittersweet awareness. As he tries to recall it all, one person stands as bright in his memories as a star.
Caspian . . .
Edmund rather resents him. This kingling who has been chosen to take their place. This boy who looks to be about Peter's age, but who seems infinitely younger; unsure of himself, indecisive, and overawed. Caspian, the one they have been struggling to locate for several days. Now, having found him, what on earth can they do with him? Caspian fumbles every time Peter addresses him and he stares at both Peter and Edmund with eyes full of wonder. Edmund does not much like this; it is one thing to be a king, a hero; it is quite another to be legend.
Peter offers to challenge Miraz to single combat.
Edmund looks at his brother sharply. Surely challenging a grown man about whose swordsmanship they know nothing is not the wisest course of action. But as Edmund looks at Peter's face, he realizes that this doesn't matter. Peter will do it because it is noble and it is right and caution be damned. He is the righteous king, the good knight, as always. Still, Edmund will be having words with his brother later.
"Please," Caspian says. "Could it not be me? I want to avenge my father."
Ridiculous. Edmund thinks.
Peter is more polite. "You're wounded," he says. And anyway, wouldn't he just laugh at a challenge from you? I mean, we have seen that you are a king and a warrior but he thinks of you as a kid." Caspian flushes at this.
King and warrior indeed. So this time Peter is to be the sacrifice for Old Narnia and for Caspian's throne.
After Edmund returns from talking to that fool, Miraz, he goes off to himself for a bit. He stands where the hill of the Stone Table begins to slope down, out of sight of those who might bother him, but still within earshot of the camp. He watches the sun, unusually large and such a dark orange as to seem almost red, sink into western Narnia, painting the landscape. He thinks that a dying sun must look much like this.
Someone approaches him. Edmund doesn't bother to look around.
"It is very good of the High King," says Caspian coming to stand alongside him, "to offer to fight my uncle." It is the first time that he has spoken to Edmund directly. He has apparently overcome his shyness and awe enough to talk to Edmund, if not Peter, without stuttering or making a fool of himself.
"Oh, well you know High Kings," Edmund's voice is flippant, "always so magnanimous."
Narnians don't usually pick up on sarcasm all that easily, but Edmund can tell from the slight arch of Caspian's eyebrow, then the wry curve of his lip that he does. Interesting.
"I suppose that you must think that we should be able to come up with some better plan," Edmund says more kindly. "Being legendary kings from hundreds of years in the past and all that." In actuality, this is what Edmund has been thinking all day. He knows that most of the Narnian creatures are rejoicing tonight, secure in the knowledge that King Peter the Magnificent couldn't possibly lose against the middle-aged, potbellied, squinty-eyed usurper, Miraz. The reality of the situation is much more desperate. Edmund also knows that somewhere along the line, he has gotten the reputation for being the "clever" one. If anyone can up with a better idea, it should be him. Yet, he thinks and thinks and still there seems to be no way to help his brother.
Caspian shrugs. "It is as good as anything we've been able to figure out. We are just happy that you are here."
Edmund turns to face him. "Really? You're not expecting us to come up with some brilliant trick? A Trojan horse perhaps?"
"A – a what?"
Edmund blinks and realizes that he was so involved in the conversation that he had forgotten he was speaking to someone who had never known his world. "It's nothing. A story from my world."
"Really?" Caspian's voice is eager. "Would you tell me a bit of it?"
Edmund rolls his eyes, but begins telling him the story as best as he can remember. Normally, when he tries to tell Narnians stories from his own world, they quickly lose interest – especially in a story so involved as The Iliad. The places, names, and ideas are unfamiliar to them. Besides, Narnia has its own stories and legends, as good or better as those of his world. Caspian, however, seems entranced and each time that Edmund attempts to stop, fearing that the young man is growing bored, Caspian urges him onward, often asking for long explanations. Little by little, he tells most of what he can recall of the story.
Peter wakes them up at the crack of dawn, claiming that he wants to get in some light practice before the fight with Miraz. The young king easily disarms his sleepy brother a few times before casting about for a better fencing partner. Caspian offers, and Edmund steps to the side, relieved.
Peter is really a much better swordsman than Caspian, Edmund thinks. He is stronger, quicker, knows better tricks. But Peter's movements are sparse, deadly, utilitarian. As they whirl around, searching for one another's weaknesses, Caspian makes fencing look like a dance. His style seems so much more refined, less harried than that of Edmund or his brother. Is it merely the influence of different instructors? Or is it the fact that Caspian was to be a king of Narnia from the time he was born? If Edmund had been born the son of a king and not the son of a scholar, would he be able to move this naturally, as though the sword were an extension of his hand? Or does Caspian have his own innate grace?
For the first time, Edmund notices what a gorgeous young man Caspian is.
Heat rises to his face when he realizes that the fluttering in his stomach comes from watching the elegant movements of Caspian's feet, the way the messy golden curls fall in front of Caspian's eyes, the trim, muscular form, and the sheen of sweat on the suntanned face. With a sudden aggressive movement, Peter disarms Caspian. Caspian comes over and gives Edmund a shrug and a grin, a bit sheepish at having been defeated but also glad that Peter is such a capable swordsman. He splashes some water on his face and begins to strip off his chain mail. Edmund's throat goes dry when he sees the sweat soaked tunic with the split down the front revealing a tantalizing amount of the strong chest. He blushes and looks away. Peter, catching his brother's stare, scowls at him. Well, Peter has never approved of his tastes.
The situation grows more and more hopeless. Peter is clearly losing to Miraz and it will take a miracle for him to avoid getting killed. He is wounded and exhausted, fighting to block Miraz's heavy blows. Miraz has already nearly killed Peter several times and at one point that Edmund was sure was the end, he tasted blood in his mouth from biting down on his lip so hard. None of these Narnians realize; the ones who aren't firmly convinced that Peter is unbeatable naturally think of their own futures. This is the difference between life and death for Old Narnia. None of them really think of Peter as a person, a person with whom Edmund has laughed and cried and fought and played. None of them realize that Peter is Edmund's brother.
None but one. Every time Peter takes a bad hit, Edmund can feel Caspian's concerned green eyes on fixed upon him. He sits next to Edmund and although he never touches Edmund, never holds his hand or pats his shoulder, Edmund can feel the sympathy radiating from him. He begins to feel a bit more hopeful.
The celebration that night is tremendous. There is much dancing, laughing, hugging, eating, and drinking and Bacchus and his maidens manage to turn the whole thing into quite the frolic. Edmund thinks that it perhaps only Aslan's presence that keeps the whole thing from careening into a full-fledged orgy though goodness knows that his siblings wouldn't approve of that. Still, Edmund drinks just a bit more than is strictly good for him.
He lays back and stares up at the Narnian stars, thinking that this may be the last time he sees them for a good long while. They will have to leave, of course. They have done what they were meant to do and Caspian can hardly establish himself firmly as the king with the four of them hanging around. Still, it hardly seems fair. Last time, they had years and years in Narnia, but their second stay is to last only a few days. Edmund regrets that he won't have the chance to get to know all the friends that he has made here better.
Caspian sits down beside Edmund. Neither of them speaks for a good long while. Finally, Edmund says without looking at Caspian. "You seem reserved tonight. You don't care for this romp?"
Caspian gives him a half-hearted smile. "It's not that. It's just that we've won and now I have to wonder what happens next. I've never thought of what it must be like to be king before."
Edmund looks at Caspian lazily, sizing him up. "You'll do well, I think," he says. "I've known enough rulers by now that I ought to be able to pick out who will make the good ones."
Caspian gestures around him at the celebrating Narnians. "Look at them all. Each one so different from the others, each one expecting me, a Telmarine who didn't even know if talking animals existed or not up until a few weeks ago, to lead them. Somehow I have to figure out what is right for them and all the Telmarines. The two groups hate each other with a passion that is rooted in hundreds of years of the most brutal warfare. However will I manage? I'm barely old enough to shave."
Edmund gives him a sidelong glance. "How do you think we felt, at first? Especially me with everything that had done?"
"Everything that you had done? What do you mean?"
"Nothing, never mind," Edmund tells him hastily. From what Edmund has been able to glean, it seems that most Narnians have a fuzzy recollection, at best, of his involvement with the White Witch and he would prefer to keep it this way. After a moment's silence, he speaks again. "The Telmarines will just have to get used to the Old Narnians. After all, this was their country to begin with. Likewise, the Narnians will have to get used to the Telmarines – they are to have a Telmarine for their King."
"I don't think I have it in me to be a King."
"Your ancestors have ruled Narnia for two-hundred years."
"My ancestors were tyrants," Caspian's voice is cold.
Ah. So that's it. Edmund sits up and faces Caspian. "Not all of them," he says sincerely. "From what Trumpkin has told us, your father was a decent enough bloke. Besides, it hardly matters. If Aslan says that you will make a good ruler, then you surely will."
Caspian looks a bit more cheerful at this. "I suppose that I'll have you around to advise me?" It is a question, not a statement.
Edmund closes his eyes. "I don't expect so," he sighs. "We would only be in the way now. You need to figure things out on your own. Not, you understand, that we don't want to stay, we just have little say in the matter."
Caspian looks at Edmund as though seeing something new. "You must miss it terribly when you are away – in your own world. Narnia, I mean."
"I think I'll miss you most of all," Edmund says without thinking. He immediately regrets it. What an odd thing to say to a boy that you met only a few days ago! Edmund waits for Caspian to give him a wary glance or to make an excuse to get away, but Caspian says nothing, he just lays back and looks up at the stars.
Edmund stands in his schoolboy uniform feeling like a child who has tricked everyone into thinking he is a man. He and his brother and sisters begin the process of saying goodbye to all the friends that they have made along the way and will probably never see again. Lucy cries as she parts from each one, giving kind words and heartfelt hugs. Peter and Susan are quiet, thoughtful, as they have been since Aslan told them that they wouldn't come back into Narnia.
Edmund finds himself facing Caspian. They stare at one another for a long moment, brown eyes meeting green and suddenly Edmund thinks that he too may end up blubbering. Finally Caspian speaks.
"I think those Greeks and Trojans were rather stupid," he says.
Edmund laughs at the ridiculousness of it. Of all the improbable things to say! "Why is that?" he asks.
"All that trouble over one woman!"
"Women are often the cause of trouble. My sister nearly started three or four wars."
Caspian looks over at Susan, disbelief clear on his face. Edmund knows that he should be offended at this insult to his sister. Instead he laughs. "Some men thought her very beautiful."
"I suppose so," Caspian's voice is neutral. "I would never do anything like that."
Edmund feels oddly argumentative. "Wouldn't you? If you met a lady who was the most beautiful thing you had ever seen, if she were an angel, a goddess? I think you would be surprised what you would do, what you would give up to have her."
"I wouldn't go to war!"
"Well, maybe not that," Edmund concedes. "That's more a matter of duty. But you would take risks, give up the things that matter the most to you." Edmund feels that perhaps he has gone too far. How can he presume to tell this boy that he hardly knows what he would do in some hypothetical situation?
Caspian doesn't seem offended. He smiles broadly. "I think I'll miss you most of all," he says, his smile disappearing and a wistful look taking its place. Then he is gone.
Edmund stares disbelievingly at the strong, confident man in front of him. This is not Caspian. It cannot be Caspian. Caspian is supposed to be young, indecisive, and unsure of himself. Lucy splutters Caspian's name and still Edmund doesn't believe. The young man says Lucy's name, thrilled, but his eyes are on Edmund all the time. Finally, Edmund has to believe.
All these long months, he has been hoping and praying that when he got back to Narnia he would find Caspian. Now, his wish has come true. Caspian is standing in front of him, handsome, alive, and dripping wet. Edmund thinks it a cruel trick, though. Now, Caspian is clearly a man. Edmund is still just a boy.
Now it is Edmund who is always tongue tied around the young king. Everything that he says seems to come out sounding ridiculous or embarrassing. Edmund spends his evenings in their room agonizing over each word. He feels that if he could ever get back to the real Caspian and not this heroic, commanding king who has replaced him that he would know just what to say. Sometimes Edmund thinks he can see glimmers of that boy, but Caspian has changed so much.
Caspian comes into their room and collapses into his hammock. "Are you ever going to tell me the rest of the story?" he asks.
"The story that you were telling me before. All about Achilles and Hector and Paris and Helen."
"Oh. That story." Edmund clears his throat awkwardly. He can barely remember his own name when he is alone with Caspian, let alone try to recite Homer. Caspian isn't looking at him, however, but is staring at the ceiling, one leg thrown idly over the side of the hammock. That should make things easier.
"Well, after the war, of course everyone wanted to go home. But this one chap had a frightfully hard time of it. It took him ten years."
"Was his country far away."
"Not really, but he kept running into trouble at sea and on islands."
Caspian raises his head, showing clear interest and Edmund thinks that perhaps he isn't so changed after all.
They are sold as slaves. If Edmund weren't living it, he would think it a sort of poetic justice. On his first trip to Narnia, he was the worst kind of traitor but was crowned King of the whole place. Now he tries his best to play the good King and is sold as a slave. The slave dealer, Pug, makes them stand upon the horrid block, one by one. Edmund feels the desire to kill when he watches them sell his little sister to the highest bidder.
Then he is standing in front of all those terrible men, appraising eyes upon him, looking him up and down. He wants to sink into the ground and hide. The Calormens take a particular interest in him and Edmund feels a wave of nausea. He has been to Calormen. He knows what use they find for exotic looking young boys of his age. He is just grateful that Eustace and Lucy are too young to be put to such a purpose.
A pompous, bejeweled, Calormen merchant buys him. He barely looks at Edmund, just gives him a nod, but Edmund had seen the greedy look in the man's eye earlier. He knows that Calormens, especially of the middle class often disregard their servants in public, but in private are attentively cruel. Edmund keeps hoping against hope that they will somehow be saved, that Caspian will have figured out some plan, or that Drinian and the others on the Dawn Treader have somehow found out what happened.
The man who purchased him slides an arm around his waist, all the while appearing to ignore him. Edmund gives a shuddering sigh.
At this moment, sweet deliverance comes bursting into the room in the form of several armor-clad men. Edmund looks around, disoriented. He hears a voice from the front of the room; it is Caspian, bare-headed and wearing fine golden plate armor. He is making a speech, saying grand things, kingly things. Edmund finds it hard to focus, but when he hears Caspian ask about them he manages raise his voice to let the King know where he is. Edmund is quickly released.
Once Caspian is done attending to business, he makes his way quickly back to Edmund. "Are you hurt?" he asks in a low voice, putting a hand on Edmund's shoulder.
Edmund thinks it odd that Caspian would attend to him first thing; Lucy is the lady, after all. But perhaps Lucy, who is already chattering animatedly with Reepicheep, doesn't look as though she needs help as much as he does. Edmund is suddenly supremely embarrassed when he realizes that he must look as though he is ready to faint. "I'm all right," he says, steadying himself and shaking off Caspian's hand.
Lord Bern insists on a pompous ceremony in which Caspian formally declares him governor. Not because of any arrogance on Bern's part, but because he says the more people who see with their own eyes that he has been legitimately given control of the islands by the crown of Narnia, the better. Edmund recognizes that this is wise politics, but he shifts uncomfortably in his fine clothes during the proceedings.
Clothing styles in Narnia have really changed a great deal since his day. When he reigned over Narnia, it was all about flimsy fabrics, simple cuts, and bright colors. Lucy looks terrible in her high necked silver dress, decked out with much more lace, embroidery, and jewelry than Edmund has ever seen her in. Edmund knows that he must look equally ridiculous and uncomfortable in his blue tunic, which is cut much higher on the leg than he is accustomed to and also has horrid frills. The stiff fabric makes him scratch and he keeps trying to pull his tunic down to cover more of his legs, though the style certainly suits Caspian. Even Eustace looks more comfortable than he does.
Edmund thinks that perhaps the reason he and Lucy look so out of place, so uncomfortable is that they are so very out of place. While they were aboard the Dawn Treader, Edmund rarely felt this. At sea there was no reason to worry about the place of ancient kings and queens. Here, it is different. He and Lucy are not Caspian's subjects, but nor are they quite in the place of commanding rulers. The closest Edmund can come to describing their position is to compare it to that of foreign dignitaries, but even this doesn't quite fit. They are really almost ghosts.
There is a great banquet afterwards. Edmund sits near Caspian and listens as Drinian tries to convince Caspian of the charms of the ladies in the room, a great number of which are giggling and shooting looks in Caspian's direction.
"Young Lilah seems quite taken with you," Drinian says as a dainty blonde girl gives Caspian a shy smile.
"That pasty thing?" Caspian replies. "I should hope not."
"Why, look at that lovely dark haired woman to Your Majesty's right," he tries a bit later.
"Yes, it really is unfortunate about her nose," Caspian says calmly, causing Edmund to nearly spit out his drink in laughter.
"Lord Bern's eldest daughter –" Drinian begins, but here Caspian cuts him off, exasperated.
"Lord Bern's eldest daughter is roughly the weight of a baby elephant, Drinian!" Caspian says in a furious whisper, careful that Bern cannot overhear him.
"Some men would call her 'voluptuous'."
Caspian throws up his hands in exasperation.
Edmund retires to his quarters that Bern has provided him with early. He is glad for the privacy of having his own room, but before he has a chance to undress and relax, his door opens and Caspian comes in, as though sneaking away from the festivities.
"You should be down there," Edmund says, automatically, wearily. "They'll soon miss you. You are their King, after all."
Caspian stands facing Edmund. "I wanted to see if you were quite well."
Edmund shrugs. "I'm fine. And you don't need to keep checking on me, Caspian."
Caspian clasps Edmund firmly on both shoulders. "I worry about you, my friend," he sighs. Edmund turns away from Caspian's concerned face, inches from his own. "You've seemed distracted since you arrived here – especially since Pug kidnapped us."
Edmund gives Caspian a small, angry shove away from him. Caspian catches Edmund by the arm and for a moment he thinks that the young king is going to hit him. Instead, Caspian grins. "Do you think you can beat me in a fight, King Edmund?" he asks.
"Yes," Edmund lies, managing to give him a small smile.
Caspian pushes Edmund, slowly, almost gently against the wall. Edmund stands perfectly still, listening to Caspian's breathing for a few seconds, before he grabs Caspian by the hands and forces him to move in slow, graceful back steps as he pushes against him. It is a game. If they were really to fight, then they would throw punches at each other or draw swords. They wouldn't partake in this playful wrestling match, this aggressive dance. If he had thought about it, it might have occurred to what a very strange game this was, but he doesn't think, least of all when he shoves Caspian onto his bed and falls on top of him. Caspian laughs and flips Edmund over, climbing on top of him and pinning his arms to the bed.
"I suppose that you can't best me after all," Caspian whispers against Edmund's ear.
Edmund tries to push the young man off of him, but Caspian is really much the stronger, being older. Edmund leans up, thinking he is going to make one last attempt to win their struggle. Instead, his lips brush lightly against Caspian's.
It is hardly a kiss. If it had taken only a fraction less time, then Edmund could have claimed that their lips merely met by accident, but as he looks up at the shocked young face in front of him, he knows that Caspian recognizes the kiss for what it is. Edmund trembles – not with passion, but with fear. He knows that he has ruined everything. Will Caspian tell the others? Will he refuse to be Edmund's friend? Edmund feels the uncertainty and panic that always accompanies this revelation. Caspian doesn't move, he just stares at Edmund's face for long moments. Edmund thinks, in an oddly detached way, that Caspian has always had such intense eyes. Eyes that can see right through him.
Caspian kisses him, fierce and demanding. Edmund is dissolving into his bed sheets.
After this, the two kings often sneak off together. It is easy, while they are on the island, to find secret places where they can touch one another. It becomes much more difficult on the Dawn Treader. Eustace is the chief cause of their troubles; the two share a room with him, so they must wait until he is out or else find new places. Edmund remembers the way Eustace reacted to their talk of Narnia before he was drawn into the picture of the Dawn Treader. He knows that if Eustace ever learns their secret, he will use it to torment them.
Lucy, of course, realizes almost right away – before they even leave the Lone Islands.
"Ed," she says one day when she gets him alone after breakfast, "I noticed that you didn't sleep in your bed last night."
"Yes," Edmund stammers, "I – I was talking to someone last night and got so caught up that I forgot to go back to my own room."
Lucy laughs at this and then puts on a more serious face. "Was it Caspian?" she asks.
Edmund blushes and nods and sees that she understands. Edmund often wonders if Lucy has ever had a lover; a real lover, not merely a suitor. If she did during their reign over Narnia, then she certainly did a good job of keeping it secret. Edmund never heard even a hint of a rumor to suggest it, though the court gossip about Susan's lovers never seemed to cease. Then again it hardly fits in with the idealized image; Queen Lucy the Valiant, the youngest sibling, the virgin queen long known to be the confidant of her wilder brother and sister, the one with the childlike wisdom, the strong connection to Aslan – somehow Edmund wishes that she did have a lover. It would make her seem more complete.
It is odd being significantly younger than Caspian and, at the same time, inconceivably old. Edmund knows that Caspian is more grown up than he is, but somehow, the difference doesn't seem all that vast. Edmund has years and years of experience as a King, as a man, that Caspian hasn't yet obtained. Sometimes, Caspian uses his position as standing King, the one to whom the men really listen, to lord over the Pevensies. This annoys Edmund to no end, and yet, sometimes, Caspian will listen to Edmund's stories of a time long past or a world that he will never see with rapt, respectful attention. There is a constant underlying struggle for control between them. Edmund knows that in his own world, because of their age difference, Caspian would be thought to be corrupting him or taking advantage of him – an impressionable schoolboy. Yet, when they lay together, it is Edmund that most often takes the upper hand – at least to begin with.
One day, when Edmund wraps his arms tightly around Caspian's torso, Caspian turns to him abruptly. "Is this wrong?" he asks.
"This – what we are always doing together. Is it wrong?"
Edmund is irritated. One of the unspoken rules between them is that they never talk about their . . . activities. Besides, Edmund has never paid all that much attention to what some would call traditional morals. "How would I know?" he snaps.
"What would your brother think?" Caspian muses, almost to himself.
Edmund drops steps away. "Is my brother God that he can judge us?" he practically screams. Caspian sees that he has stuck a nerve. He apologizes and wraps his arms around Edmund.
They don't have to worry nearly as much about being found out as they would if they were in England. This type of thing isn't nearly so hated and feared in Narnia. It is generally looked upon with a dim sort of disapproving tolerance. In the case of two boys as young as Edmund and Caspian, it would probably be thought that they would outgrow it. Still, Edmund greatly fears being found out, especially by the one person who is most likely to do so. Eustace looks for any excuse to hurt both them, he is nosy, he shares their room, and, worst of all, he will be going back to England someday, where he could use such knowledge to ruin Edmund's life.
Edmund hates the things that some of the sailors say about his cousin. Yes, Eustace unbearably obnoxious, but there is still no call to say things like "Serves the little blighter right, being turned into a dragon, at least now we don't have to listen to him" or "I think we should just leave him here. Pick him up on the way back – or not."
It's not as though Eustace even did anything, other than act like an annoying prig, and even this didn't seem so bad when you look at things from Eustace's point of view. Edmund would like to see how some of those sailors would have done if they had been ripped out of Narnia and transported to his world. Eustace seems to be genuinely trying to change his ways and that is all that should matter, but Edmund has a feeling that those men will never totally forget the way that Eustace had been in the beginning.
Edmund kicks at the ground, absently, as he tells Caspian all this.
Caspian frowns. "I had noticed as much," he says. "But there is really very little I can do about it, Edmund. I can't control how my men think or feel."
"But you can tell them to stop saying those things about Eustace."
"I can, but I won't. Besides, don't you think he brought this on himself?" Seeing Edmund's face, Caspian quickly clarified; "I mean, people speaking badly of him, not being turned into a dragon. That's something I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy."
Without another word, Edmund turns and walks away.
"You shouldn't want to hold me," Edmund breathes quietly as he lies in Caspian's arms in their tent that night. "You wouldn't want to if you knew."
Caspian is nearly asleep. "Knew what?" he murmurs sleepily.
Edmund doesn't answer him, thinking that Caspian will drift off to sleep. Instead Caspian wakes up a little and looks at Edmund. Edmund tries to look away from the direct, green eyes. He always hates looking at people when he is talking about this. It is mostly to get away from Caspian's eyes that Edmund presses his lips against Caspian's ear. At first it is a kiss, but it becomes a faint whisper; "I'm Judas." And Edmund pulls away.
"Whatever do you mean?"
"You remember the story I told you about Jesus?"
"And Judas –"
"I remember the story, Edmund. What does this have to do with you?"
"I'm a traitor like him," Edmund is looking through the tent flaps to the moonlit scenery outside. "He caused Jesus death and I – "
"And you . . .?" Caspian prompts gently.
"And I caused Aslan's death." Then Edmund blurts out the whole story of his beginnings in Narnia, almost in one breath, never looking at Caspian. Caspian doesn't say a word, but when Edmund is finished, he laces his fingers through Edmund's.
"You knew," Edmund says.
Caspian shakes his head. "Not really," he says. "Some of the versions of the stories about you and your brother and sisters tell of something similar to what you just described. Others don't. I knew nothing for certain."
"Did you believe those stories?"
"I don't know. My old Nurse didn't – she wouldn't listen to any talk that made any of you look bad. I think Dr. Cornelius did – he often spoke of it, but was always careful to say that it was only one version of the story."
"What did you think of me?"
Caspian shrugs. He suddenly seems much younger, shyer, more like the way he was when Edmund first met him. Perhaps remembering his childhood when he was raised on stories of Edmund and his brother and sisters is what did it. "Before I met you, I rather liked the idea. I – I mean, as a character in a story, it made you interesting. But then –"
"When you met me, you liked me. You didn't want to believe that I was capable of that," Edmund finishes.
Caspian squeezes his hand, strong and adult once again. "I didn't want to believe that you had gone through that," he corrected. Edmund feels relief wash over him and he hugs Caspian tightly.
"I hope that Eustace is turned back into a human soon," he says, after a while.
"Yes," Caspian mutters sleepily, rubbing Edmund's stomach.
Edmund never says "I love you" to Caspian. Love is a pretty word that men say to woman to get sex. Edmund can never remember saying the word to anyone outside his family, and then only when pressured. Sometimes Caspian uses the word "love" when talking to Edmund, but he doesn't mean anything much by it. In Narnia, men use the word much more freely, sometimes even when talking to friends or servants. Caspian also says that he loves Reepicheep. Caspian never calls Edmund anything stronger than "my friend".
"When you were king, all those years ago . . ." Caspian begins one day, soon after they leave Dragon Island.
"Yes?" Edmund prompts, expecting to have to tell another story. Edmund keeps telling Caspian to go to Lucy for these stories – she is by far the better story teller – but he never does.
"Were there other boys like me?"
"There's no one like you, Caspian," he replies, his voice teasing, but he knows that this is not what the young King meant.
"No, I mean did you – were there –"
"Yes," Edmund answers. "There was – I don't really remember those times as clearly as you might expect, mind you – but first there was a man – he was older than me, but still a young man, from Archenland that taught Peter and I fencing. Some people said that he was better with a sword than anyone else in the world," Edmund grins as he recalls this, then frowns when he remembers what comes next. "When Peter found out about he and I – he made him go away."
"He was banished?"
"Nothing so formal as that. Peter asked him to leave Cair Paravel, so he went back to Archenland, I think."
"Peter was angry with you then?"
"A bit. Not furious, so much as confused, I think. He doesn't understand."
"There were others also. A whole string of them, really, though I never had quite as many – ah – friends as my sister, Susan. Then, near the end, there was one – Per-Peridan was his name," Edmund pauses here, in disbelief that he could barely remember the name of a man who played such an important part in his life for several years. "He went with me wherever I would go."
"I've never had a friend like you," Caspian says shyly. This makes Edmund feel warm inside, and as with all times that he gets this feeling, he makes a joke to force it away.
"I could tell." At this, Caspian hits Edmund with a pillow. "I meant that if you had had more experience, I know you would have been bossier," Edmund clarifies with a laugh.
"You think me bossy, do you, sir?" Caspian smiles at him cheekily.
"Rather. Don't worry. It's a common trait in Kings. Your hero, my brother is very bossy."
"King Peter is not my hero!"
"Really? You ought to see your eyes light up when you talk about him. It makes things very awkward for me, by the way."
"You are jealous!" Caspian says in amazement.
"I most certainly am not!" Edmund gives him a small shove. They engage in a brief wrestling match which Caspian easily wins.
"So Peter really would disapprove of . . . the nature of our friendship?" Caspian pants.
Edmund snorts. "Probably, though I know that both of my sisters wouldn't care much by now."
Edmund expects Caspian to say something like "Well, if Peter wouldn't like it, perhaps we should reconsider." Many men had said this kind of thing to him. Somehow, people have qualms about defying a High King, especially in a matter that involves one of his relatives. Instead, Caspian waits until Edmund is not looking to give him a light cuff on the side of his cheek.
"Why can't you remember things very well sometimes?" Caspian asks after their next small fight.
Edmund has often wondered about this himself. "I think that it helps us to adjust to changing from one world to another. Sometimes, when I'm in Narnia, I almost forget about England. It was particularly hard that first time – I think growing up and then changing suddenly back into a child was too much for our minds."
Caspian doesn't say anything, but Edmund can sense the unspoken question hanging in the air. "Are you going to forget me?"
Edmund never says "I love you" to Caspian and Caspian always calls him merely "friend", but sometimes, only in his mind, Edmund dares to call the golden haired boy his "lover".
Caspian holds Edmund by the arm as he lowers the spear into the water. Either Edmund is grossly unfit or the spear is getting heavier. Edmund is just about to ask Eustace to help him hold onto the spear when it slips through his fingers and falls into the water.
"I couldn't hold it," he gasps, "it seemed so heavy."
"And there it is on the bottom now," Caspian says, "and Lucy is right, it looks just the same color as the statue."
Something is very strange about all of this. The armor and sword that they found, the spear that Edmund could swear grew heavier and heavier before, his golden spear at the bottom of the pool, the same color as that statue, the same color as the toe of Edmund's shoe. Edmund leans down to touch his shoes and then, realizing suddenly, he stands up.
"Get back! Back from the water. All of you. At once!"
They others, hearing his tone of voice quickly back away from the water. Edmund explains to them that the water turns things into gold. To test it, Caspian dips a spray of heather into the clear water; he draws out a model of heather made of pure gold. Caspian has a very odd expression on his face as he looks at the gold.
"The King who owned this island," he says very slowly, "would soon be the richest of all the Kings of the world." Then he starts speaking very rapidly and pacing as he does so. "I claim this land forever as a Narnian possession. It shall be called Goldwater Island. And I bind all of you to secrecy. No one must know of this. Not even Drinian – on pain of death, do you hear?"
Edmund sees Eustace's eyebrows shoot up at this. It is really too much to take. For a long time now, Caspian has been lapsing into speaking to Edmund and Lucy as though he were King over them, but now he is actually threatening them. Edmund thinks that it is time to bring Caspian down a notch.
"Who are you talking to?" he asks. "I'm no subject of yours. If anything it's the other way round. I am one of the four ancient sovereigns of Narnia," Edmund tosses his head arrogantly, "and you are under allegiance to the High King my brother." He immediately hates himself for bringing up Peter because he knows, deep down inside, that if Peter had been here then Caspian never would have made that stupid threat. Caspian respects Peter.
To his utter astonishment Caspian puts his hand on his sword hilt. "So it has come to that has it King Edmund," he says. For a moment Edmund genuinely thinks that Caspian is going to draw his sword and run him through.
Lucy is not impressed. "Oh stop it both of you," she scolds, "that's the worst of doing anything with boys. You're all such swaggering, bullying idiots – ooh --!" At her gasp, Edmund turns to see Aslan standing on the hillside above them, looking straight at him. He shivers. But when he looks back the Lion is gone.
Caspian seems to be coming out of his madness. "What were we talking about? Have I been making rather an ass of myself?"
"Rather," Lucy sniffs.
Caspian takes Edmund by both of his hands which makes him very uncomfortable, for he is afraid that in his odd state of mind, Caspian will do something absurd like kiss him in front of the others. "King Edmund," he says formally, "I humbly beg your pardon for any offense that I may have given you. It is no excuse, but I was not myself. Forgive me."
Edmund makes some vague gesture with his hand. "Never mind. Lucy was right, we were both being idiots."
Caspian smiles and hugs Edmund. He says quietly for Edmund's ears alone; "I am glad that you are not my subject. When I was young there was never anyone around for me to talk to. I had no family and was allowed no real friends. Now that I am king, there are many people who love me, but few who will speak to me as one man to another."
Edmund realizes, for the first time, what a lonely childhood Caspian must have had. No family other than an uncle who would probably have liked to have seen him dead. No children to play games with. No one who truly loved him other than people who were hired to take care of him. He was a prince; he must have had all the best toys, clothes, books, education; but his early life was not nearly so nice as Edmund's. Edmund thinks that perhaps he actually means more to Caspian than Caspian means to him. It is a staggering thought. He had always assumed that it was the other way round. That Caspian liked him for his legendary status – and that he secretly liked Peter better anyway. That day, Edmund begins to see it differently. Caspian needs someone he can be himself around – someone neither his subject nor his master, but his equal.
Caspian turns to the group. "I must apologize to all of you," he says, "even if all present here were my subjects, only a tyrant would speak to his people in such a manner."
They are all silent.
"Sire," says Reepicheep after a moment, "if I might have the honor of naming this island, I should call it Deathwater."
That evening Caspian apologizes in an even more satisfactory way.
"I'm so, so sorry," he pants, in between giving Edmund hot kisses. "So very sorry."
"I thought you were going to kill me for a moment."
"So did I," Caspian says and Edmund sees that there are tears in his eyes. Caspian presses his lips firmly against Edmund's and runs his hands rapidly up and down Edmund's bare chest with a desperation that Edmund has rarely seen equaled. "I never want to lose you. I never want to leave you."
Just then the door to their room opens and Edmund sees Eustace standing in the doorway staring at them, slack-jawed.
"I want my own room," he says and slams the door.
Later, Edmund finds Eustace sitting and talking to Reepicheep out on the bulwarks. Edmund has been rehearsing what he is going to say in his mind, trying to come up with an excuse that won't make it look like there is something wrong with him. It only happened that once, he was enchanted or drinking, he doesn't usually do this type of thing with men, he had just never kissed anyone before and he wanted to practice. In his weakened state, he even considers blaming Caspian, but every lie that he can think of sound ridiculous when he thinks of the passionate way that Caspian was touching him.
"Reep, could I speak to Eustace alone for a moment?" he asks. He is clammy, nervous. He wonders if Eustace has told anyone, if he was just telling Reepicheep.
"Certainly, Your Majesty," Reepicheep says, bowing to Edmund and walking nimbly away.
"Edmund," Eustace greets him with a nod and a half-smile.
"Listen," Edmund blurts out, "that – it – I mean, it wasn't what it seemed like –"
Eustace listens to Edmund sputter and then bursts out laughing. "It's alright, Ed," he says, "I mean, it's your business, isn't it? We just need to develop some sort of signal so I don't – er – interrupt you again."
Edmund can't believe his ears. No one has ever reacted in this way after finding out about his odd inclinations. "But . . . but you said that you wanted your own room."
"I was joking."
"Well, mostly. I'm still a bit bitter that Lucy gets her own nice little cabin."
Edmund realizes that Eustace is joking again and then he thinks about how much his cousin has changed in the last few weeks. Or maybe he hasn't changed all that much after all. Eustace's parents have always had exceptionally odd beliefs – stupid beliefs, Edmund usually thinks – but today is very glad for them because he suspects that they are the reason Eustace reacts so calmly to this new revelation. Even Lucy was more upset when she found many years ago. For the first time, Edmund feels like hugging his cousin.
"Sometimes I think that I'm quite mad," Caspian says.
"You're not mad," Edmund reassures him, exasperated. The incident on Deathwater Island had affected him more than Edmund had first realized. He often talks about it now. "That place was bewitched, I think."
"I wasn't under any sort of enchantment other than greed."
"Then why can't I remember it more clearly?"
"Aslan. Everything changed after Aslan appeared. He would like us to forget it."
"Then forget it."
"Some of my ancestors were mad, you know. My great-great grandfather Caspian VI thought that everyone in court was plotting against him."
"Not a bad assumption."
"Yes, but he was obsessed with idea. He ended up having many of his friends and supporters killed over some perceived insult. He probably would have been assassinated, but he rarely went out in public – he was afraid of just that. He also thought that ghosts were tormenting him. It was he who really started all those stories about parts of Narnia being haunted."
Edmund sighs. "Caspian, that doesn't matter."
Caspian turns to him. "Promise me that if I ever start acting mad that you will stop me. Always remind me that I am a King of Narnia and that I am myself."
Edmund doesn't answer this because something else about Caspian's speeches has been bothering him lately. Words like "ever", "never", and "always" have crept into his vocabulary.
"Caspian, you know that I'll be going back to my world someday soon."
Caspian shakes his head stubbornly. "That first time you stayed for years and years. Maybe this time will be like that."
Edmund places a hand on Caspian's shoulder. "I don't think it will be," he says. "As long as we're out here at sea, everything is fine, but Lucy and I don't really belong in Narnia anymore. "We'll have to go back before we return there or soon after."
"Well, maybe you'll come back soon."
"I think that this may be our last time in Narnia. Before, Aslan told Peter and Susan that they were too old."
Caspian thinks for a moment. "Well, maybe I can go back with you – to your world. People from your world are always coming here, why can we never get there?"
"Caspian, you can't come back with us. You are a king of Narnia, you can't shirk your responsibilities. Besides, you wouldn't fit into our world at all. It would be very difficult for you."
"You manage in this world. How hard can it be?"
Edmund sighs. He doesn't know how to explain how different his world is from anything Caspian has ever imagined. For all his interest in Edmund's stories and fairy tales, Caspian pays little attention to Eustace's talk of science and machinery. He doesn't have any idea what Eustace means by it and Edmund knows that he would be vastly confused if he ever made it into their world.
Edmund draws away from Caspian. "I think," he says, slowly, with difficulty, "that this time on the Dawn Treader is the only time that we'll ever have together. It's a place where we can be away from my world and even from yours. I think that if I went back to Narnia now – well it would become apparent that I didn't belong there anymore. You are the king of Narnia now – and a good king you are. Lucy and I would be like ghosts. Narnia doesn't need us anymore. No more do you belong in my world. You're met to be ruling Narnia."
Caspian walks toward Edmund and puts his arms around him. "Then we'll just have to make the most of our time, will we not?"
Edmund hopes the return journey lasts for ten years.
Caspian is clearly fascinated with her. When she comes to them, like something out of a dream, he stands and looks at her with shining eyes. His words are awkward but full of bravado. Edmund is suspicious of her. Who is she? How did such a beautiful lady come to be on an abandoned island? The last three of the seven lords found in an enchanted sleep, the Stone Knife, the mysterious girl trying to force the strange food on them – it all reeks of witchcraft.
"Look here," he says to the strange girl, "I hope I'm not a coward – about eating this food, I mean – and I'm sure I don't mean to be rude. But we have had a lot of queer adventures on this voyage of ours and things aren't always what they seem. When I look in your face I can't help believing all you say: but then that's just what might happen with a witch too. How are we to know you are a friend?"
The girl looks at him rather coldly. She is the most beautiful woman he has ever seen – no -- his sister Susan, in her prime was this beautiful, but Susan's beauty was very earthly and real. This woman is an angel, a goddess, something from out of this world.
"You can't know," she says, "you can only believe – or not."
Hardly reassuring. Edmund looks around at the others to find them regarding him with surprised or disapproving looks and he realizes that he is the only one with any misgivings about the girl. Caspian doesn't look at him at all; he has eyes only for the lady.
"Why did you ask her if she was a witch Ed?" Lucy asks him in a whisper as soon as she can get him alone.
Edmund shrugs. "She could have been."
"Well," Lucy says carefully, "Caspian certainly seemed to be under her spell, if that's what you mean."
Edmund is angry at this. "If you weren't the least little bit suspicious then you are an idiot," he says hotly, "just because she was beautiful doesn't mean that she's not a witch, in fact it just makes it all the more likely."
Lucy flushes at his tone. "I should think that I could tell the difference between a pretty woman and a witch," she says, but then she immediately clasps her hand over her mouth. "Oh, I'm sorry Edmund," she whispers, "I shouldn't have said that."
"No you shouldn't have!" Edmund yells. "Aslan told all of you that you weren't supposed to say things like that to me." He storms off, in a huff.
Caspian comes to put his arms around Edmund as he stares into the sunrise. Edmund is not in a good mood; he has just been going over and over every word that he has heard pass between Caspian and the star's daughter.
"In the world from which my friends come they have a story of a prince or a king coming to a castle where all the people lay in an enchanted sleep. In that story he could not dissolve the enchantment until he had kissed the princess. . ."
"Ah, but here it is different. Here he cannot kiss the Princess until he has dissolved the enchantment."
It had actually taken Edmund a moment to realize the significance of this statement, but Caspian grasped it right away.
"Then in the name of Aslan, show me how to set about that work at once."
"What think you of all this, my friend?" Caspian asks, bringing Edmund back to the present.
"I think that she is very beautiful."
"She is," Caspian agrees, "but I meant about being so close to the edge of the world. Is it not the most exciting thing that has ever been?"
"It is exciting," Edmund says without much enthusiasm.
"I'm almost starting to agree with Reepicheep. It would almost be worth never returning to Narnia just to have seen the very end of the world. Things that no man has ever glimpsed before. It is marvelous."
Edmund looks up at Caspian in alarm to see him gazing at the sun with a far away look in his eyes, his lips are moist and parted, his cheeks flushed. Edmund doesn't know if he wants to kiss Caspian or get as far away from him as possible. "Caspian, you know that you must return to Narnia," he says.
"Yes, yes," Caspian replies absentmindedly.
As they draw nearer to the end of the world Edmund and Caspian grow less cautious. They often touch one another, hug one another, sometimes even kiss on the cheek in front of other people. It doesn't seem to matter so much here. Edmund thinks from some of the sidelong glances that he has been getting lately, that many of the sailors suspect. Of course they wouldn't say anything – Edmund and Caspian are kings of Narnia, but sometimes Edmund sees them nudging each other or laughing or blushing or whispering disapprovingly when they see him talking to one another. Once, when Caspian holds Edmund by the hand, one of them even whistles, but when Caspian glares around sternly, everyone seems to be going about their business.
Edmund wonders if someday the history books will record their friendship – it would certainly make an interesting note to the story – but histories and stories never record things like this. In a hundred years, all anyone will remember was that Caspian sailed to the end of the world and brought back a beautiful queen. Edmund and Lucy and Eustace will be interesting side notes, something to make the voyage seem all the more high and noble, but not nearly so lauded for this adventure as Caspian or Reepicheep or even Drinian.
Caspian and Edmund touch often, but now, they seldom do anything beyond touching. Edmund is not sure if this is because of the star's daughter (does she even have a name? Caspian must know it) or because sex, like eating, drinking and talking, seems mostly unnecessary here.
Caspian calls all the ship's company together to give a speech. As he stands on the poop deck looking down on them all, Edmund thinks that he has never looked so beautiful, so great, so kingly. The sun is at his back and he seems to be glowing, his hair is the purest gold, his skin shines with a pinkish cast, and the sun reflects off his armor as bright as a star. His eyes, also, seem to have a strange light in them, though it can't come from the sunlight.
When Caspian speaks, his voice is strong and gloriously happy in a way that almost frightens Edmund. "Friends, we have now fulfilled the quest on which you embarked. The seven lords are all accounted for, and as Sir Reepicheep has sworn never to return, when you reach Ramandu's land you will doubtless find the Lords Revilian and Argoz and Mavramorn awake. To you, my lord Drinian, I entrust this ship bidding you to sail to Narnia . . ."
He goes on, but Edmund has stopped paying attention. Something is terribly wrong with this speech. Caspian speaks as though he will not be going with them.
"But Sire," Edmund hears Drinian say, "are you abdicating?"
"I am going with Reepicheep to see the world's end."
Edmund gasps and he hears the sailor muttering and murmuring. This is all wrong! Caspian can't leave Narnia, can't leave these people, can't leave him. Caspian goes on, oblivious of the distress of those around him.
"He is mad," Edmund thinks, horrified, "and it's up to me to stop him."
"Caspian," he says, trying to make his voice sound authoritative, "you can't do this."
Emboldened by his statement, the others immediately chime in. Caspian's face grows dangerous as he listens to each objection. "By the mane of Aslan," he says, "I had thought you were all my subjects here, not my schoolmasters!"
Ah, so he's trying that again. "I'm not," Edmund reminds him, "and I say that you can not do this."
"Can't again," Caspian scoffs, his face growing even darker. "What do you mean?" His eyes lock directly with Edmund's, and Edmund's blood runs cold when he sees that hard face, unwilling to give in, unwilling to listen to reason, vaguely threatening. Edmund's hand creeps to his sword hilt.
"If it please your Majesty, we mean shall not," says Reepicheep, bowing low, "You are the King of Narnia. You break faith with all your subjects, and especially Trumpkin, if you do not return. You shall not please yourself with adventures as if you were a private person. And if your Majesty will not hear reason it will be the truest loyalty of every man on board to follow me in disarming and binding you till you come to your senses."
"Quite right," Edmund puts in, "Like they did with Ulysses when he wanted to go near the Sirens."
Caspian's hand was now on his sword hilt. Edmund hates Lucy when she says: "And you've almost promised Ramandu's daughter to go back." He hates Caspian even more, however, when he pauses, thinks and then replies: "Well, yes. There is that."
Caspian thinks on this some more and then shouts out: "Have it your way. They quest is ended. We all return. Get the boat up again."
"Sire," Reepicheep says, "we do not all return. I, as I have explained before –"
"Silence!" yelled Caspian in a terrible voice. "I've been lessoned, but I'll not be baited. Will no one silence that Mouse?" This is apparently the last straw – as long as no one else is going to see the world's end, Caspian can bear it, but everyone must return or he will always be thinking of that missed adventure.
"Your majesty promised to be a good lord to all the Talking Beasts of Narnia."
"Talking beasts, yes. I said nothing about beasts that never stop talking." Caspian leaves angrily, slamming the door to their cabin.
When they find Caspian later, he is weeping. "Aslan has spoken to me," he says. "And he said – he said – oh, I can't bear it. The worst thing he could have said. You're to go on – Reep and Edmund and Lucy and Eustace and I'm to go back. Alone. And at once. And what is the good of anything?"
Lucy and Eustace keep giving Edmund glances, as though they expect him to do something, but he doesn't know what to do. He doesn't remember ever seeing Caspian truly cry before and he's never been much good at comforting people. He feels like sobbing himself, but it is all too sudden. He has no tears.
Finally Lucy puts her arms around Caspian. "Caspian, dear," she says, "you knew we'd have to go back to our own world sooner or later."
"Yes, but this is sooner." He dissolves into tears and Lucy pats him on the back. Edmund stands back, staring at Caspian blankly.
"You'll feel better when you get back to Ramandu's Island," Lucy says. Edmund glares at his sister.
"Why do you keep saying things about – that woman – to Caspian?" Edmund asks Lucy furiously as soon as they are away from Caspian.
"He was so disappointed Ed, and so sad and he felt alone. Couldn't you see that? He needed to be reminded that someone was waiting for him."
"He barely knows her."
"He cares about her. He thinks she is beautiful. He is so choosey about women, Edmund – you heard how he was when we were on the Lone Islands. Soon he will be pressured to marry and to produce an heir. It should be with someone who will make him happy."
"But I – I –"
"You are leaving," she puts a hand on his shoulder. "You do want him to be happy, don't you, Ed?" Edmund doesn't answer and she sighs and walks away.
"I'm sorry Edmund," says Eustace who has been watching this exchange silently, "I know how much you value her advice."
Edmund starts and this and he begins to tell Eustace that this is ridiculous. Lucy is his little sister – he doesn't go to her for advice. But then he realizes that Eustace is right.
Later, Edmund goes down to the cabin to speak to Caspian alone. He finds him sitting on the bunk with his head buried in his hands. "I don't suppose that I'll ever see Narnia again," Edmund says, trying to be light. Then he frowns, "I'll miss you most of all."
Caspian shakes his head at this, but appears to have moved past crying.
"I told you, you know," Edmund says.
"I told you that if you ever met the right lady, you would give up everything to have her."
"You were the one telling me that I should go back," Caspian objects angrily.
"Yes, but that was when I thought I was going back with you," Edmund wants to say. "It was the right thing to do," he says instead. "You will be a great King, as great as my brother –"
"And you," Caspian interjects.
Edmund ignores him, "—you will be the father of great Kings, I think. You're meant to rule Narnia for years and years longer and to have children and grandchildren. Seeking the last grand adventure is not for Kings."
"You are going."
"Ah, but we're different. Peter and Susan and Lucy and I – we're not of this world."
Caspian thinks about this for a moment. "I don't want to go back, even if it means seeing her again."
"She is beautiful – a goddess, an angel. You'll be happy."
Caspian hugs him tightly. "Well, I certainly wouldn't launch a thousand ships for her, but I don't want to fight with you today," he says. "This is the last that I shall ever see you."
Edmund allows himself to be held tightly, but he still has no tears.
"I'll never forget you," Caspian says, "even if I live a hundred years."
Edmund hates that he can't say the same thing.
Edmund lies on his bed in Eustace's room in Aunt Alberta's house. It is over, his last great adventure. Eustace has left him to himself, perhaps sensing that Edmund needs to be alone. Edmund stares at the ceiling. He knows that soon, his memories of Caspian and this last trip to Narnia will begin to blur together; like the memories of all those other young men. Soon, it will feel as though those things happened a thousand years ago.
But for tonight, Edmund remembers.