AN: This story is a companion to my other fic The Blurring of Memories. Although I believe that they can be read independently of one another, The Blurring of Memories was written first. It contains some of the events of The Blurring of Memories told from Caspian's point of view, but it covers basically the entire course of Caspian's life. It contains homosexual (Edmund/Caspian) and heterosexual (Caspian/Ramandu's daughter) relationships as major story elements. If you don't like that, then you don't have to read.
Disclaimer: C.S. Lewis owns Narnia (obviously). Certain parts of dialogue are quoted directly from Prince Caspian, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, and The Silver Chair.
The Sharpness of Memory
Caspian is dying.
Voices float around him. Soon, they say, soon you will see your son. You only have to wait a few more minutes. Caspian opens his eyes to see his attendant sitting at the beside, holding his hand and weeping. Then the world swirls before him and he lapses back into his half-awake state, full of disjointed memories and confusing voices from the present trying to bring him back to reality.
His son. Caspian knows that it is somehow important that he see his son. Rilian. Caspian is not sure if he speaks the name aloud or not, but as he thinks it, a myriad of images flash through his mind. A beautiful, blonde baby that he lifts proudly into the air, a tiny boy who sits on his lap and listens to his stories, a teenager who seems to always try and outdo him, a grief stricken young man who cries for his mother. The memories are clearer than yesterday and seem to cut at his consciousness, as sharp as broken glass. Caspian thinks that he hasn't seen Rilian for a very long time, but he cannot concentrate long enough to remember why.
Caspian tries to awaken. Tries to come back to the present. The memories crowd in around him, pushing everything else away. He can remember the stories that his Nurse used to tell him more clearly than he can remember what his retainers said to him a moment earlier, he can remember the face of a young man that he hasn't seen for seventy years more clearly than he can remember what his bedroom back in Cair Paraval looks like, he can remember the way his wife looked on their wedding day more clearly than he can remember what she looked like when last he saw her.
Caspian tries to fight, but he is falling. Falling into the past.
"That child is so odd," one cook at Miraz's castle in Narnia says to another.
Caspian hears them, but pretends not to. Maybe it is odd that he was trying to get the white cat to talk to him, but it did look to be an intelligent creature.
One of the servants, a young girl with a pleasant face had taken Caspian by the hand. "Your Highness mustn't do such things," she pleaded, "people may start to think that you aren't right in the head."
Caspian had squirmed and nodded. He hadn't much liked being called "Your Highness" or being told not to talk to the animals anymore. Maybe he really was mad. But when Nurse told him the stories about the talking animals, she made them sound so real. Not at all like other fairy tales. Caspian wishes desperately that the animals would talk, there is never anyone else around for him to speak with, the servant children all seem rather afraid of him and he has no parents.
They must be out there somewhere, the Talking Animals and fauns and dryads. Caspian just has to keep looking.
Caspian's Nurse takes him to the top of one of the towers and holds his hand as he looks out over Narnia. The castle is situated on a high hill and Caspian can see for miles around.
"Nurse, what is that way," Caspian points in a random direction, wanting to hear his Nurse tell him things, anything.
"That's due North, Caspian," she says, patting him on the head, fondly. It runs into marshlands and beyond that, I have heard, is the land of the giants." She turns Caspian around, apparently liking this new game. "This way is West," she says, "do you see that forest," she points and Caspian nods, barely making out the line of trees in the distance, "it is the Western Woods – Lantern Waste, not Narnia's biggest forest, but some say, it is Narnia's most magical forest."
"What's beyond the woods?"
"I never really heard. Wildlands, I suppose," she turns Caspian in another direction and he can't suppress a sigh of disappointment at the uninteresting farms that are spread out before him. His Nurse chuckles. "Yes, not the most exciting looking landscape, I know, but beyond all these rolling farms lies the kingdom of Archenland and beyond that, a vast desert that goes on for thousands of miles, I think. The South is a strange place."
The old woman turns Caspian once more and breathes a deep sigh of longing, though Caspian can see no difference between these farms and those to the south. She says nothing, just stands quietly looking, holding his hand.
Finally Caspian asks, "What is that way, Nurse?"
She squeezes her young charge's hand. "Everything good, Caspian. That is the East. It is from that direction that Aslan always comes. The farmland only goes on for a little while, beyond that is the great Narnian Woods. The Stone Table where Aslan was bound and killed is in these woods. The castle of Peter, the High King sets on the edge of the sea."
"How can it be good, if Aslan was killed there?"
His Nurse hugs him and Caspian snuggles up to her eagerly. He secretly loves it when she hugs him, though he never admits it. None of the other grownups ever want to hug him. "Because he arose from the dead, Caspian. He rose again."
"Oh," of course Caspian knew this. How could he have forgotten? "What's beyond the sea?"
"No one knows. The end of the world, I suppose."
Caspian stares eastward for a long time.
Caspian often goes to the tower tops now. Sometimes he looks to the skies, going over Doctor Cornelius' astronomy lessons, but most often he stares at the countryside with an eye ever towards the eastern horizon. These ventures seem to upset many of the courtiers. Once Caspian hears one of them murmur that it is like Caspian is "surveying his kingdom". Caspian doesn't understand this; it is not as though he is the King of Narnia.
Caspian likes making them uncomfortable. Nearly everyone in the castle shies away from him as though he has a disease. Every now and again, someone will stop and look at him as though he is oddity in a curiosity shop, but much more often, they step quickly and look away.
Despite all this, Caspian begins to notice that he is constantly watched. Wherever he is, the King's guards or some of his lords seem to keep an eye on him. Caspian sees them out of the corner of his eye, watching carefully as he hugs uncle as a good nephew should. The guards' hands seem to find their sword hilts whenever Caspian is near Miraz.
"You are almost a man now, Caspian," Miraz says to him one day. These are excellent words – the kind that a father would speak to a son of whom he is proud – but Miraz's voice is not at all approving.
Everyone treats Caspian either like a plague or a dangerous animal, but he doesn't mind most of the time. He has Dr. Cornelius, who is as good a friend as anyone could hope for and he has a rich inner life, full of stories and fantastic beasts. He spends his days dreaming. More than anything, he wants to have adventures. All his life, he has barely been allowed outside the castle walls.
Miraz killed his father.
Caspian knows that this knowledge should make him angry. That he should desire vengeance. But Caspian cannot hate Miraz. He certainly doesn't love the man, but he mostly just feels great relief to be away from him and his horrid little castle.
"He can have Narnia and welcome to it," Caspian says to himself. Finally, Caspian is free and in the wild and it is the most exhilarating experience he has ever felt.
Should he hate Miraz? Is it wrong that he does not feel anymore anger for the father that he would have known, for the childhood that most would consider lost, for the kingdom that Miraz robbed him of? What would those Kings and Queens say?
This is a game that Caspian often plays. He tries to figure out how heroes from all his favorite stories would act in his situation. Most often he plays it with the four ancient sovereigns; Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy.
"They were never white hot with rage," Caspian thinks to himself. "That sounds more like the White Witch. She would get angry and terrorize everyone, even her allies." The more Caspian thinks about it, the more he is convinced that he is right. Blinding rage would not help him much now, and besides, he was having so much fun.
Many of the creatures are suspicious of Caspian. They smile at him, call him their king, but he hears the whispers.
"This boy makes a good leader for us now," he overhears one of the black dwarfs saying, "he unites us. Gives hope to all those Talking Beasts who think that we still need to have a human ruling over us. But when this is all over with, do we really want a Telmarine as our king?"
Caspian frowns. He does not particularly want rule over all these strange creatures. What does he know of their ways? For most of his life, they have been mere stories to the young prince. But everyone, both Telmarine and native Narnian, seems to assume that he wants to claim his throne. Still, Caspian is happy here. Many of the creatures seem to like him, although Caspian wishes that they were a bit less respectful. For the first time in his life, Caspian feels like he has friends. He only hopes that he can help them.
"If you could speak with Peter the Magnificent, what would you say?"
Caspian looks around, to see Doctor Cornelius regarding him with an intense gaze.
"I cannot say, Doctor. Do you really suppose that the horn will call the Kings and Queens from the past?"
"It is a possibility," the Doctor says, then he shrugs and looks at Caspian sheepishly. "Perhaps I am growing feeble minded in my old age. When I was younger, I never would have had so much faith in such magic."
"I keep thinking that perhaps if I hope hard enough, then it will work. I am sure that the Kings and Queens could help Narnia much better than I."
Doctor Cornelius smiles. "Truly, you will make an excellent king. Already, you look to the welfare of Narnia before you look to your own power."
King Peter is not, on first sight, so very impressive. On their first meeting, Caspian had blinked at him in the candlelight, a boy about his own age, tired and haggard looking. King Edmund is actually quite a bit younger than Caspian. A child, really, though there is something in both of their faces that makes them seem older. Something that makes Caspian feel very small and young and humbled. He does not doubt for an instant that they are who they claim to be.
Caspian realizes that Peter has asked him a question – something about meeting Miraz in pitched battle -- and he has been gaping like a fish. "I'm afraid not, High King," he says tentatively.
Peter turns from Caspian. "Very well then. I'll send him a challenge to a single combat," he declares in his bold, self-assured way.
Caspian blinks and looks at his friends. This is something that they hadn't thought of before. Still, surely he should be the one to issue the challenge. This is really his conflict. Miraz usurped his throne, killed his father. He says as much to King Peter.
"You're wounded," Peter answers shortly, "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."
Despite the High King's kind words, Caspian gets the message. Peter thinks that Caspian is incapable. Caspian knows that he is probably right; surely Peter must be a better swordsman than he is. Caspian watches King Edmund tap his knuckles on the table, when he catches the young King's eye, Edmund scowls at him. Caspian wonders if some of the nastier stories that he has heard about Edmund are true.
It turns out that it is easier to overcome his shyness and talk to Edmund than it is to approach Peter. At first Edmund seems apprehensive, angry, but Caspian soon persuades him to tell some stories from his own world. The fact that he from another world is almost as amazing as the fact that he is King Edmund. Caspian feels as though if he looks at Edmund long enough, he will be able to somehow discover his secrets. He is different from any person that Caspian has ever met. He is not exactly nice, nothing about his manner is particularly inviting or comforting, but Caspian still finds him fascinating. Peter is easy to figure out, one conversation with him and you know what sort of man he is. Edmund is different; he is intelligent and eloquent a hesitant sort of way, yet at the same time there is a certain vulnerability about him. He seems to alternate between selfishness and insecurity, between the humble king and the attention seeking boy.
But the best thing about Edmund is that he has a nearly endless supply of stories that Caspian has never heard. Stories from his own world, of strange lands that Caspian has never even imagined, and stories from his own reign over Narnia. The first time that Caspian nervously speaks to him, Edmund tells him of a great war in his world in which the victors won by hiding inside a great wooden horse. It is full of unfamiliar names and the telling is difficult because Caspian does not understand many of the things about that other world that Edmund takes for granted, but in the end, it is a fabulous story.
Edmund stops in the middle of the story. It has become so dark that Caspian cannot see his face. "It's late," he says after a long pause, "we've stayed out here far longer than I intended."
The idea of ending it is abhorrent to Caspian. It seems like they only just begun talking and he can't remember the last time that he felt this interested. "We can head back to camp any time you like," he says regretfully.
Edmund sighs and looks away as if he too regrets that the night is over. "Tomorrow is going to be a long day and if I know Peter, he will have us up before dawn."
"It really should have been me," Caspian says, hanging his head and kicking the ground.
"Yes, it should have been," Edmund tries to keep his voice even, but Caspian detects something in it.
"You are angry at me!"
"No –" Edmund stammers, "no – maybe I was a little at first, but it's not your fault. Peter always has to take control, has to go beyond what is expected of him. I hope he wins." Edmund's voice has become very small and it occurs to Caspian for the first time that these are real flesh and blood boys and that Peter might not win the challenge. And that Edmund is Peter's brother. Caspian has never had a brother or sister, but he tries to imagine what it would feel like to know that a dear friend might die the next day.
That night, the Peter and Edmund of Caspian's imagination, the great kings surrounded by golden auras die. They are replaced by something more real, something more fragile.
Peter might die tomorrow. But of course that makes his actions much the braver.
Caspian has a headache. It is all too sudden. The battle, the celebration afterwards, and now the Kings and Queens are leaving.
When Caspian looks at Edmund, he feels something seize up in his throat. He is sorry to see the others go, but he is mostly sorry that they will not be here to help him. He thinks that he could have been good friends with them, but he has not really known them long enough to feel that he is losing someone close to him. With Edmund it is different, although Caspian is not sure why it should be like this. He has spoken to Edmund a bit more than the others, but not enough to explain the deep feeling of personal loss that he feels whenever he looks at the boy who is now dressed in the strange clothing of his own world. The clothing makes Caspian see the others differently; they look younger, duller, no longer great Kings and Queens. He supposes that the odd garb must have a similar effect on Edmund, but when he looks at the young king he still sees Edmund.
Caspian clears his throat, blinks away the stinging in his eyes and goes to try to say goodbye.
On the night before his coronation, Caspian goes to one of the tower tops. Ever since Aslan made the door in the air, he has felt restless, as though he needs to do something, but he knows not what. He wants to try a thousand different projects, some of these are to help Narnia, but some also have more selfish motives. His life has become so exciting, so full of possibilities, but also much more terrifying. Caspian wants to be a good King.
Presently, Doctor Cornelius comes to find him. "I thought that I should find Your Highness here," he chuckles.
"I've always loved it up here," Caspian answers, "but I hate this castle. It reeks of oppression."
"Does Your Highness speak of your own repression or that of the Old Narnians," the Doctor says slyly.
Caspian gives him a small smile. "Both. What would you think of rebuilding Cair Paraval? Ed – King Edmund told me a little bit about it and I suppose that the ruins are still there. We should be able to build it close to the way that it was before."
Doctor Cornelius smiles. "I think that it is a very good idea. It would send the right type of message to the Old Narnians, that you are not just another Telmerine King. That you intend to rule after the style of the High King Peter. And it is a proposition that even the Telmerines could get behind. They have been complaining about how small and unimpressive this castle is for years – it actually used to be a fort – a beautiful castle by the sea would be just the sort of thing that they would like."
"I did not know that the Telmerines felt that way about this castle."
"You do realize that you would be abandoning the home of your ancestors. . ."
"I'll be seated in the hall of the all the great Kings and Queens of Narnia," Caspian's voice had taken on a commanding tone. "And once I'm done with that I'll –"
Caspian makes a vague gesture with his hand. "It is stupid, but I wanted to – to sail into the East to try to find out what happened to those seven lords who were friends of my father's."
Doctor Cornelius bursts into laughter and Caspian's face falls. "I knew it was a stupid idea."
"No, no," he says, "it's not that. Your ideas are good, Caspian, it is just that they are so young. Ambitious, idealistic, and conspicuous. But they are good, very good. It has been long since Narnia has had such a young King, but I think that it will help this land. One cannot forget that Peter was a young King."
They tell him that it will take years to rebuild Cair Paraval. Caspian hurries the project along. He wants at least the basic skeleton of a castle to be in place when he sets sail for the East in a few years. The builders tell him that the castle must have been absolutely huge compared to the current one, if the ruins are any indication. Caspian makes sure that they come to him for every single detail of how the castle should be built. He works off the images that Edmund had impressed upon him; smooth, white stones, tall towers, fine blue marble floors, and windows expertly cut to reflect light, making Cair Paraval look light a bright star during dawn and dusk and like a moonlit ghost during the nighttime.
Caspian had thought that his main problem in constructing the castle would be finding labor, but that turned out to be easy. The Talking Beasts and other creatures turn out to be much more industrious than the humans and they are eager to live in a kingdom that they can be proud of, a kingdom that is theirs. There are even many Telmerines who are glad of the work; Miraz's high taxes had driven many off of their farms.
Cair Paraval is rebuilt, but Caspian is not sure whether he is making it as it truly was or creating a castle based on his childhood fantasies.
The thing that surprises Caspian the most about his new life is how much people seem to like him. The humans, many of them the same ones that used to ignore him, now fawn over him. He is especially surprised by the women. They are always looking at him, fluttering their eyelashes, and whispering to each other and giggling whenever he looks at them. Some of them act shy and demure, but always manage to be in the same room as him, some are more open, wearing dresses that expose just a bit more skin than is proper and rubbing up against him. Some are very beautiful, some make his blood boil, but all of them make Caspian uncomfortable. They are like sharks circling a piece of meat. Caspian spends most of his time with his non-human friends and longs for the day that he can set sail and be away from the predatory ladies and their condescending fathers.
They are almost done building the ship. In order to find experienced sailors, they have to recruit from the islands, because for many years no Narnians went near the sea. At least their captain, Drinian, is a native Narnian, one of the few who knows a little about seafaring. The castle is far from finished, but Caspian has set up court in the throne room. Everyone tells him how beautiful it is, how brilliant it is, he has clearly gotten off to a good start as king. Everyone loves him and Caspian can hardly believe it.
"Your Majesty," Caspian hears a tentative voice behind him and he turns to see Siena, the girl that he has been making much of for the last several days looking at him. "Will you wear my favor in the tournament?" she asks, shyly holding out a handkerchief.
"Of course," Caspian takes it and her face lights up. It doesn't mean so very much; many men wear the favors of women that they have no intentions of ever marrying. This is understood on both sides. But Caspian can tell from Siena's face that it means something to her.
Would that be so bad? Siena is a lovely girl with shiny reddish hair, a smattering of freckles across her nose and a lithe form. Her father is the Duke of Galma and would like very much for his daughter to be married to the King of Narnia, but Caspian can sense that Siena is not like many of the ladies back in Narnia who were only after the title of Queen. Siena is fun loving, innocent, gracious, intelligent, and over the last several days she and Caspian have found much to talk about. She rather reminds Caspian of Queen Lucy. No one could mistake her for anything other than genuine. But despite all this, Caspian cannot shake the feeling that she is somehow not right. As though no matter how wonderful she is, she will always miss the mark. Perhaps the timing is all wrong. Or perhaps she is good, but just not the right type of good.
Caspian cannot deceive her. "On second thought," he says gently, "perhaps I shouldn't take it." He hands the item back to her.
Her eyes fill with tears, but she nods. "I understand."
Caspian feels cruel, but it is far better to let her know how he feels now than it would be to break her heart. She walks quickly away and Caspian kicks the ground. He has never been good at talking to girls, perhaps because he knew so few before he became King.
Caspian cannot help glancing at him out of the corner of his eye as he shows his new guests around his ship. Every time he looks at Edmund, he feels a wave of different emotions that he cannot quite explain. He knows that he is talking about the Dawn Treader in an overly excited way, but he is excited. He is excited that Edmund and Lucy will be around to share this adventure with him. It was rather boring hanging about the ship all day. The sailing men were usually too busy to talk to him, so he has only Reepicheep for companionship.
Caspian does notice, however, that Edmund avoids his eyes.
"We want to talk," Caspian says after he introduces Edmund and Lucy to Drinian.
"By Jove, we do," Edmund says in an awkward voice, "And first about time. It's a year ago by our time since we left you just before your coronation. How long has it been in Narnia?"
Caspian doesn't even need to count the time up in his head. "Exactly three years."
"All going well?" Edmund's voice still sounds odd, strained.
Caspian almost laughs at the question. Going well? Things in Narnia could not be going better, really. Caspian normally does not like to brag, but around Edmund he cannot seem to help himself. He wants Edmund to think that he can do well as King of Narnia.
"Look at you, Caspian," Edmund says later, his voice an imitation of cheerfulness, "you're all grown up."
Caspian doesn't feel grown up, and he doesn't understand why it would be a bad thing if he were. "I am only three years older."
Caspian is angry at Edmund. He has been longing to see the boy for three years, but now that Edmund is here, things are just not the way he imagined them. Edmund does not seem to want to talk to him any more than is necessary and he keeps avoiding Caspian's eyes. Things have only gotten worse since Caspian rescued them from the hands of Pug, the slave dealer. Edmund is quiet and seems to be lost in himself.
Caspian ponders all of this as he sits through a banquet and rebuffs Drinian's attempts to draw his attention to one lady or another. Caspian says rather cruel things about some of those girls, most of whom are perfectly nice, smart, and pretty, but the pressure for him to get married has gotten stronger and stronger and he is tired of it. Besides, some of his remarks make Edmund laugh.
A dark haired girl tries to attract his attention by fluttering a fan. Caspian watches Edmund pick at his food. A girl with the most perfect curls that Caspian has ever seen asks him if he would like to dance later. Caspian frowns as he sees Edmund squirm in his seat, seemingly uncomfortable in his fine clothes. A woman with a scandalously low-cut dress, touches his arm. Caspian shrugs her off and sighs as he watches Edmund leave the festivities early.
Caspian knows that he should stay, but he follows Edmund up to his room. Caspian hesitates, thinking that he should knock, but he can't stand the idea of knocking and then being told to go away, so he just opens the door. Edmund is standing in the middle of his room, looking out the window, wisps of his unusually short hair falling in front of his eyes. Caspian wonders if Edmund is thinking about the Lone Islands as they were when he ruled over Narnia. Remembering parties and friends from all those years ago.
"You should be down there," Edmund says, turning towards him. His voice sounds as if it could be a thousand years old in that moment. "They'll soon miss you. You are their King, after all."
Caspian decides that he will not be put off by Edmund anymore. "I wanted to see if you were quite well," Caspian can hear the emotion in his own voice; anger, concern, frustration.
Edmund sounds irritated. "I'm fine. And you don't need to keep checking on me, Caspian."
Caspian puts his hands on Edmund's shoulders. Edmund jumps, Caspian has noticed that Edmund doesn't care overly much for people touching him, but he leaves his hands where they are. "I worry about you, my friend," he says. "You seem distracted since you arrived here – especially since Pug kidnapped us."
Edmund gives Caspian a rough push. Angry, Caspian grabs Edmund fiercely by the arm before he even realizes what he is doing. He feels like slapping some sense into the boy, he tries teasing instead. "Do you think you can beat me in a fight, King Edmund?" he asks.
Edmund tries to smile. "Yes," he says, lamely.
Caspian pushes Edmund against the wall, not roughly or cruelly, not even playfully, but gradually, as though each step, each movement is of the utmost importance. Edmund does not attempt to fight back as Caspian pins his arms up by his head. Caspian gazes into the dark eyes, mere inches from his own, wondering what he should do next. Edmund saves him the trouble of solving this problem by pushing against him – hard. They both fall onto the bed. Caspian laughs; he cannot remember the last time he felt so childlike and free. He flips Edmund over and climbs on top of him, pinning his hands by against his head again.
Caspian leans down and presses his lips against Edmund's ear. "I suppose that you can't best me after all," he whispers.
Edmund struggles valiantly, but Caspian holds him firmly. Just as Caspian thinks that he has given up, Edmund pushes against him and kisses him.
It is not a powerful kiss, as Caspian used to see couples giving one another in the gardens of Miraz's castle, when he was just a little boy hiding behind the lilac bushes. But it is not the type of kiss that he gives his friends either. It is light and gentle, but full on the lips. Edmund is shivering beneath him and Caspian thinks that he must be scared. Suddenly, Caspian realizes that this is what he has been wanting all along. He has wanted it since Edmund returned to this world – maybe even before that, he did miss Edmund terribly when he was gone. Maybe he has wanted it since that first night when he talked to Edmund. But how could he want something for so long and not even realize it?
All these thoughts flee his mind in overwhelming desire. The desire to kiss Edmund.
Caspian awakes to the sun shining in his eyes. He rises to find Edmund sitting, half-dressed, on the edge of the bed, staring at him.
"Um, hello," Caspian says, scratching his head and feeling very awkward and shy.
Edmund doesn't say anything, he just looks at Caspian thoughtfully.
Caspian shifts uncomfortably. "I can't believe that we . . ." he trails off. He doesn't regret it, exactly, but in the light of morning it all seems like a completely different reality and he feels terribly embarrassed.
"You should go," Edmund says, "before someone notices that you haven't slept in your bed."
"Right," Caspian says, standing up. Then, realizing that he isn't wearing any clothes, he jumps back under the blankets as quick as lightning, heat rising to his face. He becomes even more embarrassed when he realizes that it is rather stupid to be modest now. Anyway, Edmund has seen him without clothes lots of times; they have been sharing a room, after all. Edmund lips curve into a crooked smile as he hands Caspian a tunic.
Caspian dresses hurriedly, then looks at Edmund for a long time without saying anything. "Some people think that it's wrong, do they not?" he says finally, amazed that he had not thought of this before. "I mean, two boys?"
Edmund is no longer looking at him. "Rather," he snorts.
It is Edmund who now seems embarrassed. Caspian begins to walk from the room, but pauses at the doorway. "Edmund?"
"Can I – I mean will we –" Caspian does not know how to phrase what he wants to say. "Can I come to see you again sometime?" This is a rather ridiculous question. Caspian doesn't need to come and see Edmund. He sees Edmund everyday. This, however, is not what he is really asking.
Edmund seems to know what he means. He looks Caspian up and down and smiles. Not one of his rather sarcastic smirks or the stilted, almost sad smiles that he puts on sometimes, but a real smile. "Yes, Caspian."
Edmund does not have one truly beautiful feature in his face or body. Caspian knows this because he often spends hours staring at Edmund – examining him while he sleeps. Edmund seems to sleep more than Caspian – perhaps it is his age.
He knows, when he looks at Edmund, that if one goes by the usual ideas of beauty – either the masculine or the feminine – that Edmund simply does not measure up. His hair is cut in that strangely short way that Caspian supposes must be stylish in Edmund's world and it is a sort of dirty blonde – the type that goes brown in the winter when there is no sun to bleach it. While Caspian's own skin is tanned a rich, even brown, Edmund's seems unable to do anything but burn. His neck and shoulders are perpetually red and there is always skin peeling off his little snub of a nose. The parts of his skin that have not been exposed to the sun are very fair and freckled. His eyes are plain brown and rather squinty – not at all the type of eyes that draw one in. Edmund's lips are thin and he has a crooked smile. His body is slender, but he is not terribly fit and his skin is slightly flabby in places.
Yet, there is something about Edmund that is wonderfully appealing, alluring even. Sometimes, when Edmund bites his lip, or brushes his hand through his hair, or murmurs softly in his sleep, Caspian's breath is taken right out of his body. Edmund is not nice looking in the way that a statue or a knight out of a children's story book would be, but it is as though he is nice looking in his own quirky Edmund-like way.
"Caspian?" Edmund wakes up one night, catching Caspian watching him. "What are you doing?"
"Nothing," Caspian says, seeing that Edmund is only half-awake. He kisses the sunburned nose. "Go back to sleep."
Edmund gives him a sleepy, sideways smile. That smile always makes Caspian want to kiss him, Caspian is fascinated by the freckled skin and he loves to pinch and grab the places where the body goes soft with fat.
"Goodnight Edmund," Caspian whispers.
The storm frightens Caspian.
Of course he cannot let anyone see this. He cannot let anyone know that he is afraid that their small ship will be smashed by the winds and waves and that they will never make it back to Narnia. Perhaps the storm will never end. Perhaps it is an eternal gale that stretches for miles out over the ocean and kills anyone stupid enough to try and see the edge of the world.
A wave washes over the ship and nearly knocks someone over the edge. When Caspian looks closely, he sees that it is Edmund. Several of the sailors are gathered around Edmund helping him get to his feet and slapping him on the back, as he seems to have swallowed a good deal of water. Caspian stumbles over, trying to keep his feet despite the rocking of the ship.
"Get below!" Caspian yells at the top of his voice, making himself heard over the storm.
Edmund shakes his head. "I'm fine!"
Caspian is angry. He doesn't have the time or the strength for an argument. "You're in danger! And only in the way. Get below before you get yourself killed!" Caspian is not sure how much of this Edmund has heard, but he hopes that the boy has gotten the gist of it.
"No!" Edmund simply yells back and turns to walk away.
Caspian grabs Edmund by the neck of his tunic and firmly, but not cruelly, drags him out of the rain and below deck.
Edmund is furious. "Stop it, you prig!" he yells and pushes Caspian hard against the wall, nearly causing him to fall down the narrow staircase.
Caspian is now furious also. Furious and frustrated, exhausted and scared and sure that he will be bruised from Edmund's push. He feels like punching Edmund. He settles for pushing Edmund against the wall, but is careful not to hurt him. "What in Aslan's name is wrong with you?" Caspian pants. He is almost sobbing now.
Edmund does not look like he is about to cry at all. He narrows his eyes. "I'm not a girl," he hisses.
Caspian stands perfectly still, feeling the violent rocking of the ship, hearing the creaking of the wood and the water falling on the deck above them. He is trying to make some sense of this statement. He cannot seem to grasp it at all. "What?"
"You think that just because . . . um, we . . . that it makes me a girl!"
"What are you talking about? I don't think that."
"You're trying to get me to stay below deck with Lucy!"
"You're not a sailor, Edmund. Drinian is always saying how landsmen get in the way of the crew trying to do its job."
"You've been at sea less than I have."
"But you are younger Edmund. You aren't really strong enough –" he stops, for Edmund's face has gone bright red.
"So now I'm a child!"
"No," Caspian is frustrated. Why is Edmund twisting everything around? "No, I know that you are not a child. It's just – this is my mad voyage. I got us into this. I couldn't stay below while the crew is up there risking their lives. It's different for you – you never wanted to be here."
Edmund takes Caspian's hands in his own. "Your concern is touching, King Caspian," he says very formally, almost as if he was making a speech in front of many people, "but I am neither a girl nor a child. I am a King of Narnia who proved himself many years ago. This is my adventure too – maybe my last great Narnian adventure and Aslan must have sent me here for a reason."
Caspian draws in a deep breath. He sometimes nearly forgets that Edmund is that same ancient King that he used to listen to stories about when he was barely more than a baby. When he does remember, it seems horribly irreverent of him to treat Edmund like an actual person. Sometimes he even falls into treating Edmund like a subordinate. Caspian opens his mouth to apologize.
"Besides," Edmund says before Caspian can get anything out, "I have to look after you," there is a teasing edge to his words.
Caspian forgets about irreverence and kingship and balances of power and swats Edmund lightly on the side of the head. Edmund laughs – the first laugh that Caspian has heard since the storm started several days ago – and he grabs Caspian by the back of the head and pulls him forward for a long, passionate kiss.
Caspian looks at Edmund. He is so pale and has dark circles under his eyes and looks tired and worried, but he now has a mischievous grin on his face. Caspian knows that he must look the same. He kisses Edmund again and then pulls on his hands.
"Come, King Edmund, and we will – as the saying goes – take the adventure that Aslan gives us."
Edmund is not particularly fond of cuddling. He never strokes Caspian's hair or rubs his back or stomach. He rarely hugs Caspian. However, he does not seem to mind when Caspian does these things to him. Caspian is convinced that Edmund actually quite enjoys it, though he never says anything of the sort.
Caspian is also convinced that Edmund knows everything. He knows all the best stories. He knows everything about being a good King. He knows just where to touch Caspian to make him moan or gasp. . .
Caspian is sorry for Eustace, who has been turned into a dragon, but he is happy that he gets to spend so much time with Edmund – alone in their tent.
One night, Edmund tells Caspian a different type of story. A story that Caspian does not find at all pleasant. As he listens to the halting words and watches the eyes that refuse to meet his own, Caspian wonders why Edmund has to tell him all this. He has known – or practically known – for a long time that Edmund was the traitor. It was always the version of the story that made the most sense. Caspian does not stop him, however, because he thinks that maybe it is important to Edmund that he tells these things.
"I hope that Eustace is turned back into a human soon," Edmund says, quite out of the blue, when he is done with his story.
Caspian wonders if Edmund could have been anywhere near as obnoxious as Eustace when he first came to Narnia, even if he was a traitor. He does not think so, but Eustace is obviously what made Edmund think of all those things in the first place. He rubs Edmund's stomach and drifts off to sleep feeling so perfectly comfortable.
When Caspian was very small, he had the same dream on several different occasions. It was not a terribly interesting dream. It featured him wondering about the corridors of his uncle's castle in the dark, lost, scared and alone. Just when he has given up on ever finding his way back to his nice, safe, room, he finds a beautiful woman. She wears a blue dress and is tall with lovely blonde hair. She seems to glow. She kneels down and holds out a hand to Caspian and he jumps into her arms. He has never felt so at home before in his life. This was the point where Caspian always awoke.
Caspian remembered the dream his whole life. He used to think that she was his mother, but this never seemed to quite fit. When he got older, he of course thought that she wasn't real, that she was just a dream girl. Now, he has found her.
Caspian stands, slack-jawed, staring at the girl before him. She has long, blonde hair and is wearing a blue dress. She even seems to glow, though Caspian does not know how this is possible. He knows that as the leader it is his job to say something, but he can only gaze at the vision before him. He meets her eyes, which are the clearest, most breathtaking blue that he has ever seen. He rises to his feet.
"Travelers who have come far to Aslan's table," the lady says, "why do you not eat and drink?" Her voice is like a song.
Caspian cannot think. He can barely comprehend the words that she has said to him. After a long pause, he answers. "Madam, we feared the food because we thought it had cast our friends into an enchanted sleep."
Her face clouds up in confusion. "They have never tasted it"
"Please," Lucy says, "what happened to them?"
The lady begins to tell them. This is the answer to their quest, the end, but Caspian barely hears her words. He is too busy looking at her.
They are now speaking about the Knife of Stone – the one that was used to kill Aslan. Caspian vaguely remembers that there is something very important about this and then it hits him. Edmund. Caspian looks over at Edmund to see him flushed and biting his lip.
Poor Edmund, Caspian thinks, affectionately. He feels less sympathetic when Edmund asks the girl if she is a witch.
Is Edmund mad? How can he possibly think that this woman was a witch? Everything about her makes it obvious that she is good. All Caspian can do is show faith in her and hope that Edmund will see, through his example, what a great lady she is and how ridiculously rude it is to suggest that she is a witch.
Presently, Caspian asks her another question. "And what are we to do about the Sleepers?" Caspian finds himself searching for words that will make him sound intelligent, brave, noble – words that will impress her. "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." Caspian is not sure why this particular story has come to his mind. Edmund only told it to him once.
The girl meets his eyes and smiles – Caspian thinks that it is a shy smile. "But here it is different," her voice is most certainly shy. "Here he cannot kiss the Princess until he has dissolved the enchantment."
Caspian feels a surge of hope. Surely she cannot mean . . .? But as Caspian looks at her, he realizes that she cannot mean anything else.
"Then, in the name of Aslan, show me how to set about that work at once."
"Please," Caspian says, desperately, "I don't even know your name." They are to leave soon – to go to the end of the world and break the enchantment. Caspian unbelievably excited about it, but at the same time, he regrets leaving her.
She takes one of his hands. Shivers of excitement shoot up and down his body. "It is Maren," she says bashfully.
"Lady," Caspian says, "I hope to speak with you again when I have broken the enchantments." He does not think that he has ever meant something so much in his life.
Ever since the incident on Dragon Island, when Caspian temporarily lost his mind, there has been a wall between him and Edmund. They still talk, still touch, but there is now hesitancy, as though they have truly seen the darkness in one another. Caspian holds Edmund, but he feels further and further removed from him. Since Ramandu's Island, things have only gotten worse. He hates the idea of hurting Edmund, but he knows that he has – his fascination with Maren is apparent to even the sailors. He knows that Edmund has seen it too.
Edmund joins Caspian on the deck of the Dawn Treader. Caspian grabs his hand and holds it in his own.
"Someone will see," Edmund reluctantly tries to draw his hand away.
"I don't care," Caspian says defiantly, as though by a public show of affection he can make up for it all and show Edmund that he truly cares for him.
This seems to satisfy Edmund, but a moment later someone behind them lets out a loud whistle which causes him to drop Caspian's hand like a snake. Caspian turns around, furious, but there are several crew members and all seem to be going about their work, though many are trying to hide half-smiles.
Edmund walks away. Caspian sighs in frustration and turns to look into the East. When he looks into the East, he forgets about Edmund and Maren, and about releasing the last three lords from their sleep. All he can think of is going on and on into that. Even if he were to die, it would be worth it to see the end of the world.
Sometimes, Caspian thinks that he must be quite mad.
Caspian darts into his cabin in a fury. How dare they talk to him like that! What good is it to be the King of Narnia if he can't even do what he wants? If he wants to sail to the end of the world, then he will. He may not even want to; he had been forgetting about Maren, but he certainly won't be bullied by his own subjects. Caspian kicks his chest of drawers and flings a wooden vase across the room.
Edmund has gotten entirely out of hand. He has no right to tell Caspian what to do, no right to imply that Caspian is a bad ruler. No right at all. Caspian groans in frustration. He feels that he is being pulled in so many different directions all at once.
"Caspian," says a voice. Caspian turns around, searching for the speaker, but he doesn't see anyone. "Caspian." Caspian looks around thinking that perhaps he is hearing voices. The voice is familiar, but Caspian cannot place it. He only knows that when he hears the voice he feels chagrinned. He feels as though he is very small and has just been caught sneaking sweets by his Nurse.
"Caspian," comes to voice for the third time. Caspian has finally figured out where it is coming from. It is behind him and above his head. Caspian looks in that general direction, but there is nothing there but a carving of Aslan's head. As Caspian looks closer at the Lion, however, he realizes that it is more than just a carving. There is something terribly alive about it. Caspian can see the texture of Aslan's fur moving, he can see life in the eyes.
"Oh, Aslan!" Caspian says, without another thought as to whether or not it is the great Lion. He knows in his heart that it is. Caspian suddenly feels very nervous and ashamed. "I am afraid that I've ruined everything. I've been such an ass."
Aslan looks at him gravely. "You know that I mean for you to be ruling Narnia, Caspian. It is not yet time for you to see my country."
"Oh, but Aslan!" Caspian cries in despair. It had not occurred to him that he wouldn't be allowed to go, he had merely been sorry that he had acted like a tyrant.
"Narnia needs you, Caspian. You can unify the country in a way that no other ruler can."
"Sir, I'm afraid that I'm not much good as a King."
"Every man must decide his own fate. But you need to consider all those solemn vows that you took when you became King. They are not to be thrown off lightly."
Caspian gives a bitter laugh. "That is what Edmund keeps telling me. I should have known that he would understand better than I. Of course, I will not disobey your wishes, Aslan," he tries to smile bravely. "We will go back."
For the first time, Aslan's face softens. "My son," he says gently, "that is not all I have to tell you."
"Wh –What is it, sir?" Caspian knows that it cannot be good from the sympathy in Aslan's voice.
"You are meant to be in Narnia, Caspian. You. There are others who must see the world's end."
"Others?" Caspian says in confusion. Surely, there is Reepicheep, but who else would go to the world's end? Then he realizes.
"Oh, oh – Aslan – please don't say –" Caspian buries his face in his hands. He already knows what Aslan is going to say. "All three of them?" he asks softly.
"Yes," Aslan answers.
Caspian can feel tears stinging at his eyes. "You don't understand," he says, then realizes how ridiculous this statement is. Aslan understands everything. He gives a small sob. "I – I think that my heart will split in two."
"My dear son," Aslan's voice is supremely comforting, "I think that your heart was already split in two."
Caspian begins crying in earnest. "If I – if I had not acted so horribly, would I have been allowed to see the end of the world, Aslan?" he asks through his sobs.
"As Lucy could tell you, no one is ever told what might have been."
Caspian sits down in the only chair in the cabin and cries as he hasn't cried since he was a very small child. Deep sobs that seem to come from his very soul.
He hears Aslan's voice softly fading into the background. "I do not mean for you to be miserable, Caspian. There is much for you to live for in the West. Farewell, my son." When he looks up, the Lion's head is plain wood once again and he has never felt so alone.
Edmund does not cry at all. At first, this bothers Caspian. He wonders if Edmund does not care much for him after all. But as he looks into Edmund's eyes on the deck of the Dawn Treader, he understands that Edmund is crying just as much as he is – the tears just aren't visible. Edmund and Caspian have already said they're real goodbyes, but Edmund is still standing before him, saying nothing.
Caspian takes Edmund's hands in his own. "I'll never forget you."
"You already said that," Edmund chokes and Caspian realizes that it is almost a cruel thing to say because Edmund cannot say the same. When he goes back to his own world, Narnia will begin to fade from his memories. Caspian is not sure which one of them is the worse off; Edmund for forgetting such an exciting time or him for remembering it and knowing that he will never be able to recreate it.
Edmund gives Caspian one last heartfelt look and he turns to get into the small boat that he and Lucy and Eustace and Reepicheep will be using from now on.
Caspian watches the tiny boat float away. He will never see Edmund again. He cannot believe this no matter how many times he repeats it to himself. He knows that he will never have so good a friend again.
Caspian stays in the cabin nearly all the time. It is lonely, but he cannot bring himself to participate in the voyage any longer. He never bothers to straighten anything up and it is a mess of scattered papers and clothing. Drinian has told him that now that Lucy has gone, he should take back his old cabin, but he prefers to stay in the cramped little cabin that he and Edmund and Eustace had shared. Edmund left many of his clothes and when Caspian holds them to his face, he fancies that he can still smell his lover.
The wonders of the last sea hold no appeal for Caspian any longer, because he knows that they will only begin to fade. It is like slowly awaking from a beautiful dream, to find only stark reality. Caspian lies abed until past noon, preparing himself to meet reality once again. The crew becomes increasingly worried about him.
One day, Rynelf comes to tell him that they are within sight of Ramandu's Island.
Lucy was right. He really does feel better when he gets to Ramandu's Island. He is so eager to find Maren that he impatiently goes off on his own to look for her as soon as they arrive on the island. He finds her standing on the top of a small hill, looking away from him. Her lovely hair is blowing in the wind, but she seems different. More a real woman and less a shining star. She turns around and sees Caspian. Her face lights up with joy and Caspian immediately changes his mind. She is – what was the word that Edmund always used? An angel? Yes, Maren is an angel.
She puts a finger to her lips in a shushing gesture and runs down the hill to grab Caspian's hand. "There is something that I think you would like to see," she whispers. She leads him slowly up the hill and he sees that on the other side, the four lords sit talking easily with one another in that way that old friends often have about them. They look so very comfortable – four graying men, laughing and joking and telling stories. Even the Lord Rhoop looks like a whole and happy man once again.
"So it worked," Caspian says.
"They have been awake for long while now," Maren answers.
Caspian sighs. This must mean that Reepicheep, at least, has made it to the world's end. Caspian wonders if Edmund made it and for the first time he feels how incredibly irrevocable their separation is.
Caspian catches Maren watching him watch them and giving him a sidelong smile. "Come," she says, "I think that they would like to meet their King."
It turns out that the three lords who hadn't met him were very eager to speak with this new King of Narnia – the son of their old friend. Caspian likes all of them almost immediately. Lord Mavbramorn is a man full of jocularity – it was mostly him who was telling the jokes, earlier – and has a manner about him that makes him impossible not to like. In the Lord Argoz, Caspian recognizes some of his own lust for adventure and he isn't surprised to learn that the ill-fated voyage was Argoz's idea. Caspian likes the Lord Revilian the best, however, for Revilian seems to have known his father quite well and tells Caspian a good deal about him. Caspian has never known very much about his father – of course in Miraz's day, no one was willing to talk about him and by the time Caspian took the throne, there weren't very many left who could talk about him. Doctor Cornelius had told him a little, but he seemed to have known Caspian's mother better than his father.
"Now your father," Revilian says after they had spoken for a bit, "he would have approved of this new policy of yours of accepting the Old Narnians. He never quite believed in the tales of Talking Beasts and walking Trees, but he never hindered your mother in her quest to find them and he once told me that if the stories were true, that his forbearers had done a great disservice to Narnia."
This was something that Caspian had often wondered about. He had always been almost afraid to ask questions about his father, for he thought that he might find that he was nearly as bad as Miraz. After all, they were brothers, little more than two years apart in age and raised in the same way. Surely they could not be that different from one another. He had once told Edmund this and Edmund had scoffed. Didn't Caspian know that two brothers could be as different as night and day?
"He was a kind ruler," Revilian gets a far away look in his eyes as he says this, "Narnia was a hundred times better off when he was King than under Miraz. If they had lived longer, I think that your parents would be remembered as one of Narnia's great Kings and Queens. I am glad to see their son sitting on the throne."
Caspian bows his head. He rarely thinks about his parents. When he was small, he used to wish for a mother and a father, but he grew out of it over the years – one can't properly miss what one has never had. He has never even tried to conjure up a memory of them because he knows it would be fruitless. His father died two months before he was born and his mother in childbirth. Now, when he hears Revilian speak, he thinks of how much fuller his life would have been, had he known them. But then, of course, he may have never discovered the Old Narnians in hiding. He reminds himself of what Aslan said – that he can never know what might have been.
"Sir," Caspian says, "you cannot know how much your words mean to me. I wish to hear more of my parents at a later date, when we can speak more fully."
Maren, who has been sitting beside him, almost forgotten all this time, slips one of her slender hands into his own. Revilian coughs and the lords begin to nudge each and wink and grin and roll their eyes until Caspian is quite embarrassed.
"I suppose that we should leave His Majesty to his real reason for coming back to the island," Lord Mavramorn jokes. They laugh loudly but Caspian can tell that they like Maren very much.
Once they are gone, Caspian and Maren sit side by side saying nothing. Caspian feels terribly awkward and he thinks that she must feel the same. Finally, she says; "Would you like to see the library?"
The library, as it turns out, is in a building of stone that is nearly falling down. Despite the dilapidated exterior, it contains the most amazing collection of books and scrolls that Caspian has ever seen. They cover every subject imaginable; astronomy, geography, natural science, history, philosophy, rhetoric, government, music, art, weaponry, architecture and many other topics that Caspian does not have time to explore.
They seem to come from all areas of the world; some are from countries that Caspian has never even heard of, some are from islands in the Eastern Sea that he has not discovered. His favorite, however, are the books of stories. Up until now, he has only heard Narnian stories mixed with the old Telmerine stories and perhaps the occasional story from Archenland or Calorman. The stories, however, come from as varied lands as all the other texts and Caspian feels as though he could literally soak them up. He is frustrated that he does not have time to read them all, but Maren seems to know them well and her melodious voice is much preferable to dead words on a page.
"The stories are my favorite also," she confides him one day, after they have been to the library several times. "I've never been off this island, but it is nice to imagine that I've seen all those places."
"I know just what you mean," Caspian says. "Maren . . ."
"You seem different than you were when I first met you."
Her hair falls over her eyes. "My father says that I must become more like you and less like him. I suppose that is what is happening."
Caspian has not seen the old man in the entire time that he has been on the island, though he is presumably in his normal place at dawn.
"How old are you?" Caspian asks. He can never make out whether or not Maren is an actual person. Is she like him or is she truly a star?
"I don't know."
"But you've lived on this island your whole life?"
"I have. Perhaps one year, perhaps a thousand. I have never really kept watch of the passing days."
This is just as bad as with Edmund and Lucy! Caspian is left with the same vertigo inducing sensation of not knowing in which time or place that Maren belongs.
"You thought that I was beautiful when you first met me, didn't you?" Maren whispers, almost to herself.
Caspian looks at her in her plain white dress, her hair falling in her lap, a book on the table before her. Caspian realizes that they have become friends. He has never really thought it possible to be friends with a woman. Certainly, it would not have been possible to talk freely with the women who vied for his interest back in Narnia. He was surely friends with Lucy, but that seemed different somehow. Lucy was more like a little sister than anything else.
"I think that you're beautiful now," Caspian says, warmly, "only now – now I feel as though I could kiss you."
Maren stays in his old cabin, the same one that Lucy had inhabited and Revilian and Mavramorn stay with him while room is found for Argoz and Rhoop elsewhere. Caspian feels nearly as lighthearted as he had when Edmund and Lucy and Eustace first joined the voyage. The mood of the voyage has much changed. It is very different sailing home than it is sailing into an unknown sea and while there is not as much pure excitement, there is a lot more cheer. Everyone seems full of laughter and eager to tell stories of the Eastern Sea to their friends and family. As is usually the case with trips, they seem to take far less time getting back than they did coming.
Caspian and Maren take long walks across the Dawn Treader and Caspian has never felt so proud in his life. The lady on his arm is beautiful, intelligent, gracious, and kind. Every night, they pause outside the door to her cabin and have long, whispered conversations. He often kisses her goodnight. Her kisses are not at all like Edmund's. She is so soft, so yielding. Her lips are malleable and her skin is as smooth as silk. When they kiss, she usually stands still while does most of the work. It makes him feel very grown-up and manly. He never asks to come inside her cabin. The very suggestion would shock him; he knows that this is not the type of thing that one asks great ladies. One night, Caspian tells her that he cannot wait until they get to Narnia to be married.
They are married on the Lone Islands, Maren wearing her plain blue dress and he wearing his golden armor. They are married on the beach with half of the islanders turning up to see this unusual occurrence – the marriage of a King. Once, Caspian thinks that he glimpses Sienna – the girl who seemed to fancy him when the first time he was here, but when he looks again, she is gone and he doesn't think much of it. Everyone says that it is the nicest wedding that they have seen in a long while.
It is a day that Caspian will forever remember as one of the happiest of his life. He has just returned to Narnia, and everyone is praising his achievements. Everything has gone well while he was away and his castle is finally completed. Maren was crowned Queen that morning and the most lavish ball that he has ever seen is held to celebrate his return and Narnia's new Queen. When he sees Maren, he knows that this is how he will remember her when he is an old man. She is now dressed in the much more extravagant style of the Narnian ladies. She is wearing a purple velvet dress with gold stars embroidered on it and her hair sets high on her head. Her face is made even more beautiful by the flush of young love and her eyes are dazzled by all the new things and people that she has seen. She is more beautiful than she was when he first met her. She is more beautiful than she was on the day they were married. Now she looks like a Queen of Narnia. Stately, innocent, serene – Caspian cannot take his eyes off her as he twirls her around the ballroom floor.
"I love you," she says, "I have never been in love with anyone but you."
Caspian opens his mouth to reply, but hesitates. "I've never loved any other woman but you," he says finally.
Caspian slowly settles into the routine of ruling Narnia. He finds that he is much less restless than he was before the voyage and much more patient about dealing with the more boring matters of state. He spends long hours studying taxes and imports and trade. He hopes to develop shipping industry and build up trade with the Islands and maybe even with rich Calorman. He studies history and learns that Narnia has been quite isolated for about one-hundred and fifty years. Narnia has become a poor nation, living beyond its means. Caspian wants to change this.
He spends most of his time with Doctor Cornelius and Trumpkin, discussing trade and foreign policy. He spends his spare time with Maren, discussing all manner of things. He begins to grow a beard. He is rather glad that they do not have children right away – he is still very young and what does he know of being a father? Sometimes, he sees young men that he thinks very handsome and nicely built, young men who give him that kind of feeling, but he doesn't consider trying to be with them any more than he considers being with beautiful young women that he sees. He is terribly in love with Maren.
His voyage to the end of the world has already become famous the world over and many of the objects from the voyage are saved and put on display. Caspian saves one of Edmund's tunics – the blue one that he was wearing on that night in the Lone Islands – and he packs it away in a drawer and takes it out from time to time. He feels closer to Edmund when he holds the fine fabric up to his face. The Dawn Treader is smartened up and put to new uses for Narnia.
Caspian looks into his wife's tear filled eyes. "Don't cry, darling," he says, "I'm sure that it will happen soon." They have been married for seven years and they go through this every month. They both want desperately to have a baby, an heir for Narnia, a legacy for themselves, but their efforts prove fruitless time after time.
"I – I just – I'm sorry Caspian. I want to give you a baby, but I just can't." Her lovely blue eyes fill with tears again.
Caspian turns away from her. "Now, don't be ridiculous. It isn't your fault. If anything it is probably mine. This difficulty is in my family. You know that my aunt and uncle had terrible trouble having a baby and my parents were married for nearly ten years before I was born."
Maren is thoughtful. She comes over and sits in Caspian's lap and he holds her close. She closes her eyes and rests her head against his chest. "It's no one's fault. I love you, Caspian."
Narnia becomes prosperous. Everyone tells him that he is a great King. Caspian is very happy with his life, but he sometimes looks wistfully back on his younger years when everything seemed so much more thrilling. Now his life is comfortable, cozy even. When he talks to Maren, the conversation often turns to his voyage to the end of the world. He talks about the Kings and Queens so much that Maren soon figures out that she has reason to be jealous – but not of Edmund, of Lucy.
"You talk about Lucy a lot," she abruptly interrupts one of his stories that she has heard many times one night.
"Um, yes, I suppose so," Caspian has never really thought about it. He is sure that he talks about Edmund more often, but of course a woman wouldn't think anything of that.
"Did you court her?"
"Lucy? Are you joking? She was much younger than I and she was – she was – I just didn't feel that way about her."
Maren raises her eyebrows, but Caspian knows that she will take his word without question. "Of course, dear," she says, kissing him on the forehead.
Caspian is upset. In fact, he is frantic. He is looking for that old tunic of Edmund's that he has kept stashed away and he cannot find it anywhere. He empties out the drawer that he had thought it was kept in, but it is not among any of the clothes there. He notices that none of the garments are the same ones that were there a few months earlier.
"Maren!" he yells when he hears her enter their quarters, "where are the clothes that were in here before?"
She pauses before answering, as though trying to figure out the most delicate way of phrasing something. Caspian realizes that he must look half mad, but he doesn't really care.
"I told the maids to have them given away months ago; you haven't worn any of those clothes in ten years, Caspian."
"What?" Caspian kicks the chest of drawers in frustration and his hard boots break through the rather delicate wood, leaving a boot-shaped hole.
Maren faces him calmly. They have been married for almost fifteen years, so she has seen his temper flare a few times, though it has never been so openly directed at her.
"How dare you? How could you!" Caspian is not thinking rationally at all. "I've given you everything and you want to take away that one little thing that I have left of his. It's all I have of his," Caspian repeats himself.
"Who? What are you talking about, Caspian?" Her brow wrinkles in confusion.
"Edmund!" Caspian screams, his voice choking a bit at the end. "I left him for you, because of you," he raves. Caspian knows that this is cruel and not even strictly true. He let Edmund leave without him because it was what Aslan said to do, otherwise he would have sailed to the end of the world even without Edmund. He is not in the mood to be particularly fair, however. Caspian's eyes fill with tears and it all comes rushing back to him – the sensations of guilt and loneliness that he felt on the day that Edmund went further East and he turned back towards Narnia and Maren. "I just let him leave in a little rowboat and all I could think of was that if I went back, I would be able to see you again. Now, I don't even know if he's alive or dead or if he made back to his own world or to Aslan's country –" He breaks down in earnest and begins to cry, his face buried in his hands.
At first, Maren's eyes go very wide, but seeing the state that he is in, she immediately softens and cradles his head against her bosom. "Shhh," she says, as if comforting a child, "it's all right. I'm so sorry, Caspian. So sorry."
"I just wish that I knew what happened to him," Caspian says. "I wish that I could ask Aslan. Aslan never visits anymore, as he did when I was young. I wonder why he doesn't.
"Well, perhaps he thinks that you have Narnia well handled. That you don't need ask him about every little thing – you already know what he would like."
"I suppose," somehow, Maren's sympathy has just made it all worse. How could he dump all of this on her? He knows that she has half-guessed the truth about Edmund. A good husband would have never allowed her to know.
"Do you love me, Caspian?" she asks a bit later, when he is done crying.
"Of course," Caspian says.
Caspian will be forty years old tomorrow.
When people look at Caspian and Maren they see a King and Queen who seem strong, stately, and comforting in that way that only middle-age can convey. They see a King, who, in his youth, completely changed the character of Narnia. A King who changed it into a nation that accepted creatures of various stripes. A King who changed it from a piddling, poor place that most stayed away from into a hearty and prosperous nation. A King who brought dignity and beauty back to the Narnian court with his grand castle, gracious wife, and his complete disinterest in the bickering and intrigue that had previously characterized the Telmerine nobility.
Still, Caspian broods as he sits in his throne, for he knows that he has not fulfilled one of the most important responsibilities of a King. He has not produced an heir. Maren has tried every technique, every herb that is said to increase fertility, but they just cannot have a child. They have all but given up. Caspian does not know what will become of Narnia after his death. Only a human can be King, but Caspian doubts that the Old Narnians will accept any Telmerine not of his blood as ruler of Narnia. The Old Narnians are still rather suspicious of the Telmerines.
Caspian scratches his long beard impatiently as he tries to listen to affairs of state. Today, however, he finds that his mind wanders.
Caspian will be forty tomorrow and his personal legacy consists of a handful of boyish exploits.
Caspian will be forty tomorrow, but sometimes he still greatly misses that boy with whom he had a fantastic – friendship? Romance? Caspian is not sure of the correct word, but he knows that it should mean nothing by now. It was so long ago. Why did he never seem to grasp the importance of it at the time? He never knew that it would influence his life in such a way. He never knew that those memories would cut at him so.
Caspian will be forty tomorrow and he has no child of his blood to love.
Caspian is nervous and excited and worried all at the same time. He is waiting for the birth of his child and nothing can really compare to the emotions that are swirling inside of him at this moment. He supposes it is rather like the night before his first battle or the night before he was crowned King, but all the feelings are magnified tenfold. He knows that there is a possibility of something going wrong; having a baby is dangerous, but he is also terribly excited that by some miracle, after all these years, they were able to conceive a child. He remembers the feelings of awe and protectiveness that surfaced the first time that Maren held his hand to her belly to allow him to feel the baby move inside of her. He remember his disbelief on the night that she told him the news.
He paces back and forth in the room next to Maren's. Drinian and Trumpkin wait with him, but they have given up trying to talk sensibly to him. Caspian is not in his normal state of mind at all.
The door opens and Caspian sees the midwife's face smiling at him.
"Is it over?" Caspian asks. He hadn't heard a sound, but he supposes that he wouldn't have been able to through the thick stone walls.
"Indeed," she says. "It was a quick birth, for it to be her first. It is a boy. The mother and the baby are both doing very well." She breaks into a broad grin.
Caspian has never felt so relieved. He hugs the midwife and then hugs his friends and if there were more people around, he thinks that he would certainly hug them also. "Can I see them?" Caspian asks.
When Caspian sets his eyes on Maren, he is reminded of the way that she seemed to glow when he first met her. Now, more than ever, he feels like he is seeing that girl again, only now it is much better because she is his wife and they are in love. In fact, he feels almost as shy and awkward as he did the first time he saw her. Who is he to intrude upon this shining new mother? Maren doesn't say a word of greeting, but she looks up from her child and smiles at him.
"May I hold him?" Caspian asks.
She gestures for him to sit down on the bed and when he does so, she eases the baby into his arms. When Caspian looks at the baby, he is shocked by how tiny he is. He has never held a newborn before and hadn't expected one to be quite this small. He gently lifts the tiny fingers and then strokes the tufts of blonde hair. When he looks back at Maren, she has tears in her eyes.
"This is what we have wanted for so long," she says.
"He is as beautiful as his mother," Caspian says, giving her a light kiss on the forehead. "I only wish that I were a few years younger. I am afraid that I won't be able to keep up with him."
"What will you name him, Sire?" The midwife asks. Caspian jumps at her voice and realizes that, of course, they are not alone. The midwife and several other women are there, though it seems like just the three of them. "Will it be Caspian the Eleventh?"
"I think that we have had enough Caspians. Let his mother name him."
The women seem surprised by this, but they turn to Maren.
"Rilian," she says. "his name is Rilian."
It is a melancholy day. The Dawn Treader has become old and unserviceable and they are dissembling it to use the parts on other ships. There are now many Narnian ships that are bigger and better than the Dawn Treader, but none of them hold such a special place in his heart. The Dawn Treader was his ship. Around the end of the day, when Caspian has gone to his room to be alone, a servant approaches him with what looks like a folded up piece of parchment.
"What is it, Xavier?" Caspian says, without much interest.
"Sire, this was found wedged behind the bunk in one of the cabins on the old Dawn Treader. It is addressed to you." He hands Caspian the piece of parchment, which he can now see is yellow with age. When Caspian sees the writing on the front of the letter, he stops breathing for a moment.
"Xavier, has anyone been allowed to read this?"
"Of course not, Your Majesty! You can see that the seal is unbroken." Caspian turns the letter over and sees the wax seal – in fact the one that is on his ring – is indeed unbroken."
"Thank you, Xavier," Caspian mumbles, trying to keep his voice calm. "You may leave now." Xavier bows and walks away.
Caspian turns the letter back over and sees, once again, his name written on the front. It merely says "Caspian", not "King Caspian" or "To His Majesty, King Caspian" as with nearly every letter he has ever received. The handwriting is Edmund's – Caspian recognizes the oddly cramped up style. He always thought that Edmund wrote as though he hadn't spent much time learning the finer points of penmanship. His hands tremble as he breaks the seal and opens the parchment. It seems an ancient thing – it smells like the dusty old scrolls in the library and it feels fragile beneath his fingertips. He reads with trepidation.
I am writing you this letter because Aslan said that I am to leave and I don't believe that I will ever see you again. There are things that I want to tell you that I can't bring myself to say in person. I just wanted to tell you that – oh bother, I feel dreadfully stupid saying this – that I think that I love you. I don't say this burden your life or to stop you from loving your angel, but because I want you to know. All those years ago, when I was a King of Narnia in more than just name, I loved someone else and I never told him. I don't know why I never did. I suppose it is not an easy thing for a person like me to say. It is not the type of thing that men or boys are supposed to say to one another, is it? I am not upset that you never told me your feelings. In fact, I think that I should have been quite uncomfortable if you had started spouting love sonnets or something! I think that I know how you feel and if I am wrong – well, then I'll never know, will I?
I hope I never forget you.
By now, tears have sprung to Caspian's eyes. He folds the letter up and presses it to his lips. He is not sure what Edmund means by "you never told me your feelings". He is quite sure that he told Edmund on several occasions that he loved him, that he was the best friend he ever had, that he meant so much to Caspian in every way. Perhaps Edmund never took him seriously – Edmund always seemed to have the ability of listening selectively. He was good at making things mean what he thought they should mean.
The letter doesn't sting Caspian as much as it would even a few years ago. He has found that since around the time of Rilian's birth, he is able to think of Edmund without feeling heartbroken. The memories have become sweet and he now enjoys remembering. On the second reading of the letter, he is even able to smile a bit. Edmund's odd phrases, his hesitancy, his self-awareness, his sense of humor, and his odd mix of vulnerability and arrogance all come back to Caspian in this letter.
Caspian looks for a safe place to keep his new treasure.
Caspian spends every spare moment with Rilian or Maren or both. Rilian is such a robust and happy child. Caspian had felt a bit bad for the boy because he had no brothers or sisters. When they were younger, he and Maren had often talked about having a lot of children because they had both had lonely childhoods. It soon becomes apparent, however, that Rilian is the darling of the court and that he will never be alone unless he wants to be. The person that Rilian loves best in the world was his mother, and she spends so much time with him that a Nurse was almost unnecessary. The thing that Rilian likes best is watching the knights fencing or jousting. Even at such a young age, he can keep track of which knight had won which tournament, which knight had beaten which and even which knight is courting which lady.
The thing that Caspian likes best is telling his son stories. Rilian does not have the enthusiasm for stories that Caspian had at his age, but he will usually listen to Caspian tell a story or two right before his bedtime.
"Once upon a time," Caspian says one night, "there were four children named Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy."
"Father!" Rilian whines as soon as Caspian stops for breath. "I have heard this one about," he puts his finger to the side of his mouth contemplating in a wholly adorable way, "about forty times. Tell a different story."
"No, no," Caspian says, "this is a good story. Remember you liked it the last time."
Rilian sighs. "Yes," he groans, "go on."
Caspian knows that he is being patronized – and by a five year old, no less – but he continues his story because he loves telling it. He knows that he can tell it better than anyone in the world – he heard it straight from Edmund and Lucy.
"Now these four children were sent to the country because there was a war in their city." Caspian never really understood the mechanics of that war. There was something to do with flying machines and strange weapons, but he couldn't comprehend it at all. "They were sent to live in a big house with a very wise old scholar." This wasn't the way that the story was told to Caspian when he was a child – it is normally told more from the perspective of the Narnians with the Kings and Queens coming in and saving everything. Caspian likes it better this way.
By the time he gets to the point where the Edmund meets the White Witch, Rilian is beginning to fidget. "Perhaps you are getting tired of this story," Caspian says, regretfully. "I think that it is time you went to sleep."
"No!" Rilian exclaims. "But maybe you could skip to the part where Peter kills the wolf. This is the boring part."
"The boring part!" Caspian tries to look indignant, but can't manage it when he looks into his son's eyes – blue eyes like his mother's. Everyone tells Caspian that Rilian looks like him, but every time Caspian looks at his son, he sees only Maren's delicate features and her cerulean eyes. He grins at his son and tickles him which makes Rilian squeal with laughter. When the boy calms down, Caspian looks at him more seriously. "There is more to stories than battles and killings, you know."
"I know . . . but I like the fights the best!" he giggles at his own cleverness and Caspian tries to look stern again, but fails utterly. "Besides," Rilian goes on, "I think that Edmund was rather stupid."
"Stupid!" and now Caspian really is indignant. He has heard Edmund called many things, but stupid is not one of them.
"He let that witch trick him."
"Well, she was a witch. She was probably very persuasive."
"What does per-sua-sive mean?"
"It means that she was very good at tricking little boys," and here Caspian tickles his son again.
When they are done playing, Rilian looks thoughtful. "I still think that Edmund was stupid for letting that witch trick him like that. I would never let that happen to me."
Rilian brings his sword down quickly and Caspian is barely able to block the blow in time. He is getting far too old for fencing matches, but Rilian had insisted.
Rilian tries another move, but this one Caspian knows well and manages to parry easily. Caspian still thinks that Rilian looks more like Maren than like him, though his face is riddled with pimples that make him shy around people of his own age. He is fifteen years old and he started learning how to use a sword the moment that he was old enough. He is very good.
Several people who had been milling about the courtyard have stopped to watch. Being King is different now than it was when Caspian was younger. Then, people respected his office, but they seemed to feel like he was one of them – and he just happened to be King. Now, his younger subjects look at him in awe and seem surprised to learn that he does things like eat and sleep – as though he is some god and doesn't do things as other men do. Mothers point him out to their children, but when he tries to talk to them, both the mothers and the children seem almost afraid of him. They have begun to call him King Caspian the Seafarer. He has heard people talking about him as though he is dead. "Oh," they say, "there is King Caspian. He was one of the greatest Kings that Narnia has ever seen." Caspian has achieved something that even Peter the Magnificent never managed – he is a legend in his own time.
Caspian is getting tired and his joints have begun to ache, as they often do nowadays. Rilian senses his weakness and moves aggressively to disarm Caspian. Caspian is knocked to the ground and the sword flies from his hand. Well, he was never much better than average at handling a sword and he knew that Rilian would be able to beat him someday. He thinks that if Rilian had been born when he was twenty-two instead of forty-two, that he would have been able to beat the boy for a longer time.
"Father, father," Rilian is saying and Caspian realizes that the boy has kneeled down beside him, looking concerned. "Are you hurt?" Caspian looks around and sees the anxious – though it is obvious that nothing has happened to him other than a good fall on his rear end. He looks down at his beard tucked into his belt and he realizes for the first time that it has more grey in it than blonde.
"I am old," Caspian thinks, in wonder.
Later that night, Caspian kisses his wife with that passion that storybooks reserve only for the young. He notices, for the first time, that his wife's hair also now has more white in it than blonde and that she has wrinkles around her eyes and her mouth. She has aged well – she is still graceful and stately and when Caspian looks in her eyes he sees the history his life with her. He is glad that they have grown old together.
Caspian is only half alive and he knows that it will be this way from now on. He loved Maren for so long that she seemed to be almost a part of his own being. Since her unexpected and unusual death, he has been walking about in a daze. He can tell that his subjects are worried about him, but he is more worried about Rilian.
The boy had always been particularly close to his mother and he is young. Caspian knows, from experience, that young men are rash and impetuous, that they desire action when their elders see that there is nothing that can be done. At Maren's funeral, Rilian barely looks at him. He puts his arm around his son, but Rilian doesn't acknowledge him, he just stares into space as if seeing things that Caspian cannot.
Rilian becomes more and more distant. He goes off on his own on some sort of quest for vengeance that Caspian cannot understand at all. Caspian cannot sleep and spends his nights staring out at the sea and the blanket of stars that rests on top of it. That was what Maren was like – a star on the sea. They didn't bury her in ground because Caspian insisted on something different – some people said blasphemous. They burned his wife and spread her ashes in the sea. Caspian wanted to give her back to the sea and to the East.
"Rilian, Rilian," Caspian says to his son one night, "you must come back to me. I don't think that I can bear this without you. You are all that I have left."
Rilian looks at him as though he is seeing right through him. Almost as though he is under a spell.
"Your Majesty, I must talk to you."
Drinian's voice sounds almost as sorrowful as Caspian feels. When Caspian looks at him, he realizes that Drinian has taken Rilian's disappearance very badly. Caspian himself feels the loss almost as a physical pain. It is even worse than Maren's death, for he never thought that he would lose Rilian in this way; children aren't meant to die before their parents. He doesn't even know if his only child is dead or not. It is rather like when he lost Edmund only much worse because he is fairly sure that whatever happened to Rilian cannot be good.
"What is it Lord Drinian?" he asks and he sees, with surprise, that Drinian is crying. He does not believe that he has ever seen Drinian cry before.
"Sire, I am afraid that I have done something terrible. I deserve to die by your sword for there was an opportunity for me to save your son and I, stupidly, did not take it."
"Wha—What?" Caspian asks. Drinian's words have finally managed to cut through the fog of grief that he has been in.
Drinian hangs his head and takes several deep breaths. "On the day before his disappearance, Rilian showed me where he had been going over the last few weeks. He wasn't searching for the serpent anymore. Everyday, he rode out to see a strange and beautiful woman. She reminded me more than anything of Queen Maren when I first saw her on Ramandu's Island all those years ago."
Caspian narrowed his eyes. Was Drinian trying to tell him that he knew what happened to his son and had said nothing about it?
"But she was different than Queen Maren too. Maren was light and when you looked at her you were able to think more clearly. This woman was more like poison – when you looked at her you went half out of your wits. I – I think that she must have been a witch. I knew that she was evil and I probably could have saved your son if I had said something to you but I told myself that it was probably nothing and – and I didn't want to carry tales to you. I always loved Prince Rilian and I didn't want to lose his trust."
Caspian feels the blood drain from his face. Suddenly he is angrier than he has ever been in his life. His son – his only son whose birth had been like a miracle is probably dead. Narnia will most likely be thrown into civil war after his own death. It all could have been prevented if Drinian hadn't been so concerned with looking like a snitch.
Caspian grabs a nearby ax and charges at Drinian to kill him. Drinian does not move a muscle. Caspian raises the ax, but at that moment he looks into Drinian's eyes and sees the anguish in them. Drinian had loved Rilian almost as a son. Drinian had been with Caspian on the day his son was born. When Rilian was small, Drinian had answered his hundreds of childish questions with more patience than Caspian could ever manage. Drinian had been one of Rilian's best friends, despite being many years older than the boy. Drinian had taken Caspian to the end of the world and brought him back safely and Caspian had gotten all the credit for being a great sailor and adventurer. Caspian cannot believe what he was about to do. He backs a few steps away and allows his ax to fall to the ground. The death of his wife and the disappearance of his son must have driven him mad. He almost murdered his one of his best friends!
Caspian begin to weep. He and Drinian are crying together and Caspian hugs him. "I am horrible," he says, "I do not blame you if you never forgive me."
"It is I who need forgiveness, Sire. You know that I have always loved you and your queen and your son. I hate that I have caused you heartache."
"I know that you love us. And I know that you would have died before you allowed Rilian to be harmed."
Caspian can't stand to look into the eyes of the parents who have just lost their son. Jaldin had been one of the most promising young knights at court and he was killed searching for Rilian – searching for someone who is probably already dead.
Drinian approaches Caspian after the funeral. "Perhaps the next person to search will be successful," he says doubtfully.
Caspian shakes his head. "It is painful for me to say this, but there will not be a next time. Too many young men have died searching for Rilian and it isn't helping anyone. None of them have found even a trace of my son."
Drinian nods regretfully. "I am sorry."
Maren has been dead for ten years and Caspian still spends most nights looking out at the sea. Tonight, however, he is not thinking of his wife. He has spoken to Aslan for the first time in many years and the Lion has told him that he will get to see his son if he goes back to Narnia immediately. Strangely, Caspian is not thinking of this either. Anyone who would happen to pass the frail and aged King on the rocking ship would see that in his left hand he is holding a candle, and in his right, a scrap of parchment.
The parchment is actually a letter. A letter that is falling apart from being read so much and from being so old. The King also appears to be talking to himself.
"You were right, Edmund," he says, "I was a great King." Caspian bites his lip and looks down at his boots. "It is as a man that I have been a failure." Caspian has been thinking of Edmund a great deal lately. Perhaps it is because they are at sea and it was at sea where their romance – for he has now come to admit that it was a romance – occurred.
"One mistake was letting Maren know about you. I don't think that she ever quite believed it when I told her that I loved her after that. And after her death, I failed to keep my only son from ruin."
He gives a long sigh and opens up the letter. He has every word memorized by now and he doesn't think that he can ever forget it. "I always loved you, Edmund," he says and with these words, he touches the flame of the candle to the letter. It burns quickly and the ashes blow away into the East. Caspian knows that it is for the best – the letter certainly isn't the type of thing that one wants to save for posterity – but tears still sting his eyes.
Caspian awakens with a start. He sits up and takes a deep breath and finds that he is in the water. He laughs. He is not sure where he is, but he sees Aslan and he runs to the Lion and hugs and kisses him. He is not sure where he gets the nerve; he certainly would never have had the nerve to be so casual with Aslan before. He is happier than he has been in a long time – everything turned out all right after all. He got to see his son again. At some point, Caspian notices that his movements are stronger and quicker than they have been for years. He is young again. He laughs in pure joy. He realizes that he must be dead, but it doesn't seem to matter in the least.
When Caspian is done greeting Aslan, he turns and notices that there are, of all things, a boy and a girl looking at him. Then Caspian blinks, for he recognizes the boy – it is Eustace; Edmund and Lucy's cousin. He looks closer and laughs for he is quite sure of it, though of course he couldn't have remembered Eustace's face if he had thought about it before seeing him.
"Why Eustace!" he exclaims, "Eustace! So you did reach the end of the world after all," it suddenly occurs to Caspian that if Eustace reached the end of the world, that someone else most likely did as well. "What about my second best sword that you broke on the sea serpent," Caspian blurts the first thing that pops into his mind.
At first Eustace seems happy to see him, but then he draws back as if afraid. As Caspian listens to Aslan explain matters to him, he realizes that Eustace has not been here for very long and that he and the girl are going home soon.
"Sir," Caspian says, "I've always wanted to have just one glimpse of their world. Is that wrong?"
"You cannot want wrong things anymore now that you have died, my son," Aslan's voice is gentle and Caspian understands, with shock, that his words have a double meaning. After a long pause Aslan goes on. "And you shall see their world – for five minutes of their time. It will take no longer for you to set things right there." Then Aslan tells him about Eustace and Jill's school – for some reason they seem to go to the same school – and about how the headmaster lets the bigger children bully the smaller ones. It is a bit confusing and seems terribly trivial to Caspian, but of course he agrees to help.
Aslan arms them and leads them to wall which he knocks down. They walk through the gap and Caspian sees the group of mean looking children. He barely has to tap the boys with the flat of his sword before they scream and run away like cowards. It is quite a funny sight and Caspian laughs freely. When they are gone Caspian turns to Eustace and the girl – Jill, if he remembers her name correctly. They both look a bit sheepish.
"See, Caspian," Eustace says, "Our world isn't so glamorous after all."
Caspian laughs again. "I suppose all worlds are like that, really," he answers. "Glamour is only in the imagining – and the remembering."
"It is good to have seen you again, Caspian," Eustace says, sincerely. "Especially like – like this," Eustace makes a vague gesture at Caspian.
Caspian grins when he realizes what Eustace means. "It's not so bad being old, you know. Just very hard on the body."
Eustace smiles at him. "I guess not."
"If you see Edmund, tell him – tell him –" Tell him what? That Caspian loves him? That he missed him? All these things seem ridiculous to say when he has lived with these feelings for many years and apparently little time has passed for Edmund. "Tell him –" Caspian trails off again.
Eustace puts a hand on his shoulder. "I will, Caspian," he says, "I will."
AN: I am aware that Rilian's birth does not coincide precisely with timeline, but I wanted Caspian to be just a few years older when he was born (I think that on the timeline he is in his late thirties, so there is still a significant space between when he is married and when Rilian is born). The scene where Caspian nearly kills Drinian is not taken word for word from the book, whereas others are because that particular episode is told to Eustace and Jill by the Owls and they presumably would not know the exact words that were said.
I hope that the story was enjoyed by all!