A/N: Oh boy, oh boy, oh boy, I'm really doing this…I'm starting my first actual full-fledged fic! EEK! Seriously, though, I'm pretty excited about this, and I'm hoping it will go well. I'm going to need all the advice and encouragement I can get to keep going, though, as this is my first shot at something so long, so reviews are much appreciated! Many many MANY thanks to H Max Marius for his support, encouragement, and willingness to beta this for me! Narnia and its people belong to the genius of C. S. Lewis, not me. Not mine! Nope, not in any way whatsoever.
Chapter One: Always a Prince
"'I said nothing about that,' answered the Badger. 'It's not Man's country (who should know that better than me?) but it's a country for man to be King of.'"
- From Chapter Five of Prince Caspian
Darkness marred the expression of the man keeping to the outskirts of the celebration. Quite a contrast to the bright colors decorating the hall and the pleasant music starting to fill the air. All this coupled with the cheerful conversations and laughter only served to make his mood blacker. Arms folded across his chest, his scathing glance sought out the subject of all this merriment. His eyes narrowed slightly as they found what they were looking for: a fair-haired man, deep in conversation with a small group hanging on his every word. This was Caspian IX, newly crowned King of Narnia, Emperor of the Lone Islands, and a long string of other titles. It was all this young man could do to maintain a facade of happiness and celebration, but in truth, Miraz, brother of the new sovereign, was seething at the injustice of it all.
To everyone else present, it was a joyous occasion. For Miraz, it was quite the opposite – a crushing disappointment. Caspian was not just his brother, but his elder as well. It wasn't by much, just a few years, but that didn't matter. On the basis of that fact alone, Caspian was now king, leaving Miraz to be a mere prince for the rest of his days. Unless, of course, something was to happen to Caspian before he could establish an heir. The odds of that didn't seem likely, however. Caspian was said to be in good health, tended to be quite careful, and from what Miraz had heard, he even had his eye on a future Queen. Miraz's chance at being King was slipping through his fingers right before his eyes, and he couldn't bear it any longer.
Sighing, the disgusted prince let his arms fall to his side. Finding himself unable to stand staring at that inane smile any longer, he tore his gaze from his brother. Instead, he started to search for a clear path to the exit. Far too many agonizingly long moments had he spent during the ceremony. All that he wanted now at this particular moment was out. Who cared if the celebration had only begun? This frivolousness, these pointless festivities was something he just had to get away from. Besides, it was very distracting – he wanted to wallow in his own hopelessness and self pity in silence.
Unfortunately for Miraz, there didn't seem to be a clear path to the door. There were too many people in the way, too many conversations being held for that to happen. He let another sigh escape him as he began to pick his way through the crowds. His crimson robes that he saved for formal occasions were beginning to feel somewhat warm. Whether that was because of the sheer numbers of those in the Great Hall or because of his own rising anger, he didn't know.
As he stepped around the groups of people talking, he caught brief snippets of their conversations.
"…as I was telling my wife the other day, Caspian should make a fine ruler, why he's…" Miraz was sick of hearing that. He quickly changed his course before he could get dragged into the discussion as well.
"Frankly, I'm glad that he was born first. I'm not so sure how well a ruler that Miraz would…" Yet another talk he'd rather stay away from.
And on and on it went. All these idle words from such ignorant subjects as these were only making Miraz hotter under the collar. Thank goodness none of them had thought to include him in such vapid conversations. Still, it wasn't exactly encouraging that they had all seemed to overlook him either. Not even a nod of acknowledgement from any of them. That's Caspian for you, thought Miraz. Always stealing all the attention and glory for himself, merely because he's the elder. He clenched his jaw as he continued to push his way through. Almost there. Just a little farther, and he would be able to escape from all this superfluous revelry. Just a little farther, and then:
And then a voice called out to him from nearby.
"Ah, Prince Miraz! There you are! We've been wondering where you've been, come and join us!"
Miraz cursed inwardly. It wouldn't bode well for him if he just walked away now. No, he had to keep up his cheerful appearance, at least for the moment. It just wouldn't do to ignore the fact that his name had been called. Reluctantly, he turned to the owner of the voice and forced himself to walk towards it.
The Lord Octesian was standing with a few other men, most of whom he couldn't place a name to. They were all familiar, however. Each and every one of them was in very good standing with his brother for one reason or another. He had seen them going in and out of the castle quite frequently, having some business or another with the prin – King. How Miraz loathed the fact…
He nodded briefly to the small gathering as he looked around at them. Octesian was standing there with a stupid smile plastered on his face, and he smelled strongly of tobacco smoke as well. It was all Miraz could do from gagging at the scent, though for some reason the others took no notice of it. Next to Octesian was Rhoop, as thin and distant-looking as ever. On his other side was a man dressed in fine green, and from the sparrow on his robes, Miraz guessed he was one of the Passarids. Though this man carried no weapon at the moment, the house of the Passarids were well-known for producing competent fighters. And if they're what's considered competent, Narnia is in sad shape, mused Miraz. Finally, there was another figure he couldn't put a name to. His hair was brown, and his expression serious. Perhaps a little too serious for Miraz's taste.
The silence was beginning to get a bit unnerving. He'd better say something before it got even more awkward than it already was. Nodding again, Miraz finally spoke up, albeit a bit shortly: "Greetings, gentlemen."
The greeting seemed innocent enough, but to Octesian, there was something more behind it. It was…poisoned, almost. This was not a good sign. Knowing Miraz as he did, he had assumed Miraz would be a bit perturbed at the recent turn of events, and from the looks of it, his assumption was correct. For Caspian's sake, he and his comrades had called him over in an attempt to calm him down.
How, he wasn't sure.
He cleared his throat. "So, Prince Miraz, I must admit I'm surprised it took us this long to find you. Then again, I might guess you've been busy congratulating your brother. You must be very proud of him."
The sneer that flickered across Miraz's face wasn't what one might call comforting. "You could say that."
Something told Octesian that whoever did say it would be terribly mistaken. Which seemed to be him at the moment. He let out a slight, uneasy laugh before gesturing to the man on his left. "Rhoop here and I were just discussing what might lie beyond the borders of Narnia…out on the Eastern Sea."
Miraz's dark eyes widened noticably at the mention as he recoiled slightly. His voice was barely a whisper as he uttered, horrified, "The sea!"
Before Miraz could get any further, however, the man opposite Octesian, the one with the brown hair, the one from Beaversdam, said, "Well, if you ask me, I'd rather not find out. There's nothing good that can come from that direction, and if there's anything out there, mark my words, whoever finds it will regret it."
Octesian let out another, more genuine laugh. The slight nod of agreement Miraz gave was overlooked as Octesian began to sink back into the previous light-hearted feel of the conversation. "I'm not surprised to hear you say that, you know. You and that brother of yours never want to leave Beaversdam, let alone go out to sea. I think that too many of us fear the sea any way, have you no sense of adventure?"
The Passarid rolled his eyes at this. "Oh, we've senses of adventure all right. We just know not to go where we're sure to meet our demise, that's not adventure, that's outright stupidity."
Octesian shifted his glance back to Miraz for a moment, who seemed to be squirming from the current topic of conversation, but didn't seem to be fuming quite so much. Thank goodness. He turned back to Rhoop, who was now saying something about the stories he'd heard.
"Haven't you heard the rumors, the things people say, though?" he began excitedly, seemingly restraining himself from bouncing with glee. "There could be almost anything out there! I've even heard that there's an island out there, an island where all your dreams come true!" He bore a wide grin on his thin face as he added, "Who wouldn't want that?"
Octesian grinned slightly at Rhoop's excitement as he nodded. Miraz was momentarily forgotten in the heat of the moment. "Indeed, and just think of all the riches! Why, there might be hoards of gold so massive it dwarfs those of the castle! There could be piles of rubies, stacks of sapphires, hoards of emeralds just waiting for someone like us to come find them and claim them as our own."
The man from Beaversdam (why couldn't Octesian remember his name?) replied, "All the same, I'd rather keep myself on dry land. Much safer that way. Now, if you'll excuse me…" He paused a moment to glance around the Great Hall before continuing, "I wanted to speak with Belisar about something. Any idea where he might be?"
Out of the corner of his eye, Octesian noticed the slight arch of Miraz's brow. Also of note was the bored expression growing on his face. Whether it was calmer than before – well, it seemed to be, but with Miraz, you could never be sure.
Rhoop was the one to respond to the man from Beaversdam. "Most likely swapping hunting stories with Uvilas. You know how those two are when it comes to hunting parties, you just can't keep them away from them."
"Ah, of course, I should have known," was the reply. With a nod and a bow, the man turned, saying to Miraz before he left, "I shall go look for him then, my congratulations to you and your brother."
Wincing slightly at the resurfacing of the dreaded topic, Octesian risked a glance at the monarch's younger brother. His jaw was set as he turned to watch the other man leave, and Octesian thought his ears seemed a bit redder than when he'd entered the conversation.
Apparently he wasn't the only one to notice. The group fell strangely silent, and Octesian looked around at his companions somewhat nervously. The Passarid coughed slightly, which only served to make the silence even more uncomfortable. Uneasily, the Passarid said, "Your brother will make a fine King, I should think."
This time it was Octesian's eyes that widened slightly. This was not the road to go down if they wanted to keep Miraz calm. Miraz had stiffened at the statement, his fists tightening as he did so. Speaking through clenched teeth, Miraz spat, "Oh really now. And what makes you say that?"
Octesian and Rhoop exchanged worried glances, and the Passarid looked extremely sorry for bringing up the subject, but there was no going back now. "He's fair, and just, and he knows that even though the right thing isn't always easy, it should still be done. He's devoted to his kingdom and is willing to do what's in the best interest of it, and not just his own self-interest."
The sound of Miraz's blood boiling was almost audible to Octesian. He desperately tried to convey to his companions through a series of facial expressions that a change of subject was necessary, but to no avail. Miraz in the meantime was beginning to turn red in the face as he spoke slowly. "And just what has he got that I don't?"
Helpless for the moment, Octesian could only watch as the Passarid gulped. "Well…Miraz…I really don't mean for you to take this the wrong way. However, you can be a bit, well, rash sometimes. Not to mention you do seem to be a bit brutal at times…"
Octesian's face fell as Miraz's took on the same shade of crimson as his robes. In one final, last-ditch effort to calm him down, he blurted out hurriedly, "Oh, Miraz, look at it this way…you'll always be a prince now! And isn't it the princes who get all the fun? No wars to worry about, no complaints, no…"
"No POWER…" Miraz spat at him. Without another word he wheeled about and stalked off. Octesian sighed as he looked back towards the others. "Well, that didn't go so well."
The other lords could only shake their heads in the stunned silence.
Some distance away, the Lord Glozelle watched the prince as he talked with the various friends of his brother. Glozelle wasn't all that pleased with the coronation himself. For one thing, he didn't think that Caspian was quite firm enough to be a good ruler. And for another, Miraz was more easily, shall we say, maneuvered than Caspian was. He was far more likely to get into a position of power with Miraz ruling than with Caspian as King. There were others in the kingdom who felt the same way – Sopespian readily came to mind. Miraz didn't seem too keen on taking matters into his own hands just yet, but Glozelle knew that with the proper ribbing, he could probably be convinced to change his mind.
And it appeared his chance to do so was coming. Miraz had suddenly turned away from the group and was now storming towards him with an absolutely livid expression. Glozelle prepared himself mentally for the blast that was probably coming. He wasn't too fond of being blown up on, but Miraz was so much easier to manipulate when he was this way. He would endure it for now.
He stepped into Miraz's path, pulling his face into an expression of slight concern. "I say, Prince Miraz, is everything all right? You seem a bit angry."
Miraz's red face showed that 'a bit' was a definite understatement. "Angry?" he started. "Angry?? Of COURSE I'm angry!!"
The sheer volume of the statement was enough elicit a few stares from those around them, and Glozelle frowned slightly. Being in the public eye probably would not be the best idea for this conversation. He looked towards the door to the Great Hall, stepped towards it, and beckoned for Miraz to follow. "Well then, perhaps I can help ease that anger somewhat, but it would be better not to do it in here, I think."
Though it was plain by the furrowed brow and clenched teeth that Miraz could bear it no longer, Glozelle was glad to see he at least had the sense not to explode in view of all these people. Taking slow but heavy steps, Miraz followed Glozelle out into the hallway before letting loose.
"It's just not FAIR! I am so sick of hearing people fawn over Caspian like they do!" He stamped a foot as he continued, "Don't I even matter anymore? No! I'm just a little prince now, and high-and-mighty Caspian gets all the attention!"
Glozelle nodded, letting Miraz vent off some steam before speaking. He had to stifle a chuckle, however. The sight of Miraz throwing such a fit in his best formal robes was quite a sight to behold, after all, and his face matched the crimson perfectly.
Miraz smacked a fist into his palm as he continued. "I'd make a much better ruler than he would anyway! He's too soft, he's too careful, he's terrible with a sword, he's…"
He continued to rant and rave as Glozelle let his thoughts wander. Here was his opportunity. If he could just get Miraz calm enough to listen to what he had to say, there was a possibility for things to change. And the best way to calm Miraz down, Glozelle had learned, was with excessive flattery.
"Yes, yes, Miraz, I was just talking with our good friend Sopespian about that exact subject. We both feel you would make a much better ruler than Caspian. You're not afraid to act, you are swift to deal justice and you do not focus yourself on petty matters. You do not care whether what you do is of popular opinion, but whether it is the right thing for the country."
Miraz softened a bit at this. He was still breathing fairly hard, and his face was still quite red, but at least he wasn't yelling. This was good. Glozelle knew that there was a delicate balance when it came to Miraz: he was easily convinced when he was angry, but the trick was to get him calm enough to hear the suggestion. It seemed Miraz was reaching that point. "I know it seems hopeless, but you know, there is still a chance for you to be King."
Folding his arms, Miraz looked skeptically at Glozelle. "Indeed there is, but the chances are very slim. I do not wish to put my hopes in the unlikely. Do not speak to me of such things, Glozelle, it only makes my situation worse!"
Glozelle smirked slightly. "Ah, but I believe that there are ways that the unlikely can me made a bit more…likely. It is quite obvious to myself, Sopespian, and several others that you would make a fine monarch, unlike your brother. Perhaps you should do something to put yourself in that position."
Miraz raised a brow slightly, stroking the beard covering his chin. "Just what are you suggesting, Glozelle?"
Glozelle opened his mouth to reply before Miraz held up a hand and said shortly, "No, no, don't answer that. I can't think about these things when I am like this. Let me alone. I want to retire to my room and get away from all this."
A nod. "Of course."
As Miraz stormed down the hallway, Glozelle smiled to himself as he leaned on the wall. Miraz didn't yet seem too fond of the implied idea at the moment. The seed had been planted, however, and that would not change. All that seed needed now was the time to sprout, grow, and flourish.
And perhaps a proper watering every now and then.