To Mika's surprise, Squeak was apologetic about selling his sword. Mika thought the little Mouse would still be furious at him, but when he found Mika the next day, he just shook his head sadly.

"I know how much you like your wooden sword and, Aslan knows, there are few better hobbies for one who will be a knight of Narnia, but I can't tell the king I am going to do one thing and then do another. It wouldn't be honorable," he said.

Mika felt like hugging the Mouse, but didn't because he knew that Mice didn't like to be hugged – it ruffled their dignity. "Of course, I understand, Squeak," Mika said. He felt sorry about giving Squeak such a scare. "I was in the wrong."

Apologizing to the fishmonger was pretty dreadful, even though the man didn't seem to be that angry about it. Mika stood, squirming in the street, watched by Squeak and several guards.

"I'm sorry that I stole from you, sir," he said. "My cousin, the king, has made me see how wrong my actions were and we have decided that I should reimburse you triple what the fish was worth." He thought that sounded well. It cast Caspian in a good light while at the same time making it clear that Mika understood the gravity of his actions.

The man beamed, looking for all the world as if he'd been offered a fortune. "It's no trouble young lord, no trouble," he said, bobbing his head repeatedly. "Boys will get into a bit of mischief now and then. Why I remember when my own son was your age --" But at this point, Mika held out the money and the man quickly pocketed it.

"Thank you, young lord, thank you," he said. "Now you be sure to tell all those high-ups that if they need to buy any fish for their dinners to come to old Jak. That was a good fish that you had, now wasn't it?"

"Yes, sir," Mika said. He didn't tell the man that he hadn't eaten the fish or that they were leaving soon. He felt more miserable than ever about stealing from the man. He could tell that the fishmonger didn't have much. At the same time, he knew he never would have got off so easy if he'd been some street urchin who actually needed to steal to eat. Adults could be so strange.

The king seemed eager to leave the city and Mika wasn't sorry to put Telmark behind him either. They rode for most of the day until they came to a smallish town called Woodwatch. They seldom rode for more than a day before coming to one of their destined stops – Narnia seemed a small country, but they visited lots of places. The terrain had started to change; there were now a lot more trees and the flat plains had given way to sloping hills. Mika learned that they were now on the western edge of what the Telmarines traditionally considered habitable Narnia. The Western Wood, prior to Caspian's reign, had been considered a dark place, fit only for monsters.

Woodwatch was a pleasant town, built mostly of a light colored timber that gave all the structures a homey feel. Caspian and most of the party stayed in the mayor's house – a much overgrown cottage in the center of town. It had very wide staircases which Mika amused himself running up and down until he was stopped by the Lord Drinian. The queen wasn't feeling well and he was making too much noise.

--- -- ---

They had been riding most of the day when Maren complained that she felt weak. Caspian reached out and touched her shoulder in concern. Sometimes, he was apt to forget that Maren had recently had so great a threat to her health.

"Do we need to stop now?" he asked.

"I can make it to the next town," Maren answered, white-lipped.

"You could ride in the wagon. Are you in pain?" he whispered. Was this a relapse? Maren had seemed fine during their journeys, but perhaps he had overtaxed her after all.

"No, Caspian," she smiled at him, reassuringly, "but I feel weak, as if I could faint."

This caused him to raise his eyebrows in alarm, but Maren sat up straight and proud. Sometimes, Caspian thought that she was more suited to be a queen than he was a king. She had given no one but him any clue that she felt poorly. Behind him, two of his soldiers and one of his lords were laughing uproariously, likely at a bawdy jest. Just ahead, Mika talked avidly with another of his lords. The boy had become such a talker of late – Caspian could still remember how reserved and unresponsive he'd been when he had first come to Narnia a few months ago.

Maren was true to her word and managed to sit straight on her horse until they reached the town of Woodwatch about an hour later. She greeted the people of the town with so much grace and aplomb that Caspian thought she must be feeling better, but as soon as they were alone in their room she collapsed onto the bed, fully clothed.

"The doctor," she said when Caspian looked at her in concern. "I need to see the doctor."

Caspian berated himself. He shouldn't have listened to her when she said that she could make it to the next town. He should have made her stop right away and had her condition examined. "I'll have him fetched," Caspian said. "And any competent healer who may be found in this town as well."

The doctor a two town healers were found, one of them an old woman who looked half blind to Caspian. He left them to their work, reluctantly. He walked downstairs where he met Drinian who suggested that he should eat.

Caspian certainly didn't feel like eating, but as he hadn't had anything since breakfast, he allowed Drinian to pester a servant for a plate of cold chicken. He sat picking at his food as Drinian attempted to comfort him.

"She's going to be fine," he said.

"I shouldn't have brought her on long excursion so soon after her sickness," Caspian said, sitting aside his plate. "If anything serious has happened to her, I'll --"

"She wanted to come," Drinian said. "We all saw what a good time she was having, meeting her subjects. She'd never visited most of the towns. You stay at Cair too much, Caspian."

Caspian sighed heavily and sat his plate down. "I feel we are safer there. I don't know why – Telmark is more defensible. But I have this feeling that if we'd never left, she wouldn't be sick right now."

"Bad things happen in Cair too," Drinian reminded him.

Caspian would have said more, but at that moment Mika ran up to them (the boy seemed to have a lot of energy these days). "What's wrong with the queen?" he demanded of Caspian.

Not even a "Your Majesty". Caspian had to smile because he knew that it was concern for Maren, not rudeness, that made Mika so insistent.

"I don't know yet," he said. "She was feeling weak."

"Doctors are looking into it now," Drinian added.

Mika frowned, but nodded. "Can I see her later this evening?"

"If she isn't sleeping," Caspian said, studying the boy's concerned face. "Listen, Mika, she's going to be all right." He hadn't believed it before, but somehow just uttering the words reassured him. Of course, Maren would be all right. He was probably worrying himself over nothing and she was simply tired or had a cold. At any rate, there was no use worrying until he knew the problem.

After a few minutes, Mika went to the kitchen to have his dinner. A little later, the doctor found Caspian and asked to speak to him alone. Caspian arose nervously from his seat – surely if the doctor wanted to speak to him alone, it could mean nothing good – and followed the man into a little study.

"What's wrong with her," he demanded as soon as the door was closed, echoing Mika's earlier insistent tone.

"Your Majesty," the man said, running his fingers through what was left of his hair, "sit down."

Caspian sat down impatiently and looked up at the man. "Well?"

"After talking to the queen and checking her condition, the other healers and I agree. The queen is not sick, exactly. She is with child."

Caspian froze. He had hardly been expecting this – they had been trying to conceive for years and the idea that it would happen so soon after Maren's sickness was frightening. He clutched the arm of his chair. "In your opinion, is the queen healthy enough to carry a child and bear it?"

The doctor took a deep breath. "In my opinion, she is," he said. "But she may need more rest and less movement than most women in similar condition. It is important that you get her back to Cair as soon as possible, preferably in the cart. Nothing causes more miscarriages than riding horseback."

Caspian winced. Maren hated riding in the cart. Even Mika seemed to think riding in the cart beneath him – as if Caspian had suggested that he was a baby or an invalid. "Perhaps Cair is too far to move her," Caspian said. "Perhaps we should hold court here until she delivers the baby."

The doctor looked around at the wooden house, blankly. "Here, Your Majesty?"

"Well not here," Caspian clarified. "But near. There must be an fort or a castle that is owned by the throne of Narnia somewhere about."

"It might be for the best," the doctor agreed. "If an early winter caught the party, then it could have detrimental effects on the queen and the child."

Caspian nodded. "It will be done then."

Caspian was half expecting Maren to be asleep when he went up, but she was sitting up on the bed and was positively glowing.

"Did they tell you?" she asked.

Caspian managed a smile. "Yes, they did." He kissed her on the forehead. It hadn't occurred to Caspian to be happy – but it had clearly occurred to Maren. He remembered the last time he found out she was with child and how he had whirled her around in his arms and they had both laughed and kissed.

"Aren't you pleased?" Maren asked, looking at his face.

"I'm worried for you," Caspian said. "And for the child, of course. After what happened last time and you being sick such a short time ago – it isn't good Maren."

Maren's lip quivered as if she were going to cry and Caspian was sorry for voicing his fears to her. He should be strong and comforting, not uncertain. "Of course, it's good," she said. "We're going to have a baby. I thought that was what we both wanted. At any rate, isn't it what kings and queens are supposed to do? Produce heirs?"

"We can't be certain that it will happen."

"Well, of course not!" Maren said, crossing her arms. "We can't be certain of anything. But a new child should be greeted with enthusiasm, not with doubt."

Caspian sighed. He knew she was right.

"You didn't used to be so cautious, Caspian," she said. "What happened?"

Caspian looked at his hands. "What happened last time was hard for me. I tried not to let it show, because I knew it was worse for you."

Maren took his hand in hers. "I know. And I know the dangers. The first thought that came into to my mind was to wonder what would happen if something went wrong – how you would handle it, how I would handle it, whether my body would endure. But we can't let fear rule over our lives."

Caspian held her hand up to his lips and kissed it. "You are right, as always. I am fortunate to be having a baby with such a wise lady."

Maren's smile at these words was like the sun.