This is an odd little one-shot, because it's written for a movie that's not really out yet. (Yup, that's becoming a bad habit of mine now.) Anyways, I recently saw the Prince Caspian trailer—it looks amazing!—and so, movie nut that I am, I've been busy reading all these great spoilers on IMdb and NarniaWeb. (If you'd rather not read any spoilers, or if you prefer book-based Narnia fanfics to movie-based fanfics, you're free to turn back now. :-) For those like me who are hanging onto every little juicy spoiler and tidbit of information until May finally decides to roll around, I wrote this story based on two of the main spoilers circulating the Narnia boards right now.
First off, it sounds as if, in the movie, Caspian and Susan will have a more developed relationship than is otherwise suggested in the book. Hmm. Is it romance? Friendship? I don't know. Personally, I'd rather it not be a romance, but no matter what the case may be, I do think it will be interesting to see those characters interact more. Also, because the way the characters of Caspian and Peter are being reworked (both are in their late teens), there will be some degree of rivalry between them in terms of whose strategies to use, whose leadership to follow, and of course... who gets to fight Miraz.
"Very well, then," said Peter, "I'll send him a challenge to single combat." No one had thought of this before.
"Please," said Caspian, "could it not be me? I want to avenge my father."
-Prince Caspian , Ch. 13
A pause. Then another—
Swish. A miss. He never missed.
Caspian ducked his head angrily and bit back a curse. He was losing it—and in more ways than one. He glowered at the tree. Over a dozen arrows peppered its trunk, and one of them was still shuddering from its recent impact. Caspian ignored the near perfect hits. Lowering his bow, he crossed the clearing to retrieve the single arrow that had flown wide. He barely noticed the briars pricking his hands as he worked the shaft free of a stubborn bush—he was far too angry for any pain to register right now. Storming back to his position at the end of the clearing, he took hasty aim at the tree once again. For one glorious, horrible moment, he couldn't help but imagine Peter's face in place of the tree trunk. That spiteful, arrogant little boy-king who—
Caspian blinked. At the dead center of the trunk, quavering at eye-level, was an arrow buried deeply into the wood. But not his arrow—his was still poised on the string. Before he had time to become really alarmed, though, a slender figure stepped into view from the side. Susan.
Caspian was annoyed. He was in no mood to talk to anybody at the moment, especially one of the Pevensie children. And although he didn't know Susan very well, he knew that she was sure to have taken her brother's side. So, unsure of what to do, Caspian shifted his focus back to the tree trunk, took aim, and released.
Caspian allowed himself a small smile. His arrow had struck just below Susan's—a clean, deep shot. Throwing her a glance, he saw her nod her head in reply.
"You're good," she said simply.
Caspian shrugged. "So are you." He had to admit, she really was. Relaxing somewhat, Caspian lowered his bow. She did the same.
She studied him briefly. "Caspian, why are you practicing now? And why alone?" she asked. "The others are all back at camp, you know, preparing for tomorrow."
"Wishing your brother well, no doubt." Caspian bit his lip—the words had sounded much more spiteful than he had wanted.
"Oh." Susan gave him a knowing look, one that he found rather annoying. "So that's what this is all about, then."
Caspian decided not to answer. He knew it wouldn't do to take his frustrations out on the girl, but if she was going to try to extract some sort of confession or apology from him, then… Scowling, he stomped over to a nearby outcropping of rock and angled himself against it, his back purposefully towards her. But after just a moment's hesitation, Susan joined him.
She wasn't just going to leave him alone, Caspian realized. Well, that didn't mean he was going to talk to her, either. A few quiet moments passed. Caspian kept glancing in Susan's direction, to see whether she would show any signs of preparing to leave. But no, the girl was perched placidly along the side of the rock, unaware—or more likely, pretending to be unaware—of the fact that she was not wanted. Finally, Caspian gave up pretending to ignore her.
"Well," he said shortly, "what is it you want, then?" He hoped he didn't sound quite as annoyed as he felt.
She looked at him thoughtfully. "Well, to begin with, I should like to see you come out of this dreadful sulk you've been in for the past few days."
He glared at her through a dark fringe of hair. "I have not been sulking."
"Well, all right then, if you say so," she replied with false brightness. Caspian looked at her suspiciously.
"No, you haven't really been sulking," she went on brightly. "You've only been decidedly irritable and sullen whenever anyone tries to approach you. You've only kept to yourself as much as possible these past few days, which is unlike you. You've only been pointedly ignoring my older brother, and—" she added lightly, the corner of her mouth turned up, "—the last time you did speak with him, both of you were quarreling like spoiled children over a coveted toy." As she finished speaking, her tone became more regal—and at the same time, more condescending.
That was when Caspian lost it. Pushing himself away from the rock, he turned to face Susan, a dark gleam in his eyes.
"This 'toy' that you speak of, my lady," he hissed, slipping into more formal speech, as Susan had done, "represents nothing less than my right to avenge my father, and I am most loathe to watch your brother Peter deprive me of that right."
Susan opened her mouth to speak, but Caspian pressed on, angry now. He paced as he spoke, occasionally touching the hilt of his sword with his right hand, almost as if to draw it.
"Your brother may be the High King of old, but he has no right to step into my rightful place and challenge Miraz to a duel that is mine to fight! Was it his father who was murdered in cold blood? His uncle who continually fed him lies about the land and people he was one day to rule?" Caspian ranted on as Susan watched him silently. "Was it his family, his own flesh and blood, who cared so little for him that they were ready to kill him off as soon as a truer heir was born? How can I call myself a king unless I am able to do justice to those who have wronged me and my family?" His voice seemed to falter a bit at the word 'family' and some of the fire left his eyes.
Caspian let out a deep breath, dropping his head a little bit as Susan continued to watch him carefully. His anger was spent now. He still felt miserable, but freeing those words that had been festering inside him during the past few days had done at least some good. He sighed and sank heavily back down to the rock beside Susan.
"How"—he began again, quietly this time—"How can I truly call myself a king of Narnia… when your brother Peter wants to keep that honor only for himself?"
Susan touched his arm gently. "That's not true."
"You say you're upset because Peter is unwilling to share his rule of Narnia with you, or anyone else, for that matter."
Caspian gave her an impatient nod. He didn't really see her point.
Susan arched an eyebrow at him, looking amused. "Well, I think you've forgotten who you're talking to."
Oh. Of course. Queen Susan.
Caspian suddenly felt rather silly. He hadn't meant to imply that the rule of the three younger sovereigns had been inconsequential compared to that of High King. The legends of Old Narnia had always been clear on one thing—there had been four sovereigns and four thrones on the dais of Cair Paravel. Four equal thrones, each established by the Lion Aslan, and no single one higher or more ornate than the other.
Caspian looked at Susan with a sudden respect. "However did you manage it?" he asked with a confused shake of his head. "All those years ago, when you were the four kings and queens of Narnia, how did you ever manage not to… well, be at each others' throats constantly?" He had been about to say, 'off each other,' but had thought better of it.
"It was by Aslan's grace, and because we loved each other, I suppose." Susan looked thoughtful, as if trying hard to remember something. "It all seems so long ago now… We all knew our strengths and places… both as a family and as rulers of Narnia. Lucy"—she smiled—"Lucy was the Valiant one, the one who held us all together. Edmund was the Just one, quick to act and quick to forgive, and he defended even the lowliest of our subjects. I was called the Gentle, I suppose, because I preferred to help my brothers and sister through words and diplomacy, instead of on the battlefield." She fingered her bow absently, drawing her thumb in familiar strokes down the seasoned wood.
"And Peter?" Caspian prompted.
Susan's eyes flashed with pride, and she looked at Caspian as if challenging him to deny her next words. "Peter was our protector. He was the Magnificent one, our warrior and shield. If any of us were ever in trouble," she went on firmly, "Peter wouldn't hesitate to put himself in harm's way if it meant keeping the rest of us safe." Her serious expression dissolved into a smile that played at the corner of her mouth. "Rather foolish of him, really. And we loved him for it."
Caspian frowned. The idea of Peter being protective and self-sacrificing—not to mention magnificent, of all things—certainly didn't fit with what Caspian had seen of the boy-king.
"Well, perhaps what you see as protectiveness, I see as arrogance," he blurted out. "I still don't see why he thinks he ought to be the one to challenge my uncle in single combat." The words sounded childish even to him, and he flushed, dipping his head forward so that Susan couldn't see.
She must have seen anyway, or at least guessed correctly, if her smile was any indication. "Well, aside from the fact that he bested you at swordplay not three days ago—no, let me finish," she raised a hand to cut off his protests. "I didn't say that he didn't have the better weapon, or that it wasn't a close fight. You are quite skilled too, Caspian. But Peter did win, and what's more, he did it fairly. And besides," she continued, finally withdrawing her hand from his arm—strange, Caspian had almost gotten used to having it there—"there is another very good reason why Peter has got to be the one to fight your uncle, and it has absolutely nothing to do with your skill in battle."
He peered at her expectantly. "Well, what is it, then?"
She let out a patient—and to Caspian, infuriating—little sigh as though she were explaining the most obvious thing in the world. "Caspian, you do realize that you are Narnia's best and last hope, don't you?"
He blinked owlishly. Well yes, he knew that, but for some reason, it was strange to hear it put that way.
"Our rule is over," she continued very seriously. "Peter's, Edmund's, Lucy's, and mine, that is. Cair Paravel is gone, and so is the Golden Age of Narnia." Her voice shook very slightly, and Caspian thought he saw a trace of wetness about her eyes. But she turned to look staunchly at him nonetheless. "Caspian, if this land is to survive, it must do so under your rule, not ours. That's why Peter's insisted that he be the one to challenge Miraz. I know you want to be the one to avenge your father, Caspian, but you must understand. My brother is doing everything he can to keep you alive."
And this is the sort of gratitude I've been showing him, Caspian finished silently. I hated him for it. He blinked again, thinking, and it occurred to him how dense he must seem to Susan. During the past few days, he had relished the thought of fighting his uncle to the death, but the thought had never occurred to him—or if it had, he had carelessly brushed it aside—that he might not emerge the victor. Miraz was an unquestionably skilled and seasoned warrior, and anyone who was brave enough or foolish enough to face him in single combat was probably just as likely to be killed as not. True, Peter was still far too arrogant for his own good—Caspian could see that clearly, even if Susan couldn't—but perhaps the same could be said of him.
Susan, thankfully, let him sit silently for a few moments while he mulled everything over. Finally, he broke the silence.
"Susan," he began awkwardly, "I think… I think I've been rather a fool. And… an arrogant and ungrateful fool at that," he added in a rush.
She laughed, but not unkindly. "Glad you've finally seen it that way," she teased. "I was getting worried that you were going to be as stubborn about this as Peter was." She leaned towards him and whispered conspiringly, "I had to straighten him out too, earlier, about the way he was treating you, and let me tell you, lecturing three kings of Narnia in a single afternoon is exhausting work."
Caspian raised an eyebrow. "Three?"
"Edmund," she said flatly, as if that explained everything. "He came to me earlier, saying that if you and Peter were going to be so bullheaded as to who should fight your uncle, he might as well 'do the bloody task himself.' At first I thought he was joking, but he was dead serious. He had even written a letter to your uncle explaining the change in plans." She threw up her hands, exasperated.
Caspian gaped. "But… erm… isn't your younger brother just... I don't know, fifteen years old?" he sputtered, thinking of how his burly, seasoned uncle would have towered above the younger boy.
"Well," he said, wincing, "it's nice to know I'm not the only one who ended up looking rather like a fool."
She rolled her eyes at that. "Ridiculous boys, all of you," she said fondly, pretending to cuff him on the side of his head.
Caspian laughed, ducking her mock blow. His spirits were considerably higher now, and he leapt to his feet—in an admittedly less than gallant move—to sweep a very gallant bow to Susan. "Well then, my lady, would you permit one such 'ridiculous boy' to escort you back to the encampment?" Then he added, a bit more seriously, "I believe I must seek an audience with the High King of Narnia."
"Hmm." She tapped her lip with a long finger, as if considering, but her eyes were smiling. "Yes, I suppose that will do, good sir. Provided that should we happen upon any more of your evil relatives, you will solemnly swear not to fight them to the death."
Caspian smirked at her light teasing, but his eyes were solemn. "You have my word, Queen Susan."
She smiled as he helped her to her feet.
And then there really was nothing more that needed to be said.
Loved it? Hated it? Please let me know, even if that means leaving just one word or two. :-)
Oh, and kudos to whoever can tell me what a dais is. (Just so you know, the title is supposed to read 'daises' not 'daisies'.)
Note (2/28): Does anyone know how to indent paragraphs on this site? Apparently, just pushing the tab button isn't enough, because it's not working for me, lol.