A/N Hmmm…this is movieverse, and the first time I've ever written anything AU. Just another "the Pevensies don't go back home" fic. If that's not your thing, I understand. I will try to be as canon as possible for the rest of it, but since this isn't my normal fandom, expect discrepancies. If I haven't scared you off yet, then here we go.
The Lost Chronicles of Narnia: The Beast of Witherby
The thundering of hoof beats shook the ground.
Lounging upon a rock in the middle of Aslan's How, the High King of Narnia munched on an apple, watching with mild boredom as the horseman approached. Peter Pevensie, once upon a time known as Peter the Magnificent, felt anything but that as he squinted in the sunlight. He had forgotten how hot Narnia could be, compared to his old home in England. Even in the shade of the ruins, sweat still rolled down his neck, soaking the open collar of his shirt. Perhaps they should have waited until fall to start rebuilding the ancient site, but the Narnians had needed this hallowed place restored to its former glory.
"My liege!" a deep raspy voice called as the rider slowed before him. Peter rose and swallowed the last bite of his apple, tossing it over his shoulder and stepping forward. Off to the side, his small personal guard rose as well, silently fanning out around him.
"I never would have thought to see you on a horse, Trumpkin," Peter said with a grin, stepping forward to rest his hand on the Red Dwarf's mount. The dwarf rolled his eyes.
"There is a reason Aslan gave me two legs," Trumpkin muttered. The tall Narnian Horse he rode snorted, giving its proud head a shake.
"What good are two legs when you could have four?" the grey asked, prancing so that the dwarf had to grip its mane tightly so he wasn't unseated. "And short slow legs at that."
"That's it," Trumpkin declared in disgust, climbing off so awkwardly that Peter moved to help. The dwarf flapped his hand, indicating that help wouldn't be appreciated. "I was ordered to come to you quickly, your Majesty, but no one said anything about returning as fast. Enough of you, Horse. I'd say thanks, if I wasn't sure you hit each bump on purpose."
The Horse just snorted a second time and flicked his tail, catching the dwarf a neat swipe across the face. Peter bit back a laugh at the evil glare Trumpkin directed at his mount, although Peter's centaur guards chuckled and their captain laughed outright.
"What is this message, good Dwarf?" Peter asked politely. Trumpkin gave him a look to make sure that he wasn't being made fun of, then the Narnian bowed a short perfunctory bow.
"It is from King Edmund, sire. He requests that you return to the castle. There is some…trouble concerning her Majesty."
"Lucy? What has Lu done this time?" Peter asked with a sigh. For such a sweet girl, the youngest queen of Narnia had a way of setting the more traditionalist Talmarines' teeth on edge. More than once in the last several months had either he or Caspian or both been forced to step in and mediate disputes that centered on his sister. Rubbing his forehead wearily, he hoped it wasn't another tree incident. Lu just had to realize that not all trees were Trees, and right now lumber was needed...
"It is not Queen Lucy, sire," Trumpkin reassured him. The dwarf was particularly glad that wasn't the case. While he was not a sentimentalist by nature, Lucy had made a deep and loyal friend in the dwarf, and often he found himself in the middle of her disputes.
"Susan?" Peter was surprised. Susan was another story. His eyes narrowed. "What has happened?" Trumpkin shuffled around nervously.
"Well…" he glanced at his feet, causing Peter to step forward.
"Trumpkin, what is wrong with Susan?" The High King had that tone to his voice, the one that stated that he would not tolerate any foolishness.
"His majesty, King Caspian has had her majesty…err…imprisoned."
"Perhaps imprisoned is a harsh term. Sequestered, maybe? Confined?"
"Well…you see it all started in the great council room-" Trumpkin started, then realized with a start that he was being pushed back towards the Horse. "Your Majesty, perhaps I could explain and then walk back?" he asked hopefully.
"You'll explain on the way," Peter growled, swinging up on the proud animal and pulling the dwarf up behind him.
"Great." Trumpkin muttered sarcastically, gripping his king's tunic in a death grip as the Horse wheeled about and took off at a dead run. "Just great…"
There were no bumps the whole ride back. Funny thing, that.
"My queen, please open the door!"
His majesty, King Caspian X, True King of Narnia, Lord of the Telmarines, Liberator of Narnia, Restorer of the Old Ways, stared forlornly at the heavy oak door in front of him. She had been in there for hours, and therefore he had been out here just as long, beseeching her to let him in so that he could explain his actions earlier in the great council room.
"Your Majesty, please! Queen Susan!"
"I don't think it's going to work," Lucy said from her seat on a nearby windowsill. She gave Caspian a sympathetic look. "Su can be awfully stubborn when she sets her mind to it."
"But if she would just let me explain, I'm sure she would understand…"
"Ha!" Edmund laughed. He had spent the last few hours keeping the pair company in the empty hallway, amusing Lu with fancy swordplay and watching Caspian grow more distraught as time passed by. "You really don't know Susan, do you? I once stole her diary and accidentally lost it in the river trying to keep it from her. She wouldn't speak to me for a week."
Caspian gave him a look of dismay, and Edmund shot him an evil grin.
"And I suppose that's nothing compared to having her put in jail."
"I did not!" Caspian cried, glaring at Edmund as he strode in a circle, boots clunking the ground. "I merely suggested that she retire until the situation was contained."
"You drug her to her room and ordered guards to watch her," Edmund reminded him, balancing the hilt of his sword on the back of his hand.
"For her protection! Your majesty should know better than anyone how volatile Narnian politics has become! I could not risk her safety."
"You told the guards no one was to let her out." The sword flipped and the young King caught it deftly.
"I said no one was to come in! It was never my intention for them to hold her here indefinitely," Caspian growled in indignation.
"They took it that way," Lucy added. "She tried to leave and they wouldn't let her."
"You should have just let it go, Caspian," Edmund decided, sliding forward into an en guard stance. "Susan is perfectly capable of taking care of herself."
"The council is corrupt and deceitful," the Telmarine king was still holding his ground, despite the pitiful way his shoulders were hunched as he stared at the queen's chamber door. "Edmund, they believe that they only have to deal with the High King, you, and myself. They are not used to females holding power and they don't take kindly to being told otherwise. She was making enemies faster than I can count."
"You made her look like a silly girl, having her removed like that," Lucy told him simply. "Her opinions are just as valid as anyone else's. And with Peter gone, she outranks the rest of us."
"This is not the Narnia of old," Caspian said quietly. "Even if we would wish it. I was trying to protect her. If the council views her as a threat, they will make a point to target her."
"Tell me again why we haven't simply disbanded this council?" Edmund asked with a grunt, slashing at an invisible enemy.
"The Telmarine council has existed for the last thousand years. It is a check and balance system, set up to ensure that no lord become too aggressive against his neighbor, and to provide a direct link between the monarch and his people." Caspian felt like he was reciting from a tutor's book, and knew it was obvious he didn't believe what he was saying.
"How's that working out for you?" Edmund asked sarcastically. "Miraz didn't seem too connected to his people."
"The true purpose of the council has been lost beneath the greed and ambitions of the lords that hold seats," Caspian acknowledged, his dark eyes growing sad. "But the people need to keep some of their old traditions, or they will lose hope. There is enough dissent, enough confusion and loss. The Telmarines need something old to hold onto."
Edmund said nothing but his face betrayed his feelings on the matter. The Kings and Queens of Old had tried to sympathize with the Telmarine commoners; it was not their fault that they had been led astray by their rulers. But centuries of fear and distrust of the true Narnians, along with too many Telmarine lives lost at Aslan's How, had left many bitter and lost. Many of the Narnians weren't much better, and to Edmund, their feelings were justified. The Narnians had lost much more than the Telmarines ever had. It was a tense time for the young rulers, trying to bring two ancient enemies into a single nation in harmony. They needed to stay strong together, a united front.
Caspian rubbed his temples, fighting back a serious headache. The last thing he wanted to be doing right now was fighting with one of the Pevensie monarchs. Especially not Queen Susan. He had nothing but respect for her, and if he could be so bold, even affection for her. The battle had left them as friends, and he desperately wanted to keep it that way.
"Perhaps I should try again?" Caspian wondered, despite a hand sore from knocking on her door.
"Couldn't hurt," Lucy said supportively. "Maybe you could apologize again?"
"Perhaps you could grovel and beg her lady's forgiveness," Edmund added with a snort, rolling his eyes and changing stances. "If it matters so much to you, Caspian, why don't we just give the door a good kick? I could hold her down and you could tickle her into submission."
Caspian just stared, awed and a little offended that King Edmund would suggest such a thing. For him to put his hands on Queen Susan like that! Indeed!
"He's joking Caspian," came a deeper male voice from down the hall. Seeing who it was, Caspian both sighed in relief and cringed. Relief that Peter would be able to reason with his sister, and cringing from the likelihood that the High King would take his actions in the same way as Susan had. Depending on Peter, it could be Caspian that ended up imprisoned…for real. The High King strode down the hallway, blonde hair flattened with sweat from the heat, eyeing them briefly. His clothes were dirty and he looked tired. At his heels Trumpkin hurried, his short legs having a hard time keeping up. The Dwarf had an especially harried expression, and he had a bit of a limp.
"Now what's this about you locking up Su?" Peter asked, his voice light. Still…Caspian caught the gleam in his monarch's eye. The Telmarine king had overstepped his authority in the other king's eyes; that was obvious. Suppressing a groan, Caspian straightened his shoulders. If he was going to be reprimanded for his actions, he would at least take it like a man. Bowing his head stiffly, the proper show of respect for the High King, Caspian proceeded to explain himself.
"Her majesty attended the great council this morning, as per her right as a Queen of Narnia. However the suggestions she was making to the council were…dangerous ones, your Majesty." Caspian growled a bit under his breath. "The Telmarine lords view their majesties as merely political figureheads, and not as beings capable of actions. Truly, she was the first female allowed in the council in the last nine hundred years, my King. They didn't take kindly to her…views on the current state of our people. I had her removed and sequestered in her quarters safely until I was able to diffuse the situation."
"You had a queen of Narnia removed from council?" Peter's eyebrow rose. Caspian flushed, then couldn't help his angry retort.
"They were watching her as one would watch a lioness," Caspian snapped. "She might as well have painted a target on her bodice!" Edmund coughed pointedly and Lucy held back a snicker as Caspian continued obliviously. "Thus far the queens have been safe, for the council would not risk the wrath of the old Narnians by hurting one of their female monarchs. But that won't always be the case if the council is provoked."
"Only the females? Thanks for that," Edmund joked, then shut his mouth at the look Peter leveled him.
"But if they think that Susan and Lucy are real threats, then they may arrange attempts on their lives, as they have on both of ours," Caspian finished, looking furious at the mere thought. Lucy found it kind of sweet, although she didn't necessarily think she needed another big brother watching over her these days. Two and an overprotective dwarf seemed enough.
"So you put Su in her room, and the guards wouldn't let her out," Peter finished, rubbing his face wearily. "You know you didn't have that right, Caspian." The young king stiffened even further, but said nothing. "Ed, how long has she been in there?"
"Since noon," Edmund sheathed his sword and gave his brother an enthusiastic grin. "Are we kicking the door down?"
"Last time I nearly got a vase in the face," Peter grumbled, then rolled up his sleeves. He and Edmund had obviously done this before, by the practiced way they positioned themselves. Caspian looked questioningly at Lucy, who merely laughed.
"You owe me one, Caspian," Peter added grumpily as he raised his foot. "One…two…three!"
The door went flying inwards with a crack. Instinctively both kings ducked, covering their heads from any sort of airborne objects that might be hurtling their way.
"Ummm…Su?" Edmund called, stepping through the debris. "Susan?"
"Oh, bloody hell," Peter snapped, rolling on his heel and glaring at Caspian as he strode past. "She's gone."
"But how?" Caspian asked, peering into the room curiously. Edmund followed his brother, giving the Telmarine a clap on the shoulder as he passed.
"It's called a window, chap." True enough the stained glass doors hung open, letting in a hot stream of air.
"I don't understand. We're three stories up."
Lucy just shook her head and took Caspian by the hand, leading him after her brothers.
"We're Narnians, Caspian," she reminded him, as if that should explain everything. Poor Caspian. It really didn't.
Destrier was breathing heavily and Queen Susan the Gentle, true to her nature, was forced to rein him in. Even within the shade of the forest, it was too hot to keep up much of a gallop for long, and it was obvious that the horse needed a drink. There was a river up ahead where they could both rest.
"'I insist that you retire, my gentle queen'," Susan mimicked sarcastically, grumbling to herself as she rode. "I'll show him gentle. The nerve…"
Above her head the great Eagle Alanar screamed, echoing his queen's defiance. It was he who had noticed the furious queen through the open windows in her chambers, ignoring the pounding on her door, and it was he who helped her from her room, carrying her to the stables and letting her escape on Destrier. It was not on accident that she had chosen Caspian's horse as her mount. The sleek animal was the fastest in the stable, although not a match for the Narnian Horses. If the dolt wanted to come find her, then he would have to do so on a mount less skilled than his own, or have to ask for a ride.
Destrier obediently slowed to a walk, his dark coat lathered near white on his neck. Susan gave the horse a pat on the rump, leaning back as the animal navigated a rather steep down slope, his sensitive nostrils smelling the water up ahead. He nickered softly as the sound of running water soon met their ears. To his credit, the horse only gave a small start as the Eagle silently winged in to rest on a nearby boulder.
"There are search parties abroad, your Majesty," Alanar rumbled in his deep rolling voice. The Eagles were hard to understand, one had to be used to their particular vocal vibrations. Actually it had come out as "Thrrrr rrr ssserrrch prrrrtiesss abrrroad, yrrrr Majessssty," but Susan had understood clearly. In the old times, she had spent many of her nights with the great Eagles. It had been a secret thrill of hers to fly with the wind in her face, the strong beating of wings beneath her knees. But those Eagles had long since passed, and one did not ask to fly…one was invited to. The Eagles of today were even more aloof, rightfully so, and it was only because Queen Susan was remembered amongst their tales of old that they kept guard on her. Alanar shook his wings, the huge feathers fluffing slightly before lying flat. Twice as large as the horse with razor sharp talons and beak, Destrier eyed the Eagle warily as he drank.
"For me?" Susan asked wearily. The Eagle dipped his head in acknowledgement. Susan knew better than to question how he knew for certain. It was not wise to doubt an Eagle.
"Well that didn't take that long," she continued, moving to the shade of a nearby tree. "Alanar, could you let them know that I am fine, and that I will return presently?"
The bird gave her a searching look, then abruptly sprang up into the air, silent wings causing gusts of wind to blow her hair out of place. Susan sighed and leaned back against the tree. For the moment she was glad to be alone, her only companion a truly simple animal that paid her no heed and asked her no questions. That year in England had been hard, her thoughts constantly on the things she missed about being in Narnia. Now that she was back, Susan was reminded of some of the not so pleasant things that accompanied being a ruler.
She had never truly been alone in the Old times, for there had always been retainers about. But it had been much safer times. Now there were retainers, and guards, and usually either one of her brothers or Caspian about at all times. She was old enough to understand the wisdom of precautions, for not everyone liked the way things were changing in Narnia, but it didn't mean that Susan liked it. Still, she was a queen, and would accept such things. What burned her buttons was being forced to accept these suffocating precautions because of her position, and then being hustled out of council like some silly twit that shouldn't have ever been there. By Caspian no less! The newly crowned King of Narnia, King of the Telmarines, might be quiet and polite and a perfect gentleman, but he should have known better. She was quite vexed with him.
"How do you put up with him, Destrier?" Susan grumbled, kicking her boots off and wiggling her bare toes in the soft grass. Destrier looked up in response to her voice, but quickly resumed drinking.
"I'll tell you what, that boy almost got a good knock on the head this morning. If Peter had been there…" If Peter had been there, he probably would have done the same thing, truth be told. The High King was just as anxious as Caspian to keep her and Lucy out of the eyes of the Telmarine nobles. It seemed that everyone quickly forgot the roles both her and her sister had played in saving the Narnians, this time around and last. Susan was anything but helpless, and it was about time that the kings of Narnia start remembering it!
Susan quit her grumbling, determined to at least salvage a bit of her mood before returning to the castle. Instead she tried to relax, resting her head against smooth bark, and letting her eyes close. The horse wouldn't stray far, he was too well trained. Too much like his master… In Susan's opinion, Caspian had been trained to be too respectful before a council that hated him. They were no better than Miraz had been, merely slower to grasp the reins of power. Political maneuvering on such a scale made her skin crawl, those men disgusted her with their smarmy compliments and veiled threats. She had told them so, calling them out on their loyalties, in defense of Caspian. She had never been evicted from a room faster.
The great lout.
Still, it was hard to be too angry at him. Those chocolate brown eyes had seemed so apologetic when he drug her to her rooms. And the tone in his voice as he had addressed the guards had been so concerned, as if he thought that what she had said in council was enough to cause an instant retaliation. In a way it was sweet…plus as quiet and shy as he was, to hear him bark orders so forcefully was a nice change. He'd had a lot of things to deal with these last few months, herself and her siblings not being the least of his problems.
"I'll tell you what, that's not the least of his problems, that's for sure," a male voice said in a disgruntled tone. Susan's eyes snapped open and she saw the horse looking downstream. There were men close by, and judging by their accents, they were Telmarine.
"Young Caspian better choose where his loyalties lie, soon enough," a second, deeper voice replied. Susan eased herself up silently, slipping towards Destrier. She wanted to hear this, but didn't want to be caught on foot if they found her. Taking the reins, Susan led the horse back into the shadows of the trees, assuming the men were headed for a drink by the river. She kept her hand on the animal's muzzle in a signal for silence.
"The Old Narnians gave him his throne back, you can't blame him for wanting to help them out," the first stated, and Susan saw a shadow fall across the river rock. They were very close, refilling water skins in the river.
"He led a war against his own people. You know how many Telmarines died at the hands of those animals?" The last word was spat out in disgust. "And we're supposed to be grateful? Miraz wasn't no walk in the park, but high taxes are better than a King that lets others kill us all."
"It was war, people die in war."
"Tell that to my old lady, when she wakes up screaming for a son that's never coming back. Caspian ain't my king, not if he wants to be the king of those freaks too."
Silence, then the first whispered worriedly. "You better be careful talkin' like that. It's treason, and they say those Narnians have spies everywhere, even the trees."
"If it's treason to speak the truth, then Caspian's no better than Miraz. And I'm not saying nuthin' that others aren't thinkin'."
Destrier snorted as a fly flew into his nose, causing one of the men to scramble up to his feet.
"Who's there?" he cried, rushing towards the sound. But all the Telmarine saw was the flicker of a black tail as it disappeared into the trees.
Edmund the Just, King of Narnia, had just finished having a very unhelpful conversation with an Eagle. He had been trying unsuccessfully to get the Eagle to lead him and his guard to Susan, when a dark speck appeared on the horizon. Edmund squinted in the sunlight, then sighed in relief as he recognized Caspian's horse, with a rider too short and slender to be Caspian. Wheeling his mount around, Edmund rode out to meet her.
"Su!" he greeted, trying to keep the frustration out of his voice. "Where have you been? Peter's got the castle out looking for you."
Susan tossed her hair in a very queenly manner, and decided to ignore the reproach in her brother's tone. "I don't know what everyone gets so worried about," she stated. "I was perfectly fine."
"Things aren't as safe as you think," Edmund said quietly, out of earshot of his men. They trotted a good thirty feet from the centaur guards, who had formed a loose circle around the pair. "Peter was quite upset when he heard that you had taken off alone."
"I wasn't alone, Ed," Susan replied. "I had Alanar with me." True enough, the Eagle still flew above them, in lazy circles. For no seeming reason at all, Alanar dove from the sky, veering out of sight. Edmund just shook his head. Perhaps the Eagle was letting everyone else know that Susan had been found safely.
"And in the time he was here with me? Who was guarding you then, Su?"
"I was guarding myself, Edmund. I don't understand why you all seem to forget that I am perfectly capable of taking care of myself." But there was an odd tone to her voice that he picked up on.
"Susan? What happened." It wasn't a question, it was a statement. Susan glanced away, her dark curls hanging limply down her back. When she looked back he could see the worry in her eyes.
"The Telmarine commoners are displeased with Caspian," she finally said. "For leading us against them. Some of them don't want him as king."
Edmund actually laughed, causing Susan to give him an astonished look. "Is that all? Su, we've known that for months. Why do you think that Caspian whisked you out of the council so fast today?"
She just stared at him uncomprehendingly.
"The Telmarine commoners are split in half, and so are the lords that keep them contained. The lords are a testy lot, and even those that support Caspian are sitting on the fence ready to jump sides any moment. Calling them…what was your term? Oh that's right. 'Unpatriotic unmitigated asses.' That didn't really help much." Edmund watched Susan flush, then smiled. "It could have been worse, Su. He got you out of there before you really laid into them."
"Is Caspian angry with me?" she asked softly, glancing down at the horse she rode. His horse. That she stole after embarrassing and compromising him in council. "Oh bother, he has to be, hasn't he?"
"Perhaps. Perhaps if you give him another kiss like you did when you thought we were leaving, he might go easy on you," Edmund joked, and Susan swatted at her brother's arm to his laughter.
"Things aren't good for him right now, are they?" Susan asked after awhile. "Sometimes I think he really doesn't want to be king." Her brother pursed his lips, thinking seriously.
"Aslan said he was ready," Edmund finally said. "He'll get through this, we all will." The faith in Edmund's voice wasn't forced, but it wasn't strong either. He still knew something that she didn't, but Susan chose not to push the issue at the moment. She'd find out from Peter, he could never keep her in the dark when she knew he was withholding information. As second eldest, he still looked to her for support, and he'd cave if Susan pressed enough. Unlike Edmund, who either would say nothing or say as much as he had to just to stop the questions.
The castle of the Telmarines was beautiful, its white stone walls gleaming in the late afternoon. Still there was something about it that didn't set well with Susan. It was a good place, but there had been many bad people who had ruled there. It lacked the purity of Cair Paravel, her ancient home. For not the first time, Susan wished that Peter had ordered the castle rebuilt before the restoration of Aslan's How, and not for the first time she felt a rush of guilt for feeling that way. They owed everything to Aslan…it was only proper they respect him before anything else they might personally want.
There was a larger group of riders waiting for them as they rode up to the castle drawbridge. By the presence of so many centaurs, who took pride in being the Narnian royal guard of all their majesties, it was obvious that High King Peter was one of them. The black leather and chainmail garb of Caspian's personal guard circled the other side of the two kings, whom sat astride horses in the middle, speaking quietly to each other. All assembled looked tired and dirty, and Susan groaned in embarrassment. Both Peter and Caspian? Edmund had been right when he said that Peter had everyone out looking for her. Well, it wasn't as if she had run away or anything! She just wanted out for a ride. Alanar had been there…
At their approach, the two kings turned their mounts, eyeing her. Peter looked aggravated, his pale skin sunburned. Caspian's darkly tanned face was blank, unreadable, but his eyes locked on hers for a brief uncomfortable moment before she looked away.
"Great day for a ride, Su," Peter said sarcastically as her and Edmund rode up to join them. Susan said nothing, suddenly acutely embarrassed with how many people had gone looking for her. Destrier must have sensed her discomfort, and the horse snorted and shifted sideways, bumping her leg into the rider next to her. It was Caspian. The young king spoke a word to the horse, a command Susan had never heard before, and Destrier immediately calmed down. Completely humiliated at this point, Susan pushed Destrier forward, past Caspian and Peter. A groom was waiting for them, and although Susan had always taken great pride in caring for her mounts after a ride, she dismounted without help and shoved the reins in the groom's hands.
Then she fled.
She made it up the first flight of stairs towards the east towers, ignoring the heavy boots echoing after her.
"Su, wait up a second, will you?" Peter growled. "Queen Susan, halt!"
She slid to a stop, aggravated beyond all belief that he had pulled rank on her. Drawing herself up coldly, Susan turned and curtseyed deeply to the High King of Narnia. "Yes, your Majesty?" she asked with all the respect due one of his station. Peter rolled his eyes and took hold of her arm, drawing her next to his side as they continued to walk.
"Don't be daft, Su, I just want to make sure you're okay," Peter said. "It worried us all when you took off like that."
"I didn't take off, Peter," Susan retorted. "I have never had to ask permission to go out riding before. Or, like my ability to speak my mind in public, has that changed as well?"
Peter halted and stared at her, then let her arm drop. He groaned and leaned back against the stone wall.
"Come on, Su. Don't be like this."
"There was once a time when you appreciated and encouraged me to be myself," Susan told Peter quietly. Her older brother sighed.
"Things aren't the same as they used to be. We aren't nearly as safe here as we were in Cair Paravel. If something happened to you or Lucy, I wouldn't be able to stand it." He was giving her that look, the one that begged her to just let him do what he felt was right, the one that always made her cave.
"Fine Peter," Susan relented exasperatedly. "I will ask permission before riding."
"I just want you to have an escort, that's all."
"Okay. Are we finished?"
Peter could see the embarrassment on her face, and he saw it grow as a third figure approached them. It was Caspian. This was really the last thing he needed right now, to play mediator between the two of them. But Caspian had asked for help…
"We are." Peter glanced between Susan and Caspian pointedly. "But you two aren't. I believe apologies are in order." With that, the High King of Narnia turned on his heel and strode off, leaving the two of them in silence.
It was easy to avoid his eyes, what with him being so much taller than she was. But Susan was a Queen of Narnia and that was not for the faint of heart. Looking up at the man in front of her, she caught him staring at her in discomfort.
"I apologize, my lady," Caspian suddenly said, his manners taking hold, and he bowed deeply to her. "For any offense I have given you today, my deepest regret. I--" At this point he stumbled a bit over his words.
"I only wished to protect you," Caspian said, his shoulders slumping. "My actions seemed to have had the opposite effect." He looked so distraught that the last part of her that was still angry gave way.
"Oh, Caspian," Susan sighed, and then she took his hand. "You're not the only one to blame today. I…stepped out of line in the council. And I shouldn't have left without saying anything, even if I wasn't alone. I'm sorry too."
He gave her a tentative smile, glancing down at their hands. They stood that way for a moment, then Caspian's smile grew, his eyes beginning to twinkle.
"You haven't apologized for stealing my horse, my Queen," he reminded her. Susan grinned mischievously and shook her hair back.
"That's because I'm not sorry and I plan to do it again," she said regally, causing a soft chuckle to escape his throat. "Walk with me?"
"Of course," Caspian immediately offered her his arm, pretending that he wasn't disappointed to have to let go of her hand. "Would you like me to escort you back to your chambers?"
"Yes, I think a bath would be really good right now," she decided, before arching an eyebrow at him. "You're not going to lock me up in there again, are you, your majesty?"
Caspian flushed and looked down. "Of course not," he assured her softly. "The guards misunderstood. I would never have…"
"I was joking, Caspian."
He looked up as Susan stopped, facing him with another smile.
"You know jokes, right King Caspian?"
Susan's head was tipped back so she could look up at him, and her hand was still on his arm. They were very close. The last time they had been this close she had kissed him.
"Yes, my lady," he assured her, realizing that she was leaning in slightly. Despite the trouble it had caused, the way she had defended him today had made him feel good. The way she had her face upturned to his, it would only take so little to lean down and brush his lips across hers. And the thought of doing that made him feel...feel like it should be done.
Caspian reached a hand up to touch her chin, tipping her head back a little bit more. He's going to kiss me, Susan thought in surprise, than with growing anticipation. The dark haired Telmarine king leaned down…
The rest was a blur. There was blood. There was a roar of fury as their bodies were slammed to the floor, and a cry of surprised pain. And then, because memory always works better backwards, there was a crossbow bolt that punched through his armor and buried itself into her.
Finally there was nothing but darkness.