Disclaimer: Never have and never will I own any of these characters who belong to the great mind of C.S. Lewis.
A.N. So I'm back again and before I begin this new fic, I just wanted to thank all of my reviewers and readers and those who really liked Until Tomorrow. After a four year hiatus, it's feels good to know that your work is still appreciated. This time, Caspian is given another chance to be with Susan, but little does he know, everything is not what it seems. So sit back and enjoy, as we head back into the world of Suspian. BTW I think Ramandu's daughter needed a name and after rereading Children of Húrin the other day, I thought Rían seemed suitable.
The hooded figure limped across the cobbled streets, clutching his cloak around his body tighter, hoping that the morning guards on duty would not see him. The sun, now beginning to stretch its wings across the sky as both orange rays and the inky blue of the departing night clashed, painting the sky in a palette of unique colours. The coming light would hinder his need for privacy in this deed of his, as the figure picked up a steady rhythm, despite the aches the speed had caused.
His destination, a gnarled tree intertwined by two trunks, crisscrossed in a circular pattern and yet, though this tree stood there for more than fifty seasons, not once did the green, leafy boughs and star shaped yellow flowers, fall and wither with the passing seasons as with the trees surrounding it. Magic was in this tree and the roots which grew around it. It was after all, Aslan's gift to Narnia. For years, it seemed to overseer the Narnians in His absence as a constant reminder of Him and the peace which followed the bloody civil war.
He stopped on the last step and paused, to admire how beautiful the tree looked, especially in the early morn, when the entire world asleep, unable to see the wondrous power of Aslan. The sun rising steadily behind it, struck its flowers with his rays, rendering it into a flaming bough of sunshine, swaying in the Narnian breeze.
Reverently he bowed, his hood thrown back to reveal a thinning head of silver hair. It was becoming increasingly harder to visit every year, since he had past his sixtieth. The aching bones and hacking coughs which accompanied every moment in his existence, from morn when he stood alone on his parapet in the early light looking at the tree continuing into the dark nights. Pondering on past memories was not helping but neither could he turn away from this tree and the memory it kept in its life force for them both.
Despite all the difficulties to leave the castle unnoticed, coming to the tree on this day was a tradition he would never surrender until his life on Narnia was no more. Now, Caspian the Tenth, forlorn in his waning years of existence came unhesitant to his annual pilgrimage at the shrine, where Narnia was given new life. He came to pay homage to the Great Aslan, to the Old Kings and Queens of Narnia and their assistance in his country's time of need. Yet most importantly he came to pay respect and to reminisce on a love that would never be. His body now feeble but his mind was as sharp as Rhindon now sheathed in the capable hands of Rilian as he remembered vividly the bitter sweet parting of Queen Susan and himself almost half a century ago.
The sapphire gleam in Susan's eyes betrayed her sadness of leaving everything behind as she looked at him in that parting moment; he recalled the sweetness of her full, soft lips as they pressed briefly against his. How soft her skin was, as he bent to embrace her for the last time wishing that this was not happening and the murmuring of the crowd as they witnessed the private act of love and farewell. These were memories he carried tucked away in a secret part of his soul where no one ever delved into, not even Rían. He raised trembling fingers to the wrinkled lips, closing his eyes to recall that ecstatic moment where the earth stood still for them both and the tear he was holding back, escaped.
The torturous years which followed still pained him when he thought back, sometimes he wondered where the strength came from which allowed him to get past the anguish of her departure and in the early days, had immersed himself in the restoration of the kingdom from the brink of ruin which his usurper uncle had succeeded in a short space of time.
It had taken years before he found himself able to function, where he could now look at a dark haired woman and not think of Susan, or to hear the whistle of an arrow and not recall her archery lessons at Aslan's How, her lithe frame against his, as she showed him the proper archery techniques. Months would pass before he could voyage to the sea and admire the ocean blue waters sparkling in the sunshine and not think of her eyes glittering with life at something humorous said.
In one way, he was glad that she kissed him publicly, because both Narnians and Telmarines were sympathetic towards him losing a loved one and gave him no undue pressure to choose a Queen. Sadly all good things come to an end he learned, as the restlessness in the kingdom grew with his inability to marry by now, after a six year period of mourning. His councilors had forced the issue and he knew then, it was time to find a wife. In Telmarine politics, a twenty six year old King without a wife and heir was like a soldier without his sword.
It was all too apparent, the relief of his kingdom when his engagement was announced to the public, he knew most feared Susan had ensnared his heart and he would live his life as a decrepit man pining for the loss of one who could never return. They were right he admitted. Susan became a part of his soul since he first saw her. He had heard stories of love at first sight but had thought logically, it could not apply to him, not after both his father and uncle had arranged marriages. By the Lion, how wrong was he! From their first meeting in the forest, it was not only the battle with Peter, which set his blood on fire, but the instant he locked eyes with Susan every fibre in him, sung her praises.
Rían had come into his life, when he felt ready to let go of the past and look towards the future of his kingdom and the benefit of his people who were patient enough for him to get over Susan. To say he did not love his wife would be a lie. She possessed every quality a man looked for in a woman and was undoubtedly a beloved Queen to all. Their love was a quiet one, which grew in time as they discovered each other. Sadly, again long term happiness was not in his Fate, as their marriage ended prematurely with her untimely death, shortly after the birth of their second child.
He remembered well the day she passed, after battling a bout of coughing and fever which left her weak and disoriented. He had raced into her chambers after Trumpkin had informed him of the grave news and sat quietly besides her, holding her limp hand. Her fine blonde hair matted against her porcelain skin, now pale as her brilliant emerald eyes turned dully towards him, and struggled to for breath to speak.
"Caspian" she whispered softly as he found her knuckles and kissed it reverently, leaning forward his eyes misting over, not daring to believe another loved one was leaving.
"Rían, save your strength, the doctor will be here soon." He urged mopping her forehead, as she smiled lovingly up at him.
"It's too late love, Aslan's calling me home. No. Caspian, listen to me! I must tell you before my time is up." She urged forcefully as he began to disagree. "You have been so good to me for the past years we have shared, I am sorry I shall never be able to see our sons grow into wise rulers and men, or to be at your side to the end." She began before erupting into a spluttering of coughs.
"My Queen, do not apologize, this is beyond our control. I have loved every second with you Rían. Our children will be fine men. On Aslan's name I vow to you, I shall teach them the Old ways as we know." He promised as she smiled tenderly.
"Caspian, I have something which should have been given to you a long time ago. By keeping this, I was selfish and fearful, that had you received it, our marriage would be different." She confessed as he looked on quizzically, his brow furrowed.
"My Lady, what could have been of such importance for you to feel that way?" he asked quietly.
"This." She replied with trembling hands placed a silver locket into his palm. "It was supposed to be given to you, but for some reason, she could not do it. I am truly sorry Caspian, for waiting so long but I did not want to risk our relationship. Can you ever forgive me?" Rían pleaded, her breath becoming shallower with every passing second.
"Rían, whatever is in this locket, you do not need to ask me for any forgiveness." He assured her as his wife smiled with contentment.
"Thank you Caspian. I, I... I love you." She gasped as her final words were spoken and Rían, the Star's daughter passed from the land of Narnia into the great beyond.
He had held on to her body, ignoring the gently coaxing from Trumpkin and Dr. Cornelius to let the doctors do their job, weeping for the cruelty of being ripped away from another person he loved. Was he doomed to lose everyone, Mother, Father and wife?
It was not until much later when he retired to another bedchamber upon the insistence of rest from the doctors that he opened the locket. The moment of shock arrived uninviting as he looked upon the portrait of Susan and for the second time he crumbled.
His moment of reverie ended swiftly as he felt for the jewellery in the hidden pocket of his robe and clutched it to his heart. Sun kissed flowers rained upon his head casting a golden halo around his figure as the sun rose higher meet the cerulean sky, Aravir swiftly disappearing into the clouds as the sounds of daily life gradually reached his ear. Despite the beauty around him, Caspian wept for the memories gone past and the opportunities lost to let Susan know how he truly felt. That he had loved her more than anything else.
He could only imagine her expression, when Lucy and Edmund returning from their third and last adventure related the incidents and of course in the privacy of their rooms, Lucy would have told her of the budding relationship between Rían and himself. The locket, he later deduced was a gift from Lucy to him in remembrance of her sister unable to be there, but to let him know she thought of him still. Lucy's disappointment, realizing he had moved on would no doubt cause her to get rid of the locket, which Rían saw and had kept. The hasty statement of telling her that the locket meant nothing, would be a burden he would carry till the end of his days. The truth was painfully clear, if he had a second chance with Susan; he would grab it with arms wide open and damn all who stood in their way!
"Aslan, please have mercy." He pleaded silently, tears flowing copiously down his wizened cheeks. He could not care less who saw him at this point. Caspian was on the verge of a desperate need, which had called to him every day of his life.
"Son of Adam, why do you weep?" a low voice replied from behind as Caspian's eyes flew open. Could it really be? That voice not heard in Narnia for almost fifty years was here?
Not trusting his hearing, which had been rapidly failing, Caspian turned stiffly and gasped at the magnificence of Aslan, standing upon the last step as he knelt swiftly, ignoring the pain at the cracking of joints in his quick action. The sun's rays illuminating against his golden fur blazed with such ferocity that Caspian shielded his eyes. In appearance Aslan was Lord of Narnia and the world, his presence was that of an oasis to a thirsty man and Caspian drank all of him greedily.
"My Lord." He replied, his head bowed in reverence, unable to say anything more but knew Aslan felt his love, loyalty and the pain which he pushed deep away. Caspian felt a wondrous euphoria as Aslan breathed into life into his frail body.
"Rise Caspian, we have much to talk." Aslan's voiced purred mesmerising him as he placed a gentle paw upon his head and he felt a renewed vigour in his steps as he followed the magnificent Lion padding away to one of the stone benches erected under the flowering branch.
"Have you tied your ribbon?" Aslan asked as Caspian shook his head in disagreement. The tying of the ribbon on a tree branch was a Telmarine custom, where one honoured the memory of a lost loved one. For fifty years, Caspian tied in secret a blue ribbon for Susan. It was his way of keeping her alive in this land.
"My Liege, the importance that you have chosen this day to come, is not lost on me. Is Narnia in trouble once more?" he asked as Aslan merely hummed in response, his amber eyes soft as he looked upon the former King of Narnia.
"No dear one. I come with an offer for you." Aslan replied.
"An offer? I do not understand." He replied hastily, yet his excitement was difficult to contain. He sensed something great was about to happen.
"Patience Caspian." Aslan laughed, the sound of his voice delving deep into the dark, rich earth and the roots of the trees, where new flowers immediately sprung and littered them in a canopy of sunshine. A flowering bough reached to touch his paw in reverence.
"You have sacrificed much for Narnia in your bid to restore the land to the Old Ways. It has never gone unnoticed my child. Yet, despite the losses you have suffered, you have never lost faith in Me and that child is good, very good indeed. Your time here is up Caspian and I come to make you an offer, which you have asked on so many occasions. I am offering you another chance to be with the one, for whom you lovingly bind that ribbon to this tree. I can reunite you with Queen Susan, if you desire Caspian." Aslan said as Caspian sat dumbstruck, tears beginning to form once again behind his failing eyes. A second time with Susan! Great indeed was the compassion and love of Aslan.
"Before you accept Caspian, I must warn you there are difficulties ahead in your path. Susan may not necessarily be the one whom you knew. Are you willing to accept this and what else which may lurk behind that door?" Aslan asked as Caspian, nodded and knelt before him.
"Sire, by your Grace and strength I have done what you required in Narnia. My son Rilian, is an able man capable to govern in your Name which he has been taught as a babe. My time in Narnia is fading and has been for years. I am more than willing to face what dangers lie ahead and accept the consequences of my choice, whether they are favourable or not. My Lord Aslan, I lost her once and spent many years trying to forget Susan. You are giving me another chance; it would be folly not to accept. I am eternally grateful to you." Caspian replied quietly looking into the eyes of Aslan, knowing he would see the truth in his soul.
"Then, if this is what you desire most of all Caspian, step into the portal. It shall take you to Queen Susan the Gentle."Aslan spoke as Caspian held on to the blue ribbon and looked at the tree. "There is no need for it my son." he said as Caspian smiled proffering both ribbon and Susan's horn to Aslan, as the items vanished into the air.
"My Liege, words cannot express my heartfelt thanks to you." Caspian said bowing deeply as Aslan laughed once more infusing everything around them with life.
"I shall be with you Caspian, when the time comes and you are in despair, think of me and I shall come. Now my son, take leave of this world for the next. Time is short and of essence. I bid you farewell Caspian." Aslan said and once more breathed his strength into the King's body.
He stepped before the opening between the trunks, his heart hammering in anticipation with the thought of what and who lay ahead. Yet he paused in mid stride and looked behind him, glancing in approval at the affairs of the country, saying goodbye to his son in his heart. Rilian would understand his need to do this and knew Aslan would look after him. What better care could he leave his sons and country than in the blessings and safety of the true Narnian ruler?
"Susan, here I come." He thought happily as he stepped through the opening, ready for any adventures awaiting him.
A.N. The ribbon tradition I borrowed from a Rajasthani practice, where a person ties a cloth, string or ribbon on a tree in remembrance for a lost loved one.