Disclaimer: As per the usual, I own nothing have to do with Narnia, except the various merchandise for which I paid money, rather than getting paid money, so please, no lawsuits.
A/N1: So here it is, the final installment! You guys really have been amazing, and thank you for all the reviews; your opinions really do matter to me, so leave me one last note to let me know what you think. I'm going to be taking a bit of a break to work on an original novel, but I'll be back with another story called Never Alone, in which our journey on the Dawn Treader lets us see a bit more of a character that Lewis rather overlooked. It won't be very soon, but keep an eye out for it.
A/N2: Congrats to everyone who guessed the steals! The second one seemed to have a lot of you flummoxed. The first was, of course, from Realm of the Gods by Tamora Pierce; the second was from a fabulous movie that you all need to rent, called Singin' in the Rain.
My dearest Rilian,
I knew you were a boy as soon as I felt the fist labor pain- how like a boy to choose the most inconvenient time to start being born! We were welcoming the new ambassador from Calormen when the pains began. Your father didn't even attempt to explain what was going on, leaving the poor man standing there in utter confusion until Trumpkin- with his usual bluntness- informed him that I was giving birth. The man promptly fainted.
Your Nurse will probably fright you in years to come with how horrific my labor was. Whenever she suspects you to be disobedient or ungrateful (as all children occasionally are), Mathilde will scare you into tears with the story of those hours. By the time you read this letter, of course, and all the ones to follow, you'll be old enough to have got over it tolerably well, and to know that the difficulty was in no way your fault. In the Battle of Black Ice, as people have started calling it, I sustained a grave wound that- though long healed- still caused more than enough problems through the delivery.
You will be my only child, Rilian, but I hope you never feel that lack. Already you've met some with whom I pray you'll always be friends: Lady Sushonna, only eighteen months old and already a charmer, and Windfall and Sunburst, Ivylight's twin foals.
You're less than a day old, my darling, but you won't always be this young and small. We never know how much time is given to us, and though I don't intend to miss a single day, I don't there to ever be anything I wasn't able to say to you in one way or another. One day you'll read these letters; if I am still alive when you do, I shall to prepare myself for all sorts of questions, I am sure, but if I am not- if I am dead and my love watching over you from Aslan's Country- know that each letter, every word, is nothing more than 'I love you'. In everything I write, every breath I take, every word I speak, I love you, my son, my Rilian. Don't ever forget that.
Dark times come, and we survive them as best we can; no matter how dark the world around you, never forget my love. Let it be a beacon to give you strength and hope.
There's so much I can only tell you, when I would give nearly everything to be able to show you instead. But, my words will have to be introduction enough to a family you'll never meet. I am sure they know of you, and they love you, and you will after all meet them eventually, at the end of all things. As you grow, you'll pepper your
father and me with questions about three of the thrones in the Great Hall, and I will tell you now the same thing I will tell you then: they are not empty. They are filled with memories.
As you stand in the middle of the dais, behind your father's seat, the throne immediately to your left you'll recognize as mine (and oh! the fights we've had over whether or not to move it). The one immediately to your right is that of High King Peter (the Magnificent, history calls him, but his brother and sisters generally called him somewhat else). Peter tried very hard to protect all of us, never really understanding that some things are simply never meant to be prevented. But it's easy to forgive an older brother for being overprotective, and even easier to tease him for it when all is said and done. He and your father didn't get on at all at first, but they eventually learned a deep respect for each other. I think you've inherited his blond hair; right now, what little you've got is wispy and colorless, but I think it very likely.
If you inherit only one other thing from Peter, I would hope it's his passion. Whatever Peter did, he did with passion, even if it turned out to be a mistake later. Never be afraid to take a risk, to truly live. Live every day with passion, son, with magnificent exuberance.
Farther to your right will be your Uncle Edmund's throne, who was called King Edmund the Just. He didn't start out that way, of course, just as Peter didn't start out as Magnificent, Lucy wasn't always Valiant, and I certainly wasn't always Gentle. But Edmund never made the same mistake twice; he truly learned from his errors, and because of them, he did not judge others by theirs. His fairness and honesty, though at times painful and hard to bear, were a rock to lean upon.
That gift I would give you, my son. If you could employ it with a bit more tact than your uncle usually did…well, we were young, after all. Never be afraid to speak to the heart of a matter, as a man or as a king. The truth is what sets us free, but it is rarely meant to be easy.
If you turn your head to my throne again, you'll see past it the royal seat of your Aunt Lucy. My sister would have driven me grey before my time, I think, constantly kidnapping you to introduce you to the trees and trying to teach you fauns' dances before you could walk. But she also would have been the one to stand over your bed late at night, long after you were asleep, and on her aulos she would have played lullabies nearly as ancient as the singing of the world to keep bad dreams from you.
And it's from Lucy I would have you learn your greatest, most important lesson: faith. Her faith and belief were absolutely unshakable, even when we mistakenly belittled her into not following it. But she always believed. Believe, Rilian, even when all the world tells you not to.
As you grow up, and as I write more letters, you'll hear me speak of many people, some of whom you'll know. But there is one other in particular I would have you know as well as ink will allow, and that is Lahatiel, your aunt not by blood but by virtue of being the sister of my heart. I will tell you the whole of her story, so far as I know it, at another time. There is no specific lesson I would have you learn from Lahatiel, though she has many to teach. Friendship can arise in some of the most unlikely places: treasure it. Under no circumstances would I have imagined we would become as close as we did, but imagination is such a limited thing when the truth is so much more vast. I miss her still, but that kind of loss is never a thing to regret. All people pass, in one way or another; treasure the precious time you have with them, and look forward to when you shall see them again.
I wish I could protect you. From where I sit even now, I can see you sleep. Your father is sprawled out atop the blankets, his clothes in disarray, snoring softly as he does when he's most exhausted. You're curled up on his chest, your fist in your mouth, and one of his large hands lies gently across your tiny back, clasping you to him. He loves you just as much as I do, you know, if I don't say it as often as I should. Birthing rooms are traditionally no place for men, so he scandalized the entire Court by staying with me the entire time. He didn't even complain when I accidentally broke his finger; silly man should have known better than to give his hand to a woman in pain.
I wish I could protect you, Rilian, but I can't; not so well as I should like. You will know darkness and heartache and betrayal. You will know loss and sorrow. You will know violence and death and destruction and pettiness and every evil thing. That is life, and to try to shield you from that…you would not be living, but merely existing. You will know all these things and more, but you will also know love and joy and light. You will know reunion and laughter. You will know peace and life and creation and nobility and every good thing. Just don't be afraid of it, and never take it for granted.
You are the best thing I can give to this world, my son. I will tell you every day that I love you, and write it again every evening once you've fallen asleep, but though I live a hundred years I'll never be able to say it enough. I love you, and that love will always be watching over you. In the good times and the bad, in the rain and the sun, in the heights and the depths, in every possible scope of life, my love will be watching over you. Never, ever forget that.
Carefully re-folding the first letter, Rilian could not be ashamed of the tears streaming down his face. It had been ten years since he'd lost her, ten enchanted, disconnected years, and the grief was just as fresh as ever, coupled with the new pain of losing his father.
And yet, his mother's words ringing through his head, they weren't really lost. They were waiting for him, watching over him.
And at least he'd gotten to say goodbye.
Tied into neat packets in his mother's study, there were twenty years of letters. Twenty years of fathomless love and understanding. He would read them all, and soon, but he held this first letter to his chest and stared about the queen's chambers in newly rediscovered awe.
He'd learned to walk in these chambers, pulling himself up by Swiftly's tail and tottering after the long-suffering Leopard. He'd laughed and cried and chattered in these rooms, hanging on to his endlessly patient mother, who'd kept the chambers after her marriage to have a place of her own to retreat to.
Laying the letter on the desk, Rilian crossed through the bedroom and out onto the balcony overlooking the eastern ocean, where his father had sailed more than once. Below him, he could see a gardener tenderly transplanting a russet rosebush over the fresh grave, skillfully twining it through the branches of the white rosebush that had been waiting there for a decade. After a ten year separation, his parents were together again.
Rilian had grown up knowing theirs was an uncommon love, and he had faith that they were even now reunited in Aslan's Country.
Faith…he had lost it for a time, but he thought of the mother he missed more than anything, of the aunt he had never met, and he knew he would be forgiven for it. Sometimes the finding of faith was as important as the having of it.
King Rilian, son of Caspian the Navigator and Susan the Gentle, two of the greatest rulers Narnia had ever had, slowly breathed the air of home. With his return, there was a great deal to do, and much to learn and explain, but for this single moment, he simply was.
He was home.