AN: This fic is slash, Caspian/Drinian with a bit of Caspian/Edmund. It is loosely related to two of my other fics, The Blurring of Memories and The Sharpness of Memory, but you do not have to read those ones to understand this one.
Drinian sits at Caspian's bedside – the king's deathbed.
He holds the king's hand when he calls out for his son or wife. He soothes the king's brow when he is fretful and holds water to his lips when it is time for him to drink. He speaks to the king on the rare occasions when Caspian is awake and recognizes Drinian – and sometimes even when he does not recognize Drinian.
And yet his chair is always a good foot and half from the king's bedside. Drinian imagines that if Caspian's wife were here, then the chair would be closer and the head would be laid on his shoulder or chest. If Caspian's lover were here, then the distance would not be close when the others came to see, but when they left, the chair would be pulled in closer or perhaps disregarded altogether in favor of the bed.
Drinian remains in his place – the place of a friend. Always just a friend.
The memories fill Drinian's mind. He wishes that he could go back and warp them the smallest bit so that things can be different between himself and Caspian. But they come constant and true. They will stay ever the same.
The sight of the young king ignites a strangely powerful surge of emotion in Drinian. He has yet to meet Caspian, but he has already decided that the king's face is not the face of a Telmarine. Oh, Drinian does not doubt the boy's ancestry, but a Telmarine learns to school his emotions from a young age. He does not smile as broadly or laugh as clearly as Caspian. When he is unsure, his lip does not protrude in the slightest of pouts as does Caspian's. Surely, he may lose himself to anger every now and again, but at most times, he is composed.
"Lord Drinian of Palin's Cliff, Your Majesty," a booming voice declares and Drinian finds that he is forced to step forward, the gaze of every courtier upon him. He wonders if his own face wears the Telmarine mask that would hide his emotions.
He drops to one knee before the king on his throne. "Your Majesty," he murmurs.
"Rise my Lord," Caspian's clear voice rings out. Though Drinian has heard him talk to others in the last hour, the sound sends shivers down his spine. There is something about his voice that gives Drinian the impression that Caspian is speaking just to him. "What would you ask of me?"
Drinian finds that his mouth has gone dry. He clears his throat, remembering what he came here to do. Remembering that this visit was of importance to his family. "Your Majesty, my family were ever loyal supporters of your father's. For this we were exiled. This is the first time that I have seen Narnia since childhood."
Caspian's brows draw together. "Exiled by Miraz? You are not the first. Where did you go?"
Caspian nods. "I hope that it was not as terribly difficult for your family as it has been for some others."
Drinian does not flinch because he has been raised a Telmarine with a Telmarine's mask. He always tries hard not to think of the poverty of those early years. "It was difficult at first," he admits. "My father was a minor lord in Narnia – nothing to attract the attention of the king of Galma. He gradually made a place for us, however."
"I see," King Caspian says. "And what have you been doing since then?"
"My father sold perfumes." It sounds so low that Drinian is embarrassed. It isn't something that a lord of Narnia – even a minor lord – would be involved with. "But he died three years ago."
"Ah," Caspian says, gently, "but I asked what you have been doing."
Drinian draws in a breath. "I am a sailor, Majesty." Even lower than selling exotic perfumes, especially among the Telmarines.
Caspian's eyes light up for a brief moment, but Drinian thinks that the boy must be more Telmarine than he first realized, because a second later his face is guarded. "Not a pirate, I hope?" he asks.
"Oh, no," Drinian hastens to reassure him. "A legitimate merchant trader. Spices and perfumes mostly. I've captained two ships – the first doing short runs between Galma and Terebinthia, the second a longer voyage to Calormen and back." Drinian cannot help the note of pride that creeps into his voice, even if sailing is not a strictly respectable.
Caspian's eyebrows shoot up. "Dangerous routes. Or so I've heard."
"Yes," Drinian says, surprised that the king would know of this. "But they will make a man rich, if he has some heart and some luck." They had certainly made Drinian rich. His mother would never have to sell her jewelry again.
Caspian leans forward and smiles, obviously interested, but one of the courtiers nearby – a dwarf, in fact – clears his throat. Caspian sits up straight seeming to remember that this is a formal hearing. "I suppose that you'll be wanting the land that Miraz took from your family back then?"
"Yes," Drinian says, blinking at Caspian's bluntness. This was why he had come, after all.
"I shall look into it," Caspian says, "and we shall arrange a private audience." This causes whispers to flit around the room. Drinian knows that they wonder who he is to gain a private audience with the king. Caspian smiles broadly. "I have an interest in you, Lord Drinian."
Drinian had been thinking of the king's openness at a disadvantage – surely no ruler wants his emotions displayed upon his face for the whole world to see. He begins to believe differently. When a man puts a wall around himself, you cannot get close enough to be caught. Caspian's eyes are so open and honest, that Drinian feels that he could sail straight to his soul and never find his way out. Those eyes trap.
The business with his family's land is cleared away within the first ten minutes of Drinian's audience – apparently no lord has been tending it. Miraz gave it to one of his supporters who left, along with a good many of the Telmarines, when Aslan made a door in the wall. So that is easily done, Caspian tells him triumphantly.
Soon, Drinian finds himself unexpectedly assailed with questions about his life at sea. And such questions! If Drinian thought Caspian expressive before, now he is stunned. The king is like a boy begging for a bedtime tale. Studying his face closely, Drinian realizes that the king is half a boy.
"Were you ever attacked by pirates?" Caspian asks from across the small table.
"A couple of times," Drinian says, knowing that he sounds too casual. "But never taken. The route between Galma and Terebinthia is well known for pirates and anything is apt to happen in Calormen's waters."
"I see," Caspian says. "I've never been outside of Narnia, you know," and the king looks so sad that Drinian wants to reach over and hug him, though his words are surprising. Surely, princes visit other lands? Miraz must have kept a close watch over the boy. "Did you ever encounter anything – you know – more frightening than pirates?" Caspian asks after a moment.
Drinian is confused for a moment, then he realizes what the king means and laughs. "You mean like sea serpents or giant maelstroms? No, my liege, no bedtime stories. The pirates were frightening enough."
Caspian smiles indulgently. "You must excuse me. I tend to take bedtime stories rather seriously."
"Of course," Drinian mutters. And no wonder, with all the talking animals and tree spirits roaming around Narnia. Suddenly, Drinian feels like the child. Caspian sits up and rather suddenly, seems to exude authority.
"I do not ask these things merely to sate my curiosity," he says. "In hope to build some ships for Narnia very soon."
Drinian is taken aback. Who would have imagined that so young a king would have such ambitious plans? "It is not a bad idea," he says, carefully. "Narnia has much unused coastline and sea trade could greatly increase your wealth. And of course a navy is never a bad idea."
Caspian smiles. "And then there are exploratory missions."
Caspian leans forward and places a hand of Drinian's. Drinian jumps. Who raised this boy? "Did you ever think that the reason that you never saw sea serpents was that you never explored beyond edges of the map? You know, in the places that say 'here be monsters'?"
He is a lunatic, Drinian thinks, but he continues to sail deeper and deeper into those green eyes.
"I don't know why you were so eager to get this place back," Drinian says to his mother, looking around at the tiny, run down castle. "Your home back in Galma was much nicer, if a bit smaller."
His mother says nothing, but looks around with tears in her eyes and Drinian is glad that he did this for her.
Beside him, his sister's high-pitched voice ruins the moment. "A merchant is nothing but a glorified peasant," Elena says. "Don't you want to be Lord Drinian as father would have wished?"
"Right now I want to be aboard a ship," Drinian says, crossing his arms nervously. Palin's Cliff is far from any sea.
Elena's nose wrinkles in disdain. "Well, you'll be there soon enough. Lucky for all of us that King Caspian has such a fondness for ships and the sea. And that so few Telmarines know about that sort of thing."
Drinian cannot help his chest filling with pride. He is Caspian's chief advisor on all things maritime. When he gets back, Drinian is to oversee the building of a fine ship – the Dawn Treader. What purpose it is to be put to, he does not yet know.
Drinian's mother turns to him, thoughtfully. "Yes, you must return to Cair Paravel as soon as possible, Drinian. You don't want someone else weaseling into your position while you are away. And you must take Elena with you."
"What?" Drinian asks. He is eager to return to Cair Paravel by the sea, but taking Elena is another matter.
"Well, you don't think I'm going to find a husband in this hole, do you?" Elena asks and receives a slight glare from their mother for referring to their ancestral home as a "hole".
"You are too young for a husband."
"Nonsense," their mother says. "She is sixteen. We should have started looking a year ago. She has a far better chance in court than here and your friendship with the king make her chances even better," a swift look passes between Elena and their mother that Drinian does not understand. Women can be so odd.
"And this, Your Majesty, is the tiller," Drinian says, placing his hand upon it. Some sailors waxed poetic about the sea and its greatness, the smell of the ocean, the wind upon their faces. That is all well, but for Drinian, the true thrill always comes from the ship under his feet. The feeling of exerting some amount of control of the tiny vessel upon the great ocean.
"Very nice," Caspian says, obviously thrilled. "She will be a wonderful vessel, will she not? Were the ones you captained this nice?"
Drinian blinks. "No, Sire, no where near it. This ship is a true lady."
The king walks by on his way to the throne room. He stops to talk to Drinian. "My Lord Drinian," he says as Drinian bows. "And who is this?" His eyes go to Elena, standing beside Drinian.
"Your Majesty, may I present my sister, Elena."
Elena drops a perfect curtsey and then looks up at Caspian. "Your Majesty," she says, her dark eyes ravenous. She drops her handkerchief on the ground at Caspian's feet.
Caspian bends and picks it up. His eyes are twinkling, but not at Elena – at Drinian. He knows she is flirting, Drinian realizes. He is practically laughing at her but Elena does not seem to notice. Drinian entertains the notion that Caspian is not as easy to read as he had thought – perhaps Drinian is the only one who can see all those boiling emotions. He quickly dismisses the idea.
"My lady," Caspian says, handing the handkerchief back to Elena.
Drinian and Caspian have been arguing. Drinian is surprised that the guards outside of Caspian's room have not heard.
"If I could bring back just one of those lords who helped my father, the voyage would be worth it," Caspian says.
"I agree, Your Majesty, but I do not see why you have to go. Send an expedition, but do not risk your person."
Caspian sighs. "I do not know if my heart could stand that. Besides, you'll take care of me." He grins.
"Yes, of course, you will be captain. You've been the most help to me through all of this. You are the protective sort, I think. I know you'll take good care of me."
Drinian looks at Caspian's smiling face and sighs. He would feel better if he were there to reign in Caspian's more wild tendencies. He is half afraid that the boy will go looking for sea serpents or – far more dangerous – pirates. "I – I would be honored, of course, Your Majesty. And I will take care of you and all on board the Dawn Treader."
"Excellent," Caspian smiles broadly. "I will announce my fine new captain at the ball tonight."
Drinian had been forgetting the ball. "I need to go change my tunic for that," he says.
"Wear one of mine," Caspian says, brightly.
"One of yours?" Drinian asks. The informality is staggering. He cannot just wear the king's clothing. "I couldn't possibly --"
"Oh, don't be ridiculous," Caspian interrupts him. "I hope you aren't offended by this, but most of your clothes are dreadful. The captain of the Dawn Treader should look dashing." Drinian wants to object, but cannot. He knows that he is not entirely used to having enough money to buy nice clothing and life at sea has not exactly prepared him to dress in silks and jewels. Most of his clothes are worn, if not ragged, and many were not very nice to begin with.
Caspian rummages through his drawers, finds a tunic and tosses it to Drinian. Drinian is relieved to see that it isn't covered in jewels or frills. "It should fit," Caspian says. "We are about the same size. It may be a little tight in the shoulders."
Drinian shrugs and strips off his own worn tunic. He barely notices Caspian's sharp intake of breath. He looks in the mirror on the wall and frowns. Drinian doesn't have much interest in looking "dashing" but he does at least want to appear clean. "Do you mind if I use your water basin to wash my face, Your Majesty?" he asks Caspian.
"Go ahead," there is an odd note to Caspian's voice, but Drinian does not stop to think about why it might be there. He goes over to the basin and splashes some water on his face and neck, then uses the cloth to dry it. He walks back over to the mirror, still drying himself, and catches a look at Caspian out of the corner of his eye.
Caspian is staring at Drinian with his mouth hanging open. He gaze is openly lustful. Drinian knows from his time at sea that there are some men who find other men appealing in this way. He realizes, too late, that Caspian is probably not used to his lords taking off their clothing in front of him. Drinian is too used to being aboard a ship where modesty is often hard to come by.
He turns and faces Caspian, but Caspian does not try to disguise his desire in the least. Caspian's eyes widen and he licks his lips. Suddenly, Drinian realizes that the boy does not even know what he is doing. If he knew, then he would blush or look away. Drinian yanks the tunic over his body.
At the ball, Drinian becomes sure that Caspian has a desire for men and even more sure that Caspian does not know this. There is an unawareness, an innocence, that is remarkable to watch. He sees that Caspian's eyes follow the young men far more often than the ladies. Though he nearly always knows the right thing to say to the women, he has no real interest in them. His eyes do not light up nor his cheeks flush when they speak to him. This is troubling to Drinian.
Toward the end of the evening, Caspian approaches Drinian while Elena is standing by his side. "I trust you had a good evening, my lord," he says.
Drinian is about to tell him that he enjoyed himself as well as he ever could at something like a ball, but his sister speaks. "Oh, yes, Your Majesty, it was simply lovely," she says. "Though I did not get to dance nearly as much as I would have liked."
Of course, what could Caspian say to this but to ask her to dance? As Caspian leads Elena out to the dance floor, Drinian tries to tell himself that if there was even the tiniest chance that Caspian might fall in love with her, that it was a good thing – for both Caspian and his own family. But seeing them together just feels all wrong.
As Caspian whirls her elegantly around the dance floor, his eyes connect with Drinian's every time that he completes a turn. His face holds a secret laughter, shared just between the themselves and Drinian realizes that Caspian sees through his sister. He knows that she manipulated him into dancing and he knows why she manipulated him into dancing.
He laughs out loud and Caspian, seeing his mirth from across the room grins back.
Drinian smiles awkwardly through all the cheering. Caspian stands beside him in golden armor that makes him look like a young god and he clasps Drinian on the shoulder telling the Narnian people of his skill as a mariner. Drinian knows that he is blushing. Caspian makes him sound like some sort of great treasure. He hopes that he can live up to the expectations of the king.
Now, Caspian is speaking of their expedition. Of the honor of the lost lords and the honor of any who have a hand in finding them. He speaks of Trumpkin, the regent that he leaves behind to care for Narnia in his absence. And of the beautiful Dawn Treader behind them. Drinian has seen larger ships, but none so glorious.
As he finishes his speech, the people cheer. There are brightly colored flags and fathers sitting their children on their shoulders and young women waving enthusiastically in hopes of capturing Caspian's attention for even a moment. Drinian has never seen anything quite like it.
As they turn to board the Dawn Treader, Caspian clasps his shoulder again. "This will be quite an adventure, will it not, my friend?" he asks, his voice is positively dripping with excitement.
Drinian blanches. Despite being a sailor, he has never been much for adventures. He has always desired to merely reach his destination as swiftly and safely as possible. Caspian's words "you'll take care of me" come back to him and he thinks that perhaps his role will be to make the adventure as practical as possible. To hold back this impulsive, brave young man. It will not be an easy task.
Drinian hides behind the door and hears the telltale sound of dice clattering on a wooden table. He has caught them. He told the sailors on the first night that they were not to gamble, but he expected a test of some sort. Men always like to see how much they can get away with.
He flings open the door and walks in, but soon stops short. Several sailors are gathered round watching as two men shake dice in a cup and let them fall to the table. They are clearly gambling – there are coins on the table. The thing that makes Drinian stop and sigh is that Caspian is the one holding the cup.
Many pairs of eyes look at him, expectantly. The sailors nudge each other and smile as if eager to see how Drinian will react. Caspian is the last to look at him, as if he does not realize that anything is amiss.
"I have told the men that they are not to gamble on board," Drinian says to him.
"Oh," Caspian smiles, sitting the cup of dice down. "I think what we are doing is harmless enough. We are not playing for large amounts."
There are snickers. "Your Majesty," Drinian tries again, "many of these men are experienced at gambling. They will do you out of your money."
Caspian's eyebrows shoot up. "Do you think that I will be beggared by a game of dice, my lord?" There is laughter all around, some of it mocking. This has gotten entirely out of hand. Drinian puts on his sternest face and picks the dice cup up from the table.
"Any sailor caught gaming for money in the future will be punished."
Caspian's face becomes bright red and his voice comes in a loud, sharp tone that Drinian has never heard him use before. "Are you my master, Drinian?" he asks.
"Of course not."
"Then don't tell me what to do."
Drinian thinks for a moment. "I am their master, my liege." He gestures to the sailors.
Caspian stands up and slams his chair into the table. Drinian is alarmed and for a moment, he thinks that Caspian will try to attack him. The young man merely pushes past him and leaves the room, banging the door behind him.
Drinian gives the sailors a lecture before returning to his own room. He finds that Caspian is waiting for him inside. He bows, uneasily. "Your Majesty."
Caspian approaches him swiftly, his finger pointed in Drinian's face. "Never presume to lecture me in public again, sir," he says, loudly.
Drinian clasps Caspian's hand gently, but firmly. This is a problem that he had not foreseen. He has never been captain on a ship where one of the passengers ranks above himself. "Then do not undermine me in front of my men. Especially so early in a voyage."
"What we were doing was harmless. It was just a bit of fun."
Drinian crosses his arms. He hates to argue with the king, but he has no choice. "I will be the judge of that. You may be king, but I am the one who knows how to captain a ship. Gambling leads to fighting, which is bad at any time, but is especially dangerous in such close quarters. I will not have it on my ship."
Caspian's face goes red again. Drinian never imagined that Caspian could be like this – more like a tyrant than like the kind, starry-eyed king that Drinian is used to.
"Just remember that I am your master, Drinian," Caspian says.
"As if I could ever forget." This is not a careful response – it is the first thing that pops into Drinian's head. It seems to upset Caspian, but not anger him in the way of the earlier statements. Drinian turns away.
While in Galma, Drinian has a chance to look up a few old friends. It is pleasant to be away from the ship for a bit, but especially to be away from Caspian. They have been adamantly avoiding one another since the incident with the dice. As Drinian leaves the house of his friend, he realizes that he has almost missed the tournament that the Duke of Galma is holding in Caspian's honor. Drinian has no interest in competing himself, despite repeated entreaties – he knows embarrassingly little about that sort of thing – but it will be odd if he is not there.
He is not disappointed. Despite his annoyance with the king, watching Caspian at the joust once again leaves him in awe. The king performed only fairly at the sword the day before, though his movements were rather smooth. On a horse, that smoothness becomes pure grace. The movement of his body, the oneness of his arm with the lance, are perfect. Drinian is amazed.
Caspian unhorses knight after knight, his armor shining in the sun. He makes it to the last round, but just as Drinian thinks he is about to win, he takes a nasty blow and is knocked from to the ground. Caspian takes so long to get up that Drinian runs onto the field where the king is already being assisted by several men.
He finds that Caspian's helmet is warped and they are having trouble pulling it off his head. When they finally manage, Drinian is leaning in very close to Caspian. The king gives his widest smile when he sees Drinian's face.
"You came," he says, as if this is the most important thing in the world.
"Of course," Drinian says, forgetting his earlier reluctance.
"Help me up," Caspian holds his arm out and Drinian lifts him from the ground. The king leans on his shoulder the whole time that the Duke is going on and on about the great valor and skill shown by both contenders, but especially Caspian.
"When will he be silent?" Caspian whispers, leaning heavily on Drinian. "You'd think that I'd won the tournament. His eyes are always on me."
Drinian smiles and his eyes trail to the pretty young girl seated at the Duke's side. "Not nearly as often as his daughter's eyes, I should think, Your Majesty."
Caspian blushes. "That freckled thing? Really? Bah! I am weary of the both of them." He leans his head on Drinian's shoulder as if actually fatigued.
They stand in the captain's quarters, Caspian and Drinian and Rhince, the first mate, and Reepicheep. They discuss, hastily, ways to fight pirates. After only a minute, a knock at the door informs Drinian that the ship is getting closer. Drinian orders Rhince to see to things and Reepicheep is out the door in a second. Drinian is left looking at Caspian. He wonders how well the fancy armor that the king dons will hold up in battle.
Caspian turns to leave. "Where are you going?" Drinian asks, unable to stop the breathless question.
"Out to the deck, of course," Caspian says. "That was the idea, was it not? To impress them with our numbers."
"Yes," Drinian breathes. "Yes, but you should stay back a bit, in case things turn bad quickly."
Caspian frowns. "I am king," his voice is almost gentle.
"I know," Drinian says. He sees that there is no real hope of getting Caspian to place himself out of danger and he knows that, in a way, the king is right, but he cannot help being frustrated. "But you should at least give the rest of us a chance to defend you. That is the job of lords and knights, is it not?"
Caspian cocks his head to the side. "Would you die for me, Drinian?" he asks, sounding more curious than anything else.
Drinian hesitates only a moment. "Of course."
"Because you are king." But this is only partially true. Drinian knows that he would also die for the king because there is no one else in the world like Caspian and it seems a shame to see something so unusual and so beautiful leave the world.
Caspian looks sad. "I thought you might say that." He walks from the room, bold.
If Drinian has heard Caspian mention them once, he has heard it a hundred times. Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy – the kings and queens whom Caspian idolizes. The same ones that Caspian met for himself three years ago. Now, the youngest two, Edmund and Lucy, are onboard the Dawn Treader. Caspian, of course, spends every spare moment with them.
Though they are supposedly a legendary king and queen of old, Drinian is rather disappointed. He never finds himself standing in awe of them as he often does with Caspian. They are a rather ordinary boy and girl, despite their strange speech. Drinian knows, now, that Caspian will always be his king and that it is not some magical charm of royalty that makes him love Caspian so well, but rather some quality in Caspian himself.
That is not to say that he hates them. In fact, Queen Lucy is the sort of girl who it is very hard to dislike and Drinian cannot help wishing that his own sister were a little more like her. She often goes out of her way to make small conversation just when Drinian feels himself in need of it.
King Edmund is more difficult. He is witty, when he is not being somber, though many of Edmund's jokes elude Drinian. He often gets the uncomfortable feeling that he is being mocked without knowing it, though this is, of course, ridiculous. Drinian thinks, when he watches the brother and sister together, that he is not the only one who likes Lucy better than Edmund.
Most of all, Drinian notices how it is Edmund who Caspian now goes to for stories. It is Edmund whose hand Caspian's clasps at the dinner table, only to have it drawn back sharply. It is Edmund who Caspian leans on and argues with and laughs with and Drinian cannot help the furrowing of his brow every time he sees the two together.
A great feast is held by the new Duke of the Lone Islands. Drinian tries his hardest to draw Caspian's attention to one young lady or another, but Caspian is having none of it. He finds something awful to say about each of the beautiful girls. It is almost unseemly, the way he insults the ladies, even if they will never hear it.
Drinian watches as Caspian's eyes are continually drawn to Edmund who seems to be sulking at the moment. He bites his lip in dismay when Caspian excuses himself shortly after Edmund leaves the room.
Caspian practically skips into the room. Drinian looks at him glumly. The king is often chipper these days – and often in Edmund's room. But that is none of Drinian's concern.
"Oh, hello, Drinian," Caspian says, spotting him.
Seeing that Caspian is alone, Drinian seizes the opportunity. "Your Majesty, I had hoped to speak with you."
"Then speak," Caspian says.
Drinian gestures to the small table and they both sit down. He bites his lip, unsure of how to proceed and hoping that this meeting will not go as badly as he suspects. "We have found the Lord Bern," he says. "We are at the Lone Islands – the edge of the known world. What are your plans now?"
"Well," Caspian says, slowly, "Bern informed us that the other lords sailed on. We will have to sail on as well."
Drinian sighs and crosses his hands. "Your Majesty, with all respect, I have to tell you that the crew signed up for a voyage to known islands to look for the lost lords. They did not sign up for a journey into the unknown. And certainly not a voyage to world's end." He says this last bit in a low voice, for he knows that despite Caspian's talk of the missing lords, this is what is truly in his heart.
Caspian frowns. "It was always put forward as a possibility that we would go beyond the Lone Islands. You know that, Drinian. I do not think the men will object."
"Not now," Drinian says tight-lipped, "but what about when we have been weeks at sea and run low on food and water? The last thing we will need is a mutiny."
Caspian frowns even deeper. "Do what you think is best, Captain. I trust your judgment. If you say turn back, then I will turn back," he says. At least his mouth says this. His eyes add "but I will never forgive you".
Drinian sighs. He sometimes feels that he can deny Caspian nothing. "We will continue, if Your Majesty wills it."
Caspian smiles his most beautiful smile. "Thank you." He punches Drinian's arm, lightly. "We've barely had any adventures yet, you know. Besides, Edmund says --"
"Oh, Edmund," Drinian snaps. "I did not know that Edmund recommended sailing onward." Drinian might not like terribly like King Edmund, but he always seems to have a good deal more sense than Caspian.
Caspian draws back, alarmed at Drinian's tone. "He is cautious," he says. "But tell me, my lord, why do you speak of him in such a disrespectful manner? What has he done to offend you?"
Drinian knows that Caspian is right. He should not speak of a king in such a way. "Forgive me, Sire. But he – I mean you – you are always in his rooms. I try to draw your attention away from him and to the many beautiful and gentle ladies that surround you, but you are disinterested."
It is extraordinary to watch Caspian's face turn redder and redder until his blush is as bright as a burn upon his skin. Drinian realizes that his suspicion is correct. Caspian really has lain with Edmund. He blushes himself at the thought.
"Do not tell Edmund that you have noticed," Caspian mumbles. "He is sensitive about people noticing."
Drinian crosses his arms, but says nothing. Caspian gives him an uneasy smile.
"I am happy, Drinian," he says. "The happiest that I have ever been. He is … fascinating. And so much better than he thinks himself."
It is a rare thing for sadness to cause a physical hurt, but at this proclamation, Drinian feels a stab of pain go straight to his heart. And why should it be so? His friend has just told him that he is happy.
"Does it really bother you so much?" says Caspian, studying Drinian's face.
Drinian has trouble finding his voice. "If it were two of my sailors, I wouldn't allow it," he says at last. "It is a distraction and – and not healthy."
Caspian's face shows anger for the first time. "Well, it is a good thing that I am not one of your sailors then."
There are dark clouds on the horizon and Drinian is eager to anchor his ship at the island before the storm hits. He is aware of Caspian sitting nearby, chattering with his three young passengers, but is so intent weather that he pays no mind to what they are saying. Presently, Caspian moves over and sits nearer.
"Which stream shall we water at, Drinian?" he asks. "There seem to be two coming down into the bay." Drinian has already noticed this, of course.
"It makes little odds, Sire," Drinian says. "But I think it's a shorter pull to that on the starboard – the eastern one."
"Here comes the rain," Lucy says, glumly. And she is right. It the sort of rain that one can hear coming and it is pouring in seconds.
"I should think it does," Edmund says. "I say, let's go to the other stream. There are trees there and we'll have some shelter."
Drinian looks ahead steadily. This sounds suspiciously like they are planning on exploring the island. In all honesty, the only thing that Drinian has seen Edmund, Lucy and Eustace do for the whole of their time on the voyage is get Caspian into even more trouble than he can manage on his own. As if Reepicheep isn't bad enough.
"Yes, let's," Eustace puts in. "No point in getting wetter than we need."
Drinian grits his teeth and ignores them. He has made it a principle to try his best to ignore any advice from either Edmund or Eustace. Eustace, because most of his suggestions are ridiculous, and Edmund out of pure obstinacy.
There is a moment of silence where the others all look at one another as if wondering what is wrong and then Caspian speaks. "They're right, Drinian," he says. "Why don't you bring her head round and make for the western stream?" He says this politely enough, but there is a note of warning in his voice.
"As Your Majesty pleases," Drinian snaps. He has never been on a voyage with so many people who falsely think themselves experts.
While the explore the island, Drinian waits on the ship, pacing so much that he gets several odd looks. He finds that he is always pacing for Caspian, always waiting for Caspian. But Caspian never seems to notice.
And when they come back, Drinian can hardly get a word from any of them.
"Tell me, my lord, what do you think of her?" Caspian asks, looking at the star's daughter.
"I think that she is one of the greatest ladies that I have ever known," Drinian answers. "And very beautiful, of course," he is sincere in these statements, but he can scarcely believe Caspian's interest after his complete indifference to earlier women.
"I think so too," Caspian says, only tearing his eyes away from her for the briefest glance at Drinian. "She is different from everyone else."
It is perfect. Caspian has always been so wonderfully unique that no one seemed right for him. But the star's daughter has this same quality, this same ability to inspire awe. Together, they will be glorious.
Drinian stands on the deck, looking out at the sea. It is not the restless beast that he has known most of his life, but is strangely still and strangely beautiful. He thinks that he is seeing waters that no or few men have seen before. That his life has taken a turn that would have been impossible without Caspian. He does not know if this is good thing. Will he ever see Narnia and his mother and sister again?
Caspian approaches him so silently that he jumps when he realizes that the king is standing beside him. "I meant to ask you," Caspian says. "What did you think of the sea serpent?" He gives Drinian a sly, sidelong glance and Drinian knows that he is being teased for his earlier disbelief.
"Well," Drinian says, "while it was attacking I was thinking that we were all going to die. And after the attack, I was thinking about all the damage to my ship."
Caspian smiles and looks out at the sea. "It is like you to say something like that." Edmund comes and stands beside Caspian – the two are rarely far apart. "I was thinking that here is another legend breathed to life. I seem to attract them wherever I go," he doesn't even look at Edmund as he says this. "We are living in the middle of a great adventure and to see the world's end – that would be the greatest adventure of all," his eyes have become glassy and his cheeks flushed and Drinian thinks that the king looks almost sick.
Caspian walks away, saying nothing else. Edmund stays and Drinian looks over to see that the boy is biting his lip, nervously. "He's a lunatic, you know," Edmund says, half jesting, half worried, "but a rather appealing one."
Well, at least the two of them agree on something.
Drinian listens to Caspian's speech with an increasing feeling of panic. The king is saying that he wants to sail to the very end of the world and never to come back. There is something almost appropriate about it – the king abandoning this ship of mere mortals – but Drinian knows that it cannot be. Narnia will far apart with Caspian. And Drinian promised to take care of his king.
He looks at Caspian's flushed cheeks and the body which is quivering with excitement and is daunted. It will not be an easy thing, to persuade him. Drinian is just thinking of how he can do it, when Edmund speaks up.
"Caspian," he says, his voice firm, "you can't do this."
Drinian feels a wave of relief wash over him. If Caspian will not listen to him, then he will surely listen to Edmund.
"Most certainly," pipes up Reepicheep, "His Majesty cannot."
"No indeed," Drinian puts in, happy beyond all measure that the others seem to agree with him.
"Can't?" Caspian's eyes grow dangerous and Drinian is reminded of that night, early in the voyage, when they quarreled over gambling and Caspian reminded him just who was the superior.
"Begging Your Majesty's pardon," Rynelf says, "but if one of us did the same, it would be called deserting."
"You presume too much on your long service, Rynelf," says Caspian.
This is too much. It would be bad enough to see the king snap at those in the wrong – however slightly – but to see him snap at people who are only trying to help him is terrible. "No Sire," Drinian says, with perhaps a bit too much heat in his voice, "He's perfectly right."
Caspian gives him a furious look. "By the Mane of Aslan," he says. "I had thought you were all my subjects here, not my schoolmasters."
There is a moment of silence as everyone looks at one another. Caspian is the king, after all. How far will they have to go to stop him?
"I'm not," Edmund says, "and I say that you can not do this."
Drinian thinks that this is surely enough to convince the king, but he is wrong. Caspian continues to argue and Drinian thinks that perhaps Edmund has lost some of his spell over the king. He begins to think that they will have to tie Caspian up as Reepicheep suggests, but the mention by Lucy of Ramandu's daughter changes Caspian's mind.
It is awful. Drinian has never seen Caspian look so miserable. That is, the few times that he does see the king. Mostly, Caspian lies about his cabin all day.
One day, Drinian talks to Caspian while the king is lying in bed. "Your Majesty, the crew is still amazed everyday by these seas. You should come up and see them more often – they have a revitalizing effect."
Caspian turns to look at him and Drinian is alarmed by the effect. Caspian's hair is disheveled and his face pale. Those eyes that Drinian once thought he could sail into are now turbulent waters indeed. "I have no wish to look," he says. "I always end up looking off into the eastern horizon. Every minute we draw further from the edge. Every minute I am further from him. I think I could die sometimes."
Drinian is alarmed. "You take it so hard," he says. He sees that Caspian is clutching a blue tunic. At first Drinian thinks that it belongs to the Caspian, but realizes that it is too small. It must be Edmund's. Drinian draws away in disgust.
"I'll never see him again," he chokes out, almost crying. "I don't even know what happened to him."
"We'll be within sight of Ramandu's island soon," Drinian says, desperately. Caspian shrugs and turns away.
The king is better, but not the same. Since he got to her, he now smiles and laughs. He gets up early in the morning and washes his face and shows some level of interest in the voyage. He walks with her across the decks at dusk and when Drinian sees them he thinks of how perfect they are together. They are golden.
But there is a sadness in Caspian's eyes that was never there before. A graveness to his actions. With Edmund, Caspian was always a boy. They were two boys on an adventure together. When Drinian sees Caspian take her hand, he sees a man.
It is a sad change, but a necessary one.
There is a ball held at their return to Narnia and everyone comments on how splendid the king and his new queen look. The few times when all eyes are not on the royal couple, they are on Drinian. He has gone from being just another lord to being the captain of the greatest voyage in Narnian history. He finds the effect of all the eyes upon him dizzying.
At one point Caspian catches his eye, smiles, and comes over. "My lord Drinian," he laughs, "I fear that with myself married that the ladies are contenting themselves to chase you this evening."
"I – I, Sire?" Drinian asks. "Oh no, not I, for sure." Though, as he thinks of it, he can remember no less than eight young ladies speaking to him over the course of the evening – an unusually high number.
"Yes, you," Caspian laughs. "I can't say that I blame them. You are one of the handsomer men in the room." Drinian blushes, not only at being complimented, but because he remembers that Caspian pays a bit closer attention to the handsomeness of the men in the room than he should.
But Caspian ignores him, his eyes searching the room. "There," he nods his head in the direction of a group of ladies who seem to be talking animatedly. "Do you see the redhead?"
"No – yes," Drinian says, spotting her.
Caspain smiles. "I spoke to her earlier, but all she wanted to talk about was you."
"I – I know her, Your Majesty," Drinian admits. "We met by chance yesterday."
"Ah, good," Caspian says, nodding his head as if he thinks himself very wise. "You should go ask her to dance."
Drinian tries to keep his face from showing embarrassment. "I'm not much of a dancer," he says.
This doesn't seem to disturb Caspian in the least. "Then go talk to her. She isn't as brainless as many of the girls here. I think you would like her."
Drinian has very little experience in talking to ladies other than his mother and sister. He is not a stranger to women and lovemaking, but in the past it was always lowborn women. The sort that his parents would never approve of and he knew, however much he may care for them, that they could not have a future together. "I don't think I can talk to her," Drinian says, looking at his shoes.
"One of the other girls has caught your eye then?" Caspian's voice has a strange edge to it.
"No," Drinian says. "I just --"
"My lord," Caspian's smile is frozen on his face. "A few months ago, you showed quite the interest in seeing me settling on a lady. You can see how beautifully it turned out when I did," he gestures to his queen. "Now I wish to return the favor."
Drinian looks at the king. His face is oddly determined, even, Drinian thinks, vindictive. But this cannot be. Caspian is thoroughly happy. He shrugs. "Then I'll go speak with her, of course, Your Majesty."
"Good," Caspian says.
Drinian's wedding is a small affair. He does not wish to have half the kingdom gawking at him as he weds, though with his status as the captain of the Dawn Treader and the land that Caspian has granted him, he is now more than a minor noble. They are married on the beach near Cair Paravel and Lara's red hair blows in the wind and her dress billows about her. She is lovely.
Though the wedding is not large, it is prestigious. Caspian is there, along with his wife. As Drinian says his vows, he glances into the crowd and sees the king looking very melancholy. Strange.
Afterwards, there is eating and dancing. Drinian is surrounded by well-wishers telling him how well he has chosen, how happy they will be together. His mother and sister are among them – Lara's is the daughter of a rather important nobleman, though that is not why Drinian is marrying her.
It is twilight when Drinian walks back out to the beach to be alone. Lara's female relatives have long since whisked her away to prepare her for the "wedding night" and everyone who is left at the party is lazing about, lethargic from too much food and drink. Drinian wants to be away from them all. He needs to think.
He walks a bit down the beach and sees that he is not alone. A solitary figure is sitting, staring out at the sea. It is Caspian.
Drinian sits down beside the king and sees that tears are running, unchecked, down his face. "Your Majesty, what is wrong?" he asks gently.
"I'll never get it back," he says, still looking at the sea. "I'll never get him back. And sometimes I want him back so badly that I can hardly stand it."
Drinian draws back, alarmed. He did not know that Caspian was still so sad about that. "But you have Narnia," Drinian tries to comfort him. "And you have her. So beautiful and kind. How can you not be happy?"
Caspian shakes his head. "I am happy, sometimes. But it isn't the same. It is comparing two completely different things. And I find that I often want everything."
Drinian does not understand this. "But it is the same, more or less. You loved him – fine. Now you love her."
Caspian gives a short laugh. "You think so?"
Caspian grabs Drinian by the back of the head and yanks them together and suddenly he is kissing Drinian. What is more surprising, Drinian is kissing him back, his mouth rough upon the young king's and their tongues are tangled and when Caspian pushes him away they are both gasping for breath.
"I am sorry," Caspian breathes, turning away from Drinian. "I'm so sorry, my friend. Aslan's Mane, what is wrong with me?"
Drinian is so unable to think of anything but the kiss, that for a long time he is silent. Then he puts a hand on Caspian's shoulder. "Your Majesty, it is alright --" but Caspian pulls away.
"Leave," he says, tears choking his voice.
Drinian stands and is momentarily unsure of what to do.
"I said go away."
"Of course," Drinian mumbles. "I'll be up --"
"I don't just mean for tonight," Caspian says, still not even glancing at Drinian. "I mean leave. Leave Cair Paravel. I've given you excellent lands. Go tend to them."
Drinian feels a sharp pain pierce his heart. "Your Majesty I --"
"I'm not angry with you," Caspian says, forestalling Drinian's objections. "I just can't bear it. Don't you understand? I can't stand it." Caspian shoulders shake and Drinian realizes that the king is sobbing. Drinian feels like crying himself, but he has not cried in years and does not begin now.
"Of – of course," Drinian says. "I'll go." He walks up the beach on wobbly legs.
Drinian leaves Cair the next morning with his new wife. It will be the last time that he sees Caspian for many years.
"She is just the most precious thing in the world," Drinian's sister makes faces at his baby daughter. The baby smiles at her. Elena is very different. She is married now and is expecting a baby of her own soon.
Drinian cannot disagree – his daughter is adorable with her red curls and big, blue eyes. He smiles down at her as he puts on his cloak.
"Where are you going, brother?" Elena asks.
"Riding," Drinian answers.
His wife, Lara, rolls her eyes. "He is always out riding," she tells Elena. "I think that he needs to stay moving since he stopped sailing."
Both women giggle and Drinian winks at his wife. "I'll be back before dark," he says.
Caspian was thoughtful and generous in the land that he gave Drinian. Not only is there ample farm land, but also a few miles of abandoned coastline. Drinian doesn't tell his wife, but it is to the coast that he rides. It is not far from the manor where they live and Drinian finds it peaceful. Sometimes, he can spot a ship in the distance, heading for Calormen.
When he is on the beach and dusk washes over the waves, Drinian leans back and closes his eyes. He imagines Caspian as he was on the last night he saw him and he imagines what Caspian's lips felt like on his and he wonders what it might have been like if he could have convinced the king to let him stay.
Sometimes, he is angry with Caspian. Drinian knows that he was never anything other than a faithful servant – and yet he is banished from the king's presence for a kiss that was not his doing. It is unfair.
But after a few minutes, he gets up and walks back up the beach. He rides back to his home and tries to think of the king no more.
"Father, father!" Drinian's eldest son runs toward him and Drinian lifts him in the air. Darian frowns momentarily at the indignity of being picked up by a parent at the advanced age of eight, but is so excited that he quickly shrugs it off. "The man at the stall says that the king and queen are going to pass through town soon!" he exclaims as Drinian sets him down.
"The king and queen?" Drinian asks. There is a fair in town, which is why they are there. He knows that Caspian and his queen are touring the countryside, but he did not know they were nearby. If he had known, he wouldn't have come.
For several years after Caspian banished him, Drinian held out hope that the king would send a letter or a messenger to apologize or ask Drinian to come back. It has been ten years and Drinian has long since given up hope. The king does not wish to see him and Drinian does not wish to go where he is not wanted.
"Yes," his daughter Kariana approaches, holding the hand of his youngest son, Tristan. "He said that they were going to ride down the main street. Can we go see them father? Please."
This causes both boys to join in with a chorus of pleases. Several people to turn and stare at them.
"I don't think so," Drinian says, hating to disappoint them. "Your mother will be expecting us back."
"Mother is busy with the babies," Tristan says.
"Yes," Darian agrees, "she won't mind if we stay a little longer."
"All my friends have already been to court and seen the king and queen," Kariana says, her voice quivering.
Drinian sighs and looks down on the mutinous faces of children. "Very well," they all smile at these words. "But we can only stay until we've seen the king and queen.
They stand along the muddy street with hundreds of other people. The children keep trying to get closer, but Drinian is content with their place behind several giggling girls and a very large man in an apron. When the procession starts down the street, he lifts Tristan onto his shoulders and takes his other two children by the hand to keep them from running into the street.
The king and queen are riding white horses – the streets are far too dirty for royal feet. They proceed slowly, stopping to speak with people or take flowers or bless babies as they go. Drinian almost doesn't recognize Caspian. The king is mature now. He has cut his hair short and has a beard.
Darian pulls on Drinian's sleeve, anxiously. "Look, Father, look!" he says. "He is coming over."
Drinian's breath comes short, for Caspian is indeed walking in their direction. He tries to step back, but the crowd behind him and his children beside him make this hard to do. The king stops to talk to the giggling girls that were standing nearby. He seems just about to ride on when his eyes connect with Drinian's and his mouth makes an "o" in surprise.
They look at each other for what can only be a few seconds, but it feels much longer. Drinian opens his mouth to speak, but before he can say a word, Caspian spurs his horse onward.
Later, Kariana says that she wishes she had hair like the queen and the boys talk about the king's horse and sword and beg Drinian for stories about the Dawn Treader. Drinian finds that, where once these stories came smoothly, that there is now a bitterness in telling them. The old wound has been opened fresh and Drinian feels utterly rejected.
She is gone. Drinian still cannot believe it, though Lara has been sick for over a year. Drinian sits at her funeral, not listening to all the beautiful eulogies that are given, barely seeing most of the people who are sitting around him. He does, however, see his children.
He is proud of his two sons, who sit up straight and try to be strong for their sisters, but who seem to be near crying all the same. He watches his daughter, Kariana, lean upon the shoulder of her new husband and dab her eyes with a handkerchief. His youngest two daughters, Adrienne and Arla, lean on either side of Drinian. They are still just children and need their mother.
After a while, Drinian is urged to step up and look upon the body. He hasn't cried yet, but when he sees his wife laying there, her long red hair with only a few strands of gray all around her, he can feel tears streaming down his face. He knows that his children are looking at him and he wonders if they have ever seen him cry before.
Kariana, who looks so like her mother, comes and hugs Drinian and they cry together.
"Let me read the letter again, Father," Adrienne begs, holding out her hand.
Drinian wishes that his children had never read the letter in the first place, but there is no helping it now. When it came, they saw the royal seal and demanded to read it. Drinian had given it over reluctantly. The letter seems personal – the salutation and seal are all very proper, but the content is not in Caspian's most kingly voice.
Drinian hands the letter to his daughter and Adrienne reads to Arla and Tristan. She begins in the middle and skips over the unimportant parts. "I was so sad to hear about the loss of your wife last year," she reads. "Isn't that nice? That the king would send his sympathies."
"Keep reading," Arla says, though she has already read for herself.
"Right," Adrienne says. "Though nothing can compensate for your loss, I am told that a change in scenery is a good help in assuaging grief. This court and this king have been in need of your sound counsel for many a year now. I am in need of a Master of Ship and know no better man to fill the position." Adrienne lays the letter on her lap and looks over at him. "You're going, aren't you Father?" she asks.
"Of course he's going," Tristan says. "He can't refuse the king."
"I've done so before," Drinian says, wryly. They all look at him in surprise.
Adrienne begins reading again. "Whatever tension was between us is long since forgotten. I never meant for you to stay away until we were both graybeards." This causes the children to laugh while Drinian strokes his beard with its few gray hairs absently.
Adrienne skips ahead to the part the interests her the most. "You are, of course, welcome to bring your younger children with you. I know that I cannot stand to be parted from my Rilian for even a few days …" The letter goes on, but Adrienne stops reading.
"Please say you'll go, father," she begs. "I need to go to court. I'll never find a husband here. I'm not as pretty as Kariana."
"You don't need a husband at the moment, dear," Drinian tells her. "You are fourteen years old."
"I know that," she says. "But in another year or two, I'll be old enough to receive suitors and --"
"Oh, don't worry," Tristan says. "You'll find a husband easily enough." Drinian is about to compliment is son on being so nice to his sister, but Tristan goes on. "That's what dowries are for."
Tristan and Arla laugh and Adrienne sticks her tongue out at them. "But truly, we should all go," he says. "I've never even been to court. At my age!" Tristan is every day of seventeen.
"If we go, we shall have new dresses," says Arla, who is only twelve, clapping her hands.
"Enough," Drinian says. "Tristan may go to court in another year if he likes. And if you girls still want to go in a few years, then I'll ask your Aunt Elena to take you."
"And father will stay here alone like a mad recluse," Arla giggles at the others.
"Mad recluses do not generally live in manors with many servants, my dear."
"Yes they do," Arla objects.
"Father," Tristan says, desperately. "I don't see why you are so against this. The king has offered you an excellent position."
"That comes twenty years too late," Drinian says.
"But we would get to see so much more of Kariana and Darian," Arla says, wistfully. This gives Drinian pause. He hasn't seen either of his eldest children in months. Kariana's husband is on the king's council and Darian is a knight in the king's army. He would be closer to all of his children.
"I'll think about it," he says and the children begin celebrating.
They bring Drinian not to the throne room, but to a sitting room where the king and queen are relaxing with a small number of courtiers. Drinian wonders if Caspian remembers his dislike of large public displays, but quickly dismisses the idea. He was likely brought to the meeting place that would be most convenient for the king.
He stands before Caspian and bows stiffly. They look at each other for long moments and there is silence in the room as the king rises. He steps forward and hugs Drinian. "My good friend," he says, and his voice sounds sincere. In fact, it seems that Caspian can barely contain his joy. "It has been too long." He gestures to a chair next to his own. "Please, sit down and tell me about yourself. I feel that we must relearn one another."
And Drinian, without even a word of reproach or a hard glance, sits and tells Caspian about his life for the past twenty years. Caspian has worked his magic on Drinian again, it seems.
"How many children did you say that you had in total, Drinian?" Caspian asks, after a good long while.
"Five, sire. Three girls and two boys."
"Five," Caspian repeats, whistling. "I knew that it was several, but I did not know that it was that many. I have met your eldest son and daughter. I'm glad that you could bring the others with you – young people thrive in the court, I find."
"Yes, Your Majesty," Drinian says, though if there is any gray in Caspian's beard, Drinian cannot see it. The conversation turns to shipping.
Within a week's time, Drinian brings his children and introduces them the Caspian and the queen. For all their begging, Drinian thinks that they must truly have a bit of himself in them, for they sit quiet and awkward and seem unsure of how to answer the questions of the king and queen.
That is, until the queen sends for the prince. It is the first time that Drinian has seen Prince Rilian and he admits to himself that the babe has inherited much of Caspian's appeal. He is only two years old, but his hair is a beautiful golden halo and his face as perfect as a doll's. He is decked out in frills and bright colors that would make any other child look spoiled and ridiculous, but somehow they seem to suit Rilian.
His girls immediately begin to coo over the baby as he sits in the queen's lap. Many other children would be shy of the attention of strangers, but Rilian accepts it as his due. He is already a king upon his throne, Drinian thinks, in wonder.
After a while, the queen lets the prince down and he wanders about the room a bit before stopping in front of Drinian and holding up his arms. Drinian is shocked – there must be twenty other people in the room and Drinian has no acquaintance with the child. After a moment, though, he lifts Rilian onto his lap as he has done his own children countless times.
"Why Drinian," Caspian says, in astonishment. "He must like you. He usually does not let strangers hold him."
Drinian says nothing, but puts his arms securely around the child and Rilian promptly falls asleep.
"Drinian what is this thing I am climbing on?" Rilian asks.
"That is the mast, Your Highness," Drinian says, hiding a smile. Rilian has wrapped his little legs around the mast and has made his way about two feet off the ground. He does not look to make it much further and sure enough, he soon slides down.
Rilian runs off to look at something else and Drinian has no doubt that he will be asked more questions soon. Rilian is always full of questions. Drinian is sure that he has told the prince about the mast at least four times.
"Do you know what Rilian told me the other day, Drinian?" Caspian asks from beside him. "He said that you were his best friend."
"That is because I show him the ships, Your Majesty," Drinian says. "I find that, for some reason, many young men find sailing exciting." Here he winks at Caspian and they both laugh.
"Still," Caspian says, watching the prince with a concerned expression on his face, "I worry that he does not have companions of his own age. All those he claims as friends are full grown men and women."
Drinian thinks on this for a moment. "My grandson Jaldin is only a year younger than the prince. If you like, we can introduce them."
Caspian looks at him and smiles. "Yes, I think that would be just the thing," he says. "Jaldin would be Kariana's son?"
"Yes, her eldest."
Drinian looks at the coffin. As it remains closed, he can almost pretend that it doesn't contain his son. Darian had been sent to fight in a small battle in the islands and there he had died.
Later, Caspian speaks with him. "I am sorry," he says.
The tone of his words express a personal apology rather than general condolences. "For what?" Drinian asks, dully.
"You never wanted to send soldiers to the islands. And now your son has died there."
Drinian bowed his head. "I was thinking more of the ships than the soldiers. And Darian died in service to his king. There is nothing nobler."
This seems to make Caspian almost angry. "Why aren't you upset with me? If I were in your place, I would be furious."
Drinian thinks about this for a moment. Why wasn't he angry with Caspian? "Everything I've ever had to give has been yours. I've always felt that way. I am sad by my son's death, but I know that he felt the same."
As Drinian looks into to Caspian's eyes, he sees sadness, not only for others but for himself. "I have received great gifts in return, of course," Drinian says, thinking that Caspian is upset that Drinian is emphasizing his own sacrifices and not Caspian's generosity.
"No," Caspian says, sadly. "You have always given me so much more than I've ever give you."
"How long did you despise me?" Caspian asks, quite suddenly one day. "After that kiss?"
Drinian sucks in his breath. Neither of them has ever mentioned that night so many years ago. When Caspian first sent the letter that asked Drinian to return to Cair, Drinian had – what? Wondered? Dreaded? Hoped? – that Caspian had some sort of desire for him and now that Drinian's wife was dead, he felt he could express it. He had long since concluded that this was not the case as Caspian never seemed to show this sort of interest in him.
"I never despised you for it," Drinian says, very carefully and very quietly. "A kiss itself means nothing. It is what comes after that matters."
"Oh," Caspian says, his brow furrowing. "And after, on that night I – I --"
"You banished me," Drinian says, his voice tense.
"I didn't banish you," Caspian objects. "I asked you to leave."
"And when a king asks you to leave, it is called banishment."
"Banishment is a formal – oh, never mind!" Caspian says, frustrated, "I am trying to apologize, not argue with you. I behaved most abominably and I am sorry for it. I was in a state of weakness and I missed him and I ended up hurting you."
Drinian looked away. "Do you still miss him?" He is not sure why he asks the question.
Caspian's reply is quick. "Would that I could bring him back to me with a letter."
When they knight Rilian, Drinian is almost as proud as Caspian. Rilian is a handsome young man now and is very likeable. Young girls swoon over him and he never seems to have fewer than three young men following him about, one of whom is Drinian's grandson, Jaldin. Rilian is admired by all.
As, Drinian watches Caspian, however, he is struck by the fact that Caspian's hair is mostly gray and his back is the smallest bit stooped and his movements are slower. He is old, Drinian realizes. And if Caspian is old, that means that Drinian must be old as well.
When he tells Caspian this, Caspian laughs. "Yes, very old," he says. "But not old enough. When I am so old and doddering that no one wants me around anymore, I think that I will sail into the east again. This time, only death will stop me. But only when I am old enough to act young again. Would you come with me, Drinian?"
Drinian is alarmed by this whole speech. "Your Majesty, everyone will always want you around. You are the king."
Caspian sighs and looks away. "I suppose you are right."
Drinian watches Caspian at her funeral. The king does not cry, but his eyes are red-rimmed as if he has been crying all night and only just stopped. Rilian cries a great deal and Drinian feels sorry for the boy, but it is Caspian who he watches most closely.
He remembers how he felt when Lara died and knows that it is even worse for Caspian because Caspian feels everything so intensely.
He hugs Caspian and gives Rilian a fatherly clasp on the shoulder, but he worries for both of them. They are both so impulsive and so grieved that anything might happen.
Rilian leaves everyday and everyday he returns and tells no one of his journeys. Drinian is concerned. He hoped that Rilian would give up on this quest to avenge his mother after a week or two turned up no evidence of the monster. Young people often flit from one thing to another, but Rilian is determined. Drinian wishes that the prince would think of his father who walks about like a dead man. There is no help for the queen, but Caspian is in need of his son.
"Prince Rilian," Drinian calls out as Rilian returns one day. He has to repeat the name three times before Rilian looks around. Drinian is disturbed by Rilian's face. He has the look of a man whose mind is wholly absorbed with one thing.
"You have been chasing the serpent?" Drinian asks.
Rilian makes a noise of acquiescence.
"You should not put all of yourself into this search, my prince," Drinian tells him. "You cannot have the sort of vengeance on a dumb beast that you might have on a man."
When Rilian looks at him, Drinian is reminded of Caspian when he wanted to sail to the end of the world. Though his eyes are the color of his mother's, there is something of Caspian in them. He is obsessed or enchanted. "I haven't been thinking of that," he says, his voice more slow and pronounced than usual. "These past few days – oh you should see, Drinian! I have seen something more beautiful than you can imagine.
"I see," Drinian says, warily. "Perhaps I should go with you? I would very much like to see this beautiful thing."
He doesn't tell Caspian about the woman that Rilian takes him to see or about how strange it all felt. Rilian has always been able to tell him things that he would never tell his parents. It is one of the biggest mistakes of Drinian's life.
The prince is missing and when Caspian hears what Drinian has done, he takes up an ax as though to kill him. Drinian stands perfectly still, knowing that he deserves to die. Knowing that he has let down both Caspian and Rilian. At the last moment, Caspian drops the ax on the ground.
And then they are embracing one another and crying and crying and Caspian's legs shake so that Drinian is half holding him up. "I am horrible," Caspian sobs. "I do not blame you if you never forgive me. My dear friend."
"It is I who need forgiveness, Sire," Drinian says. And Caspian clings to him harder.
After this incident, Caspian is constantly with him. He always seems to arrange things so that Drinian is by his side. Sometimes, he reaches out and clings to Drinian's arm so hard that Drinian feels that he is the king's only anchor to the world.
When he is alone in his bedroom, he asks Drinian to stay with him and he speaks wistfully of his lost son and wife. Little things, that no one else would remember about them. "Rilian used to love to tug on my beard when he was a baby," he would say. Or, "Do you remember how she looked when I first brought her back to Narnia? I don't think I've ever seen anything so beautiful."
"I do remember," Drinian answers him. He twirls a lock of the king's hair around his finger. He has never been so familiar with the king before, but the way that Caspian now behaves around him, it is impossible not to be.
"That feels nice," Caspian says, for Drinian's motions are soothing. Drinian realizes that Caspian still has a full head of hair, though it is white by now. He leans on Drinian's shoulder and cries.
There is an inevitability about it that is shocking. Of course Drinian's grandson, Jaldin, would eventually go and search for Rilian. And of course, like so many others, he dies. At the funeral, Drinian finds himself in tears. Why must these young people insist on dying? He goes to comfort Kariana who now has wrinkles and gray hairs of her own and he cannot find the words to help her.
When he is alone with Caspian in his rooms, the king is contrite. "I am sorry."
"I am sorry too," Drinian says. "Sorry that he died. And sorry that he did not succeed."
Caspian looks away.
"Perhaps the next person to search will be successful," Drinian tells him without much hope.
Caspian bites his lip and closes his eyes. "It is painful for me to say this, but there will not be a next time. Too many young men have died searching for Rilian and it isn't helping anyone. None of them have found even a trace of my son."
"I am sorry," they seem to be constantly apologizing to one another.
"I know," Caspian says and looks away.
Drinian begins to cry and Caspian looks at him. He takes Drinian's head between his hands. "Please, no, my lord," he says. It is the gentlest voice that Drinian has ever heard him use. "We are always crying." He kisses Drinian on the forehead and then on both cheeks and then, after pausing, on the lips.
The first time they kissed, Caspian was crying. Now it is Drinian who is in tears. Caspian draws back and looks at him with those eyes that always seem to say everything. He seems about to apologize when Drinian draws him in for a long, slow kiss.
Their hands are gentle on one another as they touch and fumble with one another's clothing. Somehow, they make it to the bed.
The next morning, Drinian awakes to find Caspian smiling at the ceiling.
"What is it?" he asks, wondering what the king is thinking about.
"I never thought it could be like that with a man," Caspian says. "I mean with him it was different – rougher. We used to wrestle, sometimes."
Drinian knows that Caspian is speaking of Edmund. "You are disappointed?" he asks.
"No," Caspian says, "just surprised. Besides, I think that you and I are just a little old for that sort of frolicking, don't you?"
"I suppose so," Drinian says and then frowns. "Some think that two men being involved in this way at all is a pursuit for boys."
Caspian yawns and stretches out on the bed. "But now we are old enough to act like boys again. As much as we are physically able, that is. I told you it would happen."
Drinian raises an eyebrow. "Your Majesty seems very able."
Caspian laughs – it is the first time that Drinian has heard him laugh in an age – and kisses Drinian.
Once his personal grief has subsided, however slightly, Caspian seems to realize that Rilian's disappearance is not only a great tragedy, but a great crisis for the kingdom. Almost everyday, Caspian looks at Drinian with sad eyes and wonders, out loud, what they will do. He has no heir.
"If only I could speak to Aslan," Caspian would say, wistfully. "I don't know what to do."
There are always rumors of the Lion – sightings of him in Beaversdam one week or Ettinsmoor the next. Caspian travels to the locations without much luck. Drinian is always at his side. After several of the rumors focus on Terebinthia, Caspian begins to talk of sailing there.
Drinian worries that Caspian is too old for a sea voyage, though he seems perfectly healthy. When he sees the king gaze eastward from the shore, he realizes that there is the same duplicity in Caspian words as there was many years ago. He says that the voyage is to look for signs of Aslan in Terebinthia, but he still yearns to sail to the east.
"If not Terebinthia, then perhaps I can find Aslan at one of the other islands," he says one day. "And then there is always --"
"What?" Drinian asks, full of dread.
"Aslan's country," Caspian says, with a long sigh.
"You are needed here," Drinian tells him.
Caspian's face is hard. "Yes, that is what you all told me the last time. And I did my duty. I came back and served my years as king – many of them."
Drinian looks away.
"Do you know that I have the second longest reign in Narnian history? Another two years and it will be the first. I do not have much time left, no matter what I do. I am old."
"You are not so old, Your Majesty," Drinian says, though he knows that he is making Caspian angry. "You may well have another twenty or thirty years left of life."
Caspian smiles tightly as if he doubts it. "You took good care of me last time," he says. "Would you go with me this time?"
"Always," Drinian says.
Drinian's room is now just down the hall from Caspian's and the king sometimes sneaks into his bed at night and gives him sweet kisses. Afterwards, however, Caspian is apt to talk about anything. It is as if he believes that he can now tell Drinian everything and Drinian is never expected to have a personal reaction to the words. He talks about his wife, his son, affairs of state, interesting things that he has read, people that he knew in the past. But increasingly, he talks of Edmund.
He tells Drinian that he was in love with Edmund, but that Edmund never knew it and he reflects on how silly young people can be. He wonders what happened to Edmund – whether he reached the end of the world or went back to his own world or died. Sometimes, he even compares Drinian to Edmund and those are the times that hurt Drinian the most.
"Why can you never stop thinking of him?" Drinian asks one day. "You only knew him for a few months and it was many years ago."
Caspian gives a sad smile. "I don't know. I loved him, I suppose, and he was my first love. My wife was my last. Sometimes I think I love the thought of him so well because he was a part of the voyage, my great adventure, the happiest time of my life. But sometimes I think that I only love those times so well because he was there. It is all mixed together." Finally he turns to look at Drinian, lying beside him on the bed. "Why? Does it bother you, my lord?" he asks, surprised.
Drinian tries to keep Caspian from seeing how much this little speech has hurt him. "Does it shock you that I would dislike lying in bed with you and hearing you speak of how you are still in love with him?"
Caspian bites his lip. "I'm sorry. I did not think of it like that."
There is silence between them for many minutes. "You still call me 'Your Majesty', you know," Caspian says, finally. "Even with all these years and everything between us."
"You're the king," Drinian says, shrugging. "And old habits are hard to kill."
"Yes," Caspian sighs. "We are too old to change, aren't we?" He turns away.
Drinian sighs. He sometimes wishes that he could go back and change things. That he could have shown Caspian that he wanted to be kissed on his wedding night long ago. Then, perhaps it would be him that Caspian loves. But the past cannot be altered.
Even so, they could still be happy in the few years that they have left, if Caspian weren't convinced that he is already dead. Caspian looks to the past for comfort and speaks of his life as a thing that has already ended. He seems to look forward only to death.
After this night, Caspian still sneaks to his bed, but he talks far less. And somehow, that only makes things worse.
The water laps gently against the ship and Drinian is content with the smooth rocking motion. It is dark and the moonlight shines on the water all around him. He finds Caspian as he has found him many times in the past – looking into the east. The ship will not sail there – Aslan has told Caspian that his son will be waiting for him when he returns to Narnia.
"What do you suppose happens to us when we die?" he asks, not looking at Drinian. "Do you think that I'll see her again?"
"Your wife?" Drinian asks. "Oh, I would think surely yes. I hope to see my loved ones in the next life."
"I suppose it would be too much to ask to see him as well. He won't be there." It is the first time that he has spoken of Edmund in a long time.
"We cannot know, Your Majesty," Drinian says, putting aside his own feelings to comfort the king. "I would not rule it out. But you think too much of death."
Caspian smiles at him and then turns back to the water. "It is a glorious idea, though, isn't it? To sail on and on in these waters until you reach the very end. Even if it will never happen to me."
Drinian is not looking at the water. He is looking at Caspian's face, so different from the one that he knew years ago and yet the eyes are the same.
"At some point, I think that a sailed so deeply into your eyes that I never found my way out," he says.
Caspian laughs and looks at Drinian in surprise. "Why my lord Drinian," he says, slyly. "I've never known you to be so poetic."
"No, no," Caspian continues, "do not be embarrassed. If you have an ode to my nose or a sonnet to my beard that you wish to recite, I would be glad to hear it."
Drinian blushes even deeper and Caspian laughs and hugs him and for a moment, they are happy.
Drinian sits by Caspian's bedside and worries and grieves. They think that the collapse was caused by a condition of the heart, but if that were so then surely Caspian would be more himself. The king who has always been hearty and strong and quick of wit lies in his bed and seems half out his mind. He does not seem to know where he is and he calls out for people who are long dead. Some days, he knows Drinian and some days he calls Drinian by the name of some old person or other who he knew when he was younger and some days he pays Drinian no mind at all.
On the day they reach Narnia, the king seems better than usual. He looks at Drinian with clear eyes and knows him immediately. "My old friend," he takes Drinian's hand and squeezes it. "I am glad that you are with me," his voice is feeble and he closes his eyes as if the effort of speaking is a great exertion. "Will I see my son soon?"
"Very soon," Drinian says, holding back tears.
"That is well," Caspian says.
They carry the king out on a bed, slow and steady. Drinian sees that Rilian is indeed there. The prince looks older – he reminds himself that it has been ten years. Rilian leans down and speaks to his father, his eyes filled with tears. Caspian reaches up and touches Rilian's cheek and says something so soft that Drinian cannot hear even from his place a few feet away.
Then, Caspian falls back and dies and Drinian understands that the king has only held on this long in hopes of seeing his son.
There are tears streaming down Drinian's face.
Drinian stands, leaning heavily on a cane. He has now progressed past old and is ancient. Yet, he walks to Caspian's grave often to bring flowers or simply enjoy the silence. Soon, one of his children or grandchildren or great grandchildren will come and find him. They will scold him for wandering off on his own. He lives with his youngest daughter, Arla, and she worries a lot.
He hears the steps behind him, but it is not one of his descendents who approaches. It is King Rilian.
"Lord Drinian," he says. "Here again? You must not weary yourself so."
Drinian waves him off as if the strain is inconsequential.
"I think that you grieve for him even more than I do," Rilian says, thoughtfully. "It is as if you were quite in love with him," he says this half in jest and Drinian smiles.
Sometimes he still wishes that he could change his memories. That he could make Caspian love him as completely as he loved Caspian. But it will never be.
"Won't you come back with me?" Rilian asks.
"Just a few more minutes," Drinian answers.
The memories are imperfect. Yet, still, they are precious to Drinian.