Unnecessarily Long Author's Notes: Yup, I'm going there. I've seen many stories about Caspian's childhood, but I've always found a lot of them to be too black and white about everything, painting Miraz as some demonic child abuser who beats his nephew to a pulp just because he can.
I don't want to carry on in this story with lots of gratuitous, meaningless angst. However, I should warn you guys first that I will be dealing with some, er, morally ambiguous child-rearing methods. I have no personal experience with neglect, physical or emotional abuse - my own parents could not be more amazing. My only experience of those issues is through watching certain other, beautiful people, who I am lucky enough to call my friends, being criminally mistreated by parents who are too immature and self-absorbed to sort out their own issues. I also read a lot of autobiographies by survivors of child abuse, and I'm very interested in the psychology behind it. Evidently, however, I am not an expert by any means and if anyone wishes to correct me on anything I'm making blatantly unbelievable then I will be very grateful.
Oh, and also - I haven't abandoned Sanguinis Vinculum, I swear. I haven't had much free time lately, and this story has been floating around in my head for a while. If everyone could just bear with me for a bit, it would mean a lot. :)
It was bitterly cold in the dungeons of the Telmarine castle. In the faint glimmer of the single torch that illuminated the corridor, Peter could see his own breath in front of him. He gritted his teeth to stop them chattering. He had to be stealthy, so as not to alert Caspian to his presence.
Peter thought it rather odd, to say the least, that the newly crowned King of Narnia was sneaking down to the dungeons all alone in the evening. If Caspian hadn't been such a terrible liar, Peter might have suspected him of being privy to some sort of Telmarine plot that involved keeping Narnians captive. As it was he was merely confused, and a little concerned.
The truth, though he would never admit it, was that he was worried about the new King. They may not have always gotten along, but Peter was coming to feel a genuine respect and affection for the Telmarine monarch whose manners were so perfect and mood so unpredictable. He knew that Caspian wasn't sleeping properly – he had heard it from the fauns, who often saw him out walking the grounds alone at night. He had also developed a rather disconcerting habit of picking up seemingly random scrolls, garments and even furniture, and dropping them into the fireplace with a look of disgust upon his face. And now he had apparently decided to pass his leisure time in the least comfortable area in the entire castle.
He followed Caspian at a careful distance, and was rather alarmed when the other boy vanished, quite suddenly, from his line of sight. In the dim light, it took him a full minute to realise that he had simply ducked into a cell. He crept closer, now thoroughly bewildered.
If he positioned himself carefully into the shadows, he could see into the cell without being seen from within. Caspian was sitting against the wall with his cheek resting upon his knees, showing absolutely no sign of going anywhere further. Peter furrowed his brows. Maybe he was there to meet someone. A woman, maybe. Had Caspian had some sort of paramour before he was forced to flee the castle? Was that what this was about? Peter felt his face growing hot. He wasn't sure he wanted to be around after all, if that was the case…
He couldn't move now. It was too risky – Caspian was sure to hear him now that he'd stopped moving. He would simply have to wait until his companion arrived, and take advantage of that distraction to slip away quietly.
Peter waited for what felt like hours. He couldn't feel his fingers at all. And still, nobody showed up. Caspian simply sat there, staring at the shadowy wall of the cell and looking, it had to be said, somewhat morose.
Then it hit Peter. The King was sulking.
Feeling thoroughly irritated that his little mystery had amounted to so little, he leaped out from his spot and strode purposefully into the cell without any real without any real idea of how he was going to explain his presence. Hopefully, if he questioned Caspian thoroughly enough, the other youth would have little chance to wonder why Peter was following him in the first place.
"Caspian, what are you doing?"
Caspian jumped, turning his head so fast Peter half-expected it to come rolling off. His eyes widened, but he did not move to draw his sword. He seemed, if anything, to shrink further back into the wall. When he recognised the intruder, he regained his composure almost instantly.
"Oh, Peter. You startled me." He smiled, rising to his feet and looking every inch the pleasantly surprised host. "I was just resting a bit, before I go back to work."
Unimpressed, Peter raised an eyebrow. "In the dungeons?" he asked dubiously.
Caspian looked rather taken aback. "Er, yes. It's quite lovely down here, really."
"It's bloody cold, that's what it is. I think my feet are about to fall off."
Caspian threw his hands up in defeat. "I wanted some time alone," he admitted. "I thought nobody would look for me here." A slight frown creased his brow. "Speaking of which, what brings you down here?"
Peter chose not to reply. "We'd better go back upstairs," he suggested firmly. "People will start to wonder what we've done with ourselves."
A strange, almost angry look flitted across Caspian's face, and for a moment Peter thought he was going to refuse to move. Then it passed, and he nodded reluctantly, looking very much as if he had been thwarted in a deed he had been plotting all his life. "You are right," he said rather miserably. "I apologise if my absence caused you any concern."
Silently, they made their way up the stairs back to the main castle.
When Peter retired that night, he was still puzzling over the incident in the dungeon. He couldn't get it out of his head that there was something a bit…well, off about Caspian. He just couldn't lay his finger on it. The English schoolboy part of him was telling him to back right off, to not get himself in any way involved with someone who showed any signs of being one of those 'troubled youths' his parents had warned him about. But the Magnificent part of him, the part that was High King of Narnia, felt that he ought to figure out what, if anything, was going on, and do what he could to help. There was also another part of him – a small but ferocious part – that felt inexplicably drawn to the Telmarine king and his strange, melancholy, often childish ways.
This was the first time he had allowed himself to ponder what might be driving those actions. In truth, he had suspected for a while that something was out of place. Tonight's bizarre behaviour had only given him the proof he had been waiting for that all was not as well with Caspian as he wanted everyone to believe.
It occurred to Peter that maybe Caspian simply wasn't a very happy person. To be sure, he smiled often enough, but Peter knew well enough from his own experience that this didn't necessarily indicate Caspian's true feelings. It also occurred to him that Caspian could still be feeling a bit distressed about everything that had happened with Miraz. It couldn't be easy to know that your own uncle, and only surviving relative, wanted you dead. Although Caspian had never exactly loved Miraz…had he?
And all of a sudden, everything became perfectly clear. Caspian had no family. Nobody who loved him unconditionally, regardless of his flaws and his mistakes.
It was then that Peter decided that he would do his best to include Caspian in his own family. It didn't matter that they disagreed so often. After all, how much time did he spend bickering with Susan? And Edmund simply drove him up the wall sometimes. Even Lucy, who was so pure and devoted and innocent, had the occasional temper tantrum. That was the whole point of family: no matter how badly you behaved, you could always rely on being loved and supported anyway. Everyone needed a family – especially someone with such a stressful job as running a country. And Peter's own family certainly had room in their hearts for one more struggling young monarch.
Peter fell asleep feeling well and truly ready to open up his heart to a new brother.
This wasn't a dream. Peter knew that with absolute certainty. Everything was too vivid, too clear. But hadn't he been curled up under the covers of his bed only five minutes ago? He didn't remember moving; he certainly didn't remember being outside. Come to think of it, he didn't remember being in the body of the pre-Spare Oom Peter when he went to bed. And he was quite sure he hadn't had a beard.
None of that mattered, for the moment. He was conscious of a great, powerful presence nearby. Instinctively, he dropped to his knees. Only one being made him feel so awestruck and yet so safe by his mere presence.
"Why have you brought me here, Aslan?" His voice was deeper when he spoke than it had been in a long time.
Aslan (for it was, of course, Aslan) stepped forward and stood before Peter, regal and wise and perfect. "Welcome, my son. Will you answer the call?"
Peter looked up at the great Lion, confused. "Aslan, I do not understand. Why am I grown up again? What task must I perform? Is something the matter?"
"You are grown up," said Aslan, "because you are here with me now in your true form. Earthly years have no meaning for you now; only kindness and wisdom matter, and you possess enough of each. But come. Your brother Caspian calls you. Will you go to him?"
"I…" Peter's voice faltered slightly. "Of course, Aslan, but I still don't understand. Why does he call? Is he alright? Just earlier today, he-"
"This is no longer today, my child," said Aslan gently. "Long ago, as you know it, you gave comfort to your brother when he needed it most. It is only now – today, as you would have it – that you have come to answer the call that drew you to him in the first place. None who ask for help are ever denied it. Caspian does not know me yet, but he will know you. Will you help him?"
"Of course." Peter frowned. Nothing Aslan was saying made any sense. "It's just I-" but Aslan was already gone.
Feeling slightly surreal, Peter looked around him. He was standing in the courtyard outside the Great Hall, and it was not as dark as he had originally thought it to be. The sun was slowly peeping up over the horizon, casting a weak grey light over the stones of the castle. Well, at least he knew where he was. He decided he had better go and find Caspian immediately, in spite of the early hour. It was strange. Peter had never been a morning person, but he felt wide awake and far more alert than usual. Everything around him seemed to have taken on a new clarity, and his body felt lighter and more flexible than it had any right to. Leaving the courtyard, he started up towards the Royal Chambers he knew Caspian had been moved into (very much against his will) after his coronation.
He didn't encounter a soul during his journey. In fact, he reached his destination much more quickly than he had been expecting. It was quite a distance from the Great Hall to the upper floor where the private apartments were situated, but he seemed to arrive there mere seconds after he had decided that was where he was heading. He knocked carefully on the door, but nobody answered. Puzzled, he tried the door handle. It swung open easily, and he stepped inside. What he saw made him gasp out loud.
It was not Caspian who was asleep in the great silk bed. It was Miraz and his wife, the lady Prunaprismia.
They did not stir at his gasp, but kept sleeping peacefully. Horrified, Peter backed out and pushed the door shut hard behind him. Still, the sleepers did not wake.
What was going on? Miraz was dead! Suddenly, a flash of understanding hit him and his eyes widened. It was absolutely not possible, what he was thinking. There was no way Aslan could have – well, he had to find out. And there was only one way of doing that.
He didn't know where Caspian had slept before his flight from the castle. However, almost as soon as he thought of it, he found himself outside another door and knew it was the right room. Opening the door, he found himself in a small antechamber of sorts filled with shelves of books, toys, and a little desk in the corner. There was another door in the opposite wall, and through there…
It was unmistakeably Caspian. Not Caspian as Peter had ever seen him, but he instantly recognised the dark wavy hair, the little bump in the nose, the high cheekbones. And yet, the boy slumbering so peacefully in front of Peter could not have been more than six years of age.
As Peter stood there feeling thoroughly disoriented and strange, a sharp knock sounded outside and in came none other than Doctor Cornelius. He, at least, looked no different from the Cornelius with whom Peter was acquainted. He leapt back from the bed, casting wildly about for some way to explain what he was doing, but to his great surprise the Doctor did not even look at him. Apparently oblivious to the presence of anyone other than himself and his pupil, he leaned over the bed and shook Caspian's small shoulder gently.
"Mmph," said the child, and then; "oh, good morning, Professor." He rubbed his eyes, politely stifling a yawn.
"Your Highness as overslept, I fear," said Doctor Cornelius sternly. Peter glanced out the window at the dimly lit grounds and wondered incredulously how anyone could be considered to have overslept at such an hour. "You are expected out on the practice field in one quarter of an hour."
Caspian groaned, leaping out of bed and snatching up the clothes that had been laid out for him the night before. A servant rushed in from somewhere outside to assist, but Caspian dodged his outstretched hands deftly. "I can dress myself, thank you," he said haughtily. Peter, who had been watching the proceedings in total bewilderment, stifled a grin. This, at least, was definitely the same Caspian Peter was used to.
In what seemed very little time to Peter, Caspian was ushered out of his chambers and instructed to hurry down to the practice field. Peter followed him, though the prince still seemed entirely unaware of his presence. Nor, to Peter's astonishment, did any of the servants or courtiers they passed in the corridors pay him any heed. He tried greeting them, but they gave no sign of even hearing his addresses. He made up his mind to walk right into the path of the next man he saw, and see whether he didn't just pass right through him – but of course, as soon as he had thought of it, the traffic ceased completely and he was alone in the corridors with little Caspian.
Peter passed that morning in a strange, hazy yet intensely vivid state of being. He couldn't have described the feeling if he'd wanted to; nor was there anyone to describe it to, for it soon became apparent that none of the occupants of the castle could see, hear or even touch him. His body felt more responsive to his commands than it ever had in his life, but it didn't seem to need anything like a real body would. And he now understood what Aslan had meant when he said that time was no longer relevant. He could measure the passing of the hours only by observing Caspian's actions. As a matter of fact, he could only really do anything by observing Caspian. His very existence seemed to have somehow gotten itself mysteriously tied to the prince. Strangely, though, this didn't trouble him. It seemed perfectly natural and logical that things should be as they were, in this strange place where he existed only as the good, honest, respectable sides of Peter Pevensie. He didn't know exactly what was going on, but he was sure that, for the time being, he wasn't really human. He was perfectly content to just observe Caspian's life, his feelings and his thoughts, without bothering about his own existence.
That was the other thing that made the situation so bizarre: he could hear Caspian's thoughts. Not directly, but he found that if he listened he could discern what was going through the prince's mind. And whenever Caspian thought about him, this vague murmur became a loud, perfectly clear broadcast.
He stood and watched as Caspian went through hours of fencing, riding and archery training. Then, after a brief break for luncheon, he went off into a small study of sorts off the east wing of the castle for his afternoon lessons with Doctor Cornelius. These were very dull to Caspian, and, consequently, to Peter. So when the Doctor let Caspian out for a rare hour of free time before dinner, it was a great relief to both of them.
Stretching himself out in the shade of a great oak tree in the grounds, young Caspian's thoughts turned, to Peter's surprise, to Old Narnia. He quickly noticed himself appearing in these beautiful, surprisingly accurate fantasies the prince amused himself with. In Caspian's mind, Peter was a resplendent figure: courageous, pure-hearted and wise. Peter felt a warm glow rising in his chest. This sweet, intelligent child saw him as an idol, someone to be looked up to and held in awe. He wondered briefly how he could ever have found such a person annoying and difficult.
They all get on so well, Caspian thought, the scene of the Pevensies' coronation springing to his mind. I wish I had a family like that.
"Oh, but you do!" butted in Peter, temporarily forgetting that Caspian couldn't hear him. "You are one of us, if you'd like to be."
Caspian's eyes lit up, and with a jolt Peter heard his own words echoed in the other boy's mind. Suddenly, everything made sense to him. Caspian could hear him! He may not know he was there, but he could hear him in his thoughts. Peter wasn't just there to get to know him better – he was there to help, to teach. Like a guardian angel.
Peter wasn't an angel, of course. But he could be a guardian. And maybe, that could make a difference to the lonely, neglected little boy beside him.
"Come on," he said eagerly, willing Caspian to hear him again. "Let's say we're on a hunting party. All five of us. You're riding between me and Susan, on a great white stallion. I'm challenging you to a race – up for it?"
And Caspian was. Grinning from ear to ear, he urged his horse on and took off across the lawn. Laughing happily, Peter followed him in a dream-world so vivid, constructed by their combined thoughts and memories, that reality seemed scarcely to matter any more.