Author's Notes: Just a short vignette inspired by the deleted balcony scene between Miraz and Prunaprismia. I liked the idea of Prunaprismia's naivete regarding the relationship between Caspian and Miraz, so I decided to explore it a little bit further.
The door to Miraz' private sitting room creaked open. Caspian stepped inside, his stiff posture betraying his awkwardness. "Uncle," he said, inclining his head politely. "Aunt."
"Good morning, Caspian." Prunaprismia smiled warmly from her seat at the lavishly spread breakfast table. It was seldom that the family dined together; today's meeting had been Prunaprismia's initiative. She thought it would be pleasant to break the news of the new addition to the family in a comfortable, companionable setting, though Miraz had been all for simply leaving it for Caspian to find out through court gossip. Prunaprismia had never really understood her husband's attitude to his nephew. The boy usually kept to himself unless issued with an invitation, and he seldom caused any serious trouble about the court. Prunaprismia was rather fond of him. Miraz, however, seemed to harbour a scarcely-veiled dislike for his only surviving relative, as though he was an irksome duty to be tolerated with only a bare minimum of engagement and good will. Prunaprismia thought it rather unseemly, but she knew better than to press her husband on the issue.
"Sit down," Miraz said, gesturing to an empty seat. Caspian obeyed, smiling uncomfortably and fidgeting with his hands in his lap. "Thank you for joining us. Will you eat?"
Caspian silently accepted his uncle's offering of cold roast venison, prodding it with his knife and making, Prunaprismia thought, a valiant effort to appear appetised. Feeling inexplicably uneasy and thinking that perhaps this family bonding time had not been such an excellent idea after all, she cleared her throat. "Caspian, your uncle and I have some exciting news."
Miraz sliced into an apple and handed it absent-mindedly to Caspian, who set it down wordlessly beside his plate. "Your aunt," he said slowly, "is pregnant. You will have a cousin and, fortune providing, an heir this coming spring."
Turning to smile at her nephew, Prunaprismia was astonished to see a brief flicker of alarm in the boy's eyes. It vanished so fast that she almost doubted it had happened at all, and he hitched a smile onto his face. "Congratulations, aunt," he said cheerfully.
And that was that.
An awkward silence ensued, broken only by the careless scrapes of Caspian's knife against his plate as he proceeded to mutilate his breakfast without eating any of it. Shifting uncomfortably in her seat, Prunaprismia decided a change of subject was in order. Perhaps Caspian would need time to process the information before he could be duly excited. After all, they had been trying for so long with no success. It must have come as a great surprise that she had finally managed to conceive.
"How are your lessons going?" she asked pleasantly, concealing her unease masterfully.
"Very well, thank you." Another pause. The knife clinked gently against the china. "The Professor says that my Rhetoric is very good…but, er, my Arithmetic is woeful."
Miraz cleared his throat. "Well, we can't have that," he said sternly. "What good is a King who gets all his sums wrong? You will have to work much harder."
Caspian nodded. "My apologies, uncle." He fidgeted anxiously, looking as unhappy as if he had been dragged into the room by force to be cross-questioned about some crime or other. Prunaprismia coughed delicately, feeling a little sorry for him, and a little bewildered at the blatant sense of awkwardness pervading what had been intended as a simple family breakfast, and a little annoyed that said family breakfast was unfolding so miserably.
"Aren't you excited, Caspian?" she asked, reaching across the table and patting his hand nervously. His head shot up like a startled deer, and a smile spread quickly across his face.
"Oh, terribly, aunt," he said. "I must apologise…the news took me by surprise. Of course I am happy for you." He glanced at Miraz. "What is the child to be called?"
Prunaprismia noticed a strange smile pass across her husband's face. It was almost…threatening. "How would you feel about a Caspian the Eleventh?"
The present Caspian's smile vanished in a trice. "As you wish, uncle." He looked back down at his plate.
"Come now boy, I was jesting." Miraz gave Caspian a cheerful slap on the shoulder, although it looked to Prunaprismia a little too forceful to be a strictly fatherly gesture. Caspian's fist clenched around the handle of his knife, but he smiled once more and stabbed vaguely at a piece of his now shredded venison.
Miraz' expression changed to one of annoyance. "For heaven's sakes, stop playing with your food!"
Prunaprismia's eyes widened in surprise. She cast around for something to say to diffuse the situation, but it was too late. Caspian's knife hit the bottom of his bowl so forcefully that tiny shards of porcelain sprayed up and scattered across the table. "I am sorry," he snarled, sounding anything but. "Fortune providing, your own son's manners will be better."
Miraz' cheeks reddened. Prunaprismia, by now quite flabbergasted, could do nothing but sit and watch the tension reach its peak.
"I should hope so indeed!" snapped Miraz, raising his fork and pointing it at Caspian like a weapon. "You are sulky and defiant. After all I've done for you, you still refuse to even try and better yourself."
"Uncle!" Caspian's knuckles were white; the point of his knife seemed to be drilling a hole on the bottom of his dish. He took a deep, steadying breath, and forced his hand to relax. The knife clattered into the bowl as he released it.
"I apologise," he said quietly, after a heavy pause. "I am not myself today. Perhaps, if I might be excused, a little fresh air would do me good."
Prunaprisimia blinked rapidly. Her mind felt slightly numb from surprise and confusion. "Of course, Caspian," she said, her tone determinedly pleasant.
"It was good of you to have me." Without another word he rose, bowed stiffly, and hurried from the room.
The silence hung like a beacon in his wake. After several long, uncomfortable moments, Prunaprismia hazarded a glance at her husband. He was gnawing pensively on a chunk of bread, all traces of his temper gone completely. Prunaprismia reached out cautiously to stroke his hand, and he smiled at her encouragingly.
"What…what was that about?" she asked, keeping her voice carefully even. Miraz shrugged.
"I cannot imagine," he said around a mouthful of bread. "Perhaps the poor lad is unwell. If it would ease your mind, my dear, I will call him to my study at the end of the day and, if he is still out of sorts, the physician will be sent for."
Prunaprismia nodded uncertainly. "But I-"
"Enough." Miraz' expression remained perfectly calm, but his tone brooked no argument. "Are you still hungry, my dear? Here, sample one of the honey cakes."
Smiling feebly, still feeling thoroughly shaken, Prunaprismia complied. Miraz smiled gently and returned his full attention to his meal.