A.N.: I always thought that it must have been a real trip into legend for Caspian, knowing the kings and queens of old. Mostly because we heard from him and the doctor that he loved those legends. So why was he so dismissive of Edmund, in the beginning? And why, towards the end, did he look only to him for reassurance, both during the battle and in front of Aslan? Here's what Caspian saw in the Pevensies, and what changed his perspective.
Disclaimer: Narnia isn't mine... alas!
I think I had forgotten that Edmund was a King, too. I think we all forgot, with the exception of Queen Lucy and Trumpkin, who had been the first to feel his hidden strength. I was a fool, and disrespectful. I still marvel at the fact that he didn't punch me for my clear neglect of his position. His and his sisters'. If I had been him, I probably would have. To my defence, it must be noted that he wasn't trying very hard to be noticed. Only later he told me that he was giving his brother space and that two stubborn boys who were playing to be kings were more than enough already. Queen Lucy nodded gravely. I felt very small at that moment. King Peter, too.
The first time I really saw him as King Edmund, as the great man from my stories and not the pale boy who didn't leave his little sister's side, was when he shattered the ice. He was in front of us, his back straight, his face severe, his eyes flashing, the sword held strongly above his head. He was truly Narnia and Aslan's King, in that moment. More than his upset older brother, certainly more than me. I must admit that I felt fear. Fear of those dark, inscrutable eyes, that seemed to be able to see the deepest abyss of my soul. He knew what it meant to be seduced by that smooth voice, enchanted by those pale lips. He had been the traitor. He had fought her once already and he had won. The stories say he had the scars to show for it. Literally. I saw disappointment in those eyes. Not only for his brother, who knew, but for me, too. Then I understood: he hadn't been trying to distance himself from the whole situation, leaving King Peter to face it; he had been working on the sidelines, for me, to put me on that throne, that he thought was justly mine. The Just King knew the Golden Age was over, that it was time for a new King of Narnia. A different king for a different Narnia. That was why he had been silent, he was waiting for me to take control. I've never felt such shame as in that moment.
Maybe that's why, when the troops arrived, I had the idea. King Peter was arguing with Trumpkin. He had finally been convinced by King Edmund and Queen Lucy that our only chance was for the young Queen to find Aslan. The Dwarf tried to convince them to let him go with her. I must admit I secretly agreed with him. Lucy refused, though, she would go with Susan. When I looked at Edmund, I expected him to have the same anxious eyes as his older siblings. He was perfectly calm, instead; he trusted Lucy and Aslan completely. That's when I decided that I wanted to be like him. He was a strategist, I knew, so I would finally illustrate my tactic, hoping he would approve my initiative. I felt the peculiar need to be accepted by the silent king.
"If I may… Miraz may be a tyrant and a murderer, but as king he is subject to the traditions and expectations of his people. There is one in particular that may buy us some time." I said, tentatively.
Peter looked intrigued, Edmund frowned. Both nodded for me to go on. I had to say only two words to see their reactions:
"Duel challenge." It seemed the right thing to do. If I wanted the throne, I had to face my uncle sooner or later. Peter looked at me approvingly, although a bit surprised. Then he turned to look at his siblings. Susan looked confused, Lucy was anxious, but Edmund was petrified. Petrified and murderous. I felt my heart drop. Was my idea so stupid, that he had to look at me like that? Then I noticed he wasn't looking at me, but at the High King, and I understood.
"No!" I exclaimed immediately. "I didn't mean for you to fight against my uncle! I meant to be the one to challenge him!"
But it wasn't Peter the one to answer me. It was Lucy.
"Don't be dense, Caspian!" She said tersely. "We can't risk for you to die. You won't fight Miraz."
"And neither will you!" Edmund said forcefully to his brother. Peter sighed and dropped his gaze.
"Don't you 'Ed' me, Peter Pevensie!" He hissed, furious. He continued in a calmer voice, forcefully controlled. "I won't let you fight in this duel. As we cannot risk the future King, we cannot risk the head of the army. Plus, I've always been the better swordsman of the two of us. I will fight Miraz."
Queen Susan gasped, her sister looked proud, the Narnians admiring of the strength of the Just. I was stunned, to be honest. I didn't expect him to go so strongly against his brother's wishes. When I looked at Peter, though, I knew that Edmund wouldn't win this fight.
"You're right, Edmund." He said seriously, "We cannot risk the head of the army. But I am not the strategist here – you are. I won't make the same error twice and disregard it, disrespecting you. I want you to plan this battle, Edmund, and I want you to play Miraz, in order for him to be forced to accept my challenge. You have always been the clever one in this family."
"Hey!" Exclaimed Lucy and Susan. I could see it was exactly what Peter had planned and it had the desired effect: Edmund smiled at his sisters' indignation.
"Please, Edmund. I need your support once again. I need to do this." He added in a low voice. His brother sighed and nodded slowly.
"Fine. So be it." He said, "But I want to be your second."
Peter smiled and fell on his knees in front of him, taking his hands in his own.
"I wouldn't want it to be anyone else. I trust only you with my life, in battle." He said ardently. Edmund lowered his head to hide his shining eyes, then kissed his brother gently on the brow.
"That's the King's blessing." I heard Reepicheep whisper next to me. "They say he rarely showed his feelings openly, in front of his people. We are very lucky to be witnesses of this moment." His voice was awed and I could clearly understand why. It was an amazing moment. For the first time in my life, I wished I had a brother…
The following hour was a bit of a frenzy. King Edmund and Queen Lucy isolated themselves in the Table Chamber, to prepare the battle plan, I was sure. I'm ready to bet that, in the past, Queen Lucy didn't miss a battle. She is called 'the Valiant', after all. Queen Susan, beautiful even when worried, was memorizing the paths of the forest, with the help of a faun and one of the mice. The centaurs, though, had something else in mind for High King Peter and me. They probably thought we needed to socialize, so they led us to another chamber. There we found something that made the High King gasp.
"How is this possible?" He asked Glenstorm in a whisper, clearly amazed.
"We found Your Majesties' armours at the Cair, when we went to fetch your battle gear for the raid. These weren't appropriate for a night incursion, though, too noisy and heavy for the griffins. So we made them ready for this battle." Glenstorm sounded proud of himself, and a rare smile was on his stern face.
Peter neared the table, where three armours were neatly assembled. He touched reverently each of them, as if reacquainting himself with long lost friends. When he arrived to the clearly feminine gear, though, he laughed out loud.
"This is actually Lucy's, you know, only the cuirass Susan is wearing is hers. She actually wanted a male uniform, but Susan threatened to lock her in one of the towers if she dared to wear one! I don't think she will mind lending it to our sister. After all, she is too young to fight, once again. It is all very confusing, don't you think?" He asked me, a smile on his lips. I think it was the first, real smile he gave me. I couldn't help but smile, too.
"Indeed." I answered. Then I frowned slightly. "Where's Queen Susan's armour, then?"
Peter shrugged, examining the chainmail.
"She doesn't have one. She never engaged in battle when we reigned. She was the Gentle, you know, and not for her sweet temper!" He laughed lightly. "Lucy, on the other hand, was a fury in battle. Our enemies respected the Magnificent, but they feared the Just and the Valiant. They were a power to behold when they fought side to side. When she was old enough, and in Narnia it is pretty soon, she refused to be left home during our campaigns. I would have forced her to stay at the Cair, but Edmund sided with her; I think they already discussed it, before they came to me. As you can imagine, I was very surprised, and not at all happy about it. But I've never been able to win against the two of them. Today I won only because Lucy agreed with me." He had started to lightly brush the engravings on the shoulder pieces with his fingers. I noticed they were leaves.
"What kind of leaves are those?" The question was out of my mouth before I could stop it. He didn't seem to mind.
"They are oak an apple. The same as the ones on my crown."
"Do they have a meaning?" I was in awe. I felt like a child during story-time. He must have noticed, for he smiled but didn't tease me.
"Yes, they do. Oak means wisdom and strength, apple means knowledge and symbolizes Narnia's tree of protection." He explained. I nodded and gestured to the other one.
"And King Edmund's?"
"Birch leaves. Same as his crown. They mean protection, rebirth and change." His voice was slightly thick with emotion. It was clearly a bittersweet memory, so I tried to change the topic.
"I noticed daffodils on Queen Susan's armguard and cuirass. Were they on her crown, too?" He nodded.
"She wore a wreath of mountain ash leaves and daffodils. The flowers are a symbol of spring and the mountain ash wood is used to make bows."
"Fascinating…" Despite my studies, I had still so much to learn about these kings and queens.
"I imagine you want to know about Lucy's crown, too?" He asked smiling. I nodded eagerly. "It was a wreath of laurel leaves and flowers, very delicate, with small yarrow flowers. Yarrow is a symbol of healing, courage and love. Quite appropriate, if you ask me."
"Indeed." I answered. We went back to checking the armours. They were both impressive, but I noticed something else. "Why are your and King Edmund's armours so different?" Glenstorm approached the table, to see what I was talking about. Peter nodded and touched each part, explaining the differences and their reasons.
"I prefer to fight with a shield, in a more traditional style. I favour power over agility, so my armour is heavier: more chainmail, arm and leg protections are metal, like my right glove. The right side of my neck is more protected and my elm covers my whole face. Edmund, on the other hand, is a little devil! He is fast and agile. When he fights, he's a dark blur, you'll see him. His armour is as light as possible, with many parts made of moulded, hardened leather." He touched the neck and the armguards. I observed the metallic shoulder-pieces.
"It is very symmetrical. Doesn't he use a shield?" I knew I didn't, but I fought like a Telmarine, with sword and dagger. I doubted it was King Edmund's style. Peter shook his head.
"He just needs them to be light and very mobile, for he fights like a centaur." He said, smiling at Glenstorm. I was confused.
"Like a centaur? What does that mean?"
It was the general, the one who answered.
"King Edmund fights with two swords. When he was older he even used a claymore, didn't he?"
"He seldom did. It was too heavy, so he preferred the swords. But yes, he was quite talented." Peter answered, proudly.
"He is still remembered among us as 'Sir Edmund of the How, the half-centaur King'." Added Glenstorm, with an amused look to his sons.
"Really?!" Came a voice from the door. We all turned around, to see a stunned King Edmund. The wise centaur nodded and Edmund smiled, his eyes seeing something in the past. "Oreius used to call me that. He said I only missed the horse half!" He said to the centaur sire, with a small chuckle.
"It is no surprise, then, that we remember it. We are Oreius' descendants, after all." He explained.
"Really?!" This time the exclamation came from both of them. The centaurs laughed.
"So you're practically the direct descendants of our Royal Guard!" Added Edmund, a curious look in his dark eyes.
"The centaurs have always been part of the Royal Guard. With the big Cats, the fauns and the griffins." One of Glenstorm's sons said.
"And you will be again." I vowed impulsively.
They all looked at me, quite surprised. I only smiled. I knew it was the right thing to do. I could feel it. The centaurs bowed their heads, moved by my words.
"Is that my armour?" Came Edmund's quizzical voice, abruptly breaking the mood. I felt the urge to laugh.
When Edmund came back from Miraz' camp, he spoke to his brother for some time, then he gestured for me to follow him.
"I have something for you." He said.
During our short walk to his room, he told me about his conversation with my uncle. I don't remember the last time I laughed like that.
"Oh, King Edmund!" I exclaimed, still chuckling. "I'm afraid your ability to play with words is wasted on Miraz! He wouldn't recognise a ruse if it poked him on his big nose."
It was his turn to laugh. When we arrived in his room, he made me sit on his cot and went to the small table in the corner.
"I think your armour needs a Narnian touch, don't you?"
When he turned towards me again, he had a pair of shoulder protections in his hands. They were leather, backed with metal, and had very detailed engravings. They were amazing.
"They were mine." He went on, oblivious of my inability to speak. "They were my favourite. Lucy gave them to me for my 18th birthday. Now they're obviously too big and I don't think we will stay long enough for me to grow into them again. So I'm giving them to you. You'll wear them proudly."
"But, King Edmund!" I had found my voice. "I couldn't possibly-"
"Shut up!" He interrupted me sharply. Then he started to fix them onto my shoulders. "I'm giving them to you, and it's not simple for me. So accept them and shut it." I had to bite my lip, to keep my protests from coming out. "And call me Edmund." He added, smiling mischievously. "Unless you want me to call you Prince Caspian the X!"
"Caspian is more then enough, Edmund!" I answered frantically. He laughed. Then slapped my shoulder.
"There you go! All set!"
"Thank you." I murmured, and I hoped he knew I didn't mean only for his gift.
"You're very welcome." He said, smiling, and he kissed my brow, like he had done to his brother. I felt the tears come to my eyes. The Just King had given his blessing to me, a Telmarine. No, I was a Narnian now. "You will be a great king, Caspian. I have faith in Aslan's choice and in you." He gave me a look, then. The same look he gave me when I stood in front of the Great Lion, hours later, and that look, more then Aslan's reassurance, convinced me that I could – and I would – be a great King of Narnia.
When I restored Cair Paravel, I left the treasure room exactly how I found it. One could never know when they might need it again. I even put their weapons and armour back there, with the exception of Edmund's shoulder protections, Peter's sword, Susan's horn and Lucy's cordial. The statues, though, I brought in the throne room. And there they still are, looking over me and our beloved reign. Because once a King or Queen of Narnia, always a King or Queen.