Caspian X, King of Narnia, was bored. He had spent the last month hammering out an agreement between the Humans who lives in the town of Beruna and the River god. The Humans wanted to rebuild the bridge so they could cross the river easily (the idea of actually walking through a river inhabited by a god did not, oddly enough, appeal to them), while the River god utterly refused to subject himself to such an indignity.
"Aslan freed me from my chains," he said. "I will not voluntarily go back to slavery."
Finally, Caspian found a dwarf who was fairly comfortable on the water and persuaded him to act as ferryman (or ferry-dwarf, rather) so the Humans could cross without getting wet. The River god agreed that a boat was acceptable, and the Humans, though reluctant, saw that they had no other real option, and agreed.
Then Caspian had to work out a system of payment, since Briekan (the dwarf) would not work for Humans for free, and many of Beruna's inhabitants were quite poor … in the end, Caspian agreed to pay Briekan a monthly sum from the King's Own Treasury, and matters were settled accordingly.
"I know all this is important," Caspian said to Dr. Cornelius, his old tutor and current mentor and counsellor. "But it's dreadfully dull. And it seems like all I've been doing for a year is settling differences between Old Narnians and New. When the Telmarines agreed to stay, I didn't think they would be so contentious about everything."
"It is not just the Telmarines, my dear king," Dr. Cornelius advised. "Many of the Old Narnians see this as their chance to take revenge for years of abuse by the Telmarines."
Caspian sighed. "You'd think that Aslan's blessing on us all, at my coronation ceremony, would have been enough to bring everyone together."
The wise old half-dwarf smiled. "Things are rarely that simple, my lord king."
"I know," Caspian admitted. "I just wish, if it had to be so complicated, that it could be more interesting as well."
"Fighting Miraz was interesting enough, but you would not want to endure that again, would you?"
"No." Caspian looked almost wistful, though, at the mention of that time. "At least we had the Kings and Queens of old here then," he couldn't help but add. "I don't think anyone would argue with King Peter the way Briekan did with me."
Dr. Cornelius regarded his king—who was, after all, still a rather young boy, for all that he was a battle-hardened warrior and Aslan's chosen King—and made a decision.
"What you need, Sire," he said firmly, "is a holiday."
Caspian looked confused. "Christmas isn't for another six months," he said.
The good doctor looked impatient. "Not that kind of holiday, a personal holiday! A chance for you to take a break from affairs of state and just be a boy again."
It sounded marvellous to Caspian, but he still hesitated. "May I? Do you think Aslan would approve? I mean—it seems rather irresponsible. There is still so much work to be done, after all."
"My dear boy—" occasionally the doctor forgot he was speaking to the king of Narnia and addressed him as a fond tutor to his prize pupil again— "Narnia will not fall apart if you are absent for a few days. Trumpkin, Trufflehunter and I can see to things very well while you are gone."
Caspian's eyes began to sparkle. "Really? Do you really think I should?"
"Yes," Dr. Cornelius said firmly.
"Then I shall leave directly!" Caspian grinned boyishly. "I know just what I want to do, too. Do you realize, Doctor, that I've never even seen all of my kingdom? I've never been further east than Beruna, and I've yet to see Lantern Waste or the Western Wilds, and I hear there are giants on our northern border …"
"If you plan a tour of the kingdom, Sire, you might need longer than a few days," Dr. Cornelius advised. "And you might want to make it a state affair."
Caspian waved a hand airily. "Not a real tour, Doctor. I'll get to that someday. Right now I just want to visit one place."
"And where is that?"
"That," Caspian said mysteriously, "Is my secret."
It wasn't quite as simple as that, of course. The King of Narnia could not simply vanish for even one day, much less several, without telling anyone where he was going. Nor could he go completely alone—there were still some Narnians, both Old and New, who might be all too happy to see the king disappear for good, even to the point of taking an active hand in the matter. Though Caspian protested having a guard accompany him, Trumpkin and Dr. Cornelius eventually convinced him to take at least one or two others with him, and to leave instructions as to where he could be found, should an emergency occur and they need him back at the castle.
"You can leave it in a sealed envelope, if you like," Trumpkin said with good-natured impatience. He couldn't understand the boyish whim to have a real secret escapade, but his love for the king was strong enough for him to indulge what he could not comprehend. "We will promise to only open it if something dire happens, or you don't return when you are supposed to."
Caspian knew the dwarf was laughing at him—just a little—but he didn't particularly care. He had never been allowed to do anything reckless, not as prince nor as king. This was his chance to have a grand adventure (one that did not involve battles and armies and killing things) and he wasn't going to let anything spoil it.
"I'll do that, thanks," he said, scribbling busily away on a piece of parchment. He folded it and sealed it with his signet ring and a dollop of wax, and handed it to Dr. Cornelius. "There. Only to be opened under extreme circumstances."
The doctor tucked it away into his robes. "What about guards, my lord?"
"I've thought about that," Caspian said with satisfaction. "I thought to take a couple of the Talking Dogs—Bright Eyes and her pup, oh what's-his-name."
Trumpkin snorted deeply and loudly. "If you mean young Snippet, he'll be more trouble than he's worth, Sire."
"Snippet!" Caspian said. "That's the one. Yes, I know he's untrained and—er—excitable, but Bright Eyes wants him to learn from experience, so I thought this would be a good chance."
"Whom else?" Dr. Cornelius said, seeing that Trumpkin still looked doubtful.
"Drinian of the Eastern Shore."
"Trees and Trinkets! If he is of the Eastern Shore, how is he going to do us any good here?" demanded Trumpkin.
"He's here now," Caspian explained patiently. "He and his brothers and sister left the Eastern Shore to accept Aslan's offer to stay in Narnia, and Drinian and his sister stayed here."
"Oh, right," Trumpkin nodded. "He's that dark fellow who's always in the library studying ancient texts. What good will a scholar do you, begging your pardon, Doctor, if you get into trouble?"
"Drinian's not a scholar by nature," Dr. Cornelius answered. "He is fascinated by ships and sailing, and is making use of the castle resources to find out everything he can about such matters."
"He won't find much helpful here," Trumpkin muttered. It was a well-known fact that the old Telmarine kings had attempted to destroy everything they could regarding the sea or the woods.
"Which is why I think he would enjoy a break," Caspian inserted neatly.
"So, two Humans and two spaniels?" Trumpkin said sceptically. "I think you ought to take a dwarf with you, just in case." What he meant, but wasn't going to say, was that Caspian's choices were about as useful as a giant in a battle of wits.
"Very well," Caspian agreed, seeing that Trumpkin was likely to become stubborn and disagreeable about this. "Whom would you recommend?"
Trumpkin really would have liked to go himself, as he did not trust anyone else to adequately guard the king, but he settled for naming a Red Dwarf who was an expert tracker and a steady, reliable soul.
"So be it," Caspian nodded. "We shall leave in the morning."
Accordingly, the sun the next morning beheld two young Men, two spaniels, and one staid old dwarf with deep red whiskers leaving the castle grounds by a small, little-used gate on the eastern side. The sight of the King of Narnia sneaking out of his own castle like a schoolboy playing truant seemed to amuse the sun, for he burst forth so brilliantly that every hair on Caspian's head shone like purest gold.
"A fair day for our trek, Sire," Drinian observed. He was a few years older than Caspian, old enough to be a bit more steady than the boy-king, and young enough to still have a zest for adventure. He and Caspian, though they had only known each other a few months, were already great friends, drawn together by a mutual love for Old Narnia. Caspian's fascination, naturally enough, lay with the old court life and doings of the kings and queens, while Drinian was drawn to the sea, but both were far more Narnian than Telmarine, and so had formed a bond of friendship.
"Oh yes, splendid," Bright Eyes agreed, nose turned to the sky, front paw pointing east. "Just smell that air!"
Her pup, Snippet, let out a loud bark in agreement.
"Hush that!" Caspian said, frowning at the hapless pup. "We don't want to advertise our departure to everyone, do we? The whole point of leaving at this time of day and in this manner was to avoid all the fuss and ceremony that would come if everyone knew we were off."
Snippet dropped his head to the ground, and Bright Eyes apologized for him. "He's really very young still," she said by way of excuse. Caspian graciously accepted the apology, and said that he hadn't meant to sound cross, and Bright Eyes said that was quite all right, Snippet made everyone cross sooner or later, and the Red Dwarf grunted.
"Are we going to stand around all day chattering about leaving, or are we going to go?" he inquired.
"Right," Caspian said, rubbing his hands together. He opened the door. "Let's be off, then."
They slipped through, unaware that Trumpkin and Dr. Cornelius were watching them from a second-floor window.
"Do you think we ought to open that parchment?" Trumpkin asked the doctor. "Just in case? It doesn't seem safe to let him head off alone like that, without us even knowing where he is heading. Maybe we should send Pattertwig after him, just to keep an eye on them all?"
Dr. Cornelius shook his head. "My dear Trumpkin, he is the king. Whether we like it or not, we must follow his wishes. Besides," the doctor's eyes twinkled knowingly, "it's fairly obvious where he is headed, isn't it?"
"Is it?" Trumpkin asked dryly.
"Think about it," Dr. Cornelius advised. "It's the only logical answer." With that, he left for the library, leaving Trumpkin grumbling into his whiskers about confounded mysteries.
The travellers had only been walking (or, in Snippet's case, running ahead and then circling back, getting under everyone's feet and making a general nuisance of himself) for about twenty minutes when Gaius, the old Red Dwarf, asked the king where they were going.
"After all, it is difficult to be your guide if I don't know where I'm to lead you."
"Yes, Sire," Drinian added, his eyes shining eagerly. "What venture is this?"
"Guess," Caspian said, looking for all the world like a six-year-old boy teasing his friends over a secret.
Gaius scowled sourly and refused to reply, but Drinian humoured his friend. "We're obviously heading East—or is that a ploy to throw us off the scent?"
"What scent?" Bright Eyes asked. She had only been half-listening to their conversation and now pricked her ears worriedly. "Are we following a scent? I didn't know—what are we tracking? Is Snippet muddying the trail? Is this a Hunt? Are there birds we're after?"
"Peace, Madam," Drinian said courteously. "It was merely an expression. I do not believe the king means for you to follow any scent at the moment."
"No indeed," Caspian confirmed. "Or rather, I wish you to be free to pursue any scent you find that interests you, and that you might think would be useful in Snippet's training."
Reassured, Bright Eyes ignored them again, and Caspian finally relented.
"We are going East, Drinian. In fact, we are going as far east as one can go in Narnia."
"The sea?" Drinian asked, his eyes shining.
"Not just the sea," Caspian said, a light kindling in his own eyes. "We are going to visit the ruins of Cair Paravel."
Author's Note: I have been intrigued by the idea of Caspian's restoration of Narnia for a while now. At the end of Prince Caspian the land is still quite Telmarine in nature, but by The Voyage of the Dawn Treader and especially The Silver Chair things seem to be more "Narnian." How did it happen? What did Caspian do to bring reconciliation between the Old Narnians and the Telmarine Humans who stayed? While pondering these questions, my eye was caught by one line in Dawn Treader, when Drinian informs Lucy and Edmund that the ship set out from Cair Paravel. So obviously at some point in the three years between Miraz's defeat and the quest, Caspian rebuilt Cair Paravel and moved his court there. Why? How did it happen? When did it happen?
This story is my attempt to answer those questions.