Caspian stood on the eastern shore of Narnia and breathed deeply of the clean, salty air. Behind him, Cair Paravel stood half rebuilt, scaffolding swarming with dwarfs, badgers, mice, and humans, while moles argued passionately with dryads on the ground over root encroachment into foundation stones.
"The work is proceeding well, my king," Dr. Cornelius said, stepping up beside the boy.
"What? Oh yes, yes it is," Caspian said, half distracted. He shook his head and looked back at the growing walls. "They're getting along well, all of them, aren't they?" he said fondly. "I appointed Celandine Head Housekeeper yesterday, you know, and this morning I heard her ferociously scolding Lord Azor for his work party's neglecting to build the pantries large enough."
Dr. Cornelius chuckled. "And how did the good lord take it?"
"With a grin and an apology," Caspian said. "Even three months ago, he wouldn't have borne having a Beast speak to him so, nor would Celandine have dared."
"So then, even before it is completely rebuilt, Cair Paravel is bringing us closer together," the doctor mused. "You have done well, Sire."
Caspian frowned. Before he could speak, however, he was interrupted by a glad shout. Drinian hove into view along the northern stretch of shore, his arms spread wide to display a shining new suit of mail.
"Look!" he called, his face split in an open grin. "Gaius just presented this to me!"
Caspian laughed. "What? Did he concede that you won the bet after all? That would be the outside of enough, after him forcing us to endure your cooking all the way back from here that journey."
Drinian shook his head. "No, he simply said that I had earned it."
"A high honour indeed," Dr. Cornelius said. "The dwarfs do not bestow their work on just anyone."
"They used to, though, didn't they?" Caspian asked, thinking back, as he so often did, to that encounter with Aslan in the treasure chamber (now firmly sealed over by a trusted group of builders and unknown to most of the other workers). "Did they used to work simply for the joy of it, and spread their gifts abroad?"
Dr. Cornelius seemed to sense the hidden question, and patted Caspian's shoulder. "Don't fret, my boy," he said softly. "Narnia will not always live under a cloud of suspicion and prejudice. You have made great strides already—don't give in to discouragement. Why, look you there!" He pointed, and Caspian had to smile at the sight of Reepicheep directing a group comprised of dwarfs and humans as they strained to shift a large boulder off the hill. The mouse's shrill voice echoed through the air, and even as Caspian watched one Black Dwarf muttered something (likely derogatory) to the human beside him, and they both broke into laughter.
"If they can join together enough to swear at Reep, I suppose they can overcome other boundaries too," he conceded.
"This is a great thing for Narnia," Drinian said. He tilted his head to look out over the sea. "Though I must confess that my heart yearns for the day when the castle is finished and we can begin building our fleet. I dream every night about sailing east, toward the Lion's country … truly dream, not just imagine. In my dreams, the ship is blurry, but she is green and gold and purple, and sometimes I see a dragon's head at her prow, and sometimes a white albatross, and sometimes a golden sun rises above her and I am blinded by its light."
Caspian was moved by the passion in his friend's voice. He patted Drinian's armoured shoulder. "Soon, my friend. I long for the sea, too."
Drinian ducked his head in embarrassment, unused to revealing so much of himself, and wended his way down the beach, leaving Caspian alone with his old tutor once more.
"You are still troubled, dear king," Dr. Cornelius said. "I can see it in your face. What worries you?"
"I've seen or heard nothing from Aslan since we began work on the Cair," Caspian said. "What if I'm wrong? He told me that as long as I worked from pure motives this was the right path, but what if my motives have somehow gotten muddied without me realizing it? I thought he would show up to bless our work …"
"My dear lad!" Dr. Cornelius said in surprise. "Have I taught you nothing? Don't you know that he is not a tame lion? He comes and goes at his pleasure, not ours. Surely you don't need his reassurance at every moment."
"Need? No," Caspian said. "Want? Very much indeed."
"Then I am here," spoke a rich voice from behind him, and Caspian and the doctor turned to see Aslan eclipsing their view of the Cair.
"My lord!" Dr. Cornelius gasped, sinking with some difficulty to his knees.
"Rise, my friend," Aslan said, "and leave me with our king for the moment. I will speak with the rest of you later."
Caspian had to extend a hand to help Dr. Cornelius to his feet, and the little old half-dwarf trotted off to hold off the tide of joyous creatures rushing to greet their Highest of all Kings.
Caspian bowed his head ruefully. "I am sorry for my doubts, Aslan," he said.
"Never apologize for seeking to do right," Aslan said. "Though a little applied wisdom might not come amiss at times." There was amusement in his voice, and Caspian did not feel chastised.
"Then—you are pleased, with what we are doing?"
"My son," Aslan said gravely, his heavy paw resting on Caspian's shoulder with all the weight of the kingdom behind it, "it is well."
And as they moved to welcome all those awaiting them, both Old and New Narnian, Caspian believed that it was very well, indeed.
Author's Note: And so here we are at the end--or perhaps more properly, the beginning, as this marks the start of Caspian's reign from Cair Paravel, and a long ling of kings down to Tirian who rule Narnia according to Aslan's pleasure.
I rarely bother with disclaimers anymore, because really, isn't the point of fanfiction that we who write it are not the oroginal authors? Just in case anyone was confused, though, I am not CS Lewis, nor do I gain any profit but pure enjoyment from the writing of these stories.
My thanks once more to all who read and especially those who review. I approach each trip into Narnia with trepidation, and your responses always ease my fears. And occasionally boost my ego. Which is nice too.