The Blossoms

Caspian finds the younger – But ancient, he reminds himself – king reclining on the grass of the riverbank, holding a book in his hands.

"What is that?" he asks as he sits, gesturing to the book. Up close, he can see just how battered the book is – the gold lettering on the cover and spine has peeled off nearly all the way, and the back cover is barely hanging on to the rest of the book.

Edmund makes a face as he snaps it shut and shoves it to the side. "An old Telmarine school book," he replies.

"Ah, yes," Caspian says, suddenly feeling awkward and rather like a small child. "I remember those."

"So you recall, then, what it says about Narnians being a lawless, ignorant people who didn't know what to do with the land, and resorted to despicable warfare tactics when confronted with a benevolent power who attempted to teach them the right ways?"

"I – yes?"

Edmund grins at the other boy's obvious discomfort. "Don't worry, I'm only joking, of course," he says, and Caspian can't help but let out a sigh of relief. "I never put too much stock in text books, at any rate – and I certainly don't hold this one against you."

"Would you tell me what it was like, then? In Narnia, I mean, during your time – in the Golden Age." It's a question he's been itching to ask since the kings and queens of old first made their appearance, and Caspian frowns to himself. "How can I expect to be a just ruler of this land when I've been taught all the wrong things about it?"

Edmund eyes him thoughtfully, and it takes him a moment to respond. "Well, if you were to ask Peter that question, he'd tell you all about how to approach the giants to the north to propose entente, why good relations with Archenland are imperative in order to secure control of the mountains that would impede a Calormene invasion, and how to keep peace between different species within one battalion. If you were to ask Susan, on the other hand, she'd never stop with advice on courtly protocol, and the like – why you should bear these gifts when visiting the Lone Islands, how to address people in the Seven Isles. And if you were to ask Lucy, she'd have wonderful stories to tell about midnight dances and feasts, and what to expect when you come across Bacchus."

"It seems I have a lot to learn," Caspian says.

"Oh, you do," Edmund agrees, "but you've got all the time in the world to figure it all out – with Narnians, you never stop learning something new each day."

Caspian sits for a moment, digesting everything he's just been told. Beside him, Edmund idly flips through the old Telmarine book, content in the silence. "Wait," Caspian says finally, at which Edmund raises a questioning eyebrow, "you told me what your siblings would say if I asked them about Narnia – but you never gave an answer of your own."

"Oh, well that's easy," Edmund says. "Close your eyes," he commands, but Caspian just stares as the other boy shuts his own. Grimacing, Edmund opens one eye and manages to level a glare that's somehow both amused and stern at his companion. "I'm not pulling your leg or anything, you know," he says.

"It's just that Lucy said the exact same thing a few days ago, right before she shoved me into the river," Caspian explains.

"Yes, well, Lucy's nine, so that explains that. I'm not – now close your eyes."

"What do you hear?" Edmund asks after a long moment, and after Caspian's body has begun to fall limp with the laziness of the heat.

"I hear silence," Caspian answers immediately.

"Not quite - try again."

Caspian frowns as he concentrates. "I hear…the wind as it rustles the blossoms, and the river rushing past."

"Good. And beyond that? What do you hear?"

Nothing is on the edge of his tongue, but Caspian pauses and tilts his head. Because it's not quite nothing that he hears, he realizes – straining, he makes out the joyful shouts of the Narnians back at the camp as they partake of some new form of revelry. And he smiles, because for a people that's been either oppressed or forced into hiding for countless centuries, they certainly remember how to throw a proper celebration. Suddenly, someone blows a horn, and Caspian shivers with the pureness of the sound, and the way it pierces the air all around them. He opens his eyes to find Edmund grinning at him, and the other boy answers his question, even as Caspian's opening his mouth to speak.

"There's all you need to know - the sounds of a free Narnia."