Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.
The battle was over, and Narnia was free from the rule of the Telmarines. King Miraz was dead, killed by his own subject. Prince Caspian was now to become king of Narnia. Prince Caspian, the greatest contradiction in Narnian history – the Telmarine prince who saved Narnia – and now, he was expected to lead these new people.
The Telmarine prince paced the halls of the castle, which was now, finally, under his control. Instead of looking about at the grandeur, Caspian's dark hair fell low over his eyes as he watched the ground. He wandered into his old Professor's old study. Books were scattered about, open to sketches of the kings and queens of old. Caspian stopped and stared at one of the open books. He ran his fingers along the images of Queen Lucy, the Valiant, of King Edmund, the Just, of beautiful Queen Susan, the Gentle, and of the High King Peter, the Magnificent.
The Magnificent…despite the mistakes he had made, King Peter was magnificent. Caspian remembered the stories his Professor had told him as he grew up. The kings and queens of old were wonderful. It had been a Golden Age, led by the High King.
It was Peter, the High King, who had truly freed Narnia, was it not? After all, Peter had been the one to fight King Miraz, not Caspian. It was Peter who agreed to allow Lucy to go in search of Aslan, which led to their victory.
Caspian had not really done anything. He put a hand over his eyes. He was a fool to believe he could be king. He was nothing compared to King Peter.
Caspian looked up and pushed his hair from his eyes, feeling silly for being watched. He was especially surprised, however, to see the young man sitting at a nearby window. "High King Peter." Caspian bowed his head. "I apologize – I did not realize you were here."
King Peter got to his feet and approached Caspian. He stepped up next to the desk alongside Caspian, his eyes gazing intently into him before turning downwards to look at the open book.
"You know, we are here. You could look at us instead." Peter looked back up at Caspian with a smile. The prince did not return it; his eyes fell back down to the book. He carefully turned a page to an image of a faun by a lamppost.
"That is the faun who found the first Daughter of Eve, Queen Lucy."
"Mr. Tumnus," Peter said under his breath.
Caspian glanced sideways at the High King. "Tumnus?"
Peter nodded with a sad smile. "He risked everything for Lucy. Even his life. She misses him. She doesn't say it, but I can tell." Caspian said nothing. "Remember Aslan's How? I caught her staring at the painting of Mr. Tumnus on the wall many times. They have a…a special connection, even hundreds of years apart. It's beyond friendship." Peter's eyes raised up to meet the dark eyes of the Telmarine prince.
"It's strange, knowing the stories of the kings of old," Caspian said hesitantly. "And here you are, standing in front of me, in a young body but with a lifetime of memories."
Caspian turned another page of the book. A young Peter, much like the one standing before him, was fighting the White Witch. "I can't believe you faced her on your own. Where did you find the courage?"
Peter's eyes darkened as he gazed at the image, and Caspian knew he had brought on a bad memory. "She stabbed Edmund."
"Edmund faced her first?" Caspian questioned.
Peter slowly nodded. "He broke her wand. That was his goal. Without it, she couldn't turn people into stone anymore. He nearly died to save others from a dreadful fate."
Caspian looked at the White Witch and wondered if, in the same situation, he would have found the courage to face death to try and save others, as had Edmund and Peter.
"You are a Great King, your Majesty. Narnia is blessed to have you back."
Again, Peter's gaze darkened. Caspian was tempted to ask why, but something held him back. Peter instead broke the silence by saying, "You will be a great king too, Caspian."
When Peter met Caspian's eyes again, the prince quickly dropped his gaze. He felt a slight flush creep into his cheeks. A rough hand touched his chin and raised it up to look Peter in the face.
"What's wrong? Something is bothering you."
"Why do you think that?" Caspian asked, attempting to sound casual. He swallowed nervously as Peter's intense gaze seemed to reach inside of him for the truth. Caspian looked away and at the book again, but the image of Peter almost seemed to stare right back at him. Another hand touched his face, and Caspian recoiled rather than look into Peter's eyes again. Caspian could feel Peter's eyes watching him.
"Why are you afraid?"
Caspian stepped away from King Peter and to the window at which Peter formerly sat. "I'm not ready to be king."
"Aslan has faith in you. As do I."
Caspian met Peter's eyes for a brief moment before turning back to the window and feeling the smooth glass beneath his fingers. "You saved Narnia. Not me."
"What are you talking about?"
Caspian felt Peter's presence close behind him. "You fought King Miraz. I didn't even face my own uncle. I should have asked to give the challenged myself, not suggested it for you. I should have fought him. I should have risked my life for Narnia."
Peter was silent for a moment, and Caspian held his breath as he awaited a response. The prince exhaled sharply as he felt a hand on his shoulder. "You did. You brought the Narnians back together and prepared them. You fought alongside them."
Caspian trembled slightly as he answered, "As did you. I did nothing compared to you. I am nothing compared to you."
"You don't mean that." A hand now rested on his waist. Caspian was finding it difficult to concentrate. What must High King Peter think of him now, trembling beneath the touch that was meant as comfort?
"You freed Narnia from the White Witch. You led Narnia through a Golden Age. You have a lifetime of knowledge. King Miraz was not even your fight. It should have been me."
"Your uncle was a great swordfighter. You have little experience. You may not have made it."
"You nearly didn't survive. You could have died in my place," said Caspian, angry tears filling his eyes.
"And you think you had a chance against him?" Peter's voice was harsher now, and his touch left a strange burning sensation on Caspian's body as his hands left him. "If I nearly died, with a lifetime of experience behind me, then how do you think you would have done?"
"It was my burden, not yours."
"I took on the burden for you. I was willing to die out there, if necessary."
"Why risk your life for mine? You are King Peter, the Magnificent. I'm just a Telmarine invader."
Strong hands grasped Caspian's shoulders and spun him around. He flinched as his back was forced against the sharp corner of a bookshelf. He had trouble focusing on Peter's face.
"Why did Mr. Tumnus face death to keep Lucy safe? Why did Edmund face the White Witch? Why did Aslan die on the Stone Table?" Caspian shook his head ever so slightly. "Love, Prince Caspian. They did it for love. Just as I did."
Peter let go of Caspian and turned away. "I did it for Narnia. For Aslan." Peter began flipping through the old book on the desk. Caspian watched him with wide eyes, his heart pounding louder in his chest. "For Edmund. For Susan," Peter said. He smiled at the image of Mr. Tumnus. "For Lucy." Caspian flushed as Peter caught his gaze. "For you, Prince Caspian. I took on your fight to keep you safe."
Caspian tried to look away, but Peter's eyes held such authority and power that they kept Caspian's captive as he approached him once again. "I did it for you."
And suddenly Caspian was in Peter's arms, and silent tears were falling down Caspian's cheeks. Peter held Caspian close to him as they knelt on the ground of the study due to Caspian's weakening body. "I do not deserve to be king. You do, Peter. Take your rightful place as Narnia's king."
"I can't." Peter's hot breath brushed over Caspian's ear.
"Narnia is your kingdom," Caspian insisted. "Not mine."
"It is yours now. I didn't want to be a king when I came to Narnia. I didn't want to be a hero. I didn't think I could do it. But I did." Peter lifted Caspian's face to look into his eyes. Caspian's eyes fluttered, blinking tears away. "You will be a great king, Caspian." Peter's thumb brushed away a tear. "Do not be afraid. You will not be alone. Those who love us never leave us. Not completely."
"Like with Mr. Tumnus and Lucy?" Caspian asked.
Peter smiled softly. "Like with Mr. Tumnus and Lucy," he repeated. "Love transcends time. It even transcends death. Aslan died and rose again, defeated death, because of his love for us. Aslan will always be with you. And we will be with you."
Caspian closed his eyes as Peter cupped the back of his head and pulled him close. Their lips touched - their kiss was slow and gentle, filled with a deep love that bound the king of old and the new king of Narnia. Peter pulled away after a few moments, and Caspian opened his eyes to look at him. The king's cheeks were darkening, and Caspian was quite sure his own face was reddening as well.
"I will always be with you, dear Caspian."
"You and your siblings will help me lead Narnia. You are still a king, Peter."
Peter's gaze fell, and Caspian's stomach turned as he wondered what was wrong with the High King. "You had best prepare for the coronation." Peter got to his feet and offered Caspian a hand. Caspian wrapped his arms around Peter and held him close. "Thank you, King Peter. Thank you for everything you have done – for Narnia, and for me."
Peter smiled into Caspian's hair. "No problem."
Caspian guided Peter's mouth back to his, gently kissing him once more. The two parted as they heard someone skittering down the nearby hall. Reepicheep entered the study, bowing low with his nose almost touching the ground when he saw the king and the prince.
"Sires, the coronation is almost ready to begin, and we are missing our new king!"
Caspian smiled as he followed Reepicheep out of the study.
As King Caspian rose from one knee, newly crowned ruler of Narnia, he looked out at everyone in the great hall with a smile. But his eyes focused on High King Peter, and Caspian's smile faded as he wondered why Peter been so insistent that he would no longer rule Narnia, and why he spoke as though they would not be together much longer.
"We'll go." King Peter stepped forward. "Come on. Time's up," he said to his younger brother and sisters. He turned to Caspian and approached him, his eyes staring intensely into Caspian's as he pull out his sword. "After all, we're not really needed here anymore." Peter held out his sword to the new King of Narnia.
Caspian grasped the sword and gazed deeply into Peter's eyes. "I will look after it until you return."
Queen Susan spoke up from behind Peter. "I'm afraid that's just it. We're not coming back."
The Kings and Queens of Old left Narnia. Peter and Susan were gone, never to come back. Caspian watched Peter disappear and felt as though a piece of him left along with him, the man who had risked his life for Narnia, for Aslan – and for Caspian.