Author's note: Hello and welcome! I hope you had a very happy Easter and are continuing to have a happy Easter season! This is the first time I've posted a Narnia fanfic with this account, and the first time I've written a long Narnia fic (well, I'm still writing it, but I will finish it, have no fear). However, I have been writing fanfiction for quite some time now and Narnia was the first fandom that I ever started reading fanfiction for, so I've been wanting to write some Narnia fics for quite some time and now I'm finally getting to it. I've got another Hardy Boys story going right now, so this story will probably only update once a week on Mondays. If I've been really exceptionally productive in a given week, I'll post a second chapter on Thursdays. So, I hope you enjoy! I think this is going to be a lot of fun!
A Better King
In the twelfth year of the reign of King Caspian X, there lived in Narnia a clever Raven named Surewing. It's a redundancy to say that any Raven is clever, since they are, in many estimations, the cleverest of all birds. Their cleverness is not like that of Owls, for Owls are wise, while Ravens are cunning. Surewing, as it happened, was one of the cleverest and most cunning of all Ravens, which meant that he was one of the cleverest and most cunning of all the Talking Beasts of Narnia.
He was also getting on in years. He had lived long before Caspian had become king and freed all the Narnians from the tyranny of the Telmarines. Or rather, of Miraz. Surewing was always careful to make the distinction. Caspian was himself a Telmarine, and so in Surewing's eyes, the Narnians were still under the tyranny of the Telmarines. He simply refused to acknowledge that the Narnians were much better off under Caspian's rule, for they now had equal rights with all the Telmarines and no longer had to live in fear and hiding.
It wasn't that Surewing couldn't see that. Even a very stupid bird would be able to see it. It was that he didn't want to see it. Before Caspian had led the Narnians against the Telmarines, Surewing had been a rather important person, in his own way. He had been well-respected and well-esteemed. Many Narnians had come to him for advice, although Surewing had usually ended up better off than whoever had come to him for help. That was because, being such a clever Raven, he knew exactly what to say to get others to do exactly what he wanted them to do and think that it was for their own good. That had all changed when Caspian had appeared on the scene. With a real king, a king who cared about them and who had the blessing of Aslan upon him, the other Beasts didn't need Surewing anymore. They were free now, no longer fettered with fear, and they could more easily see through Surewing's lies. He was practically completely forgotten now, and in his old age, that was an impossible thing to accept. But Surewing had a plan. Oh, yes. It was a perfect plan. When it succeeded—and Surewing had no doubt it would—no one would care much about having a king anymore, and once more they would be coming to Surewing with their troubles.
It was an odd picture, and everyone who saw it stopped to smile at it. King Caspian was leading his wife, Queen Lilliandil, through the hallways of Cair Paravel. There was nothing particularly odd about that in itself, but Caspian was walking backwards, holding both Lilliandil's hands in his own, while she walked with her eyes closed. Every few seconds, Caspian would warn her not to look or to watch her step, not seeming to realize that these were rather contradictory warnings. Lilliandil, however, would only smile and keep her eyes closed as she continued to walk with perfect ease and grace.
There was a reason for this odd behavior. Long ago, when the Telmarines had first invaded Narnia, they had destroyed Cair Paravel, the great castle on the Eastern Ocean, where the Kings and Queens of Old had once reigned. One of the first orders of business in Caspian's reign had been to rebuild it, but a castle isn't something that can be rebuilt overnight. Even though all the Narnians had eagerly lent their talents and skills to the project wherever they could, it had still taken years to complete the project, but now, after twelve years, it was finally completed. The last room to be completed was the throne room, because special care had to be taken with it. In the celebrations that would take place the next week, most of the Narnians would have the opportunity to see it, but Caspian wanted to make sure that Lilliandil was the first one who had not been involved in rebuilding or redecorating it to see it.
"All right, just a few seconds more," Caspian said as they reached the door to the throne room. He nodded to two Fauns, who were acting as guards, to open the doors. Then he led Lilliandil in, and the Fauns let the doors swing shut behind them so that the King and Queen were the only ones in the room. "You can open your eyes now," Caspian said.
Lilliandil did. She clasped her hands together as she looked around her with a kind of gasp, for she, who was the daughter of a star and had seen many fair and wonderful things, was overwhelmed for a moment by the beauty of the room. It certainly would have been difficult not to be impressed. There was a balcony on the eastern end of the room and several arches with huge doors opened out onto it. All the doors were wide open now, and the morning light came flooding in.
The whole room was surrounded by similar arches and they all had gold about the edges and there were a great many of them because the room was so huge. All down the length of the room were a dozen pillars on each side made of marble with gold designs at the top and gold lions emblazoned in the center of each. The floors and walls were made of marble as well, white marble for the walls and a marble that was something between gold and tan in color for the floors. At the far end, the western end, there was a dais, raised above the rest of the floor seven steps. Behind this was a magnificent stained glass window with a red rampant lion surrounded by a field of gold and white shapes. The window filled the entire wall and must have been close to twenty feet tall. In front of the window and on the dais were not two thrones as Lilliandil had expected, but rather six. Four stood a little way back, but two stood in front of them. The four in the back were nearly identical, made of marble and gold, like all the rest of the hall. The only difference among them was that they each had a design on the top of the throne where it would be visible well above the head of the person sitting in each, and the designs were different for each one. Two had the hilts of swords on them, one had a figure of a horn, and one the shape of a small bottle. The other two thrones that stood in front of them were a little less ornate and a bit shorter, but still elegant and kingly.
Lilliandil took a long time positively drinking it in. Then she whirled around to face her husband—who was grinning like a schoolboy—clasped both his hands and whirled around again.
"It's wonderful!" she said. "I'd never imagined anything indoors could be so lovely and magnificent! But the four thrones…How? Are they the four thrones?"
"Yes, at least, as much of them as we could find," Caspian said, taking her hand and leading her forward so that she could look more closely. "It wasn't easy finding them or restoring them, and I'm afraid they're not quite in their original condition. They wouldn't have had all those cracks before, but I brought in all the best masons and builders I could find, and they all assured me that this was the best that could be done."
The four thrones were, of course, the four ancient thrones where the High King Peter and Queen Susan and King Edmund and Queen Lucy had sat when they had defeated the White Witch and freed Narnia from her tyranny with the help of Aslan over a thousand years ago. They had been destroyed when the Telmarines had invaded Narnia, though probably not on purpose, for there had still been enough of them scattered about the ruins of the castle to identify and restore.
"I thought it was only right to put them back where they once sat," Caspian explained. "You know, I probably wouldn't even be alive now, let alone king, if Aslan and the Kings and Queens hadn't come to help us when we were fighting against my uncle. I want this window and the thrones to serve as a reminder of that, and I want them behind us so that they can oversee everything you and I do as King and Queen."
"It's perfect," Lilliandil said. "We will have to work hard to be worthy to sit under their shadow. Or rather, under their light. I'm glad the image of Aslan is a window so that it casts a light rather than a shadow."
Lilliandil glanced as Caspian, a little surprised by his one-word answer. His face was troubled, and she realized that he had taken his words more hardly than she had. She squeezed his hand, which was still holding, and smiled. "Perhaps I spoke wrongly. It isn't so much whether we are worthy to sit here. There isn't anything we can really do to be worthy. What really matters is that in his wisdom, Aslan has placed us here. What we must strive to do is to love him and honor him and trust him in all things, and he will look after the rest."
Caspian smiled back at her, though it was still a little more subdued than the smiles he had given her earlier. "You're right. I just can't help feeling that I haven't made good on my promise to be a better king."
"If ever you do feel that you have, then you can be sure you have not," Lilliandil said. "But come, today is a day for joy and celebration. Forget what I said for the moment. That is how you can be a good king for now."
"I'll try, then," Caspian promised her. "There's a good deal more to see, you know. I've had all the best artisans that I could find working in here, and I haven't even had time to look over their handiwork yet."
So they slowly walked the length of the hall, admiring all the tiny details and fine workmanship that made the whole room something to take one's breath away. In the end, though, they found themselves on the balcony, looking out over the Eastern Sea. It was getting to midmorning now, and that freshness of the early hours was wearing off. It was even beginning to be a little hot. But the sun was high enough now that they could look out over the water without the sun being too much in their eyes.
Birds were flying all around. There were seagulls crying in their way that is simultaneously the depth of loneliness and the height of adventure. Smaller birds were also darting about, singing or quarrelling or simply flying at breakneck speeds in from the water or back out over it. Far off and higher up, a much bigger and more dignified shape was reeling out over the water. Caspian watched it for a few moments before he realized what it was: an albatross. He never could see an albatross without recalling that time on Dark Island when, in the midst of all that fear and danger, Aslan had appeared in the form of an albatross as a guide and a beacon of light and hope.
Caspian put an arm around Lilliandil and pulled her closer to him, and she rested her head on his shoulder. They stood that way for a long time in the light and warmth and the promise of a new day. They didn't know what it was about to bring, but even if they had, in that moment, they were certain that they could meet anything without fear.