Author's note: Thank you to PadrePedro for your review on the previous chapter!
Caspian blinked slowly. He felt like a long time had passed, but he wasn't sure since when. He couldn't remember the last time he was awake. He saw that the sun was shining brilliantly and would have been in his eyes if they hadn't been shaded by the most lovely face in all the world. Lilliandil. He smiled softly, feeling that whatever had happened, it couldn't have been that bad.
"Caspian?" Lilliandil asked as she bent over him. "Are you all right?"
"I think so," he replied as he sat up. He winced and groaned, shutting his eyes as if that would make the soreness he felt all over go away. When he opened them again, he saw that he was lying uncomfortably close to the body of some huge beast and that there were quite a few Narnians crowding around him. Then, all at once, everything came flooding back. "It's dead?" he asked, feeling silly the moment the words were out. Of course, the Dragon was dead.
"Yes." Lilliandil helped him to his feet. "It was wonderful. I have never seen anything like it." Her eyes were shining and her face was lit with such a smile that Caspian felt this had all been worth it just for that.
Seeing their King on his feet again, the other Narnians relaxed and began crowding about him to congratulate him.
"That was something to see," Trumpkin was saying. "That should cook that Raven's eggs for him."
Caspian's mood faltered for a moment. Right, he thought. I still need to do something about the Raven.
Just then, Hammabrik and Felix came forward, bringing a distraught Raven along with them.
"Your Majesty! King Caspian!" Hammabrik shouted, feeling rather justifiably pleased with himself. "We've captured that scoundrel Surewing."
"So you have," Caspian replied, relieved at this turn of events. Finally, everything was going right. "Thank you. You've done a great thing for Narnia."
"Nothing like killing that Dragon." Hammabrik whistled in approval.
Felix nodded, but from the look on his face, he might not have shared completely shared the Dwarf's assessment of the relative values of the two deeds.
As for Surewing, he merely sulked. He had known he was going to lose, but that didn't make him any more accepting of the situation. He scoffed. "I suppose you're very pleased with this outcome, 'Your Majesty'. You think defeating a Dragon will make the Narnians forget what you really are. They won't forget. They know the truth now."
Caspian crooked a half-smile. "Yes, I suppose they do." Then he looked around at the Narnians gathered there. "By the grace of Aslan and by his aid alone," he said loudly so that everyone could hear, "we have been delivered from two great threats: the threat of treason and of this Dragon. Yet it will take time to completely undo the damage done by both. We'll start by putting out the fires that have been started immediately. River-god, you are best able to manage that. Will you see to it?"
"With great haste, Your Majesty," the River-god replied and he and his daughters hurried off to do just that.
There were many other matters that needed to be tended to, including taking care of everyone who had been wounded and making plans to rebuild any homes that had been destroyed by the Dragon. In all of this, Caspian treated everyone fairly and didn't withhold help even from those who had sided with Surewing and he did much of the work of rebuilding personally. Most of those who had sided with the Raven realized how foolish they had been, and the more honest ones came forward to ask for forgiveness while the more prideful ones slipped away into the western parts of Narnia and even if it wouldn't be true to say that they were sorry for their treachery, they at least didn't cause any more harm.
Surewing presented a difficult problem for Caspian. The Raven's deeds were, of course, deserving of death, but Caspian didn't much care for having anyone, even a traitor, killed in cold blood, especially since he didn't think it likely that the Raven could ever do any harm again. In the end, after much deliberation, Surewing was exiled with a stern warning that he would not receive such lenient treatment again if he ever returned to Narnia or if Caspian ever heard of him stirring up such trouble again.
The day Surewing was sent away, he was still unwilling to accept defeat, and he went with the dire prediction that Caspian would regret sending away the last true follower of Aslan, but nobody cared much what Surewing had to say anymore.
A few days after the fight with the Dragon, Caspian went up to the throne room in Cair Paravel and leaned on the railing to look out over the sea. He was so lost in thought that he didn't realize he wasn't alone until he saw Lilliandil standing beside him. He reached out and took her hand.
"Last time we were here, we had no idea what all was going to happen next," he observed.
Lilliandil looked about her and smiled a little sadly. "No. I hope this time ends more peacefully for us."
"You know," Caspian said, looking back out over the sea, "last time we were here, there was an albatross out there. I think if I would have remembered that, I would have been less afraid. Maybe that's silly."
"No, it isn't silly at all," Lilliandil replied. "Aslan often gives such signs to show us that all is in his paws, but we sometimes try so hard not to imagine that he is a tame Lion that we ignore it."
"It's one thing to talk about trusting Aslan, but when you really have to do it, it's a lot harder." Caspian furrowed his eyebrows. "That's the one thing about this Raven that doesn't make sense."
"Only one thing? I find little about him that makes sense."
"Well, I guess the Raven himself, I think can understand. He just wanted power, to be important. A lot of people think that all of that is something they want, but if they really got it, I don't think they'd like it as much as they imagine. It's more his followers that I don't understand. Most of them aren't evil and really were doing what they thought they needed to do to follow Aslan. How could have they gone so wrong?"
Lilliandil thought about that for a few moments. "They know now that the Raven was wrong, so it is not as if they never came to know the truth. But mayhap the reason they fell so far is because they were no so sincere in seeking Aslan as they seemed. Perhaps they wanted an Aslan who fit their own ideal of who Aslan should be and the Raven provided that. It is not uncommon for some to wish themselves to be particularly beloved by Aslan, to the exclusion of others from his love, and is that not the end result of believing oneself to be one of only a small number of Aslan's true followers? In such a case, they are not following Aslan at all, but rather their own desires. And perhaps others were honestly afraid by the Raven's image of Aslan as preferring vengeance to mercy. Such people would be more determined to avoid punishment than to follow Aslan out of love, and so they, too, would have been less sincere than they may seem."
"That could be," Caspian agreed. "Well, anyway, it's over with now. I'm glad the Dragon didn't burn Cair Paravel. I wouldn't have wanted to rebuild it again."
Lilliandil laughed. "You have yourself to thank for that."
"Hardly. I think Aslan deserves more of the credit than I do."
"That is true."
Caspian held her hand a little tighter and remembered back that day weeks ago when they had stood there before and how confident he felt about facing whatever might come. He was a little wiser now, enough to know that he shouldn't be afraid of anything the future had in store, but also enough to know that when it came down to it, he probably would be. Still, it had been another adventure to prove who was the true King of Narnia and that he had a plan for everything.
Down below, the surf was crashing on the rocks beneath the castle and seagulls were crying as they reeled about the sky. Far off, so that it could barely be heard and the melody could not be made out, the strains of one of the merfolk singing drifted along with the wind. Then, higher up than the seagulls, Caspian saw what he took to be an albatross and he almost thought, even farther away in the distance, he heard a Lion roar.
Author's note: And that's a wrap. It's always a little sad to close the door on a story, but exciting at the same time. I've had a lot of fun writing this story, and I hope you've enjoyed reading it. Thank you so much for reading, and I'd like to especially thank all of you who left one or more reviews: Guest, Iliketoread02, marmota-b, NightwingNinja17, PadrePedro, Rose61393, and Tricia Pevensie. You guys are awesome and I've loved reading all your thoughts and feedback! Thank you also to everyone in the future who leaves reviews. I'm always happy to read them, even after a lot of time has passed. I hope to come back with another Narnia story sometime in the future, but I'm not going to be able to for awhile. For one thing, I'd need to think of a really good idea to write about and I don't really have anything for Narnia at this point in time. Secondly, I'm already committed to a Hardy Boys series and I think I'd better focus on that for awhile so I don't get horribly far behind in that one. So, no idea when it would be, but I hope to see you all again someday. Thank you once again and God bless!