Chapter Twelve: Theories and Trials
A few hours later…
Aislynn walked through the forge room quickly, a scroll of parchment rolled up in her hand as she looked for one of the gryphons. They could fly high and fast and get past the border without being seen, and that was what she needed right now. The letter from King Peter was wrapped inside the scroll that held her own message to King Cor and her mother, and the sooner she could get it sent off, the more time King Cor would have to make his own plans and rally the Archenland army to Narnia’s aid.
Spotting one of the gryphons speaking to a faun, she waited until he had finished his conversation before drawing his attention. “May I ask a favor of you, good gryphon?”
“Of course, Lady Aislynn,” the gryphon replied focusing all of his attention on her.
“Would you be willing to carry this message across the border to Anvard and entrust it only into the hands of King Cor?”
The gryphon nodded his elegant, avian head and extended one clawed forefoot for the scroll she carried. She set it delicately into the foot, careful to avoid the wickedly sharp talons, before bowing to him. “Thank you for this, Lord of the Sky.”
“It is my pleasure to help, Daughter of Eve,” the gryphon replied, heading through the forge towards the main entrance of the How. Aislynn followed him as he stepped out into the sunlight. As he spread his wings in preparation to take flight, she addressed him once more. “King Cor is awaiting this message. You shouldn’t have any difficulty getting it to him, but if anyone does give you trouble, tell them you have been sent with an urgent message from Lady Aislynn.”
“I shall, Daughter of Eve. Shall I wait for a return missive?”
Aislynn paused to consider her answer. “If His Majesty asks you to wait, then yes, please do so. If he doesn’t, tell him I will send another messenger in a few days to see if there are further instructions.”
The gryphon nodded. “You may wish to stand back, Daughter of Eve.” As she backed away, he gathered his legs under him and spread his wings to their full length, before leaping up off the ground, his wings beating hard to drive him up into the air. Small leaves and bits of grass and twigs were kicked up by the wind generated by the force of his wing beats as he arrowed up into the sky. Within moments he was high out of sight.
“Was that the message to King Cor?”
Aislynn turned around to see Lucy standing at the entrance to the How, peering up into the sky after the gryphon. After a moment, the young Queen looked down and met Aislynn’s eyes.
“It was,” Aislynn replied. “With luck and Aslan’s blessings, it should reach him today and he’ll begin preparing to send his troops to rally here with us.”
Lucy only nodded silently, still studying the older girl. Like Peter, she felt there was something familiar about Aislynn, but she couldn’t place it. Lucy was certain she’d never met Aislynn before. If the older girl was in her early twenties, as she appeared to be, she would have been born after the four of them had left Narnia, so they never would have met. Nevertheless, there was something tantalizingly familiar about her.
“Is something wrong, Your Majesty?” Aislynn asked, jarring Lucy from her thoughts.
Lucy blinked before offering a smile. “No, Lady Aislynn. Nothing is wrong…you just seem very familiar to me, yet I know we never met before. Would you tell me some about your family?”
“What is it that you would like to know?” Aislynn asked, sitting on the low wall that edged the path into the hall and inviting Lucy to join her with a nod of her head. Technically, what she had just done was a breach in royal protocol, since a lord or lady was never to sit in the presence of royalty without first receiving an invitation from said royalty. But Aislynn suspected that Queen Lucy would not take offense, and that her question was intended as a roundabout invitation.
So it proved as Lucy came and sat beside Aislynn, looking up at the older girl. Lucy paused for a moment, thinking about what she wanted to know. “Do you have any siblings?” she finally asked.
Aislynn shook her head. “No. My father died before I was born, and my mother never remarried. She raised me alone in the Court, with some help from her own sister and brother, but it was just the two of us.”
Lucy continued to study Aislynn while the lady answered her question. Now that they were out of the darkness of the caverns, it was easier to make out Aislynn’s features. She had black hair that had been pulled back and secured in a knot at the base of her neck, a stylish yet practical look considering their surroundings. Her skin was fair and clear and she had high cheekbones, an aristocratic nose, and wide, doe-like eyes. In the darkness of the caves, her eyes had appeared to be a blue-gray, but now in the sunlight, Lucy could see that they were actually a soft blue-violet, like that of a fresh blossom of the lupine flower, with more blue in them than violet. The effect, however, gave her an innocent, charming appearance.
There was just something so familiar about Lady Aislynn…a sneaking suspicion was starting to form in Lucy’s heart, and she wondered if it was at all possible…she hesitated a moment before speaking again. “Lady Aislynn…your mother’s name wouldn’t happen to be Krisalyn by any chance, would it?”
She caught the older girl by surprise with her question. Aislynn moved to speak, before hesitating a moment and studying Lucy, as if trying to figure out why she was asking. After a moment, Aislynn shook her head. “No, Queen Lucy. My mother’s name is Serena. My aunt’s name is Krisalyn, however.”
Somehow, Lucy didn’t believe her. The tone of her voice was quite flat when she answered Lucy’s question, and there was a look in her eye…it was almost defensive, or secretive. But something told Lucy that now was not the time to call Aislynn on her lie. Meanwhile, the youngest Pevensie’s heart was racing, wondering if she could possibly be right…Could it be?
she wondered to herself. Could this be Peter’s daughter? He didn’t know if he was having a son or a daughter when we left…and she’s the right age, considering how long we’ve been gone. She even resembles Peter and Krisalyn, but she doesn’t look exactly like either of them. She mentioned that her mother had friends in Narnia…Krisalyn could still be trying to aid Narnia, but why she didn’t join the Narnians here when Cair Paravel fell…
But then again…Surely Aislynn would know if she was the heir to the Narnian throne,
Lucy thought, watching Aislynn closely. Aislynn did say that her father was dead before she was born. I can’t believe that Krisalyn would lie about Peter being dead to their child…not after the pain they went through the first time she was pregnant. What reason would Krisalyn have for not telling Aislynn the truth? There wouldn’t be any danger to them if they were living in Anvard under Cor’s protection.
“Was there anything else you wanted to ask me, Your Majesty? I promised the archers I would help fletch arrows this afternoon,” Aislynn asked politely when Lucy didn’t speak, interrupting the Queen’s racing thoughts.
“One more question, if you don’t mind, Lady Aislynn,” Lucy replied. The Telmarines didn’t invade until Peter’s child would have been five years old. Surely, if Aislynn is Peter’s daughter, she would remember living in Cair Paravel.
“Have you lived in Anvard your whole life?”
Again, Aislynn hesitated with her answer, but this time it wasn’t as though she was trying to hide anything, but more as if she was trying to decide how to answer. After a moment, she spoke. “I’ve lived in Anvard for as long as I can remember, Your Majesty…although…” she trailed off, deep in thought.
“Yes? Please, continue, Lady Aislynn.”
Aislynn bit her lip and appeared to be concentrating, as if on a memory that she could only vaguely recall. “When I was a young child, I used to have dreams of standing on a balcony on a high tower, overlooking the sea. I always thought that it was a real place, but when I mentioned it to my mother, she told me it was just a dream. Anvard doesn’t overlook the sea, and she told me I had never lived anywhere else, and at the time, I had never left the city.” Aislynn paused again, before shrugging. “It must simply have been a dream, but it was so real…” she trailed off again, before shaking her head and rising to her feet, curtsying quickly. “Please excuse me, Your Majesty. I need to go and help the archers as I agreed. We’ll need all the weapons we can possibly get.”
Lucy nodded to dismiss her, but remained seated on the wall for a long time, watching the sun traverse the sky as it crept closer and closer to the horizon. There’s no doubt in my mind
, she thought. Aislynn is Peter’s daughter, she just may not realize it. For some reason, Krisalyn must not have told her the whole truth.
“Oh, Aslan,” Lucy whispered to the gentle breeze. “What should I do? Peter deserves to know the truth, but how will he react?” We need Peter at his best, and if he knows Aislynn is his daughter…he won’t react well. Plus, will she even believe it? If she’s been told her whole life that her father is dead, and Peter comes to her and claims that he’s her father…he’s only sixteen...she’s older than he is by nine years! Even if she believes his claim about reverting back to being sixteen when we returned to England, how is she going to feel about the fact that he unintentionally abandoned her and her mother?
She’s learned to fight, she said. We’ll need all the fighters we can get, but if Peter knows the truth…he’ll try to forbid her to fight. He’s overprotective with the three of us, and we all trained under Oreius. He knows what we’re capable of, but he has no such confidence in what she has learned. He’ll try to protect her, and she might resent that, or he might take risks that he wouldn’t if he didn’t know the truth and get hurt or killed.
Lucy sat there for some time, weighing her choices in her mind and trying to decide what the best decision would be. It wasn’t fair to keep it from Peter, but Lucy had no real proof…and, Lucy was honest with herself, she could be looking for evidence that wasn’t there. Krisalyn wasn’t a common name in Archenland, but it wasn’t unheard of either. It was very possible that this was all just a coincidence and Lucy was seeing what she wanted to see.If anyone would know the truth, it would be Cor
, Lucy thought. Maybe when this is all over, I can ask him. He never could keep a secret from me, and I’m sure he would know the truth…Krisalyn is his cousin after all, and if she did flee to Archenland when Cair Paravel fell, she would have had her child with her…Cor wouldn’t turn them away.
“I won’t say anything for now,” Lucy decided. “I’ll just keep my ears and eyes open, and maybe I’ll see or hear something that will let me know either way.”
“Talking to yourself, Lu? That’s usually the first sign of insanity.”
Lucy jumped in surprise as Edmund’s voice cut through the air, interrupting her thoughts. “Ed! You startled me!”
Edmund grinned unrepentantly and sat down on the wall beside her. “Oh, do forgive my impertinence, Queen Lucy. How may I beg your pardon?” he teased her, dodging easily out of the way when she moved to smack him. After a moment, he straightened up and looked at her more seriously. “What’s wrong, Lu? I don’t often find you talking to yourself, you know.”
Lucy hesitated, wondering if she should share her suspicions with Edmund. She didn’t want to carry them alone, but she knew that if she told anyone else, they would feel obligated to share the information with Peter as a matter of loyalty and disclosure about who would be fighting alongside them. Edmund had been carrying a great deal of the burden of trying to get Peter past his guilt and anger about leaving Narnia and Krisalyn behind, and Edmund never could lie or keep secrets from his brother. Their bond was too close. The only times Peter never pressed about a secret that Edmund was keeping were when Christmas or Peter’s birthday were coming up.
Lucy’s thoughts raced before she finally made up her mind and just shrugged. “It’s nothing Ed, I was just thinking out loud.”
Edmund eyed her skeptically and Lucy resisted the urge to squirm. This was one time when she wished that the four of them were not as close as they were. It was too easy for them to read each other and guess what the others were thinking. It had been an asset when they had ruled Narnia, but now, when Lucy was deliberately trying to keep crucial information from Peter, it was more of a hindrance.
Finally, Edmund nodded. “All right, Lu. But if you need to talk about anything, you know you can come and talk to me, right?” He stared at his little sister and smiled at her.
Lucy returned his smile, glad that he was dropping the subject. She hated lying or withholding information from her siblings. It didn’t feel right to her, but in this one particular case, when it would be for all their benefits that she do so…this time, it would be worth risking Peter’s anger, if it meant keeping him safe.
“I know, Ed. Thanks,” Lucy told him, embracing him gently and feeling him return the gesture.
They broke apart when they heard the sound of hooves on stone, both of them turning to see Glenstorm, Asterius, Trufflehunter, Nikabrik, and Trumpkin coming up from inside the How, with Peter, Susan, and Aislynn trailing behind them. Lucy and Edmund both rose to their feet and looked questioningly at their older siblings.
“One of the sentries reported seeing Prince Caspian’s party approaching,” Peter said, answering their unspoken question.
Edmund and Lucy exchanged looks, before moving to stand next to their siblings. This was an old dance, and one that they were intimately familiar with. The four of them allowed the Narnians and Aislynn to step past them, before they arranged themselves at the top of the ramp. Edmund stood on Peter’s right, and Susan on his left, with Lucy on her left. They drew themselves upright and stood there, projecting their full, regal auras, just as they always had when welcoming important guests and visitors to Cair Paravel.
Lucy felt an ache at that thought, remembering that their beautiful home was in the possession of the Telmarines. Was Cair Paravel even the same as it had been during their reign? Unless the Telmarines were remarkably well-trained, she had no doubt that there had been some looting and destruction of the castle before the Telmarine leaders had claimed the grand palace for their own. She thought longingly of the great throne room, with its glass ceiling, wide marble columns, painted walls depicting Narnia’s history, and the four marble thrones at the far end of the room.At least we look like Kings and Queens now
, Lucy thought to herself. It should be much easier to convince this group of Narnians of our identities, even if we don’t have our crowns or our gifts from Father Christmas. Well, that isn’t even entirely true anymore
, Lucy corrected herself. Susan has her horn back, after all.
But her cordial and dagger were so much a part of her identity as Queen Lucy, just as Rhindon was part of Peter’s, and Susan’s bow and Edmund’s short swords were part of theirs. Everyone in Narnia knew about those gifts, and they had been as much symbols of the four monarchs as they had useful items.
It was only a few minutes before they caught sight of Caspian’s party moving across the field. They were moving quickly, despite the burdens that they were all carrying, as if they were eager to get to the safety of the How. The group consisted of several centaurs, half a dozen minotaurs, a group of fauns, and several dwarves. Leading the group was a young man with dark hair and dark eyes. Lucy guessed that this must be Caspian, and if she was any judge of ages, he was somewhere between eighteen and twenty.
As the group drew closer, the leaders of the Narnian party stepped forward to assist their comrades, while Glenstorm bent down and spoke quietly with Caspian. The young man listened for a moment, before shooting a startled glance in the direction of the four Pevensies. He whispered to Glenstorm for a moment before gesturing for Asterius to take the bundle he was holding. The minotaur leader did so easily, which impressed Lucy. During their reign, the minotaurs had been some of the most stubborn, willful creatures in Narnia. Yet Caspian had made a simple request and Asterius had responded.
Caspian, freed of his burden, stepped up to the Pevensies, studying them closely as he approached. Lucy could see a trace of skepticism in his eyes, although with the confirmation of the Narnian leaders, there was no sign of outright disbelief of their identity. He paused for the briefest instant, before bowing to them.
“Rise.” Peter’s voice was cool and neutral in tone. Lucy knew that tone of voice. Her brother was just as skeptical of Caspian as Caspian was of them. He fully intended to test this prince, to determine his worthiness to claim Narnia’s throne, before committing their support.
Peter would not be cruel, but he would be merciless if he felt the situation warranted it, or if he sensed that Caspian was lying to them in anyway. Narnia’s well-being had always fallen on Peter’s shoulders and Peter took the responsibility very seriously. Unless he was told otherwise by Aslan, Peter was still High King of Narnia, and no matter what Caspian’s birthright was, Peter still had the right to deny Caspian’s claim to the throne.
Furthermore, Lucy knew, Peter would not have forgotten that Caspian’s claim came as a result of the Telmarine invasion, and technically, the only thing that Caspian’s birthright granted him was the right to rule the Telmarines, not the Narnians. Peter wouldn’t hold that fact against Caspian if he judged Caspian worthy, but it would be a serious obstacle for Caspian to overcome.
Lucy watched her brother out of the corner of her eye, but focused most of her attention on Caspian and the Narnians that were now gathered behind him. She saw Peter’s swift glance, raised eyebrow, and small nod towards Edmund, and saw Edmund nod in response. Without saying a word, Peter had just asked Edmund – who was known as the Just for a reason – to keep careful track of every word that Caspian said. Edmund’s opinions and judgments of Caspian during what was about to occur would go a long way towards influencing Peter’s decision, and although Peter probably wouldn’t miss anything that Caspian said or did, Edmund often had a different way of looking at things than Peter did. It was what made them such an effective team.
Peter also turned and looked at Susan, who also nodded. Susan’s responsibility would be to determine if Caspian had the right emotional and mental capacity to effectively lead the Narnians, since her title of Gentle demonstrated that she was very good at reading the emotions of others and altering her own attitude accordingly.
When Peter leaned back, ever so slightly, to meet Lucy’s gaze, she returned his nod before he could even acknowledge her. She knew her duty in this situation. She had always been the one who had been the most closely connected to Aslan, and it would be up to her to decide if Caspian had enough faith and trust in Aslan to allow Aslan to guide him and his decisions. Of the three kingdoms of Narnia, Archenland, and Calormen, Narnia was Aslan’s most beloved, and if Caspian couldn’t trust Aslan or the great Lion’s decisions, he would not be a suitable ruler for Narnia.
Peter returned his attention to Caspian. The exchange with his siblings had happened so quickly that Lucy didn’t think the prince had any idea what Peter had just charged his siblings with. He eyed the prince coolly for a moment before speaking again. “You are Caspian the Tenth, Prince of the Telmarines?” he asked.
Caspian nodded, standing erect and proud without appearing defiant or defensive. Lucy resisted the urge to smile. Peter’s tone of voice could put almost anyone on the defensive, and the fact that it didn’t appear to be intimidating Caspian was a point in the Telmarine’s favor. “I am.”
Peter allowed the silence to hang for several moments as he studied Caspian. This was a favorite tactic of his. Anyone with something to hide would begin to fidget, wondering what the High King was going to do next. But Caspian simply stood there, easily meeting Peter’s eyes and holding his gaze, not showing any sign of nerves.
“By what right do you lay claim to the throne of Narnia at Cair Paravel?” Peter asked suddenly, attempting to catch Caspian off-guard with the sharpness of his tone and the suddenness of his words.
Caspian didn’t even flinch, and Lucy’s opinion of him went up another notch. “By the fact that I am the son of King Caspian the Ninth, ruler of Narnia.”
Lucy winced inwardly, though she didn’t show it outwardly. That was not a smart answer when addressing the Kings and Queens of Narnia
, she thought, knowing how her brother would respond to that statement.
Peter’s blue eyes darkened dramatically, a sure sign that he was annoyed with Caspian’s response. “It is by the grace of Aslan and the election of the people of Narnia that I
am High King of Narnia and that my royal siblings rule beside me as King and Queens. By the laws set forth by Aslan at the Dawn of Time, the Telmarines have no legitimate claim to Narnia’s throne.” Peter’s tone remained even and mild, but his annoyance was clearly evident in his posture and the dark look in his eyes.
Caspian bristled at the tone and Lucy’s opinion of him changed, dropping several notches. If he was this easily provoked by a challenge, he would not be a good King for Narnia. Furthermore, he had not yet mentioned anything about Aslan, and without Aslan, Narnia would not even exist.
Peter didn’t give Caspian a chance to respond, but continued, fixing the prince with an even gaze as the Narnians shifted uneasily. Caspian was the one whom they had placed their trust in, but – as Peter had just pointed out – the Pevensies were the true rulers of Narnia, and as such, the Narnians’ allegiance would be to them first, no matter what Caspian said or did to win their loyalty. There was already one war brewing between the Narnians and the Telmarines…the last thing that they needed was a civil war among the Narnians – between those that were loyal to Caspian, and those who were loyal to Aslan and Lucy and her siblings. “I say again, by what right do you claim the throne of Narnia at Cair Paravel?”Interesting tactic, Peter…
Lucy thought, watching Caspian as he paused and took a deep breath before responding. She hadn’t expected that Peter would give Caspian a chance to revise his answer, but it was a double-edged sword. Caspian’s answer here could either earn Peter’s favor, or sink him so far into a hole that no matter what else Peter asked him, the prince would never recover from this initial question.
Caspian closed his eyes, obviously reigning in his temper, and Lucy gave him points for his control and poise. He was obviously doing his best not to let Peter – at least two years younger – rattle him. Unfortunately, Peter was projecting his full, Magnificent aura at the moment, and that could be unnerving for anyone, because it forced someone to look past Peter’s age and physical appearance and see the authority and power that had been granted to him by Aslan. Lucy and her siblings often teased Peter about his aura, claiming that it was a greater weapon than Rhindon when wielded properly – which was saying something, since Peter in full battle mode with his sword was an awe-inspiring sight indeed.
“I ask your forgiveness, Your Majesty,” Caspian replied after a moment. He paused, obviously choosing his words carefully before continuing. “My claim to Narnia’s throne is based solely on my desire to give back to the Narnians that which was stolen from them, unlawfully, by my people and my forefathers. I do not argue that Aslan has granted you and your royal siblings the power to deny my claim to the throne. I seek only to bring peace between my people and the Narnians, and to restore what has been lost.”
Lucy gave Caspian more points in her mind with that answer. Although he had still not mentioned his faith in Aslan, the fact that he was aware that it was through Aslan’s grace that the four of them were Narnia’s rulers was another point in his favor, as was his dignified and polite response.
“Intentions and desires can be as fleeting as the changing tides,” Peter pounced on Caspian’s statement, his words a challenge without being hostile. “What proof do we – or the Narnians – have that your words are not just that?”
The confrontation had by now drawn the attention of the Narnians who had still been inside the How, and Lucy could sense them gathering on the various tiers of the How, watching the scene unfolding outside the How.
To his credit, Caspian did not even hesitate with his response, as if he had anticipated this question. “You have so such proof, Majesties. All I can say is that, with Aslan’s blessings and his grace, it would be my hope that I would not be so base in my decisions. Such an attitude is like that of the usurper, my uncle Miraz, who has betrayed everything that I hold dear, as well as my people and the Narnians with his treachery. I have been betrayed…I have no desire to become a traitor or to be foresworn in the promises that I have made to the Narnians.”
Lucy noticed that even Peter seemed pleased with Caspian’s response, although she doubted that anyone could read him except for his siblings. She was equally pleased with the prince’s response as well as his acknowledgement of Aslan’s power in Narnia. It could just be lip service, but she doubted that. Despite the even tone of Caspian’s words, there had been sincerity and passion in what he had said. It was obvious that the idea of being a traitor disturbed him greatly.
Caspian’s answer also put a new twist on the situation. Thus far, no one had mentioned why Caspian had been pursued by the Telmarine soldiers. But mention of an usurping uncle…that explained a great deal. If Caspian was telling the truth, he would have had to flee for his life, since an usurper would never permit a rival for power to remain alive.
Peter regarded Caspian for a moment before he nodded. He glanced at each of his siblings, nodding with his head for them to step aside with him so that they could discuss the situation. While they could communicate without words if necessary, using only gestures and facial expressions, for an issue this important, they all preferred to discuss it amongst themselves, quietly.
They gathered close together and Peter dropped his voice low, so as not to be overheard by the Narnians that were watching the confrontation. “Well?”
Susan was the first to respond. “He has a temper that he will have to master – he didn’t react well to your challenge of his claim to the throne, Peter – but time and seasoning will go a long way towards remedying that, especially if he gets a chance to observe others. I sensed that he was sincere about his intentions to give back what was stolen from the Narnians, and in a way, shares some guilt about the situation, although I don’t think he had anything to do with it. He’s too young to have had anything to do with the initial invasion.”
Edmund and Lucy nodded in agreement of their sister’s evaluation of Caspian. Because Caspian was a prince, he probably wasn’t used to being challenged in anything except combat. That was an attitude he would definitely have to overcome, but Susan was right that it could
be overcome, if he was willing to put in the effort. Having a temper wasn’t a bad thing…Peter had quite the fierce temper, as did Edmund, but they had both learned to control it and to harness the power it gave them. Peter was more easily provoked than Edmund, but between the two of them they balanced each other well and were able to compensate for each other when one of them was provoked to the point of rage.
Lucy spoke up next. “He seems sincere of his trust in Aslan.”
Edmund frowned. “I don’t know about that Lu. He didn’t mention Aslan until he started talking about being counted a traitor.”
Lu shook her head. “Yes, but you have to remember that the Telmarines don’t believe in Aslan,” she countered. “Having faith in someone that he has always been told is a myth doesn’t happen overnight, and I think that with time he’ll learn to put his trust in Aslan, especially when Aslan comes to help us.”
She could sense that Edmund’s thoughts were on his own dealings with Aslan. When the four of them had visited the Stone Table during the second year of their reign, Edmund had admitted that he had not felt a pleasant sensation the first time that Mr. Beaver had told them about Aslan, but he attributed that to the food that the Witch had given him. It wasn’t until Edmund had had a chance to talk to Aslan when he’d been freed from the Witch that he had been able to put his faith in Aslan. The expressions crossed Edmund’s face rapidly, and only her years of reading her siblings’ faces for information allowed her to know what Edmund was thinking. Finally, Edmund nodded in acceptance of her decision.
They looked at Edmund now, awaiting his judgment of Caspian. Edmund was quiet for a moment as he put his thoughts in order. That was one thing that made Edmund such a force to be reckoned with. Whatever his personal thoughts or feelings about a matter, he was able to set them aside and look at a situation and make a judgment based solely on logic and what the law stated. Lucy had never been able to understand how he was able to do that. She was passionate about her beliefs, as she had demonstrated when she had seen Aslan at the gorge, and she fought to make herself heard and understood. Edmund was passionate about his beliefs as well, but he was able to argue his case logically, no matter what they were discussing. It wasn’t a trait that he had had before they had been crowned, but it had developed over the first few years of their reign.
“I believe that Caspian is sincere in what he says,” Edmund finally said, pausing for a moment, as he weighed his next words. “The betrayal by his uncle taught him something, and it is something that Caspian has become determined to rectify. He is not ready
to be King, but then, neither were we at first. He will learn, and when he does he will be a very good King.”
Peter looked at each of his siblings in turn. Lucy watched him, seeing the emotions and thoughts running through Peter’s eyes. Peter had taken in everything that they had said, as well as his own opinions and was now trying to come to a decision. Finally, the High King nodded and indicated that they should join Caspian again to give him their decision.
They moved back to the head of the ramp and arranged themselves as before. Lucy watched Caspian as his eyes drifted past each of them, trying to figure out what they had decided before Peter announced the decision, before he refocused his attention on Peter.
Peter met his gaze for a long moment, apparently studying him one more time and factoring whatever he saw or sensed into his judgment of Caspian before he blinked slowly. “Caspian, I believe that it goes without saying that neither I nor my royal siblings are entirely happy with circumstances as they currently stand in Narnia.” He paused for a moment, watching as Caspian nodded. “However, based on the judgment of my royal siblings, the opinions of the Narnians I have spoken to, and my own experience and knowledge of Aslan and his ways, I have decided that, unless further contradictory evidence presents itself, you do have a valid claim to the throne of Narnia.”
Caspian let his breath out slowly, as if not wanting to believe the good news. Behind him, Lucy could see the other Narnians relaxing, now that they knew they wouldn’t have to worry about choosing between a Prince they weren’t sure they could trust but were willing to follow, and the Kings and Queens who, despite being appointed by Aslan, had abandoned them for twenty-five years.
“In light of this decision, my royal siblings and I have decided to aid you in helping to restore Narnia’s glory. However,” Peter continued, before his tone changed to include a warning, “we do reserve the right to change our minds about the decision we have made if further evidence reveals that we have made an error in our judgment or Aslan deems otherwise. Do you understand the decision that we have reached?”
Caspian bowed. “I do understand, High Majesty. I only hope that I can prove my sincerity, not only to you, but also to the Narnians and to Aslan.” He straightened up and met Peter’s eyes again.
Peter finally offered the older boy a smile, and Lucy smiled as well, glad that this was out of the way. She understood why Peter felt the need to test Caspian before giving him their support, although she didn’t fully agree. However, she knew that it was important to Peter. He already felt guilty about abandoning his responsibilities to Narnia when they had been sent back to England. Now he was trying to prove to the Narnians that the four of them still had Narnia’s welfare at heart. Peter needed to know that Caspian wasn’t working with his uncle and would later betray Narnia at a crucial time.
Peter stepped forward and clasped hands with Caspian, greeting him as he would have greeted a long-time ally. Caspian smiled and returned the greeting, sharing it with Edmund as well, before turning and bowing low to the two Queens and lightly kissing the backs of their hands.
“We need to talk,” the High King said calmly. “Caspian, will you and the Lady Aislynn join us at the Stone Table as soon as you’ve had a chance to refresh yourself? You both have information that I would like to have before we begin making plans.”
Caspian nodded in agreement, as did Aislynn. “Of course, Your Majesty,” the prince replied.
Peter nodded and turned, gesturing for his siblings to follow him. They fell into step behind him, although Lucy paused and looked back, watching as Caspian and Aislynn spoke quietly. Something about that picture just seemed…right…especially when her suspicions about Aislynn’s identity were factored in. All she could do was wait and see. With Aslan’s blessings, everything would be made clear very soon.