He doesn’t remember when he was born. Not the first time, a young and squawling infant covered in blood and slime; not the second, a frightened youth discovering new strength coursing through his veins. It is said the stars danced a warning of change at his first birth, but he’s never heard truth in the whisperings of the stargazing soothsayers. His second birth is rumoured to have taken place at the dark of the moon and this, at least, is believable. His people have always belonged to the shadows.
“And you need someone from the shadows,” he tells the Narnians that first night he arrives at their camp. They surround him with wooden spears and garlic-laced arrows, hatred for his species shining in their eyes. Unperturbed, he lifts one corner of his mouth in a confident grin. “You need me.”
The centaur steps forward, inspecting the interloper with a critical eye. “We fight to free Narnia from the shadows. What need have we of you?”
“Need?” He lifts his head proudly. “I am Caspian, son of Caspian, and rightful heir to the throne. I have been betrayed by my own people; your enemies are now mine. Join with me, help me to win the throne, and I promise to free your people in return.”
A new voice cuts through the crowd. “You want the throne for yourself, then?”
The crowd stirs to provide a path for the boy striding through their midst. His eyes are sharp and accusing, his hand tense upon the sword that remains sheathed at his side. He walks with authority among the Old Narnians and, despite his apparent youth, carries the weight of command with experience.
Still, the centaur holds up an arm as the boy draws near. “Careful, sire. It isn’t safe to stand close to a bloodsucker.”
The human waves an arm of dismissal at the warning, but he does halt several paces from Caspian. “I am Peter, High King. Answer me this: Why should the Narnians be content to allow another of your kind upon the throne?”
Peter, High King. The title is thrown like a challenge. Caspian pauses to contemplate the significance before responding carefully, “Would one such as myself not be the best choice? I offer a way to bring together both halves of this country. Why should the other… bloodsuckers follow a mere human as their king? They will accept my rule and will follow my laws -- even those that legitimize your people.”
“And why should we trust you?”
Caspian spreads his hands wide. “Have I not surrendered myself to your mercy already?”
The debate continues as other Narnians state arguments both for and against Caspian’s case. He listens carefully but says nothing further. His eyes remain fixed on the young king striding among the others as he confers in grave tones. The boy’s face is solemn and well-schooled in giving nothing away, but Caspian has experience and enhanced senses on his side. He knows that this king has already made his decision.
In the deep dark of Aslan’s How, Caspian builds his lair and bides his time. He drifts in the shadows, silently watching and silently learning. He traces the movements of the would-be troops, counts weapons and assesses armor, tests defenses and notes weaknesses. He avoids these so-called kings and queens of legend until he thinks he understands them.
One by one, he draws them in.
Lucy, youngest and brightest (so bright his eyes ache to look at her), pulls him aside when he returns one night from his dinner. “You will be a good King of Narnia,” she says, and explains with a sweep of her arm that he is skilled in the ways that are needed. “People skills,” she clarifies. He grins because he can’t help it -- because she has noticed, because she approves.
Susan, solemn and aloof (but so very vulnerable beneath), warms to him slowly. He romances her with soft promises and cold kisses. When she meets him on the banks of the Great River, Caspian traces the warmth in her veins and tastes the heat of her lips.
Edmund, cold and silent (and so much more suspicious than his siblings), avoids the infiltrating bloodsucker. He does not listen to Caspian’s calming words, does not look into his cold-black eyes. His fingers clench about the hilt of his sword, muscles tense in preparation for a fight. And so Caspian waits -- waits and watches and plans.
The dark of the corridor recedes reluctantly from the torch as the young king ventures deep into the How. Clothed in shadows, Caspian regards the boy's approach with anticipation. His thirst has been awakened by the taste of blood, his adrenaline heightened by the stench of fear.
He does not move until the king has reached the final doorway and seen the impressions of his siblings in the dark of the room. When Caspian’s ice-cold hand falls soft upon his shoulder, Edmund jolts and whirls. The flame of the torch splutters from the movement and Caspian briefly draws back.
He does not allow this boy to see how the light affects him. Smooth and gracious, Caspian gestures to the doorway. “Why don’t you join us?” he asks, and licks the last traces of blood from his fangs before parting his lips in an enticing smile.
The young king’s blood is as rich as that of his royal siblings, and Caspian drinks his fill. Then he feeds them each two drops from his own veins, and so passes on the gift of second birth.
Morning does not come, for no light can reach this deepest corner of Aslan’s How. Caspian leaves his new subjects to adjust in blindness to the changes in their bodies. He passes like a whisper through secret corridors until he reaches the main camp. When his opinion is asked by those accustomed to his presence, Caspian does not hesitate to issue orders.
No longer need he fear a challenge from the kings and queens of old. He has fed off their blood and they have tasted his in return. Their legitimacy courses through his veins. With their support, he will win the throne from the usurper and bring Narnia into a new Age.
For he is Caspian son of Caspian, Second Conqueror of Narnia, and his people are of the shadows.