‘How many Minotaurs, sire?’ Drinian turns on his heel and Caspian can see he's trying his hardest not to be disrespectful, but he's staring at Caspian with exasperation, like Caspian's an unreasonable child.
'Three,' Caspian says, trying to sound like he hasn't noticed and isn't offended. 'Nearchus - you said yourself he's a strong hand at the tiller; and the cousins Dioxippus and Diagoras - their strength is unmatched, and will surely be invaluable if we are becalmed and must row.'
'Minotaurs,' Drinian says, evidently trying his hardest to be patient, 'are heavy, sire. And will require extra rations, not to mention over-sized hammocks, and the rowing benches will have to be modified to take their weight. The Dawn Treader is a lightweight vessel! We don't have room for Minotaurs.'
'Then we need a bigger ship,' Caspian says.
Drinian splutters. 'A bigger - what! You aren't serious, sire.'
'Two Minotaurs, then,' Caspian says.
'One.' Drinian folds his arms. 'One Minotaur, or no Minotaurs.'
'One Minotaur, Captain.' Caspian claps Drinian on the shoulder, and makes sure his back is turned before he lets a satisfied smile creep across his face.
There’s not much for a Mouse to do, aboard ship. There’s not much for a sovereign to do aboard ship, either, aside from avoid one’s most loyal and devoted Mouse subject. On the fourth day out from Galma, Caspian tries hiding up on the prow, but Reepicheep soon finds him.
They pass a comfortable few minutes in silence, and then: ‘I’ve been thinking, your Majesty...’
‘About that chap you unhorsed, the third one, Lord Whateverhisnameis with the crooked nose - his great weakness is in the way he holds his shield, don’t you think?’
Caspian loves Reepicheep, truly he does. He also loves having a few hours in which to think about things other than tourneys and feats of valour.
After luncheon Caspian sneaks into the ship’s galley and orders the cook to give him a bucket of potatoes to peel. He thinks, for a while, that kitchen work might be too common for a knight of Mousekind - after fifteen minutes, and countless nicks to his own fingers with the kitchen knife, he’s beginning to think it might be too common for King Caspian, too.
‘Did I ever tell your Majesty about the time my grandmother defeated a troll, armed only with a paring knife?’
Caspian tries secluding himself on the Dragon’s Tail. Reepicheep follows him. Caspian tries napping in his own cabin. Reepicheep appoints himself guardian of Caspian’s threshold. Caspian tries getting some of the sailors to teach him how to mend ropes. Reepicheep turns out to be a champion rope-mender.
Eventually Caspian clambers up onto the poop deck, where Drinian is at the tiller.
‘I must speak with the Captain in private,’ he calls down, when Reepicheep makes as if to follow him.
‘Your Majesty?’ Drinian turns to look at Caspian, hand steady on the tiller.
‘I need a bigger ship.’ Caspian slumps down against the deck rail.
Driniant raises one eyebrow at him. ‘Don’t tell me a single Mouse is more trouble than three Minotaurs?’
‘Drinian,’ Caspian says, with feeling, ‘you cannot possibly imagine how much trouble a single Mouse can be.’
‘And we are honoured to present Your Majesties with these bolts: the finest wool the Lone Islands can provide.’ Caspian watches as Lucy takes the fabric sample handed to her, handling it carefully and remarking on its light weight and soft texture. It might come in handy, he thinks to himself, if they could just get someone to trim it into blankets or fashion breeches before they left.
The next delegate, who, Lord Bern’s senechal explained in an undertone, has travelled from the furthest of the Lone Islands to present his gift, appears to be wheeling a small cart. Caspian’s heart sinks.
‘May I present to Your Majesties these most finely carved vessels?’ He whips off the cloth from the cart to reveal what appears to be an entire banquet setting of carved wood.
Edmund steps forward to pick up one of the plates, turning his back to the delegate has he does so. Raising his eyebrows at Caspian, he mouths, ‘You’re going to need a bigger ship.’
Apparently Lord Bern’s senechal saw that, because behind Caspian’s shoulder there is an undignified snort, and suddenly Caspian finds it very hard not to giggle himself.
‘Shhh!’ Edmund clamps one hand over Caspian’s mouth (Caspian bites it) and wedges them both into an uncomfortable corner between a barrel of salt pork and a barrel of apples.
Uncomfortable, but not without its charms. Caspian does his best to get his hand under Edmund’s shirt, while Edmund tries his hardest not to wriggle or make any noise.
‘Hrrrrm,’ booms a voice far too close to them. ‘Your Majesties.’ Caspian looks up into the frankly massive chest of Nearchus. Minotaurs don’t have particularly expressive facial muscles, but something about the set of Nearchus’ shoulders and the flicker of muscles in his belly suggests that he’s trying not to laugh. ‘Cook requires that barrel of salt pork.’
‘Right, right,’ Edmund says, slithering out of Caspian’s grasp. ‘We’ll just, er, get out of your way then.’
Caspian has Edmund up against the cabin door, and one leg satisfactorily wedged in between Edmund’s, when something hits him in the back of the head.
‘Honestly, Ed,’ says Lucy, from the doorway of her cabin. ‘You used to have some sense of discretion!’
Caspian picks up the boot which Lucy had thrown at him - one of his own boots, which he must have left up here for no good reason. Edmund has gone bright red, which is rather endearing.
‘Go on, get out of here.’ Lucy makes shoo-ing motions at them. ‘Before Rhince wakes up and finds you.’ She nods at the cabin door opposite hers.
Thankfully, Eustace is not in the lower cabin. By mutual agreement neither of them go near his bunk, but hammocks are not much of an option. Edmund grabs hold of Caspian without preamble, and they fumble their way into a half-sitting, half-lying heap up against the cabin wall. This is working fine, just fine, great, until Eustace bangs his way into the cabin.
‘Edmund! Caspian - good grief.’ He stands and stares at them for a moment, while Caspian does his best to look like there’s a perfectly good, not clothes-removing-at-all reason why he’s lying around tangled up with Eustace’s cousin.
‘Eustace, for the love of - go away.’ Edmund doesn’t seem inclined to give up the grip he has on Caspian, which is... nice.
Eustace makes a face which is somewhere between horrified and curious, and backs up toward the door.
‘Right, well,’ he says on his way out, ‘Captain Drinian sent me to fetch you both, he wanted you on deck and couldn’t find you.’
‘Oh, hang it all,’ Edmund says, as the door closes behind Eustace. ‘Do you suppose we can pretend he never found us?’
‘Best not.’ Caspian tightens his arms around Edmund just a moment longer. ‘Ugh. We need a bigger ship.’
‘One with better hiding places,’ Edmund says, standing up and colliding with his own hammock.
Somewhere east of Deathwater Island, bored with days and days of endless ocean, Edmund decides to teach the off-duty crew something called ‘cricket’. Caspian finds out about this when he steps out of the cabin and is promptly hit in the face by a small leather ball, the kind some soldiers use to build up forearm strength by squeezing.
‘Watch out!’ Lucy calls, rather too late, skidding to a stop in front of the poop ladder, and whacking it with a capstan bar.
‘Villain!’ Reepicheep is now holding the leather ball, and waving it in the direction of Martin the cabin-boy, who is standing beside Lucy. ‘His Majesty King Edmund decreed that the ball must be cast over the arm!’
‘Here, give me the ball,’ Lucy says, and drops the capstan bar in order to stand behind Martin and guide his arm through a ridiculous pinwheeling motion.
‘Caspian, get out of Silly Point,’ Edmund shouts, from the other end of the deck, where he’s standing slightly bent over, with another capstan bar in hand.
‘Out of - what?’ Caspian looks around: he’s standing on a perfectly ordinary patch of deck.
‘Nothing, just - get out of the way! Go stand next to Eustace!.’ Caspian scurries for the ship’s rail as Martin hurls the ball at Edmund, who whacks it with the capstan bar before changing places with Lucy at a dead run.
The ball whizzes past Caspian’s head and lands with a thunk on the deck next to Eustace’s foot. Eustace looks up from his notebook long enough to hurl it back toward the stern.
The next thunk of Lucy’s capstan bar against the ball is followed by her gleeful shout of ‘SIIIIIIX’, and then Edmund’s grumpy ‘and OUT! That was our last ball, Lucy, good job.’
‘You need a bigger ship,’ Eustace says to Caspian, snapping his notebook shut and climbing to his feet. ‘This tub hasn’t even space for a proper game of rugby.’
Caspian isn’t sure what rugby is, but Eustace is smiling, and Caspian thinks that might have been a joke.
The Dawn Treader limps into Narrowhaven harbour, with faded paintwork, torn sails, patched-up mast and an exhausted, homesick crew.
That evening, when Caspian speaks to Lord Bern about beginning the long process of refitted and re-provisioning the ship, Bern looks at him oddly for a moment.
‘My people are fine seafarers,’ Bern says. ‘If your Majesty wished it, my own vessel would be at your command. You could be at Cair Paravel in little over a month.’
Caspian looks around him, at his tired, beloved crew: at the lords Revillian, Argoz and Mavramorn, old men who had not set foot in Narnia since Caspian was a child; at good, steady Captain Drinian who had brought them all so far; at his own fair bride, who had not yet seen Narnian shores at all. After so many months of travelling, having found such dear friends and lost them again, to be home in Narnia at last...
‘I stay with the Dawn Treader,’ Drinian says. ‘My crew may remain or go ahead as they wish.’
‘Your Majesty?’ Lord Bern smiles at him, warm and generous.
Caspian turns to look again at Lilliandil, and she puts her hand in his.
‘If it is not too much of a hardship, my Lord,’ she says, ‘I should not like to leave the Dawn Treader. I have grown to love her, since I left my home.’
She is beautiful, but also strange - so quiet and withdrawn that sometimes he thinks she might not even like him. Right now, though, Caspian feels like she knows exactly what he’s thinking, and it fills him with hope.
Caspian says to the Lord Bern, ‘I should like to show my bride something of these islands, our most far-flung territory, but by no means least dear.’ He laces his fingers through Lilliandil’s, and she smiles, her fleeting, otherworldly smile. ‘We will stay here, until the Dawn Treader is fit to sail again.’