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Forging a New Age is Never Easy

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The morning's cold and wet. Caspian rolls over, head still a little bleary from the night and day before. His muscles are stiff from sleeping on the ground, which he doubts he'll ever get used to.  They're stiffer from the battle. His memories of it are the carnage and confusion, the wonders and the horrors, and in the middle of it, them.

The Old Kings and Queens of Narnia. Children and youths that fight like battle-hardened soldiers, dealing out death with ease in the middle of the carnage. Glozelle once said that the mark of an experienced soldier was that he simply wasn't there when the blade fell, and the Pevensies never were. Where a blade or an axe fell, they were blocking it, or moving out of the way.

After the battle, once all of the surviving Telmarine soldiers had been pulled out of the river and secured, there'd been a small period of quiet. Quiet in that there was no fighting, but there has been plenty of bustle. Aslan sat by the shore, and certainly no-one was gong to try to to start a fight while he sat there. The giant lion of great power, the one that the Narnians worshipped as their god.

Lucy had headed the healers, going around the gravely wounded of the battlefield with a small retinue - a centaur, two fauns, a dryad, and two Telmarines known for their battlefield medicine skills. Administering her potion, setting broken limbs, and binding wounds. The Narnians had had no problem being ordered around by a child, having been told tales from childhood of Lucy the Healer, and having seen her in action after their unsuccessful attempt to storm the castle, but the Telmarines she'd treated had been a little wild-eyed at the imperious no-nonsense little girl ordering them about like a middle-aged nurse. They couldn't deny her skills or obvious experience, though. The Telmarines she'd taken under her wing for her team hung on her every word after half an hour of moving amongst the bodies awaiting attention. Peter had made a comment about 'more converts' to her when she'd been treating him. That had simply earned him a poke in the arm and a snort before she moved on.

Edmund had been seen speaking to a few of the smaller Narnians, small birds and squirrels, before sending them off to do some task. He and Susan had mostly been helping with getting the chaos of the battle's aftermath sorted and calm. Peter had gone straight to Glozelle, quizzing him about his legions and the way the Telmarine army worked and was marshalled.

"Your majesty gives me great honour by addressing me thus." Glozelle said as Peter sat by him, watching as the Telmarine healers bandaged his cuts. Caspian notes the way that Glozelle barely looks at Caspian, all his attention on Peter. He's quite aware Glozelle still sees him as a boy, having watched him grow up in Miraz' court and even been his teacher in weapons occasionally. Peter, though, is younger than Caspian, but Glozelle acknowledged his authority immediately, acting with more deference towards him than he ever did towards Miraz. Miraz had his attention and seeming loyalty, but everyone knew Glozelle always begrudged Miraz, even going so far as to hesitate when following his orders in public. In contrast, Peter has all his attention. Possibly it's respect for his fighting skills that he'd seen, or maybe it's part of the way Peter holds himself. Youth he may seemingly be, but he always, always holds himself as one who expects to be obeyed at all times.

Peter snorts. "Hardly. You control the Telmarine armies and currently pose the most threat to us. What I want is your oath that you will not challenge Caspian's claim to the throne." he pauses. "Aslan supports it, but you control the soldiers and the lords as of this moment."

"The lords have their own minds." Glozelle says carefully. The rebellious lords tended to follow Sopespian's lead, but they had no problem voicing their objections during council or in public. Caspian doesn't know how quiet they've been in the past few weeks, after they crowned Miraz, but word is that Sopespian and Glozelle still goaded Miraz.

"But they will follow your lead." Peter states. "So do we have your oath? We intend to crown Caspian soon, but I do not want the beginning of this new reign to be challenged as soon as it begins."

Glozelle casts his eyes down as he nods. "We will follow your lead, my lord."

"Good. Now, I want to know about the army at your disposal." Peter states. "Precisely how many soldiers do you command?"

 

Soon enough - what seems all too little time, really - the healers have managed at least one round of the most seriously injured. Caspian's talking to Trumpkin, who's grumbling about having to deal with overgrown lunkheads.

"So am I one?"

"Probably." Trumpkin says, pulling off his helmet and scratching at his beard. "I suppose it's not your fault that you were born human, but you're still too tall."

"By your reckoning, perhaps the only one of us who is a reasonable height is Lucy, then."

"Well, she's not bad, but she's still going to grow. Still a child, that one."

Behind them, there's the rumble of a voice that they learned to pay attention to and identify immediately. "Son of Adam." They both freeze and turn to face Aslan.

Caspian swallows, bowing his head. He's nowhere near daring to meet the great lion's eye with ease as the child Lucy and the others do. Lucy most of all. From what he hears, she is his favourite, or possibly it is that she is the youngest and thus has least appreciation of just how dangerous such a beast of such presence can be. A child that plays with her father the warlord's sword hilt. Yet it was clear on the bridge she was all too aware of what the lion could do. Trumpkin is skittish around the lion, barely able to believe he exists, let alone roared in his face a few hours previous. Caspian, on the other hand, is quite content to show due deference towards the beast. "My lord?"

"Your presence would be appreciated on the shore." With that, the great lion turns and pads noiselessly towards the Pevensies, Telmarine and Narnian alike scurrying to get out of his way.

Trumpkin gives him a shove. "Bloody get a move on, you going to keep him waiting?"

"What does he want with me?" Caspian asks, warily.

"Probably going to eat you but wants to make sure you're clean first." Trumpkin snorts. "I don't bloody know, but I do know it's not a wise idea to keep him waiting."

Caspian makes his way to the shore, picking his way along the small path and clear spots. After a little while, the Pevensies join him there. "What does he want of us?"

Susan smiles slightly in her mysterious way. She's beautiful, but you can't tell what she's thinking. Inscrutable is possibly the word. He wonders if it comes from reigning or whether she has always been thus. It was easy to tell what Miraz was thinking by the expression on his face, moods there and gone like summer storms. Peter and Lucy seem of Miraz' like, moods changing constantly. Susan and Edmund are more like the high born ladies of court, beautiful but keeping their faces like statues as much as possible lest their husbands find their true emotions or reactions to situations. He doubts Susan has much familiarity with playing the ornamental embellishment, though. Not with the way she is so at home in war and on the battlefield. Her siblings appear to be able to tell her moods without difficulty, and she's certainly relaxed more, so perhaps with time he'll be able to tell. Hopefully she'll relax some more in his presence. "I think I have some idea." She says, straightening the folds of her skirts.

Aslan comes to stand in front of them, turning and addressing the crowd. "If I could have your attention." he rumbles, raising it slightly from speaking tone. Everyone turns their head immediately, standing and pushing forward. Aslan turns his head to Caspian. "Kneel, my prince."

Caspian swallows. "My lord?" He asks, kneeling as he does.

"Do you find yourself ready to be king?" Aslan asks, fixing him with a stare.

Caspian draws a breath. He knew this was coming, some day, but it is still not something he feels he is ready for. "No, my lord, I'm not ready, I-"

"Then that is enough." Aslan breathes on him, filling him with warmth. "Rise, King Caspian of Narnia. Rule wisely."

The clapping starts. Caspian gets up unsteadily to see the entire crowd clapping and cheering. Some of them are impassive, and some are gleeful. Others are grudging. But he feels no-one will argue in this moment. You don't dare argue with anyone that powerful, who can command the trees and water with a single roar. Susan, Peter, Lucy and Edmund are smiling as they clap,which is at least something. He knows he somehow expected this in his brain, he was raised as heir to the throne , after all, but this seems unreal. Some come forward to swear their loyalty - Glozelle kneels before him and kisses his hand, and several of the Narnians bow to him. He's uncomfortably aware of the hard stare Peter and the others are giving them, though. And after a little while, everyone turns back to what they were doing - cataloguing the losses, trying to repair any immediately fixable things in their armour, and finding food, or talking to their friends. Caspian's left standing there.

Edmund claps him on the shoulder. Lucy was the first to leave, going back to her healer duties and those that need her attention. "Never mind. It'll seem more real when they've crowned you in a proper ceremony."

"Are you sure?"

Edmund shrugs. "You've had more time to get used to it than we did. We found ourselves fighting for our lives with no training of any sort in our first battle, then before we knew it, we were being crowned in Cair Paravel. To say we found ourselves shell-shocked was a bit of an understatement. After your coronation you'll have so much to do that you won't have time to think about it any more, and by the time you have a moment to think about it, you'll just be used to it and it'll seem natural."

Susan steps forward on his other side. "I think we can probably get your formal coronation arranged within a few days. It'll be a more obvious sign than this to the Telmarines. How many problems will we have with the lords accepting you as king?"

"They will follow Glozelle." And he has no idea how he's going to bring himself to command Glozelle. He may have sworn fealty to him personally and publicly, but it's Glozelle. He's always been wary of a man who's that good a general. Peter obviously respects him, and from what he's picked up from the others and how Peter behaves towards most, it's difficult to get Peter's respect, especially that fast.

She nods. "Good."

Edmund taps his fingers on the hilt of his sword. "From what I've been able to gather, that's mostly correct. You shouldn't have too many problems, at least at the beginning - Sopespian was the most powerful and vocal, and he's dead. We're not sure if his body's gone totally, but the naiads I spoke to haven't seen it. The troops aren't saying much. They're soldiers, not politicians. Keep them fed and you should be fine. The Narnians - well, I think they're not going to say much while Aslan's still around. You'll have to make sure that they're well represented and they'll be happier. There's a lot who'll take a lot of convincing about acknowledging a human."

"They didn't have any problem following you." Caspian says, frowning. That still smarts a little. He hadn't been expecting the Narnians to follow him, he was just about tolerated when he arrived at the How. He'd just been hoping for refuge, and maybe helping him get back the throne. The moment Peter, Susan, Lucy and Edmund arrived, the Narnians bowed before them and followed them near blindly. There wasn't any hesitation, and they didn't even have to prove themselves for the Narnians to be willing to follow them to their deaths. Even after their failed attack on the castle, they grieved for their dead but still followed without question.

"We're figures from legend and have a lot of experience in getting people to follow us." Edmund says, then twists his mouth wryly. "Not to mention Peter's got something about him that people have this urge to follow."

Susan gives him a look. "Precisely how much of the army have you canvassed, Edmund? Do remember it's been a while since you've done this."

"You can never start early enough." Edmund shrugs. "I didn't see you telling Peter off for cross-examining Glozelle on the army."

"That would be like attempting him to stop breathing." Susan replies.

A few days later, there comes the triumphal procession of the Narnians into the capital for the formal coronation of Caspian as king. New clothes have been found for he and the old monarchs, and the streets are lined with citizens cheering and throwing flowers as they ride up, followed by the Narnians. No-one can stop grinning, even though the Telmarines and Narnians have been sworn enemies for centuries, and he highly doubts anyone in the crowd even knows what they're cheering for.

Before they entered the city, he'd asked "But why must there be a march? I do not think they care one way or the other who is their king, Miraz or myself."

Susan straightens his doublet. Her hair has been teased and curled for this. "Because it's traditional. Any great victory seems to be accompanied by such a procession, even if it was you that got conquered. There's an old phrase for it - 'Hail the conquering hero'. They might not care, but they'll cheer you anyway. They might even throw flowers if you're lucky."

Peter leans against the door frame. "Of course, the ones who really dislike you tend to view this kind of thing as perfect cover for assassination and hide themselves in the crowd." He grins. "Though you shouldn't worry about that too much. We've got Edmund for that sort of thing - he'll be keeping an eye on the crowd and place people through it. Of course, if you get us grabbing you and tossing you to a nearby centaur, go limp. It's easier to explain once you're out of trouble rather than at the time."

"This is not very reassuring." Caspian says.

"It's a hazard of being royalty. Someone always wants to kill you." Susan shrugs. "Either personally or because you're a good figurehead." She tuts. "I still can't believe that Miraz gave you no training in statehood. He can't have been counting on having a surviving heir for that long."

"I think I want to go back to being a relatively sheltered prince." Caspian groans.

"Too late now." Peter grins. "Aslan already invested you as king. And you can't go back on your word to him."

Lucy comes in. "It always amazes me how fast they manage to get organised with the flowers and clear the streets of carts and horses and daytime traffic."

Susan tuts. "Leave that as the mystery it is, Lucy. I don't want that kind of thing organised unless it's feast day." She shudders slightly. "Remember that dreadful monarch who insisted that his people do it every time it was his birthday, or his wife's, or any excuse? His people used to dread it, since it disrupted trade so much."

Thanks to Edmund, they make it to the castle without incident. Rooms are apportioned.

Caspian, however, gets shown to Miraz' old room. "I cannot -" He says, backing out, and bumping into Peter.

"You're the king." Peter says firmly, shoving him back in. "Stop being so squeamish."

"What about my aunt?" He queries.

"Moved to another room with the baby, I presume. It's normal, Caspian, you'd have been given this room once you ascended the throne anyway, even without Miraz."

"I haven't got the throne yet."

"You will in the morning." Peter says, moving in behind him and sitting on the bed.

The servant murmurs "Your clothes are in the cupboard, your majesty."

"Thank you." Caspian says distractedly, moving to sit on the bed next to Peter. "I don't think I can cope with this."

"Nobody can." Peter says cheerfully. "At least not at first. Learn fast. Though we have to hammer out the details of your coronation. We'll get Su and Ed, they're best at protocol."

"I thought I'd be crowned as normal." Caspian says in surprise.

"That all depends." Peter says enigmatically. "I'll wait on their opinion first."

When the others are brought in, it's Susan who makes the first objection. "Well of course he can't be crowned in accordance with Telmarine tradition. Aslan's going to be presiding, for a start. You want to make a point of it being a new era."

"What did yours consist of?" Caspian asks.

"Aslan presented us to the kingdom and there was something about 'may they reign peacefully and wisely'." Edmund snorts. "I have my suspicions about whether the peacefully part was a joke."

"Was it not known as the Golden Age?" Caspian asks curiously.

"Only because we fought some very bloody wars to keep it that way." Edmund says. He picks up the crown. "I suggest simple. You ascend the dais, Peter crowns you as a backing up of the approval by Aslan. No swearing by anything. No-one swears their fealty right there and then, since that kind of thing can go on forever and can become a show of power for everyone *but* the monarch."

Caspian groans, covering his eyes. "I have no idea how I'm going to do this."

Lucy pats him on the knee and says sweetly. "Oh, that's fine. Either you'll cope or break down spectacularly, so worrying about it either way won't be of much use."

Caspian eyes her. "You are a very disturbing child."

Peter chuckles. "Lucy is always disturbing, and doesn't get any better with age. I think Narnia did something to her the first time around."

Lucy gives Peter a look. "You're one to talk about being disturbing."

Edmund turns the crown of Telmar over in his hands, weighing it speculatively. "This really is a spectacularly ugly crown. I suggest you melt it down as soon as possible and get a new one."

Caspian gapes a little, then bristles. "That is the crown of Telmar, worn by my ancestors for generations -"

"It didn't used to look this ugly in our day, I can tell you that. Crowns change." Edmund says calmly. He passes it to Peter. "The country's going to be changing, and it's not just Telmarines you'll be ruling over."

Peter winces as he weighs it in his hands. "I'd definitely change it. It's more like a brick than a crown. It's heavy enough to get brain damage from it if you wore it for long." He turns to Susan. "This reminds me. Are we going to be wearing ours?"

"In the circumstances, yes." Susan says. "It'll give our presence more weight. One of us will have to fly down to Cair Paravel on a griffin to get them before tomorrow - I suggest Lucy, since she's less likely to be missed."

"And spare me from any well-meaning ladies of court." Lucy adds.

Caspian falls back on the bed to stare at the ceiling. "I have no say in any of this, do I?"

"Of course not." Lucy says. "I'm going to have to find a wind-proof jacket, do you know where I can find one?"

Caspian's watching Peter and Edmund sparring in the courtyard, the day before his coronation. There's quite a few watching the kings of old spar, actually. Glozelle is one of them, his eyes devouring every move Peter and Edmund make, noting the twists and turns of how they move. Like Caspian, he saw them fight in the battle, and against Miraz, so he knows they're excellent fighters, but that was out of the corner of his eye during the battle or when fighting for his life. This is practice, when they're relaxed. It's an opportunity to watch technique for Glozelle. For Caspian, it's interesting.

The first time he encountered Peter was when Peter attacked the minotaur Asterius, and Caspian defended him against the attacker. Telmarine, he thought at first, except when he took a breath, he realised the attacker was blond and younger than him. And then he'd had to fend off a savage attack, right up until Peter got his sword stuck in a tree, then came after him with a rock. He's quite aware that probably all that saved him from getting his head staved in was Susan's appearance. At the How, he knows that they probably practised, but everyone was so busy that you simply didn't have time to stop and watch people fight. Stopping people from fighting was a bigger concern, tempers were running so high. During the attack on the castle and during the battle, he only ever caught Peter's movements out of the corner of his eye, a flash of golden hair, light on his blade and armour, and a spray of blood as more fell to his blade. He only caught the second half of the duel with Miraz, when both were injured. He's aware that Peter had his arm dislocated and put back into place by Edmund. He's never had to fight with a dislocated arm before, his lessons were always stopped when that happened. Not too many teachers wanted to risk further injury or tearing to the potential king. The rest of the duel was a blur of hacking and slashing, Peter sometimes on the floor, sometimes not, grappling and then fighting with fists and shield when they both lost their swords. That had been something he'd barely even considered. Peter had automatically switched to grappling, not afraid to hit Miraz in his wounded leg, which the rules of honour say you should not do. Then came the pause, and Miraz attacking from behind, with the blur as Peter grabbed the sword and used it to stab him in the armpit. After that, the point when Peter had offered him Miraz' death, and Caspian hadn't been able to take it. A chivalrous mistake, he knows, and he remembers Peter and Edmund looking at him incredulously even as the Narnians cheered him for his chivalry. Since then he's heard more of the Pevensie opinions on chivalry and mercy. Apparently they're completely wasted and only fit for those who are unused to the nature of real battle. You never give quarter, and you always get rid of the threat. If the enemy has been disarmed, all the better. When in doubt, strike them from behind, use your fists, and go for the killing blow.

So this will be interesting. Seeing how they fight when they're not fighting for their lives or injured, and he is a disinterested observer this time, not half-watching the Telmarine army and not fully frightened out of his mind and out of his depth. He'll be able to see individual moves, for a start. He's aware High King Peter is supposed to be one of the best fighters of all time, so the legends say. He'd like to see it for himself.

Edmund steps back, making a beckoning gesture. Peter's fighting with sword and shield, while Edmund fights with two swords. They advance, go back, swoop and turn, finally clashing blades. They're fast. Edmund is fast, but Peter is faster still. They never stop for breath, hammering at each other, swords and shields clashing, ducking and dodging. Spinning one way to avoid a strike and using the momentum of the spin to strike under the other's arm, only just caught before it hits flesh. As they fight, they kick and elbow and knee, hitting out with the hilt of their swords if the other gets too close. Caspian's fairly sure they're breaking every rule of combat he was ever taught, but he can't say what specifically, because all he seems to see is the flow of motion. Dark figure against golden, and his attention's focussed on the way Peter moves. Movement flowing into movement, all deadly. Entrancing. Eventually they stop, far apart, at some pre-arranged sign. Caspian shakes his head to get rid of the spell they cast, relinquishing his place, intending to talk to Peter. About what, he's not precisely sure.

When he comes across Peter, he's in the middle of removing his gloves, practice sword propped up against the wall. Peter looks up, meeting Caspian's gaze. "Was it a good fight?" Caspian asks.

"Not bad." Peter shrugs. "Not back to full fitness and skill, yet. We're working on it."

Caspian stares. "Full fitness? But your speed -"

Peter shifts his shoulders, grimacing. "Not quite used to this body yet. When I last fought properly, I had my full growth and I was practising near daily. I hadn't fought for a year prior to coming back to Narnia. I should be faster, for a start."

"Oh. I ... hope you regain your full skill soon." Caspian says. What do you say to something like that? And if he's this fast now, how fast will he be with more training? "Did you need anything?"

Peter shakes his head. The sweat collecting at his hairline shakes off slightly with the motion. "No, I'll be going to get this removed, but I'm fine."

Caspian nods, and turns to go. Before he can take more than a step, though, he finds himself turned and pushed up against the wall. He takes in a breath, suddenly faced with Peter up close and pressing him into the wall. Holding him there. Peter's smaller than him currently, but his muscles are stronger, and he's got the weight of armour on his side. Besides the physical, Caspian's quite sure that if he tried to slip out of the hold, he'd find himself on the floor in moments. Not to mention that the last time he had Peter anywhere near this close was when Peter was fighting him, the first time they met. Up close he's... Caspian can't look away. The smell of sweat and leather and metal is rising off Peter's armour, clouding his senses.

"My lord?" Caspian asks, trying to find his voice as Peter looks him over. Breathing him in.

Peter leans in closer, his chest pressing against Caspian's, the chain mail heavy and rigid. He dips his head to nuzzle Caspian's cheek, one thigh pressing insistently between Caspian's, shifting it so they're pressed hip to hip. Caspian swallows, not quite sure how to take this sudden change in mood, frozen solid and breathing in the post-fight scent of Peter. "I saw you watching me." Peter says into his ear. "Impressed?"

"I - very." Caspian says. "You fight well."

Peter draws back, slowly, his cheek brushing against Caspian's as he does so, slowly enough that Caspian's aware of every brush of skin against his. "Good to know I provided entertainment." Peter says, face still close enough that if he leaned forward just a fraction, they'd be touching again. Peter lets go of one of Caspian's hands to trail the back of his fingers down Caspian's jaw, lightly enough to feel like it's on the verge of tickling. "Wouldn't you say?"

Caspian's aware that his own breath is starting to sound particularly loud - at least to his own ear. He doesn't know what to think, and he's having problems even forming coherent thought with Peter pressed up against him like this, hand stroking at his jaw. "...Possibly?"

"Perhaps I should make sure you're more entertained next time." Peter chuckles, and the weight of Peter pressing into him is suddenly gone, Peter backed away from him and no fingers brushing his jaw or hot breath on his face. He smiles slowly and is gone, leaving Caspian to sag against the wall and get his breath back. He's not sure what that was about, and can't think why. But he'd like his head to recover from the encounter soon, please. Knowing his luck he won't be able to get the feeling of being pressed against the wall out of his head with the accompanying images any time soon.