mrstater: (Caspian/Ramandu's Daughter)
[personal profile] mrstater
Title: Bright and Morning Star (2/?)
Author: MrsTater
Fandom: The Chronicles of Narnia
Pairing: Caspian/Ramandu's Daughter
Format & Word Count: WIP, 4708 words in Chapter 2
Rating & Warnings: PG-13 for mild sexuality and adult themes
Summary: "Caspian and his men all came safely back to Ramandu's Island. And the three lords woke from their sleep. Caspian married Ramandu's daughter and they all reached Narnia in the end…" But it's a long voyage to Narnia, and the waters of marriage are more troubled and difficult to navigate than the sea. [post-VotDT]
Author's Notes: At last, an update! My apologies for my tardiness, but that's life with a Tater Tot, and I caught a bad case of writer's block mid-chapter. Finished up quickly enough once I got over that hump, and hopefully the Chapter of Doom isn't as horrible to read as it was to write. ;) Inexplicably I find that the name Liliandil has grown on me, so I now refer to her as such in this chapter; previous ones will be updated to reflect that change. As always, feedback is welcome and greatly appreciated.

Prologue: The Beginning | 1. The King Takes a Queen |

2. In Sickness


The first pink edge of the sun had broken over the sea when Caspian collapsed on his pillows and fell at last into a true, deep slumber. Throughout the night he'd snatched cat naps between the wakeful intervals with Liliandil, which he revisited in dreams of her eager lips meeting his, parting, opening as she welcomed him with her body; of holding her afterward, and of her holding him in turn, stroking his hair and humming a soft, sweet tune that lulled him to sleep…

When his heavy eyelids cracked opened to vibrant orange light of midday streaming through the three square windows of his cabin, he discovered himself to be alone in his bunk instead of lying with his arm draped across the warm skin of her slender waist, and wondered if he hadn't dreamt the whole thing after all: the wedding night, the party on the ship, the breakfast, and the brief wedding that had preceded it all, none of which he could recall in greater detail than hazy snatches.

With a sharp twinge in his chest he remembered how he'd awoken on the first morning of the return voyage with a quip on his tongue to share with Edmund, a bit of a dream about the End of the World which Lucy would appreciate, only to realise that he was sleeping in his own bunk, in his own spacious quarters, instead of in the hammock in the tiny cabin he'd grown accustomed to during the bulk of his time at sea, because his friends had gone back to their own world.

He heaved a sigh and flopped onto his side, yanked the bedclothes up to block out the relentless sun, when he glimpsed her through the slits of his eyes.

Liliandil sat at the table across the cabin, hugging her knees to her chest and wearing a dressing gown of his which she must have found in one of the lockers. She seemed to be studying the royal treasures he'd left on the table after showing her the previous night, but at the rustling from Caspian's bed, she looked up. For a moment as she uncurled her long limbs he thought he noted lines of sadness or worry or some other unpleasant emotion he couldn't identify etched on her pale face--he ignored the voice of Drinian in his head, asking how well Caspian knew his new Queen--but the words she spoke to him were light of heart.

"Awake at last, Husband?"

"No." Unable to stop himself grinning, Caspian settled back against the pillows and allowed his still drowsy eyes to fall shut. "I'm under an enchantment that can only be broken by a kiss."

"Are you certain it wasn't the kisses that put you to sleep?"

"Mmm…They were rather enchanting."

Liliandil moved so silently that Caspian was unaware that she'd got up from the bench and crossed the cabin to him till her loose hair tickled his face as she leant over the bunk to kiss him. It was a gentle kiss, at first almost chaste, but nonetheless arousing. He slid his arms around her and pulled her down into the bed with him. The dressing gown slipped off her shoulder, and the tantalising glimpse of her skin, fair and faintly glowing as the daylight glinted off the gilt and polished wood of the cabin, compelled him to divest her of the remainder of the garment. He settled the heel of his hand in the smooth valley of her back and pulled her against him for a deeper kiss.

Amorous though he was, and eager to indulge in this favourite new pastime marriage had brought him, Caspian was not inattentive to her response to him, which didn't quite match the level of his own enthusiasm. During the night she had only too willingly accepted--and returned--his expressions of love and longing, so he did not now press her for more. Instead, he broke the kiss.

Let Drinian call him a stranger to his wife now, he thought.

But as Caspian looked into Liliandil's eyes, he found himself at a loss for words to explain his actions, for he had so many questions himself. What was the reason for her withdrawn demeanour? She had left their bed before he awoke. Was she uncomfortable with their new arrangement, after all? Had he taken too many liberties with her?

He pushed the robe back over her, then moved so that they were sat together on the bunk, the sheets pulled modestly up around his waist.

"Have you been awake long?" he asked.

She glanced away--out the windows--before answering, "Since before dawn."

At once Caspian understood--he was relieved the trouble wasn't with him--and put his arm about her shoulders, pleased when she leant against him. "This is the first morning you haven't sung with your father, isn't it?"

For a moment her pale face registered something like bafflement, then she blurted, "Oh! Yes."

"It 's only natural that you should feel homesick."

"I'm not homesick," she said, "But I do feel…" She hesitated, casting about for a word; when she chose one, it didn't sound like what she wanted to say. "Different."

"We shall have to begin some morning traditions of our own." Instinctively, Caspian bent to press a kiss to the curve of her neck above the collar of the dressing gown, but stopped when she stiffened in his embrace. He tried to ignore the niggling thought that he mightn't have her sussed after all. "But perhaps we ought to have breakfast first."

Liliandil voiced her agreement without enthusiasm. As they dressed, Caspian noticed that her gaze kept drifting to the table.

"Did you say Queen Lucy's cordial cures any ailment?" she asked.

"It does. She even used it to treat her cousin's seasickness--though I thought it seemed rather a waste. But Queen Lucy is unfailingly patient and compassionate, traits which I would have done well to emulate."

And as they made their way to the galley, Caspian told Liliandil all about Lucy's kindness to the ill-mannered and even more ill-tempered Eustace, and of Eustace's adventures as a dragon. But as Caspian talked and ate, he became aware that Liliandil seemed not to be listening, and she only picked at her food.

He interrupted himself mid-anecdote to ask, "Is the food not to your liking? I know it's nothing so sumptuous as the food you enjoyed at your father's house, but--"

"I have never been a great eater," she replied, truly enough, for Caspian realised that he had seen his bride eat next to nothing the previous morning, or at all throughout the day, though he'd helped himself to the buffet spread on deck; and come to think of it, she'd never sat down to dine with the Dawn Treader crew at Aslan's Table.

"Do stars not require sustenance?"

"I'm not a star. My father is. And I do eat." As if to prove it, she nibbled at a biscuit.

Though baffled by her sudden crossness, and feeling again that he had somehow unwittingly offended her, Caspian forced a smile. "I find those ever so much more palatable when paired with dried meat and a bit of fruit, and washed down with a glass of wine--especially on deck, with the wind on my face and the salt spray to stimulate my appetite. Shall we go up?"

She was on her feet at once, but said, "Pray excuse me, but I think I am more tired than hungry."

"Of course. You did not sleep at all."

Caspian rose to accompany her; when he offered his hand, she shook her head and gave a small smile, almost weak, which seemed strange upon her noble, otherworldly face.

"I know the way. Enjoy your breakfast in the fresh sea air."

When she had gone--quickly--Caspian did go up above deck, but he was too bewildered, and, if he was completely honest, too hurt, to have an appetite in any sort of air.

The breeze, however, soon had the effect of buoying his spirits--so much so that when the crew inquired as to the whereabouts of his bride, and his explanation that she was resting was met with raised brows above twinkling brows and slight smirks, Caspian blushed and beamed and convinced himself that what his men assumed was, indeed, the case, and any awkwardness perceived by him had been only the result of an overactive imagination fueled by nerves and fatigue. He felt sure that when Liliandil awoke, she would greet him with the smiles and open arms he had expected this morning. Perhaps she wouldn't mind being awakened with a kiss…

He wouldn't think about that, however. Not till she'd had a good long rest.

Fortunately for Caspian, sailing provided ample distraction. For the first time since the Dawn Treader had turned from the End of the World, he watched the great purple mainsail billowing westward and felt within his chest the familiar swell of impending adventure.

"My Lord Drinian!" he called, joining the Captain where he conferred with Rhince at the tiller. "What is our course?"

Drinian started to make a reply about a strong tailwind, but at the same moment Rhince had tilted his head toward the Captain's and muttered, "Ah, Lord, he's got that look in his eyes again."

"Have I, indeed, Rhince?" Caspian lifted his eyebrows at his crew member's slight impertinence, though his good cheer rendered his show of admonishment unconvincing. During the voyage he'd come to consider Rhince too good a friend to really mind his stepping over the line of proper deference. Especially in the absence of his dear friends who had freely joked with him. "Pray tell me what look that is."

Despite Caspian's lack of reproof, Rhince had the good grace to be chagrined.

Drinian, on the other hand, harboured no such reservations. "The one that tells me you're going to suggest I change the course I just set."

Caspian chuckled, but when he spoke it was with absolute sincerity. "It does seem such a shame to have sailed till we could sail no further, only to return home by more or less the same route by which we came. Surely we do not believe we've seen all that is to be discovered here in the Eastern Sea?"

Rhince caught Drinian's eye and gave him a look that plainly said What did I tell you?

"Were it any other time of year," said Drinian, relegated, as usual, to the role of diplomat, "I would say there's no harm in indulging our wanderlust, though the crew are bent on getting home. However, the tailwind of which I spoke--"

"We're just ahead of the first winter squall," Rhince interrupted. "You can feel it in the bite of the wind--and there's a howl, particular to winter. In fact--" He abruptly fell silent and glanced away.

"Master Rhince?" Caspian prompted.

Rhinced glanced at Drinian, then continued reluctantly, "I'm sure it's nothing, Sire, but there's something unsettling about this cold. Reminds me of Dark Island, it does."

A chill shuddered up Caspian's spine at the name of that place. His eyes flicked to Drinian, whose emotions were less obvious than Rhince's, though Caspian knew him well enough to look for the telltale twitch of his cheek muscle. It wasn't a comforting sign.

But Caspian threw back his shoulders and spoke in his most commanding voice. "You're right, Master Rhince, it is nothing. Aslan destroyed Dark Island--we all saw it. Or rather, didn't see."

But the poor attempt at levity evoked no laughter from the Captain and First Mate. Their speechlessness made him think, unwillingly, of the silence that had persisted in the fog of Dark Island no matter how much noise they'd all made on the ship, as if they had all been wrapped round with cotton wool.

"Do you also feel this foreboding, Lord Drinian?"

"The cold turns my mind also to Dark Island, aye. But most likely it is some trick of memory as we near the place where we encountered that evil."

"Or some trick of black magic lingering in these waters," Rhince muttered.

Caspian did not rebuke him for giving voice to that morose thought, for he was deep in thought.

"If the men thought there was even the possibility that Dark Island might still exist, perhaps not as a place, but as a feeling, as Rhince suggests--and I forbid you to mention it to any of them, you both remember how mutinous some of them were on Ramandu's Island--might they be more willing to risk winter in unknown waters than to risk finding that foul place again?"

"Your Majesty will seize any opportunity that might facilitate exploration," said Drinian with a raspy chuckle that made Caspian flush to have been so transparent.

"I was also thinking of poor Lord Rhoop," he said, wincing inwardly at how unconvincing the excuse sounded. "He least of anyone on board will want to see Dark Island again."

"I've no wish to seek new lands out here that may be even worse that we've encountered," said Rhince. "I just want to sail for home with all speed."

"You'll sail wherever Drinian and I command you to sail," Caspian snapped.

"I think we need not yet come to any decision," Drinian said."We are days out from Dark Island, if the place is there. We should keep our eyes open for any sign that it is. Perhaps the Queen knows something about the nature of the place."

Caspian's reply was stolen by a strong gust of wind that kicked up at that moment, blasting him with an icy spray that hadn't been at all what he had in mind when he described to Liliandil the pleasures of taking a meal in the fresh sea air. Though he tried not to allow it, his imagination carried him to yawning mouth of Dark Island, where fear coiled about him like fog, or a sea serpent, or the bonds of slavery…

"No!" cried Caspian, thrusting his hands out as if to break free from ropes tied about them. The startled expressions of Drinian and Rhince brought him back to the present. The bonds were immaterial; Dark Island was a figment of his imagination. A low winter cloud had passed in front of the sun, but now had dispersed, and the wind no longer lashed at his cheek.

"No," he repeated. "The Queen is resting and not to be disturbed."

"Of course not, Sire," said Drinian. "As I said, there is no immediacy. But if I may be so bold as to suggest that Your Majesty could do with rest, as well?"

Sleep did sound appealing--Caspian was sure that Rhince's ghost stories had got to him only because he was sleep-deprived, just as he'd imagined Liliandil's unease in his company for the same reason.

Yet the mental brush with Dark Island had sufficiently diminished his mood so that the latter once again pressed upon him. He couldn't go to his cabin and face his wife spurning his affections again. Nor could he kip in his old hammock without one of the crew noticing that he was not with his new bride. The last thing Caspian needed was for his men, as well as himself, to imagine all was not love's young dream for the King of Narnia.

Especially Drinian, given the things he'd said to Caspian before the wedding.

"Thank you for your concern, Lord Drinian, but I am fine. Carry on, gentlemen."

Caspian went off to find some occupation for himself, and sat down with Rynelf to pass the afternoon at chess, which at first only made him morose because it reminded him of all the games he'd played and never would play again with Reepicheep and Edmund and Lucy, and then put him even further out of humour because, in his distraction, he lost his queen rather early in the game.

Despite all that, he was a skilled enough player--or perhaps it was that he was much too competitive to go down without a fight--that some time passed before Rynelf managed to put Caspian's king in check. As he contemplated his stratagem for prolonging the game, a touch upon his shoulder made him start.

"My lady!" So surprised was Caspian to see Liliandil above deck, and looking as radiant as he had seen her today, that he nearly upset the low table upon which the chessboard lay as he leapt up; Rynelf saved it with the reflexes of a cat as he rose and bowed to the Queen.

"Husband," she said, clasping Caspian's outstretched hands. He brought them to his lips, his pulse quickening as her eyes held his, the light returned to them, and her lips curved in a smile that bespoke the intimate night they had shared in his cabin.

"I trust your rest did you good?"

"It was most…restorative." Liliandil glanced sidelong at Drinian, who had just joined them. "As if I'd partaken of Queen Lucy's magic cordial.

It was a strange analogy, but Caspian let it pass, for he was too relieved that all seemed to be well between them once more to pay it--or Drinian's drawn mouth and raised eyebrow--any mind. He resumed his seat at the chess table, pulling LIliandil down upon his knee.

"I'm afraid you shall find me a knight of no worship," he said, gesturing to the field of battle with its disproportionate gold and silver armies. "I suffer an uncharacteristically humiliating defeat."

"It's the humility that's the most uncharacteristic part," said Rynelf.

Ordinarily it was the sort of good-natured banter between shipmates and friends that made Caspian laugh, or give back as good as he got, but today Rynelf's remark stung for some reason quite unbeknownst to Caspian. Perhaps it was that it had been made in front of his new bride, who, as Drinian had pointed out and his brain kept reminding him, didn't know him very well.

But Liliandil's fingertips brushed an errant lock of hair back from his face, and she said, in the tones of a lady to her knight, "Indeed, no, my King, for I have heard how you lead your army of Narnians against stronger and more numerous fies. You have my full confidence."

Caspian had heard such flattering words before, from the princesses and noblewomen of various courts who jockeyed for his hand, but never spoken with such depth of feeling as Liliandil did.

But as he cupped her face in his hands to kiss her, he caught Drinian's eye, which was dark with disapproval. What fault did the man find now?

"Your Highness, might I request a word?"

Oddly enough, Liliandil shot Drinian a worried glance. He deliberately avoided her eyes, keeping his gaze trained on the King. Caspian's arm went around her waist, drawing her closer against him, as he leaned forward slightly to examine the chessboard.

"Only one, my good Lord Drinian? Ordinarily you have several, whether I grant permission or not."

But Drinian's sigh would brook no cageyness. Honestly, it was like having a father sometimes…

"Excuse me, my love," said Caspian, and kissed her before taking his leave of her. She watched them go--or rather, watched Drinian. Which made Caspian's temper flare.

"By the Lion, man!" he lit into the Captain as soon as they were out of earshot. "Is it impossible for you to allow me one moment's starry-eyed newlywed bliss?"

Drinian bowed his head, and stayed that way, silent, for so long that Cadpian thought he might have changed his mind about saying whatever it was he'd intended. Annoyed as Caspian was, he couldn't ignore a voice in the back of his mind whispering that Drinian was not a man to speak unless he had something of value to say.

"Say your piece," Caspian said.

Drinian's head came up. "I made the Queen no promise that I would not speak to you, though I believe she wished I would not. I do so from the desire to give you wedded bliss, as you put it. Or to give you a chance at it."

"The Queen is keeping secrets from me?" Caspian did not add And we have not been married two full days.

"She is ashamed, Sire, and fears you will be ashamed of her."

"Ashamed? What could a lady such as she, the daughter of a star, possibly have to be--"

Drinian caught his elbow as he pivoted back toward the aft deck, where they had left Liliandil.

"The Queen has been ill."

"Ill?"

"Seasick."

"Nonsense!" If Liliandil had told Drinian any such thing, it was most likely a cover for what truly ailed her--

--which, Caspian realised with a rolling stomach, could only be, as he had suspected off and on all day, him.

"If she were seasick she would have told me," he argued, but a measure of swagger had abandoned his voice."

"She tried to," said Drinian.

Caspian opened his mouth to deny this, but, producing no sound, closed it again. When she inquired about Lucy's cordial…She had not been asking out of sheer curiosity. He sank leaned back against the ship's railing and the spray of the waves pelted his skin like frozen droplets of rain. Rhince was right; winter was coming on--and earlier than even the cautious Drinian had gauged. Caspian's shoulders slumped beneath the weight of responsibility for the potential ill that might befall the crew of the Dawn Treader, and Narnia, should her young King be lost at sea, and not least of all Liliandil, who had bound herself to him with the understanding that he would be her protector.

"What an ass I am! A foolhardy, blind, self-absorbed--" He choked out a bitter laugh. "And even now my very words prove my guilt. I take it from her vivacity, Queen Liliandil is no longer afflicted?"

Here Drinian looked very much like a boy caught nicking biscuits from the kitchen, which Caspian would have found greatly amusing were it not on account of his own deficiency.

"Forgive me for overstepping my bounds utterly, Your Majesty. But I was passing through that part of the ship and heard sounds of the Queen being sick…and she was weeping. I went in to her and administered Queen Lucy's cordial at once."

"As you should have done." Caspian lay a hand on Drinian's shoulder, though he felt a distinct need for reassurance himself. "Thank you, friend--for doing what I failed to do."

Drinian bowed, and Caspian squared his shoulders. "Now to see what I can yet do for my Queen."

She had retreated to the King's quarters, Rynelf informed him, and Caspian found her seated at the table, where he'd first set eyes on her that morning. Lucy's tiny bottle of cordial stood prominently before her, the bottle catching the last weak rays of the afternoon sun and flinging pinpoints of greenish light, as if it were made of emerald rather than cut diamond, over the polished surface of the table. Caspian thought of the maps of the heavens by which Dr. Cornelius had taught him the Narnian constellations.

But he was allowing himself to become distracted from the main thing--the unpleasant thing: Liliandil might be cured of her illness, but she looked miserable.

She rose at his entrance, and made him a curtsey.

"You know," she said, her voice very low, her eyes downcast. Her shame was so palpable that Caspian was loath to give her the affirmative. He did, however, and watched two spots of colour appear on her high cheekbones as she went on. "Lord Drinian should not have told you. I'm very well now, it doesn't matter anymore."

"But it might, someday," said Caspian. "Even if you mean to hide from me, there will come a day when you will grow to resent me for not seeing you as you are, when you have need of me."

Her hair was a ripple of white gold as she turned her back to him and shook her head. "You're the King. You have greater matters to think of than the state of my stomach."

Her words wrenched him, and he moved to stand just behind her, so near that his breath ruffled her hair, though he kept his hands at his sides and did not touch her.

"I am King to the men aboard this ship and to thousands in Narnia, but to you…Liliandil, I am your husband. The day I think more of the state of anything else than of you is the day I fail as your husband--which, alas, is the case today." With a sigh Caspian sat himself wearily upon the bench Liliandil had vacated. He ran his hand over his beard, raked a hand through his hair, tugging to relieve the aching in his scalp. "On my first day, too."

Liliandil whirled round to face him, all care for herself replaced with compassion for him. "Oh, Caspian, you haven't--"

He touched his fingers to her lips and gave her a slight smile. "Please, allow me this moment of self-recrimination. There was no small measure of truth to Rynelf's pithy observation that humility is not my strong suit."

His smile faded as he thought of the youth he had been, who confessed to Aslan that he felt insufficient to take up the kingship. Three years had changed him much, and he wondered if, had his time had come now, Aslan would have found him unready. Or if Aslan watched and regretted having entrusted his Narnians to such as Caspian.

Taking Liliandil's hands, he said, "Out there you said you had full confidence in my battle skills. I need you to be equally confident in my willingness, if not my ability, to see to your needs. However trivial they may seem to you."

Her face was exquisite even when grave, as she absorbed his words. Hands still in his, she sat beside him, turning her body so that their knees touched as they looked one another full in the face. "May I tell you what I need?"

"Please, instruct me."

"Do not have too much confidence in me." She paused while Caspian puzzled for a moment, then said, "You seem to regard me as a fairy princess simply because my father is a star. I am no star, nor am I a princess. And I am only a Queen," she preempted Caspian's protest, "because I have married a King. You place me on a pedestal, but I am nobody. And I'm terrified you will see that and be disappointed in your choice of bride."

"Lili…" The rest of her name was lost in the pressing of his lips against hers. "You could never disappoint me, least of all by being seasick!" Unbidden, laughter rippled from him, and broke their kiss. "Forgive me, I do not mean to make light, but…"

"It was silly," she conceded with a weak laugh that trailed off into a sigh. "But how was I to know? You were going on about Queen Lucy's cordial being wasted on her cousin's seasickness. You cannot be very surprised that I should not wish to display such a weakness to my husband the seafarer."

"Seafaring is in my blood," Caspian said. "I expect I should feel less at home in the sky…" At Liliandil's arched eyebrow, he realised his blunder and fumbled for a way out. "King Edmund told me that in his world there are flying machines that can carry dozens of passengers across an entire country in a matter of hours. Can you imagine such a thing?"

"No," said Liliandil, forgiveness--and fondness--in her cool blue eyes as they rested gently upon him, like the first evening stars rising out of the glow of the setting sun. "Nor can I imagine you becoming sick in one, my adventurer."

"Now which one of us is placing the other on a pedestal?"

The quirk of her eyebrow became decidedly flirtatious. "Mm. Perhaps the bed would suit you better?"

Bed, he thought as they lay down together upon the narrow bunk, suited him very well, indeed.

To be continued…


A/N: Those kind enough to leave a review get their choice of one of the following activities with Caspian: breakfast in the salty sea air; a game of chess (either against him, or seated on his knee as cheerleader); or an afternoon in bed…

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April 2011

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