Characters: Caspian X, Doctor Cornelius
Notes: This was just a little idea that invaded my head unexpectedly and begged to be written. I don't think I did a very good job of it, but it was a lot of fun to write...feedback is, as always, appreciated more than words can express.
Summary: Even great Kings, it seems, are not exempt from the trials and tribulations of puberty. Well, someone might have explained that earlier. Bookverse.
King Caspian felt like screaming.
He felt like screaming, but he didn’t dare. His voice, for reasons best known to itself, was playing traitor, and he did not believe himself capable of controlling the sounds that would emerge if he opened his mouth. So he kept quiet, pacing his royal chambers at a great speed to relieve some of the pressure of his frustration.
Caspian had never been a coward, but something was going on with his body lately that was beginning to seriously frighten him. It had all started when he discovered that he was sprouting hair where hair oughtn’t to be. He had panicked at first, wondering whether he might be turning into a werewolf – perhaps that accursed creature of Nikabrik’s had been contagious! – but full moon came and went with no sign of anything more sinisterly animalistic. No sign, that is, save for the disconcerting images that had begun to plague his dreams night after night. Several times a week he would wake after a long and restless night, to find his bed-sheets soiled with some mysterious white substance. This alarmed him more than anything, especially when he learnt precisely where the substance was coming from. Surely this was not a sign of good health. When he woke after these nocturnal catastrophes, he hid his sheets so that the chambermaids would not find them. His reasons for this were twofold – partly so as not to alarm jus subjects until he knew more about this strange condition of his and whether or not he would survive it, and partly because the whole business gave him a strange sense of embarrassment and awkwardness. This same emotion was what stopped him from consulting the physician, who he otherwise thought could have shed some light on the issue. His chambermaids, needless to say, were bewildered at the disappearances of all their best bed linen, but thought it prudent not to question the king’s housekeeping habits.
There were also awful muscular aches. They were not particularly sharp, and they did not disable him in any way, but they seemed to last for ages. He assumed that this particular symptom correlated in some way to the rapid growth of his limbs, yet another thing he couldn’t explain to himself. As it was, the aches often kept him awake at night – although, he thought, this was probably a good thing. He was tired of the feverish dreams that kept coming night after night.
Caspian’s secret anxiety about his health was having a serious impact on his day-to-day functioning. He was temperamental and moody, prone to flying into rages over absolutely nothing, or lapsing into fits of melancholy that nothing could shake him out of. His duties irked him, and concentration was becoming difficult.
All these symptoms he had been able to cope with because they were invisible, but there was simply no hiding the fact that he had woken up that morning and found he couldn’t talk. Well, that wasn’t strictly true…he could talk, but his words were punctuated by cracks and warbles that came out entirely of their own accord. Worse still, he had an important meeting of state to attend that afternoon. How could he appear in front of all those lords and ambassadors and command their respect if he sounded like he’d swallowed a tortured mouse?
Caspian flung himself down on his bed and tried valiantly to hold back the tears that were welling in his eyes. It was no use anyway. If things kept deteriorating, who knew whether he would even be alive in a month or two? He had scoured every medical book in the castle for some clue as to the nature of his ailment, and not one had yielded a thing. For all he knew, he was the first person in the world for such a terrible thing to happen to. He highly doubted that even the best of the court physicians would know how to cure him.
His miserable train of thought was interrupted by a knock on the door. He dashed at his eyes furiously, refusing to call out lest his voice betray him again. The visitor, however, did not wait for an answer. The door swung open and a short, fat, bearded man came sweeping into the room. One glance at the great king curled up on the bed with tear-stained cheeks and a look of utter despair on his face, and whatever words had been on his lips abandoned him. Instead, he hurried over to the bed and sat down uninvited, reaching out a stubby hand to caress the boy’s shoulder. Caspian leaned against his tutor and allowed himself to be comforted, forgetting in his distress his usual strict abstinence from such childish behaviours.
“My dear King Caspian,” said Doctor Cornelius kindly, “whatever is the matter? Why, you are shaking.”
“Oh, Cornelius,” sobbed Caspian, the last syllable being swallowed up by a sort of shrill squeak. “I fear I am very, very ill. I am getting all hairy, and my body aches and…and now my voice has stopped working!” He began to sob, burying his face in the man’s sleeve.
Cornelius’ eyes widened as he realised what was troubling his young charge. “Oh dear, dear boy,” he muttered, stroking the back of his king’s head and trying not to chuckle, “did you think you were ill? How long has this been going on for?”
“A while,” warbled Caspian, sitting up and scrubbing at his cheeks with the corner of a pillow. “Cornelius, I don’t know what’s happening to me! I’ve combed through the whole library and there’s not one book that tells me where my symptoms come from!”
“There is nothing wrong with you at all,” Cornelius said firmly, and Caspian stared at him with wide, watery eyes.
“But what can you mean, professor?”
“I mean…” Cornelius sighed to himself, feeling both amused by the king’s lack of understanding, and guilty for his own oversight in not having explained to him before. The thought of Caspian hitting puberty had simply never occurred to him – foolish! He should have noticed earlier. He could only imagine how frightened and confused the poor boy must be. “Your Highness, these ‘symptoms’ you are experiencing are perfectly natural. They are part of the process that every boy must go through in growing to be a man. I promise you, there is absolutely nothing sinister about it.”
Caspian was silent for a minute, staring as if the doctor had sprouted another head. “You mean to say,” he spluttered, “that all boys do this? That it is completely normal and healthy?”
“That is what I mean to say,” said Cornelius calmly. “Your Highness is growing. It will only be a few short years now until you are a man.”
“Well, someone might have warned me!” Caspian cried, indignant. “I have never heard anything about this…growing process. Are you quite sure that every boy has it?”
Cornelius smiled. “Positive, my king. In fact, I will show you a book you would have overlooked in your search. It explains the process far better than I ever could.”
“Thank you…thank you.” Caspian’s cheeks flushed as he thought of another issue. “But what am I to do about the meeting? I cannot appear before all those nobles with my voice like this.” Indeed, throughout the conversation his voice had continued to crack and wobble uncontrollably. It was most inconvenient, to say nothing of embarrassing.
Cornelius gave him a sympathetic glance. “If I thought your condition would pass soon enough, I would advise postponing the meeting until later. But as this could take weeks to settle, you will simply have to do your best to control your tone.”
Caspian made a strange squawking noise. “Weeks? I haven’t got time for that! Is there no way I can make it go faster?”
“I am afraid not, Highness.” Cornelius fought back a smile as the chagrined king glared venomously at his treacherous body in the mirror. “However, it is nothing you ought to be ashamed of. Every man alive has been through the same experience.”
Caspian huffed. “I had best get dressed now, I suppose.” He looked uncertainly at his tutor. “Are you sure it’s perfectly normal?” He added doubtfully.
“I will have to read this book of yours, if I ever get a free moment.”
“If it please you, I shall fetch it myself and have it brought to your desk directly.”
“Thank you,” said Caspian, shaking his head again and glancing helplessly at his tutor. “This is all such a nuisance! I have had the fright of my life these few weeks past.”
“You will recover, I daresay,” chuckled Cornelius. “You will have enough frights eventually to drive it from your mind altogether.”
Little more needs to be said of what happened thenceforth, save that Caspian read the book from cover to cover and his mind (if not his pride) was greatly eased by it. It did not, unfortunately, make the hormonal stress any easier to bear, for kings, as Caspian fumed many a time over the course of the next few months, simply didn’t have time for puberty. He got through it, as all young men must, and was not unpleasantly surprised to learn that many girls in the court greatly admired his new, mature physique. But that, dear reader, is another story altogether.