The Lost Prince

This piece of writing was written for the TLC Summer Challenge 2011. It looks at what might have gone on in the Narnian camp when they learned that they had mistaken another boy for Prince Corin; a boy that had overheard their escape plan and run away - but just happened to look identical to the Prince. It addresses the question: "Did the Narnians not know Corin had a lost twin brother, and if not, why not?" and considers how they might have reacted if they did figure out who the strange boy was. All characters and the setting of the events referred to  (except Peridan's father and the Lord Reilaf) are not my own, but come from CS Lewis' The Horse and His Boy.

Corin watched as the boy's hand disappeared from view. “What a strange boy,” he thought to himself, “What a strange city this is.” He was looking forward to returning home.

Just then, he heard the clop of Mr Tumnus' hooves as he entered the room. “My young prince, you should be lying–” His sentence was cut short when the boy turned to face him and saw his eye. He stared at Corin for a moment, taking everything in. His first suspicion was that the boy had run off into the streets the moment he had left him, but then he noticed his clothes.

“What, by the Lion's Mane, is going on young man? Poor Susan was worried enough about your condition. Either my eyes are deceiving me, and I am bewitched or you are not the same Prince Corin that was here earlier! I do hope the Grand Vizier did not have my food laced with something to sway my senses!” The faun sat down in despair and gripped his horns in frustration for the second time that day.

Prince Corin walked over to him, and smiling, placed a hand on the faun's shoulder. He had been tempted to let his Narnian escort wonder for a while, before revealing the whole truth as he had promised the other young boy he would. He was most disappointed the boy had not stayed so they could pull off a few pranks.

Seeing Tumnus in such a state, he realised how this city was working on everyone's nerves and understood that now was not the time for games. “It's okay, Mr Tumnus,” he said, as the faun raised his head and looked into his eyes. “I am not the same Prince Corin you saw earlier today. Your eyes do not deceive you.”

Instead of the expected sense of relief in the faun's face, he saw instead further puzzlement. Corin sat down next to his dear friend and told him the whole story; how he had snuck out of the place they were staying, his adventures in the streets of Calormen, his waiting through the night, and his arrival back into that very room, only to find a young boy who looked almost exactly like him waiting there. He explained how the boy had been in a hurry to leave and of how he had some crazy idea of crossing the dessert. Corin had not had time to inquire any further before they had heard Tumnus' approach and the other boy had made good his escape.

Tumnus sat quietly and listened. He could tell from the Prince's tone that he spoke the truth and was not up to some trickery. “How strange,” he finally said, “that we should find a boy who so closely resembles your Highness amongst all the dark faces and heads of Calormen.”

“He said he thought he was Narnian,” answered the Prince, “Although he didn't seem entirely sure or even convinced of that fact. He also claimed to have some or other talking horse. Say, you don't think he was a spy, do you?” He added the last comment as it suddenly occurred to him, his young mind running wild. What's to bet he wasn't sent by Rabadash to make sure Susan marries him. That prince is crazy, I saw it in his eyes when we met him the other day.”

“Calm down, your Highness,” answered Tumnus, trying to stay calm himself. His suspicion was that the young boy was simply a beggar, overwhelmed by being mistaken for the prince. Tumnus had seen no malice, only confusion in the boy's eyes. But something told him that there was more to it. The resemblance to the Prince was uncanny. In fact, that boy almost looked more like the Prince Corin he knew than the one that stood before him now. But he knew for certain that this was the real prince from the way he spoke. The other one had not spoken enough to reveal his identity.

“Come, your Highness,” said Tumnus finally, “We must work out this puzzle at some other time. We must make our way to the ship.”

So as not to arouse suspicion, the various members of the Narnian contingent were to take different routes to the ship. Tumnus led Corin though a tangle of streets and past some vendors where they collected the oranges and apples he had ordered earlier that day. “Did you know that they imported Narnian apples here?” he said, by way of conversation, “How appropriate for our feast to honour the prince.”

The remainder of the trip was completed in silence. Once on board the Splendour Hyaline, Tumnus took the prince to Susan's quarters, explaining briefly what had happened. Susan's eyes opened wide with wonder, and she hugged the prince, ordering an attendant to fetch ointment for his eye. She also bade Tumnus bring Edmund and Peridan to her cabin.

When the men arrived, she asked Corin to retell his story of the strange boy again. He told them everything.

After a while, Edmund spoke up, “There's nothing to it,” he said. “We will have to trust that the boy was not a spy, we cannot change our plans now.”

“But what if he was,” said Susan, worriedly. You yourself said the Prince was getting suspicious. What if he planted him? Perhaps the boy did not even know he was hired as a spy, and now they'll beat him to get the truth out of him. He heard our entire escape plan! And the secret of crossing the dessert to Archenland!” For the second time that day she regretted her decision to come to Calormen and felt that this was all her fault.

“Your Highness need not fear the boy,” spoke up Lord Peridan. Everyone turned to look at him, but despite the subtle hint in his smile that he might know something the others didn't, he gave nothing away. “I believe that he was correct in telling young Corin that he is of Northern stock. Why ever would he make up the story of having a talking horse.”

“But if he spoke the truth, and really has befriended a talking horse,” said Susan, a new worry in her face, “how dare we leave a fellow Northerner in this forsaken city. He stands little chance of making it out alive. What if someone else mistakes him for one of our party and harm comes to him on discovering our escape?”

“I hear you, your majesty,” replied Tumnus, but what could we do? If we were to send out a search party now, we would have to delay our escape, and our attempt at escape might be discovered. We would be putting the whole Narnian party at risk for a young boy that would have us believe he was Prince Corin, and made a fast departure the second the real Prince appeared. The boy said he had a plan, is it worth us interfering at the risk of our own?”

Peridan had been watching this exchange closely, uncertain of what to do. He turned now to Edmund, deciding to risk a few moments discomfort. “May I have a word with your highness in private,” he whispered. Edmund looked up at him in surprise, but nodded and stepped outside the room with him.

“Your majesty, I do not mean to exclude any of the present company, and your royal sister deserves to hear this as well as you. But I fear to upset her further in her present state, especially not unnecessarily. There is something I think you should know...”

Peridan began to tell the king, who was at this time completely ignorant of the matter, of Prince Corin's twin brother. The boys were born a couple of years before the Pevensies first arrived in Narnia. At this time, Archenland had been long isolated from her northern neighbour, cut off by the power of the White Witch and her perpetual winter which made the mountain pass into Narnia impossible, despite that fact that Archenland herself was largely spared from the harsh weather. It was not long after Prince Cor's capture that the Pevensies came to power, but by the time contact was made between the two nations it had been decided that it was prudent that Corin's brother, the lost prince, never be spoken of in Archenland or elsewhere.

This was by the advice of the same centaur who had predicted Cor would one day rescue Archenland. Lune made his way with Peridan's father (one of his most trusted advisors) back to the centaur after Cor's kidnapping. The centaur said that the future of the boy had become dark and he did not know whether the prophesy could still reach fulfilment. King Lune always believed that his son was not dead and would one day return to fulfil his prophesy. The centaur bade them never to speak missing prince openly again.

“Since joining the young Archenlander volunteers who came to serve in your court, your majesty,” concluded Peridan, “I have never once thought of the lost prince until this day. There is a fair chance that that young man we mistook for Corin, was in fact his lost brother Cor, though neither boy would have known it.”

Edmund was speechless, “A well kept secret indeed. I have heard not the slightest rumour of it before. But was it prudent, I wonder? Had we known this, we could have prevented his escape.”

“We might still not have known the boy was not Corin until it was too late,” countered Peridan. “Also, we do not know that this is the lost prince. We have no guarantee the boy ever survived.”

“Oh dear,” sighed Edmund, “Whatever shall we do? I want not a word of this whispered to my sister, she is too emotionally vulnerable as it is. In fact, we will keep this between ourselves for the time being.”

“What are you going to do?” Peridan could see that the king had some plan. “We will go ahead with our escape as planned. Summon Lord Reilaf immediately. He is trustworthy, but has been little enough seen in public that he will not be recognised. With his dark hair, he can disguise himself as a Calormene. I shall leave him in the city to scout for the boy. If he can by any means find him, he will do so. If the boy is no spy, but indeed a northerner, prince or not, he will contrive a way of escape for them both. It is the best I can do at such short notice. If he truly is the prince, and has survived this long unscathed, I do believe that he can take care of himself. Who knows but that he might be safer in the city than on board our fleeing vessel. Aslan be with us all this night and in the days that lie ahead.”