The half hour between the moment Caspian had signed his life away and the moment he stood in wait to take his oath as king came and went in a blur. Surrounded by a small team of bodyguards in the hall leading into the throne room, the newly fledged monarch fiddled nervously with the sleeve of his tunic. Just fifteen minutes prior, the minister who would be officiating the coronation had walked him through the words he would need to say in front of the Aspirian people. He was good at memorizing speeches and had plenty of experience with public speaking, so remembering a few simple phrases was child’s play by now, but he still repeated his part in his head and under his breath, worried that he would forget a line in spite of all evidence to the contrary.
With his eyes fixed on the floor and the words whispered softly on his lips, he startled when Jacob spoke up at his side. “They are ready for you inside, your majesty,” the taller man announced, studying him with a frown. “We can move forward with the ceremony on your mark… Should I request a few more minutes?” He could see the nerves written plainly on the former prince’s face and didn’t want to push him to stand before the people until he was mentally prepared to do so.“No,”
Cas shook his head, taking a slow breath to steady himself. “I’m ready. Tell them they can open the doors.”
The longer he waited, the more time he had to psyche himself out, and that wouldn’t be productive for anyone. He had already signed his name on the papers that had legally given him the title anyway, so he was most of the way there already. He just had to confirm his intentions with the people, and then he could enjoy the festivities to follow. The hardest part would be over in less than an hour. Then he just had to focus on actually leading the kingdom. No pressure, right?
Jacob nodded and murmured into his radio. A pregnant pause followed before the double doors eased open, and the hallway was suddenly filled with the thunderous sound of applause from the high borns waiting on the other side. Caspian blinked in mild surprise as he walked with his guards into the room. He didn’t know what he’d been expecting when he thought about a coronation—especially since he’d never seen one, himself—but for some reason, the excitement of the occasion came as a shock. His father had just passed away, and he was an unknown stepping in to fill the role as ruler, yet the men and women who watched him stride across the aisle all looked happy about the transition. Each one well-dressed in every vibrant color one could imagine, the invited high borns wore smiles on their faces and whispered amongst one another eagerly. The mood in the air was infectiously enthusiastic, and it didn’t take long for Cas to start getting swept up in its sweet effects.
A smile pulled at his own lips as he stepped up to the ceremonial throne. The enormous chair was gilded in gold leaf, its legs and backrest spiraling outward and upward with organic texture. It was stationed in the center of a raised pedestal with a delicate side table decorated with more gold leaf and glass. Both pieces of furniture were eye-catching works of art, but they had the misfortune of sharing the spotlight with the Aspirian crown
The latter was what Cas had fixed his gaze on as he approached. Among past generations, crowns were used more often to designate royalty in Aspiria, but in modern times, they were worn only as often as the tunic the next king was sporting now. He could count on one hand the number of times he’d seen his father wear it, but it still looked just as intimidatingly regal as he remembered. The sweeping, solid gold was inlaid with precious stones that glittered as they caught the light. It looked like it had been given a fresh polish too, so that even the cameras in the far back end of the room could pick up its luster.
When he reached the throne, the minister, who was standing behind the table and crown, beckoned for him to take a seat. Cas followed the wordless instructions, turning around to face his audience as he reclined in the gilded chair. It wasn’t the most ergonomically comfortable piece of furniture, but he could practically feel the weight of its importance as his fingers brushed the edge of the golden armrests. In that moment, he’d made a tangible gesture to symbolize that he was going to fill the vacancy his father had imparted with his death. He swallowed nervously, trying not to focus on the loftiness of his decision.
“Your Majesty, are you willing to take the oath that your forefathers vowed before you?” the minister’s question rang out over the room, jarring Cas back into the present moment. The coronation was starting. The needed to give his attention to his part of the ceremony.“I am willing,”
he responded, glancing at the news station cameras that hovered near the rear doors. The minister had been clear in their rehearsal that even though they would be doing all the talking, he needed to treat the oath as something he was saying to his people, so he looked out over the crowd instead of at the other man.
“Will you solemnly swear to govern the people of Aspiria according to the laws and customs of each district, committing yourself to the betterment of all those who live in this kingdom?”“I swear to do so,”
Cas answered honestly. Even if he hadn’t been made to promise it in front of everyone in the nation, he would have striven for that goal. His father and the earlier kings who had come before him hadn’t held up their end of the deal, as he’d seen with his own eyes in the outer regions of Aspiria, but he wasn’t like them. During his reign, he planned to do everything he could to make the country a place where everyone prospered, not just the people who lived in the capital city.
The minister continued: “Will you, to your power, execute all your judgments in the name of law and justice and demonstrate wisdom when you pass judgment on those who are deserving?”“I swear to lead justly,”
Cas said, though he wasn’t quite as thrilled about the idea of passing judgment on anyone.
They went back and forth a few more times as the minister had him swear other things before the people. Some of the promises were easy, and some he wondered if he would be able to keep. The entire process lasted no more than ten minutes, and at the end of it, the minister picked up the crown from the table and poised it over the young king’s head. “You have sworn to uphold the legacy of every king who came before you. For that, I deem you worthy of this crown. Wear it proudly, as it grants you the divine authority to command this kingdom as its people’s ruler, protector and advocate.” As he spoke, he lowered the crown so that it rested at the crest of the royal’s hairline. “I dub thee Caspian Maydestone, eleventh King of Aspiria. Long live the king.”
“Long live the king!” the audience echoed resoundingly.
A smile alighted on Cas’s face as he looked out over the small crowd. The coronation wasn’t so bad after all. As they chanted in support of his reign, he sat up straighter in the throne, making a silent vow to himself that he would do his best to live up to their expectations. The lives of the Aspirian people were in his hands now, and that wasn’t a responsibility he took lightly. Now that he was officially king, he would do everything he could to leave the nation better off than it had been when Atlas was in control.