High King Peter slowed his horse to a halt, gazing around him with a pleased smile. The Western Woods were teeming with life this time of year and he enjoyed riding through them. Taking a deep breath, he greeted the doe and her fawns as he passed by their thicket. The spring blossoms were falling away to reveal the pale green leaves unfolding to the sunlight. Great Lords and Ladies of the Trees bowed to him as he passed, but he beckoned them to straighten. He was here to relax from the stresses of court. Washing his face in the stream, he set out deeper into the woods, leading his mount behind him.
She was lost. Hopelessly lost. At least her aunt was gone. May Cartwright shuddered at the thought of her abusive guardian. It had been two years since her mum had died, leaving her in the care of her father's sister, a rough, mean-spirited woman. May stopped to rub her scratched and bleeding legs. Her patched dress was not helping to block the tangled vines that covered the path. At least she thought it was a path. She did not think the wood behind her aunt's house was this deep. It was different here. Almost...greener. More beautiful.
Peter stiffened as he heard a cracking noise to his right. His horse's ears perked up and turned in the direction of the sound. Placing a wary hand on his sword, Peter turned off the path to investigate the strange stomping sounds.
May gave up, sitting down on an old stump. A tear of frustration slipped down her cheek. Pushing her tangled, brown hair behind her shoulders, she looked around desperately. As much as she feared her aunt, she did not want to spend the rest of her life in these woods. Sniffing, she rubbed her eyes and tucked her knees against her chest.
Peter pushed through a bunch of discarded dead wood and brush to see a young woman sitting on a stump. He was surprised to see that she was crying. While he was struggling to find the right words to say, his horse solved the dilemma.
May jumped at the sound of a horse's neigh. Spinning around, she was surprised to find herself face to face with a young man. A very strangely dressed young man. It looked as if he had stepped off the cover of the Book of Tales her mum used to read to her. He had on a very long red shirt and brown trousers, all almost covered by a magnificent cloak. A long sword swung down from his belt, its tip clipping against the young man's boots. But what amazed her was the golden crown resting on the young man's forehead.
"I do apologize for staring," Peter bowed quickly. "My name is Peter."
May quickly brushed the tears from her face and stood awkwardly. Unsure what to do, she pulled on her memories of the stories from the Book of Tales. All ladies curtseyed. Only, she did not know how. She offered him a clumsy half bow instead.
"Good mor'ing', sir," she stammered. "M-my name is...May...May Cartwright."
"It is my pleasure to make your acquaintance, Lady Cartwright," Peter nodded.
"Oh, I'm no lady." May blinked. "I'm just a Derbyshire girl."
Peter smiled slightly, "You are a Daughter of Eve then? Brought from another world; one which I know well."
"Another world?" May looked frightened. "Where am I?"
"In the great lands of Narnia," Peter replied. "Under the protection of Aslan, in which we have peace."
"Peace sounds good." May smiled.
She had felt a rush when the young man said that strange name. Something she had not felt since her mum took ill. May's green eyes flickered with something she had not felt in a long time. Peace.
"Would you care to return with me to the palace?" Peter asked gently.
May looked up at him, "You are the King?"
"One of them," Peter replied kindly. "You need not fear, you will only find hospitality at Cair Paravel. My sisters will take care of you."
Slowly, May nodded. "I will come with you."
Perhaps it was the newfound peace in her heart that urged her to forget all the strangeness of this new world and trust this young man. Peter helped her mount his horse and made sure she did not fall as they made their way to the Castle. Little did he know what the future would bring for himself and May.
Peter scanned the distance for the train that would bring the others. It was late. He paced back and forth, ignoring his brother's comments about his patience. If it were not for the ring, seemingly burning a hole through his pocket. He carefully fingered the box that contained it. No, it was not the rings he and Edmund had set out to find. This one was special, and meant for a special person on that train. He smiled and pictured May's quiet but lovely features. This was the third time he had tried to propose. He had wanted to when they had finished hunting the White Stag so very long ago. But they never did finish, instead, finding a way back home. He had also prepared himself to propose after the Friends of Narnia dinner, but she had telephoned to say she could not make it. This time he could not be deterred. Since they could not return to Narnia, he would propose surrounded by those who knew Narnia. She would like that.
Peter looked up at the sound of a train's whistle. Finally, it was here.
It took a fourth time of preparing himself to propose to May. This time in Aslan's lush gardens.
Peter took a nervous breath. She would be here any second. Tugging at his tunic collar, which suddenly felt very tight, he swallowed hard and glanced at Edmund. His brother gave him a reassuring smile. The crowd went silent.
There she was.
Soon to be May Pevensie.
Peter gulped, his eyes shining as he watched her come down the garden path. The white dress shimmered in the morning sunlight. Trees surrounded them, just as they had done when they had met. She looked up at him and smiled.
Taking her hands, Peter turned her towards Aslan. They both knelt in front of the Great Lion.
"My dear, beloved children," he purred, placing a paw on their shoulders. "Long have I awaited this day."