Disclaimer: Peter Pevensie and all the characters and situations in the Chronicles of Narnia belong to C. S. Lewis and not to me. This story takes place after "Counted Among the Traitors."
Peter leapt his horse over a fallen tree and urged it into a gallop. Susan and Edmund and Lucy had almost been forced to send him to Archenland bound and under guard, but now that he was here, he was glad he'd come. The winter had been dire, and he had almost lost his life and his kingdom to treachery and betrayal. For some time afterward, the healers were afraid that he would never truly regain his health. But the spring had come in, sweet and fresh and bracing, and brought the color back to his face and the strength back to his limbs.
He and Edmund and the girls had taken some time to put things at court into some semblance of order after that, but now they all assured him it was done and he needed a rest. A week or so of late-summer hunting now, and he would be ready to be High King again. He missed his own family of course, but jolly King Lune was the perfect host and made him feel right at home. And having Prince Corin around reminded him of when he had first come into Narnia over ten years ago.
Peter dodged a low tree limb and jumped his horse over a shallow stream. Corin was now about the age Edmund had been then and almost as mischievous and daring. Peter had to stay alert every moment or fall victim to one of his pranks. In some ways it made him feel terribly old. Had he ever been ten? Surely he had been. Back in that Other Place, that England. But that was a lifetime and a kingdom ago.
And yet in other ways it made him feel like the boy who had pulled pranks of his own with a ten-year-old brother as his confederate. His lips twitched. Would it be terribly irresponsible of him to turn the tables on Corin just once before he left? Perhaps with a sly bit of help from King Lune himself?
Glancing back to see if Bast and Babur, the Tigers who were his personal guard, had caught up to him yet, Peter chuckled and rode a bit faster, reviewing the pranks he and Edmund had once played. Pranks older than Corin. Pranks Corin would not be expecting. If Lune would come in on the game, they could–
There was a loud crack. Stars and pain erupted inside his head, and then black nothingness swallowed him.
Peter groaned and squeezed his eyes more tightly shut. Even the thought of light made him want to be sick.
"Shh, shh," someone murmured, and there was a soothing wet coolness against his throbbing forehead. "Lie still."
He didn't have to be told twice. Even the slightest movement made those fiendish flashes of lightning pierce his skull and burn his eyes. He concentrated instead on keeping his breathing slow and even and trying to figure out who had spoken to him.
The voice was female, to be sure. Gentle and low. Not Narnian, or at least not native to his kingdom. The accent told him she was from Archenland. All right, that made sense. He was in Archenland, wasn't he? Yes, he was sure he was. That meant his companion was almost certainly human.
He reached up and caught the hand that was smoothing back his hair. A small, fine-boned hand. Very soft.
"Shh," she said again. "I've sent someone to bring back help. You ought to watch out for low branches if you're determined to gallop through the forest like that."
Now he did manage to open one eye. After a moment, the girl's face came into focus. Four eyes, two noses . . . He blinked hard. No, that was all right. She had only two eyes, rather pretty gray ones, and only one nose. He blinked hard again and forced himself to open both eyes.
"My Lady," he said, for judging by the deep, plum-colored velvet she wore and the pale perfection of her skin, she was no less, "I am sorry to have troubled you. If you would but help me to my feet–"
"Forgive me, Your Majesty, but I will not." She held him where he was. "You may be hurt worse than you know. Wait until help comes."
He struggled just a moment more, and then he let his head sink back into her lap. But he did not again close his eyes.
"Bast and Babur, they were right behind me. They–"
"I am here, High King." Bast came into his line of sight, her green eyes narrowed, her words little more than a low growl as she looked down on him. "My brother and this lady's maid have gone for help. I would scold you for not being more careful, but it seems you've had that lecture already."
The girl giggled, and he felt his face turn warm. It wouldn't do to lie here like an imbecile and be laughed at.
He sat up and the forest spun around his head.
"Your Majesty!" The girl steadied him, looking genuinely alarmed. "Please."
Bast put one weighty paw on his shoulder, pressing until he lay down again. "Now stay there, if you please, My King, and I will see if Babur is in sight yet."
She padded away, and the girl patted his forehead again with the damp cloth she held. "She sees to her duties well."
Peter smiled faintly. "She and her brother have been looking after me for about seven years now."
The girl smiled, too. "When they came into the clearing and found you unconscious and me leaning over you, I thought they might eat me alive. If you had had them with you when we met before, I would certainly have made sure to introduce myself to them so they would know I meant you no harm."
Peter blinked. He had met her before? He didn't at all remember her. Not that she wasn't very pleasant looking and all that, but he had met a lot of girls since he'd become King.
"I do beg your pardon, My Lady. I think my fall must have jostled my memory. I don't–"
She laughed merrily. "You needn't apologize, Your Majesty. When we were introduced, I was in a group of about three dozen ladies, and there was but one of you. You could hardly be expected to remember all of us. Besides that, you were sixteen and I was twelve."
"Oh, the little girl my sister Lucy's age," he said, smiling. "Of course."
She pursed her lips, but that laugh was still in her eyes. "You still do not remember me in the least, do you."
He winced. "I fear not, My Lady. Do forgive me and tell me your name."
"I am the daughter of Duke Jan, one of King Lune's nobles, and my name is Linnet."
Author's Note: I have for a long time wanted to write a story showing Peter's romantic side. In fact, I started work on this at least a year ago, maybe more. Soooo . . . ?