Sparkling bright blue seas and brilliant blue eyes, the two melded together as she turned around on the first step. Peter, the High King of Narnia, her only love, the man who had just asked her to be his Queen, and who was so excited to begin this adventure in Narnia with her, stood extremely close. He touched her cheek and looked into her eyes.
Her heart pounding, she saw her image reflected there and the love he had for her. She lowered her gaze, not wanting him to see the fear and doubt that lurked in her own eyes. Peter was the adventurer, always ready for the next exciting experience. She was more cautious, and this journey – being here in Narnia – might be more than she could handle. He broke into her thoughts...
"April? You do want to be here, right?" A look of uncertainty crossed through his eyes and a frown wrinkled his brow.
He was so dear to her, how could she not want to be here, to see him as King, to share all of this with him?
"Yes, Peter," knowing as she said the words they were the truth, "I'm just. . . a little overwhelmed."
He looked relieved. She gave him a tender kiss and a sweet smile, and then turned to climb the steps that would lead to her new home, Cair Paravel. He followed closely behind her on the stairs, steadying her as she climbed.
She almost slipped on a broken step and his hand was instantly at her waist, lingering there for a second longer than necessary. All of a sudden she remembered that in two weeks she would be his wife! The thought, which had been floating around in her mind since Aslan had made the proclamation just moments ago, now firmly took root and it thrilled her beyond words. Her spirits started to rise.
She randomly touched a tree that was very close to the staircase for balance and thought she felt it quiver. That's right! she thought, the dryads! How could she have forgotten? She became very excited.
"Peter!" she exclaimed, turning around quickly. "The dryads! Will I get to see them?"
Peter's laugh was deep and rich. "Of course. You will do more than see them; I daresay you will dance with them! You will be their Queen, after all."
Queen. . . or Consort? Regardless. . . She stared off into space for a moment; it was almost too much to take in. She then noticed the quiet of the dense forest around her. She smelled the fresh air filled with the forest scents of leaves and earth, smells that always made her feel at home. Yes, she could be at home here. Especially since he was here with her.
He echoed a part of her thoughts, "It's quiet, have you noticed? I don't hear birds or squirrels. When I looked at the castle on the beach, I saw no flags or banners flying. There were no ravens or gryphons circling the castle as they usually do when on watch. I have no idea what we will encounter when we reach the top."
His voice was tense; she hadn't noticed any of those things, never having been here before. But she felt his tension. She glanced back and noticed his hand kept flitting to his side. She wondered if he was involuntarily looking for his sword, which was not there. . . yet.
She began climbing again. She was in great shape from training to be a professional ballerina, but this was a steep climb and she was a little breathless. She heard Peter panting behind her, and when he spoke she knew he was trying to lighten the mood.
"You know, Lucy counted these once. I think she got to 200." He smiled at the thought of his sister.
"I can believe it!"
Soon they were at the top and emerged from the woods onto an open plain. To their right was the main entrance to the castle. Close up Cair Paravel was even more amazing with dozens of arches and towers, turrets, ramparts, and battlements. All was silent.
"Here we go. . ." he said.
He took her hand and they walked across a bridge under the main arch to a small door next to the very large doors. He seemed surprised that it pushed open easily. They were soon standing in a large courtyard with stairs at the four corners leading up to the battlements. There were four doors, one on each wall, which led to the different sections of the castle.
"It's quiet. Too quiet," said Peter. Again, he reached for his invisible sword, making her very nervous.
"Hullo!" he called, "Is anyone here?"
There was a rustling from one of doors and a very large Beaver came waddling out. April had heard about the Narnian creatures all of her life, but seeing one was more than amazing! The Beaver stopped and studied them.
"Why, by Aslan's mane, it's you; Your Majesty. . ." said the Beaver, but he was interrupted by a faun that came out of the same door.
"Mr. Beaver, what. . .?" The faun stopped in shock and stumbled back a bit. Both of them dropped to their knees. "Your Majesty," they said in unison.
Peter gave a joyful laugh and ran over to them, lifting up them up and hugging them. "Mr. Beaver, Mr. Tumnus! Oh, it is so good to see you again!"
They stepped back, blinking at each other. Mr. Beaver spoke first. "You certainly gave me a start, Sire. I wasn't expecting to see you at all, but much less as I remember you years ago."
"Years ago. . . I am a little at a loss," said Peter. "Can you tell me when we are?"
Mr. Tumnus said, "Why, you and the others left us almost a year ago while you were hunting the White Stag."
Peter looked amazed and so did they. But then they became curious about April, and turned, looking wide-eyed, at the stranger their King had brought into Narnia.
"Please, pardon my manners. Allow me to introduce April – April Treed – my beloved and betrothed. We just came from meeting with Aslan. We are to be married a fortnight from today!"
"Married!" they exclaimed in unison. They looked at each other in concern and then pulled Peter off to the side.
"Sire," whispered Mr. Beaver, "Are you sure you can trust her? I mean, begging your pardon, Sire, you never wished to marry before. . . you've only just arrived. . ." he trailed off looking to Tumnus for confirmation; Mr. Tumnus was nodding.
Peter threw his head back and laughed, and thumped both of them on the back. "I appreciate your concern, really I do. But April. . ." he explained, turning towards her and holding out his hand, which she immediately stepped forward and took.
"Well, you see. . . I fell deeply in love with her almost a year ago. I had just asked her to be my wife back in. . . Spare Oom, when Aslan called us here. I trust her with my life and I would ask you to do the same! Now, what has happened since we have been gone to make you so mistrustful of my judgment?"
His subjects looked at each other and grimaced. Mr. Beaver said, "We'd best explain inside, Sire."
After that, everything happened quickly. They were ushered in to meet a very surprised Mrs. Beaver and the few others that were left in the castle. Everyone had so many questions and they all were talking at once. It made April's head spin. Mrs. Beaver took notice of her.
"Come now, dearie, you look about dead on your feet. Sit down here and I'll get you a wee drink."
She bade them all to sit and served them cold drinks; soon everyone sorted themselves out and stories began to be told.
It had nearly a year since the four kings and queens disappeared from Narnia. The others had stayed in the castle hoping for their return. But, most of the servants, Advisors, Council, and Court Members had become discouraged and slowly went their own ways. The castle was dusty from disuse and they had started to cover all the furniture, planning to close it down. The kingdom and her subjects, once unified, were now divided into factions again. How quickly it had fallen apart. But as Mr. Beaver reminded them, "Narnia was never right unless a Son of Adam sat on the throne."
Peter asked, confused, "Surely someone acted as Regent in our absence?" He looked around at his subjects.
"Well, yes, Sire. . ." Tumnus started, his face red.
Beaver finished his sentence. "Tumnus was regent, did a right fine job of it too until those rabble-rousers on the Council started complaining– stirring up trouble and causing dissent amongst everyone. Eventually we got tired of it and agreed to adjourn the Council. . . permanently!"
"Permanently?" Peter echoed weakly.
"We are just so glad you are here, High King Peter. We. . . tried our best, but we needed your leadership. Bless Aslan for sending you to us!" Tumnus responded.
Beaver said in an ominous voice, "And, that is just the internal trouble. . . There is more to tell you, Your Majesty."
April studied Peter; he was frowning and looked very concerned. She knew that his concentration and energy would be taken up with restoring and running his kingdom again. She wondered what her place would be.
Peter had promised to take her on a tour of the castle. But, very soon he was engrossed in conversation with Mr. Beaver and Mr. Tumnus. They soon sequestered themselves in Peter's study to discuss the state of Narnia.
April sat for a moment and then began wandering around the salon looking at the tapestries and the carpets; the rich furniture all perfectly coordinating with each other. Susan must have had her hand in decorating, she thought with a smile. She looked at the door where Peter had disappeared.
Mrs. Beaver came over. "Oh, my dear, don't you worry. Men, they are! Once they get their plotting and planning over with he will come looking for you. He loves you, that's for sure. I can tell that as plain as the nose on my face. Let's see. . . we'll put you in Lucy's quarters – that is, I mean, I am assuming – the others are not coming?"
At April's sorrowful look, she patted her hand. "Well, that's all right. We'll miss them, yes we will!" She wiped a tear from her whiskers and continued, "But at least you and the High King have come. Do you know Lucy, Susan, and Edmund?"
"Yes," April replied, "I know them very well. And, I wish they were here too. I feel a little lost."
"Of course you do, but we will fix you right up!" Mrs. Beaver eyed April's clothing. "Oh my, that dress will never do. Let's go find some of Susan's older clothing, surely there will be something that will fit. I will call our main seamstress and she will get your measurements. Our Queen must have clothes, and they will need to start on a wedding dress, that's for sure! Come with me!"
April's heart was thumping. She had seen her reflection in the mirror and almost didn't recognize herself. Her hair had been brushed full length and then loosely braided with wispy curls around her face. She had been letting it grow and it was now almost to the middle of her back. A sweet young faun by the name of Felice – whom April found to be an amazing creature – had styled it for her.
They had found one of Susan's dresses, a beautiful green overdress with gold trim; it had a white underdress showing just in the skirt and in the length of the sleeves. It was trimmed in gold as well. Small soft leather slippers completed her attire. It felt like a costume to be worn at a masquerade ball or Halloween party for sure. It was hard to believe she would be wearing things like these on a daily basis. She felt like a princess, as she was too nervous to think of herself as a queen just yet.
Mrs. Beaver ushered her into the dining room where Peter was talking with some of the Narnians before dinner was served. She took a deep breath and moved into the room. At her entrance, he stood transfixed, staring at her in wonder. A broad smile dawned on his face and he moved slowly towards her. She curtsied; at least she thought it was a curtsy. He bowed, took her hand, and kissed it.
"You are lovelier than words can describe," he said softly, for her ears only.
She flushed with pleasure. Looking into his eyes that were speaking volumes to her, the uneasiness she felt melted away and she knew that she belonged here with him, by his side, as his Queen.
She had no idea how to navigate the castle, so when Mrs. Beaver showed her the way back to Lucy's – now her – quarters, she knew she was stuck there for the evening. But she was very tired and ready to retire. Mrs. Beaver showed her in and then left. Immediately upon entering there was a sitting room that had a small table, a couch, chairs, desk, and bookcase. A door led to a bedroom that had a large, luxurious looking bed complete with curtains around it. It was decorated in blues and silvers and she could see small touches that reminded her of Lucy. It made her miss her friend that much more.
She noticed double doors off of the sitting room; April opened the doors and found herself on a balcony, overlooking the ocean. She was delighted. It was dark but she could still see the waves in the dim moonlight. How wonderful the sea breeze felt on her face, and the briny sea smell almost reinvigorated her. The sound was the most wonderful thing. The roll of the waves and the occasional cry of a gull calmed her.
She turned upon hearing a noise at the door. It was Peter's voice. He came in and left the door open. He spotted her on the balcony and came to her side. He leaned his elbows on the stone railing and breathed deep.
"I think I have missed this the most. Narnia has its challenges, but it is the most beautiful place in the world!"
They chuckled at his words, since they were not in the world, at least as they knew it.
"I didn't get to tell you earlier, but you look quite dashing wearing your crown and kingly clothes."
He struck a pompous pose in jest and she had to laugh. He laughed too.
"I thought they were never going to find ones that would fit. It is a good thing Mrs. Beaver likes to keep everything!"
They stood looking at the ocean for a moment, thinking about the changes that had happened to them so quickly.
"I'm glad you came to say goodnight," she said. "I would need a map to find my way anywhere in this castle. It is wonderful, by the way."
"I promise I will take you on a tour tomorrow, and soon this will feel like home to you, too."
He stood and faced her, tenderly tucking a strand of blowing hair behind her ear. "Of course, I had to say goodnight to you. I hope it hasn't been too overwhelming for you today. I'm afraid I have been distracted, and that may not change based on what I discovered."
She took his hand and led him to sit on the couch. "Tell me what is happening."
He sighed and began. A few months after they went back through the wardrobe a large hurricane-like storm hit the northern edge of the Narnian coast. A ship of pirate slavers from a land very far north of anywhere their influence had reached had been blown off course and landed in Narnia. The slavers were amazed to find the Narnian talking creatures that they had only heard of in legends. They captured a small group and then started inland to try to capture others. Edmund's highly-trained military force caught wind of it and drove them out of Narnia, capturing one of the pirates.
Upon questioning the prisoner, they discovered that the slavers were only pretending to be driven out. When they had learned that Narnia no longer had Kings and Queens to govern and protect it, they planned to return and take over the leaderless country, realizing they would make a very large profit from selling the unique Narnian creatures at high prices to people in faraway lands. He ended saying. . .
"Narnia is in great danger, it is for this reason we have been brought here."
"Oh, Peter," she sympathized, looking at his grief-stricken face. "I know what you are thinking. If you had not left none of this would have happened. But, you couldn't help leaving. I will help you in whatever way that I can."
"I will need your help very much. Beaver and Tumnus believe that some of the Council and Advisors have been persuaded at the promise of great riches to help the pirates with their plan. We have put out a call for everyone to return for the wedding and a Council meeting that will convene soon after. We must figure out who is loyal to me, which will not be an easy task. The wedding will serve a dual purpose: first, to make my dreams come true," he smiled a huge dimpled smile at her, "And secondly, as a diplomatic event to let all of Narnia and the surrounding countries know that Narnia again has a King. . . and a Queen to be reckoned with."
He thought for a moment and continued, "That alone may be enough, but wherever there are large profits of money to be made, people will take chances. I believe we will have a fight on our hands. Perhaps not a battle, because they will not want to harm any potential profits, but it could get ugly."
At her look of horror, he took her hand. "I tell you this, not to scare you but to prepare you. I'm afraid that you might have to use your skills at facades a bit. Our potential enemies cannot see any weakness in us or insecurity in you or me."
"But, Peter," she protested, "I don't know anything about being a Queen or Queen Consort! Which will it be?"
"Technically it is queen consort, since you will be the wife of the reigning king, but we will just call you queen or it will get really confusing."
They smiled together and then he continued, "I am not worried about your lack of knowledge. It is more instinct than anything. Watching you walk into the dining room tonight showed me that you can be as regal as any practiced royalty. Plus, I will be there to guide you. Also, I have enlisted the help of Lucius, the faun in charge of protocol, to instruct you on our ways of etiquette. These next two weeks are going to be busy. Once the guests start to arrive I will need your help to determine who I can trust."
He started to pace around the room. "I really miss Edmund, Susan, and Lucy. It is hard to be here without them. I always knew that I could trust their opinions and we 'had each other's backs,' so to speak."
She stood and stopped him from pacing by placing her hands on his chest. "You have me, Peter, I am here."
He leaned down and kissed her softly. "I am so glad you are here," he murmured.
"There will be a lot of events happening around the wedding. The Narnians would like to throw us an evening festival to celebrate the first royal union in over a hundred years. We are trying to fit that in." Then with a shy smile he added, "And. . . I have secured three days for us after the wedding. It won't be much of a honeymoon, but at least we will be together. But we may have to have the festival during that time, would that be all right with you?"
April looked concerned, "Of course, but with all that is going on, can you really afford to take those three days away from your subjects? I mean, the Council meeting will be very important and. . ."
He stopped her with a kiss. She looked at him, confused. He said, "They know, as I do, that you and I have to be team. We cannot fake a united front. We have to appear very connected and very much in love. The best way to do that is to be alone with each other for those few days. That way we will not have to pretend. And, besides, this is the beginning of our forever together. I will not let even a country in crisis get in the way of that!"
(A/N: Thank you for reading. I plan to update at least weekly. I would love to hear your thoughts and comments. For those of you who have been waiting for this book…thank you for being patient, I hope it will be worth the wait!)
Next Chapter – Cair Paravel is explored and alcoves are discovered.