Author's Note: In response to a review by MCH, let me assure you, my dear readers, that the origins of the storm will be explained in time.
"Wake up, girl. Someone's coming," Spirit pawed her awake, and as her words registered, the girl sprang upright. The girl grabbed her pack, slinging it diagonally over her back so it lay by her hip. Her quiver went on top, resting low on her back so that the arrows just reached the height of her ear. Spirit kicked the ashes of the fire, scattering them, and pawed leaves over the site. "Climb on my back. You don't have the strength to fight," the Tiger ordered. Hesitantly, the girl slid onto the muscular back, leaning forward and pulling her legs up. The tiger bounded forward, heading deeper into the woods, and suddenly the girl could hear several large somethings racing after them.
"Centaurs," the tiger sighed, slowing down.
"Why are you stopping?" the girl gasped, leaning low as an arrow whizzed over her head.
"I can't outrun Centaurs," she admitted, turning to face the oncoming horse-men. The girl slid off, knocking an arrow quickly as she sought cover. But there was none for something her size, and she turned to face the sounds she could hear approaching. "Stay down," Spirit ordered, crouching before her.
When the Centaurs emerged from the shadows, Spirit roared. The horse-men skidded to stops, their tails flicking wildly. They all wore armor, most wore helmets, and everyone of them was armed. Swords and daggers were paired with bows and a couple of spears. But this was no ordinary herd of Centaurs. They were soldiers, each bearing a red Lion Rampant on their armor. One stepped forward, his eyes calculating. "What is your business in Narnia, Wildlander?" he asked.
"I am no Wildlander," Spirit snarled.
"I was not asking you, Tiger," he replied.
"I am not of the Wildlands, sir," the girl told him, lowering her bow. As she did, a thick arm shot from behind the tree where she crouched, and she glimpsed the pommel of a sword before pain struck her. The heavy blow knocked her backwards, the bow falling from her hand, and her eyes rolled up into her head as she lost consciousness.
The next time she woke, her head was throbbing and her eyes were blurred. She lay, still tied, in the back of a wagon, Spirit beside her. The wagon wasn't moving, and a centaur came around the back and scrutinized her. He reached in and pulled her out gently, then dumped her on the ground. She pushed herself to her knees, so that she knelt with her back to him.
"Your Majesty, we found them just south of the Wildlands," the deep voice came from above and behind her, no doubt the centaur.
"Them?" a second voice asked. This one was deep with authority, but younger in age.
"The tiger is in the wagon, Your Majesty," the centaur replied.
"Well, milady, aren't you going to greet your king?" the younger voice asked.
She felt a knee in the back and looked up. At first, she was shocked. This deep voiced man looked no older than her! He looked perhaps seventeen, and she guessed she was the same. He could only be described as golden. His hair was golden blonde, his skin a tanned gold. His face looked like one that smiled often but was a serious ruler. He looked commanding, like a King, standing over her in his light blue version of the shirt she wore, a tan short sleeved over shirt, and darker brown pants tucked into knee length tan boots. A dark red belt held a matching sheath on his left hip, and the golden lion's head that topped the pommel of the great sword was nearly hidden under his strong fingered hand. He made quite the image, standing tall and powerful over her, and she lowered her head as she realized how handsome he was. There was no doubt how horrible she looked, gaunt and pale compared to his golden health.
"If I am a lady, then why are your guards treating me so, Your Majesty?" she asked.
The golden king chuckled and motioned with his hand. She felt hands yank at the ties on her wrists, then felt the ropes fall away from her. She pulled her arms forward and folded her hands into her lap. She refused to rub the red marks, instead she settled for tucking a strand of hair back into the braid. "I'm not a lady, Your Majesty. If I fit a rank here in this kingdom it is peasant," she said.
"You are not armed like a peasant, milady, and you certainly do not act like one," he told her.
"And what might I act like, Your Majesty?" she asked.
"A commander, milady, or perhaps even a queen," he replied. Suddenly, his eyes noticed something and they narrowed fractionally. "What happened to your head, milady?" he asked, touching her temple.
She was shocked. His touch was so gentle, as if he actually cared. She'd never been touched that way. She didn't know why, but she shrank away from his hand, ducking her head as she did. Had she still been looking, she would have seen something akin to confusion in those blue eyes. "Free her companion, if you would, Captain, I dare say milady will need her," he ordered over her. She looked up through her eyelashes and he noticed the barely concealed fear in her eyes. Throwing protocol into the wind, he knelt before her and met her eyes.
"Thank you, Your Majesty," she murmured, dropping her eyes. She'd been so challenging, so confident before, like the harshness was familiar and almost relief.
Then he'd shown her kindness and she'd come undone. It was clear to him that something was amiss, and something had happened to her long before now to make her this way. "Milady, are you alright?" he asked softly.
"No, Your Majesty, I don't think I am. I can't remember anything prior to when I woke on the beach with Spirit. She guessed I'd been shipwrecked because the mast was lying on the beach, and I was covered in rope burns, like I'd been tied to it. My clothes were torn, as you can see from my shirt and what is left of my pants," she replied, keeping her eyes downcast.
"Nothing, milady?" he checked.
"Nothing, Your Majesty. I know things, such as I like the color of your shirt, or that I can shoot a bow rather well. I know that I can skin a buck, and I know how to stitch myself up. I know that while I don't really belong in this world, this is the only place I belong. But I don't remember who taught me to shoot or skin a buck or stitch myself up. I don't remember learning any of those things. I don't remember what world it is that I come from, but I know it's not the Wildlands. I don't even remember my name, Your Majesty," she said.
"Well, milady, my name is High King Peter, but you can call me Peter," he told her, folding her hands inside his own.