And it did take some getting used to. For one thing, nobody left: not the first night, not the second night, and not the third night. Everyone, it seemed, from the lowliest mole to the loftiest eagle had decided to stay for the great dance. Although it took a lot of getting used to, it was really no burden on me in the usual sense: quite the opposite. Everyone seemed to occupy their time constructively. It was plain that I was not expected to be their host, which was certainly a great relief to me.

As the time for the great even drew closer, the dwarfs and the beavers had a full winter supply of wood cut, split, and stacked against the side of the cabin. A few of the dwarfs, especially skilled in the art, made furniture; a bed, a table, four chairs, cupboards, shelves, a rocker in front of the fireplace. The tree people were especially helpful in selecting trees for the work of furniture making that were well suited to the purpose, wood with good heart and beautiful grain. The entire cabin was furnished before the full moon in a way I never could have accomplished on my own.

Many of the smaller creatures, who were not skilled in building or equipped for tasks of great lifting, gathered food, and by the time of the great dance my pantry was filled with every kind of fruit, nut, edible root, and vegetable you could imagine. The bears brought me a great quantity of honey, which, I was told by Darktail the owl, was a rare and wonderful gift, for the bears are loath to give away honey. An even better gift came from the bears the day before the dance, when three of them, with much effort and many stings, brought an entire hive, and set it up under the edge of the woods a few hundred feet south of the cabin. I gave them my profound thanks, and noticing that they had taken none for themselves, and that they eyed the hive longingly, invited them into the cabin to share some of the honey they had already given me. At that point I was glad the dwarfs had built a bit larger than planned. Three bears, even three well-behaved Narnian bears, are a lot to have in a little cabin.

Gifts of all kinds where given to me, until I was quite embarrassed by the fact that I had nothing to give in return. There were all kinds of dishes and cookware and utensils. Some of the birds brought shiny little babbles of one sort or another with which to "decorate my nest." I got rather a fright when I first met Stonetower, the giant, but he too brought a gift, one of his very best pillows, which made a perfect mattress for my new bed. The moles were particularly helpful. They prepared a piece of ground for me to use as my garden the next spring.

And every night the assembled creatures had another festive party. The first night, as I mentioned, was a welcoming party for me. The second night they decided to have a house warming party, to celebrate getting the roof and the door finished on my cabin. The following night was the thanksgiving party, to celebrate all the food and drink we had. I began to get the feeling that it did not take much at all to get a Narnian party started. I also learned that it did not take any preparation. One never had to change their clothes, make something special, or do anything out of the ordinary at all. Indeed, all that was required was to be there. One of the things I liked best was that no one seemed to care when you came and went. The first night I mentioned to Lady Beech that I was really getting tired, and she simply said, "Then go to bed." I did and the party went on, apparently long after I had drifted off to sleep.

Each day there seemed to be a few more people there, helping and contributing and being introduced to me. The message of Evening Thunder must have been widespread and effective, for almost everyone who came already knew about the "son of Adam," and most came with some gift or some means or intention of helping. I had certainly never experienced anything like it before. I had a lot of trouble understanding it. It simply did not make sense for all of these people to go so far to help someone they didn't even know. It was not like that in my experience of my own world.

The day of the great autumn dance finally arrived, clear and bright, but with a chill in the air that plainly announced that the season was changing and colder weather would be not long in coming. Almost everyone that was coming was there before noon that day. I had fully expected, given the feasting and jocularity of the week to that point, that the anticipation and level of excitement would reach a fevered pitch that day, but it was not so. To me it seemed everyone was strangely quiet, thoughtful. Those bent on continuing to help me with my lodging and my preparations for winter still did their work, but it seemed more solemn than before: not sad, just solemn. I kept expecting as the day went on that some of the excitement I had previously seen would begin to surface, but it did not. Indeed, It got more and more still, more and more solemn. It was mid afternoon when I finally asked Tumaus, the faun, "Why has everyone gotten so quiet? Aren't they excited anymore?"

"Oh, yes," he answered, "excited, yes very excited. But no, not really. That is, it is different. I'm not sure how to explain. It is too wonderful for mere excitement. It is special." His voice sunk to a whisper. "It could be that 'He' will be there himself."

I asked Tumaus who he meant by "he." His voice sunk even lower and he moved a little closer to me. "Why, Aslan himself, of course," he answered. "They say it has happened before, in the long past. It has not happened in my time, but I do wish that it would. I would love to see him."

I had heard the name several times, but it really meant nothing to me. I asked Tumaus who Aslan was, and he spent the next hour or more in telling me. In fact, he told me much more than I really wanted to know. I was a person who had never put much faith in faith. I had always figured it was okay for those who wanted it, and I held nothing against them, but it was not for me. I guess I was what you might call a "materialist." I believed what I could see and touch. I believed in the present, not some ethereal future. The past was history, and while you could learn from it, it held no particular significance for my actions today. It was clear that Tumaus believed much more than that, and that the others did as well. I offered that it would indeed be wonderful if Aslan would come, but for me it was only a polite way of ending the conversation.

The day went on, and it all became more and more still until it was so silent you could almost hear the trees breathing. The work was done and tools were put away. Hands and faces were washed, and the sense of anticipation grew. Nothing happened. The time for dinner had passed, and no one made a move to prepare anything. The silence deepened and the sun began to set red beyond the golden autumn trees. I sat on the stoop of my new cabin and waited. My stomach growled, my head nodded.

"Wake up, Master Sluggard, it has begun!" twittered Darktail in my ear. "Look. Silvermane has arrived. It has begun."

I shook the sleep from my eyes and gazed out over the clearing. The full moon had just cleared the tops of the trees to the east and shone down on the magnificent creature in the center of the clearing. I had never seen a unicorn before, and up until that moment would have told you boldly that they did not exist. But there it was, glistening in the moonlight. It was still generally quiet, and the unicorn stood stock-still. Then suddenly he reared, and it seemed that his iridescent horn touched the moon. There was a burst of light that seemed to come from his horn, or from the moon herself. The light grew brighter, then broke apart scattering all about the field, coming to rest in the grass. Then each of the scattered lights rose from the grass like a firefly and began to weave and bob about the field.

"The dance has begun," shouted Tumaus, and he began to follow the nearest little light, prancing after it on his little goat feet. Others did the same, following after the little points of light, until everyone there was dancing with the lights, following in long lines all about the field. It was curious to watch. Everyone seemed to be in a line of some sort, but there were many, many lines, for there were many lights. Each line of creatures followed their own light, and each light danced a different dance. And as the lights crossed and danced around the field, the lines would constantly cross and intersect each other, yet no one ever seemed to slacken their pace, and no one ever knocked into each other. In the middle of it all stood the unicorn and the dance went on about him.

Suddenly, a hand snatched me off the stoop, and dragged me into the dance. I had never been a dancer. But the hands of Old Oak and Lady Beech held me firmly, as if insisting that I take part. At first I was afraid that I would be the one to ruin the dance, the one to fall or to knock somebody down. Each time we went through another line they let go of my hand, and we would just go through, as if by magic. We passed close by the unicorn a couple of times, and I was in awe of his beauty. The dance had gone on for some time, always the same, always different. All at once there was a brilliant flash in the center, where the unicorn was, but when I looked the unicorn was gone. There was a great fire burning, and the dance came immediately to a stop.

Everyone sat on the cool autumn grass. Out of the fire, or so it seemed, came girls bearing all kinds of foods which they began to pass amongst the guests sitting on the ground. They were not like the tree spirits: they were somehow wilder, freer. Their very clothing seemed to be made of the fire, though it neither burned them nor anything they touched. I cannot tell you what the food was, for I had eaten nothing like it before. The feasting went on and on, but when everyone was close to having their fill, the fire began to die down, the fire-children scurried away, and silence reigned over the northern glade again. It was a rich silence, a full silence, and a solemn silence. The moon now rode high into the sky accompanied by countless stars, all in their own celestial dance. I watched, in silence like the rest. A sense of understanding came over me, though I could not have told you what it was I understood. I was content. Well, almost content. Although I did not really believe in him, and though I had not really expected him, I was disappointed that Aslan had not appeared.

Copyrightę2001, John Nelson



Copyright © 2001 John Nelson, Hermit of Lantern Waste.
Created - March 25, 2001 ~ Revised April 21, 2001