"WHERE ASLAN IS KING!"
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CHAPTER SIX
THE DAY THAT FOLLOWED

I awoke the next morning in my own bed, in my new cabin. The mattress gift from Stonetower the giant slept wonderfully. I was well rested, but a little confused. At first I did not remember going to bed at all. Then it began to come slowly back to me. After I had laid on the grass gazing into the skies, watching the grand celestial dance for what seemed like hours, Tumaus had come to me to suggest that I ought to go to bed in the cabin. It would turn cold, he said, and there would be heavy dew that night. It would be no problem for the animals or the trees, of course, but it might cause problems for me. He walked back to the cabin with me. I knew he was right, for I was already feeling the chill of the night, but I was loath to give it up. We sat together on the step for a few minutes. I was beginning to nod off again when he guided me gently to the door and said good night.

Now the morning had come, shining golden through the eastern window, casting long patterns of light on the wooden floor while little specks of dust danced in the beams, reminding me again of the great celestial dance I had seen the night before. I reveled in the thought of it, but wondered what the new day would bring. Surely, I thought, not every day in Narnia can be like that, or even as the last several had been as they lead up to the great event. So far my experience here had been like one grand holiday and I wanted it to continue, though I knew that was unlikely.

At last I stretched myself out from under the covers with several prodigious yawns, pulled on my clothes, and opened the door. The golden light bathed the open meadow before my cabin. A slight haze rose from the trees around the perimeter. The air was fresh and clean and it seemed an indescribable pleasure just to breath. The clearing seemed empty, and much larger. Apparently the trees (or the tree spirits - I still wasn't sure how to refer to them) had left. I wondered where they lived, and when, and if, I would see them again. I regretted not saying good-bye to everyone the night before, but at the same time realized that it could not have been done. I hoped they would understand. After a time, as I stood gazing on the golden field and drinking intoxicating air, I began to notice small movements here and there across the meadow.

Soon I realized that not everyone had left. Some of the smaller creatures were still there and were apparently just rousing themselves from sleep in the grass. A group of moles had snuggled together for warmth in the night, and were now beginning to awake. Soon several rabbits came bounding in from the forest to the west of the cabin, where they had apparently taken shelter. Voices, and the sounds of splashing water wafted up over the bank from the unseen stream below, the sounds of dwarf voices, and I knew they were taking a morning wash. So I was not alone after all, though there would certainly not be the busy crowd of the last few days. I was relieved that they were still there. That feeling greatly surprised me. I had lived alone by choice, and I liked it. In general, I had found people to be an annoyance rather than a comfort. Something was different here. I was also relieved that there were not so many of them. After years alone the mass of creatures the last several days had at times been a little oppressive.

"Ah, awake at last."

I was startled by a voice near by to the left of me. It was Old Oak, standing next to the cabin, just to the east. I had not even noticed him at first; he looked just like the rest of the trees. I told him that he had been right, that the western glade was much larger than I had realized. I asked him where the rest of the trees had gone, and why he had stayed behind.

"They have gone back to their own forests," he said. "They must care for their trees. You know, the dumb ones that neither speak nor walk, the ones that do not dance. They came from all across Narnia to be here, from the foothills of the Ettenmores to the flanks of Mount Pire, from the edges of the western wild (where we are) to near the shores of the great sea. Root and twig, but some of them come a great way, with considerable hardship. But as for me, this is my home. I guard the glade and manage the forest around it. This is my usual place, my roots are in this spot."

I suddenly understood. He had directed the dwarfs to build my cabin on this very spot, next to his place. He watched over the glade, and now he would watch over me, as well. I was tempted to be annoyed! I really didn't feel that I needed "looking over." And I certainly didn't need to be "managed," like his forest, or like some wayward child. Then I heard the voices of the dwarfs coming up from the river, and remembered how it was that I had a warm place to sleep the night before. I turned in their direction, and saw the rabbits bounding around the meadow, and remembered that my larder was full only because others were "looking over" me. I glanced up and found Old Oak watching me, thoughtfully, as if he guessed what I had been thinking.

"Thank you," I said. He just nodded slightly, like a tree moved by the wind.

"Good, you are at home." The voice was from my right, accompanied by the quick light step of goat's feet. "I was hoping to find you here." It was Tumaus. He had apparently been trotting along at a rapid pace; he was quite out of breath. "I have never told you where I live," he said. "It is nearby, really, but not easy to find. There are few of us in this neighborhood, very few." I thanked him for the night before, for taking care of me. He seemed embarrassed, and said it was nothing, just something neighbors do. Tumaus had just finished making me a rough map to his cave when the dwarfs came up from the stream to say their good-byes. They said they had a long journey ahead of them, and that they lived in the mountains just north of Archenland. I was invited to visit them anytime. They said no map was needed, that if I got that far they would find me, for all the paths and passes were watched by their people. Then off they went, still laden with their tools and packs, singing a marching song of some sort in deep dwarf voices that reminded me of the voice of the earth itself.

As the day progressed, various and sundry creatures came to say good-bye. Almost all issued an invitation of some sort, or at the least a wish that we would meet again at some future festival or celebration. Tumaus and I took our lunch on the porch. It was, all in all, a very pleasant day. In the evening the faun trotted off to his own home. Old Oak stood silent by the side of the cabin as the golden red light of sunset bathed over him, and above the richness of the deep purple sky was pricked with the light of a million Narnian stars. I stood long into the night gazing into the heavens, then turned and entered my home, my new home. It was a comfortable feeling I had as I lay upon my bed that night. My life had begun.

Copyrightę2001, John Nelson

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"WHERE ASLAN IS KING!"
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Copyright © 2001 John Nelson, Hermit of Lantern Waste.
Created - March 25, 2001 ~ Revised April 21, 2001