I passed a very pleasant first winter in Narnia. Through the generosity of my new countrymen, I had a very snug and comfortable dwelling, a fireplace to keep me warm, and a full larder. I supplemented their gifts of food with fish caught from the stream that flowed at the foot of the bank. I found that the fishing line I had with me when I stumbled into Narnia was most useful tied to an arrow and used with the bow from Father Christmas. I became fairly proficient at its use. Fish were really all I dared to shoot: I shot at none of the other creatures, for fear they might be talking animals. As yet I could not tell the difference at a distance.

Following my Christmas celebration with Tumaus and Biscuit, most of my winter was solitary. The snow lay deep upon the meadows and under the trees and travel was difficult at best. I saw Biscuit a couple of times, but Tumaus only once. Old Oak maintained his silent sentinel by the porch. I was perfectly content. I began a journal, and also read some books loaned to me by Tumaus, mostly concerning the founding and history of Narnia, and the habits and ways of her people. The history I found interesting, the ways of the people I found fascinating, but the founding I took to be apocryphal.

Spring came with a flourish, one might even say, suddenly. The snow had not fallen for several days. I awoke one morning to hear the chatter of birds and the voice of Old Oak. The birds, a pair of robins, were determined to build their nest in his branches, and he was equally determined that they build it elsewhere. When I stepped out onto my porch that morning there was a warm gray mist rising from the stream below and a warm sun burning down through it from above. By noon there were already bare patches in the open glade before my cabin.

By the following day the stream was a swollen rush of water and noise as the melting snows up in the western wild fed it with a gluttonous orgy of spring. Daffodils and crocuses soon carpeted the field and the trees began dressing themselves in new outfits of fresh green and yellow. Where all had been black and white and gray for so long there was now a riot of color to match the symphony of the rushing waters and the chattering birds. Before long there was the sound of bees darting back and forth between the fragrant flowers and their hives under the eave of the woods. It was not long after that I began to have visitors.

Quite predictably, my first visitor was Tumaus. It was only the second day since the snows were fully gone, and yet he felt he had to apologize for not coming sooner. "Ah, it was such a mess about my cave," he said. "The snow had dragged all the leaves down from the hillside above my door and deposited them on the step. At present I cannot go in or out without the mud and leaves trickling in at the door: it is a horrid mess! And the entire cave had to be aired out. Once I got started I just couldn't stop until it was done. Well, it's not really done, but I came anyway."

I assured him again that I understood, that it was okay. He brought with him a sampling of his winters work at the wine press Father Christmas had left him. He had been experimenting, or as he put it "adventuring," with different fruits and different combinations of fruits, and had brought one of his creations for me to taste. He said it was a blend of elderberry, current, and the last of the previous years strawberries. The color was nearly black, but the scent was full and fruity. It was a gentle and friendly wine, much like it's maker. We sat on the porch, enjoyed the spring sunlight and the wine, and talked for most of the afternoon. Tumaus was very interested in what I thought of the books he had loaned me. I told him that I liked them, and asked many questions about the history of the country, for he seemed to be very well versed in such knowledge. I asked about the earliest kings and their families, about the commerce of the country, about the castle down on the coast, and the size and layout of the country. Somehow, no matter what I asked, Tumaus seemed to find a way to get the lion, Aslan, into the answer. And whenever he did, I would ask a new question, one that I was pretty sure would not involve this mythical beast. I could tell by the sly sideways glances he would give me that he knew exactly what I was doing, and why.

In the late afternoon we went down to the stream to catch some fresh fish for our supper, as I had invited him to stay and eat. While I fished with my bow Tumaus waded in the water upstream a ways, splashing happily in the shallows, careful not to wander out into the deeper rush of water. It took somewhat longer than usual for me to make my catch: the water was muddied by the spring swell, and the fish were harder to see. At last there were two beautiful trout on the bank, which I cleaned with my old knife. The one from Father Christmas was really too large for such a small project, and somehow, too special. I wore the knife and the beautiful belt daily, but was not really sure what I would use it for.

We walked back to the cabin through the middle of the open glade where months before all the creatures had gathered for the great dance. Actually, I walked, and Tumaus frisked and danced about on his little goat feet. "It's only three more weeks," he sang in a loud a joyous voice. "The spring dance, the spring dance!" I was told to expect a great crowd, even larger than before. Word of my presence, spread by the autumn attendees, had gone far and wide, and so even more would come to see me. That was more than a little unsettling. The prospect of all sorts of creatures coming for the sole purpose of gawking at me was not a pleasant thought to me, and I said so.

"No, no, you've got it quite wrong," Tumaus said with a laugh, still dancing around me. "They don't come to look at you, they just want to welcome you. And they come for the great dance: if not for the dance they wouldn't come to see you at all, at least not all at once. And they come because they hope that He will be here himself." He stepped closer to me and lowered his voice, as if he were telling me some great secret. "There are some that think your coming is a portent of Him coming, and that it will be this very spring."

I groaned. I did not wish to be a portent, or a prophet, or a king, or anything else of the sort. This was worse than the entire population of Narnia coming to gawk at me. Evening Thunder had prevented them from doing something stupid on my first day, but what if he were not around at the dance? Would they listen to me? I began to think that I ought to stay away from the big event. I could just slip off quietly into the woods for a few days, and come back when the whole thing was over. The weather would be fairly temperate again by that time and I didn't mind sleeping outside: I had done it many times. Perhaps I could do a little exploring in the hills to the west and north of Lantern Waste. That was, I thought I remembered reading in one of Tumaus's books, beyond the borders of Narnia. I knew nothing of that country, yet. I was thinking these things quietly to myself when I noticed Tumaus watching me closely.

"You still do not believe in him, do you?" he asked.

"No, as a matter of fact, I do not."

He was rather subdued as we finished our walk back to the cabin. I hoped he would just let the matter drop. We fixed our meal together. The fish was excellent, as it always was, though some of my other supplies, potatoes in particular were beginning to run low. We had enough to satisfy us, including the last of the wine he had brought with him. While we cleaned up after the meal he said, "I wish you could bring yourself to believe in Aslan." I was tempted to be angry, but he said it in such a mild way, such a meek way, without any accusation in his voice, that I could not be angry.

"Have you ever seen him yourself," I asked.

"No, but I am still a fairly young faun. My father says that he saw him, more than once. But whether I see him or not I still believe."

"Have you ever seen any other lion," I inquired. "Are there lions in Narnia, as a general rule? Are there talking lions?"

"No," he said, shaking his head. "No, I have never heard of other lions here. I have never seen one, or heard one roar. But of course, I am not much of a traveler either. Perhaps there are in the south or off to the east, but I do not know. There are none in this part of Narnia."

When the cleaning up was finished Tumaus left for home. Though the days were becoming longer, it would soon be dark, and he needed to get home while there was still a bit of daylight. It was not that anything dangerous was in the woods, he said. It was simply that fauns are not nocturnal. They do not find their way well in the dark, and he did not wish to get lost, or to have to sleep on the floor of the forest, when he could do so in his snug little cave. I walked as far as the far edge of the clearing with him, both of us walking in silence, drinking in the sounds and smells of the new spring, enjoying the sight of the first stars pricking the pale evening sky with light.

At the edge of the wood he turned to me, took me by both hands and said, "You will, someday, you know. Evening Thunder as much as said so. In the meantime, be merry! The dance is coming soon!" Then he turned and walked, almost skipping, down a faint path into the woods and out of sight. I walked slowly back to my cabin, drinking in the ambiance of the night, and tried to remember what the centaur had said. He said I would live long, but that was not about the lion. He said I would see that castle, but that has nothing to do with it. He said we would meet again. I decided that Tumaus was making something out of nothing, or hearing things that had not been said. I shrugged it off and went to my home. I liked Tumaus too much to be upset with him: I wasn't going to worry myself about it. My more immediate concern was what to do about the great spring dance, and all those people.

Copyrightę2001, John Nelson



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