I was awakened by the smell of breakfast cooking. Tumaus had arrived before I was even wake and let himself in. I was surprised that I had not heard him. I must have been sleeping very soundly: I did not recall the sound of the door or the click-clack of his hooves in my dreams. I lay there for several minutes, pulling my thoughts together and enjoying the aroma of the coffee, trying to figure out the delicious blend of smells that rose from his pan. Finally I stretched and groaned myself awake, rolling over to face the rest of the room.

"Well, it's about time, sleepyhead." Tumaus was his usual cheerful self. "Get up and greet the day. Try to show at least a part of the enthusiasm you had five days ago." While he did not break out in an uproar of laughter, I could tell he was still amused by the thought of me standing vigil over an empty field, and over his own part in the folly. Tumaus had breakfast well in hand, so I went to the door and opened it, and stepped out onto the porch.

The much-anticipated morning had dawned damp and dank, with a fine drizzle falling from the seamless cover of clouds overhead. It was chill, but not cold. The entire scene was soft, defused by the mist and the dim light. It was still. There was no sound and not the faintest whisper of a breeze to disturb the droplets on the grass. Behind me, inside the door of the cabin, Tumaus went merrily about the kitchen, whistling and making a happy racket with his cooking. To listen to him, you would have thought it to be a bright and sunny spring day.

"Why the gloomy face," said Old Oak. "You look almost as dreary as the day. Cheer up! The crowd will arrive soon and the merriment will begin."

"In this weather? " I asked. "I bet most of them will stay home."

"And why would they do that, son of Adam? Surely they won't stay away because of a little rain. Root and twig! Many of them live with no more shelter than field and forest provide. Except for the dwarfs, and a few other creatures like the fauns and the centaurs, no one builds shelters for themselves of any kind. It is only the sons and daughters of Adam and Eve that do so. Some of us actually prefer this whether: it keeps us green and growing. Furthermore, most have come too far to turn back now. No, a little rain will not stop them. Besides, it will clear by noon: it will be a glorious evening and a beautiful night."

"And how do you know that," I asked. "I don't remember you ever predicting the weather before."

"Well, if you must know, the centaur told me. And he knows those things and a good many others as well."

"Which brings up my next question. Where have you been for the last several days? I might as well tell you before Tumaus blabs it all about, I was a little put out over your sudden disappearance, especially after your speech about me staying put. Where were you, anyway?"

"Ah, well, actually, I was at a meeting of the council; the council of Aslan, to be precise. The council met at the hill of the Stone Table. We often meet there. It is a very unusual place, you know, a very special place."

I told him that I didn't know, that he had never mentioned such a council before. It seemed to me that there was a great deal I did not know about this country and it's inhabitants, though everyone seemed to assume that I knew, as Tumaus assumed that I knew why everyone had arrived early for the autumn dance. I hoped this council would not likewise turn out to be something that caused more laughter at my expense. And there was that name again, that lion, Aslan. I asked Old Oak what the council meeting was about, but it seemed that he really didn't want to answer me directly.

"Ah, well, you know," he said. "With no king and all, and needing to keep up the country and look to the future and everything. There are the hills and the valleys, too. The past must be preserved, of course, and preparations made, you understand." I really did not understand, but I did learn that besides Old Oak and Evening Thunder, some of the others on the council were Darktail the owl, Swiftwing the eagle, a dwarf named Gimbelthorp, two ravens named Sable and Shadow, and Fleet the stag. I got nothing more out of him except that they all planned to be at the dance that evening, and that it was exceedingly rare for the ravens to be there, for they were very old. I could tell he was not telling me everything he knew, and I wasn't too sure I liked it. I was about to press the issue a little more when Tumaus appeared at the door and told me that breakfast was ready. I decided to leave the matter until later.

Tumaus had prepared a wonderful breakfast of eggs with mushrooms and goat's cheese, fried potatoes with lots of onions and peppers, some hot fresh biscuits with lots of my honey, and a big pot of coffee. The breakfast, and the cheerful mood of my little goat-footed friend brightened my own mood, and put my conversation with Old Oak completely out of mind. We cleaned up the kitchen thoroughly after our meal and went out to the porch. I was dressed in my Narnian clothes, and Tumaus fussed and fidgeted to make sure that everything about my attire was right. I told him I felt like a debutant being readied for the ball, but he didn't have any idea what that meant. Already the rain had diminished and the sun was beginning to burn through the clouds and the haze. Tumaus got out his flute and began piping and dancing in the wet grass. Old Oak was right: I was the only one who seemed to pay much attention to the damp. I said as much to him, but he was apparently gone again, or he just did not want to answer.

By noon there were only tattered clouds blowing high above on a gentle westerly breeze. The grass was nearly dry. High above a small black speck circled and soared. "That would be Swiftwing," said Tumaus. "Wouldn't it be wonderful to soar above the clouds? Why, I bet from there he can see all the way to the great sea and the castle of the kings, Cair Paravel. What a wonderful life he has! I would love to see what the tops of the clouds look like, and what is inside them." I decided not to tell Tumaus that in my own world I had been above the clouds, and through them, and that except for a few brief moments when the sun might happen to shine on them in a special way, that there was nothing very exciting about it. Some dreams are best left unsullied by the cold light of the truth.

As the afternoon went on the people of Narnia began to arrive. As in the fall, it was a varied and sundry group, and it seemed that everyone, from the greatest to the smallest were there. Stonetower was there and asked how I was making out with that "little" pillow of his. I told him that it was just wonderful, and that I slept comfortably on it all winter long. The bears checked on the hive they had given me, and set up another right next to it. "No such thing as too much honey," they said. I got a couple of jars out of my store and shared it with them immediately. The moles and the rabbits checked on the garden and thoroughly approved of my work. The dwarfs wanted to check over the entire cabin, just to make sure their work was still sound. They brought one improvement with them, which they had made during the winter; a nice iron handle and lock for the door. "Never know when you might have to take a trip," they said. "Ought to lock it up when you go."

When Darktail arrived he immediately found a perch up inside the roof of the porch and tried to go to sleep. "Not a good time for flying," he twittered. "Too bright, much too bright, should have come at night. It hurts my eyes and makes me dizzy. Wouldn't do it at all if it were not such a special occasion. Now, do be quiet, do, and let a fellow get some sleep." He spent the rest of the day there, but it would not be completely accurate to say that it was quiet, or that he got a good day's sleep. People were coming and going the entire time. He would put up with it for so long, and then the offender would hear from over their head, "Hush, to-who! Let a fellow sleep."

By dinnertime most everyone had arrived and the field was full. People wandered this way and that, speaking with everyone. Old friends were greeted and embraced as if it had been six years, not just six months since they had last been seen. And everyone felt they had to greet me, whether they had met me before or not. A last few creatures, including Evening Thunder, were coming up the valley and a few more coming from the wood. On the centaur's back rode two ancient ravens, gray-headed and frail. When the great centaur was seen many raised their faces skyward, watching Swiftwing. It seemed that he was larger now, circling, diving, and approaching the northern glade. "That is the signal," shouted Old Oak. "Everyone will soon be safely here. It is time to begin." The approaching partiers hurried to join those already in the field and Swiftwing glided in, perching on one of Old Oak's outstretched branches.

All about us young spirits in the form of beautiful maidens and handsome youths stepped out of their trees, bearing great baskets of fruits and nuts. They passed amongst the revelers, and all took as they wished. These servers were not like the wild fire-spirits that had served us in the autumn, fierce and rapid. They were gentler. They were slower in movement, and more graceful. They were still untamed, as the tree that grows wild in the woods, but they were more stately, more predictable, and less frightening. Up from the stream below the glade appeared the water children, offspring of the River God, bearing drinks for all the guests. They were as comely as the children of the trees, but nearly as clear as the water itself. Their hair foamed white about their faces and over their shoulders, and down their backs. In their hands were goblets as clear as crystal, and in the cups, liquid just as clear. "Water," I thought when I took the goblet offered me. And water it was, yet not so. It was meat and wine and water. It was sunlight and starlight and moonlight in liquid form. It went straight to the core of you. It warmed and cooled at once.

"Why," I asked Old Oak, "has it never tasted this way before? Why have I never seen the river's children before?"

"Because you have never been to the spring dance before," he said with that queer sound that meant he was amused. "Drink up! You will see much tonight you have never seen before. Drink up! You will need its strength."

There seemed to be no order, no plan to this event. It did not wait for some great cosmic confluence as the autumn dance had done: It just simply began. And once begun, it seemed to follow no particular order. Everyone just ate and walked around and talked. There seemed no shortage of food. There was no shortage of drink. Whether it was the influence of the river-drink, or the fact that I had previously been to the autumn festival, I found myself experiencing something for the first time: I was comfortable in the crowd. It may also have been the knowledge that no one much cared what you said or did. Do not mistake me: It was not apathy. In apathy the person doesn't care because they do not care about you. This was so much more than that. It was rather that everyone cared so much for one another that nothing you said, nothing you did would make them change their mind about you. It was the feeling I had about Tumaus when he went on about his mythical lion: I liked him anyway.

It was impossible to tell exactly when the dance itself began. We were all walking around, talking, and eating. Slowly, gradually, yet everywhere at once it seemed, the movement of walking seemed too timid, too sedate, and we began to dance as we moved from one to another. And before we even noticed that we were dancing we began to sing, as if our voices needed to keep pace with our feet. We danced and we sang and we ate, though after a while we found our appetites sated, so the food was let go and we only danced and sang, which was enough to satisfy our souls, as the food and the drink had satisfied our bodies. The dance was very different than in the fall, when great lines were formed and interwoven together. It was simpler, in a way. And yet there seemed to be a pattern, perhaps too complex to even be seen or understood. At times I thought I could see it, but just as I thought I could the pattern of it would slip from my mind and the entire movement would again seem random.

The pattern that seemed to occur most to my mind was circles. I danced in circles and saw circles dance around me. Circles in circles, but not exactly. There were circles moving inward and circles moving outward. Above our heads the circle of the full moon danced across the sky, accompanied by the circling stars. Finally I lost myself in a dream, my feet and my body moving inward, upward, seeking some higher place, some hidden secret plane where the dance would find its' meaning.

Suddenly everything was still. I looked around me and found myself in the middle of the northern glade. The full moon shone down upon the place like a spotlight on a stage. Around me, ring upon ring, circle upon circle where the people of Narnia. Closest to me, in a circle about me were those Old Oak had named as the Council of Aslan. Everything was still. Everyone was silent. It was the old he-raven that spoke.

"People of Narnia, the Council of Aslan has met. It has been decided. We have come to this sacred place, at this sacred time for the confirmation of this son of Adam as a knight of Cair Paravel and the land of Narnia, and as member of the Council of Aslan."

Copyrightę2001, John Nelson



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