Chapter 17
Dancing Path
Copyright 2001, John Nelson

It was the middle of the afternoon when we left the children of Lady Beech in the pleasant glade in the woods. As we went down that path toward the main trail, and then back on the trail leading to the hill of the Stone Table, it seemed that no one really wanted to talk. I was sure that the others, like me, were going over again in their minds all that had transpired and all they had heard during the last day. The day was bright and sunny, as pleasant as any day in early Longsun could be, and yet there seemed to be a pall over the little company that walked along the path, as if a cloud followed overhead to dampen our spirits. Our pace continued to be quick, but it seemed more out of dogged determination than out of anticipation of the goal.

The woods about the path continued dense for the next hour or more, and then began opening out again. We had come through the thick woods and were once again coming into a pleasant park like district of the country. The land before us began to rise, gently at first, and then more steeply, and in the distance, at times, we could glimpse between the trees the tops of the southern mountains. The path became more broad and easier to walk. The light became brighter out from under the trees, and our spirits seemed to lift again as we felt the sun's beams fall upon us.

Without any notice or fanfare I began to hear behind me, softly at first, and then louder, the sound of music, and knew that Tumaus had managed to pull his flute from his pack as we walked. At first it was just a few notes here and there, without a melody, as if he were greeting a flower with it, and then passing on. A few notes here, and a few notes there was what he played, and it all seemed disconnected. I smiled. I did not turn, but imagined in my mind that he was turning to some tree, or flower, or bird, and playing a little burst just for them. It was the sort of thing he would do. The little bursts of song, while they did not seem to have any definite melody, all seemed to be very different, and I tried to imagine whom he might be playing to at any given moment. I imagined that a few long, slow, heavy notes might be for the dark pine we had just passed near the path, and that the quick, high, sprightly burst might be for the little patch of daisies off to our left. I smiled as he played his flute, and I played my game.

Then it suddenly seemed as if he were trying to put it all together into one grand song, stringing together his solemn salute to the trees, his spirited greeting to the flowers, and his rolling trills and tributes to the very shape of the land. Melody, though odd to my ears, began to form. Then quite suddenly, Tumaus danced past me on the broad path. Now he would turn toward those he meant to salute as he played each part, putting his entire body into his praise, turning and bowing and dancing and prancing up and off the path. He danced past me and between and around the dwarfs, who began suddenly to laugh, for it seemed that they understood well what he was about. He played notes that somehow seemed to do with them, and then danced his way back to me. He footed light and lively all around me, and what he played was about me, I knew, though I did not understand at all the meaning of the music.

As he danced back toward me a sudden panicked thought went through my mind: "He's going to ask me to dance!" My mind told me that I did not want to dance, not out here in the broad daylight, and not in front of the dwarfs. What would they think of me? But when Tumaus got back to where I was, I suddenly realized that I was already dancing! I did not remember when I started dancing, but I was. I looked ahead and noticed that the dwarfs were also dancing. I laughed, for the sight was indeed hilarious, their heavy boots and the heavy packs piled high on their backs, and their heavy and sometimes awkward steps in contrast with the notes that my little friend played. And I remembered that I must look equally as odd, for I too had such a pack, and wore such boots, and my steps were certainly no more graceful than theirs. I was having problems controlling the bow and quiver slung over my shoulder, and my knife kept getting in my way, and I nearly fell several times.

And suddenly, I didn't care. I danced and l spun and I turned and I laughed out loud. It was not the laugh of good humor, the laugh one has because something amuses them. It was laughter for the sake of laughter; it was the laughter of pure joy. We danced our way along the path, which at this point lead us though a low valley with gentle hills on either side. And as we danced, as I danced, I turned round and saw. On the low hill above us to the east was the shape of a lion, The Lion. There seemed a glow. It passed by quickly as I turned and as I turned again looked in earnest, hoping to see, but there was nothing. Yet I did not doubt what I had seen, if only for an instant. The others had apparently not seen, but that did not matter.

Our spirits continued high was we traveled on. Our dance wound down to a happy amble, but we continued to laugh and talk light-heartedly as we went. About an hour before sunset we found a little dell to camp in for the night. It was a joyous affair consisting of good ordinary fare, pleasant drink, and gracious friends, taken as the sky turned golden in the west and the stars began to prick the purple sky in the east. The campfire had already burned low, the crickets were chirping and the dwarfs were snoring when I quietly asked Tumaus if he had seen anything unusual along the trail that afternoon. He said that he had not, then simply sat quietly, watching me, waiting for me to speak.

"I think I may have seen Aslan today." He said nothing, but continued to look intently at me.

"It was while we were dancing." I thought perhaps he smiled a little at that, but said nothing.

"It was only a quick glimpse, and when I turned again he was gone." He just nodded his head slightly.

"What do you think?" I asked. "Do you think it was truly he?"

"Do not disbelieve your eyes," he said. "And do not dare to disbelieve your heart. Your heart knows the truth better than the rest of you. And do not worry about it or think about it too much: just enjoy. And do not try to make it happen again. Just enjoy it." Then he added with a smile, "and don't forget to dance!"



Copyright © 2001 John Nelson, Hermit of Lantern Waste.
Created - April 27, 2001