"WHERE ASLAN IS KING!"
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CHAPTER TWENTY
THE CASTLE ARCHIVES

Chapter 20
The Castle Archives
Copyright 2003, John Nelson

When I awoke in the morning everyone else was already up and about and the tent was a bustle of business. I wondered how I could have slept through all the commotion. Wonderful smells that promised a hearty dwarf style breakfast wafted through the air and the tent was alive with the chatter of friendly voices. The side of the tent had been rolled up and all that passed by extended a cheery "good morning," or "hi neighbor." The dwarfs were ready to leave, eager to begin their work for the day. Tumaus gently urged me by bringing a bowl and pitcher of water for my morning wash, and by bringing my food to the table for me. He was practically aquiver with anticipation of the day, but said no word of reproach for my slothful behavior. I hurried as best I could. I thought to leave my sword in the tent along with our packs, knowing that it would not be needed in such a place as Cair Paravel, but Tumaus practically insisted that I wear it. "It was made for such a place as this," he said. "If you can not wear it here, where indeed can you wear it? And the Lion Himself is on the hilt," he added in a reverent whisper. I certainly could not argue with him on that score, for it was indeed as grand as the castle we were about to explore. Again I was reminded of the nature of the gift and the claim it laid upon me. Again I wondered what gift I could make here at Cair Paravel or in all of Narnia that would be worthy of the name.

By the time we left the tent Tumaus could no longer contain himself, and literally danced about me as we went down the path and turned toward the castle. The dew still glistened and the sun glanced off the colorful flags and turrets. In many places rays of the sun came straight through the castle from east to west, through windows perfectly aligned, and made it look as if the building itself were radiating the light. Sounds of work, the clink of hammer on stone, the rasp of wood being sawn, already filled the air, along with the sound of many glad voices. Occasionally a voice would be raised in song, the deep voice of a dwarf or a centaur, or the lilting voice of a dryad or dove. It was truly unlike any work place I had ever been to before. Not one creature was there for selfish gain, not one would cut corners or slack off or leave a job undone. Everyone there would have been mortified if it were said that they had given less then their best. It was truly a Narnian workplace, in every sense of the word. And in that place I suddenly had the urge to do my best and to do a work that would mean something for the good of Narnia.

I had not forgotten why we had come. There was a dark cloud over my spirit that could not wholly be wiped away nor overcome by the joy of this place. Evening Thunder had intimated that I might find answers here at Cair Paravel that would help me shape my course and the course of Narnia in meeting this new challenge. I looked around at the Narnians, few of whom knew anything to be amiss in the land, and my resolve became firm to do my work for them and the good of Narnia, whether they ever knew it or not. It was the work the mattered. It was the gift that mattered, not what I might receive from it in praise or glory. My hand rested on the hilt of my sword and it gave me confidence and a feeling of strength. That gift had been given me for a purpose: it had a claim upon me. The very clothes I wore claimed me. The land claimed me, and this place, this castle claimed me. I realized as I entered the gate of that marvelous place, with my friend eagerly dancing around me, that I was now a Narnian. I was no longer Thomas, orphan from some other world. I was Narnian and these were my people and this was my land. They had claimed me and I was theirs. Perhaps that was why I had resisted so much the names that had been declared concerning me.

My hand rested on the hilt of my sword, carved with the likeness of Aslan the Lion of Narnia. I knew that a claim was represented there too. That claim had been revealed to me months ago at the festival in Lantern Waste right outside my own cabin door and I had rejected that claim. I had sought to deny that claim on many occasions since, by my words and by my actions. I knew that the claim was still in force: it always had been. Perhaps somewhere deep inside I had always known that to be Lord Thomas, head of the council was not a claim of power and authority that I made upon others, but the acknowledgement of the claim the land and the people held upon me. And as I walked through the gates of Cair Paravel for the first time, I suddenly felt that I was indeed Lord Thomas of Lantern Waste. And in that sense there was both a sense of duty and the assumption of a burden. And now, for the first time I wanted Aslan to come to me and make that claim again. I had moved in that direction when I thought I heard his voice in the night, and again when I thought I saw him upon the hilltop as I danced on the trail. Now I wanted him to come and claim me, and I wished to submit.

All of this takes long to write, but passed through my mind very quickly as Tumaus and I entered the gates of Cair Paravel. I was glad that I had listened to my friend the night before and had not urged him to enter at that time. The splendor in the morning sun was truly magnificent. I laughed aloud to see him. He pranced and danced and turned this way and that. His mouth opened and he tried to sing. Sometimes nothing came out and sometimes gibberish came out. A look of awe and wonder was on his face, as I had never seen before, on him or on anyone else. And while I did not dance I am sure that a look of wonder and awe was on my face as well.

Across the courtyard glided a lady clad in blue and silver, flashing in the sun like the waves on the sea. As she drew near it seemed that she was almost a bit transparent, or at least translucent, and her hair of white seemed to toss about like the foam on the waves. And though her hair was as white as the snows on Mount Pire, there was no mark or sign of age upon her. Her skin was as smooth as a newborn, her eyes as innocent as a child, yet as deep with wisdom as the sea by which the castle stood. When she spoke her voice was deeper than a woman's wont, resounding and strong as the sounds of the surf. I was not surprised at all when she said to us, "Welcome Lord Thomas. I am Dolphana, ocean's daughter. My father, who guards the eastern wall of Cair Paravel and all the coast of Narnia, has sent me to be your guide, you and your little friend." She turned and bowed low before him, showing her respect, and said, "Lord Tumaus, I understand that you are also of the Council of Aslan. It is my great honor to be of service to you and to the head of the council. If there is anything I can do for you during your stay you have only to name it and it will be yours, if it is within my power to accomplish the task." Her manner was very grave, and yet there was a sparkle in her eyes and an excitement in her voice that one could not miss.

"Lady Dolphana", I said, "At present I will put my wishes below the desires of my friend Tumaus. I do not believe his excitement can be contained. He may simply explode if he is forced to wait a minute longer. It is also probably best if you conduct the tour using your own discretion regarding what we are to see, and when. I'm convinced that in his current state the Lord Tumaus would not be able to make up his mind on what to see first." Tumaus seemed to blush a bit, but neither argued the point nor ceased his dancing about.

Lady Dolphana proved to be an excellent guide. She was very thorough in answering every question I asked, and very understanding of my little friend's excitement. We went over the entire castle together, from the highest turret to the deepest treasure chamber beneath the grand banquet room. There was hardly a place in the castle where some form of work was not being accomplished, and yet with very little of the usual debris and confusion one general associates with such sites. Even on the upper wall where the Block brothers did the expert work of dwarf masons, the dust and the fragments of stone were cleared away nearly as quickly as they were made, as if the very presence of the slightest debris would be an affront to the Castle of the Kings and to the name of Aslan. I learned much about the castle that day, but little of importance to my specific quest, other than the location of the castle library.

At mid-day all work paused briefly for a joyous meal together in the castle courtyard. While not what one would consider a grand banquet, being but the simple foods of country folk, it was yet so well prepared and so well served, that none could have found fault even if they had a mind to do so. Those who furnished and prepared and served the food were as serious about the gift they were giving as were the most gifted wood carver, metal smith, or stone mason. And yet in their devotion to the giving of their gift there was such joy that it spilled out of them so that they sang and smiled and laughed even as they served. That same attitude permeated every aspect of life in this wonderful place and effected every action of every person.

At day's end our guide, Lady Dolphana, brought us back to the gate by which we had entered in the morning and left us with words of blessing and wishes for a peaceful night. It was the first time all day the Tumaus has ceased his prancing, dancing, and flitting about. He seemed quite downcast as we passed out through the gate and walked slowly down the path toward the encampment. Although I was rather sure of the answer I asked, "Did you not see all you wished to see today? Did you not enjoy your tour?"

"Oh, no," he said in a quiet voice. "Who would not enjoy such a time as we have had today? It is the dream of a lifetime. And the Lady Dolphana is so wonderful. I have met no one else like her." He voice got still quieter as he spoke and trailed off into silence at the end.


He said nothing at all for quite a while as we walked though the compound of workers, all preparing their evening repast. He was thinking, I could tell. At last he spoke, slowly and quietly. "I do not wish to seem greedy, or ungrateful. This has truly been the best day of my life up until now. It's just that, it's like, well, I guess what I mean is that I do not feel ready to leave. I know I have seen it all, but seeing it and knowing it are not the same, if that makes any sense. It has made an impression in my mind, but there are pieces of it that are already beginning to fade for me. I want more than an impression: I wish for it to be engraved on my mind."

I smiled and laid my hand on his shoulder and said, "Well, you could begin engraving tomorrow if you want."

He stopped in the middle of the path and looked up at me. His eyes were wide and his mouth was open, though no words came forth. I laughed aloud. "You did not think, did you, that we were going to leave so soon. I have work to do here. This is not a sight-seeing trip." I meant to continue instructing him on this, but could not for he would have heard none of it. Tumaus found his voice and shouted and sang and spoke gibberish for all he was worth, dancing around me with such energy and speed that his feet nearly became tangled. I laughed again, even louder than before. We had a more joyous night than Tumaus had anticipated, so joyous in fact that I feared none in the tent would get any sleep, but eventually Tumaus wore himself out and slept like a dwarf.

Thus began our pattern of life at Cair Paravel. Each day we would go together to the castle, and then go to our separate endeavors. I would go to the library of the castle, pouring over the ancient books in search of knowledge and wisdom to enlighten me in the protection of Narnia. Tumaus would go his own way, becoming intimately familiar with the castle. Each day we would meet for the noon meal, and each evening we would walk together back to the workers compound outside the gates of the castle. Tumaus soon had a great collection of drawings he had made and notes he had taken concerning the castle, and intimated to me that it was his intention to put them into the form of a book. He reasoned that if he had known so little about the castle before coming there himself it was only reasonable that other Narnians were likewise ignorant, and that a book could be of great value. For myself, the time passed, and while I learned many interesting things about Narnia and its history, I found nothing to the point. There seemed to be no information at all concerning the wicked Jadis or her activities past First Day.

One day, shortly before the time of the noon meal, Tumaus came rushing into the library with great excitement. It was, however, not the excitement that made him dance and flute, but rather a tense and anticipatory kind of excitement. His sharp little hooves made a nervous staccato click-clack on the slate floor. "I have found something, I think," he said. "I believe I may have found what you want. It is not in the library at all. If this is what I think it is, what you are seeking is in the King's chambers." His voice sunk to a whisper, but his feet still fidgeted nervously, excitedly. "It is a journal. It is the diary of King Frank himself, I believe. I did not read it long: the very first page that tells what it is. Will you come now and see it? Will you come?"

There was not the slightest temptation to wait until after the noon meal. This was too important to wait. Tumaus chattered rapidly and almost in time with his rapid feet as we went quickly from the library adjacent to the great hall and overlooking the sea, to the great and broad northwest turret of the castle where the chamber of the kings was located. "I was not looking to find it at all," he said. "I was writing a description of the King and the Queen's chamber when I discovered it. It was in the bookcase, but not in the front. As I looked it seemed to me that the shelves were very deep, and it occurred to me that there might be more books behind, and sure enough, there were. I pulled out two or three books, just to see. There it was," he whispered again.

We arrived at the room and Tumaus stood aside, indicating that I should go it before him. The room we entered was not the bedchamber of the King, but rather a sitting room attached to it. The book he had discovered lay on the table next to the window. There was no title on the outside of the brown leather cover. "That is it! There it is!" repeated Tumaus. I picked it up. Though the edges of the pages were yellow from age, the cover had very little wear, as if it had not been much handled or read since the book was finished. I was hardly less excited than my little friend as I turned the cover to view the first page.

"By the Hand of King Frank of Narnia, and by the Grace of Aslan, begun this 3rd day of Greenroof, in second year after the founding of Narnia." Tumaus continued to fidget by my side as I read the title aloud. "I knew it! I knew it," he said, punctuated by the click-clack-clatter of his hooves. I turned the page and began to read.

I had heard the story before of the founding of Narnia, of the singing stars and the calling of the Narnians from the dumb beasts that Aslan had created. I knew that King Frank and Queen Helen had been called from the world of men to be the first rulers over this land. And the story was told by the Narnians of the coming also of the evil witch, Jadis, and that Aslan had also called a young boy and girl to sow the tree for the protection of Narnia. But as I read I rapidly discovered that there were many things that happened after that time that the people of Narnia had forgotten: I learned that while Jadis had not returned to Narnia that she had not been idle, nor had the early kings of Narnia.

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"WHERE ASLAN IS KING!"
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Copyright © 2003 John Nelson, Hermit of Lantern Waste.
Created - April 15, 2003