Catania’s Forest: The Little Drummer-boy in Narnia ~ Part Seven
Catania followed the creek east, upstream. Its shallow course grew deeper as she went on, until the elf walked at the bottom of a low trench beside the water. Finally she reached an old ash tree that grew at the very edge of the ditch, with its roots straggling over the edge and poking out of the earthen walls. Its thick trunk split into many branches, not high above the top of the defile. Much of its bark was scored with shaggy moss and sea-green wheels of lichen. In the shadow of its heavy canopy, Catania felt along the dirt wall, which was thick with moss and skinny roots—plantation the young elf had planted there herself, to disguise her house. Her practiced hand found the rough wooden handle, and pulled open the small door. It was made of wood, but covered with dirt on the outside, in which Catania had buried the small plants to cover it. Inside was the small dirt cave she called home, dug out between the great tree-roots, supported with rocks. Inside were her tools, lying in an orderly line, against one wall; and her small bed of heather and ferns. She tossed the rolled up hide beside her bed, and fetched the wooden spoon and fork she had carved with her knife, and went back to cook her dinner.
After eating a small portion of the venison at her kitchen, Catania stamped out the dying fire and took her cutlery home. Twilight was fading around her by now. She hurried back to the old ash tree and lit a small fire outside it, in the mud by the creek. She filled a clay pot with small, amber grains from a sack inside her cave, and cautiously scooped up a little water from the stream in it, not letting it down so far in the current that the kernels washed out. She nestled the pot carefully into the coals of her little fire and crawled inside. It was safe to cook such things so close to where she slept—as far as she knew, elves were the only creatures on the planet foolish enough to try and eat the rock-hard grains. They would be soft enough to eat for breakfast after boiling all night.
It was completely dark in the cave, but the elf-girl knew every inch of it by feel; and she had done the same routine almost every night for all four years she had lived in the forest: she unstrung her bow and laid it down against the wall, put her quiver beside it, added her knife and belt. She pulled off her tunic and laid it beside her, smoothed the sleeveless shirt she wore beneath it, and let her hair down tumbling about her shoulders. She stretched out on her bed and twisted her shoulders and squirmed until the heather shifted into a comfortable couch, blew the ferns out of her face, and relaxed. Every day ended like this: the warm smell of earth and dry leaves, the soft crunch of the foliage beneath her, her tight muscles at rest, pitch black darkness before her chestnut eyes.