Catania’s Forest: The Little Drummer-boy in Narnia ~ Part Fifteen
“Can you point me back to the city?” Jéru asked. “I don’t know which way’s east anymore.”
“You shouldn’t have come out here,” Catania said. “You could have lost yourself, or been attacked by something. You’re unarmed.”
“I had to tell you, Tanya,” he said seriously. His faced darkened then. “Which way’s east?”
Catania pointed, and watched as he swung himself out of the ditch–as easily as only an elf could–and made off through the forest. Catania pulled herself up onto one of the great, gnarled roots of her tree and sat there looking out at the palely lit forest.
Her thoughts were muddled. She suddenly realized her heart was pounding. I have to see. She knew it was the only way to calm her fears and find peace in her shocked mind. She slipped inside her cave again and snatched her bow and quiver, tugged on her bracers, and secured her makeshift shoes. North of the city gates, she told herself as pulled her door shut and scrambled out of the trench. The forest looked so different by this light that she stood still a moment to get her bearings. She glanced upwards, searching for the moon, but the leafy canopy masked it.
The journey to the city was long and uneventful. She tightened her fingers on her bow as she walked. She was not about in the forest often at night. The soft rustling and piping of the woodland creatures all around her sounded a bit eerie. She recognized she was near Syrelia when she caught her foot on a stone, and realized the ground was rising. She skirted the rocky ground and came quickly to the road, and saw the city walls rising beyond it, looking milk white in the soft gleam. The little elf drew back timorously from the wide track, and crept alongside it in the shadow of the trees. She stopped when she came to the city gates. She had not gone near them, even in sight of them, for years; and she crept away from the unfamiliar scene before hurrying across the road that led up to it. She was hardly ever northeast of Syrelia, and she began to doubt herself, as she squinted at the deep shadows. The sound of soft voices and crackling branches reached her, and she made for it; walking cautiously, and as quietly as an elf accustomed to a forest can. Her sharp eyes caught a glint of golden-red light, and she walked a bit faster. Peering between the branches of a stout holly tree, she looked upon a strange scene:
A small fire was licking hungrily at a small lump of pine needles on the ground. Lythia was kneeling beside it, an woolen, earth-colored cloak thrown about her shoulders, unclasped. She held a small bundle of worn, indigo cloth in her arms. A tall Man stood behind her–Catania recognized him as a Man at once, and his ears confirmed it–elves, centaurs, werewolves, and even dwarfs had ears that were pointed, at least to some degree–but humans were the only creature the young elf had ever heard of who possessed perfectly rounded ears. He was dressed in a dull, earth-colored tunic and breeches with a short sword at his belt. His face was mostly masked by a dark beard, and he appeared to be arguing with Horbrid, who stood before them. Catania thought he looked tense and worried, and hoped Lythia was not in danger. She could tell the forest warden was wavering between giving in and fighting. Moth stood behind them, glowering and fingering his knife.
Catania held her breath as she watched, and wondered what was happening.
“Fine,” Horbrid was saying reluctantly. “You can stay, but I want you gone by tomorrow night–don’t think I won’t bother checking. Lord Daniel will have my head if you cause any trouble, but I’ll have yours first, so take care. No poaching–and don’t burn down the forest, while you’re at it.”
“Thank you,” Maylock said dryly.
Horbrid sighed helplessly and stalked off into the dappled light and shadow of the strange night. Moth scowled darkly at the couple before turning to follow, muttering under his breath. Catania wondered if he was trying to convey he wanted them dead–but as far as the young elf had ever seen, he wanted everyone dead. Maylock watched him depart warily.
Catania held her breath, now the forest was silent, and wondered if it was safe to show herself. Would Lythia betray me? ‘Tis not likely, but I know nothing of Maylock. Does Lythia remember me, I wonder?
Catania started as the noise of hooves broke the silence. Brush crackled behind her. She dropped onto her knees and searched frantically for a place to hide. Tyre crashed through the underbrush in front of her, and she froze. Whatever is he doing here? He seemed near frantic. He checked his trot and stared at her puzzedly for a moment, before his eyes darted beyond the holly tree, and he cantered around it. Catania jumped up in surprise and stepped around the shrub after him. She tensed and squeezed her bow as she realized she was in plain sight of them all, but for the moment no one was paying her any attention: Tyre was walking slowly toward the couple. His tall form was between her and Lythia, but Maylock watched the impressive centaur with a puzzled, guarded expression in his dark eyes.
The crunch of Tyre’s hooves ceased, and there was a long pause. Every bird and squirrel seemed to be holding its breath. Catania thought suddenly that the strange light looked brighter around the small group. Tyre’s dark hair and flanks looked almost black in the pale sheen, but Maylock’s face was tinted red by the leaping flames. Slowly Tyre knelt down and bowed before Lythia, where she sat with the child in her arms. The elf by the holly tree could hardly believe her eyes. Every muscle under the sleek fur and velvet tunic rippled as the powerful frame dropped to the forest floor. His knees landed on the pine needles with a quiet sound. Catania held her breath. She could see Lythia’s face over his bowed head, and her eyes were shining.
“He is the scion of the Creating One,” the centaur said in a low voice.
She nodded. “He has come to deliver His Father’s people from bondage,” she said.
“Such a prince deserves a gift,” Tyre said, rising to his feet. “I will come again and bring food and blankets. Take care of the child.”
“We will,” Maylock said confidently.
“Will you be safe here?” the centaur asked.
“Maylock has his sword,” Lythia answered quietly. “The Creating One will protect us.”
Catania shrank back as Tyre came towards her. “What’s going on?” she asked timidly.
“The King has been born, Catania,” he answered. “The One who has been told of since the first prophets.”
“But. . .” Catania faltered. “Him? How can you–how did you know?” Could the Melcournar. . . ?
Tyre smiled. “The stars, of course. How else? The star–have you not seen it?”
The young elf glanced upward at the dark silhouettes of leaves above them. “The light,” she said slowly.
“Is it not wonderful?” Tyre asked. “All the stars are drowned out by him. He who suddenly shines as bright as a full moon! It can only mean one thing–a great leader has been born beneath it. Catania–this is what they waited for.”
Catania glanced back towards Maylock and Lythia. “A king?” she breathed. Her mind was whirling.
“He is going to liberate us, Catania,” Tyre said. “I will follow him. I have waited for this.” His voice fell to a breathless whisper.
Catania did not answer. She had never seen him like this before. Slowly he turned and walked away. She listened to the brush crunch beneath his hooves. Quietly, she stepped around the holly tree.