Falling . . . falling . . . slowly sinking . . . deeper . . . falling faster . . . very fast into greenness below . . . the greenness forming into the tops of very tall trees she was falling through . . . falling through the branches . . .
Melanie landed at the base of a tree with a soft bump on a bed of ferns. She was in another forest! This one was different, because it had more dirt and less grass, a creek instead of pools, and the air was considerably colder. Melanie sat for a while enjoying the birdsong and the happy trickle of the brook. Presently, she heard a new sound—a rustling sound—coming from behind her. She turned to look and jumped in fear: behind her stood a huge Lion!
It stared at her without moving. She gazed back, trembling.
That call! Melanie discerned that it was the Lion speaking. But how had he spoken to her in the Wood? The signing hands appeared in her mind's eye, superimposed over his face. Melanie slowly stood and walked beside the Lion, who seemed to lead her deeper into the forest. Melanie wondered where they were going, and who the Lion was, but she did not know how to ask. Goodness! It could not have been five or ten minutes since she first learned how to speak at all!
Finally, the Lion stopped and turned to her.
"You have many questions, child, but you are unable to ask them."
Melanie nodded in amazement.
"Breathe deeply," the Lion instructed, and as Melanie obeyed, he breathed on her.
The Lion's breath was sweet, warm, and comforting on Melanie's tongue and in her nostrils as she inhaled.
"Now, child, speak," the Lion said.
Melanie was confused; speak? Was it really as simple as that? Her tongue did feel a bit smaller, and more manageable. She tried to speak, somehow coming up with the sounds that belonged to the letters she pictured, to communicate the signs she knew.
"Waah yoo naam?" As Melanie listened to her voice for the first time, her heart sank. It was slow, ungainly, dull, and dreadfully clumsy-sounding. Not at all like the rich, rolling rumble of the Lion's voice.
In the short pause that followed her question, Melanie fretted. Had she said it correctly? Would he understand?
"My name is Aslan."
He understood! What a relief. Melanie tried the word herself, "Azz-lann."
When Aslan did not reply, Melanie thought perhaps now was the proper time to introduce herself. She pictured in her mind what she wanted to say and the signs to communicate them, but she had no idea how she could actually go about speaking them. "Maah naam . . . Mah-lan-eee."
It took more effort than she had assumed it would. Aslan still held her gaze. "Melanie," he repeated, but the sign the white hands made was not one she was used to associating with her name. No matter; Melanie's foremost concern was the pronunciation of her name. She sounded it out quietly to herself.
Aslan continued, "Do you know why you are here, Melanie?"
Melanie shook her head.
"Do you know where you are?"
Again, she indicated that she did not.
"From your world I called you, and led you here to a land whose name you will recognize: Telmar."
Taurin was the son of a Telmarine farmer. As such, he was expected to be a farmer himself when the time came. That was the way of Telmar. Often Taurin caught himself wishing fervently things were not so. He had a dream, one everyone would think was scandalous, one he didn't have much of a prayer of realizing unless something drastic happened.
More than even his desire to be materially successful, Taurin wanted to teach. Imparting knowledge was far more appealing to him than merely sowing seed, and harvesting, and caring for livestock. The wealthier farmers could choose to send their children away for a basic education of letters and numbers, but most farmers and artisans could see no use for their children to know anything outside the farm. Did one need to know letters to read the skies for the weather? Did one need to know numbers when the right amount of seed could be weighed in the hand? No, most children remained on the farm and were content because they did not know of life outside the farm.
Taurin had seen such life, and even the thought of obtaining such knowledge increased his thirst for it. He increased his literacy in secret, through the sheer tenacity of his self-effort.
Taurin smiled up at the tall, aged trees as he approached the forest between his family's farm and the next. This wood was the one place Taurin felt true sanctuary. Times like this, when Taurin had finished his after-breakfast chores well before the noon meal, he—with permission—would steal away to his beloved forest to explore the many different plants and animals there. He could already hear the creek trickling just ahead. Taurin ran to the bank and almost tripped over the body lying near it.
Taurin stopped and stared at this newcomer, a girl. She had long, beautiful, fair hair, and Taurin noted that her slender white hands bore a few marks around the palms and fingertips, good evidence that she was not averse to useful work. The dress she wore was a good deal shorter than Taurin was accustomed to seeing on a girl, but he deemed it still modest.
The young farmer's son sat next to the sleeping girl. He very much wanted to discover who she was and where she came from, but she slept so peacefully and looked so beautiful, Taurin was content to watch until she awoke of her own accord.
Presently, a robin swooped down with a song for Taurin. He tried to shoo it away, but it only flew to the girl's shoulder and sang again. She awoke and sat up, which startled the bird. It flew away over the creek. The girl watched it with a smile, but her expression changed to one of fear and she shrank away with a shriek when she saw Taurin.
"Don't be afraid, I won't hurt you," he reassured her. "My name is Taurin. What is yours?"
The girl hesitated for so long, Taurin wondered if she knew how to speak. But then—