A New Dawn

Summer came as a blessing to Narnia. A great evil known as the White Witch had once subdued the magical land to a hundred years of nothing but snow and ice. The Narnians had almost given up all hope of seeing the sun again. Then, four strange creatures mysteriously appeared in Narnia. Their arrival set off a chain of events that eventually led to the fulfilment of an ancient prophecy.

'When Adam's flesh and Adam's bone, sits at Cair Paravel in throne, the evil time will be over and done.'

Five years passed and by then every inhabitant of Narnia - be they Talking Animal, Faun, Centaur, Dwarf or Spirit of the forest - knew of the glorious battle at Beruna where the White Witch was finally defeated by the Great Lion, Aslan. The four humans became the four Kings and Queens of Narnia and everyone could at last breathe a sigh of relief.

The beach overlooked by Cair Paravel was one of Zia's favourite places to spend the summer months. She could sit on the sand for hours on end, watching the tide wash lazily in and out. Her thoughts became as wispy as the little puffs of cloud gliding lazily across the endless sky. Until -

"What do you suppose it's like inside Cair Paravel?" she asked of the creature stretched out beside her.

This creature was a Fox – a talking Fox, as it happened. He went by the name of Breejit and was Zia's closest friend. He was used to her questions being directed at him, especially questions he wasn't certain of the answer to. This particular question broke the half hour long silence the Fox had previously been enjoying. He sighed quietly enough for Zia not to hear and prepared a reply in his head that mainly consisted of logical guesses.

"I imagine it's full of marble pillars and statues, as well as jewels and fine furniture. Also, I expect the views are simply delightful. Why do you ask?"

The girl shrugged, reaching over to scratch Breejit's ears. He closed his eyes and made a pleased humming noise in his throat.

"I should love to see inside someday."

The comment caused Breejit to bark in a way that sounded as though he were laughing. "I doubt that will be possible. Their Majesties have no reason to interact with lowly citizens such as ourselves," he said humbly.

"Well I've heard from Tumnus that Their Majesties are extremely friendly and chivalrous toward anyone they meet," she retorted.

"Maybe there is hope, then," he conceded, if only to prevent an argument. Arguments were a regular occurrence between the pair. Dryads were notoriously quiet and peaceful beings, but Zia seemed to be the exception.

Done with talking, Zia lay back on the sand, crossing her arms behind her head. The sky above radiated a magnificent sapphire, the ocean below merely a few shades darker. How she'd missed summer. Her poor tree would never quite regain its original colour and pride after being beaten and battered relentlessly by cruel winter winds for over a century.

Both Fox and Dryad fell back into contented silence, each wrapped up in their own dreamy musings. Zia started to build up a picture of what Cair Paravel looked like in her mind: marble pillars, glass ornaments; huge, spiralling staircases lined with precious stones, four-poster beds and gauze curtains, cutlery made of solid gold. Meanwhile Breejit wondered upon the whereabouts of the dog collar Zia had fashioned for him out of a couple of vines. He sincerely hoped it was somewhere nobody would ever find it. How he loathed that wretched thing. He rarely bared his teeth at anyone, but if she attempted to place the collar around his neck one more time he would not hesitate to tear it to shreds.

A sudden change in the wind carried an unfamiliar tang to Breejit's nose. The burn was unlike anything the Fox had come across before, and he always had a bad feeling about unfamiliar smells. Sitting up, he urgently bumped Zia's arm with his nose.

"What is it?"

"Something's coming; I don't recognise the scent." He lifted his muzzle again. The tang was stronger now – whatever creature it belonged to was definitely headed their way. "Hurry, it's coming closer!"

The pair swiftly scrambled for the cover of the woods. Dead leaves and pines cooled Zia's bare feet after the hot sand had scorched them. She had only taken a few steps into the dappled shadows before coming to a halt. As Breejit's russet tail disappeared into the undergrowth, Zia slowly turned around. If she remained out of sight, surely it couldn't hurt to look?

During the time they had been there the sun had dipped lower in the sky and had now almost merged with the horizon. As she crouched behind a tree trunk, Zia heard casual footsteps coming from the north and, seconds later, the thing Breejit had sensed came into view.

The newcomer was not unlike her in body, although this one was clearly male. Perhaps he was another Dryad or a different kind of forest Spirit? He moved in the same way she did: upright and on two feet while his arms swung by his sides. He stopped a little way back from the shoreline and stared out at the ocean, standing as if made from stone. All she could see of him from where she crouched was a black silhouette framed by flaring orange rays. The shape of him was familiar, so why wasn't his scent?

A quiet rustling came from beside her, causing her to start as Breejit emerged from the undergrowth, nose twitching and ears flicking uncertainly.

"Zia, what are you doing?" he demanded in a hushed voice.

"Bree, look," she whispered, pointing.

The creature didn't look nearly as strange as he smelled, Breejit thought as his gaze followed the direction of Zia's finger. He looked like a Dryad or Nymph but the smell was all wrong. It made him nervous to not be able to place the strong, vaguely salty stench this thing was emitting.

"What if it sees us?" he hissed at Zia. Her eyes were once again fixed on the beach and she seemed to have half-forgotten his presence.

"I don't think he knows we're here," she murmured back. "But doesn't he behave oddly?"

The stranger was now knee-deep in the water, wearing nothing but his breeches. The rest of his clothes lay in an untidy pile where he had previously been standing. As they watched, he strode confidently forwards until the water lapped at his slim waist. He paused a moment before ducking beneath the waves with all the grace and fluid movement of a dolphin. It was a while before he resurfaced and his reappearance was only brief. He was gone again in a matter of seconds.

"Oddly but fascinatingly," Zia amended, tilting her head. She had never seen anyone bathe like that before - with half their clothes still donned. Wouldn't it make more sense to wash in the river, where the water wasn't full of salt?

Breejit's tail flicked back and forth anxiously. He did not like or trust this creature one bit – its very presence made him jittery. His instincts warned him that the distance between himself and whatever this creature was wasn't nearly large enough.

Zia sensed her friend's nervous bristling but did nothing about it other than roll her eyes. Breejit was too over-protective and worried too much for his own good. The stranger had done nothing that even remotely suggested he meant to cause harm.

Her legs were just beginning to throb from the awkward position she was in when the figure emerged from the sea, shaking droplets from his glistening hair. As he trudged towards his clothes, Zia and Breejit ducked behind the tree safely out of his line of vision. They listened as his footsteps made their way towards the forest, thankfully in the opposite direction to their hiding place. Breejit let out a troubled whine and pushed at Zia's knee with his paw, urging her to come away, but she paid him no attention. Her mind was reeling with so many questions that one was barely distinguishable from another. She longed to follow the stranger, and was held back only by the thought of the consequences she would have to face and by Breejit's claws digging into her thigh.

Pushing the Fox gently away, Zia leaned round the tree just in time to watch the oddity disappear from sight.