23 November, 2014 by katelaity
[A snippet from my NaNoWriMo project, the first draft of my new medieval adventure based on Marie de France’s Bisclavret]
“Welcome, my friend. You have come to pay your respects to my lovely lady if I am not mistaken. Many worship at that shrine.” Bisclavret smiled and clasped the man in an embrace as he got down from his mount.
“I am always ready to pay homage at that altar,” Alain said with a short laugh, “but today I bring a gift to you.”
“A gift for me?” Bisclavret smiled. It was most unexpected.
“How very thoughtful.” Both men turned at the sound of Lunaria’s voice and watched as she descended the stone steps to where they stood. “I am always happy to see gifts given between dear friends.”
“And neighbours,” Bisclavret added, taking her elbow as she stepped up to his side. He felt the need to reassure himself with her nearness. “How very kind you are to bring us gifts.”
“You will appreciate the gesture eve more when you see what prize I have brought you.” The delight was plain on Alain’s face as he waved to one of the men who brought the horse he led closer. “I was up early and had a fortunate day as you shall see. I think our fortunes will be changing, as the lord has been kind.”
All at once Bisclavret felt his heart sink and he feared to see what treasure would be revealed. The sun suddenly seemed too bright and he felt his knees grow weak, as if they would not be able to support his weight. Alain stepped back to reach for the blanket which covered his prize and threw it back with a shout of joy.
He had feared to see her face there, but it was the young black wolf. Like Bisclavret himself, he was part of the fringe of the pack, those who were seen as too green and untutored to be central to the hunt. They were always ready to join in and, tongues lolling, pursued the prey just as avidly but without the old grey’s uncanny instinct for when the pursued would turn and twist in its path. But they were young enough not to care, to have energy to spare in the wild pursuit and eager always to run a little further and capture the running beast by a paw or even a tail.
To see that face still, thrown across the back of a horse, his limp legs crossed cut the knight to the quick. Wolves did not have names, not in the human sense of them. They knew each other by smell and by shape. Bisclavret knew all the pack that ran in these woods and he knew they would be mourning their loss and nervous about what lay in wait for them—and that the forest had become a more dangerous place.
“You do not seem happy, my love,” Lunaria said with a laugh, although her voice sounded cool in the sunlight. “Or perhaps you wish you had been the one to catch the prize. If only you had moved more quickly on the quarry.”
“Yes, my lady, I suppose that is true,” Bisclavret said, his voice sounding thick and slow in his own ears so he could not tell if it was the way he spoke or his perception that was amiss. The shock of the moment still rang within him like a chapel bell only he could sense. “Though it is always sad to see a noble beast brought so low.”
“Noble beast!” Alain laughed. “A poor thief in the night is he and one less sheep in his belly means a full belly for us.”
“I shall wear his fur as a hood to keep me warm as I ride.” Lunaria delighted in the death of the wolf. “Come, take a glass of wine and tell us how you hunted down this vermin.” She let go of Bisclavret’s arm and linked hers with the young knight as they both trotted up the steps into the castle.
Bisclavret followed on unwilling feet. It made him ill to see just how she reveled in his kinsman’s blood. She had never cared much for hunting before and would not ride to the hounds even for the deer or a small fox. Why had she become so vehement now?
Did she suspect something?