The Master of the Haunt – Two

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Song Suggestion:Gothic Moonlight by Brandon Fiechter

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Two

Before the Wicked Wood was wicked, there was a castle within its borders. And here lived the three kings of Angboria, who were loved by all their subjects. Prophesied to raise men to a divine status, they each carried one of the five weapons of fate. Though the Sword of Destiny is now the only one remembered by most, the others were no less powerful and one of these was the Bow of the Righteous. It would always strike true, when fired by one with a pure heart. The middle brother was strong, a hunter by nature, and he spent most of his days in the forest, preferring a roof of leaves to one of stone and tile and the company of beasts to that of humanity and it was to him that the bow had fallen.

The Bow of the Righteous was made by the elves like its brother, the Sword of Destiny, the two weapons of fate born in their hands. It was meant to echo the bow of Arturus, god of the hunt, and to this god did the middle brother pray before and after every hunt. It was said that Arturus did favor him, for always he found there was plenty of game for his arrows and the forest never failed to provide for his people, not even in the leanest of times.

Now, the youngest brother had no wife, for he was devoted to gathering knowledge and had no desire for a companion or the distraction of idle chatter. The middle brother had no wife because he was so often out hunting and had not looked for one. But the eldest brother had a wife so lovely that she shone like a star and all of them considered her queen. In fact, she was the daughter of a god and though she wore a lovely face, her heart was full of wicked, ugly thoughts.

One day, late in summer, a year after the eldest was married, when the light hung in green-gold veils, the queen caught the middle brother as he was leaving on a hunt. “Dearest brother,” she said to him with her most charming smile. “I have heard there is, within the forest, a pheasant of great size whose feathers are of purest gold. I come to ask you if that is true.”

“Indeed,” said the brother. “Father Pheasant lives deep in the darkest parts of the wood, but the shadows do not linger near him, for he is as bright as the sun.”

“Yet you, greatest of our hunters, had never brought him down?” the queen clucked her tongue. “My, but I was told you were blessed by Arturus himself.” And then she turned and walked away.

Perhaps her words would not have lingered, had she given the middle brother the chance to argue, but she did not and her tongue, like the snake’s, was full of venom that would work its way into the heart of a man, if it had enough time.

All of us, even the gods, have faults, for only one is perfect and all else is just a smaller, incomplete version of the Great Mother. The middle brother, though strong and kind, also had more than his fair share of pride. So when he rode into the forest that day, he went hunting for pheasant, but naught that came to him suited his mind and he turned toward the darkest parts of the forest. Many fat birds crossed him, each one more temping than the last, but the middle brother could only think of the golden pheasant. He was certain that he had been cheated, somehow, and questioned why he, greatest of all hunters and Arturus’ chosen one, had not been allowed to bring down the golden pheasant. When he saw the bird, shining in the darkness of the deepest wood, he drew his bow and shot it down.

Now did the barbed words of the queen leave him at last. He saw the magnificent bird lying dead and at once was sorry. He fell to his knees and begged pardon from Arturus, for her knew this creature belonged to the god of the hunt alone and was meant to breed the huge pheasants which filled the forest. He mourned his own foolishness; no more would the size or beauty of Father Pheasant grace these birds.

The middle brother took the bird home to his brothers, for he would not waste it, even in his shame. The royal court did feast upon it, but the middle brother would not touch it, for he was sick at heart over what he had done. He swore that he would never again let another drive his arrows and sat in the quiet dishonor he bestowed upon himself.

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