Master of the Haunt – Three

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Song Suggestion: Gothic Mirror by Derek Fiechter & Brandon Fiechter

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Three

The next day, as he was riding out, the queen found him again. And though he wanted to turn her away, she was the queen and he could not. “Dearest brother,” she said to him. “I was wrong to question you about the pheasant, this is true. But, and do not mistake me, for surely you are the greatest hunter of all men, isn’t it true that there is a great, black bear in the woods, one so tall that she looks like a tree when she stands upon her hind paws and is still?”

“Aye,” said the middle brother and his distrust of her slipped away; the queen’s charms were so strong that some thought them magical and easily did she bend him to her will. “She is the mother of all the great bears and we cull only those which are smallest of her brood, yet their hide does keep us well warm in winter and their meat does keep us fed, even when all the other animals have gone to ground or left for warmer climes.”

“And yet she who would make blankets for all is spared.” The wicked queen gave him a sly look. “Surely it is your kind heart which would deny your people and not your courage which ought to be blamed, for you are chosen by Arturus to hunt whatever you please and have no need to fear any of the beasts which walk there.” And she turned and walked away.

Again, the middle brother’s pride was pricked and her poisoned darts did find their home in his heart. He rode forth and, without much thought, turned away toward the caverns beneath the cliffs in the south. Along the way, many bears fat with the summer’s feeding and wearing pelts of thick, sumptuous fur came across his path, but he ignored them; his desire was set for the largest of them all. At last he found the mother of bears, asleep in her den. Her coat was deepest, gleaming black, as thick and plush as velvet and as soft as down. Beneath it was enough meat for the royal court to go on feasting for a week.

The middle brother strung his bow and as he drew it, the wood did creak mightily. The mother of bears turned to look, for it woke her from her slumber, and the middle brother put his arrow in her eye. At once he did regret it, but what is done is done. He fell to his knees and prayed forgiveness from Arturus for his foolish strike. Then, because to leave the corpse behind to waste in rot would be further insult, he sent his huntsmen to carry her back to the castle for skinning and butchering.

Now the huntsmen were, as all men in those days, free men. They had no fear of speaking their minds, especially when they thought one of their brethren at risk from foul magics. So the middle brother’s huntmaster went to his king’s best friend, who kept a fourth of the weapons of fate, the Spear of Truth. The huntmaster told this man all that he had seen in the past two days and the words he had overheard the queen say to his king.

This good man did recognize a bewitchment was at work, for naught else would have convinced his friend to strike down such beloved creatures. So he went to his lady wife, who kept the Hammer of Justice – for she was general of the eldest brother’s army and near as wise as the youngest brother. She told her husband that they must take the bow from the middle brother, for the wicked queen was trying to spoil it with the murder of sacred beasts.

They made another bow, which looked exactly like the Bow of the Righteous, and the man went to visit his friend, the middle brother, who was drunk off honey mead; thoughts of what he had done weighed heavy upon him. His friend did swap the bows and, believing they would be saved by this, went home. But the wicked queen, through her dark talents, saw what had been done. She took the fake bow and went to find the friend. He was sleeping beside his wife, the Bow of the Righteous tucked safely into a chest. The queen easily opened it and switched the weapons again, returning the real bow to its master.

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