From Calafre,  by David Th. Stark, Copyright 1997. All rights reserved.

The Saxon Hunt

Deep in the forest, along the dusty narrow path, silver beams of light shone through the shade, cutting through the thick shadow ceiling of trees, in shafts of radiance. A soft breeze moved the grey-green leaves of underbrush which glittered and danced in light among the cedar pillars climbing to the sky. In its cool midst walked a lone figure, hunting the worn trail of red brown earth, now in the light, now in the shade, slowly moving toward the open meadow and villages beyond this fortress of shadow and trees. His bow at the ready, his foot quiet in soft leather, shod against rocks and pebbles of the way, the Saxon approached to close this hunt, to capture the prey, to end its life.

Suddenly, pausing in silence, he hears nearby the panting hart. Pausing without pause, he glides into the shade by the path, waiting to see if he's detected. His eyes glance ahead and around, searching quickly through the dimly lit foliage for any movement. His ears attend for any sound of breaking twigs or crushing leaves. His breath is measured through his mouth. With each filling of his lungs and quickening beat of his heart he anticipates the bolting prey. He knows the roe seeks its life's preservation. He knows also he must seek its end.

He stops and listens to the silence. His thoughts travel to the gate of his cottage, the greetings he longs to hear. His children's smiles and playful laughter fill his heart and mind's eye. He sees his wife greeting him from the open door. In his vision of her love she turns and looks into the forest. Strange, he thinks. Upon what does she look? Now amidst the vision of smiles and children dancing in his mind runs a darkened figure to his right along the dusty treadworn path. Hooves and snorting breath dismiss the comfort of his dream. Faster than thought he lets his arrow fly. Swiftly seeking, it finds its target. Quickly he draws another, notching it on the sinewed strand that arcs before him. The song of his bowstring sings through the air. Drawn and flown, the second shaft whistles and swiftly finds its mark. A third is drawn. Before it's free the mighty hart begins to loose his footing as he flees with life-blood spilling from his wounds. His broken, pierced heart beats its last great surging hopeless pulse. His flight arrested, strength fainting in the dust, legs without strength, he stumbles and falls. As this great beast with a thousand untold stories of the forest stares ahead at the path of escape he will never know, the shadows of the golden dust-filled air move close and rest upon his eyes. Then resigning himself, as if in profound wisdom to something greater and unkown beyond him, he lays his head down upon the tender grass and wildflowers growing alongside the path, and releasing his final breath-sigh of fairwell to his wooded home, he dies.

The Saxon stares and wonders, grateful for the lack of chase, pondering the stillness of his victim. The thunderous noise of the moment has faded again into the silence of the forest. Only a lone jay cries out from its nearby place of safety, bemoaning the fallen, sounding to creatures hidden that all is not well. The hunter hears the single mourner, his sadness at the loss subjected to the necessity of dressing out his prey; this gift of leather, food and strength. He kneels with knife in hand. His work is quickly done. In fresh hide he wraps the tanning elements extracted from the now thoughtless beast. The quartered flesh is soon tied to a new-made pack and slung upon his shoulder.

He proceeds along the trail ahead leading from the showdowy forest into the green fields and sunlight of his native land, taking him home to expecting faces of joy. And as he walked he returned to his smiling dream.

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