Faerie Tale - Chapter 3 - Lady Silvermoon

Faerie Tale by Hilary Robinson
Chapter Three – Lady Silvermoon

Lady Silvermoon was not being mistreated; on the contrary she was being pampered as Lord Silvermoon’s new wife. Alicia, ‘The First Lady Silvermoon’ as the servants referred to her, had died in childbirth leaving her tall, angular husband even more tight-lipped and unsmiling than he had been previously. Lord Silvermoon was the sort of man who appeared to be all elbows and knees and had to take care not to knock over or bump into things as he strode restlessly around the castle. Upon his wife’s death, all movable objects d’art in which she had so delighted, vases, candlesticks, tapestries, paintings and sculptures were removed and put in storage, leaving the castle bleak and unwelcoming. When ‘The New Lady Silvermoon’ had been brought to the castle on her wedding night, she had shivered at the bare walls and empty pedestals and niches, but had been unable in the year since to persuade her silent husband to replace any of the decorations.

At dinner that evening, she sat as usual at one end of the enormous dining table while Lord Silvermoon sat at the other. He considered he was being kind to his wife by seating her nearer to the fire than himself, although in truth he never seemed to feel the cold and even on this chill spring evening he was dressed in tunic and hose with leather riding boots, while Lady Silvermoon wore a heavy wool gown, a sleeveless overgown and a fur-trimmed hooded shawl, reaching to her elbows. She also wore sheepskin ankle boots and her feet rested on a plain foot stool to keep them off the stone floor. Servants bore in the food.

Lady Silvermoon looked at the plate of salted fish placed before her. Lord Silvermoon was exceptionally fond of salted fish and at least three times a week the same dish was prepared for them. Once, early in their marriage, she had asked for an alternative dish while her husband ate fish, and discovered that the cook had been making salted fish for so many years that he appeared to have forgotten how to make anything that didn’t include large helpings of salt, salt being so expensive and high-status that it was seen as something the nobility should eat. Besides, it presumably meant that there was always plenty of salt in the kitchens for the Lord’s servants… Lady Silvermoon dismissed the thought as unworthy. She speared a tiny morsel of fish with her silver fork and chewed on it delicately, wondering what it should have tasted of.

“My Lord?” Lady Silvermoon enquired. He looked up. “May I enquire if you have given the unicorn a name yet?”
“No.”
“Is it your intention to name him?”
“No.”
“Is not any living creature entitled to a name?”
Lord Silvermoon looked at the fish as if expecting it to declare its name, then shook his head. “Unnecessary.”
“Why so, My Lord?”
“Do the sheep have names? Do the geese?”
“You intend to eat the unicorn??” She was horrified.
“Of course not. Do not be so dramatic.”
“You have given names to your horses.”
Lord Silvermoon sighed. “I have only named my horses for ease of communication with the grooms. I say to Lord Anann – saddle Thor, or saddle Chaser, as it is quicker than saying, saddle the destrier, or saddle the palfrey, but I only have one unicorn so he does not need a name.”
“Do you intend to ride him?”
Lord Silvermoon gave his young wife a look which implied she was being foolish. Everyone knew that only children and virgins could ride unicorns. “YOU may,” he said, “if you wish, until we…” he left it unfinished.
A year ago Lady Silvermoon would have blushed had this being said within the hearing of the servants. Now painfully aware that her marriage was one of convenience only, she looked back calmly and forced a sweet smile. “You are very kind. And may I name him?”
“If you want.” Lord Silvermoon turned his attention back to his anonymous fish.

When he had finished, the servants brought soup. It was brown and uninteresting to look at, but at least it tasted of yesterday’s mutton and left over vegetables, as well as salt. After waiting until he had taken a few spoonfulls, she said, “May I ask why you bought such a creature?”
“I didn’t.”
“No?” she prompted.
“He came as part of a gambling debt.”
“Oh.”
“I am thinking of selling him on.”
“Oh, please don’t!”
Her agitated cry made him look up in surprise. “I was not aware you wanted him. Do you?”
“Please!”
He is yours.”
“Thank you, Henry!”
He glanced at the servants, impassive as always, but the reprimand was not lost on her. “You are very kind to me, My Lord.”
He did not deny it.

Lady Silvermoon could hardly wait until the conclusion of the miserable meal before donning a red wool cloak lined with white fur, a present from her mother who knew how draughty old castles could be, and making her way to the stables. It was dark in there, one lantern only hung from a huge iron nail hammered into a wooden pillar. Grooms and stable lads scrambled to their feet from the straw where they slept, and the senior groom came forward and bowed deeply.
“How may I serve you, My Lady?”
“I wish to see the unicorn.”
“Certainly, My Lady, please follow me.”

He led her past rows of stalls, each containing a fine horse. Lord Silvermoon had a reputation as an excellent judge of horseflesh and owned the best stable of mounts suitable for a knight in the county. Lady Silvermoon had seen other knights and their grooms buy animals from her husband. Often the prospective buyers brought their children. Lord Silvermoon took infinite pains to match rider and mount and had never had a horse returned as unsuitable.

“Here he is, My Lady.”
She looked at the unicorn, more magnificent than ever now that she was close to him, the lantern light throwing golden highlights on his snow-white coat. This time there was no doubt. The unicorn bowed to her. His ivory horn touched the top of the stall door.
- How may I serve you, My Lady?
Lady Silvermoon found herself unexpectedly overcome with shyness in the presence of this beautiful, mythological creature and stunned at its ability to communicate with her.
“Please raise your head.”
The unicorn did so and looked directly at her.
“Do you have a name?”
- Of course, do not all intelligent creatures have names?
She spoke to him silently, as he did to her. – My name is Laurel, Lady Silvermoon.
The unicorn bobbed his head in acknowledgement. – My Lady.
- And may I know your name?
- To know someone’s name is to have power over him.
- Then please forgive me for asking.
Lady Silvermoon turned to leave. The unicorn became a little agitated.
- I meant no offence, My Lady!
She turned back. – I took no offence, beautiful one. I merely wished to respect your privacy.
The unicorn considered her for a long moment, so long that the groom grew puzzled, wondering why the Lady and the unicorn were looking at each other so intently.

Eventually the unicorn tossed his mane and the Lady reached forward and patted the strong white neck. She glanced down at the painted name on the stall door, the name of the stall’s previous occupant, and began to walk back the way she had come. The groom followed respectfully behind her.
“Tomorrow morning, please prepare my palfrey to ride out, and the unicorn to accompany us. We will take some exercise in the west wood.”
“Yes, My Lady.”
“And arrange to have the name on the stall repainted.”
“Certainly, My Lady. What name shall I have painted there?”
“Dawnstorm.”

copyright March 2010 Hilary Robinson

Faerie Tale - Chapter 3 - Lady Silvermoon

Hilary Robinson

Bangor, United Kingdom

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Artist's Description

Some of you have been kind enough to ask for more of the Faerie Tale, so here is Chapter Three where we learn more about Lady Slivermoon and the unicorn.

All my writing is copyright and protected and not in the Public Domain

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