The word that my grand father was about to breath his last came to me as I rode into the stable ahead of the hunt club. Like Cesar entering Rome, I sat proudly stride my horse. The bloody paw print still drying on my fore head. Grand mother marched right up to me, her visage made the laughter die on my lips. She had a look of unimaginable grief on her face, and her voice cracked as she stared at me

“Thomas, your grand father asked for you.”

With that she turned quickly and headed towards the gardens, her ever present pack of dogs at her heels. I rushed into the house not bothering to change out of the horse scented jacket. The nurse opened the door to my grandfather’s bedroom. The scent of old tobacco and older cognac hit first, then the scent of the sick bed. He was laying in bed, his silk night shirt open. A shriveled parody of the man he used to be. The sound emanating from that nearly mummified body reminded me of the hissing wheeze of the parish organ. The only clarity to him was in his eyes. There was a spark there, icy clear and penetrating. He smiled with a rictus that bared his teeth, which made him look even more frightful.
‘Thomas my boy” his smile widening into a gash that split his face

The nurse pulled up a chair for me and propped the soon to be corpse up on his pillows. He winced as she moved him as if he was losing his skin or his bones pulled from his body like a roast chicken. She settled him with a snifter of warm cognac, looked at me and shrugged her shoulders. He eyed my mark now dry and brown.

“I’ll wager the bitch loved that. “ His chuckle turned in to a coughing fit that ended when a blood soaked linen was pulled from his mouth.

“Not long now and I will have to pay the butchers bill for my trespass”

I rankled at the declaration on his lady wife, my grand mother

I do not think sir that on your death bed you would want to speak with such vulgarity about a woman who has stood by you all these years! My reproach felt firm but not overly harsh.

He looked at me and cackled with much the same results as before. He then got very quiet and stared out the window. I swear he looked as if he was crying, but the old man never cried.

“Thomas did I ever tell you how I met your grandmother?”

“No sir you have not.”

He laughed again

It is a beautiful love story. I was in these very woods. When I met her she was a goddess, so beautiful bathed in the birthing light of the sun. It was 1918 right after the great war some sixty odd years ago. I had weathered the war with out so much as a scratch, no small feat mind you. I was the last of my class to walk the earth at 22 years. A bit of bravery, and no small bit of cunning goes a long way.

I was walking through the woods with my Enfield rifle that I nicked from her majesty. Just hunting for small game. I crosses a stream a spotted a tuft of red and white flash. before I could loose a shot, an arrow buried itself into the tree near my head. Looking down the line of sight of the arrow, I could see that lovely face stern and aloof even then. You have to understand she was so beautiful that I had to pause and take in what had just happened. Once it sunk in that she has just come a hairs breath of doing what the Kaiser’s men had neglected to do in four years, I was beside myself. The officer in me came to the fore

“What in god’s name do you think your doing, you could have killed me!”

She stood there in a cold manner. Her skin had a bit of out door color to it, dressed in a man’s pair of hunting trousers with a heavy cable knit sweater and that bow of her’s. It had an odd almost Persian feel to it. Made from yew and horn.

The old man paused coughed then started again.

She just stared me, till I barked at her “answer you stupid girl”

“Typical man"

She walked up to the tree and pulled the arrow from trunk. he hands moved deftly knocking the arrow to the bow string.

“You never know what your hunting.”

I was enchanted by her face but owned by her voice. It rang clear as a bell and cold. I could tell she wanted nothing to do with me by tone alone, the contempt in her voice was obvious. Being a man it just made me want her all the more. Lets say my resolve stiffened and leave it at that. I lessened the sting of her words with a fast retort.

“Well what is your prey mighty huntress?”

She looked at me with disgust, and told me to fuck off. I was stunned, Never in all my days had any one ever dared speak to me in this manner. Angry was not the right word, I was about to step up and thrash her. She looked at me with those cold eyes that challenged me, pushed me and made me want to hurt her.

The moment was broken by the baying of hounds in the underbrush and she was off in a flash running to the dogs. She left me there shaking in rage, with not so much as a word. I plunged after her determined to continue our confrontation. Some how I had the silly idea that it might win her favor if I showed a bit of the back of my hand. I caught flashes of her as we ran through the wood, following the pack, but it was like trying to run a wild deer to ground and I lost sight of her. Nothing to do but follow the baying of the hounds. Then that faded along with her trail. I had to stop catch my breath and get my bearings

Lost in my own wood and frustrated I started to curse. I caught a flash of red and white out of the corner of my eye, turning to raise my gun I saw something run deeper into the woods. To fast and low to be a stag. Most like likely a fox. I took up its trail. I had to go after it rather hard pace to keep its track. Through thicket, and brook the chase went. The trail was surprisingly clear, bent bush, broken branch and over turned rock. Several times I thought I caught a glimpse of a pale shape, my eyes were playing a trick, it as I thought I saw a female shape dart through the wood. On one occasion I had taken a shot, only to have the wind through the trees laugh at me.

The baying of the hounds was moving in my direction, it told me my goddess and I were on the same scent. I pressed on this meant my path would cross with hers. My blood rose at the thought. Driving on ward I could see that the terrain was a natural pen that would hold anything larger than a mouse in place. Crashing through a thicket, I saw the fox, sleek, beautiful and overly large. The hounds were almost on me and I took careful aim as the pacing fox.

I don’t know what made me dodge down but the arrow flew through the space that my head occupied. The hit to the tree behind me reverberated with the raw power and furry from that bow. He quick hands vibrated as a new missile was notched. I rose quickly, Enfield trained and the half trigger back. I saw her for what she was, my first impression was correct. The maiden stood in all her furry. Hand shaking as she had full draw. My rifle trained on the fox my only salvation. From the corner of my eye I saw the truth, her comely shape. Not a fox but Fae, a vapor in corporal form.

The old man fell back on his bed and cackled. His body racked with spasms of coughing. His smile evil as ever, the flash in his eyes bright.

My boy, I thought that having her would bring me nothing but joy, instead it was ash. No love for me, or my son. I have hated her all these years, nothing I ever did touched her. I captured a goddess and it brought me only grief. Her only love is for her pack and for some god unknown reason you. The male issue of her ill fated son. I have beat her to the ground, killed her dogs, forced her to bear my son. I did what no man has ever done. Nearly brought that bitch to heel.

The old man was obviously raving mad in the throws of his death. I pulled back and stood and he reached out for my hand and I numbly took it. He did something with his hand that passed for squeezing.

Did you enjoy the hunt Thomas?

Yes grand father I did, most exhilarating, the hunt master said it was a hard won chase.

The old man’s smile turned cold

Is not the hollow past the thicket beautiful ?

I yanked my hand away and quickly backed away over turning the chair

Yes I whispered harshly, most beautiful.

The old man fell back and sunk into his pillows

“She loved you, he said with shallow breath but now my boy you have the mark of Cain on you.”

My hand went to my forehead. The door was in sight had to get out. Running quickly I did not want to hear any more. Out the door and to the stairs.

“I have ruined you for her, now your forever sullied in her eyes and that is my final strike!” His shout was violent strong.

His last word on this earth as I bolted down the stairs was “Victory!"

Blind with tears, I did not stop running till the wood surrounded me. Tripping and stumbling over roots I fell face first to the ground. Crying in greif, I pulled myself up sitting in the dirt. There I saw her. Walking away her true self. Pure again with the death of the old man. Her hair bathed in moonlight with her hounds around her. The maiden once again. I saw her as the old man has first spied her those many decades ago. My heart was filled with longing for Grand mother Artie.



Syracuse, United States

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fairy tale

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