Sir Havalhorn's Tale
The Tale of Sir Havalhorn, told at the Red Rider’s Tournament.
Enjoy your ale and the hot venison from the fire. Taste their rich flavor and savor it. For we live in a moment of plenty but as we all know, such moments can be so fleetingly. Such moments can give way to long hours of famine and suffering.
As you all know full well, my brothers, the last winter was a harsh one. My people, they are not farmers or herders. We live off of the land, off of wild game and fishing. When the cold froze the lakes and thinned the deer, my people suffered. We have no grain silos or livestock to turn to.
As the winter weeks grew colder and harsher, I left my mannor house and began to ride a circuit around the villages and hamlets of my people. I would do my best to manage the food and wood that they needed and make sure that whoever had the greatest need would be taken care of.
It seemed like those days would never end. My days were filled with freezing wind and painful decisions while my hounds shivered by my side. The days that I was not in a village, speaking to scared abd worried people, I was hunting, deperate to find more food for my people. The winer was cruel to the forest as well and the herds of deer were thin. My nights were always in a different camp and my sleep was dreamless.
The worst day was when I came to the village of Day’s Rest. It was a fishing village and in better times, it was a thriving one whose nets were so full that the villages from all around would come to their fish makrets. However, worse than the cold and hunger had come come to that place.
The plague had taken it. It was a dreadful one. The people lay in fevers with black sores on their faces. Every man, woman and child had been laid low by it. All they could do was lie in their cold beds and wait for the end to take them.
I could only find one person in all of the Day’s Rest was a boy that was as pale as the snow. The boy told me that he had seen deer tracks in the northern woods. I have no skill in healing or medicine but if I could get Day’s Rest fresh meat.
I rode out with my horse and hounds into the wood with the pale boy leading me. The day was clearer than any I had seen in a long while. For the first time in what felt like an age, the sky above was blue, not gray and filled storm clouds.
And in the woods, I saw, not a deer but a stag that was as white as the snow around us. He was a magnificent beast, almost as tall in the should as my steed. I could not imagine how animal could have been in my lands without me ever hearing of it but I knew it now. I gave chase after it.
Before that day, I would have told you that there was not an animal in the woods that could have escaped my hounds or run faster than my steed. I have been hunter since my father lifted me out of the cradle and put a spear in my hand. But that white stag, it always managed to outpace us and it played tricks I had never seen in the woods before.
We chased it for hours until it finally lost us. By then, we were deep in the wilderness, in a place I had never seen before. I know the northern woods well but even after a lifetime of hunting there, it still holds secrets to me
The stag’s tracks led to a thorn thicket. What I saw there was unlike anything I have seen before. You wills carecely credit my words, my brothers. Indeed, sitting here in this warm hall with ale in my hand and meat in my belly, I can barely believe them myself, even thought I was there.
The briar had grown up in a great knot but not like any I had ever seen or even heard of. It curled up in two trunks, just like the legs of a man. Indeed, it also grew out in the branches like the arms of a man as well, holding them up to the sky. But the head, that was not the head a man. It was the face of a fiend and two long horns grew from it. If it was not the mark of the queen, I know not what it was.
I set it to the flame. The briar and the ground were wet with snow and it should not have burned but it burned brighter than bonfire, filling the sky with a piller of black smoke. When the smoke faded away, there was nothing left of it.
I rode back enmpty-handed to Day’s Rest, only to find that the fever had broken in ever household. The black sores had faded and the fisherman were already cracking the ice to begin winter fishing.
Then, I asked for the boy who had led me to the stag but no one had ever heard of such a pale boy. To this day, I have no idea who he was. Nor have I ever heard word of that stag again.