Once. So long ago, beyond even my memory, the Queen was sat at her window. She began laying out lines of seeds and nuts and watched the small songbirds as they darted past. While she was content for the most part she longed for a child of her own. A passing crow pecking at the seeds heard her sigh and watched as a single tear ran unchecked along her cheek. He was so moved that he flew to the edge of the forest and told of what he had seen to a moth. The moth, a mother and grandmother flew as fast as she could to one of the broken down oak trees where an old vixen lived. The old she Fox listened and nodded. She ran as fast as she could, but since the last winter she was never as fast as she had been, until she reached the clearing in the very heart of Appledown Woods. She paused at the door to the old cottage and barked softly.
After the door closed behind her she took a little of the milk that was offered and started her tale.
At Midnight on the Eve of the Saint’s Night, The Queen gave birth to a son. With the rising of the sun his proud Parent’s announced his birth to the court and made a proclamation that would be carried by the Heralds to every corner of the Kingdom. That this October Night, a Son and Heir had been born. He was to named Arwyn, after his Mother’s Father. Preparations were made that every village would have a suckling pig and eight barrels of ale to celebrate his naming day.
Arwyn learned his letters and Maths and History. He was taught to fence and how to use a bow. The Ladies of the court showed him how to weave cloth and sew. He had the finest tutors who taught him horsemanship, and hunting, how to fish and dance. By the time he was fifteen he spoke several languages and debated at the Open Court with a weight to his words that impressed the Ministers. Yet every night he was troubled by an odd dream. It wasn’t a night gast. There were no omens or anything that made him afraid, mostly because he had never been afraid. It was rather more the nature of the dream itself. He dreamed of himself walking in King’s Hollow in Appledown wood. A very, very old fox is a little further ahead and often stops herself to look back to him, almost as though she is making sure he is still following. When he reaches the clearing there are two distinct images, like a flicker book. One is a small ramshackle cottage, the other is the long burned remnants of some building. As he walks towards the door he can see his breath hanging in the frosty night air and hear the crunch of snow beneath his boots, yet when he looks down there is just fresh meadow grass and grasshoppers twitching in the heat.
And so the Suns and the two small moons dance around the skies and the world turns and seasons pass. A hand presses against the rough stubble of his chin. His eyes flick open and his mother, so resplendent with her grey hair hung over one shoulder, smiles and sits at the edge of his bed. “My you were deep to sleep Arwyn. It’s almost noon!” He pulls his long hair up and away from his face. “I’m sorry. I didn’t sleep well. We were supposed to go riding?” His Mother laughs and wipes a small crumb out of his moustache. “You Father has been awake since First-Dawn and is unbearable! Oh, have cut yourself?”
Arwyn reaches to his chest and there is a tiny amount of dry blood but no wound. He wipes away the small sandy flakes and smiles. The cold, marble smile of a statue, his Mother thinks. She feels a little saddened by this. “I don’t think it’s mine.” His Mother bends a little awkwardly, her back is hurting again, he thinks. She kisses him on the forehead. “Come and break your fast with me, I almost called you my little boy. I had forgotten how tall you had become…”
Alone again he washes and rubs a little lemon oil into his skin. Never having been very vain, it is his only conceit. He turns to grab a shirt and there behind him is a Vixen. It must be so old. Her muzzle is peppered with grey fur. As he is about to say “I dreamed you.” He realises he is standing in King’s Hollow. The cottage door opens and a very beautiful young woman comes out. She crosses to take his hand. Her hair is like amber-Rose and her eyes are like North Moss. They shine like emeralds. He follows her without question.
“You have dreamed of this place before I imagine? Probably many times but never thought very much of it. Don’t speak. Just sit. I did your mother a disservice when I only wanted to help you see. Excuse me while I gather together the last few things I need.The she-fox came to me and told me of a lost woman who wanted a son. I know what it’s like to lose a child. By all the Gods I know that too well. So I made you. A simple enough conjuring… A rag , a bone, a hank of hair… I gave her what she wanted. A perfect, beautiful, clever son. I did not think of all the other things I should have given you. Desire, want, pity, hunger… a heart. You see the world but you do not feel it. Where your heart should be is just a single thorn. It was all I had you see. But I can now correct a terrible mistake I once made. I separated myself and lived beyond the now and the moment, I refined, honed my art I suppose.” And with those words, the walls of the world came down in fractured images. A heart, a blooming rose and doves weeping.
Arwyn’s eyes flicker open and his Mothers’ hand is on his cheek. “You were deep to sleep Arwyn, it’s almost noon!” Arwyn puts his hand against his chest to feel the steady beat of what could only be his heart. It is a confusing moment but he finally finds his voice. “May I Break Fast with you?” His mother seems to stare at him as though she is seeing him for the first time. “Of course, you Father has been awake since First-Dawn but we could all eat together.” Arwyn watches as she walks a little stiffly to the door. “Mother! I love you.”
She cries a little, but what Mother wouldn’t when her only son says ‘I love you’ for the first time in 30 years?