On the Eve of Legend
stared into the shadows along the edge of the forest. She could hear Cedwyn
shifting from foot to foot beside her, unable to stand still. She sighed, the
bow of sturdy pine in her hand growing heavier like her heart. Her thirteenth
Birth Day was in a few days, but she wasn’t excited. Birth Days were supposed
to be fun, but not this year. Not for her, not for a princess.
frowned as Cedwyn adjusted the leather quiver of arrows on his back again.
Sometimes, like today, her patience with the nine-year-old was short.
stamped her foot on the ground, annoyed at being interrupted. “Cedwyn,” she
snapped. “What is so important that you can’t be quiet?”
hungry, and the bottoms of my trousers are damp. Can’t we go back to the
castle?” His voice betrayed his hurt at her tone.
knew her anger wasn’t with Cedwyn. It wasn’t his fault. The bottom of her green
ankle-length tunic, also damp with the morning dew, was starting to make her
ankles itch. Her stomach chose that moment to begin grumbling. It started as a
low vibration but grew louder as if it hadn’t been fed in days.
heard it and started giggling. He tried to smother the sound by covering his
mouth, but he was too late.
to keep from laughing also, Guinevere shook her head. “How are we ever going to
shoot a rabbit with all this noise?” She tousled his blond hair to let him know
that she was not serious. “Let’s try for just ten minutes longer. Then if we
find nothing, we’ll go back. Is that all right?”
nodded, not wanting to make any further noise.
eyes wandered across the blue sky. The English summer sun had barely reached
above the far hills when they had first arrived at the forest. Now, it was well
on its way in its climb toward the dinner hour, and they hadn’t even had a
proper breakfast yet. Cedwyn’s mother was sure to be upset that they had been
gone so long.
on,” he whispered. “The only creatures we’ve seen moving have been badgers and
Cornish hens. We could of had five bloody hens by now.”
better not let your mother hear you use that word. Anyway, I told you, it’s
good luck to bag a rabbit on the eve of your thirteenth Birth Day,” Guinevere
studied her face, unsure if she was telling the truth or not. Then his blue
eyes widened, and he grabbed her arm as she turned to continue hunting. “Wait a
minute! You promised to help me bag a rabbit on the eve of my tenth Birth Day.
You said that was lucky!”
turned to him, her balled fists on her slim hips. “You need to listen closer
when I talk to you. I explained the difference between boys and girls. Boys
have to seek luck on the eve of their tenth and fifteenth Birth Days. Since
girls are naturally luckier than boys, they only have to seek luck once, on the
eve of their thirteenth Birth Day.”
eyed her suspiciously. “But I thought that the eve was the night before. Your
Birth Day isn’t until the day after tomorrow.”
true, but the eve of something can also be anytime close to the day.”
course I am! Otherwise, what would happen if the day before I didn’t get a
rabbit? This way there are more chances to get one. Now, let’s go. I’m sure I
saw the grass moving up ahead, and I don’t think it was the wind.” She didn’t
mention to him that she needed lots of luck.
obediently followed her, mumbling to himself. “We’re still running out of
hadn’t gone far when he thought of something else. “Guin’ver?”
turned, her long brown braid whipping around. “Shh! You will scare the rabbits
you also promised to teach me how to hunt with a bow and arrow once you are
but if you don’t stop your chatter, I won’t. Do you understand?”
nodded. A slight upturning of his mouth betrayed his satisfaction at her
followed, a smile highlighting his chubby cheeks. He then smacked into
Guinevere who had abruptly stopped.
hand clamped down over his mouth followed by an angry “Shh!”
moved quietly up to her side, his nine-year-old frame coming up to her
shoulders. When she looked him, her brown eyes sparkled with excitement in the
midmorning light. Her lips formed the word “Look.” His blue eyes followed her
just beneath the pine trees where the wild grasses grew– movement. He stared
at the spot. Then the tall green stalks bent again, betraying the presence of
can you tell if it’s really a rabbit?” he whispered.
how the stalks move forward a bit and then part?”
the forward movement of the stalks is the rabbit testing out the goodness of
the food. And then where the grasses part—that is—when the rabbit stops and
starts feeding,” Guinevere said, her pride in her knowledge showing. “Hand me
an arrow.” She held out her hand as Cedwyn pulled an arrow from the small
leather quiver on his back.
carefully, her heart pounding, Guinevere nocked the arrow and steadily drew the
bowstring back. Taking a deep breath to steady her arms and calm her heart, she
let the arrow loose. She watched the spin of the feathers as the arrow sped to
its target like a hawk diving after its prey.
a horrendous cry filled the air. Guinevere and Cedwyn jumped into each other’s
arms. They crouched on the ground and covered their ears as the shrill cry
continued to make their ears ring.
is that?” Cedwyn whispered.
shook her head in reply.
then, a different sound—of something crashing through the grasses and scrub thickets.
They inched their way up to peek above the grass. There—crashing and charging
around the thickets—the biggest wild boar they’d ever seen.
looked at Guinevere. “Ain’t that your arrow sticking in its side?”
nodded slowly, in shock that she’d hit anything. For a few moments, they
watched as the boar ran first in one direction and then another in what
appeared to be a crazed pattern. But Guinevere recognized the pattern: the
wounded boar was searching for its hunters .
on,” she said, grabbing his hand. “We have to get out of here now!”
Then he had his answer. The boar roared in anger. The ground trembled under
their feet as the boar spotted them and barreled straight for them. It had
found the culprits responsible for the arrow in its side.
Guinevere said, no longer quiet.
needed no further urging. He took off with Guinevere close behind him. The
thunderous crashing of the boar through the grasses and scrub brush vibrated
through every part of their bodies.
chanced a look behind her and realized that the boar was gaining on them. She
glanced around. Off to the right was a smaller pine tree that Cedwyn could
climb to get up out of danger. He was the slowest, but they were running faster
than ever. Guinevere reached for Cedwyn’s shoulder, heard a thud, and her hand
found only air. He cried out as he hit the ground. The exposed tree root had
claimed its first victim of the day.
reached down to help him up, but his foot was stuck solid. Seeing the boar grow
in size as it got closer, Guinevere’s brain frantically looked for a way to
save Cedwyn and herself. If she made enough noise, she could get the boar to
follow her into the forest. That would give Cedwyn time to get loose and up the
lead the boar away. Get yourself free and then head for that tree.”
looked in the direction Guinevere pointed.
up in it as far as you can go and hang on until I let you know it’s safe to
come down. All right?”
nodded, his eyes wide with fear.
down and be still ‘til you hear from me. Then be quick!”
nodded again, searching behind them for sight of the boar.
jumped and shouted, “Halloo boar! Here I am. Come and get me!” She waved her
arms, diverting the boar’s attention to her. Once spotted, she ran. The
pounding of its hooves told her the boar was following and, if possible, coming
even faster. “Cedwyn! Now!” Guinevere shouted as she dashed for the safety of
her, the boar charged, pain fueling its rage. Thundering through the grasses
and scrub brush, it focused only on reaching the creature responsible for its
pain. Behind them, Cedwyn frantically dug and pulled on the root to free his
I can’t get loose!”
have to! Try harder! Pull harder!”
dug and kicked his foot until he felt it start to loosen. Finally pulling free,
he stood up. He could see the boar charging after Guinevere. He ran for the
pine tree. Grabbing branches, he pulled himself up until he was too high for
the boar to reach.
in the tree!” he yelled.
turning around, Guinevere raised a hand and continued running.
in the forest, she slowed to let her eyes adjust to the darkness, and as she
waited, the sounds of the boar grew louder. Finally, she could just make out a
faint trail. She ran down the path, trying to find some place to hide so that
the boar would run past her.
ahead was a pine tree with low hanging branches. Using her last bit of speed,
she reached the tree and jumped. Her hands grasped a branch; pine needles
pricked her skin. She pulled herself up, struggling to breathe, her arms aching
from the effort.
she could get a good hold, the whole tree shook. Pine needles fell, sticking in
her hair and on her clothes. Screaming, she fought to hold on, ignoring the
bark cutting into her skin. At least if
the boar gets me, I won’t have my thirteenth Birth Day. She didn’t know
which would be worse: the boar or turning thirteen.
boar charged the tree again. Her grip loosened. She screamed louder, suddenly
sure that turning thirteen wouldn’t be as bad as facing the angry boar.
I’m coming!” Cedwyn’s only answer was another scream from the forest. He
loosened his arms and slid down the tree, unmindful of the scratches from the
right arm flailed above her, blindly searching for a higher branch. Her
fingertips brushed the bottom of one sliding through the sap. She stretched up,
grasping the branch firmly with one hand. Trying not to think of what would
happen if she fell, she let go with her other hand. For just a moment she felt
herself slipping down, but her fingers found the branch, and she held on. The
boar hit the tree again. It shook hard enough to nearly topple over, and
Guinevere screamed once more.
she heard another more horrible scream. Its piercing sound traveled up the
trunk into her body. Thinking it was Cedwyn, she looked down and saw a rock hit
the boar’s side with the arrow. Its angry cry filled the air one last time
before the wounded animal ran off deep into the forest.
leaned against the rough pine trying to breathe.
it gone? Can you see it?” Cedwyn asked, peeking out from behind a bush.
searched the path that the boar had taken. There was no sign of it, and she
couldn’t hear it anymore either.
gone. We’re safe. C’mon out.”
Cedwyn made his way to her, she climbed down the tree and collasped on the
ground, her legs too wobbly to hold her. Both of them were a mess. Guinevere
proceeded to brush some of the dirt, pine needles, and small twigs off her
clothing. Strands of hair had escaped from her braid, and she tried to tuck
them back as she pulled out the pine needles.
plopped beside her, brushing twigs and pine needles off his clothes. Guinevere
reached over and rubbed dirt off his cheek. They looked at each other and burst
out laughing from relief at still being alive.
Cedwyn said between laughs.
should have felt that tree shake! I was sure I was the boar’s next meal!”
Guinevere paused before adding, “Thank you for coming to my rescue.”
saved me too. That’s what friends are for.”
I’m only glad that we’re still alive to be friends,” she said, squeezing his
hand. “Let’s go. We’re really late now, and we don’t even have a rabbit as a peace
nodded. “We’re gonna be in trouble.” Then, as if someone had heard them, upon
the wind came a faint but clear voice.
hands, the two ran, fearful of what awaited them at the castle.
Cedwyn stopped and pulled Guinevere backwards, almost knocking her down.
Grinning, he pointed under a bush at the side of the path. Laughter spilled out
from her as she saw their trap in the thicket where they had set it earlier
that morning. It was no longer empty. Inside crouched their peace offering: a
rabbit! They stuffed the rabbit inside the small leather satchel Guinevere
carried; their good humor restored until the wind carried that voice again,
this time louder and angrier.