A Winter’s Tail – A Stand-alone Christmas Tale – Page 1

Time for something a little different….

Chapter 1

In the latter days of the year of our Lord 1554 during the reign of “Bloody Mary”.

As the mists lifted over the high parts of Dumnonia the winter sun bleached the earth a warm orange, in the sky purple clouds hovered as the temperature warmed. Snow was coming and with it the festival of Christmas; strains of Plainsong filled the air from the local dissoluted and ransacked Monastery as the last remaining resolute ten or so Benedictine monks practiced “Puer natus est nobis”, the Introit at Third Mass on Christmas day.

The Monastery at Buckfast just a shell, stripped bare following Henry VIII’s changes to religious fervour in England and Wales during his reign some 18 years prior to this Yuletide season.

The haunting Latin lyrics foretelling the birth of the Son of our Creator echoed on the wind

“Puer natus est nobis, et filius datus est nobis:
cuius imperium super humerum eius:
et vocabitur nomen eius, magni consilii Angelus.
Cantate Domino canticum novum: quia mirabilia fecit.
Gloria Patri, et Fiiio, et Spiritui Sancto.
Sicut erat in principle, et nunc, et semper,
et in saecula saeculorum. Amen.” 1

In the great forest behind the dark and foreboding building two white wolves run through the trees whilst a lonely figure in white follows them, gently humming the same chant because the words in Latin she does not understand. The counterpoint rising and falling like the hills around them, the early morning dew glistening; washing everything with a translucent white glow that matched the strange party.

Occasionally the wolves would turn and let out a low growl, not out of malice, anger or the such, but more a tuneful growl to each phrase of the music as if to bring each line to an end. The sound rumbling through the already leaf-less and barren trees; as she walked, her head deep in thought about the year that was nearing the conclusion. A time to ponder and reflect.

As she began to turn for home and the small cottage in the grounds of the monastery, her father’s cottage; her father long since passed as the gamekeeper come warden of the land and able to keep roof following the Monastery’s demise; the snow fell. Just a few clear watery flakes at first but then with more and more ferocity before the land all around was covered in a blanket of clean, crisp and even soft snow. A deluge, albeit a beautiful white deluge. Had the snows been a blizzard then only the eyes and nose of both wolves would have been seen and the belt and gloves of the woman in white. Even the normally visible brass Celtic torc clip that held the fur cape was invisible. A haunting sight for any unsuspecting traveler on the road and in the wood, considering the bleakness of the moor and latest compelling folk-tales that were abound.

High in the canopy above the up and down draft of a pair of wings caused the branches to rise and fall as the clouds descended, spilling their white contents over the brown earth. A shadow hidden in the pale grey sky watched as the small party picked up their speed as the singing faded to nothing in the distance. Looking behind her, the footprints that they had made were now filled with a layer of snow hiding them from all, the only imprint made by a small pheasant running between trees, destined to be someone or somethings dinner shortly.

 

 1.To us a Boy is born, and to us a Son is given: his power is upon his shoulder: and his name will be called Messenger of Great Counsel. Sing unto the Lord a new song, for he has worked wonders. Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen 
Written by Thomas Tallis in 1554

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