Friday, 8 January 2010

Snowfall


This picture is by Rudyard Kipling for 'The Cat that Walked by Himself'. I've merely removed the cat for my own purposes. This story is a variation of one I'm still working on.


The snow fell soft as feathers, chilling the dark earth, making the bare bones of the trees heavy with white. The freezing air made little clouds where creatures breathed. A fox, dark against the snow stopped, panting with exertion. It had been wading through the deep drifts for some time. Its ears flicked, seeking for sound. The sounds were all stifled by the snow and, after a moment the fox leapt upon the snow plunging into it. It continued in this fashion away to its lair. Two crows cawed, sneering at the snow's relentless whirl. Only when a horse and rider appeared did the crows spread their wings and fly lazily away.

The rider was swathed in heavy cloth about his head. About his body and over the large flanks of the horse, a heavy wool cloak was draped. The cold light glinted dully on his armour or what little was exposed beneath the cloak. Heavy was the knight's countenance and brooding. Upon his shield, a dragon argent rampant on a field azure seemed as cold as he felt. He urged his horse onwards wearily with a word amid the dark trees, struggling to stay awake. The snow settled upon him until he seemed like a spectre from a storybook. He was heading for a Chapel where he hoped to stay until he could continue homewards. The muffled sounds and frozen air lulled and disorientated him, yet he rode on out of the trees into a white blinding whirl of snow. It so dazed him and erased the landscape that he knew not which way was forwards. He turned his large horse about slowly and returned to the meagre protection of the trees. As if his very bones were of lead he dismounted slowly, his feet sinking into the snow. With his shield and cloak he made a shelter for his horse and huddled against the beast for warmth.

Marshal Hubert de Grasse of Haut Mont and Saint Clair fell asleep and dreamed of home. The snow fell as if determined to erase him. He had braced his cloak into a kind of shelter with the two oak lances he had, but the snow covered everything still. He awoke a little later feeling stifled and h0t. His horse was struggling to rise. Hubert drew his sword and dug a hole up into the night air. Snow fell in upon him yet he continued. The snow had finally stopped falling and the air had a crystalline quality to it. For a few moments along with his horse, he gasped in the air. It seemed to freeze his blood and he felt almost dizzy. Now his horse snorted and shook its great head before rising up through the drift of snow. The animals great torso heaved as he breathed. Hubert, leaning against the tightly packed drift gazed upon a snowy alien world in which spectral trees stood like strange masts in a fleet of half-sunken ships. He took up his shield and dug through the snow with it to - he knew not where.

The landscape he knew had gone. He paused to consider and gazing up at the stars glittering in the dark sky, he smiled. He sought out the Pole Star and finding it, began to dig in its direction. His horse stood for a while, watching him curiously before following him.

Hubert dug until his body ached and he wondered if he should have stayed where he was. Yet, after a little while he saw the top of the large Chapel belltower and pushed on. His body throbbing with the ache of the work. When he ganed the Chapel he found the gates open and utter silence. Flurries of snow whirled about him and he raised his sword and shield moving cautiously into the Chapel.

His horse followed, its hooves ringing on the stone flags and Hubert grinned grimly. He turned and leading his horse inside, he shut the Chapel doors and unburdened the horse. He moved quietly within and saw the cross over the altar was fallen, the great rose window was broken and snow fallen in. He growled and called out,

"What cheer? Is anyone here? I am Hubert de Grasse a knight in the Queen's service."

Not a sound answered him. He strode through the Chapel then, room by room. In the great Hall he found nothing. Not even the fire lit and nobody in sight. He led his horse into the Hall and lay his cloaks down upon the floor near the fireplace. He settled his horse upon them then and flinging logs into the fireplace began a fire with his own tinderbox. The flames springing to life were comforting as they were strange in this silent place. Hubert left his horse and went to the kitchens to see what he might find. There was food prepared and wine too. He took a large platter and loaded it up with food. Tucked a bottle of wine beneath his arm and took a fistful of carrots and oats for his horse. He brought with him also water that his horse might drink. I will eat first, he thought to himself and then I will shut the hole over the rose window. I must find out what happened here. Where the monks have gone and whither the abbot?

Firstly he fed his horse, seeing to the great beast's comfort in his gratitude for all the animal had done for him.

"Good Tonnerre, brave steed," he said, caressing the beast's nose and feeding it a carrot at a time.

The fire was strong now and he threw a few more logs on it to keep its hunger fed. Then he ate ravenously suddenly aware of his own hunger after so long. He forced himself not to eat too much or too fast and having eaten, his weariness overwhelmed him and he slept. In this deep sleep, he dreamed.

A song drifting about him like the snow, a soft song lulling him to sleep. Coaxing him to the soft blanket of snow where he might sleep. Music filling his ears, and entering his weary brain. Come, the song lured him, come and sleep in the snow. Let its softness comfort you, cradle you. Come. He groaned in his sleep and his horse struggling in its sleep arose and moved towards the doors. As it did so, it brushed aside a bench that fell upon the stone floor with a crash. Hubert was on his feet in an instant, struggling out of sleep. Soft words seemed to caress his senses to lure him on. He growled and shouted out,

"Begone, we will not die in the snow!"

The horse shook its head and awoke looking baffled. Hubert led the beast back to its bed by the fire caressing the large shoulders and the fine neck.

"Do you sleep Tonnerre and I will keep watch," he told the horse.

He spent the next few hours stopping up the hole in the rose window and cleaning up the altar, righting the fallen cross. He took a sword from the Chapel armoury and placed it inside the gates of the Chapel, shutting the gates against the snow. He found a broom and a shovel and despite his aching body, he cleared the snow from the great courtyard and retreated within the Chapel. He gathered up food for himself and Tonnerre, sought out anyone he might find in the Chapel but there was none. He gathered up all the kindling that had been gathered against the winter and kept himself and Tonnerre in the Great Hall.

A few months later, having held out against the snow and the song encouraging him to sleep within it, sunlight came to their rescue and the snow began to melt. In the great thaw that followed, there was an almighty stink. When Hubert led Tonnerre out of the Chapel towards Haut Mont and Saint Clair he discovered the reason for the stink. The bodies of the abbot and the monks lay about the Chapel as if they slept. They were now asleep in death. Not a one had been able to resist the song of the snow. Hubert gritted his teeth and stayed a month more to bury the bodies. Only then, did he ride for Saint Clair and the Bishop to tell him of the dead in need of consecration and the Chapel in need of repairs.

9 comments:

Rosemary in Utah said...

"..removed the cat for my own purposes." Yikes, sounds sinister, Dr. Griffin!

OK, now I'll go back and actually read the tale..

joanne May said...

This is wonderful writing Griffin.
I love your magical description of the snowy scene. It was easy for me to form images of the characters in my mind. I liked the macabre ending too!
Really good to see you again.
Have a great weekend.;)
Jo.

Rosemary in Utah said...

Oh--not a happy ending, like some.
I love the snow-pouncing the fox does to get home. Foxes (half dog and half cat) fascinate me.
Is there a clue (here or elsewhere)to the identity/motive of the song singer? (I think its name is "Hypothermia")!

Griffin said...

Rosemary, I removed the cat from the image only because he doesn't appear in the tale. I still have the original on disk tho', it's one of my favourite images. I had to fix the fox in my mind to get how he would struggle through snow. I left the identity of the singer deliberately vague. But Hypothermia would be a good name for her. There are times when we fight against ourselves to survive. This is that fight, so Hubert had to be a knight.

Glad you liked it Jo. In my original unfinished work the monks are there to receive him but hiding from a large dragon. This works better I think. It's also finished which is a big improvement!! Have a warm weekend yourself!

madameshawshank said...

monks and music :-)

Moonroot said...

Dear Griffin, you have such a magical way with words! Bravo!

Griffin said...

Thank you Moonroot. I have a feeling that this version was better than the one I was originally working on, but I'll persist with the other one anyway.

bad penny said...

A chilling Tale Griffin

RickyLeary1008 said...

I love readding, and thanks for your artical.........................................