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Cry for the Wolf : Prologue 2 by Richard WalkerSUMMARY: in mid-winter, a vignette establishing one of the main plotlines
Night in the five forests of Mummersetshire was draped for leagues all around in Stygian darkness, despite the lack of leaves to cloak the wood's bare limbs. The moon had set hours ago and only a glittering net of delicately sparkling stars lent the sky their brilliance, but only when the wooly clouds consented to break long enough in their slow parade across the sky for their glimmer to show, their wan light throwing twining masses of the skeletal tree limbs into silhouette, stripped months ago of the last of their fall foliage by the bitter northern winds.
The northern wind came as a howling breath of elemental cold from the depths of Darkness itself, threatening to reap all life from a world that slept in the comfortless embrace of winter. It screamed in gales that faded to lonesome cries and forlorn moans, and when it slackened to give the ears a rest another cry just as soulful and bereft could be heard, over and again – the cries of the wolves who hunted the forests in the night.
In the midst of the darkness and drifting clouds of wind-blown snow, a lone light shone, a little ball of buttery candlelight, bright behind glass. A heavyset man, made into a great ox of a man bundled up in thick furs as he was against the merciless weather, held the big, boxy bronze lanthorn high, the thick flakes catching every ray that shone through the leaded glass, leaving him barely able to find his way in the swirling snow, despite knowing every square foot of the compound he had lived at for the past 30 years as well as his own hands. He shuddered to think how quickly he'd be lost and then dead, should he pass beyond the walls of the compound whose confines he paced.
It was nigh mid-night, and the porter was out on his final rounds. He was chief of security for the great Lady's manor of Foxwoerth Hall and had been, lo, the past 20 years. His hair was the same gleaming white of the snow through which he trudged, a wisp here and there blowing across his red-stung cheeks. He took that duty a seriously as the wolfen threat he could here haunting the countryside, and he would allow none other to walk the final rounds of the night is his stead.
He checked the cover over the well, half-covered by the snow already, made sure it was closed tight and secure.
I'll not have anyone falling in on my watch.
Next, he checked the gate that let onto the kitchen dooryard, all too often left swinging by the servants.
Barred as it ought to be ... for a change.
A wicked gust of icy air made the old man stop and tug his furred cap down more snugly.
The wind was sharper than any knife, and he had known many in the bloody campaigns he had participated throughout his life, even in the furred mittens the great Lady he served had thoughtfully provided his hands stung at every movement, sluggish with the cold. He cursed roundly at another impudent gust of wind that reminded him too keenly of his own mortality.
Ol' Gaffer, came a chiding thought through his mind, ‘twas pure foolishness to leave the final rounds for so late.