The Wolf and the Dove

By: Kathleen E. Woodiwis
A Myth

In times of yore when druids roamed the northern forests of England and held their sabbaths in the dark of the moon, a young man grew enamored with battle and violence and studied the arts of war until none could best him. The young man called himself “The Wolf” and preyed upon the people for his wants. In time his feats came to the ears of the gods on the high mountain between earth and Valhalla. Woden, King of the gods, sent a messenger to destroy the upstart who took tribute from the people and challenged the fates. The two met and drew blades and their battle raged for a fortnight of new moons from the white cliffs of the south to the bleak rocky shores of the north. The warrior was truly great, for even the messenger of Woden could not destroy him, and returned to the mountain to admit his failure. Woden pondered long and deep, for it was written that who could best a messenger of the gods would gain eternal life on earth. Woden laughed, and the heavens above The Wolf trembled. Then the air was rent with bolts of lightning and peals of thunder, and the youth stood bold with blade drawn.

“So you’ve won eternal life,” Woden roared in mirth. “And you stand before me with your sword ready for battle, but foolishness was never part of valor and I cannot let you ravage here unchecked. You will have your immortality, but you shall wait on Woden’s will to ply your trade.”

And with a mighty gust of laughter he rose and lightning struck the insolent blade. A cloud of smoke rose slowly upward. Where the youth had stood, now glowing red and slowly cooling crouched a great iron wolf, a snarl frozen on his lips.

It is rumored that in a deep valley near the border with Scotland there is a dark glade wherein stands the statue of an iron wolf, brown with rust and twined with creeping vines, moss greening its legs. It is said that only when war rages in the land does the mighty wolf stir and become a warrior—bold, strong, invincible and savage.

And now William’s hordes crossed the channel and Harold rode from the north and war drew near—

October 28, 1066

The clash of battle rang no more. The screams and the moans of the wounded were silenced one by one. The night lay quiet and time seemed suspended. The autumn moon, bloody hued and weary, shone upon the indistinct horizon, and the distant howl of a hunting wolf shivered down the night, locking the eerie silence tighter upon the land. Shreds of fog drifted through the marsh over the split and hewn bodies of the dead. The low wall of earth, weakly buttressed by stones, was covered with the heroic shroud of the town’s butchered manhood. A young boy of no more than twelve summers lay beside his father. The great black bulk of Darkenwald’s hall rose beyond this, the shaft of its single watchtower piercing the sky.

Within the hall Aislinn sat upon the rush-covered floor before the chair from which her father, the late lord of Darkenwald, had ruled his fief. A rough rope was knotted about her slender neck. It bound her by its length to the left wrist of a tall, dark Norman who rested his mail-clad frame upon the rough-hewn symbol of Lord Erland’s status. Ragnor de Marte watched as his men tore the hall apart in a rampaging search for the smallest item of value, climbing the stairs to the bedchambers, slamming heavy doors open in their search, rummaging through coffers, then casting on a cloth spread before him the more worthy trophies. Aislinn recognized her jeweled dagger and gold filigree girdle, torn from her hips only a short time ago, thrown into the pile among the other treasures that had graced her home.

Arguments broke out among the men over some coveted piece, but were quickly silenced when her captor issued a sharp command. Usually the object of the squabble was grudgingly added to the growing heap before him. Ale flowed freely, liberally swilled by the invaders; and meats, breads and whatever else was at hand were devoured upon discovery. This iron-thewed knight of William’s horde who held her tipped his own hollowed bull’s horn and freely sampled the wine that filled it, unconcerned that her father’s blood still darkened the mail on his chest and arms. When nothing else occupied him, the Norman worked the rope, causing the rough strands to brutally test the soft white skin of Aislinn’s throat. Each time the harsh chafing brought a grimace of pain to her features, he chuckled cruelly at having wrung some reaction from her, and his victory seemed to ease his morose mood. Still, to see her cringe and beg for mercy would have far better suited him. Her manner remained alert and watchful and when she faced him it was with a calm defiance that rankled him. Others would have grovelled at his feet and pleaded for his pity. But this maid—there was something about her which seemed to take a slight advantage from him each time he jerked the tether. He could not fathom the depths of her reserve but determined he would test it well before the night was out.

He had found her with her mother, the Lady Maida, poised in the hall when he and his men crashed through the heavy door, as if the two of them would stand against the whole invading Norman army. His bloody sword ready in his hand, he had paused just inside the door while his men hurried past him to search for others willing to fight for their own, but finding nothing more than these two and the barking, snarling hounds to greet them they lowered their weapons. With a few well placed kicks and blows they subdued the dogs and chained them in a corner then turned to the women who fared no better.