The Song of Shadow Wood
There was a proud and noble stag,
In Shadow Wood was born,
And there he grew, and there he met
And loved a unicorn.
He served her long, he served her well,
He served her, whole and part
Until one night in Shadow Glade
He told her all his heart.
She did not mock, she did not laugh,
But softly told him nay;
He did not grieve, but choose to leave
And plotted to betray.
He sought out then King Peris's men;
His words were cold and blunt,
"Oh, sentry hosts, desert your posts:
I offer you a hunt."
King Peris's men were duty bound,
To guard the wood from fear.
The king, in pride, set sword aside,
To bargain with the deer.
"There is no hunt for me," said he,
"Of any creature born,
Unless I could in Shadow Wood
Hunt down the unicorn."
"None knows so well where she may dwell
As I who did her will,
If you will heed, then I will lead,
And you may have your kill."
But one lone guard forewarned the king:
"This hunt is evil-starred;
For those with arms and potent charms
Against whom we must guard.
No more will wait with eyes of hate
And souls and hearts of gall,
But purge the wood of light and good,
And gods forgive us all."
Still Peris boasts, "step down, my hosts,
And hear the hunting-horn,
Let men invade both wood and glade,
We hunt the unicorn."
The stag led on from night to dawn,
From sunrise into morn,
And in the shade of Shadow Glade
Betrayed the unicorn.
She spoke to him; her voice was grim;
"What have you done for pride?
You know and see your destiny
And yet you turn aside.
You would betray me to my death
And quite forsake your vow?
Then service lent without consent
Is all you do me now."
She touched him once, she touched him twice,
And three times with her horn;
And there he fell, and where he fell,
He rose a unicorn.
The guards have fled; their trusting land
All undefended lies;
And through the wood invaders ride
With darkness in their eyes.
Without alarms they practice charms
That drive away that light
And Shadow into Darken Wood
Is made that evil night.
And afterward, with sword and spear
And horse and horn and hound
They hunted down King Persist men
And ran them all to ground.
The king was slain, his body lain
Among his dying men,
But they were told ere they were cold
To rise and hunt again.
"For every wraith who breaks his faith
Must wander without cease
And, cold, perform what he did, warm,
And never rest in peace.
So, every night the stag betrays
The love he could not keep
And king and host desert their post
To hunt and never sleep.
And so they shall betray and hunt,
Until the day they show
That they somehow fulfill the vow
They broke so long ago."
"The shadows in the woods are plain
And mingle now with light;
They flow and play with sun by day
And dance with moon by night.
From Darken wood has Shadow wood
Been granted its release,
Those who were killed in vows fulfilled
Have there been granted peace."