Copyright 2001 – Stephen Redgwell
Dear reader! What wonderful pursuite of the King’s game didst our loyal troupe find in Nuttingham barely a fortnight ago!
This humble scribe didst nearly miss His Majesty’s most gracious invitation! A night too filled with frivolity and the innkeeper’s ale didst sorely affect me. Upon my soul, I failed to hear the cock crowe that morn. Thank the Lord for my man servants! Twas said by Lord Dunne later that day,
“Thou hast barely kept thy head, sirrah!”
For this most unworthy hunter of His Majesty’s game, I was glad of the escorts that were the King’s Royal Forresters. We didst plunge into the greenwoode before the sun crested the tallest tree in Nuttingham. Tardy to be sure, but not too tardy to miss the day’s sport.
And lo, the pursuite had barely begun when Lord Dunne didst spy the first of our day’s affin-ed creatures. A stag of mighty bearing didst stand upon the hillock half a flight distant. Oh! What uncanny luck!
And our most gracious lord, being ever the good host and King’s representative, didst relent to me and thus, I drew my bow. My arrow flew straight as the raven and delivered itself unto the yielding flesh of that most delicious of creatures! What Ho!
The Forresters and my man servants wouldst waste little time in the preparation of the beast’s departure from its hyde and from the greenwoode. Ah, how we ate that night! Our Lord Dunne was indeed pleased, as was the King, upon hearing of the day’s sport. In fact, our Lord Dunne was blessed with a bold spirit of the hunt and didst contribute twice to the feast!
I beseech ye, dear readere, should ye find thyself in Nuttingham, do make it known to the Forresters! Avail thyself of the fine, muscled creatures that inhabit the forest yon. For a few meagre pieces of gold ye can hunt and enjoy the bounty that awaits in the King’s forest! What Ho!
Deere and pheasant were on the menu this morn. I was delighted that my good friend, the Earl of Penrith, had invited me for a traditional greenwoode hunt to celebrate the vernal equinox. His bowmen expertly drove several hooved creatures forward to our arrows. The Earl’s footmen were busy painting this fine tapestry to be displayed in the towne square. It is truly amazing the speed at which news of the Earl’s adventures travel. His tapestries are dispatched to many around the kingdom in mere weeks!
I am told, by friends, that they have difficulties with some of their peasants, but my serfs rarely give any trouble. Some are sent to labour in the tin mines. Others earn a date with the executioner. A wonderful deterrent! Those who exhibit bad behaviour or steal the King’s game must be dealt with harshly. As if bread, vegetables and porridge, so graciously provided to them, is not enough! They sleep, quite comfortably I’m told, on straw, and dress in comfortable woolens, spun from our local sheeps.
Sometimes, I think we coddle them, but it is the modern age.
Upon my soul, who discovered that entrails wouldst tempt wild boars to eat? My brother, who lives 22 furlongs from the Penrith greenwoode, has his serfs dig a shallow pit, and fills it with entrails. The beasts, besotted with the smell of blood and rotting flesh, descend upon it, caring little for humans standing nearby.
But, I caution you! If you have never attended such an event, beware! Their tusks and hooves have taken the life of more than one inattentive soul! Always remember to have several peasants standing between you and the pit when preparing your bow. When ready, have them slowly approach the beasts. You will know when to release your arrow!
Should your arrow strike the shoulder or the head, be prepared for the beast to charge! The shaft will not enter, but rather, deflect away! This attention will anger the boar, and it will seek to do you harm! Fear not, the serfs will catch their eye and this will give you an opportunity to renock and try again! Over time, you will learn the art.
I prefer using dogs, and I suspect, so do my serfs. Still, the hunt is not without its dangers. And thus, it makes for a pleasant diversion.
The squires, apprenticed to the knights of the Earl of Cornwall, are expected to challenge these beasts to learn their art and display bravery to their fellows. Several have been badly wounded pursuing this! There is no better way, short of battle itself, to learn to control one’s fear and face the anger of an armed foe!
I recall one young wisp of a lad, an Irish youngster by the name of O’Connur, who thought himself smarter than the blacksmiths and armourers of his master’s house. He decided to take a beast with a cedar arrow of his own construction. A lighter, narrower shaft, fashioned from the bough of a local tree. What folly! He believed that a faster arrow wouldst find its way in deadly fashion. The tough skin and the bone plate of an enraged pig demanded birche!
We laughed as he was chased, screaming, into the forest. He was saved by three of my own guard. They were armed with the proper birche arrows, fletched, and correctly metalled by my own armoury. They also respected the beast, having learnt that from years of experience!
With the arrival of spring, the pleasant days of hunting the greenwoode return. The grey skies and rain are a memory. But the change in the weather brings the interlopers. That I shouldst lose my head for speaking so profanely of the King’s cousin cannot be helped. Although it is spoken of in whispers, the words cannot be undone. Lord Leeps is an odoriferous lout, and some say, a pederast. Beware, all ye young squires and peasant lads!
His standing within the royal family is the only thing that commands tolerance. It is unknown why, but the King likes Leeps. Because of his extreme weight and chronic gout, Lord Leeps does not travel far from his estate. He weighs 23 stone, which causes the peasantry much delight as they find his name at odds with his appearance! They pity his horse, both for his weight and his continual flatulence.
Lord Leeps lives 10 leagues from the greenwoode. He says he comes to hunt our deeres, but my gamekeeper, Old Bean, confessed, after much interrogation, that Lord Leeps only comes to eat the deeres.
“I’m the gamekeeper, your lordship. I’m expected to protect the greenwoode for the King!”
While I wouldst not say this to him, it would appear Lord Leeps only comes to empty my cellar of wine. Or more particularly, Leeps and his friends, who always accompany him on his journeys.
The deeres are safe. His appetite for mutton and suckling pig is ravenous however. The livestock wouldst flee if they could!
And now, with my tale told, I bid ye a good night!