Three years and two months thereafter, three hours after noon in the days of early autumn, came a wain tilted over with precious webs of cloth, and drawn by eight white oxen, into the Market-place of Silver-stead: two score and ten of spearmen of the tallest, clad in goodly war-gear, went beside it, and much people of Silver-dale thronged about them. The wain stayed at the foot of the stair that led up to the door of the Mote-house, and there lighted down therefrom a woman goodly of fashion, with wide grey eyes, and face and hands brown with the sun’s burning. She had a helm on her head and a sword girt to her side, and in her arms she bore a yearling child.
And there was come Bow-may with the second man-child born to Face-of-god.
She stayed not amidst the wondering folk, but hastened up the stair, which she had once seen running with the blood of men: the door was open, and she went in and walked straight-way, with the babe in her arms, up the great Hall to the dais.
There were men on the dais: amidmost sat Folk-might, little changed since the last day she had seen him, yet fairer, she deemed, than of old time; and her heart went forth to meet the Chieftain of her Folk, and the glad tears started in her eyes and ran down her cheeks as she drew near to him.
By his side sat the Bride, and her also Bow-may deemed to have waxed goodlier. Both she and Folk-might knew Bow-may ere she had gone half the length of the hall; and the Bride rose up in her place and cried out Bow-may’s name joyously.
With these were sitting the elders of the Wolf and the Woodlanders, the more part of whom Bow-may knew well.
On the dais also stood aside a score of men weaponed, and looking as if they were awaiting the word which should send them forth on some errand.
Now stood up Folk-might and said: ‘Fair greeting and love to my friend and the daughter of my Folk! How farest thou, Bow-may, best of all friendly women? How fareth my sister, and Face-of-god my brother? and how is it with our friends and helpers in the goodly Dale?’
Said Bow-may: ‘It is well both with all those and with me; and my heart laughs to see thee, Folk-might, and to look on the elders of the valiant, and our lovely sister the Bride. But I have a message for thee from Face-of-god: wilt thou that I deliver it here?’
‘Yea surely,’ said Folk-might, and came forth. and took her hand, and kissed her cheeks and her mouth. The Bride also came forth and cast her arms about her, and kissed her; and they led her between them to a seat on the dais beside Folk-might.
But all men looked on the child in her arms and wondered what it was. But Bow-may took the babe, which was both fair and great, and set it on the knees of the Bride, and said:
‘Thus saith Face-of-god: “Friend and kinswoman, well-beloved playmate, the gift which thou badest of me in sorrow do thou now take in joy, and do all the good thou wouldest to the son of thy friend. The ring which I gave thee once in the garden of the Face, give thou to Bow-may, my trusty and well-beloved, in token of the fulfilment of my behest.”’
Then the Bride kissed Bow-may again, and fell to fondling of the child, which was loth to leave Bow-may.
But she spake again: ‘To thee also, Folk-might, I have a message from Face-of-god, who saith: “Mighty warrior, friend and fellow, all things thrive with us, and we are happy. Yet is there a hollow place in our hearts which grieveth us, and only thou and thine may amend it. Though whiles we hear tell of thee, yet we see thee not, and fain were we, might we see thee, and wot if the said tales be true. Wilt thou help us somewhat herein, or wilt thou leave us all the labour? For sure we be that thou wilt not say that thou rememberest us no more, and that thy love for us is departed.” This is his message, Folk-might, and he would have an answer from thee.’
Then laughed Folk-might and said: ‘Sister Bow-may, seest thou these weaponed men hereby?’
‘Yea,’ she said.
Said he: ‘These men bear a message with them to Face-of-god my brother. Crow the Shaft-speeder, stand forth and tell thy friend Bow-may the message I have set in thy mouth, every word of it.’
Then Crow stood forth and greeted Bow-may friendly, and said: ‘Friend Bow-may, this is the message of our Alderman: “Friend and helper, in the Dale which thou hast given to us do all things thrive; neither are we grown old in three years’ wearing, nor are our memories worsened. We long sore to see you and give you guesting in Silver-dale, and one day that shall befall. Meanwhile, know this: that we of the Wolf and the Woodland, mindful of the earth that bore us, and the pit whence we were digged, have a mind to go see Shadowy Vale once in every three years, and there to hold high-tide in the ancient Hall of the Wolf, and sit in the Doom-ring of our Fathers. But since ye have joined yourselves to us in battle, and have given us this Dale, our health and wealth, without price and without reward, we deem you our very brethren, and small shall be our hall-glee, and barren shall our Doom-ring seem to us, unless ye sit there beside us. Come then, that we may rejoice each other by the sight of face and sound of voice; that we may speak together of matters that concern our welfare; so that we three Kindreds may become one Folk. And if this seem good to you, know that we shall be in Shadowy Vale in a half-month’s wearing. Grieve us not by forbearing to come.” Lo, Bow-may, this is the message, and I have learned it well, for well it pleaseth me to bear it.’
Then said Folk-might: ‘What say’st thou to the message, Bow-may?’
‘It is good in all ways,’ said she, ‘but is it timely? May our folk have the message and get to Shadowy Vale, so as to meet you there?’
‘Yea surely,’ said Folk-might, ‘for our kinsmen here shall take the road through Shadowy Vale, and in four days’ time they shall be in Burgdale, and as thou wottest, it is scant a two days’ journey thence to Shadowy Vale.’
Therewith he turned to those men again, and said: ‘Kinsman Crow, depart now, and use all diligence with thy message.’
So the messengers began to stir; but Bow-may cried out: ‘Ho! Folk-might, my friend, I perceive thou art little changed from the man I knew in Shadowy Vale, who would have his dinner before the fowl were plucked. For shall I not go back with these thy messengers, so that I also may get all ready to wend to the Mote-house of Shadowy Vale?’
But the Bride looked kindly on her, and laughed and said: ‘Sister Bow-may, his meaning is that thou shouldest abide here in Silver-dale till we depart for the Folk-thing, and then go thither with us; and this I also pray thee to do, that thou mayst rejoice the hearts of thine old friends; and also that thou mayst teach me all that I should know concerning this fair child of my brother and my sister.’
And she looked on her so kindly as she caressed the babe, that Bow-may’s heart melted, and she cried out:
‘Would that I might never depart from the house wherein thou dwellest, O Bride of my Kinsman! And this that thou biddest me is easy and pleasant for me to do. But afterwards I must get me back to Burgdale; for I seem to have left much there that calleth for me.’
‘Yea,’ said Folk-might, ‘and art thou wedded, Bow-may? Shalt thou never bend the yew in battle again?’
Said Bow-may soberly: ‘Who knoweth, chieftain? Yea, I am wedded now these two years; and nought I looked for less when I followed those twain through the wild-wood to Burgdale.’
She sighed therewith, and said: ‘In all the Dale there is no better man of his hands than my man, nor any goodlier to look on, and he is even that Hart of Highcliff whom thou knowest well, O Bride!’
Said the Bride: ‘Thou sayest sooth, there is no better man in the Dale.’
Said Bow-may: ‘Sun-beam bade me wed him when he pressed hard upon me.’ She stayed awhile, and then said: ‘Face-of-god also deemed I should not naysay the man; and now my son by him is of like age to this little one.’
‘Good is thy story,’ said Folk-might; ‘or deemest thou, Bow-may, that such strong and goodly women as thou, and women so kind and friendly, should forbear the wedding and the bringing forth of children? Yea, and we who may even yet have to gather to another field before we die, and fight for life and the goods of life.’
‘Thou sayest well,’ she said; ‘all that hath befallen me is good since the day whereon I loosed shaft from the break of the bent over yonder.’
Therewith she fell a-musing, and made as though she were hearkening to the soft voice of the Bride caressing the new-come baby; but in sooth neither heard nor saw what was going on about her, for her thoughts were in bygone days. Howbeit presently she came to herself again, and fell to asking many questions concerning Silver-dale and the kindred, and those who had once been thralls of the Dusky Men; and they answered all duly, and told her the whole story of the Dale since the Day of the Victory.
So Bow-may and the carles who had come with her abode for that half-month in Silver-dale, guested in all love by the folk thereof, both the kindreds and the poor folk. And Bow-may deemed that the Bride loved Face-of-god’s child little less than her own, whereof she had two, a man and a woman; and thereat was she full of joy, since she knew that Face-of-god and the Sun-beam would be fain thereof.
Thereafter, when the time was come, fared Folk-might and the Bride, and many of the elders and warriors of the Wolf and the Woodland, to Shadowy Vale; and Dallach and the best of Rose-dale went with them, being so bidden; and Bow-may and her following, according to the word of the Bride. And in Shadowy Vale they met Face-of-god and Alderman Iron-face, and the chiefs of Burgdale and the Shepherds, and many others; and great joy there was at the meeting. And the Sun-beam remembered the word which she spoke to Face-of-god when first he came to Shadowy Vale, that she would be wishful to see again the dwelling wherein she had passed through so much joy and sorrow of her younger days. But if anyone were fain of this meeting, the Alderman was glad above all, when he took the Bride once more in his arms, and caressed her whom he had deemed should be a very daughter of his House.
Now telleth the tale of all these kindreds, to wit, the Men of Burgdale and the Sheepcotes; and the Children of the Wolf, and the Woodlanders, and the Men of Rose-dale, that they were friends henceforth, and became as one Folk, for better or worse, in peace and in war, in waning and waxing; and that whatsoever befell them, they ever held Shadowy Vale a holy place, and for long and long after they met there in mid-autumn, and held converse and counsel together.
NO MORE AS NOW TELLETH THE TALE OF THESE KINDREDS AND FOLKS, BUT MAKETH AN ENDING.
Text courtesy of the University of Adalaide.