The White Lion

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Once upon a time, on a warm Summer’s day in June, the King of a distant realm decided to go on a hunt. His lord’s all arrayed themselves with high spirits and rode off towards a forest called Goldenwood, the largest forest nearby. They spent the whole day in the wood hunting and riding.
The two lords Nielon and Silen acompanied their King and both enjoyed the sport. At one point, Nielon strayed from the others in pursuit of a fine stag, when suddenly he saw that strange and large footprints mingled with the stag’s on the ground. He dismounted in order to look closer, but he was still observing the track when suddenly there was a rustle behind him and he turned just in time to see a gigantic lion, white as snow, jump upon his horse and kill it with a single stroke, so dreadful and strong that the poor animal had not even time to bolt.
Nielon had no sword, only a hunting knife and a small bow. He drew the bow and shot at the beast, but the arrow did not even pierce its hide. The lion took no heed of Nielon, but simply dragged away its prey with such ease as if it was carring a rabbit. Nielon had to go back to the hunting party on foot.
“What happened?” asked the King to Nielon, who looked unusualy ashamed.
Nielon told him the whole tale, and to his utter embarasement the other lords (except the King, Silen and a few other knights) laughed at his loss. “Why did you not kill it?” they said. “It’s hide would have made a prettty mat to lay in the main hall of the White Palace! You would have rendered it a service if you had rid it of its thick coat in this heat.” So they jeered at Nielon, who only replied: “I would have skinned it indeed had I only my sword, but what could I do with a small hunting bow?”
The King said naught, neither did he think ill of Nielon’s adventure, except, perhaps, that it was a stroke of bad-luck, since the sun was already westering.
Here Silen interrupted the laughter of the others, saying: “If there is indeed a White Lion with such strenght and stealth as you said, Nielon, it would be wiser if we started getting back before the night falls and it returns.” Then he dismounted his own horse and said to Nielon: “Please accept to ride my horse back to the palace, for the sun is setting fast.” “I thank you indeed, Silen”, replied Nielon. “But how will you return then?” Here one of the knights who was Silen’s cousin, rode foward and said to Silen: “Ride with me, cousin, my horse will bear us both.” Silen agreed and gave the reins of his horse to Nielon.
Thus the party returned, and no one dared to laugh about Nielon’s adventure again during the ride because of Silen’s words.
When they arrived at the White Palace, Nielon gave Silen’s horse back to him and after thanking him once more, he said: “I wish I had my sword with me then. I would have rent the white coat off that lion, even if he were twice as big.” Silen replied: “I do not doubt it, but I have often heard stories of the great White Lion of the Goldenwood, though I never really believed in them till now. It’s a good thing he took no notice of you, for we were all defenceless. Even the King did not have his sword with him. We went to hunt game, not huge white lions.”
“You are right, Silen: if I venture into Goldenwood again, t’will be with a sword hanging from my belt.” Said Nielon.
It took three months for Nielon to go into the wood again, not because he feared to meet the Lion. He in truth did not forget the animal, neither did he forget the jestings of the other lords. He, in fact, had a very strong desire to kill the lion and hang its hide in the White Palace, and thus make those that jested swallow their words.
At last, one day in September, when the trees were ladden with red autumn leaves, and the sunlight was frail and silver, Nielon rode alone to Goldenwood. He carried a sword and wore a coat of mail, and his only intention was to hunt the White Lion.
He rode on till mid-day, but there was no sign of the beast. Only in the afternoon, when Nielon had sat under a tree to rest and left his horse to graze, did the Lion creep near them. Nielon leaped to his feet and drew his sword. But the Lion was more interested in the horse and would have killed it, had not Nielon forced it to fight with him. This fight was the most difficult and dangerous of his whole life. The blade could hardly pierce the Lion’s hide, and the beast was extremely agile. Slowly Nielon began to grow weary, and the Lion was still charging at him with full vigor. Suddenly Nielon stepped back but tripped, overcome with weariness, and fell. In an instant the Lion leaped upon him. Too soon, for swiftly and with a great effort Nielon raised his sword with both hands in the moment the lion cast itself on him and thus by the force of its own leap the sword pierced the Lion’s hide straight into its heart. The beast jerked with a roar and Nielon’s sword broke inside the Lion, who fell and died. Nielon rose slowly and gazed at the huge shape of the beast. He sheathed the broken haft of his sword and taking a great hunting knite, he began to skin the Lion. It took him some time because of the size of the animal, but finnaly, when the sun was setting and the shadows lenghtened, Nielon took the hide and rode towards the palace.
He arrived at the White Palace while the moon rode high in the heavens; and going directly to the White Hall where the King sat in his throne, Nielon unravelled the hide of the White Lion before the King’s feet. All the other lords who had been at the hunting party were there and they all marvelled at the size of the hide. It was twice greater than a common lion’s, and it was white as snow.
Nielon said to the King: “Behold! May now this hide adorn a corner of the White Hall, if it be your will, my lord. It’s owner will not need it for the winter.”
The King then entreated Nielon to tell his tale, and Nielon did so. When he finished, those who had laughed at him before now repented their jest, for they saw how Nielon was indeed fierce and strong in arms. The King said to him: “The hide shall indeed hang in this hall for its adornment, but you have taken not only the lion’s skin, but also his name, Nielon Whitelion: for so you shall be called henceforth.”
Thus Nielon became know as Whitelion, because of this adventure, which he considered the most perilous he had had during the King’s reign, and since then the Goldenwood was peaceful once more.

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