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Garwaf

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Since I'm making this lais, I do not want to forget that in Breton, "Bisclavret" is the name for a courtly wolf, who upon the removing of his clothes, quite bare then, he becomes a beast. A courtly beast, dressed then in the finest fur that nature may provide, and who would always bow to the ladies and sniff their hands in a courteous way. But it is to the spurred and belted knights that he would course his run. To the king's side, he would always find a true heart's path for there lay his greatest love and loyalty.

Of an evening, the king would sit upon the great hearth, as a tree felled in his woods crackled and sparked. There in his chambers, his very chambers, he might speak his mind to his friend, his dear friend, who'd prick his ears to hear the king's troubles. Rumble and place himself so that the king might scratch behind his ears or even rub his belly.

Sometimes, he might set up housekeeping as a man, with all the true gold gifts of land and furnishings that the king might give him, but in truth, he preferred a Bisclavret's life.

Now I'll leave this topic set. I want to tell you about Garwaf, which in the Norman means a man who becomes a savage beast.

In Normandy, there dwelt a lord; fear of him I have heard. None could pass through his lands, but was of him extracted a terrible toll. It was no secret, all knew the truth about this lord, who upon standing in the square with in no shame for his nakedness, might remove his clothes, and become a most savage creature. He'd rip a man's arms from his body and eat upon him while his family watched. With a woman he might do worse. Or it was whispered a man. For this Lord Garwaf, he took what came his way.

Now the king, he had no plans to visit this lord. His plans were to sail up the coast in a fine white ship with sails of blue. The lily of France was to be emblazoned there in gold, that all might know who sailed. But the channel that day, it set to storm and toss. His ship cracked up on the coast, it cracked upon the very coast where this Garwaf lived.

Now Bisclavret was not with him, for he was a courtly Bisclavret, but not a seafaring one. So, when the white ship with its blue sails went down, Bisclavret waited at the harbor. He waited at the port in the Aquitaine. He waited for his king, but his king's ship sailed not into harbor.

When he heard, Bisclavret he went into an inn, for he'd not change before another. Not even before a priest, so great was his modesty. He put on his clothes then and became a man. A courtly man in fur and fine wool as fine as any he'd worn before. He changed, because he'd run faster with a horse than he ever could on his own. He rode straight then. He went in the direction that he feared for disaster.

He was right to fear for the king was brought to the Garwaf, who demanded his toll. He said that his lands came not from the king, but from the forest where he set up his housekeeping. He called himself a son of pagan gods and himself no Christian. Far worse yet, he denied courtliness and consumed the king's men, one by one. For the king's return, he demanded a terrible tribute. But all knew that it could never be paid. There was no tribute great enough to feed Garwaf's hunger.

Through all of this, Bisclavret rode to his king. Forests and rivers, he crossed. He feared nothing. Although he did not like when the soil soiled the weave of his clothes. For if he would wear them, then he would that they be clean.

Finally, then, he came to the court of Garwaf. He requested entrance most courteously. The guard at the gate, he stared at Bisclavret. He stared and was not certain just what he was seeing. Finally, he decided that this would be good for a mighty laugh and let Bisclavret inside the walls of the castle.

Inside there, Bisclavret bowed to his king. He greeted him most kindly. He bowed also to Garwaf and asked of him if he might bring the king, who guided the fate of his kingdom with care, back now to his home.

Garwaf stared at Bisclavret, not certain of what he was seeing. Then he roared and tore off his clothes and gave Bisclavret the chase. Biscravret ran from him, fleet on his feet, but he did not change. He did not cast off his clothes. Those who watched, they laughed. They laughed to see such a sight. They thought he ran in fear. The king understood. He sat down and requested a glass of brandywine while they waited. He knew why Bisclavret did not change. Garwaf chased him through the town below the castle. He chased him into the forest. Into the dark dismal forest. Far from the eyes of ladies and gentlemen of good birth, Bisclavret cast off his clothes then. He slithered free and shook his fur in the dark.

Garwaf found him there. Waiting on a log. Garwaf leaped forward. A sudden rush of great power that carried him quite past Bisclavret, who then took a moment to rip out Garwaf's throat and then kicked dirt on the corpse to show his mind that courtesy does not mean weakness. Garwaf could have learned that from Bisclavret's former wife.

After he had licked himself clean and removed all of the signs of what had been, he considered his clothes. But in the end, he left them there. He trotted back to his king, who waited with a glass of brandywine and a bowl of it too for Bisclavret, who bowed and drank it thirstily. He sat next to the king and let himself be rubbed, even to his belly, such that he whined and may even have begged his king for more.

From that time forth, Bisclavret went with the king always. For the world was full of Garwaf, who had no manners at all.