No Good Word is Said of Cornish Knights

King Mark sits beneath the tree on the border of Elfland, far from the fields that men know, watching the sun set over the blue mountains.

Along comes a woman. “King Mark,” she cries, but he raises a finger and she falls silent. She watches him, but he keeps his eyes on the blue mountains of Elfland. After a while she sits down.

Along comes a young knight, his hair in curls, his cheek soft with a downy first beard. “King Mark! War has broken out!”

King Mark holds up his hand and the knight snaps to attention. King Mark watches the mountains and the sun over them and the knight watches him. The woman turns her head from the king to the knight. Her lips are parted, her teeth are white.

Queen Isolde of the White Hands comes running along the road, her hair in disarray, wolves at her heels. “My husband! The larder is empty, the fire is cold!”

King Mark throws up his arms and she tumbles down next to him, breathless, flushed. He puts an arm around her and the wolves sit down in a circle around the tree. One sniffs at the young knight, the young knight nods to them, his hand on his sword, the woman rolls her eyes in fear, King Mark watches the mountains of Elfland.

The sun sets behind the mountains. “Ah,” says King Mark, a noise like a bell, an iron bell.