AGAIN OF SUCH APPARITIONS

Edric the Wild, so called because of his behaviour, was lord of various manors in Shropshire and Herefordshire. His passion was for hunting and, one time, he was late home after wandering into in some wild country that he did not recognise.

Night had fallen and he was accompanied by only one servant. He came across a large building on the edge of the forest that he had not seen before. There was light inside and, when he looked, he saw a group of noble ladies dancing, clothed only in fine linen and taller and more graceful than any woman he had ever seen. One was even more beautiful than the rest and, as they danced, their voices blended in a subtle harmony. As he gazed on the face of that woman the hunter received a wound to the heart.

He drew courage from his fever and, ignoring the stories of Diana and the punishments for spying on a goddess, Edric went round the building searching for the entrance. When he found it he rushed in and caught hold of she by whom he had been caught and tried to drag her out. Immediately the other women set about him, tearing at him with their nails and teeth, and he would not have escaped but that his servant also rushed in and pulled Edric out by his belt and so they were able to get over the threshold, although Edric was streaming blood from wounds in his legs and his feet.

He put her on his horse and they rode back to Edric’s nearest manor. There for three days and nights he used her as he would but could not wring a word from her although, in all other things, she yielded gently to his will. Finally, on the fourth day, she spoke. “Hail to thee my dearest! Whole shall you be and enjoy great prosperity in body and affairs up to the moment that you reproach me either with the sisters from whom you snatched me or the world from which I come. From that day you shall fall away from happiness and when I am gone you will suffer successive losses and your days will be only misery.”

Naturally he vowed that such a time would never come. They were married and all the great nobles of the surrounding counties were summoned to witness the festivities. William the Bastard, newly established as king of England, hearing of this prodigy of a man marrying a fairy, wanted to know if it could be true and summoned the pair to London where she convinced the royal court of her fairy nature by her great beauty.

Some years passed and Edric, coming back from hunting after darkness had fallen, not finding his wife where he expected to find her, called out her name but she did not come. When she eventually arrived he angrily shouted: “Was it your sisters who kept you so long?”

The rest of his abuse was shouted to empty air and, when he realised what he had done, he bitterly repented of his outburst. From then on his only thought was to find the spot where he had first found her but all his searching was in vain. From then on his life was one of unceasing sorrow that could only be ended by death. In his bitterness he rebelled against his Norman overlords, was captured and he who had loved the forest spent his last days in the dark dungeon of Wigmore Castle.

However this couple had an heir, Alnoth, who became heir to his father’s lands. When this man was advanced in years he fell into a palsy and his physicians decided that he was incurable. His friends advised him that he should make a pilgrimage to Rome and pray at the tombs of St Peter and St Paul. “Why on earth would I do that?” he replied. “I need to go nowhere but the tomb of St Ethelbert.”

So he was conveyed to Hereford and slept before the altar and was cured that first night. In thanksgiving he bequested all his manors to the Cathedral to provide perpetual alms to the glory of God, the Blessed Virgin and St Ethelbert. He also requested that his body be eventually be buried within the precincts of the cathedral. So the son of a fairy is buried somewhere in Hereford Cathedral.

 

 

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