When James did decide to go into town it was to either refresh his quiver with new arrows or to look at the new bows or go to the dance halls and spend the night dancing and dancing with any lady willing to dance with him. James never thought twice about the women he would dance with, although the same can not be said about the other women. Although James would never know that, he was in the woods too much to even realize it. Even on the rare occasion that he did hear about a girl that was found of him, James never thought about courting, let alone marrying a woman. He was in love with the woods and his hunt.
Now, James had just finished his final hunt of spring and was preparing to get his supplies for the upcoming fall and the ever challenging winter. He enters Redwall with his game slung over the side of his horse and his bow and quiver slapped across his back. He rides his trusted black steed, both envied for its size and its speed. He quickly dodges off to the side streets and avoids the main street. The crowds are too loud and too close for his taste. Then he sees it, the familiar sight of his house. It’s a simple log building, four walls, one big room, and two windows of the east and west side to let in the sun. Yet, it sticks out just as much as he does in the red walled city, surrounded by the two storied buildings of stone and the little shops that are run out of the bottom stories. He opens the door to find his home well kept and clean with a note of the table from his neighbor thanking him for letting him use it to get away from the wife. James had never really said he could use it, but the neighbor kept it clean and kept the beggars and thieves out. James saw it as a fair trade. He had dinner at his house once… never again. His house wasn’t well furnished just a table with four chairs. That was the neighbors doing. James never had company. All James deeded was a bed in the back corner and fireplace on the east wall next to the table. The rest of the room was filled with hunting tools that James would come back and trade in depending on what season it was and what he was planning on hunting. The house was simple but fitting for James. He spent the day as usual trading and bargaining with the traders before he came home. He then got the fire started and began to cook some of his stew. Only James really knows what goes into it, and no one asks. After dinner was eaten and he had his full, he got dressed for the night ahead of him. Redwall is known not only for its walls but its festivals. The people there will find any reason to celebrate and put on a good dance. It just so happened that there was a festival this week. James didn’t really know what it was for but he really didn’t care. He went to dance.
The dance hall was the most beautiful thing that you would see in the whole country. It was the tallest building in the city. The red walls covered with stained glass windows that showed of tales of greatness and strength displayed by the men that had defended the town from invaders. The hall was a tall building with a steep roof much resembling a church building. The front had a porch that entered into a court that was covered in hobble stone paths that led off to quieter places for the lovers who would like to relax and spend more time alone. The whole building was covered with a high hedge that ran all the way around the court that surrounded the hall. Yet the hall was the most impressive. The entrance was guarded by two giant double doors of cedar that towered over every man that walked through them. When you entered the hall you saw the dance floor that seemed to go on forever. The walls were covered in hanging tapestries again depicting sights of the all mighty men that died protecting and saving the future generations of the city. The roof was supported by pillars that lined the longer walls of the hall. Behind the pillars were tables set out for people to sit and enjoy the food that was served and rest between dances. In the back of the hall was the stage for the bands that played. Only the best bands and musicians played on that stage and the room was so well built that no one was in need of hearing the music. The dance floor was tiled with marble imported from the mountain towns to the west and was covered in swirling dresses and gleaming suites of armor and robes dancing to the music played by the orchestra. The dancers all moved in a circle twirling and moving in a mass of laughter and music. Here is the place that James would spend his night. As usual James found a pillar to lean on and watch as the dancers moved. He began to look through the ladies that had slowly but surly begun to form in a group at the tables and the pillars next to him, trying to find a partner that would be willing to dance. Yet the one he spotted was behind the group. She was tall but not awkward; her posture was perfect as she sat sitting in the chair surrounded by men and there wives much older than she. James could see very quickly that she was from a rich family. Her dress was a royal purple, tight fitting to her perfect upper body. The dress wove around her every curve and highlighted her every feature then fluttered down to the floor. The dress swirled as she twirled across the dance floor. Her feet moved with elegance that James found mesmerizing. From the moment he saw her he had found her captivating but as all the other girls that he thought of that way, he dismissed any chance of him even being able to talk to her. She was out of his league. Yet, maybe it was the defying nature of James that had taken hold of him or maybe it was just his own stupidity but for some reason James saw his opportunity and took it to ask her to the upcoming waltz. To James’ surprise and joy she agreed. James took her hand and found a place on the dance floor. He loved the waltz more than any other dance that would be danced that night. The music began and James started his steps. They were easy ones at first; he was testing her to see how well she followed. She looked as if she was getting bored. This was an encouragement to James maybe he had found a dance partner for the night. James soon picked up the steps and the speed to double time. He began twirling her round and around the dance floor his feet moving non-stop in perfect time. James was afraid that he would lose her and that she would ask to slow down and maybe stop all together, but there she was keeping perfect time and perfect step. Her shoulder length auburn hair whipping back and forth as each twirl and twist sent it flying. James had never danced with anyone who had such grace and skill as she. The waltz was over too soon. James had wished it to go on forever, but nothing can last forever. James had taken her back to her seat as was the custom and sat next to her waiting for her to say she was ready for the next dance. The mystery girl gave him her 1bracelet as a sign of thanks and affection. James could not have been happier. He was thinking so much about the dance that had earned him his token that forgot to ask her name. He finally broke his dream and as he began to start speaking he was interrupted by another suitor who came up and asked for her hand for the next dance. She agreed to his proposal and off they went to dance. James was not one to be jealous, especially about a girl, but the feelings he had for that man that had taken her hand could only be described as pure jealousy rivaling hatred. James wanted his bow and a nice arrow preferably with a barb tip. This was new to James usually he was the one dismissing the girl now he was being dismissed. After the waltz she refused to dance with him again the entire night. James was shocked, he was afraid that he had somehow offended her, he slowly ran the night over and over in his mind to see what he might have done wrong. He returned repeatedly to the festival through out the week only to find that she was not there. He had missed his chance and didn’t even get a name just a token. He put the bracelet on never to take it off, maybe she would recognize it and come up to him.
Soon fall was upon him and he was ready to leave and go to woods for his hunt. The snow was falling lightly now. It covered the ground in a thin blanket of white, with some of the taller grass heads sticking out trying to grasp the last bit of sunshine they would see in months. The snow would leave excellent tracks. James had prepared everything for the trip. He found his self smiling as he headed out the gate towards the woods. He would follow the road for about an hours ride then turn left onto a path that was well hidden and hardly traveled. In fact as far as James knew no one else even knew it existed. He had actually stumbled upon the path on accident when he was much younger. It led to a perfect little spot for a camp. There was a fresh water spring that had seeped up onto the earth that would provide all the water necessary for him and his horse. This was surrounded by trees that provided excellent shade and scattered the smoke from his fire so that none would be able to see it. There was a small cave sitting at the edge of the pool that James had turned into his camp. It had extra quivers of arrows and some fishing line with bait. It was cozy and small but just the right size for him; this was the place that he considered home. The little camp is all that he could think of while traveling out the large gate of Redwall. His back slouched with his green hood wrapped tight around his broad shoulders, his strong legs steering the horse allowing his long arms to wrap around his chest. The snow may just appear to be falling, but the weather was defiantly cold. James loved this hunt, it provided the most challenge. Although the wind would disguise his scent to the animals, there would not be many to find and the few that would be out James would have to track for days to find the pack. James loved the challenge. Yet even with his mind on his favorite hunt ahead, his excitement was not at all what it usually was. He was still plagued by this mystery of a woman. But the fall will not wait for any one and he knows it the best. It’s a long ride into the woods to get to the best places to hunt and if he doesn’t leave now the deer that are so few in the area will soon migrate to newer places and he will have a hard time following them. The hunt was good and he found the deer and caught his fare share. Soon the winter came upon him and he began to hunt the bears in the area sneaking up on them in there cave and killing them. This time of year is his shortest hunt. You can only carry so many bears on a horse. So he packed up his camp and his game and headed into town. He was right on time; the winter festival was soon to begin. This was the largest festival of the entire year. Maybe he could find the mystery girl. James rode to his log cabin as usual and found the note as usual. He however did something unusual this time. He set the table for company. He went to bed early that night preparing for the day at the market. He woke early to get the bear skins and meet sold before the crowds got there. As he was selling his goods to the traders he saw her. She was just a few venders over. James had never gotten such a lower price for his bear skin then at that moment. He walked his horse over to the vender and casually bumped into her. He began to apologize for his clumsiness, only to realize that it was a different woman. James was baffled; he had never felt this way about a girl. He had other flings with girls, nothing ever going beyond the dance floor. Yet, this was different he spent his time thinking about her and dwelling on how smoothly she had flowed and followed his footsteps. His dreams were invaded by the mystery woman. She would take captive of his dreams only to tease him with her name, about to say it only to have James wake up before she says. James didn’t know whether to hate his dreams or sleep more to dream of her. All he knew was that tomorrow the festival started, he had to find her then.
The night was all too long, a prison that kept James locked away till dawn. He was so anxious on impressing the mystery women that he actually laid out his clothes and tried to mix and match them, only to fail miserably. He arrived early with the crowd that ate and talked as the band played music to listen to and eat to, not dance to. This was another first for James. He was never early. After what seemed an eternity the dancing finally began. James immediately started searching the ones coming in to see if he could spot the woman. No luck. He would have to look round the dance floor and hope that she would come. The entire town shut down for this festival, she had to be here. Then James saw her. She was sitting alone this time, and James got butterflies in his stomach. This was all too new to him. He could track a grizzly into its cave and kill while it slept, but this . . . this was entirely different. He nervously walked to the table and asked if the seat next to her was taken. She invited him to sit and soon they began talking. She had recognized him that made James happy for that means that maybe she had thought of him as well. James soon found out her name was Jasel. She was the daughter of a very well know merchant. The merchant was very famous in the town. He owned one main store but made his true money on the imports and exports of the town. She exceeded all expectations that James had for her. Jasel was brilliant, she was one of the few women in the town who was being schooled and was learning quicker than most of the men. James was awestruck at how much she knew. She was marvelous and James almost forgot to ask her to dance. In fact it was her who had asked him. Jasel and James danced all night long and well into the morning. The dances were even better than the first. James would test her ability to follow by spinning one way then the other, only to have Jasel follow in perfect step. James loved it. He had never danced with anyone good enough to follow him the entire night. James was sad to depart from her, but soon began planning there next encounter. The next day he went to the father. Jasel’s father was a good man and knew James only by his reputation, as a skilled hunter. Jasel’s father began to prepare for the banter that would take place between them about the skins or meet that James would sell. Yet James shocked him completely by asking if he could see his daughter Jasel. This scared Jasel’s father. He was a man of knowledge and leverage. He knew everything about everyone and made it a point to know where and who some one came from. He knew the entire town, except James. James was a mystery to everyone. In fact very few is known about him. The only solid fact that people know is that he is a very skilled hunter. This lack of knowledge scared Jasel’s father. He did not like not knowing things about people and it took James some time to convince him that he was sincere. Yet, James finally got the merchant father to agree to let James see Jasel, but only after James had promised to sell him the first hunt of the summer. James usually would turn this offer down in an instant and walk out. But the father had something that James wanted more than anything; Jasel. With the fathers approval he began courting Jasel.
The two became very close very quickly; Jasel was in awe of James’ ability to read people and his uncanny ability to say exactly what you need to hear at the right moment. She would never have guessed that James was educated, minimally yes, but educated none the less. His speech was perfect and he was surprisingly good around people. James was enamored by her vast amount of knowledge, and her ability to keep James thinking on her and her alone. James learned to accept that no matter what Jasel would always amaze him at every turn. She was funny and actually a bit mischievous. She was also beautiful. She was taller for a woman that fit James for he was not at all short. She was perfect for James; everything about her was beautiful to him. Her legs were mesmerizing; her feet stepped in confidence and with a steadiness that mirrored her character. Yet, James’ favorite attribute and the most stunning was her eyes. At first glance they seemed a common and plain brown. But just like her, they were much more. James knew the secret of the eyes, they were not at all brown, instead a deep olive color as exotic as her name. These eyes were captivating. James would get caught many times just looking in them taking in the vast love shown in them. A love James shared but too often failed to communicate. Jasel was the most intoxicating women that James had ever known. Just in the few short months that he had with her James had fallen in love. Jasel was so much more than just another girl he had met at a dance hall. She had depth, she could and they often did talk for hours upon hours. They would spend days wasted away just talking. James was truly in love, but he could not stop thinking and longing about his hunts and his woods.
James soon found his self slipping more and more away from the woods and his hunt. He began skipping the smaller hunting chances that he would usually jump on to spend time with Jasel. James missed the hunts and the woods that Jasel kept him from, but James did get to hunt every now and then. Soon James found it necessary to open a business for him self. Since all he knew to do was hunt and trade, he became a trader. His trading skills were the best in the town and arguably the best in the city. With his new found business he didn’t have to hunt so much to earn enough to survive. He could spend more time in the city with Jasel. But along with the business came effort and James soon found it harder and harder to get out into the woods to hunt. He built an attachment to his house to store all his hunting tools to make room for the furniture that he was buying to better suite the company coming over more frequently. James was becoming more and more like a normal citizen in the town. James was becoming well known and well respected in the town. Jasel’s father could not have been more proud that his daughter was the woman on his arm. James loved it even more than he. He loved Jasel wanted to marry her. When he finally summed up the courage to ask Jasel quickly answered with a simple yes. The dates began to get set and Jasel’s father could not have been prouder. The father soon began to look for deals on wedding arrangements. It was going to be a grand festival and a grand sight. The whole town was to be invited and James and Jasel were to have nothing less than the best. Everything was going perfect for the both James and Jasel. James could make his way to the woods and still spend time with Jasel.
James and Jasel were happy, but soon James stopped hunting regularly. Eventually he stopped altogether. Everything seemed perfect to Jasel, but to James it was miserable. The business demanded so much from him that he could not find time to go hunting and the hunter part of his body screamed to be let loose in the woods. He was a man living two lives that would not meld together. One life was the life of a skilled hunter who loved only to hunt and be in the woods. The other life was the one he was living now, the very successful businessman, who was soon to be married and would never leave the city to hunt. James was torn between the two things that mattered most in his life, Jasel and the woods. The woods were calling him every time he looked at the window on the east side of home. James began to go hunting more. He had now many people working for him and didn’t have to run the stores or the stalls. So he found time to go out and be with the woods. He would be gone for weeks hunting the game in the woods. Nothing long enough to stay away from home though. He would always be back before he needed more supplies. Jasel was afraid, she soon asked him to stop hunting so that they could spend time together. She asked not in selfish motives only to make sure that she wasn’t losing him. James was heart broken. He wanted to be with her and the woods, but he had to choose between the two.
How could he? The two loves in his life each wanted to be the one love in his life. He found his self lost and with no one to go to. Soon he went back to his camp in the outskirts of the woods. He wasn’t sure why he had gone back to the camp. He hadn’t used it in so long; not even on the smaller hunts that he went on now. The place was run down and in need of much up keep. James began to clean it running across many reminders of all the times he had spent in the woods hunting the game. James then found something that he thought had lost a long time ago. He sat there just staring at it thinking about the times that he had had. James had finally found the answer to his problem. He soon began to pack up the camp and go home. He would never again use this sight as a camp. The pain was almost unbearable as he rode back home on his steed. James could only love one thing and he had finally found his true love.
He went to Jasel’s home and prepared himself to do the hardest thing that he would ever have to do. He knocked on the door like always and the father answered and called her down. The two men exchanged small talk about business and other things as she came down. James had caught her off guard with the visit and she had to rush to get ready. She still looked stunning. She came to the door and James led her down the street and began the long talk. He told her of how he had gone to the camp and packed it up. He told her of all the turmoil that he had been going through and the difficulty he had of making a choice between his hunting and her. He told her that he had come to a decision and thought it only fair that she knew first. James told Jasel that he would not be able to marry her or continue to court her. His heart would not and could not give up the woods for her or any other girl. He loved it and belonged there. He dropped her off at her house and apologized one last time wishing that he had never had to break her heart. Then after forcing his self to look one last time into her deep olive eyes he turned around and walked away. James had sworn that he would never lie to her or betray her. He was true to his word. He looked down holding the item that had made up his mind, his bow. James had never been heart broken. He had loved Jasel with every part of his body, except his heart. His heart belonged and always would belong in the woods. James could not contain the tears that were in his eyes. He was not one to cry and could count the times that he had cried in his whole life on one hand. Yet even in the midst of all the tears and pain for Jasel he had found that he belonged to the woods. James disappeared the next day, he left a note in his house giving all his shops and stalls to Jasel’s father, his house to his neighbor, and an envelope for Jasel. The envelope was a letter explaining that he had loved her, but it would not be fair to her if he did not leave for the woods. James would always be longing for the woods more than her. She deserved better. Jasel was in tears by the end of the letter. As she turned away she saw something fall from the envelope. James left her a token. A bracelet inscribe with three simple words “save the waltz”.
It had been eight long years since the last time he had rode through the familiar gates of Redwall. The memories of all the things that had happened such a long time ago flooded back as he past the dance hall. He continued down the street and turned into the all too familiar back streets to where his house once sat. In its place was a red walled building of three stories, not at all what he had left such a long time ago. He then rode to the wealthier side of the town. There it sat, the long front lawn that had a cobblestone path surrounded by perfectly cut and perfectly colored green grass with trees placed in the perfect place. James knew this walk, it led to her. He sat there just staring at the path allowing his thoughts to go back to the very place he swore never to go to. James could picture the purple dress, he could hear the music, and felt the swish of the auburn hair. He clinched his left wrist, the silver bracelet shining in the sun beaming as if it knew it was home. James could not tell how long he had stared at the house, but he was interrupted by a butler requesting if he had business at the house. James could not summon the courage to ask for her but instead inquired about her father. He had passed away almost six years ago in a fatal accident at sea. Jasel had then taken over the business until she married a wealthy out of state business man. James was filled with pain just at the sound of her name; Jasel the beauty that plagued him. He gave the bracelet to the butler and asked if he would give it to Jasel with his congratulations on the marriage and best wishes. He rode out the gates again, this time he swore never again would he return and walk through those gates. His heart was closed in by the same gates that enclosed her. He turned one last time to get one last look upon the city, and there she was standing at the gate. James tipped his hat then rode away. He was happy in the woods nothing would ever make him leave them again. Good bye Jasel.