Anne Bannerman, Tales of Superstition and Chivalry by Emma Bailey, April 1998.
Knights return from the Crusades in the Holy Land. Sir Guyon has led an army which returns to his castle to celebrate their victories in the Crusades. Sir Guyon becomes distracted and anxious. While they are eating, a woman dressed in white and veiled from head to foot takes her seat at the head of the table. Each knight is amazed at her appearance and they pay particular attention to her eyes darting beneath the veil. They are transfixed and unable to move until the clock strikes midnight, at which point the Ladie rises and fills a shell with wine. She proposes a toast and all traces of life appear to vanish from the knights. When their sentries return, the Ladie is gone and they fall asleep. Each knight dreams of the Ladie and the events of the evening. They remark at how someone as brave is Sir Guyon could grow so pale and tremble at the sight of this woman. Sir Guyon only sees her face once, yet his lifeblood drained as soon as their eyes met. She is sometimes seen in the tower with a strange light emanating from behind the curtains. Her story is that she left her husband's house to flee with a knight but to do so she had to leave her son behind; after that, no-one knows where Sir Guyon took her or why her face is veiled. 'The Prophetess of the Oracle of Seam' A ship is sailing near the Isle of Seam when the whole crew is troubled by what sounds like a shriek of woe coming from somewhere nearby. A monk on the ship tells them the story of the Prophetess. He tells of terrors in the Isle's caves, how for thirty sleepless months he listened to the shrieks until one night something beckoned him on to the Oracle of Flame. A curtain hid the Prophetess with one hand stretched from without the veil, she beckoned him to lay his cross on the unhallowed place. He saw the Prophetess as the veil that hid the sacrifice was drawn. As he tells this he is in agony and dies afterwards. Forty years pass and in the church at Einsidlin, a priest sees a monk at the altar rail. He kneels on the step to pray. As the priest moves towards him, he sees it is the face of the Holy Father Paul (the monk). The priest is amazed; it is forty years since the ship was wrecked and all on board had died, including Father Paul.
'The Perjured Nun'
This poem tells the story of Lord Henrie, who must spend the night alone in the Eastern tower. He tells his wife, Geraldine, about a number of signs that will tell if he is alive or not. If, at 2 o'clock, the lamp still burns, she will know he is still alive; if, when the clock strikes 4 o'clock, the lights are out, she will know he is gone. He asks her to swear that whatever happens she will not come looking for him. At 2 o'clock the lamp is still burning but at 4 o'clock, the lamp has gone out. She hears a sound from the tower but she is frozen with fear until she finds the courage to burst through the door.
'The Penitent's Confession'
It is the eve of St Peter's Day and the first time anyone has been to confession for five years. The priest crosses a penitent's forehead three times and this comforts him enough to let him tell his story. He tells the tale of the dead Ellinor whose loss he mourns greatly. He recounts the funeral and his journey home. When he reached the river he saw a figure on the bridge, its arm outstretched refusing to let him pass. He saw the white robes and grew horror struck as he realised it might be Ellinor. He knows that this cannot be but as he reached her side she rested upon his arm. She was a dead-weight and her hair was wet with rain and mist. He did not remove his arm and they carried on until morning when at the beach the figure left him. This was twenty years previous and it's only now that he has come to confess. As proof of his story he shows the priest his arm where there is nothing but withered bone. The priest is so horrified at this tale that he retires to his cell never to leave it again.
'The Festival of St Magnus the Martyr'
Ladie Ellenor is waiting for her husband to return from a hunting trip. Josceline tells her that he has seen him at St Magnus the Martyr's tomb and that if she waits until midnight, he will meet her there. So she goes, but when she arrives there is no sign of Josceline. After tiring of waiting she begins to climb the stairs. At the first step the clay is moist but the other steps are hard and dry. Intrigued by this she picks up some of the earth and finds that it is a deep red. Josceline is in the tomb but Ladie Ellenor doesn't return from the vault. At a service for the Festival of St Magnus the Martyr a nun shrieks 'like the shrill voice of death'. She advances down the aisle until she reaches the arch of St Magnus's tomb at which point she turns and lifts her veil. What is revealed is the face of Ladie Ellenor and in her hand she holds the hard pressed red clay. Now whenever the words 'blood for blood' are read at the service for St Magnus's Festival, the last response to echo is that shrill voice of the dead.
Basil is a young fisherman who has lived his life in the wilderness of the seashore. One night he returns to his hut and a wild storm is brewing. He has slept through such things many times before but on this night a dread fear comes over him. He hears a moan that sounds like someone lost. It comes nearer until it reaches his door, where the sound becomes like a voice of the dying. It is so close that he can count the breaths. He hears footsteps running away as well as moans. As dawn approaches he can just make out where a form lies upon its face. He leaves the hut but cannot see anything and carries on until he reaches a cave. He makes this his home now as his hut is haunted. He has wild dreams and sleepwalks to his hut. Close beside it is a pile of stones that marks the grave of a body, and seamen can see it as a beacon on the mainland.
'The Fishermen of Lapland'
This tells a story based on the legend of Peter of Lapland, who lost his boat in a storm. On a calm evening, a stranger stops on his journey from Ildegas Forest to Archangels Bay. The stranger is unable to find anywhere to rest and so he spends the night in the elements. He is standing on the top of a cliff when a shadow falls beside him. The shadow is fixed but there is no evidence of a living thing that could be making it. The stranger is now in some sort of trance and the strange thing is that the summit of the mountain is above the very place where old Peter of Lapland lost both his boat and his life.
'The Murican Cavalier'
A tournament is being staged for the hand of the Queen of Castille. The contestants in the duel are the famous Prince of Seville and an unknown Knight (the Murican Cavalier). The Queen is far away from Castille awaiting her fate at the outcome of the tournament. While she is alone on the battlement she hears the sound of a horse coming from the Forest and a few minutes later the Murican Cavalier is there before her. He declares his true love for her and she reluctantly leaves her retreat, bound for his castle. They travel many miles through an eerie and mysterious landscape until eventually a turret is visible through the trees. She gives him her hand as he helps her climb the stairs. As she grasps his hand she feels that it is stiff, damp and numb and a terrible shiver takes hold of her body. As they reach the inner hall of the castle, a light falls upon the Cavalier's face, which is white with the look of death. As he stretches his arm towards her, it crashes to the ground and nothing more is seen of him. At the end of every evening, though, the Queen of Castille walks upon the battlement with a pale and wild look in her face. She is now known by the local girls as the Ladie of the Wood.
'The Black Knight of the Water'
Earl William rides to Scoone where King Robert is waiting for him on the battlements. He wants Earl William to ride to the castle on the hill where Lord John's train sleeps on the plain. When he gets there he is to count the number of men Lord John has with him. King Robert tells him how to get to his destination and warns him of dangers along the way. When he reaches the cross on the lea he must pray and when he leaves the cross he must beware of the marsh of sedge. Earl William sets out but when he reaches the cross he forgets to pray and Robert's warning about the marsh of sedge slips his mind too. At the edge of the marsh William's horse refuses to go any further and so he is stranded. He dismounts and as he does so a wind whirls around him and the middle of the lake billows like a tossing sea. The water parts down the middle and a Knight in armour rises from the gap. His armour is black iron and as he makes a step the earth which his foot touches withers and dies. Earl William tries to attack the Knight with his spear but to no avail. He finds that his sword waves in the wind like the branch of a willow tree. The wind rises around him again and Earl William moves no more, for the eye that has seen the Black Knight of the Water never does move again.
'The Prophecy of Merlin'
King Arthur is prepares to do battle with Modred on Camlan Hill. He kills Modred but also seriously injures himself in the process. He lays down on his shield and puts his helmet on to stop the bleeding. Nobody around him has heard him die and a time comes when they feel that they have to call on Merlin's help to open his helmet to assure themselves of the situation. To their astonishment they find that the helmet is empty and the body is gone; all that remains is a hollow suit of armour. Arthur has been taken away by the Queen of the Yellow Isle. When he awakes from his deathlike sleep there is nothing to see but sky and sea. He loses all sense of time in the boat. He believes he is doomed to stay on the ship forever. As he reaches his darkest hour he sees an island and on the shore stands the Queen of Beauty. In her hand she holds a cup of pearl from which Arthur takes a drink. As he drinks he thinks of the words Merlin's spirit brought and he looks at her with fear. He sees reproach in her eyes, and as he drains the cup, his eyes become raptured and she becomes a demon. As she raises her other arm Arthur knows the hand of blood. He is fated to slumber in the cave for many years before he can see his kingdom again. His body is never found and he is never laid in a holy grave.