A snowflake flutters onto his lashes, melts, is blinked away before another lands. What began as a flurry is falling heavier now, snow settling in the pits and dips in mud grown solid under days of frost and bitter wind.
He doesn’t notice. Doesn’t see the bare trees, black lacework against the solid grey sky, or the vixen crossing the barren field, her belly sunk with hunger, her brush thin, the dull russet hair. He doesn’t see her stop, raise her nose to sniff the air – to sniff him – and hurry on her way, too cautious, too experienced to stay where the meaty, lactic tang of humans hangs.
The world passes unseen.
All he knows are his breathing and the exquisite crystal teardrop that’s nestled in his palm, the golden wires that twine and coil along the edge, that twist into the snout, the flaring nostrils of a fierce beast, that whirl into two great, fathomless eyes, protecting the king, his emerald gown, the coal black stare.
His hands grow hard with the cold, as if the stone has sunk into him, made him stone too. The snow falls harder, blotting out the sky, the vixen’s tracks, the spindle trees – leaving him, the king and the snow.
There was one object I though of after reading the prompt word – The Alfred Jewel. Twelve hundred years old, it’s one of the finest examples of Anglo Saxon goldsmithing in this country.
Commissioned by King Alfred himself, as the inscription “aelfred mec heht gewyrcan” (Alfred ordered me made) attests, it’s always seemed like a perfect, magical object to me and I tried to imagine how the man who found it in the late seventeenth century might have felt as it lay in his hand.
See here to learn more about the jewel.