Summary (Masterplots II: Short Story Series, Revised Edition)
This fablelike story of vendetta and reconciliation begins with a short history of conflict between two families in the Carpathian Mountains of Eastern Europe. Ulrich von Gradwitz, the local nobleman, is patrolling a narrow stretch of scrubby woodland that borders his much larger and more valuable holdings of forestland. The land that he patrols, however, acquires its value in his eyes because it was the subject of a lawsuit between his grandfather and the grandfather of a neighbor, Georg Znaeym, now his archenemy. At the origin of the conflict, each family held that the other claimed the woodland illegally; now, although Ulrich patrols the land as his, Georg regularly hunts its poor woods, simply to indicate his continued claim of rightful possession. What began as a legal battle generations before has become a personal and hate-filled conflict between the two current representatives of the families in the dispute.
On this particular night, both Ulrich and Georg, assisted by their retainers and huntsmen, have come out onto the land. Each comes nominally to defend his claim, but actually to destroy his great enemy by shooting him down in his tracks on the land over which they have disputed for so long. Despite a windstorm that would usually keep the wildlife in secure hiding, many animals are abroad, and Ulrich is sure that this restlessness indicates the presence of his enemy on the slopes.
Straying from his party of retainers and wandering through the woods, Ulrich unexpectedly comes face-to-face with Georg. Each is armed with a rifle, and each intends to use it because no interlopers will interfere, but not without some parting words of vengeance and hatred. Before either can speak, however, a sharp blast of wind tears from the ground the giant...
(The entire section is 726 words.)
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