The Hunt

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Horror  |  House: Booksie Classic
The Wild Hunt is featured in the folklore of lots of different countries, this story is based on the Welsh version.

Submitted: October 28, 2016

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Submitted: October 28, 2016

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The Hunt.

 

Gareth and Cariss were clearing up. It seemed only fair to let their visiting cousins go out and explore while they got on with doing the chores. Gareth busied himself at the kitchen sink, washing the dishes; Cariss set about clearing up the living room, picking up rubbish, polishing away the rings that glasses had left on the furniture, dragging around the vacuum cleaner. It wouldn’t do to let the place get in too much of a mess after their parents had trusted them to behave responsibly.

 

Jacob and Amanda were quite prepared to do their share but it was their holiday. It would do no harm for them to have a break from that sort of responsibility, for a couple of days at least. Gareth had told them to go off and explore and Cariss had shrugged in agreement.

 

Just as she was finishing up, Cariss heard the door open and her cousins return. They couldn’t have got much exploring done in that time.

 

Have you seen that sky?” Jacob asked, as Cariss joined them in the kitchen with Gareth.

 

And I thought it was supposed to stay dry! It looks like there’s a real storm on the way and I really didn’t want us to get stuck out there in that!” Amanda picked up a tea towel and automatically started drying plates.

 

Cariss walked over to the window and looked out towards the mountains. The forecast had been for hazy sunshine alright, but the sky outside was looking far from that. The clouds were a deep black and purple colour, edged with a yellowy grey. They looked sickly, poisonous, not natural at all.

 

The mountains were no stranger to storm clouds. Once gathered there they tended to hang around, revolving around the mountains. The thunder and lightning would move off, only to return several more times before the storms moved on. No, storms were no strangers to these parts but Cariss had never seen any that looked quite so full and heavy as these. She shuddered and turned away.

 

Did you hear that?” Amanda asked. “It sounded like one of those horns. You know, the ones they used to use in all those hunts before they were banned.”

 

Jacob stood and listened. “Nope. Can’t hear a thing! Gareth, did they ban hunts out here as well?

 

Gareth nodded. “Although lots of people still go out in ones and twos, and if you wander in the woods you’d do best to keep your eye on the ground. There’s plenty of traps still set – not that anyone will admit to owning them. But hunts with a horn? No, I’ve never known there to be even one.”

 

The sound came again, and this time the four of them heard it. They each looked from one to the other, then walked towards the door. Outside, the atmosphere was heavy, stifling. It was almost too thick to breathe. Dogs could be heard barking in the distance. No, they weren’t barking; the sound they were hearing was unmistakable. It was without a doubt the baying of hounds as they ran in pursuit of their prey.

 

Well, I guess hunting is still alive and well in Wales, then.” Gareth gave a sheepish grin. “Just you wait until they get caught. There’ll be hell to pay.”

 

Shh,” said Cariss. “Listen. Can you hear them? The hooves?”

 

And there were hoof beats now audible, and not just a few. Strange how the sounds seemed to be coming from so high up. They couldn’t be travelling all the way from the mountains and still sounding so clear. That cloud had got thicker, denser, a lot bigger; and it was from there that the sounds seemed to be coming from. Cariss shook her head, told herself to stop imagining things.

 

I think we’d better all get indoors,” Gareth said, urgency clear in his voice. “Do you remember the tales Car? You know, the ones Granda was always telling us.”

 

But Gareth, they were just stories. Folk tales, a bit like the faerie tales. They weren’t based on any facts! Were they?”

 

What? What is it? What’s going on?” Amanda was picking up on Garath’s panic, but had no idea what it was that was causing it.

 

The Wild Hunt? We did a bit about that at school but that was Nordic, not Celtic,” Jacob said. “And I don’t remember there being any mention of dogs.”

 

Hounds! And this is the Celtic version. If they see you, that’s it! You’ll find yourself becoming one of them.”

 

The sight of that cloud almost pulsating with some kind of threat took Cariss’ confidence away. And even as she was watching the storm cloud itself seemed to split apart, spewing forth a horse’s leg, it’s head starting to appear just after. And a dog, not a normal dog, but one who’s fur was matted with blood, his blackness speckled with the white froth that was pouring from his mouth.

 

Get in! Don’t look.” Gareth turned his back on the cloud as the others threw themselves through the door, back into the kitchen. Jacob and Amanda clung to each other, shaking, and Gareth stood staring at the floor. He looked as though he was in shock.

 

But Cariss could not turn away. She had to look, to see what was happening. She moved towards the window, peered around the curtain, her eyes wide and her mouth open. What she was seeing could not be true. It was impossible; just could not happen.

 

Cariss! What the hell are you doing? Don’t you remember the warnings? ‘Whoever looks at the hunt will join the hunt.’ Don’t look! Turn away.”

 

I’ll be fine, Gareth. So long as they don’t see me. Don’t make a fuss, okay.” Cariss kept her gaze fixed on the window and the vision that was forming out there. “If we stay hidden and quiet they’ll just pass us, go on their way.”

 

Says you. I’m not chancing it, and neither should you,” Gareth was now addressing Jacob and Amanda.

 

No fear! I don’t want to look.” Amanda sat down at the table and put her head in her hands.

 

The hunt was now coming into view. Black horses, but not normal ones. Massive spectral beasts looking more dead than alive. Their legs were striding out in a full gallop, their heads tossing from side to side, nostrils flaring with the effort of the chase. The men and women that rode the horses looked crazed, fearsome, ready to attack anything and everything that got in their way. Somehow they managed to look ageless, both young and old at the same time. Like the horses, they did not look to be fully alive.

 

But it was the dogs that really captured Cariss’ attention. They were tall, rangy, unnaturally so. They were so thin, and yet exuded strength and menace. Their prey would have no chance of escaping with it’s life. The eyes though, they were a pure evil red which seemed to glow, to search.

 

Even though they were moving at full speed they seemed to be progressing slowly across the sky. The horses tossed their heads, thrashed their tails. The hounds were scenting, nostrils flaring, ears pricked forward, listening for the slightest interesting sound. The riders rode, one hand on the reins, one hand brandishing their weapon of choice, a spear, a sword, a long-handled dagger. There were even a couple of bows.

 

Cariss wanted to look away, tried to stop her eyes from staring back into those of one of the searching hounds. She had been wrong to believe she was safe because she was indoors. The curtain had not protected her from attracting that dog’s gaze. She felt her head raising as it lifted on it’s own and bayed at the sky. She tried to deny the urge to run out and join in the chase, to fight off that impulse to ride wild and free. Cariss tried to resist but she didn’t have a chance.

 

As she felt herself running in pursuit, found herself on her own horse, she thought she heard her brother call out to her. She thought she heard Amanda scream, Jacob shout, but it was just a distant whisper. Her ears were now in tune with the hunt as she galloped along at the back of the group, destined now to be part of the Wild Hunt forever, and leaving her body slumped lifeless on the floor.

 

 

 

 


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