Page 481: One Bright Day in the Middle of the Night
One Bright Day in the Middle of the Night
Summary: Darek meets the Hunter, a Children of the Forest myth brought to flesh.
Date: 16 November 2012
Related Logs: Can't Find My Way Home, Of Wolves and Ghost Stories, An Apple a Day
Darek Wild 
Forests of Highfield
A clearing in the middle of the forests.
November, 16, 289

one bright day in the middle of the night,
two dead boys got up to fight.
back to back they faced each other,
drew their swords and shot each other.
a deaf sheriff heard the noise
and ran to save the two dead boys.
and if you don’t believe it’s true,
go ask the blind man, he saw it too.

Darek Boldt has been in the forests of Highfield for a couple hours, now. His investigation started at the pig pens where the missing boy was seen last, and strange footprints still stood stark in the dried mud. They took him into the woods, past familiarity, and where the trees grew tall and thick. He found a tear of bloodstained cloth some ways in, and now the trail leads him into a brief clearing where the trees are spindly; the grasses here look trampled, and the rotting skeleton of a deer dominates it's center.

Tracking isn't Darek's strong suit, but it's something he learned with Ser Henric around Stone Hedge. The bloodstained cloth — now tucked into his belt-pouch — made him glad that he had brought his sword on his search. He shifts a bit to get a look up at the far-distant sun to gauge its progress, then gets back to the trail. Stepping to the edge of the clearing, he looks about, something about the grass sticking up around the moldering corpse of a deer sending a shiver up his spine. "Fuck a duck, Darek…" the words are whispered, and he draws in a breath, taking one step out onto the trampled grass and looking around warily.

As Darek approaches the deer, he would notice the strange hush that has fallen over this region of the forests; there is not a bird call nor a rustle of the underbrush. There is the faintest buzz of flies as they swarm around the last little stretches of flesh over the dirty bones. It will take Darek a few more steps into the clearing before something bursts from the northern edge of the clearing. It is mounted, but that cannot be a horse. It's coat is patched with scales, horns curling out between it's tall ears. It has no mane, and it's tail looks like the stub of a lizard's tail. Red is smeared across its flank, and it's forehead and eyes are obscured by a mask of bone.

This all is nothing compared to the rider for it cannot be a man. He is monsterous with shoulders that are too wide for his height, and he is draped in furs; similar to the plates of bone covering the mount's face, there is the entire skull of a buck with curved, sharpened antlers. What bits of dark flesh that can be seen behind the cloak of furs is covered in vines and leaves. This is the Hunter, the one from the stories, a mythical Child of the Forest. And he is looking right at Darek.

When nothing happens the moment he steps out into the clearing, he relaxes just a moment, stepping around the deer to head to the other side of the clearing to try and pick up the tracks again. And then the motion sends him hopping back and his hand diving to the hilt of his sword, "What the — " He probably wishes that was a bit more composed, but at least he keeps his feet. The squire opens his mouth to speak up again, and then really takes in the monstrous creature on the other side of the clearing. "Holy Seven Above…" that's a whisper, and he takes a step back, trying to drag the tatters of his composure about him.

The Hunter does not speak, but that does not mean he is a silent creature. His breathing almost wheezes and chokes beneath the bare-bone snout of the skull. His mount strides forward, showing off horse-like hooves that cut through the grass like blades. From beneath the drapes of fur, he pulls free a bastard sword; the blade is notched in places, and it is stained in bits of red — blood or rust is anyone's guess. He points the tip of the blade at Darek. "Leave this place," he wheezes.

Darek opens his mouth, freezes a heartbeat, and then finds his voice, even if his usually-light tenor is instead tight and sharp, "I'm here for the child." It's a tremulous statement, and his footsteps continue backward, carefully set down so as to not catch on any rocks, branches, or anything else hidden in the grass. He's heading back to the treeline, looking to put the horsem — thing-rider — at a disadvantage if the frightful creature chooses to charge. "Where is the child?"

"Not yours," the Hunter replies in a hoarse broken voice. "They belong to me." The mount continues forward, it's scale-rimmed nostrils flaring. "Go home, little Andal. They belong to me." He spurs the horse-beast forward suddenly, and the creature starts to charge the squire with the thunder of sharp hooves and the sword is brought up with a deadly sweep. "Go home!" The voice bellows, echoing around the little clearing in the trees.

Darek raises up his voice, a little stronger this time, "Mine!" And then the mount starts forward, and Darek hops backward, bumping into one of the spindly trees at the edge of the clearing. The charge of the creature causes him to duck back and around the tree, putting it between him and the creature, "Oh shit!" He hurries back another couple of steps, actually drawing forth his own worn blade. "Mott has a Ma, and Da. He doesn't belong to you!" At least his voice didn't crack.

The horse-creature rears up as the forests inhibit further movement, and the Hunter draws his mount back several paces with an irritated toss of his skull-masked head. "Mine," the Hunter says softer, calmer. He starts to back his mount up, his blade still out. "You want to take them back… find us." And then the mount turns at the rough tug of the reins. He starts to ride off toward the east, turning his skull-face toward the squire as he does.

Darek gains a bit of confidence when the creepy creature pulls up, hefting his broadsword low at his right side, "I found you here, I'll find you wherever you run, and I'll get Mott back!" He starts to take a step forward, then glances nervously to the trees on either side of him, and then steps back again quickly. He watches the creature disappear, staying carefully inside the treeline, and then he lets out a breath, muttering a little shakily to himself, "Seven Above… and I'm totally bringing my bow when I do."

And disappear, the Hunter does, almost as mysteriously as he appeared.