The Wild Hunt
as told by Beck
This got away from me honestly lol but enjoy this bit of insight into Beck’s childhood!
Slight trigger warning, implied death of an unnamed man at the end, he goes missing and isn’t found
The forest is the lifeline of the village. They house the animals and plants that our people hunt and gather all year round. Deer and rabbits provide meat and furs, and the many berries that grow here are made into sweet pies and preserves. The long river that runs through the woods is the only source of water for miles. We make our homes from its trees. Many children spent their early years playing in the shade of the old poplar trees that line the edge of the woods.
But the wilderness is dangerous.
Everyone knows that. The first thing I learned was that there are bears and wolves and coyotes in those trees. You'll be safe if you stay close to the village; never wander off too deep. But you don't want to get careless and forget you're not alone in the trees.
There is something else in the woods.
Something far worse than wolves or bears.
As a child, I was told stories of strange creatures—men with horns, women with sharp fangs, and things far stranger than any living animal. Stories meant to keep me in my bed at night, and they worked for far longer than they probably should have.
The older kids teased me for being scared of goblins and ghouls. My Pa would always say there's no harm in being scared, but that didn't make me feel better or less scared. Our cabin was the one closest to the woods. Closer to the trees than to any other homes.
I just knew those trees hide something horrible.
Pa never told me they didn't, and that just made things worse. Every night I would look out my window expecting to see some horrible creature, maybe a giant spider or a person with big teeth ready to gobble me up. I would stay up half the night watching the thin poplar trees until I fell asleep at my little windowsill.
I think I was maybe thirteen when I just couldn't take it anymore. I had to know if something really was out there. I was finally all grown up in my child's mind; thirteen was a big number! I couldn't still be keeping watch at my windowsill at thirteen. That was silly and childish and I was all grown up.
So I snuck out.
I had this whole plan. I found this big strong stick a few days before and hid it near the front door, so I could grab it and use it as a weapon if I found something big and scary. I was tall for my age, and I could fight well enough with the older teenagers who picked on me. So I figured that with a pointy stick, I could probably protect myself from a wolf.
I was absolutely terrified. The trees dwarfed even a tall thirteen-year-old, and suddenly I felt utterly unprepared for my little adventure.
In my head, I would bravely march into the trees with my stick, the path lit by the moon, and prove that nothing more dangerous than a few coyotes lived in the whole forest. I would come back and be braver than all the other kids, even the ones who mocked me- because I knew that for all their teasing, they were too scared to go into the woods at night.
It’s very different actually being there, teetering on the edge of this vast ancient thing in the pitch black.
I didn’t want to go back inside. That would mean I failed to prove I was a big brave adult, which would be worse than the end of the world. But I didn’t want to walk into those trees either. Either way, it felt like a death sentence.
I don’t think I made a choice. I just kept standing there, staring, for what felt like hours- holding my stick for what was probably actually only five minutes. There was this tension in the air like something big was about to happen, and if I moved, everything would focus on me.
Then all of a sudden, I hear hoofbeats.
Now our tiny village didn’t have a lot of horses, so it was pretty weird to hear hoofbeats from the forest in the middle of the night. Sure, sometimes travelers would come through on horseback or with horse-drawn wagons, but they had no reason to be coming in through the forest. It was way too dense and overgrown; there’s no clear paths for a person, let alone a horse.
But since I was scared of giant monsters and not horses, I was a little bit relieved.
‘Oh good,’ I thought, ‘just a someone on their horse. No giant monsters here to eat me.’
Of course, it wasn’t just a horse, or I wouldn’t be telling this story. I was just about to turn around and go back to my nice warm bed when I finally saw it.
Lights glowing in the trees.
Cold blue will-o-wisps floating through the trees. The seemed to light the way for the rider I had heard, and he was like nothing I had ever seen before.
His wild white hair flew behind him like snow, and his pale blue skin seemed to glow from within. Everything about him seemed sharp and cold and dangerous. His mount, which I could now see, wasn’t a horse, but a giant reindeer.
Everything seemed to freeze at that moment. I swear I could even see my breath cloud up. My feet felt like lead as everything inside me screamed to run away, get back to my bed and hide.
But I couldn’t. I stood there, and I stared as the otherworldly rider got closer and closer to the tree line. He wasn’t looking my way, or he would have seen me. I was just standing out in the open, staring like a fool.
Something caught the rider's attention; I have no idea what. He suddenly whistled a short sharp note that summon ten huge black dogs out of nothing. They were almost the same size as a cow, and their fur flickered and floated around like smoke.
The hounds saw their master point at something in the distance, still never looking my way, and they were off. That signal was all the hounds needed, and they bounded off through the trees, howling and clearly on the hunt. The rider followed after them slowly, like he had all the time in the world. Some primal part of me knew I had just barely escaped death.
I didn’t move until I couldn’t see any more lights, and by then I was half sure I was dreaming and would wake up at any moment. When I was sure it was safe, I ran home and hid in my bed.
The next morning, a man was missing. He was new in town; I didn’t even know his name. People looked for him for weeks. They searched the forest high and low and never found any trace of him or a body. Some people said he must have just left, and some said he probably got drunk and lost his way in the trees. The older folks in my village never said anything, just looked at each other with knowing eyes and told us kids to stay out of the trees.
I never told anyone what I saw the night he went missing. I stopped watching out my window at night. There were things in the trees and I didn’t want to see them.