I love the people who check my blog, and I want to give them presents. Below is the beginning of my short story The Wild Hunt, coming out in the anthology Myths and Magic on the 15th with Dreamspinner. This snippet will be available on their blog on the 16th, but you guys get it first.
David Evans first witnessed the wild hunt when he was five years old. It was Halloween night, and his mother was dressing him up as a pumpkin. David would much rather have been dressed as a Ninja Turtle, Donatello by preference, but his pleas fell on deaf ears. Cuteness won out over being cool, and early that evening, a saggy orange ball protecting his body from the cold Colorado air and a green woolen cap tied tightly to his head, he and his older cousins headed out to make the rounds in their sleepy mountain town.
The sky had already darkened by the time they left the house, and the wind, which tended to be fierce at that time of year, had picked up speed. It buffeted his ungainly little body and almost made him lose his empty pillowcase. The twins had sighed and begged their sister Megan to stay with “the baby,” and given permission, they ran happily ahead. Megan held David’s hand and helped him down Main Street, promising him that soon they would be back indoors and he’d have all the candy he could eat.
The wind howled down the street like a living thing, picking up fallen leaves and pine needles and throwing them through the air like darts. Thunder rumbled in the sky and tremendous clouds rolled by overhead, followed by a quickly creeping white mist. In the distance, David heard snarls and growls and he stopped in his tracks, eyes wide.
“What?” Megan asked him. She was fourteen and feeling kind of embarrassed about trick-or-treating at such an advanced age, so having David to look after wasn’t hard on her. She knelt down beside him. “What is it?”
“Hear what?” Megan asked. “The wind?”
“No,” David said, bright blue eyes staring straight ahead. “The dogs.”
“Dogs?” Megan turned and looked down the road. Apart from the fast-incoming storm and a few other determined trick-or-treaters, there was nothing there. “What dogs?”
David raised his free, orange-mittened hand and pointed down the road. “Those dogs.”
How could anyone not see it? David saw them plain as day—sleek, tremendous hounds that raced faster than the wind, hounds with shining black bodies and luminous, shimmering eyes. They howled out fierce, joyous cries, warning the living and the dead that there was no escape. The dead were listening too. David saw them as well, ghostly apparitions streaming in on the mist, faces ecstatic with the fury of the hunt. The dogs roared by and the dead followed them, and he was there as well, shepherding the frenzied procession.
He rode a massive stallion, as white as the mist beneath its hooves. His body was covered with armor, ever-shifting, first like metal, then leather, then bone. The top half of his face was covered by a helmet, his eyes glowing white through a narrow slit. From the crest of the helmet, two tremendous antlers extended into the sky. Pale blond hair flew wildly in the wind, partially covering his face. David could see him smile, though.
The hunter stopped his great horse for a moment and looked down at David and Megan. “Small prey,” he said, and his voice was an eagle’s scream, fierce and proud. “Too small yet to take, and too rare to waste. Run home to your mother, child, and go no more this night.” His white horse reared, dagger-like hooves flashing in the flickering light, and then he was off again, the spirits of the dead following helplessly in his wake. For a moment David thought he saw regular people too, wild-eyed and panting, but then the hunt had passed.
“Whoa!” Megan exclaimed, pulling her witch’s cloak tighter around her body. She took in her little cousin’s stunned, blank expression and shook her head. “That’s it, we’re going home.” It was too blustery and cold for David to be out tonight. “C’mon, Davey.” He didn’t move when she tugged on his hand. “Davey?”
“He had a horse.”
“And dogs. And he had antlers.”
“What, like a costume?” Megan looked around briefly. “There’s no one else here, Davey. Let’s go home, okay?” She pulled again and this time he came, still silent but at least walking in the right direction.