The Dark Huntsman of Widecombe.
By Dave Turner.
A ‘Tails from the Slaughtered Lamb’ story.
Disclaimer: I do not own the Buffyverse or this English Folktale I write these stories for fun not profit.
Crossover: The Buffyverse with an English ‘Wild Hunt’ tale.
Spelling, Punctuation, and Grammar; Written in glorious English-English, English idioms are used throughout this fic.
Timeline: Set in 2009 as part of the ‘Tails from the Slaughtered Lamb’ series, fits in any time after ‘Big Girls’.
Warnings: Minor violence, some minor lesbian moments. Includes strong drink.
Summary: Re-working of an older story. Two slayers, one ‘Wild Hunt’ and really strong ale, never a good mixture.
The Dark Huntsman of Widecombe.
It was a dark and stormy night and Hiram J Hackensack was trudging along the narrow country lane from Widecombe towards the Wooder Manor Hotel. The wind raged and the rain lashed down, he pulled the hood of his jacket up and bent his head into the wind. Up until now he’d had a pleasant evening sampling the local ales at the ‘Old Sea Dog Inn’ in the village.
This was the first vacation that Hiram, his wife Cindy and their two year old son Billy had taken outside of the United States. They were only here now because Hiram had just got himself an extremely well paid job with a large computer company. So far the vacation had gone well enough, but tonight Cindy was worried about Billy’s health, he appeared to have come down with some sort of bug. As a result Cindy had stayed at the hotel with the child while Hiram had gone out to the pub.
A gust of wind made Hiram stagger a little, or maybe it was the effects of the beer he had consumed. Whatever the reason when he looked around, after regaining his balance, he found himself surrounded by a pack of large black hounds. Hiram heard the ‘clip-clop’ of a horse’s hooves on the tarmac, looking up he saw a large black horse carrying a black clad rider on it’s back.
Lightening flickered as Hiram tried to see the riders face, but a broad brimmed hat cast a dark shadow across the man’s face hiding his features. A number of bulging sacks hung from the huntsman’s saddle, obviously the fruits of a days hunting.
“Hi there!” Called Hiram cheerfully as he squinted up through the wind and the rain, the rider said nothing; he just looked down at Hiram as if he was some new type of prey.
“Wild night isn’t it?” Hiram tried again laughing nervously, still there was no reply, “Um what y’got in the sacks?” He wished he was back at the hotel tucked up in bed with his wife.
The huntsman let out a harsh laugh and threw a heavy sack at Hiram’s feet. There was a flash of lightening and a crash of thunder and in an instant the huntsman and his hounds were gone. Hiram caught a glimpse of him as he galloped wildly over the fields and up onto the moors followed by his baying hounds.
Stunned Hiram watched the huntsman go; he bent down and fumbled with the string that tied the sack. Eventually his cold and alcohol numbed fingers released the contents of the sack onto the road. Hiram screamed and fell onto his back; by the light of more lightening he stared down at the bloodied and abused body of his own son! Picking up the child’s cold limp corpse he struggled to his feet and ran as fast as he could towards the hotel.
Tina’s mother had always taught her not to look a gift horse in the mouth. Her mother had obviously never met Mrs Fitzsimons; Britain’s chief slayer and landlady of the Slaughtered Lamb Tavern. It had all sounded so innocent; Mrs F seemed to be so concerned that the two girls weren’t getting enough time alone together…and didn’t Alice look tired…and maybe they should get away from London for a long weekend.
Just by chance Mrs F knew of a nice little hotel down in Devon, they could take the pub’s car and drive down there, if they started out early they could be there by lunchtime…and while they were in the area they could look into these reports of a ghostly huntsman for her. Tina was beginning to think that Mrs F didn’t do anything without an ulterior motive.
Parking the red Mini Cooper on the grass verge at the side of the lane, Tina turned to her napping girlfriend, and shook her into wakefulness.
Alice slowly woke up and rubbed her eyes, yawning she looked around at her surroundings. They had started out from London well before the rush-hour so as to miss the traffic and had been driving steadily all morning. Tina shrugged her shoulders trying to get the stiffness out of them; she really didn’t think much of the Mini for long journeys. However, it would be nice to get away for a few days. Tina attended university in London where she was studying archaeology, while Alice worked as a barmaid in the Slaughtered Lamb.
The village of Widecombe (pronounced Wid-e-coom) is situated on the edge of Dartmoor in the county of Devon. The village itself is located about half way up a small valley that cuts like an axe cleft into the side of the moor. Widecombe consists of a couple of pubs, a church, village shop and about two dozen houses. It acts as a centre for half a dozen even smaller villages and is popular with walkers exploring the nearby moors.
“Is this where it happened?” Alice looked out at the still rain wet road in the early afternoon sunshine.
The girls opened the car doors and let the brisk sea air into the rather stuffy car interior; they stepped out onto the road and tried to ease the kinks in their backs caused from too much sitting.
“That’s better,” Tina stretched, “let’s have a look around eh?”
The slayers worked their way along the edge of the road looking for any clues that might lead them to the alleged ‘Wild Hunt’.
“Looks like any tracks there must have been have been obliterated,” Alice looked up and studied the side of the hill after five minutes of fruitlessly searching the roadside.
“Let’s look in the field,” Tina crossed the road to join her girlfriend, “the report claims that the rider and his hounds made off towards the moor,” she pointed upslope.
“Looks a bit steep for horses,” Alice commented after a moment's thought, she had brought up in the American mid-west and knew a little about horses.
The slayers climbed the dry stone wall that ran next to the road and started to search the slope for hoof prints. They walked across the slope climbing steadily towards the brow of the hill. They found tracks suggesting one horse and a number of dogs had recently gone that way; the paw prints looked unusually large. Turning to look back towards the road they found that they had climbed about a hundred feet. As they weren’t dressed for tramping across the moors and the tracks had petered out anyway, the town girls headed back towards the car.
“Let’s go book in at the hotel,” Tina suggested as they carefully made their way down slope.
“Yeah,” Alice looked around herself at the empty countryside, “we can pump the locals for information, and I could really do with a bath.”
“Not at the same time I hope,” joked Tina as something tugged at her spider sense; she looked back up the side of the hill, but could see nothing untoward.
Just over the brow of the hill out of sight of the girls a black clad rider readied his horse and hounds for the night’s hunt.
Wooder Manor Hotel was situated at the head of the valley, behind it the tree covered slopes rose steeply up to the moors. The Hotel itself was an old rambling manor house that had been built in the late 17th or early 18th century. Tina parked the car in the gravel surfaced car park at the front of the building. Collecting their cases from the boot the girls made their way over to the main entrance and went inside where they found a large reception area dark with oak panelling.
“Yes dears, can I help you?” A grey haired woman in her fifties appeared, as if by magic, from behind the counter.
“Hello,” smiled Tina, “reservation in the name of Fitzsimons?”
“Oh,” the woman checked a concealed computer scene, “you’ll be the girls from London…Ah here you are, I’ll ring for the porter if you’ll sign the register.” The reception lady watched as the young women signed, “Um the reservation said for a room with a double bed, is that right?”
“Yeah that’s right,” smiled Tina, “it’s not a problem is it?”
“Oh no…Edward,” yelled the woman loudly and moments later a teenager arrived, “take these two young ladies to room 112.” She turned back to the London slayers, “It’s at the front of the house and gives you a beautiful view down the valley.”
Edward bent to pick up their cases and groaned as he struggled to lift them; it was amazing just how many clothes a Slayer could cram into a suitcase if she was determined enough, Alice moved to pick up the weapons bag.
“I better take this,” she smiled, the bag clanked as she picked it up.
“Not exactly the most lively place in the world,” it was two hours later and Tina sipped from a glass of larger-shandy.
The slayers were seated on stools in the hotel bar; they had spent the previous couple of hours settling into their room and bathing. The bar had obviously been the living room when the hotel had been a manor. There were three French windows down one side of the room that looked out over the garden at the back of the hotel. The bar took up one corner of the room that was again panelled in oak and hung with hunting prints. A huge fireplace took up most of the wall opposite the windows. Alice looked around the bar, at present it was populated by themselves and the barman; she nodded her head in agreement.
“You should have been here last Sunday,” the barman blurted out as he wiped a glass on a non-too clean tea-towel.
The girls regarded the barman who was a slightly older version of Edward the porter.
“Why’s that?” Asked Tina innocently, she ran her finger lazily around the rim of her glass.
“Yank fella killed ‘is own kid!” Replied the barman in his soft Devonshire accent, “’E tried t’ blame it on some ghostly ‘untsman or some ‘mit, but that’s just daaaft!”
“Oh?” Tina licked the end of her finger in what she hoped was sexually provocative way, “I thought there were supposed to be legends of a wild hunt in these parts.”
“Oo-arrr,” agreed the barman going into full pirate mode for the gullible townie foreigners, “they do say…”
“They do?” Queried Alice.
“That they do missy,” agreed the barman getting fully into his part now, “they do say that on a daaark an’ stormy night you can see a ghostly ‘untsman a’going about the moors…they do.”
“Really?” The slayers asked in unison.
“Oh yes,” agreed the barman slipping back into his normal voice, “but that’s just silly superstition. The yank killed ‘is kid alright, the police took ‘im away…’e were mazed y’know?”
“Well if we didn’t we do now,” Alice smiled and wondered what ‘mazed’ meant, “and where can we find out more about this ‘untsman’ of the ghostly persuasion?”
“You’m really interested in that sort o’ thing?” The barman sounded a little disappointed, “See I get off at ten an’ I was thinking you two young ladies might like to come down to the Youth Club…it’s got a Juke Box an’ everything!”
“Sorry,” sighed Tina faining regret, “not tonight, some other time maybe?” She added holding out false hope to the young man.
“So if you could point us in the right direction?” Alice looked at the young man hopefully.
“Try the ‘Old Sea Dog Inn’ in the village,” disappointment showing in Henry the barman’s voice, “it’s only a mile or so down the road.”
Henry watched as the two young women left the bar.
“Damn!” He cursed to himself as he put a glass down too heavily on the bar.
He had really thought he was in with a chance there, either of the girls would have done. Although the English girl with the blonde hair was prettier than her shorter American friend. Anything was better than the alternative; if he didn’t find a wife soon he’d have to marry his cousin Elizabeth or be sacrificed to the old gods when he turned twenty-one. Quite honestly, if it was a choice between cousin Elizabeth and a fiery death he’d take the fiery death every time.
Walking into the public bar of the Old Sea Dog Inn Tina and Alice were hit by a wall of silence as the ‘inmates’ turned to study them. The Old Sea Dog was a typical ‘Olde Worlde’ pub straight out of the tourist brochures. It had a low ceiling and half-timbered walls; the plaster between the timbers was stained yellow with decades of nicotine. The walls and black timbers were decorated with the obligatory horse brasses and hunting prints interspersed here and there with pictures of a more maritime nature.
There were about twenty men of various ages and maybe half a dozen women staring at the two slayers as they made their way to the bar their footsteps ringing hollowly on the wooden floor. Alice noticed that just about everyone in the pub seemed to bare some family resemblance to each other. Tina got to the bar first; sizing up the situation in an instant she realised that asking for either ‘Alcopops’ or lager-shandy would not improve there standing amongst the villagers.
“Two pints of really strong ale for my friend and I please Landlord.” Tina pulled out her wallet and slapped it on the bar.
There was a soft chuckle from the back of the pub and conversation slowly started up again. The Landlord placed the beer in front of Tina; it was dark brown with a lighter brown head, she looked at it closely, there appeared to be ‘bits’ floating around in it.
“Thank-you,” Tina hesitated before handing a fiver over to the landlord; she turned and passed a glass to Alice.
“Um,” Alice, beer in hand, turned to the room in general, “is there anyone here who can tell us about any local legends…particularly anything about a ghostly huntsman?”
The room went deathly quiet again.
“Subtle or what?” Whispered Tina into her girlfriend’s ear.
“You’m not be wanting to mess with the daaaark forces missy!” Muttered a voice from over by the fireplace.
There was a chorus of ‘Oo-arrrrr’s’ as everyone agreed with the speaker.
“Why does everyone here talk like a pirate?” Alice asked Tina quietly while not taking her eyes off the crowd; had they walked into a meeting of the local Pastaferians by mistake?
“You’m be wantin’ to ‘ave a word with Ooold Sam then,” this was from the landlord, there was another chorus of ‘Oo-arrrr’s’ from the audience
“Old Sam?” Alice glanced around at the landlord.
“Arrrrrr,” Agreed the landlord, “Old Salty Sam the Sailor Man,” he explained knowingly.
As he did so the crowd parted like the Red Sea to reveal a middle-aged fisherman sitting by the fire place.
“He doesn’t look very old to me,” commented Tina slightly disappointed.
“Arrrrr,” conceded the landlord, “you’m be thinkin’ of ‘is father Ancient Salty Sam the Sailor Man.”
“Oh!” The truth slowly dawned on the girls; they were indeed in the village of the blithering idiots.
“No,” continued the landlord, “Old Sam’s the man for ‘e…I mean,” the landlord chuckled to himself and his customers joined in, “I mean Ancient Sam, well…‘e be mazed ‘e be!” The room burst into laughter at the news, “You’m not be getting’ any sense from ‘e!”
“‘E be?” A look of bewilderment crossed Tina’s face, “Sorry, he is?”
“Oo-arrrrrrrrrrr.” Confirmed the landlord.
Seven pints of Really Strong Ale later.
Alice tripped and giggled girlishly as she hung on to Tina with the fierce determination of the very drunk. Tina’s legs buckled under the additional weight and the two girls fell in a laughing, giggling pile of arms and legs onto the ground.
“We-we should never have had that last beer,” announced Alice wisely from her seat on the road.
“You don’t think the other six had anything to do with it?” Tina giggled again as she tried to focus on her girlfriend.
“Nah!” Alice attempted to climb back to her feet but failed, “That last pint was off! Remember I’m a barmaid…I know stuff,” she burped loudly and looked around, “who said that?”
“Ah!” Tina turned quickly looking for the phantom belcher.
“Don’t you mean, ARRRRRRRRRR!” Cried Alice in her best pirate voice and set them both off giggling again.
It was nearly midnight and the Slayers had spent most of the evening questioning ‘Old Sam’ about the local legends. Unfortunately neither girl could now remember much of what had been said, the local beer had a negative effect on the memory.
The slayers, after several false starts, climbed to their feet and threw their arms around each other’s shoulders. Then, after completing a sort of pedestrian version of a three-point turn, they found themselves facing in the general direction of the hotel. They took a couple of steps backwards then got themselves into forward gear and started off towards the hotel singing a song about a dog called ‘Bingo’.
Thunder rumbled and lightening could be seen in the distance as the young women weaved their way along the lane towards what they hoped was the hotel.
“Y’know,” Alice slurred, “it seems to be a lot further going back than it did going out.”
“An’-an’ I don’t remember this hill being here before,” Tina added in the puzzled tone of the ‘really drunk but starting to get sober now’.
The effects of the beer were starting to wear off due to the long walk and the sudden realisation that they were lost. Both slayers looked around; sure enough they could see the lights of the village below them.
“Darn!” Exclaimed Alice, “Told you that last pint was off. Now we’ll have to walk all the way back into the village and find the right road home.” She looked around, “Maybe we could find a path an’ strike out over the moors?”
“NO!” Shrieked Tina turning around quickly and nearly falling onto the road again, “Don’t you remember what Old Sam said about ‘venturing out on the moors’ at night?”
Alice thought for a moment, “No,” she replied eventually.
“You don’t?” Tina looked disappointed, “Oh, I was hoping you did ‘cause I can’t remember if he said it was a good idea or a bad idea…” Tina’s voice trailed off as she tried to remember what the not quite ancient mariner had said about nocturnal excursions on the moors.
“Where’ve all these doggies come from?” Alice reached down and patted one of the large black hounds which had suddenly materialised from out of nowhere.
“What?” Tina looked around, “Oh yes! Hello puppy,” she cried happily to one of the hounds as she patted it on the head, “where’d you come from then?”
There was a terrific flash of lightening followed almost immediately by a crash of thunder. The lightening lit up the figure of the huntsman and his horse. The girls looked at one another and then back at the horseman.
“AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAGH!” They screamed in perfect harmony.
Turning they fled at high speed across the moor. Behind them the hounds bayed and the huntsman blew his horn. Within moments Alice and Tina could hear the sound of the hounds chasing after them followed by the huntsman on his horse. Then just to add insult to injury it started to rain.
Thunder boomed and lightening flickered, and the rain came down in buckets. Alice and Tina sped across the moor as if the hounds of hell were after them; which they very possibly were. Heather dragged at their feet and the uneven ground made them stumble but even so they appeared to be outpacing the huntsman and his hounds.
“Hold-on,” Tina grabbed hold of Alice’s arm, “hold-on!” She gasped, “Why are we running?” Alice slowed to a halt. “Look…slayers here,” she pointed at herself and Alice to add emphasis to her point.
“Yeah!” Agreed Alice suddenly seeing the sense of her girlfriend’s argument, “Weapons?” She asked pulling a dagger and a stake from under her jacket.
“About the same.” Tina produced her own armaments.
The slayers turned to face their foe as the sound of hoof beats and baying hounds got closer and closer.
Five Minutes Later.
“Well, that didn’t last long!” Alice wiped the blood from her blade on a tussock of coarse grass.
The fight had in fact been swift and bloody. They had only had to kill a couple of the hounds before the rest fled yelping away across the moor. The huntsman had proved to be a slightly more challenging foe than his dogs and it had taken both slayers to get the better of him and his horse.
After a ferocious fight the slayers had dragged him from his horse and stabbed him repeatedly until he stopped moving, next they had cut his head off. A particularly messy business as they only had their knives.
“Do you think we should hide the body?” Tina wanted to know as she looked down at the headless corpse.
“I’m sorta hoping it’d just turn to gunk or something.” Alice stared down at the all too solid flesh which refused to melt. “Did you see where the horse went?”
“Nope,” replied Tina shaking her head, “come on we better cover him with some heather and be on our way. I’m soaked.”
“Me too,” Alice pulled up clumps of heather and placed it over the body, after a moment she stopped and put her hands on her hips. “Oh bugger this for a game of slayers!” She cried angrily, “Let’s just go home.”
“Hey girlfriend!” Tina smiled as they turned to walk down slope towards the village, “you’re really getting the hang of these Englishisms.”
“Yeah I’m starting to sound like Spike,” they trudged their way down hill and back towards the village.
“That’s the Vampire with a soul that Buffy Summers was shagging wasn’t it?” Tina wanted to know.
“Yeah that’s right,” the stories Alice had heard during her short stay in Cleveland flooded back into her mind and made her shiver more than the cold rain had.
“I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again…YUCK!” Tina gave an exaggerated shudder, “Sex with a Vampire…no way José; even if he had a soul.”
“And SO a guy,” Alice complained moodily.
“Yeah…it’s just so un-natural in so many ways,” Tina stepped over a dead sheep, “have you ever seen a vampire naked?”
“No,” Alice followed Tina daintily over the ex-sheep.
“You don’t want to,” Tina advised, “all white and translucent like…and there’s the autopsy scars, Ewww!”
“You think?” Alice was doubtful, she looked back at the dead sheep, “I thought it was a ram.”
“Yeah,” Tina nodded her head absently, “I bet he was gaggin’ for it,” Tina seemed to have gone off into her on little vampire hating world, which wasn’t a bad place for a slayer to be.
Alice let her girlfriend’s words wash over her as they hit the road again, she could just make out the lights of the hotel through the rain. Soon they’d be home and tucked up nice and warm in bed.
“…I bet he couldn’t wait to get in her knickers,” Tina’s little anti-Spike rant penetrated her consciousness once more, “pervert fucking vampires!”
Inspector Mansfield walked into the morgue to be greeted by the Medical Examiner.
“Afternoon!” Called Doctor Dorothy Mackenzie, a large jolly Afro-Caribbean woman in her early fifties.
“Afternoon Dorothy,” Mansfield put on a surgical gown, “let’s get down to business shall we?”
Doctor Mackenzie walked over to an examination table where a sheet covered form lay. Pulling back the cover with a flourish the doctor revealed the corpse of a headless man; a small smile came to the Inspectors lips.
“Cause of death?” He asked thinking he already had the answer.
“Multiple stab wounds,” announced Dorothy stealing Mansfield’s thunder, “the head was removed post-mortem.”
“Alright Dorothy I’ll stop trying to be clever-dick and let you get on with it,” the Inspector smiled ruefully behind his mask.
“Thank-you Jack,” beamed the medic, “our friend here was a healthy male in his early thirties,” she explained. “He was subjected to a frenzied attack by at least two assailants. I counted over twenty knife wounds and a dozen other puncture wounds.”
“How do you know it was two attackers?” Jack scratched his nose through his mask.
“Two different types of knife,” explained Dorothy, she pointed to a wound on the man’s chest. “This one was inflicted by a wide bladed knife. like a Bowie-knife. This one,” she indicated yet another wound, “was inflicted by a much narrower blade about eight inches long; a Commando knife maybe?”
“Notice also the bruising around each stab wound,” Jack looked closely and nodded his head for Dorothy to continue. “This was caused by the hilts of the knives hitting flesh on each blow and would suggest that the attackers were extremely strong. Now these,” the doctor pointed to two round holes about an inch across in the man’s stomach, “these were caused by a wooden stakes.”
“Wooden stakes?” Mansfield looked at the doctor incredulously.
“Yes,” nodded Mackenzie, “I found splinters of wood in each of the wounds.” Next the Doctor pointed to the raged wound on the victim’s neck, “I’d say that the head was hacked off probably with the Bowie-knife.”
She made cutting motions to demonstrate her theory.
“Any clue as to who he might be?” Asked the policeman.
“No wallet, and no labels on the clothes, and from what I saw I’d have said they were hand stitched. Anyway Soco has them now, so they may be able to tell you more. I looked at the teeth; in surprisingly good condition for a man his age and there was no dental work. There is one odd thing though.”
The Doctor walked around to the left side of the body and picked up the victim’s arm, she pointed to a tattoo of a stylised snake on the inside of the man’s fore arm.
“It maybe a gang tattoo,” she mused, “if it is it’s a new one on me.”
“Um...time of death?” Jack wanted to know.
“Well…” pondered the doctor, “he’d been lying out on the moors for several days. But I’d guess last Thursday or Friday no later than Saturday.”
“Come on Dorothy,” pleaded the Inspector, “you can do better than that!”
“If you’re twisting my arm,” the doctor sucked air over her teeth making a high pitched whistling noise, “I’d have to say Friday, probably night, he was found near Widecombe.”
“Hmm? Yes I know, thanks Doc,” the Inspector started to walk away from the corpse and remove his gown; “I’ll look forward to your full report.”
The Inspector headed rapidly for the door. ‘Damn’ he thought this put a whole new light on the child killing from the previous month. Maybe the Yank had been telling the truth about this mysterious huntsman; and if this huntsman had killed the child, who had killed the huntsman?
I’d just like to say a ‘thank-you’ to Dr Bronwen Evens of University College London, Phonetics and Linguistics Department for her help in spelling such words as ‘OO-ARRRR’.
The tale of the Dark Huntsman was found on http://www.mysteriousbritain.co.uk/ .