Down to the Woods.By Dave Turner.Disclaimer:
I do not own Buffy the Vampire Slayer or any of these folk tales, I write these stories for fun not profit.Crossover:
BtVS with the English folklore and Call of Cthulhu.Spelling, Punctuation, and Grammar;
Written in glorious English-English, which is different to American-English.Timeline:
A 'Grim up North 2' story set in June 2006.Words:
Never get lost in the woods.
Summary: A 'Grim Up North 2' tale; Trouble always comes in threes, so, when Faith and Dawn get lost in the woods on the trail of an ancient goddess things are just bound to get grim.0=0=0=0If you go down to the woods today
You're sure of a big surprise.
If you go down to the woods today
You'd better go in disguise!The Dane Hills, Leicestershire, June 2006.
It was a dark and stormy day, rain dripped off Faith’s hood and into her eyes. While her top half was perfectly dry in her expensive storm-proof jacket, she could feel the rain soaking into her jeans and boots. It was supposed to be June! Summer time, she told herself, surely in this soggy island you shouldn't be getting such heavy rain in June!?
“I’m cold an’ wet an’ I wanna go home!” Faith complained damply as she stood under the dripping trees.
As far as Faith was concerned the countryside was somewhere you flew over or drove through to get from point ‘A’ to point ‘B’. It wasn’t for stopping in and it certainly wasn’t for ‘exploring’. The countryside was ‘unnatural’ and full of all sorts of ‘icky’ things; give her a garbage strewn back alley somewhere that smelt slightly of urine and rotting rubbish any day.
The two young women had followed the instructions Willow had given them to the letter. They’d found the remnant of ancient forest; and then they had struggled through the thorns and briars until they’d come to the cave mouth. Now they waited; swords in hand for Black Annis to appear.
“Are you sure this is totally the right cave?” Dawn peered wetly into the darkness of the cave mouth.
Unlike Faith, Dawn normally quite liked the countryside, but in the case of this place she’d make an exception. During her journey through the woods she’d not seen one flowery dell or any cute, fluffy bunnies or other charming examples of the local wildlife. What she had seen were; old leaves that made you slip as you walked, stinking mushrooms and toadstools and ancient trees with twisted branches that reached for you like the skeletal fingers of evil tree monsters.
“Must be,” Faith shivered as the rain found its way through a seam and down her neck, “it’s the only one in the forest.”
“You're totally sure?” Dawn asked miserably as she regressed to her younger teen self.
“Yeah!” Faith hissed starting to lose her patience.
“Don’t snap,” Dawn gave her girlfriend a hurt look
“I’m cold,” Faith tried to explain her ill-temper, “and wet.”
“I’m not exactly bone dry either,” Dawn replied testily, “as soon as…” Dawn stopped talking as she heard something move deep in the cave, immediately both young women became alert to possible danger. “Here she comes,” Dawn whispered grasping her sword more tightly.
Hobbling from the mouth of the cave came a one eyed wizened old crone, her clothes seemingly made entirely from mismatched rags. From her fingers grew long black claws that looked like they were made from iron or steel. Her face was covered in blue tattoos that seemed to move across her skin as her eye looked out on the world from under an old, battered bonnet. Coming to a halt she looked up at the two women waiting to kill her; she smiled resignedly showing sharp teeth that seemed to fill her mouth to overflowing.
“Slayer?” asked a voice which sounded as dry as ashes.
“Yeah,” Faith nodded soggily.
“Oh, bugger,” Black Annis sighed sadly as she sat down heavily on an old tree stump.
Looking at each other in confusion, Dawn and Faith shrugged, this wasn't the response they’d expected.
“Oh-well,” groaned the crone, “it was bound to happen sooner or later…I’ve had a good run I suppose…”
Faith and Dawn moved cautiously towards the blue faced woman as she watched them out of the corner of her eye.
“I used to be a Goddess you know?” Black Annis waved her arms to encompass the woods, “Loved and worshipped by all and sundry, until the Christians came,” she spat the name out, it left a bitter taste in her mouth.
Dawn and Faith looked at each other perplexed at the reaction of what was supposed to be a ravening, evil monster; they were even starting to feel a little sorry for her.
“Umm,” Dawn coughed to attract the ex-goddess’ attention, “you do know we’re totally here to kill you, right?”
“Yes, yes,” agreed the ex-goddess with a dismissive wave of her hand, “three thousand years,” she sighed again. “It was all the flaying and killing children that did it, wasn’t it?”
“Yeah, duh,” Faith agreed with a brusque nod, “ya musta known we’d get ‘round to ya eventually. We couldn’t leave something like you to carry on with the killing…and flaying…and eating…like gross man!”
“Why not?” demanded the crone looking sharply from one woman to the other, “I only ever took the ones who were bad.” She sighed, “Their mother’s had warned them what would happen you know? They’d been warned that if they continued in their bad ways I’d come an’ get ‘em.” For a moment Black Annis smiled as she remembered happier times, “Y’know this county has the lowest juvenile crime rate in the country? That’s down to me!”
“Yeah, well, like that’s going to stop right now,” Dawn stated firmly.
“Umm Dawn,” Faith hesitantly pulled on her lover’s arm, “maybe we’re being a little hasty…y’know the greater good an’all.” Faith noticed the look of shock on Dawn’s face. “No, no ya totally right,” Faith added hurriedly changing her mind, “she’s evil; we’ve got to stop her.”
“Shall we, like get this done then?” Dawn wanted to know; she hefted her sword and got ready to fight the old woman.
“Yeah right,” Faith agreed, still not sounding totally convinced; but she did want to get in out of the rain so they might as well get on with the slaying.
“Right you are then!” Black Annis sprang upright and cast off her cloak of rags, “Thought I’d got you there,” she smiled showing her long sharp fangs again. “Pity,” she mused, “you seem such nice girls, it’ll be a shame to have to kill you. Alright let’s make a fight of it.”
The crone appeared to grow in size, her iron claws seemed to get longer and sharper. By the time Faith and Dawn were within sword range of her they were facing a much more formidable creature than they had only moments before.0=0=0=0Some hours later.
Gasping for breath Dawn and Faith sat down on an old tree truck. They were soaked through with rain and sweat; blood ran in rivulets down their arms and faces. Dawn picked up her sword and looked at the blade.
“I need a new sword,” she moaned tiredly, “Buffy’ll have a fit at the cost of replacing this,” she threw the blunted sword onto the wet ground.
“Me too,” Faith agreed, she pointed to the notches in her blade “I think it’s bent,” she looked along the edge of her weapon and then down at the dead body at their feet. “She doesn’t look so big now, does she?”
“No,” Dawn nodded thoughtfully, “she just looks like a little old woman dressed in rags.”
“And not the vicious, ravening monster of a few hours ago,” Faith sighed and rubbed at one of her many bruises. “Almost tea-time,” Faith looked up at the sky between the trees, it looked as if it would be a fine evening after the rain.
“Yeah,” agreed Dawn, “let’s get back to the motel and wash up and get something to eat, huh?”
“Yeah let’s.” Faith tried to get up but her aches and pains made her move like the old crone they’d just killed.
The girls helped each other to their feet and stumbled off into the forest in search of the road.
“It’s this way isn’t it?” Dawn pointed as Faith started off in a completely different direction.
“Nah, it’s this way.” Faith pointed in the direction she was heading.0=0=0=0Some different hours later.
The light was beginning to fade as Faith and Dawn stumbled through the woods in search of the road. Although the rain had stopped hours ago and the sky had cleared it was still dark and dank under the trees. They shivered in their ripped and tattered clothes as they fought their way through the trees and bushes looking for the road...any road.
“Maybe this is one of those enchanted woods,” Dawn panted as she rested against a tree trunk.
“Nah, look,” Faith put a comforting arm around Dawn’s shoulder, “we just got turned around when we were fighting the crone, we’ll get outta here no problemo.”
“Then why don’t our phones work?” Dawn asked a hint of desperation in her voice; they’d both tried their cellphones (mobile phones as they were called in England) as soon as they’d realised they were lost, neither of them had got a signal.
“We’re probably too far away from a tower,” Faith replied, “we just need to…”
“What’s that!?” Dawn suddenly became very alert as she peered into the semi-darkness under the trees.
“What’s what?” Faith joined her girlfriend in searching the undergrowth for danger.
“What do you mean, ‘what’s what’?” Dawn looked at Faith in confusion, “You're supposed to have slayer hearing and you didn’t hear that? Hear that?” Dawn repeated; there was a sound like a very large animal pushing itself between the trees.
“Oh that,” Faith replied quietly as she took a firm grip on her bent and battered sword.
“Y-you don’t think crone-lady had a pet, do you?” Dawn asked Faith nervously, “Or maybe she wasn't quite dead?”
“Nah,” Faith shook her head, “it’s probably just the wind.”
“The wind!?” Dawn looked at Faith incredulously, “Since when has the wind sounded like a herd of elephants crashing through the jungle?”
There was an extra loud crash from under the trees.
“AAAGH!” Screamed Dawn as she pointed into the tangle of undergrowth between the trees.
“What!?” Faith crouched down ready to fight but saw nothing more dangerous than trees.
“There!” Dawn pointed a trembling finger back the way they’d come.
“Where?” Faith demanded peering into the gathering gloom.
“There!” Dawn pointed extra hard.
“I can’t see anything,” Faith started to relax thinking that Dawn was seeing things in the twilight.
“A tree!” Dawn explained in panic.
“A tree?” Faith stood up straight and rested the tip of her sword on the ground, “A freakin’ tree!? The whole freaking forest is full of fuc…” Faith remembered that she was supposed to be cutting back on her swearing, so altered what she was about to say, “freakin’ trees!”
“Yeah,” Dawn whispered as she gazed at the seemingly stationary trees, “but not ones that move.”
“Look, Dawnie,” Faith was getting a little fed up with this, she was cold, dirty and tired; she wanted her bed, a hot shower, a hot meal and a hot girl (not necessarily in that order), she didn’t have time for Dawn’s moving trees.
Dawn screamed one of her classic, ear bleeding, mind numbing screams, the sort that was reserved for only the most hideous of monsters. Feeling her brain vibrate in her skull, Faith turned to see what all the fuss was about.
Squinting through the trees she saw something big and black and so
not a tree lurch towards them. It was like
a big malevolent tree, if trees had four huge, hoof-like feet and at least two, fang rimmed, gaping black maws big enough to swallow a slayer and her girlfriend whole. The tree from hell pushed its way between the normal trees on its hooves making the ground shake as it came towards our heroes. Reaching for its terrified victims with long, writhing, slime dripping rope-like tentacles, the devil tree gave off an air of smug superiority.
Snapping out of the stupor that seemed to have overtaken her mind and body, Faith brought up her blade. Just in time she intercepted the tentacle that threatened to take both herself and Dawn into its vile embrace. Lopping off a good three feet of tentacle, Faith grabbed hold of Dawn’s hand.
“RUN!” Faith ordered as she pulled Dawn behind her and headed off deeper into the wood.
As they ran they were followed by a hideous, insane hooting and bellowing that sounded like a hundred insane elephants trampling through the trees behind them. Fearing to look behind them they ran on, blindly pushing through the bushes and lower branches of trees as the fled the terrifying monster-tree.
Hearing Dawn’s horrified scream, Faith felt Dawn’s hand yanked from her own. Turning she saw Dawn being lifted high into the air by one of the tree’s titanic tentacles. Hacking ineffectually at the writhing rope-like arm with her sword, Dawn cried out in fear and pain as she was moved through the air towards one of the hell-fiend’s gaping mouths. Sliding to a halt on the wet leaf litter, Faith turned at bay. Tightening her grip on her sword she raised it above her head.
Screaming like one of her wild Celtic ancestors, Faith raised her sword and charged at the unholy horror. A slim dripping tentacle swept down to block Faith’s wild charge, only to be hacked into two by the slayer’s flashing blade. The tree-thing screamed in pain, dropping Dawn onto the ground as it drew its tentacles back from Faith’s whirling blade.
Still screaming her incoherent warcry Faith pressed her advantage hacking and slashing at the writhing tentacles. Sending lumps of hell-tree pin-wheeling through the air, she ignored the slime that splattered her from head to foot. Having fought her way through the squirming mass to thrashing, obscene appendages, Faith found herself next to the creatures ‘trunk’. Raising her sword in both hands she rammed the point deep into one of the creature’s ravenous mouths. The terrifying tree screamed hideously loud as Faith yanked her blade from side to side in its mouth. With a final ear-shattering bellow, Faith found herself thrown aside like some rag-doll to land with a thump amid the thankfully soft leaf litter. Lying on the ground with the air knocked out of her, she heard a sound like a herd of buffalo running off through the trees.
“FAITH! Faith!” Dawn was suddenly at her side lifting her head from the damp ground, “Is anything broken? Can you feel you legs? Any sharp pains like broken ribs?”
“Oh!” Faith tried to laugh but it hurt so she stopped, “The advantages of having a girlfriend who works for the ambulance service.” Faith pushed herself up into a sitting position, “It only hurts when I laugh.”
“You sure?” Dawn was taking Faith's pulse with one hand as she pushed Faith’s hair away from her face with the other.
“Sure,” Faith forced a smile, “I’m five by five kid.”0=0=0=0
“So, what was that thing?” Faith asked as she allowed Dawn to help her through the trees.
“No idea,” Dawn shook her head, “I’ve never seen anything like it mentioned in any of Giles’ books…but it did look a little like that thing Willow cooked up for the Active Counter Measures at Central...” Dawn thought about this for a moment, “...I'll talk to her about it when we get home.”
“Maybe its one of those weird old-world things that Kennie goes on about,” Faith suggested.
“Like that thing in Torquay?” Dawn suggested.
“That’s the one,” Faith agreed; she stopped and looked around, “Hey! No trees!”
Taking in her surroundings, Dawn looked around, they appeared to be standing on the edge of a ploughed field.
“Yeah, now all we have to do is find our way home,” Dawn looked to her left and then to her right, one direction looked as good as the other; turning to their right they started to follow the edge of the wood, “What do we do about the hell-tree?”
“Don’t sweat it kid,” Faith replied confidently, “when we get back to civilisation we’ll call someone and have them napalm the forest.”
“Cool,” Dawn agreed.0=0=0=0
Having not walked more than a few yards, Dawn and Faith were surprised to see two naked men running towards them.
“What the fu...” Faith began but once again stopped herself from swearing.
“Now there's something you don't see every day,” Dawn giggled; although she moved closer to Faith she couldn't keep her eyes of the guy's 'equipment' which swung from side to side as they ran.
Both men looked exhausted, sweat ran from their bodies as they stumbled across the ploughed field towards Dawn and Faith. As they ran they kept casting frightened glances over their shoulders as if all the hounds of hell were after them. Coming to the fence that surrounded the wood, the two naked men paused for a moment before they climbed the fence and plunged into the forest beyond.
“Weird,” said Faith quietly.
“Yeah,” Dawn agreed as she stared after the naked men, after a moment she turned to Faith, “hey did you notice...?”
“That you could sorta see through them?” Faith asked.
“You saw that too?” Dawn sounded relieved.
“Good,” Dawn sighed with relief, “for a minute there I thought I was going...”
“Hey listen!” Faith placed her hand on Dawn's arm.
Not even having to listen particularly hard, Dawn heard the sound of baying hounds as they got closer and closer.
“Do you think that's what those guys were running from,” Dawn decided then and there that she was having a bad day
What was supposed to be an easy mission to kill something nasty in the woods had turned into a bad horror film plot with ancient Celtic goddesses, killer trees, spectral naked men and now a pack of hounds which had probably come all the way from hell specially to make their lives even more miserable. If she didn't love Faith so much she'd have stayed at home for the weekend.
Movement to her right caused Dawn to turn her head. There in the moon light she saw them; 'them' being a pack of at least a dozen big, black, hounds with red glowing eyes. The hell-dogs howled and bayed as they ran faster than any dog had the right to across the field towards herself and Faith. Only just coming to terms with the hounds from hell, Dawn next heard the sound of horses galloping hard to keep up with the dogs.
Looking slightly more to her right, Dawn saw maybe twenty riders on big, black horses. Their red hot hooves seemed to make the ground tremble as the made their way across the field; which was odd because as the horses got closer she noticed that their legs and hooves didn't go all the way to the ground.
“Oh crap!” Faith muttered, forgetting all about not swearing, she readied her sword, “get behind me, Dawnie and watch my back.”
By now the hounds had reached the fence and were sniffing the ground in front of it, their barks now sounded confused instead of blood chilling as they looked for a way through the fence. One hound trotted over to where Faith and Dawn stood, it looked up at them with its red, glowing eyes and sniffed. Giving the doggy equivalent of a shrug the hound turned away and went back to its pack mates.
By this time the horses had reached the fence and came to a halt, it was only now that Dawn realised that each horse had a rider dressed in a red jacket, tan jodhpurs, black riding boots and a black riding helmet. One of the riders broke away from the group and trotted his horse over to where Dawn and Faith stood.
“Good evening ladies,” the rider said pleasantly enough, he touched the butt of his riding crop to the peak of his hard hat in salute.
“Hi...” Dawn replied in a very small voice; she could feel Faith tense ready for a fight.
“I'm Colonel Harrington-Smythe, late of The Kings Third Light Dragoons and now Master of the Leicestershire Wild Hunt,” he announced in a rather jolly, upper class, English accent, “I was wondering if you'd seen a couple of damned souls pass by recently?”
“Damned souls?” Dawn was the first to find her voice.
“Yes,” nodded the Colonel, “couple of complete rotters, don't-ya-know?”
“Rotters?” Faith asked as she relaxed a little and lowered her sword slightly.
“Oh complete, bounders don't-ya-know,” the Colonel continued mater-of-factly, “we've been chasing them for the last couple of days on and off.”
“Chasing?” Dawn asked.
“That's right,” smiled the Colonel.
“If you don't mind me asking,” Dawn asked politely, “but why?”
“It's what we do,” the Colonel replied slightly puzzled by Dawn's question, “you know...” he smiled uncertainly down at the girls as he smoothed down his military moustache, “...wild hunts and damned souls, don't-cha-know?”
“Sorry we don't,” Dawn felt that nothing bad was going to happen to them so she wanted to know what was going on.
“Oh of course!” the Colonel laughed, “You're Americans, I should explain Miss...? I'm sorry I didn't catch your names.”
“Faith Lehane,” Faith lowered her sword all the way to the ground, “that's, Faith the Vampire Slayer, right?”
“I'm Dawn Summers,” Dawn felt like she should curtsy or something but didn't, “I'm Faith's girlfriend and my big sister, Buffy, is the longest living slayer.”
“Ah!” the Colonel nodded knowingly, “That must be why you can see us...normally people can only hear us as we pass by.” Turning in his saddle the Colonel called to the other riders who were still waiting by the fence. “I say chaps, I've got a Slayer and her...” he cast Dawn a thoughtful glance before looking back to his friends, “...and her...erm...Watcher here, won't be long!” He looked down at Dawn, “Sorry about calling you Miss Lehane's Watcher, but some of us move with the times more than others.”
“So,” Dawn pulled herself up to her full five-foot-seven and a bit, “wild hunts? Damned souls? Is this something Faith and I need to worry about?”
“Oh, no, no, no!” Colonel Harrington-Smythe laughed, “Bin goin' on since time-out-of-mind, don't-cha-know? Oh yes its all quite traditional and above board.”
“But Wild Hunts and Damned Souls?” Dawn repeated.
“I take it you don't have Wild Hunts in the Americas?” the Colonel asked.
“Not that I've heard of,” Faith replied slowly; when she got back to work on Monday morning she was going to look up 'wild hunts' on the library's computer.
“Ah, I see where the confusion lies,” the Colonel nodded sagely as his horse lowered its head and started to eat the grass at its feet. “Look, as I say its all above board, nothing for slayers and their...erm...friends
to worry about. We just hunt damned souls who'd done something particularly despicable in their lives. They get let out of hell especially, the longer they can avoid being caught the longer they stay out of hell.”
“Oh,” Dawn nodded, it did make a sort of twisted sense she thought, “it doesn't seem much of a change though.”
“Young lady,” the Colonel looked down at Dawn and his eyes seemed to glow redly, “have you ever been to hell?”
“Erm, no,” Dawn shook her head as she cowered back from the colonel a little.
“Well,” the Colonel's smile stopped well short of his red, tinted eyes, “take it from me this is much better than being in hell.”
“Oh,” Dawn nodded.
“So,” Colonel Harrington-Smythe went back to being the jolly ex-cavalryman he'd appeared to be up to a moment ago, “have you seen any damned souls pass by recently?”
“Yeah,” Faith pointed to the woods, “they climbed the fence and went into the woods about a couple of minutes before ya arrived, they're probably well hidden by now.”
“Oh well,” the Colonel sighed heavily, “we'll leave them there for a while they'll come out eventually.”
“You're not going to chase them?” Dawn asked.
“Wouldn't be sportin' Miss Summers,” the Colonel explained, “anyway we've got all eternity to play with...and its a bugger to get the horses through the woods don't-cha-know?” Harrington-Smythe started to turn his horse away from Dawn and Faith, “I'll be saying goodnight then and thank-you for your help...”
“Anytime,” Faith called.
“I say,” the Colonel halted his horse and turned to face the girls again, “I'm forgetting my manners,” he smiled, “I don't suppose you'd like to join us one night, we're out most nights...”
“Erm no thanks,” Dawn replied before Faith had a chance to say anything; she'd suddenly got the feeling that it would be a very
bad idea to take the colonel up on his offer, “can't ride...horses.”
“Oh well then,” Harrington-Smythe shrugged, “can't be helped, we'll be on our way then,” he rode off to where his friends waited for him, “good hunting to you.”
With a cry of, 'Tally-ho!' the colonel led the hunt and its hounds off across the moonlit fields and into the distance. Very soon the hunt was out of even slayer enhanced sight and the only thing that Faith or Dawn could hear was sound of hoof beats across the ground and the faint call of a hunting horn.
“Weird,” Faith sighed.
“Yeah,” Dawn agreed, “Home?”
Faith nodded as she rested her sword across her shoulders.
“Darn,” Dawn muttered as she looked off after the hunt, “shoulda asked for directions back to the road.”The End.