THE TALE OF THE HUNTER : Michael Burgess
Dark she was, and cold of eye. In a cave she dwelt, high upon the stony hills. She was bent with hatred and haggard with malice, and oftimes she would roam upon the hillside, wailing beneath the waning moon, and the folk in the valley were afraid, for they thought that the wraiths were abroad, and they locked up their homes in fear.
Her threshold was strewn with many bones, and twigs of elder, and foul black weeds. Wise she was, but malevolent. Malignance festered within her, and she was dark. The hills were bare and empty around, for terror of her swept far, and it was said she was a sorceress of black deeds. Winter wreathed the forest and the hills.
This was the time of the hunter, and he was abroad. The tumbling toes of the hills he skirted, flitting like a shadow from tree to bush. His hounds bayed in the distance. A low moon sparkled on his silvery sword, and his feet were clad in thick hide.
The slender trees around him whispered his name, for he was known the length of the land. He was Arantir the hunter, and his fame flew before him, but quietly, among the stones and the mosses, for his prey must not catch his scent.
The tale of the hunter and the hunted was told in the rumours beneath the blades of grass, and the hushed songs that were sung in the depths of the wood, about the great black bull who gored the hunter many ages ago, how he fought for life, and his oath against Teruvarn the bull.
And the hunt was on.
Thus it happened one Winter's night than man and bull met in the forest, the forest that deeply cloaked the hills of the tylwyth teg, who sang with the stars and danced with the trees.
They fought amongst the rocks, and through the great oaks who watched but said nothing, and they fought at the foot of the hill where the old woman lay sleeping in her cave. And she awoke, and cursed them for their noise. But the hunter raised his sword against her, and shunned her.
The beast's head reared skywards, blotting out the stars; his bellow shook the stones. The moonlight flamed upon his horns; and the right horn was Menocel, the piercer, and the left was Arocel the render. The steely sharp tips rent the Winter wind, and the clouds fled in tatters before the moon's face. Sword locked with horns, and the tylwyth watched quietly from the hills in the forest.
The old woman kindled a fire upon the hillside, and spoke words into it. A flaming brand she cast between hunter and bull, and they stood still, and watched her. A baleful rune she spoke, and threw a stone upon the fire. Sparks leapt into the misty night, and hunter, hounds and bull were gone. Upwards drifted the sparks, till they were set in the sky, and twinkled as stars.
Winter take you, and be stars to you, the old woman said as the fire died quickly on the hillside.
The hunter fought the bull, and the hounds bayed at his heels, in the darkness of the night, among the trees of Lirien; and the tylwyth teg sang to the stars.