The hunter and the hound
It was in the spring that Dave told her that the old cabin by the high lake had been sold. Nobody thought much of it for the cabin had been out on the market for a long time and the price had dropped steadily for years. Now it was probably sold for less than the cost of a well used car and even if it was far from any other settlements somebody had probably felt tempted. The cabin was after all large and very well made. It was more of a house really than a cabin and it had some very special features too. It was built near a hot spring and the man who did build it in the 1940’s had placed water pipes within the walls and floors and they kept the whole cabin nice and warm year around. It was also placed in a very idyllic location and even though there were no roads leading up there it was perfect for anybody who preferred their own company.
In winter you would need a snow scooter to get up there and in summer you could use a plane and land on the lake or a boat with a good engine, otherwise it was two days hike to get up there. She had seen the cabin once and it was very pretty. The first owner had been a bit of a loner who had built the whole thing with his own hands and he had been just like the majority of the people in this area, silent and proud and able to take care of himself.
Up here in the high north people were of a special sort, they would not bow to anyone and preferred to govern themselves, in every possible manner. They did help each other when needed and if somebody didn’t want help then it was accepted. Here you didn’t need to bother with others if you didn’t want to, and if you didn’t cause trouble nobody would cause you any trouble in return.
The new owner of the Jansen cabin as it was known didn’t show himself for many weeks, some said that the cabin was being repaired but he didn’t show up in town at all. This was obviously a do it yourself man and that was respected by everybody. Even if they all were curious he would show up eventually.
The town wasn’t large, three hundred souls called it home and it too was rather isolated, there were no roads here and the airstrip their connection to the outside world. Back in the 18 hundreds it had been a hunting outpost and it hadn’t changed that much. It was a general store, a small church and some houses plus the office of the local sheriff and a woman who was a nurse and took care of any medical issues. It was all they needed really. There was one farm in the area which did breed Scottish highland cattle which was tough enough to survive up there and they did also have some chickens and a few dairy cows, this kept the town with eggs and milk. It was a society where everybody knew each other and it was nice that way.
The man did show up at the store one evening in early autumn, he didn’t need much, just some nails and rope and tea. He was not what they had expected, they had believed that this had to be some aging person, probably some loner in his fifties as most of the newcomers up there were, eager to find themselves before it was too late. This guy did look very young, he couldn’t even be thirty and he wore his hair very long and it had a peculiar colour. Silvery golden, like silk. He was six foot six and slender and elegant and moved like a panther, there was a sliding elegance to each movement and he didn’t carry a gun but a bow and a quiver of arrows. On his thigh he wore a huge hunter’s knife and his clothes were made from leather. He would have fit straight into the community as it had been two hundred years prior and he was rather quiet and very polite too. He didn’t say much and everybody did wonder who he was. He said his name was Ty and he didn’t tell anybody what his last name was, he was just Ty.
Darla did notice one odd thing about him, he hadn’t let his beard grow, most guys there did wear a huge beard for it did keep you face warm in winter and was protection against frostbite but he was clean shaven and as a matter of fact prettier than most movie stars.
He didn’t even have a dog and the shop owner did try to convince him of the wisdom in attaining a good dog, it would warn him if there were bears or mountain lions near by. Ty just shook his head with a faint smile, telling the owner that he didn’t need a dog to know these things. Darlene’s husband Tom did speculate a bit, he was dead sure that this Ty was a veteran, there was something in his eyes, something almost haunted and Tom had seen it before, in veterans from the army. Most suffered from severe post traumatic stress syndrome and he was very sure that this Ty was one of them. He was probably fleeing memories too gruesome to comprehend for anybody else.
Ty kept showing up every now and then, it could be months between each time he did visit the town but each time he did bring pelts with him, excellently cleaned and dried and of top quality and he did earn enough selling them to live rather comfortably. Several of the inhabitants there tried to get in contact with him, learn more but he didn’t say anything. The owner of the farm did tell everyone that he had gotten help from Ty once when the cattle had broken through a fence and were running wild. The man had managed to get the cattle back behind the fence within just half an hours, it was as if he was talking to them and the cows did listen. The farmer had never met a person who was better with animals than this one. Even the ornery old stallion they used to carry stuff for the shop owner was gentle as a kid near this man.
Darlene was curious but it wasn’t normal there to pry, if he wanted to speak he would, and if he didn’t well, guessing was just as good entertainment as anything else. For some years this did continue, and the town was as it always had been. Then some celebrity did buy a cabin up there and suddenly this anonymous little spot became famous. And with fame came people, many people. The beauty of the valley and the lakes and meadows did draw inn both tourists and people wanting to settle themselves there. Hotels were built, small and rather anonymous looking ones, the airstrip was made longer to accommodate larger planes. Some started to take tourists out into the wilderness using dog sleds and canoes and others did earn money telling tall tales from the days of old. The town grew, and it did grow fast. Some did move out since the onslaught of new faces was too much, they had wanted their privacy and now that was lost.
Darlene and her husband worked as guides for one of the new companies which had descended upon the town like a buzzard on a lame rabbit, they did earn a lot and liked the job too but the task could be frustrating. Some of the people there were morons, they had no idea of how dangerous the area was without a decent guide and when a man was mauled by a bear after he tried to feed it a chocolate bar the state troopers did intervene and forbade contact with the wildlife without a proper guide present. This wasn’t Disneyland but Alaska and the bears were not stuffed but real and very dangerous.
Ty did show up in town still and Darlene was a bit nervous around him, the sight of the tourists seemed to awaken some sort of anger within him and his eyes would be very hard, like flint, when he looked at these people dressed in too bright colours with their voices too loud and shrill. Darlene had keen eyes and over the five years since he did arrive he hadn’t changed much. He had started braiding his hair differently and changed his outfit a bit but that was it. He hadn’t aged a bit and Darlene had always been sensitive and there was something odd about this guy. But nobody there bothered with that, he didn’t cause them trouble so why care?
Then one day in summer a new business opened up, it was a hotel which was rather luxurious and even though it was a wooden structure it didn’t fit inn, at all. The building was gaudy and so were the visitors too. This was an expensive place, with its own guides and tours and everybody hated the entire concept within the first week. Since these visitors did pay a lot they did expect a lot of the experience and the guides did take risks, almost every day. Sooner or later something would happen and it did, within the first month. A sow got shot because she did attack a tourist who happened to pick up one of her cubs for a selfie with the cute little bear and the locals were in shock. Who is that stupid?!
Darlene told Ty when he came to the shop the next time and he did look even more angry than before. Darlene was rather sure that he had some sort of plan for there was something utterly devious in those steel grey eyes and for a moment he had seemed to glow! Still the tourists kept coming and in autumn, a week before the so called autumn feast the hotel was going to hold a very wealthy businessman from the coast did arrive with his wife and two kids, and his dog.
Darlene would later say that the dog was the trigger, the small drop which broke the camel’s back. It was an irish wolfhound, a gorgeous specimen which was unusually large even for a dog of that breed and it was probably groomed and fed by a professional but it wasn’t treated very well at all. Darlene saw that well, she had to guide the family the first day they were there since there weren’t any other guides available and the adults allowed the two rambunctious toddlers to climb all over the dog and pull at its fur and even hit it. The dog tried to get away and if it did try to protect itself the father would grasp it by the neck and shake it.
Darlene was furious, nobody ought to treat a good dog like that. But what could they do about it? Nothing, and that was the sad truth. Ty happened to be in town when the family did walk down the main road with the huge hound on a leash and Darlene did see the tall blonde grasp onto his knife with an expression on his face which sent shivers down her spine. There was little doubt that this man had killed, if he had been a soldier he had probably fought many battles and he probably knew how to assassinate somebody. He did look as if he was about to rush forth and skin the rich man, the dog was terrified of the two kids which did abuse it and the parents allowed it to happen, thinking it was “cute” They were pulling its tail and pinching its ears just to hear it whimper and Darlene compared those kids with rabid wolverines, they had no discipline whatsoever. She heard Ty whisper something which did sound a bit like “yrch” but she had no idea of what that was.
It did continue until the feast, the town was overrun with people and Darlene had a sour taste in her mouth, these people spent more money partying than the town spent in ten years and the noise and music was ear deafening. Darlene was there since she had to be but she wanted to go home, she want young anymore and these pretty people with their botox faces and expensive dresses made her feel sick. The nature wasn’t there for their entertainment, but nobody seemed to be able to see this.
She was walking back to her own humble hut when she saw the rich man with the dog, he was pulling the poor animal after him by the collar and the dog was whimpering and whining, it was obvious that the man was angry. There was blood near the ear of the dog and Darlene gaped, what had happened? The man saw her and sneered. “I am off to shoot this mongrel, it did bite my son”
Darlene did blink. “Why?”
The man struggled with pulling the huge dog after him. “He did just want to play with the dog, I guess he stuck it in the ear with a pencil but it shouldn’t have bit the kid, I cannot keep a dog which does bite”
Darlene was stunned, who allows a kid to stick a pencil into a dog’s ear and then expect it to just let it happen? The man disappeared into a path and Darlene tried to think, could she save the dog somehow? She didn’t want the gorgeous dog to die because of its natural instincts and an idiot owner who shouldn’t have owned a dog at all. She ran after them, why she didn’t know. Perhaps there was something she could do?
That was when she saw light ahead, a strange glow between the trees and she slowed down. Her hairs were standing up and she heard an odd hum in the air. Then the man came running towards her, minus the dog and minus the gun, he was screaming and the reason was clear. There were at least six skunks and a huge porcupine hot at his heels and the animals were clearly out to get the man. Darlene just stood there, the animals didn’t bother with her at all and she walked on. Up ahead was a small glen and she saw the light there. She saw two glowing figures, one was enormous and even though it was human in shape it was no human, she was dead sure. It did sport antlers and beside it was a giant white horse which did paw at the ground and snorted. Ty was the other figure and he was no human, Darlene saw it too. He had pointy ears. Darlene’s mother had been Irish, she had told her daughter about the tales of the fair people, and Darlene did sink to her knees. The dog sat by Ty’s side, wagging its tail.
Ty walked forth, stopped next to her. “The town will return to its old way of life. It is time for a hunt Darlene, a cleansing”
The huge figure let out a sort of howl and Earlene gaped as the forest around them came to life. There were all sorts of animals there, bears and deer, lynx and badgers, mice and rats and voles, snakes and owls and everything that could fly or crawl was assembled. Darlene swallowed hard and Ty stared up ahead, the eyes were glowing. “The great hunter has granted me this boon, it is our home and these humans do pollute this town, wouldn’t you agree?”
She nodded. “I…I agree!”
The great hunter did mount his horse and smiled, his face was beautiful and horrible. “Have a good hunt my child, make sure to drive the filth away from the woods, once and for all?”
Ty did bow his head. “I will Oromë. I swear I will”
The vala grinned. “I wish I could stay to watch Tyelkormo but I cannot, humans shouldn’t see me.”
Darlene did look down, she was in the presence of a deity and the vala did turn the great horse around. “Firieth, daughter of Eve. You have the love of the woods embedded within your soul, go with my blessings and know that no creature of the woods ever will try to harm thee”
Darlene felt her heart beating, very hard. “I…Thank you!”
The dog ran over to Ty again after having run a circle around the great white horse, it looked as if it was grinning and the man did caress the long fluffy ears. “Yes brother, the hour of vengeance is now”
He smiled at Darlene. “Wanna see?”
She got up. “Try to stop me!”
They ran towards the town and she heard screams and the sounds of utter chaos. The hotel was overrun by mice and voles. They were everywhere. Skunks did run rampant and a huge wolverine had jumped up onto one of the counters and did crouch down, leaving a steaming exclamation of what the local wildlife felt about this place. People did run around in a fit of panic, some did stink rather badly since the skunks had fired upon them and a solid carpet of garter snakes did chase people out of the ballroom. The locals didn’t panic, they just stood there, gaping.
Darlene saw that Ty did control the animals, he did use small gestures, sending his troops here and there like a general does during battle and when several huge eagles did swoop inn through the open windows the panic did reach a new level. Everybody ran towards the airport and a bear did tilt over some huge buckets containing burning coals, the wooden burning had sprinklers but the eager teeth of some rodents had already cut the wires and a moose had kicked a hole in the water tanks. Darlene and the other locals did leave slowly, as in a dream like state. There were bears and wolves chasing the guests, all the newcomers were fleeing. The plane which did take off was overfilled and some of those who were left did run to the river. There were several boats there and the river was flowing in the right direction so people did just jump on board and did cut the moorings.
The hotel was burning, even the guides did flee and Ty was standing there with the hound by his side, grinning from one ear to the other. When the daylight did descend upon the valley the hotel was just ashes, the locals did return to their homes with a feeling of being content. There was of course an investigation but it didn’t reach a conclusion, some said that the noise and light had confused the animals and caused them to react thus. Other said that it was the heat from the many lit fires which had caused the beasts to flee in panic thinking it was a forest fire but why did they then flee towards the feast and not away from it? Some said it was a virus of some sorts, others claimed it was a form of temporary madness and many did also claim that the scent of the food there had drawn the animals inn. But a moose wouldn’t be attracted to the scent of barbecue?
And so it became a mystery and nobody found the solution. Nobody did bother with rebuilding the hotel or restarting the guiding companies. The valley was infamous now, nobody wanted to go there. It was odd but if some tourists of the wrong type did show up they could be dead sure to find garter snakes in their sleeping bags, skunks in their bathrooms or black bears in the storage rooms. So they fled and never did any of them return.
Ty did adopt the hound and Darlene saw them quite often, she didn’t forget that night but she didn’t tell anybody what she had seen, not even Tom. Somehow people didn’t seem to notice that Ty didn’t age and Darlene didn’t reveal his secret, it was safe with her and if anybody asked who the person living at the high lake was she would just answer. “Oh, he is just a hunter”
And that was the end of that conversation.
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