So, I wanted to write something I could draw for, this happened. Regency era, involving what would now be called myth and folklore creatures, but were then called “popular antiquities”. This will come out chapter by chapter, think it would be classified as “fantasy with a touch of horror”. I’ll add the pictures in the morning, the light at the moment is rather terrible. Enjoy~ (I hope!).
Edit: Pictures added!
The following writing was found as a collection of loose-sheaf paper, wrapped in leather with a collection of drawings, near an abandoned, torn tent in a cave in 1853 by miners.
My name is Ophelia Tremaine, and these are probably my last words.
I shan’t complain, I flatter myself I have lived well. I have travelled the world, met many an interesting person. I have even made a good age, at 38. I’m older than most of those who I would consider colleagues, at least. Ever since I was young, I’ve lived for the thrill of the hunt. It started with faeries and goblins, searching for bluecaps and gnomes. As I got older I watched for headless horsemen, searched near the tin mines for bucca, and even, warily, I should add, watched the water’s edge for stray horses and the long necks of river serpents. And then, then! One day, my endeavours met with success! My first sighting was not some benign old sprite or malicious spirit. No, I was lucky enough to come upon, or rather, be saved by, a unicorn.
I should explain. From the beginning, that is. I was born in 1797, as best I can tell, the only child of a distant, rather bookish mother, who thought herself more scholarly than she perhaps was. She was neither very plain, nor very handsome, and, for most of the time I knew her, given to being less than amiable to people, including myself. My father died when I was young, explained variously by my mother as illness or misadventure over the moor, sometimes both. Growing up, I just assumed her mind was so grief-addled that she never told the whole story in one sitting. I was left largely to my own devices. We had other family, though I only deduced this as I grew older. Despite their never visiting, I realised as I matured that a woman who did not work had to have some form of income, and she did no sort of work, respectable or otherwise.
Home itself was a small, stone building on a rise overlooking a river that led after only a few miles to the sea, and over the way some, there was a rocky cropping Mother referred to as a tor. There was a village, visible in the near distance, further, and I assumed that that was where she bought those things we did not create or grow for ourselves, though it seems hard now to imagine her being civil enough to mix well in society. I was a naïve child, though like most naïve people I didn’t know that I didn’t know. My favourite books were atlases and novels, and you can probably well imagine how much, and how poorly, they shaped my view of the world over the many years I had access to them. I saw things where there was nothing, and missed entirely the important things in front of me. But enough of that, for now.
I was six or seven, and walking close by one of the shallow rises the dotted the land around our small holding, when an almighty noise came clattering out of a crevice in the rocks. Alarmed, but not out of my wits, I had the good sense to retreat. A pair of wild men, a net between them, advanced on me, and I turned to run. There was a herd of ponies up the hill, and I ran toward them, hoping to cause confusion in the men. Unfortunately, as most children are wont to do, I tripped as I climbed the hill, rolling back almost into the feet of my pursuers. I had screamed, raising a hand out of instinct, and, just at the moment I expected the net to fall, heard the clatter of bare hooves on rock. The stallion of the herd had reacted as though I were a foal, driving the men back despite his short stature. Carrying on, and quite wild, he snapped and stamped at them, kicking whenever they attempted to close or pass him. Suddenly, they gave up, eyes wide with astonishment, running in the direction of the village. The little dappled fellow saw them off, bluffing and charging, until I was quite safe from them. He turned back to me, and I saw a long, graceful horn protruding from the centre of his forehead. I had scrambled to my feet, but as he drew closer it appeared to melt from the tip, leaving nothing but a shower of fine, powdery dust to fall into my outstretched palm. I had tried to close my hand on the residue, but when I opened it again, the dust was gone, and my palm had tingled most dreadfully, for a good few days after.
I told my mother of the incident with the men, when I returned home. While alarmed, she seemed more upset over the state of my dress. I was kept close to home for a some time afterwards, though I also kept a watch for the ponies for a good while thereafter, leaving out small treats, like our carrot tops, when I saw them nearby.
It was many years before anything further happened. In the summer of my fourteenth year. I was out harvesting various herbs for our kitchen when the ponies came running over the moors towards me, almost wild in their demeanour. While most of the herd thundered past, the little stallion, driving them on from the rear, had slowed as he passed me. It was the same one from those years before, I was and am quite sure of it, and something in his attitude made me alarmed. I took my basket in hand and went running off for home, though looking back now, I wonder at the irrationality of running towards something that frightened off a unicorn, for they are hardy fighters.
I stopped in my headlong dash maybe fifty yards from home, as the sound of great crashing and bellowing, lost in the wind streaming over the moors until then, became clearly audible. Terrified, and now in my right mind, I got low to the ground, approaching as I was from up and over the hill. Peering down, I saw a great many men fighting with a large woman, easily eight or nine feet tall. Her hair was green, and looked to be moss-like, and she wore no clothes, her body a grey-brown hue in the light. The men had managed to get a rope on her arm while I watched, and four of them used it to pull her off balance. Once she was down, they had hacked at her roughly with axes and pickaxes, being simple folk from the village. She fought them off bravely, though I was unsure who I should help, if either, of the groups. Eventually, numbers won, and the giantess became still, and blackened. Well pleased with their victory, the men had clapped themselves on the back and went on their way. They did not see me, and I waited until they were out of sight before breaking cover.
The woman-faerie’s corpse radiated heat, and smoked slightly in the sunlight. Her bare shoulder was well-muscled, though I had no desire to touch the body, and gave off a slight fragrance of burning juniper. As I came around to face her though, my heart stopped. It was my mother, her face blackened and peeling as though she burned from the inside. I knelt near her head, grieved, but overwhelmed by the body in front of me. Unthinking, I curled up a few feet away and wept heartily, until I was aware no more.
The chill that comes with sunset woke me. Disorientated, it took me some time to remember why I was asleep on the grass. The body, ashy when I fell asleep, had all but reduced to a pile in the time since. Alarmed, I desired to keep something of her remains to bury. I ran into the house, crashing into walls and door-frames in the demi-light left to me, all wit to make a light gone. I found what I looked for in the kitchen, a small glass bottle, leftover from some tincture or other. Turning around, I kicked something that rattled as it passed over the floor. Ignoring it, I hurried back out to Mother, and, with much care, filled the bottle without getting any on my own skin. I stoppered the bottle with a wad of grass, thinking I would finish the task with wax in the morning. Numbed, I sat in place for a long time, until, at length, a little blue light came bobbing over the hill. More than a little disconcerted, I retreated as it came closer, but it stopped at Mother’s ashes. It had made some movements around the body, as though trying to confirm the battle from the flattened grass, before dipping down and touching the ashes, at which it turned green. Through this, I did not move, curiosity holding me still and quiet. Evidently, the light had gained the information it had come for, and was looking to leave, when it seemed to suddenly notice me, flicking back to circle around me twice, before rising over the house and disappearing. It was then I noticed how cold I was and how full of life the night appeared to be. Holding no wish to meet anything else in the dark, I hurried inside and locked the house up.
As I stood behind the door, the creeping feeling of evil came upon me, and the desire to make a light warred with the desire to hide and remain safe. I dropped to all fours, and crawled through to the kitchen. In the dark, I put my hand on what felt like a small parcel of twigs and leaves. As it is wont to do in times like these, intrigue overcame fear, and I had picked it up and examined it as best I could in the dark. A number of small twigs and three leaves, all of the same type, tied around with rough hair, much akin to pony hair. Shells and small rocks hung from this binding.
Something nearby shrieked, long and loud. Terrified, I had scrambled under the counter, amulet in hand, as something attacked the door and shutters, rattling them most fearfully. I remember praying, though I do not remember now who I prayed to. It may well have been my Mother’s spirit, or some unknown entity. It did not matter. The sound of growling and footsteps continued from outside, punctuated with bangs and screams, as though the creature launched at the door, then became frustrated. This lasted for some time, but for whatever reason, the creature could not pass into the house, for which I was then and am now severely grateful.
It is something I have learned in my travels, that a short night is something to be glad for, and being not far from Midsummer, this night was not as long as it could have been. As the light grew in the eastern window, the shrieks came less frequently, the rattling was greatly reduced in ferocity, and I became certain I would be fine. The creature had departed by the time the sun had cleared the horizon, and I felt safe enough to leave the house. My mother’s remains had been scattered – there was barely a mark in the grass where her ashes had been. I turned to examine the door, and was horrified to see deep wounds in the wood, and even very severe scratches in the stonework. Peering up as I was, I also noticed the hag stone, hung in the eave and covered with spider web. I got the broom from the house and brought it down to examine it, and found it was carved around with letters in a tongue I could not read. Having made up my mind to beg shelter in the village rather than face a second night with the creature at the door, I took it into the house with me.
In short order, I had packed up everything I wanted to take that I could carry, leaving behind some clothes and heavier books. I took both amulets and the bottle of ashes, and one of the smaller books of world maps. As I was about to leave, it occurred to me that salt would be useful should something terrible fly down at me, and ran back in. While in the kitchen, I decided I should like to take a meal with me for the journey, and I would be pleased that I had, in short order.
The first step was the worst, leaving the house behind, and deciding that it would be permanent. I had not gone far, though, when I came across the little unicorn stallion again. He was fighting a large pair of goblins trying to kill and butcher him. Now, if you, dear reader, think that goblins are evil creatures, please do not hold to that belief. Like many of us humans, they are neither one or the other, and these two just needed to eat. Unfortunately, they were trying to eat my friend, and had succeeded in giving him some rather nasty cuts. I remember shouting out, and brandishing my salt as I ran towards them. Neither of them were alarmed by my salt, but were very eager for some of the bread and preserves I had packed for my own lunch. Seeing a way for everyone to get along, I gave them my food, and the pair of them, about the size of six year old children, took it to a large nearby rock and sat down to eat a good meal.
My unicorn friend, clearly tired, followed me away from them, down the slope of the hill towards the village. It took until noon to reach a road, that directly crossed my path to the village, and once there, the little stallion would go no further, as though it were beyond his allotment. Dismayed, I sat with him in the grass for a while to catch my own wind and rest my legs, when I saw the little light from the night before. Alarmed, I bolted upright, worried that the Shrieker would reappear, but the small unicorn remained restful. Taking this as a good sign, I remained in the alert all the same, as it flew back the way it had come from.
Not more than fifteen minutes later, the sound of horse and wheel came up the road from that same direction, and I started up again, in an effort to make myself scarce. The carriage came down the road before I had decided whic way to turn, however, and it was fortunate that it did, for the woman inside was looking for me.
Explaining briefly that she was a relative, and that she knew of the death of Mother, she had come to take me with her back to London, where I would be safe from the local villagers, who, she said, could not be trusted with me, now they had killed the Spriggan. If I accepted, she said it was likely I’d not see the moors again. What choice did I have but to accept her offer?
Sorrowfully, I said goodbye to my erstwhile dappled friend, glad that I had had the chance to repay him some. As I climbed into the carriage, all patched dress and many inches deep in damp and mud, I looked out at him, as he turned back towards where I knew his herd and my old home to be. It was the last time I saw him. The carriage lurched forward, horses carrying us onward to London.