The Dullahan & The Boy

 

"If this fog heralds an Unseelie hunt, your education in tactics will be sorely needed.  We need more intelligence."

"I've sent Cardero and Eugenio to skirt its' edge." Lanésto said.  "We should have word shortly."

It was hardly an hour before Cardero and Eugenio returned, haggard and wide-eyed, to Castle Drent. Requesting immediate conference with the baron, the two men were escorted through the courtyard and up the stairs of the west parapet to where Lanésto and Varoq held counsel. They bowed and awaited their address. Seeing their naked shock, Lanésto asked worriedly, "What is it? What moves this foul smog?" Eugenio gazed up with frightened eyes, replying, "Milord, the brume you sent us to observe is quickened by the most devilish of spirits... a Sluagh sídhe; the Dullahan. He bade us speak of himself to you, but gave no instruction otherwise. They hunt a soul misled, a young lad from the footlands of Gaenl, who trod across one sacred mound of theirs. They lead a dark rendition of the Wild Hunt to find the boy."

Despite his usually reserved manner, Lanésto gasped, and even the Elder looked disturbingly grim. The Wild Hunt was a sacred otherworldly pursuit of an evil foe, which no mortal would ever dare get in the way of. There were oft rumors of a more sinister Wild Hunt, and it was suspected that if they were true, the Sluagh would surely lead it. However, most regarded these simply as stories, not to be taken seriously. As Lanésto mused, Varoq spoke up, with an enquiring tone. "Why would such a minor trespass warrant a Wild Hunt? Do the Sluagh truly take offense so easily? Or is this dullahan a cruel and spiteful fae?"

At this, Cardero looked at the Elder with somber eyes. The older of the two, Cardero was a something of a mentor to Eugenio, who had looked up to the man ten years his senior with awe and admiration, since he was very young. Cardero was a tactician in the Baron's service, a vassal for nigh upon five years since the two men had arrived at Castle Drent, escaping from the nearby town of Orüvar, four-score leagues to the east, when it had been burned to the ground by bandits.

"I would not know, Wise One. He is beyond my ken, as he exists in a wholly different world than ours. From what I gathered, however, he seems to be bent on vengeance for the purpose of amusement, and not for any other reason." Varoq listened without response, then glanced inquiringly at the baron. Lanésto looked troubled; his mouth confused but his eyes hard. After a pause, the Elder spoke, sadness written on his eyes. "It seems the host mean us no harm, Sire. Their slow traversal of these parts is likely driven from their desire to make sport of their prey, allowing him to make some progress whilst they meander languidly, just out of the bounds of sight, but not out of the bounds of fear."

Lanésto laughed mirthlessly. "I see you are as eloquently astute as ever, my advisor. Yes, it would appear that the danger has passed, at least for us. Cardero, Eugenio, would you announce this good news to the people of Drent?" The two stood up, as Cardero replied gladly, "Yes milord, right away." Relieved, they grinned  at eachother, leaving the room in a hurry.

The baron sighed, then sat down. Varoq gazed at him curiously. "What is the matter, Sire? The threat is past, there is no cause to worry. What troubles you?"

"I... I am merely worried for the boy. As you say, his trespass is minor, and as humans we cannot see with such spiteful justification as the sluagh. The people of Gaenl are insatiably curious, as you would well know. It is your birthplace, is it not?" Varoq smiled. "Yes, it certainly is. I, too, share your empathy towards this lad, forsaken by fate as he is. But what can we do?"

Lanésto stood up and paced the room. Through clenched teeth, he replied, "But whyfore and witherto dost the lad run? In what place can he hide from these vindictive fae? And why did he not come here, for Dagda's sake? Even with the consequences, I would have granted the boy haven from his blight." The baron's voice was bitter and lamenting.

The Elder's eyes softened. "Regret will do nothing in assuaging your dispair, Sire." Lanésto said nothing, but sat down, conflicted. There was a long pause.

Finally, Varoq spoke again, gazing at the baron with an open expression. "Do what you will, my Lord. I will be here whatever your decision may be." He rose, and walked towards the door, shutting it carefully behind him as he walked towards the courtyard.

Lanésto quietly remained with his thoughts. Eventually he got up and went to the window. He could still see the fog, slowly moving across the land like a virulent cloud. He stared at it, and wondered what he would do next.

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brume: fog, mist.

Sluagh: spirits of the restless undead. Sluagh sídhe are airborne and can shapeshift at will. A race of Unseelie (Unholy) faerïe. 

Dullahan: A type of Unseelie fairy in the form of a headless horseman.

Dagda: Supreme God of Celtic myth.

The End

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