** being an account of my experiences in the Otherworld, and therefor entirely my own unverified beliefs. **
Once upon a time, deep in the Wildwoods of the otherworlds the Lord of the Wilds was in his tent with His beloved. She had been gone long and was newly returned to Him. The two longed for nothing more than an undisturbed night together, and had gathered the Hunt about them to insure that no trouble came to them.
The Hunter and his beloved were alone in their tent when a great clamor swept through the camp. The Horned One grabbed up his dagger and swept his great fur cloak over his shoulders.
“Stay here my love, “He told the young woman, “This won’t take long.” He kissed her once before throwing open the tent flap and going out into the cool night. His beloved waited only a moment before dressing a gathering her own weapons. Hearing a great roar from outside, she took up her bow and quiver before following her god out of the tent.
The sight that met her outside of the tent shocked her. Her lover was in the form of a great bear, with a golden crown set upon his brow. Cast over Him was a golden net that glittered darkly beneath the astral stars. Strange men had overwhelmed the great bear and jabbed at him with golden spears. A goddess with mahogany in a golden chariot drawn by peacocks gave orders and laughed at the plight of the Bear King. Another chariot rolled in, storm cloud grey, drawn by goats, and containing a large, burly god wielding a hammer.
The Bear Kings was dragged away by the lady in the golden chariot and the lord in the storm grey chariot. The young woman looked about her, the camp was in disarray. The huntsmen were frozen, all turned to stone by the goddess or stunned by the god. No help would come from them; the Hunter’s beloved was alone.
Silently she followed the tracks of her god that was a bear and the two chariots that pulled him away. She followed the trail until it left the forest to follow a road. As she followed the road it began to rain, cold stinging rain that” turned the road to mud and by the time she cam to a small village the trail was lost to mud and puddles.
The Hunter’s Beloved asked an old woman in the village if she had seen the way the chariots went.
“Ah,” said the old woman “So you must be the huntress. As they brought the Bear King through He swore to all who heard Him that a huntress would follow in His steps and would stop at nothing to free Him. They took Him on the main road through the village and towards the city. If you follow I’m sure you will find Him.”
The Hunter’s beloved thanked the old woman, and handed her a small reddish feather. “Thank you for you kindness, if you ever have need of me, this feather will summon me to you, take it with my gratitude.”
The young woman then followed the road and the old woman’s directions through the village, the surrounding fields and orchard until the road become paved with flag stones. Shortly after the stones began the road wound its way through a sizable town. People in the town stared at the young woman, and she caught the word “huntress,” “Bear King,” “beloved,” and “Hunter” on their lips.
As the road left the town it turned from paved stone to asphalt, with double yellow lines down the middle. This road leads to a city, just as the sun was rising over the horizon. The light lanced through the glass and granite walls of the buildings around her, and a single ray fell on the golden door of a tall mirror walled building.
Standing outside the golden door was a doorman in a neat, pressed suit. The Horned God’s beloved approached the doorman and inquired about the passage of two chariots pulling a captive bear behind them. The doorman looked her up and down, taking in her hunting leathers, her dusty boots, her finely crafted bow and her quiver full of arrows. “So you must be His beloved. Aye, they brought the Horned One through, bound as the Bear King. As they took Him by He cried out that you would follow to avenge Him, and that anyone who would follow the turning of the wheel would let you pass.”
“Where did they take my god?” she asked?
“Why, they brought him here. Took Him through the door. And I know which way the wind blows, so in you go. If you followed him all this way who am I to stop you at the door. Take the last elevator on the left and the operator will know where they took him. Tell him who you are.”
The huntress inclined her head gravely to the doorman and thanked him for his information. She went through the golden door and to the last elevator on the left. She pushed the button to call the elevator to her, and the doors slid open and a golden grill was raised to reveal on wrinkled old man in a uniform that matched the doorman’s. “I’m –“ she began.
“The huntress that follows the Horned God. I know. I won’t mince words, you’re late and running out of time. I’ll take you to the pent house, but that’s it. I don’t want to be involved.”
The young woman thanked the elevator operator as the grill was drawn down and the door slid shut. Once the elevator reached the penthouse floor the grill was raised and the door opened, “Out.” Said the operator. “And good luck.”
The elevator had opened into the penthouse flat, which was deserted except for a single young man, in a sharp suit, with wavy blonde hair, and a charming smile.
“Where is He?” the young woman demanded knocking an arrow and drawing it. “I want Him back.”
“The Hunter is there. “ the young man said, setting down the cup he had been bearing in order to point to a plain wooden door. “My mistress brought Him in and then she left to attend to her husband. I don’t want to go against my mistress, but He’s spoken of noting but you. He truly loves you, and if you can free Him, I’ll let you go.”
“Thank you.” The young woman cried as she raced past the cup bearer.
Once in the room the young woman could only gape. Where she had been expecting to see her over returned to His normal form, she saw only the great bear, with the golden crown.
“My love?” She asked approaching the bear, placing a small hand on the massive shoulder, “have they harmed you?”
“Not harmed, no.,” growled the Bear God. “But I can’t take the crown off. And with the crown on, I can’t leave this room.”
“Don’t fret my dear.” She said, reaching out to lift the crown off of the bear. But the crown would not be moved, it was fused to the skin beneath the thick fur.
“As I feared.” The Hunter said when his beloved described this to Him. “They won’t let me go easily, they’re afraid of what’s to come. They think that keeping me bound by gold will stop what has already begun, what has always been inevitable.”
“But you’ll fade in here. With this on you’ll be shaped completely by mortals beliefs, they’ll change you, and you won’t be able to act against it.”
“Worse than that, me love.” The Horned One replied. “Creatures of the wild are not meant to be caged, and luxury is my opposite. This golden circlet is crueler than iron chains. I will fade from existence in here.”
“What can I do?” she begged, “Will our allies help? Can I gather the Hunt?”
“None of those. You must kill me.”
“I would rather die than kill you. The world cannot survive without you. I do not want to live without you.”
“Kill me!” He roared, pushing His beloved away from Him with a massive paw. “I will not give them the satisfaction of watching me fade into the nothingness. To be forgotten is worse than death. Kill me, with a clean shot that only you can make. Then skin me and take my hide back to my Wildwood, so that I may rest there.”
The huntress stood tall, and drew her bow, she had never denied her lover anything before. And though this may hurt her, she owed her loyalty to Him.
“I will never love another, “ She told Him as the took her aim. “And I will become what you want me to become, what they fear so much. And once I have, I will avenge you.” And with that she loosed the arrow, it flew as straight and true as the love she had for her god, to bury it’s flint tip and apple shaft deep into the bear’s right eye.
With tears in her eyes she drew her flint knife to finish out her gods instructions. She skinned the great bear, then set fire to the remains. She would be damned if His captures ever touched her beloved again. As the remains smoldered away she carefully cut the crown from the bear hide and then threw it on the fire, weeping as she watched it melt.
Her lover was nearly ashes and the crown a lump of molten gold when the door banged open and the god with hammer stood framed in the doorway.
“You.” He snarled.
“Me.” She replied grimly. She had fought with this god before, and while she had never bested him, she had held her own. She had never been this angry before, this time, she would make him kneel before her sorrow.
The god hurled his hammer at her and she dodged, she had drawn an arrow from her quiver to fight back when she heard the voice of her god. “Take my hide back to my Wildwood, so that I may rest there.” She had to fulfill His final request. So she knocked an arrow to the string, and instead of firing on her opponent she turned and loosed at the wall of windows in the room. The glass shattered as she race towards it, the bearskin in her arms. She flung herself out of the window, and plummeting to the ground she shifted.
She heard the gods below of anger as she flew away, a small reddish falcon, hauling a bear pelt in it’s talons.
She flew non-stop until she came to the Wildwood. Then she landed, shifted back to her human form, and let herself cry. She knelt on the mossy ground, beneath the spreading trees with the bearskin wrapped around her shoulders. She rocked back and forth and felt her heart break over and over again. Tears fell from her eyes onto the skin and the ground around her. Then the wind whistled through the trees and a hunting horn sounded in the distance, and no longer was she wrapped in a bear pelt, but in strong arms, large hands rested on her waist and hips. Lips brushed her ear, her check, her neck, and a voice like the storm, like wind through trees, like the pipes on a distant hill, like the whole of the wilderness whispered to her.
“You really didn’t think you’d be rid of me that easily did you?”