Tacenda
Charlotte Donnelly
The sole beneficiary of her aunt's estate, Amber decides to move into the large house in the village ... Show More
Genres:
Fantasy, Horror, LGBT, Mystery, Paranormal, Romance
Tags:
folk horror, gothic horror, england, britain, british horror

Prologue - Midsummer, 1992

Mist curled around the trees, draped like a damp curtain over outstretched branches. The sky was grey, moon out but weak, its light shrouded by heavy clouds. Nothing moved in the forest, the stillness taut, air thick, waiting for—

Her.

She ran through the woods, breath coming in frantic pants, equal parts exertion and pure terror. Scratches bled on her face, her bare arms. The trees reached out for her greedily, and she slid on a patch of wet leaves, braced herself with hands now covered in mud.

She had to get out of here. She took a breath, paused, turned to look back. Her skin prickled. She could hear no one. Nothing. The mist crept in closer, coiled around her ankles.

A hound bayed in the distance.

The girl’s eyes widened and she ran, sprinting to an embankment, sliding down in the mud. She hit a jagged rock, cut her shin. Clapped a hand over her mouth so she wouldn’t cry out. The hound bayed again. Closer. She got to her feet, ignored the tears stinging her eyes, ran again.

She hadn’t meant to come here. She was eighteen, optimistic, and when she’d met Victor two months ago, sitting on a bench in a Manchester park and eyeing the pigeons with outright suspicion, she’d fallen hard and fast. Victor. She bit her lip, grabbed a tree trunk and pulled herself behind it. Tried to catch her breath.

Victor. He was everything she’d ever wanted. Handsome. Fun. Mysterious. And she was sure, positive, that he loved her, too. He’d told her where he lived and she had seen in his dark eyes that he shouldn’t. But she’d come anyway, stayed despite his warnings, and now…

Now, he wasn’t here. She’d cried out for him, at first, when she realised what was happening. It felt like hours ago.

He hadn’t come.

The hound bayed again, impossibly close, and she pushed off from the tree and ran again, trying to keep away from the path. The undergrowth slowed her, roots rising to trip her; she stumbled out onto the path and looked both ways, trying to make out shapes in the darkness.

Nothing.

She raced forwards—old steps, leading up to somewhere, but she didn’t care. Her feet slipped on the damp logs and she fell again, skinning her knees. The forest ended at the edge of the village. If she could make it there, she’d be free. Something in her knew that.

Leaving the steps behind, she sprinted in between the trees again, praying the shadows would hide her. The mist pressed in around her. Left or right?

Leaves rustled behind her; she ran left, hands out before her to push through thin branches. The mist muffled the sounds she was making, but it wasn’t enough, would never be enough—

The road.

She spotted it, through the trees. The moon came out, beaming over smooth tarmac, brighter than it should have been. She smiled. Almost laughed. Set off again and—

Tripped.

Fell.

She landed hard, breath escaping her in a quiet oof.

The sound echoed. Impossibly loud, it reverberated around her and when she lifted her head, a dark shape crossed her path.

The hound.

It advanced on her, lips pulled back in a feral snarl, head ducked low. Its eyes glowed and the moon slipped behind a cloud again.

She scrambled back, freezing when her back hit something.

Something too soft to be a tree trunk.

Trembling, she tilted back her head, looked up at the dark shadow standing over her.

She screamed.
***

Maponos strode out of the forest, his hound on his heels. They were waiting for him in the square, where they always waited. He’d rather take them into the forest, but then they knew that. They were smart. Not as smart as they thought they were—he’d hunt them eventually, one by one—but smart enough.

The hound barked as they passed a house, light burning in the window. Maponos turned his head. A trickle of something hot and wet and sticky slid down the side of his face.

The light went out. The curtains shuddered.

Maponos walked on.

There were seven of them in the square. They stood in a circle, backs straight, faces up and proud, unafraid.

Unafraid until he stepped among them. A ripple of fear tremored through the air and Maponos lifted his head, breathed it in. Fear strengthened him. The hunt strengthened him. The music of his prey, of panic and the need to survive.

She’d almost made it, tonight. He was happy. It had been a long time since he’d had such a good hunt.

And now it was time for their reward.

“Who?” he asked, voice curling around them like the night-time breeze, and a man stepped forwards.

Maponos’ fingers twitched and the hound slunk into the shadows, eyes still glowing. Maponos stalked the man, circling him, eyes raking over his solid form. He knew this one. Some of them here were new, but they’d get their turn. One a year, every year they summoned him. Every year he ended a hunt pleased enough to reward them.

He put a hand on the back of the man’s neck, turned him and drew him close. Maponos smiled when he saw the flutter of the man’s pulse at the base of his throat; he was hiding his fear far better than the rest of them, but there was no hiding it from him. Not completely.

“The hunt was good,” Maponos said, and the man relaxed slightly, only to tense again as Maponos pulled him forwards and kissed him.

It was a powerful kiss as Maponos drew from himself, blessed this mortal with youth. This was a kind of hunt, too, one Maponos would never tire of, and he bit the man’s lip as he pulled back, closing his eyes at the burst of copper on his tongue.

He tasted like fire and ozone, lightning wrapped in thunder. The girl had tasted like that, too, somewhere deep in her blood. Maponos narrowed his eyes.

“She was yours?”

The man’s eyes widened. He took in Maponos’ full form before he spoke, eyes raking over his antlers, dripping blood down his giant, powerful body.

“My son, Victor. He brought her here.”

Maponos didn’t care about the girl. But he wondered, idly, what Victor would taste like as he pulled Victor’s father back to him again, devoured his mouth and pushed him to the ground.

He took as much as he gave, the music of their union thrumming through his blood, and as the sun began to crest the horizon, his hound barked a warning. Maponos left the mortal shaking and spent in the square, gathering the remaining shadows around himself like a cloak.

“I will return next midsummer,” he said.

They bowed their heads. “And we will be here to welcome you, lord,” said a woman, young-looking, though when Maponos flared his nostrils, he recognised the scent of her.

​Sunlight crawled into the square, stretching soft fingers across the cobblestones, and Maponos and his hound disappeared, gone back from whence they came.
Log in to add a comment or review for this chapter Chapter updated on: 7/1/2017 2:49:03 PM
  • Ryan Watt commented on :
    7/5/2017 8:48:38 PM
    Well, I did not expect any of that! What a tradition. Disturbing, powerful, totally creepy. You get right to the horror with the Scream Queen in the woods, and then add a ... Show More
    • Charlotte Donnelly Haha, thanks! I feel like I save up all my horror writing for the summer now; I basically only write romance and fantasy the rest of the year. But I'm glad you liked it, hopefully it'll get creepier and creepier as I write more! ;)
      7/5/2017 10:28:51 PM
  • Andre Clemons commented on :
    7/4/2017 1:28:39 PM
    I'm gonna be stuck thinking about that creepy hound for a while! Excellent start, with a strong sense of environment and really ramping up the suspense! Can't wait for more!
    • Charlotte Donnelly Thank you! I'm glad you found it creepy too, hopefully it'll get creepier... ;)
      7/5/2017 10:22:03 PM