Tuesday, October 16, 2012

The Wild Hunt

For my first post about some specific "wights" of DARK•HERITAGE, I'm going to refer you back to the discussion I had earlier on the major portion of the pantheon of spirits that people in the Land of the Three Empires worship as deities.  I'll also point out, however, that that was never meant to be seen as a comprehensive list of the "wights" that are known and receive at least some form of reverence, fear or propitiation, or who figure in the stories and folklore of the people who live in the area.

One specific other figure is Herne, the Green Man, a sometimes vassal of Selvans, the god of the wilderness.  Herne appears as a man cloaked, hooded and masked in leaves.  According to folklore, he was an indepedent deity of no mean strength who challenged Selvans for rulership of his lands.  He was badly beaten and hanged from the tallest tree in Selvans forest for a thousand years, where the leaves grew over his body and merged with it, and the crows, ravens, buzzards and condors picked at his flesh incessantly.  Finally released by Selvans himself, he is now a trucculent lord of the forest, who reluctantly comes when Selvans calls.

Other than this origin story, Herne is best known as a hunter.  When not called by Selvans (which happens infrequently) he prefers to wander the mystical dark and tangled woodlands of his Otherworldly home hunting anything that passes through it. While doing so, it is said that sometimes his Otherwordly woods cross over into the real world, and Herne himself wanders the darkest, thickest and wildest of woods deep on moonless nights.  His favorite prey is human trespasser.

In addition to hunting by himself, Herne is the kennelmaster of the Wild Hunt.  The Wild Hunt itself rarely rides forth without it's true lord, none other than Selvans himself, at its head, but sometimes Herne can lead it too (it is said that before his defeat at the hands of Selvans, Herne was the Master of the Hunt, a title that he still retains in some tellings, although it is a vassalge title under Selvans now.)  The Wild Hunt itself is made up of damned souls who fell deep in the wilderness to strange and Otherwordly predators--including Herne himself.  Many of them retain much of their visage in life, although made more savage, feral, or decayed and rotted.  These can ride Otherworldly horses or elk-stags, beasts that superficially resemble their real world counterparts but which often have a sense of wrongness or mutation to them.  Some of them appear as little more than mummified or skeletal husks of beasts of burden, prompting some to posit a link between Herne and Caronte, the King in Yellow.

The more devolved predators in the Wild Hunt, any who run with it for too long, become first animalistic ghouls, and finally become black shucks--Otherworldly apparitions that look like massive black hounds or wolves with glowing red eyes.

It's not known if the hunters are damned forever, or if its a kind of Purgatory from which these poor souls can eventually escape and find their way back to the afterlife that they've earned.  Depending on which occult expert you ask, you may get either answer.

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