|The Wild Hunt of Odin, Arbo, 1868|
Charleton checked his watch—maybe an hour of daylight left.
There was a cabin about three miles north, and he picked up the pace, the only sound the rustle of trees in the wind and the almost constant baying of the wolves that circled him.
This would be his final hunt. Brayer Cattle paid him well, but he didn’t need the money. Hadn’t needed it in years, really.
No, when all was said and done, he simply enjoyed killing them.
But this felt different. They were closing fast and there were more than he could ever remember.
He covered terrain in sips and swallows, ducking from tree to tree and sprinting through the occasional clearings. The sky opened at dusk, spilling snow over the Oregon backwoods. Charleton sighed and hustled hard for the meadow—and the cabin in the distance.
He was halfway there when he heard their approach. He wheeled, rifle leveled. A dozen majestic wolves fanned out around him, stalking him. Herding him. He backpedaled toward safety, just as a horrible clatter of tin bells and thunderous hooves exploded in the air behind him.
He dove onto the ground as a procession of spectral creatures astride many-legged steeds thundered through the sky above him. Hounds—dilapidated creatures, their bone and gristle showing through strips of rotted flesh—snapped at the wolves, scattering them.
The procession roared past, a demonic maiden leering at Charleton from her saddle.
“The wild hunt,” he gasped, knowing all too well that the wolves were the least of his concerns, and that the worst of it all was really only beginning.
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