Answering the Call
Laura Anne Gilman takes us back to the world of The Huntsmen this week, following several brave (so very brave), young people as they chase the monstrous ~ Julian and Fran, March 12, 2023
Answering the Call
A Huntsmen Story, by Laura Anne Gilman
Jenö set his feet carefully on the road, his gaze not on his boots, but on the branches overhead. At his back, Miki watched the foliage at eye level, and even without looking, he knew that the boy had his weapon at the ready. They hunted an uncanny, but other things—men—were possibly hunting them as well.
Or, not them, the polgármester had warned him that morning, but anyone unfamiliar. The borders were uneasy, and thus strangers were suspect, armed strangers thrice so.
These were strange times, even for Huntsmen. Jenö had never harmed a human being before, but he was prepared to do so if needed.
He thought he was, anyway.
Miki broke the silence. “Do you think the Lady would mind if we took a rabbit or two? Or even a deer.”
“If you wanna risk it, be my guest.”
That shut the boy’s mouth. It was one thing to look wistfully after the rabbits that fled from them, another thing entirely to risk the rage of She Who Owned the Forest. If she would offer one, they would gladly take it, but not without her permission.
Some uncanny, they hunted. Some they left the hell alone, tucking their heads in respect if need be. You did not pick a fight you could not win, not without reason. And She Who Owned the Forest had no reason to give them a reason. They had requested permission before entering, and hunted only that which was the rightful prey.
But Jenö still stepped carefully on her ground.
* * *
They paused at a fork in the road, waiting until two other shadows slipped from the woods to join them. Like them, the newcomers were dressed in military castoff, boots laced tight, webbed cloth belts at their hips carrying not canteens or incendiaries, but a single pistol, and a range of sheathed knives. Cold iron, with silver tips. Some uncanny needed specialized weapons to bring them down, but most were as mortal as those who hunted them, and their blood drained into the dirt just as quickly.
Jenö had spilled enough of it to know.
“Nothing.” Alvin, his face smooth under a shock of blond hair, spoke first, after a glance at his partner. “Do you think it’s gone?”