red & the huntsman

Hunting the Wolf- A Red Riding Hood Story

Summary: A young Lady of good social standing, a Huntsman with a reputation, and a slew of mysterious murders. Can they stop The Wolf before he claims another victim?

(Red is a minor character in The Girl Fairy Tales Forgot, this story is set 25 years before the novel and features more mature themes. Warnings for very brief mentions of murder/ sexual assault)

~Happy Halloween!~

It was almost typical for the scene of a grim murder. Rain pelted the muddied streets, creating puddles of dirt and filth, filling the air with its putrid stench. The night was dark and gloomy. Few people lingered on the streets, for one reason in particular.

This was no ordinary murder.

“The Wolf again, Constable?”

A lone figure hid in the deepest of shadows, cursing the starkness of her white hood. She craned her head around the archway as much as she dared, her fists clenching when she heard the name of the spectre haunting her fellow women.

She could just make out the Constable, his hat lowered from his bowed head. He clucked his tongue, no doubt accustomed to the gruesome nature of the murders by now.

“’Fraid so, lad,” the Constable muttered, his tone stiff as though he was trying not to inhale the aura of death. “Third one this week, the monster’s getting brave.”

Quite suddenly, the young Watchman retched, emptying the contents of his stomach into an archway already filled with the stench of blood and other unmentionable fluids. As he moved, the white cloaked woman caught sight of a pair of lifeless legs, and tore her eyes away. She’d seen enough, had seen enough when she’d discovered the first victim. It was seared into her mind, and she didn’t need to look to know what lay beyond those bloodied heels.

More determined than she’d ever been, she pushed away from the wall. Pulling her cloak tighter to shield herself from the rain, she disappeared down the street, seeking the name of the tavern where she was to meet him.

The tavern itself was calm and inviting, few customers milled about and the mood was subdued. As soon as she stepped across the hearth, she felt a wave of warmth wash over her as though she’d stepped into a Roman bath. For a moment, she closed her eyes. It took a lot of courage to be out at this hour, alone, courage she had to force from her deepest desires.

The Wolf had hunted tonight. It could have been her lying in the archway.

She shook her head, fighting the palpitations in her chest. It wouldn’t do to think about what ifs. She was here- and she would fight. The Wolf would cease to be a problem, and she would grow up to own her own tavern one day.

Her dreams grounded her and she opened her eyes, searching for the man whom she had planned to meet in secret. Her dark hair was damp, plastered against her forehead, and the hem of her white cloak was covered in filth. Wrinkling her nose, she tried not to picture the fit her mother would throw. It wasn’t important. Not now.

It didn’t take long to find the man she searched for. He stood out like a sore thumb, even in the deepest corner of the tavern.

As she crossed the room, she ordered a drink from the bar.

“So, you are the Huntsman?” she asked as she approached him. It came out harsher than she intended, but she supposed it was a good thing. Even sitting down, he was almost as tall as her. A giant of a man, broad shoulders and bulky muscles. She tried not to look. She failed.

The Huntsman took a swig of his drink, before wiping his mouth and silently inviting her to sit in the wooden chair opposite him. She did so, sitting up straight, not quite sure where to put her hands but making sure he didn’t know that.

He surveyed her out of his one good eye, his blind one blue and unseeing. She’d been warned about his fearsome appearance, the white gashes against the side of his face so much more prominent in the candlelight. He looked older than his years, and had experiences to match.

“Remnants,” he said noticing her line of vision, “of a battle with my own wolf.”

She shifted, looking away. Every sensibility within her told her to apologise for staring. She could hear her governess screaming at her in her mind, yet she shoved those sensibilities to the side. Here, she was no lady.

“I see,” was all she allowed herself to say in response.

There was a moment where neither said anything else, and a barmaid came over to serve her the beer she’d ordered. She never got to have beer at home, and allowed herself the luxury here. It would help steady her nerves and her hands.

“You can be at no loss as to why I am here, Huntsman,” she muttered, leaning closer to him.

He tilted his chin, eyebrow arched, and she fought the urge to recoil under his intense gaze. He was sizing her up, and she’d be damned if she’d be found wanting. This was too important.

“A mysterious man, some say disguising himself as a wolf, doing unspeakable things to women before killing them as they lay at his ungiven mercy,” his face was hard as stone, the disgust in it giving her hope. He took another gulp of his drink. “It’s enough to turn the stomachs of even the hardest of men.”

“Then you know I’m here to ask you to help me,” she implored, fingers so tight against her glass that her knuckles felt as though they might burst from her skin. “Help me stop this monster. They say you are the best at finding those who don’t wish to be found, that you hunt more than just geese and game. Help me hunt The Wolf too.”

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