The Call

Thick, dense forest stands to my back and to my sides, trees of all kinds, of all shapes and size. This place is as unfamiliar to me as fire is to a fish - and I am certain no less dangerous. I am at the edge of a perfectly circular clearing, empty of everything but a few scattered rocks.

“You must play the horn”.

I look around me, startled. I cannot see the source of the voice. It is deep but I cannot hear malice in it.

A strange sight greets me as I look back to the clearing; a mélange of creatures sit upon the rocks, each one holding an instrument. And striding towards me from the massive throne in the center of the clearing comes a large man - perhaps the largest, most masculine man I have ever seen, with wild, dark curly hair and wild, dark eyes, a thick beard and a broad chest. He is cloaked entirely in green garb that imitates the flutter of leaves on the wind; a bow rests against the throne and a torc rests on his brow. A serpent winds around his shoulders. On closer inspection he is obviously not really a man, judging by his antlers, though I do not know who - or what - he is.

“Where am I,” I ask, more a demand than a question, really. Forests make me uncomfortable. I belong underground, with the comforts of solid rock over my head.

“Be at ease, Dana, you cannot be harmed in this place. We wish only for you to join in our song, and then your spirit may go where you wish.” He takes a handsomely carved horn off of his belt and holds it out to me. It looks impossibly huge, there is surely no way I could lift it, let alone play it. “You must play the horn,” he repeats.

Upon seeing the instrument I am drawn to it; horn is like living stone and there is nothing more I want in this moment than to touch it. Dwarves are not a musical race, preferring work chants to lilting ditties. I have never touched an instrument in my life, let alone played one. But when the smooth, cool horn settles in my hand, I find that not only is it of appropriate size for me, but I know with absolute certainty my part and how to play it.

The creatures behind him begin to play their lutes, flutes, and drums. They play softly and slowly at first; their instruments create a chaotic cacophony of their individual growls, barks and brays. The dissonance dissipates as the Man in Green begins to sing. His voice is deep like a mine, thick like tar and rich like gold.

The song he sings describes a valiant hunter, wishing for a successful hunt that provides for his people through a cold winter. The song accelerates with every passing bar. How he tracks the King Stag through the forest, recognizing that he must kill the King in order for his village to survive, but not enjoying it. Louder and louder, building to a great crescendo… And as the last line describes the fall of the great stag, I raise the horn to my lips and blow.

A deafening bellow bursts forth, echoing back through the trees; the leaves tremble as it with anticipation and the ground shakes as if letting forth a great cheer. As the sound dies away, it silence is left in its wake. I look at the Green Man, who looks back at me.

“Now Herne rides.”

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