The Huntsman once watched over the fields and forests, ensuring all living things kept to their place, were safe and well fed and did nothing to disturb the habitats of other things. Ranging up and down and around the earth, he saw every twitch of his quarry, heard every ragged breath of would-be predators straying from their assigned dens.
In time, there grew to be too many creatures to watch, the world a much larger place than when he had first been given his task. Invaders and transgressors grew bolder, more violent. The Huntsman began to escalate his punishments for those he did catch, hoping to create examples that would serve as deterrents. This failed.
As the years wore on, he came to find more pleasure in his punishments, drawing more strength and sense of self from them than he ever had simply ensuring things stayed as they were. He began to bait the creatures under his watch, trying to goad the strongest and most rebellious into testing him. Those that failed to provide an adequate challenge were slain out of hand, the meat and bones that made up such lesser beings serving as the raw materials from which he fashioned newer, ever more disturbing clothing and weapons. Those that succeeded, that taxed him and forced him to work for his kill, he rewarded… after a fashion.
Soon, there was no border that was left unguarded. When the Huntsman could not see to an area personally, his new hounds served the purpose. Each twisted, broken, psychotic with starvation and pain, and each with the face of one of his more challenging hunts.
When the Huntsman was cast down, chained in the darkness, his hounds remained loyal. Haunting the old borders, their baying and howling entered human myth as the banshee’s wail, the snarl of the barghest, the demonic gaze of the black dog. Freed from their leashes, they run free and wild… for now.
But should the Huntsman return, the hounds will know their master. And answer his call.