Where there are sheep the wolves are never far away, Plautus.
Danny Weston weaves a spell that adolescent children—and those that think young—should follow under a Hunter’s Moon. A combination of coming-of-age drama, morality play and a supernatural thriller. It resonates with contemporary themes and Scottish folk lore.
Callum, aged fourteen, narrates. Kids will warm to him, because he is the feisty everyman-child. His father lost him in a card game to Fraser McCloud. And he’s been working for three months with little food and little prospect of paying off his father’s debts and getting home to his family.
Fraser, Cullum supposed, ‘was a bully for hire’. Rich Highland gentry paid him to make problems and people that have gone astray with their land rent, for example, go away.
When Colonel Chivers of Chivers’ Hall turns up and flatters Fraser offering him a job and cash up front to get rid of a wolf or dog that has been terrorising the locals it seems too good to be true.
‘In Callum’s scant experience, wealthy people were the ones who watched their expenses most carefully. It was how they got to be rich in the first place.’
The Colonel made light of the task. It’s a matter of public record that Sir Ewan Cameron shot the last Scottish wolf in Killiecrankie…20 years ago.
The beast seems to venture out of the Forest of Tay, and there are some in my locality who believe the place to be enchanted.
Fraser with Callum saddle their horses and go after their prey. Stories come back to them that the beast in the forest is more than flesh and blood,
Cu sith an ancient creature, summoned from the underworld by the walkers in the wood and sent out to avenge them. Three other men had went missing. All with one thing in common. They had taken money from Colonel Chivers and helped to cut down the trees that protected the ancient forest. The Clootie Well at its centre, if a person went there and made a wish it would be granted.
Andrew Sessions, the landlord of The Shepherd’s Crook, a big rambling inn, for example, had entered the forest with his wife and come back with what they most wanted, Mhairi, a baby girl clad in rags.
‘Shargie’ the old-fashioned word for a foundling.
Locals treat her with suspicion, but Mhairi agrees to lead Fraser and Callum into the ancient forest to hunt the beast Fraser had been paid to kill. But there’s a spark between Mhairi and Callum.
She can read people and even read and write. Something Callum hopes to learn one day. And she has strange independent notions not congruent with bowing the knee to landed gentry of the times.
I found myself drawn to the forest…Beautiful. I saw wonders. I came to understand that the way we live now—with our houses and work and precious coins—that’s not how we were meant to be. Because, we are just babes ourselves, only in this world for a few score years. But the forest has been there since the beginning of time.
A suspicion that all might not be as it seems, but the force of good will triumph and she will be able to save him—if the price is right for all. Read on.