The Wild Hunt

by Elizabeth Chadwick


My first conscious memory of telling stories goes back to very early childhood. I was three years old, sitting up in bed on a light summer evening, making up a tale about the fairies decorating my cotton handkerchief.

Throughout my childhood I entertained myself by inventing stories, generally based on visual prompts from illustrations in books, or from memories of TV programmes I had enjoyed.

Champion the Wonder Horse was responsible for many an afternoon of involved imagining. At this stage in my life, the tale-telling was always verbal and it wasn't until I was fourteen that I began writing things down - inspired to do so by summer holiday boredom and the BBC's Six Wives of Henry VIII starring Keith Michell e as Henry. However, although I enjoyed the writing, my Tudor tale didn't go the distance and was really just a sampler piece.

The following year the BBC aired the children's TV programme Desert Crusader, dubbed from the French series Thibaud ou les Croisades and set in the Holy Land in the twelfth century. I felll hook, line and sinker for the leading actor, Andre Laurence, and immediately began to write my own crusading novel. This time I persevered and completed it, realising along the way that I had found my period and my niche. I wanted to write historical adventures for a living - preferably medieval!

It took me another seventeen years and eight full-length novels to achieve that ambition, but I never gave up or saw rejections as a waste. It was all a learning curve and still fun to do. The Wild Hunt was the novel that finally gained me both a literary agent and a publisher. It also won me a Betty Trask award, which is an award given to authors under the age of thirty-five for a first novel of a romantic or traditional nature. The year I won, the award was presented by H.R. H. The Prince of Wales at Whitehall. This was a somewhat surreal moment for me as six months previously I had been stacking shelves at the local supermarket to make ends meet while raising my family!

The Wild Hunt has gone on to sell around the world and has been translated into a dozen languages. However, due to the vagaries of the publishing industry, it went out of print in English for many years. When Sphere wanted to reissue it, I was thrilled, but I said that in the light of increased writerly experience and with a bit more historical knowledge under my belt, I would like to go through the novel and give it a spring clean, so to speak.

The Wild Hunt was the first step on the rung of my career as a professional full -time author, and since then I have moved from writing tales of imaginary historical characters set against authentic backdrops, into telling, as fiction, the stories of people who actually lived. However, I remain very fond of this, my first published novel. I hope that my established readers will enjoy revisiting this reworked version and that those who have not come across The Wild Hunt before will be delighted too.





Snow, driven by a biting November wind, flurried against Guyon's dark cloak then swirled past him towards the castle glowering down from the high stone ridge overlooking the spated River Wye.

His weary mount pecked and lumbered to a sluggish recovery. Guyon tugged the stallion’s ears and slapped its muscular neck in encouragement. Dusk was fast approaching, the weather was vicious, but at least shelter was within sight.

The horse almost baulked at the hock-deep water of the ford, but Guyon touched him lightly with his spur and with a snort, the grey splashed through the swift, dark flow and gained the muddy, half-frozen village road. The crofts were lit from within by cooking fires and the sputtering glint of rushlight. As they passed the church, a cur ran out to snap at Arian's heels. Shod steell flashed. There was a loud yelp, then silence. A cottage door opened a crack and was quickly thrust shut in response to a sharp command from within.

Guyon rode on past the mill and began the steep climb to the castle, grimacing as if a mouthfull of wine had suddenly become vinegar.

On their arrival, Arian would receive a rub down, a warm blanket and a tub of hot mash to content him through the night. Guyon wished fervently that his own concerns could be dealt with as easily, but he bore tidings that made such a thing impossible.

The drawbridge thumped down to his hail and the grey paced the thick oak planks, hooves ringing a hollow tocsin, for beneath lay a gully of jagged rocks and debris, foraged only by the most nimble of sheep and the occasional cursing shepherd in less than nimble pursuit. Emerging through the dark arch of the gatehouse into the open bailey, he drew rein and swung from the stall ion's back. His legs were so stiff that for a moment he could barely move and he clung to the saddle.

'Evil night, sire,' remarked the groom who splashed out from the stables to take the horse.

Although there was deference in his manner, his eyes were bright with unspoken curiosity.

Guyon released his grip on the saddle and steadied himself. 'Worse to come,' he answered, not entirely referring to the weather. 'Look at the shoe on his off-fore, I think it's loose.'


Guyon slapped Arian's dappled rump and walked across the bailey, slowly at first until the feeling returned to his limbs, his shoulders hunched against the force of the bitter, snowy wind. Greeting the guards at the forebuilding entrance, he stripped off his mittens, then climbed the steep staircase to the hall on the second level.

The dinner horn had recently sounded and the trestles were crowded with diners. At the sight of their lord's heir, jaws ceased chewing, hands paused halfway to dishes, necks craned. The men at the trestles marked his long, impatient stride and pondered what new trouble his arrival augured. The women studied his progress with different looks entirely and whispered to each other.

Ignoring the assembly, Guyon strode up the hall to the dais table where sat his father with the senior knights and retainers of the household and also, he noticed with a certain irritation, his sister Emma in the lady's customary place.

Miles le Galois rose to greet him, an expression of concern on his face. 'Guy! We had not looked for you so soon.'

'A man rides quickly when the devil snaps at his heels,' Guyon answered, bowing to his father.

Then he rose, kissed his sister and stepped over the trestle to take the place hastily made for him.

His limbs suddenly felt leaden and the room wavered before his eyes.

'The wonder is that you did not fall off. Guy, you look dreadful!' Emma gave a peremptory signal to the squire serving the high table.

'Do I?' He took the cup of wine presented to him. 'Perhaps I have good reason.' He was aware of them all staring at him, their anxiety tangible.

'Surely the King did not refuse to grant you your uncle's lands?' His father looked incredulous.

Guyon shook his head and stared into the freshly poured wine. 'The King was pleased to acknowledge me the heir and grant me all rights and privileges pertaining,' he said in a flat voice. It was three months since his uncle had died fighting the Welsh on the Island of Mon that some called Anglesey. Gerard had been a childless widower and Guyon his named heir, but King William Rufus had been known to favour money above heredity when it came to confirming grants of land. Guyon had gone to Rufus in Normandy to make his claim and he had what he desired - at a price.

'Then why the dark looks for such good news?' his father demanded. 'What else has happened?'

Disinclined to make a public announcement of the news, Guyon tightened his grip around his cup. The ride had been so difficult and cold that he could barely think straight.

His sister set her hand over his. 'You are frozen!

What were you thinking to make a journey in such weather? Could it not have waited? I'll have the servants prepare a tub in the solar and you'll come there now where it's warm!'

Some of the bleakness lifted from Guyon's spirit and his lips twitched. Emma still viewed her three years' seniority over him as a licence to command his obedience, more so since their mother had died of the sweating sickness two winters ago. While Emma's husband travelled with the court as an assistant chamberlain, she dwelt here on the Welsh border, terrorising servants and family alike with her demands for a state of gracious domestic order.

This time Guyon chose not to rebel and after a single look, let her have her way. 'You had better stir the cooks to provision for my men,' was all he said as he rose to follow her. 'They will be here within the hour and cursing me to the devil.'

Emma started to scold him about the folly of outriding them when the marches were so dangerous and unsettled, but Guyon let the words tumble away from him like spots of melting snow.

Once the steaming tub was ready, Guyon began to disrobe and Emma dismissed the maids with an autocratic snap of her fingers, causing him to lift his brows. Cadi, his white gazehound bitch fussed around him, wagging her tail and panting.

He paused in his undressing to pat her flank and tousle her silky ears.

Miles dropped the curtain behind the two girls. 'I doubt that Guyon has any designs on ravishment just now, Emma,' he remarked drily.