Once upon a time, a púca so offended Queen Mab that he was cast out of the Underhill. It matters not how or why. That’s not the tale you’ve come to hear. For the fae are story-tellers, and this story properly begins with a name.
Whisper it with me now: Sherlock Holmes.
Londinium had grown since the púca last visited the mortal world. It was filled with the jangle of horses and men, more men than there were stars in the firmament. Each night the púca flitted through shadows and fog thick with coal smoke to feed on the rotting carcasses of horses and cattle caught in the currents of the River Thames. Each day he went to ground in fetid alleyways, hiding from the sun beneath piles of refuse, listening as the mortals around him lived and laughed and loved and died. And so it went for many a day, and many a night, as the púca faded away.
Until one night, when the púca was roused from his stupor by the pounding of boots against cobblestones. Wicked, wicked thumped the quarry’s heart; the pursuer’s pulse was a drumbeat summoning the púca to the hunt. It wasn’t safe to follow. The fog was thin, and the moon was bright, high above the city of London that night. But it was answer the call or fade to dust, so the púca picked up the trail with a howl that left the mortals of the City trembling in their beds.
Down alleys and through courts of the Rookery the púca ran, now on two feet, now on four, always gaining upon the two men until they entered a blind alley. No way out for the prey except past him. And so, no way out at all.
The huntsman was tall and lean in the shadows. Their quarry was smaller but strong, his scent thick with old blood and rage. The moon shone silver on metal in his hand - a weapon, pointed at the hunter. The púca lunged at the prey, fangs bared.
A sharp crack, like the break of an ice-bound river, and the púca knew pain. Pain, pain, cold iron buried in his shoulder. The púca shifted and scrabbled at the wound, but the iron was buried deep. He heard the harsh breaths of a struggle, a grunt, a curse. Another ear-splitting crack echoed through the alleyway. A waft of fresh blood and sulphur. A wicked heart gone still.
Sure footsteps approached. The púca should have crawled to escape in the shadows, but they were far away now, retreating across the damp cobblestones like the sea at low tide.
A leather boot prodded him in the side and the púca uncurled with a whimper of pain. A shape eclipsed the moon – the huntsman. The púca thought ‘twas not so ill an end to his story, this final hunt.
Of course, when one story ends, another begins. And so, to begin our story, the huntsman spoke these words: “My name is Sherlock Holmes. And you are the most curious creature I have ever laid eyes upon.”