Fancy's Story by Fred Cartan

Chapter Eight
In the Devil's Kennel

One morning shortly thereafter, Fancy became bored with the estate records she had been updating. She was sleepy but this wasn't the problem. She couldn't help her mind from wandering on to her personal problems. Her legs were cramped and it became harder and harder to concentrate on the figures.

Who would believe it, she thought, three suitors and perhaps one is trying to kill me! She shook her head. She couldn't easily believe that either Singlefoot, Sharpmuzzle or Crossbark would attempt such a thing. The figure of the Dark dog came to mind. She didn't think he meant her harm but there was a doubt in her mind.

She decided this mental jittering was wasteful and decided to take a long ride to relax herself. Comely came downstairs about this time and Fancy asked her to go with her. The hostler, Brownfoot, saddled horses for them and they started off after a quick lunch. The sun was warm and the smell of the grass pervasive.

At Comely's suggestion, they rode up over the hills toward the sea. Initially they were on the land side of the hills where there were occasional groves of trees in the valleys where they could grow protected somewhat from the wind. The rest of the hills, except for rocky outcroppings, were covered with grass. Along streambeds, where there was water, it grew thickly, and in wetter spots there was watercress and occasional flowers that the sheep had not yet found. They rode easily, not wanting to stress their horses. Fancy and, it seemed, her horse enjoyed the chance to splash through the water in the little streams. Fancy and Comely chatted about the country, the weather and whatever when the path allowed the two of them to ride side by side.

After about two hours, Fancy and Comely crossed over the crest of the hills and began to ride towards the sea which could be seen in the distance. The country on this side of the hills was different. It was rockier and there were few trees growing. They began to feel the cooling effects of the sea breeze. They stopped for a moment and took the opportunity to button up their coats.

Before they started again, Fancy looked back at the hills above her. She saw a movement, and to her horror, saw the ominous figure of the Dark Dog's servant. He seemed to be following them. She became frightened, and urged her horse faster down towards the meadows along the sea cliffs. Comely followed her. When she looked back a few minutes later she could at first see no one. She stopped and pulled her horse around to take a better look. She had just begun to believe she was mistaken when, a few minutes later she saw the figure of the servant appear momentarily between rocks at the mouth of a ravine.

She called to Comely who was riding alongside her and mentioned seeing the servant. Comely stopped her horse, looked back, and said, "I can't see anyone. You must be mistaken." Comely began to lead the way down to the meadows, saying, "I think I remember this area and there should be a short cut just ahead that will lead to the road between Hundsmuth and Hoarhound House. If you are worried, we'll take it and return to Hoarhound House as soon as possible."

The path she chose was good at first. Soon however, it became rougher and led down through a rocky outcropping toward the sea meadows. Many of the rocks were loose and the footing seemed insecure for the horses. Comely suggested they dismount and walk the horses down through this area. They stopped, dismounted and and led the horses down along the rocky path.

Comely had been quite calm but she now became increasingly agitated and called for Fancy to follow her. Comely led the way and soon left the path going instead down through a short rocky defile that ran directly down to the grassy sea meadows. It was slow going leading the horses down through the rocks.

When they had finally reached the meadows, Comely told Fancy that there was a path just around the next hillside. Comely started first leading her horse. Fancy followed her around the hill and was surprised to hear Comely call out for her to come look at what appeared to be a slight depression. On the other side there was an old abandoned cart track. There was a group of rotting timbers and some rusty iron nearby. She led her horse over beside Comely and both looked down into what seemed to be an old mine shaft. There was an abrupt edge and the walls of the shaft were almost vertical.

At this point, she felt a sharp shove on her back. She started to fall and tried to pull herself back upright with the reins. The horse shied back, frightened by the edge of the pit, and she lost her grip on the reins, toppled, and fell into the shaft.

She crashed into the floor of the shaft and momentarily lost consciousness. She was shaken and when she could sit up, she looked up past the grey rocky walls to the the top of the shaft and could see no one. There was only the blue sky, a few high clouds, and a passing gull.

She called to Comely, said she was not badly hurt and asked her to fetch help. At first there was no answer, but, after a few moments, Comely answered in a wild strained voice. "I can't help. I had to put you in the Devil's kennel and you must stay there until you die." Comely was silent again and then after a minute she continued in the wild strained voice. "I didn't want to push you into the kennel. I'm sorry but Frowly Snarf must get his rightful position as master of the estate. No one will find you and your troubles will soon be over. The sea demons will get you. I hope you will understand." She was silent for another few moments then called, "Goodbye." Fancy heard faint noises as both horses left.

The fall and Comely's words at first shocked Fancy into immobility, but she soon stood up and looked about herself. There were patches of plants and moss here and there on the pit walls. But the pit walls were too smooth and slippery with lichen and moss to be climbed. Luckily she had landed on a sloping, moist sand floor otherwise she would have been severely injured. At one side of the pit there was a jumble of large rocks some almost the size of hay bales with a pool of water at its base. The level of the water in the pool seemed to surge up and down a bit.

Fancy began to call for help, but when she listened all that could be heard was the sound of the surf close by and the cries of a few sea birds. After about an hour she stopped calling and took stock of her situation. She still had her coat and she wrapped herself tightly in it. She sat on the top of the sand bank where it was driest and tried to figure what she should do. She decided to call out every few minutes, and she did but she heard no answer.

The sky darkened and Fancy huddled up in her coat. She had never felt as cold and lonely as she did now. She wondered if she would be found. She doubted it, as few people passed this way and she had little hope her voice could be heard any distance over the roar of the surf. Gradually she became drowsy and in spite of the ache from her arm and shoulder, she slept fitfully.

About midnight, she felt water lapping about her feet and this brought her back to wakefulness. The pit was filling with water. Most of the rocks were covered. She looked about in the gloom for a way to escape from the water. She climbed as high as she could on the sand slope but the water kept rising. Finally, she found a niche in the wall that had been the source of the sand. It was cramped but she managed to climb up into it and kick away enough of the loose sand at the bottom to get a foothold. She tried to sleep but the cramped position and cold air made this difficult. She dozed off occasionally and when she woke she watched the water level climb towards her feet.

After a while the water stopped rising and started to recede. Fancy climbed down from the niche onto the wet sand and tried to rest. She finally found a position with her back against the niche and her legs pulled up under her coat and dropped off to sleep, and, cold and shivering, spent the rest of the night.