Characters: Giles, Original Characters
Setting: Pre-series, Giles is eleven years old
Summary: Every Summer Giles visits his aunt and uncle. When he is eleven years old, he ventures up onto the moor and has his first supernatural encounter.
Disclaimer: Just for fun, not profit
A/N: I didn't have a beta for this story, so all mistakes are mine. However, I do want to thank il_mio_capitano for her suggestions.
Giacomo was a tall, proud, black and tan Gordon Setter that Rupert’s Uncle Harry hunted game birds with. Rupert adored his uncle and, by extension, his dog. Uncle Harry would take him on adventures up on the moor with Giacomo - but never during hunting season. Aunt Amelia wouldn’t stand for that. But it didn’t matter, bird hunting was an autumn sport and Rupert would spend a month every summer with his mother’s sister and her husband - an important time Uncle Harry had stated, a time for them to train and get Giacomo ready for the upcoming hunting season.
The Devon countryside was a lonely place. His aunt and uncle had tried their best to keep him entertained, but a month was a long time for a young lad. When he wasn’t exploring his surroundings, it was their library and Giacomo that kept Rupert from succumbing to boredom. Tales of the moors and the surrounding countryside written by the greats such as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Charles Dickens, and Agatha Christie inspired his imagination. And Giacomo was his constant companion during those summers holidays, sleeping at the foot of his bed, sitting by his side as he read in the library, keeping pace with him while he explored the fields surrounding the house, and playing together out of doors until both they were called for dinner.
When Rupert was eleven, Uncle Harry had been called away for business during his visit, leaving him with Aunt Amelia and Giacomo. It had been rather a messy holiday, the weather unseasonable and uncooperative: cool and rainy. More time was spent in the library than visiting the moors and playing in the fields. After five consecutive days of driving winds and rain, there was lull and Rupert took Giacomo out up onto the moor to stretch their legs.
Mist and fog surrounded them, but Rupert knew the way, and Giacomo knew it even better. Unfortunately, the footing was unfamiliar and pools of water blocked their way as they wound their way up higher and higher onto the moor, forcing them off the path and onto the bog, bravado and imagination driving Rupert further. After all, this was the home to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s great, supernatural hound.
The weather started to deteriorate and the winds started to howl, and Giacomo’s demeanor changed with it. He yawned, shook his head, whimpered, and paced restlessly, trying to herd his young charge back towards home, but the boy ignored his companion and continued his journey towards the tor, an inexplicable need to press further urging him upwards and onwards. The dog followed, though he whimpered and tugged on Rupert’s shirt sleeve with a sense of urgency as a large clap of thunder finally heralded the heavens to open up and drench the world with rain once more.
Frustrated by the hound’s interference, Rupert yelled, “No, Giacomo! Bad dog!” and wrenched his sleeve from the dog’s mouth, tearing it from cuff to elbow.
As he rounded a large cairn, a huge, black, skeletal specter blocked out the sky above him, it’s gaping maw releasing a shriek of despair unlike any noise Rupert had ever heard before. A feeling a dread cast over him and he felt terribly lost and alone, his free will suddenly taken from him. Giacomo leapt in front of Rupert, causing the boy to fall back against the cairn and knock his head on the wall. Rupert’s wits returned and he flattened himself along the stones in fear. The dog stood in a fighting stance, a low growl emanating from his throat, teeth bared, and prepared to do battle against the evil force before him.
With a swipe of its ghostly hand, the specter tossed the dog away, and Rupert watched in horror as his companion was thrown against a large rock with a crunch, the sound of a pain filled yelp harmonizing with the wail of the wind across the moor.
He rose, anger and indignation trumping his fear. The rain plastered his clothing against his small frame, making him look frailer and younger than his eleven years, but his green eyes glowed with outrage. Muttering something in a language he didn’t know, he unleashed his umbrage in a burst of lighting projecting from his hands towards the evil presence before turning and running towards the Gordon Setter. The uneven, spongy ground caused him to trip and he howled in pain, grasping at his ankle as he fell a few yards shy of the the dog.
The specter followed him, floating menacing in the sky, it’s antagonized shrieks deafening during the height of the storm. He was done for. Rupert knew it. Hellhound be damned, whatever haunted this moor was far more terrifying than anything from Sir Arthur’s imagination. Low crawling along his belly, Rupert made his way to Giacomo, who lay eerily still for a dog so active, and placed a hand along his side. The dog’s breathing was shallow, but he turned his head and licked his young charge’s cheek in affection.
“Sorry, old boy,” Rupert whispered, his own breath coming in pants.
The Gordon Setter whimpered as he heaved his body between Rupert and the evil presence, still trying to protect the boy. Rupert looked up in terror as the giant apparition darkened the sky above him. In quiet desperation, he searched for the unknown words again, but couldn’t find them.
The specter’s skeletal hand reached for the boy and, with herculean effort, Giacomo lunged, teeth bared, barking and growling at the ghostly threat, but his path was redirected again and he was thrown into the cairn some twenty feet away. This time there was no whimper, no yelp from the dog, just a thud and the desolate sound of the wind sweeping across the moor.
“No!” Rupert cried, fighting back tears. He tried to stand and run to his faithful friend, but fell back onto the saturated ground, his ankle refusing to bear his weight.
The specter loomed closer, descending from the sky until its boney finger touched Rupert’s forehead and he screamed in pain and panic as he felt the life drain out of him, his vision blurring on the cold, storm ravaged moor. In the last of his moments, he saw another figure. A woman this time, in white surrounded by light, standing off in the distance, beckoning him and calling his name. The pain overwhelmed him and felt the darkness tunnel into his brain. Then he heard the words. The same words. Words he’d heard before. The very words he’d said before. Unfamiliar on his tongue and unleashing a maelstrom of lightning. The woman in white edged closer, power emanating all around her and from the roots and rocks below. With one last gasp, Rupert felt the blackness creep in. And then… oblivion.
When he opened his eyes, he found himself on the sofa in the library next to a roaring fire, shaking with cold under several blankets, his breathing shallow and labored.
“He’ll recover,” he heard a male voice say from elsewhere in the room. “Keep him quiet and keep giving him the penicillin as I have prescribed. If his breathing gets worse, we will have to admit him to hospital.”
“And the ankle?” his Aunt Amelia asked.
“It’s healing nicely. The swelling has gone down considerably. Thankfully, he won’t feel up to running around for a while, so it will have time to fully heal in a week or two.”
“Thank you doctor. I will see you out.”
Rupert shut his eyes and curled into a shivering ball beneath the blankets, trying to warm himself up before losing consciousness again.
The next time he woke he was alone in the darkened library, the fire still burning in the fireplace as a storm raged against the large glass windows. He screamed in fright at the shadows that loomed outside, shadows that floated against the blackened sky.
His aunt rushed into the room and knelt on the floor beside him. “Rupert, love, what is it?”
“N-noth… nothing, Aunt Amelia,” he rasped, unable to tear his eyes from the windows.
“It’s just a storm, dear boy,” she stated, brushing the sweat soaked hair from his brow. “There’s nothing out there that can hurt you. I promise.”
There was something in her tone, something akin to the lilting words the white woman on the moor had uttered, that reassured him, and he exhaled in relief before succumbing to sleep once again.
Sometime later he woke to the sound of his uncle’s gentle baritone voice singing a sailor’s lament he’d once heard in a pub in Exmouth a couple of years before.
Lifting himself onto his elbows, Rupert steeled himself for an answer he already knew. “Giacomo?”
He saw his uncle’s Adam’s apple bob up and down before he pulled his lips into a grim line and shook his head. Rupert tried to be brave, tried to maintain a stiff upper lip, but he didn’t have it in him. He turned toward his uncle, reaching out for him until Harry pulled him into a tight embrace, and he cried until he could no more, eventually falling back asleep.
Three days passed as Rupert fitfully dozed in and out of consciousness, his dreams and nightmares colliding with reality. When the fever finally broke, he woke with a serious need to shower and an even greater need to relieve his bladder. When he tried to stand, his uncle ran to his side.
“Let me carry you, lad, that ankle isn’t ready to take your weight yet.”
Looking up into his uncle’s kind face, Rupert felt shame. Shame for being a burden. Shame for his illness, for his injury, for getting lost up on the moor, and for Giacomo’s death. “I am so sorry, Uncle Harry.”
“No need to be sorry,” he stated. “Just glad I got home in time. Your aunt has been worried sick for you.”
Rupert wanted to ask what happened. He wanted to ask after the black specter and more importantly, ask why he wasn’t dead out there on the moor. There had been a bright light, a woman on the other side, yet here he was. But it all sounded too crazy, even for him. Even after everything his father had told him on his tenth birthday and the world in which he was being prepared - a world veiled in secrecy and the supernatural, a world he couldn’t share. A world he was forbidden to share.
One sunny and warm morning, after his lungs had cleared up and his ankle had healed, Uncle Harry took him back up on to the moor. They visited the area Rupert had fallen beneath the specter’s evil intent and his skin prickled as a surge of uneasy energy raced through him. He shook his head to rid himself of the feeling, but it lingered and he looked around his surroundings uneasily.
As they approached the cairn, he noticed there was a new mound of rocks beside it and the boy swallowed the harsh lump in his throat before walking over to it and kneeling beside it. Bowing his head, he placed his small hand against the stone that entombed the valiant hound who gave his life to protect him against a supernatural foe.
“He was a good dog,” Uncle Harry stated stoically.
Rupert took a deep breath to stave off the almost overwhelming emotion. “He died for me,” he murmured with reverence.
“Aye, he did,” returned his uncle. “A good dog.” He then turned and headed back down the path.
"Good dog," Rupert echoed, picking up a small stone and placing it in his pocket. He then rose to follow his uncle back down the moor and to the house.