Discovering ‘The Horned One’ by Kay Berrisford
Welcome guest author Kay Berrisford. If you haven’t read her work you’re in for a treat. GIVEAWAY: Kay is giving away a digital copy of Bound to the Beast to one lucky winner. Just leave a comment and she’ll choose a winner after 1/20 and post it here on the blog. Lucky you!
Shifters! Man-beasts! They’re all the rage now, but they’ve been pretty damn popular since, oh, about the Stone Age, as I discovered when researching my novel, ‘Bound to the Beast.’
‘Bound to the Beast’ is the tale of Greenwood legend and (semi) stag shifter, Herne the Hunter. In some English folk tales, Herne can shift completely into the form of a stag, but he is usually depicted as a man with antlers or horns. In my novel, Herne is an immortal who shifts to sport the antlers of a stag when his passions are stirred.
Like his brother shifter the werewolf, whose history can be traced back at least as far as the Ancient Greek lycanthropes, Herne’s origins are lost in the mists of time. Herne bears an uncanny resemblance to the horned gods of Celtic religion and his man-beast “look” dates back even further. Headdresses with antlers intended to be worn by humans during rituals have been found in England dating from the Mesolithic period—around 10,500 years ago!
So why this ongoing obsession, err, horns? Horns and antlers were, and still are, a powerful symbol, the meanings of which are not always identical but rarely hard to decipher. Stripped to their basics, antlers represent hunting, power, violence, fertility, sexuality, and rebirth, a heady concoction to which humankind have long added their mystical spin. Stone Age sites near where I live in the south of England have revealed human skeletons buried with deer antlers, possibly symbolising the hope of new life.
The first written account of Herne comes from William Shakespeare no less, who described Herne as a ‘keeper’ in Windsor Forest with ‘great ragg’d horns.’ In many folk tales, Herne is also the leader of the Wild Hunt, an army of the undead (medieval zombies, if you like) who were believed to sweep across England on the eve of great disasters, such as the Norman Conquest, or the Black Death. Dark, huh?
In ‘Bound to the Beast,’ my Herne is the leader of a Celtic tribe. The Mother Goddess gifts him his crown of antlers and immortality after he sacrifices his human life to save his people, who’d been betrayed by Herne’s treacherous lover. Alone and bereft, he roams the Greenwood for over a millennia, till in 1588 he faces his greatest dilemma. The ships of the Spanish Armada are circling English shores, and invasion is threatened once more. Will he lead the Wild Hunt, letting England fall in his wake? Or will Herne find someone to heal his fifteen-hundred-year-old broken heart, and learn to love instead?
I had great fun finding about the history of Herne and shifters in general, and I hope you’ll enjoy reading my novel if you decide to have a peep. Thanks for reading—and thanks to Viki for letting me drop by today.
Here’s a pictorial history of The Horned One at my blog:
Bound to the Beast by Kay Berrisford (A Greenwood novel).
Published by Loose Id. Genres: m/m, Historical, Fantasy, Paranormal, BDSM. Novel length, 68,000 words. Art work by Anne Cain.
“Sex and magic, bondage and blood…and a love that lasts a thousand lifetimes.”
England, 1588. When a fairy betrothal ritual goes wrong, village lad Tam is bonded to Herne the Hunter. Warrior, legend, and Greenwood spirit, Herne once led the terrifying Wild Hunt, an army of the undead who rode as harbingers of doom. When his passions are stirred and his blood is up, Herne sports the antlers of a mighty stag.
Herne could be the dominant lover Tam secretly craves, but Herne’s past makes him fear the brooding warrior will enslave or kill him. While Herne admires Tam’s toughness and humor, he has rejected love — as he has sworn off leading the Wild Hunt — and wishes only for solitude. To break their betrothal, they must travel into the Greenwood, a realm of magic and bondage where their desires for each other grow dangerously irresistible, and the Wild Hunt bays for their blood.
As the threat rises, Herne’s mastery and compassion realize Tam’s darkest sexual fantasies. Soon he’s no longer fighting for his freedom, wishing to be bound to the beast forever. But can Herne’s tortured heart be reawakened? And if so, will their love destroy them both, or prove Herne the Hunter’s greatest weapon?
In an instant, Tam clambered into Herne’s lap, arms circling about his neck. But far from an attempt to throttle him as Herne expected, Tam littered kisses along the line of his jaw, murmuring as he lingered.
“Lord, I hate you as much as your damnable story makes me want to—gnng!” He bit the lobe of Herne’s ear, nearly hard enough to draw blood. “Listen, man.” He spoke breathlessly between sucks. “If this night is all we have, if my time is so short…then I want to be with you as much as I can. Agh!”
Easing him off, Herne held him at arm’s length, their knees pressing into a patch of soft dirt between the stone and the nettles. The lad breathed unsteadily, his eyes vibrant with waxing desire. Faint in the distance, thunder sounded, echoed by the hoarse voice of a crow and the whirl of the bats about the ruins. Ah, the Wild Hunt loved to ride out beneath a summer storm, but he refused to listen for them. This terrible heat had to break.
“I swear,” he told Tam, shaking him. “You will know many more nights, and you will find joy with others. Now you must turn the spit, or the meat will spoil.”
“I don’t care. Let it burn.”
Plunging forward, Tam was as keen as his words. He urged Herne into a slow, yearning kiss, kindling grief, despair, and the barest inklings of happiness. His warrior’s frame firmed against Tam’s smaller body, enveloping him so naturally they might have been born to fit together.
Herne pressed his eyes shut, throwing everything into the kiss, holding Tam so tightly he could scarcely move, tasting, consuming, and devouring him. Tam parted his lips wider and yielded to the onslaught, while Herne’s thoughts flew briefly to the vision he’d experienced as he’d searched the forest. Tam had implored him to master him, had offered him every pleasure—and then transformed into that damned holly bush, just as Herne began to understand Tam was all he’d ever wanted.
The real Tam governed him now. A lover who desired him as much as Herne craved him, for the first time in so long.
For the first time ever.
He felt as if a fine thread wove through his chest and Tam’s, drawing them tight and demanding they never broke apart. As he comprehended the lad’s carnal needs more and more, his body heated and hardened, and his pulse quickened. He saw a flash of white light, and his antlers split forth from his skull. Kissing on through the pain, he plundered all the deeper. When he finally broke the kiss, they both gasped for air. His antlers grew weighty, and his blood raced. He must be careful now.
“Did you not understand me, boy? I am dangerous to you.”
“I know.” Still Tam grew unrestrained. “But at the very least…let me taste you.”
Ripping apart the front of Herne’s coat, Tam trailed kisses up his throat, along the line of his jaw. Nobody had ever kissed him with such fervor, and the soft brush of the lad’s lips brought a lump to Herne’s throat, a pang of desperation. Tam tasted briefly again of Herne’s lips before he tore away and scrambled up from the dirt. Tam grasped his antlers before Herne knew what struck him.
He jolted, his first instinct to push the lad away, but then he stilled. With soft fingers, Tam traced his spreading branches, stroking to his very tips.
“Beautiful.” Tam’s heavy breaths nearly drowned his word, and Herne groaned. He felt only slight sensations from his bone protuberances, but Tam’s touch reverberated straight to his aching cock.
“What are you doing?” Herne’s voice fell to a lust-laden husk.
“I hardly know,” replied Tam, leaning in. He sucked in one horned tip of an antler, and Herne’s senses spun. Tam rolled his tongue around the blunted end, closing his eyes, clearly savoring the sensation. Herne stared at the lad, who worshipped him with his mouth, relishing his flavor. Sweet Goddess, the steel rod between his legs wept. He could not bring himself to stop the lad.
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