England, October 12th 1587: Ancient evil has broken loose. The last surviving Harpy, a creature of Greek Mythology, lays waste to the countryside and only one man can stop her.
This short story is a prequel to my novel, The Village Witch.
From the journal of Mr Samuel Galton, dated October 12th 1587
She broke free earlier this evening, bringing death and havoc to the hamlet of Byre. Aello. The last surviving Harpy, a creature of Greek Mythology, legendary beast of Zeus, found imprisoned on Crete and brought here, to England, by myself just three months before.
Now I am out hunting her through dark country paths and mud-filled fields, while the rain pours down and heavy clouds cover the moon.
It is not my fault!
Crete was in some disarray with celebrations after the recent routing of the Ottoman fleet at Lepanto, and I, wishing to avoid possibly embarrassing questions from the local guards about my reasons for being there, had ducked through the streets of Herakleion until I found a busy marketplace to melt into. The guards had long gone and my activities, sanctioned by Royal Command but often seen by others, unfortunately, as spying, were of no interest to the purveyors of all things exotic, historic and often of dubious integrity.
The marble figure was exquisite and I smiled at the seller’s warnings with that false sense of superiority so many Englishmen have when dealing with foreigners. How I wish, now, that I had listened to his talk of mystic words binding the demon within, of an ancient evil, a survivor of the gods. He warned me the binding would weaken the further I took the statue from Crete, but he nevertheless took my money and wished me luck.
The statue was so unusual. Beautifully carved in marble, yet a somewhat grotesque subject that did not in any way detract from its attraction. The body was of a naked woman, but with hands and feet like claws. The face was filled with dark thoughts and bad intent and I don’t deny it stirred something in me. Strangest, perhaps, were the great wings folded down her back. The seller told me it was a creature called a Harpy, one of the hounds of Zeus. The sculptor was unknown, but the Harpy did have a name. Aello.
Upon returning home with the statue, Barbara, my wife, much more learned than I, said she had read of Harpies in Homer’s Iliad. I do not doubt her.
Now the creature has escaped from the carved figure she had been bound to by those far older and far wiser than I.