Merlyn Hawke was a predator.
A sick one at that.
He was the ultimate Zooadist- he hated all animals -except that is his two hunting dogs, a lurcher called Addams and a Jack Russell Terrier, named Nipper, because that’s what he did to his Ex-Wife.
Merlyn had a small kennel on some land he had pinched from the Commoners Association on the Penygarnddu Common near Dowlais Top.
He had always been an outdoorsman, with his wrinkled and weathered face making him look much older than his actual 65 years of age.
Merlyn had always enjoyed causing pain to animals, his earliest memory was of his father, Buzzard, encouraging him at the age of four to throw stones at the multitude of rats that inhabited the open sewer of the Morlais Brook, that ran down from Dowlais through Penydarren, carrying the effluent and pollution from a population ravaged by Industrial pollution.
At six, he had already learned the dark art of shooting tree sparrows with his Diana SP50 slug gun.
He enjoyed burning insects with matches and cutting worms in half with a scissors and watching try to regenerate before cutting them in half again.
It was no surprise then that as an adult, he become involved in the local fox hunting scene, not for the Boxing Day pomp and ceremony but he was first to admit for him it was purely to see a defenceless animal ripped apart by a pack of bloodthirsty hounds.
They say that evil isn’t born but made.
Merlyn Hawke appeared to be the exception to this rule.
Merlyn didn’t live like most people in 2023, he lived off the grid- he had made himself a bivouac out of branches and lived off the land in the Taf Fechan Woodland Area.
He had few Earthly possessions but despite this fact he had booby trapped the area around his makeshift home with bear traps to foil the unwary.
His eco-home blended into the woodland with only a Stephen King -style Red Indian ‘Dreamcatcher’ the only evidence of his existence on Planet Earth.
Merlyn didn’t believe in the concept of money- to him it was just a legal fiction- designed to keep the lower classes in economic slavery- he had what he needed from Mother Nature by way of food, foraging for nuts, berries and mushrooms and of course meat from rabbits, voles and fish when he could get them.
He had modelled himself on the Sylvester Stallone character, John J Rambo although without the Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Merlyn had never claimed a single penny but spent many a penny marking his scent on the proliferation of hawthorn bushes and ash trees in and around the Taf Fechan River.
Just like a bear, he too shat in the woods and wiped his caked arse on the Dock leaves that were in abundance in his little valley.
Merlyn avoided society like the plague, had never had any form of inoculation as his late parents had not believed in them.
Surprisingly, Merlyn had rarely been ill since he left school at 11 , mainly due to his lack of contact with other humans especially since his estrangement from his ‘wife’, Jane.
They weren’t married in the eyes of the law, but had followed his parents traditions by ‘jumping the broom’ together.
It did however, confuse the Hell out of the Council Street Cleaner.
Merlyn had decided that his dogs were much more reliable and trustworthy than humans and certainly far more loyal.
When they went hunting together, he always ensured that the dogs got a fair share of any catch- both in terms of meat and the marrow from the bones too.
Nipper was very partial to rabbit stew and he would place a bowl out for him once it had sufficiently cooled after transfer from his big metal stewpot.
Merlyn had recently found a little human companionship with a local lad, formerly of Romany extract.
He had taught Merlyn the delights of eating hedgehogs and of course their use as a toothpick.
His name was Perry, which was short for Peregrine and Merlyn had experienced great delight in taking him under his wing.
They both enjoyed hunting together taking Nipper & Addams on long walks to pastures new.
Perry had his own pet , a tame ferret called Flusher- which he had so-named after finding him in an outdoor toilet when he was a kid.
Flusher lived in a side pocket of his camouflage trousers and went everywhere with Perry in his trews.
He still lived with his elderly 40 year old Grandmother, on the caravan park at Glynmil situated between two busy roads on the Slip Road.
He knew that soon he would have to find new ‘digs’ because it was a Romany tradition to burn out the wooden didicoi after the owner had died.
Today, Merlyn & Perry had been up to the kennels early, as they had planned to go hunting together near Brecon and it would be a long days haul, as neither of them drove or possessed a car for any purpose.
As usual the pair followed the line of the River as they headed North.
Not far from Talybont, the dogs picked up the scent of an animal and began to turn in a circle to notify Merlyn of this fact.
They knew that hunting rabbits and small mammals was allowed but certain creatures were off-limits with their dogs, especially when it came to foxes.
Not that the pair had any reservations about the fact- as they would do so undetected anyway.
Lurcher Addams had the keenest nose of the canines - a fact that Merlyn boasted about -claiming that his dog could smell a rabbit fart from five miles away-as long as Perry wasn’t upwind of course.
The pair of dogs took off at speed, as they hurtled up the valley and then pounded up a steep embankment in search of the source.
Perry ran after them but Merlyn being more advanced in years was a lot less light footed.
The pair had stopped near a large hole with the entrance partially obscured by ferns and bracken.
Addams and Nipper were now being restrained by their collars, as they we’re definitely onto something.
Barking and hollering at the hole.
Merlyn suspected that it wasn’t a Warren but couldn’t be certain as to what creature the dogs were sensing.
The hole was larger than an otter’s holt and probably too far away from the river in any event.
He turned to Perry and asked his opinion.
“Not sure ….but I suggest we send Flusher here on a scouting mission!” Said the youngster.
Reaching into the side pocket of his camouflaged trews, he lifted the little mammal out very carefully.
He knew from experience that the little member of the weasel family possessed tiny but very sharp teeth.
Sharper teeth than the zip of the second hand pair of knock-off Levi jeans that he once found in a bin that had taken his foreskin off.
Boy did he curse the bastard that had shat in them and then dumped them.
He lifted Flusher to the hole and he merrily made his way inside.
Flusher wasn’t normally scared of anything.
He had once dispatched eights rats in less than five minutes when he had entered the Waterloo House culvert near Penyard.
The camp had eaten well that night.
Even if the young uns had asked as to why their hedgehog tasted a bit funny.
Perry had laughed it off under the cover of a joke, where two cannibals were in the process of cooking a circus clown.
They agreed that also had tasted ‘funny’ too.
Flusher disappeared from view but suddenly returned as he retreated backwards out of the hole- such an event Perry had not witnessed before.
It literally was a ‘reverse ferret’.
Strange thought Perry.
“I’ll send in Nipper!” said Merlyn.
In through the dark earthen hole went the Jack Russell only to come back out missing his collar and half of his ear.
“Jesus…what’s in there?” Said Merlyn looking aghast at Perry.
It was Addams turn to try and flush out the occupant.
Initially, the second dog made some progress, but being much bigger in size and more muscular, the Lurcher got trapped in the burrow and had to be dragged out by his back legs with blood dripping from his face having been attacked by something.
“Your turn!” said Merlyn barking out an order to his young human companion.
Perry, not being the sharpest tool in the box, felt ‘under pressure’ and despite the obvious risk to his health decided he would squeeze up the narrow tunnel and see what critter was inside for himself.
Like an Egyptian pyramid tomb raider, Perry shuffled his way up the passageway - he was not bothered about being covered in grime or insects -after all he was of Romany stock- but he was apprehensive about what he might be facing.
With a miniature torch in his mouth, he crawled along the earthy tunnel like Charles Branson in the Film the Great Escape-as he reached the end he peered inside and was shocked to see its occupants.
He immediately retreated narrowly avoiding the swipe of a set of razor sharp claws on the end of a furry paw.
Shuffling backwards he made it out of the burrow far quicker than he had entered.
Merlyn was desperate to know what he had encountered.
“Th…th…there is a Q..Q…Queen in there!” Stuttered Perry.
“Queen?…..there are bees in there?” Asked Merlyn looking puzzled.
“No …that bloke from Queen was in there….the one with the frizzy hair and an electric guitar!” Replied Perry.
“How the Hell did he get IN THERE?” Asked Merlyn.
“ How the Hell did he get on the Buckingham Palace roof to play God save the Queen?…I don’t know that either?” Replied Perry.
Merlyn decided the only way forward was that he must investigate the opening for himself.
Perhaps his gypsy friend had eaten too many magic mushrooms and was hallucinating?
As he crawled along the narrow tunnel he began to feel jittery, he was never good with enclosed spaces - he stopped a foot or so before the end of the crawl space and peered into the wider chamber and as his eyes adjusted to the underground gloom, he was shocked to see a rather cavernous drop and even more shocked to discover humans sitting there anticipating his arrival.
There was the original guitar hero, Brian May from Queen and alongside him sat Mike Batt staring back at him with ‘Bright Eyes’ and James Dean Bradfield of the Manic Street Creatures.
“What the Hell are you guys doing in here?” Asked Merlyn in disbelief.
“Protecting the badgers!” Replied May without hesitation.
“Why?” Continued Merlyn still in shock head protruding into the badger hole.
“See I did warn you….said Bradfield to Batt.
“If you tolerate this then your Wombles will be next!” warbled Bradfield.
Mike Batt just nodded in agreement.
“Aren’t you guys worried about getting tuberculosis in here?” queried Merlyn.
“The link between badgers and bovine tuberculosis has never been proven!” raged May.
“If you continue with this line of questioning….we will…we will …Brock you!” threatened the Killer Queen.
Merlyn’s eyes were suddenly drawn to the fact that there was a huge sharp badger claw rigged on a booby trap wire above his head.
“More importantly what were YOU doing sending your dogs into a badger hole…I believe they call it ….badger baiting? “queried Queen Brian.
In the narrow confines of his earthy coffin, Merlyn found it hard to shake his head in faux denial- as he attempted to do so- loose soil fell from the tunnel ceiling onto his face causing him to appear to nod accidentally, as he tried to dodge the dust.
“Get Sett Go!” shouted May and the claw swished across the aperture and with a direct hit scratched both of Merlyn’s eyeballs at once damaging his optic nerves as it went.
The Hunter had now become the hunted.
“You bastards….,” Merlyn screamed as the blood began to fill up in his eyes.
“ Another one bites the dust!” laughed May and Bradfield ‘manically’
“ Karma is a bitch!” spat back blind as a Batt- Merlyn….” I’ll be back with more female dogs and sort you do gooders out once and for all!”
“Don’t stop me now!….the show must go on!” May sung theatrically, as he applied a giant mole thumper to the trespasser’s head….shooting Merlyn out of the hole quicker than Mercury.
As the huntsman flew past Perry even the two dogs were silent.
The only faint sound audible to both human and canine alike came from the hole and was a trio singing
“We are the Champions ….of the Worms!”