The Green Wizard

By Scott Bailey 2006

 

I cannot believe this! If anyone were to stop them, this mob of hungry hunters raging through the forest, then nobody would believe the explanation.

The people of the village, the county planners, the farmers, the surveyors, the members of the RSPB, all are hunting in the night. They are hunting the Green Wizard.

What will they do when they catch him? The question fills me with fear.

What will he do?

I feel responsible. It was my decision. I weighed up all the considerations and reached the verdict.

Whatever choice I made would be opposed. The conservationists urged me to leave the forest alone. Those who favoured progress wanted the forest managed and great tracts of it grubbed out for profit.

I should be used to this. I was brought up in the country and we learned to live with threats.

And I had made this kind of decision for years now. I was used to angry crowds. How could they know that I felt their anger and pain? I always found the best compromise.

Unfortunately this often hurt the countryside.

What had gone wrong this time?

The Green Wizard, that was what. Ever since I set eyes on him I have sailed seas of madness and now dragged the entire community with me.

Last night I saw him. I was wandering in the evening light near the edges of the forest trying to make my decision. I wasn’t sure that this old forest would benefit or even survive having its heart grubbed out. But the village that nestled twinkling below the forest needed fresh hope. The industry this would bring might make a crucial difference.

Then I saw it! A green light bobbing between the trees. At first I thought it was a firework for it had that bright magical quality. It was an artificial green like the glass baubles of a Christmas tree. It drew my heart towards it.

I walked in, my fear disappearing as I entered the solace and safety of the trees.

Darkness fell completely as the sun sank but the green light bobbed before me and led the way.

It must be a willow-the-wisp I half told myself but its beauty was far too potent to resist.

I came to a clearing and then I saw that the light was a flame flickering on top of a staff held by an old man. He was dressed in a green robe that shone as bright as the flame, with the same entrancing shade. He looked the way that all wizards look in story books. Wide brimmed, pointed hat, long beard.

Only his beard was green. He was the Green Wizard.

He beckoned me towards him but when I got a few feet he held up his hand and I felt a force block me. I felt the full potential of his strength in that strange touch. He could have crushed me with a thought.

“The forest must not die.”

His voice was deep and strong, trusty as oak and full of command!

I nodded.

“There is life here,” he went on, “that is beyond the comprehension of your people. It is vital to the power of the earth in ways you cannot understand. It will not lie idle any longer. If you threaten, it will react.”

“Who are you?” my voice a scared noise in the sudden immensity and darkness of this forest.

“I am the life of this forest! I am the power of the earth!”

I nodded again.

“An agreement is reached!” he boomed. “If you break your bond your life will be forfeit.”

Suddenly something moved in the leaves. I whirled around and a fox bolted across the clearing. All around the clearing the bushes suddenly rustled and shook with life. I spun trying to see what made the noises. There was nothing.

It stopped. The only sound was my panting breath.

It was dark. The Green Wizard was gone.

I thought I had imagined him but I saw a flicker of green, like a warning, away in the trees.

I knew then what I had to do. I had made a bargain. My life was forfeit if I did not make the right decision now.

All my doubts of mad hallucinations disappeared then. The Green Wizard was real.

The next day those concerned gathered at the village hall and listened to my decision. It went badly. Not surprising.

I had some support. The conservationists were pleased with the verdict. Their precious forest would be left to its natural state.

But most of those gathered were business men and farmers whose livelihoods were at stake. They were not going to let some upstart in a suit take that away.

I lost my nerve. I couldn’t meet their arguments. Every reason I put forward for the conservation of the forest they pulled to pieces. I cursed the Green Wizard for abandoning me to this. Where was he now that I was fighting his battle?

Finally I had nothing left. I declared that the forest would be saved. They would not relent. They wanted to know why I had made this decision when I had no argument to support it. They pushed and pushed me until I could stand it no longer.

I told them about the Green Wizard. I warned them of the danger.

The whole hall was silenced. Even my supporters looked at me, trying to fathom out the madness that appeared to have seized me.

Finally one of the farmers said it.

“He’s mad! Or on drugs!”

I bowed my head. Where was this going to lead?

“This is a farce!” said another voice but the everyone suddenly gasped and fell silent again.

I looked up.

There hovering in front of me was a small globe of bright green light!

I stared at it. What did it mean? It was obviously from the Wizard. It was his shade of green, vivid, unforgettable, alluring and dangerous like something was burning that should never have been set alight.

“Is this some sort of gimmick!?” said one of the farmers.

The globe of light rushed straight at him and knocked him off his feet in a shower of sparks. Then it stayed where it was, where it had hit him.

The farmer slid back across the floor and hit his head against the far wall with a crack. Blood flowed immediately. People rushed to his aid. Others turned to me.

“If he’s dead you had better pray that the police get here quick before we’re finished with you!”

They all suddenly looked ugly. I feared for my life and wondered if this is what the green Wizard had meant. Had I failed some kind of test? Had I been chosen to champion the forest and failed?

“Look!” A young girl was standing by the window pointing up to the forest. People stared out and piled from the hall. I followed.

There, high on the hill, the whole forest was alight from within with the strange green glow.

“It’s the Green Wizard.” I said.

“More likely some new age travellers who don’t want their peace disturbed by the idea of having to pay their way like the rest of us.”

At that point the green globe suddenly shot out of the window, through the glass without breaking it. At impossible speed it shot into the heart of the forest.

By now people were muttering things about ghosts and UFO’s but the main core of farmers and businessmen were having none of it. They decided to go and find out for themselves.

I followed the frenzied crowd that raced up the hill to the entrance of the forest. I felt drawn, whether by them or the forest I don’t know.

At the entrance stood the Wizard. Tall and menacing but only I had felt the touch of his power.

“Do not touch this forest,” he said but he sounded somehow weary.

“Who the hell are you?” someone called out.

“He’s the Green Wizard,” I replied feebly but was ignored.

“You can’t tell us what to do with our forest!” someone else yelled at the figure.

“We don’t need freaks like you dossing on our land.”

“If you want to remove me then you will have to catch me!” he sneered. With that he turned and disappeared quickly into the trees. The flame of his staff was still visible.

With a yell the villagers set after him. they became a pack of hungry wolves after their prey. Their eyes burned with fury.

I yelled after them, warning them not to go. They did not listen. Helpless I followed in their wake.

They crashed through the trees and the undergrowth picking up sticks and waving them as they went.

And even now as I follow them I find it hard to believe.

I fear the outcome of this but I am not sure who I fear for most. This horde is wild and out of control. If they catch him I would not be surprised if they tore him limb from limb with their bare hands.

But I have felt the power of the Green Wizard.

Suddenly we are before him. There he stands. Like an old man, weary with the chase, leaning on his staff in the middle of the clearing.

The mob grab him. Their fury somewhat dampened by his appearance but not quenched. They bind him. The rope is tight around his arms but he does not struggle. As the villagers dance around him like demented witches he holds my gaze with an accusing stare.

The dancing goes on and on like a frenzy but slowly people drop. They sit and lie on the ground, tired by the night’s activity. Despite the Wizard’s relentless stare I too sink to the ground. Around me people are falling asleep and I find I cannot resist the need to join them.

 

I awake to find myself choking. Something has hold of my throat and is strangling me. I can’t breathe.

All around me are bodies. All held by tree roots or thorny vines! Some struggle feebly for others it is too late. Many are being dragged into the earth by the irresistible power of trees.

The Green Wizard stands watching the process with a blank expression. His ropes lay on the ground, snapped and frayed.

He turns his back on me, not even deigning to notice my dying breath.

I tried. I did try.

 

The End

Image from Pixabay

In response to my daily prompt Bush

#DailyPrompt, #amwriting, #postaday

www.scottandrewbailey.uk

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Those Who Wait

By Scott Bailey © 2018

There was a white fleck on that dark skin. Tiny and mysterious. Despite his situation, despite his thirst and an undetermined, lurking threat Dan was drawn to that fleck.

It sat on his captor’s left cheek, just beneath the deep well of his eye. Neither the man’s sweat or occasional movements seemed to shake it.

What was it? A fleck of stone? A crumb? It did not belong there and it was starting to annoy Dan.

His captor did not appear to notice it.

That annoyed him even more and he did not understand why.

Was it correct to think of the man as his captor? He was not preventing Dan from leaving.

He was not helping him either. That was the point. Without help, he would die out here in the bush. He was spent. He did not even have the energy to struggle any more.

He had lost his way in his arrogance, thinking he could travel the outback like those explorers he loved to read about.

He was no explorer. He should have stayed behind his desk. But he had wanted to see something of the land he had been helping to administer for so long. He had wanted to see the fruits of his work.

He had wanted to feel first-hand the pride of taming this uncivilized wilderness.

That was what had drawn him over the wide seas to the other side of the world. The promise of adventure. The chance to relive the dreams of a young schoolboy. The final chance to push the last frontier. To achieve man’s mastery of the world and complete the map.

His dreams had outstripped his abilities. He realised that now. If he had not been so dry he would have shed tears.

At some level, he supposed he had always known this. That’s why he had spent his life here behind his desk. Dispensing mastery through letters and paperwork. Bringing the world to order, bringing knowledge to the dark places of the earth.

His stare once more returned to the man before him and his fleck of white. He sat on his rock, waiting patiently.

What was he waiting for?

He had arrived yesterday. Dan had already been collapsed where he was for several hours at that point. Already resigned to defeat. He had walked in calmly and sat down. He had not acknowledged Dan in any way.

Dan should have felt relief, a renewal of hope. Yet he had not. He felt no surprise, no hope, nothing but a vague sense of threat.

He could not explain why he felt that.

The stranger was an aborigine. He was barely clothed, barefooted and dusty from his travels.

Dan had clothed himself with the very best outdoor gear he could get. He also had every travelling device you could ask for. Compass, knives, maps, glasses and much more.

In little more than a loincloth, the stranger looked infinitely more comfortable than he ever would.

He had sat there for a day and a half and still looked as composed as when he arrived.

Dan had stared at him for what felt like hours. He had no idea how long it had really been. Finally, he had summoned the energy to speak. He dragged a word from his throat as if regurgitating sandpaper.

“Help.”

The man stared back at him now. He had deep, dark irises on yellow pools. His face was wide and gentle.

Yet Dan still felt the threat peeking over his shoulder.

He seemed to study Dan for a long moment. Then he spoke.

“Where are you going?”

Dan had frowned. What was that supposed to mean? He was going nowhere right now.

He had swallowed hard and gathered his strength.

“How far?” It was all he could manage. He had wanted to ask where the nearest town was. The nearest house would have been enough!

The stranger stared again for a longer time. He had seemed to understand though and eventually, he said.

“It is four days walk.”

They had fallen silent then as Dan absorbed this. He would not survive a four-day walk. Not without help.

This stranger did not appear to be inclined towards aid.

There was another long silence. The stranger appeared relaxed as if he were sitting in his living room on a Sunday afternoon, reading.

Dan doubted he could read, doubted he had a living room.

Now he thought about it he didn’t even know where these people lived. In caves? In hovels?

He should really know that he had enough dealings with them. With their children at least. But they were always brought to him, he received them into civilisation.

Civilisation! The thought of it brought back memories that made him thirst, made his throat burn. He found himself involuntarily moaning – though it sounded more like a rasp.

The stranger stirred.

“What do you do?”

Dan did not understand. The man’s accent was thick but he understood the words, not the meaning.

“I am thirsty,” was the best reply he could manage.

The man looked at him with a measuring stare. Then he stood and strode to a nearby bush. With a flash of sunlight, he whipped out a knife and slashed off a thick, fleshy leaf.

It dripped with green liquid.

Any other time he would have been repulsed by anything other than tea or water. Now, this was nectar to him.

The man brought the leaf to his mouth and squeezed.

The taste was acrid and perhaps would have made him sick if he hadn’t been so desperately dry.

He swallowed and it gave him respite. His throat felt slick again and he could talk.

But he knew it was not enough – not enough to let him walk out of here and back home.

“More,” he pleaded.

The man simply sat back down calmly.

He repeated his question.

“What do you do?”

Confusion swirled around in his mind. Why did he not help him? Why didn’t he give him more of that liquid? It was a big bush – surely there was more in there.

What was he asking him? Did he want to know what his job was?

He should keep the man talking. Gain his trust, maybe then he would help.

In faltering sentences, he tried to describe his role in the education system to this native. He tried to keep it simple, in terms he might understand.

He wasn’t sure he succeeded. The man gave no reaction as he spoke. Eventually, Dan trailed into silence, exhausted by the effort.

After a short silence, the man said,

“You are a teacher man.”

It was not a question but Dan nodded.

Then the man spoke again.

“You take our children.”

It was spoken in the same calm tone he had spoken since he arrived. There was no anger or threat in them.

But Dan felt a chill nevertheless.

“We educate them, give them a better future.” He protested.

“They are not with their mothers.”

“But they are given knowledge they would not get otherwise. They will be greater for it. In my country – we do it too.”

“Did you miss your mother?”

That struck him, dredging up memories he thought he had buried long ago. Pain that he had considered childish and worthy of contempt.

“Mothers cannot teach what we know,” he said angrily.

The man gave him that measuring gaze again. Then he nodded.

Dan turned his head, not without some pain.

Nearby he saw a deer. It appeared to be completely unaware of their presence.

There was a younger one by its side. The older one nudged the younger to a bush where it proceeded to nibble.

Dan snorted. Did this savage think things were that simple?

“The world is changing. Your children need to know things, to be prepared.”

The man sat silently, calmly.

“The world is changing – you can’t stop it. There’s nothing you can do about that. Civilisation is coming.”

The man sighed. He picked the white fleck from his cheek, casually, and flicked it away.

“We can wait,” he said.

Image from Pixabay

In response to my daily prompt Bush

#DailyPrompt, #amwriting, #postaday

www.scottandrewbailey.uk

Scotts Daily Prompt Bush

These Daily Prompts are my attempt to fill the hole left by the now retired Daily Post.

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Today’s prompt is:

Bush

Image from Pixabay