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 storybooks. 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!
“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 businessmen 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 then 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.