4. THE GOLDEN STATUE

4. THE GOLDEN STATUE

A Chapter by Peter Rogerson
"

A tale of magic and mystery and Robin Hood merging with a hobby shared by my two sons thirty-odd years ago.

"


The forest was still, its matted undergrowth fragrant with the decay of ages. There was a sense of expectancy in the air, a tension which was almost tangible.

The green clad figure, invisible against the equally green canopy around him, heard a distant sound, a rustle accompanied by the wary tread of a well-shod horse, and grinned to himself. Both man and sound were the main constituents of the tension which seemed to press birds' beaks to unnatural silence. The grin, though, broke the spell and nature clicked and cooed for a moment.

Then the lonely rider came into view. He was dressed in the garb of the men of God who lurked in the monasteries here, there and everywhere. And his very solitude, riding through the Greenwood without guard or even caution, spoke of one who has disposed of worldly fears along with his possessions and has learned to live in fearless peace.

The figure in the tree shook his head and laughed silently to himself before dropping like a sudden stone from his high perch. He landed on his feet but three paces from the solitary rider. A notched arrow ready and unwaveringly pointing at the other's chest.

"Master, you need more protection than a rosary can give!" he scoffed, breaking the silence with a hoarse voice and eyeing the way the rider's fingers nervously explored the beads they held.

"I am but a poor man of God!" he protested.

"With a trifle of gold in his bag, a trifle I have long wanted to touch," replied the other.

"It's nothing, nothing at all. You are right when you call it a trifle."

"Then it will matter little to you if I touch it." The word might have been lazy but there was a glint in the man's eyes which urged compliance, even to a stranger.

The monk shook his head sadly. "There are some things too powerful for even Robin Hood to ever hope to control," he murmured softly.

"Ah, so you have heard of me!"

"There can be few men within fifty miles of Sherwood who haven't!"

"Then you will know who I am. Your trifle, I pray you."

The monk sighed and pulled his back-pack forwards so that he could rummage through it.

"It will do you no good. No man has ever....the statue is famed as an icon of distress....I was charged to lose it in the deepest ocean."

"Tut-tut, sir! Gold is bread and milk for bellies swollen and hurting with hunger! And you call yourself a man of God!"

"The icon....the statue....it is beyond the skill of man to raise the flame that will even warm it, let alone melt it into a coin!"

"As I will no doubt discover!"

"Sir, I doubt it. I doubt it very much indeed. Without God's protection....it will serve you ill as it has served all who went before you."

"Pass it here and less mumbo-jumbo!"

The monk withdrew the small statue from his bag and held it out in hands shaking as if already under some dreadful control.

But the outlaw saw the shaking hands as weakness and stepped two paces forward before grabbing the shining thing. When it was finally in his grasp he stared at it for a long moment and laughed aloud.

"Be off with you fool!" he scoffed at the monk.

The other shook his head and rode slowly and deliberately back the way he had come. Then, still within the earshot of the man in Lincoln green, he paused one last time and called back:

"Give it up man, while you can! The shining wonder will feed your fragile fears, will destroy you from within! It is not for you or any man of these times but for those who come after - long after in the affairs of a weary world. For it is for those who dwell at World's Ending, and no others!"

"World's Ending! And what exactly might that be?" scoffed Robin Hood, and disappeared into the depths of the Greenwood.

The monk shrugged weary shoulders and rode off, breaking into a canter until he was clear of the mighty forest and all that lurked within it. But the outlaw was soon troubled. It occurred to him that he was being followed and turn as he might he could neither lose the shadows tracking him nor the feeling that bitter enemies, too, were drawing ever closer to him.

"I should have put an arrow into the fool's throat!" he muttered, assuming that it was the monk who trailed him and marvelling at the fellow's skill.

After a few minutes he found himself running, doubled up and twisting past mighty oak and fragile sapling. But the sixth sense which had saved him so many times hounded him continually, filled him with a wild desperation. Maybe his awareness of ordinary little forest things had become suddenly so heightened that a timid rabbit cowering in the entrance to its burrow gave off the same signals as might an army in pursuit. In the end he sank to the ground, exhausted. Voices came out of the Greenwood at him, whispered voices, threatening, taunting and totally evil.

In order to break what might be little more than a spell he took out his golden trinket and looked at it closely, hoping that the distraction would dispatch his sudden bout of disembodied fears whence they came. But the voices were there, savage voices, whispering inaudible threats which sent icy tingles down his rugged spine. He put the statue down and looked warily about him.

The moment his fingers broke contact with the golden thing thing the near-tangible suggestion that he was being followed vanished as if it had never been.

He touched the statue and the hunted feelings returned in a crazy instant. He released it and they vanished again.

The statue was doing something to him! It was either forcing false sensations upon him or magnifying real ones which should be too insignificant for him to be bothered with. Robin Hood had survived for many years, lurking in the thickest parts of the old forest and venturing brazenly forth when the fancy took him, and he had done that by utilising a rare mixture which came to his service yet again. Without giving any thought to the loss, he tucked the small golden stature into a nearby rabbit hole, making sure that nobody who chanced that way would see it. Then he glanced about him, trying to memorise his position. But he had rushed wildly in his dash through the forest and the trees around him were unfamiliar giants, very much like a thousand other unfamiliar giants in the wilderness he liked to call home.

Once or twice in the years ahead he tried to find that rabbit hole in order to retrieve the shining icon he had stolen from the monk. But the forest seemed to mould itself into different shapes and when he thought he might be near it an altogether unfamiliar glade would appear before him, or a clearing he had never seen before. And so it was that he lived the remainder of his life without ever seeing the golden statue again, though he did find himself wondering, from time to time, what the monk had meant by his reference to the World's Ending.

ooOoo

Finally, as the twentieth century was drawing to a close, the might that had been Sherwood Forest was reduced to a sad little remnant, the ancient oaks outnumbered by rows of heartless pines, the magic and mystery of a living forest turned into Forestry Commission dross. And two brothers loved that dross. They loved wandering through it. The darkness beneath tall pines touched their very souls with its magic. The aroma of life and death, birth and decay, was perfume to their young noses.

When they were given the metal detectors for Christmas they were also given a purpose for being in the dross. They wandered along the pathways that led from Rainworth towards Clipstone, The paths closer to home had long since stopped providing them with their frugal wealth.

"What's this?" asked Jonny suddenly, his detector shrieking as he moved it over a particular spot of brown earth. Jamie stood close and listened. Then he waved his own metal detector over the spot and was rewarded with a loud howl.

"I'll dig," he said and pushed his spade deep into the soft soil. He pushed and twisted. A clod of earth rose up and toppled to one side.

"Hey, stop!" shouted Jonny and reached down into the clump. His fingers moved around and then, with a huge grin, he withdrew a golden statue, tiny yet precious.

"It's mine!" protested Jamie.

Jonny was bigger than Jamie and usually won, but this time he had the oddest look on his face as he touched the shining gold with the tips of fingers which seemed to cringe at the very contact.

"Here," he said quietly and handed the shining thing to his brother.

Jamie took it, held it tightly, went suddenly pale.

He looked up at the sky, the blue sky that showed in tattered rags between the tree tops.

"I can see it, Jonny," he whispered. "I can see it ... up there, high above our heads.....suddenly, now...."

"Don't!" almost shouted the bigger boy, forcing his own eyes downwards, away from the fractured skies.

"I want to go home, Jonny."

"Me too."

"But first...."

"The golden statue?"

"It's ours, Jonny, but I want to bury it again."

The sun gazed down onto them, its rays licking against their tousled heads.

"No let's take it home," decided Jonny.

Jamie paused for a long moment then nodded, though he didn't smile.

"Maybe we should," he breathed. Maybe, somehow, it's meant to be ours. Put here in the brown Earth for us to find.

The sun smiled, though. The sun smiled down on them and its smile was undimmed as it reached through the gap man had blown in the Earth's protective ozone layer and deep inside touched something deep inside the two boys. They were quiet as they made their way home. It had been a long hot summer, and they were tired.






© 2017 Peter Rogerson



Author's Note

Peter Rogerson
A reworking of a story I first wrote around 30 years ago.

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Added on September 30, 2015
Last Updated on October 15, 2017
Tags: metal detectors, theft, monk, statue, Robin Hood


Author

Peter Rogerson
Peter Rogerson

Forest Town, Nottinghamshire, United Kingdom



About
I am 73 years old, but as a single dad with four children that I had sole responsibility for I found myself driving insanity away by writing. At first it was short stories (all lost now, unfortunately.. more..

Writing