Nature Boy: Chapter Three

Nature Boy: Chapter Three

A Chapter by spence
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Having woken in the woods at night, Paul begins to see things differently.

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Whether he liked to admit it or not Paul was very afraid of the woods at night.

Who wouldn’t be?

It is not the sort of thing any person, let alone a teenaged boy, would readily confess to, but what he had found to be magnificent during the day looked and felt menacingly evil without the sun to reveal its colourful glory.

When he had first opened his eyes it felt as if countless others returned his gaze from within the surrounding thicket and he had quickly redressed his feet to make his way home. Then, when he had walked back to the woodland path, every crackle underfoot brought forth chills of fear up and down his spine. He was certain that he was being followed and each rustle of undergrowth, echoing breath or hoot of an owl stopped Paul dead in his tracks whereupon he gazed into endless shadow that moved against fluctuating shades of night and moonlight.

He took some heart from the closeness of the satchel upon his back, but he could scarcely see the way he had opted to come. Originally he thought to go back through the fields toward Sunnydale, but suspecting that it was close to midnight he chose to go the way he did not entirely know in an attempt to get back home as quickly as he could.

This was a decision he regretted. It had proven to be a very hard going trek with each footstep bringing about some fresh injury.

 Twice he fell into the trickle of a stream while looking behind him to check for potential pursuers and this after being thrashed about the body, legs and face with tree branches as he stumbled blindly onwards. His clothing was continually snagged by thorny overgrowth as he frequently lost his way.

On standing from the ditch the second time Paul stopped to try and make out the yellow hue of street lighting in Wytchthorne in the distance. They, the lights, were above him to his right, parallel to the hilltop wood and he somewhere between in a darkened valley shrouded by a roof of branches and leaves.

Paul didn’t even know how big the wood was, but all he could think about was of how much his parents must be worrying about him and pressing on as quickly as possible. They had trusted him and he had let them down. It was the last thing they needed with…

The high pitched howl stopped him in his tracks. Paul knew that there were no wolves in England. Not in the entire British Isles. They had been hunted to extinction centuries ago, he knew, but as an avid viewer of wildlife documentaries on both DVD and television he instantly recognised it as the cry of a wolf.

Was it possible that wolves still thrived in a small expanse of ancient forest, hidden from prying eyes by locals?

Or could it be some sort of werewolf?

On the second lunar call Paul decided he wasn’t going to hang around to find out either way and hurried forward as best he could. He gasped in sharp fright as he heard bracken cracking footsteps in the trees behind him and thought he saw figures flanking him on both sides. Paul began to run, but had only gone a short way before he fell headlong into the ditch a third time. He twisted as he fell and grunted when he landed heavily onto the satchel on his back. He rolled sideways and his glasses became dislodged as he banged his face against the ground. Paul scrambled frantically to try and retrieve them, but abandoned the search in favour of survival. He crawled back up the fragile bank- handfuls of mossy ground crumbling beneath his panicking weight and the closing of his windpipe making the climb more difficult.

‘Leave m… m… me alone!’ he screamed, tears spilling forth as he demanded mercy from whatever was stalking him.

Bushes and branches could be heard to move all about the frightened boy, bat-like shadows flitted overhead amid shrill screeches of warning. Paul froze to the spot in terror- unable to see to know what was real and what was imagined. This was like a horror movie made real, he thought and so it appeared to be when a low growl was emitted from the direction of the fields across the ditch he had climbed from and a menacing half human voice told him.

‘Get out of our home boy!’

Paul entire body became weak with shock and fear and he slid further into the ditch as an even gruffer, more venomous voice from his other side added,

‘Get out now and don’t ever come back!’

Understandably Paul didn’t know how to respond. He was laid defenceless on the embankment, surrounded by invisible pursuers of a threatening nature while completely lost and defenceless. He had almost begun to accept that he was about to be torn apart and devoured by a monster of some kind when a light emerged from the tree line he faced and almost blinded him.

‘Away with ye foul creatures! Get away I say!’ a man’s voice that sounded like granite at the throat yelled,

‘This boy is under my protective spell now and I dare any of ye treacherous beasts to defy my power!’

The wood suddenly came alive with the sound of running feet, panicked animal calls and flapping wings. The ground by where Paul covered his head and curled up protectively shuddered from the activity, but the boy stayed as he was until all became still again.

He remained this way even as the light held by the person who had saved him illuminated the view below his arms. Paul wept in relief as much as fear, wanting nothing more than to be with his family in the safety of their new home.

‘You are safe now child. They will not harm you while you are with me.’

The voice from above him was reassuringly confident and Paul began to calm slightly.

‘You may rise and be at peace lad,’ the voice added.

Paul squinted up from where he lay and tried his best to focus on his saviour. He was initially blinded by a white light, but after a moment this dulled enough for him to see the outline of a man of modest height dressed in long robes. He held aloft a crystal sword that appeared to be the source of light that illuminated the woodland around.

‘W… what w… were those things?’ Paul queried from the ground, his body shaking from the effects of adrenalin.

‘They are the woodland folk. They strongly dislike your kind for the crimes you have committed against them, but I will watch over you. Have no fear.’

‘Who… who are you?’ Paul asked from a scrunched expression of awe.

The man sheathed the sword into the silver scabbard that was belted at his waist then held out a hand for Paul to take before pulling the boy from the ditch. Even with the sword now hidden the glow from it still illuminated its bearer and everything close by.

‘My name is Brithomar. I am the King of this woodland and the creatures that live within it,’ he answered once Paul was standing by his side, Paul only slightly smaller than the strangely named, still glowing man, then,

 ‘And might I ask who you are and what is your business here in the Otherworld?’

‘I’m P… Paul- I’m trying to get home. I’ve j… just moved here and wanted to explore the woods. I… I didn’t know anyone l… lived here and…’

Paul paused in his ramblings to study Brithomar as best he could with his limited sight. Within the aura of light Paul could see that Brithomar had a strip of red plaited hair that grew long in a braid that hung over his shoulder, the sides of his head were shaven bald except for two thin strips that ran above either ear. From what Paul could see of his thin face, he guessed that he had a goatee beard growing rather long to his robes.

The habit Brithomar wore was made of four coloured squares of white, red, brown and green that flowed from his neck to his ankles.

‘Are you a… a wizard?’

Brithomar laughed and patted Paul on the shoulder in a manner that suggested friendship.

‘Mortals have called my kind such things, but the most common name for my brethren and I is Druid.’

Paul held the man in his blurred sight,

‘I thought the Druids lived thousands of years ago, that they worshipped the sun and made human sacrifices…’

‘Druids were the guides, healers and teachers to the tribes of these shores and those across the sea and ice. Priests to some and sorcerers to others, we travelled the Earthworld and the Otherworld to learn the ways of spirit and nature, but it was to the benefit of humanity not its sacrifice.’

 Paul was intrigued by the way the man talked so authentically and composed himself in role so assuredly. He was actually very convincing. Paul would have liked to become an actor, but his nervous stammer had always discouraged him from joining drama groups full of strangers. He’d stammered ever since ‘the incident when he was seven’ that he didn’t like to think about and the subject was as far from his mind as was possible.

 Paul was actually trying to think of the little snippets of Celtic paganism, myth and legend he had learned from his father, (who had a keen interest in the history of the British Isles and was studying to be an archaeologist), while hoping to add to his knowledge on the subject. More than anything, however, Paul wanted his suspicions confirmed that he had walked onto a film set or intruded upon a modern day Druid cult that had played a trick on him. But he needed to find his spectacles before continuing any conversation.

His eyesight was so terrible without them that the illuminated Druid looked blurred even up close.

‘Excuse me a second- I really need to find my glasses,’ Paul said apologetically and looked behind him to the ditch.

‘What is it that you say you seek?’ Brithomar asked as Paul dropped low to scan the woodland floor by the light emanating from the Druid.

‘My g… glasses, I’ve got bad eyesight. They came off when I fell d… down the ditch,’ Paul replied.

Brithomar responded to the explanation by holding out a hand and saying the single word,

‘Here!’

An instant later and the glasses levitated from the ground and hovered below the Druids downturned palm.

‘H… how d… did you do that?’ Paul asked in utter amazement.

‘I bade your possession to reveal itself- are your ears as muffled as your eyesight blurred and your tongue tied in knots?’ Brithomar replied as if the boy was stupid.

Paul’s hurt and offended response was to reach tentatively to take hold of the glasses then groan in despair as he saw that the right lens was cracked.

‘Oh no! They’re broken. I can’t see w… without my glasses! It’ll cost a fortune to get new ones!’ Paul explained to the mage.

Brithomar smiled at the boys’ distress and held out his hand to take the glasses back from him.

‘I can easily remedy this,’ he told Paul.

‘Okay,’ Paul said as he dropped the glasses into the Druid’s hand. He then gasped in dismay as the hand clamped tightly around the frames and lenses and crushed them beyond repair.

‘What are you doing?’ Paul objected, but Brithomar simply kept on smiling and continued to squeeze the glass and metal together.

Paul stood open mouthed until the Druid finally opened his hand to reveal the pyramid of finely ground dust his spectacles had been reduced to. Paul looked from the dust to Brithomar and as he did the druid blew the dust into the boy’s face. Paul squinted and yelped in pain, rubbed his eyes as it intensified then fell to his knees clutching at the sudden agony behind his lids.

He yelled for help and cried despairingly, but Brithomar was unmoved.

‘Still thy tears boy and let the magic do its work.’

Paul heard the advice, but was unable to follow it. His eyes hurt from the grainy substance that seemed to squirm its way around the tightly closed orbs. It felt as if ground glass and sand were penetrating inside of his skull and he could not help but thrash around and wail in objection.

Then, as suddenly as it had begun the pain faded and Paul stilled then opened his eyes again. He felt slightly ridiculous because of his reaction, but when he looked back to Brithomar he forgot his embarrassment.

For when Paul focused on the glowing form of the Druid he saw that he could now make him out perfectly. It was as if he were wearing his glasses without actually doing so.

Paul got to his feet and asked of the Druid gratefully,

‘How did you do that?’

‘It is a simple matter of reminding a thing of its purpose- you will need your sight for the task ahead,’ the magician returned.

‘Will I stay like this? I mean- do I not need to wear glasses anymore?’

Paul’s question was one of hopeful expectation, but he did not receive the answer he wished.

‘The magic will continue for three cycles of the Sun and perhaps then I might conjure a spell of more permanence, but for now there are more pressing matters, such as your return to your home’

Brithomar smiled kindly at the boys’ awestruck expression,

‘Come child- I will escort you to the edge of my Kingdom to ensure your continued safety and well-being.’

As Paul followed Brithomar further toward home he realised the mage was no longer glowing yet he could see perfectly well in the sunless gloom. In fact the farther down the trail they travelled the better he began to see within the darkness and what he began to see in the forest bewildered and enthralled him at the same time.

The changes to his vision were subtle at first, but featureless shadow was becoming more detailed by the second. It was very much as a child expects the silhouettes in their bedroom to transform into monsters or fairytale creatures, but the more he concentrated the more he could see that this was no imagining. This was very real.

Paul gawped in fascination as where a moment ago he saw only a line of trees and bushes, now creatures he knew from stories as dryads, satyrs and fauns, (although there were many more besides that Paul did not recognise), sat by openings to tree-trunk doorways strumming lutes and harpsichords leisurely or played flutes of reed and drums of hide while dwarfish entities mingled between woodland passages.

Paul rubbed his eyes with his fingers and looked again to see that they were more vivid than before. The longer he looked the more real they became.

 ‘My initials spell P.A.N.’ Paul told the Druid, unsure if mentioning such a petty coincidence was appropriate, but feeling that he had to say something ; if only to prove to himself that this was really happening, ‘’Paul Anthony Nicholson’ equals Pan. My Mam and Dad liked the pagan connection. Pan’s a bit like a faun isn’t he?’

‘Pan is the spirit of our wildest nature- he reminds us that we all grew from what is wild and untamed and that to it we shall all return.’

The Druids answer was almost lost to Paul as all around him flickers of light, like speeding glow worms swooped about the forest at head height and higher. Paul felt as if he had accidentally walked into the middle of a miniature dogfight and could not help but duck evasively. Paul remained perfectly still in order to get his bearings and to feel confident that he would not inadvertently collide with the impish things before he dared continue along the way home.

‘Do not fear for the Wherries, Paul, they are simply carrying their messages of despair to human bearers,’ Brithomar chortled at the irony as the boy slowly stood from his half crouched position, ‘they are indeed an over-anxious and over-active breed, but they are more careful than they appear and will only hit you if you are to be the recipient of their fretful thoughts.’

 Paul thought to ask the Druid a question on the nature of what he understood as ‘the Worries’, but he was too distracted by the myriad of other mysterious creatures that were suddenly appearing everywhere he looked. Lumbering beings of moss and lichen, that Brithomar named ‘the Wodewose’ mingled with fairies and elves within what was no longer a dark and frightening wood, but a thriving highway of life and activity.

Beyond the line of trees he imagined that he saw centaurs and unicorns begin to materialise, but they remained just out of focus, as if surrounded by a silver mist.

‘That is the extent of your sight for now young man. There will be more to see when the time is right,’ Brithomar told him on seeing the boy squint toward the distance.

Paul nodded that he understood, even though he did not, and turned his attention to the ditch of a stream to see it was transformed into a busy canal.

Upon its crystalline surface boats sailed carrying curious looking half animal, half people passengers, dressed in fine clothing of top hat and tails, ballroom gowns and similar. They told stories of love and heroic adventure, they sang gentle songs and lullaby’s and recited romantic poetry to one another as their chimera counterparts rowed by. Paul imagined they took it in turns to paddle and perform to the freshwater mer-people who swam by with otters, water rats and colourful fish as their companions.

‘They are the Weavers, they intertwine the worlds of spirit and earth and care for nothing but the sweetest of thoughts,’ Brithomar explained as the soprano pitch of luminescent orange swans accompanied the offerings of the strange ani-men and women.

Paul could see it all quite clearly, but wasn’t at all sure he believed it. He had a theory in mind that might explain the current situation.

‘Maybe I banged my head harder than I thought when I fell into the ditch?’ he reasoned.

‘Maybe I’m still unconscious and dreaming all of this?’ he wondered.

‘How am I going to get home when I wake up with a concussion?’ he worried.

‘You are not dreaming Paul. I told you before; you are in the Otherworld.’

‘The Otherworld? Where’s that?’

‘The Otherworld is the reality out of time that lives just below the surface of your own. It is a realm of endless possibility where all spirit, thought and deed comes to reside and this is merely the surface of it.’

‘How did I get here Brithomar? This can’t really be happening, can it?’ Paul enthused disbelievingly.

Brithomar came to a halt on the walkway by the stream and smiled through his beard of tawny red as he answered Paul’s questions.

‘I do not know how you came to be here Paul, though it is only a small mystery. Most mortals no longer know how to look to see the Otherworld, but somehow you have the ability to do so. My magic enhanced that gift and now you see as the wildest of beasts and freest of spirits see. You have within you the power to become a Priest of the Brotherhood.’

Paul looked at his benefactor suspiciously,

‘What do you mean?’ he asked with cautious interest.

Brithomar smiled and placed his hands on Paul’s shoulders.

 ‘I want to make you an offer young man- an offer to learn the ways of nature and to become so wise of mind and powerful of spirit that physical nature sways in the breeze of your will. If you choose to become as I have become you will see as you have seen tonight for always and in all realities. I ask that you return to me within three cycles of the moon to begin your learning.’

‘I don’t think I can…’ Paul began to say, but Brithomar interrupted him in encouragement.

‘In three dawns the spell will have run its course and your sight will return to what it was.’

Paul was frustrated at feeling railroaded into making the choice because of his eyesight. It felt like a trap and so he pressed him on the matter.

‘But why me, Brithomar? Why have you chosen me?’

The Druid met the questioning gaze full on,

‘I did not choose you Paul- interlocking purpose brought you to here and has shown me that you will be worthy of my teachings. This connectivity between all living things is known as ‘Synchronicity’. Synchronicity is also telling you that becoming Druid is your nature boy!’

Paul tried to think of an objection to something he didn’t really understand, but failed as Brithomar’s attitude changed from that of enthusiasm to concern, 

‘But surely you should be returning home now? Will your kin not be concerned for your safety?’

Paul grimaced ruefully and followed Brithomar as he led the way once again. The druid was right of course. He had a responsibility to get back as quickly as he could, but despite this amazing series of happenings the prospect of not ever wearing glasses again appealed to him more than anything else at that time.

The Druid and the boy were fast approaching a narrowing of the woodland, (the folk of the wood were scarcer here), that tapered to a steep incline which in turn led to the row of houses opposite to where he lived. Paul knew that he should make haste, but he wanted to be completely positive that becoming a Druid was a wise course of action before he left for home.

‘What happens if I don’t come back?’

Brithomar shrugged and looked up to the starry sky for a while before replying,

‘If you choose not to return then all shall be as if it were a terrible nightmare in which an imagined ally protected you in a magical nonsense of mind. You will be Paul Anthony Nicholson once again and nothing more and the dream will fade as all those before. You will not become a Druid, not a magician or healer nor priest of Mother Nature; you will return to being just a boy with a lot of Wherries and a vivid imagination.’

Brithomar looked somewhere above Paul’s head and the boy saw that a gathering of the small impish creatures of light were circling him like vultures around a dying animal.

‘They seem particularly attracted to you at the moment. I would leave for the Earthworld to consider your decision before they smother you in doubt and concern,’ Brithomar said without humour.

Paul decided it would be best to ignore the frowning little creatures and looked again at the Druid,

 ‘Thank you for saving me Brithomar. I’ll think about coming back, but I can’t promise anything. I hope you understand.’

Brithomar held up a hand to shush Paul.

‘Follow whatever course is strongest in your heart Paul and it will lead you to truth.’

Paul wanted to say something in reply, but the words stuck at his throat as the Druid faded from view and the woodland at night returned to normal. The more Paul thought about it the more he came to the conclusion that nothing had really changed, but when he walked to the bottom of the bank that led to Wytchthorne and he could see the rows of houses in vivid detail he knew in his heart that things had already changed forever.

 



© 2012 spence


Author's Note

spence
This chapter needs plenty of revision. In my defence, it is literally as I originally wrote it and the descriptions, dialogue and continuity will improve on editing.

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Added on January 6, 2012
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Author

spence
spence

Grimsby, United Kingdom



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Just returning to WritersCafe after a couple of years in the wilderness of life. I'm a 40 year old (until December 2013, at least) father of two, former youth and community worker, sometime socio-pol.. more..

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