The Edge - 1990/91
Judgement - Dan Hewett
(page 6/9)

Judgement

The evening sun of a summer gone by shone over the land and glanced on the mountains as they marched to the edge of sight, snow-capped peaks aflame. Hidden in the shadows of the tall hills, the forest spread like a dark smudge across the land in whispering groves.

With the deepening of shade under emerald leaf and twisted bough, a breeze gently stirred the branches a breath of change, bearing news. After the breath's passage, the peace of the forest was gone and like a small stone falling into a cool, clear lake sends ripples out to all reaches of the water, the whole forest became awake, all the trees were listening.

Nothing overt could be seen, yet there was something. A tangible sensation of fear, on the very edge of the senses, faint and remote.

As the dark grew, night creatures stirred themselves to life though without the usual energy. The feeling had grown, the fear had become the anxiety of the expectant as rumour passed of a wonder rediscovered.

The darkness increased and in that darkness, a shadow, a mote of deeper night, slipped soundlessly through the trees. Silently it moved to the forest centre. More followed.

THEY had returned......

In what was once the centre of this ancient forest was a green glade. Even now, close to the borders, pressed by man's desire and the wanton feeling of trees, this glade was still unmolested; no mortal bad yet trod it's hallowed grass.

The natural ring of trees which encircled the small clearing were grown to a great height and high was their majesty as they stood tall and proud on the edge of a shallow dip in the earth which shelved gently to the foot of a mound, a few feet high. Atop this mound was an ancient tree of unknown descent. Old it was, and even the bordering trees were shrunk, as a young sapling stood next to a hale, old oak.

Countless years of men it had stood as the forest grew up around it, the fruit of its seed and all trees, all woodland creatures revered it. The trunk was thick and strong, of great girth, covered in bark gnarled by many seasons with ivy twisted round its roots and entwined in its lower branches. Therein it held a secret.

Middle night approached and the tree was aware of a number of shadows reaching the edge of the Guardian trees. Leaves rubbed and rustled on windless branches as the figures descended to the foot of the mound, where they clustered, many man shapes. Waiting.

The moon rose above the trees, covering all in a coat of pale, silvery tight. Down into the glade it shone and many stars leapt into the velvet sky. Below, the figures stood motionless, facing the moon rise with hoods drawn far over their heads so naught could be seen of their face or hair save the twinkling of the moonlight in their eyes.

As the moon reached the peak of its flight and began to slip behind the mountains, the figures turned as if by command. Wordlessly, they approached the tree.

Carefully clinging to bough and branch, they climbed to the higher reaches of the tree where nestled, long forgotten, a wooden platform, a narrow perch from where, once, a great sea of trees stretched in all directions, save to the mountain's root, as far as the eye could see.

Not empty, though, was this platform. On this high seat a figure sat, cross-legged, wrapped in a heavy cloak. Unmoving, like a statue he sat and in his arms cradled a long black arrow and in his lap lay a great bow of yew.

When the climbing folk reached him, he made no sign, sitting as he had for many years. The figures in black made no sign to him either, knowing for what he was, the keeper of their task their judgement. Ignoring the still form, they looked out to the forest border, now close by, end evil was the vision they beheld.

The lights from the sprawling city caused a dim glow in the sky. Foul fumes rose into the night air in great clouds so that a smog hung over everything, eerily lit from below, turning all to things of mystery and terrible wonder. Like a terrible parasite sucking the life from a tired land it lay, bearing threat of death to all life, nature - hope.

As they watched the flashing of lights, the ceaseless hustle, bustle and toil, pity welled in their hearts. How could any have hope or life or joy in such concrete wilderlands of despair? Sadly they turned their backs to this abomination and faced each other. The cloaked figure was already standing and in his hands he held the bow and arrow.

They knew now why they were come, awakened early from the sleep of forgetfulness to the life of fear and loss. Man was out of control, killing his own world, his own home, himself. How could nature survive such recklessness? Could it survive? They did not know.

The trees. The trees knew and the weight of their pain, their death, was like the weight of souls on him who waits.

It was time.

The tall figure that had led the group to the tree moved to the cloaked man. The moonlight seemed to be absorbed by his black hooded tunic and he could barely be seen as he bowed to the silhouette.

"It has been decided", he said. "No more will beast and plant suffer at the hands of these thoughtless, greedy fools! The final judgement must be made."

Wordlessly, and without expression, the gesture was returned as the bow and arrow were passed to the one who had spoken.

Fitting arrow to string, the bowman moved to the very edge of the platform. Throwing back his hood, he looked over his shoulder as if in some final plea, but the cloaked figure was already gone. Turning back to the city, the light, shining on his fair face and golden hair, sparkled in the tears on his cheeks and in his eyes.

Slowly, he raised the bow and drew the string taut. Straight from the bow the arrow flew, far and true. High into the night sky it fled and as it passed it burst aflame. Racing across starry skies it went a comet in the depths of night, a light in the deepest dark, a cry, a plea - a warning.

Did man see? Did he understand? Did he take heed?

In a far-off land, an island in a troubled sea of technology untouched by the caring hands of progress, a green hill stood alone in a flat land of fields and hedges, dotted with small copses and lonely trees.

Out from the land it stood, straddled by an old, grey road that none knew from where or to where it led. Atop the hill stood two trees, tall and forbidding sentinels. In their shade sat a statue of a woman in black.

Centuries the Watcher had rested, as the country folk remembered. A figure of stone, sitting wrapped in a great cloak and hood and in her lap rested a mighty horn. Men passed quickly by this place saying it was a haunt of spirits, a place of omens.

Then came the arrow in deepest night and it lit the heavens with its fiery flight.

She noticed. She understood She took heed.

Will you...?

Dan Hewett