The Lord of The Forest

Some hold that the Green Man is but a Celtic myth retold by the English as a sort of ethnic cleansing of the native culture. That is bullocks as there’s really no Green Men in English myth either no matter what Lady Raglan claimed backed in the period between the Wars.. But there is a Lord of The Forest who is far older and far bloodier than any Green Man might have been had he existed. Read his story below…

Herne.

His voice was like moss on the bark of an ancient tree… deep and smooth, making you expect velvet. And then you touch the bark and it is cold, cold and with a hardness like stone under it.

I first heard it in the small courtyard off the Long Hall, where sometimes people go to get out of the heat of the hall fires, and rest their ears from the storytelling. I’d been sent out with a tray and a bottle of one of the oldest whiskeys, and told to deliver it to whoever I found there. I didn’t think too much of that — you get orders like that all the time from Reynard — so I went right out to the one table with people sitting at it.

He was a shadow darker than the shadows of the walls, sitting in the twilight; light from the windows gleamed on the glass in his hand, the metal at belt and wrist and knee, the gleam of his eyes — like cold sparks struck from a flint. Calm radiated off him like cold from a stone, too. Coming near to him was like wading into heart-high water. You felt yourself slowed and surrounded.

That surprised me, that he breathed out such a vast, calming peace. If you’ve heard his train whooping through the nights, men and horns and hounds howling all alike under the moon, you’d never expect their Lord to be so… quiet. There’s a solace in his company, and in that deep, sweet voice. At least when you catch him a quiet moment, drinking in the moonlight with a lady.

She was sitting on a cushion, her head against his knee, her pale hair flowing like starlight over them both. Their voices were low and easy as they spoke, with the rhythm of long years’ intimacy between them; like the voices of your parents through the walls in the middle of the night – you hear just a moment of their conversation as you burrow into your pillow, inexplicable and remote and far, far older than anything you know — but the sound means all is well in the world, and you go back to sleep comforted. That was what they sounded like.

I don’t know who she was, though her face had every beauty you could ever imagine in a woman. I didn’t know who he was, until he shifted into the light from the Hall window. Then, what I had thought were vine-shadows on the wall behind him were plain to see — the great branching antlers, like amber and ivory and iron in the dim light. And I just stood there, staring like I’d never seen any of our older, stranger guests before, like a booby. But when the Lord of the Hunt is looking into your eyes, it’s damned hard to remember you’re only there to deliver his bar order and not to be judged eternally . . .

You’ll get a better judgment, of course, if you do remember to give the Lord his order. I can testify to that, because when I finally got my wits together enough to put the tray down and display the label, he smiled and thanked me in that deep voice.

I don’t know why anything ever flees from him, with that voice . . . I could have stood there, drowning in it, forever. Which I guess he knew, because he dismissed me very kindly, so I could remember I still had a body and walk away. But the singers in the Long Hall sounded like crows when I went through, after the dark voice in the dark courtyard.

They still do.

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