Published by: eXtasy Books
Author : Liberty Stafford
Word Count :40000
Publication Date :2010-08-03
Series : Bad Blood Corpus#3
Heat Level :
Category : Young Adult
- Product Code: 978-1-55487-506-1
Every forest has a heart. This one beats in the shape of a man. Handsome, charming, dangerously irresistible.
Ancient magic erupts from the earth, leaving Helena spellbound. Not many have ever laid eyes on Jack O'The Green, the old man of the woods, the green man, let alone become his forest dwelling wife.
“I’m getting cold. How much longer do you think we have to wait?” Helena whimpered to Katarina. Chained fast against the rippled bark of an ancient oak, she and Helena awaited the town planners’ decision. Palms down upon earth, soil and grass, cool and alive, it pulsed thankfulness through their skin. They had been there for several hours already and there was no way she and Helena would allow their local wood to be decimated, chopped down by the cruel hands of money hungry loggers, slaves of the housing market where destruction was controlled by greed. This was one precious green space the corporation was not going to take without a fight.
Dotted around were others like them, collectively chained to oak and elm, caring people who protected their natural resources dressed in a common uniform of mackintoshes, bearing flasks. Rain had soaked the land earlier that day and only those truly committed stood their ground. Nobody budged. Not even as the corporation slaves arrived in hard hats, checked shirts and boots, swearing and belittling, threatening the ethics and valiant efforts of the guardians.
Intimidating yellow machines grumbled their monstrous bulk in close proximity and the earth shuddered under their approach. The mechanical beasts approached rows of wellingtoned feet with crenellated teeth laughing on rusting buckets. Katarina linked arms with Helena in fear. Had she not been tied to the tree, she would have run, but that option was long gone. Katarina closed her eyes in sweet remembrance of how precious the wood was–a keystone in her relationship with Daniel. Entwined in their special history, there was no way she could let the copse be destroyed. Under a neighbouring elm tree, they had tasted their first kiss. He had lifted her into its spreading branches, made her feel as if she could fly whenever they embraced. In that wood, Daniel had first learned he could take wing and it was where he discovered how to control his dhampir powers. Under that leafy canopy, they had shared many a sweet secret. She had learned so much about Daniel and his clandestine existence there. It was their safe place. Somewhere they belonged. Where they were accepted for what they were. Now it was time to pay back the protection which the wood had offered for so long, even if it petrified her to do so.
“Are they going to run us over with those diggers?” Helena asked with bated breath.
“I hope not.” Katarina squeezed her friend’s arm and held her breath. Each driver turned off their rumbling engines and the machines hissed a sigh, tamed for a while, creating a brief moment of tranquillity. “Do you really think we can make a difference with this demonstration?”
“Of course!” Helena said. “I believe in it more than anything. Non-violent protest is definitely the way forwards. I only hope they agree. Those machines are pretty big, right? With us here, there’s no way they’ll be able to clear the wood. We’ll win. I can feel it.”
“Aren’t you scared? I see more official looking people gathering down there. They look pretty angry with us.”
“They do, don’t they? Well, we’re angry with them. I still say we are right to be here. We are right, they are wrong and that’s that. But yes, I’m terrified, too.”
One of the enemy leaders, a town planner wearing a fluorescent yellow bib, strode over to the girls with an axe in his hand, his aggression evident in the length of his steps and the ruddiness of his jowls. His face grimaced as he raised the glinting blade, ready to sever the trunk above their heads if they refused to vacate. Helena screamed. Katarina screwed her eyelids closed. Changing direction, the planner instead chopped their metal links with a dull thud which caused them, and the tree, to shudder.
“Stay where you are,” the dreadlocked sit-in organiser ordered his troops. With their chain severed, Katarina and Helena stood with their backs to the oak, trembled then sat down again.
“Get the hell out of the way,” the planner yelled. “You idiots. Move! You’ll get yourselves killed!”
“Stay where you are,” the organiser shouted. “We’re not moving, mate. We’re not letting you have this wood. Are we, everyone?” The wood filled with voices in agreement, passion for nature evident in their united tone.
“You are officially trespassing,” the planner warned them. “This place is no longer public property. Stay here if you are willing to be arrested. Enjoy your evening in jail, people.”
A tsunami of police in serious looking riot gear arrived like a Roman army to form an impenetrable wall of black. Perspex shields, scratched from previous altercations, glared in the sunlight and Katarina imagined the blood spilled last time these shields were presented to a group of people in this manner. Protesters caught their breath as they watched and wondered what was about to happen to them.
Like a squadron of ants in perfect harmony, the colony of riot police advanced. Shields interlinked and batons raised. Stopping just before the first trees, they awaited further orders and surrounded the wood with an illimitable presence. Katarina had never witnessed anything like it. Within seconds her resume had changed from being a law abiding citizen who cared about the environment to a national enemy endangered for pacifistic beliefs. Such a hasty change did not sit well.
Gazes spewing hatred behind masks and blue helmets turned her to stone. Each officer depersonalised with letters and numbers, no longer an individual, but a fighting machine intent upon one common, miserable purpose.
“Protesters! You are trespassing on private ground. Remove yourselves immediately!” Gruff orders crackled over a police megaphone. Unheeded, the order was stated twice more, each time with more emphasis. “If you do not remove yourselves, you will be forcefully removed. This is your final warning.”
In response, the protesters sang. Sweet songs of love and harmony glazed each leaf and twig of the forest. Riot police plugged their ears unable to admit the beauty of their melody.
Once again, the cloaked voice warned, “You will be forcefully removed. Please evacuate this area quickly and quietly or further action will be taken. This is your final warning.”
A sudden blanket of calm settled upon the wood as police and protesters fell silent, the type of eerie serenity experienced before an electrifying clap of lightning with enough power to singe cement and split trees right in half.
Whispered discussions took place. Police radios crackled and muggy voices conspired. All the protesters could do was wait.
More orders were issued before the riot police withdrew and the protesters cheered approval, however the diggers, planners and loggers remained in stubborn situ. The man who had cut the girls’ chain paced up and down with hostility, his neck scarlet from executive stress while he took anxious calls on his mobile phone. All the while, he scowled at the protesters with malice.
Stale mate ensued. Keeping their distance, the police stayed behind rows of diggers should they be needed as they sensed brewing dissent. Their presence reassured Katarina even though she knew their collective ethos to be antithetical. However, when a handful of burly, angry workmen in yellow bibs approached, she was grateful the police had remained. Each workman clutched an axe or electric saw in sweating, spade like hands.
“Out of the way, girls,” one of them demanded and cranked up the whirring blades of his chainsaw. Both girls glanced at the protest organiser who nodded for them to get out of his way. The atmosphere had changed. Trouble was manifest. “Wise decision.” The man laughed and held his juddering saw aloft. He lunged at the tree as though he owed it personal revenge. Jagged teeth chattered into the oak. Splinters flickered this way and that like dull fireworks.
As the man lowered his saw once more towards the wide girth of the trunk, to everyone’s amazement Helena sprang into action and threw herself before the oak, blocking it from further harm. Shaken by the near miss, the man with the saw backed away. However, in order to finish the job, the first planner came forward with an axe and wielded it towards the tree. Helena wrestled the weapon from the man’s grasp.
“You’re a crazy woman,” he shouted at Helena. “You’re going to get yourself killed!”
“Back off! I’m warning you!” Helena’s teeth and gaze flashed and she wielded the axe back at him.
Uproar shook the wood as the protesters celebrated her act of bravery by laughter and singing. Protesters unchained themselves, no longer afraid and the corporation backed away. Local press arrived asking difficult questions and their every move was reported by cameras. Very soon, a rich looking businessman arrived and made a great fuss to ensure that the journalists all heard what he had to say.
“Ladies and gentlemen. Listen if you will, I have an important announcement to make. We have discovered this patch of woodland is indeed ancient and many of the trees here have preservation orders upon them. As such, our company will not, of course, take our plans to develop this site any further. We apologise for any upset and would like to applaud the brave actions of our concerned citizens. Now let’s all return to our homes quietly and safely.”
A huge cheer showered loose leaves to the ground. Protesters in woollen bobble hats with ear flaps and rainbow coloured ponchos hugged, whooped and high fived. Before departure, they tidied their areas until it was impossible to tell any protesters had even been there. Tell tale ruts and squashed mud from the diggers was the only sign of action.