Disclaimer: X-Files is the creation of Chris Carter, Mutant Enemy Inc as are the characters of Fox Mulder and Dana Scully, and are not mine in any way. "Mandrake" by Karen In this small town it is expected that every one is aware of every one else's business.

Hardly anything untoward happens here, at least not the kind that makes into the national newspapers and news broadcasts. It's quiet, it's middle class, and that's the way the locals prefer it. Until up until a week or so ago, when a slew of unexplained disappearances rocked the residents of the town.

A couple sits on the red and silver painted stools lined up in front of the long lunch counter in one of the local diners. Surrounded by friends and neighbors, they discuss the situation, digesting their breakfast of pancakes and fried sausages along with the reports in the New England Gazette at the same time. The only problem is that most can only come up with either theories or others trying to find someone to blame.

"Pass the salt, dear," the woman says, with her reading glasses perched on the edge of her nose, a napkin indicating the paragraph in the article where she left off reading.

"It says here that the police are baffled by these mysterious disappearances, a whole mess of missing persons reports have been filed, but no one can turn up anything remotely useful."

"I tell you Esther, " her husband mutters around a mouthful of scrambled eggs, "That's the trouble with the world. Nobody wants to get involved unless they have a vested interest. It's like it's too bad somebody else's kid has gone missing," he pauses and washes down his mouthful with a swig from the glass of orange juice sitting beside his plate, "but it ain't no skin off my nose, cause it ain't my kid."

"Josiah, that's not a very nice thing to say."

"I realize that, but it's the truth, more's the pity." Josiah shrugs, setting down his glass, the moisture condensing around the outside of the glass leaving small concentric rings on the counter's polished surface.

The girl behind the counter glances up from the cash register, wiping her hands on her apron. "I hear the thing that makes it especially difficult is they can't find a connection between the ones who've gone missing."

"Do they list the names?"

"Nah. The police won't release the names of the missing persons until they have more evidence," Josiah Hicks replies, as he reads another related article in the metro section.

A man sits farther down the line of diners in faded denim coveralls, a leather jacket, and jeans he is either a farmer, a logger or trucker by his rumpled and mingled odor of after shave, lotion, and sweat. He speaks up to add his say to the discussion. "Been on the road and just pulled into town, but I heard a good buddy of mine who lives down in the city, that the local authorities are calling in the big boys."

"What do you mean by that, Luke?"

The man called Luke shrugs, "I mean the Feds, as in the FBI."

"Great, just great," Esther mutters. "As if we didn't have enough trouble without involving a bunch of federal agents."

"It ain't a bunch, my buddy says they're only sending two agents."

"Are you certain your buddy was sober when he gave you this information, Luke?" Josiah asks, raising one dark eyebrow.

"As certain as I'm sitting here talking to you, Josiah"

Agents Mulder and Scully drove down the long stretch of interstate highway in the rental vehicle, which had been provided by the agency. When Skinner had provided the details of the case to them he had been less than forthcoming, but then that is generally the case with him. The few sketchy details about the case they would be investigating includes a small, quiet town, police baffled by sudden slew of disappearances, and they did not have any leads or connections to tie any of the various reports together.

Scully drives while Mulder dozes in the passenger seat beside her. He's been dozing off and throughout the drive up the New England coastline, sometimes he would consult the map they'd picked up at a convenience store gas station. It is a nice change not to have to field endless questions and speculations about just everything under the sun, and he could probably due with the rest. He's driven part of the way and they switched off as they get closer to their destination when they had stopped to fill up the gas tank.

"According to the map legend Pevenser should only be about an hour and a half away," Scully says speaking to Mulder through the partially rolled down window as she waits for her partner to return from inside the station along with two styrofoam cups of hot coffee. The temperature had steadily been dropping on the drive up the coast and as night falls she can feel the wind even through the insulated fabric of her coat.

As soon as he comes around to the passenger side of the car, handing her the coffee cups before opening the door and getting settled inside, he says: "Any further leads or information from the local police on what they're doing to investigate the disappearances on their end?"

"Nothing so far, other than a written signed statement from the Chief of Police saying to the effect that they're looking into, but have not yet turned up any leads"
"This time of year it could be any number of things," Scully shakes her head, then removes the lid of her cup and takes a sip of the hot brewed liquid. "Not bad."

"You mean the 'wait and see' policy'?" Mulder asks.

"I meant the coffee."

"You know it's getting close to Halloween, this could be just someone's idea of a practical joke," Mulder says, pausing to think matters through. "Then why would they call us in?"

"You're the expert on conspiracy theories," Scully replies. "Please tell me you do not believe that the disappearances are linked to a government experiment cover up?"

"Okay, have it your way," Mulder shrugs. "I won't tell you." I guess we will have to be patient and wait to see what's what once we get there. Another hour and a half you said?"

"Yeah," Scully replies as she places the coffee cup inside the holder inside of the rental car, turns the key in the ignition and puts the car into gear.

3 Elsewhere In the borders of the town where the houses come to an end is a long stretch of forested terrain, comprised of oaks, beeches, maples, cedars, and evergreen trees. In early November the leaves are shedding their green coloring and donning their fall coat of deep reds, browns, and oranges.

Deep in the heart of the forest is a bowl-shaped depression oddly out of place in the level terrain. Entering the clearing is akin to entering a very quiet house that has not been lived in for weeks, or one that is being prepped for painting.

It's dark in there because the trees grow so close together that sunlight is filtered through the forest branches and leaves. It also has a peculiar odor, green and growing things, a rich green, alive smell. Mingled in with an odor to that of damp mold and deep leaves, a definite contrast.

Not many come to this remote clearing, not many people even know where in the forest to even begin looking for it.

One person knows and he has typically kept that knowledge a closely guarded secret.

Emerging from the thick tangle of forest trees is a man dressed from head to foot in green; his dark hair is parted down the center of his head, all of which is topped by a green velvet cap pulled low over his eyes. Tucked underneath his left arm he carries an unrolled cloth with a device that has not been seen in these parts for longer than the oldest residents can remember.

The device on the pennant is that of a man's head disgorging vegetation from all of his various apertures; head, nose, eyes, ears, and mouth.

If he once had had a proper name it is one that he no longer remembers. His domain lies too close to human habitation to try and force recollection of what he was once. Surviving and thriving over the centuries required a certain amount of adaptation and compromise. He's been called the Jack in the Green, the Garland, and the Lord of May.
He has decided on a new name. Silvanus.

He's been very sleepy of late but changes in the human world and the natural word have made him very uneasy and restless while he slumbered and the world spun on without him. However, circumstances have now reached a point where he's had to wake up and take action.

To that end he's gone out and found a half dozen young people, a few older ones, and taken them to this place, this spot in the forest. He is vaguely aware that the humans think of it as a kidnapping, and he is satisfied to let things remain as they are for now.

The humans are a mixed lot, some male, some female, some old, some young, and none are aware of the circumstances of how or why they were brought to this place.

Meanwhile Scully estimates that it would be a good idea to call ahead and let the proper authorities aware of the exact time of their arrival.
The meeting place is the town hall, even for a late Friday afternoon the place is still a scene of activity, and not just for official personnel; a few locals are milling around as well.

"The Feds are here," Officer Taylor says.

"I can see that," Police Chief Allister replies watching as a rental car pulls up in front of the town hall and the occupants stopp the car, turn off the ignition, and get out.

"We're baffled," the chief says.

"We've turned over every possible stone, as the saying goes," the grizzled police veteran shrugs, "been through every lead, some more bizarre than the others, and still all of that adds up to one thing, a big zippo on the radar."

"It's a good thing we're such a close knit community 'round these parts," Officer Bill Taylor agrees, nodding his head, "'Cause otherwise we'd be in trouble for sure."

"Can you tell us anything more concerning the circumstances of those who've disappeared?"

"It got worrisome when the count of missing persons report doubled or even tripled in the past four weeks. Usually, as I'm sure you're aware, Agent Scully," Allister chews on the end of a wooden toothpick, "We don't take that seriously under the person in question has been gone for more than three days."

"I understand, go on," Scully prompts.

"At last count, about a dozen people are missing."

"Anything in common?" Mulder asks.

"No, except for the fact we're talking an average age range from about 15 to 35."

"Has anything like this every happened in the past?" Mulder asks.

"Not that I can recall," the young officer introduced as Officer Taylor adds. "Of course if you listen to the old biddies up at the diner or at the Lions's Club meeting halls…" he shrugs.

"Go on," Mulder nodded encouragingly.

"Well, it's just superstition and folklore," Taylor replies. "But according to legend there's supposed to be some kind of ogre or monster of some kind that lives in the forest and every so often comes out to gobble up people."

"Of course no one in their right mind believes in stuff like that," Chief Allister adds. "Most of it is just folk and goblin stories, stuff you read to little un's before bedtime"
Scully and Mulder exchange significant glances, in that wordless exchange they were saying without words: 'How are we going to separate what the true facts of this case are from local superstition?'

"You don't need to be telling these agents about folklore. Besides, stuff like that hasn't happened in over two hundred years." Chief Allister shrugs, and then turns on his heel, signaling that the two agents are to accompany him into his office where he will show them photos of the missing people.

Chief Allister went over to his desk opening one of the drawers in cherry wood old fashioned scroll top desk, coming up with a thick, and much thumbed-through manila folder. "Have a look see," he says as he hands it over to Scully.

She nods her thanks and thumbs open the clip that held the folder closed, pulling out 3 X 5 glossy color photos of approximately a dozen residents, locals at first glance, all taken prior to their disappearances.

The kids are mostly in their teens, the adults ranging in age from 25-30 years. An accompanying printout lists the names that went with each of the photos. Scully reads the list and turns so that Mulder can read it also.

"I don't see anything here that is out of the ordinary," Mulder remarks. "It's just basic search and rescue."

"We've already covered the entire eastern sector of the township and its outskirts from end to end, and nothing." The Chief looks determined, but to Mulder's way of thinking he can detect an undercurrent of fear there as well.

"We're not ready to give up," another officer adds. "A few of those on the list are family members"
"The trail went cold on Clive Hicks and Andrea Morgan at the edge of the forest, " the Chief shook his head. "We need time and resources to conduct a proper search of the forest."

"That's where we come in," Mulder said.

"Then let's go," Scully says.

Leaving their cars parked on the edge of the forest, Mulder, Scully and the accompanying officers, along with a pack of police dogs, enter the forest. The ground underneath their feet is soft and springy, here and there starting to gain its fall carpet of leaves. The trees grow close together the deeper in that they go, only occasionally straying from their paths as the dogs had become distracted by an intriguing new scent or by the passing of a squirrel, or other small animals.

"Scully, this may not be best time to mention this," Mulder whispers over his shoulder to his partner, "but we look like a theatre troupe doing a medieval hunting party scene."

Scully looks up at him, despite her best efforts to not give in, she chuckles, hiding her amusement at the remark with a sudden coughing spurt. "Sometimes, I do find your off beat sense of humor pretty darn amusing, but don't let anyone else at the department know, okay"
"Okay," he nods. "I promise."

'Speaking of promises," Scully glances around at the trees and undergrowth, Mulder's comment about medieval hunting parties fresh on her mind, she thinks, "From what I recall from my reading of Medieval history, did not royalty sometimes get rid of inconvenient rivals or nobility by staging 'hunting accidents? Because that last clearing we passed would make a great spot for an ambush. Great, now he's got me doing it."

Fight scene

The figure that awaits the search party deep in the forest's heart is not exactly what anyone in the group has been expecting. He stands tall and patient in the center of the clearing, dressing head to foot in green livery, recalling thoughts of Medieval heraldry to Scully's mind and she curses under her breath at Mulder for bringing up that particular line of thought.

To either side of the green figure are half a dozen of the missing people. They appear to be dazed and lost but otherwise unharmed. Mulder's reaction on seeing them is to liken the expressions on their faces as the look that certain users of mood altering drugs have when on a particularly bad hit.
"Greetings, all, " the man says, touching a hand lightly to his forehead, in a old fashioned formal salute. "I have been expecting you"
Scully glances around, gauging the reactions of the others in the group and with an eye to whether or not the stranger's companions were armed. "The hell with it," Chief Allister mutters. "Cover me," he adds to his officers and patrolmen. "I'm going in."

"Sir, I think you might want to give a little more thought to a plan first," Taylor says. "After all, we don't know enough about the situation."

"Damn, all right, but I don't have to like it."

"Clive! Andrea!" one of the men holding back the excited dogs shouts.

"Stop him!" Taylor shouts. "We don't want to make this any harder than it already is."

"Allow me to make introductions. I am Silvanus. I am the master of this place and all that surrounds it, and for the moment, I determine the fate of those you have come to rescue."

"I don't like this one bit," Scully says.

"You think they're on drugs?" Taylor whispers in aside to Scully, worry creasing his smooth forehead.

"Something's wrong here," she replies.

"Look, Silvanus or whatever you want to call yourself," Mulder says as he takes a few steps forward towards the inner circle of the man and his followers. "We're not here to cause any trouble, all we want is the safe return of the townsfolk."

"I know," Silvanus nods, gesturing with a sweep of his hand towards a boy who wore a checkered flannel shirt and blue denim jeans, and who, without a word, vanishes deeper into the forest.

No one speaks or moves for a few tense minutes when a rustling and a tearing sound emerges from the spot where the boy has gone deeper into the forest.

Someone or something emerges from the deeper shadows and into the brittle sunlight of the clearing. It is almost startling that it does not have a nightmarish shape or form. Mulder's first reaction upon seeing it is: "What the hell is going on here?" After all, he's seen hundreds of renderings of knights on horseback in books and movies, clad all in armor with the green surcoat that depicted a man's head with ivy, tendrils and plants emerging from its mouth, eyes, ears, and even its nose.

The surcoat that the knight wears over his armor is green, the helm wrapped in green leaves and even the armor had a faint greenish tinge, as if it had been lacking an adequate polish for quite some time. In a deep voice tinged with both determination and fear the knight says, "I issue challenge."

"Look, we just want our folks returned safe and sound," Taylor mutters.
"I think he wants a fight," Scully says.

"Well, we don't have to give him one."

"I beg to differ" interrupts Silvanus. "Yes, you do."

The Fight

Mulder feels absurd dressed in red armor that is, in all but color, an exact duplication of the green knight's. For one thing, it smells like leaf mold, it is too big in the shoulders, and it is hot and itchy. In the back corner of his mind, he wonders how he wound up in messes like this and what has possessed him to step forward and accept the challenge as it was issued.
Scully kneels beside Mulder, helping to buckle on the greaves and plates that will complete the costume, and that done, steadies him as he stands and tries to gain his balance, weighed down by all that plate armor. "Do I look as ridiculous as I feel?" he asks.

"Do you really want me to answer that?" she replies, taking a look around and lets out a small gasp as she notices that some of the people serving Silvanus have brought over a roan horse with white splashes on its face and forehead.

"Not really, I guess. Um, do I get a choice of weapons?"

"Of course," Silvanus replies, coming over to face the two agents. "We are not without honor."

"Well, I guess we'd better get this over with," Mulder sighs. "And you are certain there is no other way to resolve this muddle? One that does not involve violence."

"It is a bit late in the day to be concerned about that, Agent Mulder," Silvanus remarks, his eyes fixing on the approach of the roan horse.
Mulder walks over to the horse, reaching for the bridle, and raising a foot to place into the stirrup cup so he can mount up into the saddle, racking his brain for another solution before it is too late and he is committed to this course of action.

The green knight follows suit as soon as Mulder is mounted with the helm covering his face. Lowering his lance he coaxes his big olive-green horse into motion. A piercing noise breaks the tense silence as Silvanus lets out a shrill whistle. Mulder, correctly guessing that is the start signal, gets his roan horse moving as well.

Closing swiftly upon each other Mulder tries to recall everything he can about horseback riding, which is something of ten years ago on a college date, in the back of his mind he realizes, "This is going hurt."

Swiftly as a striking snake, the barrel of his opponent's lance whistles past Mulder's head, as the armored creature moves forward and lands a glancing blow to his side. He darts out of the way, wondering if those so-called ground rules state anything about an unequal contest between two opponents: one armed and the other rather out of practice at this business.

The next blow sends him reeling.

Mulder shakes his head to clear it of the inevitable cobwebs and brushes aside the clinging dead leaves that trail along the blunt edge of the creature's lance.
The first pass hits his flank and on past his position. Yanking on the reins, Mulder gets his roan to turn around and readies for the next one.

He lets instinct take over, figuring he might as well go with the flow and chock up this encounter into the category of yet another bizarre thing that has occurred today. "Your essence will be flung into the ether and search as you will, never for a thousand years will it be found," the creature states menacingly. Thrusting home another blow to his left flank, drawing forth a spurt of red blood.

"Pretty dire. Wish I knew how to end this quickly," Mulder thinks, then spurs his roan into action, awkwardly leveling his lance into the cushion that has been made for it on the saddle. "Painful as it is to admit, sometimes those conspiracy theories and belief in the paranormal really do come back to bite me on the posterior."

Mulder keeps coming, his momentum spurring both his determination and that of his horse on. The two big horses meet with a resounding thump and the sound of splintering wood and metal as both lances splinter.

Mulder felt a bit woozy and his head swims so that through the slits in his red helmet the earth and the ground become a bit mixed up. He rocks in his saddle and when his vision clears he realizes he is still upright and seated in his saddle.
His opponent, however, is much worse for wear. The green knight no longer seems so tall and menacing on foot. A slow green ichor seeps from torn rents in its armor. In a dizzying moment of excitement and adrenaline Mulder realizes that the helm has been knocked off and he has a clear glimpse of the other's face. It was the boy Taylor has named Clive. "What the hell?" he yells to be heard over the sounds of shouts and screaming. Mulder lifts up the visor of his helm and throws it to the ground.

"It's over. And I want answers!"

"And you shall have them," Silvanus announces, coming up to stand beside him.

"Congratulations are in order, Agent Mulder. You won and those I have taken are free to go."

"Sometimes I really feel like a horse's rear end," Mulder gripes, patting his horse's head. "No offense to present company, boy." The roan rolls his head around, snorts and looks him in the eye. "Guess you agree, huh?"

(The Report)

Scully sits at the wooden table provided by the motel, her laptop open and blinking at her. Her fingers poise over the keyboard letters, wondering how to begin her report on the case. Mulder, typically, is ambivalent about not finding concrete evidence linking the disappearances to a clear paranormal manifestation; or better yet a government conspiracy; that would be too much to hope for, even for him.
She finally decides to summarize the events of investigation:

"The idea of a spectral or even a paranormal manifestation responsible for not only the disappearances of a dozen locals from the town of Pevenser, Maine can not reliably be attributed to science. However, there is a logical explanation for most ifs not all unexplained phenomena.

It is my belief that self-appointed 'demi-god' Silvanus and his ability to transform a human being into a figure from mythological legend and folklore is nothing more than an attempt to play on peoples fears and superstitions."