Olivia's home is the Green Man Inn, situated in medieval city of London. She is content with her life, running the bustling tavern with her father, and is taken aback when he suggests a long journey in late autumn into the west of the country to meet her mysterious bridegroom.
As Olivia gets farther away from the busy metropolis, her concerns grow, especially as Halloween approaches. She senses something strange and unearthly in her fate, and her imagination conjures up fearful images.
All alone in the wild forests of Wales, will she be an unwilling sacrifice to the pagan gods?
On and on Olivia walked until she could barely see the track in front of her. There was no sign of the welcoming lights of a house. The wind grew fiercer and the rain heavier, soaking her thick travelling cloak.
Even over the noise, she could hear the scurrying of wild forest creatures in the undergrowth. Somewhere in the distance, she thought she heard the cry of a fox. She hesitated with a more perturbing thought. Was it the howl of a wolf? Thinking of such wild and fearsome creatures, she began to wonder if there were bears roaming the forest.
More than anything, she wanted to go home. She looked behind her but the way back to her father seemed to be swallowed up in the gloom, so she plodded on. As the wind howled through the trees, her disquieted musings turned to less corporeal threats.
Even city folk were suspicious of the ill-doing of spirits on this Halloween night. Here in the ancient countryside, her mind turned to the evil deeds of witches and warlocks, of dark arts and deadly spells. A young virgin, alone in the forest would be an obvious sacrifice to Beelzebub himself. Had her father sold his soul to the devil? Or had he been bewitched to leave his only daughter to some grisly and unearthly fate?
The storm raged around her, echoing her terrible thoughts. Her imagination ran wild on her perilous state. The frightful notion she would be left on the forest floor robbed of her maidenhood and lifeblood took hold of her mind until it felt unbearably real. She turned tail and fled, screaming her terror into force of the gale.
The trees seem to line up against her and she was prepared to be scratched to pieces as she fought her way through them, that the harsh branches would rend her clothes and tear her skin. But they simply formed a barrier, causing her no harm as she slid to the sodden ground. She was almost insensible with dread, but as her sobs eased, she was aware that the tumult of the storm was now far above her in the sky. In the shelter of the woods, there was an atmosphere of strangely expectant calm.
She wiped her eyes and as she opened them, the trees in front of her almost seemed to give off a glow. The leaves began to rustle as if whispering to her. If she concentrated, she could almost imagine they were forming words and addressing her.
Fanciful though it might be, she could pick out individual voices from the ash, the chestnut and the willow as they placated and encouraged her. "Come with us, it is time," one voice uttered. "Our master is waiting for you," another persuaded. "The line must continue," a third proclaimed.
She could not help but be affected by their urgency. She stood unsteadily and could see the route was now clear before her as if the trees were showing her the way. As she began to walk, the branches gently brushed against her, steadying her, easing her passage.
In time, Olivia reached a cathedral-like clearing, dramatically lit by forked lightning high in the heavens. The trees seemed to draw back in obeisance and the way ahead was blocked by a massive oak tree. As she hesitated, looking in awe at this magnificent specimen, its eyes blinked open. She stepped back, in astonishment, her fear suddenly returning.
This entity was far more terrible and powerful even than the country church carvings that had filled her with alarm. She felt the branches of her attendant trees brushing her arms again as if to abate her nervousness. The uncannily bright green eyes surveyed her and the mouth, crammed with leaves, moved, uttering, "My bride. At last."