The Autumnal Lady - Chapter II - The Bully
This is the second chapter in my fairy tale, The Autumnal Lady, and we still have not really met the titular character yet. In this chapter, Oliver has to face down a bully. If you have not read the first chapter, you can find it here. Enjoy!
Waking slowly from his sleep, Oliver let out a long yawn. It did not feel as though his sleep had been as restful as it normally was. Sighing, he rose to his feet and walked slowly over to the basin of washing water that sat on his dresser. He quickly splashed some of the water on his face in an attempt to wake himself. As he thought back on the dream, he wondered to himself, Why did I give her a name? She is merely a figment of my imagination, isn’t she?
Pulling his tunic on, Oliver remembered Candida telling him to ask Roger about his father. As he snatched up the nice leather vest that he wore over his tunic, Oliver simply shook his head. It is ridiculous, he thought, to think that anyone but Roger is my father.
But, a small voice in his head said, if it is such a ridiculous idea, then why would you have ever come up with it? After all, isn’t Candida only a figment of your imagination? Therefore anything that she says is actually from your thoughts.
Snarling, Oliver thrust the voice down and made his way to the door of his room. His room was set near the back of the inn and opened onto a small narrow staircase that ran down the back of the inn. It led to the kitchen on the ground floor. Roger’s room sat directly across from Oliver’s, and the rooms were set up in such way that Roger and Oliver would not disturb any guests that were spending the night. After all, they often went to bed after the guests since they had to clean up first.
Oliver dashed down the stairs into the small kitchen. He was expecting see Roger already hard at work, but instead he saw only Chun, whom Roger had hired to help around the inn after Eliana had died. Oliver liked Chun. He was a nice, somewhat gruff older man. His gray hair was usually tied in a knot at the top of his head, and he walked with a limp in his right leg. Roger had once said something about Chun having been a knight of some sort or another, but Oliver was not convinced of that. What Oliver did know was that Chun was an excellent cook. His cinnamon buns were especially good.
Chun turned towards Oliver and gave him a warm smile. “Did you come for some early morning cinnamon buns?” he asked with a chuckle.
“Actually, I was looking for my dad,” Oliver replied.
“The horse of one of the guests threw a shoe,” Chun said with a shake of his head, “so Roger went to the blacksmith to get it fixed. You know how much Bertrand likes to talk. Your father will probably be a while.”
“Do you need any help?” Oliver asked.
“Do I need any help in the kitchen?” Chun said with a booming laugh. “Perhaps if King Arvid of the Elves of Charm decided to grace our inn, but with the current lot of guests, no. I could feed them burned gristle, and they would love it. Run along and see your dad, lad.”
Oliver quickly bowed his head to Chun, who bowed his head in return, and Oliver ducked out the door that led into the village. He quickly dashed down the cobblestone streets. Once, he had asked his dad, how such a small village had obtained cobblestone streets of all things, and Roger had told him the tale of how the life of King Arvid of the Elves had been saved by one of the villagers. In return, Arvid had ordered his Elves to lay the cobblestone. Perhaps, I will tell you that tale another time.
As he rushed to the smithy, Oliver heard a scream. He came to a dead stop and glanced about. Spotting Tom, a rather large and brutish boy standing over a much smaller child, Oliver frowned. Tom was the village bully and enjoyed abusing those younger and smaller than himself. All the kids, except for Oliver, lived in terror of Tom. Stepping into the narrow passage between two buildings, Oliver approached the bully and his victim.
Reaching out his hand, Oliver laid it on the shoulder of one of the kids, who was watching and
whispered, “Run to the smithy and get Bertrand and my dad.” Then he stepped forward.
Seeing that the child, who was lying on the ground, already had a bloody nose, Oliver felt his anger boiling within him. Tom had no right to do such things. Yet it seemed as though his parents, two of the richest people in the village did not care to control him, and most the adults were afraid of offending them. “Hey, Tom,” Oliver snapped. “Can’t find anyone your own size to pick a fight with?”
Tom rounded on Oliver and snarled, “Run along little inn boy. You aren’t wanted here.”
“Hmm,” Oliver replied with a shake of his head. “I know that you don’t want me here, but I think that some other people might.”
Tom took a swing at Oliver, but he quickly ducked the blow as both his father and Chun had taught him. Then he danced back from Tom and said, “Is that the best you’ve got, coward?”
With a roar of fury, Tom rushed towards Oliver, but Oliver was far quicker and nimbler on his feet than the bully. He just continued to dance backwards to avoid the bigger kid’s blows. “Stand still, you little rat,” Tom snapped. “Take your beating like a man.”
Oliver merely laughed and continued to dodge the blows. Then he heard the thundering of feet on the cobblestone and glanced back to see his father and Bertrand approaching. However, he should not have taken his eyes off his opponent. Tom struck him hard in his stomach, and Oliver stumbled backwards. Tripping over a stone, he fell to the ground, and Tom moved in for the kill.
Before Tom could land another blow, Bertrand had reached them. Bertrand like many blacksmiths was a lean and wiry man. He was made of stringy muscles. He reached out and seized a hold of Tom and pulled him back. “Enough of that,” he growled as he delivered a hard smack to the back of Tom’s head.
“Hey,” Tom growled. “My parents will have your hide.”
“Despite what you seem to think your parents are not the lords of this village,” Roger said in a calm tone. “Can you take him home, Bertrand?”
“I can manage the little runt,” Bertrand growled as he began to drag Tom back towards his parents’ house.
Roger turned to Oliver and shook his head. “Always helping out,” he finally said with a laugh. “I’m glad you kept your wits about you and sent for help, but remember to never turn your back on an enemy.”
Oliver nodded as he climbed to his feet. “Right, dad,” he said with a sigh, and he noticed a certain sadness that came to Roger’s eyes.
“So why were you out and about?” Roger asked.
“I was actually going to ask you a question,” Oliver replied.
“Walk and talk,” Roger said as he began to walk back towards The Crowned Rose.
Oliver quickly fell into step beside his father and said, “Well, I had a dream last night.”
“And this is unusual?” Roger asked.
“This dream was,” Oliver replied. “I was in a castle and met a girl that told me to ask you about my father?”
Roger stopped dead in his tracks. He turned once more towards Oliver and let out a sigh. “I knew that you would ask someday,” he said with a shake of his head. “I take it that the girl told you that I’m not your father.”
Oliver nodded his head.
“Technically speaking, she is correct,” Roger said with another sigh. “You were left on the doorstep of the inn by a stranger, who called himself Umbra. There was a note telling me to give you a chest if you asked after your father. Come along to the inn, and I’ll get it for you.”
As he looked at his father, Oliver wished that he had never asked. It seemed as though something had gone out of Roger. “I don’t…” Oliver began.
“Yes, you do,” Roger replied with a kindly smile. “I knew that you were not mine to keep forever, lad. No child truly is, but I am glad that you were mine for a time. If that time has come to a close, I can only imagine that it is because you were born for greater things than this village. Come along, now.”
© 2014 Joseph Ray
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