The Autumnal Lady Chapter III - A Father's Letter
The third chapter in my fairy tale, The Autumnal Lady. If you have not read the second chapter, you can find it here. In this chapter, we learn what was in the chest from the prologue. Enjoy!
After they returned to the inn, Roger went into the back room and returned with a finely crafted, small, wooden chest. He handed it to Oliver and said, “The time has come to move forward, my lad. You are destined for a different life than this one.”
Even though he did not want to, Oliver took the chest from the man that he called his father. Feeling like crying, he rushed up the stairs to his room and flung himself down on his bed. In a matter of only a few hours, his entire life had been turned on end, and he had no idea what he was going to do now. He did feel some curiosity over what the chest might contain, but he hated the very thought of opening it. After all, he thought to himself, why should I care about a father who abandoned me. Roger was the man who cared for me and raised me.
No one is denying that, the little voice in his head said, but perhaps this other man had good reason to leave. He did find you a good family.
Allowing his curiosity to get the better of him, Oliver took the chest up and set it on his lap. The chest was somehow locked, but he had no key and saw no lock. As he ran his hand over the lid, it simply sprang open. Oliver leaped back, and the chest fell to the floor and spilled its contents. It had contained two fur lined gloves with dragons emblazoned on their backs and a piece of paper covered in writing.
Slowly, Oliver picked up the piece of paper and began to read. It said:
My beloved son,
You will never understand how hard it was for me to leave you, but I had to. It was the only way to protect you and to fulfill a promise to an old friend. If you are reading this, I assume that you are already having the dreams. Listen to the girl, my son. She is the daughter of an old and dear friend, and she is in danger. She will be confused for she is still quite young for her kind. Help her. I am sorry that I could not spare you from the trials and tribulations that will now befall you. I truly wish that I could have, but it was not to be. I have done all that was within my power to protect you, but the Winter King’s Herald draws nigh. I am sorry, my son. May the Lord bless you and keep you, and may he cause his light to shine upon you and give you peace.
Your loving father,
Taliesin, the Summer Prince
Oliver fiercely shook his head as he crumpled the parchment and angrily threw it into a corner. He would not accept this man as his father. What proof was there after all. Roger was his father. He wanted and needed no other. This was his home, and he had no intention of leaving it. With that resolve, he rose to his feet and walked back down to the main floor of the inn.
For the entire day, Oliver worked hard in the inn, and when it finally came time to lie down and go to sleep, he was fearful of the dream coming once more. Lying down, he prayed to the Lord that he would not dream of Candida again. Then he closed his eyes and fell into a deep sleep.
*** *** ***
Opening his eyes, Oliver found himself once more in the strange room with Candida. She was sitting on the sofa with a cup of tea in her hand and daintily sipping from it. When she spotted Oliver, she let out a squeal of delight. “You have absolutely no idea of how pathetically boring it is here,” she said with a shake of her head.
I don’t care what some dumb letter said, Oliver snarled to himself. She isn’t real. She can’t be. It doesn’t make logical sense.
How did your father know then? the little voiced asked.
He is not my father! Oliver roared in reply.
She needs your help, the voice said.
She is a figment of my imagination, Oliver shot back
Really? the little voice asked with a note of disdain in its voice. You are really still trying to convince yourself of that?
If I ignore her, this will all go away, Oliver thought as he silenced his inner voice.
“Oliver,” Candida said with a note of anxiety in her voice.
Oliver shook his head and turned his back to Candida. He saw that there was a great, golden mirror in this room as well, and he thought that he had found the way out of all of this. He stepped towards the mirror. “Oliver,” Candida said again as anxiety filled her voice, “why won’t you talk to me?”
Pressing his hand against the mirror, Oliver watched as it rippled. This time, he saw that the image in the mirror had changed. It was no longer a reflection of Candida’s room but rather an image of the filth strewn room on the other side. Smiling Oliver stepped forward into the mirror, but as he heard Candida pleading for him not to leave, he glanced back. He saw tears streaming down Candida’s face, and part of him was filled with remorse.
Oliver stepped into the filth strewn room and began to make his way back towards the door, but suddenly, there was the sound of movement behind him. He found himself caught in a pincer like grasp. Looking back, he saw the sleeping woman’s face smirking down at him. “So,” she hissed, “I have found you at last. Where have you been hiding, little lad? My master is very interested in you.”
“Let go of me!” Oliver snarled.
“The village,” the woman said with a sudden laugh. “I see it so clearly now. He hid you there on the edge of Fairy. What a clever little man Taliesin was, but in the end, it will do you and him no good. The Winter King comes, and I am his herald, the Autumnal Lady. Wake up, little lad. I am coming for you, and hell itself will follow me.”
*** *** ***
Oliver awoke in his bed. He was drenched in sweat and trembling in terror. Slowly, he rose to his feet and glanced out the window. The sun was rising in the east, and Oliver realized that he had no desire to be alone. Throwing open the door, he dashed down to the kitchen to see Chun.
Chun was standing at the door and talking to a woman wearing a hooded green cloak. “I’m sorry…” he was saying before he stopped and glanced back at Oliver. “Never mind, apparently he is awake.” The woman stepped into the kitchen. She had a belt like a vine wrapped around her waist. Her hands were gnarly like old tree roots.
The woman bowed her head towards Oliver, who stood transfixed. “Greetings, Oliver,” she said in a kindly voice that sounded like the rustling of leaves. “I am Willow, and it is a pleasure to meet you at long last. You’ve opened the chest, haven’t you?”
© 2014 Joseph Ray
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