The Autumnal Lady - Chapter IV - A Father's Friends
This is the fourth chapter of my fairy tale, The Autumnal Lady. In this chapter, we meet two friends of Taliesin, the stranger from the prologue. If you have not read chapter three please go here. Enjoy!
A Father's Friends
As Oliver looked at the strange green clad woman, a shudder ran down his spine. How could she possibly know that I opened the chest? he wondered to himself. Who is she? What does she want? Why is she here?
“Chun,” the woman said in a kindly voice, “would you mind leaving us for a short time. Oliver and I have much to discuss.”
Chun bowed his head to the lady and turned to walk out into the common room of the inn. As he passed by Oliver, he reached out his hand and squeezed the young lad’s shoulder. Leaning in, he whispered, “Hear her out, lad. She does not seem like a bad sort to me.”
Oliver slowly walked over to the table and sat down. The woman joined him and said, “It is a pleasure to finally meet you, Oliver, but you are probably wondering, who I am.”
“I might be,” Oliver replied.
The woman leaned back in the chair and shook her head, which was still hidden under the hood of her cloak. “As I said, I am Willow, but that probably means very little to you. I was a friend of your father, Taliesin.”
“The friend that he made the promise to?” Oliver asked.
The woman let out a melodic laugh. “Nay,” she said with a shake of her head. “That friend is one far more majestic than I could ever hope to be. I know that you must be hurting, Oliver. Your entire life has been turned upside down because you have discovered that you are not who you thought you were.”
“What would you know of that?” Oliver asked angrily.
“More than you might think,” Willow replied in a calm and gentle voice. “My life has been turned upside down several times, and it has rarely gone the way that I expected it to.”
“What do you want?” Oliver growled.
“I want you to understand why your father left you,” Willow replied. “He did not want to.”
“Then why did he?”
“Your father was a good man, Oliver,” Willow replied gently. “He was without a doubt one of the best sons of Adam that I have ever known. However, life did not always go the way that he desired. He did what he did to protect you.”
“That is what he already told me,” Oliver snapped.
“Trust me,” Willow said with a sigh. “It is true. A great evil was chasing him because it wanted you dead.
“Why would anyone want to kill a child?”
“Because you were the child of Taliesin,” Willow replied. “Long ago, Merdinus the Archmage and Taliesin set out to make a better world for us all. They tried to end the chaos of The Elemental Wars, but in so doing, they made many enemies who possess great and terrible power. One of the greatest of them was called the Winter King. With Taliesin’s death, the Winter King is preparing to return to these lands, but he knows that Taliesin’s son can stop him.”
Before Oliver could answer, the door swung open, and an almost comical figure came prancing into the room. Oliver, having lived on the edge of Fairy his entire life, instantly recognized the creature as a brownie. It had the overly long arms of its race so that its hands were at the level of the top of its blue boots. It also had a long coppery beard that fell past its waist, and long tapered ears pointed out from beneath its hair. Its face was the type that only a mother could love with an overly large nose at its center. It was dressed in a simple smock.
Willow turned towards the brownie and said, “What is it, Craig?”
“Leaping lilies,” the brownie said as his eyes fell on Oliver, “is this he?”
Willow chuckled. “He is Taliesin’s son,” she said gently.
“No I’m not,” Oliver barked.
“Never mind, never mind,” Craig said with a shake of his head, “far more important things to
talk about at the moment. The Fomorians and the trolls are on the move.”
“Why?” Willow asked.
“Blustering nightmares,” Craig shot back, “how should I know. They don’t exactly consult me or anything since I am technically their enemy last time I checked.”
“The Autumnal Lady would only move her forces if she knew Oliver’s location,” Willow said, “but how could she have found out?”
“Uh,” Oliver said.
“What did you do?” Willow asked as she turned back towards Oliver.
“Look,” Oliver snapped. “I do not have to explain myself to you lady.”
“Oliver,” Willow snapped, “if the Autumnal Lady knows where you are, you are in grave peril. Do I make myself clear?”
“Look here,” Oliver growled, “I don’t even know what you are, so…”
Before Oliver could finish what he was saying, Willow threw back the hood of her cloak to reveal a face covered in bark-like skin. It was unlike anything that Oliver had ever seen. “I am Dryad,” she said, “a Wood Elemental. Taliesin and I were bonded as he was a mage of no small power. Now, I am trying to see that his last wishes are fulfilled and that his son lives to a ripe old age. The Fomorians and the trolls worship the Winter King as a god and serve the Autumnal Lady, and they will kill you. What do you know?”
“I met someone claiming to be the Autumnal Lady in my dream last night when I tried to leave Candida,” Oliver replied.
“Who is Candida?” Willow asked.
“The girl in my dream,” Oliver said.
“Dancing tadpoles, you gave her a name,” Craig said in a voice of excitement.
“I don’t want anything to do with this craziness,” Oliver snapped as he began to get up from his seat.
“Oliver,” Willow began, but Oliver was no longer listening. He went into the common room of the inn and began to work. All that day, he avoided Craig and Willow, and that night he did not dream of Candida. However, around midnight, he was awoken by the loud and wild ringing of the warning bell and by men shouting.
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