The Autumnal Lady Chapter VI - Into Fairy
The sixth chapter of my fairy tale, The Autumnal Lady. In this chapter, Craig and Oliver flee into fairy to escape the Fomorians and the trolls. If you have not read the previous chapter, you can find it here. Enjoy!
All through the long night, Oliver and Craig ran, and as they ran, they crossed the border between the realms of men and the realm of fairy. The entire experience was completely new for Oliver, who had never had to run for his life before. He found the entire ordeal to be quite tiring, and if fear had not given strength to his legs, he would have undoubtedly stumbled and fallen. Even so, as the sun rose in the east to find the two of them still running, Oliver asked, “Are we almost there?”
Craig, whose long coppery beard was streaming behind him, glanced back at Oliver and shook his shaggy head. “Prancing pyramids!” he exclaimed in his deep rough voice. “We will get there when we get there, ladie, and not a moment before. I would suggest that you focus on running for the moment.”
With a loud sigh, Oliver called on whatever reserves of energy he had left in his body and pressed on. All morning they ran, and hunger began to gnaw at Oliver’s stomach. His limbs began to ache, and his breathing became heavy. Yet whenever it seemed as though he would falter, Oliver called to mind the image of the rocky being with the snake tail. A new wave of terror would wash over him and give his limbs the desperate strength they needed to press on.
Finally as noon drew nigh, the two came to a great boulder. Craig motioned for Oliver to stop and said, “Here we may rest for this is an ancient refuge of my people.”
Glancing about, Oliver shook his head. “All I see is a boulder,” he said.
“Tussling truffles,” Craig snorted, “the refuge is the boulder.”
“How is a boulder a refuge?” Oliver asked with a puzzled expression on his face.
“Magic,” Craig replied before he delivered three quick raps to the boulder with his knuckles.
As the third and final rap ended, a hole opened in the boulder. Beyond the hole Oliver saw a finely crafted staircase leading down beneath the boulder. Craig let out a merry laugh as he began to dance down the stairs. Turning his shaggy head, he looked back at Oliver and waved the young lad forward. “Come in! Come in!” he said merrily. “I’ll set a fire in the hearth and make a breakfast fit for kings. As for you, my laddie, you can sleep and dream sweet dreams for these are the Halls of Dougal, where no evil can walk.”
Nodding his head, Oliver stepped onto the stairs and followed Craig down into a massive and well kept cavern. Great crystals, which glowed with eldritch light, were embedded in the walls of the cavern and so illuminated it. In the middle of the cavern, there was a great stone pit. All along the walls, barrels and crates were lined. Along one wall, bunks had been built, and there was also a long table surrounded by short stools clearly meant for brownies. The rest of the cavern was empty.
Craig quickly scurried over to the barrels and crates. Out of one, he pulled some firewood, and out of another, he pulled bacon, bread, potatoes, and butter. Oliver stood still as he watched all of this in awe. He was shocked at the grace of the brownie’s movements and amazed that so much stuff had been kept fresh in this cavern. Then he heard Craig’s merry voice saying, “What did you expect, my dear laddie. You walk now on the soil of Fairy. Here there do be wonders. Now, sleep! Sleep! Rest your weary head and dream sweet dreams.”
Taking Craig’s advice, Oliver walked slowly over to the bunks. Even though, he was not overly tall yet, he had a hard time finding a bunk in which he would fit. But finally, he did. Lying down, he soon fell into a deep sleep. As he slept, he dreamed, but he did not dream of the the odd castle, the raggedy woman, or the strange girl. His dreams were utterly ordinary. They were the sort of dreams that he had been having until his life had been turned upside down. But while this should have pleased him, he for some reason unknown even to him found it disturbing. The ordinary dreams seemed empty to him.
After a short time, Oliver awoke. He felt refreshed for the Halls of Dougal had powerful enchantments that aided sleep laid upon them. The smell of cooking bacon filled the air of the cavern, and Oliver rose to his feet to see Craig hard at work over the fire pit. He had set a metal grill above the fire and was frying the bacon. Looking up from his task, Craig smiled. “Welcome back to the realm of the waking,” he said with a chuckle. “Now, it is time to be eating.”
Oliver walked over to Craig and took a few slices of bacon and some toast from the grill. Spreading some butter over the toast, he sat down and began to eat. Even though it was simple fare, he found it to be some of the most delightful food that he had ever eaten. It even put Chun’s cooking to shame. Then he looked at Craig, who was eating a simple bowl of porridge mixed with honey. “Why do you not eat the bread and the bacon?” he asked.
“Porridge and honey is the staple of the brownies,” Craig said with a merry laugh. “I must do
my best to keep up appearances.”
They both ate in silence for a time. Then finally, Oliver asked, “Why is this cavern named the Halls of Dougal?”
“That is a long story,” Craig said with a shake of his shaggy head. “The basic reason is that they were built by a brownie named Dougal. He was one of the most powerful brownies ever to live, and if my people had kings like the elves do, he would’ve most likely have been our king. I myself am actually a descendant of him. My full name is Craig MacDougal.”
“Why did he build them?” Oliver asked.
“Ah,” Craig said with smile. “Brownies have always been servants at heart. A few of us perhaps try to imitate goblins in their vile, trickster ways, but for the most part, we enjoy doing work and helping others. Dougal though saw humans taking advantage of our kindly nature and abusing us. So he made this refuge for all brownies that were abused by the humans that they were trying to help to run to. Now, how were your dreams?”
“They were good,” Oliver, slightly taken aback at the question, replied.
“Have you found out anymore about who this Candida is?”
“Don’t you know?” Oliver asked with a perplexed note to his voice. “Weren’t you friends with Taliesin?”
“Truth be told,” Craig said with a laugh, “I do believe that Willow is the only one that he ever shared his secrets with. After all, he barely knew me. I was only with him these past twenty years.”
“So you don’t know what is going on?” Oliver asked.
“All I know is that the Winter King is a powerful water sorcerer from the time of The Elemental Wars,” Craig said. “The Autumnal Lady is sort of his herald, and she has returned. You and this girl are apparently the only two that can stop him. I would suggest that you get some rest as we will need to be setting out early tomorrow.”
© 2014 Joseph Ray
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