The Autumnal Lady - Interlude I
The twelfth part of my fairy tale, The Autumnal Lady. This is the first interlude set to transition us from Book A (Autumn Rising) to Book B (The Beckoning Dark). What has Craig been up to? If you have not read the tenth chapter, you can find it here. Enjoy!
A Brownie's Trials
A few days earlier on the morning following Oliver’s capture by the slavers, Craig MacDougal awoke in the small clearing to quite an unsettling surprise. Pushing himself to his feet with his overly long arms, he glanced about slowly and wondered why Oliver had not woken him up earlier. Then he realized that Oliver was nowhere to be seen in the clearing. For a moment he stood with a puzzled look on his wrinkly face, and then he slapped his right hand against his forehead. “Weeping water lilies!” he exclaimed as an angry look came to his face. “I’m an utter complete fool, I am.”
With a sigh the poor brownie walked to a somewhat sizable stone that lay in the clearing and gave it an affectionate pat. He then displayed one of the great oddities of the brownies. It is known far and wide that all fairy races have their own oddities and peculiarities. One of the most distinctive brownie oddities is that they will talk to stones. It probably has to do with them being the earth fairies of the seelie kin.
“I should’ve seen it,” Craig, shaking his shaggy head, said to the stone. “The lad did not want to be wrapped up in all this fairy stuff. He probably thought that Zephyria would be safe. Confounded crabs! We’re on the edge of the Barrowlands and the Goblin Wilds. Slavers, brigands, and worse roam here, and the fool lad gets it into his head to go wandering off on his own. Are all humans plagued with self-destructive stupidity or something?”
Craig stood by the stone in silence for a bit, and then he gave it a somewhat quizzical look. “Prancing pyramids!” he said in an annoyed tone of voice. “I know that. Obviously, I have to go after him, and I guess that I had better hope that he hasn’t gotten himself into all sorts of trouble. Humans are really so much more trouble than they are worth you know.”
With another sigh, Craig gave the stone a second affectionate pat, and then he turned and walked back to his overly large pack. Quickly hoisting it onto his back, he glanced around the clearing once more in the hopes of seeing Oliver, but the young lad was still nowhere to be seen. Muttering under his breath, the brownie began his search in the woods.
Due to his skills in tracking, Craig soon picked up Oliver’s trail as it meandered lazily through that great forest. All day, he followed it and was greatly worried when he saw the signs of struggle. Finally as night blanketed Zephyria in darkness, he came to the slavers’ camp. As he surveyed the camp from afar, his spirit fell for he knew that he could not take on the slavers by himself. There were far too many of them.
“Macrameing molluscs,” Craig muttered under his breath. “I’m getting too old to play the hero. It was fine when I was a young little pebble, but at my age, I should be a moss gathering boulder. Festooned frogs! Why can’t I just retire and be done with it all?”
Sighing, Craig plopped himself down on the ground as he tried to think of some way out of the currently dismal situation. While he did not know all the ins and outs of what was going on, Willow had made it quite clear to him that the future of the world might very well rest on Oliver’s shoulders. “Can’t just abandon the lad then,” Craig said with a shake of his head. “Yet I can’t very well rescue him by my lonesome. Caroling crustaceans! I guess there is nothing for it then, I’m going to have to go find some honest to goodness hero or something. In the middle of a woods, it should be easy, right? If Oliver is so important, one hopes that the Lord will provide.” With that purpose in my mind, Craig rose to his feet.
For the next several days, Craig found himself searching alone in that forest on the edge of the Barrowlands and the Goblin Wilds in the vain hope of finding a hero or something. It was not an enjoyable experience for in those days that land was still quite wild and untamed. Several times, the poor brownie found himself having to dodge roving bands of goblins that had decided to raid a few border farms in Zephyria. Even as he wandered about, Craig was also constantly worrying about Oliver. These anxieties and the possibly grim fate that was now facing Somnii made it difficult for him to sleep at night. These days were days of utter misery for the kindly earth fairy. As the seventh day of Craig’s unfortunate misadventure dawned, his life took a turn for the worse.
Waking up from his sleep, Craig was met with yet another disturbing surprise. Before him stood a tall man dressed in ancient, well worn armor. There sat a horned helm atop the man’s head,, and his red eyes glowed with a dreadful light, all their own. Naturally, Craig immediately identified the being as a wight of the Barrowlands where that carrion race of unseelie fairies scavenge off the bodies of the dead kings and warriors from distant times. With a groan Craig rose to his feet and bowed towards the wight. “Lord Wight,” the brownie said with a kindly smile, “if you are hungry, we may breakfast here together. I have fine bacon and bread in my pack.” He said this because there are certain laws that both the seelie and unseelie fairies follow. One such law is the law of breaking bread. Most fairies, seelie or unseelie, would sooner die than kill someone with whom they have just dined.
The wight smiled at Craig for a moment, and then it loosed a melodious laugh from its lips. “Why should I dine on the flesh of swine and the flesh of wheat, little brownie, when I can dine on the flesh and drink the blood of a fairy? What can be more delightful and satisfying than that?” Then the wight’s hand fell to the sword that hung at its waist. “Today, I shall feast well on you, little fairy.”
Groaning, Craig took a few steps backwards as he raised his hands in a pleading gesture. “I’m certain if you try my bread and bacon, you will find it quite delightful and satisfying,” the brownie said. “There is no need to feast on me.”
The wight simply smirked as it moved towards Craig, but before it could reach the terrified brownie, the earth rose about its feet and held it fast. Then fierce flames rose up around the unseelie fairy, and it screamed in agony as it was consumed by fire. “I would have thought that a brownie of your stature would have known to be more careful in these parts,” said a voice behind Craig.
Craig turned slowly to face his rescuer. As his eyes widened at the sight, he exclaimed, “Shattering subtractions, the traitor!”
© 2014 Joseph Ray
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