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The Autumnal Lady - Chapter I
This is the first chapter of my fairy tale, The Autumnal Lady. In it, we meet the two main characters, Oliver, an ordinary lad, and Candida, a strange girl. If you have not read the prologue, you can find it here. Enjoy!
An Ordinary Lad
Now, it came to pass that Eliana died of the plague when Oliver was but five years of age, and Roger was left to raise the young lad by himself. As for Oliver, he grew into a fine young lad. He was diligent, kind, and caring, and the villagers loved him. He was also always dutiful to his father. Beyond this, he was an ordinary lad like any other, yet when he was twelve, something extraordinary happened to him. It all started with a dream.
In the darkness of the night, Oliver found himself in a great stone corridor like one would imagine a castle would have. For a moment, Oliver stood in stunned silence for the last thing that he remembered was lying down in his bed for the night. Slowly, he glanced about. The corridor seemed to continue forever in both directions. It was at this moment that Oliver realized that he had to be dreaming, but he had never had a dream like this one before.
“Well,” Oliver said to himself, “I guess there is nothing for it except to go exploring.” He began to walk forward down the corridor. He soon came to an area where doors led to side chambers, but he was frightened of opening any of them. After all, he had no idea what could lurk on the other side.
After what seemed like hours to Oliver, he was still walking down the same corridor. It truly seemed to have no end. With a shake of his head, he turned to one of the doors. As he looked at it, he saw gold words appear on it. They were written with an ancient runic script, which Oliver did not know, but somehow he was able to read it. It said, “Mirror Room.” Trembling, Oliver opened the door and stepped into one of the most hideous rooms that he had ever seen.
The first thing that Oliver noticed about the room was that it was filled with the stench of rot and decay. Trash and rubbish along with rusting metal objects covered the floor. Oliver wondered to himself how anyone could allow a room to fall into such disrepair.
The next thing that Oliver realized was that the room was freezing cold. Glancing about slowly, his eyes came to rest on a fireplace built into the wall. Blue flames roared within it, but ice had formed all around it. It seemed as though the flames of the fire were drawing in the heat of the room. It was the strangest phenomenon that Oliver could ever imagine. “It’s a dream,” he reminded himself, but the fireplace still filled him with a sense of terror.
Glancing about some more, Oliver’s eyes came to rest on a woman sitting in a chair of rotting wood. She was dressed in a shabby, torn cloak, ripped pants, and a ragged tunic. These clothes all had autumnal colors of red and orange. Despite her shabby clothing, which seemed to be fitting for a beggar, she had a beautiful face like that of a noblewoman. She seemed to be sleeping deeply as she sat next to a great golden mirror.
Oliver’s eyes suddenly became transfixed on the great golden mirror. He had never seen anything like it before. It was a wonder to behold. All around the glass center, the shapes of animals and men were carved. At its base there was writing in the runic script that Oliver had seen on the door, and once more the meaning of the writing was clear to him. It said, “I am the gateway of adventure. Step through me.”
Compelled by some unknown and unseen force, Oliver stepped forward and pressed his hand against the glass of the mirror. It rippled as though it were water. Then Oliver stepped through the mirror and found himself in an altogether different room.
The first thing that Oliver noticed about this new room was that it was clean and well kept. There was a great couch up against one wall, and before it sat a table. On the table there was a tea set made of what appeared to be fine porcelain. But the most interesting thing in the room was a young girl sitting on the couch.
The girl wore a white dress that seemed to gleam with its own light. The bottom of the dress was fringed with green, and its sleeves were fringed with red. She wore gloves that contained the colors of black, silver, and gold. Her boots appeared to be made of bronze with blue leather coverings. Oliver slowly turned his eyes to her face, which was pretty in its own way, but her eyes were unsettling and inhuman. Her face was framed by long, braided silver hair.
The girl gave Oliver a quizzical look for a moment and then said in an exasperated voice, “Finally. Do you have any idea how long I have been waiting for you.”
This startled Oliver. Shaking his head, he asked, “You’ve been waiting for me?”
“Obviously,” the girl said with a sigh.
“Who are you?” Oliver asked.
“How should I know?” the girl shot back.
“Don’t you have a name?”
“No,” the girl said with a shake of her head as though she were confused by something. “Why would I have a name? Do you have a name?”
“Of course I have a name,” Oliver replied.
“Then what is your name?” the girl pressed.
“Oliver,” the girl said with a frown. “I do not like it.”
“What is wrong with my name?” Oliver asked.
“It just does not seem right,” the girl said with another sigh. “Anyhow, names are not what we should be focused on right now.”
“What should we be focused on?” Oliver asked. “I mean after all this is just a dream.”
“It may be a dream,” the girl said, “but it is hardly just a dream. Now, I need your help.”
“A figment of my imagination needs my help?” Oliver asked.
“What is a figment?” the girl inquired as she continued to stare quizzically at Oliver.
“Something that is not real,” Oliver answered.
“I am real,” the girl growled. “Now, I need your help before someone kills me.”
“Who is trying to kill you?”
“How should I know?”
“Then how do you know that he is trying to kill you?”
“Because he is trying to kill me, and he is going to try to kill you as well.”
“Why would anyone try to kill me?” Oliver, finding the conversation very confusing, asked.
“Because you are important, obviously,” the girl said with a shake of her head. “Are you dimwitted or something?”
“I am just an ordinary lad,” Oliver replied.
“Obviously not,” the girl growled again.
“How do I know that you are not just a figment of my imagination?” Oliver growled in reply as the conversation was beginning to irritate him.
“Ask the man who raised you,” the girl replied, “about your father.”
“Roger is my father,” Oliver replied defiantly.
“No, he is not,” the girl replied.
Oliver began to turn to leave, but the girl suddenly said, “Do most people have names?”
“Yes,” Oliver replied.
“Why do I not have one?” she wondered, and Oliver saw a sorrow in her eyes.
“I could give you one,” Oliver said gently.
“I would like that,” the girl said.
Oliver thought for a moment as he looked into the girl’s radiant white eyes. Then he said, “How about Candida?”
“Candida,” the girl said with a smile. “I like it. Does it mean something?”
“Shining white,” Oliver replied.
“Remember to ask Roger,” the girl said as a final farewell, and Oliver woke up.
What is Candida?
A look at the end of Man of Steel and a discussion on why it is sometimes proper and necessary for heroes to kill people.
The adventures of an amnesiac wizard, who is trying to figure out why so many people are trying to kill him. This story takes place in my fantasy world of Arvala. It is told by Lucius himself with footnotes from his friend gnomish scholar. There is a forward written by his friend Nanus.
The first entry in my Bestiary of Somnii. It focuses on the seven races of dragons and contains a short story about a black dragon.
© 2014 Joseph Ray