The Autumnal Lady - Chapter VIII - The Slavers
The eighth chapter of my fairy tale, The Autumnal Lady. In this chapter, Oliver runs afoul of a group of slavers. If you have not read the previous chapter, you can find it here. Enjoy!
For a moment Oliver stood still like a statue before the fire as his mind processed what was happening. Realizing that he had made a particularly grievous error in judgment, Oliver wished that Craig was at his side, but he knew that he now stood without aid against inhumane humans. As terror rushed through his veins, Oliver felt a wave of desperate energy pass through him. Turning away from the fire, he began to run into the darkness of the night, which now held fewer terrors for him than the brightness of the camp. He ran with all his might as he heard men shouting behind him.
The chieftain of the slavers let out a mighty, bestial roar of fury as Oliver began to run into the night. “Up! Up, you laggards!” he roared ferociously. “It ain’t right to let go free the prey that walks into your camp like a lamb led to the slaughter. After him. He’ll fetch us a pretty penny.”
Behind him Oliver heard the sound of a host of men leaping to their feet. The slavers bellowed out their fury as they charged into the dark forest after Oliver. Knowing that he would become a slave or worse if caught, Oliver sent up a quick prayer unto the Lord and continued to run with all his might.
Glancing behind him, Oliver saw the light of torches moving in the forest. He heard occasional roars and bellows as the slavers cursed him for running, but he pressed on in the darkness and clung to the faint hope of escape. Remembering the crystal, he reached into his pocket and pulled it out. Sadly, he found that its light was quite dead. As tears welled up in his eyes, he thought of how comfortable he had been in the village only a few weeks ago and of how safe he had felt with Craig at his side only that morning. Yet he pushed back the tears and thought to himself, No time to weep. Run! Run! And he continued his mad sprint for freedom.
In the darkness, Oliver did not see the tree’s root. His foot caught upon it as he ran, and he found himself tumbling to the ground. As he hit the forest floor, he felt the wind knocked out of him, and despair flowered within his heart. Yet grim determination followed after despair. Like a wild animal backed into a corner, Oliver forced himself to his feet and turned to face his pursuers. I have faced down bullies before, he thought to himself. How much harder could these bullies be?
Well, the little inner voice of reason replied to his bravado. They all are older and bigger than you. Therefore they have greater reach and more experience at fighting than you. So I think that it would be a good deal harder. Don’t you?
Come on! Oliver roared at the inner voice. Positive thoughts only, please.
Right, the inner voice of reason said. Because baseless optimism makes up for everything that you lack and that they have.
Quiet, Oliver shouted at the inner voice. I don’t have time for my own negativity.
Just pointing out the facts, the inner voice replied.
I know the facts, and I know the odds, Oliver shot back. Now, be quiet. The inner voice of reason fell silent.
Casting about for any sort of weapon to defend himself, Oliver found a large, fallen, tree branch he could use as a cudgel and picked it up. As his pursuers rushed towards him, Oliver lifted the branch above his head and shouted, “Get back all of you, or you will force me to hurt you. None of us want that, do we?”
Hearing Oliver’s words, they began to laugh. One of them shouted, “The little lamb thinks himself a great boar.”
With the speed and grace that Chun had taught him, Oliver darted forward and struck the mouthy slaver in the stomach with his cudgel. Before any of the slavers could react to this sudden action, Oliver darted away from them into the surrounding trees. As the slavers roared in anger, another one of them called out, “Come out of the shadows, little runt. Come out and face us like a man instead of a bleating lamb.” The slaver was quickly rewarded for this outburst with a hard rap to the back of his head from Oliver’s branch.
The slavers let out a roar of anger and began to move into the trees around the clearing as they tried to capture Oliver. Remembering all of the lessons that Chun had given him, Oliver moved gracefully through the shadows and darkness of the forest. Whenever he came near to the slavers, he would clobber one of them with his tree branch. He fought on even though he feared his fight was hopeless. He had faced bullies before but never so many at one time. Finally as he darted close to the slavers, one of them fetched him a blow on the back of his head. As Oliver sank to the ground, darkness washed over him.
Later, Oliver awoke with an aching head. He gagged at the stench of unwashed bodies assaulting his nostrils. Reaching up to his neck, Oliver felt a leather collar encircling it. A chain ran from the collar to the wall of the wagon in which he was now imprisoned. Despair filled him with its darkness, and he began to weep. Why? he moaned inwardly. Why am I cursed? Was it so wrong of me to desire a normal life? Was it wrong of me to wish that I was ordinary? Was it wrong of me to want to be free?
Even as he thought these things, Oliver remember the words of Chun, “A man does his duty no matter the cost to himself. He sacrifices his desires to serve others.”
Suddenly, a feminine voice said from the shadows, “I hear that you put up quite a fight, boy.”
“It was futile,” Oliver replied sadly.
“Not futile,” the feminine voice answered. “It is always good to see someone stand up to those who would profit from the suffering, the despair, and the misery of others.”
“Yet I am still going to be sold as a slave.”
“Yes,” the voice replied, “but you forced them to work for it. That is at least something. I do not mind saying that it warmed my heart to hear those scum in pain. You showed great spirit for one so young.”
“Who are you?” Oliver asked.
The woman let out a wild laugh that sounded somewhat like a growl. “I am Ashley Marrowwax,” she answered.
Is Ashley Marrowwax a Friend or a Foe?
My article using Disney's movie The Beauty and the Beast to explore the concepts of compassion, mercy , and lover as they often play out in fairy tales.
The prologue to the story of the amnesiac wizard Lucius as he is forced to learn about his past in order to survive his present. It also contains the foreword to the story written by his friend Nanus the Dwarf and footnotes written by the gnomish scholar Kiannith. The story is told by Lucius himself.
One of the last tales of the knightly mouse, Sir Rupert the Bold, who was knighted by King Arvid of the Elves of Charmed. In this story, he must help a prince, who has been cursed with the form of a raven save his love from Lady Dagrun.
© 2014 Joseph Ray