The Autumnal Lady Chapter X - To Dream Once More
The tenth chapter of my fairy tale, The Autumnal Lady. In this chapter, Oliver faces off against The Autumnal Lady in his dreams and meets an elemental. If you have not read the previous chapter, you can find it here. Enjoy!
To Dream Once More
The door swung shut with an ominous boom behind Oliver. The Autumnal Lady leaned back in her chair of rotting wood as she smirked at the boy. “Bravo,” she said as she brought her hands together to applaud briefly. “Bravo on escaping my mages and trolls. I will of course have to punish them for their incompetence and weakness. It is pathetic to be outwitted by a servile brownie and an ordinary, common lad. However, if you were wise, you would have never returned here. What elder power aided you?”
“What?” Oliver asked. “I have no idea what you mean by ‘elder power’.”
The Autumnal Lady looked taken aback for a moment, but then she rose to her feet and regally swept across the room despite her ragged clothing. As she neared Oliver, she reached out her hand towards him, and he, fearful of whatever dreadful magic she might mean to use against him flinched away from her. Yet no dreadful magic was thrown against him. But what she did terrified Oliver even more. With her hand, she tenderly, almost lovingly, stroked his cheek like a mother with her child. “Aren’t you just a precious little thing,” she said in a mocking voice. “You are simply adorable. You have met an elder power, and you don’t even realize it. Do you truly not understand any of what is happening?”
“I know enough,” Oliver said as he slapped her hand away. “Don’t touch me.”
“What a rude little boy,” the Autumnal Lady snapped as she delivered a hard smack to Oliver’s cheek. “I would have expected your father to have taught you better manners and respect for your elders, but I forgot that your father died before you even knew him.”
“I don’t have any respect for bullies,” Oliver snarled in reply.
“I am no bully,” the Autumnal Lady replied as she drew herself up to her full height. “I am a herald, a messenger of the truth. I came that the truth might set men free.”
“What ‘truth’ is that?”
“The strong live, and the weak perish,” she replied in a hauntingly beautiful voice. This is the truth of nature, and it is the proper order of the world. Autumn is rising, and soon the cold winds shall blow. Winter shall come and cover the world Only the fit shall survive in my god’s new world, a world of winter.”
“The strong should help the weak,” Oliver replied defiantly.
“That is not the way of the world,” the Autumnal Lady roared in reply. “It is not the way of nature, therefore how could it be the way of nature’s god? Consider the lion and the antelope. Does the lion protect the antelope? No! He kills and eats it. Birds also feed on those weaker than them, worms.”
“Yet,” Oliver replied, “the lioness feeds and protects her young. The bird also brings food back to her nest to feed her chicks, and she gathers them beneath her wings to shelter them. This is also the way of nature. You simply choose to ignore what does not support your lies, which you name truth.”
Includes an Excellent essay on Fairy Tales
Before the Autumnal Lady could reply to Oliver’s words, there was a peal of laughter from the shadows in the far corner of the room. Then one of the shadows in that corner began to flicker and seemed to move. Suddenly, there was a brilliant burst of light from out of the darkness of the shadow. As the light faded, Oliver saw all the shadows in the room begin to rush together. They began to swirl like water forming a whirlpool. Out of the inky darkness of the shadows, a figure began to rise. It had the appearance of the first figure on the door, the woman with the face of a skull. Her robe was black and so was her hair. Her skull, hands, and feet were all bone white, and her eye sockets were empty pits of darkness. As she stepped out of the pool of darkness, the Autumnal Lady growled, “I do not recall summoning you, Atra.”
“I wanted to see the little boy besting you in your philosophical debate,” the skull woman replied in a voice dripping with scorn.
“Call all the support you want,” Oliver snarled. “I’m not going to back down. You are a…”
Interrupting Oliver, the Autumnal Lady roared, “Very well, Atra, end him. I grow tired of his bleating.”
Atra’s mouth opened, and out of it came a cloud of suffocating darkness, which enveloped the room. As the darkness covered the room and blinded Oliver, he heard Atra’s raspy voice saying, “You humans are such pathetic, weak, and insignificant creatures. If you are deprived of your senses, terror fills your heart, and that terror alone can kill you. Terror is my weapon.”
Trembling, Oliver fell to his knees. Fear and despair buffeted him like waves on a stormy sea, and no matter how hard he struggled, he felt as though he were drowning. It is unfair, he thought. I decided to do my duty and stand for what is right, but evil is too strong. Is there no light in the darkness?
Even as he thought these words, the mirror shone forth with brilliant light. Fighting back his fear and despair, Oliver forced himself to his feet and stumbled towards the mirror’s light. As he fell through it, he heard both the Autumnal Lady and Atra, screaming in fury.
Oliver found himself standing once more in Candida’s chamber. She was sitting there on her couch and weeping. Remembering how he had left her the last time, Oliver felt ashamed. I abandoned her, and I abandoned Craig, he thought sadly to himself. What kind of a person am I?
With a heavy heart, Oliver stepped forward and reached out his hand to rest it gently on Candida’s shoulder. Candida looked up, and a trembling smile came to her lips as she saw Oliver. “You came back,” she whispered.
“I did,” Oliver replied. “I should have never left like that. I am so sorry.”
Candida leaped to her feet with a squeal of delight. She threw her arms around Oliver’s neck and kissed his cheek. “I forgive you,” she whispered fiercely. “Don’t do it again. I need you, and you need me.”
“I won’t,” Oliver replied. “The world needs us both.”
“Yes,” Candida said.
“A man does his duty.”
*** *** ***
Despite being kept in a wagon by slavers, the next few days were truly happy ones for Oliver. Every night, he met with Candida in his dreams, and the two of them began to become fast friends. As for his days, Oliver spent them with Ashley Marrowwax. Even though she always referred to him as boy and not by his name, Oliver felt as though she treated him as an equal. Yet every once in a while, she would give him a strange, thoughtful look. It was as if she were trying to determine just what sort of strange creature Oliver was. However, all of this was soon to change.
One morning, Oliver awoke from his meeting with Candida to the sound of a loud argument. “What is happening?” he asked Ashley.
“All I know is that Var returned from scouting looking very shaken,” Ashley answered.
Crawling to the bars of the wagon, Oliver looked out to see the slavers mulling around the chieftain’s tent. Many of them had worried expressions on their faces. Suddenly, the voice of the slaver chieftain bellowed from inside the tent, “By the fairies, I don’t care if the man seems utterly mad to you, Var. I didn’t hire you to be a bleating sheep. One single madman cannot hold a bridge against us.”
The flap of the tent swung open, and the huge chieftain came strolling out. He was followed by the trembling form of Var. “Get moving, you laggards,” the chieftain snarled. “We have a bridge to cross.”
What do you think Craig Macdougal has been up to?
© 2014 Joseph Ray