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August 22, 2017

Fiction: A camp fire tale

Ember watches the flames and tries to think why telling tales around a fire is so exhilarating. The girl with the red hair turns to him and smiles. It is Ember's turn. He wonders if anyone will believe what he is about to tell them.

A year after King Hunt's wife's death, he brought home a new, young wife. Snow had blond hair that was perfectely coiffed with icy gray eyes, silky skin, lips painted a very pale pink and a nose perfectly proportioned to her face. She came with her personal servant, a man named Cade. Cade was large and towered over everyone. He could not speak but he made grunting noises sometimes like a horse.

Young Rembe was introduced to Snow as his new stepmother. Though Snow was always calm and never shouted, Rembe thought she was rather rude and angry. But in King Hunt's eye, she was perfect. When Snow discharged all the female servants, King Hunt let her. When the male servants were not up to her standards, she discharged them as well. When she said Rembe was to replace those servants so that he may learn the hardship of his people, King Hunt agreed. When she wanted everyone to call her Queen Snow, including King Hunt and Rembe, he said fine. She was the queen after all. Soon Queen Snow took over the castle and the kingdom. King Hunt was still the king though he became more her servant each day.

Rembe grew to have rough hands and a tired body due to the endless tasks Queen Snow demanded. He was moved to the tower room so that her majesty's clothes may have their own room right next to hers. But these were nothing compared to what the peasants had to endure. Queen Snow decreed a new law stating all young maidens beautiful or handsome be moved to the mountain caves to work. No one knew what the work was but servants sometimes were seen carrying mysterious blue vials out of the caves. If young maidens refused to go, they would be hanged. To gave an example, Queen Snow kept their bodies hanging in the middle of town for everyone to see.

Rembe tried to talk to Queen Snow about the peasant girls but she just laughed and said such trivial things should not concern a prince. Rembe looked toward his father but he was never in Rembe's company. But King Hunt was strong Rembe thought. He must know something was wrong. Perhaps he will come to his senses and see Queen Snow as what she really is but the day never came. King Hunt died while cleaning the fireplace in Queen Snow's chamber. Rembe was not there but Queen Snow said King Hunt accidentally fell into the flames and caught fire quickly. She could not save him. But Rembe suspected Queen Snow was the one that killed his father but no one would dare say anything differently.

Rembe tried to escape but each time Cade brought him back. No matter what hour or where Rembe tried to leave the castle, Cade was always there as if he knew where Rembe was going to be. Rembe was certain he was being watched. Rembe usually said he was going for a stroll and Queen Snow just nodded and said he must stay in the castle. She would not like anything to happen to him. Why she kept Rembe alive, Rembe had no clue. He stopped trying to escape. Instead, Rembe spied on Queen Snow when he could and tried to come up with a plan to dethrone her. Years passed and Rembe could find no way out. Death was Rembe's only option but then he reminded himself about the peasants. If he would to die, who will stop Queen Snow's madness?

One morning, Queen Snow sent for Rembe to her room. Rembe was surprised Cade was not there. Cade was usually seen standing just a little behind the queen. Queen Snow sat before the dresser studying her reflection in the large looking glass.

"Hello Dear, I have a task for you." Snow spoke but she kept her eyes toward the glass. "Go to the woods and fetch me a batch of strawberries. I heard the best ones grew in the wild. You may go as soon as you leave here."

This was strange. Queen Snow had never allowed Rembe to leave the castle. "But... Queen Snow, I am not trained to enter the woods. I have not the skills. The peasants had said..."

She turned around to face Rembe. "Do you refuse your queen? I will have you hanged. Now, go and fetch my strawberries. Do not return without them." She turned back to the glass. "You may leave."

Rembe left Queen Snow and ran up to his tower room. There he packed a few items into a sack and wrapped it around his shoulders. He might as well go and if he could not find any strawberries, it was just as well, Rembe thought. Perhaps he could just live in the woods. The woods had no name but it was rumored there were strange things in the woods. But Rembe went anyway. It was better to die in the woods then be hang by the queen.

Rembe started out in the afternoon under the bright sky. When Rembe entered the forest, night came. He lit the torch that he was glad he had the sense to take along with several flints.

A little of the moon could be seen between the trees that towered around Rembe. They created long shadows that Rembe was certain moved like they were alive. But Rembe dismissed them. He kept on. There were wildflowers and plant life but none of them appeared to have lived long.

As Rembe walked farther into the woods, he heard noises - swift, soundless, like a creature but as he glanced around him, there was no one. The sound was gone. He realized how quiet it was. He had not heard or seen birds or other creatures when he entered the woods. But he was tired and he did not want to worry yet another thing but he also did not want to sleep in these woods.

Rembe bended down to rub his sore feet when something shot pass above him. He looked up and there was a small ax struck to the tree in front of him. He smothered a scream and ran. He extinguished the torch and dropped it on the ground. It was too dark for his eyes but he did not care. Perhaps the torch light kept him too visible. He ran for a while wading through thickets and tangled bushes. The footsteps were behind him. Whomever it was, they were not trying to hide anymore.

Something struck another tree - it was another little ax. Rembe pulled it out and tucked it in his belt. He lowered himself to the ground and moved with bended legs. He was slower but at least he was less of a target. He heard a laugh - it was low and rough like someone was struggling to let something out. But Rembe did not stop.

Rembe's foot caught on a fallen branch and he fell to the ground and for a moment he relaxed. He looked up. There were the tree branches covering the sky. It looked peaceful but then something touched his foot. A thick and grungy vine had snaked around his ankle and was pulling tightly. Rembe reached for the the ax in his belt and struck at the vine close to his foot. It split and one part slid away while the vine around his ankle loosened and fell away. He stood up to run but a hand grabbed his arm.

Rembe turned to faced Cade. He smiled showing his uneven, dirty teeth. He laughed but it sounded like a horse trying to neigh but badly.

Rembe still had the ax in his hand and as he looked down, there were the vines clawing near Cade's feet. He struck the ax down on Cade's arm and let go. Cade screamed and released his hand on Rembe's arm. Rembe ran. He did not turn to look. Cade's scream was like a wild bird being strangled.

Rembe tripped on a branched and wondered why there were so many fallen branches. He pulled himself up and ran. He dared to look behind him but there was no Cade. His legs began to cramp. He slowed down a bit. Something knocked him to the ground. He grabbed the rock near him. He was yanked up by the arm so hard that Rembe though it would break off. Rembe hid the hand with the rock behind him. He looked toward Cade's other arm. It was still attached. The place where Rembe struck the ax was wrapped in a torn cloth partially soaked in red. Cade's face and every part of his skin that showed were scratched and bleeding. It must be have been the vines. Cade grunted and smiled.

Rembe screamed to let him go. Cade held on. He pulled out an ax from his belt. Rembe smashed the rock against Cade's hand that held him. Cade shrieked and let go. Rembe ran. He started to wonder how long he would be running before the wood ends.

Rembe came to an opening between the trees. There, it was daylight but when he turned back to the wood, it was still night. He ran toward the opening. Just before the wood ends, there was a plaque: "All those who passed here with violence in their thoughts will be punished by death."

Rembe heard a grunt behind him. There was Cade coming out of the darkness. Rembe was not far before he heard a scream. He turned in time to see Cade vanished. Rembe ran back and looked about but all there was left of Cade were the seven little axes on the ground.

Rembe walked forward toward the daylight. He did not want to go back. He walked passed the row of black trees that ended the woods. A strange calm came over him. When he turned to take one last look, the woods was gone. In its place was a wide river.

Then he heard singing. He followed the sound around some orange trees. There were people in a circle sitting around a pile of unlit woods. They were singing in the bright daylight. Their clothing were rather usual as there were too much structures. Their hair were cut rather strangely above the shoulders and others wore it quite long and unbound. Nothing about these people were familiar and yet, they smiled when they saw Rembe.

"Sit," one of the girl's said. She was barely Rembe's age. Her soft brown eyes were friendly. She offered Rembe a drink from a tin cup. It tasted bitter but Rembe swallowed it. "Coffee," she said. Rembe nodded but he hated the taste. "Woke you up, didn't it?" she added.

Now Ember still hates the taste of coffee but he got used to drinking it. The campers around him just laugh and said his tale isn't scary enough. It is only a tale to them but to Ember, it happened just a week ago.

I'm participating in the 10 Days of Heat Writing Challenge and today's theme is 'Camp life.' To visit other bloggers participating in the challenge, go here.
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