Wake him

You have never been anywhere like this. Growing up in the city, your life was largely sheltered from the outdoors, and all that lay beyond the walls of your hometown was forbidden and foreign to you. You know that you would be unable to survive on your own out in this wilderness, so you decide to wake the man.

You approach him tentatively. Your parents always told you not to speak to strangers, but you feel like this should be the exception to the rule. You are unused to snow, and this frosty weather. As you approach, you are able to see the man properly. He is pale, but the pallor does not look to be his usual tone - he looks sickly, and even in sleep he looks exhausted - his eyes framed by ebony rings. He seems older than you, perhaps your father's age. His dark hair is flecked with a white grey colour. His clothes are much warmer than your own, which, thinking about it, you do not recognise. The last you remember, you were in your home, preparing to go out for a dinner with a suitor your parents had arranged.

You decide that a gentle approach would be best for waking the stranger. You rub his arm gently, echoing what your mother would do to wake you at the beginning of each day. The man begins to stir, his eyelids rising slowly, like the sun over the horizon. His arm is cold to the touch. He looks confused. As he wakes, his brow furrows. You were never one for deep thoughts in the morning, and you are surprised by this. He lets out a soft grumble, and his eyes spring open. He blinks several times, clearing the sleep from his eyes and adjusting to the newfound light. He has not spoken yet. He turns his head, and looks you straight in the eyes. 'Oh Gods', he says. There is a sense of panic and urgency in his voice - you can tell that he is distressed by your presence. You back away slowly, tripping over a tree root and falling as you do. Your fall sends up a flurry of snow into the face of the man. This appears to wake him fully.

As you sit in the snow, you observe the man and his actions. He moves each limb in a strange fashion, carefully checking each joint, as if to ensure that they are still there. You watch intently this strange display, both intrigued and puzzled by his actions. Finally, he looks up at you and your gazes meet. Not in a romantic way, rather a connection of mutual confusion, and in his case, panic.

'Are you okay?' He pulls his coat around him and clears his voice. 'I'm fine. I'm more worried about you, to be honest'. He motions to your shoulder, which you had forgotten about in your intrigue about him. He looks over at the snow that cushioned where you lay. It had been died a bright Crimson by your blood. As you look back at him, he is rummaging in a bag that he has procured from behind his back. The bag is made from an aged leather, brown in colour. You recognise the craftwork of your own homeland, the Empire d'Or. There is an intricate but nearly invisible pattern of stitch work that adorns the front of the bag, and you can see the two silver clasps used to keep it shut. After several minutes of rummaging - you think that the bag is enchanted to be bigger on the inside - he triumphantly procures a small glass bottle. He beckons you closer, and you oblige. There is an inscription on the bottle in a language you do not recognise. He sees your confusion - you are staring intently at the label. 'It is Tume'. He says this in an offhand way. You are shocked. The Tume Lands are the sworn enemies of your people, and the fact that the man can read Tume, and does not seem bothered by it, panics you.

You consider running away, but the man does not seem like he would hurt you. The fact, however, that he appears to align himself with the Tume Lands, scares you. You were told stories as a child about the evils of that place. It is the home of werewolves, vampires, trolls, orcs and other shady characters. Seven Feons ago, they attacked the Empire d'Or, massacring many. The story had been passed down for generations. You could try attacking the man, to take his possessions and perhaps score an important victory, however small, for the Empire over the Tumi, but you are unsure of victory.

Do you...

Run away?
Stay put?
Attack the man?

The End

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