Markus sat a little straighter as he glimpsed Salla moving through the crowd. She appeared to glide; like an angel. Her silvery blonde hair was tied in a ponytail; the tip of which just about reached her shoulders. Her dress was a beautiful shade of green, coming to a rest just below her knees. She was alone; acknowledging greetings from other villagers, shaking her head at the two boys who asked her to dance. For a moment, he thought her eyes met his; and she smiled. He shook himself; she only saw him as a friend. Sedunga must have seen him watching her; he shuffled closer to whisper in his ear.
“Just go for it Markus”. He moved back to look at Markus’ reaction, and then disappeared into the crowd. Markus took another slug of his ale and continued his perusal of the crowd. A man slid into Sed’s vacated seat. Nanor, the blacksmith’s assistant. Markus didn’t know much about the man; beyond his greying hair and hard exterior. He stood the same height as Markus, and a similar build. Markus thought he was around fifty. He was occasional storyteller to the villagers; he had travelled many places in his youth; before he settled in Carromsford ten years previously. Nanor ran a hand through his short goatee. “Why are you not out dancing, Markus? I would have thought a young man like yourself would be the life of the party, like your two friends out there”. He was looking out at Sed and Daein.
“I am merely resting before I take to the festivities”. Nanor nodded knowingly.
“It’s a girl, isn’t it? You can’t decide whether to ask her for a dance or not?”
Markus nodded. This strange old man knew more than he let on.
“Ahh to be young and in love. I remember the days. Markus, let me give you a word of advice. Just do it. You do not know what the future will hold; and if something were to happen, you would live in regret if you missed out”.
Markus nodded. “Maybe you are right”. He stood up and took another gulp of ale. “I suppose I had better ask her before that stranger gets a chance”. He made to leave and find Salla, but Nanor grabbed his arm; his face suddenly hard once more.
“Stranger? Here, in the village?”
“Yeah. I saw him three days ago; he was dressed entirely in black and wore a hood which shrouded his face. He appeared to blend into the shadows; as if he were not there, but was at the same time”.
Nanor’s face changed; he appeared worried. He was muttering; his eyes darting. “Have you seen him since?”
“No, just that one time”. Nanor released his grip on Markus’ arm.
“Enjoy the festival Markus”. He turned and headed off down the village road. Markus stared after him for a moment, and then shook his head. He took another drink, exhaled to calm himself, and then pushed himself into the crowd.