The Stranger

You are sitting down to your small campfire when a Stranger joins you, and everything that happens after

I was just adding a little extra wood to my fire before going to sleep, when the Stranger walked into my camp.  He was old, his back bent, and his grey beard reaching nearly to the ground, yet he moved with all the ease of a spry young man.  He sat down across the fire from me, and watched.  When he first walked into the island of light around my fire, my hand had jumped to the hilt of my broadsword, but as he seemed harmless, I went about the rest of my preparations for the night, the whole time being watched by his never blinking gaze.  It was the kind of stare that makes your skin itch, and seemed to hold some deep sadness or disapproval, like that of a father chastising his son.  When I settled down on the other side of the fire, I could not hold his gaze for more than a few seconds at a time, so I mostly just stared at the fire.  Still he said nothing.  The night wore on, and the fire burned low, until it was nothing but glowing embers, casting a red light on the Stranger's face, casting deep shadows under the brim of his hat.  And still he said nothing.  Though I tried to keep them open, my eyes slowly closed, my body's will overcoming my curiosity and fear towards the Stranger, and I slipped into a deep sleep where strange creatures and people roamed through my dreams.

Somewhere, a wolf howled, long and mournful.  I awoke with a start, and could see nothing, the fire had died long ago.  As my eyes adjusted to the darkness, I saw that the Stranger was gone, the faint moonlight showed his footprints going East, into the Wild.  The wolf howled again, this time much closer, my blood froze in my veins.  An entirely animal fear overcame me, and I grabbed my pack and my sword and ran.  I ran as fast as I could, heedless of direction, all I wanted to do was get away, from the wolf, and something else, something that I could not see or hear, but that I knew I needed to get away from.  I could hear water rushing to my right, I was near the river.  Still I ran, until I came to a place where the river went over some falls, I turned toward the latest howl of the wolf, the cliff to my back, the river on my left, and the nameless fear bearing down on me.

The End

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