“Excuse me?” he sits bolt upright, hands brought into fists. I’m not totally inclined to move forwards after that reaction.
“Who’s there?” I didn’t expect him to speak like we do. We’ve always been taught that anyone outside of mountains or plains are savages, without language, without manners, the kind of people who will kill you on sight. He doesn’t seem that way, and he’s certainly not a Plain rider or a Mountain man.
“Well, I’m here. Though I’m not totally wanting to come out into the open seeing as how you look like you’re ready to attack me.”
“Oh. Well, I promise I won’t hurt you if you promise you won’t hurt me.” That sounds reasonable enough, even if it’s possibly best way to get one or both of us killed. I don’t have much to lose and by the look of this guy he doesn’t either.
“Ok. I’m going to come out.” I take a few tentative steps forward, then stop. He’s looking around trying to see me, I’m pretty sure that I’m out in the open now but he doesn’t know which direction I’m going to be coming from. As funny as it is to watch him look around I take a few more steps into the light.
“Hello.” He smiles at me. That’s not something that happens very often in the village back home. People just don’t smile.
“Can I sit with you?” This is what I planned to do, to find other people and talk to them. It seems especially alright if they seem as friendly as this guy.
“Sure, sit down. The fire isn’t that hot, though I’m not sure why, and it’s not comfortable sat on a log. But you’re welcome to join me”
“Wow. That really makes me want to sit with you...”
“Well I never said you had to.” It’s like talking to myself. That’s quite scary.
“I’m still going to. So, where are you from?” I hope he tells me, I really want to learn about people. The more time I spent out here the more time I spend wondering about the things we’re taught back home. We aren’t told about birds whose meat makes you feel strong and full of life, we’re taught about savages roaming around who will kill us on sight and yet here is this man. Why would they not tell us these things?
“If you keep walking down the river you’ll get to my village. It’s a small place, but we’re pretty good at looking after ourselves. Where are you from?” So there are other villages.
“I’m from a village a fair way down the river. I’ve been walking for eighteen sun drops now, and you’re the first person I’ve seen.”
“Yea there are not many people around here. Why are you so far away from where you live?”
“Why are YOU so far away?” I’m not sure I trust this guy enough to tell him about us yet. I wouldn’t want to bring anything terrible to our village, they don’t really deserve it. If he decided to tell his village to bring war on ours I’m not certain how we would manage. We don’t know anything about them.
“Oh I’m only a day away. I just came out here this morning for a walk. It’s nice to get away from all the sparks and incantations sometimes you know?” Incantations? What kind of people are they? Perhaps that’s their words for the war cry, we’ve been told that every village is different after all. “Why did you leave?”
“I just didn’t feel at home in my village. I’m not good at the things that they teach, I fail almost every class. So I’m out here, trying to find something else. Something that I can do.”
“What class was it that you didn’t fail? You said most classes so there had to have been one that you do well.” He’s smart; I’ll need to be careful of that. I can’t give too much away.
“I can dance. I always did well with the dances. Better than the masters sometimes. Unfortunately that’s not entirely enough for the rest of the village. What do you do? We don’t have incantations.” As much information as I can glean from this man I will. I need to know about these people.
“We’re a casting people. So we need to learn the incantations to be able to cast. It’s more than just the words, but they’re pretty important too. We draw energies from the world and then...well...I’m not sure how it works. I’m not that advanced in the craft yet. It’s a good life though.” Casting. Energies. These are all words that make literally no sense to me. I think he can tell that I’m confused too. How could I not be? We just kill things.
“I’ll show you a dance if you show me one of those incantation things.” It’s risky but my curiosity has always got the better of me. War dances aren’t a dangerous thing to show somebody, even if he recognises it from wars past, it’s not like it gives anything away about our people.
“It’s breaking the rules a little bit...but I think I can do that. Only a small one though, nothing dramatic.”
“That’s fine. I wouldn’t want you to do something massive.”
“Ok then. Um, look at the leaves over there. Look at them really closely. Don’t stop watching them.” He started muttering in a language that I didn’t understand. The leaves don’t appear to be doing anything but he was still talking so I’m going to keep watching them. “Keep looking, I know this is taking a while but it’s not easy.”
“I’m not going anywhere.”
“Ok. Right about...now.” I rub my eyes, not sure that I’m really seeing what I’m seeing. The pile of blueish leaves which were sat in a pile in the distance are now floating their way towards me and the man. I looked back to him, he was staring at them and there they were. Working their way forwards.
“How...what...how are you doing that?”
“This is one of the first things we learn to do, moving things around without having to touch them. It makes things so much easier when you’re trying to reach for something.”
“That’s incredible. I guess it’s my turn now.” I’m pretty sure a dance couldn’t follow that. Dancing isn’t entirely interesting compared to making things float. It has to be the best one I knew, perhaps even one that we’ve not been taught. I’m sure I can think of something on the spot. I start dancing. Slow movements to start with, I wouldn’t want to go all out and scare him. The odd twirl, a jump, I just keep on going. I’m not following a pattern; I’m not doing what the masters would have wanted me to do. It just feels better this way. He hasn’t taken his eyes off of me; I think that’s a good sign. He’s not going to recognise the dance because it’s not anything like my village do. I didn’t know that I could do this, but I’m not going to tell him that.
“I think your dance is better than my incantations. Much better. It’s beautiful; you need to teach my people to do that. I’m sure the elders will tell you anything you want to know about us if you show them what you just showed me.” I’ve never seen a reaction like that. It’s a little scary. I will go to his village with him, if only because I want to know how other people live.
“Ok. I’ll come with you. I don’t know what you think your elders will say but I can dance for them too I guess. If you think they would like it. You promise you’re not leading me into some kind of trap?”
“I’m sure. Though, even if I was, would I tell you?” No I suppose he wouldn’t tell me if he was going to steal me away to be eaten by village cannibals. It’s worth the risk. Anyway, if they’re all as amazed as he was by my dancing I can just dance my way out of there.
“I guess you’re right. By the way, before I come with you. What’s your name?”
“I can’t believe that wasn’t one of the first things we asked each other. To be honest I was a little worried about who or what you might be. There are a lot of stories about strange things walking through these woods. Incantations gone wrong and the like. That doesn’t matter now though does it, I’m Killian.”
“Ok, Killian, I’ll admit, I was a little afraid of you too. Now that I’m almost sure that you’re not going to eat me, I’m Darah. So, let’s get to your village before the first sun sets.” Knowing what strange things are about in this place I don’t want to be stuck out after then. It’s too risky. Wild animals are bad enough, adding in the possibility of crazy warped beings or psychotic floating leaves, it doesn’t make me inclined to