They arrange themselves so that they surround the Shadow Walker, each holding a spear in the hand closest to him. The most colorful man is always a step ahead of the others, clearly more in charge.
The village is not a long distance away, and in less then a few minutes they are entering through a gate made a dead trees, propped straight up with mud and boulders at its base. The branches, long dead, have been left on the trees, in an almost lazy manner.
Two bonfires are a safe distance away from the outer fence, and light the village with a wild, living light.
“Who would you like to talk to?” One of the men ask him. The villagers sit in circles around the fire. As they notice the Shadow Walker, their lively chatter drops to silence, a few mouths hanging open, having stopped speaking in mid-sentence. All of them are dressed similarly to the warriors- covered almost completely by animal skins, although none of them have much face paint, except for maybe a few dots of green or blue on a handful of faces.
“Your leader, first,” the Shadow Walker says in a whisper, aware of the people that watch.
The heaviest man turns to look the Shadow Walker in the eye. “Our village has many leaders. And as it happens to be, I am one of them. I give you permission to talk to whomever you want, as long as you are accompanied by one warrior.”
The Shadow Walker nods. He has seen many tribes of humans, and is quite impressed by this one. They seem to be organized, and there are quite a few of them that are healthy- not too little as to break the tribe all together, but not too big as to be overly disruptive or powerful.
“I don’t know him by name, as I used to know him long ago. He would be old by now, but he used to have chestnut colored hair, and tanned skin,” the villagers look back at him blankly, even though he addresses the leader. “He has gray eyes.”
“Good old Cimarron!” A few people from the crowd call out with recognition. The leader turns to the Shadow Walker. “You may be talking of Cimarron, our healer. But-”
“That would be him.”
The large man hesitates, then relents. He points to the tallest of the three warriors. “Bring him to Cimarron’s sleeping place. If any trouble arises, bring him directly to me.” The tallest warrior bows his head politely to his leader, then turns to the boy, the Shadow Walker.
“Hurry. Follow me.” He walks in a long, quick strides that the Shadow Walker can just barely keep up with. The different sleeping structures they pass are all empty and dark, as all the people sit by the fire. Any amount of warmth is treasured in such a cold climate.
“Now, boy.” The tall man slows his stride as they loose sight of the bonfires. He looks down on the Shadow Walker, his eyes dark with suspicion and seriousness. “You better not be here to pull any pranks, you hear?”
The Shadow Walker only frowns, and ignores the man’s warning. He knows much more than this man will ever know.
“As long as you follow my rules, I’ll give the same respect to you. You can talk in privacy with the old man, if you’d like, even.” The Shadow Walker remains silent, staring into the dark, concentrating on keeping his stride consistent. “Would you like to know my rules?” He doesn’t wait for a response.
“One; no pranks or funny business. That’s the only rule I got, really. But I’d also like you to get me some paint while you’re there. As much red as you can get. That’s all. We got a deal?” He stops walking in front of a hut that is larger than most of the other sleeping places. They’ve reached the other side of the fence of dead trees; the farthest side of the village. A stream of water gurgles under this side of the fence, and disappears into the hut they’ve stopped at.
“Sure,” the Shadow Walker says, and feels stupid acting so innocent. He does want to talk to this man alone, though, and would rather like to keep everyone alive. He holds his hand out for the tall man with an exotically colored face.
The man gives the Shadow Walker a smile, then turns and leaves. In the distance, the Shadow Walker can hear a faint laughter in the direction of which he has just come in. A breeze gently tumbles through the sky, ruffling the Shadow Walker’s messy chestnut colored hair.
No one is watching him now, he is sure. He shivers, and for a second, allows tiny white feathers to sprout from his spine. They are gone almost as quickly as they came.
In front of him, in the large hut, there is darkness. He takes a step forward, and becomes one with the darkness. He disappears.
7 years ago