The day falls quickly away as night locks its arms about the Sirris. I sit now before a crackling fire with a creature known only to me by tales from my childhood. That I would sit with a man-folk, a people whose history is turbulent, violent as the tales have been told to me.
"It would do you well to know those parts of the world that you roam." Authurn reached to his side and flipped another log on the fire between us. "You have not traveled these lands before, I gather."
"I am of these valleys, sir," I reply, "though in these mountains I am indeed a novice." This Authurn, a gentle giant of a fellow smiles at my words. His face is lined with words of wisdom, a tell-tale sign of his own experience. "How do you know?"
"One would not travel such with what you bring to these hills, my friend. The mountains can quickly become a grueling ordeal if not respected, and within them secrets abound. Do you know that which trailed you?"
"I do not. I did not know I had a tracker."
"A mountain cat we call a 'bob'. Not as large as other cats of the world but in their element, deadly. You would surely have become a plump meal for her."
"A meal?" My eyes widen as I stare across the flames and into his eyes. My gaze falls to his weapon, one that I have never before beheld. It is my savior, my salvation. "Your weapon. It killed my enemy?"
"I killed nothing this night." Authurn laughed, his red beard coming to life in the light as he leaned toward the fire. "Wounded she may be but I do not believe she shall be worse for it. She shall retire for the night and lick her wounds, but tomorrow will come another day and only one meal missed."
"Then I shall thank you for your service this night." I lean back against the stump, my back searching to find a soft spot.
"Where do you travel to, Clancy?"
"I travel to nowhere. My search is to unlock a world I know nothing about. Too long have I been hidden in my valleys, ignorant of what is beyond my borders."
"Then welcome to my world. I too travel these lands for new discoveries, as do my people."
"What do you call yourself? Where do you hail from?" How quickly this giant has put me at ease. His manners are gentle yet it is evident he is skilled in the wilds.
"I am from the Flatlands above your valleys. Once a part of the kingdoms of the men of the north but no longer. We are a free people that owe their allegiance to no king. I am a Qualeman, a free ranger."
Our conversations continued above the flames as they held back the night airs. He has roamed these mountains for many years and handed forth some of that knowledge that I would have a safe journey. The path he lay for me would give my last day in the mountains structure and guidance and a map to what would be on the other side.
As I awake this morning, my new friend has departed as quickly as he had come; a silent breath of wind over grass-filled meadows. Yet he has left me a gift; my savior, that which saved my life in the dark hours of the night. If I only knew how to work it.