Breakfast now finished, I offer my services yet am again, politely rebuffed. The more I linger, the more I feel the pull of their cottage wanting to keep me from my journey, but my journey I must now renew. I feel the warmth of the hearth which kept away the damp airs as the night's storm traveled through. I feel the warmth also of the home itself and those who took me in, offering a stranger, kindness. One last time I walk to the stone hearth and reach for my pack and cloak.
"I have enjoyed your company, Mr. Clancy."
"As have I, yours, Clarisa." I hear the softness of her words and the gentleness of her heart. I long to stay, but that is not an option.
"Where will you travel too?"
"I have no particular direction in mind, Reenie." I wrap my cloak around my shoulders and hike my pack upon my back. In my mind, I know I will miss this place.
"The Valley of Rivers is passage north along the coast. Should you travel in that direction, you will find it both challenging and worthwhile."
Reenie slips into his chair as he stares into the dying fire, the flickering embers revealing the wrinkles hidden within his face. It is a hard life he has led. Or is it simply a life that is passing? We shall all face that time when we have fewer years ahead of us than behind. I reach to lay a hand on his shoulder but pull it back. He has given of himself and his home this night and I am grateful for the respite. It is time I find my way along.
As she walks me to the door, I find myself ready to travel. An hour past, I would not have said the same, yet now that threshold is no longer a barrier. She lays her hand upon my arm and smiles, her warmth sending me into the world again with renewed vigor. I watch as the sun climbs to meet the growing clouds as the western winds push against the eastern sky.
South. I shall go south.