Friday, 18 November 2016

Artel 14. Home at Last

Millon woke with a start and lay in the dark silence listening to sounds of the wind blowing against the small hut. Now that he was awake he wasn't sure what had woken him, only that he was truly and definitely awake. Long moments passed in the darkness and he rolled over, squeezing his eyes shut and imagining himself asleep again. It didn't work. His mind ticked over and his eyes eased open again, staring into the darkness. He sighed to himself, he needed the bathroom but that meant leaving the warmth of the blankets that covered his small bed. Slowly he pushed them back and clambered out, reaching across the floor for the woollen jumper he had discarded the night before and gratefully pulling it over his head. While the days here were warm the nights had a clean coldness to them that sparked across his skin, leaving goosebumps and shivers in its wake.
He shuffled out of the small room and into the main living area inside the hut, a room barely bigger than his own, and pulled the door slowly open, careful not to let it creak too badly. Outside the full moon shone down on the sleeping village, casting a white glow that left everything looking ethereal and somewhat otherworldly. He slipped around the outside of his small hut and made his way into the bushes where he gratefully released his stored pee with a soft sigh. Afterwards he stood next to the hut, strangely not tired and marvelling at this world he had found himself in. Dawn would break soon, he could see it in the slight lightening of the sky. The dark blue black would recede into a lighter purple blue, which would in turn give way to the clear blue of the daylight sky. Somewhere in between the sun would rise and that would send sparks of green and yellow and orange and red and pink across the sky, lighting it up like some kind of strange firecracker. He had never seen a sunrise so beautiful until he had come here, had not known that it had existed. Decided, Millon walked slowly round the back of his hut and climbed up the side until he reached the top and pulled himself on to the flat roof. He supposed you probably weren't supposed to sit up there, it probably wasn't good for the structural integrity of the building, but he was sure it would hold, he wasn't that heavy after all, and it was the best place in the village to watch the sunrise.
Millon pulled his tobacco and a small wooden pipe out of his pocket, filled the pipe, then lit it and began to puff. This is what life is all about, he thought as he watched the sky above him slowly start to lighten, this is what life is all about, sitting up here watching the sun rise above my home while enjoying a smoke. Perfect.

He had found himself at the village several weeks ago, half starved and delirious from walking through the desert with no water. He'd hardly known what words he'd been trying to mutter, and hadn't really believed it was real. But the people had been great. They'd taken him in and nursed him back to health, showing him a kindness that no one in his whole life had ever shown him before. When he'd been well enough to talk again they'd asked him where he'd come from, how they could help him return, they could supply him with travelling clothes and food for the journey, maybe even spare a horse. But he'd politely declined, telling them he had no home to go back to, no home that he wanted to go back to anyhow. They hadn't understood, but they hadn't asked any more questions and they had given him a bed in a big shared hut in the middle of the village that he could stay in until he decided what he wanted to do.
Another week had passed and he was on his feet again. He'd started helping at the farm, feeding the chickens and collecting their eggs, milking the cows and turning the soil for planting. He liked the work, it was the first thing he had ever done that he was good at, and the people seemed grateful, especially the pretty milk maid who had first shown him how to correctly pull on the cows teats in order to release the milk. She'd blushed as she'd shown him and he thought the pink glow that spread across her simple face might just have been the most beautiful thing he had ever seen.
A week later he'd plucked up the courage to ask the village elders if he could stay. He told them how he had no home to go back to, that he loved life in the village and was willing to work all the days the Gods granted to him. He told them how beautiful their world was, and how much he longed to be a part of it. That this was the first place in his life he'd felt like he had fit in. The elders had deliberated for a moment, they did not usually accept outsiders into their village. But Millon had been grateful, and had already proved he could be hard working. He was granted leave to stay, and given a small hut on the outskirts of the village that he could call his own. The old lady who had lived there had died a few moons before and nobody had claimed the small hut so it was his if he wanted it. He'd never been so happy in his life.

He'd settled into village life easily, getting to know the locals and working hard on the farm. For the first time he felt relaxed, and for the first time in his life he had friends, people who appreciated him. He found himself laughing with the customers at the local store, chatting amiably with the milk maid at the farm, and sharing an easy understanding with the animals he worked with. Some mornings he woke, afraid that if he opened his eyes he might discover it was all a dream, but it never was.
All thoughts of Artel had been driven from his mind. The former knight had been lost somewhere in the forest, he was gone and there was nothing Millon could have done for him, he understood that now. And the lands here on this side of the forest were peaceful and untouched by the war that had ravaged his home land. It was probably won now anyway, by one side or the other, his quest was obsolete. Besides, why should he try so hard for a life and a people that had always pushed him aside, always viewed him as worthless, useless, an irritation they didn't know what to do with. This, village life, this was what he had born for, this was his home now.
As he sat and watched the sunrise turn the skies into a mirage of refracting colours he wondered absently about the quest he should have been on. The quest that was merely more than legend anyway, that had most likely been born out of folklore and was nothing but the tales told by old wives to their babes in the night times. Yet still he wondered. Somewhere in the snow capped mountains that he could see far the west was a place, if the legends were true, a place that held an unimaginable power, a force of nature so great it most likely could not be tamed. If it was true, if it did exist, it was probably best left buried at the heart of the mountain. No man should have the chance to wield that kind of power, it was too great for him. Yet still he found himself wondering what it could have been. The tales were incomplete, pointing towards a great power, a great energy, yet none of them told of its nature. But it was a mystery he would have to live with. He had no intention of ever leaving the village he now called his home, and although he found he harboured a secret curiosity, he had no desire for power. He was happy here.

Millon watched the sunrise fade into the clear blue sky of morning and puffed easily at his pipe. As the lights slipped away and the sun rose he climbed down from the roof, stashed his pipe in his pocket, and pulled on his daytime clothes. A new day was beginning and he had chickens to feed, eggs to collect, cows to milk, and earth to turn. Not to mention a pretty young milk maid to woo.

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