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An Unexpected Friend

Altheia Summers and Grai Starr

The young traveler walked into a small village. This is the first contact she has had with people since she left Susanna's house. As she walked on, people stared at her because she was a stranger to them. She needed
to know where she was. She had lost her way through the woods. Now she saw some houses and shops. Finally someone can tell me where I am. She walked up to the
nearest shop. Chairs & Wares it said on the sign. Cute. The golden-skinned girl entered the shop. All around her, she saw furniture for sale, wood stacked on
the other side of the wall, and some pieces in progress. "Hello? Anyone here?"
Grai was in the back room sanding down the seat of a chair. He was dusty from his work. He dusted off himself and went to help his customer. "How are you doing?" a smile formed on his lips. Altheia looked at the young man. He had skin just like hers. She had never seen another of her kind before, outside her village. He was cute with brown hair, green eyes, and a nice smile too. He looked back at her, waiting for her to answer. "I am doing good but I need a
little help." she replied. He gave her another one of his smiles. "What is it that you might be looking for? I might have what you want." She looked around then spoke, "I think I am lost. Can you tell me where I am?"
"Why you are in Nadeen. Are you a traveler? My name is Grai, by the way." Altheia sighed. "It is a long story. My name is Altheia." She offered him her hand. He took her hand, noticed her for a lady, and kissed her fingers. "Well, if you need assistance or even help in town, I am more than willing to help out. Will you be staying in town for a spell?" The young girl touched his hand and a strange sensation passed over her. " You are a poet?" He smiled at her as he looked into her eyes. " I write wherever the birds glide and what I see in a
smile of a lady such as yourself. If this is poetry, then yes I write. Do you write as well?" She smiled back at him. "When I am in the mood. I also play, sing, and tell stories."
"I write stories too but can't get any of the publishers to accept what I write. They are all human around these parts and don't like the Nino Oro race. I tell
my aunt and friends these stories and recite my poetry. When I feel inspired to do so. My aunt loves stories." Altheia liked him a lot. "Is there some place we
can go and talk?"
"Sure, just allow me to get cleaned up some. You can have a seat in the back room till I am finished. The owner?ouse is attached." Grai returned shortly, dressed in clean clothes after only a half morning's work. Altheia smiled. "
That's quick." Grai responded, " I hurried and as I was getting dressed, I thought of somewhere we can go. There is a small clearing not too far from here on the edge of the woods. It is nice and cool there with a spring nearby."
Altheia and Grai set off and soon they reached the spot in the woods. Grai brought a waterskin and a lunch with him. He laid out a linen tablecloth and a
few sandwich from some bread, dressing, and beef. He offered her a sandwich. "Have you eaten today?" She took the sandwich from him. "No, not yet. I hope I didn't get you into any trouble. I just thought it would be better to talk some place more private."
" I work a lot and my boss gives me the freedom to come and go as I please. He will watch the store for the remainder of the day." he said. The elven girl abandoned her sandwich. "You asked if I was a travler. In a way, I am." He looked into her eyes. "Where do you come from, may I ask?" Altheia took a deep breath. "I come from a village called Blue Mountain. Have you heard of it?"
"No, I haven't. Is that far from here?" Altheia thought about what she wanted to say. "No.....Have you heard of the story of how our people came to be?"
"That story has been put aside in this town. Not many people talk about our history here other than the elders, but I have never talked to any of them. My aunt tells me some but not much. I know we are to be the new race."
Altheia nodded. "I came from that valley. My home burned down and my parents died in the fire. It happened on my birthday." Grai stood up and motioned for
Altheia to remain seated, went over to the water's edge then returned. He handed her a tulip. " Sorry to hear that. How old were you?' Altheia accepted the tulip and thanked him. " It happened just this last birthday." He comforted her. " I am sorry to her that. Where were you planning on staying?" She took a deep sigh.
"I just got into town today. I really don't have any plans."
"Maybe my aunt will allow you to stay with us for awhile, if that is O.K. with you." Altheia gave him one of her brightest smiles. " That is so nice of you."
" There is not much here but this little village. Many humans live here and it can be a hassle for a Nino Oro at times, but we do have some nice folks here."
"I understand. I always liked humans. My mother saved one from drowning. He was staying with us. That is how my house burned down. The constable didn't allow
humans in the village. My mother is a mage. I will be one too, some day. My parents and I followed Lyndra and her ways. The rest of the village followed Coroban. I guess we were outcasts for that reason too." The young man showed her his amulet. "This amulet was given to me by a traveling mage who passed through a few years back. He said that it will help guide me one day and I will learn who I really am, whatever that means." The young magess looked at the amulet. "I am not sure what it means. Lyndra is the goddess of nature. Maybe it is from her. It does have some strong magical properties. I can feel it." The young craftsman smiled at her as he looked into her eyes. Somehow looking past her eyes and into her heart. "Your magely demeanor is comforting. You seem to have an aura about you that I am attracted to." Altheia blushed. "I am not sure what
to say to that statement." Grai nodded. " I hope I didn't make you uncomfortable but I try to be truthful about how I feel." Altheia looked up at the position of
the sun. "Shouldn?e be heading back?" Grai nodded. "It is getting late. Yes, sounds like a good idea." He stood up and reached for her hand to help her up.
Altheia took his hand and stood up. "Where to now?"
"I think my aunt would be worried about me if I didn't show up soon before dark. You can meet her before she goes to bed. I would like to talk to you, if it is OK, about your plans. You seem to be the adventurous type. Am I correct?" Altheia thought about the question for a minute. "I wouldn't call myself adventurous. I am really not sure what I am going to do. I lived all my life in my village."
"I see. You never truly felt you would leave then?"
"Well, let's go back to my aunt's before she gets worried. We can talk some then."
"O.K. Lead the way."
The young Nino man took Altheia's hand, looked at her golden colored hand and smiled. "This village can be fun to navigate. The early settlers disagreed on
the structure so there are many windy roads here. My aunt's house is down the winding cobblestone road close to my work." He led the way.
They walked down the road side bye side as the sun fell below the horizon. They arrived at the porch of Aunt Lorna?ouse. the house had a glow about it from the candles in the windows. They went into the house and Lorna greeted them. She was happy to see Grai and his new friend. She welcomed them and motioned for them to come inside. Grai introduced Altheia to his aunt. She is pleased to meet the newcomer and offered her some ginger cookies and milk. The Nino girl took the offering. "Thank you." The young man called to his aunt,
"Aunt Lorna, Altheia is passing through town. She stopped by to see what was here after some hardships from her hometown. She is all alone in the world now
and needs a place to stay tonight. May she for awhile until she decides what to do?" Lorna smiled at the girl. "Dear, what hardships have you undertaken? Of course can stay sweetie."
"Do you want the long or short version?"
"Oh. is it that bad? I am so sorry hun. You look tired, a short one would do nicely." Altheia sat down in the chair. "Well, my house was burned down and my
parents died in the fire. I don't have any other family so I left my village."
"Oh my!" exclaimed Aunt Lorna. "I didn't think it would be that horrible. What will you do?"
"I don't know. I thought about becoming a mage since my mother was one. I need more training though. She died before she can teach me anything."
"I am sorry to hear all this Altheia. I need to get some sleep." Lorna gave them both a big hug and went off to bed. The young man said," You lost so much." She
nodded. " It is all so sad." She started to cry. Grai kneeled down on one knee to comfort her. "If there is anything I can do to help you, be sure to ask. I will
"I am still so confused from everything that has happened."
"Will you stay here in this town?"
"I think that is a good idea since I don't know what I am going to do."
"I am tired. I think I will go to bed now. The weekend is a good time for us to get to know one another. We can go down to the river, if you would like."
Altheia yawned. "OK, do you have a spare room?"
"You can have my room and I will take the couch." He took a quilt from a chest and threw it on the couch. Grai took Altheia to the bedroom and hugged her goodnight. He walked back into the living room and went to bed. Altheia closed
the door behind her.

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