A pair of blue eyes peeked over the hillock and blinked at the scruffy, dark headed boy who nervously picked his way among the rocks. She assumed he was nervous because he kept glancing over his shoulder, but she didn’t understand humans very well. Not many wandered out to the wild hills. “Are you lost?”
He didn’t jump. Instead he settled his pack more firmly on his shoulder and looked back again. “No.”
His voice had the pleasant depth of the Kilvern when it moved slow and ponderous between its banks in the winter. He looked around. “Though I would not mind some company.”
She ducked her head behind the hillock as she thought about it. She peeked back over. “Why?”
“I enjoy the voice of the wind, but he is a difficult partner to harmonize with.” His eyes focused in her general direction.
She laughed like otters playing on muddy banks on the first sunny day of spring. “The wind likes the sound of his own voice too much.”
“And when you sing well, he snatches the words away to keep.” His dark hair curled over his worn cotton collar and a lock falling into his eyes didn’t seem to bother him. He reminded her of stags racing through autumn leaves, though she could not have said why. He walked toward her hillock. She braced to run, but he stopped at the fallen tree, sat down, and removed his pack.
“Why are you in the hills?” she asked instead.
“I like them.” He rooted around inside his pack and brought out a stick of wood and a knife.
She rested her nose on the rock for a moment. “They’re not safe,” she offered at last.
“They’re only dangerous if you don’t respect them.” He started…shaping something out of the wood. She inched a little more out from the cover of the hillock and its brambles. Then gave up, and stood. Skin like bark, eyes river blue, and hair of falling vines reflected in his wide green eyes. “I can’t tell if you’re foolish, daring, or bluffing,” she admitted.
“I’ve always considered myself a fool.” His fingers had stilled on the knife, but he didn’t jump up or posture. Still like a proud stag.
“Are you frightened?” She took three quick steps forward the movement natural as air and odd as purple earth.
He laughed a little. “I’m not enough of a fool.”
She tilted her head.
“I can see your potential, but you haven’t threatened me yet. So no, I’m not afraid.”
“Like the hills I’m only dangerous if you don’t respect me?”
His smile was very small and his fingers returned to shaping the wood. “You have my respect. I really hope it works that way.”
“It might,” she said. She walked over and sat next to him. The wood in his hands resembled a cardinal about to take wing. “The hills are a bare place. Maybe I don’t mind the company.”
He finished off the last of the tail feathers and offered the delicate wood bird to her. “I’m Conlach.”
“Bryony. Will you teach me some songs?” She took the little bird and tucked it into her curls.
They sat together through a long afternoon learned songs, told stories, and enjoyed the simple pleasure of watching another’s face as they discovered something new.
I’m a thief! I stole this line from an otter over at The Gate in the Woods. Check the Gate tomorrow to see what she wrote. I’m sure it will be adorable.