I think the title sums this one up!
Needless to say I was eating popcorn and watching Cowboys and Aliens last night with my son.
Sidebar- I don’t write stories on posts very well, so don’t go into this expecting too much and we’ll both be better off.
Cowboys and Aliens line – “I’ve never seen a wound like that. Where’d you get that wound, stranger?”
“”I’ve never seen a wound like that. Where’d you get that wound, stranger?”
My father asked as he helped the wet, bearded man into a chair.
It was late and my family’s tavern had just closed when we were assaulted by a violent knocking at the door. I stayed half hidden by the fireplace holding a sword when my father, his own sword drawn, opened the door.
Half falling into the door the man’s hood fell away from his face. He looked rugged and worn, as if he had been part of a tree that had broken away in a storm. But his eyes found mine from across the room and they shone with cunning and intelligence.
“Aloe!” My father spoke sharply to me. “Bring me a light!”
I did as I was told. In addition to a thick, white candle I brought clean linen and bottles of the herbs and lotions I myself had made.
The man gritted his teeth as my father treated the wound on his chest, just above his left breast bone.
“I am from the north. I crossed the river,” grunted the stranger in pain. Without thinking I took his hand.
“Well, that would be a tale for the ages, if it were true. My little piece of heaven in which you now sit is south of the river. Crossing the river in the dark is never done. They say he hasn’t been out in years. The river is only forged now in the day, when the sun is high. That’s the only time you can see the bridge. The mists confuse travelers until they are never seen again. No, I’m sorry sir, I don’t believe your story.”
Smiling now my father jerked his head towards me. It took no words to convey the meaning. I gave the stranger some bread and beer, a small bit of hard cheese. Then before I turned to go, I moved the vase of daisies I had picked earlier to his table. He touched them gently as he caught my eye.
“From where did the wound come?” I asked, looking at the three long scratches.
“I was called. A lifetime has been spent preparing for the journey. There were wild dogs howling when I matched the landmarks from the map in my mind. I found the ragged hill and crossed it, then I saw the boat on the river. I know well many men had failed before, but I had to try. I saw him standing in the boat. His back was turned, but he knew I was there. We got to the middle of the river when he said, “There is trouble ahead. You must pay me now.” But I refused. He grew angry. “You must pay me now!” He said again. But I held firm and refused. I heard an owl scream and looking up I watched a cloud cover the moon. That was when he struck. His left hand is clawed, deformed. Hidden in his cloak until he knows you turn away, then it comes like an unholy thing, trying to remove the one thing I had which he does not. But the current was with me. As we struggled I felt the boat run around on the south side. Jumping out I did not forget to toss the coins back at him as I ran up the bank. When I turned around again I only saw the swirling mists.”
My father laughed out loud. “A fine story for a dark and stormy night, good sir!” Well, you can stay by the fire if you want, but you’re to be gone in the morning.”
The next morning when I came downstairs I saw my father snoring contently in front of the dying embers.
The stranger was up. He was putting on his now dry cloak.
He gestured for me to come closer.
“I know our paths will cross again. Now I head West and from what direction you will join me I cannot tell, but journeys end in lovers meeting. From now on pick roses, Aloe, the time for daises has passed.”
He kissed me good bye. I knew every word he had spoken was true.
He said one last thing to me, “Beware that hooded old man at the rudder, Aloe. Beware.”