Unending Trails

A Traveler's Haven

By now, the time had even more so escaped my perception. I didn’t care for the hour, for the minute, or even for the second. Each figure of the time was only building an older number that I grew farther and farther away from. Though it wasn’t as if it was a foreign concept. It wasn’t totally gone from my knowledge, for I knew that there will always come a day that —I’ll once again— experience the merits of knowing the current day, or even the current year for gods sakes.

The sun had still barely risen up from the horizon, nowhere near the tip of the sky. The air was cool, and the weather had a beautiful calmness to it. It smelled heavily of a lightly and humid dew, mixed with the various nature smells she could put out. An odd experience, as the dew was a rare sighting at Tierredaviid. This I knew, was the forest’s welcome. A calm morning in a peaceful surrounding.

‘You know, it ain’t a bad spot. I’m starting to like the hermit’s thinking.’

After Alton had announced how close we were, I have been nervous ever since. I may not be sensed in time, but I knew for sure that it had been more than a couple of minutes of traveling off the dirt pathway we’ve been traveling on, and into the dense forest.

A bump here, a cart-shake there, it was all too unpredictable. The smells were bold, and the trees past by the cart closer than ever. It was as if we were running straight through a crowd. A crowd of giants that is.

And you thought the path was bad?

‘Uh-huh. I didn’t think he was gonna take us through the forest though. Give me some slack.’

I clear my throat, it was as loud as ever, but it had been masked by the intensely loud shaking of the cart.

“Say, Alton… d’you really live that far out here? In the middle of the forest?”

“Yessir. A traveler has to have his space, you know,” he responded as he swayed back and forth cart, keeping his eyes forward.

“And you aren’t afraid of anything? What if… say a bear comes. What if something bigger comes. You got any plans?”

He laughed, angling his head back, “Well for somethin’ like a bear, I got some protection. I do some studying, and from personal experience of livin’ here, nothin’ of that sort comes.”

‘Protection, huh?’

Yup, we’ll see how good that’ll last when something really does attack us.

“What sort of protection are we talking about here? Maybe one of them fancy muskets? You gotta pet?” I smiled as I asked.

“I wish. But we got somethin’ even better,” he turns his head so that I can only see an angled half of his right face, tapping his finger on his temple, “we got our own intuition.”

In all honesty, that had sent a chill down my spine. The thought of living the life of a hermit, with a statement like that? I’d highly anticipate my getting injured somehow, it was only up to the grim imagination to think where and when.

The question repeated back onto itself as I had thought about it. After a couple of more minutes and an insufferable amount of shaking, it had slapped the realization onto my face. The question ‘In the middle of the forest?’ rung happily back and forth. Indeed Alton did live in the middle of the forest.

Well, not exactly. It was a neatly built and sized L-shaped cabin, constructed of most likely the same wood it was surrounded in. It was placed in an uneven circular clearing in the forest as if nature had let it. To the left of where I was standing, there were many stumps of cut trees.

The logs making the walls were not shaped, giving the outside a more natural look to it. The roof had layers of flat straw to it, and the occasional wooden plank sticking out of it which to what I assume, gave it support. Only one floor, and from what I saw, wooden trapdoors closed on the sides of the wood walls.

‘Well at least it has windows…’

A broken down and flimsy wooden-stick fence encircled the front of the cabin, to which an assortment of unnatural flowers grew.

This guy even has his own herb garden?

Not sure whether to be impressed or concerned…

A couple of barrels stood at the edge of a corner on the left side of the front wall, where dirt and gravel were seen instead of grass. Quite a distance away, a circle of rocks laid. In the center was a pile of charred wooden sticks and ash. Above it, was a long wooden pole stretching across the length of the rocks, propped up by an intricately designed holder for it.

I had walked around the cabin as Alton was unloading the card he had left near the short side of the cabin, the side where the stumps had all been left at. The snug corner where the short and long side of the cabin met was where a remotely small pile of wood had been placed, neatly stacked against the wall in a pyramid shape. The wood was darkened as if it had been there for ages. Whatever it had seen, it had seen a lot of.

Right before arriving, I had remembered back to the question I had asked. I was curious to find the poles of direction. Humorously, it had taken a lot of confusion and time before Alton had given his answer. From where I was currently facing, I was looking directly east. The front door faced an angled north-eastern direction, while the little end of the L was facing an angled south-western direction.

Before my prying eyes ventured any farther, I had seen Alton carry a leather bag, to which he through the strap over his soldier, all the while he reached farther into the cart to grab the remaining few rations; he carried a long lockbox in his left arm, while he reached for the last sack which dangled from his right hand. The blade which had still been sheaved across his belt dangled and moved with each step and move he had made.

You know you should feel guilty. Poor guy could’ve used some help ya know…

‘Hmm…’

I had noticed he had rolled his sleeves up to his elbows, which revealed tensed forearms. I stared back at the cabin, and a rush of thoughts came through me. How long has he lived here? What do you think he’s done before he ventured off to fetch us? Who had even built this? There were too many irrelevant questions that kept popping up, all before Alton grabbed my attention.

“Come on in boyo, get comfortable. My home is now your home,” he said with a smile as he stared at me, walking towards the door.

Before I had followed him, I had slowly walked around the corner to view the front once again and stared back up towards the building as a whole. I took in as much as I can.

‘A home once more…’

Hmmm…… home…

I followed him as he disappeared from my view when he turned left. I kept looking up as I viewed the cabin engulfing me with the doorway growing larger until I was inside and took in my surroundings. A sudden aroma had hit me almost instantly before I could do anything else. It smelled like an odd unfamiliar smell. It had retained a nature-like smell, as if it was still one with the forest.

To my left, Alton was scrambling to set the items he had grabbed in god knows where. From one window sill to the next, Alton pulled apart the trapdoors which had let in more light, revealing more areas of the dark cabin. The sword gleamed and sheened as it was perfectly in the rays of light.

My eyes raced around me trying to take in the comfortability.

It seemed like he had a spot for each and every item he had brought as if they were each piece of a puzzle that completed a perfect design. A seemingly comfortable-looking sofa with different colored pillows on one side, with a wooden table to one side of it which propped an array of items like a lantern and other things as such, and a space that accounted between it and a bookshelf to the other side. The bookshelf —that I’d seen— had looked to be often used. Many a manner of books, all with varying heights and thicknesses were unevenly placed, with some not even being properly placed back, but instead laid across the front of the other books.

Canvases covered the walls all around sporadically and had drawn my eye instantly from one to the other. One depicted a scenic view of a kingdom of some sort —another, a ship traveling through the waves. A small old and weathered painting depicted a herd of horses running across a field.

But it was the subtle details that made this feel like good-ole’ home. A red and yellow detailed carpet laid across the floor sprawled under all the furniture along the long and spacious room. Wooden planks could be seen went parallel to the side of the carpets where it had stopped.

The ceiling was angled as wooden beams stretched towards the angled top of the cabin, making that classic triangular prism across and over our heads. It was beautiful to see once again a confusing yet simple design as an array of beams supported each other making a greater task seem possible. One beam held another, while that one supported a different one altogether.

Comfortability was slowly enveloping me as I had realized it, but it was ultimately the planks above the beams where I assumed the straw was sitting on top of, reassuring me that no weather could now breach the roof. The greatest of comfortable feelings that assured me that this was safe… as if nothing could harm us.

To the end of the living space was a door and a wall —which I assumed separated the living space from the other length of the L… the short length. It had greatly surprised me seeing that the cabin had this much room, considering how small it looked from the outside.

I focused once again on Alton scrambling around the living area, making sure everything was as it seemed from presumably, where he had left it since his departure… whenever that was. He sighed and grinned, standing upright and planting his right arm on his hip.

“Finally. Home at last,” he softly said, turning his head towards me, “Make yourself at home, my friend. Everything you see here is yours as well.”

I smiled back at him and proceeded to do just that. I walked over to the sofa, and fell onto it, testing the softness of it. It wasn’t as welcoming back however, as it had a little resistance as if it rejected me.

“I’ll be just a second, let me get situated…” Alton said as he walked through the door to the other room.

I stared at the wooden door as it had opened and closed, making a similar creaking sound to that of the camp houses. It seemed as if I would never escape the sound, no matter where I went.

But it was then that I couldn’t resist exploring again, as I started to notice more tiny details around the house. Small wooden planks against the wall propped up as shelves held even more mysterious items. Cups, what seemed to be an assortment of antique objects, and candles. I noticed that there were many of the colorless-white wax candles around, even on the small table to the right of the sofa.

This man is brave. Is he not paranoid that thieves will come and raid?

‘Doesn’t look like it. I know I would be.’

I looked through one of the opened window sills, seeing what I could from my perspective. Disappointedly though, it was only the swaying trees and the forest from the direction to which we came from.

I turned my head towards the center wall next to the door and saw a long wooden table stretching across the wall. It had a very thin wooden chair accompanying it, as if it were made of scraps. The table had a pile of scrolls rolled up just laying there, more scrolls which had been displaced, multiple clear containers of most-likely ink, and a large container with a number of utensils sticking out of it. Feathered quill pens and wooden sticks with charcoal at the tips had stuck out in all directions, giving a thought that the man was either very creative or just lazy.

So this is where it all starts? This is where a person becomes adventurous?

Hmm… maybe. I wouldn't count on it though.

I took in a deep breath and relaxed onto the resistant sofa as much as I could.

I had heard rustling in the other room, all before the footsteps and the faint creaks of wooden floorboards went into the direction of the door, and before I knew it, Alton was already there. This time, he had walked across the room, and turned back towards me.

“Follow me,” he said before he turned and continued walking towards the door.

I propped myself up and stood off of the couch, following him as I walked towards the door myself.

“What are we going to do?” I asked as I exited, being hit full force once again with the smell of the outside nature. My eyes squinted as a sudden shift from the dark cabin to the bright shining of the sun hurt my eyes. I stood next to him to which I looked at the side of his face. He was looking from left to right as if something has changed or was missing.

“We,” he paused turning his head to me and walking forward, “are going to do some touching up around here.”

Ohh boy. Does this mean what I think it means?

“Chores you mean?” I asked, as I still stood at the entrance.

“Exactly that.”