If you were in an ocean, a fish would go unnoticed, yes? They’re fairly common there, don’t you think? If a fish were to jump in the ocean, it wouldn’t be strange for the other fish. It’d be relatively common place, no?
That’s what I think of—what comes to mind—when I think of his arrival. The tall man, with the black bow and piercing arrows, with the gnarled sword and jagged dagger.
The tall man with the black beard, the monster’s cloak.
The tall man astride the most beautiful beast I’d seen.
Astride the white lion. They were scarred, both of them. Worn like shields from the front lines—tired, grizzled steel. Blade marks, claw marks, and arrow scars littering their open skin, showing just what they could take.
Quite a lot I’d wager.
Quite a lot.
They strode into town as if they belonged. As if they knew what they were riding into. Heads held high—not proud, but, rather, confident. Sure-footed. As if nothing they found could deter them, stop them, or lead them astray.
They strode forward. The man riding the white lion, hood pulled over his head. Eyes assessing the town as he and his steed passed through.
And that was it. That was why.
He wasn’t a fish jumping into the ocean.
It was more like… more like…
An eagle. Or an elephant. A clear intruder. Someone who, obviously didn’t belong in our small village. The tiny town comprised of scavengers, foragers. Our village that held no glamor, that lost all magic. Creatures such as the lion, and men such as that warrior, were not rarities.
They were practically impossibilities.
That was why, I think, I approached them. Why I offered them the shed. Offered them dinner, a place to stay. They were terrifying, yes. Quite foreign. Their persons vastly different from anyone I’d ever seen, and still.
I offered them shelter.
Of course, he didn’t take it right away. Though they had no place to go (our town has no place for visitors) and they were exhausted beyond all reason, they were still wary. Still had their heads on straight.
“I’ll warn you: we’re quite obvious, and we have many enemies,” the man had said before even making a move to dismount. “Our magic is strange, and can be quite dangerous.”
I nodded at him, noting a particularly gnarly scar along his chin, one that stretched above his cheek.
“You do make quite an impression,” I’d said, forgoing making a comment on the scars.
At that, he surprised me.
He’d laughed once.
For someone so worn, it was a rather easygoing sound. Kind to the ears, as it brightened his eyes.
“Very well. Then, I won’t pass up your offer,” he told me, hopping off the lion. As his feet hit the ground, he nodded to me, serious. “Thank you.”
I’d nodded back, extending my hand. “Lila,” I told him.
He’d shaken it. “Call me Rider.”
I laughed once, unable to help myself. It piqued his interest, set a curious look upon his face. At the challenge in his eyes—the question—I explained.
“I apologize, but your fake name is so obvious. You make such an impression, why not just use your real name?” I reasoned.
It seemed that he understood. Rather than being angry or upset, he’d smiled at me. Understanding in his eyes as his lion let out a rather loud purr, the beast causing a small startle in me.
Chuckling under his breath, he’d said, “There is power in a name, my friend. Far too much for one of my kind to simply give away. Though you seem to be… different from others. Perhaps one day I can tell it to you.”
And, it was strange, but… I swear I saw…
From the spark in his eye, I had the impression that he was looking forward to that day.
There was a ripple in the woods then. Carrying something in the wind. My skin tingling, my hair rising as the lion leaned into the feeling. Proving that it wasn’t just me.
Something was on the rise.
“But, for now,” Rider continued, taking a pack off his lion’s back, “I’ll simply help myself to your shed.”
And that was the conclusion.
It was the first time I’d ever seen a white lion, ever seen an elven hunter, ever seen magic in my town.
It was as glaringly obvious as the moon in the night sky. A spot of black paint on a white canvas. A fish in the sky.
But not for long.
Not for long.
The elven hunter marked the start of it all. The crashing of an avalanche that would change it all, change everything.
The magic was not welcome here before. Didn’t belong. As unwelcome as water in a desert.
It would flood soon.
Lions on the rise.