Perth

Triss ran through the aviatic conversations and squabbles ending with a reprimand at her passing disturbance and the occasional hum of bees up in high deadened trucks, Sigurd’s counting faded softer and softer as she giggled her way winding deeper into the pines shafted with golden light shafts, darting glances up for any trees she might shimmy up to hide behind with low enough branches, while she also kept her eyes on what was in front of her, not wanting to disturb or give away breaking shrubs or give clues to her trail. Panting, she bit her bottom lip excitedly. She needed to find a place quickly! Padding silently under some bushes beside the path and up a small jaunt she decided to slip over the crest of the hill and find a tree there…hopefully. As she emerged from the bushes on the hill’s opposite side taking a curved path to the left, she nearly collided with a man coming round one of the trees, carrying firewood! Both parties surprised, Triss gasped! She reached for her dagger hilt. The man in the black cape backed up a few steps, quietly and calmly, not letting go of the logs, perhaps which he anticipated as using as a weapon or tossing to distract her. Instead he calmly stated, “my apologies, lady for startling you.” She blinked. Yes. He had spoken Gaelic. Frowning, confused over what someone who spoke her mother tongue was doing here in the far north regions but also not wanting to ruin her fun with Sigurd, and very awkward feeling being with a strange man in the woods even though he made no sudden or threatening moves toward her, something deep down unpointed and undiscovered made her uneasy around him, despite him having a well shaven styled black thin beard framing the front of his chin and a line from the chin to bottom lip and long, shiny, slick, black hair falling either side of a pale, stouter, southern face with amicable and regarding grey eyes and lips of a winter masculine mauve tone, as if he belonged in such a season and not the happy warmth of the earthy and emerald scents and colors of early summer. Distrust written on her features, and hearing Sigurd getting closer, roaring exaggeratedly like a bear, crashing around, the strange man also looked in that direction. Still unsure of whether this man was a threat or not to her or Sigurd, she spoke brokenly in the tongue she had long left behind. “I am playing hide and seek with my husband”.

The stranger raised his black brows, grey eyes widening, in both surprise that she spoke Gaelic and an “ah” understanding expression, a smile tugging at the corners of his mouth. The man walked past her to the smokeless fire he had built and went about fueling the fire next to his pine branched shelter he had made.   She scanned around for a hiding place. Picking a tree, she quietly climbed, watching the stranger, hearing her husband roaring animatedly and wondering silently if she should or could outrun the stranger, if she was putting Sigurd in imminent danger or overreacting about odd things? Should she give her husband a signal? She hated the whole thing. The stanger’s presence tugged at her with questions. Seemingly unthreatening physically, his presence either way had ruined her and Sigurd’s play at the core. Time running out on her thoughts, Sigurd barreled into the clearing, encountering the strange man for himself. Composing himself and looking at the man suspiciously, Sigurd asked in Norwegian if the man had seen a woman, scanning the forest inconspicuously for her wherabouts or a sign from her. The man in dark cloak looked confused. Sigurd pantomimed the word woman and ran in place, then motioned a sweeping motion around the forest with one hand. The man in the dark cloak exaggeratedly shrugged, pantomiming back in hand gestures he saw no woman, but that he had seen a red headed bird in the trees, whistling like a bird and waving his hands like the wings of one. Sigurd’s hearty laugh rang through the small clearing chasing away, at least temporarily, the shadows. Even the man in the dark cloak grinned halfway, good naturedly, around his mouth and eyes. Triss quietly slipped to the side branches and pounced on Sigurd’s strong back. “OO..oohph” Sigurd expelled knowingly as Triss planted her lips firmly on his high cheekbone bared just above his cropped blonde beard. He scooped her thighs up behind him, dipping a bow as a thank you to the pale faced southerner and bounced and jostled Triss on his back lumbering back telling her silly things he was going to do with her all the way to the village until she laughed, but her laugh was tinged nervousness. She could sense the stranger’s eyes boring into her back, following them as they returned home. She didn’t want to know why he was here. She didn’t want to go back in the forest. She didn’t want Sigurd out there alone. She didn’t want the man with the unsettling, yet calm grey eyes coming into her village. She blamed herself for answering in Gaelic. Foolish. But something told her this would not be the last they saw of this man. And she didn’t like thatonelittlebit.

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