Prompt: “It has been a long, exhausting day of walking through harsh mountain terrain. You’re cold, hungry, your muscles are aching, and the sun is about to set. Suddenly you come upon this place, nestled onto the top of a nearby peak. The windows are lit up with a friendly glow, and there is smoke rising from the chimney. The musk of burning wood that carries on the wind makes you long for warm, dry clothes, and a hot meal. But this is a strange place to live, remote and barren, with no good place to grow food, keep livestock, or even hunt for game. Who lives there, and how do they survive in this harsh climate?”
The chill was all the way to Horner’s bones. He had been warned not to try the mountain pass after Krispert’s Day, but he was young and strong willed so of course ignored the warnings of his elders.
But now he saw the folly of his ways. The pass had indeed been impossible to traverse and in his attempt to scale an ice sheet, he slid headlong into a ravine. More flustered and frozen than injured, he tried to ascend the path of his fall, but found that too was impossible. All he could do was try to work his way upwards on the parallel face of the ravine.
He found the climb easier than he had anticipated, and made good time. In his efforts, however, he failed to notice he had become further and further from his intended path. In fact, he crested a totally unfamiliar peak.
It was then that he noticed a hint of wood smoke on the crisp mountain breeze. Nestled nearly on top of the peak was a lone building. The windows are lit up with a friendly glow, and there is smoke rising from the chimney. The musk of burning wood that carried on the wind made him long for warm, dry clothes, and a hot meal. But this was a strange place to live, remote and barren, with no good place to grow food, keep livestock, or even hunt for game. With night drawing in, and the lights seeming so welcoming, young Horner put the oddity of the place out of mind, however, and made his way to the door of the dwelling.
Almost as soon as he set foot on the porch, the door opened and a bent, aged man stood before him.
“Come in from the cold, Friend,” the hermit beckoned.
Horner didn’t need to be invited a second time, and stomping the caked snow from his feet, he entered the warm tidily kept house. A woman nearly as decrepit looking as the man was setting the table for four, and a young redheaded woman, about his age was huddled near the fire with a blanket wrapped around her. Wet women’s clothes were on a wooden rack near the hearth, and a pair of soggy shoes steamed at the fireside.
“You are just in time,” the old woman said. “I was a little worried that you might not find your way,” she added.
“Nonsense, Edie,” the old hermit said kindly. “Young Horner here was always going to arrive today, Just like Rose over there. Please excuse my wife, young man. She’s always been a bit of a worrier.”
“How – how did you know my name?” Horner almost squealed as he jumped back from the old man.
“It’s destiny son,” the hermit replied. “Been so for three hundred years. Every fifty years, after the first major snow after Krispert’s, a couple arrives here to take over the care of the wayward travellers. Tonight is your’s and Rose’s night. Edie and I will be moving on by morning.”
“Now you two young people come get a bite to eat, we have a lot to teach you in a single evening. Rose you come sit next to Horner, you two should start to get to know each other,” the crone said with a kind smile.