[Story] The Hermit 2

The arrival of a strange man was always cause for curiosity in Astranaar, and this one was certainly more strange than most. The Sentinels kept walking past the healer’s tent, trying to steal glimpses of the mysterious arrival. For better or for worse, Risarra felt responsible for him, as she was the one who’d found him and brought him back. There was just something odd about him, something that unsettled her, yet she couldn’t find the exact reason why.

“Alyndra?” Risarra paused outside the tent, hoping the priestess had heard her. Instead, it was the strange man’s face that greeted her when the flaps moved apart. At the very least, Alyndra — or someone — had picked the twigs out of his beard and made sure his hair was combed. He still had a wild, strange appearance, but the effect was lessened.

“She’s gone out,” the man explained, brushing past Risarra out into the open. He took up a staff that was leaning against a nearby tree. A portion of it was wrapped in hide, giving him a place to keep a secure grip. He lifted the staff, testing its weight, and looked over at Risarra. For a moment she thought he meant to attack her. “Do you want to spar?” he asked, as if he’d read her thoughts clearly on her face.

The question caught her off-guard. “Do you mean fight?” she asked warily.

He nodded, brushing a strand of hair back from his eyes. Though it had been combed, it was still unruly and unaccustomed to being tied back, and kept slipping out of its laces. It was a deep purple, the color of the highest boughs in Teldrassil. “A fight to teach, not a fight to harm.”

Her hand went to the handle of her glaive, without her realizing it. “No,” Risarra said. “I mean, no thank you. Besides–” her mind unearthed an excuse and seized upon it. “You’re ill. You should be resting.” Why did he wish to fight with her? She’d only been trying to help him. He was safer here than in that little hole in the forest.

“Later then,” agreed the strange man, settling down on the ground. His legs were crossed over one another, and Risarra thought it looked very uncomfortable, yet his expression remained calm and distant as ever.

Risarra sought words to fill the awkward silence. “Are you a druid?” she asked. Druids were known to be eccentric, and often avoided towns. Though he didn’t dress like a druid, he wore patched leather pants and a vest. “What’s your name?” She realized she should have asked that sooner. But then, he hadn’t volunteered it either. Maybe he didn’t even remember what it was.

“No,” he answered, one ear twitching. The rest of him remained perfectly still. “I am not a druid. I seek Elune within.” What did that even mean? Risarra gave him a puzzled look, but he didn’t see it. His eyes were closed. “I am called Nimrathis.”

“I’m Risarra,” she said, glancing back toward the sentinel quarters. Some of them had come out to look at their curious new guest. Zhyra was among them. The strange man — Nimrathis — didn’t seem to notice them. He didn’t seem to notice Risarra anymore, either. “I’ll just… let you be then,” she said, picking up her glaive. “Please come find me if you need anything.”

He nodded wordlessly, lost somewhere in his own thoughts. Risarra went to go find her friend.

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