Through the clearing there is a cottage, of mud brick and thatched roof. Smoke is rising from the central hole in the roof, a make shift chimney. The smell of drying herbs – rosemary and bay – drift through the air like a dandelion caught on the wind.
A deep voice calls out from behind an old gum. “Are you lost, little one?” He was plainly dressed, and if he hadn’t have spoken you may never had noticed him. His plain brown pants and tunic, his leather vest and belt, the axe in his hands. There were wood chips stuck in his bushy beard and his hair was tied back with a leather chord. He seemed to blend into his surroundings, as if one with the forest. And then there were his antlers, which didn’t seem to phase you as much as it perhaps should have.
“No, I’m… I’m not sure.” Looking around frantically, it appears that you are lost. You could’ve sworn you had been here before, but the old cottage with its thatched roof, smoke rising from the little hole in the roof, peeping from between the trees was new.
“Well, I’ve always been here,” He replied, stocking the axe back into the chopping stump. “Maybe your eyes weren’t open enough to see me before. Come, you look thirsty. There’s a pump with fresh water behind the house.”
The man with antlers stops. “Or would you rather a cup of tea?”
He holds the door open for you, waiting for you to enter. The antlers disappear as he walks through the doorway behind you, and you gasp. He says nothing as he moves over to the hearth where there is a kettle hanging over a small burning fire.
“Where did they go?” You ask, your voice shaking. The man smiles as he collects two cups to place on the small table and begins to pour the water.
“Where do you think they went?” he asks slyly. “Terrible nuisance in such a small space.” He stirs a cup with his finger before sniffing it and handing it to you. You can’t move, so you stare dumbfounded, still near the door you had entered, wanting to escape.
“It’s good tea.”
“Who are you?”
“A host who just offered you a cup of tea.” He replies with his arm still extended. “Please sit. I won’t harm you, and all your questions will be answered in due time.”
This is where I’m going to leave the story. It did originate as a story I began writing for myself, then my nieces, and now I guess it’s transformed into it’s current incarnation. The topic was supposed to be Deities that represent the hearth and home, but I couldn’t get motivated to write on that topic.
If you’re wondering why the character is scared, it’s because the original character was a little girl who got lost in the forest after running away when something happened to her brothers. But to tell it from that point of view, I need to tell what happened to the brothers, and it’s a story I’m still working on.