She slipped out the back door as usual with no one noting or caring about her absence. The only difference this time was that her backpack was heavier than warranted for a day trip. She was often gone for a couple days at a time, only taking the bare necessities for survival in her beloved forests as she could hunt and forage for anything else she would need. This time she seemed set for a journey.
She made her way through the city quickly, stopping only for a quick word with passersby who knew her. As she exited through the main gate, she turned toward the cemetery and made her way to a small plot marked by a plain granite headstone. She sat before it and put her chin in her hands as she contemplated the name written thereon. "Harie Swiftfoot" "Friend, teacher, mentor" "The father of my heart" Her mind tripped back to when she met the dark and silent man.
She'd wandered farther than usual on her outing that day and found herself in a strange section of the forest with a growling tummy. Looking around she spotted berries on bushes, some mushrooms scattered through the grass, and her footprints trailing off behind her. Off to her left she heard running water. Until then she hadn't realized how thirsty she was. With a glance at the berries and another at her tracks, she noted where she was and headed toward the sound of water. It was a high-banked little stream with grassy slopes and saplings here and there between the larger shading trees. She reached for one of the saplings as a handhold as she carefully stepped down the steep bank. It suddenly broke as she slipped and fell the rest of the way down and into the water. Landing on her backside did more to bruise her dignity than anything else, but she was now soaked to the skin on a cool autumn afternoon as well as being hungry and uncertain of where she was.
A soft laugh came from upstream. She stood, startled and ready to run, while looking for the best escape route. "I'll not hurt ye, girl," came an amused male voice. "And I think it's time ye were gettin' fer home." She finally located the man dressed in soft leathers and leaning on a staff. He stepped from behind the tree he was watching her from and offered her a hand up. Looking into his face she made the first gesture of trust she'd made in many seasons as she placed her small hand in his to be lifted from the water and deposited on flat ground.
He started off walking without another word, just a gesture for her to follow. During the silent trek, he offered her a piece of pemmican from a bag he carried over his shoulder. She accepted and gnawed away at it while trying to watch him and where they were going at the same time. When they reached the edge of the forest he stopped and knelt down face to face with her. "Come again. Find me if'n ye want. I'll teach ye." he looked around him and back at her. She nodded solemnly and turned to head back to the city.
Now many years later she knelt at his grave. He'd taught her all he could and they'd even learned a few things together. Now she was leaving everything she knew as soon as she finished one last task. The bear that had killed Harie was still out there and wounded badly. She'd have to finish him. Then she was on to whatever the future would hold for her.