The Reviver’s Passage: “Farewell” to the Odd Stalker from the Forest

 The Reviver's Passage
The Reviver’s Passage: Chapter III
By: Prappies

Hestia and the man walked out the door and down to the river. To the man’s surprise, there was a small boat waiting for them, tied to land using a rope and a stick protruding from the riverside. The boat was old and made of dark brown wood. It had two seats in the middle, stretching from one side of the boat to the other. Somehow, the man had not seen the boat when they had crossed the river to get to the house. 

Hestia untied the boat from the rope, and the boat began to bob a little in the water, before going still once more. She turned to the man and held her arm out. 

“You can climb in now.”

“We have to get to the village by using the river?” He asked.

“Yeah, the village was built on his river. Many villages have been built on this river since it’s so long. It’s perfect for travel and trade. Especially for merchants.”

“So, how far away is the village we’re going to?” Asked the visitor, he accepted her hand and climbed in as she gave him a little push to help him in.

“It’s around a 30 minute ride to the village, and 10 more minutes until we get to the herbalist’s shop. She’s more inside the village but close to the riverbank.” She remarked. She took off her jacket and threw it at the man who easily caught it. She then took off her shoes and socks and did the same. Leaning down, she rolled up her pant legs and stepped into the water.

She grabbed the boat and began to push it off the riverside, slowly the boat moved. The boat pushed against the gentle waves of the river, as if it were cutting through the waves like a knife. When it was in the middle of the river, she jumped into the boat, using one hand to propel herself into the boat. She then grabbed the oars under the man’s feet and began rowing.

The end of the oars dipped underneath the water, and then reappeared. The water that had been collected by the top of the oars dripped from the edges and back to its source. The cycle kept repeating. 

The man let out a soft “ah” as they gently drifted down the river, watching the forest around them come to life. Animals were drinking the river water, from rabbits, to squirrels to even some deers. They dipped their lips into the river’s cool waters, and the man saw their throats bob as they gulped the water down. Some ran away when the boat came close, and some chose to stare in fascination. 

“You come to this village often?” He asked her. His eyes on a small bird in the distance. 

“Very often, it’s how I sell my metalwork after all. This village and others that lay on this river. I’d say there are around 20 villages and a few towns. Some are a bit of a walk from the river but money must be made.” She huffed out as she kept rowing.

The man turned to look at her, having been staring at the beautiful scenery around him before. He noticed the sweat forming at the top of her head, her eyes knitted close together, and her teeth gritting as her oars fought against the river. He smiled warmly at her.

“Do you want me to take over, you look tired already.” He asked her, leaning over to grab the oars from her, but she used her foot to step on his lightly.

“I’m good. You’re the guest. Making you row would be beyond rude. I do this all the time, please do not worry for me,” she said, trying to catch her breath. 

The man leaned back and silently accepted it. “Ok,” was all he said. He crossed his legs, and leaned back. He put both arms on the side of the boat as it rowed down the river. He looked down at the water, smiling at the fish he could see and ran his hand through the water with a smile. Watching how his fingers parted the water, much like how the oars did. 

It took a while, but the forest slowly began to fade. The part of the forest where Hestia’s house was, was filled with thick trees. The only thing that was able to be seen was green of leaves and the brown of bark. But slowly the sky became more and more visible as the trees became fewer in number. 

After a little while, they finally reached the outskirts of the village.

“We’ve arrived,” said the tired woman. The man turned around to see an overarching bridge hover over them as they made their way inside. The streets were filled with people milling around, children running around, adults haggling prices.

“It’s very… lively here,” commented the man sarcastically, as he watched a young girl being chased by an older baker man. 

“It can be quite nice if you give it a chance.” Hestia remarked. “We should arrive near the shop in a few minutes, after that I’ll lead you to a good inn for you to stay in. How does that sound?”

“That sounds truly lovely my dear,” said the man offhandedly as he continued to let his eyes wander around the village. While the first look around showed a normal village, as the man took more time to study his surroundings, that could not be further from the truth.

The children running around were wearing filthy rags, and their bodies were dangerously thin. Their rib cages were seen through their skin. The adults haggling for prices looked no better. They were angry, they were upset. They were pushing each other, slapping each other. Some were stealing food from the stalls, and making a run for it. Stallkeepers screamed curses as they chased after them. Some Stallkeepers caught up with them, others failed to retrieve their goods back.  

“You never did answer my question, you know,” said Hestia.

The man turned around, focusing his eyes on the young woman in front of him. “Hmmm?”

“What brings you here? There’s nothing in these parts really. Are you trying to pass through or something?” She asked.

“Why do you ask that? Is there something beyond these parts?” 

Hestia shrugged. “Not that I know of… oh, let’s dock here. We’ll go on foot from here. That sound good to you?” She asked. 

“Fine by me,” he answered. 

The duo got out of the boat. The man got out first, then extended his hand helping Hestia out.

“Thanks,” she answered, after stumbling out.

“No problem,” answered the man.

They walked through the busy streets for a while. People bumped into them constantly; children and adults alike. All of them looked very downcast, some ill, some tired. Just about all with eyebags underneath their eyelids, some dragging their feet across the ground slowly. In each and every person, there was at least one example of illness or distress on their bodies. The man could tell that this village had seen better days that it didn’t see any longer. 

They finally made their way to the front of a small shop made of bricks and plaster. When they entered, a small bell rang, the man looked up and touched the chimes above their head. It played a sweet sound as the chimes clanged against each other. 

“Welcome… why hello there Hestia. How are you doing today dear?” asked an old man from the front desk of the small, but empty store. 

“Hello Mr. Connors, I’m just here for the usual. Wally’s nightly medicine. We ran out just today it seems.” She answered with a smile.

“Oh yes, I should have some right here. For how long do you want it to last?” He asked her, opening a straw basket. He held a small ladle in his other hand.  

“I’d say a month’s amount would suffice,” she answered. 

“I understand,” the man said as he grabbed a small cloth and scooped some orange powder into it. After he puts it in a few scoops, he wraps up the cloth, tying it tightly. He looks up and gives it to Hestia. 

“Here you go,” the old man said.

“How much will it cost Mr. Connors?” asked Hestia, pulling out her wallet. 

“Ten bronze coins,” answered the old man.

Hestia reached into her wallet and pulled out the coins from her pockets. She then reached out and gently placed it into the old man’s palm. 

“Will that suffice?” she asked him.

“Yes, that’ll do just fine. You have a good day now dear. Take good care of  Wally for me,” the old man said, waving her goodbye. Then he turned towards her companion.

“What can I get you sir?” he asked him.

“Huh, me?” asked the man.

“Oh he’s with me,” said Hestia from the doorway. “Are you coming or not?” she asked, turning back to look towards the man.

“He’s with you? Who is your new friend then Hestia,” asked the old man, eyeing the new man from top to bottom. 

Hestia shrugged and said “In all honesty, I actually don’t know.”

She then left the building, with the man following close behind her. Leaving the old man to his confusion. 

The woman and the man walked through the crowd once more, the man followed Hestia through the rush of people, simply trusting her to take him where he had to go.

“I’m gonna guess we are going to a local inn,” he said, sidestepping a couple of playing children.

“Indeed, do you have any money to pay for the night?” She asked him. “How many nights do you even plan on staying here anyway?” She asked, turning back to look at him questioningly.

The man shrugged, “I’ll stay as long as I need to. As for the money part, I have none,” he said, shrugging his shoulders with a small smile.

The woman kept staring at him as she kept walking, then sighed as she put her face in her hand. 

“Well, the inn’s nearby; just follow me,” she stated. The man couldn’t help but feel a little sad, looking at the children and the people. There was little happiness in this village, only much struggle and hardship. He then once more turned to his companion, who had already sensed his curiosity peaking.

“Yes, what is it?” She asked him before he could open his mouth. The man wondered if she could read his mind.  

“What happened here? It’s so depressing here. The people have no life.” He asked her with a saddened expression.

“I don’t know really, one day it was lively as can be, and then our fortunes turned. It was like the morals of the people switched. Crime increased by a landslide, it was just so sudden.  You suddenly had so many thieves, murderers, con artists and more.” She said. “It began around a few years ago. As I often travel, I can confirm that other villages in this region are suffering the same fate, even the big cities where the people are normally richer and where the powerful people live. Even if they are suffering.” 

“I see,” answered the man. 

After a while they arrived at a small run down inn. Hestia shuffled inside with the man at her heel. She walked up to a counter with a couple of drunken men drinking, a few called out to her but she ignored them. She made her way up to the counter and called out to the man at the counter. 

“Yes?” he asked her in a gruff voice.

“One room,” she asked.

“For you and the man over there?” He asked her, looking at the man behind her.

“Oh no, just for him. One person.” She answered.

“Huh, alright.” He answered. 

Hestia passed the money over, turned around and patted the man’s shoulder. 

“I don’t know what you’ll do after tonight, but I trust you can take care of yourself.” She said, turning to face him, her body facing forward.

“You do not need to worry about me, I can take care.” He answered.

“So I guess this is goodbye then,” said Hestia.

“Oh I don’t think it’s goodbye just yet, I think it’s simply our first parting,” he answered with a smile. 

Hestia looked at him weirdly, and smiled.

“Perhaps it is,” then she turned and left.

<— The Reviver’s Passage Ch. II                         The Reviver’s Passage Ch. IV –>



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