The rain fell hard on their roof, but Cibelle still could hear the men’s voices coming from the living room. The stranger had left his cloak, walking stick and heavy bag by the door, and accompanied Vohne to sit and have a chat.
He was wearing a long taupe robe and she had noticed how it completely hid the man’s feet, giving the impression that he floated around. Putting a log in the oven, and tossing the embers a bit, she wondered what made her so uneasy around the old man. He seemed harmless, but his visit was too unexpected to be just a coincidence.
She watched the water coming to a boil, and poured it on the mixed tea leaves. The shadows at the bottom of the pot only suggested positive influences in their home, but still, she was concerned. She put the lid on, and moved to the living room to offer Vohne and their visitor a cup of the hot beverage.
The mysterious traveler curled both hands around the cup, and sighed, content. For a while, they just drank in silence, and Cibelle wondered if she had disturbed their conversation. She was about to excuse herself from the room, when Vohne asked the man how they could call him.
The visitor smiled through his thick white beard, and his gaze moved from Vohne to Cibelle, back to Vohne again.
Ahhh, yes. Forgive me, please. The imminent storm rushed me in, and I didn’t even introduce myself … You can call me Claudius, but my name is of no importance. I am the ears and the voice of what was, is and will be.
With that said, Claudius leaned back, warmed his hand again on his cup and drank a long sip of tea.
Vohne felt relieved. He had heard about this kind of men, who walked from town to town, spreading gossip for a warm meal or a comfortable bed. The stranger’s face didn’t even twitch, but there was a pinch of annoyance when he added.
A tittle-tattle peddler, I am not. Men can very well plague themselves with gossip without my help. I, my young friend, carry the untold and the unknown to those who need to be told, and to know.
Claudius put his cup on the low table. Leaning back again and closing his eyes, he fell fast asleep on his armchair, leaving Cibelle and Vohne equally stunned.
Cibelle was alone with him, when the old man woke up. She was kneeling near the chimney, turning her back to him. The evening’s air was crisp and frisky, and even if she had laid a warm blanket on their visitor’s lap, he had been shivering in his sleep.
He watched her in silence, as she bent on the pile of wood. There were no warm embers to revive, yet when Cibelle softly blew on the stacked logs, a bright flame ran on the dry bark. She blew once more, and the fire danced high in the fireplace, greeting her face with a warm halo.
Vohne walked in, and caught the smirk on Claudius’ lips. Turning his way, the old man winked, expressing a mysterious complicity.
It is quite a blessing to be so gifted with fire, wouldn’t you say?
Nodding, Vohne held his hand out to Cibelle to help her up, and annouced that dinner was served. They all walked to the kitchen in silence and sat at the table, where a large casserole of steaming stew awaited them.
Vohne served Claudius, Cibelle, and filled his bowl last. They shared the fresh bread and started eating, the satisfied grunting of the old man pacing the meal. Between two spoonful bites, Claudius suddenly paused.
This meat is fabulous, Miss Cibelle… What is it?
Vohne rushed to answer, pretending it was leftover coyote cuts, from last winter’s hunting. The visitor looked at his plate, turning and returning a piece of the great buck’s meat, and stuffed it in his mouth, offering his young host another mysterious smile.
Coyote, uh? He was still chewing, as he turned to Cibelle Well, you are one amazing cook, my dear!
After the meal, the men stayed at the table, discussing over a couple of shnapps shots. Claudius was stuffing an old pipe and Vohne a bit more relaxed, after a few sips of liquor. He started wondering if he hadn’t perhaps misjudged the odd character sitting before him.
After some small talk, Claudius looked to make sure Cibelle was too far to hear him, and lowered his usually loud voice.
You know the latest rumor… The Elders have announced the One’s final coming.
Vohne protested that the Elders had been announcing it for hundreds of years, episodically. He didn’t care for rumors, and people could say what they wanted…
The old man stroke his beard, took a long puff from his pipe and continued, suddenly on a very serious tone.
I am not here to tell you what you know… But to tell you that they know!
Cibelle walked back in the kitchen, announcing that she had set a temporary bed near the fireplace. Claudius thanked her, extinguished his pipe, and excused himself, leaving the couple alone.
To read the previous episodes of Cibelle & Vohne’s adventures, click here.
Via Fandango’s One Word Challenge: Guest