The night had long since devoured the sunlit sky, casting shadows along Aeshe’s sandy path as he advanced closer toward his destination. He had traveled many days in search of answers, and wasn’t certain he would find any.
It was around nine o’ clock when he crossed over the border into the tiny village of Tarkest. The village was covered in darkness, the only light visible was that of dimly lit candles through the windows of small straw cottages. The candles didn’t offer any cheerful warmth for Aeshe. The last time he had been here was for the council and it involved recruiting a young pupil. He didn’t like the town then, and from the looks of things his opinion of it wasn’t about to change.
Tarkest was made up primarily of farmers who did their trading with neighboring cities. The villagers looked at outsiders as ones that presented only drama, and they wanted none of that. They usually snubbed visitors; and if riled, had been known to escort a few out. This made Aeshe’s arrival in the dead of night all the better.
Aeshe was an elderly man. Probably in his mid-sixties, but no one knew for sure seeing as he never spoke of his age. He stood just a little over five and a half feet tall with an average build. He was bald headed, except for the white haired pony tail that ran down the back of his neck; that he clearly wasn’t ready to forsake. He was adorned in green robes with a hood that he wasn’t wearing at the present moment, carrying a wooden staff.
Aeshe wasn’t on any council business this journey, seeing as the council had long since disbanded; in the public’s eye anyways. He was there to see his former pupil’s mother. He needed to know anything about him he could, so much depended on it.
Aeshe came into the center of the village. The little straw cottages lined the main street. The one he needed was placed underneath a large oak tree barely standing due to years of ravaging storms and the passage of time. He reluctantly made his way for the dark home when he was taken aback by a man from the nearby woods.
“Where you think you’re going, old man?”
Aeshe stopped in his tracks and studied the stranger. He was middle-aged with a dagger in hand.
“I am here to see an old friend. You may know her, name is Hana Sephiroth.” Aeshe explained.
“Yes, I know her. She hasn’t had visitors here since her murdering son left here years ago. Her daughter is the only one she sees, and that isn’t much.” The man looked suspicious. “Is she expecting you?”
“Not exactly, but she won’t turn me away.”
“Well, why don’t you come back tomorrow when it is day light? She may be in bed at this hour.” The man suggested.
“That’s not possible. It has to be tonight for I must to be moving on.” Aeshe insisted.
The man looked annoyed. “I am the village watchmen and I say it won’t be tonight!”
Aeshe began to mumble under his breath. “Why must it be I that encounters all the fools?”
“What did you say old man?” The man demanded.
Aeshe knew he could not allow anything to obstruct his goals now, especially an over jealous watchmen. He raised his hand and uttered a single word. “Vastel”
The man’s eyes began to flutter, and though he fought as hard as he could he soon collapsed to the ground.
“There you go, young man. This will be the best sleep you’ve had in years.” Aeshe stated with a grin.
After Aeshe had dragged the man’s body off the road and back into the woods he made his way for Hana’s cottage.
The cottage was back off the main road. If Aeshe hadn’t known where it was he may have missed it under the cover of darkness. The yard had a number of flower beds, or what would be called “weed” beds, now. It didn’t look like there had been any upkeep on the yard in quite awhile.
Aeshe made his way to the front door and gave a light tap. He waited a few moments and tapped again. A familiar, yet suspicious sounding female voice came from the other side.
“Who’s out there? Don’t you know what time of night it is?
“It is I, Aeshe, I have traveled a long ways to speak with you.”
The door slowly opened and Aeshe was amazed at what stood before him. The image before him wasn’t the Hana he had left so many years ago. A frail, grey haired woman had now robbed that woman of her youth. She was bent over and even when straight, barely stood five feet tall. Aeshe knew she was only in her mid-fifties, but she appeared to be in her eighties.
“Hello, Hana, it has been a long time.” Aeshe greeted.
“Not long enough if you ask me. What do you want?”
“Well, can I come in and speak with you. I’d like to get in out of the chill of the night.” He persuaded her.
Hana didn’t look very exuberant over her guest, but she moved to the side to let him in.
“Just make it quick, I was just about to head to bed.”
“How have you been?” Aeshe asked.
Hana looked at him with disgust. “What kind of question is that? How you think I been, soothsayer? Since you came around here things have never been the same.”
Aeshe looked at her with pity in his eyes. “You know deep down, Hana, that wasn’t my fault. Things were bad here before I arrived.”
“That may be, but you didn’t make things better. State your business and be on your way, before something else dies around here.”
Aeshe didn’t respond, knowing it was useless to argue with her. Her body may have changed, but her mind clearly hadn’t.
Aeshe sit down at the dining table and folded his arms before him. He was about to start when Hana interrupted him.
“I apologize for my behavior, just because we don’t see eye to eye doesn’t mean I have to be rude.” Hana walked over to a kettle sitting on a stove. “Would you like a cup of hot tea? I just brewed it; I always have a cup before bed.”
Aeshe smiled, “Why, I most certainly will. I appreciate the hospitality.”
Hana turned to put the kettle back on the stove. “Don’t get all smileys just yet; I’m just trying to do the neighborly thing.”
Aeshe had always secretly admired how Hana could stand her ground. Her stubbornness could be as tough as dragon scales at times.
Aeshe took the cup and gently took a sip. He wasn’t sure what herbs she used; he just knew they hit his mouth with just the right splash of flavor.
“Hana, you still make a very delectable cup of tea.”
“I’ve gotten older,” Hana responded, “that doesn’t mean my mind has diminished.”
Aeshe sit his cup on the table. “I never thought it had.” Aeshe said with an agreeable smile. “Clearly you are very astute.”
Hana set down beside the old man and looked into his face. “Why don’t you quit rattling the bush and come out and say what you want?”
“Very well,” Aeshe stated through a smirk. “I hate to bring this up but I have to ask. Have you heard from your son?”
Anger spread across the face of Hana. “No, I have not!” She pointed her finger in Aeshe’s face. “You and your council made him!”
Aeshe felt pity for Hana, he couldn’t imagine how she felt. “We both know that isn’t true. Aeon was not a stable individual to begin with. The council was deceived in to thinking he was the one, we were wrong.”
Tears of pain filled Hana’s eyes. “Where did I go wrong?” She got up and walked ever so slowly to a nearby window and gazed into the darkness. “There is something wrong when a mother wishes their child had never been born.”
As she looked out the window she felt a consoling arm wrap around her neck. “It isn’t normal for a mother to feel that way, I’m sure, but in your case I’m not sure how a mother should feel.”
She placed her hand on Aeshes’ and turned to face him. “I’m sorry, old friend. We all made mistakes with him along the way. His father, rest his soul, was no help for sure.”
They spoke of times past right up until the break of dawn. Aeshe knew he shouldn’t have stayed as long as he did, but Hana needed someone to talk to.
The rays of the sun started projecting through the same window that Hana was standing at hours previously. “It is getting time for me to go, Hana.” Aeshe remarked.
“I appreciate you staying and talking. I know you wanted to leave before now.”
“Well, I am sure I will see you, soon. I’ll check in on you my next time through here.”
Hana smiled, “Don’t patronize me, old man. I know this will probably be the last time our paths will cross.”
Aeshe gave her a hug and turned to walk out the door when she stopped him.
“I know what you have in mind and I warn you, it is a lost cause. That boy I knew so long ago now has a reprobate mind.”
“No one is completely lost” Aeshe refuted.
“You didn’t look into his eyes after he had killed my husband. He looked at me without an ounce of regret, and then sneered at me so wicked. He is beyond saving for he has no soul left to save.”
Aeshe started to comment but stopped. Bidding her farewell he walked out the door and back onto the sandy path. Her last words repeated in his mind; leaving a chill running down his spine.
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