Cracking the door a sliver, Yarulf peered out from his stout wooden hut and raised an eyebrow. He was was used to travellers passing by, but he was curious what kind of imbecile would brave a blizzard to knock on his door.
“Ho there.” The cry came again.
Shaking his head, he opened the door wide and stepped back from the cold wind that bit through his heavy tunic with ease.
“Season’s Greetings to you traveller,” he said as the newcomer entered and tramped the snow from his boots. “I am Yarulf. What brings you to these dangerous mountains in Hematri’s harshest weather?”
The stranger’s scabbard thudded against the wall as he fumbled with his thick fur hood. He tugged it down to reveal a severe face with fair hair, and a beard that matched his rugged look.
“I am on a journey for knowledge and I saw the smoke from your fire.” His deep voice rumbled around the small cabin.
“My knowledge probably isn’t the type you’re looking for, but I can certainly offer you advice,” Yarulf said.
The fur clad man wrinkled his nose. “Why would I ask a crazy hermit for knowledge? You’d just tell me to count the rocks or look for answers ‘within myself’. No, all I need from you is food.”
Yarulf’s eyes narrowed at the presumptions and arrogance displayed by his visitor. It wasn’t worth getting into a fight over though, so he let it go. “I have very little food left as I’m due to get supplies when it’s safer outside, but I suppose I can spare some salted mutton.”
The stranger snorted. “I wanted real food. What kind of hermit hasn’t got stores of food anyway? I thought you were supposed to be wise?”
“I’m wise enough to know that you should be polite to strangers.”
A row of undamaged teeth shone through the visitors beard as he grinned. “That’s the kind of obvious platitude I expected. I don’t think there’s anything I need to learn from someone stupid enough to live out here on his own and too cowardly to face one of Hematri’s blizzards for supplies. I’ll let myself out.”
Yarulf opened his mouth to say something, but the intruder interrupted before he could get a sound out.
“Don’t try and warn me about the dragons either, I know they’ve been extinct for years.” With a barking laugh, he pulled his hood back up and exited the hut, leaving the door ajar.
Closing it again, Yarulf could hear the man muttering to himself that real hermit’s have beards. He sat down by the warm stove and thought about the conversation. After careful consideration, he decided that he hadn’t been unfair and didn’t feel guilty. It was true, you should always be nice to strangers.
A piercing scream came from outside then disappeared into abrupt silence.
Yarulf smiled to himself. You never know when a stranger will be a tracker that can warn you several yeti’s are roaming nearby.
This story was read by myself at the BristolCon Fringe Open Mic night, and was my first public reading. See the full account of that first event in my blog post, here.