I felt weak. The wind chill had long numbed the tips of my fingers and my nose and was only getting worse as the sun fell. I had stopped having distinctly different pains like hunger or the throbbing of my feet; I felt like fatigue personified, dragging myself through a dense forest and slowly dying alongside the Autumn leaves.
One wrong step and my footing slipped from under me. I stumbled and slid down a shallow incline smacking my head against the hard ground along the way. I didn’t get up immediately, instead I simply laid there happy to be off of my feet momentarily.
The rustling of leaves jolted up to stand again. My vision blurred, my mind swimming, and I stumbled against a tree and reached for my knife unable to make out whatever was approaching.
A whistle came, “you’re aaall jacked up, aren’t’cha, ‘Bo?” The voice was implacable. It echoed in my mind. A Sprite had manifested in that place.
I let go of my weapon and eased myself to stand up straight. My vision slowly cleared and I spotted the friendly phantasm guised as a large ferret nibbling on a rat.
“You like rat?” It offered and I politely declined, mostly for lack of being able to create a fire. “Suit yer self. You’ll die if’n you don’t eat, though.”
“There’s ‘sposed to be a village around. How far off?”
The Ferret Sprite “hmmm’d” in thought and pondered over me as if sizing me up, “not too far…” It trailed. “I could show you buuut, I’d get out fast. Normally, I’d tell ‘Bo’s to keep away. Many dishonest men, even among the officers, and they don’t differentiate between a ‘Bo and a tramp. I’d be ready to defend yourself and stay quiet, hopefully go unnoticed. Most people will rat you out, but there is a good widow I know.” The Sprite offered the run down while scurrying up on my shoulder and pointing in a direction. I slowly began.
Nightfall was upon us by the time we arrived, which, as the Sprite told, was for the better. It guided me along the most quiet paths through the smallish mountain village until we came upon a house somewhat isolate from the rest. We approached the rear door and I reached out a hand but the Sprite scurried along my arm and beat me to knocking. The knocks were rhythmic and intentional.
“Oh, I forgot to mention. She’s, er, got a little flare. Some spice. A lot of flare and spice. Just remember what I said: get out fast.” The Sprite tacked on just before the door eased open a crack.
Haloed in warm flickering light, a woman with a mane of dark hair peered out, her bright blue eyes a contrast and drawing. Her initial glare softened at the sight of me and she pulled the door wider then beckoned me silently. I stepped in without question and reveled in warmth I had not felt for hours.
She pushed the door shut, the howling winds cut abruptly and steadying our dancing coverings. “Where is she!” She rose her voice but it was still a hushed whisper.
I stammered, “I…I’m sorry, who?”
“I think she means me.” My Sprite companion poked her head up over my shoulder.
Our hostess roared and launched herself, arms outstretched toward the Sprite but her body colliding with mine. I was easily knocked off of my feat and she straddled me, preoccupied with chasing the Sprite.
She grasped at air, “I told you to tell me before you brought more here!”
The Ferret defied gravity, squirming and dancing to freedom, “this fellow doesn’t really have the luxury of time. Trust me, I’ve been redirecting as many ‘Bo’s as possible.”
When they finally reached an agreement, I was just glad to sit down. The Widow gave me a room in her two story home, demanded I bath, and encourage me to not come out – dinner and amenities would be provided and brought to me. The spices of her cooking were enough to shake off the mountain cold and I felt rejuvenated all the same.
I had overstayed my welcome.
A knock came to my door and I meandered to the sight of the Widow bare before me. My eyes wondered and my mind explored but I denied her and insisted that I would leave in the morn. Dejected she clothed but offered to stay just the same. We slept, back to back, without word. And in the midst of the night we work to hateful shouting.
Daily Prompt: Spicy