It had all been too fraught in the clearing to take much in aside from those glowing red eyes. I had noticed the shimmering green colour of her long flowing robes and yet missed that the source of the shimmer was a thousand, iridescent jewel beetle wing cases which had been carefully and painstakingly sewn onto the smooth flaxen fabric. I had noticed too the eerie way that she moved as if the earth had no hold over her, but failed to see that her feet were bare and lightly stained green from the forest floor.
In the clearing, she had seemed so otherworldly and strange, like an alien being at odds with the natural order. But down here in the gentle light of the fire she seemed far more human. Just a woman who preferred a solitary life amongst the trees and animals instead of that found by belonging to a community.
That was, at least, until she looked directly over at me with that odd purple gaze.
“Will you stand staring at me for the whole of the visit, or do you intend to take a seat on the bench here next to your friend?”
My mouth dropped open in shock and she chuckled gleefully.
“You will have to excuse me my fun. It’s been many years since I last had company so I couldn’t resist teasing you both just a little.” She gestured again to the wooden bench and I shuffled over to it and sat down, not really knowing how to respond but content, for now, to settle for not sinking straight through the bench and ending up sprawled on the floor.
There were a million questions buzzing around in my head but I couldn’t for the life of me work out where to begin.
“Hush now child, or you’ll give me a headache” She poured water from a large earthenware pitcher into an old copper kettle and set it to boil next to the cauldron.
“But, I didn’t…that is…I hadn’t.” I stammered looking quickly over at Solen who gave me a subtle head shake which effectively silenced my babbling. The fact that I was now fairly certain that the strange woman could read my thoughts gave me all the incentive I needed to try and make my mind into a blank slate.
I focused on the room instead, taking in the array of dried and fresh herbs which hung from the ceiling and the assortment of different coloured potions which lined a stone desk to the right of where we sat.
“I wonder what those are for?” The thought popped unbidden into my mind, and when her purple gaze once again snapped to mine, I blushed crimson and dropped my own gaze to stare in feigned fascination at the colourful and ornate pattern on the carpet beneath my feet.
A few awkward minutes later and the kettle finally began to hiss as the water inside bubbled away merrily. How on earth did Solen manage to stay so calm and collected all of the time? It verged on infuriating how good he was at masking what he thought and felt.
“Still waters run deep my dear.” My gaze snapped back up to hers and she smiled knowingly at me.