Wearing a blouse of linen dyed blue, paired with black ox-hide trousers and riding boots, the stranger sat astride a tall stallion the color of an autumn sunset. His hair, a shade of pre-midnight, hung straight past his shoulders, framing sharp, pale features and eyes that mirrored the sky. Coming to a halt, his hands came to rest upon the stallion’s back. Slumped slightly forward, the boy could see either the over-long hilt of a sword, or possibly the stump of a demon’s wing protruding over his shoulder. Whichever one it might be, thinking the Angel of Death was upon him William wondered why the devil was smiling.
“Do you have a name boy?”
As if searching for a memory distant, the boy hesitated a moment before pronouncing, “My name’s Will.”
“That’s a fine name for a brave lad. You are alone and very far from your village?”
“I can look after myself.”
Appreciating the boy’s defiant tone, the rider thought that at one time he would’ve answered very much the same.
“Who do you safeguard?” The rider voiced the question with a tone that would not brook evasion.
“Only the witch.”
“What witch is that?”
“The Singing Witch.”
Clamping a hand to his mouth, as if trying to trap a secret already set free, a chagrined look crossed Will’s face. Rowan could tell he was ready to run.
“My name is Rowan. I’m not after your witch, but your snare on the hillside has entangled a dancing hare. If you don’t mind some company, I’ll build a fire while you fetch it?”
“You’re not here to take me?”
“No Will, I’m not here for that.”