Eldis stomped through the forest. Well, it had been a forest when he’d first been here. When he’d died here, Brekkis’ knife in his back.
Now it was a village. A strange village to his way of thinking. Oh, some of the houses grew vegetables but where were the fields of grain and animals to feed these people? They went out in their little magic carts and came back with things, some of them he recognised as food and others that made no sense at all. Sometimes the men went out in the magic carts and came back with fish or rabbits or once, a pig, but not often enough to make sense to Eldis.
Many of the people of this village looked odd to his way of thinking, both different from his people and different to each other. Perhaps there had been another invasion? The forest had been cleared several times before to use as pasture for sheep and cattle. That first time, the forest had grown back after the sons had gone off to fight for the king, he could still understand the language in those days, and none of them had come back. The next farmers had not been his people, but the clever sheep man had been, the one who’d wooed and won the deft-handed third daughter.
He was on his way to see what the fuss was at the far end of the village, up against the fences that separated it from the last of the forest. It was evening and everyone should have been inside, even if they did turn night to day in their large strangely built dwellings. He was feeling tired, all these strange new people who did not even build their own houses, they exhausted him and they were everywhere, all those children, playing their games. Little girls jumping rope to magic chants...
The thought faded as he reached the disturbance. Two adult men were standing on the near circle of black road stuff yelling at each other. Bathed in part light shed from open house doors, wives and children arrayed silently on either side. It was almost like seeing the scene by firelight.
The odd black haired girl in her black trousers, shirt and boots. Perhaps not so odd a girl, he’d helped a few get their hair like that in private places away from prying eyes. He switched his gaze to the other family, to a boy the right age for the girl, with damp knees to his blue trousers and small dead leaves on the toes of his boots.
Fathers yelling at each other and the neighbours looking on. The grandmother of the honey skinned family with the black hair talking to her family’s mother, her expression and body saying clearly, “So they finally got caught. Not our problem to solve, thank goodness.” The mother of another family talking and gesturing in their door to a daughter a little younger than the black clad girl, “Don’t let me ever catch you-”.
The younger sister of the black clad girl was one of the ones he’d heard that afternoon singing one of his people’s magics while she skipped with her friends, the honey skinned girl and the blonde one from the other side of the village. The black clad girl moved her hand so a silver ring caught the light and Eldis realised that he knew that knuckle, from the deft hand of the farmer’s third daughter. Now he looked, she had the eyes, too, of the clever sheepman and her father in his unfamiliar bellowing had more than a little of that farmer’s voice. His opponent had the nose of the king’s man who’d taken away the sons who had never come back and his wife, all anxious and concerned, had the eyebrows of the only person who’d survived to ride away when plague had wiped out one of the later farms.
These were, Eldis suddenly realised, his people come back. After he’d died he’d never been able to return to the village but now a village, full of his people, had come to him.
He propped himself against the front of one of the magic carts next to a man about the age he’d been when he died and wished he could ask the redhead for a taste of the beer he was holding. It would be good to be part of a village again.