The summer had been long and without a drop of rain. The people in the village had struggled to keep the crops on the field alive, but the harvest was meager. There was enough food to last until next year if they made sure to make use of it all, but it would be hard to survive if more bad seasons followed. Even the spring had been difficult before, and now followed an autumn with more rain than many could remember.
Roads and paths around the village had turned to mud, grass and moss were dying. The trees had already turned to winter sleep; they didn’t drink any of the water that now stood in deep puddles. The watercourses had gone over their beds, ruined beaver dams and turned brown with mud. The swans at the lake had left early and the forest had gone quiet.
Rina found it unpleasant. Here she used to hear the sound of stock dove, woodpecker and many other birds. It wasn’t unusual with hares and roe deer, as well as occasional foxes. Instead it was drops of rain that fell, and flowed in small streams to form new ponds. Because the rain had seldom stopped the last months, the ground had not absorbed it.
Rina didn’t want to admit it to anyone else, but this year’s odd weather worried her a whole lot. Not for tomorrow, but for the seasons to come. Not for herself, but for forest and land which she lived off. They could pack their things and move, but Rina had lived her whole life in the village, and to move wasn’t tempting to her. What should they do if the rest of the country looked the same?
Her steps took her further and further away though the forest than she ever had walked alone before. She weren’t afraid of either wolf or bear, for she was better at climbing trees than any of them. She doubted she would meet any beast of prey as the forest was empty. No, what frightened her more was the thought that she would not be able to find what she were looking for.
Rina had seen him at the outskirts of the village one summer morning. A man with hair in different shades of brown, black and grey, dressed only in pants and a brown cloak. He had been standing on the other side of a field with a walking stick in his hand, looking at some playing children. Rina knew the names of everyone who lived in the village and around it, but she had never seen this man before. He had strange lines painted on his face, something Rina had never seen before.
Their eyes had met and he had nodded deeply as a polite greeting, and Rina had done the same. Afterwards they had both watched the playing children. Elvish children were rare and considered a blessing, so having three children in the village who could play together was the greatest treasure of the village. Everyone saw it as their responsibility to look after these children, and that a stranger stood and looked at them, like this man, wasn’t odd. As long as he only looked, Rina would accept it.