Kuruk's mood was rather glum for the rest of the evening. He had decided to skip lunch, dedicating the rest of his day to work on his growing spell. He also just needed time to think.
Walking up the slope of the valley, he wondered about all the ways he could tell his dad that he didn't want to learn magic anymore. Well, no... he just wanted a break... and time to process everything he had just learned.
Trudging along the top rim of the hill now, Kuruk spotted a silhouette in the distance. Not being able to identify what it was, he proceeded along the hilltop.
Only about a quarter mile away now, Kuruk saw the shape more clearly and stopped dead in his tracks. It outlined the figure of a person, squatting down on a low rock and looking out over the valley. A wide straw hat sat on top of its head, which made no sense to Kuruk because the sun was completely covered by the overcast today.
A person. A real, live person. Kuruk had never seen one outside of his family before. What was it like? Would it be aggressive towards Kuruk? And then there was the question if it would even speak in the same language as him. Possibly... if it came from the town Hotah that father claimed to be from.
Kuruk hesitated. Was he really doing this? This might be a once in a lifetime experience... on the other hand, this might be an 'end of his life' experience.
As he neared the human, he noticed a sword propped up against a towering oak tree. If this confrontation turned out to be a mistake, Kuruk could use the sword to defend himself, although he had no experience with sword play and had only seen pictures of them in books.
He took his eyes back to the figure on the rock and-
Kuruk's heart jumped.
The figure was gone.
His breathing became heavier and his heartbeat pounded through his ears as his head filled with panic.
Where is it? It was here just a minute ago!
"Hello little boy." Called a male voice over the sound of the wind.
Kuruk spun a 360, tripping over himself in the process and ran to grab the sword at the base of the tree. It was a lot heavier than he expected and it was the most he could do to lift the blade above his knees. "Wh-who's there? And who are you?"
"Well to answer your question, I'M there and I am called, Mitra."
The voice came from somewhere above Kuruk, in the tree. Kuruk finally spotted a figure in the branches, but was confused by the fact that the human looked no lighter up close than it had from a distance.
Trying to summon up some fake courage, Kuruk stuttered out, "C-come down here... Mit-Mitra."
The dark form leapt from the branch and landed on the ground with grace, and stood up. "Although... you could call me 'friend' if that is easier for you. 'Friend' is what 'Mitra' means where I come from.
Backing up, Kuruk almost dropped the sword. "Where do you come from?"
Mitra chuckled. "You would not know of such a place. But I'll have my sword back now, thank you very much." And with a literal snap of his fingers, the sword that laid in Kuruk's hands a moment before had disappeared and reappeared in Mitra's hand. He ran his hand down the smooth metal. "A lovely blade, isn't she?"
Kuruk just stared at him, forgetting how to talk.
"You look as if you've never seen a dark man before, boy." Mitra stuck the blade into a sheathe strapped to his side. He had a draped, sleeveless black robe reaching down to his ankles, where his feet rested inside of black leather sandals. An odd outfit, considering the weather at this point in time, and the straw hat didn't exactly match the ninja look he had going on.
"I've um, never actually seen a man before..."
The man raised an eyebrow.
"Besides my dad, that is." Kuruk added quickly.
Mitra was amused now. "Yes yes, and I'm an eagle and you're a pig, yes? And this sword isn't a sword at all! It's a snake!"
Kuruk hesitated, confused by the odd comments.
Mitra's smile faded. "You're not kidding?" Realization dawned on his face, "No you can't be- Wait, child." He crouched down to Kuruk's eye-level. "Do you live there, in the valley?" He pointed to the barn house, now covered in the shadow from the sinking sun.
"Yes, that is my home," Kuruk muttered quietly, feeling a little thrown off from the odd question.
"Then how come you are up here? If the rumors are true, your family should be stuck inside the valley, forever."
Kuruk used to ponder this question himself, why could he and Arsha leave the base of the valley when Mother and Father could not? Father told him that Lonan had only seen it fit for himself and Tula to be banished from the rest of the world because they were both responsible for the crime. "Why punish the child when it was really the wrong of the parents?" Lonan had stated. "There is already enough of that in the world."
"Mother and Father are the only ones banished to the valley, I am free to go where I wish."
"So you've been outside of the valley before, then?"
Kuruk looked at the ground, embarrassed. "No, not exactly... this is the farthest I've ever gone."
Mitra fingered a leather strap on his wrist. A marriage band? Mother and Father both shared a matching set, but their's were not plain like this man's was. When he noticed Kuruk eyeing it, he hid his hand from sight. "Tell me... what does your father know of magic? Does he practice it?"
"Oh yes, my father uses wizardry, and sorcery from time to time."
The man looked aghast. "He practices both?? I have never heard of such a thing in all my life! And what, I suppose that he teaches YOU this blaspheme as well??" he cried, waving his hands about in an incredulous manner.
Kuruk got excited now, "Of course! I've just been practicing my growing spell that Father taught me! He wants me to have it mastered by the end of the week. Would you like me to show you?"
Mitra looked disgusted, "No I do not have the ti-" and then his face lit up with what seemed to be an idea. He straightened up, smiling cunningly. "Yes child, show me your 'growing spell', and perhaps if you impress me enough, I can show a way to... improve it so even your father will be impressed."