A Forest Cat, Chapter two: The Summoning, part 3
“Good evening traveller!” Fandey looked round to see who had hailed him. At the side of the road stood a man, dressed in ordinary brown garb, holding his hand up in friendly greeting. “Good evening to you too, stranger.” He replied good-naturedly, looking at the handsome fellow with interest and added. “You’re on your way to The Snipped Duck?” The stranger flashed an amused smile at the mention of the establishment. “If that’s the name of the inn that lies yonder, then aye, I am making my way there.” The man walked casually up to Fandey, a light spring in his step as he remarked. “Perhaps you’ll care for some company on the road; the dusk is already setting in. Two stand stronger than one.” Fandey nodded his head in agreement. Times when one could walk in safety in the dead of night were here no longer and he felt grateful for this chance meeting. He held out his hand and said. “I’m Fandey, Iano’s son, a well-known horsetrader from Hanlow.” The stranger took it cordially and answered. “Call me Danash. I’m a stranger in these parts. Gave up the steady but boring life as a farmer to see a bit of the world.” Fandey’s interest was awakened; he loved to hear stories about the wider world around him, although he was well satisfied to remain an interested listener instead of a participant.
Danash proved entertaining company, happily supplying him with wild tales of uncertain truth. Suddenly Danash stopped and stared into the darkening shadows of the roadside trees. “There Fandey! There’s something there in the undergrowth! You see it?” Fandey squinted his eyes in an effort to see but could discern nothing in the fading light. Obligingly he followed Danash as he walked towards whatever had caught his attention. They moved from the road and took a few steps into the shadows, Danash leading the way. Finally he stopped and turned to face Fandey, who stood just behind him, still peering into the shadows.
“You should have stayed at home, mortal horseboy.” Danash uttered quietly and placed his hands around Fandey’s neck. Shock and fear filled Fandey’s eyes as he regarded the man he had thought such good company only a moment ago. With his hands trying to dislodge the man’s arms in vain, he stared in horror at the fiery flames that danced behind Danash’s eyes, until darkness covered his thoughts like a blanket.