He had seen many things in his life, and profess that there was nothing in the great big world that could surprise him, let alone shock him or seem ludicrous. He'd lived a very, very long time after all and with time came experience, wisdom, patience. He was respected for his vast knowledge and unflappable calm.
But in all his days he had never come across such a creature before.
Green eyes that seemed to radiate a soft glow in the shade of the tree he was passing under stared down at him above a wave of reddish-blond hair from the high branches as he stared back with wide eyes.
She barely looked old enough to be considered mature, he certainly wouldn't have considered her an adult; small and waif-ish, she was delicate in appearance with clear slanted features that reminded him of the fairer folk's looks taken an extra, more exotic, stretch, and though her bare arms revealed corded muscle he'd never seen on a woman before they were still feminine, just like the rest of her subtle but there curves. She wore a sleeveless deep blue tunic under a black leather waist corset, and black pants tucked into knee high dark gray boots, a sword tightly strapped across her back. Young, very young. And odd.
He'd never seen anyone stand on the underside of a branch before.
The young woman's eyes narrowed as his staring started to stretch a little long as his cart stopped when he'd pulled the reigns in surprise. Her hands were pulled into fists and propped on her hips and he had the distinct impression that it was supposed to be intimidating. She cleared her throat and he jumped a little at how close it sounded to a growl, and snapping out of his, admittedly rude, staring fit.
'Ah, my apologies, hm,' he coughed a little in embarrassment, 'I didn't mean to be so rude.'
One of her brows went up (down?) in obvious skepticism, but she shrugged it off as she looked down on him. A traveling pack dangled from a broken tree limb to her right that she reached over and pulled to her.
'It's nothing' she said, suddenly dropping from the branch, flipping around neatly to land on her feet next to the cart. The horse startled at her landing and he had to calm the beast before really looking at her.
'Whoa boy, whoa' he crooned, giving the reigns a light pull, 'that's better' he said, looking back to the young woman. He blinked.
She wasn't blond. At all.
'My word' he said, stunned.
Pale pink hair fell in her face and the rest disappearing over her shoulder, loosely braided to the end of her shoulder blades where it was tied off and leaving the rest of its length free to wave in the light breeze and shining in the light. In the sunshine he could see all of her in sharp detail, and she was definitely rosette haired and bright green eyed. Her skin had a faint tan, giving her a healthy flush and he wondered if she was truly human.
'I have never seen such a lovely shade in all my life' he said to her, making sure to drag his eyes to her face, tweaking his expression to show friendliness, 'is it a dye?'
'Natural' she said without inflection and wearing a look that said she had long gotten used to the question. She nodded to his cart, taking note of the fireworks, 'going somewhere special?'
'Visiting an old friend.' He tipped his head to the side as if thinking of something, then gestured with his head to the seat next to him, 'What about you? It's odd to see a young woman, or man for that matter, in these parts.'
'I am a healer and I was passing through to learn about the medicinal qualities of the plants in this area. I hear there is a village down this road and wanted to stop for a rest.' she answered, looking young and honest, her posture relaxed and confidant with her eyes warm and friendly.
'Then we are heading the same way then, fortuitous timing' he said gaily, 'perhaps you would like to ride with me, it's not too far now and I could use the company.
She hesitated, looking unsure.
'I don't know, I wouldn't want to impose.'
'Nonsense my dear' he reassured her, 'it would be a pleasure.'
She dithered a moment longer before consenting to offer, going around his cart and climbed up on the seat next to him. He asked for her name.
'...Sakura' she said, 'And you?'
'I am Gandalf the Gray.'
She looked at his hat curiously.
'I heard stories about you.'
'Have you now? I'm sure they were most likely very colorful stories.'
'They were interesting.' she supplied, strap of her travel bag slung over one of her shoulders, a glimmer coming to her eyes, 'you're supposed to be powerful and wise.'
'Flattering accounts' he chortled, and he was pleased when his horse pulled impatiently at the reigns to give him a reason to press, 'and I would like to hear what is being said, I can tell you what is real and what is colorful embellishment along the way.'
He felt more than saw a change in the air. Her face was still relaxed, but her eyes had cooled slightly as she studied him, making him realize she wasn't as naive as he thought, there was something more alert about her. He waited out her scrutiny as the leaves rustled overhead. The heat of the sun beating down around them.
She smiled, hesitant, suddenly a young girl in more than appearance as she nodded her head.
That is the first chapter of Vala of Changing Light. I'm working on a few stories, one of which is a crossover with Supernatural -which I'm enjoying, there really is not enough fandom for it- and I'm thinking about posting that too. Anyway, review, alert, whatever just enjoy. :)