THE STRANGER ONE © copyright 1994

Light breaks over the rim of one of the mountains that surrounds the valley of Eavona. A hamlet that sits on the high side of the roaring stream D’Fesmor. As the cold mountain fed waters rush past the village, a young brown-haired woman carries a bundle of clothes to the washing stone. A large flat rock set against another large rock so that it lies diagonally within a calm spot of the torrent. She lays the bundle on the rocky shore. Gathering her skirt together in a bulky knot above her knees she reveals her pale, soft legs. She then walks out into the chilling stream, which first sends a coolness through her body, but soon she adjusts to the swift waters. Carefully she walks upon the slippery, smooth rocks in her bare feet, as she playfully saunters around in the creek.
Suddenly she feels she is not alone. Quickly her head snaps up to look towards the clay huts of the village, but all she sees is the early stirring of a few people within the small hamlet. The young female notes that none of them are looking in her direction. Hurriedly she shifts her dark brown eyes towards the opposite bank. There, leaning against one of the many trees that spread over the gently sloping shore is a man.
His build is large and his hair is black. She notices his slightly lighter brown eyes looking into her own, and she quickly realizes he is no threat to her. She looks at his unshaven face, and notes a small scar on his left cheek. This reminds her of her own scar. So she abruptly covers the right side of her face, in an attempt to hide it, but as she looks at the stranger she quickly realizes that the opposite has happened. She thinks this, because she notices a slight turn in his head to give him a clearer look at that side of her face.
She then notes the long sword strapped to his right side, and the spherical metal plate that covers the hilt. She sees the silver cross on a thin leather cord around his neck, as it rests against his white shirt. This causes her to think of the contrast within this image. He reaches down and picks up his pack that lay on the ground beside the tree he was leaning against. He throws it over his shoulder and then walks into the water, acting totally oblivious to its chill. Surprised by this she looks at his dark pants, and then sees his boots that go to just below his knees. Understanding his reaction, she then looks at him once again.
Slowly he walks over to her, and she thinks that he is studying her every feature, as she studies him even more. She notices the gray within his unshaven facial hair, and his mustache. She knows instinctively though that he is not over thirty five years of age. What intrigues her the most is that his eyebrows have grown together to form a solid curving black line over his eyes giving him a type of mystique.
“You’re shivering.” he states as he stops just over two feet from her, but she does not reply.
“You’re going to catch your death if you stay in this water much longer.” The man states. He then realizes that she is just going to continue to stand and look at him. So he walks up to her and picks her petite form up out of the water. The man then gently carries her accepting form back to the shore. He stops beside her bundle and then slowly allows her to stand once again.
“Is this Eavona?” he asks.
“Yes, it is. Who are you?”, she asks, as she looks up at him again, as he stands over her.
“I was sent here to prepare these people.”, he states in a monotone answer.
“Prepare us for what?”
“The troubles that are coming.”, he answers as she looks at him in puzzlement.
“May I ask you your name?”, he politely asks.
“I am Mareena.”, she replies.
“Well, Mareena, could you take me to Vona? He is the one who sent for me.”, he says with a smile. A smile which Mareena finds vary appealing. So she picks up her bundle and gestures for him to follow.
Within a few minutes he finds himself near the center of the village. Mareena stops in front of one of the largest huts and then knocks on the door. A few moments pass and the door opens.
Standing in the door way is a slightly shorter stout man. His round face reflecting the roundness of his belly. Behind him is another man. Thin and well built, but not much taller than the one before him.
Vona… Koavon.” Mareena says, and the stranger notes the difference in how she greeted the founder of the village and it’s doctor. He also sees the anger written in the blue eyes of the one called Koavon.
“Morning, Mareena.” comes the joyful tone of Vona’s voice as he takes an additional step out of his home seeing that she is not alone.
“Who is this with you?”, he asks as the black-haired man sees Koavon turn and walk from sight.
“A stranger. He says you sent for him.”, she explains and then looks at the shock written on the older man’s face.
“You sent a letter to Pope Gregory XV.” the taller man says causing Vona to quickly look behind him as the traveler thinks he sees fear in his face.
“Oh yes, do come in. I’m afraid you came all this way for nothing.”
As the sun’s last light disappears behind the high hills, on the west side of the green valley, the man that had only arrived there this morning looks down upon the small hamlet. Setting upon a hill that sets beside it, he watches the few dozen columns of spiraling white smoke, knowing that the evening meal is being cooked on the hearths below. He looks up into the darkening sky, and begins to think back to the beginning of his journey. “Dunavan.” comes a voice from the past into his head as he remembers images of working on the roof of his father’s inn.
“Dunavan Hodgenson!” comes the voice of the village priest of Shulon, Scotland.
“Yes Father O’Bannan what is it?”, he shouts down to the Irish born cleric.
“I have received a letter from His Eminence the Pope himself. He has asked me to find a man of God, but who also has knowledge of warfare.”
“Then why have you come here? There is no one here that fits that description.”
“Ah, but there is.” The priest says as he looks up at the large man. “You are the best swordsman in all of the lands and clans around Shulon.”
“But I have never even fought in a battle, or even against another man in anger.”
“And praise be to God that you have not, lad. For I feel there is more need of a man of God here than of the warrior. You are one of the most truly Christian souls around, and I know you are the one that must go.”
“What of Jarmin, or Aldan?”
“It is true that Jarmin is an excellent warrior, but that is all he knows. The art of killing is not what the Pope wants. As for Aldan ….. well let’s just say he’s not up to being an example of God right at this time.”
“And you know that they are better swordsmen than I am.” Dunavan states to the priest, who surges acknowledging the man’s statement, as the black haired fellow begins to descend the ladder.
Once down the slightly taller man looks at the red-haired cleric, who looks up at him with deep friendship.
“All right, where is it?”
“It’s a village called Eavona; one which a group of Christian Cossacks formed some years ago. They have not been bothered much by the war over there, and so they have forgotten much.”
“Cossacks. What are Cossacks?” Dunavan asks puzzled by the word.
“They are a people that fled the tyrannies of the Polish Empire.”
“Poland!?” Dunavan remembers shouting, and so here he is, a Highlander among Cossacks, but both with one goal in mind surviving. For he had seen much as he walked for the last three months to get here from the Germanic provinces. He had watched the Polish army slaughter a village of Cossacks, and watched these magnificent horsemen push troops three times their number back to where they started.
But here in Eavona, it was not as Father O’Bannan had said it would be. He had said that they were away from the war, but it had begun to threaten their peaceful valley, which Vona explained it did when he wrote the letter. Now though it did not, even though it still raged on further to the north and west of here. He, also, did not mention that it took over ten months for the letter to go first to Rome and then to him. Then it took five months for him to travel to this valley through hostile lands.
“Dunavan?” comes his name awkwardly said, by the voice of a woman. He turns his head slightly, to look once again at the girl he had first met this morning by the stream.
“Evening Mareena. How are you?”, he says as he once again notices her small slender form.
“She is a very bonnie lass.”, he thinks to himself. Afraid to tell her that he is attracted to her. Mainly due to the fact that he had just met her.
“I am fine. I heard that you came here because of the war.”
“Yes, only I didn’t know that the war had been pushed north form here a month after the letter to the Pope was sent to my home.” He looks down at the grass next to where he sets, and begins to pull at it.
“That was over a year ago, and here I am in a strange, but might I say a beautiful land. Not only in its lands, but its people.”, he says as he looks up at Mareena, who comes to a stop only a few feet from him. She notices that he is looking once again into her eyes.
Quickly she sits, trying to break his gaze from her eyes, as she realizes that it is her that he is talking about. It works as he once again resumes pulling at the grass beside him.
“What are you going to do now?” she asks, hoping that he will say what she wants to hear.
“I don’t know.” he replies, which brings a sadness to Mareena’s brown eyes. It does not go unnoticed by him, even in the ever darkening light.
Suddenly a harrowing scream fills the valley, which causes the Highlander to leap up drawing his sword from it sheath. Quickly the small Cossack female moves behind him for protection.
“What is happening?” he demands from her, as all his senses begin to sharpen to his surrounding.
“Come, we must get to the village quickly! It is the demon!”
“Demon?! What demon?!”
“It has been hunting us for over a year now. That is what caused this scare on my face.” she explains, “You see one night my friend and I were out in the village, and it came. It struck out with its claws. It cut me and killed her, then dragged her into the woods. We have not seen or heard of it in months. So I thought it was gone.” she explains.
He turns to her, and sees the horror in her brown eyes. He moves his sword into his right hand, and then reaches up to touch her right cheek with his left hand in an attempt to comfort her. He gently caresses the scar, and then covers most of that side of her face with his large hand.
“Do not fear. I’ll take care of you, Mareena. Come!” he says as he takes her small hand into his hand, and quickly moves down into the village.
“Follow me. My home is closer than Vona’s.” Mareena says as he feels her jerk him in a new direction. Dunavan notices the extreme fear in her voice. So quickly he looks about him as they move through some of the buildings, as he follows her a full moon comes into view over the mountain ridge. He looks up as he becomes aware of the lunar glow, as he does he hears the sound of something moving through a group of bushes, at the edge of a cluster of trees a short distance from them.
“Stop.” he whispers, as he moves his hand form her’s to the woman’s shoulder and he feels the tension within her. “I hear something.”
“Oh no! We must hurry.” she says trying to pull from his grasp.
Dunavan does not move. He knows that to do so would mean certain death to them both. Mareena looks back at him with apprehension and so removes his hand.
Quickly he returns his sword to his left hand, and points it straight up. He looks up as fear also fills his mind at the appearance of the massive form descending from out of the leaves of the tree above them. At first he thinks it to be a wolf, but as he looks at the clawed hands he knows it is more than that.
Before he can say a word, the wolffian creature is impaled upon his blade as the impact knocks the Scotsman to the ground. Abruptly he finds himself upright again, but his feet barely touch the ground as the towering demon stands, showing no visible effect of the blade within its chest.
He sees one of the creature’s hands rise to strike, and quickly he swings himself up on the blade. He places his feet upon the chest of the beast and pushes away.
As the blade breaks free from the creature, Dunavan flies back through the air a few feet and then rolls to his feet, as the animal releases a howling scream.
“Demon!” he shouts, as he seeing the thing turn towards the petrified form of Mareena.
“Werewolf, child of Satan hear me.” he shouts again. Its snout suddenly turns from the woman to face him once again. Slowly it starts to stalk towards him, as a memory of one of Father O’Bannan’s sermons comes to mind.
`The only way to defeat those that serve Satan is our Savior Jesus Christ.’
At that moment the creature leaps, but it is too late, for as he does:
“In the name of Jesus I command you to return to your human form!”, the Highlander shouts.
Suddenly the creature curls into a ball, and falls at Dunavan’s feet as it screeches in agony. In shock and horror the man and the woman look on as the creature reverts to its human form. A form that is familiar to both of them. Blood begins to pour from the mouth of the man.
“Koavon?”, Dunavan questions as he bends down to look at the man at his feet.
“You….. you pathetic garbage of God.” comes the weak, but angry words of the physician of the village of Eavona. “I…… can’t….. be killed…… My…… lord……. Satan………… will heal me in momen… No, No the flames! Please stop the pain! AHHHHH!!!” Koavon screams as the life leaves his blue eyes.
The Highlander looks up at Mareena as tears start to pour down her cheek. He stands, and tries to wipe them away, but before he can she moves against him, hugging him deeply. Slowly he moves his hands to return the hug. Then as he caresses her, he places his now clean shaven chin upon her head, as the sound of voices starts to come to his ears. Within moments they are surrounded by awe-filled villagers, as all look upon their former physician.

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