Victor has always been a simple man with simple wants and simple desires who only ever wished to lead a simple life. He used to have it as well, back when he still lived in the village.
Unfortunately, few things concerning the hearts of men are ever allowed to be simple, and soon after he reached his adolescence he found himself on the sharp end of a sword pointed at his neck. Death or exile were his only options, so he moved to a small cottage on the edge of the Great Forest and settled on the solitary life of a hunter.
Now his days are as simple as he wants them to be—most of his time is spent on either hunting game for food or working in his garden, avoiding the villages nearby as much as he can. It is a very lonely way to be, particularly for one who so enjoys the company and attention of others, but he finds comfort in the simplicity of it.
As is the case with everything in life, however, this too does not last.
One day, when Victor stops to rest during one of his hunts in the forest, his eye catches the peculiar sight of a single flower growing beside the river. It’s not that he’s never seen flowers by the riverbank before, but something about this lone flower, hanging over the edge as if a mere breeze could blow it into the rapid currents below, arrests him.
He steps out from under the shade of the trees and towards the daffodil bathed in sunshine, gleaming brighter than the glimmering water below it.
For a moment, he is tempted to pick it, but discards the thought a moment later. It’d be a shame to ruin something so beautiful out of thoughtless impulse. Instead, Victor moves closer, combing a long lock of hair behind his ear, and is about to settle down beside the flower on the edge of the bank when the snap of a twig behind him makes him halt mid-movement.
“Hello,” he hears, and years of caution have him nocking an arrow even before he’s fully spun around, the pointy tip aimed at the throat of a stranger standing a few mere feet behind him, in the shadows of the trees Victor left seconds before.
How is it that he didn’t hear anyone approach him earlier? Victor considers the man carefully—he looks unassuming, wearing a long cloak with a slip of plain tunic and trousers peeking out from under it. No weapons; not out in the open, at least. A dagger or two would be easy to hide underneath that cloak.
“Hello,” Victor returns with a friendly smile, the tension in his arms the only thing betraying his wariness. “Out on a walk?”
The stranger smiles back slightly, seeming entirely unperturbed by the fact that he has an arrow pointed at his jugular. His eyes—appearing pitch black in the shade—shift from Victor to the daffodil beside him.
“I was looking for you.” Victor tilts his head slightly, but before he can reply, the stranger glances back at him and shakes his head. “I’m not from the village.”
He finds that rather hard to believe. “Then why else would you look for me? And who are you?”
The stranger pauses, considering the question for a while as Victor waits, and then he says, “You were lonely.”
It’s not much of an answer to either of his questions, particularly the latter one, leaving Victor only more and more confused. The way the stranger looks at him is starting to make him uneasy, as if he were staring right through Victor’s eyes and into his head. He feels far too exposed and vulnerable, never mind the fact that he's the one with the weapon.
Victor breathes out a long-suffering sigh, having half a mind to just turn on his heel and leave. All he wanted was to enjoy his morning hunt, not get tangled up in the cryptic nonsense of a possible madman. Still, it's an interesting change of pace from the routine he constructed for himself. A break from the lull of daily life.
“Let’s try this again,” he decides brightly. “Why were you looking for me?”
The stranger pauses for a moment, eyes flitting here and there, and suddenly he looks very young. “A girl asked me to see you.”
Victor tenses. “Sara?” He hasn’t seen her for nearly a year, the last letter he received dating three months back. Tentatively, he lowers his bow. “What for?”
“She thinks that you might…” The stranger pauses, seeming to search for his words, head ducking slightly and gaze aimed to the ground. Victor can’t quite tell because of the shade, but it almost looks as if he’s blushing.
“That I might…?” Victor presses, curiosity piqued.
“She thinks you need me.”
Victor blinks and the stranger starts fidgeting, shuffling about on his feet, adjusting the strap of his belt in the long stretch of silence that follows. It's rather endearing to see, especially since he appeared to be so composed before.
It doesn’t really clarify much, though.
“Alright, I’ll bite,” Victor humors, sliding his arrow back into its quiver, though he keeps a hand close to the knife strapped to his belt. “What would I need you for? What is it that you do?”
The stranger is quiet for a moment, the unease seeping out of his posture and replaced by a more thoughtful expression. “Mostly, I bring people together. Sometimes, I tear them apart.”
Victor frowns. “I don’t understand.”
“I know,” the stranger says and smiles indulgently, before his expression turns a twinge sad again, the corners of his mouth twisting slightly.
The gaze on him is making Victor feel uncomfortable again, but at least it seems this man truly isn’t a hired killer sent by Sara’s brother. That doesn’t get him any closer to the truth, however, and the stranger’s bewilderingly vague responses don’t help him along much either.
Victor takes a moment to look at him a second time. He only paid attention to the clothes and possible weapons the stranger could be carrying before, disregarding anything else about his appearance. Well, aside from perhaps his eyes, of which he still can’t tell what the color is due to the shade of the trees enveloping him. His hair seems just as dark, cut short and combed back.
There’s something odd in the shadows around him, Victor notices then. They look like they might start moving if he stares long enough, almost seeming to be curled around the stranger like a dark, thin sheet.
Or it could just be his mind playing tricks on him due to a lack of sleep.
That seems more likely.
“Maybe we should start from the beginning,” Victor mutters, mostly to himself as he tears his gaze away from the shadows and back up to the stranger’s face. “What's your name?”
“There’s…” The stranger falls silent for a few seconds, chewing on his lower lip. “I have many.”
“Do you travel a lot?”
The stranger furrows his brows slightly. “Not exactly.”
“Do you want me to try guessing?” Victor suggests, and while most other people would have grown exasperated with the evasive answers, being that he hasn’t spoken to another person in so long Victor can only find amusement in the situation. “An assassin? A spy, perhaps? A writer with an excessive fondness for pen names?”
The stranger shakes his head again.
“What are you, then?”
He looks conflicted at the question, face turning away from Victor who waits patiently for a reply. Whatever it is that he does, it can’t possibly be that bad if Sara was the one who sent him.
“I wonder if you’ll believe me,” the stranger muses.
“Never hurts to try.”
The stranger hums, then nods to himself, seeming to have decided.
Victor watches cautiously as the stranger steps out of the shadows, and his heart all but stops.
Not in the way a flush can glow on pale skin, and not in the way a smile can brighten a face, but in the way that just as shadows cloaked him before, sunlight gathers around him now. It’s an unearthly golden light wrapping him like a blanket, and Victor finds himself transfixed.
The stranger smiles, pure and warm.
“I am Love.”