"Oh," Amma sighed pleasantly, "What a lovely story."
"Eww!" Keli cried, shifting uncomfortably in his seat.
"Oh stop it." Laufey chided the boy and saw Geira indifferent to the boy's criticism. "You'll hurt the girl's feelings." He added quickly. Suddenly Geira twitched and flashed an agitated glace at him.
"I think I speak for all of us when I say that it was pretty good," Kaun said after a moment of silence. "My brother is stupid. He doesn't like girls yet." This roused a chuckle in Amma, covering her mouth politely. Meanwhile, Keli was red as a berry. Before he could attack his brother. Anke shifted in his seat, suddenly alert and looked around him.
"This place freaks me out," he grunted, "Why are we not staying in a town again?"
"What?" Laufey said, "'fraid of trolls?"
"You want a good story, I'll tell you a good story," Kaun said proudly, looking between Anke and Laufey.
"Why am I not surprised..."
Laufey saw the group decay before his eyes. It worried him, the bad morale. He actually quite enjoyed Geira's story, though he wasn't prepared for the romantic ending. No, he didn't like much like the romantic tales. She had always struck him as the contemplative one. No doubt, somewhere in her was a romantic bone.
"You tell the tale next, Anke," said Laufey.
The child's eyes looked back at his confused. Laufey nudged him.
"I know you have a good one, eh?" he said once more.
Anke nodded gravely. He was shy, Laufey reckoned.
"Okay," he said with finality, "a story, right. Okay."
Stretching out his hands over the fire, Anke warmed him hands then clapped them together dramatically. Then, he gazed into the fire.
"Many years ago my dad heard of a man who wandered the land. He told me he was tall, thin, not at all likable or the hero someone would think about. There wasn't much to him... But he was nice. Tall people generally are pretty nice, especially him.
"One day my father told me a story about him.
"Long ago there were these people who wanted to live forever. Everyone wants to live forever. That's what my dad told me. So to make them live forever the people made a medicine that would do it. When it was finished they looked at each other, afraid to speak until the shortest of them said proudly, 'Well... we can't just stand here.'
"That what they did for a while, but then one of them had an idea.
"'Let's grow someone -- they could do that then-- and give them the medicine. Maybe then we could try it out.'
"The people did it eventually. You know, grow someone? It took a long time. But when they finally gave the medicine to their person they grew, that person died. It made them really sad to see this, so they tried again, and again, and again. Some of the people got mad though. They wondered if what the other people were doing was wrong. After all, it seemed mean to the people they grew. When the others didn't care the first people went away and never came back.
"After so many years of trying, the people who stayed finally made the Tall man, and he was good. He was strong and handsome, even though he was tall and skinny-- people don't always need big muscles to be handsome. But when they came to the tall, skinny man to give him the medicine, he said no, and that made the other people very angry.
"'I am alive,' he said. 'I deserve to choose for myself!'
"But the people wouldn't let the man leave.
"'You are going to make us live forever,' they said. 'Why do you care? You don't know who you are.'
"But the Tall man did. He knew who he was. It made him sad that they didn't care about him.
"After many hours they walked away, feeling frustrated, but the Tall man knew that they would be back, and then he would die. So, one day, he escaped. They looked for him for days, but they couldn't find him. The Tall man was proud of himself, he told my dad. He had found freedom. As the years went on, they never came back. He was still alive, but somewhere he knew they were dying.
"So one day the Tall man was walking, and he saw an old beggar by the road. He gave the beggar some money, because he was nice, and sat down next to the old man to keep him company.
"'It's a nice day,' the old man said. The Tall man agreed. 'I never thought I'd see you again.
"When the Tall man heard this he turned to face the beggar and saw the head doctor he knew all those years ago, the short one. He was all wrinkly and old looking, like my Farfar used to be. The Tall man wasn't sure what to do though. He just blinked and nodded slowly.
"'Why did we do it,' the old man continued slowly. 'I don't know. I forgot why. Life just passed me by.'
"'Really?' The Tall man looked over at the beggar. He saw his bony arms, his spotted face and pruned face. He felt sorry for the man.
"'Who wants to live forever, huh? Tck! It's foolish. I thought so much about trying to live longer that I forgot that I was already alive.'
"The Tall man nodded. He hadn't thought of it like that. In fact he hadn't realized that so much time had passed. He didn't look anything like the man too, which was strange. He never took the medicine.
"'Maybe it's time to sleep now,' said the old man. Out of his jacket he took out a dirty vial. It was the same one that the Tall man once saw all those years ago. It was the one with the medicine in it. The stuff that would make them always young, forever and ever.
"The Tall man wanted to do something but he could not. The old man took the medicine and sighed. He relaxed and passed off into a deep sleep. Sitting up the Tall man looked down on the doctor. He felt the tears come out and wet his cheeks. Before he left he felt it was right to stay a little while longer and gave the man a hug. It felt good. Letting go of the old man the, Tall man smiled. He smiled because he was glad.
"The doctor looked young again.