When I reached the house, I knocked twice on the wooden door without considering what or who might be living inside. After all, I had nothing to lose, and whoever chose to live on the brink of an abandoned city must be an interesting person, even if he or she might be dangerous and strange as well.
The person who opened the door was a man approximately ten years older than me. Age was reflected in his eyes, but his physique was not aging at the same rate. Through his clothes, I saw that his muscles were more well-toned than even the average youngster. The work that was put into those muscles must have been the work required behind this little house–the field and the barn.
“Well, hello there,” he greeted me, a little bit surprised. “A stranger in this area, a wanderer I suppose?”
“Yes,” I answered. “A curious place you choose to live in, sir.”
“It is curious indeed, from the eyes of a wanderer. I presume that is the reason you knocked on my door?”
“It is,” I confirmed. “A modest house in the middle of nowhere would make anyone curious.”
“Come on in then, and have a drink, traveler. What is your name?”
“I’m called Sigrun.”
“Sigrun, then. I’m Miak, owner of this house. Don’t worry, there’s nothing strange inside.” With that, the man called Miak opened his door wider, so that I could see a bit of the furniture inside his house. Once again, I didn’t hesitate before stepping in. It really was a normal house, as normal as if would have been if it was located in a real village, instead of an abandoned one. Miak seemed to own no pets, and he seemed to have no family either. When he motioned me to sit in a chair near the small wooden table, our eyes met.
“It’s odd for a woman to be a lone wanderer,” he said.
“An odd thing for you to say,” I replied.
He laughed heartily. “I know, I know. I’m an odd man in your eyes too, perhaps. I live alone here in the middle of nowhere. But I think we might communicate well.”
“Because I’m a lone traveler?”
Miak nodded. “A striking similarity.”
We sipped our tea, and spoke of a few random things, unrelated to why we chose to live the way we did. After a while, silence fell, and I looked down at my cup. At that moment, I realized that I hadn’t talked to anyone for a long time–at least, not for longer than a few sentences at a time. Something about Miak made the conversation comfortable. Maybe it was the understanding look in his eyes, or the gentle tone in his voice, or it could just be the atmosphere of a secluded place. I did enjoy being alone, more than anything.
“How do you maintain a living here?” I asked.
“I’m a jeweler,” Miak said. “Once a month, a merchant travels through the city next to this one–you know, that bustling city with lots of rich families–and buys my jewelry. By the time he reaches here, his carriage is already loaded with other goods, so I can buy those goods from him as well. I guess he travels to other cities too, maybe that’s why he only comes by once a month.”
“So you buy from and sell to him,” I interpreted.
“I do. You’ve probably caught a glimpse of my field and barn behind this house too, that’s how I maintain before the merchant comes.”
“I haven’t heard of merchants that go into abandoned cities,” I noted.
Miak chuckled. “Me, neither. The first time, he was just passing through. Perhaps he likes it that nobody’s here to steal anything from him. It’s why I live here too.”
I nodded in contemplation. “That’s reasonable, given that you’re a jeweler and he’s a merchant. I’ve never been rich, but I guess rich people will never have enough.”
“That is true.” His tone was an impressed one. “What made you a wanderer, if you don’t mind me asking?”
I shrugged, and told him my story, all the way from the beginning.