With the day fast dying and a down hill trail, Lugh focused on keeping up. There were plenty of sites to see, little ponds, forests, flower filled meadows, all bathed in sunset richness of color, and of course, Oatie.
Oatie would spring off the trail whenever she saw firewood. Lugh’s burden grew as he struggled to keep up with her and balance the load while she kept adding dry stick after stick. It wasn’t too long and she stopped by a little meandering stream. The place was the remains of a silted in pool caused by an avalanche long ago. The grass was lush and the ground, soft and forgiving. Lugh lay his firewood next to where Oatie had dropped her’s. She was already returning with some rocks and a few more trips had a hearth of stones laid with a fire merrily burning and the stars shining above them.
Oatie seemed accustomed to making camp and Lugh had no objection to letting her do the lion’s share. Soon there was something cooking in both their pots. Lugh lay on the thick grass and wondered if he could remain awake long enough for dinner. The smell was enticing, but the deepening night, and the long day’s hike was a powerful sedative. Lugh found himself dosing as Oatie tended the camp.
Oatie stirring up the fire and pulling the pots from the coals woke Lugh from his light slumber, “Hey there sleepy-head. You need to eat. We have another long walk tomorrow.”
Lugh groaned and rolled onto his belly. Oatie was fussing with the fire on the other side of the pit. The light made her skin look golden and her hair glowed like fire itself. Lugh shook off his torpor, “Hey, if there’s food to eat, I’ll eat it.”
“Well, come and get it. The least you can do is come this far since I made it,” Oatie chided, but smiled as he approached, “I guess you aren’t used to hiking that hard.”
“I guess not.” I do my share of walking, especially of late. Truth is, I had to leave some fine horses when I came North. . .” Lugh realized he didn’t really want to broach the subject of his expulsion from his previous accommodations. He was surprised by his embarrassment, he flushed hot, but the heat of the dancing flames served to cover his blush. “What have you made? It smells wonderful, better than anything I make on the road.”
Oatie beamed at his compliment, conveniently diverted from the sore subject of his infidelities. “Taste and see,” she said, holding out a spoonful for him to sample.”
“That’s amazing. What is it? It’s delicious, how did you learn to cook so well?”
She was proud, but a little sad too as she explained, “When my mother died it was just me and Father. My father was a hopeless cook, so I learned for survival reasons. Do you really like it?”
Lugh nodded emphatically and reached for the pot. She playfully slapped his hands away. “There’s enough for both of us. Just wait a moment.”
Oatie hot handed a round loaf of fresh bread out of one of the pots and broke it in half. One half of the loaf went on each pot lid.
Lugh gasped, “Fresh bread? From a camp pot? How did you. . .”
Oatie playfully stuffed a small chunk of sweet warm bread in his mouth and Lugh was busy savoring it for a moment. “You don’t have anything else to work with and you learn, I guess. Truth is I don’t usually bother, but I felt like showing off a little.” Oatie laddled out hot stew into the bread bowls and there was quiet around the fire as they enjoyed the warm food.