You walk through the village, your feet crunching in the snow. The residents look up briefly from their tasks, but overall do not acknowledge you as you continue down the road. You are one of many nameless travelers who pass through their home. Your business is not theirs. You, however, have a goal in mind.
You turn off the main street through a narrow alleyway and find yourself in a small courtyard with a well in the center. A stone hut stands crookedly here. Smoke drifts from the chimney in the thatched roof and scraggly chickens pick at the ground around it.
You hesitate. As mundane as this location seems, if stories are true, wonders await within.
Summoning your courage, you knock upon the door. A hoarse, reedy voice calls out, "Come in," and you obey.
A fire crackles before you, casting its warm glow over the hut's interior. Herbs and dried flowers hang from the ceiling, and an assortment of ingredients and tools crowd the table in the center of the room. At a glance you spy, a mortar and pestle, stone knives, wooden spoons, bottles of strange, colored liquids. A bowl of ripe fruit sits at one end of the table, and a fresh, sweet smell surrounds you. You take a deep breath. A feeling of comfort overcomes you.
"Hello there," a voice says.
You spin around as an old woman steps from the corner, her keen blue eyes taking you in.
"I don't get many visitors these days. You have come from afar? What is it you wish?"
You explain your story, the quest that has pulled you from your home and taken you across hill and valley, over mountains and rivers, to come to her.
She nods slowly. "You have come a long way, but you have much further still to go. The way is hard. You will need help. I am far too old now to journey with you, but perhaps I can provide items that will aid you."
She begins to gather things from around the house. She grinds herbs into a fine paste and pours a bubbling liquid over it. She crushes berries to obtain their crimson juices.
Finally, she pours her creations into small bottles and seals them with wax.
She holds up the first, bright red and bubbling.
"To heal your wounds."
She passes you a second, as green as emeralds, a strange glow about it.
"To strengthen your steps."
Last she hands you a bottle of blue that seems to sparkle with an unknown power.
"To grant you magic."
You take them and thank her.
She nods sagely. "You have long to go, but I sense you will triumph in the end. One more thing."
Pushing aside some old parchments, she reveals a candle which she holds out to you.
"Light this in your darkest moment. I cannot tell you what powers it carries, but when you most need it, it will provide."
You thank her for her gifts and try to pass her a coin. She pushes away your hand.
"When you have completed your quest, return, and we shall talk payment then. I sense there is something you will find along your way I very much want." Her eyes glimmer for a moment before she motions to the door. "You had best hurry. It already grows dark."
You leave the cottage, your steps somehow lighter. The way is long, but your quest awaits. You will prevail.