"Come on, Jacob," his father said. "Haven't I told you not to talk to strangers?"
"He's not a stranger," he muttered in a low voice so that his father wouldn't hear. "He's nice." But he knew it would do no good, so he only put up token resistance as his father took him home.
"Anyway, it's dinner time," said his father, not quite apologetically. "Mother will have it ready any moment now. You're a growing boy, Jacob, you need to eat so you'll grow up strong."
Jacob didn't say anything. He wasn't hungry yet.
Lazy summer days slowly turned, and summer gave way to fall. The man settled in the forest just outside of town, where he would tell stories to anyone who came to listen. The older townswomen would bring him bread. Sometimes other food. He got by, if not too comfortably. The town's children often came to hear his stories, and sometimes others would come as well.
Jacob came almost every day. He knew his father disapproved, but Jacob was stubborn, and his father gave up trying to stop him after the first few days. Sometimes Jacob would sneak the man food from their kitchen, but eventually the man told him to stop, that he didn't need it. The older townswomen cared for him well enough.
Fall gave way to winter, and the snows soon came. It was a harsh winter, cold and snowy. The man managed. Most of the townspeople and children stopped coming to hear the man's stories when the snows came, and eventually Jacob stopped braving the cold has well, seduced by the warm fires of home. Life continued, slowly.
One day that winter, Jacob's father contracted a cough. The cough became a fever, the fever became worse. Jacob's mother worried, though she wouldn't say. Jacob worried too. His father looked worse and worse, until the village doctor though he might die, and called the village priest.
The next morning, Jacob answered a knock at the door, for his mother still slept fitfully at his father's side. It was the stranger with stories from far over the mountains. The man smiled at Jacob, patted his head, but said nothing as he walked to his father's side. The man stood a moment and closed his eyes, whispering something Jacob couldn't understand.
Jacob realized that he could see lamplight through the man. Wonder took Jacob and he touched him. The man, feeling his touch, turned and smiled at him again.
"Don't worry," said the man.
Jacob followed him to the door. It was a bright, crisp winter day. There was no doubt, Jacob could see sunlight through him -- more than sunlight, he could see the snow, and the snow-covered trees beyond. The man looked down at his hands and smiled.
"It's my time," he said, and blew away on the wind.
[ Word (tramontane) suggested by amberdine. ]
[ This one is slightly over the 500-word limit I gave myself for these writing exercises, but oh, well. C'est la vie. ]