Winter is coming.
The first snows are already sticking and the light of day grows shorter. The roadside tavern looks to be pleasant enough and I am in need of drink and some food.
The place is well tended and it seems to be a family affair with a few locals enjoying a fair smelling meat and bread meal with a few root vegetables as garnish. A family at one table and a couple of local bumpkins who fancy themselves as soldiers in the corner.
A rather large hearth surrounds a crackling fire and there appears to be a nice place to rest my weary legs right on the right side of the stonework.
A young woman greets me as I place my shield down next to me and begin to take off my gloves.
“Good evenin sir, may I get you some food and drink?” She says in a pleasant manner, but with a tinge of unease in her voice. She looks at my battered shield and the sword hanging at my belt. I give her the briefest of a tight lipped smile and nod my head in agreement to her question. “Ale sir? And food?” She asks. I nod twice in agreement, she leaves as I settle in on the hearth with my back to the stonework, the heat from the fire caresses my face and warms my bones.
The two thugs look me over attempting to menace me with their stares, I look at them and smile, again my usual tight lipped attempt at a pleasant outward appearance. They continue to stare for a bit, but I turn away as the young woman returns with my food and drink. I press some coin into her hand and wave off her attempt to make change, closing her hand around the full amount and patting her closed fist.
The food is hearty but as usual, I have no idea how well it is prepared. I chew for a long while making sure that it is good and punished before I attempt to swallow. Washing down the mash with a draw of the ale, was that a bit of bitterness I feel on the back of my throat?
For an hour I sit comfortably with my back to the hearth and enjoy the warmth and he feeling of a full belly. The doors to the tavern open and a small group of men and a woman enter, looking about at the patrons before making their way over to a table in the back of the room.
The thugs watch them closely. The woman looks to be finely dressed as does one of the men, a bodyguard of sorts? The one in the full mail suit looks like he’s ready to do battle as does the one with the maul.
The group talks with the bartender/owner for a bit and I hear mention of dead soldiers and wolves in the wood.
Winter is coming.
A young woman appears from the back and the awkward young man who is the busboy sit at a table for a meal before she heads upstairs for the eve. The woman of the party that recently arrived talks for a brief moment with the young woman and I notice that she is pregnant and ready to burst. The busboy looks onward with a proud look upon his face.
The room settles in, the family that was here when I first arrived has left and the tavern is quiet. The scream cuts through the silence like a knife and the bartender runs up the stairs with the barmaid. The party of travelers stand up to investigate and the thugs stand to block their path.
Damn, why does this always happen when I just want to sit and rest? Some of the party heads quickly up the stairs, I stand to go and see what the commotion is all about, my curiosity getting the better of me.
I run up the stairs to see a fight breaking out in a room at the back of the inn’s sleeping quarters. I head back to try and stop the bloodshed. The thug from downstairs attempts to slash one the travelers with his blade, but I am able to parry the attack and knock him out with the flat of my blade. It is then that I realize I left my shield by the fire. Damn.
I feel the blade pierce my left side, damn it, why do I always forget my shield?
I slump to the floor and pass out briefly and awake at the end if the fight staring into the face of the traveler woman, I try to tell her.
“Winter is coming” but all that comes out is the strangled sound of my toungeless voice.