You stand in a clearing nestled close to the mountains and surrounded by thick brush and tangle. Scattered around the clearing in the shade of the mountain are several stone houses with carefully-thatched roofs. They are a fair size, though most consist of only one room, but they look snug and dry. Most are lit brightly as their occupants go about their daily routines, but some are dark and look like they might have been abandoned.
Lanisen passes through the settlement, aiming for the cobbler’s house. Every step he takes makes an unpleasant ‘squish’ noise, and he has a sour look on his face.
Romney wanders into the settlement, glancing around as though looking for something.
Harmonia is standing out in her front yard packing snow together, she starts to roll it around the front of her yard but catches sight of Lanisen and stands to wave. “Hello Mr Lanisen!”
Lanisen pauses, shading his eyes as he looks toward the call. “Oh, hey,” he responds. “Building something?” He squints at the pile of snow.
Romney’s attentions is drawn by Harmonia’s call, and he turns to look.
Harmonia nods. “I’m gonna try an’ make a snowman. Ya wanna join?”
Lanisen says, “Ahhh…” He looks down at his gloveless hands and squishy boots.
Romney chuckles at Lanisen’s predicament.
Harmonia says, “Ya don’t haveta.””
Lanisen bites his lip, glancing from his boots to the cobbler’s house. “Gimme ten minues,” he promises.
Romney walks over to Harmonia. “You ever see snow in the Isles?”
Harmonia nods, to Lanisen. She watches him walk off. Before the strange mustached man comes over. In answer to his question, she shakes her head. “But paw has. I saw all the other kids making something…Looked mighty fun.”
Romney says, “Great fun. You ought to let one of them show you how to make snowbirds sometime.”
Harmonia looks up at Romney, “Snow Birds, Mister?”
Romney says, “Yes. You, uh, fall on your back in the snow and waves your arms and legs back and forth. When you get up, the snow looks like a great bird.”
Harmonia hrmms. “Don’t ya get all wet, Mister?”
Romney says, “Not if the snow’s dry enough. Depends on the snowfall really. When the snow’s too wet, sure. Otherwise, you just brush yourself off and you’re mostly fine.”
Romney says, “This here’s a little damp. I’d wait till the next fall, when it’s colder.”
Harmonia nods. “M’kay. I’ll keep it in mind.”
Lanisen returns from the cobbler’s house a few minutes later, squeaky new boots on his feet, his old pair hanging dripping from their laces.
Romney grins. “New shoes?”
Lanisen grins faintly. He tilts his left foot up to look at the boot and shrugs. “Let the blistering commence.”
Harmonia glances up at the squeaking.
Romney winces. “Ah, yes, the breaking-in. Never pleasant. But necessary.”
Lanisen says, “Yeah. And it’s past time, really, I put it off a good long while.” He heaves a deep breath, sets his old boots down next to a tree, and clumps over toward Harmonia’s project. “All right, Miss Harmonia. What’ve we got goin’ on here?”
Harmonia points to the clump of show she’s started. “Saw kids playin ’round out here. Said it was a snowman. An’ I wanted to try. Canya help me?”
Lanisen squints at the clump. “I reckon so,” he answers. “You ever done this before?”
Harmonia shakes her head. “Only heard Paw tell me stories.”
Romney says, “And she’s never made a snowbird.” He shakes his head disapprovingly, then steps closer to Laniesn, whispering something.
Romney mumbles “Suppose she knows what a snowball is?”, to Lanisen.
Romney mumbles “Suppose she knows what … snowball …”, to Lanisen.
Romney’s smile turns rather devilish.
Lanisen says, “Well, it’s been a while for me, but I guess between the two of us we can muddle through all right. This is good snow for it,” he adds, poking the toe of his new boot into a drift. “Wet, heavy. Sticks together good.” He glances at Romney consideringly, then bends to scoop up a handful and show Harmonia what he means. “See? You can mold it into shapes. Like so.” He forms a neat ball, not too hard, and wings it at Romney. His aim is a little wobbly, but they’re close enough that it shouldn’t make a difference.
The snowball hits Romney solidly in the shoulder. He offers a wounded look. “And here I thought we were co-conspirators.”
Harmonia giggles, her attention distracted as she hurries to make a snowball of her own.
Lanisen grins broadly at Romney and offers a shrug.
Romney looks solemn, sweeping a bow. “Well,” he says wolfishly, “they say the next best thing to a noble friend is a noble enemy.” He straightens. “You must realize, then, that this means /war/?”
Harmonia throws a snowball, her aim isn’t good and it flies to fall with a splat in the road.
Lanisen’s grin widens. “Must I?” he asks innocently.
Romney ends down to scoop up a snowball of his own, molding it neatly and tossing it Lanisen’s way.
Harmonia hurries to make another one, offering it to Lanisen. “Here, Mister Lanisen.”
Lanisen lurches to the side, yelping and laughing, but isn’t quite able to avoid the snowball. He brushes the snow off his shirt and shakes his head at Harmonia. “No, no, you throw it. I’ll stock the arsenal!” He crouches down and begins making more snowballs.
Romney looks shocked. “Arsenal? Two to one. Foul play! But I shall prevail.” He kneels in the snow and starts making a small stockpile of his own.
Harmonia wings her snowball with all her might towards Romney.
Romney ducks, barely in time.
Lanisen lets out a mad chortle and begins stacking snowballs for Harmonia.
Romney launches his next snowball at Harmonia, as she hasn’t been targeted yet.
Harmonia reaches down for another the snow ball splating solidly on side. She giggles.
Lanisen, once there is a decent arsenal built up, stands back up to watch, shaking out his right hand.
Romney says, “Don’t think you’re safe just because you’re unarmed Lanisen! I have no scruples.” He lobs a snowball in Lanisen’s direction.
Harmonia throws another snowball.
Romney makes a valiant and elaborate show of trying to avoid the snowball, only to have it hit him square in the chest. “I’m struck!”
Lanisen lets out an entirely unmanly squawk and manages to spin out of the snowball’s trajectory. This lands his weight on his bad leg, his balance fails as he tries to compensate, and he lands on his rear in the snow. “Uff. You missed!”
Harmonia full out laughs at Romney’s antics.
Romney snorts. “Well, that was graceful.” He scoops up an armful of unmolded snow, runs to where Lanisen has fallen, and dumps it squarely upon him.
Harmonia scoops up all she can, which being a rather small lass is not much. She tosses this ungainly at the mustached man
Romney gets a smattering of snow on his backside. “Attacked from behind!”
Lanisen scoops up some snow with his left arm and flings it clumsily at Romney. “And from the front!”
Romney gets a mouthful of snow and mock staggers back, retreating to his own pile of snowballs.
Lanisen brushes himself off smugly, tugging at his collar to dislodge the last little bit of snow. He massages his right forearm, flexing the hand stiffly.
Harmonia glances up at Lanisen, curiously.
Romney spits out a bit of snow. “Are we calling hold?”
Lanisen pauses, glancing between them both. “Ahh, I yield. You two can keep goin’, I don’t mind.”
Romney eyes Harmonia, assessingly. “Nah, she got me full in the chest. I guess I’m done for.”
Harmonia shakes her head, starting to shiver a little.
Lanisen thumps her shoulder gently. “You all right, soldier? I know you ain’t used to cold.”
Romney smiles, brushing off his own clothes.
Harmonia says, “”m alright.” She shivers again. “Mebbe I’ll go in for a little bit.”
Harmonia smiles at both. “Thanks for the fun.”
Lanisen says frankly, “Don’t blame you. I met a fellow from Calormen in Coghill before winter even started properly and he was miserable from the cold.”
Romney nods. “Nothing like warming up by the fire after a snowball fight.”
Harmonia asks, “Really? All the way down there?” She shivers again. “Maybe tell me ’bout it sometime iffen you don’t mind?”
Lanisen promises, “Whenever you like. As long as you’re thawed out. Ain’t any fun tellin’ stories to an icicle.”
Romney pulls his cloak closer around him, just listening.
Lanisen says, “Go on, get yourself warmed up.”
Harmonia waves Goodbye, Mister, Mister Lanisen.” She waves before heading inside.
Romney says, “Goodbye Harmonia.”
Lanisen grins at her. “See you ’round, soldier.”
Romney asks, “Well, now that you’ve got your fine new boots, what happens to the old ones? Gonna give ’em to your hounds to chew on?”
Lanisen laughs, heading back over to the tree where he left them to retrieve them. “Maybe so,” he agrees. “There’s a new litter of pups’ll be wantin’ somethin to teeth on here pretty soon.” He looks down at his right hand, flexing it absently.
Romney leans in to inspect the boots. “Ain’t much left of them to chew on. Look held together by a song and a prayer.” He notes the hand. “Your injury?”
Lanisen says, “‘S crampin’ up a little bit is all.”
Romney says, “Sounds rotten. Shame it’s that hand. Makes things hard I’ll bet.”
Lanisen shrugs noncommittally.
Romney asks, “Sorry. Look, I’m heading to the tavern for a bite. You want to join?”
Lanisen pauses. He shrugs. “Sure. Might as well.”
Romney offers to lead Lanisen.
Lanisen decides to follow Romney.
You are in Fischer’s Tavern. A tall lanky man is standing behind the bar with a towel in one hand and a grin on his face. In front of him there is a nice hardwood bar about four feet high. Quite a few glasses and bottles stand on it waiting for a order. The barkeep motions towards a stool, “Name’s Fischer. Have a seat, what can I get ya to drink?”
Romney finds a table and sits down, ordering something warming.
Lanisen asks Fischer for a bowl of soup and cups both his hands around it for a moment. He rubs his right arm and breathes out a few times.
Romney asks, “So did you manage to find that man you were looking for?”
Lanisen says, “Wh–Eston? No, not yet. Stopped by his house–at least, I think it’s his house–earlier, but…” He shrugs.
Romney asks, “Oh. And you said you were here visiting friends?”
Lanisen says, “Uhh, sort of. My friend’s fiancee lives here, so I’m here with him.”
Romney asks, “Oh, but he’s not from here himself?”
Lanisen says, “No, he’s from Neiklot.”
Romney asks, “My, you’ve got friends all over. He’s from Neiklot, she’s from Carmichael, and you’re from Anvard?”
Lanisen says, “I’m from here. I been livin’ in Anvard a few years is all.”
Romney asks, “Oh, so you knew the woman and met her husband after?”
Lanisen says, “Yeah. Ara’s a few years older’n me so we weren’t /real/ good friends as kids, but we got on all right.”
Romney says, “Heh. That’s always the way. Grow up right next to folks and don’t even notice ’em because of an age difference till we’re older.”
Lanisen laughs under his breath. “Yeah, more or less, I guess.”
Romney asks, “So what about you? You got a pretty girl back in Anvard?”
Lanisen snorts out loud. “Me? No!”
Romney leans back in his chair. “You make it sound like it’s highly improbable.”
Lanisen says, “I dunno, I just never really thought about it before.”
Romney leans in conspiratorially. “It’s probably the dogs,” he whispers.
Lanisen looks at him dubiously for a second. “Nah,” he says. “On the whole, girls seem to like dogs. Especially if they’re little. The dogs, I mean, not the girls.”
Romney says, “Heh, I meant the smell. No gal likes the smell of wet dog.” He makes a face. “No man I know either, come to think of it. But get your bath in nice and regular, and, yeah, I guess they’d be more of an asset than a hindrance.””
Lanisen snorts out loud, his ears turning red despite himself. “Shut your mouth,” he says good naturedly.
Romney grins and addresses himself to his meal.
Lanisen asks, “What about you, you got somebody waitin’ for you back home?”
Romney rubs the back of his head. “Nah. Though about it. There were one or two I thought, maybe…but I liked the travelling and they wanted to nest, ya know?”
Lanisen nods thoughtfully. “Makes sense.”
Romney looks wistfully at the bottom of his bowl of soup, but seems to decide against ordering anything further. “Well,” he says, rising, “Guess I’ve warmed up enough that I’m ready to brave the cold again to make my way to the inn. Thanks for the company–and the battle.”
Lanisen says, “Yeah. You too.”