Breena shivered as she grabbed an armload of firewood just outside the tavern. It was a colder than expected night, but winter was just around the corner. It was barely snowing, but the wind whipped it around furiously. Lovely as the view was, this was the time when there was no reprieve from the wind to be found. Especially on night like this one, it just blew endlessly against the walls, making it almost impossible to keep it warm.
Inside, there were less than ten patrons sitting in the taproom. They were all congregated near the fire, more interested in huddling near the fire and talking rather than drinking the night away. The trade routes were at the end of the season. Everyone left on the road was likely just travelling home to their homes for winter. In another week or so, Breena and her family would do the same. There was no point in running the inn when there were no travelers to make use of it.
After Breena dropped off the extra firewood and threw some logs onto the fire, Breena took a seat at the bar. There wasn’t much work to be done on a night like this. Her parents had already turned in for the night, All the cleaning had already been done that could be, and the patrons were free to serve themselves from mulled wine next to the fire. On days like these, she would usually chat with the guests, but today the two group had almost immediately started chatting with each other like old friends, and they didn’t seem interested in her joining them. In short, Breena was bored.
The door opened, bringing someone new in, along with a freezing gust of wind. Breena glanced over in surprise. The hour was late, and only the foolish or the desperate traveled this late into the night. Or ne’er-do-wells, but in this case, only one person stepped into the room, and closed the door behind them, then brushed off some of the snow that had accumulated on their overcoat.
Breena immediately recognized Tala as she got rid of the snow. She seemed healthy and to be in good spirits. As soon as she noticed Breena at the bar, she smiled and gave a wave, then walked over and took the seat beside her.
“I hope that you still have rooms available this time,” Tala said, very obviously happy to see Breena.
“Of course. There’s just the last few stragglers on the roads now. Most of the rooms have been prepped for winter, so we’re nowhere near full tonight.”
“Lovely. And I have to say, I’m really glad that I get to see you again. I wasn’t entirely sure if you would still be open this late in the season.”
“Another week or so and we would be closed down,” Breena replied with a shrug, “Did you find the fortune you wanted?”
“Enough for the rest of them to spend their winter in luxury. I daresay that they won’t have any left once the spring comes. But that’s not for me. I’m heading for somewhere a bit warmer. I know a few places where it’s easy enough to earn my keep as a performer.”
“The beauty of taverns is that there’s always someone new to talk to. That is, unless you’re interested in accompanying me, of course.”
Breena frowned at Tala. “You’re very beautiful and charming to talk to, and it was truly flattering the first time, but it has already grown old. We don’t know each other, and it would be insane for me to go off with some stranger no matter how pleasant her company may seem. Besides, my place is with my family.”
“Ah, forgive me, my dear. I meant no disrespect. But when I look at you I see not just the beauty that you are, but also a charming and wonderful person. And that makes my heart flutter and my mind race, and I struggle to know what to say.
Forgive me if I seem less than impressed with your honeyed words. I can’t help but wonder just how many other people you have said those very words to. I’ve spent my whole life working in taverns, and I learned very quickly just what kind of a reputation that singing minstrels have.”
“I would like to point out that you were the one who lured me into your bedroom last we met, not I.”
“And just how many love songs did you sing without looking away from me? Look – I have no qualms about what you may or may not do across every tavern in the land. I am perfectly happy to take advantage of that fact from time to time. But, anything else: only a fool would try to have a relationship with an adventurer or a minstrel. One way or another, you just get your heart broken.”
“I feel like I have offended you, and I would very much like to remedy that, if able.”
Breena shook her head. “You haven’t. If anything, I’m just tired. The end of the season is a rather stressful time to get everything finished up, and my parents are at an age where they can’t do all of the work. I don’t mind doing it, but it’s a lot of extra work for me. I think that the time has come that we need to hire an extra hand around for next season.”
“How would you like to hire me on for a few days to help you then? I don’t need payment, just room and board will do.
“And just what does that gain you?”
Tala shook her head. “I don’t have expectations of anything, if that’s what you were thinking. But I rather do enjoy your company, and I have no obligations at the moment, so why not?”
“If you want to work, then I won’t complain. But I do expect you to work.”
Tala just smiled. “Of course, I wouldn’t dare to do otherwise.”
“Then welcome to the Griffon’s Hill Inn. To start with, we could use another armload of wood. And then the bar could a scrubbing.”