Turtleback Ferry, Midwinter

Great bonfires burn away the afternoon chill, visible for miles across the frozen lake. The townsfolk were initially suspicious of a “the Dam’s Still Standing” party, but gave in to the fun once the Varisian music began to spread across the village just ahead of the smell of festival food. They started arriving the night before on boats, with a dozen more that couldn’t make the trip on their own spilling out of the very air this morning on the wings of the theurge’s teleports. The half-orc has been wandering across the ice to check the food every hour and add a new winter fish to the dinner, then racing back out to keep trying to ice fish through a surprisingly large hole.

But now the party is in full swing. Over half the movers and shakers of Sandpoint mingle with their counterparts in the village, in between helping a Tianish girl unload new kegs of Rusty Dragon Stout. A gaggle of middle-aged Varisian women fuss over the commander of Fort Rannick, who is smiling in a way that the locals have never seen while talking animatedly with a Varisian hunter of her own age who only has eyes for her… and, occasionally, for a probing glance at the Shoanti warrior tearing up the dance floor with his daughter. A redheaded gnome also watches them, trying to decide whether to join in the fun. She, in turn, is watched by a young gnomish man, trying to decide if it’s safe for him to ask her to dance.

Daylight quickly fades, but the party rages on into the night. Faeries from the nearby marsh glitter through the air, curious what the fuss is all about. A Black Arrow dances for the first time in thirty years. The Sheriff and Mayor of Sandpoint have a very frank discussion about what it means to have heroes as full-time residents. An ancient Varisian seer pontificates to her distant cousins, a cup of tea in one hand and a mug of ale in the other. And a Shoanti mage and his beautiful bride watch the moon rise across the frozen lake, holding each other as if for warmth despite their potent protections against the elements.

In a moment not far away, this will be over. Perhaps only to the true elation of one of them, a dangerous ally has sent word that she is coming with answers. Again, they’ll have to worry about what is to come: missing gods, tainted bloodlines, a mysterious key, and a sinister pogrom against the last true lords of Cheliax.

But, now, there are food and friends, music and family, and great fires to ward off the cold and darkness. It is enough. Their problems will keep for tomorrow.

In the distance, a voice shouts in triumph from across the ice, followed by a faint but unearthly howl. “Guys! I think I caught it!”

FIN

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