Tale of the Fox and the Lynx

The amount of time she spent blacked out at the corner table with the dim candlelight was unknown. What Fiane could recall was that she arrived some hours ago with sweat and coal dust on her cheek and coins jingling in her pocket. Maybe a song or two that helped lull her out of it. It was hushed within the inn now and the windows were darkened with sky and frost. The woman stretched and exhaled heavily, slumping back in the chair with achy muscles still exhausted and remembering the day's long labors.
The old man would not be happy.

She nudged the empty dishes to the center of the table and stood to leave, acknowledging the fuzzy faces of the few patrons nearby. With that, she carefully guided herself through the door and closed it with a thud, soft mumbles of life and light within fading out into the darkness. It was just her and the blackened shadow of Lonelywood now.

Wind whistled softly among the quiet town like a carved flute singing into the night, sweet melodies of the mountain’s song which both greatly soothed and stood the hair on her neck upright. Fiane tucked her hands into fur-lined pockets and lifted her head to the frosted giants surrounding them. I wonder who they sing for…and could they sing for me?
Her feet sounded delicate and soft against the snow as she trudged slowly on--a nearly silent padding made for hunters and trackers. Fiane finally stood in front of a stone building on a far end of town, smoke rising from the chimney stack and embers waiting to die in the cold forge beneath the side overhang. Her eyes raised to the wooden sign swaying gently in the breeze, chains crying under the cruel conditions. Lynx Smithing, it read with a crude engraving of a flame. The woman stood captivated by it far longer than it should’ve interested her; she saw it every day for the past few years. And carpentry, she thought. He was more than just a smith. Duradel Lynx was a man of many trades.

The front door had opened suddenly letting a burst of firelight out over the narrow porch and onto the snow where she stood squinting. In the doorway with a firm grimace and low brow was a man. His hair was long, grey, and fell over his crossed arms. He had a long beard and tufts of hair around his mouth--the mouth forever molded into a scowl--resembling that of a cat’s maw and whiskers; his namesake.

“I can smell you from here, and it’s not just the elbow grease, is it?” Duradel asked, flatly unamused. Fiane fixed her gaze to him but gave no response. There was no need. Snowflakes and a distant wind chime filled the deciding silence. The old smith huffed and scratched his cheek. “Walk it off, kid. Don’t come back until you get your wits together.” His voice was not alarming, not a threatening yell to berate or accuse. It was almost hushed, pitiful. The tone was even more simply understood by her after the years of this same instance a dozen times over with the same result. He began to turn away but she caught his attention, taking a step forward and drawing a jagged breath.

“Can I at least clean up first?” her hands tensed.

Duradel paused with his back toward her and glanced to the side hesitantly. Without another word he sank into the house leaving the door ajar. Shoulder’s falling to rest, Fiane's head sunk like a scolded dog. Her toes jabbed into the snow and her breath fogged out slowly as the temperature must've dropped a few degrees. This was a shaky balance between glee and disappointment, and a familiar one at that. She rubbed an eye and had grounded herself once more until movement shifted focus. A man she recognized vaguely as Barden, a villager she possibly drank with once or twice, had been walking toward...a menacing treeline, was it? Her memory wasn’t the greatest at this unforgiving hour but she certainly did not recall the town being that way before, and she had seen this view for some time. Lynx, too, with no mention of these dark trees. Surely she was sober enough to see it right and see him, meaning Fiane now had a burning instinct to follow, one which could have warmed the ground on which she stood. Like warm mead in the belly.

Another day, another chance to let everyone down achieved with flying colors.
But this could be fun.

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