Three years ago
Snow fell in fat, wet flakes, sprinkling the snow-covered ground. Light filtered through the heavy clouds, draping the world in twilight. The only sound was the soft hiss of snow falling through the trees and the soft trudging of heavy feet plowing through the thick snow with the help of a walking stick. The feet stopped every few minutes and the sound of digging in the snow could be heard before continuing on.
Salinas Xarzithdaari Frostfire, 6’8” of heavy muscle and rust-red flecked silver scales, moved methodically along the path, both blazing a trail through the snow and lighting the snow lanterns that had gone out. The snow lanterns guided the village’s hunters home and provided a guide over the icy path.
Frostfire stopped and reached out with his claws into the snow bank, brushing off the snow where the top of the fence post and the snow lantern should be. The lamp was out, having been put out by the snow. Salinas tsked softly to himself and unlatched the lamp, opening the weather guards. He then took a deep breath, leaned in, and breathed out slowly onto the exposed wick. Bright red-orange flame leaped out of his jaws and licked the lantern’s wick, lighting it once again. Satisfied, he leaned back and shut the weather guards.
Picking up his walking staff, Salinas turned and walked back the way he came, having lit the last of the lanterns. The way back was easier, though the falling flakes meant that he would be back out early tomorrow morning. It was Salinas’s job to maintain the trail just outside the village. For the most part, he didn’t mind. The cold didn’t bother him as much as the other villagers, due in part to his sorcerous heritage and in part to his natural inclinations toward icy weather.
Soon, the peaked roofs of the village could be seen through hardy, snow-covered conifers lining the path. The houses were dark, with banked fires glowing in hearths and chimneys puffing a light stream of smoke. Everyone would be gathered for stories before heading off to bed, the rest of the village winding down for the evening. Salinas hustled towards the Smiling Crescent as he heard the muffled notes of his grandsire, Eregar Xarzithdaari Frostfire, singing to a beaten drum. Salinas sang the refrain quietly to himself, slightly off key, having heard the story many times before.
The Smiling Crescent was a large, sturdy building in the middle of the village. It was designed for defense and was one of the few buildings in the village built entirely from stone and slate tiles. It had tall and narrow stained glass windows set up high that created colored shadows on the deepening snow bank around the base of the inn. The Smiling Crescent’s sign was that of a crescent moon shaped like a sparkling smile. The owner, Hriedar Prainsson, his wife, Elisabet Ulfarsdottir, and their son, Jakob Hriedarsson, were all devout human worshipers of Sehanine. He and Salinas’s grandsire had been fast friends, and thus was considered a friend of clan Frostfire, for as long as Salinas could remember. Jakob and Salinas had grown up together and were also close friends.
Salinas walked up the cobbled stone steps, clawed feet catching on the mortar between the stones, and switched the broom standing at the top of the steps with his walking staff. He briefly brushed off the light dusting of snow before replacing the broom where he found it and picked up his staff again. He then dusted himself off and opened the stout wooden door to a wave of warmth and sound. Smiling, he stepped through and quickly shut the door behind him.
The common room of the Smiling Crescent had two long fireplaces on the walls perpendicular to the door. Several long tables, filled with the villagers from the surrounding houses, were placed around the fire, leaving a brief open area around the fire where a pale ochre-scaled figure was ensconced on the stage with his soft drumming and melodic voice. Tiny cracks could be seen around his eyes and mouth, and he moved with a stiffness that belied great age. One dark red eye with a verticle slit caught Salinas’s entrance immediately, but the song continued uninterrupted.
Salinas ducked in behind a group of human teenagers too young to be out hunting alone and picked up a spoon and empty bowl. He then walked over to the fire opposite his grandsire where Elisabet was cooking to have her fill it with a hot, thick broth from the pot. Hriedar himself sat at one end of the table and was listening intently to the older dragonborn. Salinas thanked Elisbet quietly and walked over and sat down in an empty seat facing his grandsire next to another dragonborn, as the people on the bench adjusted to give him room to sit down and eat. Salinas picked up a small loaf of rye bread from the table and dipped it into his soup, eating and listening to his grandsire.
“You’re in trouble, Frostfire,” the female dragonborn on his left whispered as he sat down, mischief glinting in her bright golden eyes. Her scales were a deep, rust red that went well with the thick black cloak embroidered with the flickering flames of the Everflame. That she used his clan name rather than his child name meant that she was teasing him as much as warning him. “Your grandsire was expecting you hours ago. The hunters have yet to return, and he was getting worried.”
“I was lighting the snow lanterns,” Salinas returned in hushed tones between bites. “It took longer than expected because it started snowing again.” She nodded, readily accepting his answer, and went back to watching the older dragonborn.
Soon, his grandsire finished the song and everyone clapped politely. Eregar Frostfire stood, using a cane that was lying nearby to stand. The old dragonborn nodded to himself, accepting their praise, not arrogantly, but as if it were rightfully his due. He walked over to Salinas, and in a gruff voice that seemed at odds to the melodic voice from just a few minutes before said, “I need to speak with you, boy.” He nodded to an unused corner of the common room. Salinas stood, picking up his now empty bowl and followed, dropping his bowl into the dirty dishes bucket.
When they reached the corner, the elderly dragonborn turned to Salinas. “Where have you been, Rusty?” he berated quietly, a touch anger in his voice. “You were supposed to have been here before dusk.” He looked out the window, judging the time and pointed to the dark window. “It’s now past dark.”
Salinas’s nostrils flared with annoyance at being berated for something that wasn’t his fault and for the use of his child name when he was all but considered an adult. “I was lighting the snow lanterns, grandsire, like I was supposed to be. It took longer than normal because it started snowing. I finished as fast as I could before coming here.”
“Even with the snow,” the older dragonborn continued, but at a much calmer voice, the worry and anger draining from his tone, “it shouldn’t have taken you as long as it did.”
“Several of the lanterns were buried in new snow. I had to dig them out before lighting them,” Salinas answered and then attempted to change the subject. “My dam said that the hunters haven’t returned yet, visel?”
“Yessss, visel,” the older dragonborn said with a sibilant hiss and nodded. “I’m old and I worry. They should not be gone this long. It is Jakob’s first hunt and to be late like this is not a good sign.”
“Jakob will be fine, grandsire,” Salinas returned. “He’s as old as I am,” he said jokingly.
Eregar snorted, amusement in his eyes. “Which is why I am worried. Humans are even more immature than certain young dragonborn.”
Salinas smiled, a long toothy affair, and turned back towards the fire. “Come. Let’s go back to the fire. The hunters will be back any minute with stories of their hunt.”