Muscles bunched and stretched as everyone helped push the cart through the snow. They were traveling along the road that ran nearest to where Brenna’s home was. All of them were straining to keep the cart going, except one. Zephyr was doing his best to look like he was helping while walking behind with Mythe at his side. Red flushed his cheeks with the strain of pushing the back of the cart all by himself.
Brenna was having a rough time of it. She was carrying most of the weight, with Dvalin and Mythe helping out as best they could. Her breath billowed out in large clouds in front of her face. She just focused on getting them home and picked up the pace even more. At the back of the cart, the extra speed had separated Zephyr from the cart by about six inches. To Mythe, it became clear that Zephyr had never been helping. He just walked there with his hands touching nothing but air while he talked about how exhausting this was. It wasn’t like the bard would be much help in the strength department anyway so Mythe just rolled his eyes and kept pushing in silence.
After a few hours of trekking through a snow covered road they had to leave the path. Brenna pulled the cart through the forest on the side of the road and kept weaving through the trees until they came up against a large stone mountain base and a small cavern covered in branches and leaves to hide it from view. It had been steadily snowing as they traveled so Brenna didn’t bother to cover their tracks. She knew the snow would cover them just as easily. Still, to be safe she stopped a few yards away from the actual cavern spot and began covering the cart in boughs of pine and other greenery she could pull from the trees. Once it was well covered with a partial layer of snow and another of plants she began gathering their things.
She picked up all of her gear and the others began to do the same. When they had what they wanted, they let the children disembark and walked over to the small cavern. To them it seemed like Brenna was taking them towards a dead end at the back of the cave. Brenna knew that just as it ended, to the left side, was a crack in the stone just big enough for a large human to fit in. She led the group through the crack, further into the cave. Lullaby chirped up with a quiet, “Goblins?”. Brenna laughed and shook her head. She explained that this was her home. Sure enough, a faint light seemed to shine up ahead. It invited them further in as they also felt the accompanying warmth.
Soon they entered a much larger space than the entrance had. It was awash in the merry glow of candle light and fire. A crack in the ceiling allowed the smoke to filter upwards without giving away their location. As it rose out of the stone it merely looked like mist. A large, black-haired woman was at the far end of the cave, tending to a pot over the fire that crackled underneath. She was dressed in a mismatch of furs and clothing. Brenna called out softly to her. The woman turned and a wide smile lit up her face. She was beautiful. Even Zephyr looked twice. She hugged Brenna and looked expectantly at the strangers in her home. Brenna went through the introductions, leaving the children for last. The two youngest hid behind Zephyr as they gazed at the beautiful woman. Maxim stood at Zephyr’s right side but also seemed wary.
While Brenna explained that the children needed to stay here with her mother while they went in search of a way out of Icewind Dale, Marise began serving up bowls of stew. She passed them around as she listened to her daughter. At the end of it all, Marise shook her head with a small smile on her face. “You never could resist bringing in the wounded and lost animals you found either.” Brenna’s face warmed with her blush. She sniffed and said, “Well they had crashed in the snow, and they had children! What was I supposed to do? Let them freeze to death?” Marise chuckled, “No no. You did the right thing, love.” With that, Brenna told her the story of how she came to find the rest of the group. When she came to the part about the flying ship, Brenna was so excited about having seen such a wonder.
It was then, after the meal and story, that Brenna remembered the supplies she had brought home for her mother. She set down thirty pounds of bear meat. It was well preserved, with the harsh cold keeping it from rotting. Then there were the two jugs of whale oil she had managed to barter for in town. Marise was overjoyed with the bounty Brenna had brought home. It would feed them for a few months and the whale oil would last as long too. She had thought about leaving the children in Bryn Shander but with the lottery, she didn’t want the children to be possible sacrifices to the Frost Maiden. Her mother agreed to keep the children while they tried to find their way out of Icewind Dale.
The rest of the night was spent talking, exchanging stories, and sharing theories for stopping the endless winter. The warmth wrapped them in comfort and lulled them into a feeling of safety that they hadn’t felt since the crash landing. It was so much fun to just sit, enjoy a meal, and have a conversation that didn’t involve killing or trekking into the barren wasteland of snow.