It’s the third day of Nuzyael, the first month of the year 720 TR and the start of spring according to the calendar. However, spring may start a bit late this year if today’s weather is any indication – it’s been stormy all day and it’s getting cooler, not warmer, as the sun climbs in the sky.

You wintered with your family, but it’s time you found some honest work. The first market of the month at Jedes is tomorrow and you plan on making your way there, rain or shine. Luckily, you won’t have to travel alone – you have some friends who are also going. All told, there will be four of you:

Aledra al Lunn, the daughter of a hideworker, a skilled hunter, and the childhood friend of Lysha. The past winter was a rough one for you. Lord Orteyan of Yalen had employed your uncle as a huntsman for several years and you and your twin brother, Gorrys, had assisted your uncle as beaters. However, Lord Orteyan died and his son dismissed you all shortly thereafter. Your uncle found work for the lord of Yeashim, but Gorrys found the edge of the river ice the hard way. Fortunately, Kalas saw him fall in and pulled him out; they both spent a month recuperating to get the chill from their bones. Unfortunately, the cold was deep in Gorrys’ chest and he still hasn’t recovered. It’s possible that he never will.

Harlin al Kleve, the son of a master ostler, a journeyman ostler yourself, and a longtime friend of Kalas. Your master sponsored you for your journeyman’s papers as winter began, partly because he didn’t want to feed you over the winter, but mostly because you were ready to practice your trade on your own. You went home to Skaist and proudly showed your papers to your family, then spent the winter helping your father and older brother with the horses. Unfortunately, your older brother stands to inherit and none of the other ostlers in Asolade need another journeyman, so you’ll have to seek work elsewhere.

Kalas al Delsin, the fostered nephew of a yeoman, a skilled guardsman, and a longtime friend of Harlin. You held a good post as a guardsman for Baron Doulzarn of Novelim for several years and your cousin held a similar post at the keep in Jedes. However, at the beginning of the winter, your cousin returned home with a pregnant wife and your uncle asked you to give up your post so that the young couple would have good work to start their new life together. You did so and traveled towards Jedes hoping to take your cousin’s place, but you saw Aledra’s brother, Gorrys, fall in the river on the way. You pulled him out and spent a month recuperating from the icy water in his family’s home. Fortunately, the letter of recommendation that Lord Doulzarn wrote for you – he was impressed that you would make such a sacrifice for your kin – was in the bag you dropped before you dove in and it’s undamaged.

Lysha al Rakath, the daughter of a yeoman, a skilled archer, and the childhood friend of Aledra and Gorrys. The women in Yalen pity you as an old maid because you’re past twenty and not a married mother. They don’t understand that you’ve had your fill of babies helping your mother with your younger siblings. Your father taught you to shoot a bow to humor you when you were little; at last year’s fair you beat him and most of the other yeoman in Asolade. Unfortunately, the local lords don’t have any posts available, at least not for a girl.

However, it doesn’t matter how long or unpleasant the past winter has been. It’s spring and tomorrow will be a new day full of new opportunities. You’re sure of it…

© Neil Thompson, heavily edited by JS.

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