The room smells like apples and freshly baked bread. The seat looks soft, the table big. Voices chatter and laugh, snatches of conversation can be heard from the street.
“Don’t forget to turn the…. food is just lovely …. meal is wonderful.” The fire glows and flickers, guests enter the inviting door and shake the snow off their boots. Everyone knows everyone, and a stranger is welcome. So, I step inside.
“Oh ho, who are you? Here, brush the snow off your boots and come on inside. Have a seat. Please let me take your cloak. Do you want a seat by the side, or a seat by the fire?”
“Seat by the side. I’ll keep my cloak.” I slip into the empty bench and accept the mug of cider.
“It’s sure to storm, perhaps you’d want a room?” The innkeeper leans over, peering into my hood. “How about a warm bowl of stew?” I sigh and lean back, mustn’t let them see my face.
“Stew would be nice. A room too.” I set the coins on the table and the innkeeper gasps.
“Where did you get these? ‘Tis foreign gold- gold of the North.” He peers a bit more suspiciously at my hood and I pull it further over my head.
“I sold something to a Northerner. Besides, I live on the border.” It’s not the entire truth, but he won’t mind. The Southern Kingdom isn’t very receptive of the Northern Kingdom- I was foolish to hope that this inn could be different. The innkeeper sets the bowl of stew on my table and I hurry to eat it all, then I must observe the room. Everyone else in the room are pretty much farmers, two who might be adventurers, but none of the Western Kingdom guards I’m afraid of. However, they could burst in. Hopefully they won’t bother with this inn. The innkeeper collects my mug and bowl, and a bard starts a song.
“In the round-bout mountains of the town, The children sing a song. A song so sweet, that echos off the hills.” He pauses and some of the women join in.
“Echos off the hills, off the hills.” Their song is interrupted as a group of stone-faced men burst through the door. One’s cloak shifts and I stiffen. The Western’s symbol.
“Hail, we come from the Western Kingdom. We are the king’s guard. Please lower your hoods everyone, we are searching for Northerners- one in particular. She is called Icolita.” The innkeeper glances around at us and back at the guards.
“I am sure we can do whatever you want. Do you want us to line up?” The head guard curtly nods and we scramble to get in a line, my heart beating hard.
“Lower you’re hoods as we pass, no need to do it all at once.” The guards walk slowly down the line of people, quickly passing over most. Northerners are easy to spot, with ice-white hair and pale skin.
“You. Lower your hood.” The head guard stands in front of me.
“Sir? I’m sorry, that’s not possible.” I’m sure he can hear my heart beating, but he just reaches out and yanks my hood. My hands fly up, but to late, my hood is down. Ice-white hair spills down my back, and gray eyes widen.
“Icolita! The princess is found!” Ignoring the gasps of fear behind me, I throw up my hand and coat the floor with ice, then jump into the rafters. The rooftops are my friends, and I quickly mount the Inn’s roof. Icolita is on the run again.