Schroeder and Hart entered the tavern, shaking the snow from their cloaks. They were immediately greeted with a rush of warmth, the somewhat comforting smell of spilt ale, and raucous laughter. A merry ballad filled the room. The townsfolk sought solace from the cold, sharing tales and jokes to warm their spirits. Hart took the lead, passed through the crowd and headed straight for the bar.
"Two ales," said Hart as he slid two silver pieces across the bartop. The bartender filled their flagons, and the two men settled in a quiet corner, away from the hustle and bustle. Schroeder gulped his ale and shivered, winter’s chill still clinging to his weathered face.
“What news from your brother?” Hart asked, studying him with quiet concern.
“Nothing from Ostaria since the harvest,” sighed Schroeder. “In all my years, I’ve never seen a winter like this. They’re not ready for it. If it goes on much longer, they’re going to starve.”
A shadow passed over Hart’s face. “That may not be the least of their concerns,” he whispered. “There’s been talk of something moving through the North. Shadows among the trees, a dark legion moving under cover of the freezing darkness. An army.”
“An army? In winter?” Schroeder exclaimed incredulously while finding no trace of amusement in his friend’s face.
“Keep your voice down,” Hart hissed. “It’s probably nothing to worry about. I know it sounds strange, but I think I remember a story just like this.” He paused for thought and looked to his friend. Schroeder’s disbelief had begun to turn to a palpable dread, for he knew of what Hart spoke. “When I was just a child.”
Schroeder and Hart noticed a group of strangers watching them from across the bar. In silent agreement, they supped their ales and made their way back into the bitter cold of Turul Város.