The hive tower was decked out magnificently. Woven boughs of lufwood arched overhead, tiny lanterns hanging from them in glittering clusters, while the traditional sumpwood globes, painted green and red, floated in the warm air.
In the middle of the floor, a mighty fire blazed, around which long tables had been arranged to form a circle. These groaned under the weight of good things to eat – tildersteaks, glazed legs of hammelhorn, steaming bowls of spicy tripweed, and, of course, Wodgiss sausages.
Hedgethorn Lammergyre, the new mayor of Farrow Lake, had spared no expense to make this a Wodgiss Night to remember. After the terrible trials and tribulations of this last year, there are many of us Farrow Lakers who are heartily grateful to him for his efforts.
There is nothing like this great midwinter feast for bringing communities together and raising the spirits. This year, snow had come swirling down and a bitterly cold wind had turned the Farrow Lake to ice. Three of the Five Falls had turned to frozen icicles and many Farrow Lakers had likened this bitter winter to that legendary one, so long ago, that had afflicted the great floating city of Sanctaphrax.
But the warmth of the hive tower soon banished such thoughts from our minds as we raised goblets of hylewine and tankards of wodge-ale in the traditional toast – “Earth and Sky!”
I downed my drink in one and looked around at the faces in the firelight. They were my neighbours – the solemn long faces of the webfoot goblins of Farrow village; the hard, weatherbeaten traders from the shacks in the Western Woods, and the eager, excited faces of the new settlers and their young families, who were establishing themselves on the fringes of the eastern shore. Our little community had grown so much since I’d arrived, I realized, and now the war was over, would grow bigger than ever.
‘Earth and Sky… and Farrow Lake!’ I cried, raising my re-charged goblet.
‘Farrow Lake! Farrow Lake! Farrow Lake!’ The hive tower resounded with joyful voices raised in celebration. Across the fire, Hedgethorn, his little foundling cradled in his arms, laughed delightedly.
‘Why, Forden, came a familiar voice, and turning, I saw my old friend, Gart Ironshank, coming towards me. ‘Just the person I was looking for.’
The captain shook my hand warmly and drew up a chair. ‘Quite a festive gathering,’ he said, looking round appreciateively. ‘Good to see things getting back to normal…’
‘They’ll never be normal for me,’ I said. Alcestia’s beautiful face appeared in my mind. ‘But life has to go on.’
‘Indeed, indeed,’ said Gart, nodding, ‘which is why I have a very interesting proposition to put to you, Forden, old friend…’