The Story Continues

These Cold Winters

Lynus pulled the blanket tighter around his shoulders, suppressing a shiver. Although he sat in the tea room with the fire burning brightly and a thick blanket around his slender frame, he could still feel the winter chill seep into his bones.

He had heard many a local bemoan about the approaching winter months, they saying that the cold season was brutal to all who lived in Lagaard. And while he took their warnings to prepare to heart, he having never experienced a winter in Lagaard yet, Lynus wasn’t expecting such extreme, bitter cold.

He honestly had never felt so cold in his life. Not even…back there…at that place.

It may be only the beginning of the winter season, but it was already so cold. Icy. Perhaps even colder than the icy wonderland of the third stratum of Yggdrasil. That in itself really spoke volumes.

Glancing up from his book, Lynus turned his attention to the window and had to suppress another shiver. For the last two days a winter storm blew over Lagaard, depositing sleet and snow, the wind at a near gale force. The sound of the wind alone was enough to cause him to shiver. It was a constant howl, lulling softly before randomly pitching, causing the windows of the inn to rattle.

As the ice and snow tapped relentlessly against the window, Lynus was grateful that he wasn’t required at the hospital. With the raging storm, even just trekking to the entrance of the labyrinth was hazardous, so there were few explorers or guards within the labyrinth to come into trouble. The majority of exploration had ceased until the winter storm was over. And if the seers and alchemists were correct in their predictions, that was still days away.

Idly tugging the blanket even closer around him, Lynus turned his attention to the fireplace, thankful that it was burning fiercely, a large stockpile of wood in the corner, the rest outside but within walking distance, even in this wind. The fire place was constantly attended to, and not just by Matron, but by almost everyone at the inn. If the fire should suddenly go out, he was certain that the inn patrons would raise hell.

So, it wasn’t an understatement to say that the tea room was extremely popular. Especially during the mornings and afternoons, and days of constantly storms. Some days there were near physical fights about who was allowed to stand the closest to the fire place and demands to stop hogging all the warmth.

It was also comforting knowing that Lynus wasn’t the only one to be enduring grief from the cold.

Lynus was curled up in one chair, the one that had become his favourite due to how close it was to the fire place. At his feet was Chi-hung, the white tiger sleeping as close to the flames as possible. He had heard through Hamza that during the winter season, Chi-hung would practically live in the tea room and would become quite cranky should the fire become low on fuel. He was also incredibly hard to convince into leaving the inn during these months. No one really had the gumption to deal with a prickly sabre-tooth tiger.

On another chair and dozing quite contently as well was Jhon. Although the blond-haired protector’s defence was second to none, he didn’t fare well in the cold either. In the labyrinth it was different as he was constantly on alert to danger to feel the cold. But in town and in calmer settings, he really felt the chill. He didn’t really understand why he felt the cold so much; he was raised in Lagaard, so should be used to it. He tried not to complain too much, though. He knows that the winter cold would eventually end.

The one who complained the most was, of course, Macerio. Despite the warm fluffy trench coat that he constantly wore, he still felt the cold. His complaints only grew more agitated after realising that these Lagaardian winters were somehow colder than the Frozen Woods. In his mind, that shouldn’t be right and totally not fair. In the mornings, he was rather combative and would fight anyone who got between him and the fire place. He was currently occupying yet another seat, he too sleeping the winter away.

Tobyn hated these winters months, not for the cold, but the inability to do much. Some storms lasts for days and he was left wandering around the inn like a lost sheep. He hated doing nothing and was often found pacing for the sole need for something to do. The wind seemed to add to his anxiety, often heard muttering about the ‘white bullshit’ and ‘fucking wind’. Eventually he would get so bored that he would simply go to sleep.

Lirit had the same need to keep himself distracted, often simply practicing with his lute, writing songs, or helping Matron in the kitchen. Being in the kitchen was good idea, actually; distraction and warmth. He didn’t like the howling winds or the ice rattling against the windows, though. With his sensitive hearing, it wasn’t a surprise. And unlike so many others, he found it difficult to sleep through such lasting storms. The poor thing. Lynus had to craft him a specialised tea to help him sleep at night.

Rahas wasn’t exactly happy with the cold. Ok, that was a bit of an understatement. He hated it. Anything about these winter storms, actually. They were too cold, too loud, too long, too interfering. He had things to do. Places to train. The last few days had seen him holed up in his room and in bed with the blankets over his head. Occasionally he would wander out, state that he was still alive and get something to eat before stalking back to bed. Although Lynus wished he would hang out more with the other members of his guild, he was so grateful that Rahas hadn’t tried to sneak out and train somewhere.

Magnus appeared to be one of a few who wasn’t all that bothered by the cold. He didn’t know why, but many believe it was because of his intense alchemy abilities. He was able to acclimatize to his surroundings thanks to his elemental magic. And despite how skittish he usually was around loud noises, he didn’t mind the howling winds. In fact, he enjoyed all kinds of weather events. He was often found sat in front of a window and simply gazing out at all the whiteness.

Shen was another who appeared immune to the winter chill, but Lynus was pretty sure that was just a façade. He was just better at hiding his distain and discomfort. He would spend these idle days either meditating in his room (or in the same room that Magnus was in as he gazed out the window) or practice his katana skills in an empty part of the inn. He rarely voiced any complaints, although he did grumble every now and again about being trapped inside.

Lynus wasn’t entire sure how Hamza coped with such icy conditions. During these bleak winter storms, Hamza would bunker down with Cedric in order to watch over him should his illness suddenly plague him. Leaving him alone wasn’t at all a good idea and trying to take him to the hospital in such conditions would only make him worse, so Lynus was grateful that Hamza had enough medical knowledge to take care of Cedric should anything untoward happen.

And for everyone else that Lynus knew of, they were probably just sleeping. Honestly, in such cold conditions, sleeping as they waited it out was all they could really do. He wasn’t sure about other guilds, but the Guardian Guild weren’t desperate for money and the labyrinth would still be there waiting for them in the future, so they didn’t have the need to go out and get frostbite.

Lynus was pulled from his musings when a certain landsknecht walked into the room. He watched as a soft expression of amusement appeared on Axel’s face as his gaze fell over the sleeping occupants before he quickly made his way over to the fireplace to place more wood within the crackling flames.

He wasn’t doing it for himself. Axel wasn’t so bothered by the cold; he was honestly more annoyed about the months leading up to winter. One could imagine why; strong guy with an axe? Yeah, he was constantly asked to chop wood in preparation for the winter. Cass told him he should just consider it part of his training. Well, that resulted in Axel embedding his axe atop of the bar and Cass is still complaining about the ‘mountain sized chunk’ he took out of it.

After ensuring that the fire was well stocked, Axel stood up and turned to Lynus. “How are you faring?” he asked as he made his way over to him.

Lynus scooted closer to the corner of his seat to allow Axel to sit down next to him, to which he promptly cuddled up beside him. “Still feeling the cold, unfortunately,” Lynus answered as Axel wrapped an arm around his shoulders.

“You’ll get used to it eventually,” Axel said.

Lifting up the blanket to also drape it over Axel, Lynus wasn’t entirely sure he would ever get used to such bitter cold.

However, between the warmth and comfort of Axel’s body next to his and the fire place, he soon started to feel sleepy himself. And Axel tugged him closer toward him, as if noticing his drowsiness. Lynus couldn’t help but smile when he felt Axel place a chaste kiss to his forehead before he rested his head against Axel’s chest.

Nuzzling his head under Axel’s chin, Lynus closed his eyes and listened to the crackling fireplace and the howling winds outside. As he drifted off to sleep, Axel gently rubbing circles against his back, he couldn’t help but muse that maybe the winter cold had some benefits after all.

Not that he actually needed an excuse to cuddle with Axel.

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