Brenda stopped sweeping and looked around the common room. The inn had emptied out as soon as they'd said the pass was clear enough to travel. Now maybe she could get some rest. The front door opened and the Duc's man walked in, heading to the notice board.

"'Heya, Harvey," she greeted him, "What'cha got t'day?"

"More snow comin'." He said, working a tack free with a fingernail.

"Big one?" She asked, walking behind the counter and leaning the broom against the wall.

"Mistress Bola says so." He stuck the tack in the paper, pushed it in with his thumb, and turned to face her.

"That's too bad." Brenda said, picking up a mug and holding it under the tap. "How is she?" she asked, setting the full mug in front of him. "How are the twins? Show any talent yet?"

"She's got hopes." he said sitting down and tucking his satchel between his feet. "She thinks Wren might have stirred a whirlwind in the snow the other day. She's not sure about Hawk yet. It don't matter though, even if both kids go back t' her family, li'l Bruce's still his heir."

"True, true." Brenda replied.

Harvey took a drink, the mug covering his face.

The front door opened again and Oliver walked in carrying a flour sack under each arm.

"Wipe yer feet!" Brenda said before he could get any farther.

"Yes, Ma." he said. Setting the sacks down on a chair, he dutifully stomped mud and snow off his boots. Picking them up again, he started to cross the room.

"That from the shed?" she asked.

He nodded, "We're runnin' low."

"How much we got back there?"

"Enough t' get through Seed, maybe a little more."

"That's fine. The road t' Copper Mountain will be open then. Where's Douglas?"

"Huntin'. He said he saw an elk the othar day." He kicked open the door to the back. Brenda frowned at the boot print he left behind. Oh well, she'd make him scrub it off later. "Tell him he needs t' clear the roof." She called after him.

"I'll do it." Oliver called from the storeroom.

Harvey drained the last of his mug and set it down. Wiping his face with one hand, he fished a cooper out of his pocket and set it down on the counter. "I got t'go." he said, bending down to pick up his satchel. "Got t'get back before dark."

"Be safe out there."

"I will, see ya." he stood up and walked out the door.

She watched him leave then picked up the mug, dropped it in the wash bin, and turned to grab the broom. The front door opened again. "I do apologize, sir." Someone said in an eastern accent. Brenda looked up, a hand held the door open but the rest of the body was turned away from her. A blue cloak flapped in the breeze and she frowned. He is letting all the warm air out!

"Not a problem." Harvey's voice floated in. "Jus' talk t' Brenda, inside. She'll help ya."

"Thank you again, sir." the man called. He turned to come inside and now Brenda could see the gold trim on his cloak. She smiled widely. "Good day, sir! Welcome t' the Elk's Home Inn! What brings such a fine man as yourself here?"

"Hello, are you Mistress Brenda?"

"I am. I own this lovely place. What would you like t' eat, sir? I have a mutton stew in the pot. If my son's huntin' is successful, we'll have venison tonight. In the meantime, what would you like to drink?"

"Nothing for me, thanks." Brenda watched him closely while he stood at the counter, pulling the scarf away from his face. The scarf was the same blue as his cloak and both were made of fine wool. The tabard over his tunic was embroidered with the Imperial crest. "I need to deliver a message to a Magician named Janna, is she here? She's traveling with a companion named Rose Farmer."

"Yes, they were just here."

"When did they leave Mistress? I'm an Imperial messenger and I should not be delayed."

"They left a week ago. Headed t' Little Creek, over the pass."

He adjusted his scarf, starting to wrap it around his neck. "Little Creek? Maybe I'll have time..." He turned towards the door.

Brenda reached for his shoulder, missed, and grabbed a handful of cloak. "Hold on sir, don't leave yet."

He turned back, "Now Mistress," he said, condescendingly. "While I'm sure this is a very fine inn..."

Idiot, Brenda thought, suppressing a scowl. "We're goin' t' get a storm t'night, sir." She interrupted. "A blizzard. If ya go out, ya will get lost, and ya will freeze t' death. No one will find yer body until spring."

He looked at her, annoyed. "How do you know that, Mistress? Do your knees hurt? Or maybe your ear?" he asked skeptically.

Brenda released his cloak and pointed to the notice board with her other hand. "The Duc married an Air Mage, sir. She tells us when she sees a storm coming, sir. We're lucky to have her, sir."

The man walked over to the board and studied the paper. Brenda heard a thump somewhere above and sensed an opportunity. She pointed to the window, "Ya see? It's already started."

The man turned just as thick clumps of snow fell past the window. She watched his eyes get big and sent a quick prayer of thanks to the Weaver for making Oliver choose this moment to clear the roof.

All right," he said, turning back to her. "How much for a room?"

Brenda grinned as he pulled out his purse.