The Major Oak Inn was rumoured to be as old as Blithfield itself; and it certainly looked the part., all creaky lumber and crumbled stone. In actuality, the humble inn was actually in its second life after burning to the ground almost half a century ago. As had been typical ever since that wretched swamp first took a hold over the Western region, the atmosphere within the inn was decidedly complacent - the usual suspects sat at their regular tables in their regular groups, each as merry as the next as they greedily gulped upon the mediocre ales on offer at the establishment. As tedious as they could be, Lowe Winchester was grateful for the local drunks that frequented his premises. If it were not for them, he'd wonder whether it had been worth rebuilding the Major Oak at all: it had been an arduous task full of complications and unexpected expenses. But the steady stream of traffic through Blithfield to the West was enough to make back the losses over the year that followed. Or so, he had thought. Mid-way through the build, that damned Broadmarsh had laid its roots without warning and spread as though it were fire, and not putrid soil known to swallow horses and their owners whole. It was expected that fewer people would be heading to the West... But nobody had foreseen just quite how barren the route would become. But, his locals were here, as they were every night, and with their support and the trade of the rare visitor that stopped by, Lowe was one of the fortunate ones whose business had survived the silence. One such visitor sat in the corner, looking every bit suspect as he shot uneasy glances around the inn. He had not yet asked for a room, and still sipped from the same jug of ale he'd bought nearly two hours ago. Whatever the man wanted, he better make it clear soon, else he'd be out on his heels. Lowe was about to question the stranger, when the door swung open. Low-and-behold, another outsider crossed his doorstep and stepped into the inn; her dark robes damp from the fine drizzle which sprayed the village that evening. She pulled back her hood, revealing a nicely sculpted face and eyes which shone like emeralds; her dark brown locks falling into natural curls down her back as she shook them free. "Ms Wheeler!" Lowe announced in pleasant surprise, as the woman half-smiled back at him with an air of familiar warmth as she approached the bar. "What brings yer back to these parts, lassy?" he asked merrily, leaning on his bar and looking at her expectantly. She always had some fantastic tale to tell. She smiled sheepishly. "Actually, Lowe," she said, "I'm taking each day as it comes right now. I thought I might head home for a while, but decided I'd take a detour through the lakes. I hear they're wonderful." she explained, rather pleasantly. She was well-spoken, but her voice was tinged with an inherent strength she seemed unable to let go of. "Well, one o' them is..." Lowe said, somewhat dejectedly. "Blith's not what she used to be. Not since that mess out West sprang up." he said, glumly. "No, yer better off stickin' to the shores o' Dunn, if yer lookin' fer the sights." He shrugged in defeat, then perked up with a wry smile. "Though, I gots t' say. I didn't have yer down fer no homebird. Where even is home fer yer?" The woman looked down at the bar as she pulled up a stool and sat down. "Well, it's a long story." she sighed. "Neither of my parents want much to do with me," she said, lowering her voice so as not to air her dirty laundry to the whole inn. "I grew up at Bellepoint, actually," she laughed, gesturing to the Fusian pendant around her neck and poking fun at the irony. "Yes, I know... It really rubbed off on me! But, no... I can't really head back there. My father's in Silvermoor, last I heard... I figured if I'm looking for home, I ought to start there." "Well, Miss. I wish yer the best. So long as yer not heading int' that cesspit, yer've got a good chance." he said, flinging his dishcloth over his shoulder. "Can I get yer a drink?" "A small wine, please." she said. "And a room, if you can accommodate me. I was hoping to stay the night. And please, call me Ava." "That'll be no problem, Ava." he said, as he began to pour her drink. "What's happening out West?" she asked, her naturally inquisitive nature getting the better of her; far too tempted by Lowe's ambiguous references to resist politeness. "Yer've not heard o' the Broadmarsh?" Lowe replied, sounding somewhat surprised. Ava shook her head. "Ah, well. I was just a lad, t'was when my old man rebuilt this place. But this swamp just appeared, outta nowhere." he explained, sliding her beverage across the bar. "Small at first, like," he elaborated. "But the damn thing grew fast. Whole place is a wasteland." Ava's eyes were wide, but the wheels of her mind span fast and anyone who looked at her could tell she was thinking. "That's awful!" she exclaimed, taking a sip from her glass, though she seemed detached now; lost in thought. After a moment, she brought her gaze back up to meet the barman's. "Is there nobody that can help?" The conversation was interrupted as the door creaked open once more.