I stepped into the tavern with the hood of my cloak up to cover most of my face. The smell hit me like a blow to my face, sharply contrasted to the gentle warmth enveloping me. The numbing bite of the howling wind outside was kept at bay by a fireplace at the other end of the wooden establishment. The cobblestone streets made the little town feel deserted, but the inside of this tavern proved otherwise. A wide variety of the finest humanity had to offer was gathered here, from the drunk, employmentless knights, to those like me - diminutive, secretive figures most of whom appeared to have no weapons. This was home, alright. Buying a drink and sitting in a bench in the corner, I surveyed the rest of the scene, recognizing many faces, but not recognizing just as many. Had it really been two years since I'd left? It certainly didn't feel that long. I felt a small, wry grin lift the corners of my lips. While many of the people had changed in this little road-side town, nothing else about it seemed to have. The tavern still had the same bad beer in the same rusty tins, with the same, people-sweat stink. An older woman was animatedly speaking to a pair of heavy-set mercenary folk, who hung on her every word. A pang of guilt stabbed through me. How was mother doing? After the fight, I'd left and not thought about her for two years. I was older now, though, more mature, more ready to listen to her wisdom. At least in exchange, I'd be able to regale her with tales of my journey. She always did like a good story, though telling them was always what truly enraptured her. Doubtless, eloquent, over-exaggerated versions of my exploits would be circulating around town within the week. I chuckled, thinking of her. Many minutes and a hearty meal later, I found myself strolling along the streets I'd grown up so comfortably in, towards that old, stone building on the edge of town. I closed my eyes to enjoy the crisp scent of the freezing, snow-covered landscape, navigating the streets through habit, which was why I smelt the smoke before I saw it. My eyes flashed open and in the next moment, I was running towards my destination, not in the joy I'd been expecting to return, but in horror. The house was aflame.