Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, and Happy Feast of Winterveil!

"Happy Feast o' Winterveil!" Bartram announced loudly as he staggered into the room, two large mugs of spiced nog in either hand.

Jazax furrowed his brow, not bothering to look up from where he was reading over some old engineering schematics by the fireplace.

"Awright, what's th' matter wit ye, laddie?" Bartram harrumphed, approaching Jazax's side, "Greatfather Winter only leave ye coal?"

Jazax looked up, going to give a snarky retort, but his words were stolen away as soon as he looked at the dwarf beside him. He was dressed like Greatfather Winter, including a red suit, long white beard, and even a hat covering his bald head. Jazax snorted and perked an eyebrow.

"I'm guessin' that ain't a Smokywood Pastures-approved costume," He quipped, taking the mug of nog offered to him.

"Eh, those cheats dinnae know th' foremost thing about Winterveil!" Bartram huffed, before guzzling his nog, "Them goblins are just in it for th' dosh!"

"Hey, easy with that anti-Smokeywood talk, eh?" Jazax warned, "Unless you wanna fight off a swarm of Jinglepocket and Copperpinch lackeys."

"Bah, ah could take 'em!" Bartram scoffed before taking another swig of his nog.

Jazax just shook his head slightly, setting aside his schematics before taking a sip of his own nog. He coughed, feeling like swallowing it was akin to swallowing a grenade. And not even in the good way.

"Hey, Baldy, I think you forgot to add anything besides the rum," He warbled, clearing his throat uncomfortably.

Bartram just laughed heartily and slapped him on the back, nearly knocking him out of his chair and into the fireplace.

"Well, maybe if you'd stop wit the wee fruity drinks 'n' had a good stout once in a while, you'd be used tae it!" Bartram teased, taking Jazax's mug back and swigging from it.

"Jeez, no wonder you dwarves are all about this holiday, what with all the drinking," Jazax rolled his eyes.

"Awright, dinnae chap Winterveil, laddie!" Bartram said with a scowl, "It ain't just about th' swallyin!"

Jazax waved a hand at him dismissively, not even understanding half those words anyway. To his surprise, Bartram grabbed his arm and yanked him right out of his seat.

"There might nae be snow in Stranglethorn, aye," Bartram said as he pulled Jazax to the door, "But we're gonnae find yer Winterveil jolly yet, lad!"

Jazax protested against his grip, but it was a useless endeavor. Bartram wasn't dissuaded once he had his mind set on something, after all. So he just sighed and let Bartram lead him across the docks.

"Ye cannae tummy a dram, aye?" Bartram glanced back at him with a smile, "Sae we'll have a go at fairn. It ain't called th' Feast o' Winterveil for hee haw, laddie! Nobody canne tummy sweetmeats!"

Jazax furrowed his brow in confusion, but started to get the picture when Bartram led him to a little hole-in-the-wall at the edge of the docks. The intermingling smells of the familiar holiday spices and the pungent stench of the low tide didn't mix well at all, and it made his stomach churn something fierce.

"Uhh, yeah, I'm gonna pass," Jazax said as he pointed back to the door over his shoulder, "I'd rather just go work on some-"

"Oh nae ye dinnae," Bartram shook his head, "Ye cannae sit by yerself in that musty old workshop during Winterveil! If eating wilnae dae it for ye, then ah hae another idea! Follow me!"

Jazax groaned and let Bartram wheel him out of the restaurant, leading him up to the second layer of the docks. This time, Bartram pushed him into a tailor shop. Jazax perked an eyebrow, turning to the shopkeeper as Bartram was flicking him a gold coin.

"Fit him for th' fair, aye?" He said with a nod of his head towards Jazax.

The other goblin caught the gold coin, nibbled the edge for good measure, and then looked towards Jazax. He snorted in amusement, looking back at Batram and nodded his head.

"You're the boss," He grinned, grabbing Jazax and pulling him into the back.

When Jazax emerged again, he was stuffed into a garish and scratchy sweater that made him look twice as thick. He couldn't even put his arms all the way down, and the collar was so long that it bunched up under his nose. The chest was decorated with various reindeer, each of them having a little sewn on bell for a nose. It made him jingle annoyingly whenever he moved. Bartram took one look at him and pulled down his white beard, grinning.

"Take a keek at ye!" He beamed, "Yer a right reveler now!"

"I look like an idiot," Jazax murmured, scowling as Bartram shoved his hat onto his head.

"Nae, yer braw!" Bartram nodded, before grabbing his arm and pulling him out of the tailor's shop, "Now let's gang tae th' howf! A'm sure there's other revelers at th' Salty Sailor! Th' best part of' Winterveil is th' carousing!"

Jazax sighed and reluctantly followed Bartram. He wasn't keen on being seen in this silly getup, and he didn't really have much of an interest in celebrating anything today. Winterveil was one of the few times of year where he could reliably have entire days to himself. He knew Bartram meant well, but he also had the unfortunate affliction of being an idiot. Sighing again, he began to try to plan the proper way to tell Bartram off without hurting the old dwarf's feelings.

Bartram pulled them into the Tavern with a broad proclamation of holiday well-wishing to the half-drunken crowd. Oh, who was he kidding? They were pirates. There was nothing half-drunk about them. They gave groggy, slurred cheers in return, before fixating back on their drinks.

"Who's up for a song?" Bartram asked the crowd, getting a few overlapping shouts of answer, "Awright, awright. Ah will just start us off, 'n' then ye lads join in!"

Jazax managed to weasel away from Bartram's distracted grip as he began to belt out an off-key festive song. He rubbed his shoulder, which was now sore from having been pulled about all day, and made his way over towards the bar. Sliding a few silver coins over to Innkeeper Skindle, he ordered his usual South Island Iced Tea and turned to lean his back against the bar. He perked an eyebrow, watching the mass of pirates crooning along with Bartram's song. Snorting in amusement, he realized they were just as out of tune as the dwarf himself.

"I thought sailors liked singin' all the time," He quipped to himself, taking his drink from Skindle, "So why are they so bad at it?"

"Either too drunk, or not drunk enough."

Jazax looked over beside him, seeing a goblin woman sitting at the bar next to him and sipping a drink. His first impression was that she was pretty. Her skin was a little more yellow than his, making her look a little jaundiced under the flickering lights of the bar. The bangs of her bright blue hair covered her right eye, as the other yellow orb watched him suspiciously. She lifted her head from her drink, blowing at her bangs, and turned to him.

"What the heck are you wearing?" She asked, eyeing his sweater judgingly.

"My buddy, the one crowin' over there, made me wear it," Jazax shrugged, struggling to push his arm enough to bring his drink to his lips, "I can't believe that idiot wasted a whole gold on this thing."

The goblin woman turned her head, looking over towards Bartram, and snorted. When she did, Jazax finally became aware of the bone pierced through her nose. As he stared at it, wondering how he could've missed it previously, the goblin woman spoke.

"You talkin' about Bart?" She asked, perking a blue eyebrow, "So you must be that guy he was talkin' about, then? The engineer?"

"Yeah, I'm Jazax-err, wait, you know Baldy too?" Jazax cocked his head to the side, half of his face getting swallowed by the collar of his sweater.

In response, the goblin woman clicked her tongue and set her own drink down. Then she reached out towards him, grabbed his collar roughly, and rolled it down under his chin. Jazax blinked at her, holding his breath awkwardly as she leaned so close to his face, and only breathed again once she leaned away.

"Yeah, course I know him," She nodded, pausing to blow her bangs back again, "I'm his partner, Tezz Moneyhire."

Jazax nodded in recognition of the name, glancing aside. Great, just what he needed now. Another person to pester him. And a goblin woman, of all things! He glanced back at Tezz, realizing she was staring at him expectantly.

"Oh, uh, so..." He cleared his throat awkwardly, "Um, that's an interestin' name. Moneyhire, I mean. Was that from your parents or did you-"

"I made it," Tezz sniffed, sipping her drink, "I'm a mercenary."

"Oh, right, makes sense," Jazax nodded, unsure the exact reason why he felt so uncomfortable talking to this woman.

In theory, it was just like talking to anybody else. But every time he shot a nervous glance back in her direction, he'd lose whatever train of thought he had. And that meant she was special somehow, right? At least, in theory. It was an enigma to him, his peculiar reaction towards her. And he'd always hated mysteries.

Glancing down a moment in thought, he turned and set down his own drink. Then he looked back at Tezz and put on his best charming smile. He'd get to the bottom of this enigma, whatever it took.