Bast washed the dishes as best he could. He couldn't help it if he wasn't doing the best job; it's not like he'd ever had to do anything as pedestrian as dishes before this.

The Waystone Inn was impeccably constructed, and had been finished just a few months earlier. They'd settled into life as inkeepers and his Reshi had become a simple man named Kote. There had been no music since, and it pained Bast more than he thought it ever might.

A bell tinkled, signaling the entrance of a customer. So late in the season, things were grinding to a halt. In a span or two, there would be nothing left but silence. It hung heavily on him, though he'd never let his Reshi know. Before he knew it, it would be spring, and there were scads of beautiful women in this town. He'd keep himself entertained.

"Bast, can you get that?" Kote called from the basement. Bast heaved a heavy sigh, dried off his hands, and exited the back room.

A visitor stood in the threshold. Not one of the locals, either, by the look of it. She drew back her hood and a shock of auburn curls came to rest with the movement, and Bast knew that the number of lovely women in this town had been increased by one. He tried not to preen, and instead put on his most winning smile. "Welcome to the Waystone Inn," he said. "How can I help you?"

"Are you the owner?" She seemed anxious, or scared. She looked like a deer about to take flight.

"Not exactly—"

"I should probably speak to the owner," she said. Her smile was warm and a little regretful. "It's regarding a long-term stay." Over-wintering, then. He'd heard it was common, though why she'd pick a backwater like Newarre for it, he'd never know—

The door swung open with a blast of cold, sleet-filled air, answering his unasked question. He dashed to the door, closing and latching it, then came back to the girl. As he passed back around to her, he caught the edges of her face coming back from what looked like a double-take. No, he'd just imagined it. The warm smile was on her face again, like it had never left.

"The owner is a little busy downstairs, but while you wait for him, I'm happy to serve you a bit of dinner." He was suddenly glad they'd put the kettle on for the night.

"I should see to my horse."

"No need!" Bast jumped to attention, happy for the distraction a horse would serve, but she waved him off.

"Thank you, but he's a little…" she trailed off. A little what? What else could a horse be, besides fun?

"Tetchy?" Bast supplied.

She nodded, visibly relaxing now that the word was off someone's tongue. "Tetchy. Yes. Can you show me to the stables?"