|Dreamer of the Host|
The sun is barely a quarter of the way to its apex and the day is already hot. The air is heavy with moisture and the sweat that any motion raises struggles to evaporate from your skin, leaving wet stains anywhere clothing touches skin. Clouds over the great lake to the north hint at relief if the wind will veer and bring them south, but for now the town of Haltwhistle swelters.
Despite the heat the town is unusually busy. Lord Bradford Winehorn is on his procession through the countryside and is expected in Haltwhistle tomorrow or the day after. Winehorn's visits always produce an atmosphere of holiday. When he arrives, the day will be spent hearing petitions, but the evening will bring a potluck feast, games, and music. Local cooks, athletes and musicians will vie for popular and his lordship's acclaim.
As many locals as can escape their farms are in town to see the lord and enjoy the festivities. Because the first fruits of the fall harvest are already being gathered and stored, the town is not as crowded as it will be in two months with the harvest fair.
At the southeastern end of the main street a knot of citizens is struggling to erect a large open-walled tent. Along the main street merchants sweep the cobbles in front of their stores. Others string garlands of wildflowers or ivory and burgundy streamers, the colors of Winehorn's house, over the street and along their eaves.
Galifar's Rest, the local watering hole is already open; the darkness behind its windows promises a cooler welcome than the street. Sally Turner stops her cart, this late the cisterns must be empty and she needn't worry about any milk spoiling, and slips through the gaping maw of it's open double doors.
Toward the northwestern end of the street, Jerrick Butterfield welcomes a farm family who's brought part of their early harvest in.