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On Shepelkirt:

You nimble lightnings, dart your blinding flames
Into her scornful eyes! Infect her beauty,
You fen-suck'd fogs, drawn by the powerful sun,
To fall and blast her pride!

Mud-bespattered and weary, you answer the summons and gather together in Wilma Horsefal's lean-to. You crowd as close as you can to the feeble fire, if only to keep away from the drizzle which has soaked through to your bones. Gazing into the fire, the elder shivers and brushes a slick of grey hair back from her brow. Bringing her fingers to her mouth, she tastes the rainwater and the corner of her mouth lifts. She raises her head and looks at each of you in turn. Her eyes then relax and she looks past your bent shoulders at the rain beyond.

"This is the first blessing of the year. The rain may chill us but it cools too this fever which has taken us all. We can only pray that it falls on our brothers and sisters. You have done well to bring us here. You have readied the soil and put the animals to pasture. You have looked to the children, the sick and the weak. We have lost those who counted friends, but a new season brings new friends and new life." She brings her eyes back to the huddled forms before her and smiles at the diminutive duck sat slightly apart from the others, happily unaffected by the rain. The smile is all too brief and the lines on her face seem deeper than ever in the flickering light as she gazes once more at the fire.

"Our children will know it as the Year of the Sixfold Fire, the year the Danlarni were split asunder, left ravaged by flame and bleeding into the earth. Had we known we may have acted differently, but we all failed to heed the signs. We looked first to the dangers before us, and ignored the poison within, and we have lost much for it. This rain will cleanse us, but first we must leach the poison from our hearts, we must staunch our wounds and sear them in a retelling."

Wilma pauses, her chest heaving as she fights her own demons. You have known her as the heart of the stead, the comforting bosom which all will seek when torn apart by grief, above all as the happy presence which reassures you that all is well. To see her manage only the barest flicker of a smile is to see the ground open beneath your feet.

As she begins to speak, the pattering of rain dies down and the fire flickers anew, burning blue and green, a wave of heat buffeting your cheeks, making you flinch, your eyes blinking as they grow uncomfortably dry...

Wilma continues.

"The gods spoke to us, but they spoke only of normal things, as if they too did not know what was to occur. They spoke of marriages, of a newfound unity, of healthy children, of green pastures and golden dawns. When they spoke of a tribe reclaiming its own, we thought of those of ours yet to return from the east, from Prax, from the Wildlands. We listened with joy but were deaf to the truth. Our Chief proclaimed that this would be a year of unions, of old feuds forgotten. But the first of the fires was soon to follow."