The Gren Mountain Pass Tavern was heaving with activity. Inside, away from the snow and harsh landscape, the rooms were done up festively with buntings and evergreens. Candles were hidden behind coloured glass lanterns. The fire was stoked up and had several chickens roasting away on it, filling the air with a mouth-watering aroma.

Gren Mountain and the range it was a part of blocked off the capitals of Astana and Grenlok, and the pass was one of the few navigable routes between them. As such, the tavern had been founded and quickly became an essential stop and trading spot in the journey, a shelter from the frigid sting in the atmosphere.

And for its founder, Yolek Jorsh, it was his home. And that is why good friends and old foes had gathered there that evening. He struck the steel shield he used to call attention with the back of his fist.

“People, patrons and good folk! Thank you all for coming here at fairly short notice, but I have an important announcement to make.” He called out, his voice booming and boisterous. “But first, a toast!” Yolek declared with a raise of his pewter tankard. “To the Gren Mountain Pass Tavern! May it always be a haven for the travelers, the traders and in the case of Remar there, the trouble!”

Laughter boomed about the tavern, with the powerful looking orc, Remar, giving a fond and partially toothed grin.

“A decade ago, on this very day, I built this tavern with my bare hands, and not a small amount of hard-earned gold. But not all things can last. I have received a letter from distant shores, of an opportunity that I cannot in my right mind ignore. So on this auspicious night, I must announce my retirement, and the changing of hands of this tavern, this bastion from the cold, to my good friend and fellow here, Trell Kedahr!”

Yolek gestured to the slender, pale skinned man who often tended bar until the late hours of the night. The two were an odd pair, the nimble thief and the bearded, muscled bear of a man. But their friendship was forged long ago. Trell gave a bow to the crowd before speaking.

“And it is my honour to accept this responsibility. You will all be pleased to know that I do not plan to raise the rates or prices here in a headrush of power.” Trell said with a little chuckle.

“I don’t know when I will be back from my journey, but know this: I -willl- be back. So you better keep a seat at the fire for me for when I do, because it’s a cold, long walk here!” Yolek boomed, before raising his glass. “Now, let’s get this party started!”

And with that, they all fell to the feasting and festivities, the one large group made up of smaller groups of people, mingling and moving from people to people to catch up on the old times and new adventures. And as time whiled away through the night, so did the food and drinks provided for that evening get whittled away. It was early in the morning, with many of the patrons retired to their rooms or asleep where they were when Yolek slipped out the back door, his backpack hefted over his shoulders and his traveling furs secured to his mighty form.

“It won’t be the same without you.” Trell murmured from the shadows, stepping into the light as Yolek turned to face him.

“I know. But I’ll stay in contact. I left plenty of things behind for if you need it.” Yolek replied, offering a hand out to his long-time partner. Trell clasped it in his own, before grunting in surprise as the larger man pulled him in for an impressive bear hug. One whisper was passed between them, before Yolek was off into the snow, walking away from one of his proudest achievements, and fondest jobs. The bearded boniface of the best bar in the known world.

Trell stood watching, waiting for his friend to disappear over the horizon before slipping back into the shadows he slinked through so skillfully.

Teresa Johnson blew her nose as the client disconnected from the server. With another tissue, she dabbed at the tears streaming down her face. Unlike her avatar, Teresa was not tall, nor was she muscled, and she definitely was not bearded or male. Shutting the PC down with a quick few key presses, she knew it would soon be time to pack it away for storage. The chance she had, to be a vet at a safari in Africa was too good to pass up, but she knew that there would be things she could not take with her.

Things like Yolek Jorsh, the level 100 Human Fighter that she had spent ten years playing on a popular online role-playing game.

Or people like Trell Kedahr. Though that was actually Celine, her BFF from elementary school and roommate. As if summoned by her thoughts, Celine came into the room in a similar state of emotions and making a beeline for a hug.

“What Yolek says goes for you too, Cee.” Teresa sniffled, her arms wrapped tightly around her friend. “I can’t really take my computer, but I’ll be on the other end of a phone if you need me, and I’ll write, and e-mail, and come back, I promise and I’mgonnamissyousomuch-” She burst into tears again, reluctant to let go.

“I… oh God I can’t stop crying.” Celine sobbed. “I could hardly see the keyboard at times… but I know, hun. I know we’ll both make the effort. And when you can play again, well, the tavern will still be there.” She promised, before regaining some composure to make a very important offer:

“We still have all that ice cream and wine in the fridge…”

“Yes. Definitely.” Teresa nodded, unsteadily getting out of her chair still locked in cuddle with her best friend. “Yolek and Trell had their goodbye party. We still need ours.”



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