Summary: The isle of Balduran in the snow. Quick one-shot written for the Attic's Winter challenge.

To those more informed on likely climate and vegetation than I...it's totally magical snow that came into existence as a Dradeel side-effect.

The same Bhaalspawn, Prudence, also features in Bloody Thoughts ( /s/5431293/1/ ).

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Blizzards were distinctly unsuitable weather for adventuring in. Darn that flighty wizard, Prudence thought, the sentiment echoed in rather less paladinic terms by the remainder of the party. The village had supplied them with thick furs that they had gratefully placed over what armour they had been able to salvage from the wreck (with the exception of Skie, who complained about the smell), and nonetheless when they had emerged victorious from the wolfweres' lair the increased snowfall facing them had made travel impossible, not to mention vision and their ability to find their way in this unfamiliar island.

"Ba-ba-ba-ba-ba-ba-WA!" The toddler they had rescued from the lair, Peladan, seemed at least to be hale enough, held next to the fire by an exasperated Branwen, the last of the party volunteering for the task. Prudence stirred the hot soup she was attempting to make, hoping it would be both digestible enough for the boy and acceptable enough for the adults in the party. She had already reached a decision to refrain from relying upon Dradeel's recipe book.

"Shar-Teel, could you look upon the boy in that manner again? It appears to keep him more easily persuaded," Branwen said, Peladan's voice becoming louder underneath her speech.

"Northwoman, I loathe infants and male infants in particular--"

"Mean-wa-ha-ha-ha!" Peladan clapped his hands with glee, his eyes wide in the direction of Shar-Teel's highly intimidating scowl known to set innumerable grown men scattering before her in any village they passed through. The hamster in memory of Minsc resting under Shar-Teel's furs poked out its head and chirped, which appeared to further amuse the boy.

"Ba-ba-yum-yum!"

"I'm so cold, when will this be over?" Skie sulked, sharing Eldoth's cloak with him. She had proved herself in the battle despite her complaints, Prudence thought; disarmed all the wolfweres' traps, aimed a Wand of Magic Missiles well, and in fact was the only party member completely unscathed by the monsters' claws, her dancer's grace and light armour keeping her safe. Her attempts to comfort and coo over the toddler had been met with the purest of outraged howls by him. "When do we get to go home? Oh no, how do we get to go home?" The horror and reality of their wrecked ship appeared to have at last sunken in.

"There is that--thing--below the cliffs," Prudence said. They had not been able to traverse the area, but there was certainly a wooden structure there. An interesting contradiction to unravel here; the wolfweres' lair was Balduran's ship, she knew from the journal and other priceless historical artifacts Skie had found, this other structure suspiciously similar, and yet to them Kaishas Gan had barely hinted at ways to return.

"We are trapped here to be doomed without a teleportation spell of due magnitude," Xan said, lying prone on the floor, weak and still wounded from the battle. If only Prudence had not used her paladin's healing arts so quickly; but they were all alive, and Branwen would be able to heal him soon enough. "There would be the difficulty of finding the exact direction of your homeland upon those crude charts, of transporting the five of you with assorted baggage besides myself, of losing our course and becoming trapped in a similar prison to the island of ice or yet worse, of..."

"You talk too much. Stay still." Shar-Teel's hand rested firmly on his shoulder. An...odd...relationship, or whatever name they called it to themselves, between the depressive Greycloak and the man-killing warrior.

"When the word stupidity is next adduced to a dictionary, the phrase 'tackling a ship full of monsters at the hub of a snowstorm' is sure to become a part of it," Eldoth sniped. Prudence had thought him handsome and clever, when he had first joined the group. Now, she'd some idea of what he was capable of beyond his sophisticated poses.

"Could you attempt to lean downwind, Eldoth? The stench is somewhat unnerving," Xan said.

"Or could it be the reek of your suppurating, pustulant wounds, mighty wizard? To imagine that you claim to be a cautious man. Your she-boar leads you with a ring through your nose."

"Say another word and I'll cut out your--" Shar-Teel, as usual.

"Eldoth! He's hurt. Please be nice." Skie, trying to prevent the impending disaster. Someday she would realize the nature of her fiance, Prudence told herself.

Peladan let out another loud and shrill cry.

"Eldoth, start singing, thanks. Something that the kid will like," Prudence said. Attempting to exercise her authority as party leader always felt like a gamble, but in this case it functioned well enough to silence the quarrel. No, Shar-Teel, please don't kill everyone. No, Skie, you can't have a hot bath and a manicure right now. No, Xan, we're not all doomed, thank you ever so much for your contribution to party morale. No, Eldoth, stop being a chauvinistic pig. Yes, Branwen, every time you tell Shar-Teel she has more spine than the men in the party Xan and Eldoth have a point when they take offence. Every single day.

"Childhood--the period of human life intermediate between the idiocy of infancy and the folly of youth. If they are auguries, they form proof that the future is certainly not a place one wishes to visit."

What lullaby Eldoth would use instead of his typical blood-soaked sagas of hopeless battles and assorted betrayals was an interesting question, and bringing his flute to his lips he played a series of rich-toned notes. The toddler looked up at it and clapped, a single tooth protruding from his gummy mouth.

"Of course you think it impossible the wolfweres have ears, nor that an unfamiliar cacophony from this place would provoke any that might remain of them," Xan said.

"They learned to leave this hut alone for years," Prudence said. The door, also, offered a handy peephole, and Branwen had asked Tempus' blessing to protect their shelter.

"Let them come. I hate to leave males unslain," Shar-Teel said. To Xan, she added: "We'll protect you. Don't bother wasting your spells on the likes of Kron."

There was a knock at the door; the flute-playing abruptly ceased. Prudence's first panicked thought was that it was the dramatically appropriate moment for an attack, and then her sanity quickly reasserted itself. "I'll check," she said. Her scimitar and shield were ready if wolfwere tried to burst through.

Dradeel's peephole showed naught but swirling white outside, it seemed. She adjusted it, and then the figure became apparent. Dressed in floating, windblown white, certainly, but no wolfwere: pale-skinned, very human in form, and smiling nervously.

"I intend no harm--is Prudence in there?" Delainy, thick white furs wrapped about her white dress, called. Nothing about her face suggested anything untoward.

"Er, yes. Come in." Prudence pulled open the door, quickly took the historian in, and as quickly re-barred it.

"The winter gods are generous," Eldoth said. "Come and warm yourself; hiding such a figure in fur is truly criminal."

"For your kind welcome I thank you," Delainy said. "Prudence, the wizard is hiding in our settlement. When I glimpsed him it was then I knew you had saved us from those beasts."

"That doesn't explain why you come out on such a night," Prudence said. "A blizzard! The gods know how many of the monsters we did not kill!"

"And it is great relief you have found Peladan! Maralee will be happy on this day. He is all she left." Delainy bent over the child, who seemed delighted to see her; a picture of ordinary happiness, the baby and the beautiful citizen, her long dark hair falling loose over her shoulders in a manner no adventurer would dare risk a stray attack catching. "You ask how I come here? Our packs share one hunting-ground, it is not the land that separated us. I am difficult to see in this clothing and well-accustomed to such weather; so I came, if you were not." She reached into her furs. "I have salve for wounds, that all of you may use; a flask of octliferm, the drink we consume on such nights as this; and even flint and a torch. Am I not a good adventurer?"

"An excellent one," Prudence said; she could not help herself from smiling. "I suppose we must reward you." Skie probably should not have been poking about in the wizard's chests, but the cloak was clearly the village's property.

"So you have returned the cloak!" Delainy said. The more-apparently-holey-than-holy garment was far the worse the wear through its adventures, but the historian seemed no less delighted for that, storing it carefully about her. "We are in your debt, Prudence."

"We found the diary of Balduran!" Skie held up the treasure she had found most exciting. "I can't decipher much of it--it's wonderful it still existed at all, those horrible monsters--but just think of it! The last words of Balduran himself!"

"He would not belong," Delainy said. "To you he was founder, to us he hated and slaved our grandmothers' grandmothers, he would rather scuttle than free. We cannot forget such things, such tracks that linger."

"But--put in the context of his time--"

A historical debate, fierce gesticulations from both parties, frantic squabbling about the contents and interpretations of various passages in the legendary diary, the two dark heads bent together over the torn pages, fingers pointing at each other in fervent disagreement. Prudence of Candlekeep was not accustomed to thinking herself ill-informed, but on the subject of history, compared to Skie and Delainy... It was obvious enough they had so much more in common with each other. The smell of burning on the stove prompted her to rescue the soup as soon as possible.

"Hello, little boy!" The only exposure to child-rearing Prudence had experienced came from a book advocating the treatment of infants as closely to that of mature humans as possible. This was possibly a flawed strategy. "Are you hungry?" She aimed the slightly-blackened substance at Peladan's mouth. "Oh." The toddler's burned soup was staining her face; she must look ridiculous. And in front of Delainy's sympathetic stare at that. She drew a hand across her face. The cursed stuff had soaked into her braids atop the seawater already stiffening them; she'd have to redo them soon.

Eldoth took the chance to snipe again. "A definition of irony: to travel with a party of five women--oh, do pardon me, elf--and discover that not one of them is capable of the simplest cookery."

That is not an example of irony, Prudence thought.

"I'm sorry, Eldoth," Skie was saying. "I do try hard when it's my turn, you know that." Prudence's inward sigh would have been loud enough to shake the island, if it had only been an outward sigh rather than a product of wishful imagination.

Peladan howled and flung his tiny fists around. Loudly, long, piercingly, and without abatement regardless of the arcane ritual known as 'changing', offers of water and further soup, holding by a dedicated volunteer. The poor boy, cruelly separated from his mother by monsters' predation; the poor observers, growing very deaf. Meanwhile the traitorous Branwen ignored him in favour of attempting Delainy's salve on Xan.

Oddly enough this saved the day. No paladin's code that Prudence knew of actually mentioned whether elven enchanters using Charm spells to make toddlers sit quietly and eat the best-salvaged portion of the meal as cleared by their countrywoman was blatantly unethical, but the reason for that was likely that nobody had done it yet. Using Charm spells on one's own companions to render them more tractable was...something Prudence had not technically instructed Xan to do and any attempt to disrupt would cause more harm than the spell itself and a brief prayer gave her no further guidance. Branwen politely asked Delainy for the salve's recipe, Skie and Eldoth relaxed uncomplainingly, Xan boasted to Shar-Teel, and Peladan sat quiet and smiling, holding the girl Farthing's little doll.

"Delainy, there's something I want to show you--I don't think Dradeel would mind us just looking," Prudence said the words quickly. "It's in his study, behind here..."

A glass jar resting on the top of one of the mage's shelves, filled with gleaming and endless magical snow falling; the spell to do that, Prudence happened to know given her father's profession, was a simple Transmutation cantrip invented for the tourist market. But there was true magic enclosed within the snow: a single, perfect belladonna flower, preserved forever in full purple bloom, tiny snowflakes sliding from its petals like dewdrops. Created by Dradeel himself, or saved as a lone ornament from Balduran's once-magnificent ship? Either way, the flower was a beautiful sight. Prudence had already decided not to mention the page in Dradeel's recipe book calling for enchanted belladonna marinated in snow.

"You--mentioned, before, that you missed the belladonna flowers in this season," Prudence said to her.

"I did; and you have remembered. They are most beautiful," Delainy said with emphasis; and reached up and planted a kiss upon Prudence's cheek.

It was a warmth that banished all thoughts of snow.

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A/N: Eldoth's 'childhood' definition shamelessly lifted from the Devil's Dictionary. Realizing that one is not actually any good at writing Eldoth is quite irritating when one happens to be a Skie fan.