On the Eve of the Winter Solstice

On the Eve of the Winter Solstice

Postby Glenn » Mon Dec 24, 2012 12:23 pm

Elliot Brown

The fat man's snores wafted through the air.
His beard shook across his face, the tufts of white hair.
Here on this eve of the Winter Solstice
creeped a young man full of skill and artifice.

No. Look, that's stupid. Some lady told me that Solstice rhymes with artifice. First of all, I'm not a bard, so I don't know why I'm making some stupid rhyme to you in the first place. Second, it does not rhyme, no matter what sort of goofy accent you put on in order to try to make it fit. I don't even know what artifice means! Which doesn't mean I'm stupid. It is. I'm not. It's just like this. If it's something I ought to have, I have it. If it's something I shouldn't have, then why are we worried about it anyway?

Here's what we need to worry about. The kids. It's tough to be a kid in Myrken, and it's been a real tough year for the lot of them, especially the ones I have some reason to care about. We have to grow up quick. Either we grow up or we die, and despite everything else, this bunch hasn't died yet. Some of them I've had trouble with. Some of them I'm just getting to know. Some of them I'm real close with, but tonight, someone has to look out for them, and if I don't do it, who will?

So that's why I'm here, the last of the first half of my night. Old man Treadwell's toy shop. I thought about taking more, but I've got to be careful. Can't mess too much with the taxman. That's what got Tennant in hot water, and from what I hear, they don't even think he did it. So no, I won't mess much with that, just take what I need, three little things to finish off my hunt. In and gone before he knew it. Just like I was taught.
---------------------------------------------
The Dagger first, then. For Cat, it was a new pair of shoes. The scamp would need them in what was to come. They were a little larger than need be, just right to grow into. By the time the kid had grown out of them, getting a new pair ought to be no trouble at all. Radeorin would receive a bag full of marbles. None of them were the glass one that he had treasured so badly but quantity, perhaps, would make up for quality? Some were quite nice, really. For Arcana, it was one red rose, obtained through great difficulty and skill in the middle of the winter. Catch would receive a well-made wooden sword and a more professional wooden shield to go along with it. For Zilliah, it was a small mirror with a brass frame, a modest thing but did the fae really deserve much more? Finally, Gloria, no matter how she carried herself, counted as much as the others. She would wake up to find a new bonnet beside her bed.

On the way out of town, the child of his tutor would receive a doll pilfered, much like the toy sword and the marbles, from Treadwell's shop. The ball of energy that rested not far from there would, in the morning, find two rings, one made of glass and the other of gold, delicate things made just for her.

The horse was not pilfered, just borrowed. It'd be returned at some point. They usually were, especially if they were both smart and loving enough to find their way home on their own. This visit to the mill was not about mayhem. This visit to the mill was more educated, down to where the boy Cherny, only recently returned to his 'home,' slept. Was it an armed visit? Yes, but less so upon leaving, for the boy was left a one-handed blade, a small falchion, smaller than the Constables generally used in heated situations. It was used, weathered, but still a fine weapon. The sort of thing an untrained young man could lose a finger playing with. A lovely gift.

-----------------------------------------------------
I knocked upon her window close enough to dawn. Niall wasn't the sort of woman you snuck up, not even to leave a gift, especially not to leave something when she was sleeping. Zilliah was dangerous, some of the others, but Niall? Niall was raised to be on her guard at all time, to strike first and ask questions never. The idea of asking questions at all was ridiculous in her world. That was the hardest thing to grasp over the years. For as bad as Myrken was, there were moments of peace, of joy, of calm. You could rest between the darkness. Where she was from? The moment you rested even for a moment was the moment that you died.

So I knew she'd see what the knocking was. I knew she'd open that window, would let me in. One hand had the bottle of wine, the other two glasses, precariously held. It was with the bottle that I had tapped upon the window. "Hey," I offered with a wink and shuffled in, smiling despite myself at her reaction.

Everyone else made sense, every single one of them, even the ones I didn't know well, but Niall? What do you get a girl who has more than she ever thought she would have, who has everything except for that one thing she wants? I can't, you know, I can't get her what she wants, even if I lived forever. I tried that with Nova. It's obvious how that turned out and here the stakes would be so much higher. All I can offer her is what I have, is what I am.

"Here's what we're going to do." My smile doesn't fade. Her scowls I can handle though anything else might throw me a little, might remind me of those years where she smiled, where she bounced and was happy, even if it was all a lie. The glasses in my hands reassured me. The bottle reassured me. This was my best friend in the world and I was here for a reason. What could I offer her? Maybe this. "We're going to drink. This night, every year, you and me, this wine. We're going to drink and toast that we made it through another year. It'll be our tradition." I couldn't give her back her home, but I could do everything I could to give her a new one with mine.
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Re: On the Eve of the Winter Solstice

Postby Jirai » Mon Dec 24, 2012 3:43 pm

The house wasn't really hers. It was Kyra's. Oh, Niall had a room there, certainly, but she did not use it every night. In fact, it was rather rare that she did use it. One might think it coincidence that tonight she did, but Elliot had a token, and it would not have guided him to the house if Niall was not there. And she, she would not have come to that window if she had not known who it was tapping there. She did, though, and opened it, letting him in.

The room on the inside looked nothing like one would expect from the outside. Gently rounded walls, that one window, a door opposite. Inside, a stack of blankets on the floor, a small table holding a book. Her spears, her sword, one tiny carved figure, wielding a sword. That was all, and yet not all, for every surface in the room, walls, ceiling, floor, door, window... all were covered in carefully wrought runes, much as Niall's own body was so covered.

She watched the boy, as he smiled. She did not scowl, but she did not smile, either, as he spoke his piece. And then, simply, she simply nodded. The young woman sat herself cross-legged on the floor, there being no suitable furniture in the room, and gestured for the young thief to join her.

"...We might need more wine." She commented drily.
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On the Eve of the Winter Solstice

Postby Rance » Mon Dec 23, 2013 6:46 pm

She never forgot the bonnet. It was decrepit, now, a tangle of once-white fabric that had been stained by her tarsweat fingertips, crushed between her palms with worry, sometimes lodged between seat and buttocks on days when the wind was too furious. It had spots of blood on it, even little rips between the wooden-ribbed slats.

It was deposited very carefully into a small bag. It would belong to someone else this year.

* * * *

Yool, they called it; others, Solstice, a celebration of meager positives in a dead season, a chance to witch away the chill of snowdunes with warmth from within. Gifts to be given, passed along, cherished. Outside the doors of respective abodes, there were left simple little packages, not any of ornate style, but of simple utility -- to keep safe what was within from elements and curious passers-by until the eyes of the intended recipient could discover what had been left for them.

For Cherny, a chivalric crest composed of fabric, embroidered by a careful hand -- upon the shield-shaped bit of cloth, there were several images: a halved chestnut, a bowl filled with victuals, a proud crow, and a C emblazoned with golden thread.

For Catch, a pair of stockings meant for his massive feet, knitted in thick wool with horizontal stripes of deep blue and off-white. At the very tips of the toes were lone buttons and a scoop of fabric that, in the event of wetness, the toes might be revealed and the socks rolled up, like gaiters, for quick access to fireside warmth.

For Noura, a canvas shoulder-bag meant to be swollen with all types of belongings. In it was a sliver of paper that proclaimed FOR GATHERING; within, there was a stout, mouse-sized pocket wherein was tucked a wax-wrapped thumbnail of cheese.

For Tennant, a leather-bound copy of a book whose emblazoned title had been translated in sweeps of ink. H'ZLZ AND G'LEUSE, it read; the language comprising the book was nothing familiar, but just inside the cover there was a note written in a girl's script: FOR MY H'ZLZ.

For Ariane, there was folded outside of Darkenhold a pair of woolen trousers, designed as such: to have a flap in the rear affixed by bone buttons and feet of cloth sewn to the pantlegs, that stockings might never need be worn except in the interest of additional warmth. Written on parchment: LEEPING FROM SLEEP INTO COMBAT, NO STOCKENGS REQUIRED.

For Son, a little folder of stiff parchment which contained an enormous variety of sketches torn out of Professor de Lanz's old books: each one of them was a woman with bulbous breasts and stern hips rendered in compromising and suggestive positions. FOR YOUR GALLENT MISKRY-ANT was scribbled at the top of one of the faded drawings.

For Cat, there was a leather-thong necklace with a trinket hanging from its lowest point: a corked vial; within, the dessicated gnarl of a bird's talon and the wrinkled eye of a cat, both obtained -- with particular distaste -- from a seller of fantastic (and powerless) reagents.

For Endymion, there was a crisp leather glove, the kind meant not for dexterity, but for protection from heat and smoke. In crimson thread along the base of the gauntlet was fashioned an articulate E & R complete with careful flourishes of the string at the termination of each serif.

For Councilor Treadwell, there was a bag of sand accompanied by a simple note: FOR A MAN WHO HAS EVERYTHENG.

For Elliot Gahald, a mottled, bloody, sweat-stained bonnet. Contained within it, a small hunk of coal.
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Re: On the Eve of the Winter Solstice

Postby Carnath-Emory » Tue Dec 24, 2013 3:14 pm

Of all Myrken's traditions, it might have been this one that baffled the northerner most. What, exactly what aspect of winter was worth the celebrating? Its dying days; that, perhaps. But mid-winter? one grey and icy day bleeding miserably into more of the same? The drizzle that turns roads into slush? the sudden freezes? entombing the forests in such heavy ice that, deep into the night, a person might wake to the sharp retort of timber rupturing...

Gift-giving, though; that, she could understand.

So that for Gloria, one day, there had arrived a leather-bound tome of folio dimensions and significant weight. Not a one of its pages featured even a hint of words, but slipped amongst them was a folded note: Glour'eya. For the recording of histories, and upon the day next there came ink in a tiny jar and two sharp quills besides.

To a particular mill there was delivered, one morning, a falconer's glove of excellent make and Cherny-sized proportions. His name did not feature in the note attached, but perhaps it hardly needed to, for those careful letters read: Essential tool for a bachgen craff. And that is how a gift can serve as notice that a swordswoman knows; that she also approves.

For Catch there comes a box which contains five smaller versions of itself, each fastened gently closed and numbered in descending order. It is an advent calender as conceived of by an atheist, perhaps, and designed very much for a man of Catch's size. But it comes to him via Cherny, who received instructions along with the gift, and it is Cherny who is charged with explaining to him that - while he might open all the little boxes at once, if he wishes, he may yet discover instead that waiting can be fun as well.


Call it Solstice, if you must. But in the same moment, consider it a celebration of this: another Myrken year survived, a winter half-over. And every inch the silent delight of a woman who'd been baffled by the appearance of footed leggings, but - no stockengs required, the note had said - how she'd laughed! And loved that most of all.
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Re: On the Eve of the Winter Solstice

Postby Treadwell » Wed Dec 25, 2013 5:19 am

A bag of sand is discovered by a certain portly fellow wearing his usual bright red, one-piece pajamas as he peeks outside to learn of the weather and look hastily for any mail or letters sent his way in the night.

Sand?

The note is read quickly enough as Treadwell smokes his pipe in his study at home. Chuckles set the old belly to quivering.

But even sand can have a practical use. After lunch, the Councilor is back at his toy shop, carefully sprinkling and spreading the sand in Pinky's smallish pen behind the store. He'll be retrieving her shortly so that he can oversee her latest delivery in just a few days, so why not give her a little more earth that can soon enough be made over into a little more mud to wallow in?
"Looks like a table to me. Do you think it could hold up someone as bulbous as Treadwell?" -- Dr. Brennan, Myrken Wood Rememdium Edificium
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Re: On the Eve of the Winter Solstice

Postby Tolleson » Thu Dec 26, 2013 5:46 am

The soft jingle of sleigh bells, the glittering fresh snow, gave way to yells and slosh in the row (Haberdasher’s of course). By mid-morning the day after Yule, the scent from the market causing children to drool; cakes and bread a plenty as the market resumed, tasty treats and joyous feasts for all to consume! But there was one little pie-maker, still asleep in her bed, a fearsome bruise having welled on her head. Despite her presence, in the infirmary aslumber, a messenger arrived to the large, mad, chopper of lumber.

It is no surprise that the boy was so late, for he carried a fair bit of weight. In the messenger’s arms loaded high, were many, plain packages tied up to be sly. Another few notes to be sure, one for the stitcher of seams and clothes, one for the Marshall patrolling the roads, one for the former leader of town, and another for fat man in a Tubbius gown.

There were two gifts sent to where the mapmaker went, one for the man and another, mistakenly sent. A small little box for Rhaena was bought, from this redhead with too much forethought. For the festive day for lovers and family she had missed, arrangements had been made for man she had kissed. To the young, handsome soldier with blond hair and bright eyes, a splendid package was sent with glimmering red bow-ties. For the equally glittering, beautiful fae, several boxes stacked tall and adorned to be gay. Though he sat very last on her list, a warm winter coat to her brother, had not gone amiss.

Perhaps she had planned so ahead she’d forgot, to strike from the ledger the delivery begot. Planning had been necessary over several months past, but such a plan spoke of peace at long last. On the cover of the notes to them all, was written in fine pen a calligraphic scrawl: Be at peace on this day of festive respite, may you spend it with family and friends with delight.

To: Mister Catch
Always with love, Genny

These posters are silly, you are lovely and sweet.

(The gift enclosed was a pack of fresh parchment, poster sized, the one on top was one of his that had been posted around the city at the height of Rhaena’s reign, marked up and changed. Ink crossing out the ‘Lunatik,’ and ‘friend’ written in, rosy cheeks added and all the adjectives changed: sweet, kind, and good chopper of wood. The real gift was a set of brushes and two stopped up wells of pigment).


To: Miss Gloria
Your friend, Genny

Your heart seems always in the right place, but mind your books – remember them before you speak. You have a place here, as much as anyone.

(There are two gifts she sends, the first is a small set of books: “Politicks vol. 1: Leading Decisively,” “Politicks vol. 2: Mind of the Masses,” and “Politicks vol. 5: Balance.” There were two missing from the set, but inscribed in each was a ‘To Miss Gloria Wynsee, that you might rise in the Inquistory and learn to use what you read. Be humble, curious, and always listen with every sense before you speak. Sincerely, Genny’. The second was a set of blue gloves, a lovely but durable sort of suede).


To: Miss Ariane
Your friend, Genny

I know nothing of these things, I am told it is a fine thing. I hope it suits you, finds use in protecting you and those you love.

(To this woman she both knew well and was yet a stranger, a somewhat long and somewhat flat wooden box would arrive, with a plain but incredibly well-made dagger, resting on a pillow of fabric inside).

To: Mister Calomel
Your friend, Genny

I hope we can meet, I hope one day you will tell me what happened to you. To Glenn and Gloria too.

(A purchased toy and a small story book, intended for the man and the small girl she’d met).

To: Mister Treadwell
Your friend, Genny

Thank you for all your help this last year. You have done a fine job. I hope you and the family may enjoy the holiday.

(Of course, a pie should have followed. But it is just the small note, a scheduled delivery and with the pie-maker out of commission there is no sweet treat for the chubby councilor or his wife, Alice, to enjoy).


To: Glenn
- Genevieve

Get well soon, much has changed and much must be discussed. When you return, let this help you look sharp. It has never been much help to me, but perhaps it will help you see and remember your old self.

(The large flat package is marked ‘handle with extreme care,’ and within is a looking glass several feet high and several feet wide, the edges adorned with a careful and intricate woodwork, stained dark and polished well).


To: Miss Rhaena
Your friend, Genny

Thank you for all you have done. To simpler days and fond memories.

(A small little box, inside in a fine lace kerchief is a lock of flame red hair that had been cut and a single, small bell still wrapped around).

To: Zilliah
With thanks and love, Genny

(The first package contains the clothes she had borrowed, freshly washed and pressed if they needed. The second contained a finely embroidered shirt, something handsome and silk in a soft green. The third is the smallest, most secure, padded and covered by silk and in a fine box with a latch, the eye inside with the gold chain she'd worn. It was a small fortune of treasure, with a simply written: 'thank you')

To: James
With love, Genny

It has been a long summer, sweet James, I hope we might meet again soon. It isn’t large, still empty and cold, but some company, coal, and a spring thaw will make it a perfect home.

(There are two boxes, the first weighs nothing, inside a small, dried flower. One he had put in her hair some years ago. In the second box, a fair bit more weighty, but small, is a large iron key and an address to an apartment in Myrken town. One that might have a crate of books and a lamp, but was otherwise barren thanks to the rented bed in the Rememdium).

To: Tennant

(A fine coat, no note written).
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Re: On the Eve of the Winter Solstice

Postby Guppy » Mon Dec 30, 2013 3:17 pm

Several days had passed. The eve came and went without much fuss. Everyone huddled together in their homes, trying their best to enjoy the celebrations with too-little food and too-little warmth. The pangs in the stomachs of the little ones brought many a wail to the night and many a tear to mothers' eyes. Times were tough in Myrken Wood. Even with the addled man's help.

The wildling felt none of this, safe within the comforts of Solena's home. She brought meat and wild sustenance to the table, though often the hunt took her farther, now, than ever before. The herds were thinning with both lack of crops and overhunting. She had managed to fell a deer for their solstice feast, though it had taken all of her strength and stubbornness to drag it home.

As she awaited the dinner, she took care to wrap the presents in a patchwork of small game hides she'd fashioned into larger sheets. They were tied neatly with twine she'd filched from the tavern.

Gloria's warm winter boots were the first to be wrapped, her note settled on top. For our snowball fights, this year and always. It was a promise of continued friendship, a promise for the future. It was an expression of companionship and love, acknowledgement that they would survive whatever strife arose between them. Later, the seamstress would find a turnip masher from the kitchens in the stables with Caliir, several dried apples mashed into pulp for him and several pieces still clinging to the metal tool.

Catch's charm dangled from dried sinew, the crimson rune almost appearing to glow for a moment before it was obscured in hide-wrapping. The rune had been a favorite of the creature's, adopted as a symbol of herself. Noura did not know its true meaning, but it had been hollow until she had slept with hand curled around the trinket. When she woke, the charm had an aura, a feeling that reminded her of her dark guest. It nearly brought tears of loss to her eyes to look upon it now.

For Son, there was a very fine hide. The softest rabbit skin. The finest she ever cured, though not nearly so masterful as the otter he had once given her. His skill with pelts were far beyond her own. Additionally, there was a necklace, a wolf's yellowed eyetooth to dangle from his neck. He was both gentle and fierce and the gifts were symbolic. Cherny might as well have been named Father Yule, for all the delivering he had before him. He would be given Son's package for safekeeping.

Cherny received a mewling little orange tabby kitten that would seek to climb inside his collar and nestle against his neck, shivering pitifully. She had slain its mother - a cat without claws - and it needed a home. She would affectionately jest that Cherny made a very fine mother for all of his friends, so he was the obvious choice. It would be up to him to teach it not to go after the rats, Morsel, and the birds he called friends.

For Elliot, there came to the Rememdium, a crude music box in which two carved wooden dancers circled one another to a simple tune. It was delicate and not particularly masculine, but perhaps it would bring to mind their lessons for him, as it did for her.

Solena was given a pretty necklace (the wildling had scrimped and saved to buy a small, delicate silver chain) with a make-shift medal of honor hanging from it. It was mostly scraps of metalwork that had been discarded by the smithy and melted into a lump by Noura, but the meaning behind it was clear. Solena, widely seen as a thief and nothing more, was the most heroic person in Myrken Wood that she could think of.

The miniature version of the wildling, Kirueli, was spoiled with a stuffed dragon made of the patchwork fur itself. Tiny, leathery bat wings had been sewn to its back. The brightly-colored pebbles that were its eyes stared blankly at her upon its opening. That present had taken considerable time to construct, but the little elf was worth every second.

The presents for Niall and It would have to wait until they returned. So return they must. They were pushed under her bed for safekeeping.
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