A New Year's Carol: Part the First

(This series is part of a holiday event that took place on New Year's Eve 2021 and is part of our kinship canon but exists outside our current roleplaying timeline. Three Graces wishes everyone on Laurelin server a very happy New Year!)

On an especially chilly winter evening, upon the eve of the New Year, some of the company of the House of Three Graces were sitting about the fireplace drinking hot mulled cider and chocolate from the fancy new mugs gifted to them during Yule. Outside, the wind howled as a wintry coastal storm reached the land from across the Sea. Everyone noted that it almost sounded like voices…

Finchley scooched closer to the fireplace and munched on a few cookies in between sips while Xanderian sipped at her tea, idly stroking Calidis’ hair with her free hand. Elsabeth lounged on the carpet before the fire, enjoying her drink in easy silence. Eduwiges sat in equal silence, thinking deeply of the past year's revelations and what they portended for the future. Xandilif paced back and forth on the other side of the room, the storm making her decidedly uneasy. 

Nethrida, by contrast, sat nearby, completely relaxed, with a mug in her hand and her eyes closed. "I am so glad that there is no need to be outside at this time," she remarked as Addiela glanced towards the window, face pale. 

“You had ta say it, didn’t ya, Trouble?” snipped Lif, glaring at the knight-bachelor.

Nethrida raised an eyebrow “What do you mean?”

“You know,” remarked Finchley in between a bite. “One time there was this huge winter storm back when I was very small. Had to stay inside and study and read... Not that I minded, it was just a bit boring for days on end.”

Addiela almost didn’t want to ask if the others were hearing what she was, and, in fact, she kept silent, hoping that it was just her overactive mind. She looked back toward all of them and smiled... Until, like clockwork, the wind outside began to howl louder, shaking some of the windows. The howling was accompanied by a voice calling, “Let me in! It’s cold outside!”, though it was faint enough to go unheard by most of the room’s occupants. Eduwiges and Nethrida shrugged and kept sipping from their mugs. Elsabeth and Addiela, on the other hand, could only do otherwise. 

“What’s that voice?,” Elsa asked as Addie walked over towards the window. “Is someone outside?”

“You hear it too?” asked Addie, peering out through the panes of glass.

“Aye, I hear it too.”

Lif gave Nethrida a look. “This is your fault... You had to say it.” 

Nethrida deadpaned at Lif. “It's just the wind. You're hearing things. Have some tea, sit and relax.”

As Addiela continued looking out the window, she spotted a faint warm light, almost like a candle amidst the storm, coming closer and closer, growing brighter by the second. She shook her head and backed away from the window. “No… No… No, this cannot be good.”

With her introspection finally interrupted, Eduwiges looked up. “What is going on?”

“See?” said Lif, pointing at Addie. “Horseimp is our expert in ‘Cannot Be Good’. It is her feckin' life.”

Addiela glared daggers back at Lif. “Careful, Banshee. I'm likely to toss you outside to see what that light is yourself.”

“Can we not even have a happy New Year's Eve without some type of trauma?” complained Edu, as she cracked her knuckles and loosened her sword in its scabbard. 

Xanderian rose, pulling Calidis up with her, and made a sort of “hssst!” sound at her sister before looking towards the window with concern.

Finchley stood and moved towards her friend. "Addie, you okay?"

Addiela merely pointed toward the glowing light outside. "Do you see that, Finchley?"

Finchley moved toward the window and peered out, eventually shielding her eyes from the blinding light. “Eh, what is that? Is someone out there with a lantern?”

“It says that it's cold and to let it in,” remarked Addie. “But I vote that we not do that.”

Just then, something smacked up against the window pane and then slid down the glass, making that weird, squeaky noise on the way down. A faint voice was heard again. "Ow ow ow..." 

Eduwiges shook her head and crossed her arms. “Whatever it is, you know it is coming in. Let's just get it over with.” 

Nethrida seemed wildly confused. “I had no idea birds could talk.”

Lif rolled her eyes. “Why is it always birds?”

“It's not Morn,” countered Addie. “And it certainly isn't Galvra. That raven would have cursed the whole way down.”

A loud “FECK OFF!” can be heard from downstairs and Finchley smiled sheepishly. Yes, she had let the bird inside the house. 

“See?” said Addie. “Galvra doesn't want to let it inside either.”

“Is this one of Nik's pranks?” asked Elsa as Finchley experimentally opened the window’s latch just a little bit. As a result, the latch snapped and window swung open slowly as a gust of chilly wind entered the house, blowing out all the candles and plunging the room in darkness, save for the wood burning in the fireplace.

“...Oops,” whispered Finch as Lif pulled her away from the window.

“Oops?” remarked Addie, dryly, standing still in the dim light.

Lif snorted, pulling Finch close to herself with a jerk "Oops?!”

Xanderian sighed softly and nodded in resignation. “Oops.”

“I could go get more kindling and flint,” offered Nethrida.

“I've got a bad feeling about this,” said Eduwiges as she squinted, her eyes still adjusting.

Then, a very young voice echoed about the room. “Oops is right! How long does it take to open a window?!" A flickering flame, almost like candlelight, entered through the now-open window and sailed through the air unerringly towards the fire. “You there, she-knight! Go grab a log or something. This isn't burning bright enough!”

Elsabeth and Calidis both stared at the flickering flame. They both figured it wouldn’t do to let a good drink go to waste in case this was to be everyone’s end. They drained what was left in their mugs in seconds. 

Nethrida looked at Lif. “Yeah, you heard her. Get some more logs for the fire. She-Knight.”

“Maybe not oops?” asked Finchley while the elf made a rude gesture at her fellow knight in response.

Eduwiges leaned to the side and whispered in Xan’s ear, “Is that the New Year’s fairy?”

Xanderian raised one brow, expression doubtful. “Is there such a thing?”

Addiela whispered to the others, “Did Larol die and come to haunt us? Where's her herald if that's the case?”

“Hiralst,” chanted Xanderian from the corner and the fireplace blossomed with orange and red flames, revealing a slowly materializing figure of a very young boy standing by the hearth.

He was dressed in a pure white robe and carried a white staff set with a clear, neatly-cut crystal at the top. Despite the cold weather from whence he came, he was completely barefoot. “Now, that’s more like it. Let’s see… Good, all six of you are accounted for. Phew!”

“… Oh, shite,” squeaked Eduwiges.

The boy whacked the warrior over the top of her head with his staff. “As I was saying, good thing there's six of you, that makes my job so much easier.” 

Xandilif spat. “What the feck is this, the Ghost of Rentboys past?”

“Looks like Loud-Elf is smarter than she appears,” remarked the boy, completely unfased. “I am not a ghost, mind you. Nasty things those are. But I am the Spirit of Past Years. It's a good thing I made it before the turn of the year. Now, take these…” With a wave of his small hand, sheets of parchment and various types of writing utensils appeared in everyone’s hands.

Xanderian’s head tilted yet again and Finch caught her paper mid-air after she almost dropped it. Addiela let go of her paper and charcoal pencil and watched at it remained floating in mid air. She refused to touch it just yet. Calidis, if she had any questions, which she did, did not give them voice, merely standing there, paper in hand, looking somewhat wary.

Eduwiges looks down and sighed, “Homework, on a holiday?” The spirit whacked Edu over the head with his staff again in response and the Woman was tempted to swipe back at him. “Do that again, and I will shove that staff right up your-…” She gestures vaguely before falling silent again.

Xan reached out and put a hand on Edu’s shoulder. “Gently, my lynx. It does not do to anger spirits without cause or great need.”

Nethrida blinks a few times. “How'd you manage an inkwell out of nowhere?” she asked as she stared at the quill in her hand with a confused look. “I'd have expected at least some to spill.”

“Now then,” said the boy Spirit of Past Years, leaning against the hearth. “You can consider yourselves lucky. Yes, the severely unlucky have been made lucky. I am the first of three you'll be seeing this night. If you manage to make the fire bright enough, you'll be granted a boon by the end of it. If not... Well, that's not my job. Sorry.”

Addiela 's eyes widened. “Three?”

Elsa shook her head woefully. “I don't like the sounds of this.”

Lif glared at Nethrida from across the room. “Totally your fault.”

“You should've just had the tea and not fussed,” Neth huffed back. “It’s not so bad.”

“You have a choice,” intoned the boy, cutting through the grumbling. “Upon this paper, you must write something you wish you could have said in the past but never did. You may either address it to someone you love, or someone you hate. The choice is yours. You may begin... now... Chop chop! Time's a wasting!” He lifted his staff and lightly poked an overly-still Eduwiges in the nose with the tip of the crystal upon it.

“I’ll say it right now!” fumed Eduwiges. “’Dear Spirit of Past Years, you are a little sh-‘

“And if we don’t want ta play yer little game, fairyboy?” barked Lif, cutting Edu off.

“If you don't,” said the spirit impassively, “then you'll be stuck in this point in time... Forever, even after I leave.”

The Champion grimaced and looked to Calidis for some sort of confirmation.

The jeweller sighed and shook her head in response. “I mislike this method... But I confess, there is much I wish I could have said.”

Finchley wiggled out of Lif’s hold to sit on the floor with her paper. She began to write, instantly knowing to whom she was addressing the letter to. Seeing this, Eduwiges took a deep breath and gave in. She crinkled her forehead in concentration and began to write as well. Elsabeth took a moment to think about who to write to before actually putting her pen to paper. Soon enough, everyone was at work, writing their letters… Everyone, save for Addiela, who was ever cautious.

“One question, spirit,” she asked. “What shall happen to these messages after they're written?”

The boy spirit gestured toward the fireplace. “Once you have written your letters, toss them into the fire.”

Addiela casted a suspicious glare toward the fire. “And where do they go from there?”

The spirit merely looked at the lore mistress. “That is for me to know. You will say what you wished to say... Then, will you let it go? Words left unsaid are things of the past. You are in the present.”

Though Addie still hesitated, one by one, they began to toss their letters in the fire. First came Eduwiges, ducking as she did so, just in case the spirit whacked at her with his staff again. Calidis came next, black eyes dark and distant as she carefully tossed her letter in. Elsa gave her letter another quick read before haltingly tossing hers in as well. Lif, sparing any such ceremony, crumpled her letter into a ball and tossed it in. Finchley eventually stood, looking somewhat teary-eyed, and tossed her letter, adorned with small hand-drawn hearts, into the fire, neatly folded. Xanderian came forward and laid her letter into the fire with care, whispering something to herself. Nethrida, looking suddenly quite careworn, gently tossed her own letter into the fireplace.

Seeing that Addiela had still written nothing, Lif spat again. “Just write tha damn paper Horseimp. I bet ya right pretty much what I did.”

“And what did you write, Banshee?”

Xandilif shrugged. “’Dear Mom, feck off’.”

Addiela reluctantly took her piece of paper and pencil into her hands. A small smile formed on her lips at hearing Lif's words, to which she replied, “I told her such in person. Not in those words, but the same sentiment.”

“Never hurts ta repeat it.”

Addie let out a soft sigh and began to neatly scribe her message on the paper. When done, she folded the paper neatly and made her way to the fire. She watched the flames dance for a moment before throwing it in, blinking back a few tears.

With that done Spirit of Past Years kneeled down by the fire to inspect it. He then stood and cast his gaze over the company of mortals, expression intense but not unkind. He raised his staff and tapped to the top of the hearth three times. The flames within took on an almost unearthly glow. They burned pure golden for a long moment, then changed to an impossibly dark red color. But, it returned to its golden state once more, lighting up the room even further. The spirit nodded to himself with a smile. “Well done…”

Addiela frowned and looked toward the spirit, even more suspicious now. But before she could voice her new doubts, the boy spirit set his entire staff in the fire. The white wood of it burned away instantly, leaving the white crystal remaining within the flames, still unburnt and unblemished.

The spirit’s small figure rapidly disappeared from sight and the wind outside seemed to howl ever louder, still sounding like a crescendo of voices. But, despite all the noise, the distinct sound of harp music and another voice singing in a language that could only be half understood was heard.

(to be continued...)