We’re hosting Hubby’s family for Christmas, so we’ve spent the past few days cleaning and decorating in preparation. I’ve also been baking cookies – mostly macarons – for Christmas eve with my family.
In between cleaning and baking, I’m usually tinkering around the laptop. I was bit by the writing bug big time over the weekend. A fanfic idea occurred to me last Thursday, and I decided just to jot a couple of scenes to get it out of my head like I normally do. Well, here I am ten thousand words later. I feel bad for not working on my other projects, but this one is just flowing so well. Maybe I’ll share snippets from it next week.
Since Christmas is this Sunday, I figured that I would share a short story I wrote a couple of years ago. It’s sort of a continuation of a Dragonriders of Pern fanfic I work on from time to time that I’ve occasionally shared here. In it, Domick, a master harper at the harper hall on pern (but not the Master Harper), ends up at a ren faire. That fanfic takes place over the course of a summer, but this short story takes place during the winter when the Faire is preparing for Dickens fair.
Winter was coming to Pembroke.
As the days began to grow shorter, and the weather began to turn colder, the living history village switched from focusing on the Renaissance to a later time period that Norah told Domick was called the Victorian Era for something called Dickens Faire. She explained as they changed the decorations from garlands of flowers and ribbons to ones of pointy green leaves and red flowers, that there was a holiday called Christmas that was celebrated near this time of year. Some people believed that a child had been born at Christmas who was supposed to be the son of someone called God, and celebrated the event by feasting and giving gifts.
Domick found the concept of a higher all knowing power a bit hard to believe. When he had said as much, Norah snorted and told him that he shouldn’t think so little of people and their beliefs when he claimed he came from world that was filled with flying, fire breathing dragons. Her words stung far more than he cared to admit and he spent a few days avoiding her until she finally approached him. She told him that it didn’t matter what people believed – the point of the season, of this celebration, was to spend time with friends and family and enjoy their company. To make merry and sing songs and drink eggnog and eat so much that you had to let your belt out another notch.
“And how does all this,” He gestured to the red berries hanging in the doorway above them and the other decorations along the street. “Fit into this… event? Did Dickens write the story about Jesus?”
Norah laughed. “No, the story of Jesus’s birth was written in the Bible several thousand years ago.”
“So, tell me, if we’re celebrating this magic child’s birth, why is the faire called Dickens?”
“Well, it was the Victorian’s who gave us a lot of current Christmas traditions. Feasts have always been a big part of Christmas and other winter celebrations, but they were the ones who gave us Christmas trees. Queen Victoria’s husband brought the Christmas tree from his home country and made it popular. And they’re the ones who really solidified the idea of Santa Claus as we know him today instead of being a creepy old guy who dropped coins in girls stockings.” She gestured at the buildings around them. “Charles Dickens was an author living in Victorian England. He wrote a book called The Christmas Carol about an old bitter man finding out what the meaning of Christmas really is. At some point not too long ago someone decided ‘hey let’s have an event where people dress up in Victorian clothing, have characters from A Christmas Story wandering around, and call it Dickens Faire!’ and now it’s an annual event.”
“An event.” He drawled out the world as he surveyed their surroundings. First the Ren Faire, now this. Why was this world so focused on reliving the past? He had to admit that history was generally more enjoyable – though they did have their fair share of plagues, famine, and something called war – and they had more accomplishments to celebrate. Also, they didn’t have thread to worry about every few days, so they were free to gather and celebrate far more often than the Pernese could. He imagined that one would eventually run out of reasons after a while and the past was just as good of a reason as any other.
“Do you have any winter celebrations back home?” Norah asked as she unpacked the box of decorations by her feet. Inside were more of the strands of greenery that seemed to be everywhere.
For someone who did not believe that his home was real any more than he believed in some magical child, Domick had learned over the months that she was extremely curious about their customs. “There is Turnover.” He admitted as they draped fake holly around the door. “If I were at the hall right now, I’m sure the Master Harper would have me composing some new song to amuse the crowds with.”
“A celebration to mark the end of the old turn – what you call a year – and the start of the new one.”
“So… kinda like New Years.”
“Yes, but ours is four days long, with several feasts and gathers as long as there’s not any threadfall. And even if there is threadfall, it’s so cold and wet that it’s usually not a concern – unless you happen to live in the South. In the North, where the Harper Hall is, it either freezes and turns to black dust in the air, or drowns before it can reach the ground.”
Before Norah had a chance to reply or ask another question, one of the Faire workers walked by them, carrying a long ladder on one shoulder and a loop of string lights on the other. The man stopped when he saw them in the doorway and started to guffaw. “Look who’s under the mistletoe!”
“Oh, shut up!” Norah glared at the worker and he continued on his way, chuckling to himself. A flush tinged her cheeks but Domick didn’t know if it was from the cold or embarrassment.
“What is mistletoe?” He asked.
“The… uh… stuff hanging above us.” She gestured to the red berries above them. “There… are… certain traditions that go along with it, but it’s just silly nonsense.”
Now Domick was curious. “Oh?”
“When you meet someone under the mistletoe you fancy, you’re supposed to give them a kiss.”
She was definitely blushing now – which was curious because the harper had yet to see her blush about anything. Any sensitivities she might have to certain things had probably disappeared a long time ago given how often she had heard Mudd and his group sing about far more taboo subjects day in and out at the Wharf stage. And then, slowly, it began to dawn on him why she might be so embarrassed.
He had never been very good at romance. It wasn’t that he didn’t like women, or was oblivious to them – in fact more than a few had shared his bed once he became a master – it was just that in his previous experience, they either weren’t very bright or didn’t have anything interesting to say. Menolly and Silvina were the only exceptions that he knew of to the rule. Weyrwoman Lessa too, was rumored to be quite wise, though he did not move in the same circles she did so he did not know if that was true. However, the rest of the women he encountered during his daily life were either drudges or holder’s daughters sent to the hall for lessons and to catch a husband. And that lot either tittered and giggled whenever he came near, stared at him in fear, or the braver ones might talk in hushed whispers about when the curmudgeonly harper would finally settle down and marry.
Norah though… Norah was different. She wasn’t flighty or easily distracted. She was a hard worker, and cared for everyone at Pembroke – her ex Harris being the one, very understandable, exception. She didn’t treat him like he was mad, like the other women here did whenever he mentioned Pern. And he could actually hold an intelligent conversation with her. One that didn’t involve gossip. She was also quite attractive, especially when she danced or laughed or when she did something as simple as kissing her son on his head while he did something called homework.
Domick knew he wasn’t the only man who had noticed these things about her. He had seen quite a few men and even one or two women at the faire staring at her longingly over the course of the summer. However Norah never seemed to notice. He assumed it was because she was too busy helping run Pembroke and raising Marcus to dally with anyone – which was why he had never broached the subject with her. Clearly she was not as oblivious as he had thought.
“Ah.” Was all he could think to say.
“I’ve gotta go.” Norah said hurriedly. “There’s still all those costumes to go through to make sure they’re ready for Dickens and…”
She started to move away, listing more things that she needed to get done. Before she could get very far though, he grabbed her hand, and pulled her back into the doorway – directly under the berries she found so childish. Then, before she had a chance to say anything else or launch into another detailed description about the history of something, he pressed his mouth against hers.
At first she was tense beneath him, like an over tightened string on a harp, and he started to pull away. Perhaps he was wrong. Perhaps she was only just blushing because of the subject and not because of how she felt about him. But then she raised her hands to the back of his head and ran them through his hair, grazing his scalp with her nails ever so lightly.
Her lips were soft and smooth underneath his. She parted them slightly, allowing him in, and he quickly took advantage of the opening to deepen the kiss. She tasted of the coffee she had drank that morning at breakfast, something she called pumpkin spice. He had no idea what a pumpkin was, but he was finding that he enjoyed it – immensely.
Someone wolf whistled at them, and she broke away with a gasp. Another Pembroke employee, this one with ropes of more of that cursed dark green foliage slung across either shoulder, waved at them as he passed. Norah responded by making a crude gesture in his direction.
“Who do they think they are? A bunch of five year olds? It’s like they’ve never seen a couple kiss before.” She grumbled, crossing her arms over her chest and glaring after the poor employee.
“Perhaps they are just upset that they do not have their own mistletoe to stand under – or a pretty girl to stand underneath it with.”
Norah shook her head. “It’s still a stupid silly tradition.”
“Oh, I don’t know about that.” He reached out and brushed a strand of hair out of her face and behind her ear. “I think it’s quite enjoyable. Are there any other stupid silly traditions that require kissing someone that I should know about?”
“No. Just this one.”
“Hm. How disappointing.”
She laughed at that. “Well, practice does make perfect.”
“It does.” He agreed with a smile. He bent to kiss her once again but she slipped out of his arms.
“Why? It’s just as good of a place as any.”
“Too many people.” Norah explained as yet another employee walked by, whistling some jaunty tune. She held her hand out to him. “C’mon.”
He grabbed it, his fingers intertwining with hers, and let her lead him down the road and through a short alleyway that they had decorated the previous day. Garlands criss crossed the space above them, and string lights had been stapled around the darkened windows on either side. She opened a door at the end of it, and pulled him into the darkened shop beyond. Once the door had closed behind them, and they were sure they were alone, she pulled his face down to hers.
Domick wrapped his arms around her waist, wondering why he had waited so long to ‘make a move’ as Mudd said. But his thoughts quickly trailed off as he lost himself in the sensation of her mouth against his, and how sweet she tasted once again.
To read more WIPpet Wednesday posts, go here.