Winter Festivals

A typical "Christmas" celebration amongst the Nioneska, a northern tribe of magic users seen through the eyes of a member returning home for the festival and experiencing the more supernatural aspect of their way of life and be with family again.
A winner of the Advent Calender writing competition.

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13. Epilogue - Staying Longer Than Expected

A few days passed before Thorne emerged from his home. And it wasn't even by choice. His cousin, Maura's mother, had borrowed his rune stone with the family mark on it and hadn't given it back. So bearing his own coat and a thick shawl borrowed from Callum, Thorne ventured out into the crisp air outside. The Andruisk was much the same as before his little misadventure; lights still hung, casks of wine remained unmoved and probably half as full as they were, paintings on the doors were still vibrant and colorful.

Reminding himself of his mission, Thorne made a b-line for his cousin's home with her husband and two kids, Maura being the youngest. He rapped on the door with his knuckles and was nearly pulled in by Maura who decided to jump and climb all over Thorne. It amazed him that at some point she would mature and her physical aging would slow and she'd live to be a good hundred years and then some at least. For now, she was a normal, hyperactive, ADD little girl eager to get attention from her favorite cousin.

"Thorne! Just the man I wanted to see!," a voice cried. As if appearing from the shadows, Maura's mother appeared.

"Nora! What is it?" Thorne asked, returning the hug that Nora had assaulted him with.

"I've finished what I was doing for you," she stated proudly. She produced his medallion and held it up to the sunlight from out the window. It sparkled like jewels. Thorne took it in his hands and examined the carvings in the stone. The same family mark, passed from person to person and retained through marriages and change of names and such, regardless of who the person was. The same unique designs special to him and him alone. But several green and blue beads stood beside the rune stone, as if they were an armed guard. And upon further examination he saw flecks of purple and blue, red and pink all suspended inside the beads. Very special and difficult beads to make. Putting it around his neck, he rubbed the stone with his thumb and ran it along each bead.

"Nora, I couldn't!" Thorne whinged.

Nora put her hand on his head, despite him being a good five inches taller. "You saved my little girl. If I didn't do it, then Marcus would have and trust me," she stopped and checked outside to ensure no one else heard her. "you would have preferred it to be me. It's the least I can do." She threw her arms around him again and gave him a good squeeze before ushering him out the door again. "Now get out of here, show it off and strut your stuff...before Maura realizes you're leaving!" She added playfully as she shoved him out the door.

"Family is family," Thorne muttered to himself with a tired smile. Spying a patch of ice, he looked at his reflection and noticed how beautiful the beads really were. Being able to decorate a medallion stood for something in Nioneska society. But he didn't feel like he deserved it. But he did feel a twinge of arrogance and decided to hunt for Sevri and show off.

Thorne asked around until he knew where Sevri was. "So the nintoska is in the sauna again? Fine by me," Thorne told himself as he sauntered over with a swagger in his step. He looked through the window and saw Sevri with two women, both leaning into him and making him very uncomfortable. Thorne had to hold back a laugh to try and keep his presence a secret. But the more the girls flirted with Sevri, the more difficult it was until Thorne was consumed by laughter and had to step off to the side so he wouldn't be seen through the rainbow window. He fell into a snowbank when Sevri threw open the door in only a towel and tried to look for a place to hide. He saw Thorne rolling in the snow laughing and immediately pulled him to his feet to hide behind him.

"They stole my clothes!" Sevri hissed as he forced himself into Thorne's shawl to hide. "Lean against the wall!"

Fighting the humor in the situation, he did as he was told and tried to regain his composure. He made his face stoic and his eyes steely. A look he had learned and mastered with Ronan.

Together they waited for a few minutes and Thorne watched the two girls run out while trying to force their boots back on. The second one stopped and looked at Thorne. "Have you seen that nice boy with the blonde hair and the eyes, y'know what I mean, and-"

"I haven't seen anybody. I was just relaxing for a bit," Thorne interrupted, not caring about the glare the girl gave him before stalking off. Once they were out of sight Thorne elbowed Sevri to let him know. It hit Sevri in the face, making him punch Thorne in the back.

"Did they take my clothes with them?" Sevri wondered aloud, jumping back into the cozy warmth of the sauna again. He searched the shelves first, then stooped down to look in the drawers set in the bench. He came up with his bundle of clothes and a victoriously cheeky grin. As he put them on, Sevri began the conversation.

"So it looks like you're doing better."

"You could have checked in on your own. You live in the same house I do when we come up here," Thorne retorted with a snort.

"Well, I mean....shut up. In my defense, Callum had me running around the last few days, helping cook, teaching the new shamans certain dos and don'ts that they forgot to go over in all the festivities. It's nice to be home, but I'm looking forward to going back out. Hey, maybe I could go along with you and visit New York. Haven't brought myself around there yet," Sevri pointed out hopefully, trying to snag a place to stay for free. Always the smooth-talking trickster.

"You leech, are you trying to say you'd stay with me and not pay rent?" Thorne accused lightheartedly. He put his hands on his hips and his shawl slipped down around his elbows.

"No, I'm just saying that surely you'd enjoy my company?" Sevri offered, already losing the small hope that he could go.

Thorne shook his head and explained wistfully "I'm actually gonna stick around for awhile. A few days home in a year just isn't enough for me I guess."

"Really? Well, enjoy yourself I guess. What, you think you'll be that affair for Mila?" Sevri teased.

"No. But I feel like staying home. See you during the spring thaw?"

"You can count on it. But I'm going to follow their lead," Sevri stated as he gestured towards a group of others already packed and preparing to leave until the next festival in spring. "and leave. I'm already packed. See you in spring, cousin." Sevri pulled Thorne in for a hug and gave him a thump on the back. "Be careful. Don't let me come back to see you with a pretty little maid on your arm and a pair of toerags around your ankles."

Thorne clapped a hand on Sevri's shoulder and shook his head. "If you can promise the same, then you've got a deal."

The two shook on it and Thorne let Sevri go back to the house and gather his things. He breathed a deep breath of the mountain air and felt like he was home. The pine, the food, and even the smell of the fires burning away in every home. He liked the novelty of living in an apartment with thousands of people in America, but he loved it when he was home.

After only a few minutes, Sevri was back with a bag slung over his shoulder and thicker coats on him. He tied his shoulder length hair back out of his face and had a hat pulled down to his ears. The two shared one last hug before the rest of the household appeared. Ronan and Callum marched up to them and gave Sevri their hugs too.

"Take care, kiddo," Ronan instructed teasingly.

"If only I could charm you to stay. I could use a good teacher like you for the students," Callum pointed out, genuinely thinking of the new prospects coming into training later in the new year.

"You couldn't charm a starving man into eating, Uncle Callum," Sevri remarked; a witty remark he was particularly proud of, evident in his devilish smirk. Before Callum could say another word, Sevri began his trek down the mountain and to wherever he hung his hat when he wasn't home.

There the trio stood standing until Ronan ran off to discuss something with another hunter and Callum decided to wander around and find Sampsa. Fully noticing the vacancy of the sauna, Thorne looked around and over his shoulder, then disappeared inside, shutting the door firmly behind him and enjoying the heat. He braced it with the stool by the door to keep anyone out for awhile. Then he folded his clothes and splayed himself out contently. He even ignored the little glowing blue bird that sat in the window. 

"It's good to be home," he whispered to the wooden walls and hot stones.

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