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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4. The First Meal

When Thorne awoke, he saw the fire nearly dead with only a few glowing embers left. He combed out the gnarls in his hair and tossed a few more sticks until the fire was brought back to life. He stretched his arms high over his head and heard a few satisfying pops. Just when he decided to peek through the vent hole to see how late (or early depending) it was, Sevri burst through the door, rosy cheeked, sweating, and clothes askew.

"Where have you been?" Thorne said with a yawn to accentuate on his drowsy state.

"You *hic* should have been there. But *hic* I *hic* think someone may have slipped me something in my food," Sevri slurred.

"Yeah, alcohol. Did you empty out Sirri's cellar?"

Sevri shook his head a little too violently, flinging his blonde locks this way and that. "I swear I only had one cup of her dandelion wine. You know I don't like to drink *hic* that much. But this one guy, he was eyeing me and I remember seeing him with a girl that I was talking t- *hic* oo. He looked angry and he followed me all the way here!" Sevri gasped. He immediately dropped to the floor and peeked out the window set into the door.

Thorne laughed until he was as red in the face as Sevri. "You really did it now, Sev. When will you learn?"

"What do I need to learn?! I've never even so much as touched a woman!" Sevri shouted at the top of his lungs. Then his eyes went wide at what he'd said.

Thorne's eyes lit up at this. "Oh? Is little Sevri just a boy?" Thorne teased, giving Sevri a good jab in the ribs.

"Now you know that's *hic* not what I meant! Not a woman from here!!!" Sevri pleaded.

Thorne took the retaliating jab with laughter and shrugged. Ignoring Sevri's fears, he opened the door, gave a good look around and saw not a soul around it. The only people were gathered around the Great Tree, eating beneath the light of charmed lanterns giving off a warm, orange light as they hung from the tree's branches.

"Now I don't care what you say, I'm going to go eat. I'm starving and I smell some of that smoked fish that Old Chinakta makes." Thorne didn't even bother closing the door behind him, knowing fully well that Sevri would follow him with floppy and uncoordinated steps.

Together, the pair made it to two empty spots with some of the elders and took their shares. Rather, Thorne took equal shares for himself and Sevri, and let Sevri sit quietly and gather particular herbs spread out for flavoring. Though Thorne wasn't a shaman like Sevri was, he knew that Sevri had some kind of plan to sober himself up. Sevri's eyes grew fiery as his brow furrowed while hunting for his prizes. To Thorne it all seemed like nonsense. He even noticed a few leaves that Sevri picked up that were mildly poisonous. At least to make one sick. Supposedly, if used in the right ways, those effects could be neutralized and bring out the flavor in whatever you put it on. But of course not many people other than the shamans knew that since only they picked it up.

By the time Thorne had eaten his fill and started licking the dripping oils off his fingers, Sevri had finished his searching. Sevri popped all his collected herbs into his mouth and chewed so vigorously it would have put tobacco chewers to shame.

"How does that help? No, scratch that. Why?" Thorne asked, leaning back on his elbows and stretching out.

"To.....dilute...the alcohol.....help my liver.......speed up......," Sevri pointed out, his words gradually getting more clear. While he chewed he continued to glance around people, still afraid of being caught. "Need.....to help prepare........the ceremony.....Siiri-"

"Okay okay, just finish whatever it is you're doing and then tell me what you're talking about," Thorne spat with a hand over Sevri's mouth. Sevri nodded in agreement and kept chewing until he was left with a fine paste which he swallowed, despite the overload of powerful flavors that soaked his tongue.

"Callum wanted me to participate in the 'We'menai Co Ni'anta Yoren'. Welcome of the New Year ceremony. Cleansing the la *hic* nd. Hache! It's taking a minute."

"Well it isn't easy to sober up with a potion. People in the city would kill for something like that because it's supposed to be impossible to speed up the process like that," Thorne pointed out matter-of-factly. Sometime there were perks to being from a tribe based on magic and special brews.

Sevri shook is head, dismissing the very thought. "I imagine they would." He said his words very carefully and held his breath when he'd finished speaking to cure his hiccups. Gradually, the honey glow in his cheeks faded into the normal pinks that spread on a chill bitten face. When he attempted to stand, he stumbled and fell on top of Thorne, landing especially hard on Thorne's particularly full belly.

Thorne gave a moan upon impact, immediately trying to push Sevri off. The display was a source of entertainment for the handful of elders that surrounded them, each trading witty remarks with the one that sat next to them. Even a faint and melodic laugh echoed through the round. Sevri heard it and completely ignored the situation in order to point out "the forests spirits are enjoying themselves at least."

"I don't care! Get off me!" Thorne bellowed, and with the strength of men twice his size, kicked Sevri off of himself and into the Great Tree. The lanterns rattled and clanged together, creating a chorus of chaos with dulcet tones.

Through gritted teeth and a forced smile, Sevri commented "with strength like that you could face a troll and come out unscathed."

"And don't you forget it," Thorne stated defiantly.

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