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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7. The Presentings & Tunatoch

Thorne shook with the sudden cold that assaulted his cheeks. It wasn't by any means comfortable to suddenly be pulled from a disgustingly hot and cozy sauna and pushed into a snowbank. It was nice sometimes, as Thorne and Sevri had discovered in their younger years, but not when they were getting temperamental. With a huff and a stomp of his foot, Thorne sat on one of the benches towards the back and waited.

The bright blues and greens of people's best clothes lit up with the orange glow of the lanterns filled his vision. He let himself zone out and only focus on the colors until he noticed someone sit beside him. Ronan.

"I saw that. Just take minute to simmer down," Ronan pointed out. His long hunting coat was gone and in it's place was a black, long sleeved, tall collared shirt and vest lined with thick furs. Truly a man of the north despite the obvious Celtic patterns stitched into his clothes and carved on his medallion.

Thorne gave a shrug, unable to say anything anyways. So he sat in silence with his father and partly listened to what the shamans said. They stood around the tree and spoke in the tribal tongue. What was eye catching was their attire and what some did while idle. They all wore the brightest colors and had the most intricate and detailed stitching, and hats bearing small horns or even antlers depending on their status. Even Uncle Callum stood to the right of the highest Shaman in the Andruisk; Sampsa. Another uncle of Thorne and Sevri, and the oldest of his generation.

Thorne couldn't help but relax upon seeing Uncle Sampsa for the first time since his visit. Something about him was always so soothing, so calming.

Ronan gave a sigh of boredom subtly as he could as the procession of young men and women began through the aisles, each escorted by a member of their families. Thorne searched for familiar faces until his eyes rested on one. His friend he'd tried to meet at the sauna. His childhood friend, Mila. Thorne's jaw dropped and his heart pounded.

Ronan noticed where his son's gaze was focused and put a gentle hand on his shoulder. He didn't say a word however as she, as well as many other young brides, approached the shamans.

Mila's marriage was the very last. Thorne's attention was pinned to her, hoping she would see him. The flowers in her honey golden hair made him fully realize she wanted to be there. And when he looked at the groom his hackles rose. The man from the sauna.

"Noalan and Milana have been chosen by one another," Thorne cringed. "and now we shall see them bound together before the great spirits; The Great Father and Mother. Let it be known their fates are entwined and shall never be undone," Sampsa said. Completing the ritual, Sampsa painted their faces with red and green paint. As if to bless the union, a bird sprite appeared and flew around them and forced them closer as it made its circle tighter and tighter. There was a round of applause from everyone, especially the families when they turned back with smiles. Their escorts, Mila's father and what Thorne assumed to be Noalan's mother both cried.

Thorne sighed and blinked away the dampness in his eyes. The sudden sparkle in his eyes must have got Mila's attention because her eyes widened when they saw him and her eyes narrowed as if to apologize. It didn't help by much, but it was enough for Thorne to understand there was no changing it.

When the happy couples all moved to their designated section the next part of the ceremony began. Presenting babies. The pair watched quietly and listened to the music as families approached with their babies and were given wooden necklaces with their family runes. Thorne even saw one of his cousins, one of Sampsa's daugters, appear with a bundle in her arms and her husband following sheepishly. When all the little babies had been presented those instruments, drums, flutes, violins, or anything else that could hold a tune began to play. Their melodies swelled and grew until no sound was louder. Thorne even dared to cover his ears to save him from the merciless onslaught of the drummer behind him. But it did what it was meant to.

Ronan kept a weathered eye on the darkness that began to creep along the ground. The quickly fading light in the sky was cause for unease. Thorne caught sight of a shape moving just outside the Andruisk. It slunk along the ground and stared at them all, as if sizing up who was the easies prey. Others like it swarmed around, leaving no track and unable to make any sound louder than the drums that kept them at bay. No matter how many times Thorne saw it, it always frightened him to see them. Sampsa and the other shamans knew they were there and were perfectly calm.

The musicians played more furiously in time with the collective heartbeats of everyone present. Reluctantly, everyone began to stand up and take a lantern from the tree. Thorne took one for himself and his father and made his way to the edge of the comforting light that illuminated the festivities. Thorne crept to the very edge and stared into the growing inky blackness. Everyone else followed his lead and waited for the word of Sampsa. He, as well as the other shamans all began to weave the light from the lanterns and let it swirl. It circled the round and wrapped around every individual down to the little babies wrapped in warm skins. Thorne held onto his lantern with an iron grip while the light that the shamans had sent his way twisted around him. He'd only seen this happen two other times in his life and the last time he was still young enough to hold onto Ronan's leg.

Tearing his gaze away from the pair of glowing eyes that hid in the dark, Thorne saw each shaman call over a young shaman in training. The seniors handed them the lanterns and left it to them. That was worrying. Thorne swallowed as he waited for Sampsa, the only one who didn't usher in a youngling, to give the word.

He waited....and waited....until he felt a sudden calm. His lantern was taken from his hands by a glowing white sprite, the fox he'd encountered before. It rubbed his cheek before pressing through the cluster of demons and cutting away at the dark. The young shamans had summoned the sprites and spirits and had them take the lanterns with them.

Thorne's muscles quivered with the hissing and howling that split the air. His panic grew when he felt a clawed hand grab his ankle. It's grip was icy and burned through his layers of clothes. But the fox that had taken his lantern came back and attacked his assailant. The creature hissed and screeched as the fox clawed and bit. It released and retreated back beyond the borders of the Andruisk.

The smoky fox twisted and skittered in the through the air before zipping past Thorne's face and onto Sevri's shoulder.

"...t-thanks," Thorne stammered.

Sevri gave an uncomfortable shrug and replied "You're welcome. Although you're not supposed to stand that close to them."

Thorne looked around and realized he was the only one still at the edge. Everyone else had gone back to the safety of the Great Tree and began to light up strings of lanterns to weave into the branches of the tree and hang from doorways. His cheeks burned hot with the realization he'd brought his little scare unto himself. "Gah, I hate those things," Thorne spat, trying to regain some of his pride.

"Chinttoos aren't something to be messed with. Give an inch they take a mile and your foot," Sevri pointed out, already backing away and leaving the fox to guard the border. Another screechy scream made a chill rush down Thorne and Sevri's spines. Without sharing a word they backed away into the comforting embrace of the rest of the neighborhood. The little lights flickered like fireflies as they were strung up and illuminated the Andruisk.

Reclaiming his place, Thorne sat with Ronan and Sevri and watched the young shamans come forward and receive their headdresses like those of the shamans on the councils. Their faces were painted with red, green, blue, and yellow. Each was blessed, and each paid their respects and said prayers for the spirits that guarded them all. As the last prayer was uttered, the inky blackness dissipated and the forest was visible again. The stars appeared as if poked through purple paper, and all was calm.

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