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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6. The Sauna

 


The sound of music echoed through the forest, letting everyone know what was taking place. Not a single person was seen lagging behind; everyone moved as fast as was possible in the snow, immediately picking up the pace when their feet touched the clear earth in the Andruisks.

Callum barged into the little room, occupied by Thorne and Sevri. 

"WHAT ARE YOU TWO DOING HERE?!" He roared. Suddenly the stuffy and uptight uncle they'd both come to tolerate was as grizzly and growly as a bear.

"Getting changed, what does it look like?" Sevri asked nonchalantly as he scooted over to the chest and rifled through it as if he'd been doing it all along.

Thorne shook his head and stifled his laughter at this attempt to lie so clumsily. He didn't even care when he pointed out "Sev, you may have a way with words, but you've lied better than that."

"You aren't lying about that!" Callum spat, nearly tossing Sevri aside and hunting for something laying in wait at the bottom of the chest. "Heaven forbid Sampsa should ever let you take your father's place on the council," Callum bellowed.

"Hey! If I ever even decide I want to be on the council it will be because of my skills and not some legacy nonsense!" Sevri retorted. That subject always made him hot headed.

Without any other options, Thorne got up and grabbed Sevri by the collar. Without so much as acknowledgement of the entire argument he dragged Sevri out of the house and slammed the door. As a result, Sevri gave Thorne a glare of irritation. Thorne responded with a shrug before catching sight of a familiar shape pulling a sled with the latest kill on it. Ronan.

Ronan stopped in his tracks and noticed Sevri pacing back and forth. He approached and asked "Callum?"

"Uh, yeah," Thorne replied. "He came in because he didn't get dressed soon enough and got into it with Sevri over uh, y'know."

"I'll meet you two there. Let me handle it." Ronan began unbuttoning his long hunting coat and slipped inside.

When Thorne turned to look at Sevri again and see if he'd calmed down Sevri was nowhere to be found. Instead, Sevri was helping put benches in place, encircling the Great Tree. Thorne knew better than to bug him now. Sevri had a temper to be reckoned with.

Instead, Thorne decided to sneak away to the sauna since there was still a good long while before any festivities and ceremonies began. And it was his chance to meet with a friend.

Avoiding all the busybodies and making his way to the familiarly ornate doorway, he stopped. A pair of small trees grew on either side of door like a doorframe, carved with pictures and symbols and designs that had their meanings in other languages and cultures. The door had a window above it with colored glass like a rainbow. When he opened the door he saw the bench and the fire pit with already warm stones and a bucket of water already full. Some birch twigs laden with leaves hung on the wall, waiting to be used. Without another thought, Thorne stoked the fire and got it a bit more active before stripping off his clothes and folding them neatly on a shelf above the wrap-around bench. He found a clean cloth that was set out for people to cover themselves appropriately and wrapped it around his waist.

As soon as the fire had heated the stones enough, he poured some of the water on it and let the steam build. He'd forgotten how much he liked the sauna. Turning over on his side to stare into the stones and steam, he let out a sigh of relief as he hit himself with the birch twigs. He hoped that his friend would come like they'd agreed. A truly dear friend indeed. Instead, after some waiting, another man came in who was clearly excited and in need of a treat for himself.

"Welcome," Thorne said in a quiet, content whisper.

"Thank you," He replied, stripping down and wrapping a cloth around him. He sat across from Thorne, who was laid out on his side of the bench. Thorne stared in mild annoyance at the crumpled up ball of clothes the man had left on the floor. If his friend was going to show up she wouldn't like that.

The nervous energy that radiated off this man almost seemed to intertwine and mix with the steam that fogged the glass of the window. After a moment or two the man noticed Thorne's slight irritation and attempted to explain himself. He opened his mouth, but Thorne cut him off lazily.

"New baby? Shaman? Or just welcoming?" Thorne asked, eyes closed and foot bouncing.

"Married, actually. She is amazing. Her family seems to like me too," he said.

"Hmm. That's rare," Thorne thought out loud, thinking back on his own experiences.

Suddenly Sevri threw the door open and pulled Thorne from the bench and threw him into a snowbank.

"HEY-! Sevri!?"

"We're running late! You've been in there for hours!" Sevri explained, his expression a midway point between laughter at his prank and anxiety from being late for such an important tradition. Before Thorne could even struggle out of his imprint in the snow, Sevri grabbed his clothes and threw them at Thorne. Sevri let Thorne struggle with his pants and shirt before dragging him back into the sauna and forcing his clothes onto him.

"Play nice," Sevri hissed while dodging an angry elbow thrown by Thorne in his struggle to regain control. 

Thorne's embarrassment grew and grew when he realized the man sat with a hand over his mouth. Thorne's already reddish sun kissed cheeks flushed a deeper red when he caught sight of other people looking it at the two cousins. "Sev, get off!" Thorne bellowed. Thorne pushed Sevri away and into the wall. With a thunk, Sevri hit his head on a shelf.

Sevri let his anger build and he flicked his wrist. This made the bushel of birch twigs fly from the bench and whack Thorne in the face. A long scratch ran along his cheek, parallel to his tattoo. Blood dripped lazily down his cheek and pooled on his collarbone. Rather than get angrier, Thorne looked at the blood on his chest, wiped it off, and put his shirt on over his. A look of irritation fell over his face. He pursed his lips and clucked his tongue.

"Sev, I'm going to, uh, go out and watch the ceremonies. Do everyone a favor and calm down, hmm? Maybe relax in there."

 

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