Here’s wishing all my Gentle Readers (all 2.5 of you, LOL 😉) a very Merry Christmas!
In lieu of actual Blog Post Content, please enjoy these Christmas-themed snippets from my Heirs of Dunsmüir series. (I’m sorry there’s nothing here about the Birth of Christ; I haven’t written that part yet. But if you like, you can check out my post from last year, and read the lovely poem my mother wrote.)
A little background: The setting is Sherwyn Hall, home of Gilbert “Gil the Green” Sherwyn, in the heart of Glenwood Forest. The time is shortly after Anton has found all the Heirs and assembled them in Glenwood for safe-keeping until they make their début in the City of Dunsmüir. Our Heroes and their friends are preparing Sherwyn Hall for the annual Christmas Party hosted by Gil the Green and his band of Yeomen….
Anton skipped through the corridor, singing an old Nórska Christmas song (off-key, as usual) with a refrain of kaladú, kaladú! Catching sight of Isabella, he beamed his sunniest smile and took hold of her hands, whirling her around in a skipping sort of dance. “God-yúl, mein lieb!” he chirruped.
“God-yúl, Anton,” she replied calmly.
He stopped as abruptly as he’d begun, panting a little, still smiling. “Come with me,” he said excitedly; “I want to show you something!”
She raised an eyebrow. “What is it?”
“You’ll see. It’s a surprise.”
Her face re-composed. “Very well.”
He caught her by the wrist and fairly dragged her through the rest of the corridor, past where Jason and Ember were hanging holly-garlands in the dining hall.
“An’ where might he be takin’ her in such an all-fired hurry, then?” Ember wondered aloud.
“Did…didn’t we just hang some mistletoe on that end of the Hall a few minutes ago?” Jason mused.
“Aye, that we did,” Ember began. Then she paused, both eyebrows raised, as if suddenly enlightened. She burst out laughing. “Oh-ho-ho! the sly fox! Well, good luck to him, say I. Sure, an’ ’twill take more’n a bunch o’ mistletoe to thaw out the Ice Queen that much!”
* * *
“I’ve learned of an interesting custom among our Ánglos and Gaelic cousins,” Anton explained, his eyes twinkling. He pointed to a cluster of greenery hanging from the ceiling above their heads, accented with red ribbons. “That’s mistletoe—”
“I can see that,” Isabella deadpanned.
“They do say,” he continued, ignoring her interruption, “that when a man and a woman stand under it, they’re supposed to exchange a kiss—for good luck—and…something about…keeping the berries…under…a pillow….” His voice died away as her face assumed that icy, expressionless look, with the eyelids slightly lowered.
He grinned foolishly, like a child caught snitching cookies and trying to charm his way out of a spanking. “All right, I didn’t think you’d fancy that idea.” He dug about in those bottomless pockets of his a moment as he spoke. “How about a—ach, where are they?—ahh, there we are—how about a chocolate kiss instead?” He held out a small, mound-shaped candy, wrapped in silvery foil.
* * *
“How d’ee like our decorations, then?” Ember smirked.
“They’re quite festive.”
“Did Anton show you the mistletoe?”
“Ah—Ember…,” Jason whispered.
Isabella blinked. “He did.”
Isabella turned to face her. “And what?”
“Did he tell you the tradition that goes along with it?”
Jason squirmed. “Ember.”
Isabella calmly began to unwrap the chocolate. “And he gave me a kiss,” she replied, calmer still…although her mouth twitched as she said it.
Ember’s eyes looked ready to pop out of her head. “He what? An’ you let him?”
“Of course,” Isabella replied, crumpling up the foil. “I’m rather fond of chocolate, after all.” She held the candy so they could see it for a second or two, then popped it in her mouth. “Merry Christmas, my friends,” she said. Then she disappeared down the corridor.
Five seconds later, Ember threw down the white satin bows she’d been putting along the garland, sputtering like a firecracker. “Och! Of all the—a chocolate kiss, forsooth! Aiee! the cheeky—did ’ee see how she strung us along?!” She rattled off the rest of her tirade in Gaelic.
Jason giggled. “I think that’s rather clever. And you—you kind of—sort of—well, asked for it. I mean, you didn’t really expect—well, after all, Anton’s got his head on straighter than that, and—well, like you said, it’d take some doing for Isabella to—er—warm up that much—especially to Anton.”
Ember threw him a pouty scowl. “Don’t speak to me, boy-o; ’tis a bad mood I’m in, just now.”
“I noticed. Perhaps you need a chocolate kiss—”
Ember let out a savage roar.
“Never mind,” Jason squeaked, backing up a little. “Hand me another bow, would you please?”
* * *
“May I have the pleasure of this dance, my lady?”
Isabella stared at him, forming her reply—
“Say Yes, Isabella,” Lisbeth urged in Nórska. “It’ll be fun! And besides,” she giggled, “he’s adorable.”
“Well, I’m honored you think so, Princess,” Anton replied—also in Nórska. “Your sister doesn’t seem to realize it—yet.” He winked.
Lisbeth’s expression was priceless.
Isabella’s mouth twitched, but she remained calm and collected. “I don’t dance,” she informed him.
Lisbeth did a double-take. “Váss—?”
“But my sister does,” Isabella finished, covertly poking Lisbeth in the back.
Lisbeth flinched and stumbled forward, looking confused.
Anton bowed gallantly. “As you wish, your Majesty,” he smiled, leading Lisbeth towards the dance floor. “But I’m saving the next one for you anyhow,” he flung cheerfully over his shoulder.
* * *
The music stopped, and the dance came to an end. Tom and Ciaran stood facing each other, breathless yet smiling. Ciaran’s cheeks glowed—nearly obscuring his freckles—and his eyes sparkled. Tom smiled broadly. She couldn’t remember the last time she’d had so much fun…or been so happy.
A murmur about the room drew her attention, and looking about, she spotted several people pointing at her and Ciaran. Some smiled, others nudged their neighbors. A few laughed or winked.
“Ciaran,” she whispered, “what are they laughing about?”
Ciaran also scanned the crowd with a puzzled frown. Then his face went blank, and he looked up at the ceiling. He lifted one corner of his mouth, chuckling something in Gaelic. “Look up, lass,” he whispered back.
Tom obeyed…and groaned. There, suspended from the bottom of the central lantern, directly above their heads, hung a bunch of greenery with leathery, oval-shaped leaves and white berries, decorated with cheery red ribbons.
She cast a suspicious sideways glance at him. “Ciaran….”
“’Twasna’ intentional, I assure ye,” he protested good-naturedly.
“So what do we do now?”
A call of Kiss! Kiss! Kiss! rang out from among the crowd, and Tom fancied she saw Anton jumping up and down behind one of the taller gentlemen.
Tom’s heart froze. She’d never kissed a man in her life. She’d vowed to save her first kiss for her future husband. Did these silly people really expect her to…? Oh, it was too absurd—too mean! Too slushy. She couldn’t decide if she wanted to cry or simply pound someone into gravy. Specifically, the silver-haired lout who had dug up this ridiculous tradition in the first place….
Ciaran leaned down a bit, smiling reassuringly at her. “Might I be suggestin’ a compromise?”
Tom raised an eyebrow. “What sort of compromise?”
Without a word, Ciaran raised two fingers to his lips.
Tom grinned—a bit smugly, truth be told. She nodded. “I could live with that,” she smirked, mirroring his pose.
Amid cheers (and a few groans and cat-calls), Tom and Ciaran kissed their own fingertips, then gently pressed them to each other’s. They grinned a little foolishly at each other—Tom actually giggled at the ridiculousity of the situation—then gasped a little as Ciaran laced his fingers through hers, his smile no longer foolish….
Then he winked and draped a protective arm about her shoulders, gently leading her off the dance floor—and away from the mistletoe.
Until next time, Gentle Readers,
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!