|A Gift of Gunpowder
Author: Freida Right PM
Fireworks. One of Fabul's cherished native arts. And seemingly the best possible Wintermas gift for Palom. Perhaps not one of Yang's better ideas; but the results are... Unexpected. First of a few Christmas prompts, ala mythweaver1. Enjoy!Rated: Fiction K - English - Family/Friendship - Palom & Yang - Words: 3,619 - Reviews: 3 - Favs: 1 - Published: 11-23-12 - Status: Complete - id: 8729137
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
It's like myths came up with this prompt JUST for me! How does she know to push my buttons so well? Oh that's right, she's mentored me since middle school… 0.o
So, yeah. Palom plus explosives? How could I resist? It's probably not as hilarious as you're expecting. I do love a chance to show Palom's better side.
A Gift of Gunpowder
It had been a shame that Yang had been unable to join any of the other Warriors of Light for any sort of holiday festivity that year. Even heroes are not immune to illness. That particular winter had been an especially chilly one, and the sturdy king of Fabul had come down with a cold—the kind that worms its way into ones bones and refuses to recede for months. Hence, he had remained at home to rest, and so that he wouldn't gift his comrades with the same annoying ailment.
But Palom and Porom loved him dearly, and refused to let him pass such a joyous time of year without company. They had come to Fabul themselves to spend the week of Wintermas with the monks. Their mere presence seemed to have improved the king's condition greatly. He also loved the young twins very much. Though it sort of pained him to admit, at the age of 15, they weren't so young anymore.
In fact, in recent years, the twins had begun traveling frequently to the ancient kingdom for independent study. Aside from their friend being the king, they never failed to find something interesting to immerse themselves in. Especially the martial arts that were taught to the kingdom's fighting force. Even Porom, the white mage, loved the practice; though she preferred the slow, thoughtful, cleansing movements of tai chi. Of course, Palom preferred kung fu, because it meant he could hit things.
In Fabul, the practice of giving gifts at Wintermas was not typically observed as it was in the rest of the world. To them, Wintermas was a time to meditate on the things they already had—friends, family, and the simple joys of life. The twins were aware of this, but they had brought gifts, anyway.
"It's the joy of giving with a happy heart," Porom insisted as she presented her gift. Of course, it was nothing extravagant—she had brought the royal family a large tin of star-shaped cookies flavored with cardamom. It was Yang's favorite spice, and she knew it all too well.
"I baked them myself," she added with a proud grin.
"I brought you this," Palom announced, just as proudly, and produced a small leather bag from his pocket. "It's a healing stone, from back home. Maybe it'll help with your cold."
Yang couldn't help but raise an eyebrow at the scruffy young man. "You didn't take this from the elder without asking him, did you?"
"No, I bought it with money I saved," Palom answered indignantly.
Yang couldn't help his relieved sigh, punctuated by a hoarse cough. Palom always came with good intentions, but he had a history of picking things up and just taking them without asking permission.
"That said, I have gifts for you, as well," the king said happily, and handed them each a small present, wrapped in colorful painted paper. Palom let his sister go first, and she carefully unwrapped her present.
"If I had known you'd take so long, I wouldn't have let you go first," he complained.
"I don't want to ruin the paper. It's so pretty," Porom countered coolly as her gift finally began to peek through the wrapping. It revealed a leather-bound tome with an intricate gold embossed design on the cover.
"This is a tome on our native healing arts," Yang explained. "Surely, you will put it to good and loving use."
"Oh, thank you so much!" she exclaimed, jumping up to give him a hug. He thought to warn her not to get too close, lest she contract his cold; but in the end, he couldn't help but hug her back. She was a capable white mage, and a native of the city of magic. She could take care of herself. He fully understood what she meant about the joy of giving. In spite of his cold, he felt his heart warm all the way through.
Then it was Palom's turn. He quickly tore the wrapping away to reveal a small jar of round, powdery looking balls.
"Ooh, neat. …What are they?"
Eh… This time, Yang couldn't help but hesitate. It had seemed like a nice idea and an exceptionally perfect gift for the young black mage. But maybe this hadn't been his best idea ever.
"These are the beginnings of our fireworks," he explained, hoping the note of trepidation in his voice was masked by his cold. "I know you've been fascinated with them in the past, so I've given you some to study at home."
Study was probably the last thing that Palom would use them for, in the end. But for now, his violet eyes were wide with wonder.
"No way! Really? This is the best gift ever!"
Aw… For now, Yang reveled in the joy he had generated. Hopefully, the boy would lay waste to his own city when he got home. Hopefully…
"Please don't do anything with them while you're here," he added. "There will be fireworks aplenty on the night of Wintermas. You can help with them, if you'd like."
"Would I ever!"
Once again, maybe not his best idea. But it was Wintermas, after all. Whatever happened next was sure to be… interesting.
A few days passed, and the day of Wintermas had arrived. Palom couldn't wait for the night's celebration for so many reasons. There would be food and music, and drink that he wasn't allowed to have yet, but counted on being surreptitiously slipped a glass to toast later in the evening. The queen was very fond of him, and very nice like that.
But mostly, he was looking forward to the fireworks. The little jar of round, darkly colored pellets would be put to all manner of fun and exciting use when he returned to Mysidia. But for now, he was in someone else's kingdom—and one that commanded respect and propriety.
The people of Fabul were already aware of his unruly nature. But he liked them very much, and wanted them to respect him like he respected them. He mentally looked himself over and decided that he was 15 now, and ought to act like it. At least, just this once. Tonight, he was determined to bring honor and good fortune raining down on everyone, and do a good job of assisting with the fireworks display. Yang was counting on him. Porom was probably counting on him too—to make an enormous mess. He refused to think of letting the king down; he fully intended to let his sister down this time, though.
That afternoon, he took a stroll to the area of the castle wall where the fireworks display was to be performed from. Purely professional, just to look over what had been done already. And it so happened that two of Yang's youngest children insisted on accompanying him. Tao-Chi, the youngest princess, and Tsung, the youngest prince had been enamored of the twins forever, but Palom especially. For growing up in a rigid, mannerly fashion, they truly appreciated his free spiritedness and tendency to play entirely by his own rules. Such a thing would never have been heard of in the royal household.
So the 12-year-old princess and the 8-year-old prince bounced alongside him in as dignified a manner as they could.
"It's marvelous that father's allowed you to assist with the fireworks display tonight," Tao-Chi commented. "Surely it will be the best display our kingdom has ever seen!"
"Yeah, it's gonna be great!" Tsung added, nowhere near as mature as his big sister.
"Yep, I'm looking forward to it, too," Palom agreed evenly. "But we're going to do this properly. No explosions this year. Sorry, you guys."
While Tao-Chi didn't allow her facial expression or stance to change at all, Tsung wilted visibly.
"Aw come on. Is that all I am to you? A bunch of random, haphazard explosions? I am shocked and offended!"
Along the far wall of the castle—the one that pointed out toward the sea and away from the city—most of the equipment had already been set up. Glorious dragon-shaped cannons were lined up facing into the sky, like a platoon of soldiers, waiting to be loaded with brightly colored paper canisters, filled with carefully measured amounts of the tantalizing explosives. Men hustled around, bringing up huge barrels filled with the same powder spheres in Palom's little jar; each was labeled with its color, and probably some other important specifications in characters that he couldn't read. Ooh, all that raw power… Palom felt his fingertips begin to itch, and the incantation for the Fire spell flew to the front of his mind. But he suppressed it, determined not to let his friend and the rest of his host kingdom down.
The men around him regarded him with suspicion, well aware of the famous mage's mild pyromania. He tried to distract them from that by wandering around to ask them questions about their craft.
"So, your only job is to study fireworks? That must the most amazing job in the world! I wish my job was that cool. You make all of these here? Fascinating. You used to market them to the rest of the world, right? Why did you stop? Oh yeah, the war; I guess that makes sense. How do you determine the charge? How much power do you need? How do you make the different colors? How much of the materials do you need to import? Get out of town! I'll bet my sister and I made some of the dyes, then! What do you mean, disconcerting? It's top-notch work, don't you think?"
While he busied himself with questions, he sort of forgot about the prince and princess, who were somewhere behind him, scheming.
"Palom seems unlike himself," Tao-Chi commented to her little brother. "He longs to cast a spell, but he refuses. He must be sad."
"We should impress him with our knowledge of fireworks," Tsung suggested.
Of course, the children knew very little of fireworks. But they wanted to impress Palom, so it didn't stop them from trying. While the mage had the men distracted with his many questions, Tao-Chi and Tsung went around grabbing handfuls of pellets from each barrel. A little red for good fortune, a little gold for prosperity, a little green for long life, and a little blue for serenity. The other information on the barrels wasn't important; it was the colors that mattered, right? They loaded up one of the paper canisters and sealed the top. Tao-Chi took charge of loading the canister into one of the dragon-canons, and Tsung grabbed a torch and a match to light it.
As soon as the match was lit, Palom felt his fire senses tingle. "Something isn't right," he noted, and spun around to look. The children were working together to light one of the canons with a torch. The scene spoke for itself. Together, he and the other men rushed forward to try and stop the children.
"No! Don't light that canon!" he cried out, but it was too late. The fuse had been lit, and the flame sparked its way down into the canon, out of sight, beyond control. There was no stopping the mess that was about to ensue. Now all he could do was try to protect the foolish prince and princess. Try…
He caught them and hauled them down to the ground just as the canon exploded, the overly charged package within splitting the whole thing in pieces. Fire and smoke spewed everywhere as if from the maw of a real dragon, colorful sparks zipping through it like lightning bolts. The entire wall was engulfed in flame and smoke. Palom heard more than saw the men rushing to get the other barrels out of the blaze.
"We can't move these! They're too heavy!"
"Throw them over the wall, then!"
"But, a year's worth of fireworks will be lost!"
"And we will be lost with them! Over the wall, I say!"
Indeed, Palom heard a few explosions from beyond the wall, as the lit barrels fell away. It sort of made his vain heart break, thinking of all the work that had gone into those fireworks. A year's worth of work and materials, a night's worth of entertainment, gone in a flash. And they were all still in danger. He firmly decided that he'd had quite enough of this nonsense.
"Stay down," he commanded the children, and then jumped to his feet, already reciting the incantation for…
The long, complex spell tumbled out of his brain faster than he could help himself. It was overkill for this rather contained fire, but it was the first thing he could think of. Anyway, even though it wasn't the most impressive fire he'd ever seen, it seemed a lot bigger to him as he had lain on the walkway, shielding two children he loved, watching others he cared for throwing away the work they cherished for their very safety.
Therefore, the entire city was treated to the effects of his frantically invoked Blizzaja spell. Dark clouds materialized in the sky, gathering over the city, and especially over the place where Palom was chanting. A sharp wind swept over the wall, chilling him through in spite of the fire's heat. The flames and smoke swirled and danced, and some of it was carried away.
The next thing they knew, enormous snowflakes fell from the sky like torrential rainfall. Within minutes, the entire city was blanketed in two feet of crisp, white snow. What fell amid the flames instantly melted, and quickly extinguished it. The remains went on smoking pathetically, until it was too chilled to even manage that. The accidental nightmare was over.
However, the capital city was now buried under unexpected snow, and almost all the fireworks had been lost. Palom turned and looked down over the city, at what little damage he had caused, and sighed sadly.
He turned and glared down at the children, also covered in snow and ashes like the rest of them. They clung to each other and whimpered fearfully. Perhaps not so much from the amazing damage they had caused, but from knowing what their father would do to them later. And also that their idol was so unimpressed with them.
"I hope your father doesn't kill me too badly for this…"
Porom couldn't believe at first that her twin had actually tried to prevent an explosion. But when the children bravely explained themselves, she quickly forgave her brother for being judgmental.
"You should be," he muttered, feeling put out and depressed. His face and clothes were covered in soot, and his scarlet mage's robe was scorched in several places. He also had minor burns on his hands, which his sister examined with a medical but unworried look on her face.
"Here, sit down so I can fix your stupid hands," she instructed him. "Was anyone else hurt?"
"Some burns here and there, I guess, but nothing the nurses can't take care of," he answered glumly.
Porom looked concerned over her brother's mood. It wasn't like him to be so down. "Was the damage bad? Will they have to rebuild anything serious?"
"A part of the walkway got blown away, but it won't take much to put it back together. We lost most of the fireworks, though…"
"Ah," she answered, understanding at last. "I'm so sorry, Palom. I know how much you were looking forward to it."
"They worked so hard, for months on tonight's display. They had planned the entire evening now to the last pellet, and now it's just gone. They were going to bring so much joy to hundreds of people, Porom. They've been looking forward to it for a whole year. I feel so bad for them."
Porom sighed to herself, happy to see her brother so concerned about someone else for a change. "Do you think there's anything we can do?"
"I don't know…"
Yang was upset as well, of course. In fact, his cough had returned with a vengeance. After banishing his children to their rooms for the disorderly conduct, he had begun pacing back and forth.
"What a Wintermas this has turned out to be," he lamented, his voice ragged and rough. "Our great and beloved display of our native ingenuity, our pride and joy, gone in a flash. The city is saddened. I don't know what to do to console them. As their king, I find this most troublesome."
That was an understatement and a half. Palom also wished there was something he could do for them.
And then it occurred to him. Perhaps there was something he could do for them, after all. It was only a very small thing—he wasn't even sure if it was big enough to help anyone. But it was Wintermas, the season of joyful giving. It was worth a try. His hands healed, he stood back up and reached into his pocket.
"Yang, I don't know if this would do any good, but…"
The king turned to look, and found the boy holding the small jar of dusty pellets out to him. Some of the last fireworks left in the city.
"I know it's not much, but it's what I have."
"Palom… You would do this for us?"
"Aw, well, you know," the boy answered with a goofy shrug, "it's not like I was going to put them to really noble use, anyway."
Yang hesitated, not believing what he was seeing. But he accepted the jar, his eyes looking teary.
"There will be fireworks tonight, after all."
The rest of that afternoon had been spent dutifully collecting any other fireworks that could be found. Most were made by armatures and hobbyists, nowhere near the quality of the ones that had been lost. But they were offered freely, happily, and in great honor. Perhaps, Yang realized, it was most fitting of all. This year's Wintermas display wasn't going to be the grand, elaborate, splendid display that it usually was. But this year, it would mean something all the greater to the people of Fabul.
That night, the king could care less of his cold. He stood upon the wall with the rest of his family to observe the display. He even allowed Tao-Chi and Tsung to come out of their rooms for it. Despite the trouble they had caused, he felt they should see the display. His wife gave him a bemused smile.
"You will never get well this way, dear," she pointed out, shivering in her thick, warm robe. Yang only smiled back.
"Are you cold, my love? I feel nothing at all. In fact, I feel warmed through."
Tsung tugged eagerly on his sleeve. "Does that mean we aren't punished anymore, father?" he asked hopefully.
Yang laughed and patted his youngest child on the head. "No, son. No it does not."
The colorful explosions lit up the night sky like a beautiful tapestry, and reflected off the sparkling snow below. It had been a long time since it had actually snowed for Wintermas in that part of the world. It was wonderful, what it did to the city. Instead of being confined to the dark sky, the fireworks also painted the earth. It was the perfect union of sky and earth, darkness and light, foreign and native, yin and… Yang.
Together with the firework masters, the king had decided to save the pellets from Palom's jar for the grand finale. It was the dearest gift the city had received in years. And the pellets were all red, the color of good luck—he had chosen them specifically for the black mage, whose favorite color was red. And with what remained of the royal fireworks, the amount he had given was just enough for the grand finale the city deserved after this long, unusual day of Wintermas.
The finale was a single, enormous explosion like a sun. Beams of prosperous gold radiated out in all directions from a heart of the most lucky shade of red in the world. The explosion was huge enough to cast the entire walled city in shades of red, covering every home in good luck that was sure to last the whole year.
Palom's grin was just as enormous. He stood back and gazed with pride and wonder at his gift, and relished the applause that erupted down in the gleaming city.
"Joyful giving…" he mused. "I guess I never really understood it, until now. I could get used to this."
Porom put her arm around her brother's shoulder and rested her head against his shoulder. "I'm proud of you, Palom. Happy Wintermas."
He hugged her back and let his head rest on hers. "Yeah. Happy Winermas to you, too, Porom. This is kinda the best one we've ever had, I think."
Yang came up behind them and hugged them both as fiercely as he could. "I'm glad the two of you came. Truly, you've made this a Winermas to be remembered here for all time."
The colors of the last beautiful explosion slowly, gracefully faded into the darkness, the billows of smoke like clouds, but leaving the stars to shine all the brighter. But the joy it had brought was not to fade so easily. It would last the whole year. Perhaps, even for all time.