"The longest night,

The coldest night.

Stars of quicksilver shining clear.

Childrens voices,

Tremulous voices,

Singing slightly off key.

But beautiful in their innocence,

Flow through the streets.

Seeping into houses and hovels alike,

This long,

This cold,

Midwinter Night."

Kitty Ryan: 2001

Midwinter Luck

Part One of Three

By: Kitty Ryan

Genre: Romance/Humour/ a touch of poetry

Rating: PG

Authors Note: Midwinter Luck is a light hearted little piece of writing that -- though it stands perfectly well by itself -- is also a companion to Focus. Personally, I recommend reading it in conjunction with its companion.

"Numair, I assume that you need to visit an understanding and very skilled healer - mmph-hmph?" A clear, dry voice, with just a trace of a foreign accent--a slight lilt every third word, made itself heard. Made itself heard over the all pervading din of a slightly larger than average winter gale that was buffeting the shabby dwelling wedged like an afterthought between the brewery and the apothecary of Filigree Street. Which was just the same as it always had been. Decidedly the worse for wear. Seemingly oblivious to the fact that a war had been fought and ended six months before and folk were still trying to pick up the pieces. The wind was buffeting this dwelling, attempting to give those souls inside a good blast of the Scanran chill. And the voice made itself heard in all four corners of the small, overcrowded room. The voice was incredulous, it's owner sitting on a worn, rather dangerous looking chair amongst innumerable amounts of canvas. The chair, like it's occupant, was spattered liberally with paint.

"No, my friend, I have not felt the overwhelming need to visit one right at this moment.

Why?" The owner of the clear voice, owner of the canvases and chair, gave a despairing groan. "Because - mmph-hmph - you cannot possibly be in your right mind if you want to give the poor girl that!

Numair Salmalìn snatched the little box described as 'that' away from his friend, clutching it to his chest defensively. Whatever reaction the mage had been expecting from Volney Rain -- painfully blunt has he was -- it had not been this. Pride and feeling's hurt; Numair attempted to glare loftily down at the tactless, paint-splotched little man who had wounded them and failed miserably, as only a tall man squashed up in small chair and trying to hide the uncertain and highly embarrassed expression on his face can. "What in Mynoss and the Goddess' names is wrong with it, Rain?" he asked irritably, still holding the item in question like a terrier with a favourite toy.

Volney Rain: court artist and sometimes none-too-sympathetic ear gave the younger man a pitying look. "It's a bloody ring!"

"And you're an artist," Numair retorted. "I know it's a ring. And a very nice ring, if it comes to it. You are most certainly not one to talk to about taste, considering you still have that honey-soy vision of Lady Venezia on your wall!" He jerked his head to where the large 'painting' hung the product of a rather explosive attempt at Doi cookery almost a year before.

"Hmph, yes, it's a very nice ring. A pretty band of silver with a pretty blue stone and some pretty seed diamonds. Very subtle, very tasteful, it would make a fine engagement ring, mmph-hmph?" The artist paused, rolling his eyes heavenward in a way that Numair considered overly dramatic. "Only - mmph - the girl you want to give it to doesn't want -- mmph-hmph -- to think about marriage at the moment."

"Oh." If Numair had looked uncomfortable before, it was nothing compared to this. This was delving into the terminally embarrassed.

"Spot the flaw, mmph-hmph?"

"You mean… she might --"

"Get the wrong impression?"

"My…my meaning might --"

"Be misconstrued?"

"I really wish you would stop --"

"Finishing your sentences for you, mmph-hmph?"

"Volney" Numair passed a hand over his dark eyes, which were now looking just a touch on the frantic side of desperate. "Midwinter is tomorrow. I'll never be able to get something now, not without raiding a closed shop and getting myself arrested for my pains" A derisive snort echoed around the room at this comment. No sympathy on Volney Rain's part, it seemed.

"Who say's you have to buy anything, mmph-hmph?"

"Are you going deaf and senile in your old age, as well as crotchety?" Numair spluttered, giving Volney Rain an anguished look. "It is Midwinter we're talking about here. Protocol, tradition, love! They all demand I have to get the young woman I intend to spend the rest of my life with -- married or unmarried -- something on the longest night of the year." Numair, realising that he was most likely turning purple from lack of air, paused and exhaled.

"Well," Volney grinned at him, holding up his hand. "You've told me time and time again that the Master of Protocol is a dried up sadist whose concept of reality could be chiselled on a sand-grain. " He started ticking off his fingers. "So, you'd be something of a hypocrite if you took protocol into account -- mmph-hmph. As for tradition, well 'traditionally' mages who study at the Mage University of Carthak and manage to deeply offend the then Emperor Mage Ozorne in the process die a slow and painful death. A death involving branding irons lots of sharp objects and other things of that persuasion. Mmph-hmph. I think you mentioned gelding once or twice in connection to the 'traditional' penalties as well, mmph-hmph? But that is immaterial. My point is that you are a definition of a man who has flown in the face of tradition. So why bother starting to follow it now, hmph?" Numair winced, and the other man's expression softened. "You say that love demands you to buy a midwinter gift for Daine, my friend?" The old painter's short-sighted black eyes took on a misty look, and Numair tried hard not to notice as he blinked hard, and his face flushed darkly under the wrinkles and paint which warred for dominance there. He coughed. "Mmph-hmph, as I was saying… love doesn't demand anything, Numair. We may demand many a thing from love, but never it from us. You see - mmph-hmph - love, when it's true, when it works, then simply having it is more than enough. You don't need expensive gifts to proclaim it; you just need yourself and your words, your actions. I give you this as an example... mmph-hmph: My four-year-old nephew, Sefton--"

"You have a four-year-old nephew? Surely you mean great --"

"He is my nephew, and only 'great' in him is his personality and potential. Mmph-hmph. My youngest sister is over twenty years younger than I am, and she married late in life. Well, Sefton sends me a little sketch every Midwinter -- one he draws all by himself. And even though they are crudely done and typical of a four-year-old who -- mmph-hmph -- wants to be an Assassin just like is father was, I treasure no other gift so highly. What did he pay for it Numair, mmph-hmph? Absolutely nothing. Do I care at all about this -- hmph? No, not a jot. Simply because I love him, and these little gifts show that he has some affection left over for his strange old uncle." Once again, the misty eyed expression flitted across Volney's face. "As for your Daine, well… she wouldn't care if you gave her a shoestring or the crown jewels. In fact, I think she'd prefer the shoestring, because she'd have some use for it, mmph-hmph. She would care however, in a very passionate and - hmph - negative way, if you gave her a ring after she's said 'no' to you more than once. Give the girl something meant only for her eyes or ears. Give her your love, the knowledge and depth of it. Mmph-hmph? Now, if you don't mind, Salmalìn, I've got work to go, and not as a councillor, either." Volney gazed impatiently at Numair, who looked as if he was coming out of a trance.

"That was quite a speech, Rain." Numair said eventually, unbending himself like a stretched concertina as he got out of the chair.

"Was it?" Volney glared over the top of his copper rimmed glasses. "It managed to shut you up and stop you acting like a frantic fishwife at least. Mmph-hmph. Now, if you don't mind--"

"I'm going, I'm going," Numair grinned at the man, looking like a very tall delighted child. Then he sobered, looking at the little box in his hand. The little box best described as 'that'. "Volney…would you mind terribly if--"

"I keep this safe for you, mmph-hmph?"

"Oh Mithros save me, Volney! I've told you not to--"


"Finnish of my sentences for me, yes." The mage sighed. "Midwinter luck to you, friend."

"And to you. Mmph-hmph. And to you" Volney Rain watched as Numair walked slowly out of the shop and down Filigree Street, smiling as a wind distorted curse at the cold floated back to him.

Disclaimer: The place in which this story is set, and the characters within it, are the creations of one Tamora Pierce, I understand and respect this and do not claim them as my own. The poem, however, is mine, and shall be treated as such.