White Is In The Winter Night
Here's a very short, rather pointless and silly, feel-good, wrap-up-warm, evening-in-the-life Christmas fic just for you lot. It is set in a Christkindelsmarkt (that's a German or German-style Christmas Market) somewhere. Yeah it's short and meh. I'm rather hoping I capture the setting and the atmosphere therein rather than engage you in exciting story.
The title and the section subtitles are generally based on an Enya song. Stille Nacht is public domain.
Been watching QI this Christmas Eve and they were talking about the mould on old bound books giving off some sort of light stimulant that is a worry for old book collectors and librarians...Dad showed me a book of his grandfather's, one 'Letter Writing for Young People' published in 1813 that is almost unreadable due to the amusement at the abundance of long s (i.e. 'Paradife Loft') that permeated the entire text...I gave it a gooood sniff, and managed to churn out the last half of this fic. Go figure!
Please enjoy, ACMSES or not.
Green In The Mistletoe
The paved, tree-lined avenue that led round the side of the cathedral had a wide, sparkling lattice of fairy lights strung from beginning to end, turning the cold winter twilight into a magical, star-strewn evening. Between every other tree, from a high bough on a green ribbon, a small bunch of mistletoe was hung.
The avenue, while beautifully-lit and one of the main thoroughfares to the Christkindelsmarkt, was actually quite quiet, with everyone around huddled up in their coats and winter woollies and hurrying to get to the market.
A few benches in the cathedral green were occupied, some under the mistletoe and some not. Pete and Charis had found one tucked into a corner and lit by the fairy lights, and hand in hand, sat to watch the dusk roll in and plan their next few hours together.
On the other side, Rhia was giggling as her overly-large green alpine hat tumbled off her head and her black-swaddled ninja retrieved it, brushing off the light dusting of fallen snow. She pulled him onto another bench under a bunch of mistletoe and kissed him, then held his warm body close as they both recognised God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen drifting over the cathedral walls from the brass band beyond.
In the centre of the fairy lights, beneath the largest bunch of mistletoe, another couple stood in each other's embrace. Both wore purple as a favoured colour, and the curl of his white-furred tail wrapped loosely around her wrist.
They broke apart from a long, passionate kiss and smiled at each other.
"Your nose is cold, love!" Adrian said eventually.
"So are your ears…" Tash cooed, unwrapping one end of his scarf and pulling it over his head. He crooned softly as she did.
"You know, we should…" he began as she kissed his cheek again, "…we really should get to the market with everyone else…isn't it too cold here for that?"
But the couple were rudely interrupted in their embrace by a big blue wrapped up thing who shot straight for both their ribcages.
"DUMPLINGS! You're alive!"
"Oh dear God. Hello Alice, thank you very much…"
"Come on you," beamed Alice, tugging on Tash's arm. "It's nearly time for our ice-skating session!"
"Oh all right, fine…" grumbled Tash, though she smiled as she saw her partner's amused roll of the eyes and gesture to go with the bouncy elder woman.
"Where's Robert, Alice?" Adrian asked after them.
"I think he's already goin' round the market!" she called over her shoulder.
"Hmm, I wonder what for…" he mumbled to himself, shaking his head at Alice's cluelessness.
Red In The Holly
"What are you looking for?"
"I don't know. There's just so much stuff here…"
"I'm still looking for a nice red scarf…"
"It's not that bad. That stall over there has dichoric glass for dirt cheap!"
"Too late, she's off. Where's this queue for the ice-skating?"
"Round there and next to the pavilion…"
"What's with those ties? They're, like…every single colour of the rainbow!"
"I don't think I will ever understand some of these weird fashions…what are you supposed to do with it?"
"You…er, kind of wear it round your neck, Robert…"
"Let's hope Alice doesn't fawn over them, then."
"You're outta luck, most girls I know find suits sexy…"
"Got enough bags there?"
"Arrrk. There's SO MUCH STUFF here I want, or I have to get, or would be perfect for so-and-so! So many nifty things and crafty things and…and…SPICE RACKS!"
"Oh…kay…watch out for that holly tree?"
"Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht…"
"The music here is gorgeous."
"Alles schläft; einsam wacht…"
"What are they singing?"
"Silent Night, in German."
"It's a German Christmas market, you ninny."
"I think some of the girls have got that choir's CD…"
"I'm not surprised."
"Meh, singy song. There's a crystal freakin' harmonica guy around the other side!"
"You're going to have to explain…"
"It's…it's er, like those wine glasses filled with water, only they're stacked glass bowls held horizontal on a rotating stand, and you play it with wet fingers. The guy is going through almost the whole Nutcracker!"
"…I think she's getting very over-excited…"
"Eh, it's Christmas."
"…Schlaf in himmlischer Ruuu-uuhhh…Schlaf in himmlischer Ruh!"
Silver In The Stars
Many of the Society who had decided to try out the temporary open-air ice-skating rink in the middle of the market jostled and chatted whilst in the queue line, awaiting their group's turn and hoping other got here before they were let in. They were divided into two rounds, each having to share the rink with members of the public. Several feared the amount of times they were going to fall over and make and arse of themselves; others relished the chance for some fun.
Soon the first round were allowed into the small pavilion where the ice skates were struggled with. After a couple of minutes of arguing and barter over the best sizes, the group waddled gingerly onto the rink, giggling nervously, with some of the chuckling families and students who were (unluckily?) with them.
The remainder of the Society visitors waiting for their turn leant over the rink wall to watch, laugh, offer advice and film. The walls were painted blue and dusted with silver stars and miniature Saturns, and several of the skaters – Society or not – clung precariously to the solid anchor while trying to follow the movement of everyone else around the rink.
"I can't keep up!" wailed Louise.
Some of the others were a lot more confident. Robert finished a couple of quick loops around the rink and came to a sharp stop in front of where most of the giddy Society girls were clinging to the wall.
Roy Wood was finishing belting out I Wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day and Darlene Love's 1960s rather tropical version of White Christmas took its place. Robert had become used to the strange music that seemed obligatory at this time of year, so only spared the large speaker a short glance. He shrugged, and scooted effortlessly over to Alice.
"So where and how did you get so good at this?" said a rather disgruntled Tash, who had only managed one and a half shuffles around the rink and had already fallen over six times, much to Adrian's mortified amusement.
"We used to go skating in the Clearflow Vale during winter," Robert replied. "It was worth the nine-hour boat trip. Come on, Alice," he said, gently taking one of her hands and easing the other off the wall. She looked up at him instead of her feet, and he smiled at her. "Hold my hands, and I will guide you around. I won't let you fall. Just relax…"
Alice, cheeks pinking slightly, obliged, and nearly toppled over but was caught by Robert. He was as good as his word and whispered guidance to her, much to the grins, nudges and head-shaking of the others.
Gold In The Candlelight
A few of the visiting Agents, some rather damp, sore and soggy after their bout round the ice rink, had gathered up in one candlelit corner of the market where there were many different musical acts taking it in turn to perform and collecting for charity at the same time. The cathedral choir, resplendent in their red and white robes, had pride of place in the middle, and their traditional German Christmas carols were all well-received.
What stopped many of the Society who were nearby was the sheer skill of a team of bellringers, their gold instruments ringing out a difficult but beautiful song with far fewer bells than it seemed possible. Louise, who was naturally a very musical person and was already cooking up ideas for some sort of carol singing do, plonked herself on a nearby just-vacated bench to appreciate the music.
Another choir, dressed in blue and silver, was much more modern than the cathedral choristers and sang a song which focused on a main soprano with the rest of the choir providing an echo of song or a hum.
The further musical performances from the brass band, the crystal harmonica player and once more from the cathedral choristers made all the Agents quite relaxed, tired as they were from some hardcore shopping, ice-skating, or just laughing at the antics of the others. This had a pleasant side-effect of grumbling tummies, which thankfully the market was all too happy to oblige.
Crimson In The Embers
The vast majority of the Society fell upon another corner of the Christkindelsmarkt in which lay a large ring of wooden huts surrounding an open log fire and spaced with crimson ropes that were all selling one thing: food. But the smells emanating from each stall were oh so different to each other, and people gravitated to one or the other, peeling off from the groups they entered with.
Alice dived immediately towards the rack of enormous bread pretzels that she could see, followed swiftly by a stall of marzipan fruits. Inara and Louise, both slightly claustrophobic, hugged the outside of the mêlée of hungry people queuing up and found a relatively empty stall selling lots of Stollen cake. Tash and Adrian, the latter now wearing a brand new knitted bobble hat to better hide his ears, dragged each other to the popular waffle stand to get delicious pastries slathered with chocolate sauce. Tom had discovered Lebkuchen – spiced gingerbread covered in white icing – and could not resist buying a sackful. Karissa teetered over to her sister and her lover with plates of little puffy pancakes dusted with icing sugar and lemon, though Pete gave her a hand before she dropped the treats. Gifts of candied almonds and varying fudges were being bought as gifts left, right and centre.
Jess and Robert were practically the only ones to enjoy some of the Glühwein, or mulled wine, whilst listening to the handbell group play a fantastic rendition of Parade of the Tin Soldiers. It was a heady mixture of spices but was quite thirst-quenching and not at all dry. The pair talked amicably as those who liked the smell but were dubious about the alcohol gravitated towards the hot spiced apple juice instead.
"…it's not frustrating, no, it's just…I wonder what I'm doing wrong."
"Aww, don't worry, Rob. Sorry, Robert. I'm sure she'll come to her senses eventually."
"Mmm…it's not that she hasn't 'come to her senses'…"
"You can't finish that sentence, can you?" She smiled and rubbed his back as he sighed."
"Maybe she will soon…I do love all the traditions you've come up with for this Christmas malarkey. All we celebrated in Faerûn at this time of year was Midwinter, when the days started getting longer again."
"Wow. Well this is an improvement! Merry first Christmas, O deprived one."
"Thank you, Jessica."
"We've got to do something about this nickname thing of yours…"
White In The Winter Night
"I feel sick now…"
"I'm not surprised! How many marzipan fruits did you shove down your neck?"
Outside the brightly-lit market, night had fully fallen. Many of the Society had left and had gathered back on the green to await the rest and were occupying themselves with cooing over the few stars – and the bright dot that was Jupiter – that were visible through an intermittent covering of clouds.
The market itself was slowly emptying as people decided it was time to return home with their bags of goodies, bruises and full bellies.
The brass band started their last song of the evening, the tuba taking the fore for Stop the Cavalry. From a tent near the centre of the market, a tall elderly man with a full, natural, bushy white beard and wearing a warm-looking, long green ermine-trimmed robe and a matching floppy hat emerged with a retinue of sable-clad attendants and began a tour of the market jus before it ended for Christmas.
"Alice, you are not glomping Father Christmas…"
Dave chuckled, securely wrapped up warm in his winter woollies. "Come on ladies, we should go and meet the others. It's getting late and some people are cold."
Alice turned and hugged Dave instead, and exchanging cheery waves with the green-clad figure, the last of the Society visitors left the cathedral marketplace.
Emerging onto the green, they found it was more of a 'white'; a light sprinkling of snow now covered the grass and the paths and more was falling from the sky, the clouds a complete cover. The whipped-up snow seemed to dance around the white light of the lampposts.
"Oh, you're here at last!"
"Yes, we did notice…"
"It's very cold!" said Inara, shivering. She was unused to seeing snow much at all and the wind was becoming bitter.
"Did we all have a good time, dumplings?"
"I've bought more Lebkuchen than I can eat…"
"Oh we'll help you."
"Do we have time for a photo before we head back to the Library?"
"Sure, why not?"
"Take my camera too!"
"Here – mine's set for a ten-second delay!"
The wrangling to get everyone in the same shot took a while, but eventually several white flashes briefly illuminated the now-empty green, capturing the Society with flushed cheeks and bright wool at the end of their trip.
Merry Christmas to all my dumplings!