Friday, December 28, 2012

Flash Friday # 23: A Winterfest Tale


A Winterfest Tale

(Many years ago (2001, I believe), Holly Lisle put a story start up on Forward Motion and those of us taking part finished it.  This is my version.  Holly's start is indicated in bold .  I have, however, changed the entire story from a present tense to past tense.  I hope you enjoy it.)
Snow fell in the heart of the forest, burying the trees, burying the ground, and landing on the great carved stela at the center of the circular clearing. The ground all around the stone was bare -- bare of grass, of footprints, of any creatures with the courage or foolhardiness to approach. Bare even of snow, for though the forest all around was white and waist-deep with the stuff, each flake sizzled away to nothing the second it touched anything within the clearing. And though the rest of the forest teems with life, this one spot remained silent, empty.
The forest waited.
Then, with a soft hum, a gentle light began to curl out of the standing stone and slide downward to spill across the ground . . .
Owl lifted her head and show snow from her downy feathers. They're here at last!  With one great shout she lifted into the sky and to warn the others.
No other creature marked their arrival.
The light expanded and brightened so much that for a moment the trees believed spring had come again already. Then the light slipped back again to a soft warm haze, but the circle was no longer empty.  Three young men knelt there with their heads bowed.
Wise men?  Perhaps, but others might call them fools instead to have accepted such a duty on this cold winter's day.
"Well, this can't be right," Aiden said.  He shook his head with more than a little dismay, and rubbed his bare hands together, even though he stood within the light and didn't really feel the cold.  "Where are they?"
"They'll be here." Brann pushed  back his long black hair and looking around, no more fond of winter than his red-haired friend, but he trusted the Goddess to have seen them right.
Keary nodded, watching the woods.  "This is right," he said softly.  "They'll be here soon."
He stood and pulled a pack from his back, carefully placing it on the ground.  Soon the sun will be directly overhead, and they must be ready.  The others followed his look to the sky and immediately begin their own preparations as Keary pulled their Goddess-blessed instruments from the pack: a lute for Aiden, flute for Brann, and a small, steel stringed harp for Keary.
The others began to arrive as soon as the music began.  A fox and rabbit leapt through the snow and deer pressed through the drifts.  A wolf red closer with regal pride and finally a bear lumbering, only half awake, came behind them.  Owl returned to her perch, followed by a hawk, a dove and a sparrow.  Then other animals followed as well until the area was filled with life.
To this unusual audience the three young men played the music that would make the world whole and bring the hope of spring in the dead of winter.  This was a gift of the Goddess of Life to all she loved best in the world.  For the moments while the creatures came to listen, peace held even between the fox and the rabbit, the deer and wolf.  If the three didn't sing the songs truly from the heart, the world will be a darker place for a year, or maybe even longer.  Much harm could be done by three young fools.  It had in the past.
The air filled with bright light that turned the snow crystals into tiny prismatic rainbows.  The instruments fell silent, but three voices blended with the sounds of joy and life, and the promise and peace.  Whether the creatures listening understood the words didn't matter; they listened to the soul of the music, and they took this gift out into the world with them.
May life be as bright as the sun
And kindness envelope everyone
May peace and love protect you all
And goodness be your only call.
Peace to thee on this winter day
To see you through the long year's way
Peace to thee,
Peace to thee,
Peace to thee. . . .
The light grew and enfolded the three in the Goddess's power as they disappeared and their voices faded.  The creatures stood by for a moment more to listen with their hearts, and then slipped away through the falling snow.  For the day there will be no hunting as hope spread from fox to kit, from deer to fawn, from wolf to cub.
But for the three young men the work isn't yet done.
No one saw when the three arrive in the corner of the subway's winter-cold platform, but the music drew strangers to come and listen.  Odd, how everything seemed warmer and brighter in that corner where they played. And the music, though nothing like the contemporary tunes blaring everywhere else, still drew people, as well as smaller creatures, unseen at the edge of the light.  Mice and cats sat side-by-side, and wise old crows huddle with pigeons and little starlings on the nearby roof.
When the moon stood nearly directly above them, the clouds part for a moment, and the snowfall turned to pretty star-like flakes, drifting through the sky.  Magic filled the world, or at least this little corner of it, for a few minutes more.
And if enough people stopped to listen, perhaps this would be a better world.
Peace to thee,
Peace to thee,
Peace to thee. . . .
The End
892 words
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