The crisp air was scented in cinnamon and roasted chestnuts. The light flurry of falling snow, dusted surfaces that had been cleaned a few hours ago, silver metal becoming cooler to the touch with each passing second. It was the season of ice once more. Solstice had come and Midwinter was upon us. Today was the night that the feasting would begin, the sacrifices would begin, the celebrations would fester.
I breathed out deeply, trying to contain my excitement. My breath slipped out into the air, hot, visible, thick. Rubbing my hands together I let myself simmer in the upcoming festivities. The air stirred above us beckoning us to its grasp. The clouds were dark and spinning, the moon lighting the sky and peaking through when the clouds so wished.
Leaders called out. Soon, the orders would be given. As it was my first year, I knew I would have no large jobs, no companies to lead, no name for myself. I was not one of the commanders who led us, those of us across the world who participated on the night. I was but an added soul, who had looked forward to this day for as long as I could remember.
The rules would be simple. To bring war where war was needed and peace where peace was deserved. To take those who could aid us, and to leave those who could not. Our people were vast in location, few in number, but powerful all the same. The new recruits would have to be trained, and trained well. I would be lucky to not have to supervise that training.
“Ready?” A soft voice asked me, as she breathed against her hands to keep her fingers red and warm. She needn’t do so, the chill would not harm her. Perhaps she was working on blending in, in the modern world that we had not been a part of. To seem the same, rather than other, rather than what we were.
“How many arrows do you have?” I asked her.
“Many, and there are many more to come. I do not expect to use them wildly.” She reminded me. “And your sword?”
“Polished, sharpened, ready.” I tapped the sword at my side before looking over my halberd that was equally prepared. Humming to herself, she sang war songs under her breath. I felt my blood bubbling with the song, as it spread courage and dedication through me.
“Tonight is your first raid.” She stepped closer, bow in her hands, tested for what it would be pushed for.
“Yes.” And how excited I was for it.
“Do you remember when you were taken?”
How could I not? The wind. The howls. The darkened skies and fear that had come unbidden. I remembered the stench of death and the cackle of those who killed. I remembered the slight caress of promise and deed, as I was taken to become one of them.
She was born one of them, and in a way, I knew her questions were more in regards to something human that I did not remember, rather than actual interest in my experience. Many of the born warriors were like that. Only she, however, was careful in her otherness with me. Careful in her superiority with me. Careful of her words with me.
A horn blared, like a threat.
“Our company is this way.” She instructed me as our leader approached ready to give the orders. I listened with baited breath as the orders were given, and the task was known.
“To the skies.” Cheered the riders, warriors, the killers, and madmen. “To the skies” yelled archers, the knights, fairies, and the dead. “To the skies.” I yelled feeling my own humanity draining from my soul, for I would be human no longer. A true demon, a true devil. A true otherness of the world that could not be explained with fact.
Yule began with a sacrifice, as the celebrations and gifts to winter were given in sparse festivals across the globe. The hunt began with a war cry, and the howling of war.
I don’t have another story for you today. I created a post of Venice photos from when I was in Venice, if you want to see those. Otherwise this is it.
Until Next Time,