Firal had never seen snow; not the natural sort, anyway. All mages had to practice creating ice at some point, so clumps of snowflakes and pellets of ice were not so foreign as to be mysterious, but the idea of it falling from the sky was still strange.
Other islands might have had enough elevation to yield snow on the mountaintops, but Elenhiise was nearly flat. She’d never been anywhere cooler than a cave, which made it all the more difficult to imagine snowfall. But she wondered, sometimes, looking out her window.
The gardens outside were lush, glittering with droplets in the lull between rainstorms. This was the only shift in seasons she’d ever known, subtle changes in temperature that came with the rainy season.
“Will you be joining us for the solstice tonight, or will you be doing something on your own?” Kytenia tempered the hope in her voice. She waited beside the door, smoothing her mageling robes with both hands.
Firal hesitated, glancing back out the window. It wasn’t that she disliked attending festivities with her friends and classmates, she simply preferred to do things on her own. The winter solstice was a day for reverence, after all, and she found it easier to be reverent when she wasn’t surrounded by people laughing and chattering. She didn’t begrudge them for enjoying themselves, but she and her friends often found enjoyment in different things.
“Of course I’ll be there,” she said at last, doing her best to smile.
Kytenia beamed. “Oh, I’m so glad! I still have to find what the others are doing, but I’ll find you when the candle-lighting begins.”
“All right. I’ll look forward to it.” Firal dipped her head in a farewell as her best friend slid out into the dormitory hallway and closed the door. Then she turned back to her desk, staring at the books before her.
She’d been studying, but only because she thought she’d be stealing away for privacy that night. If she’d be attending the ceremonies in the courtyard instead, there was no sense in waiting for the smaller ritual she’d had in mind. Pushing back her chair, she rose and crept to the small chest at the foot of her bed, digging inside for the small box of things she’d gathered over the past several weeks.
Master Nondar had told her what the solstice was like on the mainland. He’d told her about years there had been snow and years there was not, years where the moon was full and years where the sky was empty. Most of all she’d enjoyed his descriptions of the trees, aglow with mage-lights for remembrance and honor.
She didn’t have a tree, or even a branch. Instead Firal drew a paper from the small box and unfolded a drawing of a fir tree, which she’d done under Nondar’s direction, laying it on the window sill. She drew the shutters and sat the box atop her desk, drawing things out one by one.
An acorn, to ask for growth.
A chip of iron, to ask for strength.
Dried fruit, to ask for health.
A vial of earth, to remember her origins.
And a small garnet, still rough, infused with power in the palm of her hand, glowing bright as a mage-light as she laid it on the drawing, at the very peak of the tree. A gemstone for new beginnings; red for the connection of blood.
“Every path in life is the branch of a tree,” Firal murmured, arranging her tokens on the paper, turning the garnet so its best defined corner aligned with the top. It meant nothing, it simply made it more pleasant to look at. “And every life is its fruit.”
She swallowed hard. “If I am given any blessings, Fathertree, let it be this.”
It didn’t seem too much to ask, and yet every year, it was the only blessing she really wanted.
A tree’s branches could cross every year.
Sooner or later, perhaps the branch of her life would cross with that of her family.
Today’s prompt was “A winter holiday.”
This is the last prompt I’ll be doing for a while, as I’ll be tackling much bigger projects at the turn of the year.
Thank you so much for taking this ride with me!