A Yule Carol

Discussion in 'Original Works' started by Black Tattoo, Dec 16, 2007.

  1. Black Tattoo

    Black Tattoo The Corruptor

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    Garith stood atop the highest tower of his massive castle and looked out at the burned and ravaged lands which he ruled unmercifully. An icy wind kicked up, whipping his long coat about his legs and tussling his dark brown hair but he did not notice. It was not being dressed entirely in lined black leather that kept him from feeling the cold, but the coldness of his heart. Dark shadows fell across his handsome clean-shaven face, but his piercing blue eyes, filled with furious hate, still shown clearly.

    Once again it was the dark of the year, the nights continued to grow and daylight to fade until Yule. It was the night before the Solstice and the world seemed to hold its breath in wonder as a bright full moon's light danced on the thick blanket of virgin snow that covered the landscape. Garith hated this time of year, long had it served as a bane to him and in all the lands he ruled he strictly forbade any celebration of the Holy Day. Any attempt to do so resulted in punishment most severe, for the practitioners and their village. But it was not always thus. There had been a time when he had practiced the pagan traditions of his forefathers. There had been a time when he believed in the ultimate and merciful love of the Divine. But no longer.

    Long ago Garith had loved a maiden named Eliana. A charming and graceful child of Nature, she had had no difficulty in capturing the human Sorcerer's wild heart and he courted her with pure intent. It seemed that not long after his wooing had won her love for him that the dark of the year came and with it a roving band of pagans of ill-will. Eliana had gone out to gather holly on Yule morning when she had crossed paths with the band and in her innocence and kind-heart she had offered them food. The pagans had taken the food and more, leaving her beaten upon a woodland path. Although in his love for her Garith had been able to grant Eliana the same eternal life and youth as he, the Sorcerer could not make her immortal and when he found her, all his magicks could not restore her to life. That day, as he had held her lifeless form in his arms, his heart turned cold.

    The Sorcerer fell into despair and sorrow, and turned from all who loved him, even his Gods, instead seeking out the darkness and shadows of his heart and worshiped it as his god. Garith lost himself to the cold, his warmth turning to ice and his kingdom with it. He became unfeeling to his people and condemned them, pagans all, to suffer for the crimes of those who had slain his love, the Lady Eliana.

    Remembering this loss, Garith started to turn away in disgust from the breath-taking sight before him when his eyes caught sight of a flickering light in the distance.

    "General!"

    "Yes my Lord?"

    "What is that?" Garith asked pointing at the flickering light far below, his blue eyes flared with an almost insane anger.

    "I-i-it looks like a bale fire, my Lord."

    "Douse it immediately. Destroy the home of those who sparked it, burn it to the ground, and capture the offender. Bring him to me."

    The General gave a curt bow and left the tower but Garith remained, glaring at the bale fire in the distance, his hands gripping the edge of the tower wall so tightly they bled for the gravel and sharp edges being ground into them. Unable to bear the sight any longer, the Sorcerer spun around and stormed off the balcony, down the long hall to his casting room slamming the heavy doors shut behind him.

    Struggling to control his temper, he faced the empty room, its walls and floor adorned with arcane symbols and dark runes. With a growl and a wave of his hand, fire seared the walls and along the floor following his every step to where he knelt at the room's center. Leaning forward with head bowed, he placed his hands flat on the cold stone and closed his eyes, chanting under his breath to the shadows and the darkness. "Come to me," he whispered. "Comfort me."

    The room became icy cold, a thick frost forming on the walls and floor, and even the flames cooled to nothingness. Flashes came into Garith's mind, images and sounds that only he could see and hear. Memories of why he hated Yule more than any other Sabbat of the year, and more so those who celebrated it. At the thought of Eliana, his heart ached.

    Hours passed before a servant knocked softly on the door, the sound tearing the Sorcerer from his meditations. Leaning back, sliding his hands gently across the floor, he opened his eyes and stared straight ahead, his breath visible as a thick smoke in the freezing room. "What is it?"

    "My Lord, General Arkon has returned with the offender."

    Garith smiled, a strange almost psychotic sight, and stood. Calm and completely in control, he slowly walked toward another door, "Have him bring the prisoner to the main hall."



    The Great Hall of the Sorcerer's castle of ebony stone was cold and un-welcoming. A thick frost coated the walls and dangerous looking shards of ice hung from the high vaulted ceiling. There were no banners or adornments, no fires burned for warmth and no torches for light. The only illumination came from the cold moonlight seeping in the windows and reflecting off the frosty walls and floor. Here Garith sat alone awaiting his general. Resting his chin on his fist, he leaned forward upon his throne of velvet and onyx unmindful of the cold.

    The door at the end of the hall opened and a young woman hesitantly entered, being pushed along by prodding tip of the general's sword at her back. Her hands were tightly bound behind her and at the foot of the throne she fell to her knees. Surprised, Garith's eyes widened as he sat up straight and for a brief moment he did not know what to say. She was very pretty with long light brown hair and dark brown eyes that, despite her obvious fear, seemed to dance with an inner joy and light. Dressed in a plain dress of dark blue, undoubtedly the best a peasant could be expected to wear, it was not until he noticed the small sprig of holly fastened to the collar over her heart that Garith's eyes once again filled with their simmering hatred.

    "My Lord, this is the criminal who ignited the balefire.

    Garith slowly stood and walked down the steps of the raised dias that held his throne to the maid still kneeling on the floor. She did not look up, although her lord stood but a foot in front of her. Continuing to stare down at her, the Sorcerer dismissed his general and when they were alone, he finally spoke to the woman. "What is your name?"

    Shivering in the cold, the woman spoke in a soft voice, "Kian, my Lord."

    "Kian. Do you know the crime you committed in my lands?"

    "I have committed no crime, my Lord."

    "No crime?!" Garith shouted as he grabbed Kian by the arm and hauled her to her feet. His cold gaze locked on hers. For a moment he paused, startled by the fact that she remained quietly determined and when he spoke again his voice was quieter and more controlled. "No crime."

    Letting her go, the Sorcerer tore the sprig of holly from her dress and threw it on the floor before walking away. His boot crushing the leaves and berries into the floor. "You ignited a bale fire, commenced the celebrating of Yule, even adorned yourself with a sprig of the sacred plant of the Sabbat. All crimes in my lands and such crimes warrant death."

    Kian returned her gaze to the floor, her voice soft and low, "Yule is a time for joy in the knowledge that the God shall be re-born of the Goddess. That the Sun's strength grows with each passing day and soon the warmth and blessings of Summer will return once more. There is no crime in celebrating the gifts of the Divine, my Lord."

    "Gifts?" Garith shouted. "Gifts? The Divine only takes, and allows Its followers to do the taking for Them. Pagans are criminals, and the practices of criminals will not be tolerated in my lands. General!"

    The heavy doors at the end of the hall swung open and the general entered, "Yes my Lord?"

    "Take this woman to the dungeon to await execution at dawn. Death by hanging."

    Kian looked up, fear plain in her eyes as a single tear trickled down her cheek. "I forgive you, my Lord."

    Garith's eyes locked on hers as she was led away and the heavy hall doors banged shut behind her and the general. He had never expected to hear such words. Taking a deep steadying breath, his eyes fell on the crushed sprig still laying on the floor. Walking over, he picked it up and looked at it in the moonlight.

    "Forgive me," Garith sniffed. Filled with anger beyond words, Garith clamped his fist tight around the crushed holly sprig in his hand. "I do not need your forgiveness, Kian."

    Throwing the sprig across the room, the Sorcerer collapsed to his knees confused and angry. Unable to understand how a woman he had just sentenced to death could forgive him. Deep in his heart he prayed to the darkness to comfort him.


    Time passed, the moon moved lower to the horizon and clouds obliterated its light from the sky. The Great Hall of Garith's castle fell into total darkness and shadows creeped and crawled over the prone form of the Sorcerer laying on the cold stone floor where he had fallen into a deep and troubled sleep.

    Mist swirled in along the corridors and over the floor. Chilled, Garith opened his eyes to find the entire hall filled with a brilliant light and he sat up. With a wave of his hand he called for the darkness to return, but the spell failed to cast. Filled with anger, he scrambled to his feet and shouted, "Night come to me, darkness defend me!"

    "Do you fear what is in the light, Garith Forin?"

    The voice, soft and sweet, was unfamiliar to Garith and he squinted into the brightness trying to see the speaker. "I'm far from afraid of a disembodied voice. Who are you that dares to use my birth name?"

    "I have known you since before you were born, Garith Forin. I am one of few who has the right to call you by the name your parents gave you." The brightness faded to a dusky light and there stood a woman pale of complexion dressed in long flowing robes of white. She smiled faintly, "I am Bheith Falroid."

    Garith took a step back, "The Wandering Spirit. I don't believe it."

    The woman smiled softly, her large clear eyes tinged with sadness. "Just because you no longer believe in the Light, does not mean that the Light, and those who are of it, cease to exist. The Great Wheel turns, and all turn with it."

    "I care nothing for the Wheel, it's nothing but lies and deceit. What brings you from the realm of the Fae, Spirit?"

    "I have come to you this Yule Eve in answer to the prayers of your people. You were once just in your ruling of these lands but in your mourning and anger, you have gone mad in your thirst for vengeance. And your people have suffered for it, as has your soul."

    "My people are well cared for so long as they abide my laws."

    "So long as they give up their beliefs. You would have all pagans suffer for the crimes of a band of those with dark hearts so many years ago. Where is the justice in that?"

    "If you truly are Bheith Falroid then you are ageless and you know what those pagans did."

    Bheith's eyes filled with compassion and sympathy as she tilted her head, "Yes, I know. I know that those were black hearted pagans who committed the terrible act that cut the thread of life of you fair maid. I know how you fell into the cold embrace of Brón, of Sorrow. And I know how you have made your people, pagans all, suffer for their crimes ever since."

    Garith locked gazes with the Spirit. Her words had been true and a twinge of guilt sparked in his heart, but the Sorcerer would not let go of his anger, nor his hurt and his heart remained frozen.



    Bheith Falroid reached out a slender hand to Garith, "There was a time, was there not, that you were true in your faith, as well as your love?"

    Garith glared at the Spirit, pulling away from her reach. "I do not ask for you to rekindle my faith. I am no longer a part of the Great Wheel."

    "But you are. So am I. So is the maid Eliana and the young woman you have sentenced to death. Do you think you are the only one who has lost a loved one at the hands of those professing religion? Look to your own dungeon, Garith Forin."

    Before the Sorcerer could react, the Spirit was at his side, a hand firmly clasped on his shoulder. There was a flash of light and he found himself standing outside a small hut in the middle of a raging blizzard. Bheith stood silently behind him.

    The bodies of a man and a woman cut to pieces lay motionless in bloodstained snow and men, well dressed for the weather, were tearing the hut apart and taking things from inside. Garith began to cast a spell but Bheith stopped him, "These are shadows of the past, Garith Forin. You cannot harm them nor they you."

    Garith glared at the Spirit, "Then why bring me here? Why show me the past?"

    "It is the past that governs your present, is it not?" Bheith turned and Garith followed her gaze to the site of a tiny silhouette huddled in the blowing snow. It was a child and the Sorcerer watched her coldly before finally walking over and kneeling down in front of her. Clad in rags, stringy brown hair clumped with blood and ice, teeth chattering, she lifted her tear-streaked face to him.

    "She can see me."

    "Of course. Children, Lord Garith, see beyond the restricted sight of adults."

    The little girl turned to look at the body nearest her, that of the woman, and whimpered, "Mama!"

    Rage filled Garith's heart when he saw the deep red stains on the skirt of the child's dirty dress between her legs. Standing, he started to go after the men but stopped when he felt a small hand tugging on his and looked down to find the child staring up at him with big brown eyes. When their eyes met, she tugged more insistently and the Sorcerer slowly knelt back down and she wrapped her arms around his neck tightly.

    Garith froze. Unaccustomed to being around children in any form, he had certainly never been hugged by one and had no idea what to do. But his cold heart could not withstand the innocent warmth of the child's hug and he slowly wrapped his arms around her fragile little body.



    Garith awoke with a start, sitting up he struggled to catch his breath. Wiping the cold sweat from his face, he rested an arm on his leg and turned to the silent figure standing in the far shadows of his bed chamber. "The rest of it was a dream, why couldn't you be?"

    Bheith Falroid smiled faintly, "A dream is what you think it was? Rest assured, Lord Garith, all that you saw occurred as you saw it."

    The Sorcerer swung himself around to sit on the edge of the bed, "I get it. A touching story to show me how one who suffered more than I retained her faith. But I'm sure she grew up to be a very different woman."

    "As I said, Lord Garith, all you have to do is look to your own dungeon." Bheith stepped to the side revealing a dungeon cell behind her, and Kian kneeling in the shaft of moonlight from the tiny barred window near the ceiling, arms out-stretched in prayer. "That child kept her faith, despite her horrendous tragedy and even now in facing death prays to the Divine for forgiveness...for you."

    Garith slowly stood and walked toward the scene before him, eyes locked on Kian. "She prays for me. Why does she bother? She doesn't know me; why should she care about my soul when she's the one about to die?"

    "She prays for you because she is about to die. Because she is part of the Great Wheel and she knows it, just as she knows you are a part of it as well. Heed my words, Lord Garith, turn your heart from the darkness you have so long served in your fruitless search for vengeance. It is not the path you are meant to be on."

    Bheith's voice began to fade and her form to disappear into the shadows leaving Garith alone in the cell with Kian. "How could you?"

    Though he had spoken quietly, Kian jumped up; smoothing her dress she curtsied with downcast eyes. "My Lord Garith, I didn't hear you come in."

    "I said, how could you?"

    "H-how could I what, my Lord?"

    "How could you keep your faith? After what the Divine allowed to happen to you? Those men who killed your parents, who stole your maiden virtue were pagans. They prayed to the same Divine as you and the Divine allowed them to do as they pleased. How can you continue to pray to Them? How can you still hold to your faith when it has brought you nothing but pain? Even now, you stand to face death because of it."

    Kian looked away. "Because when I had lost all else, my Lord, my faith was all I had left. If I had abandoned it because of the cruel deeds of other professing to be of the same faith, I truly would have lost everything." Suddenly she looked Garith directly in the eye, her voice stronger though no less quiet. "The Divine does not interfere in the affairs of mortals, my Lord. It is not by Their will that we maim and kill each other, but our own. So we must learn and grow and develop our own will in this world, choose our path and find our way to Their side at the end of our days. But They are never far, my Lord, for the Divine is always with us and within us. They guide us to right action, we need only to listen. They comfort us in our darkest hours, we need only turn to Them. Death is not an end, but a beginning."

    Garith never took his eyes from Kian's lovely face, even when she turned from him. He listened to her words reflected on all that she had said and all that the Wandering Spirit had told and shown him. Taking a step toward the peasant woman, he reached out a hand to gently caress her cheek and lift her face to him. For a long moment his cold blue eyes bore deeply into hers, her skin feeling so warm to his icy touch.

    "You really believe what you're saying."

    Kian, unable to avoid the Sorcerer's gaze, looked at him wide-eyed. "Yes my Lord, I do."

    The dungeon door creaked open and Garith's general approached the cell. "My Lord! I didn't know you were here. Dawn is breaking and I've come to escort the prisoner to the gallows."

    "You will not be escorting mistress Kian to her death." Keeping his eyes on hers, Garith slowly let his hand slide free from her cheek. "You will be escorting her to her home. Send word to all the reaches of my lands, the people are free to hold their celebrations without fear of retribution from me." Looking down and away, the Sorcerer gave a sharp wave of his hand and the cell door unlocked itself and swung open before the general could even remove his keys from his belt.

    From the corner of his eye Garith could see Kian staring at him but he did not look up. Reaching out his arm, he pointed "Go. You're free." When she hesitated, he spoke louder, "Go!"

    It was only after Kian ran from the cell that Garith looked up at his general, eyes flaring to find him still standing there. "What are you waiting for?" he growled. "I've given a command." Energy like lightning sparked around the Sorcerer's clenched fists as in his anger he prepared to cast a spell.

    Needing no more warning than that, the general quickly got over his shock, gave a quick bow and left the dungeon.



    Alone Garith sat in his Great Hall, cold blue eyes unfocused as he found himself lost in memories. He hardly stirred from his revere as the joyous ringing of jingle bells woke the world to the new day and the new cycle of the Wheel of the Year. The peasants were celebrating the return of the Sun and of course their lord's acquiescence in their Yuletide observances. For so long those bells had been silent... But the Sorcerer took no note of such things as he sat surrounded by cold darkness, his mind lost to the memories of Eliana. Suddenly his vision snapped into focus as he saw her at the far end of the hall. She did not walk but seemed to glide toward him, her willowy figure draped in burial shroud.

    "Eliana?"

    Garith jumped to his feet and started to go to her but she stopped him with upheld hand. "My love, so long have you dwelled in mourning." Eliana's voice seemed faint and insubstantial, filled with sadness. "And so you have kept me with you - here on the Mortal Plane. My love, I beg you let me go that I may go on to the Summerlands, to my rest and my next life."

    "I can't let you go. I love you."

    "If you love me, then let me go. I will always be with you in your heart and memories, but you must release me and go on with living. There is so much left for you in this world, my love..." Eliana's voice became more distant as her form faded into the waxing sunlight shining through the massive windows of the Great Hall. "Do not surrender living, because I have died..."

    "My Lord?"

    Garith blinked his eyes and shook his head, realizing Kian had slipped into the hall. Fighting to regain his composure, he stared at her. She looked lovely in the morning light. Dressed in a long dress of a deep green, her hair cascading down her shoulders adorned with tiny sprigs of holly.

    "How did you get in here?"

    Kian stepped forward shyly. "M-my Lord, all your guards and soldiers are celebrating the Yuletide with friends and family. It was not difficult to slip past those who remained at their posts."

    "Why have you come?"

    "To thank you, my Lord...for sparing my life."

    Garith stared in shock, speechless. Gratitude was something he had not expected. "What did you say?"

    "Th-thank you, my Lord." Kian paused a moment before suddenly blurting out, "And to ask you....will you not come and join in the gaiety?"

    Garith fought to hide his surprise. "I don't share in the Yuletide, Kian, I have no reason. I'm not a part of it, nor is it a part of me."

    Kian looked up at him, an unreadable expression in her large brown eyes and the faintest of smiles on her lips. "But it is, my Lord. And you above all are welcome to festivities, though I cannot force you to believe it."

    Curtsying once more, Kian remained bowed while Garith, still in shock, silently watched her admiring her beauty, beauty he had not previously noticed. Finally he dismissed her with a wave of his hand and Kian left the Great Hall with only a glance over her shoulder as shut the door behind her.

    Long after Kian had left him, Garith sat in silence mulling over all that had happened to him. He thought on all Bheith Falroid had told and shown him and more than once his thoughts drifted to Kian who had suffered and lost so much, but had remained steadfast in her faith even in the face of execution.

    Covering his face with his hands, the Sorcerer started to breath deeply but stopped and looked at his hands. They were shaking, his whole body was shivering. He was freezing; he could feel the cold, cold he had not felt in many long years.



    Shadows shifted and the wind changed. Tiny shards of ice rained down in a tight circle, faster and faster until it formed a solid sheet of ice before slowly thinning into nothingness, leaving Garith standing in its wake. For a long moment all was silent and still, then the bitter north wind blew down from the mountains, kicking the Sorcerer's long duster back from his body as he stood, arms down at his sides and head lowered. Blue eyes staring on the ground before him. Questioning himself as to why he had come, he slowly looked up at the grove filled with a warm light just ahead of him. It had been many years since he had seen last seen a Yuletide celebration much less attended and he kept to the shadows as he approached. From their safety, he stood in silence and watched the festivities.

    All about there were trees hung with coins, nuts, tassels of red ribbon and tiny bells. Boughs of yew, rowan and holly adorned the benches and tables filled with mutton, leg of lamb, goose, pork, and beef, Yule breads, porridge, apples, sweets and nuts and kegs of Yule ale. Along the edge of the grove dozens of torches burned brightly in the growing darkness and at the center the Yule log threw flames high into air. Around it gathered men, women and children from the many small villages, dancing, singing and making merry in every way.

    Without realizing it Garith smiled at the sight, bathed in the warmth not only of the fires but of the joy of those around him. Leaning against the trunk of a tree, arms folded comfortably across his chest, he watched and listened from the safety of the darkness, the walls of ice that had surrounded his heart for so long, beginning to crack and crumble.

    Distracted by the joyous view before him, Garith did not notice the shadow approaching at his side until he felt the faintest of kisses on his cheek. Jumping in surprise he turned to find Kian standing beside him, her own cheeks a bright crimson. "Forgive me, my Lord, b-but I would have been amiss." She looked up and Garith followed her gaze to the cluster of mistletoe on a branch over his head. With an elegant bow, Kian smiled softly, "Merry Yule, my Lord."

    The Sorcerer looked back at her, a genuine smile on his lips - the first in many long years, "And to you." Returning his gaze to the gathering before him, he continued to smile to himself as a strange sort of peace and comfort washed over him.

    Kian gently placed a hand on his arm, "Come, my Lord, join us in our celebrating."

    Garith hesitated a moment before stepping into the brilliant light of the gathering behind Kian; and everything stopped as all eyes stared at him in apprehension. Ignoring the stares, he walked over to a nearby keg of Yule ale and poured a mug which he held aloft to those gathered around him. "I owe you my apologies and regret my actions of Yules past. I ask the forgiveness of the Divine and of all gathered here."

    Silence reigned briefly before the entire grove erupted in cheers of, "Skål! Skål!" A minstrel began to play his flute and soon others joined and laughter, music and song filled the grove once more and Garith took part in the feasting and dancing, and even the tale telling and from that Yule onward was a changed man. His faith restored, he realized the truth of what it meant to have it and swore he would never let go again.

    pb
     
    Last edited: Dec 26, 2007
  2. Running Wolf

    Running Wolf Join the Madness

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    That is, once more, a perfect, fitting story of yours!
    It's beautiful! Where do you get those ideas? Are you studying old traditions?
    You should def. write more. It's great!!!!
    Thanks for posting this nice story!

    Oh, you made one little typo thing: ""No crime?!" Garith he shouted"
     
  3. Black Tattoo

    Black Tattoo The Corruptor

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    Thank you so much! :D I think I got the ideas from a whole bunch of places...I like reading about old traditions and liked the idea of a Pagan Christmas Carol so to speak. :D I promise to post more as soon as I have something finished again - LOL

    Thank you so much for catching that goof tho! I fixed it :D