🎄 It’s that time of year again. 🎄
When the air turns cold with winter’s breath and snow blankets the world, wrapping it up against the chill. When the scent of fir and cinnamon and gingerbread settle comfortably about you.
And best of all, author Katharina Gerlach‘s annual Indie Advent Calendar is here again!
🎁 Sign up to get a flash story (really, really, really short story) per day until Christmas. If you subscribe to the calendar, you’ll also receive bonus content* from each of the authors involved, as well as all the stories bundled into an ebook that will be delivered to you on Christmas Day. 🎁
What better gift is there than the gift of words or stories?**
So hot coco and cookies in hand, come join the fun!
* My contribution this year is a short story that happens in the next leg of Rune’s journey. (The first being The Ruby Queen’s Garden.) The bonus for this is a free copy of the complete The Ruby Queen’s Garden ebook before I’ve even finished posting it here.
** Sharing words and stories with your friends, of course. If you know someone who loves words and magical Christmas-ish stories, be sure to share the link!
“Mira,” her mother fastened her gaze on the table cloth, still pristine and white, “I’m going to tell you a story. I need you not to interrupt me until I’m finished. All right?”
Not liking the sound of that, Mira nodded. How was she supposed to figure things out if she couldn’t ask questions?
“Once upon a time—”
“I thought you said this was a real story.” Mira folded her arms and raised a brow.
“Then why did you—”
“All the very best stories start with ‘Once upon a time,’” her mother said in her usual no-nonsense voice. “This one is no exception. May I continue?”
Gwyn turned her pockets out, searching in vain for a handkerchief. When none seemed forthcoming, Robin sacrificed one end of his scarf with all the air and dignity of a martyr. She buried her face in the soft red wool, mindful not to tug too hard, as her cousin was still wearing the rest of it. It smelled of the wild with a hint of blackberry, and made her stomach fizzle as though she was the one accustomed to swooping through the air and gusting with the wind.
“Really, it’s for the best,” Robin said, patting her awkwardly on the shoulder and looking everywhere but at her.
“I-I don’t s-see how,” she whimpered. Now that she’d started crying, she was having a difficult time stopping. It was as though each tear was determined to draw out all the sadness and frustration she’d ever felt, and no fewer than tens of thousands of them would be up to the task.
He gestured to the room. To the murky walls with anonymous stains that were streaked with grease. To the rafters stuffed with cobwebs and lost dreams. To the the filthy floor gritty with bracken and debris that must have blown in when she’d been locked up.
“You’re in a cage, Gwyn, and the sooner you accept that, the better.”
“Where I come from, people help each other because it is the right thing to do, not because there is payment involved.”
“How little you know of the mortals you lived among,” Hearthorne said.
Kya shook her head. “I saw for myself, the many times my keeper helped those who came knocking and had nothing to pay her with.”
“You’re thinking too small,” Hearthorne said. “Even the mortals are wise enough to do what they can to keep the balance of their Realm from tipping too far one way or the other. There are plenty of despots and kings, plenty who harm without thinking or those who find joy in it. The mortals like your keeper are simply evening out the balance. Just because she took no reward doesn’t mean there was no debt left to be paid.”
To Nick a Knack,
First find a feary—
any of the Folk will do.
Bind the powers of the moon,
sun, and dust of starlight too.
Wait a mite with milk in hand,
And a needle for blood’s bright band.
Find a shadow, sew it shut.
Make the first, a shallow cut.
Wait to see what follows then,
For it shall find each of your ken.
For this Knack, you’ll surely pay,
For that it is the Folk’s only way.