My husband and I have played a wonderful online game called Istaria Chronicles of the Gifted, for a number of years. They had a Christmas story contest a few years ago and I entered this tale. It didn’t win, but I’m very pleased with how it came out. The characters of Skirnir and Wind are ours. I’ve changed the names of the others.
Wind Dancer hummed Christmas carols as she decorated her home, oblivious to the effect it was having on her husband. Skirnir muttered and fiddled about with various tasks she set him to, but failed to accomplish much. He was too worried about what to get her for a present.
“Oh, Sweetheart, I’ve already gotten all your gifts. No peeking now while I set them under the tree!”
“Has to rub it in every year,” he mumbled angrily. “Every bloody year it’s the same bloody thing. Always does her shopping early, never waits to the last bloody minute – like me. Bollocks!” Throwing things about, he managed to get himself sent away, which was exactly what he wanted.
Heading to Bristugo, he chanced to meet Zex. The adult dragon looked at the tiny dwarf and controlled himself so it wouldn’t lick his chops. Zex was hungry, and it had been a long time since he had eaten dwarf. But Skirnir was a friend. One refrained from eating friends.
“Zex, my friend, I’m in a bit of a pickle.”
“Emm, pickles,” said Zex. “Sounds tasty. I like dill. Which do you prefer, Skirnir?” Meanwhile Zex was wondering how pickled dwarf would taste.
“No, no, you giant scythe toed lizard. I’m not a pickle, I am in a pickle. I’ve got to find Wind a present that’s equally as amazing as what she’s gotten me!”
“What has she gotten for you then?”
“I haven’t the least idea,” he grumbled, kicking a hole in the dirt outside the guild house owned by his niece. “She always manages to get me something far better than I get for her. It’s getting embarrassing.”
“What did she get you last year?”
“A full set of mithril armor. It’s quite comfy, and a lovely shade of b
“And what did you get for her?” The dragon stared at the dwarf expectantly.
Skirnir kicked a bigger hole, knowing his niece would probably raise all kinds of cane with him for doing it. But he didn’t care. He was mortified by his own inadequacy and hoped no one else was in hearing distance when he muttered to the dragon what he’d gotten Wind for Christmas the year before.
“A sewing needle,” he muttered.
Zex blinked. “I beg your pardon?”
“A needle. I got her a ruddy sewing needle. Lovely shade of blue….” he mumbled, kicking dirt back in the hole he’d made.
“I see.” But Zex didn’t see at all. Somehow it didn’t seem quite the thing, but how did one say that to a friend. “I think that I’m not the best judge of such things. Perhaps you’d do better asking Kara’s opinion. Being a female, I am sure she would know what Wind would like better than I.” Whew, Zex thought. Got out of that one! Before Skirnir could object, the dragon took flight and didn’t look back.
“Bollocks and barnacles,” Skirnir cursed loudly. “I’d best ask someone else. Blinking dragons, can’t trust em.”
He set off to visit Kara, thinking Zex had at least gotten that idea right. Kara would know what to do. She wouldn’t laugh at him for his choices in the past, but would suggest the perfect gift.
“You got her what? A needle? What were you thinking?” She cuffed him sharply on the ear. “Leave it to a man to think a sewing needle was a good gift. Idiot dorf!”
“She needed the needle. It was nicely teched and had a gem or two set in it. Lovely shade of blue….”
“Skirnir, a sewing needle hardly compares to a suit of armor, does it? You must do something really special this year to make up for it.” Putting a finger to her cheek, she thought long and hard. Eventually, a thought emerged.
“You will do what you do best,” she told him with a happy grin.
“What? I do so many things, and all of them well, I might add…” He looked dwarfishly proud of himself.
Skirnir jumped into position behind her.
“The kind that makes you feel better, you dolt. Not H-E-E-L, H-E-A-L!”
“Oh. Sorry.” He looked chagrined. “I don’t think I follow you.”
“Hasn’t she been working on Chaos Warrior all this time?”
“Yes, but I still don’t…..”
“And you, selfish man, have been crafting, leaving her to hunt alone. How can she hunt and heal? Use your head, you dolt! Take her hunting, help her get that rank in Chaos Warrior she’s been wanting.”
“I could do that….”
“Of course you could!”
“But how to I wrap that up? I can’t put heals beneath the tree.”
“I’ll make a box of potions. You put those beneath the tree. With a card…. Yes, that’s the perfect thing. I’ll even write the card for you. Oh, this will be such fun! Better yet, a scavenger hunt! You wait, Skirnir, this will be the most perfect gift ever!”
Giggling happily, she started composing the clues for the scavenger hunt while Skirnir went out to gather the ingredients for the potions. It wasn’t that he minded doing that, not exactly. But it did seem rather like he had suddenly become less important in this equation than Kara and that bothered him. Where did he fit in? Sighing heavily, he dragged his disk and started gathering wisp essence for the potions.
“Bollocks and barnacles,” he mumbled. “I hate chasing wisps.”
By Christmas Eve, everything was in position for the scavenger hunt. With the help of Kara, Zex and various family members, Skirnir had put together an entertaining romp.
Christmas morning dawned bright, clear and cold. Even the shores of Carmo, which were usually warm, were rimed with frost. Skirnir could see his breath as he prodded the reluctant fire to life. They emptied their stockings, ate breakfast, and waited for the children to arrive before opening their special gifts to one another.
Wind had surprised him with a new shield and a cunningly crafted war hammer that was nearly as big as he was. They were both dyed to match his armor. Filled with anticipation, he handed her the first clue.
“Neath the giant tree wilt thou find me.”
“What’s this? Is this my gift? A poem?” Wind waved the card under his nose.
“Last year it was a needle. This year it’s a couplet?”
“No, no, my sweet. It’s a clue!”
“To what, Pa, another needle?” Their son William scoffed at his father’s efforts.
“Enough of you,” Skirnir scolded. “Trust me, love,” he told his wife. “I know I’ve disappointed you before. But not this time.”
“Giant tree? What tree? There must be hundreds of giant trees.”
“Biggest one I know is near my home in Bristugo,” her niece, Reanne said softly.
“Could be, could be!” Skirnir blustered. “Why, it’s worth a try!”
“All right. I’ll go look!” Wind recalled to her bind spot in Bristugo and ran to the base of the tree. There was a small box beneath it. Inside, she found healing potions and another note.
“In the air find water fair.”
Puzzling over it for only a moment, she thought of the one place she could find water in the air. “Floating Island,” she decided. Gating over, she wondered what she would find there.
In one of the ponds was another box. This one held a new weapon for her Chaos Warrior school and another note.
“Midst snow and ice is something nice.”
“Snow and ice? We’re covered with it!” But there were places where there was snow and ice year round. Putting the two gifts with the location, she could think of only one spot – Island of Ice.
It took a few minutes and more than one gate, but eventually she arrived on the Island. The north wind scurried across the barren, icy land, whipping snow into her face. Squinting, she spotted another box by the gem cutter’s shed. Unfortunately, a peridot and emerald golem were standing by, ready to fight. Taking a deep breath, she attacked the emerald golem. Of course, once the noise of her spells got its attention, the other joined it.
Caught off guard for a moment, she lost her footing and was forced back a few steps. The golems continued to pound at her relentlessly. Suddenly, she felt refreshed and noticed a healing aura round her. Skirnir stepped out from behind the gem cutter’s shed, healing her and rooting the peridot golem, he waved his broad hand at her.
“Hello, love. I knew you’d find your way here. Hit him again, he’s nearly done for.”
Doing as he bid her, she killed both golems with ease. They hunted awhile longer, finally stopping when they got too cold to continue. Laughing and joking, they went home to a hot fire. The girls had cooked a big dinner, the dragons had build up a bonfire, and Skirnir’s cousin Reebdoog had tapped a keg of his famous ale. Many friends dropped by to wish them Merry Christmas. It was a delightful day.
As the sun set on yet another Christmas, Skirnir and Wind sat staring in the waning fire, arms entwined.
“That was a lovely present you gave me,” Wind told him softly.
“Aye,” her stubby husband answered with a yawn. “And I’ve another for you.”
“Really? Where is it?” She asked him, looking around for a box.
“Upstairs,” he chuckled. “Come to bed, my wife, and wish me Merry Christmas.”
© Dellani Oakes
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