Sorry for the slight delay everyone, I was having technical difficulties. (Read: I don't know how to format things and it took me way too long to figure it out. Also, I procrastinate XD)
Now it's the moment we've all been waiting for: gifts are finally here! For the sake of not consuming the entire page in one long wall of text and giant images, all gifts will be under a spoiler cut. I'm overwhelmed with the amount of participation in this, and I'm so happy to see so much new and amazing content being made for this fandom.
Queen-of-Ice101's gift for EsmeAmelia:
Te'ijel walked at the back of the pack, her feline-like eyes sweeping over the woods on either side of the path as she watched for any threats. Up ahead Edward and Stella were talking softly while Mel led the group through the woods, and a slight flicker of concern washed through Te'ijel as Mel stumbled sideways before righting herself.
The vampiress glanced up at the sky, taking in how dark it was getting and how many days they had been travelling with almost no sleep before sighing. Of course these stubborn humans would push through until they were nearly collapsing with exhaustion.
Snow was falling softly through the air as they pushed through and Te'ijel noticed just how badly Mel, Stella and Edward were shivering, and how the bottoms of their clothes were soaking through because of the snow. She let out a barely heard sigh. It would do no good for them to catch their deaths out here.
"There is a city coming up ahead. The last signpost we passed a couple miles back said it's a small city called Travonet." She announced to the rest of the group, her enhanced sight picking up on the reflection of lights from further up ahead in the sky.
The group gave various sounds of relief and Te'ijel shook her head with mild amusement. Humans were frail, but they were determined and highly entertaining. Once presented with a chance for rest the group picked up their pace, causing them to reach the smaller town in record time. Mel dropped back with Edward and Stella and the three of them talked about being greatly relieved to have finally reached somewhere with real beds while Te'ijel caught up with her husband ahead of her.
"While they check in for the night shall we go hunting?" She asked quietly, her eyes glittering with mirth at the thought of his reaction.
He certainly did not disappoint.
"I will NEVER partake in such practice of hunting humans, you evil demon spawn!" Galahad said vehemently.
"You are truly missing out crumpet." She teased, enjoying how his eyebrows scrunched up in anger and exasperation.
Te'ijel only gave a wicked laugh and jogged past Galahad to walk next to Mel.
"How long do you wish to stay in this village? I can sense my brother right on our tail, if we stop for too long he will catch us." Te'ijel stated, her voice going serious as she addressed the exhausted looking girl.
Mel nodded, looking older and more pained then any 18 year old should. The weight of the world was resting entirely on this girl's shoulders, and Te'ijel could see the toll it was taking on her.
"Only one night. We'll eat and rest tonight and collect goods come tomorrow."
Then Mel held a hand up and watched as a few falling white flakes landed in her hand before melting away.
"It's good that we're stopping for the night. The snow is getting heavier, and sleeping out here in the ice cold wouldn't be a good idea." Mel said, talking more to herself then Te'ijel.
The vampiress smiled to herself and watched Mel pick up the pace once again as she led the group through the snow covered woods towards the city. This girl was becoming quite the leader.
As they reached the city walls Te'ijel's brows furrowed. There were strange leafy circles hanging off of the gates and she could hear the sound of singing from within the walls.
They entered the city and for Te'ijel it was like walking into a explosion of colour. Covering the walls of the city were strange circles made of greenery with red ribbons and berries and strangely coloured baubles. Green and red greenery and ribbons were wrapped around the lamp posts and over the shop stalls and doors there was more of the greenery and decorated circles.
Distantly she could hear people singing about hope and love and she turned to the humans in utter puzzlement.
"What on earth are they doing here? Is this some strange superstitious ritual we have come in to?"
Mel and Edward looked at her in surprise.
Te'ijel looked around before looking back at the two young adults staring at her.
"I've never seen anything like this."
"You mean to say you've never celebrated Aislday?!" Mel exclaimed.
"What is Aislday?"
Mel gaped at her and Te'ijel glanced at Stella, Edward and her husband to see various states of shock on all of their faces.
"You aren't joking? You really don't know?"
Te'ijel sighed heavily.
"If I knew, would I be asking?" She asked irritably.
"Come now wife, surely you've heard of Aislday? I've even made garlands to go on the door of our house in Ged'here for Aislday!"
Te'ijel stared blankly at him.
"Those are not vampire wards? I always thought that you were attempting to create vampire wards."
Galahad threw his hands up in the air with a exasperated noise and Te'ijel smirked slightly at his reaction before looking back at the young adults.
"Now tell me, what is this Aislday?"
Mel gestured for them to walk as they talked and fell into step on one side of Te'ijel, Edward coming up on other side.
"Aislday is the day that we celebrate the gift of hope that the goddess granted to all of us. On Aislday people exchange gifts, sing songs about hope and kindness, have a grand feast and decorate with brightly coloured objects to bring cheer and happiness." Edward explained.
"Gifts? Why gifts?"
"To show that we care. Usually it is only exchanged between friends and loved ones." Stella softly.
Te'ijel shook her head in amusement.
"What a silly holiday. You celebrate hope for a small time before going back to hating each other and basing everything off of superstition and anger. What is the point of a holiday that does nothing."
Surprisingly it was Mel that spoke up this time.
"It doesn't do nothing. Even if it's only for a short time, isn't a holiday that causes people to go the extra mile and show kindness towards others worth it?"
Te'ijel shrugged elegantly.
The conversation was dropped in favour of looking for a inn. They managed to find one and much to their relief there was more then enough beds for all of them. The three humans collapsed into beds in exhaustion, passing out in minutes. Te'ijel was not in need of sleep but even she curled up on the top of one of the beds and allowed her body to relax.
She glanced over at her husband to see Galahad leaning against one of the walls close by.
"Husband, move to the wall closer to me. I wish to speak a little bit."
"So you may play your games?"
Te'ijel smirked slightly at his expression but shook her head.
"No. I simply wish to have some company tonight."
Galahad hesitated before walking over and leaning against the wall between the bed she was sitting on and a empty one.
"Was this Aislday a holiday when you were human?" Te'ijel asked softly.
Galahad twitched. She never usually asked about his human time but today curiosity had won out.
"Yes. Apparently it became a thing when the goddess had her first daughter, Aisling, the nymph of hope. She was born twenty years before I was."
"That would explain why I had never heard of this celebration, I was turned long before the hope nymph was born and we did not travel through any cities during this season when we were on our quest with Rhen. We were in the mountains."
"That's true. I forgot about that."
"Hmm.....when does this Aislingday come?"
"It's in two days."
Te'ijel nodded before falling silent, keeping watch over the humans. She heard Mel whimper in her sleep but the young woman fell silent moments later so Te'ijel didn't bother waking her.
"It's really snowing out. The paths that had been dug in the snow to lead from building to building are completely covered and the snow is getting higher." Galahad suddenly said, his voice further away then it had been moments ago.
Te'ijel looked over to see him standing at one of the windows peering out and Te'ijel rose before walking over and peering out of the window next to him.
"You are right. The snow is coming down extremely heavy now. If it does not let up soon our travels may become more difficult then anticipated."
"What do you mean that we can't leave the city?!?" Mel shouted, the harried looking innkeeper holding up his hands in a placating manner.
"We opened the gates but the snow is piled as high as our tall males stand and is packed in by the wind! We've been doing our best to shovel here in the city and one of the people here is a Mage that's been magically melting and evaporating the snow along the city paths but she is not strong enough to do that for the paths out there, and she can only go so far. You will have to wait for a couple days as the snow melts."
Mel threw her hands up in the air with a snarl, a almost panicked light in her eyes.
"But Gyendal will have more then caught us by then!! I'll end up fulfilling that damn Prophecy and then this whole quest will be pointless!"
Te'ijel stepped forward, effectively catching the panicking girls eye. She turned to face Te'ijel who shook her head.
"He will not catch us. He relies on his magic to track us and the snow acts as a dampener. With this much snow he will be out of commission as long as us, if not longer."
She saw Mel relax and stepped back, glancing over at Edward and Stella who exchanged looks of excitement.
"There is a good thing that comes out of this."
They all looked to Stella who had broken the tense silence and Edward gave a massive grin.
"We'll be able to celebrate Aislday!! We can get small gifts and with the permission of the innkeeper we might even be able to make ourselves a special Aislday meal!!" The young prince exclaimed.
Mel brightened slightly and Galahad stepped forward.
"Very true! We can do a surprise gift exchange. Stick everyone's name into a hat and have each person withdraw, get one gift for each person so that we may still exchange gifts but we do not have to risk spending too much of our gold." Her husband said, sounding much more cheerful then usual.
It took a moment but eventually everyone made sounds of agreement, the slightly sweating innkeeper letting out a almost unnoticeable sigh of relief at the fact that Mel had relaxed and no longer looked like she was ready to crush the innkeeper.
"I have a hat here if you want to use it." He suggested tentatively.
Mel nodded and Edward approached the counter.
"Do you have a pen and old paper we could use?
The innkeeper nodded and withdrew old paper and a quill pen which Edward used to scribble down everyone's name, ripping the paper into five pieces and dumping it in the hat. Edward closed his eyes and covered the hat, shaking it up before uncovering and holding it out to everyone.
"Grab a name and don't say who you got, then shop for a gift for that person that can come with us on our quest." Edward stated, excitement filling his face.
Te'ijel watched as Stella, Mel and Galahad each took a name before reaching in and taking one of the two leftover papers, stepping back and unfolding it to see the name of her giftee written in Edwards clean writing.
Everyone watched as Edward withdrew his name and grinned before looking up at everyone else.
"Let's get started!
Instantly Mel had flipped up the collar on the warm coat she had bought in the last town before giving a half wave and stepping out of the inn, a cold wind blowing into the lobby before the door closed behind her.
Te'ijel shook her head and sighed before walking up the stairs, glancing out one of the window along the staircase at the snow with distaste. She may be immune to the cold but even vampires were not immune to the sopping wet that snow brought.
She placed her bag with her bow and arrow on the ground, frowning at the frayed string. It had been a while since they had been able to stop somewhere she could replace the strings and after the over strenuous use that this weapon was getting it was starting to break down.
Then Te'ijel sat down on the bed and opened the piece of paper in her hand.
The vampiress stretched before glancing idly around the room. What should she get the girl? Mel was rather withdrawn which made it hard for anyone to get close and learn about her. Te'ijel sighed heavily before rising to her feet again and heading back towards the stairs, grabbing the burgundy cloak out of the bag that held her arrows to hide from passerbys her race. Just sitting here was rather pointless, she would have more luck figuring something out if she looked through some of the shops and stands.
She entered the main lobby to see Edward and Stella discussing food that would be needed for the feast they had spoken about. They were just wrapping up the conversation as Te'ijel approached, and when they looked up to see her Stella gave a soft giggle and suddenly rushed past her to the stairs, vanishing up the staircase to where the beds were on the upper floor.
"Strange girl." Te'ijel muttered as she watched the lilac haired girl for a moment before turning back towards the main room where Edward was standing talking to the innkeeper.
"Out into the snow I go." Te'ijel sighed before pushing open the door and stepping outside, grimacing at the softly floating snowflakes in the air.
The door to the inn closed behind her and she started down the path, her heeled boots clicking against the frozen cobblestone. She saw a few people glance at uneasily but she ignored them, confident that the cloak she was wearing would hide her unnaturally pale skin from anyone so long as she didn't stop to talk with them.
The shops were all warmly lit from the inside and Te'ijel stepped into the first shop only to freeze and sneeze several times as the strong scent of incense assaulted her nose.
"Oh are you alright?" A lilting voice asked.
Te'jel glanced over to see a short woman hurry over, concern in her brown eyes.
"Fine. I simply have allergies." Te'ijel said curtly before moving to back out of the shop.
"Oh we have something for that. It's a wonderful scent that is soothing to the nasal passages and has helped some of the people in this town who face seasonal allergies!"
Te'ijel stared at the woman. She was trying to sell allergy incense.....to a vampire. She bit back a snort and simply shook her head, turning to leave only to hear the woman come up behind her.
"Wait!!! I have more then just incense and allergy remedies. Aislday is just around the corner, surely you would be in need for a last minute gift for someone?"
Te'ijal paused and turned to face the woman, keeping her face hidden in the shadows of her cloak.
"What, pray-tell, could you have that I would want."
"How about a carved figurines or dishes? Maybe some scented soap? Scarves?"
Te'ijal shook her head and moved to walk away only for the woman to call after her with one more offer.
"What about a journal?!"
That made Te'ijal pause. A journal. Mel had a journal, she always wrote in it. At one point when Mel hadn't been able to sleep she had spoken with Te'ijal for a bit and had told her that she had been writing in her journal since she had originally taught herself to write. In her bag she carried several worn journals as well as the one that she had been writing in through the journey. And the journal she was writing in was nearly filled.
"No. Your journals will reek as much as this place does. However, that is a excellent idea, I believe I will use it." Te'ijal commented before stalking out of the shop, allowing the door to close sharply behind her.
She strolled along the cobblestone streets, scanning the shops as she passed until stopping in front of a small one that when the door opened smelled faintly of old books and ink. She stepped inside, gazing around cooly before slowly making her way through the shelves.
There were large volumes along the shelves that lined the walls and stacks in boxes of old and worn books. There was a rack with leather book bags on the far wall and several small boxes of bookmarks made entirely of tiny beads woven together to create intricate patterns. Te'ijal glanced over those items and instead went to a large shelf filled with journals.
"These are quite nice." She murmured to herself, long and tapered fingers slipping loose of her sleeve and sliding gently over the spines of the journals until they came to rest on a soft cover journal. She gently grasped it and pulled it loose, examining it carefully in her hand.
The cover was a deep chocolate brown all the way around, with black stitching along the rims. It was certainly a classic looking journal, but what really made it stand out was the ornate tooling along the spine and on the cover, intricate designs that stood out from the dark cover with the cinnamon colouring it had been dyed.
It was held closed with a metal clasp that only added to the overall appeal of the journal and Te'ijal gave a satisfied nod. This was perfect.
She strode briskly through the shop to the back where a desk was with a older man sitting behind it reading.
"I wish to buy this."
The man looked up and nodded, holding his hands out for the journal. Te'ijal placed it in his hands and he looked over before glancing back up at her.
"A gift or for personal use?"
He nodded and reached under his desk to withdraw parchment paper which he carefully wrapped the journal in and handed it to her. Te'ijal tucked it into her coat and turned to walk away only to stop when the man spoke, his tone so calm and quiet that you would almost think he was talking to himself.
"Down in the village square there is a Mage who sells magical wares. Recently he's started magicking pens so they never run out of ink and will not smear when you touch the ink on the paper by accident. It's quite handy, especially if you happen to be traveling."
Te'ijal stopped. That would be perfect for the kinds of traveling they were doing, where they might have to pack up at a moments notice and continue fleeing.
He made a noncommittal sound and Te'ijal walked out, heading directly for the village square. Upon reaching it she found it extremely busy as people milled around in the square, going in and out of shops and talking to people who ran different booths. Almost their entire group was in the square in that moment.
Stella and Mel hurried past Te'ijal only moments after she had entered the square, Stella holding a larger shaped package and Mel empty handed as they spoke in low tones.
She watched Galahad vanish into a leathertanner's shop and she couldn't help but glance around at the decorations and excitedly blathering people in bemusement. Humans were so strange.
With a slight shake of her head Te'ijal walked briskly over to the booth that she could sense the magic coming from, not bothering to browse but simply walking directly up to the young man in Mage robes.
"Hello! How may I-"
"I have been informed that you sell magicked pens that never run out of ink. I want one."
The man's mouth was still partially open from being mid word when she had spoken and it took him a second to recover.
"Uh...of course. I have them right here made out of assorted wood. Which one would you like?"
Te'ijal scanned them for a moment before reaching down to withdraw one that she recognized to be made out of rosewood.
"I wish to have this one."
"Good choice! Rosewood holds my magic the best, and that's the last one!"
He wrapped the pen before handing it to Te'ijal who accepted the wrapped object with a curt nod.
"Having any luck with your gifts?"
Edward's voice sounded from behind her and she turned to face the young warrior who reminded her slightly of Galahad.
"I am. And you?"
The brown haired male bobbed his head with a bright grin.
"I found the perfect gift for my giftee!! This town has some really interesting shops!"
Te'ijal smiled slightly at the teens excitement.
"I'm sure. Now, was their a particular reason you came over here?"
Te'ijal expected Edward to shake his head and leave to wrap whatever gift he had found but to her surprise the prince nodded his head and went slightly serious.
"Uh...I know this is your first Aislday so I thought that I would mention something to you."
"And that is?"
"Well, one of the most important things about Aislday is that you show thatbyou care for those around you, usually through the act of gift giving as a little reminder to them. I know we all agreed to only get a gift for the person who's name we pulled....but maybe getting one for Galahad since he's your husband and all might be a good idea."
Then Edward dropped his eyes and rubbed the back of his neck bashfully.
"I know you probably think it's a stupid idea. I just.....thought it would be nice."
Te'ijal watched the slightly blushing prince for a moment before tilting her head in thought.
"Perhaps you are right. He does seem quite fond of this human holiday, perhaps he will appreciate something from me." Te'ijal mused.
Edward's head popped up again and Te'ijal smirked slightly, he reminded her of a eager child with his excitement and goofy nature.
"So it's a good idea!! Great!! I'll see you later the I guess!"
Te'ijal watched in amusement as the teen rushed off. Such a excitable boy.
Te'ijal joined the humans during lunch, contending herself with a bottle of blood that she kept on hand. The young adults chattered about some different holiday traditions, even her usually quiet husband joining in. Although she would never admit it to anyone, she did enjoy seeing Galahad relax and enjoy himself again. It felt like it had been so long since she had seen him smile.
She thought for a moment, trying to remember the last time she had seen his face light up with his smile. Since he talked to that magic elf girl many, many years ago before the Nymphs vanished from Aia, he had smiled when the male elf had said something sweet to the girl as she had blushed, clearly flattered that the boy she appeared to be sweet on would say something kind. That was the last time she remembered seeing him smile.
"Well, I'm not quite finished shopping yet. I'll leave you guys and go finish up." Mel suddenly announced, pushing her now empty plate aside and standing before she strode out of the tavern they had chosen to eat at.
Te'ijal stood as well.
"I believe I shall finish up my own shopping as well."
Then once again she was out walking through the streets as the winter breeze nipped at her face. She found herself more appreciative then normal that she was immune to the cold, for the wind had quite a bit of a bite that it carried.
She wandered aimlessly from booth to booth as she walked through the square, glancing back at the tavern to see Galahad, Edward and Stella finally leave the square. Then the walked across the square to the woodworking shop. As she pushed open the door the scent of fresh wood washed over her and allowed the door to close behind her as she looked around.
"Welcome to my shop!!!" A jovial voice called to her.
Te'ijal glanced over at the well built man who approached her.
"What can I do for you on this fine day?"
Te'ijal glanced around once more before turning back to the man.
"Yes, do you have carving tools?"
The man laughed and gestured around him.
"I run a woodworking shop ma'am, it'd be in bad form if I didn't sell those."
Te'ijal waved a impatient hand.
"Yes. Now, where are they? I wish to buy some for a gift."
He grinned at her and gestured for her to follow him as he walked deeper into his shop, leaving Te'ijal to follow impatiently after him.
They came to a stop in front of a large wall filled with containers that held various tools where he left her before returning to a table a few feet away. She stared at the tools for several moments, picking up different ones and examining them cluelessly before returning them to their boxes and moving onto the next row. They all looked pretty much the same to her, she saw nothing special or different about it.
Te'ijal hissed out a breath of unusual frustration. She had no idea what to get Galahad in this place. She knew that he loved to work with his hands and that he preferred to do woodworking, and she knew that the couple of tools he did have were old and worn, but she had no idea what she would get to replace them.
"You have a idea of what you want?" The man asked, coming over to her after some time had passed of her going through the tools and yet remaining standing there in front of the rack.
"I don't know. I am not a woodworker, my husband is. I do not know what tools he would want. He only has a couple and they are worn, that is all I know."
The man nodded, glancing through the shelves before turning to her.
"I have a idea of what you may be looking for then. You say he only has a couple of tools?"
Te'ijal nodded in affirmative.
"I see. Well, then this may be a good gift. I sell individual tools, but during the holidays I also sell tool sets that come in a durable leather carrier. I have a relatively inexpensive one that has several different kinds and sizes of chisel and knife, along with something for sharpening. Would you like to see it?"
He vanished into a back room several feet away, the sounds of rummaging heard before he emerged with a leather satchel of sorts in his hands. He undid and opened the top flap and undid ties on each side before laying the entire thing open in front of her. Tucked into secure holders were tools on both sides of the carrier. One of the sides was a large pocket.
"For thinner wood creations or any drawings he might have of projects." The man explained.
Te'ijal nodded in distraction as she examined the tools and the holder they were in.
"I believe that this is exactly what I am looking for. How much is it?"
"Two hundred and eighty."
Te'ijal went still. She could not spend that amount of the groups money on a present. They needed that for food and equipment. But.....she did have a emergency fund that she kept on herself, money she had possessed before she had joined the group. It would clean her out.....
"That is far to expensive in my opinion. I will not spend that amount of gold."
"You will not find this quality of craftmanship anywhere else! My tools are of the finest quality, you would be paying a good price here compared to some places. You said yourself that you don't understand this trade, so you would not understand how in demand such a high quality of craftsmanship like this is."
Te'ijal shook her head.
"I do not need to understand the quality level. I will not spend that amount of money on a gift. There are other places I can go to buy such sets, this is far too much."
The man held it up closer to her almost as if to tempt her.
"This is the best kind of set you can find anywhere. You will find nothing of this quality anywhere else. I am selling you the best of the best."
"Ah, but you just said it was a more inexpensive set. Were you falsely advertising your product to me."
The man blinked before a slight grin came over his face.
"Not at all kind lady, this set is more inexpensive....for this quality of work. Surely you would not expect me to sell this for nothing."
"I would not. However, I know that you are selling it for top price that is unreasonable to expect. I know you can go lower."
"How much lower would you be willing to pay?"
Te'ijal fired off the first number that came to mind, going purposely much lower to allow him to bring the price up, while still going much lower himself.
"Two hundred gold."
"Two hundred?!? For this!! No, two hundred and seventy five. I'd sooner sell my first born for such a price!!"
"Two hundred." Te'ijal repeated, saying nothing else but "accidentally" bumping her money bag in her cloak to allow him to hear the jingle of coin.
He shook his head.
He made a slightly exasperated noise.
"Come now, work with me here!"
Te'ijal pretended to ponder.
"Alright, two fifteen."
"Your killing me here. Two fifty."
"Two forty five."
"Two twenty." Te'ijal said blandly.
The man rubbed his head in frustration, clearly aggravated that she was not giving into his price range, though clearly his pride and his desperation to bring home such a prize to his wife and children drove him on.
"Two thirty five."
"Two twenty five."
"Two thirty and that is my final offer." The man said with finality.
Te'ijal smirked. That was exactly where she wanted the price.
"So will you be buying this?"
She pretended to hesitate before nodding.
"Wonderful!! I will wrap it now."
Once it was wrapped and payed for Te'ijal tucked it into her cloak and started back towards the inn, her pace slow. She could already picture Galahad's face when he saw her gift.
Perhaps this Aislday would be more enjoyable then she had originally anticipated.
The next day was a whirlwind of chaos around the inn that was utterly empty other then them. The humans and Galahad got up early and went shopping as a group to pick out food for the feast that they had spoke about being a tradition for Aislday before returning to the inn to utilize the kitchen that the innkeeper had given permission for them to use in order to cook for the feast.
Te'ijal chose to wrap her gifts while they were gone, taking twine and a dark blue ribbon that she had bought the day before and wrapping the pen and journal in the parchment paper the journal had been given to her in, then tying it up with the twine to keep it from being opened and looping the ribbon around it into a bow to make it more appealing.
Once she had finished that she pulled out the second gift. The one for Galahad. Te'ijel stared at it for a long while, her hand running absently along the paper that wrapped it. She did nothing for a moment, before taking the pen out of her pack and writing Galahad's name on it in calligraphy.
"Hey Te'ijal!!! Come help us!!" Mel's voice echoed up the staircase as a door downstairs closed with a bang and voices filtered up to her.
Te'ijal let out a long breath before hiding the gifts away again and rising, heading down the stairs.
She was promptly set to work chopping things in prep, which she did not mind for once. It kept her mind off the fact that in a rare feeling of emotion she was both dreading and anticipating the giving her gifts tomorrow.
Morning came and Te'ijal could be found sitting at the window on the far end of the room, enjoying the peace. Galahad was sitting near the three young adults and as the sunrise came up she glanced over to see him perfectly relaxed, eyes closed as he rested against the wall.
"Today is Aislday." She said quietly.
"It is." He agreed without opening his eyes.
Te'ijal survayed the three humans before smirking slightly.
"Do you wish to participate in a little wager?"
"What?" Galahad asked in confusion, his eyes opening as he looked over at her.
"A wager. That Edward will be the first one to wake up and he'll wake up the girls by being needlessly loud and obnoxious."
There was the faintest hint of a twitch at the corners of his mouth and he shook his head.
"That's not a wager I will take. I know that he will do that, I need not lose money betting for anything different."
Te'ijal's smirk grew and she glanced over at the beds as true to her prediction Edward began to stir. It took several minutes of shifting as Edward began to come out of sleep before he bolted upright, his hair sticking up in every which direction.
Te'ijal watched in amusement as his loud shout scared Mel awake, causing the thief to bolt upright with her dagger poised and Stella to sit up, a disoriented expression on her face.
"What's happening?!! Who's attacking?!" Mel snapped.
Edward appeared oblivious to her reaction as he began to dance around the room like a idiot, a goofy grin on his face.
"It's Aislday!!! Get up already!!"
"That's what you scared me awake for?! I aughta-"
"Oh don't be such a grump!! It's Aislday! No one is allowed to be grumpy!" Edward interrupted, going over to Stella and pulling her to her feet.
"Come on you guys!! Let's eat so we can exchange gifts!!"
Everyone followed Edward down the stairs, some going at a slower pace such as Mel and Te'ijal. Breakfast was a quick affair, bread and jam and cheese. However even just the short time that was taken to eat was enough to allow Mel and Stella to wake up fully and soon they looked almost as excited as Edward to return upstairs to exchange gifts.
Soon they were back upstairs, Edward and Galahad shifting several of the beds to that they could all sit in a circle for the gift exchange. Once everyone was seated Edward looked around the circle, his eyes shining with excitement.
"Alright, who's going first?"
"Can I?" Stella asked, her face brighter then usual as she hesitantly raised a hand.
"Yeah! Then we'll go clockwise from you." Edward exclaimed and Stella stood, walking over to her bed and pulling the large package she had been carrying when Te'ijal had seen her in the square in her arms.
"My name that I pulled was Te'ijal's. So this is for you."
She placed the package gently down on the floor in front of Te'ijal who stared at the package with interest for a moment before reaching over and untying the twine, pulling it loose and then unwrapping the paper.
"I know it might be kind of a odd gift but I though that you would really like it since you've talked about how you like experimenting with different kinds of arrows for your bows and I thought that this was a experimental as it could get." Stella babbled.
Te'ijal nodded and looked up at Stella, her eyes crinkling in the corners in leu of a smile.
"I appreciate these. This is a great gift, I quite enjoy playing around with the damage properties of different kinds of arrows and this will allow me to do so whenever."
Te'ijal then looked back down at her gift. Sitting on the paper was a set of ten new arrows, and in a protective case was twelve different jars. Each jar held a different kind of poison, ones that ate through flesh or ones that attacked different internal systems. One even froze the enemy quite literally upon the poisoned arrow getting the strange poison into the bloodstream.
"You like it?" Stella asked hopefully.
"I do. Thank you."
Stella relaxed, a shy smile flickering to life. Te'ijal set her gift aside before watching Mel who retrieved her gift, a thicker rectangular gift which she handed to Galahad on Te'ijal's left before taking her seat to Te'ijal's right between Te'ijal and Stella.
"I got you."
Galahad nodded and slowly opened it before blinking.
"A book talking about the different kinds of birds and exotic plantlife all over Aia."
Mel gave a uncomfortable shrug.
"Yeah. I know that you like watching the different birdlife as we are traveling but you told me when I asked that you don't know very many of the different kinds of birds so I thought that you might like this. It'll let you identify different kinds."
Galahad looked up from the book and gave a small smile.
"I appreciate that. I believe I will get good use out of this."
Mel relaxed and gave a nod to him before leaning back and looking over at Te'ijal.
"So who did you get?" Edward asked eagerly.
"I got Mel." Te'ijal informed the eager prince before standing and retrieving her gift, handing it to Mel before seating herself and watching closely as Mel accepted the gift with sparkling eyes.
"You used a ribbon to tie it shut?"
"No, that was merely a addition that I believed you would appreciate. You might find use for it with your gift inside, for use as a marking ribbon or somesuch."
Mel nodded and withdrew her dagger after she had undone and put aside the blue ribbon and slit the twine. She sheathed her dagger and then carefully unwrapped the gift, her eyes widening as the paper was pushed fully aside.
"It's a new journal." She murmured, reaching down to carefully lift the book out, studying the cover before flipping through the pages.
"This is beautiful." She finally said, looking up at Te'ijal who merely pointed at the smaller wrapped object that had been left behind.
"That is part of the gift as well."
Mel quickly unwrapped the object and smiled when she withdrew the rosewood pen.
"I like this. I'll have to buy some ink soon."
"No need." Te'ijal said calmly, a hint of a smile flickering to life.
"That is a magicked pen, it will never run out of ink and the ink will never smear if you touch it."
Mel gaped at the pen before turning to Te'ijal, a grin on her face.
"Are you serious?"
"Now you will be able to journal without having to watch the ink levels and hold off on sharing thoughts to preserve ink until our next stop."
Mel's grin brightened and she wrapped the gifts to place them carefully in her lap.
"Thanks Te'ijal. This is perfect."
"You are very welcome." The vampiress answered, turning to her husband with a slight smile. She was truly enjoying herself on this human holiday.
"Who's name did you pick husband?"
Galahad reached under the bed behind him and pulled out a package, sliding it across the floor to Edward.
"I received the young prince."
Edward's face lit up and eagerly took the present, unwrapping hastily only to exclaim in delight upon seeing new leather bracers inside. On the top of the bracers there was a intricate carving of a rune and Edward looked over at Galahad in curiosity.
"Those runes mean king and brave, depending on which dialect you are speaking from these parts. I felt that either way they fitted you well."
Edward grinned widely as he tried them on, the bracers fitting perfectly.
"This is amazing!!! I love them! Thank you Galahad!!!"
The final giftee was obviously Stella and she watched cheerfully as Edward pulled out his wrapped gift with a flourish, presenting it to her. Stella took the present and began to carefully unwrap it, leaving Edward to wiggle around in impatience.
"Open it faster!!" He urged, making Stella giggle and slow down for a few second to tease the impatient brunette.
Stella giggled again before having mercy on her friend and fully unwrapping it, gasping softly as shimmering purple fabric came into view. The gentle young woman reached down and carefully withdrew the fabric to reveal a warm shawl that shimmered and shined with different shades of purple.
"Oh Edward...." She whispered as she stared at the shawl in her hand.
"Do-do you like it?" Edward asked, hopeful and nervous all at once.
Stella sniffed and placed it aside, reaching over and hugging him tightly.
"I love it Edward. The shawl is beautiful." She told him, her voice muffled by his shoulder.
Te'ijal smiled as Edward's expression, a mixture of pleasure and embarrassment as he hugged the smaller girl back before releasing her as she pulled back to pick up the shawl once more and wrap it around her shoulders.
Eventually they all fell into easy conversation, enjoying the quiet of the morning and relishing in the relaxation afforded to them though being blocked into the town by the snow. The day passed quickly as they talked and laughed, Edward surprising everyone by pulling out a pack of Aislday chocolates he had bought for everyone as a surprise treat.
The humans split most of them, and Galahad convinced Te'ijal to split one with him to see if they could taste the chocolate. Much to Te'ijal's surprise she could taste a faint hint of the chocolate, a flavour she hadn't tasted in so long that she had all but forgotten it.
Eventually Mel, Edward and Stella decided to have their Aislday feast, leaving Te'ijal and Galahad behind upstairs, the room darkening as the winter sun began to set.
Te'ijal and Galahad moved the beds back to their usual places without a word, a awkward atmosphere filling the room.
She glanced over at Galahad to see him crouch down next to his armour which he had forgone for Aislday and withdraw a thinner package before standing and approaching her.
"This is for you."
Te'ijal blinked in surprise before reaching over and taking the package.
"You bought me something? But my name was not the one you picked."
"You are my wife, and Edward reminded me that on Aislday gifts are exchanged between spouses. It's only right for me to buy you something."
Te'ijal glanced at him before focusing on her package and unwrapping it carefully, only to stare down at her package, her eyes widening ever so slightly.
"So far that I've noticed we've gone into no less then five different shops that traded with the Dream-weavers that can enter the Dream realm and sold this enchanted bow string, and each time you call it a frivolous purchase and never get it for yourself, but I know you well enough now to know that you want this." Her husband said in explanation.
"You found a memory string." Te'ijal murmured, reaching in and gently lifting out the shimmering black string.
"These can only be made out of the memory roses that used to grow at the foot of the memory caves. Now they only grow in the Dream realm. It'll never break and it moments of desperation for salvation it can even infuse the arrows with the power to bring up the worst memories of the victim....." She said quietly, uncoiling the string and running her fingers along it before a rare smile sprung to life and she looked up at Galahad.
"Thank you husband."
He nodded and she let out a soft chuckle.
"You know, you aren't the only one Edward meddled with. I have a present for you as well, he told me the same as he told you, that spouses should give to one another to show affection. I'll go retrieve it now."
Te'ijal moved to where her things were and slipped her wrapped bowstring into one of the pockets on her quiver of arrows before grabbing the larger package with Galahad's name on it and carrying it over to Galahad, handing it to her husband wordlessly.
He accepted the package, looking momentarily at his name on the front before carefully opening the package to reveal the soft leather carrying case. He looked up at Te'ijal with slightly furrowed brows before reaching down and opening the bag, his jaw dropping as he gaped at the contents.
"You-....you got me carving tools." He whispered, his eyes wide as he reached into the case and slowly withdrew one of the tools to examine slowly before he looked back up at her.
"Your current tools barely work anymore, you said as much yourself." Te'ijal said, her tone slightly gruff.
"Wife.....I don't-......thank you."
"You're welcome. I'm sure you'll get good use out of it. The man said that there is a pocket/pouch on one side where you can store thinner projects or drawings of future projects. Whatever you wish."
He nodded before looking up at her, the corners of his mouth twitching before curving up into a smile, the first smile that Te'ijal had ever caused.
"I love this. I will work on a small carving tonight."
Te'ijal returned his smile and they stood together in a companionable silence before Edward and Mel started calling for them to come down and sit with them from the bottom of the staircase.
Galahad put away his gift and as Te'ijal descended the staircase she glanced out the window at the Twilight sky.
Although she would probably never admit it aloud, she had been quite pleased with the gift exchange and the reactions to her gifts for Mel and especially Galahad. It was a welcome reprieve from the stress and tension as they tried to evade Gyendal and find the Orbs before him.
A year later- Sedona, Arishta Isles:
Te'ijal hurried through the streets with her coat hood up to block out the chilly wind, her skin pink from the cold. Oh how she loathed the winter now that she was human. A package was clutched in her hands and she tucked it further into her warm sleeves.
She reached her and Galahad's home and fumbled to get the key out of her cloak but managed to withdraw it, her frozen fingers clumsily unlocking the door and allowing her to push it open with a clang as she grumbled under her breath, slamming the door behind her and hanging up her cloak as she hid the package away and made her way into the kitchen.
"Welcome back love." Galahad greeted her, smiling at her briefly as he stood at the counter carving their roast duck.
"Did you get what you need?"
Te'ijal nodded and cleared off the small two person table in their kitchen as he finished carving the last of the duck and placed several slices on both their already full plates.
He carried them to the table where they both sat and poured the gravy overtop of the mashed potatoes and the duck before they dug in, Te'ijal finding herself savouring the flavour of stuffing and the potatoes and the gravy along with the duck quite against her will. She really hated food, yet her traitorous mouth and stomach loved it.
She and Galahad engaged in light conversation as they enjoyed their meal, finishing at a leisurely pace before clearing their dishes and wrapping up the food to store. Once almost everything was put away Te'ijal slipped out of the room to where her coat was hanging and withdrew the package before hurrying to the living room, beating her husband there by mere minutes.
When he entered the room and saw her sitting on the couch with the wrapped package sitting in her lap he chuckled softly, coming over to sit next to her when she beckoned for him to do so.
"What is it?"
"Happy Aislday." Te'ijal said with a hint of a smile, handing him the wrapped package.
He accepted and eagerly opened the package to reveal a thick book. Upon scanning the title of this large novel he burst into peals of laughter, a wide grin springing to life and the corners of his eyes crinkling.
"A collection of myths and records of vampires over history." He said with amusement before looking up at her. "You remembered that I wanted this. I was interested in doing some research on humans views of vampires over the years now that I am free of the curse."
Te'ijal's mouth twisted in distaste at the reminder of her mortality, before giving herself a brisk shake and turning her full attention to Galahad opening the front cover. She saw him glance over the page before stopping on her inscription and reading it.
"Look at what the humans think of us! Aren't their foolish myths utterly ridiculous? I'm sure you'll get as much amusement out of this as I did."
He laughed again, closing the book and placing it on the table in front of the couch with a grin.
"I plan to start reading this as soon as I can. I have no doubt I will enjoy it."
Te'ijal smirked and he stood, excitement glittering in his azure blue eyes.
"I'll go retrieve your gift now then." He said with a slightly nervous smile as he walked out of the room, leaving Te'ijal to sit waiting in anticipation until he returned holding a object covered in cloth.
He set it on the table directly in front of Te'ijal, moving back around to sit directly next to her as he gently gripped the cloth in preparation to reveal the gift.
Te'ijal nodded and he pulled the cloth free to reveal a intricately carved wooden building replica. Her eyes widened as she realized what the building was and she felt a lump rise in her throat.
"It's the cathedral. The Ged'here cathedral." She whispered.
Galahad nodded and Te'ijal reached out a slightly trembling hand to touch the roof of the house, her fingers sliding down over the shingles that he had stained black to the wooded walls that had been painted to look like stone. There was real glass that he hand painted to look like stained glass and the door was painted to look like the solid oak doors that led to the cathedral inside.
"You got everything perfect. Right down to the odd shape of the front of the cathedral with the two alcove-like areas on either side of the door."
"Do you like it?"
Te'ijal opened her mouth to respond but closed it again when she realized that she would not be able to speak. She missed her home so, so much. But this....now she would have a piece of home with her as she lived out her pathetically tiny mortal lifespan.
She looked over at him and he examined her face before blinking in surprise.
"Are you....teary? Because of this?"
"No, I'm simply holding back a sneeze." Te'ijal snapped, looking back towards the house and blinking firmly to get rid of the hazy mist she absolutely refused to call tears.
Galahad gave a huff of amusement before wrapping a arm around her, pulling her close and pressing a kiss to her temple.
"You are teary, you cannot fool me after how long we have been together. Does that mean you like it?"
Te'ijal contemplated continuing to argue that she was not teary, but when she looked back at the flawlessly and lovingly done miniature of the Ged'here Cathedral she decided that tonight would not be a night she would waste with pointless arguing.
"Yes Galahad, I love it."
His bright smile was worth abaninding the argument for Te'ijal, and when he tilted her head to give her a soft kiss she did not resist, nor did she fight him when he tugged her to his chest and reclined back on the couch with her in his arms as he reached over to grab his book and start reading.
Te'ijal rested against her husband, content for the most part aside from the dull ache in her chest. She missed being a vampire, oh how she missed it, but she was finding as the days went by that having Galahad with her helped lessen the ache in her chest. The clock chimed on the mantle and Galahad's arms tightened around her slightly.
"Happy Aislday my love."
Te'jal tilted her head so her forehead rested against his neck and she let out a soft sigh.
EsmeAmelia's gift for me:
My gift for callmedan:
Happy new year callmedan! I heard you thought Uma and Nox were adorable, so I tried to run with that idea in my fic. I hope you enjoy. Also, props to anyone who catches the Star Wars reference that somehow ended up in my Aveyond story...yeah, I really don’t know how that happened.
Summary: While their mother and father are away, little Uma and Nox get up to some Mischief™ ft. Yemite.
Outside their mother’s bedroom, two twin girls peered through the crack of an open door. One had hair as black as the sky of the Demon Realm and a troublemaking spirit to match. The other had a complexion befitting an angel, complete with a halo of cloudy white hair. Both had luminous blue eyes sparkling with all the mischief and intelligence of their mother, who happened to be the current subject of the twins’ attention.
“Uma, move your fat head, I can't see!” Nox, the dark-haired twin, grumbled as she shoved her sister out of the way to get a better view.
“Shh! Do you want Mother to hear us?” Uma wrestled with Nox until they finally settled on the uncomfortable position of Nox crouching on Uma’s shoulders, both of their heads peeking into the room.
"Lars and I are traveling to Shaelnir to visit his ill mother, but it’s too dangerous to take the girls. The northern kingdom is harsh any time of year, but it's even worse now that it's winter,” Mel explained. “We’ll only be gone a week at most. Promise me you won't let them get into trouble this time.”
“Who’s Mother talking to?” Uma whispered.
“I don't know,” Nox replied. “She's standing in front of the door, I can't see.”
“I won't let you down, Mistress! I promise!” answered a cheerful voice that causes both girls to break out in grins.
“It's Auntie Yemite!” a surprised Nox exclaimed, slipping off Uma’s shoulders. They both tumbled into the room and landed in a jumble of black and white at their mother’s feet.
“Girls! What are you doing?” Mel glared at her daughters with the obligatory annoyance of a scornful mother, although her smile betrayed her amusement at their antics.
Nox grinned guiltily from the floor. “Nothing, Mother.” Uma hastily fixed the disheveled bow that Nox pulled off. “We were just, um, about to knock.”
Before their mother could reprimand the girls, their “aunt” rushed forward and scooped them into her arms. They had admittedly grown too big for the average person to be casually lifting them, but Yemite’s arms were still strong from her days of battle beside Mel. “Uma, Nox! How are my favorite children of darkness...er, I mean nieces?”
Mel eyes the three of them suspiciously. Yes, she knew perfectly well that leaving the three of them alone was a possible - no, probable - recipe for disaster. But what choice did she have? Edward and Stella were too busy ruling their kingdom in Thais to babysit. Ulf would’ve been an ideal choice, but he lived on another continent. And she certainly wasn’t about to ask Te’ijal and Galahad. But still …
“Maybe this isn't such a good idea.”
“No!” Uma and Nox protested in unison. They each grabbed one of Yemite’s horns, while Yemite protectively tightened her arms around them.
“Let them stay, Mistress, it's only for a few days. I'll take care of them, I promise.”
“Yeah, let us stay with Yemite!”
“We’ll be good. Please?”
Mel knew when she was fighting a losing battle. Saving the world was no problem, but winning an argument against both of her daughters was an impossible task. With a long suffering sigh, she accepted defeat. “Fine, you can stay. But you're to be in bed by nightfall; no going into the weapons chest in the basement, and absolutely NO chocolate covered eyeballs for them, Yemite.”
Nox gasped. “But Auntie Yemite makes the best chocolate eyeballs!”
“I said none! Or you'll have me and your father to deal with.” As petulant as they were, even the twins recognized that Mel Darkthrop and Lars Tenobor VIII are a force to be reckoned with.
“Fine,” Nox grumbled, privately resolving to settle for caramel lizard tails instead.
“Be safe, okay? Father and I will be back soon.” Mel kissed each of her daughters on the cheek and playfully mussed their hair. “I love you both.” Mel donned her traveling cloak as she exited the room, sending Yemite one last meaningful glance.
“Well,” Yemite said with a grin as soon as Mel and Lars had left the premises, “Who wants chocolate covered eyeballs?”
“Auntie Yemite, we’re bored,” a disgruntled Nox whined as she tugged on Yemite’s tail. It had been three days, and she couldn’t stand to be cooped up in this house for one more hour. Even Uma, by far the more laid-back of the two, had begun to thrum with restless energy.
Yemite, as much as she’d like to oblige the little ones and have a little fun, was trying in earnest to be a responsible babysitter. Aside from the “forbidden” darkling delicacies and that one accident with the fire in the kitchen, she thought she'd done a fair job of it. Mel trusted her with the task of caring for her daughters, and Yemite didn’t want to let her Mistress down. But she had been quashing her own boredom for the past few days. Surely little excursion wouldn't hurt.
“How would you like to go to a party?” Yemite asked. Uma and Nox nodded fervently.
“That would be so much fun!” Uma gasped, and ran upstairs to get changed. Mel didn't host parties very often, as she found them tiring and boring. But Uma loved the enchantment of it all; she couldn't wait to dig up the party dress that had been collecting dust in her closet since last year. Nox was less excited to get dressed up, but she nevertheless enjoyed the excitement of the few parties she’d been to.
A few moments later, the twins emerged from their rooms in their partygoing outfits. Uma was a miniature snow princess in her white dress trimmed in sky blue. By contrast, Nox wore a knee-length black dress that looked more like an oversized shirt than anything. Still, Yemite fawned over both of them. “You look so adorable!” she squealed. “If only Mistress could see you. Oh, my friends don't usually like humans, but how could they not love you two?”
The twins gave each other quizzical looks. “Yemite, where exactly is this party?” Nox questioned.
Yemite’s only reply was an enigmatic “You’ll see”.
“Welcome to Underfall,” Yemite announced as she, Uma, and Nox stepped out of the mirror express.
Uma and Nox gaped at the exotic sight of the dark city. A sprinkling of white dusted the walkways and surrounding fields. On some of the buildings hung green garlands adorned with multicolored translucent baubles. Slate gray clouds hung above and below them, heavy with the promise of more snow.
“We darklings and other demonfolk have a tradition of celebrating the winter solstice with a week of celebration,” Yemite explained as they walked to their destination. “There are decorations, and feasts, and parties that can last until sunrise. And on the last day of festivities, friends and family give exchange gifts to give each other joy through the cold and dark winter.”
Darklings certainly are strange. But it would be nice to celebrate a holiday like that, Uma mused. She trailed behind Yemite slightly, scanning the area for something she could turn into a gift for Aunt Yemite.
I wish we had a holiday like that, I would so love to get free stuff in the wintertime, thought Nox, in total contrast to her sister’s thinking.
“We’re here,” Yemite announced in a singsong voice. They had arrived at a building called Darkling Hall, as indicated by the moss-covered sign. “They’re with me,” she added when the zombie guarding the door gave them a funny look. He stepped aside and the trio entered.
They were immediately greeted by a wall of overwhelming sights and sounds. A quartet played in the center of the hall, the music just a bit too gurgly to be coming from human instruments. Multicolored light bathed the room, emanating from a blob on the ceiling that looked suspiciously like it had eyes. “Yo, Yemite!” shouted a stout blue darkling, who rushed forth out of the crowd and embraced his friend. “Rotwart! It's been years! I haven't seen you since the slug-eating contest for who would get to be the chosen one’s servant.” Rotwart handed Yemite a glass of some slimy drink and they disappeared into the din to reminisce about the good ol’ days, leaving Uma and Nox unattended.
“Well, where do we go now?” asked Nox.
“I was thinking we could get gifts for Auntie Yemite and Mother. She did say presents were part of the tradition.”
“Yeah, a darkling tradition. And why should we, when she didn't get us gifts?”
Uma huffed at her sister’s selfishness. “Nox, do you only ever think of yourself? Besides, Yemite said the gifts were given on the last day of celebration. She’s probably waiting to give us our gifts.”
Nox considered for a moment. It could be fun to look around for a gift. “Okay,” she conceded, “But we should each only look for one present. One for Auntie Yemite, one for Mother; each from both of us.”
Uma smiled, alight with the energy the two of them shared when they were on a mission. “I'll go outside to find a present for Mother.”
“And I'll stay in here and get something for Yemite.”
“Meet back here in twenty minutes?”
“You got it, sis.”
Nox ventured into the crowd of monsters, careful to avoid anything with tentacles or large feet. She wandered around the edge of the room, scouting for anything that Yemite would like. Unfortunately, the only remotely giftable objects were dust bunnies.
She came to a stairwell that appeared to lead into a basement. Feeling adventurous, she crept down. A trio of monsters sat around a table playing a game of cards.
“I raise you 500 gold pennies,” said a small green demon.
“I’m out,” huffed a hooded figure.
“Are you kidding me? You know I can't cover that!” shouted a brutish orc as he slammed his drink on the table in anger.
The green guy shrugged. “That stone in your pocket is worth 500.”
The orc pulled out the stone and held it in defensively in his hand. The air around it shimmered with intangible dark energy. Somehow, Nox intuitively sensed that it was cursed. This was perfect - Yemite loved curses! She didn't understand how, but apparently they were delicious to darklings. “I ain't betting this!” The orc demonstratively slammed his fist again, shoving the stone back in his pocket. This orc sure was quick to anger. Wheels began to turn in Nox’s head, and a wicked smile spread across her face as she formulated a wonderfully awful idea.
She meandered into the room. “Excuse me, gentleman. Sorry to interrupt your game, but I’m looking for a suspect - green, a little bit slimy, about yea tall,” Nox gestured a few inches above her head. “Wanted for accounts of thievery, and uh, cheating at cards.”
The orc glared daggers at the demon across from him. “Eh Greedo, that sounds like you. And ya know something? I always knew you were a cheater.”
“It ain't me, I swear it!” the monster apparently called Greedo protested.
“Hey kid, aren't you a little young to be playing detective?” The hooded figure raised a spindly finger at her.
“For your information, I'm actually, er, a gnome. We retain our youthful faces even at hundred of years of age.” Nox didn't know if that was true, but she figured these dumb brutes would believe it. “And yes, Greedo. That was his name. I’ll be back with my friends, and they won't let you get away this time!”
“You'll never catch me alive, kid!” Greedo made a mad dash for the exit, but the orc caught him by the collar of his jacket.
“Trying to cheat me out of my money?! You're not going anywhere, punk, until I introduce you to my fist!” he bellowed. Nox wrinkled her nose in disgust at the visible spray of spit.
While Greedo pleaded for mercy, Nox nonchalantly strolled past and lifted the stone from his pocket. The orc was too absorbed in making violent threats to notice. Nox emerged from the basement, smugly tossing the cursed stone up in the air and catching it. Her pickpocketing skills were truly a thing to be admired. She was, after all, her mother’s daughter.
Meanwhile, Uma skipped out the door into the crisp winter air. The hulking zombie was still looming in front of the entrance, but he didn't notice Uma as she crawled away, blending in with the snow. Now, where would she find a present for Mel? She wandered up and down the streets, but they were empty of everything except snow. Maybe she could get a flower from the fields, but that was so far away, she’d never make it back in time.
Suddenly, Uma’s thoughts were interrupted by the clamor of a couple on the midst of a heated argument. They emerged from the mirror express in the center of town and immediately started walking in her direction. The woman, a pale redhead in a slinky dress, was pulling her companion along, who seemed intent on refusing to move.
“Come on, husband, it's only a party. You need to go out more - the only time you leave the house is when you're trying to escape.”
“I will not socialize with creatures of the night!”
“Galahad, you're being ridiculous! I already promised them I’d bring a bottle of blood, it would be rude not to-”
Wait… Galahad? Uma recognized these two, although it'd been years since she'd seen them. “Te’ijal!”
The couple paused their bickering at the sight of Uma waving. Te’ijal ran toward her, and even the typically stoic Galahad’s face lit up upon seeing one of his best friend’s daughters.
“How’s Mel’s little crumpet? The last time I saw you, you were no bigger than a dragon’s egg!”
“Uma, what are you doing here?” Galahad asked. Leave it to him to ask the rational questions.
“Mother and Father are away, so Auntie Yemite brought us here for the celebration. But guys, I have a big problem. I need to find a gift for Mother, but I don't know what to get.” Uma looked up at them with wide, helpless eyes she knew grown-ups were unable to resist.
“That's quite the dilemma, young one.” Te’ijal surveyed the area, her catlike eyes eventually landing on a perfect gift. “Over there, in the greenery on the edge of that building, you see those orbs? I think your mother would appreciate one of those. Mel has … a thing for orbs.” The vampress giggled at how fitting the present really was.
Galahad reached to retrieve one for her. “What color?”
“Ooh, get the dark blue one! It’s the exact same shade as Mother’s eyes.”
The precious trinket was placed in Uma’s hands. She’d found a gift after all! Now all she had to do was meet up with Nox. She accompanied the two vampires back to the party, idly wondering what her sister had found for Yemite.
The party lasted until sundown. They danced to the strange darkling music, which Nox found thrilling and Uma, in spite of herself, eventually got around to enjoying. Te’ijal’s bottle of blood was a big hit, and she even let Uma and Nox try some, although they didn't find the taste very pleasant. When it was time for singing, Yemite and Te’ijal sang an old Underworld folk song together, and even Galahad couldn't resist a laugh.
As soon as they got home, all three of them collapsed in a heap back on their sofa. Their eyes were already drooping with the thorough exhaustion of a day of festivities.
“Auntie Yemite, can we just sleep here?” mumbled Nox.
“I suppose it won't hurt.” In truth, Yemite didn't want to get up herself. She used her tail to snag the blanket that was draped over the side and spread it over them. Curling her legs up onto the couch, she lazily wrapped a wing around each of the girls as they drifted off into the Dreamworld.
“Girls, we’re home!” Mel announced.
Uma and Nox pried open their eyes to the morning light filtering in through the windows and the sight of Mel and Lars standing in the doorway. They tore off the blanket and stumbled to hug their parents, who enveloped them in a crushing group hug. Yemite snuck up behind Mel and threw her arms around her neck. She wanted to hug Mel too, of course. “Did you miss us, Mistress?” she asked. Mel laughed in agreement and let go of Uma and Nox to show them the bag in her hands. “Grandma recovered quickly, so we were able to to come home early. And we brought special treats.” Mel opened the bag, revealing a dozen fragrant pastries with assorted fillings.
“I almost forgot! We got you presents too,” said Uma. She pulled out the ornament from the pocket of her dress. “It's an orb, for you and Father. Tei- I mean, Yemite said you liked them.”
Mel took the orb in hand, marveling at the glasswork and rich blue hue. “It's lovely, but why the gifts all of the sudden?”
“It's a darkling tradition,” Yemite interjected. “We exchange gifts in the wintertime. I … er, educated the girls about it while you were away.”
Nox held out her gift next. “This one is for you, Auntie Yemite.”
Yemite let out an involuntary eep of excitement. “A curse? For me? Where did you find it? Oh, you shouldn’t have! So many delicious treats to eat, I can't wait until dessert!”
Lars quirked his eyebrow at his daughters. “Yes, where did you get them?”
Uma and Nox exchanged a glance, the sort that scheming partners gave each other when they were knew someone was onto them. “Nevermind, I don't want to know,” said Mel before either one of them came up with something satisfactory to tell their parents. One day, Mel would get the full story, but right now she didn't want to spoil this moment with her family.
“I’ll admit, I didn't get gifts for all of you yet, but I think I can improvise.” Yemite motioned for them to follow her outside. She flew up into the air and perched on the roof of their house. “Everyone watch closely! And you might want to stand back a little.” The darkling raised a hand into the sky, drawing on magic she hadn't used in years but that still thrummed solidly through her veins. Suddenly, the sky was alight with dazzling firebursts and explosions of all colors.
The twins and even their parents were mesmerized by the display. “I've always wanted to see fireworks,” whispered Nox to her equally awestruck sister.
Mel’s heart swelled with love as she watched her daughters’ awestruck expressions. It turns out Yemite wasn't such a bad babysitter after all. Maybe they should celebrate darkling holidays more often.
Callmedan's gift for Queen-of-Ice101:
Rosetyler's gift for BlackPrincess:
Here's her message:
"Merry Christmas, BlackPrincess! You've always been such a sweet and nice person <3 May your 2017 be fruitful and amazingggggggggg!! Heard you like the crazy twins, well - Here's my gift for you: an Uma and Nox cinematic poster! Hope you like it! Also, you can PM me and I will give you the version without my signature, if you want "
BlackPrincess' gift for Rosetyler:
A White Surprise
White. Everything’s white. White snow. Its cold. I’m cold. But still its beautiful. How funny. Sitting in a cold room, shivering, yet, looking at the snow, I can’ help thinking its beautiful. It really is funny……
“Rhen, wake up.”
“Mmmm, 5 minutes more, Pa.”
“Rhen, get up. It’s Dameon.”
Rhen’s eyes shot open,”Huh what? Did I sleep in?” She looked outside her window.”But, its still dark outside.”
“Wait,” she got up and moved to the window. “Why’s there water on the window.” She wiped it and was shocked to see….What? Why’s everything white? Snow? But we were in Sedona!”
“Rhen, we’re still in Sedona. It’s Christmas.”
“Yes, that’s why I came in early to wish you.”
“But everything was normal just yesterday!”
“Yes, that’s the specialty of Christmas in Sedona. Just before the day it gets covered in white.”
“Already planning on going out you two.”
Rhen and Dameon turned to see the speaker leaning on the door.
“Lars, I was getting her to come down.” Dameon responsed calmly.
“Yeah sure, you do that cause everyone’s waiting for someone.” Lars rolled his eyes and went down.
“Rhen, why don’t you come down and join us?”
“Hmm? Yeah, you go ahead.”
Dameon nodded and left the room.
“Christmas, huh?” her thoughts drifted in the white city.
“You know about Christmas?” Lars raised an eyebrow.
“Of course I do. You are amusing human.” Te’ijal chuckled.
“What happens in Ghed’ahre then? Red snow and Blood tree?”
“Your imagination is very amusing.” The vampress laughed.
“I’m intrigued, vampress. What do you do?” Elini asked.
“Well, nothing special just hunt down some food and decorate the tree with the remainings. It looks like the dolls in yours just a bit livelier.”
“Did she just say they decorate the tree with the corpses?” Lars whispered to Elini. She only shrugged.
The party were playing cards at the dining table while sharing they’re experiences.
“Elini, you live in the desert which means you have a ‘hot’ Christmas? It must be comforting than this shivering cold.”
“True, sorcerer. But I find the snow quite interesting.”
“What about the tree if there is any?”
“Of course we have our tree, how idiotic. We make a special one.”
“A tree made of sand.”
“What? It’s interesting when you see it. Well, sometimes the huge amount of sand does result in a sandstorm. But then again, its interesting to see people scattering around from the top of your tower.” She laughed.
“Ya’re the only one who could find that amusing, crazy woman.” The pirate said.
“And what about you then, darling?”
“Huh, mine’s something like ya’ve na’er seen,” John stated.
“Yeah sure,” Lars rolled his eyes.
“Such days are good for the business, specially the merchant ships.”
“You steal? Isn’t that against the ‘Christmas spirit’ or something?”
“Nay! We do show mercy on this day, letting them have their dress. And then we have a blast at the sea. Ah, you na’er now the fun in the sea.”
“Does that mean normally you take their clothes too?”
“Ya, everything belongs to a pirate wance he has his eyes on it.”
“Hmm well, that’s true,”Elini purred closing the minimal distance between them.
“Watch it, crazy woman!”
“I’m curious to know how you celebrate it, crumpet?”
“I do not owe you any explanation, demon spawn!” Galahad said in his usual attitude. “But since everyone is sharing I may as well participate.”
“Seriously, cut the lecture and get started already.”
“Patience, boy. It is not good for a young boy to be always on temper.”
“I’m not a-“
“As I was saying, there is nothing noble than to serve my kingdom as a gallant knight.”
“So, you do the same thing as you do everyday?” Elini asked
“Well, I do extra rounds of the city and ensure that every citizen is safe, that is how I spend the noble day in a noble way.”
“as expected.” Lars sighed.
“this drink is quite good, miss Marge.” Dameon said.
“It’s called eggnog. But I suppose ‘The Priest’ doesn’t have time for such things.” Lars said having his drink.
“And of course you have the right to decide about everything about everyone,” Rhen said sarcastically.
“So, ‘she’ finally speaks to defend her knight.”
“Rhen, you’ve been quite this evening. Is something bothering you?” Dameon asked ignoring Lars.
“Yes, Swordsinger that is true. You are not even doing your usual bickering with the sorcerer. I was missing it.”
“I don’t bick-“
“That’s why the human’s winning,: Te’ijal said cutting off Lars.
Everyone noticed then noticed that with the flow of their conversation, they gave the wrong cards.
“It seems that its just the Sorcerer and the Swordsinger then.”
“That’s not fair! This is my game and I’m supposed to win!”
“Calm down, pirate. Enjoy the fiddling of these two with me.”
“You’ve been winning because the others weren’t paying attention. You’re never going to win against me.”
“Says who, the idiotic snob.”
“If you’re so confident then let’s make it a challenge. The loser has to do whatever the winners says till the next morning.”
After ten minutes…………
“Told you I would win.”
“But, how did this happen……”
“Huh! You should learn from the master. According to the condition you have to do whatever I say.” Lars grinned.
“Whatever……what do you want me to do then?”
“Not here. Lets go outside.” Saying so Lars took her out of the manson.
“The fun’s over I guess. Let’s do something ourselves too, John.”
“As if I’d agree.”
A White Surprise
“What do you want now?”
“Just keep walking.”
“Yeah right, it’s cold out.”
“Why were you so quiet back in?”
“What do you mean?”
“You didn’t say what you did?”
“Oh you want to what’s Christmas is like to me? Fine then. I used to be so happy when I saw the snow out of my room in my village. I’d have snowball fight with my friends, make snowman with Pa, Ma’s cakes; everything was so special to me. But then suddenly I became a slave and it ended. After that, Christmas meant cold days locked in a room to me. I didn’t have anything to wear or eat or do anything I did. I could only stare at kids by my window. I felt so lost and lonely because of-”
“I……” Rhen stared at him.
“It’s okay, you can say it. let it out. It’ll be good.”
“Well, we’re here.”
Rhen looked at the tall building before them. “We go in?”
“No, we go up.”
Saying so Lars teleported them on the roof.
“Ahh, you could’ve at least warned me. Don’t just suddenly poof us anywhere.”
“Sorry,” Lars chuckled.
“So, what do we do now?”
“Sit, there’s something I want you to see.”
“Rhen, when I apologized to you, I did it sincerely. Do you believe that.”
“umm…… I do.”
“You should. I was, I am serious. I know I hurt you a lot of times that I can’t change. But I do want to mend what we have.
“So, here.” He pushed an object in her hand.
“What’s this? A gift? For me?”
“It is Christmas, after all.”
Being curious she unwrapped it to find a beautiful silver mirror.
“A mirror? And what am I supposed to do with it?”
“Did you actually think I’d give you an ordinary mirror?”
“Then what does it do?”
“Close your eyes and think of the person you want to see.”
She did as was told.
“Now open them.”
Upon opening her eyes, she saw her parents in the mirror. “What?”
“It’s a mirror that lets you see the person you want to no matter wherever they are. Of course that person has to be someone you interacted with.”
She wasn’t paying attention to him as she was busy watching her beloved parents with eyes full of emotions.
“Careful, you wouldn’t want to let an idiotic snob to see you cry.”
“I’m not crying, you idiot. What’s that?” Rhen pointed to the sky where colorful patterns started to appear. “Fireworks? But they are not coming from the ground. Wait, are you?”
“hey, I wanted to see the fireworks but it got cancelled. How stupid. So, I made my own. They should be thankful to me.”
“Yeah right,” she rolled her eyes. “It’s beautiful.”
“Was that a compliment?”
“I guess it is.” She smiled looking at the colorful night sky. “oh look, its snowing.”
“……its getting cold. Lets go back. I’m going to teleport us just so you know.”
“Yeah……” Rhen replied.
They were back on the ground, walking towards he mansion.
“Thank you for the gift.”
“You do know that it means you owe me one.”
“I guess I do then.”
“Well, then you’re allowed to serve me tomorrow as well, consider it a bonus.”
“Lars,” Rhen came in front him from his side. “Is that really what you want?” she spoke leaning closer to him.
“What are-” Lars started but got caught up by those amethyst pools, coming closer and closer. He was breathing in her breath. A mix of mauves and oranges fooled his vision. A soft warmth brushing against his lips.
“You really think I’m that dense?” Rhen whispered in his ear and placed another soft kiss on his cheek. She twirled and walked away. Looking over her shoulder, she watched as Lars slowly touched the recently wounded area, still dazed. She smiled with a blush and hurried back.
“Crumpet, I’ve brought a gift for you.” Te’ijal said to Galahad in a singsong voice.
“I will not fall for your evil schemes, demon spawn!”
“Trust me, it’s something you always wanted. Look,” she swayed the soul pendant in front of him.
“You are giving it to me?” He took it, still confused. “You are returning my soul to me?! The gods have finally lighted your senses.”
“Who said anything about returning your soul? I’m just giving you the pendant you wanted me to give you back.”
“What games are you playing at?”
“I just happened to stroll around the market where I found a witch selling some quite interesting collection of spells. Among which caught my attention was a ‘soul binding spell’. Now, our souls are eternally binded together and I don’t need a pendant. So, I thought of giving it to you.”
As soon as Te’ijal finished, Galahad landed on the couch, unconscious.
“It seems he couldn’t contain the joy, how amusing.”
“ ‘joy’, huh. He sure did.” Elini commented. “Where are you headed at this time, Sun Priest?”
“Don’t you think they’re taking too long? I’m going to look for them.” As he touched the door handle, he was pulled backward by a force.
“Sorry, Priest. But unfortunately for you, I’m going to have them they’re time.” Saying so she finished her remaining job.
“You are one particular amusing human.” Te’ijal grinned watching her.
“I know, right?”
Just then, Rhen entered the house.
“Well well, back from your small trip, eh?”
“What is that on your head, human?”
”Let me see,” Elini got it out from her hair. “You might not recognize this. It’s mistletoe. These have special attraction here on this occasion, specially among young people. Am I not right swordsinger?”
“But the question is how did it end up on you. Have you been experimenting the little tales, I presume.”
“You look quite strange, human. Your face is going red.”
Realizing Elini’s indications, Rhen went up to her room, abashed.
“Ah, young love,” John mused.
“You sound like an old man.”
“Well I-“ he was interrupted by Lars’ arrival, more like slopping.
“How did things go?” Elini inquired, being the only one to know about Lars’ plan.
“… I need something from the storage room,” ignoring Elini’s question, Lars opened the door.
What the!” and it was too late. He slammed the door as soon as he saw, “Elini, care to explain, why a red demon has gagged Dameon and holding him?”
“To avoid unnecessary interruptions.” She shrugged. “You should be thankful to me, boy.”
Lars stared at her for a few seconds and sighed, a smirk crept upon his face. “well, it was one heck of a Christmas.”
And here are the gift from the Tumblr side of the exchange! You can view them all at http://aveyondwinter...ange.tumblr.com. Since for some reason I can't seem to get linked images to work under a spoiler cut, I'll link the original posts, as well as the artist/writer under the images.
Rhen & Lars fanart:
More Rhen & Lars fanart:
Rhen/Lars fanfic on AO3:
Added: Te'ijal & Elini fanart
I strongly encourage you to view all the lovely art and take the time to read through the amazing fics. Happy holidays and happy new year everyone, and thanks for participating Hopefully we can do this again next year