A story of three Wintersday eves:
He’d never been much for Wintersday; it all seemed a bit frivolous. So he’d always taken the extra duty, always stood watch and let the rest of the Warband have their parties and drinking and laughter, always stood watch and made sure. If you’d asked him, he’d have grumbled – and he did more than once, always grousing about how it seemed to be always his job to take on the watch or the duty or the post when everyone else got to relax, but, frankly? He never really begrudged it.
Let them have their fun. He’d keep ‘em safe – it was how he was wired, and he was happier knowing they were sleeping and eating and drinking and having their fun, not having to worry because he was on the Wall.
This year, though – there wasn’t a Wall left to stand on. The Tribune had taken the notice of his impending retirement, such as it was, fairly poorly; in truth, nobody ever ‘retired’ from the Legions, and the idea of walking away from the Warband they’d asked him to start was so foreign to the chain of command that the Tribune had acted as the mere idea had broken his brain for a few minutes.
Then, there was yelling and snarling and .. eventually, a flat statement that the commission would be waiting, and Mary should just take some time, breathe a little, then come back to his duties when he was ready.
Wasn’t how he meant to leave it, but, that’s how it is sometimes.
So here it was, Wintersday Eve, and he didn’t have a wall to walk, didn’t have a duty dragging him to some forgotten nowhere. For lack of any better ideas, he bought a pair of ear cuffs – tasteful. Silver and jade. Not that he’d ever really had money, but he had favors – call in a few here and there and jewelry’s a lot easier to get than, say, a shipment of munitions or a Warband in the right place. Comparatively? Didn’t cost a thing, not really.
He was useless with wrapping stuff, but that’s what you did – so the shapeless lump of a present, held together with bits of ribbon and a lot of hope got stuffed into a sack on his belt with a certain care and a hopeful pat.
He made Lion’s Arch a couple of marks before Midnight, going to a certain house among the closely-standing ones on the east side. With a deep breath, he knocked. When it opened.. he walked into bright orange light, a long shadow on the street behind him.
Let the young ones have the Wall tonight.
Journal, Wintersday Eve, current year:
I have fallen out of the habit of journaling, which is unfortunate. The act of committing thoughts to paper is a useful one, promoting both memory and creative thought while focusing the mind and allowing the ordering of ideas into something coherent. However, it has been a year of great heights and terrible lows, and my journals have seemed to be the farthest thing from important I have ever considered imagining.
Here I am, however, in the beginnings of a new lab in the heart of the Maguuma Jungle, with more funding than I’ve had in … ever.. and a suspiciously free reign to continue my primary research with only limited oversight. This largesse has been a gift – perhaps out of pity or personal advantage – from Klarpp, who has identified my former partner as, and I quote, “a substandard, subintellectual pile of Dolyak excrement following a month of constipation.” I admit that the description may be somewhat hyperbolic, but does seem to be directly accurate.
I had thought I would celebrate this Wintersday alone and fully expected to do so. And yet, here I am, surrounded by – if not friends, at least kind souls. I have drunk far too rich drinks that only seem to exist tonight, been given a gift by a dear creature whom I have granted the designation ‘coexperimenter’ with a great deal of affection – and further suspect that her intellect eclipses my own. Regardless, I cannot wait to see what she discovers. Her mind is quick, her conclusions grounded in that rare space that combines creativity and data, and her excitement is palpable and rewarding in its own right. I do certainly hope I am there when she submits her first paper. It now seems increasingly unlikely that I will ever have the experience of my own progeny – perhaps my more primal feelings have decided that she will perhaps be an appropriate stand-in.
This concept is worthy of exploration – I think I will design a series of sociological experiments to determine whether external non-asura bonding is possible, granted appropriate intellectual connection. It has long been considered that differences between Asuran intellectual processes and those of other species, while perfectly capable of being a non-factor in the development of connections even beyond friendship, were impossible in the direction of ‘family’ considerations that would include progeny. It would be interesting to challenge that consideration, assuming that the subject would be amenable to the continued exploration of and growth of the experimental connection.
Perhaps, even if this is pity on the part of Klarpp, I can find the means to create a joyful and productive existence within this odd group, assuming of course that my research is recovered before it can be used to commit genocide. One can always hope!
Regardless, there are more libations that require sampling, and notes to take regarding their aftereffects both on myself and the others in the organization. I suspect this will take the remainder of the evening, and I have placed a small wager that the young Sylvari known as ‘Taig’ will lose the majority of his clothing prior to dawn, which is a mere seven hours from now. I wish to observe whether the bet itself results in a heightened likelihood of sylvari nudity, or if the knowledge of the bet will encourage others to achieve the same level of undress, likely as a secondary challenge.
I will report my findings in the morning.
The last scraps of stolen magic burned away in the early morning of Wintersday eve – or something close to it, if her conception of time had not yet fallen completely apart. Four stone walls, a door, a blanket – they were as unchanging as they’d been for several weeks.
But.. it was Wintersday – or close enough to it. It was a time of hope and change and charity, a time when everyone felt magic on the turning of the day, a time when everyone found a reason for even the smallest bit of optimism.
She fumbled with a scrap of red cloth, laying her sapphire earring in it with a certain reverence. It had never been a matched pair – or, rather, she’d never had both of them. It didn’t matter – normally she’d have bought a new pair to enact the old ritual, but given that she’d no access to a jeweler and she considered living long enough for it to matter unlikely, given current circumstances, this would work just as well.
She bundled it with as much care as she could, using one of her rings as a bit of decoration – even used a bit of her shirt and a bit of straw and what she had to hand to write out a little tag. She set the whole thing just outside the door, pushing it through the panel where food was pushed in, with a wry smile.
Let them sell it or wear it – either way, it was hers to give. Teacher to student. Besides. They deserved something for Wintersday.
She pulled the blanket back around herself – ignoring the dull throb of her ruined hand. In that moment, she went ahead and let herself hope, just a little. After all. That’s what Wintersday was about.