Sunday, December 19, 2021

Solstice sunrise; and Jerry's story concludes (for now).

'Tis the season for gifts, and I have two for you today. 

Gift #1: The final book (for now) in the Atherton Vampire series is out. 

The Atherton Vampire III: Midnight Creeps is just 99 cents until January 6th. And if you've been waiting for the whole trilogy before starting to read, well, all three books are priced at 99 cents apiece. Enjoy!

Gift #2: The winter solstice ficlet has become a hearth/myth tradition. (A ficlet, if you're just joining us, is a very short story of between 750 and 1,000 words.)

My head's been full of vampires for most of this year, and vampires don't really lend themselves to winter sunrises and hot chocolate. Plus Callie and Jerry's story has just barely gotten to Halloween. It seems a little premature to give them a winter ficlet this year.

So a couple of days ago, I asked folks on Facebook which series I should set this year's ficlet in. There were several votes for the Pipe Woman Chronicles and zero for The Elemental Keys. Surprisingly, the write-in vote for Seasons of the Fool was strong. 

So here's what I'm going to do: This year, y'all will get a twofer -- the Pipe Woman Chronicles (with a couple of special guests) today, and Seasons next Sunday. Happy holidays!

"This was a brilliant idea, little brother," I groused. We stood, in the dark, just inside the entrance to Newgrange, the Neolithic chamber tomb. It was two days before the winter solstice. And I could tell a thick cloud cover would obscure the sunrise.

"C'mon, Sage," said my husband Rafe. Our daughter Kerry slept in his arms, her head pillowed on his shoulder. "Cut the guy some slack."

I glared at him. "But we came here for nothing," I said. "First Webb drags us all the way to Ireland with this cockamamie story about getting in ahead of the crowds. Then he gets me to talk Cerridwen into arranging the admittance for us – which I did. And it's going to be too cloudy to see!" I glanced at my niece, Sora, staring at me with huge eyes. She held Webb's forefinger with one hand and her mother Hilary's forefinger with the other. Their son George slept in a sling on Hilary's chest. Both kids shared their mother’s Asian features and their father’s dark brown curls.

"Don't be a jerk, Sage," Webb said. "Maybe it'll clear up."

I raised my eyebrows in a passable imitation of Mom's skeptical look.

"Let's just go inside," Hilary said. "The kids are getting cold." So in we tramped, Rafe leading the way down the narrow passage with the flashlight on his phone.

Webb halted for a moment and pointed up. "See there, Sora?" he said. "The sun's gonna come in through that box above the doorway and light up this whole hallway, all the way to the back wall."

"If the clouds miraculously part," I said.

"Oh, ye of little faith," Webb chided. Sometimes I hate that know-it-all confidence of his.

As we approached the back of the tomb, Hilary slowed. "Is someone else here?"

I could hear it, too – voices, whispering in one of the side tombs. "Hello?" I called. 

The voices ceased. Then two heads poked out from the doorway to the side tomb. "Oh," the woman said faintly. She was tiny – short and willowy – and wore her ginger hair in a ponytail. Her face looked familiar somehow.

The man was also short, but stocky, with brown hair and a bushy beard. He stepped into the main chamber, blocking our way. "You’re trespassing," he declared. "By whose authority are you here?"

"Cerridwen's," I said. "The goddess Cerridwen gave us leave to come."

He guffawed. "Cerridwen? She’s not even Irish!" 

"She’s Celtic," I argued. “That's close enough."

"It's not," the man said. "Begone."

Rafe's forehead furrowed. "Who the hell are you to kick us out?"

Webb moved next to my husband and touched his arm. "That's Collum Barth," my brother said in an undertone. "And that's Raney Meadows with him." 

"That's why you looked so familiar!" I said. These two were Elementals. They and two companions had saved the Earth – and turned the world Technicolor in the process. Kerry had been enchanted. "We all loved the movie about your adventures."

"Yes, well, who the hell are you to have gotten Cerridwen's leave to be here?" Collum demanded.

"Webb Curtis," said my brother, reaching out to shake Collum's hand. "My wife Hilary." She nodded and smiled. "My brother-in-law Rafe Orloff. And that's my sister Sage." He gave them a lopsided grin. "I guess we're all kind of in the same business."

Raney's mouth dropped open. She elbowed Collum. "Don't be a jerk. You know who these people are, right?"

"Yeah, but Da said we'd be the only ones here," said Collum. He turned to us. "Sorry."

"It's fine," I said. "It's not like it matters. None of us are going to see anything – it's too cloudy."

My niece sidled up to Raney. "I'm Sora," she said with a bright smile. "I'm four."

Raney grinned down at her. "Hi, Sora. Do you know Barney's theme song?"

"You two can sing anything you want, as long as it's not Baby Shark," I said.

"I can make the sun come out," Sora told Raney. "We just have to have a party!"

Kerry raised her sleepy head from Rafe's shoulder. "That's not how it works," she said.

"Yes, it is!" Sora insisted. She tugged on Kerry’s foot. "Come on!" 

"All right." Kerry squirmed until Rafe put her down. Together the girls raced back to the tomb entrance and began to sing.

Webb turned an inquiring gaze on Hilary. "It's my fault," she admitted. "I told them a legend the other day about Amaterasu, the Shinto sun goddess. The gods tricked Her into leaving Her cave by throwing a party."

I looked at Rafe. "It's roughly analogous," he said. 

"It'll never work," Collum scoffed. "A Shinto goddess in Ireland?"

"We've seen weirder things," I said, and led the way to where the kids were now yelling at the top of their lungs. By the grace of the gods, they were not singing Baby Shark, so I joined in. One by one, the others did the same.

A golden glow descended from the sky and landed before us, resolving into the form of Amaterasu. She wore a flowing white kimono and a radiant smile. "Who calls Me to this rainy land?" She asked.

The little girls clapped. "We want to see the sun inside!" Sora cried. She pointed to the roof box. "You have to shine in there so we can see!"

"Very well," the goddess said. She raised both hands and directed a stream of light through the roof box. The little girls cheered again and pelted inside. "Mommy!" Sora yelled. "Come see! It's beautiful!"

Hilary bowed to the goddess. "Thank You."

"It was the least I could do for the child," She said. "She will be a bright spot when it's needed most."

Webb and Hilary stared at each other. "Here we go again," he said with a laugh. 

The glowing chamber was just as impressive as Webb had said it would be. I hate it when he's right.

Screenshot of 2020 winter solstice sunrise at Newgrange

Once again this year, Ireland's Office of Public Works will sponsor a live webcast of the winter solstice sunrise at Newgrange. They'll do it for three straight mornings, starting tonight US time (it's at 8:45am Monday the 20th UTC, which is 3:45am Eastern time, 2:45am Central, 1:45am Mountain, and 12:45am Pacific -- so yeah, overnight tonight for those of us in the US). Details at the link. The hour is early for the US and it may be cloudy all three days -- but when it works, it's glorious.

These moments of bright blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell. Get vaxxed!


Anonymous said...

Acts 16:31, 1 Corinthians 15:1-8, 1 Peter 1:17-21, Revelation 22:18-19

Lynne Cantwell said...

You're on the wrong blog. But thanks for stopping by.