By Intricate Knot
“Yule is Quite Yuling…
It’s the Most Magickal Time of the Year!
When good goats go jingle belling,
Sam Sammy goes a caroling,
Most everyone is Mel-mellowing to cheer a fine bee…
It’s the Most Magickal Time of the Year!
All hearts are gold-golden,
Parties are toast-toasting,
Ghost stories tell-telling,
It’s the Most Magickal Time of the Year!”
His thin lips and large muddy green ears curled in displeasure at the sounds he heard. This isn’t the way things were supposed to be going.
“What happened?” Diavex shouted. His voice, irritatingly and unexpectedly high-pitched for so large a beast, reverberated throughout the cave.
Besides himself, the only one within hearing distance is Crimson the Winter Wizard. Not a welcomed guest by the stretch of anyone’s imagination (even this Storyteller’s)! He sat on a hard, ugly, dull grey bench. So entirely ugly and dull that next to it concrete looks like the finest polished silver. Remarkably the discomfort of the bench is far outweighed by the fact that it’s located in a distressingly uncomfortable fire cage[*].
Diavex turned to Crimson,
“And how would I know?” Crimson rasped weakly. Though he exaggerated his condition, the truth is, Winter Wizards do not care for fire cages. Winter Wizards do not care for fire period.
“What if I tell you something first?”
“Why would you do that?”
His captor smiled. What a conniving, dark-hearted smile!
“It suits me, of course.”
Crimson looked up at Diavex,
“In case you hadn’t noticed, I’m stuck in this place of despair with only you as a companion. I have no idea what is going on, nor do I even know what you’re referring to.” When Diavex opened his ill-favored mouth to speak, Crimson held up a hand, “And even if I had an inkling, you know very well that I would tell you nothing. Let’s at least have honesty.”
He shrugged then his lips curled into a disgusting smirk,
“Would you like to know how I created this fire cage?”
“I’ll take a wild guess: You used fire.”
“Yes, of course. But in this case, I used very special fire. You’ve heard of the Brightly-Burning Yuletide Candle[†]?”
Crimson’s winter heart sank though he refused to let on,
“Excellent. Then you’ll be delighted to know that I created this particular fire cage by yanking out the white flame from your precious candle.”
Are you serious? Diavex stole the white flame[‡]! No wonder he had sway over Crimson’s personage!
“‘Delighted’ isn’t the word coming to mind.”
“Don’t be silly. Of course I know this is devastating news to you. I simply cannot wait to share these joyous tidings with your friends. Won’t they be surprised?”
Being a Wizard has advantages that arrogant lunk-headed power-mongers like Diavex wouldn’t know anything about. Creatures of the lunk-headed variety don’t seem to realize that the pitfall of believing that you already know everything is exactly what prevents you from ever learning anything. Everyone knows that Wizards can tune in to whoever they wish and see clearly whatever that person (or persons) is doing. But did you know that Wizards can also send thoughts and pictures to whomever they so choose? Just keep that in mind if you ever think about kidnapping one.
Crimson sat in his painful prison and smiled imperceptibly. This was his moment. Diavex had handed him the information he wanted to send. Of course Crimson knew what was going on in The Forest and silently (very silently, if there is such a thing!) he cheered his favored Magickal student Fiddler and his best pal Wilbur.
The Wizard’s silence gave Diavex his version of the heebie jeebies. Of course, he didn’t like this one bit. In a strangely graceful motion he stepped closer to the Wizard, whispering,
He leapt at the fire cage shrieking,
Shattering glass is music compared to Diavex’s shriek, which can curdle cream, start earthquakes, and crack the skull of the un-Magickal sort. Fortunately Crimson is of the Magickal sort; however, that doesn’t mean he’s immune. Without ceremony, he promptly passed out.
Mid-kitty leap, Fiddler cried out in pain and crumpled to the ground. In agony, both Wilbur and Vin Kaj dropped to their knees next to their friend. The unspeakably hideous noise passed quickly. Thank goodness!
Wilbur and Fiddler glanced at one another. They both knew something else. Just before Diavex’s shriek had reached their ears, they had received a distinct image from Crimson.
“Seems that Diavex may have discovered what we’re up to,” Wilbur puffed.
“You think?” Vin asked.
Fiddler smiled, though his ears still rung painfully,
“Guess we better hurry.”
“Look, it will be faster if you two climb on my back again,” and Vin, Autumn Pumpkin Wizard Extraordinaire, offered his viney hands to our heroes: the sleek, jet coated kitty Fiddler and the coal feathered, owly-raven Wilbur. The two friends exchanged a glance. Their last ride on Vin’s back had nearly ended in them becoming a Great Oak pancake! But the Autumn Wizard was quite right, due to his great size and the length of the viney legs that stretched out from his pumpkin body, he is simply faster.
Onboard they climbed and off they went. They arrived even quicker than anticipated! Hooray for long, viney legs!
They dropped down from Vin’s shoulders and made the buzziest-beeline for Yuletime Square. Yuletime Square is a large, but somehow cozy cobblestone courtyard where inhabitants of the Forest gather during various celebrations, particularly wintery ones. On snowy days a huge bonfire is set on one side of the courtyard, opposite a circle of particularly tall pines called The Proud Pines, and in the middle is where the tallest of these the most Fantastical, Mystical, Magickal Old Pine stands. Normally at this time of the year the cobblestoned Yuletime Square is bustling with scads of holiday decked out celebrants. Sadly, because of the unseasonably hot weather only a few woodland creatures meandered about the square, fanning themselves with large leaf fans or drinking from giant glasses of sweet iced tea. This doesn’t exactly put you in the most holidayish moods!
How would they get everyone to gather here? They need everyone, quite literally everyone in The Forest to participate to even have a chance of saving Yule. Our heroes stood in the very center of the square (and yes, squares do have centers) and made a Magickal Call[§].
The first to arrive is their good buddy Fizzy Frazelli, the Italian foxy-fox and her newly named best friend the beautiful (and frightful) Glassy Croon. In the blink of an eye (a very slow blinking eye) all the woodland creatures, faeries, and every member of the Great Holiday Making Tribe assembled. In the center of the amazing circle of towering Proud Pines, Fiddler addressed the group,
“Good friends, we have urgent news. Our Yuletide holiday plan needs to be grander, louder, merrier, and brighter than ever before. We cannot wait for the weather to change. Crimson is in trouble.”
“And so are we, dear creatures,” Wilbur added.
Vin Kaj nodded,
“All the holidays are threatened if we don’t take action[**].”
Because of the capture of Crimson the great Winter Wizard, though the calendar said it was December you wouldn’t know it by the weather! It felt like high summertime and sweat bloomed on many a brow. This isn’t the way it’s supposed to be. No nip in the air! No snow on the ground! Although it certainly didn’t seem like Yule, not one gripe or even a peep of complaint was heard from squirrel, red, lavender, green, or blue faerie, frog, imp, bunny, elf, bear, chick, wolf, robin, or deer. Even the trolls, normally the grumbliest of the grumblers, immediately began hanging the fairest of faerie lights and most glittery of garlands, humming carols all the while. In their own troll-esque of ways that is, which means they were quite off key, but no one let it bother them. Who had time to be bothered? All the creatures were too busy, speed set on hyper drive! Long tables were set up, where dozens of celebrants sat stringing popcorn and deeply red berries or cutting out colored paper in various shapes of stars and circles. Others dusted glitter on the cutouts and some made paper chains. Trees were decorated with their creations, while faeries flit hither and yon hanging delicate, sparkling glass baubles and bulbs on every tree branch and bow.
In the kitchens, Fizzy took charge of the baking. For what are the holidays without cookies, candies, and cakes to dazzle and delight? The scent of the divine desserts traveled to every nook and brook, granny and cranny of The Forest. Big white canopies were put up and more grand tables were set out and piled high with a wondrous array of tempting temptations. Glittery paper stars and snowflakes were hung with ribbons up on the ceiling of the tent giving the entire space a lovely shimmering glow. Mountains of treats could now be seen by all and many found a reason (mostly a chocolate sprinkled reason) to stop by the tent. Cookies, creams, and bars, oh my!
And all the while carolers caroled, led by Glassy Croon herself. No one had ever forgotten what a sweet singing voice she possessed. Now she used her Siren’s voice for good and what is a happier sound than voices joined together harmonizing about peace and goodwill?
The great Springtime Bunny Aloysius had a theory on that and decided to put it to a test. Loy, as he is known to his good friends Fiddler and Wilbur, gathered all the young children lucky enough to live in or nearby The Forest and organized games for them to play. Their squeals and giggles could be heard throughout the Forest. Nothing sounds happier than carols, except the laughter of young children.
Of course, fear lay beneath their folly, but no one, not a one of them let the fear overcome them for that would have been playing straight into Diavex Clop’s grubby, gnarled and clawed hands. And who but a coo-coo crazy creature would give a manically mad monster what he most desired? Remember dear Reader, fear is always the most desired of commodities by the lunk-heads, lunatics, monsters, and mad men, but it always within your power to not give it to them.
Back at Diavex’s Lair…
Diavex howled in frustration. He could nearly feel the Good Cheer rising in the air around them and it bubbled and boiled his icky, poisonous, green blood. How dare they snub their noses at him in this blatant manner! It’s as if they weren’t frightened at all.
“How can that be?” He screeched.
Unable to resist, Crimson stated proudly,
“Because, you small-minded, egotistical, lunk-headed beast, the holiday must go on.”
“No, no, no!”
“Say ‘no’ all you like. It changes nothing.”
Diavex fell silent, until an evil gleam grew in his eyes.
“We’ll see about that.”
Abruptly, all merriment ceased and a hard knot formed in every woodland creature’s stomach. Fizzy reached out grabbed Fiddler’s paw,
“What is happening?”
“Fire, Crimson,” Fiddler whispered in horror.
Vin stepped up to them, his great voice booming throughout the square,
“He’s actually trying to torch Crimson?”
“Yes,” Wilbur answered. “But not with any old fire.”
“The White Flame? But how is that possible?” Asked Fizzy.
Everyone hung on every word just now. Their entire world seemed to hang in the balance.
Vin rubbed at his pumpkin chin,
“Well, it is possible to separate the White from the Red and Gold and Green and Blue. Not easy, but possible.”
They all turned to look at the Brightly-Burning Yuletide Candle. It stood in their midst this entire time. No one had noticed it was missing white. It looked as beautiful as always, well, nearly so. If one looked closely, as everyone did right now, you could just about tell that the White Flame was indeed missing.
“You know, all we need to do is get this candle to wherever Diavex is holding it captive along with Crimson,” Wilbur began.
Fiddler clapped his paws together,
“Of course! That is what Crimson was trying to tell us. We will get the candle there, wherever ‘there’ is, and the White Flame will do the rest.”
“It will be naturally drawn back into the Brightly-Burning Yuletide Candle and away from Crimson.”
“If only we knew where ‘there’ is!” Fizzy said in frustration.
“Actually,” Vin interjected, “The Candle can lead you. You see, the flames want to be together.”
“Yes!” Fiddler turned to Wilbur. “You’ll fly us and the Candle will lead the way.”
Back at Diavex’s Lair…
Inky black smoke curled and oozed from Diavex’s fingertips. Tendrils of the sickly smoke twined around the bars of the fire cage where Crimson sat imprisoned. The White Flame and Crimson fought back pushing outwards, while Diavex’s smoke slyly coiled around each white-hot bar and pressed inward. Already the cage had begun to shrink. Worst of all, Crimson was tiring.
A Winter Wizard is simply not his best while surrounded by heat and flame.
“What?? Me? Fly??” Wilbur sputtered.
Though his kitty-heart beat faster with nerves, he kept his voice soothing and matter-a-fact, “Yes, of course you, who else can do it?”
Fizzy and Glassy both picked up on Fiddler’s cue,
“A most excellent plan,” Glassy sang.
Fizzy clasped her paws together,
“Would you boys like a sandwich or two for the journey? Or how about some cookies?”
“Have you all lost your minds, all at once? This must be some kind of event, a Guinness Book of World Records event!” Incredulous, Wilbur seemed to pale, which is quite difficult for an owly-raven to do.
“We haven’t lost our minds, Wilbur. We need speed,” Vin said mildly.
“But you’re fast, Vin Kaj. Faster than anyone, ever,” Wilbur countered.
Fiddler laid a gentle paw on Wilbur’s shoulder,
“Yes, he is faster than anyone, except you, my friend. The longer we debate, the more we risk.”
Wilbur looked out over the sea of expectant faces. He wanted to help to help save the day. It’s what he loved to do best. And sure, he wanted to fly, didn’t he? No he didn’t! He didn’t want to fly at all. Flying entailed concentration, intense concentration. And it was lonely. He had to do it all by himself, didn’t he? Even if his pal Fiddler was with him along for the ride, he would be the one responsible. It would be up to him. And it would mean being up in the air. All the way up there! Where the air is thin and everything looked so tiny here on the ground. And he wasn’t the same up there. He felt lighter and, and untethered. Untethered. That’s without tether. Yikes. And what if his wings refused to work? It had happened before. Too long ago to even remember it what happened. Besides there wasn’t time to get into all that right now. Wilbur could actually feel the panic rising up in his throat. He wanted to scream in terror and run away. Yikes. Yikes. Yikes.
You may be wondering…how can a bird be afraid of his own wings? How is that possible? Stranger fears are made each and every day, dear Reader. Sometimes telling stories is the scariest thing I face and I’m a Storyteller, for Good Forest’s sake!
Everyone was waiting expectantly. He had to say something.
“But, I haven’t flown in years. Years, Fiddler! Decades, centuries.”
“I know, Wilbur. Believe me, I know. And please believe me that I would not ask this of you if it wasn’t the only way. He will never expect.”
“He’ll never expect it? I’ll never expect it! And where do you purpose we began this flight?”
Hmm…it is true, even the hardiest of birds cannot just take off with a rider on their back. They’re not helicopters, you know! A runway of sorts is necessary. Fiddler knew the perfect spot,
“The Cliff’s End, of course.”
“Why, yes. It’s all so obvious now. We’ll just jump off the cliff, not die, and we really need to remember that bit, because the rest of this “plan” hinges on the not dying part, fly to wherever Crimson and Diavex happen to be, hit Diavex over the head with the Brightly-Burning Yuletide Candle, save Crimson, then we’ll all come back here and eat cookies.”
Vin clapped his hands,
“Sounds good to me!”
“Okay, we’ll just go about this logically in true Wilbur fashion.” Fiddler turned to the assemblage, “Tell me everyone, what are faster: Vin Kaj’s viney pumpkin legs, or black, beating owly-raven wings?”
“Well, when you put it that way.”
In unison the entire group of creatures, beasts, fairies, elves, rabbits, chipmunks, butterflies, and trolls whooped,
“Oh sure, single me out why don’t you?”
Fiddler gave a kitty paw-pump,
“Yes, that’s exactly what we’re doing: singling you out. Now come on Wilbur, stop stalling and let’s fly.”
And with that the group gathered both Wilbur and Fiddler up onto their shoulders and carried them both to the Cliff’s End. Then everyone waited to see what would happen next.
Wilbur merely walked to the edge and looked down.
“It’s a long-”
Fiddler interrupted cheerfully,
“It surely is!”
“And you’re certain-”
“I couldn’t be more so.”
With a huge, grand sigh (a sound that only the Wilburs of the world can make with any real justice) he stood as straight as he could and stretched out his magnificent, great ebony wings.
“Climb aboard, I suppose.”
Not risking a moment more Fiddler lightly leapt up on Wilbur’s back. Vin Kaj grabbed the Brightly-Burning Yuletide Candle and handing it to Fiddler,
“Best of luck to you, lads.”
Fiddler held on tightly to the beauteous candle. It seemed to want to pull them forward and immediately pointed West.
“If we crash, I’m blaming you, you know.”
“Yes, yes, of course. Let’s go.”
I’ll admit it, they got off to a shaky start. But after dropping for a hundred feet or so (and with much gasping of the crowd standing up on the cliff above), Wilbur seemed to get back into the swing of flying.
And yes, of course they saved the day. As it turns out, the most important day of year and the crown jewel of holidays: Yule. Unfortunately, Fiddler and Wilbur didn’t get a chance to hit Diavex over the head with the Brightly-Burning Yuletide Candle. In the way of lunk-headed bullies, as soon as he saw them coming he ran away. I’m sure he’ll turn up again one day. But not today. Today is for celebrating with friends and family.
Whatever your celebration or even if it’s a day of non-celebration, one cannot completely dismiss the specialness of this time of the year. It’s a time for miracles and Magick, but most of all it is a time of joy and love. Regardless whether it’s cool and crisp or hot and humid, can’t you just feel it in the air?
A Very Merry Yule to you all and to you all a very kindly goodnight.
[*] If you’ve never experienced a fire cage, count yourself lucky. As implied by the name, fire cages are made of fire. Not just any fire, but white-hot fire: Flames so flaming hot that they reflect white, rather than gold, orange, red, or even blue.
[†] The Brightly-Burning Yuletide Candle is made up of five great flames: Red, Gold, Green, Blue, and White. Most notably the Brightly-Burning Yuletide Candle is what lights the way for the holiday. Oh, you didn’t know that? If you think on it a minute, perhaps two, it’s quite logical. Even if you celebrate the same holiday every year, you still need to find your way to it. Suppose you lose your way?
[‡] Stealing the white flame from a candle meant for good cheer and merriment, and then using it to control a Winter Wizard? How evil is that? Evil enough to be called evil by this Storyteller.
[§] Well, they don’t have cell or email service in The Forest. The woodland creatures tend toward good old fashioned face-to-face conversation; however, there are times when the Great Holiday Making Tribe must communicate with one another quickly. And this was most certainly one of those times!
[**] The way it works is that every year Yule is celebrated. After Yule comes the New Year. And after that? Well, certainly you must know the rest of the holidays! The point is: if Yule isn’t celebrated (or “You’ll” depending on how you celebrate) it doesn’t take an expert in Time to know that the New Year cannot happen. And of course without the New Year, we cannot have any of the rest of the holidays, now can we?
Intricate Knot is proprietor of Art For A Gloomy Day.Check out her artist page to find links to her shop and blog to read more of her writings. Visit again next season for more adventures of Fiddler the cat and his best pal Wilbur.