Stuck in a Cabin for the Holidays

This story takes place the winter after the events in Everdome and at the same time as The Night of the Sisters

Everdome is available as an Ebook or Hardcover at Renaissance Press’s Website. It’s Also available as an ebook at AmazonIndigo/Chapters, and Kobo.

“Joyous Yule…” The tall dark-skinned man with an impressive white beard trailed off as he looked around the small cabin. Putting down a large red sack he asked, “Where am I?”

“Emrys, old friend. You look younger somehow.” The woman was covered in furs and looked to be both loving and hating the cold. Her wild curly red hair was tied in a semblance of a ponytail. 

The man looked confused at her and the only other occupant of the cabin, a woman with tan skin and the build of a fighter. She was wrapped in a thick cloak and looked miserable. “I’m sorry, who are you? And where is here?”

Sighing, the older woman replied, “Here, is a cabin in the mountains of Pakaha. I am Es’Sem and this is my descendant Jasmine.”

“Wait a second,” Jasmine said, “Are you telling me you’ve never been to Everdome before?”

“Not to my knowledge.”

“So all my memories of you teaching me about chivalry and the history of Earth, Everdome, and King Arthur while growing up?”

It was Es’Sem, not Emrys, that replied, “Happened in your past and will happen in his future. What’s in the bag, old man?”

“I’m barely a hundred, thank you. They’re Yule presents for young Arthur.”

Jasmine stood with her mouth agape and Es’Sem whistled before saying, “This is the youngest I’ve ever seen you.”

“Alright then. I know who you are, kind of, and I know where I am. When am I?”

“We’re post Montrose, if that tells you anything.”

“Great, so after the Corrupter and all that stuff.” Emrys said.

“This is very strange.” Jasmine shook her head. Her dyed blonde braid barely moved. “You were there, but it’s not you. Yet?”

“You get used to it.” Es’Sem smiled and hugged the tall man.

“I’m glad it’s possible to get used to because it seems I must.” Emrys sat down in a comfortable chair near the door he’d come in from.

“Is it… What was your midwinter festival called? Night of the Sisters?”

Laughing Jasmine said, “No. We don’t worship them. We respect them. You’re thinking of New Albion.”

“Right. Parasomnia.”

Smiling, Es’Sem said, “I liked that one. It was fun to write.”

Emrys gasped. “Oh my. I have so many questions for you.” The two spent the next few hours discussing her book series Everdome. 

When she had had enough, Jasmine asked, “Why are you here and can you get us out?”

“We haven’t discussed this yet? Wow. I am getting old.”

Es’Sem took a drink of her rum and said, “Talk to me in a few thousand years about being old.”

“Outside is a magical storm. The kind that can transport a poor old wizard over thousands of years and an entire Realm. This cabin is protected against most of it by some clever magic, but we’re not going anywhere.”

“I’m going to miss Cataclysm Day with my people, aren’t I?” Jasmine sighed and sat down looking completely defeated.

“Cataclysm Day, of course. Where you celebrate surviving and give thanks for family and the magic that powers the Domes.” Emrys nodded. It was the only major celebration that all of Everdome followed and it always involved a massive party and ceremony where the High King or Queen presided. He bowed and said, “I’m sorry your majesty, but there is nothing I can do.”

“That’s okay. I’m actually a little relieved.”

Es’Sem sounded annoyed as she said, “Oh for Goddess’s sake, you’d be fine. I’ve known you your whole life and you’ll be a fantastic Queen.”

“Yeah but I shouldn’t be. This wasn’t my job. I’m the warrior not the diplomat. I’ve been Queen for less than two years and in that time the whole of Everdome almost fell.”

“Focus on the fact that it didn’t, dear.” Es’Sem sounded worried and her Australian accent became more pronounced.

“It should have been Daniel. It was his responsibility, not mine. I should be out there not trapped in here.”

The cabin fell quiet. Shifting awkwardly, making his chair squeak, Emrys said, “So I’m going to ask a few questions and pry.” The two women looked at him expectantly. “Jasmine, do you want help or do you want to complain?”

“You sound just like my father,” Jasmine said and smiled. 

His voice cracking, he replied, “Thank you.” There were tears in his eyes.

“I need help. I have no idea what I’m doing. I’ve survived this long because I’ve been a wartime Queen. I don’t know what to do when we’re at peace.”

Taking her hand, he asked, “What happened to your brother?”

“He died heroically. The bastard.” Jasmine cursed. “He was raised to be King and he was going to be a great one. But when my father died, Daniel decided to take a tour of the kingdom before his coronation. ‘I must learn to know all the people not just those that live near us,’ he said. He insisted he didn’t need more guards and refused to let me go with him…” She trailed off.

Es’Sem continued the story, “He was in a remote village and there was a mudslide. He died saving the town’s children. Refused to leave until the last one was safe.”

“Stubborn fool!” Jasmine released a few more curses. 

Timidly, knowing the reaction, Emrys asked, “What would you have done differently?”

“Now you really sound like my father. Nothing. I would have died heroically. I’ve done the same damned fool thing a hundred times and survived. I have scars for proof. I’ve fought and defeated everything that should have killed me. Why didn’t he? Why did I survive and not him?”

“Fate, a Deity, or plain luck. Death is never easy and we all have our own ways of dealing with it.” Emrys stared out into nothing as he spoke.

“And how do you deal with it?”

“Don’t take my example. I wandered through fairy and the Realms for thirty years before stumbling onto a young boy destined to be king. Everyday I’m faced with my old grief and the knowledge that my charge must die.” 

“Not really one of my options. I have a kingdom and a world that looks to me for leadership. I don’t know what to do.” She turned to the window and didn’t see Emrys wink at Es’Sem.

The door burst in and a snowman wielding a large sword made of ice roared. Es’Sem looked at Emrys and cocked an eyebrow. He smiled and she sat next to her favourite sword and poured herself another drink.

As if she was expecting it, Jasmine took two long strides and unsheathed her two shortswords from their scabbards and attacked the snowman.

It got a lucky stab in and nicked her arm. Jasmine scowled and attacked in quick succession. The snowman was cut to pieces and a single scream could be heard from the storm. Jasmine ran out after the voice.

“What are you up too?” Es’Sem asked.

“Me? Up to something? I was brought here by a magical storm, nothing more.”

“Bullshit. That snowman was straight out of Calvin and Hobbs.”

“I have no idea what you’re talking about. I’m not some conjurer of cheap tricks.” Emrys sat down with a warm cup of peppermint coffee that seemed to appear out of nowhere.

The storm outside was a wall of iridescence, snow reflected and refracted with every colour in existence. There was always a path however and a new snowman to fight. Jasmine threw herself into the battle. Part of her knew it was shadows and snow but she ignored that part.

When she was thoroughly exhausted and suffering from several cuts, the snow parted and Daniel walked through. He was dressed in his finest livery and the three-day stubble he liked so much. He smiled warmly at her and said, “Sister. Why are you lost in this storm?”

She cursed at him and pulled him into a hug. The roar of the storm covered her sobs and froze her tears to her face. “You’re dead.”

“You’re not.”

“You should be doing this. Everdome needs you, not me.”

“Everdome needs a monarch with heart and a sense of fairness. Ruling like living isn’t about how good you are at it, it’s what you do with it. The people need someone who is strong and lucky.”

“Are you real?”

“I have no idea JayJay, but I know that I love you and that I can’t think of a better person to take my place. You’re going to be a fantastic Queen, if you let yourself be one.”

“Thank you.”

He turned away and waved. She watched him walk back into the storm and softly said goodbye.

Back at the cabin, she hugged Emrys and said, “Thank you for letting me say goodbye.”

“I’m glad you got to say goodbye. But I’m just a poor wizard who’s been displaced by a magical storm.”

“But you didn’t?”

“People always accuse me of doing and knowing things. It’s a bit frustrating and—”

A knock at the door interrupted him. A woman walked in. She wore similar robes to Emrys and had the same skin tone. Her hair was long and white and was braided over one shoulder. “Brother, you’re missing the celebrations. Are you done meddling yet?”

Es’Sem snorted in laughter. “I’ll be right there, Morgan.” The storm outside dissipated and Emrys turned to the other two in the cabin and said, “Well, look at that. The storm is gone.”

Es’Sem laughed harder and Jasmine shook her head. Neither said anything. Emrys picked up his sack and smiled, “May your fractured nights be followed by glorious dawns.” The traditional Cataclysm Day greeting given, he left.

“That was all rather melodramatic and over the top,” Es’Sem said before adding, “I loved it.”

The two women packed their gear and, dressed for the winter weather, headed back to the castle.

When they arrived at the castle, there were two presents wrapped in plain wrapping with garish red bows.

“Bless that man,” Es’Sem said as she opened her present to show a large jar of vegemite.

Unwrapping the larger, flatter of the two, Jasmine started to cry. It was a painting of her and her brother. It looked like it was from just before he left. “No painting was ever commissioned. How?”

“Look at the signature. J. M. Emrys.” Es’Sem then read the inscription on the frame, “Those who leave us are never gone as long as we remember them.”


This story is part of the Renaissance holiday blog roll! Find out what it’s all about here!

The Guardian

What is Christmas without a ghost story?


“Honey, she’s doing it again!” I called out to my husband.

Our five day old daughter had opened her eyes and stopped her vigorous nursing to stare up at seemingly nothing. Milk slowly dripped from me, spreading a wet patch on the pillow underneath her.

She didn’t blink, but abruptly turned her head to stare at another patch of nothing.

A shiver raced down my spine and the hair on my arms stood up in response.

I thought that if a person was standing next to my chair, she would be looking directly into their face.

Just as suddenly, she re-latched and started her hmm-ing of appreciation.

Hmmmmmmm – gulp. Hmmmmmmm – gulp.

She sounded like an old dot-matrix printer, the kind that took four passes to print a single line and had the tear-away sides. I doubted she’d ever get to hear one of those. The next generation of parents wouldn’t associate their child with a printer – that’s probably a good thing, I giggled to myself.

Her eyes opened at the sound, and she stared up at me for a second before focussing on her task again.

My husband appeared in the doorway. She ignored him in favour of eating.

My neck prickled.

What could have distracted her, when a physical human didn’t?

I don’t believe in ghosts, I thought. I knew I was lying to myself. But I know someone who does.

I contacted them the next morning.

“Of course I’ll come visit and snuggle the baby!” they exclaimed.

I didn’t mention my suspicions.

They came over that afternoon, sinking into the well-used couch with a sigh. I passed them the sleeping baby, and she cooed before snuggling into their chest, still asleep.

“Is she always this cuddly?” they whispered, afraid to wake her.

We talked about anything and everything, and as the time for them to leave drew nearer, I got anxious. The baby hadn’t woken, even though we were laughing.

“I think we have a ghost,” I whispered.

Their eyebrows went up. “I haven’t seen any,” they replied.

“She sees them, I think.” I indicated the softly snoring baby.

“If she isn’t afraid, they’re not malicious.” They seemed certain of this. “Keep an eye on her, and I’ll come back another time.”

Every day for the next month, the baby took the time to stare off into space a couple times a day. Most often, it was in her room, next to the nursing chair. Sometimes it was in the living room, behind the couch. Once in our room, at the foot of the bed.

She learned how to smile voluntarily. I watched her smile at empty spaces, and tried to keep the panic at a minimum.

And then it stopped.

She slept less, paid attention to her surroundings more, and I thought that maybe she had been staring at specs of dust. Babies don’t have the greatest vision.

But around Christmas, she let out a tiny squeak and stared into space again, this time for quite a while. I tried to distract her with my breast, but she ignored it completely for at least five minutes, glancing from one spot to another and back.

I contacted my friend immediately. They came over. The baby was awake. They asked to see her room, but there was nothing unusual.

We sat in the living room and played with the baby, until she whipped around and stared beside the couch.

My friend followed her gaze, and gasped, “I see them. Two women.”

My heart in my throat, I looked over at the empty space, seeing nothing. “What do they look like?”

“One is older. Curly grey hair. Rosy red cheeks and a big smile. She’s fairly short, and a bit stout. I think I’ve seen you wear the necklace she’s wearing…thick silver chain? She has a red sweater, and a long kilt in red and green.”

I swallowed hard, tears in my eyes. I tried to speak around the lump in my throat. “That’s my Grannie,” I croaked. I started crying. “She came to meet her great-granddaughter? I miss her so much. Can you tell her that? Does she understand me?”

“She hears you. She put her hand over her heart and is looking right at you.” My friend was crying too. “The other woman is a little younger. Thinning wispy grey hair, small cheeks that pop when she smiles. She’s a bit taller than your Grannie, and much…umm…bigger. She’s wearing a navy blue dress. Her eyes twinkle.”

“My mother-in-law,” I sobbed. “She would have loved her granddaughter. She always wanted a daughter. I miss her too, but not as much as her son does. She’d be so proud of him.”

“She’s nodding and smiling at you. She knows. They’re talking to the baby again. I can’t hear them, only see them, I’m so sorry,” they apologized.

I took a moment, trying to work the words out around the lump in my throat. “Is it normal, not being able to hear them?”

“Quite. I’ve never heard or felt one.”

I got up to get a tissue from the other side of the room. “You need one?” I offered. At the affirmative, I brought the box back over as I sat beside them again. “You’ve never touched a ghost?” I asked, curious. I sniffed and wiped my cheeks.

“No, I haven’t. I’ve never seen a ghost touch a person.” They copied my motions with a tissue of their own, then paused. “Wait. I have, just once. It was a long time ago. A girl was crossing the street, and a car ran a red light. I saw the ghost yank her back out of the way. It was bright daylight, so I wasn’t a hundred percent sure of what I saw, but I think the ghost vanished after saving her life.”

“It’s not exactly like you can conduct an experiment to see for sure.” I gave them a watery smile.

“No, I guess not!” They laughed weakly.

I thanked my friend for both confirming that we were being visited by ghosts, and that they were not only benevolent, but family. “Merry Christmas!” I waved from the doorway as they left the house.

“And Happy New Year!” they called back.

The months flew by. My daughter learned how to crawl, stand, and walk. She babbled at anyone who smiled at her, which made her a joy to bring places.

All too soon, we were getting ready to celebrate another Christmas. We went shopping for presents at a local holiday bazaar, and my husband was carrying her on his shoulders.

What happened next happened faster than your eyes will be able to read this paragraph; my husband bumped into a display of ornaments at the same time as my daughter twisted around to wave at me. He jerked to catch the ornaments, and, her balance thrown off, she launched herself backwards off his shoulders.

I was too far away.

My heart in my mouth, a scream caught in my throat, I watched her tumble headfirst towards the ground. Ghostly hands steadied her fall, tipped her onto her front, and she landed on her stomach, head bouncing a bit on the concrete at the force of impact. My Grannie looked up at me from beside my baby and smiled sadly, blowing me a kiss and waving goodbye before she vanished.

My daughter let out a wild scream, and my legs unfroze, taking me to her side before I had registered the movement.

She was already pulling herself onto her feet, a nasty purple bump swelling on her temple, and buried her face in my neck, sobs shaking her small frame.

My husband, ashen, helped me stand up and led me back to the car to go to the hospital. I knew before we saw the doctor that she would be alright.

Her guardian angel had seen to that, and would visit no longer.

“Thank you for our Christmas miracle,” I whispered.


This story is part of the Renaissance holiday blog roll! Find out what it’s all about here! 

Night of the Sisters

This story takes place six years after the events in Parasomnia

The snow glittered in the moonlight as they travelled through the dark forests of New Albion. No matter how often they travelled this route, Michael still looked uncomfortable.

Putting her hand on his, even through heavy gloves she felt him tremble, Ashley said, “Sweetie. It’s okay.”

“I know, it’s just… I don’t think I’ll ever get used to this forest.”

And why would he, she thought. It wasn’t his world and he had bad memories of trolls in these forests. Even though they were in a carriage and not walking this time.

“Next year you’ll be too busy to worry about it.” She squeezed his hand and patted her belly, or where her belly would be under all the winter gear. She felt like a yurt; she was so big it was hard for her to walk too far or even stand.

He smiled and they both started talking about preparations for the baby.

As the forest started to thin, small cottages and farms peppered the landscape. People stood on the edge of the road and waved at them. For the first time in six years, the rulers of the six kingdoms of New Albion would be all together.

It was the Festival of Yule and that night was the Night of the Sisters. A night where the three Sisters who controlled the fates of everyone in the realms were reborn. It was celebrated by speeches, prayers to the Goddess, a small play, and a huge bonfire. During the bonfire they feasted and sang traditional songs until the sun rose.

Through the towns they went until they could see the great walls of New Apia. The last time they’d been here, the walls had been crumbling and the ivory fortress was cracked and disused.

“Kiri has done miracles for this place.” Ashley was amazed at how pristine it looked and how healthy the people were.

The gates to both the city and the castle were open, the guards looked more ceremonial than defensive in their finery.

Kiri was waiting for them when they arrived. She looked regal under multiple layers.

“Feels like being back in Northern Ontario, eh?” she asked and Ashley threw herself at her friend for a hug. “Hello Michael.”

“Are we the first to arrive?”

“Nope, Tara got here this afternoon. I think she ditched her retinue somewhere at the border.”

A tall woman in full armour walked out of the castle and responded with, “It’s not my fault they couldn’t keep up. I don’t need royal—” Tara was cut off by Ashley’s hug.

The four of them were the youngest of the monarchs and Ashley knew that Tara wasn’t looking forward to seeing her older brother who ruled her home kingdom.

Although the guards looked ornamental and they all joked about not needing them, they were essential. The Six Kingdoms were in political turmoil. The former High King had died shortly after his heir and despite multiple Moots, they had yet to unanimously choose a new high King or Queen.

Tara was declared regent of the former High King’s kingdom, Ansonrock, but the Moot had refused to declare her Queen.

Of the other two Kingdoms, both their monarchs had died during the Worldquake; one had gone through a bloody civil war and declared themselves a republic and the other had gone through eight monarchs in four years.

They had, per tradition, to wait for the other rulers before going into the warmth of the Castle. They had, thoughtfully, arranged a chair for Ashley. At thirty six weeks pregnant she wasn’t going to try and tough it out.  The next to arrive was King Matthew of New Zion.

“Sister,” he said spitting out the word as if it had a bad taste.

“King Matthew,” Tara replied tersely. The fact that he called her sister instead of brother was a good sign that he’d learned his lesson. His country was big on everyone being the same and Tara had been cast out when she came out as transgender.

The next two came and stood in line waiting. After a little while, Ashley leaned over to Tara and asked, “Who are we waiting for?” Tara shrugged.

In a flash of bright light and the sound of a TARDIS, four figures appeared. The cryer who’d been announcing everyone bellowed, “Myrdin of Earth and Aether.” He was a tall man with a long white beard and hair. He was dressed in an old robe, and despite looking ancient, he stood tall. His brown skin had long ago turned a little grey.

Before Ashley had a chance to say anything other than a squeak of happiness with the entrance, the cryer continued, “The Three Sisters.”

The crowd and the monarchs gasped in surprise. The three Sisters had never been to New Albion before. They had stayed in Everdome, another Realm or what Ashley liked to call alternate universe, for as long as anyone could remember.

The three women, one bald with metallic gold skin, one with snow white hair and skin, and the last with dark red hair and onyx coloured skin, raised their hands and spoke in eerie unison, “May the Goddess’s blessing drive out the dark and the cold. May your days grow long and warm. May your crops be plentiful and your loves without end.” It was the traditional Night of the Sisters blessing and was normally only performed by priests or the children who play the Sisters in the play.

After the blessing everyone walked into the castle for drinks and mingling. The main ballroom was open for everyone to speak with anyone. It was a tradition that Kiri had instituted for all major holidays. It allowed for people who would be too shy or didn’t think their problems big enough for a formal audience to speak with the Queen or other high level officials.

Myrdin, or as he’d been introduced to her before, Merlin, was standing on his own with a glass of nog. Most people seemed to avoid him. Ashley walked over to him and said, “Why do people always seem to avoid you?”

“I’m weird.” He shrugged as if that answered her question and continued with, “Hello Ashley, it’s nice to see you again. Or is this the first time for you?”

“We met last year.” She’d been told then that he was a little strange and had a tendency to live life out of order with the rest of the realms. “Although it’s been much longer for you hasn’t it?”

“A century to your year. Nothing much.”

She laughed and that made him smile. “Nice work with the TARDIS sound effects.”

“Thank you. I thought no one would notice and it’s nice and dramatic.”

“What’s going on? Why are the Sisters here?” She asked and felt a sharp pain. She mentally started counting to see if it was a full contraction.

“Do you really want me to tell you? You’ll find out soon enough.”

“So, spoilers?”

“Yep. Now why don’t you ask me the question you’re really worried about?” His eyes were kind with more than a hint of mischievousness.

“Is my baby going to be okay?” she said it quickly and fought back tears.

He pulled her into a hug and said, “Your delivery will go fine and the resulting offspring will be perfectly healthy.”

She squeezed him tightly and said, “Thank you!”

“Don’t mention it. I was a parent once too.” His voice was filled with sadness.

As midnight approached, they moved to the castle square where the bonfire was built and awaiting the midnight hour to be lit. There was food and drink and a lot of happy kids. A man dressed as Woden led the children in a wild hunt. There were chocolates hidden around the castle and as he charged the children had to find them and get back into the hunt in order to keep them.

In a few years, Ashley thought, her little one would join them and that made her feel warmer than the fire would have.

“Joyous Yule my beautiful wife.” Michael held a simple brown paper wrapped package.

“Thank you,” she said opening the package, feeling four years old again. Inside there was a book, brightly coloured with a hydra on the front, the title read Parasomnia and was written by S. M. Awdur and K. Price. Katherine Price was a friend who’d chosen earth over New Albion.

“It’s a graphic novel about what happened to us. Kitty wrote it with a famous author. Merlin promised to bring it back with him after we saw him last year.”

“It’s wonderful. Thank you.” Her contractions were starting to get closer together, but she still wasn’t sure it was labour. This had happened before and it had been fake labour. She still had four weeks to go.

If Michael was going to say something, it was cut off by the Sisters. Their voice was like a soft brook had met a Greek chorus and the two were trying to imitate each other.

They each stood around the large bonfire and said, “We have seen Realms be born and Realms die, but every ten thousand years we need to renew ourselves. Our physical bodies die and are reborn. What we are continues but what we were dies. Tonight we die and leave our blessing against the darkness. Tomorrow we are reborn. May your hearts always be warmed by the fires of love and hope.”

With that speech they burst into flames, lighting the bonfire. The crowd was stunned and after a few moments burst into applause.

“That was dramatic,” Michael said.

“Yeah,” Ashley said, and couldn’t help but grunt from the pain of another contraction.

“How far apart are they?” Michael said going into nurse mode.

“The baby is coming,” Ashley replied and groaned again. That’s when the Sisters’s words came back to her. “They said tomorrow they’ll be reborn… MERLIN!”

As if he’d expected her, he appeared. With a furrowed brow and twinkling eyes, Merlin said, “Don’t worry, I’ll help as much as I can. With all three—”

“THREE!?”


This story is part of the Renaissance holiday blog roll! Find out what it’s all about here!