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