ARC Contest

Posted: December 17th, 2013 under ARC.

The good news is that I heard from Editor that ARCs are on their way.   That’s right, plural.   We will have a contest & drawing for two ARCs of Crown of Renewal.    Here’s your challenge for this year…

You are in someone’s home–fairly large, enough for a goodly number of people to live there.   It is Midwinter, after sundown: all fires have been extinguished and all hearths swept bare.   Light has faded from the windows as from the sky.   The wood for the new fire is waiting.   The house is chilling down, though the hearthstone still holds a little warmth from the fire earlier.     You know those with whom you’ll spend Midwinter–you’re not a stranger here.

So…tell us where you are: what land, what city or country place, what home or shop or other gathering place.   Who is with you?    Are you imagining yourself as the lord or lady of the place?   The grandmother?  The steward?  The cook?   The bookkeeper?   One of the children?    Who’s sitting next to you?  Mother, father, sister, brother, cousin, another of the family?   One of the staff?   Are you Marshal of a grange keeping the Midwinter vigil with your yeoman marshal(s) and a few of your yeomen who live alone?   Are you a military commander?  Are you holding your first child close, to keep it warm?

You can people the place with anyone who fits into Paksworld   (the extras in their breakroom love to help out, and the main characters, now lounging in their own greenroom, have long since eaten up their refreshments in the long gap between the last working meal and the banquet when the book comes out–you can invite them in. )

And what part will you play in the night-long vigil?   Will you be chosen to speak one of the family parts?   Which of the dead will you call by name when Torre’s Necklace stands highest at the turn of night?  What tales will you tell of courage and endurance and hope in those coldest hours before the dawn?    Who will stand in the cold dawn to announce the first arrow of the sun that strikes…what?  A tower?  A tree near the place?  A mountain peak?   Or straight through an open front door or window?

And do remember not to quarrel or call for judgment or make careless promises…the judgments and decisions and oaths of Midwinter night cannot be set aside: “All doubts die with the sun.”

EDIT a few minutes later:   I forgot the deadline for this (DUH) and Christmas, which some of us are busy with, comes in the midst thereof.   So, the deadline is midnight my time (Central Standard Time in the US–like Chicago or Dallas on world maps)  on the Sunday after Christmas, December 29.  Given holiday mails, I don’t know if the ARCs will arrive, but it brackets Midwinter itself nicely that way and gives your creativity time to play.


  • Comment by Linda — December 17, 2013 @ 4:59 pm


    How do we get submissions to you? What formats can you deal with?
    Any other nit picky things we need to know about? I’m ready to go!

  • Comment by elizabeth — December 17, 2013 @ 5:24 pm


    Sorry…RULES: As before, the contributions are posted in comments, here in this thread. You can post more than one comment, but only one entry per person will go into the list of contributors/contestants. I use a random number generator to pick the winner(s.) I announce the winners, who then need to contact me with a mailing address w/in 48 hours. Sharing the responses here in comments makes it more fun for all. (And saves me having to post them all later…lazy writer at non-work…)

  • Comment by Lise — December 17, 2013 @ 9:26 pm


    I am sitting in our family home in Vérella, close to the mathematics guildhouse. The guildhouse is a small unassuming building, just a library and a few classrooms where anyone who will need to use advanced math can go to learn. Most people don’t know it’s there, but is has stood since before the Girdish war. Our house is just a block away, which is convenient since our whole family is in the guild, except my younger brother who is too young. I have just started as an apprentice.

    In the kitchen, I sit with my brother, my parents, my grandparents and those of my mother’s students who chose to stay over Midwinter. My mother is sick. She always coughs for months after a cold (I think she inhales too much chalk). But she is determined to see the fireless night through.

    I will be speaking the part of the eldest daughter. I know it inside out by now. My brother is unfortunately still stuck speaking the part of the youngest child, even though he is nearly a man.

    We all remember my two great-aunts who will not see this Midwinter feast. The dead in the guild will be remembered at the guildhouse vigil, ours is a family vigil.

    As the night wears on, we speak of all sorts of things. It is not so cold in the heart of the city as in the country, and one of the students tells us stories of the bitter cold of Midwinter in the north of Pargun. I have trouble following his thick accent when he is not speaking of math, but the stories do intrigue me. Another counters with a tale of how they froze through Midwinter in a hut on the horse nomad lands taking astronomical data. “You get the best data there”, she explains, “but you think the wind is going to kill you.” From astronomy, the talk naturally shifts to ships. We offer up a prayer for Ansuli, a former student, now doing navigation work on ships sailing out of Bannerlith. We all hope he had the sense not to take a job over winter.

    Despite our best efforts, the talk swings back to math. Is Saben going to complete his apprenticeship? Is Suli making any headway with trying to bring geometry back to 4 axioms? Is pure math valuble at all? Tam makes us all laugh with his jokes about the obscurity of mathematical notation.

    Mother breaks in, reminding us it is not all jokes. Earlier this year, during the big searches for Liartians, the guildhouse was raided and some of the soldiers, and even some Marshals, were certain all the diagrams were patterns of evil power. In the end, High Marshal Seklis had had to come in and investigate. “It’s no laughing matter”, she concludes, “We could have all been arrested.” We all go quiet, thinking of how different this day could have been.

    My grandmother is the one to break the silence. “But we are all together, and no harm done.”, she says. We while away the rest of the night discussing this and that. It is all very playful, none of us really wants to convince. We but play with ideas, keeping our minds busy to forget the cold. What is a number? Is math part of the nature of the High Lord? I think so, some think it is simply part of his creation. “I wonder,” says my brother, “if there is another universe, would people there do the same mathematics.” “I am sure they would.” says the Pargunese student. We all pipe up with theorems they might or might not have proved. “Maybe they’ve even managed to get rid of the parallel postulate,” says Tam, “If only they could tell Suli how to do it.”

    Just then, Arne, the shy one of the group, speaks up. She has spent much of the fall trying to predict the exact moment of sunrise, and she thinks it will be very soon. We all crowd out of the house. Sure enough, the first rays of the sun are just beginning to light the side of the palace tower. It will be a clear, sunny and therefore very cold day.

    The older people go back inside to light the new fire, but I stay outside with the students to watch the sunrise until it glints off the snowbanks and makes the whole street dazzlingly bright. Once the sun is very much up, Tam turns to me. “I didn’t want this too official,” he says, “so I didn’t bring it up during the vigil, but I love you.” I blush. I wasn’t expecting that! “I’ll think about it” is all I manage. We go back inside to a new fire, a new year and maybe a new love. Who knows, my brother might be off the hook as youngest child in a few years.

  • Comment by elizabeth — December 18, 2013 @ 9:37 am


    Lise, that’s brilliant.

    C’mon, the rest of you. Let’s fill the dark nights with stories.

  • Comment by Annabel — December 18, 2013 @ 10:18 am


    I am in a family home; it is a large domain, not quite as large, perhaps, as the Halveric estate, but not far off. I think we must be in Fintha, as sunset comes early and dawn comes late.

    I rank as the eldest daughter, the second of four generations present. We are eighteen – parents, my siblings and myself, our spouses, our children, and their children. Then there are two more, who have no-one with whom to share the mid-winter festival, so are keeping watch with us.

    It the three generations of men – my father, still very much the Lord of the Manor despite his 90 years, my brother and my nephew – who announce the dawn. Dawn, not the sun’s first rays – sun is rare in these parts at this time of year.

    My parents are old now, and the vigil is hard on them – and indeed, we are no longer young – yet they refuse to allow any softening of the vigil. My mother will accept an extra rug for herself, but my father will brook no such thing.

    Our youngest children, the fourth generation present, are still too young to speak the words – next year, maybe. For now, it is the youngest of the third generation who is supposed to speak, but she goes all shy and stupid, and mumbles them so that we are not at all sure she has said what she is supposed to. However, we take the will for the deed – it is not the first time this has happened – and continue the ritual.

    The children go to bed when it is finished; the older ones protesting wildly that surely they are old enough to stay up this year! One boy is staying up for the first time, but part-way through the night I notice that he has dozed off.

    We tell stories, sharing the joys and sorrows of our year, re-living the happy moments and the sad ones. We remember family living far away, and friends who matter to us, celebrating with their own families this night.

    The night drags on. We tire. We pretend not to notice that my mother has dozed off, as has the one whose first vigil this is.

    Finally, finally, the glass has been turned enough times. The men go out to greet the dawn, and this year, for once, see the first rays of the rising sun.

    The new fire is laid, the ritual words spoken, and the day begins. Gird keep us through the coming year, and may we all be gathered together at the same hearth next year.

  • Comment by elizabeth — December 18, 2013 @ 11:46 am


    Annabel: Another brilliant variation on the theme…thank you!

  • Comment by Wickersham's Conscience — December 18, 2013 @ 2:59 pm


    Torre’s Necklace had not yet risen, and already the frost was thigh-high on the walls of the big tent. Gram, wrapped to her nose in horsehair blankets, sat facing the east window. The moonlight on the snow outside made enough light to see the puffs of our breath around the empty fire pan. Da sat opposite Gram, in Graf’s place, watching the west window. We were silent, as we should be, although the little ones wiggled a bit.

    Finally, Torre’s Necklace appeared above the east horizon, and as the last star cleared the steppe, Gram started the chant to the Quickener. Mum then called the names and lines of the children born to the clan through the year. Gram chanted the praise song to the Quickener, her voice thin and reedy, her eyes closed. That was wrong; she was to watch the Necklace, but Gram is very old, and Ma says the Gods forgive the forgetfulness of old people.

    When Gram finished the prayer to the Quickener, we all recited together the Praise to Her.

    And then Da started the chant to Frostbreath, his breath frosting in front of him in the moonlight, shining the west window now. Old Uncle called the names and lines of clan who had died, telling their virtues and deeds. And then Da chanted the Begging Prayer to Frostbreath, asking that he spare us the worst of his winter and the lives of the clan.

    Torre’s Necklace was right overhead then, and we all sang Torre’s Song together, the right version, not the way the soft Southerners tell it. The little ones clapped the rhythm of Torre’s horse, and my sisters and I sang Torre’s parts. Gram’s face was in shadow, but it seemed to me that she smiled to hear the sweet voices.

    And then I chanted the Mare’s Prayer, and Old Auntie called the names and lineages of the foals born to the clan that year. That took some time because the Mare had been very good to us; Da did the Call Whistle and at just the right time all the horses called from the picket line. I sang the Mare’s Prayer again, and didn’t make a single mistake!

    And then Toal, my oldest cousin, chanted the prayer to Windsteed. Dalo called the names and lineages of all the stallions, even the one we traded for from Roac’s Clan, Dad did the Call Whistle again and the horses all sang the praise of Windsteed, too. Toal did the Windsteed’s Prayer just as Torre’s Necklace touched the steppe out the West Window.

    We sat in silence for the longest time. Some of the little ones fell asleep, and cousin Ani’s new baby cried a bit. But so very slowly the east sky brightened, there was the green flash – the Quickener’s Promise – and then the Sun came back.

    Gram smiled, with the early sun on her face, and called the opening of Sunreturn. We all sang Sunreturn, and then Da lit the fire with sod dried from last Sunreturn. Ma gave us all a drink of fermented mare’s milk.

  • Comment by Jenn — December 18, 2013 @ 6:21 pm


    Upon walking into the break room and being encompassed by the Verrakai children I told them of your idea. This was their enthusiastic response.
    The Verrakai children have decided to be shepherds. I think it is Paks’ influence. So we are on a hill in the north country with our flock of sheep. Some of the little ones have toy sheep that Beclan knit them. It is a clear night and we are all in a circle. We are for the most part telling stories or talking about Auntie Dorrin. Apparently the Verrakai traditions were a lot spookier than most so there are new traditions to be made.
    Most of the little ones are asleep on the older ones laps. I have lost feeling in bothy legs. Eventually only one child remains awake. I call him the poet. He is quiet and thoughtful. Eventually he starts talking about the way things were and how they have changed. He looks at me and says how he wishes that he were not a mage so that he could be a paladin like Pak’s who comes to visit. Mages cannot be paladins he says. I ask why he wants to be a paladin and he replies that he remembers the old days with the old duke. The younger ones have forgotten but he cannot. He wants to repair the damage his family has done. We then talk of Falk and how there are Falkian paladins and even if he is not a paladin all he needs to do is seek the truth and do the good.
    As the sun’s first ray peeks over the rolling hills, he looks at me, smiles and says he will do that with his whole heart.
    We remain in silence waiting for others to wake and to bring the new light to a new family.

  • Comment by Jenn — December 18, 2013 @ 6:22 pm


    This was a great contest idea.

  • Comment by elizabeth — December 18, 2013 @ 11:12 pm


    Glad you’re all enjoying it. I certainly am.

  • Comment by Jonathan Schor — December 19, 2013 @ 6:17 pm


    So I pull the overnight duty – Up the hill with two others.

    There is Uggog – tall and spindly. He is noted for being a long distance walker and has been used for carrying messages.

    There is Murf – short and bandy. He is not noted for anything but he has always been a good fighter with his curved blade.

    And there is me, Oltt. I am of medium height although my right arm dangles almost to the ground. I use it very effectively in sword fighting.

    Uggog says, “Bah – why do we have to stay up here on this night. No one will be out and about – they are all worshipping the Sun.

    I reply, “Because the Master says so. Any complaints?”

    Murf chimes in, “Not me Boss. Ours is not to reason why and so on.”

    Uggog says, “You need a brain to reason you ugly son of a . . . ”

    Murf draws his sword, “You can’t talk to me that way.”

    I step between them. While they feud all the time, both of them know I am by far the better fighter. It never occurs to them to come at me together.

    “Can it you two, the Master will give us enough fighting in the coming year.”

    Murf asks, “Say Oltt, do you know why they worship the sun?”

    “Not really. My Mother used to do something on this night.”

    Uggog says, “You had a Mother?”

    “Everyone had a Mother dip. Where did you think you came from?”

    Uggog replies,”I never knew my Mother – was raised by the tribe. How about you Murf?”

    “I know I had one but she was killed by the Elves, curse them, when I was just a little squirt.”, Murf answers.

    “So, do we do anything tonight?”, asks Uggog.

    “Stoke the fire higher so we don’t freeze. To H . . . with the Gods, the Master is the only one who matters.”, I say.

    And so it goes.

    This might not qualify, but even the miserable Orcs deserve a mention.

  • Comment by Nadine Barter Bowlus — December 20, 2013 @ 12:52 am


    I agree, we need the dark to appreciate the light.

    I am with my five siblings and our families. With the death of our father two moons ago, we six are now numbered among the elders of our clan. Our blood and our traditions are mixed like most folk in modern day Lonya. Neither highborn nor low, we live our lives connected to the rythyms of the seasons and the taig.
    We’re gathered in the main hall of our modest steading in the shadow of our beloved mountians. We sing the midwinter songs and share our favorites of our father’s stories and jokes. We talk about the force that binds us all together and links us to the rocks, rivers, plants, and animals. We watch for the first glitter of light on the highest peak. And when it comes, we sing the songs of thanks and praise. The youngest member of the clan, born on the last new moon, nuzzles his mother’s breast. Thanks and Praise.

  • Comment by elizabeth — December 20, 2013 @ 10:16 am


    Note: This does not invalidate anyone’s entry (and I like the entry) but two people have made the error of mentioning a moon, and no one else has yet said “But there’s no moon!” so I feel forced to say it myself. There is no moon in Paksenarrion’s world. Nights are lit only by starlight (or some being’s ability to make light: there is bioluminescence and the natural ability of mages and elves to make (very different) light, as well as the artificial light of torches, candles, small oil lamps.) So there can be no full moon, no new moon, no measuring of time by moons or months. The bodies of water have no lunar tides, only a solar tide. Since it’s hard to remember that when writing (esp. on the night of a full moon silvering the yard outside) pruning moon references out of the text is…a constant concern.

    People who put a moon in their Midwinter Tale will still be eligible for the drawing, but in the interests of staying in the designated playing field…please try not to. Midwinter night is DARK–but in a moonless night sky the stars seem brighter. Inside, however…starlight doesn’t penetrate through windows nearly as well as moonlight. So, DARK.

  • Comment by Wickersham's Conscience — December 20, 2013 @ 3:03 pm


    No moon? Oops.

    But there’s strong arguments a large moon is necessary to the evolution of life:

    Of course, it’s your world and you get to make the rules…

  • Comment by Mette — December 20, 2013 @ 3:22 pm


    My joints ache as I wiggle into a better position on my cushions. I am cold. I am always cold these days. My daughter offered me the warmest blanket, but I know that nothing can warm my bones this midwinter night. I asked her to wrap my youngest grandson in the blanket instead. He is the future of our blood, and he has been having this awful cough.

    Filuka scuttles up to me and snuggles into my lap. She is my son’s middle daughter, and secretely, she is my favourite. I love all of my family – they are the fire in my heart – but Filuka is such a bright little child, and she has such a strong will. She is only 4 winters old, she has no role in the coming ritual, but she decided to stay awake anyway. So far, she has not yet fallen asleep.

    ”Mani” she whispers in her sweet sing-song voice ”come see the stars with me”. I look down into her little blue eyes. It is colder outside. The snow is hip-high and the wolves are hunting, but I know in my bones that this will be my last midwinter. I nod quietly, and struggle out of my nest of cushions. We sneak out the back, and I lean against the back of our cottage while Filuka climbs to the top of the highest snowdrift. The stars are shining clearly, like jewels in the sky.

    ”Do you think Torre gets lonely up there – on the sky?” she asks. I shake my head. I’ve long since given up explaining these things to childer. ”She is not lonely child. She sings with the stars”.

    After a while, Filuka is shivering with cold, and I usher her back inside. Her mother meets my eyes gratefully – we both know that Filuka needs special attention. She is too bright for her age really, and the only thing I regret when I think of my life’s end nearing, is that I will not be around to help her. Filuka is not made for sheep-folks’ life, but I wonder how she will find a way out.
    That is my prayer tonight. To the High Lord, Gird and whichever saint that will listen. When you are as old as I, you’ve learned that all saints will take interest in the good and bright, and Filuka is such. That is my prayer, that they protect and sustain my family and that Filuka will find her way in this world.
    We sit down on the cushions again and Filuka leans into me. As I sit, watching my children and grandchildren, and even my great-grandchildren – I feel content.

    After a while, Tam – my oldest – notices the sky brightening. He gets up and begins the task of bringing a fire back on to the hearth. As always, I shall speak the words of the crone. I whisper them hoarsely, without thinking, they are a part of me now. As I sit down, Tam gets up and recites the words of the oldest man. The ritual continues around me, but I am overwhelmed by a bonedeep tirednes. As Filuka lays her head on my lap, I draw a deep breath and close my eyes.

  • Comment by Mette — December 20, 2013 @ 3:30 pm


    And, as a dane I’m not sure exactly what ARC is short for?

    Sorry if that’s a stupid question. 😉

  • Comment by elizabeth — December 20, 2013 @ 3:34 pm


    Not stupid at all, Mette. It stands for Advanced Reader Copy–it is the version sent to reviewers, ahead of publication, and it’s not exactly like the final version. It is printed from uncorrected proofs. Only a limited number are printed, mostly for reviewers, but writers often get one to a few to send on to reviewers the publisher may have missed…or to give away as prizes in a contest. I keep at least one of mine, especially when I’m writing in a series, because it’s an easy reference for continuity into the next book.

  • Comment by elizabeth — December 20, 2013 @ 3:41 pm


    Keep in mind that that article is from 2009…in 1982, when I was first doing the worldbuilding for Paksworld, the large-moon argument wasn’t that strong. And since it was a kind of alternate-universe-world, I chose not to have a moon. It made, I thought, a distinct difference without going into the “pink bunnies” and “sparkly vampires” territory. I’ve realized several times since that the difference was much subtler than I thought, since quite a few readers don’t seem to notice there’s no moon.

    I don’t think we have enough data to theorize from anyway…yes, we can see some things the lunar tides have done on this planet that certainly seem to enhance the probability of life and faster evolution thereof. But there’s no statistical argument to be made with a sample of one.

  • Comment by Ken Baker — December 20, 2013 @ 9:16 pm


    Lovely idea, just my brain can’t wrap itself around it with a full sinus infection going on… Maybe later in the week. Read a couple of entries and they are great. Crown of Renewal is on pre-order and can’t wait to see it when it comes out!

  • Comment by elizabeth — December 20, 2013 @ 9:41 pm


    Ken: So sorry about the sinus infection–don’t worry, you’ve got time. Mine are stuffed, but not too bad, as we have another front coming in tonight, with change from dry/warm to wet/cold and a lot of wind.

  • Comment by Linda — December 20, 2013 @ 9:58 pm


    Going back to take out the moon …

    By the way I use the Kindle versions (got ’em all) and keyword to fact check. Much easier than compiling a concordance, and thanks for the info on elvenhomes .. I think that’s new.

  • Comment by Nadine Barter Bowlus — December 20, 2013 @ 10:08 pm


    My friend the statistics proffessor is fond of saying, “I only have an N of one, but it is 100%.” :)

  • Comment by elizabeth — December 20, 2013 @ 10:39 pm


    (snicker) Yeah, but getting a two-tailed test out of that is about like getting a two-tailed cat…not happening.

    My statistics prof started off with the classic (possibly apocryphal) story about the cancer research: 25% of the mice were cured, 25% of the mice died, 25% of the mice stayed the same, and the other mouse escaped.

  • Comment by Richard — December 21, 2013 @ 5:17 am


    Elizabeth, a playful snowball your way on this Paksworld day of mild misrule. And since I do appreciate the extraordinary care you take over choice of words. Right at the end of the Deed, Marshals Berris and Pelyan from Thornhedge (Harway) and its neighbour turned up the morning after the battle with several hundred yeomen, Gird’s crescent on a pennant, and the rose and silver bells and harp of Tsaia on another.

    Gird’s WHAT? Paksworld has sickles, and bows, and the sweep of an ox’s brow from horn-tip to horn-tip, but NO CRESCENT MOON. (According to my dictionary the word derives from growing – cf. nascent – and what else has that shape when growing?)

  • Comment by Richard — December 21, 2013 @ 8:12 am


    I’m catching up with the tales, copying them into my scrapbook – Mette, you’ve brought tears to my eyes.

  • Comment by mette — December 21, 2013 @ 8:18 am


    Thank you Richard! Now you brought tears to mine :-) happy you liked it!

  • Comment by Lise — December 21, 2013 @ 8:20 am


    Another one, just for fun, and as a tribute to those having a more difficult Midwinter.

    Suriya was worried. The fires had been quenched and she waited in the kitchen with her children and their children. But something was missing. Where was her husband, the heart of their farm, as she was the heart of their home. One of the neighbours had come in to warn her he was hurt, and so she peered nervously out into the darkness, heedless of the cold air streaming in the open window.

    Finally he came. One of the village men pulled him on a sleigh. With him came the Marshal, and behind them crowded most of the village. She ran out of the house, screaming. Was he dead? Everyone began to speak at once. She could not follow a word. The Marshal hushed them and explained: “Your husband was out with the others on the frozen lake and he fell through. We got him out in time, but it was close. Let’s get him inside.” Her sons come out and carry their father in. The Marshal disperses the crowd and follows them inside. Under his guidance, they strip off his wet clothes and dress him in dry things.

    “Start a fire.” says the Marshal levely. They all stare in shock. One of the little ones pipes up: “But it’s Midwinter, we can’t.” He smiles down at her. “Brave soul”, he replies, “there are usually no fires tonight, but if you are to keep you grandfather alive, you will need one.” The grandchildren’s eyes fill with tears. Young as they are, they understand the importance of the courage of Midwinter. Suriya finally lights the fire, her hands shaking. The Marshal immediately puts a kettle of water on and reaches through his pouch and pulls out some herbs she has not seen before. “As soon as he wakes, give him an infusion of these, but lukewarm.” he says, “I must go to the grange, but if there is anything I can do…” “Take the rest of them”, says Suriya, “give them a good Midwinter in the grange.” They all protest, but she orders them off. No point many people staying.

    Once they are gone, she pulls off her warm clothes and begins to heat her husband with her body, the way she was taught as a child for someone with hypothermia. The fire burns hot, the room is warm, but he is cold in her arms. What will she do if he dies, she wonders. Her sons are all old enough to farm. That would split the farm, and the family in three. She tries to think of the other widows in town. Would her daughters in law resent her hearth-right once their husbands ran the farm? She knew they would care for her. Perhaps she would have to wander from son to son like old Sevri did. She shook her head, what she really feared was change, grief and that horrible emptiness that had driven her best friend Sulinarrion into the river when old Saben died. She would never forget that anguish. “Well,” she thought, “if he dies, I’ll lock myself in the house. That much I can do to save my family more trouble.”

    And so it went all on night, as she piled two days worth of wood on the hearth. To keep despair at bay, she murmurred the old rituals, all the parts, even those of the men. She knew them all by now. It didn’t feel right with the raging fire on the hearth.

    She missed the dawn. Her first evidence of morning was a knock on the door. She yelled to come in, her loud voice breaking the long stillness. Her husband stirred, weakly. She felt a leap of joy. The whole village piled into her small kitchen, laden with Midwinter treats fresh from the newly lit hearths, and wood to replenish her already dwindling supply. She felt a rush of love for these neighbours who cared so much. Her husband woke, confused, but entirely himself. Suriya grinned, new hope filling her. He would live, and even if he hadn’t, she would have been cared for as well as anyone could hope. Her family surrounded them, the youngest full of tales of the grange vigil. She wonders how she could have doubted them, so full of love as they were.

    One thing is certain. Despite the blazing fire, she had endured more cold and dark then she hoped to again, and she had been rewarded by more light than the meager Midwinter sun, and more warmth than a new fire on a hearth. From the darness of despair to the light of hope, from the cold of doubt to the warmth of love. Praise to the High Lord!

  • Comment by mette — December 21, 2013 @ 8:34 am


    Elizabeth: I didn’t know that the reviewers didn’t get the “finished” book. That’s actually really interesting. There was a case I Denmark during this year, where a reviewer complained about the many spelling errors in the book, but no one really understood what if was talking about. Wonder if that could have been brought on by him reading an arc copy?
    But I can see how they make good reference for future books. Thank you for the answer.

  • Comment by LarryP — December 21, 2013 @ 9:08 am


    other words he was complaining about the beta version instead of the finished version.

  • Comment by elizabeth — December 21, 2013 @ 9:16 am


    Richard: Ha back at you. The crescent is both a sickle shape and the way the letter G is formed in their language: no crossbar at all, just a different angle to the lower arc. The Gird/Luap symbol has an L superimposed on the crescent (extending below.) As the simple two-line drawing of a fish symbolized early Christianity (and is used again today, after a lapse), so a finger casually drawing an uneven arc in water or sand symbolized Girdish beliefs in the time of Gird’s war. It’s not a crescent moon.

    Mette and Lise: The blurry screen virus is going strong here…your stories definitely made me tear up.

    Mette, sometimes errors persist even after proofreading, and some books are not given time enough, so proofreading is skimped. I have writer-friends who do not get to check the copy edited manuscript or the proof pages (sometimes called galleys, though in the old days galleys and proofs were two different stages.) So although I suspect the reviewer saw either raw proofs (unbound) or an ARC, there’s no way to be sure.

    What ARCs give those who get them is a chance to read the story (which rarely varies much, since changes at this stage cost money) before anyone else.

  • Comment by GinnyW — December 21, 2013 @ 3:59 pm


    I am enjoying this contest immensely. Here is my own small attempt (without a moon).

    On the slopes of that mountain, rising out of the southern sea, midwinter night is neither so long or so cold as in the far kingdoms of the North. Still, there is snow on the high slopes, and ice glistens on the sides of the ravines, so the sheep and goats are brought into the folds on the rising slope. The people gather between the houses and the folds. During the days of the festival, bonfire flames leap toward the meat roasting on the spit, and ovens in the coals of the pit bake spiced fruit bread. As the sun crosses the mountain, benches and chairs, blankets and cloaks are are brought out and positioned by family in an order that has never changed, not in living memory.

    But then the fire is allowed to die. As the last red light fades from the sky, the embers are quenched, and the householders come together, out of houses gone suddenly dark. The omnipresent smell of smoke drifts away on the clear, cold, rising breeze, and walls of dark rise impenetrable around the gathered village. Light-seeking eyes are drawn upward to the stars emerging in the darkening sky.

    One of the children asks, “Why on this night do we have no fire? Why tonight do we sit out in the cold? Is there no light to see the face of my mother? Is there no warmth at the hearth of my father?”

    And Old Jori begins the chant, “The Old Year is dying, dying away; Remember its joys, Remember its laughter. Tonight Torre rides, and the New Year after. If peace you would have, then put off your quarrels. If plenty you seek, then bring out the barrels. If warmth you desire, draw close to your mother; if light is your wish, hear wisdom from your father.” The slow beat of the feet on the ground begins behind his words. It will last through the night. The voices are silent for a time, even the youngest, gathering memories.

    “The wizard came walking,” a woman began. “Came down the mountain, leading a blind man. Is blindness a burden? Not for this one. He felt his way; he heard his way. He did what was needed. As a shepherd with sheep, he herded and urged us up to the high places, prepare the safe places. And pirates were coming, raiding and burning, the smoke of their passage warned us. He would not go; he guarded our flight. Bodies we buried in the ravine, nameless sons of foreign mothers, fathers of the fatherless. His was not found. Tir hold his soul, who guards the warriors. Stammel I name him, Matthis the loyal. We owe him our thanks, we owe him our lives.”

    Others followed, small memories, many from children. Then they sang the resting song, lest the sleeping dead should waken at their names. Then they ate and drank and danced. The youngest drifted off to sleep hidden beneath their mothers cloaks. In the deep night, the hour before dawn, a cloud passed over the necklace of stars high in the sky, and there was a glimmer of blue following. The voices fell silent.

    “The times are moving,” the woman said. “A year of change is upon us.”

    A gleam of silver showed in the eastern sky, and the men hurried to greet the sun, and light the new fires.

  • Comment by elizabeth — December 21, 2013 @ 5:02 pm


    Folks, I am in awe of these stories. They are so good! Thank you! Keep ’em coming.

  • Comment by pjm — December 21, 2013 @ 6:14 pm


    In our world there is a non-moon crescent in our sky sometimes. Elvish sight should be able to see that Venus is a crescent when it is close to conjunction. If Paksworld has an equivalent and if (as in Tolkien) the elves invented writing, this might even be where the shape for G came from.

    I am really enjoying the stories.


  • Comment by Richard — December 22, 2013 @ 4:54 am


    Of course Girdsmen have the crescent shape, but their word for it has a different derivation and connotations. Mind you, I can imagine a copy editor back then rejecting “Gird’s sickle” as a Communist symbol.

    Thank you Ginny for honoring Matthis this night.

    Merry Christmas (everybody who keeps it); I’ll be offline now until next weekend.

  • Comment by Nadine Barter Bowlus — December 22, 2013 @ 10:32 pm


    Updating post 12 to Paksworld time markers. The father died three ten-days after the Fall Evener. The new babe was born three ten-days before Midwinter.
    All is calm and bright here tonight.
    Peace, everyone.

  • Comment by Gareth — December 23, 2013 @ 11:16 am


    I know there’s no moon, but which way does the sun go round? Does it rise in the East and sink in the West as here or the reverse. I want to know the right direction for the sun to peek over the horizon.

  • Comment by Iphinome — December 23, 2013 @ 11:08 pm


    @Richard I was asked several times if I was a communist at #chicon7 because I was wearing Gird’s crescent and cudgel or at least my interpretation of it.

  • Comment by Fred — December 24, 2013 @ 1:43 am


    It was an infelicitous Midwinter night in the mountains – the clouds which had dropped a light covering of snow on the ground were still in the sky at the start of the celebration, when the fires were put out. But a cold wind from the North cleared away the clouds before midnight, leaving only a few wisps near the horizon, and everyone could see Torre’s Necklace high in the sky – even the dimmer stars were sharp and clear.

    Friderrin had sat through the midnight rituals – mostly still, but with the occasional squirm that every eight-winters-old boy seems to have by birth. Every year, his favorite part was the story-telling, but even that could get dull – an eight-winters boy doesn’t know (or care) what those of courting age are up to, for example. But he loved the adventure stories.

    It’s hard to tell how long things go on, when you aren’t using a glass, and especially if you’re a child. But after what would have been quite a few turns of the glass, the conversation died down, with no one speaking for a few minutes. He asked, “Gre-granfer, I saw Da touch the tongue of the Dragon statue with his tongue when he was crowned. He said his father had done that too – but not you. Did you actually touch your tongue to a real Dragon’s tongue, before you became the King? What was that like? Didn’t it scare you? Why was he there, anyway – I’ve never seen a real Dragon, ever?”

    Friderrin’s Ma was tempted to quiet her son, more and more with each question. Such questions might disturb his great-grandfather, a man of many years and – as everyone knew – a low tolerance for what he thought were foolish questions. And it would be bad for him to be snappish on Midwinter night.

    But still, this was Midwinter, after all – when the patterns of life for the coming year were set, for better or worse. So she rolled her eyes – she was a mother, after all! – and stayed silent rather than criticize. She also, silently, hoped the old man would indeed tell more of the story than she’d yet heard, rather than get upset.

    “Scare me? – not half as much as what came earlier scared me. That was a bad time, back when I was a young man. We’d started losing the sheep in the high meadows – but no one ever saw wolves or other animals. All at night, too.

    “If you can believe it, even more than today, those sheep were our life – and we had to take care of them. But we started losing shepherds, too, when they were up with the sheep. They would just disappear, and no one would ever see them again. Bad. Bad times. Especially when you knew the people who vanished – the other shepherds, friends and neighbors. Scary times – it’s worst when you don’t know what’s wrong, just that there’s something terribly, terribly wrong.

    “It was too far to bring the sheep down from the high meadows every night – and remember, youngster, that it takes a lot longer to get sheep moving together and down the trail to the sheepfolds than it takes you to run down from the meadow!

    “We started to figure it out one day when I saw that one of the trees was twisted and bent – and it hadn’t been before. Until that year, we all thought that the tree-haters were a story that our Ma’s and Da’s told us when we were childer to put a scare into us, so we wouldn’t run so far. But the high meadows were just about where the trees ended on the mountains. They don’t go much further up, either. Just fine for tree-haters.

    “Actually, I’m not sure if it was worse not knowing, or knowing what they were.

    “So we set up watchers, with torches and spares, so that each watcher could just see the next one. That way, if one of the watchers saw a light go out, he could run with his torch to help the one whose torch went out, and the next one downhill would see that move and maybe disappear, and come too, and so on. That was my idea, young Fridder – and a darn good one, too, if I say so myself, which I shouldn’t but I do anyway!

    “It worked – but by the gods, it was hard work, and it took us strong young men away from our chores – and that meant that all the others had to do more work. I don’t know how long we could have kept it up, even in just our family.

    “That’s when the oddly-dressed man showed up. He came into town, and arranged to stay with one of the families – there was no inn then, because travelers were a lot rarer back when I was a young man. He asked them who had come up with the plan with the torches – they weren’t too happy about telling even good stories about a neighbor to a new-in-town stranger. Still, somehow, they felt they could trust him, even if he was stranger than the usual traveler, so they told him about me.
    “The first thing he asked me, after making sure he was talking with me, and not any of my brothers, was ‘Are you wise?’

    “Now, young Fridder, that’s not a question anyone expects, least of all a man of our mountains like me. It took a long time to come up with words to answer him that didn’t ring false. I said, ‘I hope I’m wise enough to keep us on alert and safe – but I’m not at all sure that my wisdom is anywhere near sufficient to do that. And it’s hard for all of our people here.’

    “He said, almost to himself – I had to strain to hear him – ‘Caring for your family, friends and neighbors is wise. Considering the possible results of your action or your inaction – that’s wise. You’ll do… ’

    “He continued, with a louder voice, ‘ I’ll explain – I can’t be everywhere in the mountains, to catch the tree-haters. I can push them back – but others will have to be my eyes – to watch, perhaps fight, and call me to help. That will have to be your job – your people’s job – to watch, to arm, and to call on me when needed to push back the tree-haters when you cannot. And it is not wise for humans to try to fight the tree-haters.‘

    “ ‘Will you agree to do this? It will be hard work for you, and you will be an unpopular man – you’ll be accused of wanting to run things, of being “too big for your britches” – and you’ll have to be as convincing as you know how to be.’

    “I could feel the power of the man. It might seem funny to you, but I believed that he could indeed catch the tree-haters as he said, without seeing him actually do anything – and I was so much in awe of him that I couldn’t answer for a long time.

    “When I could talk, I said that if I didn’t agree, then we’d have to fight the tree-haters alone, with no help – not good. He said, ‘Fighting them alone would indeed not be wise. But I cannot compel wisdom, just as you cannot compel a sheep to drink the water in the trough.’

    “We talked a lot about what would be needed, how to do it, who would have to do which parts, where we’d need to patrol and the like. That’s too long and detailed story for you, my lad – and you’re not supposed to go to sleep during the Midwinter Night Watch, now that you’re old enough, and I’d wager you’d drop off if I told you all that stuff. And my voice is getting rough and tired.

    “I offered to embrace him, like you would a brother, to bind the agreement, but he said that he and his kind had other ways of sealing a commitment. I was puzzled – ‘his kind’?
    “He said, ‘We need to go out to where there’s room for the change. “ I was much more puzzled than you are, youngling, because you know what was going to happen next – but at the time, I didn’t have any idea at all.

    After we got out to the nearest low meadow – that was when he took his real form as a Dragon, and we touched tongues.”

    “But Gre-granfer, didn’t his tongue burn you? Everyone says that they breathe fire.”
    He laughed. “It was warm, not hot, like a dish you might eat for supper. And it tasted like your Ma’s mutton stew, of all things!”

    And the first rays of the sun struck the snow on the mountaintop.

  • Comment by elizabeth — December 24, 2013 @ 9:17 am


    Iphinome: Oh, good grief! Some people have Communists on the brain. (Either that or not enough people are reading my books and thus do not know that blue & white with Girdish symbols comes from Paksworld books.)

    Fred: Wonderful, wonderful story! Thank you.

  • Comment by Jenn — December 25, 2013 @ 11:43 am


    These stories are all just great.

    Days are getting longer now! Currently the sun rises here around 9:15 and sets before 5:30.

  • Comment by Mary Elmore Kellogg Cowart — December 26, 2013 @ 1:15 am


    These stories are truly very good, some are great. I do not do well with words.

    This midwinter had some snow, but more ice.
    The snow is always beautiful, but in this climate usually does not allow us to see snow and ice. The ice on the trees is beautiful as long as it is not thick and does not do damage. In the morning with the sun shining, it looks as if the tree were turned to gold.
    In the evening, with the starlight on the trees, the branches appear to be silver.

    But as I say this is not usual for a winter night.

    Best wishes to all this midwinter, especially to those who have lost loved ones.

  • Comment by Mette — December 26, 2013 @ 2:52 pm


    Uh… Another one. Just for fun, and not nearly as thought through as the first one – I only had a short time, but nevertheless, I find this so fun!

    ”Oh dear me” says cook as she enters the kitchen and sees my snowcastle. I tried to make myself bigger, when I heard her coming, so she wouldn’t see the snow behind me, but it was no good. Even though the kitchen is dark, the snow lights up in the corner. Cooks’ eyes are too good, and she smells troublemakers the way I always smell sweetbread.

    ”You are cleaning that up yourself young man” she says and hands me the bucket I’ve used to carry the snow inside.
    I hang my head. I didn’t mean to make trouble, only, midwinter night is always so boring, with the grownups talking of grown-up stuff or singing hymns, and it was too cold to play in the snow outside. No one noticed when I snuck into the kitchen and out the kitchen door a glass ago. I only wanted to build a snowcastle, like the one from the stories grandma used to tell.
    ”We are celebrating the return of light, you fool” she says sternly ”not bringing winter inside!”
    But even if her voice is hard, her eyes are warm and full of laughter, and she helps me fill the bucket and empty it out the kitchen door. When we are done, my snowcastle is reduced to a pile of snow in the courtyard. Cook hands me a cold sweetbread from the basket on the kitchentable. We are not supposed to eat the treats before tomorrow. ”But… Cook.. These are for the morrow…?” I stammer, still not sure of her mood. She smiles. ”Young colts need to eat, even when the rest of us don’t and it is hard work shovelling snow. Eat up, and then come and join us in the common room”. She ruffles my hair lovingly and then she leaves, carrying the plates she had come for.
    I eat my sweetbread, every last crumb of it. I look longingly at the basket with the rest of the treats, but I know I am not supposed to.

    When I enter the commonroom again, the press of bodies makes me feel very small, but they keep the commonroom nice and warm. They are all here. Mother, Father, my many aunts, uncles and cousins, and my siblings. Except from my oldest brother Sim – he is on borderpatrol near our part of the border between Lyonya and Pargun. Father looks up with a grin on his face. ”Here he is – my snowprince” he says. I feel my ears burn – cook must have told them of my castle, and I am grateful for the darkness. But he is not mad. He draws me close and whispers in my ears ”I remember well how dull I found midwinter night when I was eight winters old, I did worse things than carrying snow into the kitchen. Do not worry Seli – I am not cross with you.” He looks toward the dark corner where my mother sits ”frankly Seli, your mother does take the reverence a bit too seriously.”
    From the corner comes a small laughter ”I heard that, Jori you beast” she says. ”Do not worry Seli, tomorrow I will help you build the tallest snowcastle of them all, but for now come and sit with me”.

    My cousin Edda, who holds her new babe in her arms, makes room for me between herself and my mother, and my mother gives me a hug. Then she begins to chant. She has a beautiful voice my mother, and if she wasn’t a noblewoman, I think she would have made a wonderful bard. She chants the song of Torre’s ride, the way grandmother used to, before the sickness took her away from us. I love it when my mother sings, and I sit very quietly, listening to her. My eyes hurt. They keep wanting to close, but I will not let them! I am old enough to stay awake now! My head feels awfully heavy, and I put it on Mothers lap. I look up on her face. She is so beautiful, but age has drawn lines near her eyes and mouth. I startle. I am not supposed to be able to see her face. I am not the only one to notice the lightening of the sky. My father gets up and orders a servant to start the fire. My oldest aunt starts the ritual, speaking the words of the crone, then my father takes over, speaking the words of the man and the ritual goes on. My mother leans towards me and kisses me on my forehead. ”Rest Seli – you made it through the dark night” she says, and she covers me with a blanket as she gets up to help Cook warm the sweet tea I know is coming.

  • Comment by Jonathan Schor — December 26, 2013 @ 6:51 pm


    Is it possible for the moon in Pak’s world to always be in the umbra? This would lead to an invisible moon but there would still be tides.

    As for the Girdish Crescent – in the biography go Gird he makes griddle cakes to earn credibility. Obviously he kept up and started baking a peculiar type of roll.

  • Comment by elizabeth — December 26, 2013 @ 7:11 pm


    Jonathan: No, it’s not possible. The world was designed without a moon and therefore has no lunar tides, only weaker solar tides. And it’s in the story-as-published, in Sheepfarmer’s Daughter, third campaign year, when Paks is in the Immer ports and there is no tidal change which she would have noticed on the stone quays. Never mind subsequent theories of the necessity of a moon for the evolution of life-as-we-know-it on this planet. First, it’s a fictional world. Second, we lack the data necessary to know whether a moon of a given size is necessary to the evolution of complex life forms on any planet but our own (for that matter, we don’t have enough data even for ours…it’s suggestive, but not proven.)

    I think your explanation for Gird’s crescent is ingenious and fun.

    Mette: I like that one too, Mette.

    Everyone: A reminder, now it’s Thursday night here, that if you’re thinking of entering the ARC contest you have only another three days to play. Midnight Sunday, Central Standard Time in the US (if you use one of those world maps with time zones, we’re in Chicago/Dallas) is the deadline. And the ARCs have arrived, so I’ll be able to get them out fairly quickly.

  • Comment by Gareth — December 27, 2013 @ 7:37 am


    Mid-winter evening. Alone. No fires, no lights to guide those lost at sea. Dark stormy skies – no stars yet tonight – the west wind driving the waves pounding at the land.
    Alone – my brave captain why did you take that stranger – was her need so urgent that you must risk all again. Two weeks there, two weeks back you said – two months gone when you should have been here gathering stores for the winter.
    Overdue, lost – will your unborn child ever know your strong arms?
    No! I will NOT give up. I must brave the storm for you tonight. Come babe we greet the storm. No lamp, no fire but storm-father we hear you. Mid-winter they say the sailors can hear the sea speak. Babe and I step into the wind and feel the lash of salt spray, we must go to the beach. Dark storm just this one night we can tap your energy, feel your power.
    Mid winter, when the sea wives and sea widows gather to remember the missing and give thanks for the present. Who will come tonight… Allene who lost Drie fishing last year. Brynne wondering if Keri will every come back. Rhonwen still dreaming of her Cennydd – it’s been what five years since he sailed away to find his fortune. The years have not been kind to our vill but we will keep faith with the Sea Father.
    Slowly struggling against the icy salt laden blasts they come, drawn to the beach by the power of this night. No-one speaking, all remembering. Angharad spreads her arms to the storm and we marvel at its power. Silently, we hold hands in a ring. One last icy blast and then a strange silence as the wind and rain stop. We look up and see the stars appear as if the eye of the storm has opened and seen our vigil. Silence as the bells ring the darkest hour and we see a new light in the sky –surely the starts are brighter tonight as if the storm has cleansed the world to start afresh.
    Slowly we begin to say the names of those we remember, those we know will never return, those we have not given up, those we still depend on. It is said that each year one lost soul can be reclaimed. The night bell tolls and still we stand, now we recall the tales of our people, how they came across the sea to this land. How Fish-guide guided our boats to this cove. How Frostbreath tried to wreck the boats but our fathers rode the storm through the tiny entrance into our cove. We remember those lost this year.
    The night bell tolls again. We look up and the sky over the land is red, the storm is past. Will the sun rise to bring new hope – the sea still pounds but the sun is coming back behind me as I strain my eyes to the sea. There’s something there but what sort of forlorn sail is that. Just a stump of mast and a rag of sail. Too far away to see, but maybe, just maybe someone keeps their promises after all…

  • Comment by Daniel Glover — December 27, 2013 @ 8:50 pm


    I’m glad none of the other submissions have yet touched on the theme I’d immediately been drawn to when the format was announced. Just had a chance to work on it this evening.

    Seli sat in the village hall with everyone else. The starlight bright through the glazed windows, for any evening outside, saving for the darkest storms, was brighter than being down in the mine. No one was down in the mine this evening, not on mid-winter night. Tis a night for remembering, not picking at rocks.

    This mid-winter there was much to remember. The boy, Malek, a dozen winters old, straggled in to the village after the autumn evener worse for ware. He was the son of a farmer some days away to the north, said he’d been forced from his vill for no good reason. He took to the mine quickly though, no mine fear for someone born out in the open. He seemed glad to go down every third day like the rest of the village lads his age and help with the small work, fetching tools, moving the light rubble and the like. It was Gird’s grace he was working that day when the collapse happened. We lost too many as it was. Sim, Sera, Lem and Peli all have children missing a parent now that was here last mid-winter.

    It would have been worse without Malek. For Remi, Terrim and Bern were trapped as well, sorely injured. The lanterns had all went out and had tumbled away in the rush of stone, if they hadn’t been crushed with everything else. Next thing we know we could see. Malek had lit up. Those of us with any sense left after the rock fall were dazed for a moment before we got to work pulling those that still breathed from the rubble. One of the lads had taken off for the surface right away with one of the remaining lanterns and brought the Marshal down along with the rest of the village able bodies. We’d gotten Bern loose and set to and Remi nearly so by the time the Marshal arrived and started his healing prayers. Praise be to the High Lord and Gird, the healing came quickly, like no other time in living memory. Even for Terrim, who’d been badly crushed, but managed to keep breathing while we feverishly hacked at the rock pinning him. All were back working the mine within a hand of days past the first ten day after the collapse.

    Word spread quickly. We had visitors to the village before they were all working again. The first was the High Marshal. He came looking for a magelord boy, said he needed to be brought to Gird’s justice for breaking the code and doing magery by the name of Malek. We told him he’d left the village some time after the collapse. He had gone back down the mine like everyone else on the shift. We didn’t have to tell the High Marshal that he’d gone and come back and left again. We decedents of the Blackbone Hill survivors can tell Gird’s intervention when we see it and don’t need no highbrow High Marshal to tell us Gird’s will. The rock brethren, the kapristi, showed up while he was still in the village asking about the same lad. Now THEY certainly could tell Malek was still down in the mine, but chose not to say anything to the High Marshal. They still had plenty of questions for us in their own speech though. Wanting to know why we continued to let a mageborn underground with the covenants and all. But Malek has not touched the rock with his magery. Just made light for us to see and follow the vein. So at first we did not know, which is no excuse for the kapristi, and now he still has not touched the rock with it. We are bound to use our own labor in the mine and have not broken our promise. The Lawmaster mentioned something about human kapristi prince off to the north to his brethren and more that I could not follow. They left not long after with words that they did not care for the turn of events but that we had not broken the covenant. The High Marshal left not long after the kapristi.

    There is much to think about this mid-winter. Remembering those that have left us, wondering what the kapristi watcher will do, as they surely will have set one, and pondering why we now have magery again in the land, that Gird fought to end its misrule and why the High Lord is blessing its use now. With the brightening sky, the ritual words begin. Once they are done the feasting will begin and then it will be another trip down where it is always darker than even the most cloud filled night—except for when Malek is casting his light.

  • Comment by Iphinome — December 27, 2013 @ 10:20 pm


    Apologies. One for Edgar Allen Poe; I’ve always loved the poem that’s morbid about the creepy talking corvid and a straight narrative would have been too fanfic-ish for anyone’s comfort. Another for pulling someone out of the breakroom and into the snow. Lastly for not having time to let a second pair of eyes read this over. Hopefully scrivener caught all the spelling errors.

    *clears her throat*

    “For the world’s more full of weeping than you can understand.” — William Butler Yeats

    The Sister

    So it was that one midwinter, hours yet to light the splinter,
    Waiting shrouded deep in shadow in the archives I adore —
    Needing time to simply wallow, knowing soon what was to follow,
    When came out the sound so hollow, of boots upon the archive floor.
    Twas the Lady come to fetch me, standing on the archive floor
    Known I’d hidden there before.

    With no exit I was netted for the time I had dreaded;
    Rising necklace and the calling for the names we lost before.
    Lady Kuukai knew my sorrow yet she would not let me borrow
    Just a moment ‘fore the morrow in the archives I adore
    Hidden from the naming of my sister gone away to war —
    Mourning her forever more.

    Down I looked to hide my sadness mourning still my sister’s madness
    Wishing that my countess were not standing in the archive door
    Turning to me gently chiding “Caila you must quit this hiding,
    Don’t you know the stars are rising?” And pushed me through the archive door.
    And so I came to leave my place away and out the archive door
    Safe alone in there no more.

    Through a hallway we did labor stopping in the largest chamber,
    Where the lady’s household waited as we’ve done in years before
    In we came the great door squeaking, “Here’s the girl that I’ve been seeking,
    Will you do the sister speaking? You always loved the part before.”
    “No,” said I, “oh please don’t make me. You need a sister for this chore.”
    Sister once but never more.

    Sat I silent though the singing, in my lap my hands were wringing,
    With my heavy heart there dreading, dreading the night’s needed chore.
    Wait I did my soul a tatter soon I thought my heart would shatter,
    When outdoors we heard the patter a beating in the Tsaian moor,
    To us came the sound of horse hooves and then a pounding on the door.
    Like some story out of lore.

    Kuukai rose to meet the rider, “Come. This night you’re no outsider.
    Do join in the naming soon there shall be fire to restore.”
    “Twas a call that I was needed sorry that I was impeded.”
    Round her boots some water beaded dampening the chamber floor.
    “Name?” Our lady asked the rider standing on the chamber floor.
    “Only Paks and nothing more.”

    Turning with a look of gladness, “Hey now why that look of sadness?
    Familiar do you look to me perhaps we met some time before?”
    “Oh I don’t think we’ve met you see, but my sister did you know she…
    She went by the name Barranyi before she left to fight the war.”
    Forever lost and gone for me the sister I had loved before.
    Lost to me forever more.

    Said she “Oh is this surprising, and the morning stars are rising.
    Barra… yes I knew her, must be why I have this chore.”
    Over to the open shutter I was dragged my heart aflutter,
    “Call it now and please don’t stutter make it like a mighty roar.”
    Together we both yelled it out, Barra’s name into the moor;
    Barra named forevermore.

  • Comment by elizabeth — December 27, 2013 @ 11:20 pm


    Gareth, Daniel, Iphinome: These are all terrific. I’m delighted to have the seafaring cultures mentioned, the miners (and a mage teenager saving lives! And kapristi!), and the combination of verse and Barra’s sister and Paks…YES.

    I’m glad I chose to do random drawings before, because there is no way at all anyone could judge these Midwinter tales one against another. I feel they all could be in Paksworld–you folks are amazing! And still two more days, for anyone who hasn’t started yet.

  • Comment by Daniel Glover — December 28, 2013 @ 8:29 am



    Yes, that is the great thing about this community. Each one has their own world views to bring to the table and expand on the epic. Thank you to all. Blessed New Year to each (even the lurkers)!

  • Comment by Richard — December 28, 2013 @ 1:35 pm


    * stops to wipe eyes *

  • Comment by Genko — December 28, 2013 @ 2:47 pm


    Wow, no way could I come up to the standard set here. Maybe I’ll try my hand tomorrow. I see myself as a widowed aunt knitting in the corner, listening to the stories and the chanting. Oh, I can’t knit if I can’t see, or can I? Of course I can.

    Well, maybe I’ll try to flesh it out tonight or tomorrow.

    Am enjoying these very much. And thanks to the person who said she was copying these into a document — I’ve decided to do that as well, so they are easy to enjoy again.

  • Comment by Nadine Barter Bowlus — December 28, 2013 @ 8:27 pm


    Richard, I have a spare “hand-ker-sniff” [family term] to which you are welcome. :)

  • Comment by pjm — December 28, 2013 @ 11:23 pm


    Foolish, foolish man I am! At last an end is in sight and I may be able to fulfil my oath.

    Rashly, foolishly and drunkenly I swore five midwinters ago – and I a Marshal, who should know better. I swore that I would speak of Gird to people who had never heard of him, nor of Falk, nor of Torre. But now perhaps Gird, who may have wrestled with drink himself, has seen fit to help another drinker.

    For the first three years I travelled through Aarenis and the eight kingdoms and found none who would meet the conditions of my vow. Then I joined a caravan headed to Khartazh and Kaelifet in the far west. Still, while most knew nothing of Gird, and many knew nothing of Falk, all knew of Torre. At last I met a man in Kaelifet, who came from a land in the deep South, and suggested I accompany him.

    Tomorrow we expect to arrive at our destination. From Kaelifet we came overland to the sea and we have sailed and sailed since then. Often the ship has not put in to land at night, but has anchored off shore. They have not told me why, but I have sensed their fear of something. We have now come south so far that even now in midwinter the sun is almost overhead. I would guess that we have come south even of old Aare.

    For the ship’s captain and crew the ship is their home. They do not celebrate midwinter, but I have celebrated with them their festival of rains, with energetic dances and songs and with heartfelt prayers for protection from storms and floods. They have agreed to celebrate with me this night of midwinter, and the captain has given me an earthenware bowl in which I may light a small fire.

    At last the sun set over the sea in the west. We sat on the deck under the stars, and I began to speak of those dear to me, whom I have not seen for much too long, and of those I can never see again in this world. The captain and crew joined in with tales of those they had known. I felt them draw near us when I realised how many of them had been buried at sea, and I silently thanked the High Lord for a much safer voyage than many others had been.

    As midnight approached Torre’s necklace could be seen far in the north, and we began the ritual speeches. I felt the familiarity of the rite comfort me as I took the Grange marshall’s part, and as the captain began the words of the yeoman-marshall. With a final “the light returns” we ended the formalities and began to tell stories to keep ourselves awake until the dawn.

    After the rest had finished I began the tale of Gird. Usually this will be interrupted by the coming of dawn, but this night I came to the very end. A brief silence fell, then the youngest of the crew cried “the light returns” and we saw the beginning of sunlight on the top of the mast. . I quickly took out my flint and steel, and as soon as I struck a spark the firewood blazed with white light, which met the sunlight descending the mast in a flash of glory. When our eyes cleared the fire was gone and it was full daylight.

  • Comment by Catmadknitter — December 29, 2013 @ 8:54 am


    If I am 8 hours late ignore this.

    It is a warm night in the South. She wraps herself in a fairly light shawl. Her family has moved southerly by generation, seeking opportunity but not giving over their old ways. Her husband is a good man and encourages her ways. His family, though kind, could care less, so it is just her in the dark, watching the stars rise.

    Such a year. Laboring hard in his family’s work, taking up the slack left by coworkers. His grandmother’s continuing illness finally got much worse and after three long months carried her off. Then straight away her own father suddenly died. after that mother sickened but recovered. She helped her mother as she could, but the work never seemed to stop. The work always grinds on, never stopping.

    Outside she stared up at the stars, in the quiet while his family ignored the dark with a party. “Is this what I want?” she spread her hands, burn marks and the beginnings of misshapen knuckles told the tale of her labor, her joints stiffening at this early age. “I wear my body down so that I can have a few nitis for me, and many natas for his family? Is this worth?” She thought of the stories she grew up on, stories of Gird, Falk, Tyr, paladins? Tales of that new paladin, Paks, were trickling down here. Would these people work here safe and comfortable? Of course not, They got up and did for others. “Can I find the courage? Do I have a choice? When I work, I work hard, I give much. It hardly seems worth it to give it all so one man may be rich. I know my husband could handle it if I went back to my family’s work. I want to go back to all my work meaning something bigger, building other people. If one woman can find the courage to face Liart on her feet, surely I can make my way doing what I love and still be able to make time to help my mother.”

    She watched the night though, making plans…

  • Comment by elizabeth — December 29, 2013 @ 3:02 pm


    Catmadknitter: You’re in plenty of time, and with another good Midwinter’s Tale.

    Linda: I’m not seeing your original story in the list, though I’m seeing your 12/20 comment that you were taking out the moon. Did you delete and resubmit it? If so it’s not in the moderation stack or here…or it was coming in with a different name. I don’t want you to miss out.

    Gareth: I missed seeing your December 13 comment about the rotational direction, sorry. The sun rises in the East and sets in the West, so the orientation of the northern and southern hemispheres is like ours. But the locals usually use “sunrising/sunsetting” for E/W, and the old humans and horse nomades use “summerwards/winterwards” for S/N; the elves and magelord descended use south and north.

    Genko: I hope you come up with something.

    Ken Baker: I hope your sinus infection has let up enough for you to think of something.

  • Comment by Linda — December 29, 2013 @ 4:48 pm


    I have hesitated to post this, it seems presumptuous, but I don’t want to waste it and all the revisions … and I would love an ARC.

    Estil’s Story: In Darkness

    I sit in the darkness and think. Midwinter is still one of my favorite celebrations, although my experience of it has changed over more than 60 years. This year it is dominated by a lifetime’s memories, both sweet and bitter. Once more Aliam is away in the North with his troops, this time guarding the re-building going on at Riverwash . I miss his sturdy presence next to me, while I rejoice that he still lives.

    The family members not away serving the King have gathered once again. With the people of the Steading, we nearly fill the Hall. Slowly it is becoming colder, the fire having been smothered several hours ago. The youngest children have just left to go to bed.

    Although the night is cold, and the buildings dark, through the small window starlight is reflected by the snow. The snow itself is a rich indigo, the surrounding trees black. Kieri came to us in early winter.

    My thoughts return to that scrawny boy, his face pale and haunted, with gray eyes which seemed too large, his red hair thin and unhealthy, and I marvel. It was a long while before we discovered the extent of his scars, and even longer before we got more than bits of the story from him. So unlike an elf, we never could quite see that part of his heritage until much later. Our world has changed so much since he came to us. Thank Falk for giving us a job we could do. I never would have believed that my quiet life here on the steading could make a difference outside this place.

    As the sounds of the little ones die away and their mothers and fathers quietly retake their places, my mind returns to thoughts of Aliam and then Kieri and Arien. Isn’t it wonderful that the High Lord has made our hearts grow so that we have room to love so many. Come spring the King and Queen will add a young prince and princess into the circle of love. The more we love it would seem, the stronger we ourselves grow, that love giving us strength to face a world of difficulties.

    Across the room one of my daughters in law, with another child growing beneath her heart, begins to sing a lullaby. With the first hours of rituals complete, pleasantly tired after the circle dance in the dark, soothed by the music, I drift deeper into a meditative state. Remembering my fears for Aliam a year and bit more ago, I feel blessed that we both have regained our balance. The daskdaurigs destroyed our beloved home, the explosion and fire ruined the barns. But all is as well as can be, the buildings replaced, the people and horses brought through safely. Old Halveric’s skull keeps watch.

    Who would have believed how many times that once battered child would save us, Aliam, Cal, our home and family. Every action we take has consequences, so many of them unanticipated. The sweetness of being once again sheltered from the winter with family around contrasts starkly with those days of bitter fear.

    Estilla comes to sit next to me for a while, already inches taller than when she made that grueling ride to bring more Rangers to our aid. For all of Lyonya’s history, until the Lady died, we believed that She and the Elvenhome would always protect us from invasion. It no longer does so, but thanks to Kieri the Elvenhome flourishes once more, even if like our home, it is different. Kieri’s power and vision are different than the Lady’s, but at least the Elves once more have a home and I sense Taig is healthy and settled.

    Something moves me to speak, to tell a story about change and unforeseen consequences, the possibility that what we do may begin a cascade of events which seem impossible. However, the King’s story is private, so I will tell another story of courage, of change, and of light.

    I repeat the words of the Midwinter ritual:

    “In darkness, in cold, in the midst of winter,
    where nothing walks the world but death and fear,
    let the brave rejoice: I call the light.”

    “I call the light” echo the others.

    “Out of the darkness, light.
    Out of the silence, song.
    Out of the sun’s death, the birth of each year.
    Out of cold, fire.
    Out of death, life.
    Out of fear, courage to see the day.
    In the darker night, brighter stars.
    In greater fear, greater courage.
    In the midst of winter, the world’s birth.
    Praise to the High Lord.”

    “On this darkest of nights I will tell you what I know of the story of Paksenarrion, how she became a Paladin in the service of the High Lord, and how her light and courage saved our King and our country and can guide us in the New Year.”

  • Comment by Susan — December 29, 2013 @ 7:07 pm


    Linda, that’s beautiful. I’ve always felt that Aliam and Estil were the almost unsung heroes of this story. Not only did they save and nurture Kieri, but much of the honor and goodness that Kieri modeled and taught to those in his command (who then spread it outward) he learned from them.

  • Comment by LARRY LENNHOFF — December 29, 2013 @ 8:13 pm


    Midwinter’s night is nearly over, and I eagerly awaited the dawn to come. This was the first year I had stayed up the entire night, listening to the tales told by my extended family – parents, aunts, uncles, cousins. It seemed like most of the village was related to us, and on midwinter we all gathered together. The ritual recital was done, the stories had been told, and the family had gathered together in a big comforting mass to keep warm. Next year, I knew, I would be expected to tell a story. Most people told other’s tales, but I resolved that I would live this year so as to produce a tale worth telling.

  • Comment by John McDonald — December 29, 2013 @ 10:55 pm


    Jori stood still in the shadows, listening and watching. Listening to the chill wind blow down the dark streets of Liren, swirling the light dusting of snow, for on this Midwinter’s night all was dark, even the lamps on the main streets unlit. Watching the ears of Brix, the large dog who sat at his side, for he knew the dog would be aware of anyone moving about long before his fur clad ears would hear anything.
    He like working as the night watch corporal, especially on Midwinter when all the taverns were closed and the usual burglars, thieves and troublemakers stayed home. No sense them going out on the one night when every household was awake the whole night through. Harel, the watch commander, had chided him him,”Who are you going to tell your tales of heroes and courage? The dog?”
    “He at least listens, without trying to out tell me” Jori replied. “Unlike some I know”, Looking over at Seli and Derrik, the pair who would be patrolling the closed Night Market.

    Jori had just stepped into the street when he heard a door slam down the alley to his right, running footsteps coming towards him. Dog was instantly alert, ears forward, head down. A small figure burst from the alley, but immediately stopped as Brix stepped forward, a low growl coming from his throat. “Hold” cried Jori, stepping forward. “What are you doing running about on Midwinter Night?”

    “Go- going for the mid-wife, sir.” replied a small, high pitched voice. Jori looked down at the lad, who couldn’t be more than six winters old.
    “She says I need to hurry sir, her water’s broke and the baby’s coming now” the lad continued.

    Jori saw the lad was barefoot, with just a short cape on over his nightshirt. “Come along then lad. We will go together. Do you know where the midwife lives?”
    “Yes sir, just down Cotton lane”, the lad replied, edging nervously around the dog and then taking off at a run. Brix looked up at Jori. “Follow” Jori said, jogging down the street after the boy.

    After fetching the midwife and escorting her and the boy home, Jori and Brix continued on their rounds. It was a quiet watch, and the only others they saw were other guards, patrolling the quiet city. Jori found himself moving back to the street where they had encountered the boy. Just as the sky began to lighten, he was going down the alley the boy had burst from. He heard a wail, the high pitched “waaaa” a newborn makes, coming from a closed door.

    “Ah Brix, what courage to be born on Midwinter morn, and to have an older brother willing to go out on Midwinter night, in the snow and cold, barefoot, to fetch help!” Brix growled low in his throat as an assent.

    Jori loved working the night watch on Midwinter.

  • Comment by mette — December 30, 2013 @ 2:21 am


    I love love love this arc contest! The amount of creativity in here is inspiring! Almost sorry its over soon.

    Loved the last ones!

  • Comment by pjm — December 30, 2013 @ 3:17 am


    It is a marvellous thing to have a whole wold to play in!

    Thanks Elizabeth. The last time I can remember putting pen to paper (fingers to keys) to write fiction I was in high school! It wasn’t fun then, but this was.

    Blessings for a happy 2014.


  • Comment by Gareth — December 30, 2013 @ 8:40 am


    Peter – me too – I write a lot of technical white papers and presentations but hadn’t committed any fiction to paper since school – must be over 40 years ago – I’ve day-dreamed and thought a lot though.

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