Sunday, December 18, 2016

A Christmas Celebration!

“Hold your paw right there,” Anna said to her father.

Farloft placed one large green paw on the paper to hold it in place while Anna wrapped the ribbon around the package. It was handy having a shape-shifting-dragon for a daughter. Her human hands were made for this type of work, unlike his huge paws.

The two of them were quickly wrapping presents while everyone else was off picking up the company. Clearair’s first stop was to pick up Theresa, the healer and Farloft’s best friend. Then they would continue to the castle to pick up Sarah, Theresa’s niece and the sorcerous in the kingdom.

James had left to pick up Adrian, the bard.

They were all going to celebrate Christmas in the dragon family’s lair where there was enough room for all.

The dragon clan had spent a great deal of time decorating their cave and creating a welcoming place for their human friends. Anna and Sarah made swags of sweet smelling spruce bows and holly branches with twine and ribbons, which Clearair and Anna festooned around the cave.

Farloft and James picked out a lovely tree. Farloft knocked it down with a strong tail swipe and they lugged it home to install it. Anna tucked dried Queen Ann’s Lace, mistletoe and holly in the bows for decoration.

Adrian and James worked earlier in the month to fell another tree, made planks from it and fashioned a long table that everyone could sit up to for dinner. They made the table a comfortable height for the dragons. Theresa would need a leg up to get on the bench, but Sarah and Adrian, being younger and more agile, could hop up on their own.

It was questionable what form Anna would be in. She was getting better at retaining whichever form she wanted, dragon or human, but sometimes when she got excited she would lose control. In the middle of a laugh she could morph from human to dragon in an instant. James spent a lot of time teasing her, as only an older brother could, in order to make her shift.

“There!” Anna said triumphantly. “Last one. I’ll put it under the tree.”

She went to place the present under the tree. “Papa, come see.” She giggled.

Farloft walked up just in time to see Flutterby’s butt and hind legs disappear into the tree. The flying cat, pet to the dragon family, was making herself at home in the bows of the tree. She peeked out and mewed at the two dragons in a teasing tone.

“I think she makes a good addition,” Farloft exclaimed. “Very decorative.” Voices drifted up the tunnel to the main chamber. “We finished just in time.” He wing-hugged his daughter enthusiastically. He loved Christmas.

Clearair, Theresa and Sarah entered the chamber. “I hope it was not too chilly a ride for you.” Clearair was chatting with Theresa.

Theresa quickly shed her scarf and cloak. The main chamber of the dragon family’s cave was heated by several cones in the floor which tapped into the volcanic core of the semi-dormant volcano they lived in.

“It was invigorating,” Theresa said, as she approached one of the cones and held her hands out toward its warmth. “I love the snow and I had the warmth of your home to look forward to.”

Farloft stepped up to Theresa and nuzzled her gently. He huffed over her in greeting, drying the damp locks of hair which had escaped her hood during the dragon ride to the cave. “How is my friend this evening?”

Theresa reached up and stroked the huge green dragon’s muzzle. “I am delighted to be here and Knicker was pleased he got to stay in his warm stable for the night.” Knicker was Theresa’s horse and was often the one who brought her up to the dragon’s lair. “It was nice of Clearair to make the trip to pick us up.”

“The place looks lovely,” Sarah said. “The boughs we made are perfect. They make the cave so fragrant.” She smiled and headed toward the tree. “The tree is beautiful too.”

“Papa says it is a grand fir,” Anna piped up.

“A grand fir for a grand event,” Farloft added with a toothy grin.

Flutterby popped out her head from between the branches of the tree.

“OH!” Sarah shouted in surprise.

Anna giggled. “We even have live decorations.”

“Sarah… Anna… Help me get our things from Clearair.” Theresa turned back toward the dragoness.

Farloft noticed for the first time that his mate was loaded down with several burlap bags and baskets. “What have we here?” He tilted his wedged head and his golden eyes whirled in anticipation.

“Just you wait and see,” Theresa teased.

Bags and baskets were unhooked and rope rolled up. Then the unpacking began. There was a basket full of sweets, large ‘dragon sized’ cookies, Theresa’s homemade toffee – a favorite of both Clearair and James, fudge for the healer’s chocolate loving friend – Farloft, and homemade candy canes which she distributed to Sarah and Anna.

“Hang these on the tree,” she said. She also pulled some strings of cranberries from her basket and handed them to the girls. “And these.”

The red of the berries and the candy canes made the tree even more festive.

Next Theresa pulled open the drawstring of one of the burlap bags. She turned down the top, but left the contents in place. Farloft arched his long neck over the bag. “Apples…” He loved apples.

“And apple pie,” Theresa added, as she began to unload the second basket. It contained pies, a large round of cheese and several long delicious smelling sausages.

“We are going to have a feast tonight,” Farloft exclaimed with a chuckle. “You have thought of everything.”

“And what she didn’t think of, we brought,” Adrian said, as he and James entered the cave. The bard slid from the back of his young dragon friend. “I brought my lute and James caught a stag on the way down to pick me up. I’ll dress it out and we will roast it up for dinner.”

“Good job!” Farloft wing bumped his son. “I intended for us males to go out and hunt while the females settled in this evening, but now we can laze around in true dragon comfort.”

James, Adrian and Farloft took the stag off to prepare it for roasting over one of the lava cones. Clearair, Theresa, Sarah, and Anna settled down for a chat.

Over the years, since Anna’s form was often a human one, and Theresa and Sarah came regularly for visits, the dragon family had made certain accommodations. There was a tea kettle and tea, with a jug of honey, which the dragons enjoyed too. Thick pallets made of soft wool and stuffed with straw, sweet smelling bows and sprigs of lavender were in a stack against one wall. They merely needed to be pulled out and reclined upon. The floor of the main chamber was black sand. The pallets made for a soft cushion on the beachie substance.

Once the stag was roasting, the group all gathered together for a chat before dinner. Treats were passed around. Dragons never lost their appetite, so having sweets before dinner was not an issue.

Farloft pulled the bag of apples close and alternated popping one in his mouth with a paw full of fudge. James lazed on his belly, his head on his paws as he chewed, and chewed, and chewed, a large lump of toffee. Anna leaned up against her dragon brother next to Adrian as he sliced apple with his knife and fed her pieces. She was young and had her first crush – it just happened to be on the handsome bard. Sarah and Theresa worked on slicing up the cheese and sausage for dinner, and Clearair watched over all of it with a motherly pride. She enjoyed these times together with the dragons and humans she considered family.

“Mama, what was your favorite Christmas?” Anna asked around a mouthful of apple.

“I think this one may be,” Cleairair replied with a smile.

Anna left Adrian and James to go snuggle up against her mother’s chest in between her paws. The youngling shifted to her dragon self and nuzzled her mother under her chin. “I think this one will be the best too.”

Adrian licked his fingers and then dried them on his pants. He picked up his lute, which was close at hand and strummed aimlessly. Farloft began to hum along as he lazily stroked Flutterby’s golden coat.

“What was your favorite Christmas?” Theresa asked Farloft over Adrian’s light plucking.

The dragon continued to pet his flying kitty. “Other than this one?” he said with a twinkle in his eye. “I would have to say it was the year I received this bundle of fluff.” He lifted Flutterby and pressed his cheek to hers. Her purr rumbled deep and she twitted her wings with delight.

“Really?” a voice said from the tunnel entrance.

Everyone looked up to see a lady dressed in a long red coat with a bright red knit cap. She had snuck in quiet as a kitten.

“Alayna!” Farloft exclaimed excitedly.

Flutterby flew to her with Farloft mere steps behind. The flying kitty pranced around her feet and rubbed against her legs. Farloft sat down on his haunches and scooped her into an embrace.

Alayna huggled the dragon and pet at the kitty that now perched on his shoulder. “I am so pleased I made it in time.”

“In time?” Farloft asked.

“We have all been stalling dinner waiting for her arrival,” Theresa explained. “Alayna is your Christmas present from all of us.”

“What a wonderful surprise.” Farloft was almost purring.

“And I brought an even bigger surprise,” Alayna said, as she pulled back from Farloft and opened her coat. A cute little calico kitten jumped out.

“Kitten!” Farloft cried with glee. “You brought Kitten!”

The little calico rubbed under Farloft’s chin, then nosed Flutterby on Farloft’s shoulder. She hopped down and proceeded to bat at the dragon’s tail. Farloft slid it gently across the cave floor watching Kitten and Flutterby doing their best to bring the ‘dangerous’ snaky-enemy under control.

Farloft chuckled at the kitten’s antics. “How did you get here?”

Sarah came forward and took Alayna’s coat and hat. It was far too warm in the lair for them. “I summonsed her,” she said with a grin, “and sent Tolly to fetch her.”

Farloft gazed upon Sarah with pride. “You have become quite the sorcerous, sending your horse without rider to another village.”

James came up behind them. “I have always said Tolly is one of the smartest horses I have ever meet. Where is she? She should come in out of the cold.”

They all heard a reply whinny as Tolly walked out of the tunnel dragging her bridle.

“Here,” Adrian said. He led Tolly to a warm place by a lava cone. He then slit open his pallet with his knife and grabbed several hands full of the stuffing for the horse to munch on. Tolly blew and settled down to eat her snack.

James nuzzled the horse. He and Tolly had always gotten along famously, unlike Knicker, who could be a bit uppity around dragons. The kittens played around their feet until Kitten sprinted up the tunnel toward the hoard chamber with Flutterby flapping along overhead.

“Kitten?” Alayna called.

“Don’t worry about them,” Clearair said. “There isn’t anything they can hurt in there.”

“Come… Sit.... The meat is almost done to human standards and then we will eat.” Farloft draped one wing around Alayna, and the other around Sarah, and guided them back to the pallets by the thermal pool.

They all settled down again, but everyone was so excited they all wanted to talk at once. Conversations overlapped and laughter rang out through the chamber, bouncing off the crystal ceiling like the voices of carolers in a cathedral.

The kittens could not stay away long from all the activity. Soon then were back from the treasure room all decked out for the holiday festivities. Flutterby had draped a ruby necklace over her head that hung so long, if she had been walking – instead of flying – she would have tripped. Kitten had chosen a diamond studded tiara, which fit her head and personality perfectly. They pranced into the room to show off their ‘dazzlers.’

“Oh my,” Alayna said when she caught sight of them. “I do think someone had robbed your hoard, Farloft.”

Farloft chuckled in his deep resonant baritone. He scooped up Kitten and huggled her close. Flutterby, not wanting to be left out, landed on his shoulder for her share of his attention. “They do look as though they are decked out for the evening.”

“Where did those two pieces come from?” Anna asked. She knew her father remembered all the stories behind each piece of treasure in his hoard. And, the stories were always fun and sometimes very exciting to hear.

“Well…” Farloft tipped his wedged head toward Flutterby and chucked her under the chin with his large paw. “The necklace was Queen Isabella’s. I pulled her favorite horse out of a bog it got stuck in. She awarded me the necklace as a thank you.”

James grinned. “You didn’t get any gems when you pulled me out of the bog.”

Farloft reached out and wing bumped his adopted son. “Ahhhh, but I got something more precious than gems when I rescued you.”

James glowed under Farloft’s praise. He leaned over and head bumped with the old dragon.

“And this one,” Farloft continued, as he held up Kitten for inspection, “this was given to me when I alerted King Richard that his daughter, Princess Grace, had fallen into the well in the castle gardens.”

“How did that happen?” Adrian asked with interest. He loved Farloft’s tales and kept many of them in his repertoire of stories to be told in the villages he visited as a bard.

“Well…The King and I were consulting in the courtyard, when I heard Grace scream. After the incident, the King said he had not heard anything and felt the child would have perished had I not been there.” Farloft studied Kitten as though he were visualizing the incident. “Princess Grace was just a little thing, perhaps five or six. She had fallen in the well in the orchard. Once we retrieved her, she told us she was trying to catch a butterfly when she tumbled in. Luckily, she was uninjured, a few cuts and bruises, but her father was so thankful that he pulled this tiara from her tangled mane of chestnut hair and gave it to me as reward.” Farloft studied the crown on Kitten’s head. “I assured him seeing little Grace safely in his arms was enough, but he insisted.”

Kitten reached out with a paw and thumped Farloft on the nose, successfully bringing him out of his revelry. He put her down and the two kittens scrabbled off, Flutterby’s necklace clanking on the slate as she dragged it across the floor once they got out of the sand around the pool.

“Come,” Clearair said, as she rose. “I smell that the meat is finished cooking. Let’s all sit and have our dinner.”

Farloft took his place at the head of the table with Theresa on his right and Alayna on his left. Clearair sat at the other end with Sarah on her right and Anna on her left. The boys, James and Adrian sat in the middle within easy reach of all the delicious feast. Flutterby and Kitten were off to play in the packages under the tree, and… in the tree.

James filled goblets and dragon-drinking-bowls with apple cider Adrian brought as his contribution to the meal. Theresa passed out huge dripping plates of brown crusted stag meat to the dragons and smaller portions to the humans. The platters of cheese, sausage and other goodies were all passed around. Apples were doled out from the sack by Anna.

Farloft grinned toothily and raised his bowl on high. “To the Best Christmas Ever! And, to Many More to Come!”

Everyone raised their bowl or goblet in turn. “Cheers!” they all called out in unison. “Merry Christmas!”


Merry Christmas from Farloft and his Clan,
to All of You and Yours!

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