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Beloved Darling

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The cursed dolls

This mystical and interesting article that I wrote back in high school. School work on art criticism.

Today on the pages of the forum, we are preparing for New Year! So, sit back, pour yourself champagne, only a little more, the story will be long! And while hitting Christmas chimes, we will hear the story of the the cursed dolls and about master who has made them.
Each girl in childhood had a doll: elegant, beautiful, so looks like a baby. But why exactly dolls are so often the heroines of horror stories, legends and horror movies? Why thousands dolls who lost their masters, causes such horror and disgust?
On New Year we decided to relax with friends outside the city. Found on the Internet a wonderful house outside the city and took it. Before that, we went there with a friend, found out everything. Agreed with the owners about the price. December 31, my friends arrived at the place. With the girls we laid the table and began waiting for the New Year. But to celebrate, of course, began much earlier. Everything went very well, fun with contests and presents. We sat by the fireplace and one of the boys offered to tell scary stories. After hearing stories, we went to sleep. Somewhere at 3am we woke up from a strange giggles. I with my friend went down to the room where I heard the noise. In the main hall we saw the doll. How did she get here? My friend- lets name her Helen took the doll and threw it out the window. We went to sleep. In the morning, my friends and I went down for breakfast. But Helen was not with us. She was not in the room too. We decided to go look for her. For two hours we were looking for Helen in local forest. Maybe she went for a walk. But we did not find her. We decided to return to the cottage. In the living room on the couch was sitting a doll that was very similar to Helen. We decided it was a joke. But since that night we did not see Helen again. After I heard the story about the house of the damned dolls.
There once lived an ordinary man - let's call him J. He was not very sociable and talkative, perhaps, there was nothing strange: you never know who likes to be alone!?
J grew vegetables on the island, selling - and so fed. Near the house was a river. A little later, J noticed a floating doll. He caught a toy. On the same day, for the first time, he heard the voice. The doll was talking to him. Obeying her orders, J hung the doll on a tree, not knowing that by doing so he laid the foundation for a terrible collection. One doll was not enough. J, selling locally grown vegetables, taking payment instead of money puppets, any: new, old, broken. Hundreds of dolls quickly grew into the thousands, the whole tree was hung with dolls like X-mas tree. Local people began to fear him. No amount of money no brave man would not agree to spend the night in this cottage. And only J, alone, lived there, but his story ended sadly. J is gone, but his doll hanging on the trees remained. Local people buried dolls under the tree on which they are hung. Every year, on New Year's night disappeared some people, and in their place were found dolls.
True or not - you decide. Remember one thing: the cursed dolls travel around the world. Be careful! Once one of them wants to look inside your house!?
VJ MORPH's avatar

King Shapeshifter

Nyuka's avatar

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Title: Never Forget
Word count: 829 words 4544 characters
Story Catagory: (General Spooky Story/ Gaia themed)
Link to story: Here is my entry.

Nyuka gazed out the tall elizabethan style windows of the Interpreteur's castle like home. The snow was gently falling giving an added stillness to the echoing noise coming from the downstairs party. Nyuka was sure on a night like this the sound could be heard across the miles of white that surrounded them. The Interpreteur was a private man, he enjoyed simple pleasures of life so when he built this castle in a remote location of Gaia, no one was all that surprised. For most of the people down stairs this was the first time they had been here, Nyuka had been here before in fact she hadn't left. For the last nine months its been just Fulva, the Interpreter, and her. Sure the agency was curious to see how she was recovering from the SneakerHead Jayy incident, but she wasn't sure if she was going to face them to night, or ever. The whole incident violated her mind and body, she didn't think she wanted to see the people from her old life, because she was no longer the Nyuka they remember.

'Never Forget'

A gentle knock on the door drew Nyuka's attention away from the window. Standing at the door was her best friend and rock during these last few months. "Hello Fulva." Nyuka spoke dully, she knew why she was here, ever since Nyuka had gone missing Fulva had to pick up her slake from during and after her absence. Even if she said nothing Nyuka knew that she was hoping that the party would help her to recover faster because the work load was just to much for her small shoulders to bare. "The party is waiting for you Nyuka." Fulva said covering up her unease with false cheer. "Let them wait, this is the Interpreteur's party not mine." Nyuka said peering back out into the darkness of the night. "Please Nyuka… Santa's showed up and he is starting to hand out presents to everyone down stares, at least hang out until he gives you yours." Nyuka sighed, you can't just reject a gift from Santa. "Fine but I'm leaving as soon as I do."

'Never Forget'

Reaching the top of the stairs that led into the ball room below a hush and fallen over the thousands of Gaian's in attendance. "Is that her?" Nyuka heard their whispers. "She is the one who survived SneakerHead Jayy!" There was a sort of awe in their voices, "Isn't he the man who learned how to mind hack a persons brain and body?" Nyuka shuttered at the memory and tuned the crowd out after that.

"Nyuka love" The tall masked man came up to her, "I see you were able to hunt her down my cunning little Fulva! Sit, stand, eat, talk, enjoy yourself." The Interpreteur spoke waving his hand over the crowd. The Interpreteur was a bit of a mystery his genuine sounding accent changed every time you spoke with him, and his face was always concealed heightening the element of Mystery about him. "Oh is that Ian and Louie? My apologies Ladies I must attend to my other guest." With that the generous and suave host had meandered away.

'Never Forget'

Two minutes and Nyuka was already willing to bolt, it was too crowded here. Then a booming voice echoed through the walls, calling for her. "Nyuka come sit on Santa's lap" The marry voice of Santa said in summons. The crowd parted for her ominously as she made her way to Santa, her senses were telling her this was a bad idea but the crowd seemed to close behind her forcing her on ward. The Santa man patted his lap which Nyuka reluctantly took.

"Tell me Nyuka have you been a good girl for the last nine months…Have you forgotten what I've told you?…"

'Never forget'

Nyuka froze, she knew that voice, and it wasn't the voice of Santa any more. Nyuka looked on in horror into the mechanical eyes of Santa. "No…" Nyuka said quietly trying to get out of the fob Santa's lap, only for him to clench onto her keep her there. "Did you really think I would let you go Nyuka? No one ever escapes SneakerHead Jayy! Never Forget that!" Nyuka squirmed and clawed at his mechanical body, "NO! EVERYONE GET OUT OF HERE! HE IS HERE, SAVE YOURSELVES BEFORE ITS TOO LATE!" The Santa started to laugh turning her to face the crowd who had also started to laugh. To her horror, the faces in the crowd started to morph into a face she recognize as HIS! "Nyuka it's already too late." This reply did not come from the Santa behind her but instead it was the Interpreteur! Removing his mask it was the same as the crowds. "We can not be saved, but we can save you, join with us Nyuka!" Nyuka looked on in horror as the crowded descended upon her. "Ho Ho HO! Merry Christmas Nyuka!"
Ysavvryl's avatar

Peaceful Lunatic

Carol of Don Kuro

ka-kling ka-kling ka-kling

“Nnnnhhmm?” Snowflakes swirled around him in a delicate thickness. Storefront lights pierced through the white and gray with a golden glow. And red, there were spots of red in the winter scene, a donation pot and a charity bell calling attention to the needs of lesser beings. Those needs were nothing compared to the humiliation and suffering his people went through. But did these short-lived humans ever care to help them just out of the goodness of the heart? No, no they didn't.

A snowflake landed on his lashes, leaving a chilled wetness there. It felt so real. But this was a dream. His mind felt the haze of dreams. Meaning, no matter how real the snowflakes and cold felt, it wasn't real. The snowflakes surrounded him; the dark clouds reflected light from the city back down to it, obscuring the night sky. Yet part of the night sky stood before him, the dark-skinned Nyx wearing his cloak with the sparkle of stars and moonlight.

“No matter how far away you roam,” a choir of voices sang. Among those voices was Louie von Helson, having stepped out of H&R Wesley for the time being. Maybe briefly, maybe a few hours. It was a dream; how could he know the answer? He would have liked this dream better if that store wasn't there. Some time ago, he had ordered it blown up. Send a message, they weren't fooling around anymore. The store got rebuilt in a matter of weeks, in a brighter and brasher form. And the lesser peoples just forgot about it, going back to their self-centered routines.

But he couldn't get angry now. It was cold, he was dreaming. The wind played with his white hair and he closed his eyes, thinking the dream might change.

“They don't even remember why they celebrate,” Nyx said. Opening his eyes, he saw the spectral god watching the choir. Warmly dressed pedestrians walked right through him, only giving a brief shiver as they did so. None of them would see him, save for himself. That often happened even outside of dreams. “Gifts and trees? No, it's the lights. Your ancestors huddled together on the longest nights and sang for the return of the sun. We used to fight long ago, but those traditions have been forgotten. What will you say now when the nights continue to grow?”

“You were to bring us into the light,” he said. Why couldn't he wake up, change this dream? It wasn't bad, but it wasn't good either.

Nyx looked down to him. “To avenge what was done to your people. To correct it.” He knelt down and put his hand on his head. “But this is a dream, your mind freed to wander and worry. Don't let it; you need to remain sharp. Relax, don't worry.”

“A dream,” he echoed, trying to close his eyes again. But the faint cold presence of snowflakes on his skin was strangely real, as if... was he awake?

“Luca.” A voice breathless with worry and caution broke through. Cordell passed right through Nyx without notice and clasped his shoulder.

“Don't call me that,” he said wearily. It felt distant.

“I wouldn't if you hadn't wandered off alone without letting anyone know,” she said. “What are you doing here?”

“Coffee,” Nyx said, causing him to say it as well. It was a dream; it didn't mean anything. The god of night was there to help him, not control him. Right?

Cordell wasn't impressed with the excuse. “You could have asked for that. What are you really out here for?”

“Coffee,” he repeated, unable to think of what else he might be here for. His mind was filled with a haze of dream, but the sensations of his body were all too real. Even the grip of his half-sister's hand.

“What's gotten into you?” she asked, more worried than scolding. “I don't like to see you hurting yourself like this.” She took his hand and pulled him along the sidewalk.

He followed, even though Nyx snorted at the exchange. His gaze fell to their hands, the black gloves clasping each other. What if she saw him without the gloves? In his mind, he could see through the fabric and note the scars running along his gray skin. It was all to keep Nyx anchored in the physical realm. Yet here they were, the god invisible to all but himself. It wasn't enough. What would be enough?

With the choir and the charity bell still in hearing, they stopped at one of the cafes that had stayed open late. Cordell let go of him long enough to fish out some money. “Could I get a tall coffee to go, black? And a tall hot cocoa.”

“Does your little boy want some cream for the cocoa?” the barrista asked. If he was awake, he'd have to keep his tongue in check at their assumption. Just because he was short didn't mean that he was a child.

“A little,” Cordell said. But once she got the drinks and led him past the tables, she handed him the coffee while keeping the cocoa to herself. “Here, although I’d rather you not continue working tonight. You look out of it.”

He brought the coffee to his face, but didn't drink it. A waft of the rich slightly bitter drink moved into his nose. Real? A dream? The haze tried to clear, but seeing Nyx standing behind Cordell, it tried to cloud his thoughts again. “Is... this a dream?”

“Luca?” She crouched down, looking him eye to eye.

“It's a dream,” Nyx said, bringing one of his hands up. Then he had a knife in his hand, a knife with a large blade. “But while it's a dream... I need a sacrifice to maintain myself for longer than a few minutes. I need proof of your devotion to our cause. Why not her? She is a product of the sin that ruined your people, yet you suffered far more for that sin than she. She is holding you back from what must be done. Sacrifice her to me and nothing will be able to stop you.”

Sacrifice Cordell? The cold of winter seeped past his skin and into his heart. Her eyes showed sorrow and pain mixed in with a sister's love.

“It is a dream.”

“You look like Mother,” he said quietly, closing his eyes. It was a dream; he could change a dream, as it was just a dream. Or was it a dream?

“You should really take a break and get some sleep,” Cordell said, swapping their drinks again. Then she picked him up and carried him back.

Unseen by all but him, Nyx followed them. The old god was supposed to help the dark elves break their curse and finally prosper. But to sacrifice Cordell for that? Could he? He may have been asleep, or may have been awake, so he wasn't sure. He clutched her shoulder and closed his eyes, listening to the choir continuing to sing about the love of family. And the ringing of the red charity bell, piercing through the dream haze and trying to wake him up.

ka-kling ka-kling ka-kling
StormFlyer's avatar

Star Explorer

The List

“Geez, where the heck did all this snow come from? It wasn't supposed to snow until next week.”

“Oh get over yourself Steve! Go shovel out the driveway so I can go to the store will you?”

“Go do it yourself Bertha! I’m watching football!”

The woman called Bertha sighed as she got up out of her chair and headed for the coat closet. Christmas Eve was upon the household as the young husband and wife continued to prepare for the holiday, though the woman was not quite as happy as she wanted to be.

It was their first Christmas as husband and wife, though after being married for a mere six months Bertha was beginning to think that she had made a mistake. Steve didn't end up being the man that the woman had been led to believe he was, and she wanted to get away so badly but was unable to support herself.

So, with the holiday season in full swing all around her, the woman shoveled the snow out of her driveway and headed out to the store in her little Jeep.

Little did she know, her Christmas Wish was about to come true.

“Where is that woman with my food!?”

It hadn't been a half hour before Steve was ranting and raving about how long it was taking for his wife to get supplies from the store. He hadn't married her for her looks, her cooking skills, nor any other reason a man would have to take on a wife.

No, he had married her as a cover for his real pleasure.

He was a killer, a cold-blooded killer. And he needed someone to keep the house clean and to show his stability if he was ever brought in as a suspect.

In fact, he was just about ready to make another killing.

Turning off the football game he hadn't really been watching, Steve stood and walked to his part of the coat closet and garbed himself in some dark clothing that would easily blend in with the forest. He then grabbed a small container that was lying innocently in the back corner of the closet.

Pulling out the hand gun, Steve put it on his hip under his thick jacket before pulling on his boots and heading out the back door and into the woods to look for his target.

He had seen an older man and his wife leaving for a walk five minutes earlier and had made them his next target.

“What a wonderful night this is my dear!”

“I agree! I’m so glad that we moved here last year.”

The elder couple laughed and smiled happily as they enjoyed their walk through the forest. Birds were chirping, squirrels running around finding their stashes for the winter, and there was even a pair of male reindeer foraging for food in the new snow.

There was a crunch of snow from a boot not far behind the pair.

Turning to look, the elder man came face to face with nothing more than the winter wonderland that he and his wife had been walking through.

“What is it dear? Is something the matter?”

“Nothing, nothing at all. I just thought I heard something.”

With that they returned to their walk, only to hear the same crunch a few minutes later. This time, however, the sound was closer than the last.

“I heard it this time, what do you think it is?”

“I’m not sure, but I’m sure that we’ll find out soon enough.”

The next time that the husband and wife heard the crunch, when they turned around they were faced with the barrel end of a hand gun.

“I suggest that you do as I say, lest you want your heads blown off.”

Steve was grinning like a man gone mad as he stared down at the elderly couple.

“Well dear, I wonder what this young man wants? Do you know him Nick?”

“I’m not sure I do Jessica, what is your name young man?”

Steve was completely surprised that this couple was not at all scared of him as he held a gun to their heads.

“I’m the one asking the questions here you! Now do as I say and keep walking!”

“Well we were already on a walk, if you wanted to join us then you could have just asked sonny!”

“Come along my boy! Join my wife and I on our walk!”

As the elder man walked up to Steve he swung his arm around the young man’s shoulders and began to walk with him.

“You stupid old geezers!”

Steve whirled around to face the old man with his gun pointed right at his head, but soon found that the man was gone.

Whipping around to the wife, the man found that she too had vanished.

Confused and bewildered, Steve looked frantically around in the snow to find the couple. How had they vanished so quickly!? The old man had his arm around his shoulders and then he just vanished!

“Heh, look there, the boy is confused!”

“Of course he is, all of them get confused.”

Two male voices echoed through the now silent forest, and Steve whipped around even more frantically trying to find them.

“Who is that!? Show yourselves!”

There was a loud BANG as the man shot off one round into the sky, though there was no sound of animals or people running around in fright.

“Hear that mate? He wants us to show ourselves.”

“Like we haven’t heard that one before.”

“Why don’t we give him what he wants then?”

Eight silhouettes surrounded the man as he continued to look around, though they went unnoticed since he was looking for a human.

“And he doesn't even see us, how rude.”

“What say you boys? Shall we get this over with?”

“Time to take out the trash.”

With those words, the eight shadowed figures rushed the crazed man in the middle.

It was over in less than a minute. All that was left of Steven was a trampled, bloodied corpse in the middle of the snow.

“They never learn do they?”

The eight reindeer stood over the corpse and shook their large, antlered heads. It had been a long time since they had taken out a human for the sake of The List.

What is this list you ask?

Well, everyone knows that Santa has his list and checks it twice to see if children are naughty or nice. But have you ever wondered, just what happened when those children grow into adults?

You see, Santa doesn't just give presents to good children, he rewards good adults. So of course he puts them on the same ‘Naughty’ and ‘Nice’ lists as he does the children.

Yet some adults are just too naughty to be put on the Naughty List, so the good old Santa Clause has to pull out his third list. Now this list has no other name than ‘The List’ because the adults whose names are written upon it are so horrible, there is no name to describe it.

There are few names on this list, and most are crossed out with a thin line from Santa’s feather pen.

The old man and his wife walked back out of the trees to stand with the eight reindeer, patting each on his muzzle in thanks.

“Next time, sir, please just let us do our job without putting yourself and the misses in harm’s way.”

“Oh please Blitzen, Jessica and I were never in true danger.”

“You should try asking your wife before making that assumption Mr. Clause.”

There was a loud SMACK that resonated through the forest, followed by a chorus of laughter.

That night, Santa Clause would ride in his sleigh with a red hand print upon his cheek, eight snickering reindeer, a clueless Rudolph, and an annoyed look on his face.

“Oh stop laughing!”
Sir Miles's avatar

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Here's my story entry. I wish I had more time to revise, but hey. It might help the reader to know that this story is based upon Welsh tradition and mythology. (Some parts are real; the rest is made up.)

The snow was piled in drifts along either side of the muddy road. It had been there for almost a week, so I wasn’t interested anymore. But my little brother was too young not to know any better; he kept kicking his boots through the whiteness and giggling when it brushed against his coat. “Mind your clothes,” I called, with grown-up authority in my voice. “Mum will throw a fit if you come back dirty.” I had the right of it, of course, and I was in charge, besides; but that mattered little to Davy. He just looked at me, grinning, and kept right on through the snow. Davy did exactly and only what he wanted. With his blue eyes and curly golden hair that fell just so over his forehead, he could usually get his way, too. “The little angel,” folks called him. But not me. I frowned, fingering a few strands of my own straight, mud-colored hair as I walked. I didn’t call him that; and they didn’t call me that, neither.

“Bran,” Davy had tired of his game and was bouncing along the road next to me now, “you’re too slow.” I opened my mouth to say something clever but never got the chance. “Race you home!” And then he was off, his little boots kicking up mud all over his trousers and coat. I scowled and yelled after him—but all I got for it was another giggle. The commotion made a few people standing beside the road look in our direction. In a small village like ours, everyone knew Davy. They smiled as he passed.

Frustrated, I trotted after him, careful not to get my skirt dirty. I’d get it bad if I let him out of my sight; I was supposed to be “taking care of him,” as Mum put it. No matter that the village wasn’t even big enough to get lost in, anyway! Even Davy knew his way around the houses and shops, and enough to mind the horse carts that used the bigger roads. But Mum was firm.

I saw Davy turn a corner behind the farrier’s shop and scowled. If he took the shortcut through the fields, Mum would never let me hear the end of it. “Davy Norris, you will be in a well of trouble when I get you,” I muttered, then broke into a run.


I was too late. When I got home, out of breath, Mum was busy toweling Davy’s hair dry with one hand and stripping off his coat with the other. She had her “tight lips” on. “ . . . all this mess, really! And when I have so much work to do for this ev’n!” She caught me before I could duck around the house. “Branwyn! Where in the world have ye been, young miss? And—“ she made a sound between an exclamation and a sigh. “Look at your dress!” I knew what was there, but her words made me look anyway. I was more of a mess than Davy.

Mum was in her best huff. “If one child weren’t enough to clean up, now there are two! And what were ye thinking, letting him come back alone? And through the fields no less! I thought ye more responsible than this—“

“Now, now, Mair.” I looked up as Da appeared in the doorway, his hair dark like mine, his eyes softer like Davy’s. Da was one of the biggest men in the village, but everyone said he was the friendliest, too. But even Mum gave him a run for his patience sometimes. “The babes were just enjoying the snow.” He put a huge hand on Mum’s shoulder, making her pause in her cleaning. “You know how long it’s been since we had snow at midwinter.”

His words were like a spell. I saw Mum’s back shift slightly. But she was stubborn, too. “Snow or not, that’s no excuse for making so much work!” She lifted the towel from Davy’s head and threw a hand toward him. “Who has to do the washing?” she demanded, tugging his coat the rest of the way off. “And Branwyn is worse!”

“Branwyn will help with the washing, Mair. She’s a good girl.” He gave me a quick glance. “And it’s not so bad as all that.” He spoke quickly, giving Mum no time to argue. “Bran, take Davy in to get new clothes. Don’t drip on the floor; your Mum just cleaned it. Afterward, come and help us get ready for the caroling tonight.”

Davy’s eyes lit up. Of course he would forget about tonight. I sighed and headed toward the door. Da stood by to let me pass. “Come on,” I said to my brother.

“And don’t forget to take off your boots!” Da added, shutting the door behind us.

I stood in the corner of the small room where we kept our shoes and coats. I could hear Mum’s voice coming through the window of the room next door. Her tone was still upset. “Is that the best ye can do, Llewydyn Norris? That girl needs more discipline. Letting Davy go through the fields—all alone, no less! If he had been taken—“

Listening carefully, I took off my boots and coat. Da’s voice was calm; I could imagine him putting both hands on Mum’s shoulders and rubbing them gently. “Hush, cariad. That’s an old tale, long over. No one’s going to disappear in the fields.”

Her words came back, quiet but insistent. “My granddad’s brother was taken from those very fields, just before the new year. You know it’s true. And he was little more than Davy’s age.”

I moved into the next room, eager to hear more. Mum rarely spoke about great-granddad, except to warn us away from trouble “like the kind what befell him long ago.” It seemed to me ancient troubles weren’t worth all the rules she put on us.

Da was saying something to comfort Mum. But I missed it because Davy was tugging on my arm. Hurry up, Bran!” He had stripped down to his long underthings; his clothes were heaped in a corner. “We have to get ready for tonight!”

I sighed at the pile of clothes, then moved to pick up my coat and throw it on top. “It’s not that exciting,” I muttered.

“It is, too!” He pulled me toward our room. “This year, Da says I get to go with the Mari Lwyd! Come one!”

“Hey! Watch where you’re going!”


“Merch, what ails you?” I looked up as Da sat at the table next to me. He always called me his daughter when we talked alone. Davy was busy finishing his after-supper chores while Mum fussed over the pot of wassail on the fire.

I stared down at my clean dress, my lips turned down. “I can’t help it, Da,” I said finally. “I’m just gloomy.” I knew I hadn’t been in the best of sorts all day; I just didn’t know why. “I know you and Mum worked hard to give us a good holiday—and it really was.” I did not want him thinking I was spoiled like the blacksmith’s daughter. “It’s something else. I don’t know what.”

Da was quiet for a long time, until I looked at him in spite of myself. His eyes were watching me carefully. “Midwinter can be a gloomy time,” he said, nodding. Then he smiled. “That is why we celebrate until Twelfth Night! No darkness should be faced without lights, singing, and feasts!” He threw his arms out gaily.

“Oh, Da . . .” My lips twitched in spite of myself. But then the gloom returned. “But I don’t want to go caroling.”

“It isn’t just caroling, Bran!” His voice dropped low as he leaned toward me. “It is the march of the Mari Lwyd.”

Suddenly Davy was at the edge of the table, his eyes as big as eggs. “The Mari Lwyd! Tell us, Da!”

I glared at him. “Eavesdropping is wicked.” He ignored me, all his attention on Da. I clenched my fists but held my peace. I wasn’t as excited as my little brother; but I did love to hear Da tell stories. Even Mum left the fire to come stand next to his chair when he cleared his throat.

“The Mari Lwyd—“

“The Grey Mare!” Davy interrupted. (“Hush!” I told him.)

Da continued. “Yes, the Grey Mare is an old, powerful being, older than the hills around our valley, and more powerful than the storm that brought our snow.” The firelight seemed to dim as he spoke, and I imagined the shadows about the house leaning in to hear. Da’s voice was deep and mysterious. I felt Davy put a hand on my knee.

“They say she was once the Mari Gwynnwy, a white horse as beautiful and fleet as a cloud. She came from over the sea, riding a wave that stretched from north to south. When her hoof touched earth, her power spread over the land, making it the most beautiful country below the sun.”

Davy interrupted again. “That was Gwynedd!”

This time Mum frowned at Davy, but Da merely grinned. “That was our home,” he agreed. I looked toward the dark windows, picturing the forests and hills around our valley. It was easy to imagine that this land, beloved by our people, was the most beautiful place in the world.

“For a time, the white mare dwelt in the land, wild and free. Until, one day, she met the most beautiful woman born of man,” Da smiled at Mum, “the fair Rhiannon.”

Davy frowned; he had not heard this part of the story. But I knew it well. “Rhiannon was the one who didn’t want to marry her betrothed.”

Da nodded. “To save her from an unwanted suitor, the white mare carried Rhiannon to her true love, a king from another country. You see,” he patted my hand gently, “Rhiannon was beautiful and kind, the perfect mistress. So the white mare pledged to serve her faithfully, until the sea should cover the land.”

“Oh.” Davy’s eyes were wide with wonder.

Continuing, Da said, “Thanks to the white mare, Rhiannon married her true love, and together they had a magnificent baby boy. His hair was filled with sunlight, much like yours, my Davy.” He tweaked a lock of my brother’s hair playfully. I saw Mum smile.

“But!” The room seemed to grow darker again. “But . . . happiness was not to be found for the fair Rhiannon and the white mare.” I listened quietly as Da told the tragic story of Rhiannon’s baby, how the boy was stolen in the night and the ladies-in-waiting, fearing the king’s wrath, smeared blood on Rhiannon’s mouth and clothes. “They accused the fair Rhiannon of murdering her own child,” Da’s voice was barely above a whisper, “ . . . and eating him.”

“Enough.” Mum said suddenly, her voice sharp. “That’s no tale to be telling babes.”

I protested. “I’m old enough, Mum; it doesn’t scare me!”

Davy, I noted with some satisfaction, had caught hold of my skirt in one tight fist. But he too proclaimed that he wasn’t afraid. “He can’t stop there! Da hasn’t told us how the white mare became the Mari Lwyd!” I was surprised: it seemed my brother had been paying more attention than I knew.

Wary of Mum’s ire, Da finished quickly. “The white mare, seeking to free her mistress from the punishment brought upon her through this false crime, traveled to the far country—that’s the land of the undying, Davy—to discover the fate of the boy. In doing so, she used all of her power, and her shining white coat turned to grey. Still, it was not enough; the mare could not free her mistress from her curse of penance, for the boy could not be found. And when Rhiannon died, the mare went with her, still searching.”

Davy blinked three times, then asked in a whisper, “What if the story’s wrong, and Rhiannon did eat her baby?”

This time Mum’s interruption was firm. “Anymore words from ye, and I’ll change my mind about caroling tonight.” She frowned in thought. “It may be that Davy’s too young yet—“

My brother let out a roar. “I can go, Mum! I’m old enough! I promise I won’t be trouble!” He would have kept on all night if Mum hadn’t remembered the wassail. With a gasp she ran back to the fire, little Davy right on her heels, still protesting.

I looked at Da. “Is it true?” I asked lightly. I didn’t want him to think I’d believed it, of course; but maybe I had. Parts of it, anyway. Feeling a fool, I added, “I don’t believe in it.”

“But, merch,” Da fixed me with a steady gaze, “It is true.” He looked toward the dark window, and I followed his gaze. “They say that the Mari Lwyd rides about even now, searching for a way to free her mistress.” I felt a shiver slide down my spine. Then Da smiled, and the shadows seemed to disappear. “But that is not out Mari Lwyd. Our own mare is a sign of luck and fortune! A visit from the grey mare means luck upon your house for the coming year.” He laughed. “Just be careful she doesn’t snap you up for supper!” Once again, he leaned close to speak quietly. “She gets hungry, Bran, from all that searching. So we feed her—and all of the carolers.” He laughed again. “Better to have cakes and wassail than boys and girls, eh?”

I could not laugh as Da did. Something about his words was frightening, though I did my best not to show it. I knew the Mari Lwyd was not real; the blacksmith had held the pole since before I was born. When the skull “snapped” at you, it was only the blacksmith making it move. Still, Da’s words stuck in my mind like a stick in the mud, making my gloomy thoughts even gloomier.

“I don’t care about luck,” I muttered. “And I don’t know why Davy is so excited. It’s just an old tradition.” I held myself back from saying “worthless.” Story or not, I didn’t care about the Mari Lwyd. Or caroling.

Da stood and patted my head. “It is a time to celebrate, merch. A time to enjoy oneself.”

I sighed. “I still don’t want to go.”


Even now, I wonder what would have happened if I had not been so gloomy. When the sounds of singing—and “carousing,” as Mum put it—came toward our door, I folded my arms and sat at the table, determined not to join in. Da, with his usual friendliness, opened the door and greeted the carolers, Davy at his heels. They were mostly children, my age or older, though there were a few grown-ups among them. I could see through the doorway the smaller ones in front, grinning as they sang. Looming over them was a horse’s skull, bleached pale in the moonlight. Beneath it hung a long, white sheet, decorated with bells and ribbons. At the top of the sheet, a pair of dark ears poked upward, giving the entire thing the faint illusion of being a real horse. I heard my brother’s excited gasp; I, however, was not impressed. I could see the shape of the blacksmith beneath the thin sheet. “It’s not even grey,” I muttered, leaning back in my chair. I closed my eyes as the carolers began another song, this one quiet and slow.

“Branwyn!” Mum’s voice snapped up my attention. “Help me with the cups! The carolers will be wanting their drinks.”

I sat up, rubbing my eyes. Had I fallen asleep? Da still stood at the door, his foot tapping along as the carolers sang a lively song. Where was Davy? Probably trying to peek under the sheet, I thought. I called to my brother to come help as I passed the doorway on my way to help Mum.

A minute later, I was carrying a tray with a dozen steamy cups on it. Waiting until the carolers had finished singing, I offered a cup first to Da, then to the group. Eager hands reached for the drinks. As the carolers drank, I tilted my head to look for Davy. The blacksmith had reached a great hand out from the sheet to take a cup. Just as I wondered how he was going to drink it, I watched the cup slip back beneath the material.

“Da?” I called again to get his attention. He was busy inviting the carolers through the door—to bring luck to our home, no doubt. “Da,” he looked at me, “where’s Davy?” My frustration was growing. It would be just like him to hide in the group!

“I don’t know, Bran.” Da’s name was called then, and he turned to greet a friend. I stood to the side as the rest of the carolers came in, smiling politely as Mum had taught me. A few of my friends tried to tease me, but I waved them away.

When the doorway was clear, I stepped outside, peering through the winter darkness. The sky was hung low with clouds, the moon trying with little success to break through. “Davy Norris, you’d better not be hiding!” I called.

The winter chill swept over me, making me shiver: I wore neither coat nor boots. I turned to take one more look into the night before closing the door against the wind. But something made me pause.

There was a light, coming down the road toward the house. It was no lantern or torch; the glow was pale like moonlight. Frowning, I watched it come closer, bobbing as though on horseback. And then, as it drew nigh, I felt my stomach twist into a hollow knot. No light on horseback; it was a horse, streaked grey and see-through in the moon’s glow. The pale mane lifted and fell as it galloped above the road, not touching it. I realized with a jolt that it made no sound. Perhaps that was what made me wait so long—too long.

Suddenly the long face was clearly visible before me, the spectre no more than a few steps beyond the door. The Mari Lwyd!

I gasped, feeling my heart pound within my chest. My entire body shaking fiercely, I stumbled back through the door and slammed it closed. It was a long moment before I found myself breathing again. The sounds of eating and laughter came from the kitchen; no one had heard the door. Calming somewhat, I pulled myself to my feet, intending to join the group.

But as I paused to give the door one last secure push, I saw movement through the small pane. For a moment I thought it was the spectral horse; but the night was too dark, and the figure was too small. It seemed the vision of the horse had disappeared—but in its place . . .

“Davy? Davy!” I wrenched open the door and dashed into the night, following my brother toward the fields. As I came around the house, I stopped, forgetting the cold of the snow on my bare feet. Standing several feet in front of me was Davy, his coat hanging unbuttoned, his expression distant.

And beyond him was a woman.

She was dressed in a long, pale gown. Even though it was winter, her shoulders and arms were bare; she had no coat. Her hair, almost chestnut in the night, hung low on her back, loose and flowing. But the thing that struck me most was the sorrow in her dark eyes. I could not help it; I took a step toward her.

And then I saw the blood. It covered the front of her dress, staining the pale gown from her neck to her waist. Her lips—oh, how her lips glowed red, slick and fresh. A rush of terror filled me. We stood in the snow at the edge of the field, me and Davy and her. And I knew that she had called my brother here.

She spoke, and her voice seemed to rise and fade, like the wind through the trees. Her words were strange and ancient, yet I understood them. “Are you my son?” My breath caught in my throat; I wanted to cry out, but I felt as frozen as the snow beneath my feet. Davy gazed at her, his blue eyes as dark as the night sky. Time seemed to have stopped.

Then the moon broke through the clouds, lighting the field. Davy’s hair shone in the light, pale gold.

“My son.” The woman smiled, her red lips full and wide. A breeze that wasn’t there caught her dress, making it swirl about her. “Come with me. I will take you home.”

I tried to cry out; I did. But my voice was gone, swallowed up in the woman’s eyes. She looked at me as if she knew every one of my thoughts. Then she held out a hand to Davy. “Come with me. You are lost no more.”

And as I watched, she took my brother away. Hand in hand, they walked through the fields, over the hill, to disappear into the dark line of trees. Davy never looked back, he never spoke. And when I finally found my voice to call to him, just as they started down the hill, he gave no sign that he had heard. I ran after him; my feet churned up the snow, splattering my skirt, my blouse, my sleeves. But I paid it no heed. By the time I reached the trees, my chest was tight with fire and my hands were numb.

“Davy! Davy!” There was no answer. The night, or the forest, had swallowed them both up as if they had never been. I sank to my knees; the first hot tears welled from my eyes.

Da told me later that I was frozen solid when they found me, except where the tears ran down my face. He carried me home and put me to bed, where I slept for almost two days. I missed the villagers coming together to look for Davy, but the blacksmith’s daughter told me later how they scoured the woods and sent scouts out over the hills; they even checked the wells and the frozen stream. But they never found him. Mum cried, even more than I had. All she could think about was her granddad’s brother, how he, too, had been stolen from the fields all those years ago. She could not understand who would want to take a child.

But I knew. Because I had seen them that night, as I stood at the edge of the trees, there in the snow, the solitary marks that came from nowhere and disappeared without a trace.

Hoof prints.
babyl10's avatar

Fuzzy Bunny

Apply Antifreeze when Cold

In and out. In and out. The holiday bustle even reached this disowned relic, where trash gathers.
The dumpsters were filled with Gaians trying to find a diamond in a heap of homeless hearth.
The cracked king of the mountain of muck, Ol’ Pete, straddled the refuse in a focused stupor,
wildly searching the bin. The sight terrified most people out after getting one item, but there were
a few who stayed. The ones with nowhere else to go, like Chalice.

“Hmm… well, look a’ that. Trash wings. What a find, ‘eh, old man?” Chalice asked Pete. He
paused his madness, and blankly looked down at her. “Whaddya’ say we be angels this year?
We could fly around in a tub like ‘ose other two. You can give gifts again. What a nice break
from this reekin’ place, huh? Hahaha!” Chalice sang and span around, her white breath leaving
wispy streaks in her stead. The chained ring on her neck glinted in the winter sun, its gleam
reflecting in Chalice’s eyes. Pete continued to stare blankly. When Chalice stopped, she
laughed softly, “Well, maybe not. I dunno if we’re that type o’ crowd. We’re not the most noble o’
knights, if ya catch my drift.”

Pete grunted and reached for his antifreeze. While he was taking a swig, Chalice called out.
“Hey, ya should lay off the antifreeze, old man. You’ll get yerself into an early grave!” He ignored
her and started going through the trash at his knees again. Chalice, too, began to scan the
trash at her feet. But, as the sun escaped her eyes, she opened her mouth.

“You know, Pete. I’ve seen different types of people who drink that stuff. There are those
orphans, who start off in that shabby ‘coon hole an’ know nothin’ else. All they know is it makes
them less thirsty and is sweet. Then there are the desperate people outta’ their heads who find
their way to a bottle. I’ve even seen the people who are just plain curious. But, there’re even
more people than that, Pete.” Chalice crouches in the shadow of the trash heap, putting her
hand on an item. “They’re the ones that wanna mess up their heads. There’s somethin’ they
have to run away from, or avoid. The ones who can’t handle themselves anymore. That type o’
guy would be a good actor, ya know. The type who’d keep a stoic face or a fake face in front
everyone while secretly burning away, trying to freeze their emotions. Guess the antifreeze
helps, then," she woodenly chuckled, beginning to grab the item at her hands. Pete violently
threw the bottle of antifreeze at her.

“Uh-oh, ol’ man! That crazy face o’ yours looks a little different from usual. You’re slippin’!”
Chalice yelled, jumping back. This time, her ring didn’t glint in the sun. She picked up the fallen
bottle of antifreeze, and licked the rim. Grimacing, she spluttered, “Uggh… that’s too sweet for
me,” and ran away.

She looked so drab in the midst of the extravagant cheer around Ster Academy. Young imps
flew past Chalice in excited delight, looking right through her to the promising snow of a white

“It’s way too cold today,” Chalice muttered, shivering in her thin rags. “Ow… even the chain is
starting to freeze on,” she complained while adjusting her necklace. Staring into the sky, where
the sun grew a few shades dimmer behind developing snow clouds, an encroaching
nervousness made Chalice even colder than before. She slowly stuck her hand into her pocket. “I
hope it didn’t freeze… oh, gosh, it really is startin’ to freeze. Gotta do something,” Chalice
mumbled while putting her harmonica to her mouth. She blew in warm air to keep her second
keepsake safe, playing a simple melody. Imps stopped simply passing over Chalice, making
sure to avoid her. Chalice was just playing children’s songs and scales, while walking straight
ahead. She was flat because of the cold.

Paying no heed to her surrounding, Chalice sauntered forward. Her eyes were closed. She didn’t
even notice the wild raccoon that started following her after it fell out of a trashcan. All she was
focusing on was blowing in warm air with her immature melody in the inescapable frozen air.

Eventually, the sound of dreary children caught Chalice’s ear. A dilapidated sign had the words
“Shabby Meadows” on it, with a broken picket fence behind it. In the fence were old tires and
boots, and trash. And half- dead, wild children. The orphans. Some played lifelessly, and a
couple of the younger ones were crying. Many were just there, staring blankly. One was about to
drink some antifreeze.

“Stop!” Chalice shrieked, snatching the bottle. The child started groaning like a displeased kitten,
and clawed at Chalice. The other blank children started crowding her. Chalice backed away,
running into a rock and the fence, and was surrounded by the zombie-like children. Her raccoon
follower was chasing a black shadow in the distance, around the facility. Not knowing what else
to do, Chalice sat on the rock and held the antifreeze between herself and the fence, and tried
to calm the children down with her harmonica. They seemed confused. The child whom she
took the antifreeze from started holding another’s hand.

Maybe they’re calming down? Is it… normal for them to start holding hands? Chalice frantically
thought. It’s kind of… cute. Reminds me of- Chalice stopped. They children looked displeased.
When Chalice looked at the eyes of the child she stopped, she saw the reflection of her ring. It
shone there, unwavering, in that listless stare. Almost like a reminder or broken promises. Of
Chalice’s mistakes.

Unnerved, Chalice brought her harmonica to her lips again. She played the melodies she learned
in her childhood, songs that every kid hears. Now that I think about it, playing this would calm
down ---, too. --- always complimented me. But… that won’t happen anymore. It’s unacceptable.
Not while I’m stuck like this. I can’t… even handle myself. I don’t wanna be here. I don’t wanna
be. Begone…

Chalice played for a while without thinking much. She kept sounding flat- cold, even. But the
children were listening. There was a glow in their eyes. When Chalice paid attention at their
faces again, she stopped playing.

“There ya go,” she sighed. The children were calm, but still surrounded her. “Your eyes look so
warm, it almost burns. So, you don’t need antifreeze. You aren’t frozen. Things that need
antifreeze…” Chalice paused, unsure of what to say. When she moved her head to think, a
burning pain came from her neck.

“That’s right, things that need antifreeze are things like this,” Chalice stated, pouring antifreeze
her ring’s chain.

User Image - Blocked by "Display Image" Settings. Click to show.
This is supposed to be Chalice. Based the story on her.

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