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I know Apen’s behind me, but I ignore him all the same. If he can vanish for two years, he can handle being invisible a while longer.

He shuffles around the stables trying to catch my eye, pretending to check his stall, stopping to rub Melly’s head, idly picking up the manure fork as if he might do some mucking. I tighten the girth on Niagara and pull the stirrup down. Sparkles, Chara’s horse, leans over to nibble at my hair.

“Off!” I can’t help but smile as I push her away. She shakes her head indignantly and rattles her bridle. I wish Chara would hurry up so we could leave.

“You going on a ride?” Apen asks, leaning around the horses. Apparently he’s given up on subtlety. He’s not very good at it, anyway, for all he tries to act mysterious.

“Yep.” I tug Niagara’s forelock free of her browband instead of turning toward him.

“Oh. I haven’t ridden a horse in the past two years—can you believe that?” His voice practically drips with the hint. He’s already inching one foot into the tack room.

“I guess that’s what you get for joining a ship’s crew,” I say, flat as my voice can go. I could say more than that--could say, “You should have thought about that before you left,” or “Should have thought at all before you left,” but I’d rather not spend more words on him than necessary.

He hesitates, momentarily deterred.

“Berlyne! I’m coming!” Chara calls from the house. She runs across the snowy yard, an empty basket in her arm and her hair tied back in a new pink ribbon. “Dad says we’ll need two armfulls of holly to make a wreath-th--”

Apen comes up by the horses and Chara skids to a stop. Her eyes widen, flick between us. With about as guise as a doe, she bites her lip to hide a grin. It’s all I can do to keep from rolling my eyes.

“You ready, Chara?” I unhook Niagara’s reins. “I got Sparkles geared up while you were gone.”

“Oh, um, no, actually—I forgot—” She glances around for something she could have forgotten.

I walk Niagara out of the stable to the mounting block. “No you didn’t.”

“I have to—”

“No you don’t.”

“Oh, um. Apen!” Chara’s voice lifts to a squeak of excitement. “You want to come help us gather holly? It’s pokey, so definitely dangerous! We could use your help!”

Annoyance radiates up my spine. This is too much. I whirl on my sister. “No, he can’t, because Dad needs him to chop wood. We’re nearly out.”

I’m just in time to see all the bounce fade of out Apen’s face as his shoulders drop again. I don’t exactly look at him. I haven’t exactly looked at him the whole time he’s been back, but I know him well enough to tell by the general shape of him in the corner of my eye that I might as well have set all his sketches on fire.

Maybe I should do that, actually. I could tell him we accidentally used them for kindling while he was gone.

“She’s right, Chara,” Apen says in a defeated tone. “Have fun on your ride.”

I slip into the saddle and hook my leg over the pommel. Niagara ambles across the yard to the path. When I look over my shoulder, Chara’s riding after me. I want to jump into a canter or a gallop, but I’m not about to risk Niagara’s legs on the snow and ice.

“Burrrrr!” Chara calls when she catches up to me. “Ice queen much?”

“If he wanted a warm welcome, he should have--I don’t know--never run away.” It still stings, two years later. A stupid, vague letter tied to his dog, and him gone. He hadn’t the courage or the time to face us in person. No word about where he went. Until Dad found that article in the newspaper about him saving the ship’s crew, we didn’t even know he still lived.

Chara and Dad are overjoyed to have him back. They’re overjoyed that he’s a hero.

I haven’t decided yet.

Maybe brothers and sons are allowed to disappear and return to family tripping over themselves in welcome. But Apen’s never been a brother to me. And whatever he is, it’s a whole lot harder to forgive and forget. Especially because I’m pretty sure I am completely justified.
“So, you and him…?” Chara squints at me like she’ll see straight through to my thoughts.

I snort. “That was years ago. Drop it.”

“Oh right.” Chara loses all trace of a smile, widens her eyes and hitches her shoulders up near her ears. It’s a great impersonation of Apen. “‘Berlyne, we’re both kids. Maybe you should--um, erm--hold off on this until we’re grown up.’”

“Yes. That.”

“But you are grown up now. You’re nineteen!”

“Chara--”

“I’m just saying.” She grins. “It’s practically Christmas! Why not, you know, make up? Find some mistletoe?”

“Ha!” I steer Niagara off the trail. “Let’s just concentrate on finding holly.”



That evening, I keep one eye on the timepiece in my room while I work the leftover holly into the right shape. Tonight we’ll exchange our gifts for advent--specifically, St. Lucy’s Day.

We only started celebrating a few years ago, when Apen joined the family. Apen loves nothing more than saints’ days, and advent, and excuses to sit still and stare at candles while he “reflects.”

Dad, Chara and I have been carrying on the tradition--giving gifts every Sunday leading up till Christmas--while Apen traipsed around the world. They want to make it extra special now he’s back.

I hadn’t made anything for Apen--partially because I didn’t know he was coming back, but also because I didn’t think he deserved anything. Now that the time has come, though, I’m guessing that if I don’t give him something Dad will be annoyed and Chara will take it as a sign that I care about the whole thing more than I do.

The sooner I can convince everyone it’s business-as-usual, the sooner Chara will stop poking my arm whenever I’m in reach, and the sooner Dad will stop giving me Concerned Parent Eyes, and the sooner Apen will stop being an awkward moron whenever I’m in sight.

I grab the candles I made last week and place them carefully on the holly wreath. The truth is, I remember very little of the story behind this saint’s day--just that someone gets to wear a special crown made of sharp leaves and fire. What an honor. It looks decent, so that’s good, because the timepiece is striking seven and Dad’s calling down the hall for me.

After throwing a cloth over the crown--the best I can do right now--I carefully carry it into our living room. Chara was sitting on the couch next to Apen, but when I enter she flies from his side to the only other empty chair in the room. He gets all wide-eyed and rubs his palms on his trousers. Dad somehow manages to look like he hasn’t noticed. Chara is just about to fall off the chair with silent giggles.

Shifting the gift into one hand, I grab stool from the kitchen. I take my seat by the tree and stare across at the others, daring any of them to say a word. They don’t. Well, they don’t at first, anyway.

“Berlyne, you’re nearest the tree, so don’t you want to go first?” Chara asks, beaming. “Oh look, you have a present already in your lap! Let’s do that one!”

Before I can answer, Dad’s in on the scheme. “Yes, I want to see what you have there!”

Maybe it’s just as well to get it over with. If Apen opens this first, then it won’t have to come at the end of a long succession of better, more thoughtful gifts. I shrug and stand, holding it out to him.

Instead of looking Apen in the face, I fix my gaze on his hands. Strange new callouses cover them now, I suppose from the time at sea.

He gingerly lifts the cloth and breaks into a smile. “Oh!”

“Here, I can put it on you.” I lift the wreath higher, expecting him to eagerly obey.

“Oh.” His shoulders start to edge toward his ears and the smile vanishes. Instead, he clenches his jaw, crosses his arms, and hesitantly lowers his head. He still tries to keep his gaze on the wreath, though, and as I lower it his face gets more contorted in a tight smile as he shrinks away from me. (*)

I sigh. “What?”

“It’s just--St. Lucy’s crown is for--you know--women,” he bursts out. Carefully he takes the wreath from my hands. It’s not that big, but he manages with great awkwardness to avoid brushing my fingers. “This isn’t exactly--It’s just not orthodox.”

My choice is clear: Begrudge him his stupid rules and stomp out, effectively ruining the night for everyone, or humor him. He glances up at me and smiles tentatively. This time, I accidentally do look meet his gaze. Though he didn’t grow an inch during his adventures, his face has a new leanness. His smile, a new sadness.

I roll my eyes heavenward and kneel in front of the couch. “Fine.”

Apen stands, grinning, and eases the wreath onto my head. The holly leaves prick my skin and tug my hair. I don’t dare move while Apen takes matches from Dad and lights the candles. Of course I am the one who ends up wearing the hat full of fire.

I have to use his help to stand again, all the while doing my best not to move my head at all. I ease back into my chair, sitting as straight and still, wondering how much wax will be in my hair by the night’s end.

Even though I mime to Chara to pass out the other gifts for me, she ignores my motions. I don’t trust myself to speak without jarring the wreath, so I press my lips together and do it myself. I feel like an idiot trying to walk across the room without shifting my torso or lowering my chin. But I manage. I give a new shawl to Chara, with lots of fringe and flashy beading. A new saddlebag for Dad, with tooled leather in the design of our ranch’s brand.

Throughout the others’ gift giving, I sit taut and upright, just waiting for my head to burst into flames. Chara’s presents mainly consist of pressed flowers and rather simply embroidered handkerchiefs. Dad’s are all practical--new clothes, repaired riding gear, a new leash for Melly (as if Apen would actually use it). Apen has a necklace from some exotic place for Chara and a new hat for Dad.

Last, Apen passes me a book-shaped package wrapped in burlap. I carefully remove the cloth, hardly able to see what I’m doing since I can’t bend my head. When it’s freed, I’m holding a large sketchbook. The corners are wrinkled with wear and even over the smell of wax the sea’s scent rises from the binding.

Apen leans closer and flips through the pages to show me. “While I was gone, I kept seeing things I wished I could show you. So I started compiling this journal. I’m not creative, but I thought you might use some of the ideas for your projects.”

The pages are covered in boot designs and scraps of fabric and crinkled leaves. On one page there’s a sketch of some beautifully tooled saddles and on another the basic pattern for a waterproof cloak.

The coil of annoyance loosens in my chest. I can’t help smiling at him. “Thank you.”

He starts to smile back, but the wreath shifts on my head. A candle falls from above my forehead and lands right in the middle of his sketchbook on my lap. In a moment, the pages have caught.

“No!” Chara gasps, jumping to her feet. Dad dives for the door.

“Quick, do something!” I cry, but this dislodges another candle.

Apen grabs the candles but it’s too late, the fire is spreading. “No, no!”

“Go get water!” I command him, throwing his burning book on the floor before the fire spreads to my skirt.

“The well’s too far!” he shouts back. He catches another candle as it falls.

“There’s a bucket in the kitchen, you bedlamite!”

Before Apen can go, Dad runs back in and dumps an armload of snow on both of us, and the book.With a hiss and a puff of steam, the fire dies--as do the rest of the candles on my wreath. I glance at Apen. Snow’s piled on his head like a hat. He’s slack-jawed with relief.

He catches my eyes, and we both start laughing.

We laugh until we’re nearly in tears, and Dad and Chara are giving us worried looks. We laugh while we brush off the snow and set the book to dry by the fire. I put the wreath hat down beside it and wipe my eyes.

“Well, that was a disaster,” I say.

Apen rubs the back of his head and smiles. “No. That was perfect.”
Apen, Alvarados, and Advent
This is my Secret Santa entry for The Silver Eye! A very Aperlyne entry.

The prompt was from Aceofstars16Berlyne and Chara horseback riding in the snow. I've taken liberties. Several liberties.

As with last year, I wrote this with input from my sister, the comic-creator lostie815. I've set this roughly around Chapter Five in comic time (just after Apen's return). Aside from some tweaks on the weather/time of year, everything in this is canon, because my sister has given it her stamp of approval. So, enjoy!

(artwork by lostie815, drawn to accompany my piece)
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midenian-lostie
Alyssa
United States
Tread in solitude thy pathway,
Quiet heart and undismayed.
Thou shalt know things strange, mysterious,
Which to thee no voice has said.
-George Matheson

Alyssa was born in small town Milton, Florida, but life as a roving military kid soon mellowed her (unintelligibly strong) Southern accent. Wanderlust is in her blood, and she’s always waiting for the wind to change. Stories remain her constant. Alyssa received her bachelor’s in English/Creative Writing from Berry College and her master's in Creative Writing for Young People from Bath Spa University.
Interests
I got tagged by the lovely :iconlostie815:. This is for my OC, May, who is the romantic interest/side character in my WIP, Popinjay. The story is loosely (looooosely) based off of Robin Hood, and May is in the Maid Marian role. (:iconlostie815: has also done a fanart piece for the story—here: fav.me/d470dvy .) So... Enjoy!

Rules:
1) Pick one of your FCs/OCs.
2) Fill in the questions/statements as if you were your FC/OC.
3) Tag 3 people at the end of the quiz.

1. What's your name?
May. As in, Lady May.

2. Do you know why you were named that?
May is a variant of Marian, I've been told. It's a nice nod to the woman I share many uncanny characteristics with.
And I… I appear to not have a last name. This is a problem and should be addressed. Lord Talvas also has no last name, so maybe it has to do with being an orphan or something.

3. Are you single or taken?
I, ah—um. Neither, haha? I'm technically not allowed to be in any sort of relationship. My uncle, the king, has a tendency to hang men who show an interest, or send my betrothed to die on the battlefield. Funny how that works.

4. Have any abilities or powers?
A sharp wit and the brains to not be fooled when a man I see every day puts on a mask and pretends I won't be able to recognize him. Not as if that talent has ever come in useful.

5. Stop being a Mary Sue.
I consider myself more of an Eowyn-meets-Elizabeth-Bennet but if that's the attitude you want to take, I do have a friend with very sharp arrows and perfect aim. Just something to think about.  

6. If you were to get in a fight with a strong wrestler, do you think you'd win?
I doubt I would on my own. But I have a whole band of men who'd defend me, and my uncle might take offense and hang the wrestler. Well, unless the wrestler was actually an assassin, in which case my uncle would be very happy with my loss.

7. Have any family members?
A half-brother. But his mother's dying request was that I never tell anyone. I am an orphan, which one might think would lead to some orphan-bonding between Lord Talvas and I. This has not been the case. I do feel like Popinjay's men are a band of brothers, though.

8. How about pets?
I have a mare I occasionally ride to villages.

9. Tell me something that you don't like?
Snotty, prideful, lying, manipulative, lazy, greedy, selfish, egocentric, pitiful lords. Also kings who try to kill everything around me. And burnt toast. I can't stand burnt toast.

10. Something that you do like?
Masked heroes who set out to make a positive and lasting change, who equip people with hope and give them the strength they need to survive (and listen to and respect my input). Also tea, especially on a chilly evening by the fireplace with a new book while Lord Talvas is locked away in his room (preferably sick and/or too hoarse to speak).

11. Do you have any activities/hobbies that you like to do?
Reading. Keeping the castle in order. Trying not to offend the king. More recently, seeking adventure and change through breaking laws to help people.

12. Have you ever hurt anyone in any way before?
Not intentionally, but yes.

13. Ever... killed anyone before?
No. Though I witnessed my father's murder.

14. What kind of race are you?
Human.

15. Name your worst habits.
Losing my temper. Punishing others when I feel hurt. Picking my nails while I read. Allowing others to use and discard me because I am too afraid to take action.

16. Do you look up to anyone at all?
Garym, the storyteller who was my ward until I was eighteen. Popinjay, who seems to be the hero the town needs. Ryn, who puts up with Popinjay and genuinely cares about the people they help. Brancaer, my half-brother who went bravely to the war when he was only a teenager.

18. Do you go to school?
I attended a finishing school when I was younger. Garym thought it best to get me polished before I turned a permanent tomboy.

19. Ever want to marry and have kids one day?
Yes, though being so close to someone would be frightening. The people I am closest to have a tendency to be sent away or killed.

20. Do you have any fangirls/fanboys?
Oh, plenty, but none I particularly care for. They'd probably run for the hills if they realized my uncle is just waiting for an excuse to have another hanging.

21. What are you most afraid of?
That I have become irreversibly old, caged, and entirely alone—that this will never change.

22. *snicker* Ok, ok. What colour is your hair?
I'm not sure how that was amusing, but my hair color happens to be a deep chestnut.

23. Eyes?
Grey. With an E, not an A.

24. What do you usually wear?
A simple gown, hardly more than peasants, though I am a lady. Usually it does not matter how formally I am dressed, as I'll just be working in the castle or running about saving the town either way.

25. Ok. What's your religion?
Though religion isn't highlighted in my tale, I would consider myself whatever my world's equivalent is for Christianity.

26. Do you wish this quiz is over?
Is this a rhetorical question? I can obviously see more questions listed below.

27. Well, it's still not over.
I thought so.

28. Anyway, where do you live?
A castle near the border of our country.

29. What class are you?
Royalty—niece to the king.

30. How many friends do you have?
Only a handful. But a handful of the best, I should think.

31. Wow. If you could change anything about you, what would you change?
I would be more courageous, and outspoken—but somehow still protecting those dearest to me.

32. If you had a million dollars, what would you do with it? And I don't want no cheap answer, ya hear?
Give it to the needy in my district to help them weather the war taxes.

33. What are your thoughts on pie?
It would be fun to shove into Lord Talvas' face.

34. All right. What's your favourite food?
Fresh bread, with a crust that crunches and an inside as soft as… as something soft you'd put into your mouth. Ah, like… I don't know, soft enough to melt in your mouth? Really soft, let's leave it at that.

35. Favourite drink?
Tea.

36. What is your favourite place?
The forest—specifically Popinjay's Forest.

37. Least favourite?
The capital and court.

38. Do you still want the quiz to end?
It looks as if it will soon.

39. Yeah. Well, it's over. D:
Thought so.

40. Now, tag 3 people.

I technically don't know hardly anyone on DA, so if you're still reading at this point, I tag YOU! :la:
  • Mood: Glad

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:iconkhrysaetos:
Khrysaetos Featured By Owner Jan 23, 2016  Student Traditional Artist
*gasp* I'm following you on pinterest!! I saw you through Stori Tori's blog somehow, and your sister just found me through my 100 Cupboards art! :O it's a small world...
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:iconkat-the-dreamer:
kat-the-dreamer Featured By Owner Sep 12, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
I saw your profile and I think I'm following your blog! You're lostie815's sister, right? I really love all your writing ideas/books/(WIP's?); from what I read about them, they sound extremely awesome! Meow :3 (I also happen to be a fan of masks and mermaids and Venice and Robin Hood and faeries). I really hope you get published! La la la la  Oh and thanks for the fav (that was what I originally was going to say but I got sidetracked) :D (Big Grin) 
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:iconmidenian-lostie:
midenian-lostie Featured By Owner Oct 6, 2014
Wow, this was forever ago! (I stink at checking DA.) Thanks so much for your interest! Hopefully the stories will be published and on a bookshelf near you someday soon(ish). ;)
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:icondaragallery:
DaraGallery Featured By Owner Jul 29, 2014
Thanks for the :+fav:!
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:iconkiyahocks:
kiyahocks Featured By Owner May 27, 2014  Professional Filmographer
Thanks for the fav! :salute:
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:iconsorcaron:
Sorcaron Featured By Owner Feb 10, 2014   Digital Artist
Thanks for the fav! :D
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:iconblacklaceblonde:
blacklaceblonde Featured By Owner Jan 21, 2014
Thanks for faving my CINDER fan art.  I can't wait to read CRESS!  ^^
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:iconmoonafleet:
Moonafleet Featured By Owner Jan 7, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
Thank you for the :+fav:, m'dear! 
:hug:
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:iconkuabci:
kuabci Featured By Owner Nov 14, 2013  Professional General Artist
Thanks ever so for the Favourite.
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:iconsombrefeline:
sombrefeline Featured By Owner Nov 10, 2013  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Thanks for faving :)
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