(advent) Day 0, a new year!

snow-full

-Just so you all know, I’ve taken some timing liberties with this. Kaylee is now 5 years old – I’m going to be fixing it in the actual books so she doesn’t go from baby to 5 in six months. Just go with it for now.

Wednesday, November 30

“Thank you for letting me come over,” Jade said, accepting a cup of tea as she settled on to one of the stools in the kitchen at CrossWinds Books. The Snow Queen was in one of her more casual outfits for her outing today: a long riding habit, in dark brown, with snowflakes edging the hems. Her long white blonde hair was pulled back into a simple braid, and there was no sign of a coronet or tiara. She was obviously just Jade today, and not the Snow Queen.

Molly McIntyre preferred her that way. The Snow Queen was an amazing creature, and her ball was the highlight of the Christmas season, but she was also faintly intimidating, especially to a mere kitchen witch. Jade was just a friend.

And friends were always welcome in Molly’s kitchen.

“You know you’re welcome any time,” she said now, bringing over a plate of strawberry scones and her own cup of tea. “What brings you out?”

Jade’s face darkened. “Nothing good, I’m afraid, although I wish it wasn’t true.”

“What?” Molly asked, her pulse quickening. “Is everything okay with Jack and Old Man Winter? And Ember?” She glanced at the open kitchen door. “Should I close that?”

“No, they’re fine, and no, I’ve already taken care of that,” Jade said, sipping her tea. “I know they worry if you close the door, so I’ve just made it so no one can overhear us.” She paused, and said softly, “I need your help again, Molly.”

“You know I’ll do whatever I can,” Molly said. “What’s going on?”

“Caliban.”

That one word brought back a flurry of memories. Caliban, a spirit of summer, had been one of the two suitors for the Snow Queen’s hand two years ago, and hadn’t taken it well when she chose Jack Frost over him. “Caliban?” Molly repeated. “I thought he was gone? Wasn’t he in jail?”

“Only long enough to regain his strength, apparently,” Jade said bitterly, and then sighed. “I’m sorry. Let me explain. You know how I renew the protections around the Cove every year at the ball, right?”

Molly nodded. The energy raised by the Snow Queen’s Ball went to power the magical protections the Snow Queen and her allies had placed around Carter’s Cove back when the town was first started.

“Well, if you remember, those protections were set up by myself, Jack, Herse, and Caliban,” Jade said. “I just received word from King Medron that someone broke into the prison last week and freed him.”

“And you think he might be coming back here?” Molly said. That was a horrifying thought.

“His father thinks he might,” Jade said. “He’s been banished from his realm, but it’s obvious he has supporters from somewhere. And since he had a hand in the protections around the Cove, they can’t keep him out if he decides to attack.”

“So what do we do?”

“We’re going to have to redo the protections, but this time, I think it should be Cove inhabitants who do it,” Jade said. “I was hoping you would be able to help me.”

“What does it involve?” Molly asked, her mind whirling. This was not what she needed right now.

“Basically, we need to make a web around the Cove. I can save the power from the ball on the 17th and cast the final spell on Christmas, which will make it even stronger, but I need help setting up that web.”

Molly chewed on a scone as she thought. “So you need things set up? Like what kind of things?”

“It can be anything, really, as long as it’s important to the person or persons doing the creation.” Jade looked at Molly. “What are you thinking, Molly?”

“Do you remember the advent calendar you did for Lily and Zoey a few years ago?”

Jade blinked, surprised. “Yes, of course. Why?”

“Can you do something similar?”

The Snow Queen looked at her for a long minute, and then broke into a smile. “You want to have them create the markers.”

“Yes.” Molly nodded. “But it won’t be Zoey this year – she’s gone to Pennsylvania with her family to spend the holidays there. Lily’s devastated, and while she’s got her little sister, it’s just not the same. Something like this, that they could both do, would be great.”

“And children have more power than most adults for magic,” Jade added. “I like this. Schrodinger will be three – it works best if there are four, though. Is there a friend that they know that could help?”

“I think so, yes. The Fables just moved to town – Gideon is five, the same age as Kaylee, and he and Kaylee have become fast friends. I’m sure his parents wouldn’t mind. They should be in later today, and I can talk to his mother to make sure,” Molly said. “Why wouldn’t Jack count, though? You know he’ll want to help.”

“Jack is a very smart dog, but he’d be the first to tell you that magic is not something he’s suited for,” Jade said, smiling gently. “He’ll help, definitely, but for this, we need at least three humans. If nothing else, to help moderate Schrodinger.”

Molly had to laugh at that. The CrossCat was very enthusiastic when he got going, and rather than reining him in, his best friend Jack usually urged him on. “Very true,” she said. “I’ll talk to Kiaya and Zeke when they come in. Can you do a calendar in a night?”

“I can, yes, and Jack and Old Man Winter will help me.” Jade finished her tea and stood up. “I’ll have it delivered here tomorrow.” She reached out and laid a hand on Molly’s arm. “Thank you, my friend. You always have the answers I need.”

Molly blushed. “Not always,” she said. “Do you really think Caliban will come back here?”

“I don’t know,” Jade admitted. “But let’s not assume that he won’t. While the children work their advent calendar, Jack and I will work with Pavel and Old Man Winter to protect the Cove this season. Let us worry about Caliban.” And then, in a flurry of snowflakes that seemed to arise from nowhere, she was gone.

Molly sat and finished her tea, then went out into the tea room. Schrodinger was off with Drew for the day, helping him pull out Christmas decorations at the farmhouse. But the Fables had just come in, and Molly wanted to talk to them while the information was still fresh.

“Hey, guys!” she said, smiling at the young family. Zeke was the new head programmer at WCOV, the Cove’s radio station, and his wife Kiaya was a writer. Their five-year-old son Gideon had adapted to life in the Cove very quickly, although Molly hadn’t been that surprised, seeing as they’d come from another CrossRoads Town. “How’s it going today?”

“Good!” Gideon said cheerfully, running towards her. Then he stopped and looked around. “No Schrodinger?”

“He’s at the farm today, helping Drew get all the Christmas stuff out,” Molly explained. “But I think he’ll be in with me tomorrow!”

“Isn’t tomorrow your day off?” he asked, tilting his sandy blond head at her, his hands on his hips.

“It is, yes, but I think I’ll come in and bake,” Molly said, laughing a little at his seriousness. “Want to come in and help me?”

“Can we, Mom? Please?” Gideon turned and begged. “I need to see Schrodinger! I haven’t seen him in DAYS!”

Kiaya and Zeke both laughed. “You saw him Monday, buddy!” Kiaya said. “But yes, we can come in tomorrow. I can write here just as easily as at home.”

“Yay!” Gideon said, pumping his fist in the air. “Can we go and look at books now?”

“Hey Gideon, I have a favor to ask you first,” Molly said, getting down on one knee to be more at his level. “Do you know what an Advent calendar is?”

He shook his head.

“It’s a special way to count down to Christmas,” Molly explained. “The Snow Queen was just here, and is sending over a magical advent calendar tomorrow, and I was hoping you’d help Lily, Kaylee, Jack, and Schrodinger with it. Do you think you can do that?”

“Yes!” Gideon said, nodding. “I’m good at helping!”

“What would it involve?” Kiaya asked, putting a hand on her son’s shoulder. “You should always ask that first, Gideon.”

“What would it involve, Molly?” Gideon asked her.

“I don’t know, but last time, it involved magical snowflakes and all sorts of fun adventures, and making things,” Molly said. She looked up at Kiaya and Zeke. “Lily and Zoey loved it, and so did Schrodinger and Jack.”

Kiaya looked undecided. “I don’t want to impose, though…”

“You won’t be,” Molly assured her. “Trust me. And you guys are here so much anyways – it’s a fun way to celebrate the season.”

“Okay, then,” Kiaya relented, and Gideon cheered.

Zeke took Gideon upstairs to look at books (and say hi to Aunt Margie, who was supervising Uncle Art as he set up the Christmas tree in the main room) while Kiaya settled down at a table with her computer. Molly brought her out a cup of tea and a plate of cookies, and said, “Do you have a moment, before you start?”

“Sure,” Kiaya said. “What’s up?”

“Gideon doesn’t need to know this, but I wanted you and Zeke to know,” Molly said, and Kiaya raised one eyebrow. Her thick hair was currently grey streaked with purple and blue, and it was amazing. Molly wished she had the courage to do half the things Kiaya did with her hair.

“Is there something wrong?” Kiaya asked quietly.

“Not yet, I hope.” Molly briefly explained what had happened two years ago, and then outlined what she and Jade had come up with. “So they will take care of Caliban, and I know for a fact that Pavel will help keep everyone safe here,” she finished. “But he will be doing magic, as they go through this calendar. Are you okay with that?”

“I’ll have to talk to Zeke,” Kiaya said. “I don’t think it will be a problem, especially since you and Drew will be there.” She looked at Molly. “You will be helping them, right?”

“Of course. They’ll be doing most of this right here – it’s the perfect place, and central enough,” Molly said. “And just think – you’ll get a lot of writing done too!”

“Which will be good,” Kiaya admitted. “I’m on deadline, and it’s been hard to concentrate with the move.”

“Then I’ll let you get busy,” Molly said, getting up. “Let me know if you need anything else.”

She went back into the kitchen and called her sister-in-law. Corrine was more than happy to drop the girls off at the tea shop the next day, and agreed that they could help the Snow Queen. And then she called Drew.

“Hey handsome, how’s the unpacking going?” she asked.

“Hey beautiful, it’s going. We’re trying to decide what to put in the sleigh this year,” Drew said, and then laughed. “Schrodinger said to tell you that since we have snow this year, he wants a sleigh ride.”

“I think we can manage that,” Molly agreed. “Ask him if he’d like to help the Snow Queen.”

“Doing what?” Drew asked.

“An advent calendar to keep the Cove protections from falling into the wrong hands,” Molly said, and told him about Jade’s visit.

“He’s in,” Drew said. “And so am I. She’s delivering it tomorrow?”

“That’s what she said,” Molly said. “And I was coming in anyways, to bake for the bake sale. It’s as good a time as any, right?”

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This is a special Advent story this year – every day, at the end of the day’s story, there will be an activity for you to do along with Lily, Kaylee, Schrodinger, Jack, and Gideon. I hope you have fun with it!

One Response to “(advent) Day 0, a new year!”

  1. Connie Cockrell

    Hooo!! Nice opening chapter.

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