Sunday, December 3
When they came into the tea room that afternoon, Lily, Kaylee and Jack found Gideon and Schrodinger waiting for them. But no Zoey or Aurora.
“Zoey will be here in a bit,” Molly told them. “She’s running a little late, that’s all.”
“Oh good,” Lily said. “I was worried that she was sick. She wasn’t feeling well the other day, she said.”
She has a cold, Schrodinger confirmed. So we all have to be careful that we don’t catch it. He looked at them. We can’t afford to be sick now!
“Agreed,” Gideon said. “What are we doing today, Lily?”
Lily pulled out the notebook and opened it to the page. “We hadn’t decided yet,” she said. “We still have some decorating to do for Aunt Margie, but we also wanted to see if we could talk to some of the folks on our list. It’s nice out, so we might want to do that instead, and finish up the decorating for Aunt Margie tomorrow.”
“That might not be a bad idea,” Molly said. “Especially since I happen to know that a certain friend of yours is in town today and might be willing to take you in his sleigh, so you don’t have to walk.”
“Old Man Winter?” Kaylee asked. Her face fell when Molly shook her head.
“Who else has a sleigh you love?” Molly said, grinning.
Pavel! Schrodinger and Jack said together, and the hound added, Has Pavel come back, Molly?
“He called last night!” she said. “The ship came in yesterday, and he said he’s coming to the shop today.”
Pavel Chekhov was the flamboyant captain of The Heart’s Desire, one of the most famous sailing ships in the Realms. While others called him a pirate, Schrodinger knew the truth: he worked for the Snow Queen. He was also an old friend of Drew’s.
“Pavel? Is Pavel coming?” Zoey had come in while they were dancing around excitedly. “Yay! Pavel has the best presents!”
No, Santa has the best presents, Schrodinger said. But Pavel is pretty good too!
Do you really think he’ll have stuff for us? Aurora said, bouncing up and down. The little Husky seemed to have springs in her legs.
He always does! Jack said, wagging his tail.
“Well, you can go out into the tea room and lie in wait for him,” Molly said, laughing. “And don’t forget that next Saturday is the bake sale! I’ll need you then.”
“And Sunday is when Santa comes!” Lily said, nodding. “They’re already in my list. Today we just have to schedule everything else.” She squinted at her list. “Well, except for the Snow Queen’s Ball—”
“If we get to go,” her sister interrupted her.
Lily waved that objection away with one hand. “We’ll get to go,” she said. “I know we will. And of course, we can’t do anything Christmas Eve or Christmas Day.”
“Do you have helping me with putting together gingerbread houses on there?” Molly asked.
“Yes! Do you know when you want to do that?” Lily said.
Molly paused, thinking, and then looked at her calendar on the wall. “I think we’ll have to deliver them on the Wednesday before Christmas,” she said finally. “And you guys are out of school that week, right?”
“Right,” Gideon said. “That’s winter break.”
“So why don’t you pencil me in for that Monday and Tuesday? And if you need to move me one of those days, or I don’t need help, then we can cancel,” Molly said.
Lily wrote in her notebook, then looked up and grinned. “And when do you need help with cookies?”
“Whenever you can spare!” Molly laughed. “It seems like I have more cookies to do every year!”
“That’s because you’re far too nice, and give them to everyone,” another voice said, as Captain Pavel Chekhov swept through the front door. He was immediately swamped by all four children and three animals, and went down in a heap of squeals, barks, and tail waggings. Molly and DC both laughed until tears ran down their faces and they were clutching their sides.
“Help! Police! Mayhem! Someone!” Pavel cried, and Molly heard the laughter in his voice. “I’m being kissed and loved to death!”
“Not to death! Then you won’t bring us more presents!” Gideon said indignantly, and that made Molly and DC laugh even harder. Pavel might have been in real trouble, but luckily Aunt Margie came down the stairs to investigate the commotion, and rescued him.
“What is going on?” she asked incredulously. “Let him up immediately, you wild children! Where are your manners?” And then, even more darkly (although Molly could see the twinkle in her eyes), she said, “What would Santa think of you carrying on like this?”
That got them moving quickly off him. Pavel sat up and patted himself down, as if making sure he was still in one piece. Then he looked at the seven staring at him apprehensively as Aunt Margie went back upstairs.
“Don’t worry,” he assured them. “Santa understands that I haven’t seen you in nearly three months, and it was excitement. Would you like to see what I’ve brought with me?”
The chorus nearly knocked him back over again just from the sound. Molly, finally getting herself under control, waded in and offered him a hand up, but he refused. “I’m fine,” he said, standing and brushing off his big black coat. “And nothing was damaged.”
From a hidden inner pocket, Pavel pulled out a soft bag. He opened it and gave Lily, Kaylee, Gideon, and Zoey small pouches of velvet. For Schrodinger, Jack, and Aurora, there were larger packages that he placed in front of them.
“Oh, how pretty!” Kaylee said, holding up a pendant on a long silver chain. The focal point was a shell, gilded with silver and sparkling in the light. Lily and Zoey had similar ones, and they all put them on.
“Excellent!” Gideon said, proudly displaying the pocket watch he had discovered in his pouch. “A watch of my very own!”
“That never needs to be wound, and automatically will adjust to whatever Realm you are in,” Pavel told him. “And your necklaces are special too,” he said, turning to the girls. “If you hold them in your hand, the pointed end will always point to the nearest Sea Road.”
“Wow!” Zoey said, holding hers on her hand. True to his word, the shell spun and pointed towards the harbor. “What a cool present! Where did you find them?”
“At a bazaar in a small seaport that the Snow Queen sent me to,” Pavel said.
Excellent! Schrodinger said, echoing Gideon. Molly looked to see what they had gotten. Schrodinger was already leafing through the book that Pavel had given him, and she caught a glimpse of feline shapes. A history of the CrossCats at the last Council! This is amazing!
“The Librarian had mentioned to me you were looking for it,” Pavel said, stroking his luxurious mustache. “It’s a rare find.”
Indeed! This is priceless! Schrodinger looked up with awe in his green eyes. Thank you, my friend! I shall treasure this!
Jack had discovered a coat in his package, and Pavel explained, “It’s self-heating. You just have to think about where you want the heat to go. Molly had said you were having issues with arthritis, and I thought you would enjoy it.”
Oh yes, Jack agreed. I’m not as young as I used to be.
“None of us are,” Pavel said, chuckling a little.
I don’t understand, Aurora said, cocking her head at the gift she had unwrapped. What is it?
There was always one gift of Pavel’s that was obscure, Molly remembered. This time, the young Husky had received it.
“You were the hardest to shop for,” Pavel admitted, kneeling down next to the shapeless bundle. “I wanted to get something that you and Zoey could use together. Then a shopkeeper showed met this.” He tugged on one corner that seemed to hang out, and the entire package began to shake. Aurora backed up a little bit and then barked in joy.
It’s a CAVE!
It was. As they watched, the structure grew and solidified into a tent-like structure, not very tall or wide. “It’s a special tent that will withstand the cold and wet,” Pavel told her. “And it may not look very big here, but once you get inside, there’s enough room for both of you to sleep.”
Aurora poked her head inside the door. And it’s WARM!
“It is,” Pavel said. “You two should have fun with this.”
Aurora backed out, waging her tail. We will!
“What about Molly?” Lily asked. “Don’t you have something for her?”
“Do you think I would forget Molly?” Pavel said, looking slightly offended. “Perish the thought!” He pulled another package out of the hidden inner pocket, and handed it to her. “Yava sends his regards.”
“Yava! You saw Yava? How is he?” Molly quickly unwrapped the package, which contained blocks of finely-pressed tea.
“As outrageous as ever,” Pavel said, chuckling. “He sends his love, and wants to know when you will visit him.”
Has he finally settled down, then? Schrodinger asked. Yava had been one of the first people he’d met in Carter’s Cove, back when he’d first come to town, and the traveler had given him a ride to CrossWinds Books.
“As much as Yava ever will, yes,” Pavel said. “He owns a tea shop in the port I told you I was at.”
“Perhaps after the season, we could go and visit him,” Molly mused. “We’ll have to see.” Then she shook herself. “Do you have anything else for me, before you steal away these rascals?”
“Are they volunteering to be powder monkeys, then?” Pavel asked.
“No, but we are going to help around the town this month,” Kaylee said. “And we need to check in with some people. Do you have your sleigh?”
“Always,” Pavel said. He pulled a large white envelope from another pocket and handed it to Molly. “Where are we going?”
Lily consulted her notebook. “We need to talk to Father Christopher,” she said. “Then off to the vet’s, to the nursing home, and the Gate Station, to see where we can help.”
“Oh, and we were going to ask Katarina too!” Kaylee added.
“So you are running me all over, then?” Pavel winked at Molly. “And then back here?”
Yes, please, Schrodinger said. Do you mind?
The pirate captain shrugged. “I had no plans today. I am at your disposal.”
“Don’t make plans for Thursday,” Molly said, looking up from the card that her envelope had contained. “Jade wants us all to come for tea.”
“Oooh!” Lily said, writing that down in her notebook. “We have to make her something special, guys! She always does something so nice for us!”
“Then why don’t you put me down for Wednesday after school, and we can decorate the rest of the cookies for the bake sale, and make a special treat to bring with us?” Molly suggested. “I’ll need help anyways.”
Lily wrote that down too. “I’m going to make you and our folks a copy of this,” she explained to Molly. “So you’ll always know where we’re supposed to be.”
Molly was impressed. “That’s a very good idea,” she said, and then glanced out of the front window. “It’s going to get dark early, remember. If you guys have a lot of stops to make, and it sounds like you do, I’d get moving.”
It was cold and clear outside, with the sun shining brightly in a brittle blue sky that reminded Schrodinger of the candy Molly made sometimes to simulate water. He was seated on the driver’s seat next to Pavel, while the others were snuggled under blankets in the back. Pavel had a smaller sleigh than Doc Robbins or Old Man Winter, but Schrodinger was wearing his warm woolen coat, and didn’t mind.
Besides, it gave him a chance to speak to Pavel privately.
You’ve been gone a lot, he said, not looking at the pirate. Are things okay?
Pavel, although not everyone realized it, wasn’t actually a pirate. He was a privateer, serving the Snow Queen, and he had a letter of marque to prove it, should anyone stop him. Schrodinger knew that he was often gone on special missions for her.
Now, the pirate captain sighed. It’s complicated, he said mentally, and Schrodinger realized how tired Pavel looked. You know the Snow Queen is hosting a conference this December?
Molly said so, but didn’t say why, Schrodinger said.
Molly probably doesn’t know why. Jade doesn’t like to spread trouble if she can help it. Pavel twitched the reins a bit, and the black mare picked up her speed. The Parliament of the Realms is getting ready to re-affirm the Roads treaty, and there are some members who are contemplating removing Earth from voting membership, among other things.
What? Schrodinger looked at him, aghast. Why?
The usual reasons, Pavel said. Wars, old hatreds, rivalries. Because Jade holds the chair at this point, there are some who say she is being partisan. And that Earth was let in too soon the last time. He paused, then added, There are even rumors that they want to call a new chair election.
A revolt? That was even more shocking. Against the Snow Queen?
Between you and I, my friend, I wouldn’t be surprised if she wanted to step down, but she’s concerned about who might take over, Pavel said. She’s been the chair for the last two hundred years. It might be time to let someone else do it.
Schrodinger considered that. Who are the front runners?
Depends on who you ask. Pavel stopped the sleigh in front of The Vienna Lady’s Cafe. But she’s gathering the major players together for the last two weeks before the Ball at her castle, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they were around the Cove a bit.
Schrodinger looked at him sharply. Do you think she would use Molly to influence them?
I think she is smart enough to use every weapon she has, Pavel said. And Molly is a very potent weapon. “Here we are,” he said out loud cheerily. “I shall wait here for you.”
“Would you like something?” Kaylee asked, as they hopped down.
“I wouldn’t say no,” Pavel said, grinning. “Surprise me.”
- (advent) December 2
- (advent) December 4