(advent) December 20 – only 5 days left!

Whatever shall we do when it’s over??? 😉

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Drew? Do you have a moment?

“Sure,” Drew said, blinking. He’d never heard Ember actually sound so…concerned. “Let me just throw a coat on.”

He’d been sitting at the computer in the library, going over his Facebook and looking at the pictures from yesterday. There were a ton of pictures, each with the same elements: Old Man Winter, dressed as Father Christmas, holding various small children up to pet two enormous reindeer. Now, as he shrugged into his coat, Drew wondered just what kind of magic Molly had been weaving into the cookies and scones she’d fed the old man.

Ember wasn’t in the stable – she was in the yard, stretching her wings out in the brisk air. Drew stopped and watched the sunlight bounce off her delicate membranes and bright scales. She was truly a beautiful creature.

Thank you, she said, and he started. But I didn’t ask you out here to admire me. I’m worried.

“Worried?” Drew asked, coming over to her. “About what? Your leg?”

No, the leg is fine. She stretched up onto her hind legs to show him. I’m worried about Old Man Winter.

“Why?”

He’s acting oddly, the dragon said, furling and unfurling her wings nervously. I don’t know what he’s planning, but I haven’t seen him like this in a long time. And I’ve known him a very long time.

Drew leaned against the wall, considering. Ember was right – Old Man Winter had torn out of the house yesterday, dressed in what could only be called a Father Christmas outfit. He’d come home with one of Molly’s gingerbread houses, which he’d set out on the dining room table, and then he’d gone out again, without any conversation with Drew. But, and this had been the really odd part, he’d been smiling.

And laughing.

“What do you think?” he asked her. “Has he ever acted like this before?”

The dragon didn’t answer for a long time, and when she did, a chill rushed through Drew.

Once, long ago. He was like this right before he destroyed a town. Almost as if he were enjoying the last minutes of a doomed civilization…

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It was flurrying again outside – short bursts of tiny snowflakes that lasted maybe 15 minutes, then gave way to sunshine for a bit before coming back to fill the air with little white flakes again. Molly and Schrodinger hurried along the street, heading for the downtown area to finish their shopping.

“Okay, so we still need to get Mom’s gift, and something for the Yankee swap at the store,” Molly said, trying to look at her list and avoid other people at the same time. The sidewalks were full of holiday shoppers and people looking at all the displays. It was hard to believe there were only five days left until Christmas. Where had the month gone?

We also need to pick up the last part of Drew’s gift, Schrodinger said. It was supposed to be in today.

“Right.” Molly added another note to her list. “And we need to stop at the grocery store and get the dried cherries for the scones Mom asked me to make for Christmas morning.” She sighed. “It’s a good thing the kids are done already – we won’t be able to carry much more!”

We can make two trips, if we need, Schrodinger said. We have all day.

“Yes, we do.”

They hit the grocery store first, since it was on the way, and the cherries wouldn’t be hurt by walking around all day. Also, Molly didn’t want to have anything like chocolate sneaking into her bag – she had too much at home already.

After the grocery store, they ducked into the Hammered Dulcimer, to pick up the music box that her mother had been lusting over since September. It was a little Irish cottage, and when you wound it up, it played a lovely little Irish lullaby. They’d seen it when shopping back in the fall, and Molly had arranged with Russ, the owner, to put it aside for her. The bottom of the music box was a jewelry box, and she knew her father had a special something ready to go in there.

“Thanks, Russ!” she called as they went back out into the snow. He waved to her and then turned back to his next customer.

Where now? Schrodinger asked, as they stood on the sidewalk, next to the Dulcimer’s window. Molly stared down at her list, trying to decide which store to go into.

“Let’s go see Catherine first,” she said finally. “I need to put in my order for more boxes, and I want to see what she has for Christmas ornaments.”

You mean we don’t have enough?

“Not for us, silly cat,” Molly laughed, weaving her way through the crowds. “For gifts! I want to get some little ones to tie on the presents for the Trio and the techs. I think they’d like that.”

Instead of the edible tags?

“No, with them.” Molly had started a tradition about five years ago of putting edible tags made with her special sugar cookie dough and royal icing on all her friends’ packages. “If I stopped doing the tags, I think I’d be lynched!”

Probably.

They threaded their way up the street to the Tin Shop, which was one of Molly’s favorite stores. Catherine Taylor not only gathered the best little boxes and bags to put all sorts of things in, but she collected local artists and interesting pieces from every realm she could get a finger in. The stock changed almost every day, it seemed, and there was always something new to find.

Today, Catherine had eschewed regular lights in the store. When Molly pushed open the door, she and Schrodinger entered into a world of intertwined Christmas lights. Not flickering, but twined in such a way that they spread pools of colored light over the inventory.

It was like walking into a rainbow.

“Oh wow,” Molly breathed, as she and Schrodinger made their way through the store, passing from color to color. The lights sparkled off beads, glass, silver and gold, casting amazing shadows on everything. “This is awesome.”

Yeah.

They found Catherine at the back, talking to an older woman who had a tray full of beads spread out in front of her. She had a small Ott lamp attached to the edge of the tray table, and a wine bottle half sheathed in a shining beaded net glowed in the light from the lamp.

“Molly! Schrodinger!” Catherine grinned at them. “Merry Christmas! I’ve been waiting for you!”

“Merry Christmas,” Molly said, but her attention was riveted on the bottle. The old woman smiled at her, motioning her closer. Then Catherine’s words sunk in. “Waiting for me? Why?”

“Well, for one thing, you haven’t ordered any boxes in nearly a month,” Catherine said. “I’d assume you’d be running low.” There was a twinkle in her eyes, however, that made Molly wonder.

“And for another thing?” Molly said, and Schrodinger cocked his head to one side, waiting for Catherine’s answer.

But it wasn’t Catherine who spoke. Rather, the older woman next to her chuckled and reached into something hidden at her feet. “So, you’re Molly. I’ve looked forward to meeting you.” And she pulled out a small ornament, wrapped with a sparkling net of pale pink beads, and handed it to Molly.

“You do lovely work,” Molly said, looking at both the ornament and the wine bottle. “How did you start doing it?”

“I’ve been doing this for years,” the older woman said, and held out her hand. “I’m Laura.” Then she looked down at Schrodinger. “And you must be Schrodinger. I’ve heard a lot about you. How is the Librarian doing?”

You…you know the Librarian? Schrodinger’s eyes went wide. Really?

“We’ve been friends for a long time,” Laura told him. “But I haven’t seen her lately. I’ll have to remedy that after the New Year.”

Schrodinger looked stunned.

Molly, however, was still looking at Laura’s ornament and the bottle. “And Drew commissioned you to make these for me.”

“Yes.” Laura smiled faintly. “He saw one of my bottles, and asked me if I would do ornaments. He said there was someone who needed them.”

“Someone who needed them,” Molly repeated. “Yes, he was right.”

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