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Coming out of hibernation

It kind of feels like that right now. I’m not going to get into the recent Roe v. Wade decision (if you follow me on Facebook, you saw the incandescent rage that is still coursing through me), but I’m going to talk about the future. About making plans. About writing.

About change.

I went to ConCarolinas the first weekend of June, and not only got to meet some amazing people, but I actually got the chance to attend some panels. I hung around with writers I hadn’t seen in a few years. I bought some new books from authors I just met, and I realized once again how much I enjoy writing. I also realized how I completely bought into the “well, if you don’t write every day and publish often and have a ton of followers on all social media, then you aren’t an author so shut up” bad ideas that I thought I’d moved beyond. It was a bit annoying to realize that the reason I hadn’t been writing was because subconsciously, I was telling myself that since I wasn’t writing every day, it didn’t matter, and well, yeah.

Bullshit.

My day job is writing and research heavy. In addition, my Crohn’s is acting up a bit, because yay stress-aggravated illness! And I’m worried about my dad. And others I know.

I’m human. I’m going to designate one weekend day a week (probably Sunday, but maybe Saturday) to be my writing/blogging day. My current goals are to have the StarChild Trilogy and the Belladonna Dreams duology (yeah, I know, I know) outlined out by the end of the year. The end goal is to be able to go part-time at my day job within 6 years, so I can write part-time. That’s what I’m working towards.

Chase your dreams, folks, but be smart about it. I can’t afford to lose my healthcare by losing my job. But I will write.

It’s a new year, Charlie Brown

I don’t want to do a look-back through 2021. There were good and bad things, and really, I don’t feel the need to revisit them. Finishing the Advent story was pretty much the only writing I finished in 2021, and I’m okay with that. In fact, that’s part of the reason I’m posting this today.

For the longest time, I wanted to be a writer. I wanted to be paid to sit in a coffee shop, drink way more tea than was good for me, and have the words spew from my fingertips onto my screen and then travel to sign books and in general life would be good. I mean, who wouldn’t want that, right? Doesn’t that sound like a dream come true?

Except it’s not my dream anymore. I like writing. I like sharing my stories with people. I have a good job that pays my bills and my health insurance, and I like my day job. I don’t feel the need to sell my writing anymore. I’ve been published. I’m proud of the books I’ve published. But that’s not how I want to make my living anymore.

So I guess that’s it. I’m not stopping writing. But I’m not going to chase publishing at this time. I’ll be writing mostly on the weekends, and I’ll be dropping content at Tapas under the hard to find name of vgford. I plan on uploading on Sunday nights mostly. In fact, there’s an episode up now.

I hope you all enjoy it.

Advent 2021 – December 25

December 25 – Molly

Once Jade had hung the little pirate ship, she turned back to Molly.

“Are you ready?” she asked.

Molly blinked. “Ready?”

“Yes.” Jade smiled at her. “You’re the final piece of the spell. Didn’t you realize that?”

“Is that why I’ve been seeing things?” Molly blurted out the question before she could stop it. Well, now I’ve just been found out. Crazy lady, aisle 1.

Not crazy. I saw them too. Schrodinger came up to them.

To Molly’s surprise, the rest of the Cove didn’t react. She looked around, and the crowd seemed frozen in place. Except for herself, Schrodinger, and the four magical beings on the dias.

“It’s part of it, yes,” Jade said.

“But why? And why me?”

“Because you’re very much a part of the magic of the season here. And because this year has been very hard on everyone. We needed a bit more of a boost to the wards around the Cove.” Jade held out her hand. “With your ornament, we’ll be able to settle the protections. “

Molly reached into her pocket and pulled out the small beaded ball. The green and silver beads flashed in the tree lights, reminding her of the Christmas season that Drew had managed to lift her spirits, even as he had to miss most of the Advent season.

“I couldn’t imagine choosing anything else,” Molly said. She looked past Jade to Old Man Winter. “And if it’s going to be the cornerstone of a protection spell, so much the better. This is a reminder that love really does conquer all.”

Old Man Winter smiled. “One of the many reasons you personify the heart of this town, Molly. I can’t imagine a Christmas without you. And your orange shortbread.”

Molly laughed. “You and your shortbread!”

Jade took the ornament and hung it among the others. As she did so, Molly and Schrodinger saw ribbons of silvery-white energy explode from the tree and snake out over the town they loved so much, settling into a net that covered Carter’s Cove. 

As the light faded, the world started again. Molly, Schrodinger, and Drew stepped back as Jade raised her hands. “Thank you, all,” the Snow Queen said. “May this Christmas be what your heart desires

Advent 2021 – December 24

December 24 – Drew

Drew looked at his wife fondly. “Well, shall we bring our own ornaments up?”

She took his hand. “Let’s.”

The crowd moved aside as they made their way to the tree. In a very odd way, Molly felt the entire afternoon had been building to this. She realized as they mounted the dias that she and Drew were the last two to bring up their ornaments. 

Up close, the tree was glorious. The myriad of precious ornaments that were scattered among the dark green needles and the lights glowed with more than just the fading sunlight. 

Jade looked down at them. “Saving the best for last,” she said, and although everyone could probably hear her, it felt as if it was just the three of them standing in the cool, clear air.

“Of course,” Drew said, giving her a grin. “We’re usually running a little late around this time of year.” He glanced at Molly, who nodded. The Christmas season was definitely her busy season.

“That’s not what I meant, at all,” Jade said. “But that’s not important. Do you have an ornament together?”

“No, we each brought one.” As Drew pulled his ornament out, to Molly’s surprise, the grey wrapped around her. For some reason, she’d thought that the visions would end when she and Drew went up.

She didn’t recognize the room that she stood in when the grey cleared. It was small, dimly lit by the lights that twinkled golden in the small tree that sat on a trunk covered with a white and red velvet cloth. The ornaments on the tree were blown glass and looked old.

Seated in a wingback chair was an older woman with long golden hair and deep amber eyes. Molly recognized her instantly as Phoebe, Drew’s grandmother.

As she watched, a small boy ran in from the hallway, his curly brown hair dusted with snow. “Grandma Phoebe! It’s Christmas Eve!”

“It is, my darling,” Phoebe said, pulling the boy onto her lap. “And you know what that means, right?”

Drew (and Molly realized he must be only 5 or 6, before his parents had died) nodded. “Santa will come on the pirate ship tonight!”

“Indeed!” Phoebe wiggled her long fingers at the tree, and golden light flowed from her fingertips. It rolled like lazy waves over to the tree, and a pirate ship bedecked with lights stirred from its hanger. It sailed over to Drew on the golden waves, and he smiled.

“And then, Grandma? After he brings the presents?”

“Then, my love, he will offer one special child the chance to sail with him until the sun rises.” Phoebe laid her cheek against Drew’s curls.

“Do you think I might go again?”

“I don’t know,” Phoebe said. “Perhaps one day, if you’re very good, you’ll get to go back and sail with him again.”

Molly blinked, astonished, and then she was back at the tree, watching Drew hand over the small pirate ship. “Because dreams do come true,” he said. “It just may take a while.”

Advent 2021 – December 23

December 23 – Schrodinger

I think it’s my turn.

Before Molly could respond, Schrodinger had trotted up to the tree. The CrossCat had carried his own ornament in a small bag that he now set at Jade’s feet.

The Snow Queen smiled down at him. “I can’t wait to see what you’ve chosen,” Jade said.

It was hard, Schrodinger admitted. It’s odd, because really, I’ve only been celebrating Christmas since I came to the Cove, at least in this way. We celebrated the Solstice in the lair, mostly because it is when the young kits are elevated to adult status. But Christmas- this is a uniquely human celebration, and one I can’t imagine going without now.

“You’ve become very cosmopolitan, ” Jade teased him gently. “I can’t imagine what your clan must think of your adventures. You must be quite the hero to them.”

The CrossCat snorted. More likely I’m a cautionary tale. Most CrossCats get farther than their first stop on their initial solo journey. 

“You wandered until you found home. Isn’t that what the journey is about?”

Yes. And that’s why I chose the ornament I did. He nudged open the bag and Molly was once again wrapped in grey.

When it cleared, she was back in the second floor apartment she and Schrodinger had shared when he had first come to Carter’s Cove, before she and Drew had gotten married and bought the farm. It had had a cozy living room, and she saw herself and Schrodinger sitting on the old sofa, lit only by the lights from their Christmas tree. 

“I brought you a present today,” Past-Molly said to the CrossCat snoozing next to her. His ears perked up as she handed him a small gift bag.

I thought we couldn’t open presents until Christmas Day!

Past-Molly laughed. “Usually, but this is a special present for you to open now.”

Scrodinger dipped his nose into the bag, moving aside tissue paper to pull out the small handpainted ornament she’d had specially made for him.

A large cat that looked like Schrodinger was perched on a snowbank, with a Santa hat on its head. Below in the snow were the words “Schrodinger’s First Christmas.”

When her eyes cleared again, Molly was back in the crowd, watching as the ornament was placed into the tree.
It was the first of many amazing Christmases with my chosen family, Schrodinger said, looking over at Molly and Drew. And I will echo what was said before: this is a place that welcomes everyone in, and makes them realize that home is the people and places you carry in your heart

Advent 2021 – December 22

December 22 – Lily and Kaylee

Once the candle had been lit, Brynna stepped back, and Molly’s nieces Lily and Kaylee stepped forward together. Their faces shone with excitement: they both adored both the Snow Queen and Old Man Winter. Molly wondered how long the negotiations had been over choosing ornaments. 

Jade smiled at the two girls, and Molly realized with a start that they were nearly as tall as the Snow Queen. In fact, Lily could look her straight in the eyes, and Kaylee wasn’t far behind.

“We decided to go together on an ornament,” Kaylee said. 

Lily nodded agreement. “Because one of the best things about the Christmas season is being together,” she said, and looked at Kaylee. “Okay?”

Kaylee reached into the pocket of her coat. The grey surrounded Molly and Schrodinger before she could see the ornament. 

When it cleared, both Molly and Schrodinger recognized the Barrett household. Molly’s parents owned a large rambling house on one of the many roads that meandered around Carter’s Cove, and until recently, it had been where the Barrett clan had celebrated Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. The huge living room, filled with inviting couches and chairs, held not only the large tree, decorated with several generations’ worth of ornaments, but a fieldstone mantel over the fireplace. All the stockings were hung up, and since they were full, Molly guessed it must have been after Santa had come and gone.

“Shush!” A little voice said behind her, and Molly watched as a younger Lily, perhaps eight or nine, crept into the room, followed closely by her younger sister. “If we’re too loud, Dad will send us back to bed, and we won’t be able to see if it happened.”

Kaylee screwed up her face, pantomiming zipping her lips together, and Lily giggled a bit before she caught herself. The two paused, obviously checking to see if they’d be caught. When everything stayed quiet, they moved over to the window, and Molly suddenly realized what they were looking for.

There was an older stocking that had been in the Barrett family for as long as Molly could remember. The velvet loop was worn smooth, too fragile to be hung up when filled. Instead of being full now, it was empty, laid flat on an overstuffed chair, next to where the plate of cookies and a glass of milk sat. They too were empty.

Is that the orphan stocking? Schrodinger asked. 

“Yes,” Molly said, and as Kaylee reached out to touch it, the scene dissolved, and she was back, watching Kaylee hand the worn stocking.

“We leave this out every Christmas, full of mittens and scarves, for those who might not have some,” she said. “Mom and Dad help us collect them all year long, and then Santa takes them to give to those in need. We put some candy in each mitten, too.” She glanced at her sister, and Lily finished the thought.

“This year, we’re going to do a bag instead, because the stocking is getting too small. So we thought that it would go well on the tree.” Lily grinned. “It’s not exactly traditional to hang a stocking on a tree, but since Carter’s Cove isn’t exactly traditional…”

“It’s wonderful!” Jade said, taking the stocking gently.

Advent 2021 – December 21

December 21 – Brynna

Right behind Pavel was his mother Brynna, a sea captain in her own right, although she’d retired to the Cove with her second husband. Her short iron-grey hair ruffled in the winter wind. Molly had often wondered what sailing under her had been like.

At least as exciting as with Pavel, she decided.

Hardly, Schrodinger said. She’s not a pirate.

That’s been caught, Molly said, and the CrossCat chuckled.

“There has long been a tradition in my home that Christmas is a time to be with family,” Brynna said, her voice carrying easily over the crowd. “And not just those joined to you by blood or marriage.”

The fog wrapped around Molly, and when it cleared, she and Schrodinger were back in the house where they’d first met Pavel’s family. The house looked much the same, except for the young girl seated before the fire. Her fingers twisted thread from the drop spindle she held before her.

The clock on the mantel chimed, and she looked up. This Brynna’s hair was dark and rich, held in a thick braid to her waist, with no grey in it. But her eyes were the same hazel as Pavel’s, and twinkled just as merrily.

A tall man came out from the kitchen as she rose, and he held a small wreath of greenery in his hands. “Are you ready, Brynn?” he said.

“Aye, captain!” Brynna gave her father a cheerful salute.

“Well, then, fetch the candles!”

Pavel’s grandfather went over to the window and carefully set the wreath down. Brynna, her spindle tucked safely into her basket of wool, joined him and set a simple beeswax candle in the center of the wreath.

“For those who have gone before us, and those still on their way, may we be one of the beacons in the darkness,” they said in unison, each touching a lit match to the taper. It glowed with a steady yellow gleam.

“He’ll see it, right, Father?” Brynna said, looking up at the older man.

He laid a hand on her shoulder. “He’ll see it,” he told her. “If not by being here, then by knowing we lit it for him, to guide him home.”

I wonder who they are waiting for? Schrodinger said, and Molly shook her head.

She was about to answer when there was the sound of scuffing boots in the kitchen, and the back door opened. “Merry Christmas!”

“Armand!” Brynna shouted, and rushed to hug a man who must have been either a brother or a cousin. They shared the dark hair and hazel eyes that Pavel did. “You’re home!”

“Of course I am,” Armand said, and nodded towards the window. “I had the candle to navigate by.”

Molly and Schrodinger watched the images fade, bringing them back to the square where Brynna now hung the wreath with the candle set into it on the tree.

Jade leaned over and touched the tip of the wick, creating a small flame that danced merrily. “We can all use a light to guide us by, and this one will never dim,” she said.

Advent 2021 – December 20

December 20 – Pavel

After the beautiful owl had been nestled in the tree, Jade stopped to admire everything. “This is so lovely,” she said. “I can feel the joy and magic spreading out from it and covering the town.” She smiled. “This is exactly what we needed this year. Now, who’s next?”

Molly thought about that while several other townsfolk brought up their ornaments to hang on the tree. “I wonder if there’s something wrong about to happen,” she murmured, more to herself than anyone else. 

“Hmm?” Drew asked.

“Why do we need to have more magic covering the town?” Molly said. “Isn’t that what the Snow Queen’s Ball is for?”

“It’s been a hard year in this Realm, remember. Maybe there needs to be some extra joy to overcome the fear and sorrow in the world around us.”

“Maybe,” she agreed. Then she saw who was now mounting the dias and added, “Oh, this should be good.”

Dressed in his captain’s finery, even down to his polished black boots, Pavel Chekov, captain of the ship The Heart’s Desire, pulled off his black hat and swept it before him in an extravagant bow, the long white feathers in his hat nearly brushing the hem of the Snow Queen’s dress.

“Your Majesty, I too have a gift for the tree and the town that I have come to call home,” he said, his booming voice carrying easily to the very edges of the square. 

As he reached into his coat, the grey fog wrapped around her again. When it cleared, Molly and Schrodinger were standing in another forest. One neither of them recognized. Instead of conifers and snow, this forest’s trees lifted green leaves to a sunny sky, and moss coated the ground beneath their feet. Snatches of foreign bird song floated through the trees.

“Do you recognize this?” Molly asked.

Maybe? The CrossCat sounded unsure. Something smells familiar but I don’t know what.

A young man stepped into the clearing, followed by a stately young deer. It was almost pure white except for some strippling along its flanks, and it followed the boy as if on an invisible leash.

Is that…Pavel? Schrodinger asked.

I think so, Molly replied. A very yong Pavel.

The boy, dressed in mismatched clothing, paused in the clearing and then turned to the deer. “If you keep going along this path, it will bring you to the protected lands,” he said. “You’ll have to hurry, but I think I can slow them down enough to give you a good head start.” He laid one hand on the deer’s neck. “Be well,” he said. “I shall miss you.”

The deer nodded once, and then licked Pavel’s face from chin to forehead before leaping off down the path. Pavel wiped his face and watched his companion disappear into the deeper forest, then he turned back the way he’d come, and waited.

What’s he waiting for? Schrodinger asked. 

Before she could answer, something crashed in the distance. Molly could hear horns, and the thudding of horses’ hooves coming closer. The young Pavel straightened up, then leaned against a tree with studied nonchalance, as if he’d no cares at all.

The leader of the hunting party burst through the trees, pulling up sharply as he saw Pavel. A sneer crossed the man’s face.

“Well, well, well, boys, look what we have here.” The man’s voice grated against the air. Four more men entered the clearing behind the first, all clad in expensive-looking leather. Each one had a bow slung on their backs.

“Afternoon, Roman,” Pavel said. “Lovely day for a ride, although as usual, you’re pushing your horses too hard.” He squinted at the leader’s mount. “She’s going to need some extra care tonight. Good thing your grooms treat your horses better than you do.”

The leader, Roman, flushed an angry red. “Get out of my way, boy. We’re on the trail of that white doe that’s been seen. I want her head on my wall.”

Pavel shook his head. “Why do you insist on doing that? You know it’s just creepy and wasteful, right? Besides, don’t you already have two deer heads on your wall?”

“I’ve no white one,” Roman snarled. “I’ve been hunting her since before you were born. Now, which way did she go?”

Pavel sighed. “Did you ever stop to thing why you haven’t ever caught her?”

“Besides stupid pups like yourself slowing me down?” Roman said. “Which way?”

“Maybe she’s not meant to be caught,” Pavel said. “Maybe you’re chasing something that doesn’t really exist on this plane of existence except as a dream.”

Roman pushed his horse right up to Pavel, leaned down, and grabbed the boy’s ear. “Which….way??” He asked, jerking Pavel’s head back and forth. “Answer me, or it’ll be your head on my wall!”

Pavel didn’t yelp or scream, although the vicious yanking on his ear must have been painful. He kept silent for another minute, then pointed to another trail. “She went that way,” he said.

Roman twisted his ear a final time and then used his booted foot to shove Pavel bavkwards into the tree he’d been leaning against. “Come on, boys!” He shouted, and the entire company thundered off in completely the wrong direction.

The grey fog whisked them back to the Cove just as Pavel handed a white deer, a wreath of holly and ivy around her neck, to Jade. “In memory of those who escaped,” he said. “May their memories be a blessing.”

Advent 2021 – December 19

December 19 – Aunt Margie and Uncle Art

As Ember moved to the back of the dias, no doubt to discuss something with Old Man Winter, Molly saw her Aunt Margie and Uncle Art were stepping up to the tree. Aunt Margie had run CrossWind Books since before Molly and her brother Nathan were born, while Uncle Art had run the farm he’d inherited from his father. Now, Molly wondered which of the numerous ornaments Aunt Margie had brought.

“I’ve lived here all my adult life,” Aunt Margie said, looking out over the crowd of her friends and neighbors. “I came as a young wife, and I was adopted by all of you, and I am so proud to be a part of this community.” She carefully pulled out a small bundle and began to unwrap it.

What is it? Schrodinger asked, but the grey fog was wrapping around he and Molly again. When the fog cleared, they were standing alone in the midst of white birches and evergreens during one of those picture-perfect snow storms that came once or twice every winter.

Or so it seemed at first. There were snowflakes falling, and that deadened both noise and made it hard to see.

Then Schrodinger nudged her leg. Look to your left.

Molly turned, and there was her Aunt Margie and Uncle Art. They were standing together, dressed in warm clothes, with mugs of something steaming in their hands, on the deck that her uncles and grandfather and cousins had built one summer before she was born. The deck looked very new, and there weren’t any streaks of white in her aunt’s hair, or laugh lines on her face. In fact, she looked hardly older than Molly.

“Do you think we’ll see them today?” Aunt Margie asked.

“We should,” Uncle Art said. “The boys and I heard them when we were taking the cows back to the shed last night, and the night before.” He slipped his free hand around her waist. “And once they do show…”

“If they show,” she said.

“When they show, it will be time to get the decorations out and start the holiday,” Uncle Art finished. 

What are they talking about? Schrodinger asked. What are they waiting for?

“Just watch,” Molly said. “You’ll see.”

And then, through the gently falling snow, there was movement. The snowy owl that winged its way out of the trees hooted gently as it swooped between the flakes, circling the house three times before it ghosted away. 

“They still wait for her,” Molly said, as the scene started to fade. “The decorations at their farm don’t come out until the Christmas owl is seen.”

Aunt Margie finished unwrapping the beautifully carved snowy owl and handed it to Jade. “This owl has greeted us every Christmas season,” she said. “When we see her after Thanksgiving, we know it’s time to celebrate. It’s one of our signs that everything is right with the world.”

Advent 2021 – December 18

December 18 – Ember

The next person to bring up an ornament made their entrance by air. Molly, Drew, and Schrodinger joined in the general applause as the elegant blue-scaled dragon they all knew as Ember landed lightly in front of the tree.

I know I’m not an actual resident of the Cove, the dragon said. But I did want to give an ornament as well.

“You are most certainly a resident!” Gideon said stoutly, pushing back through the crowd. Zoey, and Molly’s own two nieces Lily and Kaylee stood beside him, all nodding their heads. “Just because you don’t live right on Main Street doesn’t mean anything.”

“Which is good, because nobody lives on Main Street,” Lily said to Zoey.

“Do we HAVE a Main Street?” Zoey asked.

“Nope,” Lily said. “Which is why no one lives there.”

Jade smiled at all of them as the crowd, even Gideon, laughed. “Even still, he’s right,” the Snow Queen said. “I couldn’t imagine the tree without something from you.”

Thank you, Ember said, inclining her head. Dragons do not normally celebrate Christmas as you do, but we do celebrate.

As the fog wrapped about them, Molly wondered what they would see. The grey cleared from her eyes, and she gasped.

She’d half-expected to see Ember’s snug cavern in the hills near the Snow Queen’s castle, or perhaps the stables of the mansion Drew had stayed in when they first met Old Man Winter. Instead, she and Schrodinger stood in a large hall, the ceiling lost into the gloom high above them. The floor was rock, worn smooth by hundreds of footsteps over who knew how many millennia. A large fireplace was off to their left, where flames danced over a pile of logs that might as well have been whole trees. Molly looked a bit closer, and realized that instead of actual flames, what were dancing on the wood were beings made entirely of flame, small creatures that whirled and leapt with joyous abandon. She turned back to the center of the room to see what else was there.

There were dragons, of course, but Molly had never dreamed that she would see so many in the same place. Dragons of every size and color congregated together in groups of two to twenty, and even still, the cavern seemed immense and endless. Some held cups in their hands and talked, while others lounged on piles of whatever they appeared to want. While Molly wasn’t quite sure she’d want to wrap herself around a spiky outcropping of what looked like quartz crystal, the red dragon who had claimed that spot was obviously comfortable, as its eyes were closed to slits, and something that sounded like a faint snore accompanied the wisps of smoke coming from its nostrils.

Look! There’s Ember!

Schrodinger’s voice pulled her attention from the dragon and she turned. It was indeed Ember, although she was larger than Molly had ever seen her. And there’s another mystery solved, she thought. I always wondered why she was so small. It was because she wanted to be, not because she was young.

You mean you didn’t know that? Schrodinger sounded surprised. I’ve known that since the beginning. Dragons would never let a young dragon of that size out on their own.

You clearly have more experience with dragons than I do, Molly told him. 

Ember had dropped from the ceiling, just as she’d dropped from the sky into the square, landing near one of the clusters of topaz and golden dragons that were busy doing something that their wings hid from Molly.

What’s the status? One of the dragons looked up at Ember, their brown eyes bright.

They’re coming in now, Ember said. You’ve got about two more minutes before that needs to be ready.

Luckily, we’re ready now, the other dragon said, bobbing its head in satisfaction. Is it still magnificent?

Of course it is, Ember said. He wouldn’t let it fail.

Then everyone’s attention was caught by movement in the back of the room. Six dragons, three green and three red, flew in, carrying something massive in a harness between them. The dragons on the ground stepped away from the area Ember stood near, and Molly saw the ground looked churned up, making a huge hole in the ground.

Be careful! The golden dragon that had spoken to Ember now reared up, using its wings to keep its balance. Don’t break it!

We’ve done this before, Kallix, one of the red dragons said. Believe it or not.

Molly and Schrodinger watched as the two foremost dragons dropped the edges of the harness down to just above the hole. A huge ball of roots and dirt slid out, and then, with just a bit of guidance from the dragons, a massive evergreen tree settled into the ground. Kallix raised its front legs and gestured, and the dirt around the tree packed itself in gently to steady the tree. 

Ember raised her head. This tree has stood at this spot for the Yule celebration since the Elders first declared the Accords, she said. Every winter solstice, the Caretaker brings it back here, so it can record the celebrations for all who have left, and all who will come. The cycle begins again.

The cycle begins, the other dragons repeated. 
Then Molly and Schrodinger were back in the Cove, watching Ember hand a small scroll ornament to Jade. This is a symbol of the Accords that govern the Realms, the dragon said. It is tradition that every tree set for the Yule celebration have a copy of it hung upon it, so that the joy and luck of the Accords may flow out for another year. It is only fitting that the Cove have their own copy now.