(advent) December 9

Saturday, December 9

“They ran from SANTA?” Lily said, shaking her head. “I mean, it’s fantastic. Who is scared of Santa Claus?”

Someone who’s been really naughty, maybe? Aurora said, as they walked down the street to the center of Merchant’s Circle. This was the part of Carter’s Cove where many of the shops were, such as The Vienna Lady’s Café, which was where they were headed. There was a soft snow falling – not a storm, but that gentle kind of snowfall that always appears in Hollywood movies about New England Christmases. It was just cold enough to snow, but not cold enough to chill the bones. Even Jack, with his warm coat, was moving briskly.

“The way they were acting, I could see that,” Gideon said. “They were very rude to each other, and to Starsha.”

“I don’t understand how anyone could be rude to her,” Zoey said. “She’s always so nice!”

Some people just don’t know how to treat others, Jack said philosophically.

I kind of hope the Snow Queen brings them to Santa tomorrow, Schrodinger muttered. I want to see him teach them a lesson.

“That’s not very nice, though, Schrodinger,” Lily said.

“I dunno, I agree with Schrodinger,” Kaylee said, kicking at a snowbank. “They deserve coal at the very least.”

“Santa will take care of it,” Gideon said. “It’s his job, anyways.”

“Truth!” Kaylee perked up as they neared the Circle and the first strains of music wafted up on the cold air. “Speaking of jobs, I wonder what Katarina and Mick will have us do today?”

When they arrived at The Vienna Lady’s Café, they found it already full of people. Mick was behind the counter, making coffee with an immense machine that seemed to be full of froth and magic. The air was heavy with the scents of chocolate, coffee, vanilla, and butter.

They waited patiently for a break in the crowd, warming back up from their walk. Then Mick caught sight of them, and his face broke into a warm, welcoming smile.

“Ah, you’ve made it!” His warm Scottish accent danced on the air. “Good! Katarina’s in the back getting stuff ready for you!” He lifted the counter and gestured them through.

“What are we doing?” Lily asked, as they went into the back room, where Mick’s wife Katarina was pouring hot chocolate into a large thermos.

“We’re going to be keeping the musicians warm!” Katarina beamed at all of them. “There are musicians all over the Circle, and I thought it would be nice to have you bring them hot chocolate and warm sandwiches.” She indicated the large basket.

“How are we going to carry it all?” Gideon asked. “That looks heavy.”

“We thought you could us this?” Katarina said, bringing them to the back door. Outside was a small sleigh.

“Oh, it’s like Old Man Winter’s, but mini!” Kaylee said, clapping her hands together. “I bet Aurora, Jack, and Schrodinger can pull it, and we can push it!”

The two dogs and the CrossCat inspected the sleigh and announced that they could definitely take turns in pulling it along. There was even a harness that would fit each of them, generously padded and embroidered with gold and silver threads.

“And look here,” Katarina said, showing them what was cradled in the sleigh. Instead of seats for people, there were two boxes. One opened to show spots for the thermos and two stacks of paper cups with lids, and the other was empty.

“What goes in here?” Kaylee asked.

“That’s for the sandwiches,” Katarina said, bringing them back into the kitchen. “I made hand pockets with ham and cheese, and that box will keep them warm.”

“Wow!” Gideon said. “Where did you get such a wonderful thing?”

“Mick built it,” Katarina said. “It’s a prototype he’s working on for the goats.”

Katarina and Mick had a farm on the outskirts of the Cove, and their small herd of goats was their pride and joy, aside from the café. Schrodinger could see the small goats pulling the sleigh through the snow, perhaps over at the skating cove.

Now, he looked at the others. Who wants to pull first?

Aurora volunteered, and once they had filled the boxes with hot chocolate and warm hand sandwiches, they set off to the sidewalks.

In front of the Tin Shop, a trio of singers were more than happy to take a break from Jingle Bells to sip hot chocolate and eat the warm hand pies that Katarina had made. It was two young men and a young woman that Schrodinger didn’t recognize, but they sang Gideon’s favorite Christmas carol in thanks, which made them wonderful in his eyes. Catherine, the owner of the Tin Shop, came out just in time to hear the end of the song, and joined the children in clapping enthusiastically.

“Schrodinger! Molly’s not with you today?” she asked.

No, she’s baking cookies for tomorrow, when Santa comes, he replied. Is there a message I can give her?

“Yes, please let her know that the centerpiece she requested for Christmas dinner is in,” Catherine said. “She can pick it up at any time.”

Oooh, I wonder what it is! Schrodinger looked at the others, who shrugged. I will let her know!

Their next stop was at the Hammered Dulcimer, a music shop that Molly loved to look in whenever she was in the square. The musicians here were very familiar to all of them: Darien, the Minstrel who now lived in the Cove (in retirement, so he said) and his journeyman Starsha.

Today, they had cloaks on: Darien’s a dark grey, almost black, edged with white fur, and Starsha’s a pearl grey, edged in dark blue fur. Darien was playing a saxophone, the elegant tones wrapping around Starsha’s voice as she sang “God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen.”

“Wow,” Lily said, as the last notes died away. “I’ve never heard it played like that.”

Darien smiled at her. “The saxophone is one of my favorite instruments,” he agreed, letting the instrument rest against his chest. His fingers were encased in dark grey kid-skin gloves, and he flexed them momentarily. “And Starsha can make anyone sound good when she sings along.”

His journeyman blushed, the tattoos on her cheeks reddening. “Indeed, Master Darien, it is your playing that makes me sound good,” she said, tucking her hands beneath her cloak. “I am but a poor student in your shadow.”

“You have never been a poor student,” he said firmly. “I will not listen to that bit of false modesty.” He turned to Schrodinger. “I’m glad to see you today. I was hoping you would tell me what happened yesterday.”

“Master, please,” Starsha said, looking very uncomfortable.

“No, child, this is something I need to know, and from someone who is not going to try and cast you in the wrong,” Darien said, not looking at her. “Schrodinger will tell me the truth without trying to take the blame.”

Schrodinger, who had been hoping to run into Darien for this very reason, was brief and succinct in his retelling. She handled it very well, he finished.  They were completely in the wrong, and she just got caught in the middle.

               “Hmm.” Darien stroked his chin. “I think it may be time for me to accept the Snow Queen’s invitation to lunch, so I can meet some of these gentlemen.”

“Why would they have been scared of Santa?” Kaylee asked. “Do you know, Darien?”

“No, but I could find out.” The elf’s eyes gleamed suddenly. “He is at CrossWinds Books tomorrow, is he not?”

Yes, Schrodinger said.

“Perhaps we shall be as well.”

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