The Winter House: DECEMBER

The village was alive with light!

From the window of every house blazed countless lanterns, garlands of entwined holly and ivy wound above every door.

The sound of music came from biwas, lyres, panpipes and countless other musical instruments, some familiar to the young Loud Ghost, others thoroughly alien. Likewise, the music played upon said instruments was a curious mix; some were traditional Christmas carols, others were works entirely of Mononoke composition, whilst others still seemed to be composed of the borrowed tunes of carols and entirely new Mononoke dialect lyrics.

Not in all his years had he known Farlas so alive with life and joy nor the Mononoke so unreserved in their dealings with humans.

All throughout the day, there was traffic between the assorted homes of the villages, any number of animals rushing from house to house, to greet neighbours and proclaim best wishes of the season. There were so many visitors at the front door of the usually quiet shared abode that long before mid day, Porthos had given up on the pretence of closing the door and had thrown it wide open, keeping it in position with a number of scholarly works President Buer had left in their care – though certainly not with such a use in mind.

The fire was kept well stoked and on the table nearest the door, Porthos and Loud Ghost, with the somewhat awkward assistance of the Howling Pope, arranged a number of snacks and drinks and welcomed each visitor to partake of refreshment between house calls.

It was in this way that Christmas dinner became an affair eventually shared with the entire village.

Before Porthos had even dished up the numerous vegetables onto plates, there were so many different people in the front room that a unanimous decision was reached to give up on the pretence of eating under a roof and the Pope was instructed to carry the table out into the village square.

Seemingly needing no further encouragement, the Pope was then accosted by others in order to help them bring their tables out and, before long, the entire populace of the village was seated outside at a veritable banquet of food, a tremendous, impromptu bonfire burning away to fight off the chill of the winter air.

Porthos resumed dishing up vegetables, with contributions of various portions from the combined amateur chefs and well-meaning mothers of the village. A huge number of mismatching plates were thus served with numerous and varied kinds of boiled vegetables; cauliflower, raskovnik, broccoli, carrots, runner beans, peas and even a much maligned Brussels sprout or two.

Next came an assortment of roast potatoes, sweet potatoes and turnips, coated with moly, thyme and rosemary and accompanied by mint sauce and bread sauce with which to smother both vegetables and potatoes. Following these additions, Porthos and his accompanying band of mothers, produced Yorkshire puddings, nut roast and tofu along with numerous slices of every kind of bread imaginable.

After dinner came plum pudding, mince pies, slices of Yule log and helpings of ice cream and winter fruits, following which everyone was so full that many could do little but recline in their chairs and watch some of the younger ones engage in games of snap-dragon or chat idly with one another over large mugs of mulled wine and tea.

Yet an hour had not fully passed before a messenger from Eoz arrived – a young man with a large straw hat and feline whiskers – in the company of a small, excitable owl in a bright red Christmas hat.

Having introduced themselves as Bastion and Festive Owly, the villagers gathered about the young man to hear him read aloud the Queen’s speech from a scroll of rolled parchment.

Despite himself, Loud Ghost found his eyes dropping closed and his head slumping down as the messenger continued to speak. It was through no fault of the messenger or indeed of the message he relayed but rather that, with the warmth of the fire at his back and his belly full of such a hearty meal, the young boy found it difficult to resist.

Before Bastion had finished conveying greetings from Eoz, Loud Ghost was asleep and snoring loudly!

About him, the numerous villagers of Farlas smiled knowingly and pretended not to notice.

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