The snow came on unexpectedly, falling so heavily that it blocked the roads in and out of Farlas and caused much distemper amongst those merchants who had planned visits to the other villages.
Amongst them had been Porthos, eager to return to the comforts of his s’Hertogenbosch inn and decidedly disgruntled that he was forced to spend several days in the freezing cold with a shovel fighting a losing battle against the elements.
Tobit, choosing to fly on ahead and inform the villages of the snowfall in Farlas, left shortly after Porthos began his battle.
Loud Ghost and the Howling Pope, having nothing better to do decided to relax and enjoy the February festivities.
New Year passed swiftly and before they knew it, they were taking down the tree, unwinding garlands of tinsel and paper-chains, snuffing out candles and putting away baubles.
A sense of melancholy pervaded the winter house.
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.
November seemed to pass in the blink of an eye.
No sooner than President Buer had settled into life in the Winter House, it seemed that he was leaving again, preparing to travel onwards to Orthen for mid-winter and to celebrate Christmas with the magi.
Porthos had made the scholar a knapsack chock a bloc full of food and drink; a French loaf full of cucumber and cheese, a loaf of lime bread from s’Hertogenbosch, various winter fruits and an insulated flask of milk tea.
Whether or not these were the kind of provisions an otherworldly scholar such as President Buer required they never found out as the curiously shaped President was far too humble to reply with anything but its heartiest thanks.
Bartholomew and King Obake had been the first to return following Loud Ghost’s duplicity. Ahead of them, and the unwilling recipient of Loud Ghost’s dereliction of duty, had been the ill-tempered dwarf, Porthos, who had not been especially fond of the other’s joke.
September had turned to October and, all across the other city, ineffable and infallible London, the clocks had gone back. In Farlas too, the sun rose earlier and the darkness crept in like never before, more and more lights flickering on in the winter homes of traders’ cottages and abodes.
Loud Ghost did not know if the adjustment of the clocks had been a human tradition introduced to the Mononoke trading village, or if early Mononoke merchants had introduced the notion to London but it was gratifying to see the reflection of one in the other.
Dim red light filtered through the branches of elm trees and the overhanging of willows, brown leaves curled at their bases and scattered across the cobbled street. In London, it would be September, smoke curdling from red brick chimneys and the smell of sweet meats drifting in from Camden and Covent Garden.
In the trading village of Farlas, the season was likewise autumnal. The leaves of summer had turned inward and fallen and the horse-chestnut trees, once heavy with conkers were now barren. Loud Ghost appreciated the change in environment, not because he had grown weary of the sites and sounds of London but rather because, beneath the shadow of those ancient elms that lined the dirt path leading toward the small village, the young boy felt a sense of nostalgia that was not present in day-to-day London life.
Trudging wearily up the dirt path and towards the silent village, the great lake to his left still home to the graceful Su Shuang before it froze over and the birds took flight in search of warmer climates, he felt once more at peace.