Tuesday, December 31, 2013
CE: Christmas Tree
I hit the play button on my laptop and the room immediately fills with the sounds of Andrea Bocelli's voice. The song is one of my favorites, and I can't help but hum along. In alto, of course. It's always the most fun to harmonize.
"What song is this?"
I cast a quick glance at the girl standing next to me. "God Bless Us Everyone. It's..."
"Sung by Andrea Bocelli, written by Alan Silvestri, and appears in the end credits of Disney's A Christmas Carol?"
I grin. "Jo, you know me too well."
Josette gives me a smile as well. "I know your brain too well."
"And that's a rather scary thought. Here."
Josette stares blankly at my hands. "But there's nothing there."
"Just pretend there is. I don't have a real Christmas tree to have you help me decorate, so we're going to make up our own."
The princess's eyebrows jerk upward, but Josette says nothing and cradles her hands together to accept the invisible ornament. "Where do I put it?"
"The tree is standing..." I scrunch up my face in an effort to see the desired conifer and wave my hands around to determine the size of the branches, "... right about there. Just hang the ornament on one of the branches."
Timidly, Josette reaches out and delicately leaves her ornament hanging in the air. "Like that?"
The sudden sound of someone clearing his, or her, throat startles the both of us.
"Kiri, you know you're supposed to put the lights on first."
"Derec! Don't sneak up on me like that!"
The boy only grins. "Well, since I'm here now, can I help you?"
"Might as well." I say, cocking an eyebrow at him. "I don't suppose I can talk you out of it."
"No, you can't." He catches sight of Josette and throws himself rather gracefully for a twelve-year-old into a bow fit for royalty which, as Josette is a princess, is probably the right way to do the job. "Derec, at your service, my lady. I am but a humble blacksmith, but I can see at a glance that you must be the Princess Josette Fierte of Findenland."
"How did you know?" Josette is trying to hold back a smile, but I cannot mistake the wonder in her voice.
Derec winks. "Everyone knows Kiri's favorites."
"And where are you from?" Josette asks.
"The beautiful, but small, kingdom of Darancia." Derec replies easily. "I'm from The Masked Pianist."
"I don't believe I've ever heard of you."
"That's because he's only had one scene." I cut in.
"Indeed, Princess, my story is one of such twists and mystery that not even the great Kiri Liz herself can figure it all out."
"That's hogwash." I retort hastily, determining not to be shown up by one of my own characters. "I do know exactly what the mystery is, and I know a lot more than you do."
Derec only shrugs.
"And how are you going to reach the top of the tree to do the lights?" I press further. "You're not six-foot."
"Ah, fear not, my beloved but frustrating creator." Derec holds up one finger. "I have thought of that already."
Almost as if his words are a cue, the door behind me opens and in strolls a tall man with dark hair and eyes twinkling with fun.
"Brother Van Leign, my lady." He, too, bows to Josette. I, however, am not amused.
"Leign? What's going on?"
But he is spared from answering as just at that moment, Josette breaks out in a delighted cry. "You're from Secret of the Hazel Tree, aren't you?"
"My lady speaks the truth." Brother Leign bows again. "My young friend here asked if I would assist him in his light task."
My lips tighten. Something's not right, and my mind hits upon it the moment I hear a muffled thump against the door. "How many did you bring with you, Derec?"
"Many?" The boy freezes with a sheepish look on his face, and the ecstatic strains of the Russian Dance from the Nutcracker fill the silence after his single word.
When he fails to answer, I stride to the door and yank it open. A conglomeration of people, piled against the door, tumble into the room the moment their supporting structure is gone. I stand back and survey the mess.
"Well, well, Jelly, Token, Swipe, Dick, and Nathan. What are you all doing here?"
"It was Derec's idea!" Nathan protests as he struggles to his feet.
"Yes, it was." Derec beams proudly.
"Please, we wanted to help decorate the tree, too!" Token's red hair bounces as she rushes to my side. Her hands fold together in a pleading gesture.
"And can we put a popcorn ring on it?" The speaker's tiny green wings flutter excitedly in my face, and I back away.
"A popcorn what, Jelly?"
"I think she means a popcorn string." Dick offers, brushing his uniform off.
"Yes, that!" Jelly exclaims. " A popcorn sling! Ooh, who's that?" She flys over to Josette and perches her small body on the princess's shoulder.
I catch about a million confused glances going back and forth around the room, and since I'm the only one who knows who is who, it looks as if I'll have to make the introductions. "Everyone, this is Princess Josette Fierte of Findenland."
"The Twelfth Kingdom, right?" Nathan asks, but not before giving a bow.
"Right." I waste no time and move to the man standing just behind Josette. "Brother Van Leign of Troisem, priest in Secret of the Hazel Tree."
Leign acknowledges the company with a nod of his head.
"The fairy on Josette's shoulder is..."
"I'm Jelly Cardon!" She interrupts gleefully. "And I'm from... well, I don't really know where I'm from, but I live in Kesia right now, and Kiri's promised to take me on an avenger! Princess Lianne and I are going to all sorts of exhibiting things!"
"She means adventure and exciting, of course." I correct hastily before anyone can ask about Jelly's odd use of words. "Jelly suffers from a little something known as Malapropism. It's rather funny, actually. But, moving on..." I place my hand on the little redhead by my side. "This is Token, and she comes from my story Tabby."
"Is Tabby your sister?" Josette bends to better see the young girl eye-to-eye.
Token shrugs. "I call her my sister, but I don't know if we are. She gave me a real name, you know! There's Tiara, too, but I think I like Tabby best. Her kitty's nice. But I like Tiara, too. She has pretty hair. Carl doesn't. He's nasty, and his hair is so messy I don't even know what color it is."
I carry on the introductions once the laughter from Token's speech dies down. "Some of you probably already know of Nathan Penser of Pennin."
Brother Leign strokes his chin. "Ah, yes, the man whom Kianna claims to be her mortal enemy. Tell me, friend, whatever did you do to her that stirred up such wrath?"
Nathan's head fell. "I don't know. I wish I knew." His voice bordered on the edge of a deep sadness, so I knew it was time to move on quickly.
"Dicksen Elnefar is from Dron."
"Oh, we all know about him." Derec breaks in. "He's from Rebirth of a Legend. I think he's probably the biggest character we've got in this room so far, unless we're counting Princess Josette, of course."
"And that loudmouth is Derec from Darancia, very minor character in The Masked Pianist."
"Minor? What?" Derec's shock brings another wave of laughter to the group.
I look around. "Is that it?"
"No, you forgot him." Token jabbed a finger in a corner. "I don't know who he is."
"And he hasn't said, either." Dick remarked in an undertone. "Do you recognize him, Nathan?"
"Never saw him before in my life," the young man from Pennin admitted, "and he doesn't look anything like Kiri's other characters that I know."
"That's because I haven't written his story yet." I say bluntly. "And he cannot tell you his name because he is mute. He hasn't been able to speak since his birth, or at least, I think that's how it all is. His name is Swipe, and he's from Black Fox."
"Black Fox?" Derec gives a low whistle. "Well, in that case," he strides over to Swipe and sticks his hand out. "Very nice to meet you. I think your story is the one that everyone is dying to hear, yet no one knows anything about. It's an honor to finally see who's in that great story."
Swipe eyes Derec's hand warily for a moment, but accepts it slowly, only to pull the boy into a full hug as soon as their hands touch.
I cringe, knowing the real reason for the hug. "Derec... check your pockets. He isn't called Swipe for nothing."
Swipe grins as he pulls back. Derec's face adopts a look of alarm as Swipe dangles a thin, dirty book in the boy's face. "Hey, he took my notebook!"
"Give it back now, Swipe." I shake my head in amusement as the mute thief hands the notebook back to a very relieved son of a blacksmith. "He makes his living that way, and I'm afraid you won't be able to knock that hobby out of him. Okey dokey," I turn back to the company, "are we going to decorate this tree? I assume that's why you're all here."
"Oh, Kiri, can I pleeeease do a popcorn sling?"
"Do we have any bells to hang?" Brother Leign picks up the invisible lid to a box and peers into the pretend depths. A moment later, a smile breaks out over his face and he pulls something upward with two fingers. As he shakes his hand, I get a preliminary shock when the sound of bells jingle softly across the room. But no, that's only Carol of the Bells playing on my laptop. I'd almost forgotten I'd put music on. I must have missed several songs while making the introductions. Pity.
"Kiri, you didn't forget the ribbons, did you?" Dick asks with alarm in his eyes.
"We don't normally put ribbons on our tree," I answer back, "but you can if you want to. Look in those boxes over there." I point vaguely off to the right.
"Can I do a Nutcracker ornament?" Token pleads.
I run a loving hand over her red hair. "Of course! Whatever you would like! Where did I put those candy canes?"
The next half hour goes by so quickly that I'm hardly aware of the time. Laughs break out as Nathan describes the fish ornament he wishes to put on the tree, and Josette scolds Jelly for eating the popcorn string instead of putting it on the tree. Dick drapes the tree in ribbons from top to bottom, and upon surveying the transparent decor, Derec frowns and states that there's no room for his tiny anvil. Swipe dances about, throwing tinsel into the air and snitching everyone else's ornaments, I'm sure. Token insists that every single one of her ornaments has some reference to the Nutcracker, and while I'm not even sure how she recognizes the music, she has everyone become silent any time one of Tchaikovsky's songs plays from my laptop.
When I finally stand back to imagine our final product, I can only gape in awe. "It's beautiful, everyone."
Josette steps up behind me and places her hand on my shoulder. "Thank you so much for letting us help you."
"My pleasure. I always have fun decorating trees, and I am glad that I could share all of this with all of you." I throw a glare at Derec who cowers playfully behind Brother Leign. "Even though most of you were uninvited. But this was a lot of fun. So, thank you. All of you."