Lane sat on her bed and stared at the drawing in her diary. She ran a finger over the sketched faces of two elven teens and longed to feel the warm embrace of her best friends. She looked out her window and smiled at the snow falling outside. It’s Christmas Eve, already. Wow, I wish Willow and Josh could be here. I wish we were all together. Aren’t friends and family supposed to be together at Christmas? Her smile fell slightly.
She looked around her room for something entertain herself with while her grandparents were still out shopping for things for the Christmas dinner. Her eyes fell upon her clock… and then on her closet… and then on her boots beside the door. A grin began to spread from ear to ear.
Grandpa and Grandma won’t be back for a while….. Why can’t family and friends be together for Christmas?
Lane leaped off her bed and opened her closet. She grabbed a chair from her desk and dragged over. She stepped up on the wooden chair and tugged a large cardboard box off the top shelf of the closet. She set the box on her bed and opened it quickly. She slipped into her brown leather pants, her flowy green long sleeve tunic, and skillfully fishtail-braided her white blond hair down her shoulder to her hip. She strapped her belt and twin daggers around her waist and tightened it firmly. She grabbed her silver moonbeam pack and stuffed in an extra cloak, her sword, her diary- she emptied the entire box into the backpack. Until there was only one thing left. The most important. Her mother’s crystal necklace.
Lane clasped it behind her neck, and grabbed her big fuzzy cream-colored sherpa and cream toboggan. She pulled on a pair of warm socks, a pair of knit boot cuffs her grandma made, and then finally her brown riding boots.
Over the river and through the woods, Lane hummed as she hurried down the stairs and out the front door. To The Forest now I go.
Lane wove her way through trees, marveling at the snow and light shining through the trees. Icicles hung down off the bare limbs, making even the blandest part of the woods stand out with its unfathomable beauty. But when she reached the Tree that would take her to her friends, she stopped to gaped at it. It’s beauty overshadowed the woods as a whole! Its leaves never fell and were incased in a thin sheet of ice, preserving their evergreen teardrop-shaped leaves. The trunk was still its typical dark red-brown, but ice tendrils had spread throughout the tree and netted around the twisty wood and hung down from the limbs. Lane could have stared at it all day, but she decided she would simply draw it when she got back. For now, she had some friends to visit.
Lane stepped gingerly, careful not to break the fragile glass-like ice. She crossed through the archway, vanishing from one world and stepped out in the world she called her second home.
She froze for a moment, looking around her. With the immense time difference between the worlds, she didn’t think they could ever align! But apparently, she was wrong. Her eyes swept around the snow capped Evoron Hills, landing on the tree line of The Forest. Home.
Lane walked through the woods, recognizing certain landmarks. I should be close to- there are the flags! Lane beamed at the green flags with silver trees on them.
She walked up the gate and knocked on the cast iron grate, making a lot of racket. An elven boy in his late teens, dressed in hardened leather armor and the camouflage of The Forest, quickly ran across the wide stone wall to the gate. He did a move similar to a baseball slide while removing his bow from his back and an arrow from his quiver. He slid to a stop in a crouched position, his bow drawn and the notched arrow trained on Lane. His eyes widened when he saw who it was. “Lane?”
“Josh, why do you have to be such a show off?” Lane grinned at him.
“Can I enter your fort, please?”
“What’s the magic word?” He asked with his eyebrows raised. His eyes twinkled with mirth.
“That’s not even a word.”
“Is that an American thing?”
“Oh! I know!” Lane reached in her bag out a box. “I have cookies.”
“Raise the gate!” Josh shouted.
Lane laughed as she walked through the now opened gate. She could have simply waved her hand and cut a path through the metal, but this way was more fun. Besides, she didn’t want people thinking that she was high and mighty.
Josh rushed forward and clasped her in a hug. “So,” he began after she broke away, “what brings you here? Is everything alright?”
“Does something have to be wrong for me to visit my friends in my favorite place in the world? It’s Christmas! I wanted to see everyone.”
“Christmas?” Josh’s eyebrows furrowed. “What’s Christmas?”
Lane laughed. “Very funny, Clearbrook.” But he wasn’t laughing. He looked very confused. Lane’s jaw dropped. “Either you are a really good actor, or… You really don’t know what Christmas is?”
He shook his head slowly. “I’m sorry, but no. Is it important?”
“Yeah, just a little bit,” Lane said in shock.
How could he not know what Christmas was? Did they not have Christmas? What other holidays were they missing? The kids here… they have never had a Christmas. She knew they celebrated their birthdays, she had attended Lea’s birthday party the last time she was here. But if they didn’t celebrate Christmas… how did they celebrate Christ’s birth? Or did they? Lane had brought several Bibles here, and she knew for a fact they were reading them. But perhaps they didn’t know that Christ’s birth was celebrated like that.
“Josh,” Lane touched his arm lightly, grabbing his attention. “You know the God I told you about?”
His eyes lit up. “Yes! Do you have more Bibles for us? They are becoming more and more wanted.”
“I’m glad, but that’s not why I asked. How far are you into it?”
“Almost to the end of Matthew,” he replied instantly. Lane knew that despite his masculine appearance and love for the outdoors (that often fooled people of the teddy bear he really was), he was an avid reader. All elves had a love for books, but Josh and Willow’s went far beyond the stereotype.
“So you have read some of the prophecies about a great birth?”
“Yes. Oh, I meant to ask you… what exactly do those mean?”
“Why don’t we go find Willow, and I’ll explain it to you both.”
Willow, Lane, and Josh were huddled around a leather bound book.
Willow leaned back a little. “So, the child in the story of the virgin birth was also the king that preformed miracles and then died for us later in life?”
“If he was a king, why was he born in a stable?” Josh asked.
“Humility. He was so amazing and inclusive that he wanted to show even the poorest people that he was just like them. It doesn’t matter your background. Anyone can be forgiven by him.”
“Wow,” Willow said in awe.
Josh pushed away from the table. “We must celebrate this man,” he said, determined.
“That’s what Christmas is.” Lane smiled at him.
“How do you celebrate it on Earth?”
“It’s the biggest holiday of all.” Lane grinned. Christmas was her forte, her favorite holiday. She was in Christmas mode now. “There are songs, the nativity scene, decorations, presents- oh! And Christmas dinner. It’s hard to forget that.”
“What do we need to do?” Willow asked her, on board immediately for this grand occasion.
“Well, we will need a lot of help to decorate the whole castle.” Lane said. She turned to Josh. “Do you have any blank paper that I can write on?”
“We have parchment and a feather quill.” Josh offered her the paper and ink well.
Lane shrugged. “Okay, that’ll have to do.” She began sketching as well as she could. It took a few minutes, but she eventually got the hang of it. She looked up at Josh and Willow. “So, something like this. If we moved the tables over here,” she drew the four stretching tables long ways down to the head of The Hall. “And put the Christmas tree here,” she drew a monstrous tree at the very front, where the throne usually was. “We could put the presents underneath,” she drew lots of little boxes, and began to draw garland, strung up lights, ornaments all over the tree, “and we could use decorations like this.”
Willow pointed to the garland, lights, and ornaments. “What are those?”
“Well, the thick stuff is called garland. Oh! We can string that around the walls too.” Lane quickly scribbled the lines around the walls of The Hall. “Anyway, the circles and stuff are ornaments. They are usually like glass balls, or figurines, or something like that. Since this is The Forest, we could paint pine cones or acorns and hang them up too.”
“And the tiny circles?” Josh asked, pointing.
They both looked bewildered. Willow raised her hand meekly. “And those would be made of what, exactly? I don’t want to burn down the Castle.”
“Oh, no they aren’t like torches! They are…” Lane thought for a minute on how she could describe lights without freaking the pair out more. “Made with electricity.” They still looked confused. “But you don’t have electricity here.” She slapped a hand to her forehead. “Of course. I’m so stupid.” She thought about it more. “Well, what could we do for lights then?” she mused. She glanced down at her hands. A slow smile spread. She made two fists, and imagined pure energy in a ball. She opened her hands, and up floated two lightbulb-sized, golden, brightly glowing orbs. She grinned. “Actually, I think I got lights covered.”
Willow smiled and stroked a finger over one of the floating orbs, giggling as she felt the vibrating energy. “That’s so cool.” She turned back to Lane. “So I think you need to be in charge of decorations. I can send Josh to find a Christmas tree.” She looked at him sternly. “The biggest, fattest, Christmasiest tree you can find.” He saluted and walked out the door. She turned back to Lane with a smile threatening to overtake her face, “And if you can give me a list of things we need for the Christmas dinner, I can oversee that too.”
Lane nodded and began a list, along with directions, for Willow. This is going to be the best Christmas ever.
Lane hummed Silver Bells as she put the last bell ornament on the ginormous Christmas tree that nearly touched the seventy foot tall ceiling of The Hall. Josh had found the perfect tree, and he and his friend Luke were able to cut it down, but there was no way they could get it inside. Thankfully, Lane was now quite skilled with teleportation.
To decorate, Lane had to levitate herself, and her friends Lea and Kinzie, to reach the upper branches of the tree. It looked absolutely marvelous.
Lane and the girls stepped back to examine their work. Lea and Kinzie, who had helped her, began squealing in delight. But, Lane knew something was missing. She frowned.
Kinzie took notice. “Lane, what’s wrong? The tree is gorgeous!”
“It’s missing something.” Lane shook her head in confusion. What am I forgetting- “Oh! We don’t have a star for the top!” Lane cried.
The girls looked at her in horror. “A what?” Kinzie yelped.
“Not a literal star,” Lane calmed them. “It’s another type of ornament. It’s the focal point of the tree.” Her heart fell. What could they possibly use? She could make a star out of light, but they already had the balls of light spread around the tree.
Suddenly, it hit her. She closed her eyes and began to focus her magic in one area. She began shaping with her hands, making the shape of a four-pointed star. When she opened her eyes, the girls were all staring at her hands with dropped jaws and bright eyes.
Lane looked down and smiled. A light filled crystal star was awaiting the tree. Lane levitated herself up to the top of the tree, and planted it right in the center. It looked a too small… Lane put her palms together and began pulling them apart slowly. The crystal enlarged until it was the perfect size for the massive tree. She floated back down the ground and looked at her handiwork proudly. A small group of elven boys walked in the room, carrying flat wooden shapes. Josh followed them with a smile.
“Josh, what is this?” Lane squealed as she saw what they were setting up.
“When you explained the nativity to me, it only seemed proper to have Jesus as the real focus of the night.” Josh smiled and gave her a side hug as they watched the nativity be set up.
“Love the decorations, by the way,” Josh commented as he looked at the Hall in wonder. Garland was strung around the Hall, lights floated around the ceiling (adding to the warm glow of the Hall already provided by the torches.), small candles were placed on the tables, and each place setting had already been laid out.
“The only thing we are missing is the meal,” Lane said.
“And the people,” Josh added.
Horror worked its way across Lane’s face. “Josh, we forgot to invite people!” she cried.
Josh laughed. “You might have, but Willow made tons of invitations and sent them out already.”
“They won’t make it in time.” Lane shook her head.
“Never doubt magic, Laney. Especially not Christmas magic,” Josh scolded her playfully.
She nodded slightly, hoping he was right.
Quinn walked through the doors, about to ask Josh a question, when he saw that long, cornsilk blond hair and dancing blue eyes that he only knew one person to have. He froze. “Lane?” he said, dumbfounded.
“Quinn!” Lane practically jumped into his arms and gave him a huge hug, which he quickly returned after getting over his shock. They parted.
“You’ve gotten older,” she noticed. His hair was cut shorter, now only to his chin, his facial features were more defined, muscles more toned… but his eyes and smile still as bright and silly as always.
“You’ve stayed the same, “ he laughed lightly.
“How old are you now?”
“Thirteen?! You’re as old as I am now! Not fair.”
He laughed. “What’s not fair is you’ll still be young when I’m a feeble old man. But somehow I don’t think you came to talk about how old I am. What are you doing here?” he asked.
“I’m introducing a thing to you guys called Christmas,” Lane announced proudly.
“Um… okay? What’s that?” he inquired.
Lane gave him the quick version, while wrapping an empty box.
“That’s incredible. And you just came here this morning?”
“That would be correct.”
So how did you make so many presents so fast? And how do you know what you got will go over well with the receiver?” Quinn asked her.
She grinned. “That part was easy.”
He raised his eyebrows. “How?”
“Just wait till tonight.” Lane winked and walked out of The Hall, ready to go sneak some samples from the kitchen.
Quinn and Josh both shook their heads as they watched her go.
“Girls.” Josh mumbled.
“They’re weird,” Quinn agreed.
“But we couldn’t live without them.”
“And I don’t think you could live without that one, especially.” Josh elbowed him, nodding at the disappearing Lane.
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
Josh shook his head again. “Nevermind.”
“Joshua Clearbrook, just because you my sergeant doesn’t mean that you can just stand there! Help me with this nativity, dork.” One of Josh’s best friends, Luke, shouted at him, causing laughter to erupt from around The Hall, even from the mystified Quinn.
Lane helped carry in the large platters of food. She giggled as she watched three girls try to carry the humongous turkey. Well, actually, it wasn’t a real turkey. It was some kind of bird that Willow called a nanua bird. A normal sized one was about ten times the size of a turkey, and this one was extra large.
Willow quickly told them to just set it down before they hurt themselves, then just used magic to carry it down the halls to The Hall.
As they approached The Hall’s doors, Lane began to hear loud laughing, cheering, and kids squealing. How many people did Willow invite?
As the doors opened, Lane’s jaw hit the floor. She saw several hundreds beaming at her. Quinn hurried forward and took the platter of biscuits from her shaking hands before she could drop it. “These people are so excited to meet you,” he whispered. “When the heard about Christmas and what it is about, they flooded in. They want to hear more, Lane. It’s a Christmas miracle.” He gave her a half hug before setting the platter down on one of the stretching tables. Quinn took her hand and led her down to the front where her other friends were sitting.
They sat just as Willow stood at the front of The Halls and raised her hands up to ask for silence. You could have heard a pin drop.
“Welcome everyone, to our first annual Christmas feast!” she declared with a grin, her voice magically heightened.
Everyone cheered and clapped loudly. Willow couldn’t resist the urge to laugh in ecstasy at their excitement.
“As most of you know, tonight is a night to celebrate our family, our friends, another blessed year, and of course, our Savior’s birth!”
“So please eat, drink, have fun, and have a very merry Christmas!”
Everyone dove in. Lane took the first bite of the nanua bird, and practically melted off the bench. It was incredible!
“Wow, this is so good!” Lane complimented as Willow sat down with them.
“Thank you! It was all your recipe.” Willow smiled, eating as well. Her eyes widened. “Oh wow, this really is good.”
“Yesh ith is!” Quinn exclaimed around a mouthful of food. They all laughed at him.
Willow stood again, and cheerfully announced “Everyone! Its time for presents!”
The kids all rushed forward and practically attacked the tree. All the adults laughed, and followed them.
Quinn nudged Lane’s arm. “Now will you tell me what you did?” he whispered.
Lane got up and walked off. She picked up a medium-sized box from under the tree and handed it to Quinn. He hesitantly took it, and jumped when it shrunk in his hands until it was a simple flat package the size of a book. Lane laughed.
“Open it!” she giggled.
He ripped the brown paper off of it, his eyes widened in wonder, and then looked up at Lane with a smile. “Thank you! So, so, so much. But I have to ask. Why this?” he asked her quietly.
“I put a charm on each of the presents. It changes to what you want the most.” Lane replied. “What is it?” she craned her neck.
He turned around the flat package. Lane’s heart skipped when she saw what it was. An exquisitely carved wood picture frame, with a picture of him, Lane, Josh, Willow, and Lea in The Forest. Lane was sitting on Quinn’s shoulders, his arms around her legs holding her securely. Both were hysterically laughing as Lea tried to climb onto Josh’s back, while he already held a ticklish Willow bridal-style.
Lane remembered sketching the picture (unmoving) into her own diary.
It was one of her favorites.
But she had one thing more to do to the picture. She held out her hands. “Can I see that for a second?”
He quickly gave it to her, waiting to see what she would do.
She knelt and set it on the marble floor next to her. She first duplicated the picture so she would have one of her own, and then waved her hands over both them, remembering exactly how that memory played out. When she opened her eyes, the two pictures were in motion, playing out the scene.
Quinn let out a small laugh of disbelief before picking up his picture off the floor and helping Lane up. He engulfed her in a tight hug. “Thank you,” he whispered.
“You’re very welcome.” She whispered back, a smile ghosting her face.
“Merry Christmas, Quinn.”
“Merry Christmas, Lane.”
When they broke apart, Lane shouted through The Hall “Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!”
This Castle Christmas was truly unforgettable.