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New Gen Fic: Season of Hope

Several lists were posting Christmas writing challenges; this didn't fit any of them, but I hope it will be enjoyable.


Small, brown eyes, like tiny drops of chocolate, watched his every move.

He brushed his hand across the wooden object he’d been carving, sending the shavings fluttering to the workbench. Lifting it up, he turned it, inspecting his work.

“Is a fish!”

The young boy’s excited voice brought a smile to his lips. From under a mop of dark hair, the seven-year-old beamed up at him before turning his gaze back to the carving.

“Yes, it is, Arish. Would you like to help paint it?”

“Me? Oh, yes!” Arish nodded enthusiastically and held out his hand to receive the little wooden fish.

Pulling a small clay pot towards him, he offered the boy the dainty animal-hair brush. “Why don’t you paint his eye?”

Nodding again, Arish took the brush, dipped it into the pot and proceeded to paint a yellow eye on the fish. When he finished, he set the brush down and gently ran his chubby finger over the smooth carved scales. “When will you tell us what they mean?” he said, waving his hand to encompass the assortment of small carvings that lay on the workbench, the product of several weeks’ work, done in periods of free time.

That question had been asked of him before, not just by Arish and his friends, but also by some of the adults in the village. “Tomorrow. I promise to explain all of them.”

“You are sure it will be tomorrow?”

Lifting the timepiece hanging on a strip of leather around his neck, he looked at it closely and then held it up for Arish to see. “That’s what the calendar says—tomorrow.”

The tiny pools of chocolate widened in awe as they always did when he showed them his watch—still working even though the band had been broken in the accident.

A figure appeared in the doorway and he looked up to see Arish’s father enter the workshop.

“Father, look! All be done for tomorrow!” Arish exclaimed in delight.

“So, you have finished them, Jassun?”

“Yes, I have, Aleth.” He’d long ago given up trying to get them to use his given name and, he had to admit, he’d grown fond of their soft pronunciation of his surname.

“The village will be pleased to join you in celebrating your custom.”

“It’s not necessary, Aleth. You have your own customs. This is just something I need to do.”

The tall man stepped closer and placed a warm hand on his shoulder. His eyes were the color of his son’s, only larger, and for a moment Jassun was reminded of another, similar pair of eyes. “Since your recovery, you have labored much and have more than repaid any debt you feel you owe us. This has made you one of us, though we know you long for that which you lost. If this ceremony will ease your heart, we will gladly celebrate it with you.”

His throat tightened at the kindness that these people continued to show him. They had made the months here more than bearable—they’d made them pleasant. “Thank you,” he replied smiling.

Aleth’s hand squeezed his shoulder reassuringly before it was pulled away. “Come, it is time for the evening meal. Laylia says the weather will be changing tonight and we should bring in more wood.”

“It’s going to get colder?” Laylia’s predictions were rarely wrong.

“Yes, colder, though I would not set your hopes on this ‘snow’ you spoke of. Only once in my lifetime has the rain become so cold that it fell as white flakes.”

“One can hope,” he returned, reaching for the single wooden crutch leaning against the bench. Tucking it under his left arm, he hobbled after Aleth and Arish.

“Life would not be worth living without hope,” Aleth advised him as they stepped into the already cooling night air.

Then it’s a good thing I still have some, he thought.

~oOo~

The late afternoon sun was obscured by a layer of low-hanging gray clouds, heavy with moisture. A sharply cold gust of wind sent a chill through his body and he pulled the fur he wore tighter around him. Laylia’s prediction had been right.

The villagers were all gathered in the center of the village to watch Jassun perform his ceremony, their puffs of breath hanging in the air before finally dissipating. He limped to the front of the group and stopped next to a tree growing there. It was about as tall as him and its branches were covered in dark green needles, so much like the evergreens of Earth. Arish followed behind him, carrying a tray that held the small wooden carvings he had created.

Steadying himself on his crutch and good leg, Jassun reached over and picked up one of the wooden carvings, holding it by the string that had been threaded through a small hole in the top of it. He held it up for all to see and, taking a deep breath, launched into his explanation.

“First, thank you for coming to help me celebrate this special occasion. It means a lot to have friends to share it with, even though it is not your custom. Where I come from, the tree is a symbol of life. One of our traditions is to decorate it with symbols of things that hold meaning for us. I carved these,” he held the wooden ankh higher, “as a reminder of things and people that are important to me.

One by one, he described each of the carvings: a pyramid, a pen, a book, and others that all held a special place in his life. As he described each one, he handed it to a villager and instructed them to hang it on a tree branch. When they were finished, he turned to Arish and lifted a small cloth on the tray, revealing three final carvings.

He lifted the first one and held it up for the crowd. “This is a horse; it represents freedom and reminds me of one of the strongest individuals I know.” Untamed equines… He handed it to Aleth who placed it on the tree. “This is a star,” he said lifting the second carving. “It represents hope and reminds me of someone who not only listens to me, but also understands me. She’s also the smartest person I know.” Standing in a room of golden panels—‘I knew I’d like you.’ He smiled at the memory and handed the carving to Laylia.

Picking up the last carving, he hesitated as memories washed over him, trying to sum up in a few words the person it represented. “This is a fish,” he began, glancing at Arish who smiled up at him. “It represents faith, and reminds me of someone who believes in me even when he doesn’t agree with me. This person has saved me in every way possible.” ‘If you’re ever going to trust me, now’s the time’, ‘Even if I don’t believe you, I believe in you’. The last one had been a dream, but he knew it was true. He handed the fish to the boy who carefully hung it on a branch and stepped back to admire it.

Turning back to the crowd, Jassun bowed to the villagers. “Thank you,” he said lifting his head. “You have welcomed me into your lives and allowed me to be a part of them. I will always treasure your friendship.”

Aleth stepped closer to him and placed a large hand on his shoulder once again. “We cannot take the place of those that are no longer with you, but we would be honored if you would consider this your home.”

Could he do that? Think of this as his home? He’d adopted a new home once before, but then he had been a man adrift without a place to belong. He had found that now—a true home and family, and as much as he cared for these people who had healed him—as much as they were able—and welcomed him into their homes, he still missed his own home and family. Just as his body continued to carry an injury, so did his heart.

Before he could reply, he felt a drop of something cold touch his cheek. Another fell on his eyelash and he lifted his head to the sky. Tiny white flakes drifted downwards, growing in number until the air was filled with them.

“It appears that your ceremony has brought you good fortune,” Aleth said beside him. “That which you desire has come to pass.”

Jassun smiled in response as he continued to watch the snow fall, the villagers delighting in the rare occurrence, and felt the flame of hope burn brighter within him.

~oOo~

He sat on his cot, back leaning against the wall, and fingered the metal object in his hand. Memories flashed through his mind: the ground rumbling, walls falling, severe pain in his leg as he found himself trapped, an urgent call from a teammate that the other two were injured, his own words insisting they get to safety before the entire structure collapsed, that they could come back for him. Weeks of fuzzy memories, pain, and finally clarity as he recovered. Hunting parties had returned to the ruins and found the Great Ring buried in the rubble. Had his friends perished in the collapse? Or made it home safely? He’d waited patiently, sure they would contact him, that they would find a way to get through. But it hadn’t come, and as the weeks turned into months, his hope had begun to fade. He’d needed something to rekindle that dying flame, and making the ornaments had been his way of keeping it alive. And then it had snowed—a miracle to the villagers, and hopefully, a sign that he should continue to hope.

Setting the radio on the small table, he slid under the blanket and lay back staring at the ceiling. Maybe two miracles in one day were too much to hope for.

“....come in…”

Springing up from the bed, he snatched the radio and pressed the button.

“Jack?”

“Daniel?”

He laughed out loud, releasing the fears and uncertainty that had gnawed at him for so long. “Yes! It’s me! What took you so long?”

“Merry Christmas to you, too, Daniel!”

Comments

( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
amberflyant
Jan. 1st, 2011 07:11 am (UTC)
Ahhh...wonderful fic, Denny, really enjoyed this. Loved the feeling of closeness and the friendship these two show each other...well done...
eilidh17
Jan. 1st, 2011 07:24 am (UTC)
Love this! Really, seriously, and honestly. The imagery you present in each of these items is amazing.

Well done, D :)
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )

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