Monday, December 19, 2016

Winter Writing Challenge: "Yule of Mistletoe and Madness"-- by Abigail Leskey

This story from Abigail is based on Norse Mythology and is absolutely hilarious :-)

Yule of Mistletoe and Madness
By Abigail Leskey

Author's Note: Hazel West gave me the idea for this story

Once upon a time, a woman who liked napkin rings and matching towel sets was talking to her husband, who liked thanes and flyting.
     “Honey, I know you’re a professor of Norse mythology. I put up with the sagas, and your drinking out of a horn, and that time you demanded houndgild when the neighbor ran over Fenris. But a Yule party?”
     “It will go on for days. I’ve already ordered a Yule log from Home Depot.”
      Jennifer Brown sighed. “How many people have you invited?”
     “The entire faculty!” George Brown said happily.
     “One evening. Tell them it’s for one evening.”
     George smiled. “The Winter Solstice.”
     On the afternoon of the day of the Winter Solstice, George went shopping for mead and elderberry wine, while Jennifer put up holly, mistletoe, and ivy, and cooked food that was not authentic Norse food, and while their six-year-old daughter Grace begged for dried cranberries and pieces of cheese. Grace called one piece of cheese a “chee.”
     When the guests started arriving, Grace bounced to the landing of the upstairs and leaned over the holly-decorated railing, looking down at the door, holding George’s 953-page study of weapons in Icelandic sagas.  It could be dropped on the head of a draugr or Orc.
     But the guests were just college people. They came in and ate. So Grace put down the study of weapons and ate too. Jennifer was occupied, so Grace was able to eat four cranberry chocolate chip cookies, one piece of angelfood cake with orange-flavored cream cheese frosting, and the dragon heads of the gingerbread longhouse.  
     Then Jennifer let in two blond men, the thinner of whom was in a golden-tan suit and glowing. Grace ran over to them. She never said “excuse me”; she just ran or walked at people like they weren’t there.
     “I apologize for being late, madam,” the glowing man said. “I’m Baldrick, and this is my brother Hodson.”
     “Are you from the Theatre Depart—”
     “You’re glowing!” Grace shrieked. “Are you an Elf?”
     “He isn’t glowing, Grace Eunice,” Jennifer said.
     “Grace Eunice Georgesdottir.”
     “Grace Eunice Brown.”
     “But I am George’s daughter! I truly am! Are you an Elf?”
     “No, I’m not an Elf,” Baldrick said, smiling at her.
     “Do you see him glowing?” she asked Hodson.
     “Not at all.” Hodson said. “I’m blind.”
     Jennifer clenched her jaw. “Go read, Grace.”
     Grace pretended to read and watched the glowing man.  He chatted with people, and ate a little, and talked with Hodson. And then a lady whom Grace knew was a professor of philosophy at George’s college, who was wearing a black dress that looked small enough to fit Grace, pulled Baldrick under the mistletoe.
     “I beg your pardon, madam?” Baldrick asked gently.
     “Look up,” she said, trying to be charming.
     Baldrick looked up, and turned whiter than the cream cheese frosting. He leapt back. “Is this treachery?” he demanded. People stared at him, and Hodson, who usually did not bump into anything, knocked over an end table and a Professor of Economics while making speed across the room to Baldrick.
     “Mistletoe,” Baldrick said, striding to meet Hodson.
     The philosophy professor burst into tears.
     Hodson gripped his arm. “We need to leave.”
     “Don’t leave! It wasn’t treachery, it was a sugar high and lack of fulfillment!” sobbed the professor.
     Jennifer came and patted the professor’s back and led her out of the living/dining room.
     Grace got up and walked at Baldrick and Hodson, who were on their way to the door. “Why don’t you like mistletoe? Do you hate kisses?”
     “Kisses?” Baldrick asked. “What does mistletoe have to do with kisses?”
     “It’s for people to be stupid and kiss under,” Grace said.
       Baldrick smiled. “That’s it, Hodson, it’s a Midgardian symbol of kisses.” He turned away from the door.
      Hodson sighed. “I became less gullible, but you didn’t,” he said quietly. “Why should poison be a symbol of kisses?”
     “Because love can lead to death,” Baldrick said, looking sad.
     “Because you get germs when you kiss!” Grace said.
     Baldrick laughed. “Thank you for explaining this,” he told her. Then the professor in the little black dress came back, and Baldrick went to apologize to her, followed by his shadow Hodson, while Jennifer ran into the kitchen.
     Someone knocked on the door, and Grace went to answer it. Outside in the snow stood a float-away thin young man with rambunctious black hair. “Are you supposed to be at the party?” Grace asked.
     “I am,” he said, grinning at her. Grace opened the door and then closed it behind him and turned the lock the wrong way three times. Then she stared at him.
     “I’m Locke,” he said.
     “I’m Grace. Why do you have scars on your face?”
     Locke’s brows rose. “You’re talented.”
     “I know. I’m of the highest intelligence. Why do you have scars on your face?”
     “It all started when I decided to become a celebrity hairstylist….”
     Grace grabbed Locke’s hand and bounced towards the table where she grabbed three chocolate chip cookies and sat on the table. “I forgot, I’m not allowed to sit on the table.”
     Locke grinned and took nine chocolate chip cookies. “Let’s both sit on the table.”
     Meanwhile, Jennifer was cleaning up boiled-over cider that had been supposed to end up being mulled. Then she put cinnamon sticks and a tied-up coffee filter full of other spices in the hot cider that hadn’t boiled over, and hoped that George wouldn’t drink more than one horn of mead. He would never drink modern alcohol, but he seemed to think that if the Vikings had drunk it that meant that he had to drink it, and a lot of it.
     A man cried out in surprise and a woman screamed. Jennifer ran out of the kitchen, holding a cinnamon stick, and saw Grace sitting on the table—and some college student who looked like an upscale Goth hippy was sitting on the table too, talking to her, but George was right beside them, shouting happily about Fafnir—oh, dear, why were Baldrick and Hodson leaving, with the philosophy professor chasing them?
     “Mr.—Baldrick, Hodson, is something the matter?”  Jennifer asked, joining the speedy procession.
     Baldrick turned around, in the doorway. “We thank you for your hospitality, but more mistletoe has appeared, over where I was speaking with this lady.” He gently took the philosophy professor’s hand off his wrist.
     Jennifer looked where he was looking. “I only put up one mistletoe bunch. Wait a moment, I’ll go take it down.”  She crossed the room. It was hanging from a hook that she had not put in the ceiling—a hook that was carved to look like a snake—she would have to tell George not to put hooks into drywall. She pulled a chair over, and climbed onto it, and looked up.
     Holeless ceiling. No hook, no mistletoe.
     “What?” Jennifer gasped, nearly falling off her stool. “George! George!”
     “I’m coming, my shieldmaiden!” George shouted. He always called her that when he was feeling romantic. Jennifer didn’t think it made sense.
     Grace giggled as George tried to run while holding a horn full of elderberry wine. Locke handed her another cookie. “I love Yule parties,” he said, happily watching all the people running, screaming, crying, asking, and trying to leave. By now most of the professors and so on at the party were agitated and trying to figure out what was going on, as Baldrick pulled open the door.
     At that split second, the snow turned into a blizzard that was blowing straight into the house. Baldrick blew into Hodur, who stepped on the philosophy professor’s foot, who screamed. Snow piled up on the floor as everybody in the room but Locke and Grace ran to try to shut the door.
     Hodson strode through the snow and forced the door closed, making the house shake, and then came and stood beside Baldrick, looking like an anxious bodyguard—and then mistletoe appeared everywhere, like the house was growing it, hanging all over the ceiling like fur, all over the chairs, everything.
     Grace grinned. Baldrick looked like he was going to faint. It was funny when people fainted. She had done it before, and had been holding a glass of grape juice, and had thrown it everywhere.
     Baldrick took a step forward. “Loki?” he called out, looking almost fierce though pale.
     All the mistletoe vanished, and Locke stood on the table and walked along it until he was in Baldur’s sight.
     “The holiday season is very inspiring,” he said grinning. “This worked much better for facilitating communication than when I made all the messages in the marketplace of Wal chase you—“
     “Across two Things,” Hodur said dryly.
     Grace was thrilled. She liked Loki in the myths. And she liked how completely confused everybody looked. George was staring at Baldur like he though he might have found his life’s dream.
     “I am here to explain to you how you died,” Loki said. “I thought you might have been wondering.”
    “Ymir’s toes,” Hodur muttered resignedly.
    “You died because you decided to react in a very Midgardian fashion. Your father impaled himself for a week and a half, and afterwards was in good enough health to make me write down all the runes! It was quite wimpish and a betrayal of your bloodline to die of being shot by an arrow.”
     Baldur’s mouth twitched. “And why did you decide to give me the chance to react so wimpishly?”
     “It was raining that day. I couldn’t go air-walking without being drenched,” Loki said lightly. “I had to do something with myself, and Hodur—well, he seemed even more at a loss for what to do than I was.”
     “I think I’d rather be unoccupied than kill my brother and then be killed by my baby brother,” Hodur said gently.
     Jennifer wondered how much it had cost to hire these actors, or if they were just people from the drama department of the college. Everyone had calmed down, apparently sure that this was entertainment. Grace really looked as if she were enjoying it.
      “So, now that you know that I was experiencing ennui rather than psychopathy,” Loki said, “expect me home…ah, the day after tomorrow.”
     Baldur stared at him for a moment. “Loki, you can never be in Asgard again,” he said, kindly enough. “My duty to my people requires that no tricksters be in the home of the Aesir.  Live in any other realm, in peace.”
     Grace was the only person who thought that Loki looked sad, though hardly for as long as it would take the wind to blow a snowflake off a windowsill. “Oh, really, you needn’t insult me by implying that I’m capable of that!” he exclaimed, grinning. He jumped off the table and strolled through the crowd to Jennifer. Grace listened. “Your cookery had never been surpassed in five thousand years, lady,” he said, taking her hand and kissing it.
     Jennifer looked like she wanted to sink through the floor, but also rather charmed. “Uh…” she said, pulling her hand away.
     “I was but thanking the hand that made chocolate-enriched cakes that surpass anything ever served forth in the golden hall of Odin.”
     George, as people turned away from what they thought was a finished play, ran up to Baldur and blurted out, “Could you please glow, sir?”
      Baldur smiled indulgently, and glowed. People turned back, oohing and ahhing and saying, “So Christmassy!” Grace giggled aloud. They didn’t know that these were really the Aesir!
      “Oh,” George sighed. “Will you tell me everything about Asgard? Absolutely everything? Can I go there? Would you like anything to drink? Can I have your auto—auto—not mobile, grass—no, graph! Mobile graph!”
      Baldur looked like this was old hat, and so did Hodur. “Would you like to fetch paper, to write down what I tell you?” he asked.
     “Yes—hey, what did you just say, Jennifer?”
     “I just told your friend Locke from the drama department that of course he can stay at our place for a few weeks.”
     “Jennifer! He’s one of the Aesir, he’s Loki! And we don’t have a spare bedroom!”
     Jennifer shook her head. “We do, the one you use for your office.”
     “Jennifer, I need my office! I’m a professor!”
     Loki looked concerned. “But don’t you see how being shut away from your family is affecting them?” He looked at Grace and winked at her. “Look at the heartbreak in your little daughter’s face.” Grace looked as absolutely tragic as she could. “You should work in the family room, where your daughter can see her father.”
      “Please, Father?” Grace said, with beseeching eyes.
     “All right, all right,” George said, and ran to get paper.
     Grace was starting to get bored, because Baldur was just telling George things about justice and rainbows, and Loki was just thanking Jennifer, but then Loki strolled back to where she was still sitting on the table. “Any miracles you need done?” he asked quietly. “You’re the most helpful person I’ve met in a few millenniums.”
     Grace thought for a few minutes. “I want to not have a bedtime,” she said.
     Loki grinned.
     “A toast!” George cried, standing on his chair at the other end of the table, holding a horn of mead. “To guests!”
     “To guests!” everyone said, and those who liked Norse beverages drank them.
     “To peace and life!” Baldur said, glowing.
     “To brotherhood and sisterhood!” Hodur said quietly.
     Loki laughed quietly, not like he thought something was funny. He lifted a horn of elderberry wine. “To the dead!” he said.
     Baldur said, “To the memory of the dead, and the presence of the living!”
     And as everyone drank, looking like they had not expected a Yule party to become so serious, George jumped up on the table. “A good Yule and a happy new year! In all Realms!”

     “With no bedtimes,” Grace whispered.


  1. Thank you so much for writing that idea I gave you, this turned out hilarious and charming all at once. What a strange family Grace has, only to get stranger with Loki staying with them now :P Baldur freaking out because of the mistletoe was so funny, and I love the budding friendship between Grace and Loki. Fantastically done :)

    1. Thank you! Her poor mother would like to be normal :P But Loki will most certainly make the family stranger. I'm glad you liked this story, from our ideas combined :)

  2. I like this story a lot. Especially Loki, and how many cookies Grace ate. It also makes me wonder what happens in the weeks that Loki stays with the Browns. I also like the last sentence.
    '"With no bedtimes," Grace whispered'

    1. Thank you :) What happens? Murphy's Law.

      You would like that sentence ;)

  3. This was funny (an obvious understatement if ever there was one): a beautifully created story, indeed. There was hardly a sentence that wasn't brimming with mirth. I especially liked any part wherein Loki was talking.

    1. (And the cover is rather nice too.)

    2. Thank you very much! I also especially like those parts ;)

  4. Love how the first thing Grace does to prepare for the evening's events is arm herself in case of draugr or Orcs. XD
    Also love the gingerbread longhouse (how ever did they manage to make a dragon's head for it? I want one!!), Grace's explanation of mistletoe, and Loki, and just ahahahahahahahaha all of it. XD


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