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And this is how I see you
In the snow on Christmas morning
Love and happiness surround you
As you throw your arms up to the sky
I keep this moment by and by
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Sypha and Trevor watched from the tree line in silence, waiting for the right moment to strike. They'd gone out hunting in hopes of bringing in something suitable for the village feast that evening, and had lucked into spotting a group of deer some distance away; Adrian had shifted to wolf form and gone in alone to flush one out. With his white fur against so much powdery snow, Sypha and Trevor lost visual track of him in less than a minute as he circled to get downwind of the herd... hopefully he'd be just as invisible to the deer as well.
The deer suddenly startled and Sypha could hear a faint creak above her somewhere, slightly out of time with the gusts of wind. Trevor had taken to the branches above and was most likely tensing up, prepared for their prey to run by. Sypha concentrated, feeling for a strand of magic, but otherwise stayed hunkered down, snuggling a little more into her new cloak, dark blue wool with an overlying capelet, slit sleeves, and white rabbit fur trim. It was far more extravagant than anything she'd ever owned. Adrian was ridiculously generous, but that was just how he was - he enjoyed taking care of them, and they knew better than to protest that now. He'd gifted Trevor a cloak as well, similar to the one he'd been wearing when he'd first met Sypha - dark suede with sheepskin over the shoulders - as that had been left behind when he'd saved the Speakers in Gresit.
Moments later they could hear something approaching at high speed, crashing through the underbrush. Trevor steadied himself just as a young red deer stag ran by their hiding spot, snow churning in his wake. The hunter took aim and sent the fall of his whip flying towards the hooves while jumping behind the branch he'd been standing on; that effectively let the branch take up the slack of the thong as the whip tangled in the stag's legs, sending him crashing to the ground. Sypha was quick to jump in with a spike of ice to the base of the animal's skull, severing the spine and putting him down quickly with minimal damage.
Adrian trotted in just after, looking over his prey with approval. A bigger deer would've been nice but this one was still a good size, and would provide the village with an ideal centerpiece for the night's feast.
Trevor came to his side, lightly touching the wolf on the shoulder so that his fingers sank into the thick fur there. "Good job. That went smoothly."
Adrian looked up at him a moment, with an expression almost like a toothy smile, then transformed back. He bent down and lifted and slung the stag over his shoulders without any real effort. "Let's head back, then."
"Show off," Trevor groused good naturedly, knowing the only alternative was to break the carcass down on the spot and then put together some skids to drag it back, which was tedious. It sure was handy having a lover who could carry a whole deer by himself.
Sypha slapped Trevor on the arm as they turned to follow the taller man. "Don't you complain. It's very handy, just like his wolf form."
Trevor chuckled; they all knew he was kidding. There was something he was curious about though... "Hey, I know most vampires can transform, but not all can turn into wolves. Is that something that has to be taught, or how does that work?"
Adrian answered, "It's not taught. Apparently I did so on my own. If I recall, my mother's story was that the first time I changed forms I was maybe... two, at the time - no, probably not even that old, and it happened to be around this time of year, actually. I only remember that detail because she said she was decorating around our living space with holly and pine boughs while I played in my room. When she was done she came to tuck me into bed, and in her words, she found my clothing on the floor but no sign of me and instantly assumed the worst, that I had been kidnapped or even eaten by other vampires, as my father happened to have some guests visiting at the time."
"My father rushed upstairs to help her search and found me already asleep on my bed in between some stuffed animals," the blond continued. "Understandably my mother hadn't noticed that there was a wolf pup, no more than a ball of fur, snuggled in with all the toys. My father plucked me out of bed and apparently I switched right back to normal in his hold, babbled some nonsense, and went right back to sleep."
Sypha quirked a smile. As she was now a mother herself, she could understand Lisa's panic, but the thought of little Adrian as a baby wolf, tucked in with all his toys, was just too cute. He probably hadn't been any bigger than the hand-me-down stuffed wolf toy that little Frediric now carried everywhere.
"I'm just glad you've learned to keep your clothes on through your transformations," Trevor commented. "Not that I'd have any complaints," and he waggled his eyebrows, "but it would be hard to explain to the townsfolk why there was a naked man carrying a stag through the center of town."
Sypha tilted her head. "I have a feeling we wouldn't get too many complaints on that front." She giggled behind her hand.
Adrian's brow twitched. "What's that supposed to mean?"
"You have a lot of... admirers. Don't think I don't I see the heads turn when you walk by," Sypha explained, her eyes bright. She didn't mind at all being the lover of a man who was the unofficial town crush.
"I thought that was caution and perhaps a bit of paranoia," Adrian admitted quietly.
Trevor waved it off. "Oh please. Considering everything you do for the village, anyone who was actually scared of you would've already left by now." He gestured at the deer. "Case in point."
Minding the swing of the stag's horns, Sypha placed a gentle hand on the small of Adrian's back and tried to think of some way to redirect the course of the conversation. Wracking her memories, she came up with a quick story of her own.
"Well, this isn't quite the same, but I have a Christmas time story too. I remember hearing stories about people in the northern lands decorating trees with lit candles to celebrate Christ's birth. I found the idea charming... and at the time, I'd just begun to study magic. So I got it in my head that I should surprise my caravan by giving them a lit tree for Christmas morning. They woke up to a surprise all right, as I ended up setting a rather large tree on fire, right in the middle of where we'd set camp."
"So you DO have a habit of destroying things," Trevor joked, thinking about the melted engine in the heart of the castle.
"I did not destroy it, it was just... on fire," Sypha huffed.
"More or less on fire than you intended?" Adrian asked with a slight smile.
"A... little more than intended," the Speaker admitted. "I was scolded, but at least no one was hurt."
"A flaming tree is at least memorable." Trevor scratched his head, trying to remember if there was anything his family did specifically for Christmas, or anything like that. "I don't really have holiday stories. For obvious reasons my family did not do much to celebrate the season - except our head maid, who was a woman of faith, but my family had saved her ancestors, so she didn't put much weight in the church's accusations against us. For us kids, one thing she did do was find ways to sneak us treats like cookies and candies, saying it was a tradition where she was from that good little children leave a boot by the hearth for Saint Nicholas to leave surprises. Since she knew my father was strict about such things, she made sure to only give us one or two pieces a day, but she kept it up throughout Advent. I never had much of a sweet tooth, but I always looked forward to her treats." He suddenly laughed. "Though I admit, I didn't realize she was the one doing it - but my brother and I were arguing about something one day and he blurted it out. Damn near broke my heart, as I was thinking there was some kind saint rewarding me for being a good boy, rather than the head maid, who was pretty humorless most of the time."
Sypha slid over so she was in between the two men, then reached up and pat the brunet on the head. "But you are a good boy," she said with a huge grin. "Aw, good boy, good boy."
Trevor snorted, but tilted his head into her touch anyhow. It was easy to tolerate it since it felt nice. "You never treat Adrian like this even when he is a dog. Er, wolf. Whatever," he complained, though they both knew better than to do such a thing.
The aforementioned half-vampire only slid him a slightly miffed look. "Do you remember what type of things she made? I probably can't replicate it all, but I can try making similar treats if we have the ingredients."
"Various spiced cookies, marzipan, things like that," Trevor answered.
"The cookies are something I can look into. I recall my mother making spice cookies before, so maybe she tucked away the recipe somewhere."
"You don't have to..." Trevor began saying, before Sypha nudged him as if to remind him to just accept it. "Well, if you want. I'm sure Frediric would enjoy it, maybe some of the other kids in town too."
Adrian's eyes crinkled in satisfaction, then he looked up, noticing a few snow flurries beginning to drift down between the trees. "We should pick up the pace. Looks like the snow's starting up again." He began lengthening his strides.
"Hm, yes. At least it's not much," Trevor said, but he pulled up the hood hidden underneath the sheepskin anyhow and Sypha did the same. They both sped up to keep up with the taller man.
"Not yet," Adrian agreed, completely unfazed by the extra weight he was carrying as well as the flakes that were starting to stick to his hair - he was wearing his long black cloak, but it did not come with a hood. "But I sense there's more on the way."
"At least it shouldn't affect things tonight. We planned for more snow, just in case," said Sypha.
Trevor smiled at her. "You ladies and your contingencies."
"Well someone has to plan ahead," she huffed.
"As long as you're not planning on setting more trees on fire," he shot back, which earned him another slap on the arm.
The snowfall and wind picked up noticeably in a matter of minutes, and the trio found themselves rushing to get back while the forest path was still clear. Even with the heavy hooded cloaks the cold was starting to seep into their skin, and although Adrian wasn't as affected by the chill he was starting to look more like some sort of frost fairy than a half-vampire, with shimmering white flakes sticking to his hair and lashes, dusting his cloak like stars in the night sky.
They were all relieved when they got back to town, dropped off the deer with the village butcher, and pick up Frediric from Greta's care. A soak in a hot bath was definitely in order; fortunately the castle was only a short jaunt away from the town center.
When they reached the castle's massive gates, Adrian waited at the door until the others were in, then shifted back into wolf form, giving a good shake from head to tail before switching back, effectively shedding all the accumulated snow at the doorstep.
"I'm jealous at how convenient that is," Sypha sighed, shedding her cloak and hanging it on an unlit candelabrum that doubled as a coat rack.
"Sure, if you like the smell of wet dog," Trevor joked.
"Dooog," Frediric echoed from somewhere under his father's thick cloak. His head popped up and even Adrian struggled to hold back a snicker at the sight of Trevor and his mini-me toddler all swallowed up by the sheepskin.
"... I hardly think you of all people should be talking about what someone smells like. But, have it your way - you can sit out in the hallway while Sypha, Frediric and I soak in the tub," Adrian managed to throw back, his nose up in the air as he began heading for the stairs with Sypha trailing after, struggling to hold in her laughter. "I wouldn't want to offend, after all."
"Wait, no, I like dogs.... wolves. I swear!" the hunter insisted, throwing his cloak at the same candelabrum before stumbling after them. "Please. Uh, I'll wash your hair for you?"
"We're resorting to bribery are we?" the blond asked, but he had to admit it was tempting, as Trevor gave quite a good scalp massage.
"Wash mine too, and we'll call it a deal," added Sypha.
"I can do that," Trevor quickly agreed, catching up to wedge himself cozily between the two.
Sypha clapped her hands together. "Good boy!" she cheered, turning and patting him on the head again, before giving her son a gentle stroke on the head as well. She glanced over at Adrian, who simply smiled and shook his head, then back at Trevor. "Looks like you're forgiven."
Trevor chuckled. He couldn't complain; he'd dug the hole himself after all. Perhaps it was better to not try and get in the last zinger every time, but he couldn't resist. At least they'd let him off easy, Christmas spirit and all.
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December 23, 2022