Xena, Gabrielle, Cyrene, Autolycus, Joxer, Hecuba, Herodotus and Lila do not belong to me. They belong to MCA/Universal/Renaissance.
Winter had finally arrived in Greece , and after the first snowfall everyone was excited, because it was Winter solstice soon. In the town of Amphipolis , Cyrene the innkeeper was preparing to close early so she could start preparing for the solstice feast. She heard the door open and someone enter, but she didn't turn around to see who had entered. She was about to ask if she could help, when one of the strangers asked with a deep voice:
“Do you any rooms left?” Cyrene turned to look at the strangers, there were three of them. One was tall and wore a dark grey winter coat, the next one, who was shorter wore a white winter coat and the shortest wore a brown winter coat. All of their faces were hidden underneath the hoods of the coats.
“I'm afraid all my rooms are occupied or reserved”, Cyrene said.
“Are you sure?”, the shortest one asked. Cyrene looked at them and before she could answer, the tallest one said:
“Too bad, I guess we have to find another place to spend solstice” and removed the hood. Cyrene was surprised to see the face underneath, it was her warrior daughter. The other two also removed their hoods and Cyrene saw the rest of her daughter's family. Xena, Gabrielle and Exl were smiling at Cyrene and Cyrene was happy to see all of them.
“So Cyrene , are you sure there aren't any rooms for us?”, Exl asked Cyrene .
“I always have room for you, my darlings”, Cyrene said and opened her arms to hug everyone.
“Hi Cyrene , it's always so good to see you”, Gabrielle said hugging Cyrene .
“Mother, I hope we aren't causing you any inconvenience by coming here and spending solstice”, Xena said to her mother.
“Not at all Xena, I'm glad to have you here celebrating solstice. It's a very special one for you all”, Cyrene said looking at the three.
“Yeah, it's our first solstice as a family and we want to spend it with our friends and the rest of our large family”, Exl said.
“Who have you invited? Will there be many guests at our solstice feast?”, Cyrene asked. “Let's see now, there's my parents and Lila…”, Gabrielle started.
“And Joxer and Autolycus”, Xena continued.
“Not that many, but all of them are important to us”, Exl finished.
“When are they going to arrive? Solstice is in two days and there are a lot of preparations to be made”, Cyrene asked.
“We asked them to arrive tomorrow, so we all can prepare for solstice together”, Gabrielle answered.
“That sounds like a good idea, the more help we have, the better all will go. It's getting late and we have a lot of work to do for the next couple of days, so I think it's best we turn in for the night”, Cyrene said and Xena, Exl and Gabrielle agreed. They went to their rooms and only moments before falling asleep, Xena embraced Gabrielle tightly against her and Gabrielle asked:
“What was that for?” Xena smiled, kissed her wife's cheek and replied:
“Our first solstice as a family, it sounds so wonderful.”
“It sure does. I love you”, Gabrielle answered. Xena whispered:
“Love you too”.
In the morning everyone woke up early and began to prepare for the solstice feast. Exl went to do some shopping with Xena and Gabrielle helped Cyrene clean the inn from top to bottom. When Xena and Exl got to the market place, they were “attacked” by some of the town's children with snowballs. Xena said:
“I think the kids want to have a little snow fight. What do you say, shall we accept the challenge?” Exl winked and said:
“Are you kidding me, I've grown up in a land with a long winter and I do know a thing or two about snow fights.” And soon there was a war going on in the middle of town. A snow war between Exl and Xena and the kids. Xena was nearly hit by a snowball, but Exl managed to catch it and throw it back at its thrower. Exl looked at Xena and asked:
“You okay?”, when someone hit her straight in the eye with a hard ball of ice and snow. Exl fell and heard a laugh and a cheer from the opponent's side. But it wasn't a child's laugh, but a laugh of a grown man. But laughing soon stopped, when he slipped while walking towards the warriors.
“Ouch…”, the man said and tried to get up, but fell down again, the ground was very slippery. Xena helped Exl get up and together they went to see who this opponent of theirs was. On the ground, lying flat on his back was a familiar man, the great Joxer the Mighty. “Joxer, that wasn't a nice thing you did”, Exl said to Joxer. Xena and Exl grabbed Joxer by the arms and pulled him up.
“I thought we were at war and all is fair is war”, Joxer tried to explain.
“We were only having fun, we weren't taking it seriously. That ball was like a rock, it hit me in the eye. How will I explain a black eye to Gabrielle and Cyrene ? We promised not to get in any trouble”, Exl said. Xena looked at Exl's eye and said:
“Fortunately I don't think you'll get a black eye, it will only be slightly sore.
“And what is a black eye when you already have that scar?”, Joxer tried to be amusing. Exl and Xena gave Joxer an “evil” grin, then looked at each other, smiled and started throwing snowballs straight at him. They continued this for a while, and when they finished they were all covered in snow and laughing.
“We still have some shopping to do and mother and Gabrielle are going to need the ingredients soon”, Xena said and Exl followed her. Joxer came running after them saying he would help them with their shopping.
Back at the inn, Cyrene and Gabrielle had finished cleaning, they were in the kitchen and Cyrene said to Gabrielle:
“Gabrielle, I am truly happy that you decided to come here and spend solstice. I get to have you three and the rest of the family here with me and for the first time in ages I know that Xena will be safe and she won't be alone for solstice.” Gabrielle smiled and replied: “It's nice of you to have us here. First we thought of spending solstice on the road, but when Exl said that back home, her people gathered the whole family and friends together for solstice, that's when Xena got the idea of coming here and inviting my parents and some friends to celebrate solstice together. This solstice is very important for me, it's the first one for Xena and me as spouses, the first one when we can truly just relax and have some time for ourselves and most importantly, it's the first solstice Xena, Exl and I are a family of our own. I can't imagine that only a short while ago, Xena and I were just best friends traveling around and Exl was all alone, but look at us now…”
“I understand what you mean, when Xena was a little girl, solstice was a celebration that was very important for the whole family. The past solstices I have spent alone, I have been thinking of those happy solstices we had as a family. Xena, you and Exl are important to me and I know what it means to you”, Cyrene said. They left the kitchen when they heard the front door open and three laughing people entered. Cyrene and Gabrielle looked at Xena, Exl and Joxer who were covered in snow and carrying all the things they were sent to purchase.
“So this is why it took you so long, you were goofing around weren't you?”, Gabrielle said trying to look angry.
“Us? Goofing around? No my love, you must have confused us with someone else”, Xena said walking to her wife and embracing her.
“We were ambushed by a group of children and challenged into a snow fight. Xena and I were winning but then Joxer took matters into his hands and decided to play unfair”, Exl said pointing at her eye that had turned a bit blue from the hit by the icy ball.
“Kids…”, Gabrielle said looking at Cyrene .
“Hi Gabrielle, it's been a while. Hello Cyrene ”, Joxer greeted the women.
“Hello Joxer, welcome”, Cyrene welcomed Joxer.
“So you decided to play a little rough, did you Joxer? I'm happy to see you too”, Gabrielle said and went and hugged Joxer. Joxer walked to Exl and looked at her eye.
“It wasn't my intention. I'm sorry that I threw that ball at you Exl”, Joxer apologized.
“It's okay Joxer, all is forgiven and forgotten, it is solstice after all”, Exl said and patted Joxer on the back.
They carried the ingredients to the kitchen and Cyrene started cooking them dinner. Just as they were taking a seat around the dinner table, someone knocked on the door.
“I'll go get it”, Xena said and went to open the door. When Xena opened the door, three figures entered and walked to the others.
“Father, mother, Lila! It's so nice you arrived”, Gabrielle said and hugged her parents and her sister.
“How is my lovely daughter? And how are my dear daughter-in-law and their young Guardian?”, Herodotus asked. He was like a completely different person than the first time Xena, Gabrielle and Exl visited them as a family.
“Fine father”, Gabrielle answered.
“Hello Herodotus, Hecuba, Lila”, Xena greeted them smiling.
“How was your journey from Potidaea ?”, Exl asked.
“It was peaceful, nature is very beautiful this time of year”, Hecuba answered. Xena and Joxer carried another table next to the one in the middle of the room and Exl and Gabrielle set the table for three more people. Hecuba went to help Cyrene in the kitchen and soon they brought dinner to the table. After finishing, Xena, Exl, Gabrielle, Herodotus, Lila and Joxer were sitting by the table and planning who would do what while preparing for solstice. They had a list of things to do and when they were discussing the first thing on the list, a man said:
“Am I interrupting something?” Everyone turned around and saw a man walking towards them.
“Autolycus, when did you get here? We didn't hear you knock”, Gabrielle asked.
“Well, let's say I let myself in. So you were going over the list of things to do, go on”, Autolycus answered.
Xena, Autolycus and Exl were going to get the solstice tree, Gabrielle and Lila were going to decorate the tree and the inn, and Joxer and Herodotus were in charge of gathering enough firewood and water for Cyrene and Hecuba who were working in the kitchen. And after everything was ready, they would sit down and enjoy the solstice feast and then they would sit near the fireplace and tell stories. Everyone was happy with the plan. They had to make some changes in their sleeping arrangements, Hecuba and Lila were in one room, Cyrene in her own room, Autolycus, Joxer and Herodotus in one room and Xena, Gabrielle and Exl in their room.
In the morning everyone woke up in time and started to do their chores for preparing solstice. Xena led Exl and Autolycus to the forest near town and they found beautiful spruces and tried to find the best one.
“I think this one is quite nice”, Xena said standing in front of a very tall spruce.
“Yeah, but it's too big, it won't fit inside”, Exl noticed.
“Xena, Exl, come here!”, Autolycus shouted and Exl and Xena went to him.
“Look at this beauty”, he said and pointed at the tree that was right in front of them. “Autolycus, it's perfect. Let's cut it down and get it back to mother's”, Xena said. Exl said: “May I do the honors?” Xena and Autolycus agreed and with a few chops with her axe, Exl had cut down the spruce. All together, they lifted the tree on their shoulders and made way back to town.
Herodotus and Joxer had been cutting wood and when Cyrene said there was enough firewood to last for a week, they started carrying water so Hecuba and Cyrene could continue their cooking. Gabrielle and Lila had decorated the bar and were continuing to decorate the rest of the inn when Lila asked Gabrielle:
“Gabrielle, are you happy?”
“What do you mean Lila?”, Gabrielle asked in return.
“I mean happy with your life as it is now? Travelling around and things like that. Wouldn't you rather settle down, you are a family after all?”, Lila explained.
“Lila, some families settle down and live an easy life. Traveling and helping people is the life we want to live, at least for now. I have two warriors in my family, do you think they would want to live an easy life or that they would stay put if we would settle down somewhere?”, Gabrielle answered.
“Well if you think of it that way. If you're happy, that's fine with me”, Lila said.
It wasn't long after they had finished decorating that Xena, Exl and Autolycus returned with their solstice tree.
“Wow, it's beautiful”, Lila said seeing the tree after they had placed it in it's traditional place.
“Now we'll have to decorate it”, Gabrielle said and started to hang decorations on the branches of the spruce. In no time, the tree was full of decorations, expect the star was missing from the top of the tree. Xena said to Exl:
“Exl, give me one of your throwing stars.” Exl gave one to Xena and with a swift throw, Xena threw the star and it neatly was placed at the top of the tree.
“Well, well, isn't that a pretty solstice tree”, Hecuba said coming from the kitchen. “Mother do you need any help in the kitchen?”, Gabrielle asked her mother.
“Only to carry the foods to the table, everything else is ready”, Hecuba answered. Everyone helped to carry the foods and soon they were all seated at the table ready to begin the solstice feast.
Before they started, Cyrene rose up from her seat and said:
“I would like to thank the gods for bringing us all together for this celebration. It's nice to have family around for occasions like this, so we can all calm down and have some time for ourselves and for our loved ones. Now, dig in.” With these words of thanks, everyone were finally able to enjoy the magnificent feast Cyrene and Hecuba had prepared. They eat for example goose, ham, many kinds of vegetables, mushrooms and for dessert, a big solstice cake. After eating themselves full, they cleared the table and went to sit by the fireplace. They had agreed to tell stories about solstice, and about memorable moments about past solstices. Gabrielle told about how she and Xena were able to change the mind of King Silvus, who had banned solstice from his kingdom and was about to evict an orphanage on solstice eve. Hecuba and Cyrene told about some solstices when Gabrielle, Lila and Xena had still been small children. The younger women seemed to be slightly embarrassed about the stories their mothers told. Then Autolycus said:
“Exl, why don't you tell about how you spend solstice back home.” Everyone seemed to be keen on hearing about solstice in the far north, and Exl rose up to tell a story:
“In my home land, solstice is quite much the same as here, except we sing solstice carols around the solstice tree, our solstice feast contains different foods than what we just had and it's a time we just relax and calm down and spend time with our family and friends. And we also remember those who have left this world, for this is a celebration of peace and togetherness.
I remember one solstice, I was about 11 or 12 summers old and I had already been training to become a warrior for a couple of years. Usually there is a lot of snow long before solstice, but that year it hadn't snowed a single snowflake and I wished it would start snowing. I asked my grandfather about my parents and if they would come home for solstice, because at that time, I thought they were on a very long trip. He said that it would be unlikely and it made me a bit sad, because all my friends spent solstice with their families and it was just the two of us, my grandfather and me. We were about to eat our humble solstice feast, when my dear friend's family invited us to spend solstice with them. And as we opened our presents, I noticed that it was snowing outside and it gave me hope that one day, I would be able to spend solstice with my family. And now, my wish has finally come true, I am spending solstice with my family, the best family ever. This is the best solstice present I have ever received.”
The story was moving and after receiving her cheers and applauses, Exl returned to her place next to Gabrielle and Xena.
“Speaking of presents, I think it's time to give out the solstice presents”, Cyrene said and she, Hecuba, Herodotus, Lila, Autolycus and Joxer took out a pile of presents.
Xena, Gabrielle and Exl didn't have any presents to give and Xena said:
“Mother, I‘m surprised, we don't have anything to give.” Cyrene just smiled and said: “Xena, I sent word to everyone about this surprise and besides you have already given us all something. To spend solstice here with friends and family was all your idea and without you three becoming a family, this big family would not exist. I think that is a beautiful present for all of us.” Everyone agreed and they gave out their gifts to others. Everyone got several presents and among other things Xena got a new whetstone from Joxer, Gabrielle got new scrolls and a brand new quill from her parents and Exl got a set of lock picks from Autolycus.
Gabrielle stood up and happily said to everyone:
“Thank you everyone for all the presents and I'm speaking behalf of me and my two warriors when I say that this has been a solstice we will never forget. Being here together after everything we have gone through is truly a great present.”
They all stayed awake long into the night telling more stories and feeling very exhausted, they decided to go to bed. Going into their room, Gabrielle and Xena found the room beautifully decorated, candles were lit throughout the room and a note on the table.
“What does it say?”, Xena asked Gabrielle who had taken the note and read it.
Gabrielle smiled and hugged Xena. Then she gave her dark warrior a kiss and said:
“You read it for yourself.” Xena took the note from her blond bard and read it:
“The only present I can give you is my promise that every day of your lives will be as wonderful as this day. And also the privacy and time you need to spend with each other.
With all my love, your Loyal Guardian, Exl.” After reading it Xena also smiled.
“Isn't she the sweetest? Now this, is the best present I've got for solstice”, Gabrielle said.
“It can't be”, Xena said winking.
“Why not my love?”, Gabrielle asked being a bit surprised.
“Because I haven't given you MY present yet”, Xena replied with a long kiss.
“If it is anything like this kiss, I never want solstice to be over”, Gabrielle said pulling Xena with her to their bed. Being in the arms of her beloved wife for solstice night was more than either of them could have wished for.
Downstairs Exl was standing by the window. She looked at the dark sky and when she saw a bright star light up, she said quietly:
“Happy solstice to all, and to all a good night.”
End of “White Solstice”
The series will continue in: “Empty Home”
Please let me know what you honestly thought about the stories. I am happy and thankful for every feedback I receive, it will give me a chance to know what you think about my writing. Thank you all the feedback so far.
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