By N. J. McKay
Twas the night before Christmas and throughout Narin, people were bustling and rushing to finish their last-minute Christmas shopping. Snow fell in large, soft chunks covering the town in a new layer of fresh whiteness. Children played in the snow, building forts, snowmen and snow angles before being called back inside by their parents. Carollers dressed in Victorian garments gathered in the town square to sing “Silent Night”. A small group of shoppers stopped to listen, others hurried to their cars, eager to return home before the snow built up to a squall.
A figure in a black cloak walked through the streets. In her right hand she carried a lantern with a candle that gave off an unusual bluish hue. She passed by the carollers unnoticed, the fumes of the blue hue light lifting their spirits. They sang with new vigor, emotion and hope.
She passed by the children who cried when told to return indoors. One whiff of the sweet scent from the candle, they stopped crying and hurried to bed, full of dreams of Santa and Christmas morning dancing in their heads.
The shoppers continued to pass around the mysterious figure in black, focused on their own needs and last-minute deals before Christmas morning arrived. One by one, the stress and frustration they felt fell away as the blue light passed them by. They smiled more and greeted each other cheerfully, finding the joy and comfort the season gave.
Snow melted off cars, sidewalks and roads, not even a piece of black ice remained. The figure smiled under her hood as she watched the elderly lady cross the once icy road safely to the other side. She continued her rounds, passing through every street in the little town, every path, side road and park until she finished her circuit and reached home.
Home was a stone cottage built back in the early 1800s. One and half stories high, a staple family inheritance for centuries. The original sign still hung above the doorway for those who can understand the rune scribbles; “The Witch’s Lair”. If not, the cast iron figure of a witch and broom above it would solve anyone’s curiosity.
Astrid Highmore pulled the hood of her dark cloak back as she approached the doorstep. Lantern in hand she opened the door and passed through the threshold and into the warm cozy house. The main floor was open, with the fireplace, the hearth of the house straight across from her. A small four foot Christmas tree to the right. Kitchen to her left with stairs to the loft. Astrid grabbed a mug from the shelf and poured herself a cup of tea as the blue flame continued to flicker in the lantern on the counter. She climbed to the loft that was her bedroom then out the window to the roof.
The roof was steep, but Astrid climbed to the top with ease, as if she’d done it a thousands times. Sitting on the peak, Astrid set her lantern down beside her and opened the glass cage. Blue lights flickered out and up into the sky. Slowly the snow heavy clouds parted and the stars could be seen. Even in a modern town of Narin with all it’s light pollution from shops, homes and street lamps, the stars could still be seen, just as bright as ever. All the villagers in Narin had to do was look up.
Sipping her tea, Astrid waited.
A wave of blue, pink and purple lights crossed the sky. Astrid’s face lite up with a bright smile. Scientists called it the Aurora Borealis, or Northern Lights. They always like to try and take the magic away from wondrous events like this. These lights wasn’t science, but magic.
The lights above the town of Narin appeared every Christmas eve, and it was Astrid’s job to make sure they happen. The Highmores own Christmas tradition, the renewal ceremony. Every Christmas eve Astrid, her mother before her, and her grandmother before her, would pass through the town in the same circuit with the same blue candle light. Unnoticed by the public, the ceremony was more of a promise than a tradition. A promise of protection, of peace and of thankfulness.
Hundred of years ago, Narin was in the heart of the witch trials that scattered all over Europe and the New World. Except the family of witches in Narin were saved by the public from execution. They had protected the town from evil and in turn the town protected them. The renewal ceremony was first created that day when the Highmore witch was saved from death, Christmas eve. The spell was created to protect the town from suffering, pain and darkness for future generations.
Tonight was Astrid’s turn to carry the candle and continue the Highmore tradition of protecting the town with magic. She understood the spell, the meaning and importance of it even if the the citizens below forgot. The story of the Highmore witch from centuries ago is now just legend, superstition, and myth. That didn’t change things, when a witch made a promise, she kept it.
Astrid looked up into the now clear, sparkling sky and took in the beauty of the lights that spread over the town. Below in the small town a few people would look up and see the wondrous sight, feel awed and safe. Children will look out their windows and see the magic lights wide eyed delight. Santa would have no problem finding their town.
Astrid laughed into her mug at the thought. It was her favourite time of year. She loved the magic lights, and felt a wave of meaning to her life. No matter what happened during the year, here, on this night, she had a purpose, a responsibility.
“Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night.” Astrid said into the night.