The winter solstice is the astrological start of winter. Many cultures have associated their feast days with the turning of the seasons, and on the world of Aetara, it is no different. Different races and cultures celebrate the coming of winter differently. Here, Spinecrusher tells you the origins of the Orrish Longest Night Celebration.
As with all my world explorations, I start with the characters moving around the world. They show me how things are and I file it away into my worldbuilding folders.
This takes place after the first book and possibly after the second book. but don’t worry, no spoilers. It’s very much a first draft and lacks the polish (and line edits) of a fully published piece. Spinecrusher’s voice is not as visible until I add the polish and spend months crying on my keyboard. Perhaps next year I will add the actual celebration story?
Another batch of cookies was done. Aria pulled them out and inhaled. Honey, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, molasses.
She looked over her shoulder where he was packing the cooled cookies into one of the tall lidded tins they used to transport the supplies each month.
Spinecrusher looked like the perfect domestic mate right now with his long dark hair piled up on his head. He looked strange to her in the thick woolly sweater. He’d spent all their free time shirtless until it got to cold for him. He looked up at her and winked.
Across the room Gorerunner, his youngest ranger was struggling with the meat grinder. She needed to finish the meatballs soon.
“Is it normal to bring so much food to the celebration? It’s winter and these are our stores.”
“We are a large group. We have to bring enough to share.” Spinecrusher explained as he sealed in the cookies.
Gorerunner brought the bucket of groundmeat and pretended to touch her with his slimy hands. She glared at him. She had put him to the task of grinding because she hated to touch it.
Spinecrusher smacked Gorerunner on the head.
“Ow!” Gorerunner flashed the smile of an overgrown child.
Spinecrusher grumbled to himself.
“We are all a bit grumpy, you should behave yourself, Sparkles.” She started calling him that since he had told her how he had earned his battle name.
“Do you need help?” Spinecrusher sat at the table.
“More hands will make the work go faster.” She quipped like a great-mother.
“Give me just a few moments to rest.”
Aria mixed some of the meat and seasonings with a potato masher.
“Why do you use that? My father always used his hands.” Each time Gorerunner brought his parents up she wanted to kiss him on the top of his head like he was a little boy. He had been orphaned as a child, and then Spinecrusher had taken him in. Now, though he was mostly grown, Aria mothered him to the great displeasure of Spinecrusher.
“I can’t stand how it feels. You two can stick your hands in.”
She instructed him on the proper size of a meatball and how to line them up on the pans. Spinecrusher listened while he added wood to the stove then washed his hands at the handpump sink. He took up the spot on the other side and started shaping the meatballs, humming a little song.
“You prefer cooking to repairing the cart?”
“I had to make some new parts. If I hadn’t started this a few days ago, we’d be carrying all this on our backs and in our arms.” He shook his head. “No idea what your goat did to it. She does know how big she is, right?”
“Illusion needs to learn some manners. She seems to think she is a milk goat some days, and other days she is wrestling with wolves the size of horses. She has eaten all the berry bushes close to the house too. I had to go out in the woods yesterday to find enough winter berries.”
They put in the first batch and Aria set the little windup clock in case she fell asleep. Besides staying up to prepare for the festival, the short days and cold weather made her sleep more than normal, which was already a lot.
Spinecrusher plopped on the cushion she claimed as her own and snuggled into his chest to get comfortable. “Tell me a story. If I read, I will surely fall asleep.”
“Sleep isn’t a bad thing. You haven’t slept much for the last few days.”
She claimed her cushion and watched in triumph as he settled on his own.”I can sleep later.”
He kissed her head “What story do you want to hear?”
“The tale of the longest night.”
He gave her another kiss. “Very well.”
Gorerunner set his book down and sat up.
Spinecrusher cleared his throat. When they were out at the inn, it took a lot more to get him to share a story, but he would give in easily to her. “Before our temples fell into ruins, before we had built those temples, and before we even counted the years–there were only two seasons. They were called day and night. During the Day season, the sun ruled. It was warm and bright, and the plants and animals flourished. The world grew at this time. Plants grew tall and bore fruit for the herds of plains deer. The orrish people hunted the deer. We could see danger approaching from far away. But we had to find caves to sleep in for the light kept us awake and without sleep, we could not hunt or defend ourselves.
the Day season, the goddess came often and danced with the Orri. She blessed the babies with her kiss and called them her own. She sat with the elders and spoke wise words to them. She ran with our hunters.
n there was the season of night. It was cold and wet. People could only see just beyond the fire on moonless nights. They were attacked by beasts and creatures who could see in the darkness. There was never enough food or warmth. our ancestors hid in the caves. Many died. the orrish thought the goddess had forsaken them.
dess came to their shelter and found them gathered together huddling around the dim fires. Her presence lit up the shelter like a sun. the light warmed their skin. She was a tall warrior woman carrying a spear and the curved hunters’ knife. Her hair was silver like the wise elders. She was not built like the young maiden, but rather like the middle-aged mother.
hy are you awake?” The goddess looked around her eyes filled with tears. “Why do you live in such a state? You are supposed to sleep when it is dark.” Her tears ran down her face an pooled on the floor of the cave. “Where are your elders, my old friends? Where are your parents? Where are the babies I blessed with my kiss?”
rior Chuna stood. It is said that Chuna was a small woman, with long braids. They had said Chuna had the wisdom of age but the strength of youth. She bowed deeply, as you must when you speak to a god. “The old and the young ones have died.”
dess fell to her knees. “But why, have they died? Have I not given you all you need? Do you not have the light to grow in and the darkness to sleep?”
ep many times in each season.” Chuna did not understand.
ark time is needed for the wilderness to replenish for you. The animals sleep. And the soil becomes fertile again.” The goddess beckoned Chun forward. “In the beginning, when we created you, that is how the cycles went. You followed them.”
s voice wavered full of emotion, “I do not presume to know the goddess’s purpose. But we are not living well as such.”
me your mind, that I may see your memories. Let me see the ways you have changed as a people.”
stepped forward proud to represent her people to the goddess. Yet trembling with fear that she might let both down. She bowed her head. The Goddess put her hands around Chuna and held her close in an embrace. Chuna shook and clung to the Goddess.
dess cried as she held China in her arms. She kissed China’s head and laid the warrior down.
ourselves down when I return I will bring the sun.” She sang to them and they all slept. As she sang, the floor of the cave filled with her tears. She left them and went off to do the work she had determined to do. She sealed the caves and set off to her task.
he returned and unsealed the caves, the Orrish people still slept. She woke them singing a much happier tune. She called to them and the people woke rested. Their strength had returned.
with me, we shall celebrate the rising of the sun after the last long night.” She led them to a bonfire. Wild boar roasted in pits. “When the sun rises Aetara will follow a cycle more like yours. Let us feast as we wait!”
dess was given the place of honor, and Chuna sat as her attendant. As the sun rose, the festivities stopped. The goddess walked to the east and watched the sunrise singing.
ish people fell to their knees as the sun lightened the sky. Many wept, their hearts filled with joy at such a sight, for few had seen the sunrise.
is the first day of winter. It is a cold time with many hours of dark. But I have provided you with food store and awakened the herds. The rains will come, and sometimes ice will fall softly from the sky.” She turned back to them. “Spring will come as the light time grows longer and the weather warmer. The storms will pass and it will be time for the herds to multiply and seeds to take root. The first day of spring will have a day and night that are the same length.” As she walked back to the feast, she continued explaining. “Summer will be hot with long days and short nights. Everything will flourish. The first day will be long, with a short night and the nights will begin to grow longer. When the days and night are of equal length, autumn will begin. This is a time to begin storing food for the winter.”
bowed to her again, “we shall mark the start of the seasons with prayer and feasts.”
rate those days. I love to see you dancing and singing. But this day? This will be a day of thanksgiving and quiet reflection. Let me come to you and that I might count your number and sit with you.”
rusher paused as the timer went off on the table. “Even today we leave a seat for the goddess with an honored attendant.”
tretched and sat up kissing his cheek. “Thank you, my love.” She went to the kitchen and started pulling the meatballs out of the stove. “I look forward to seeing this celebration for the first time.”
e to stove and used tongs to place the meatballs in the berry, chili, and honey sauce that had been simmering all day. “I think you will enjoy yourself. It’s quiet. And I know how you like quiet.”
Stay tuned for the New Year Celebration in Hopetide. Feel free to ask me questions about the celebration! How do you create the lore and legends of your worlds and cultures?