In the Spirit
Yuletide was a time of togetherness, but the crew of the Nomad was beginning to feel…divided. They had long debated over where to stay for the holiday. Rongar wanted to go to Bollnah to visit his sister and his people, Firouz wanted to go to Scroff to be with Velda, Sinbad and Doubar could think of at least a dozen good bars in a dozen good ports, and Bryn didn't really have anywhere to go, except wherever the crew went. If Dermott could voice his opinion, he would've, but instead he stayed on Bryn's arm and went wherever the crew took him.
The choices left the men in bitter moods. They scowled and the shift drifted from east to west, north to south, depending who was manning the tiller.
"You guys are being fools," Bryn finally said at the dinner table one night. The men all looked at her half in shock, half in bitterness.
"It's not my fault!" Firouz protested, "I would like to spend the holiday with Velda, is that too much to ask!"
"I say you should think of the rest of the crew and agree on a place we can all enjoy," Sinbad said.
Firouz slammed his fist on the table, "We can all enjoy! Bah, you float from port girl to port girl without a care. You always have a woman with you! Why can't I for once be with the woman I care about. And unlike some people, I care for only ONE woman!"
Sinbad swallowed his food hard. Bryn rolled her eyes. Rongar pointed towards the east. "And Rongar wants to go to Bollnah," Doubar added. All four men let out a loud, exasperated sigh.
"Well it's simple," Bryn said, "We have a month until Yuletide. So, we sail to Bollnah and drop Rongar off there, then to Scroff and drop off Firouz there, then to wherever you two want to go. After the holiday, we'll pick them up."
The men had to nod and agree. She made sense. "Bryn the wise shows the way again," Doubar muttered.
Bryn grinned, "Well someone's got to keep a level head with all your machoism."
Sinbad stood up to protest, but the crew ripped into laughter and he sank down with a chuckle. "Alright, it's settled then."
Later that night, Doubar and Sinbad stood at the tiller, Doubar manning it, Sinbad leaning on the railing. "So where do you want to go little brother?"
"Baghdad?" Sinbad suggested.
"Too far, too many memories anyway."
"Spend the Yuletide Eve with Gianna?"
Sinbad shook his head, "No, this is a time for family."
"Aye, keep going."
"Deanna," Doubar said flatly. Sinbad groaned.
"The island with the ants?"
"You mean the island with Taryn."
Sinbad sighed, "Well there must be some place we could go!"
"Why not stay in Scroff?" a voice called.
Doubar looked ahead. "Bryn," he said, recognizing her.
"Why not?" she asked, cocking her head, "Scroff is a nice town and it would save us the extra travelling and rations to go to Basra or whatever belly dancer hall you two are planning."
Sinbad and Doubar looked at eachother. True, Scroff more or less had all the wine and women they could want. "Bryn, the voice of reason, speaks again," Sinbad said.
Doubar nodded, "Scroff it is then. We'll drop Rongar off in Bollnah then head to Scroff."
Bryn smiled in satisfaction. "Good, Firouz said he'd take care of lodging arrangements."
Sinbad arched an eyebrow at her, "You mean you were planning this all along?"
Bryn grinned, "I knew you two would agree!"
As she walked away, the men shook their heads. "She knows us all too well," Doubar said.
"Aye," Sinbad agreed.
The Nomad made fast time to the Kingdom of Bollnah. The crew lingered there for a day, visiting with Rongar's sister, Zorah. Rongar seemed very happy to be home again. Shirez wasted no time jumping into Sinbad's arms and giving him her "special welcome". Sinbad didn’t seem to be protesting too much, which made Bryn scowl and turn away. Rongar placed a hand on her shoulder and led her out of the room, smiling sympathetically.
"I REALLY don't like her," Bryn said.
Rongar nodded, gestured Shirez's direction and made a ghastly face. Bryn burst out laughing.
"Glad to see someone agrees with me!" she giggled.
Zorah followed the two in. "Shirez," she said, "Can be a nice enough girl, but she really is a pest!" Bryn snickered. "She's been a help though, I'll admit that," Zorah added.
Bryn nodded, more or less ignoring the "help" part of Zorah's comments. Rongar gestured to a blue crystal on a stand nearby. Bryn looked at it with awe. "Ah yes," Zorah said, admiring it, "This is one of the few secrets of Imra that I concealed from Ali Rashid. This is the Blue Scrying Crystal of Imra. It is used to divise future events."
Bryn waved a hand slowly in front of it, "It is very powerful," she said.
"Do you see anything in it's clear depths?" Zorah asked.
Bryn peered into then shook her head. "No, I see nothing."
Zorah nodded. Rongar gestured towards the balcony. "Come," she said, "You must see this view!"
Bryn laughed, "You're trying to keep my mind off of…" she gestured out the door, "her…them!"
Rongar grinned and nodded. Bryn grinned and looped an arm around his, giving it a quick squeeze. "Well thank you," she said.
"Shirez does have her duties after all," Zorah said, "She shouldn't be lax." Zorah clapped her hands sharply. A minute later, Shiez came rushing in.
"Yes my lady?" she asked, a slight pout on her face.
"Prince Rongar will be staying here for the Yuletide season. See that he is provided for as suits his position."
"Will Captain Sinbad and the rest of his crew be staying?" Shirez asked, hopeful.
"No," Zorah said, "They shall be leaving on the evening tide."
"Scroff," Bryn said, "We will be spending the holiday in Scroff." She grinned in spite of herself when Shirez's hopes crashed to the ground. "Yup," Bryn said wistfully as she walked away, "Firouz will be with Velda, and Sinbad and I will celebrate the holiday…with Doubar of course." Shirez scowled.
The day proceeded smoothly. Rongar gave his friends a tour of the kingdom. Shirez stayed in the palace, Zorah keeping her very busy. Rongar never seemed happier, back at his home with his family. The crew gave Bryn a wink for her idea.
That evening, they bid Rongar and Zorah farewell. With Zorah keeping a watchful eye, Shirez's "goodbye" to Sinbad was reduced to a wave from the dock. Bryn sat at the bough of the ship, watching the sunset, as she always did. Rongar's tour had given her a love of Bollnah, but a hate of Shirez. There was something about her that hit Bryn's buttons in the wrong way. She looked over her shoulder to Sinbad, who was adjusting the sails. He caught her eye and gave her a nod and a smile. She returned it in full, then turned her gaze back to the pink and orange sky and ocean. It would only be few days until they reached Scroff. This was her first Yuletide Holiday, she was a bit unsure how exactly to go about it.
"A coin for your thoughts?" Sinbad said as he sat beside her.
"I was thinking of Yule. It's my first one, I'm not totally sure how it goes."
Sinbad smiled warmly, "You're going to love it. It's a festive time when everyone spends time with their loved ones. They enjoy eachother's company and celebrate it. Oh and there are so many side traditions! The candles, the gifts, the Yuletide Eve, the food the mistletoe-"
"Mistletoe?" Bryn cut in, "What's that?"
Sinbad laughed, "It's this plant with small green leaves and white berries. Poisonous actually. People bind a sprig of hit and hang it above. Tradition dictates that you have to kiss whoever stands under the mistletoe."
Bryn laughed, "A poisonous plant to kiss under?"
Sinbad nodded, "You know what they say, mistletoe can kill you, but a kiss may be even deadlier."
Bryn's cheeks flustered rosey colors in the sunset's gold and pink light. "I guess so…" she said.
Sinbad smiled, "You will have a blast, I promise that." A crewman called Sinbad from the tiller. Sinbad stood and gave Bryn's cheek a slight caress, then walked over to see what the crewman wanted. Bryn turned even redder and touched her cheek lightly.
"Candles…gifts…food…mistletoe…" she said softly, processing it all.
When Scroff was in sight, Bryn sent Dermott ahead to the town.
Velda was in her laboratory, recording the results of her latest experiment. She was anticipating a very lonely holiday. She was respected in her town, but people still thought she was a bit odd, being a scientist and a woman. She sighed, she hadn't heard from Firouz in a few months. She missed him dearly. Suddenly there was a chirp at her window. She turned to see Dermott standing in her windowsill. "You!" she said, astonished, "You're Bryn's hawk…Dermott, right?" Dermott chirped in agreement. Her face brightened, "If you are here, then Firouz must be!" Dermott hopped from side to side. "Yes yes, I'll follow you!" she exclaimed. As she rushed to the door, she stopped to adjust her image a bit. Half-satisfied, she rushed out and followed Dermott to the docklands. She could see the Nomad heading in. "Firouz!" she exclaimed and waved out to the ship.
"Hey Firouz!" Sinbad said, peering to the docks, "Come here and take a look."
Firouz walked up beside him and peered out through his looking scope. He nearly dropped it. "Velda!" he said, breathlessly and flushed red. "She's…she's waiting for me--US!"
Sinbad chuckled, "Bryn sent Dermott to let her know."
Firouz glanced over to Bryn, who smiled and nodded.
As the ship docked, instead of helping to get the sails down, Firouz leaped to the dock. Sinbad didn't object this town, he only laughed and winked at Doubar and Bryn, who both grinned. Velda ran into Firouz's arms, nearly knocking him over. For a second, he was a bit in shock, then remembered and wrapped his arms around her.
"Oh I have missed you!" she said.
"Yes I have missed you too," he replied.
They separated with a bit of regret. Velda waved up to the ship, "Hello Captain Sinbad!" she called, "Hello Doubar! Hello Bryn!"
Sinbad, Doubar and Bryn waved down. "Hello there Velda!"
"Where is your Moor friend, Rongar?"
"He's spending the holiday with his family in his homeland," Bryn replied.
"Holiday?" Velda said, then looked at Firouz, hopeful, "You mean, will you be spending the holiday in Scroff?"
Firouz nodded, "Yes we are."
Velda nearly squealed, "Oh wonderful! This is marvelous!"
Doubar laughed and dropped Firouz's duffel bag…on his head. Firouz fell to his feet. Everyone burst out laughing. "Ok ok, point of fact, I get the idea!" he yelled. He opened his arms and Doubar dropped supplies down to him.
Once unloaded, Velda led the crew to an Inn near her house and helped them check in and get settled. "There are going to be festivities and parties going on all night tonight and tomorrow and on through the holidays!" Velda said.
Doubar grinned, "Wonderful! Bring it all on I say! How about we all go out and get a taste of what this town has to offer?"
Sinbad laughed, "With you big brother it will be a gulp of what Scroff has to offer!"
Everyone laughed in agreement, even Doubar. "Well then," Velda said, "I'm going to go home and get washed up and ready. I'll be back here in two hours and we'll all go together." As she walked out the door, she reached over and gave Firouz's hand a squeezed, smiling. He blushed and smiled sillily. The crew snickered after she left.
"You two are so smitten," Bryn said.
Firouz opened his mouth to say something, but for once, nothing came out!
"Aye I'd say he is," Sinbad added.
"Well…uh we should all get ready…that is-" Firouz stuttered.
Bryn snickered, "I'm going for a bath, excuse me." As she walked out, Sinbad's eyebrows raised a little, as if he was thinking of something."
Doubar left the room to go to his own. Firouz cocked his head at Sinbad, "What are you thinking about?"
"Eh?--Nothing!" Sinbad replied.
Firouz saw the opportunity for revenge teasing, "You are thinking about Bryn, aren't you?"
The remark took Sinbad by surprise, "What makes you say that?"
"Point of fact, she is a lovely woman, single and you too are close friends. You spend a lot of time talking. I think you flirt with her. She gets jealous of your port girls--"
"Jealous? You're being ridiculous!"
"Am I?" Firouz said, cocking his head. "You weigh it all yourself." And with that, he left the room, leaving Sinbad to ponder for himself.
Two hours later, Velda returned looking radiant. She wore an evergreen gown made of velvet and chiffon with gold trimming, as well as a green cap with a chiffon veil that tied around her neck. Firouz was besplended in a fine pair of pants and soft brown leather boots that came up to his knees. He wore a cream-coloured tunic that hung loosely, tied around the waist with a brown belt. His hair was clean and curly as always, his face turned red seeing Velda's beauty.
"Velda--" he stammered, "You…you look…"
"Lovely!" Doubar bellowed from the top of the stairs. He wore boots, loose pants, a wide belt and a loose blue shirt. As always a makeshift turban wrap was tied around his head.
"Aye," Sinbad agreed, emerging from his room. He was striking in his usual black leather pants and boots, but this time he wore a crimson tunic that hung loosely, tied with a black belt. As always, his rainbow bracelet wrapped around his wrist. Naturally, all three men wore their swords.
"Yes, lovely," Firouz blurted out. Velda blushed.
"Where is Bryn?" she asked.
"Here," Bryn called as she emerged from her room. She wore a flowing white shirt, with a red bodice hugging her ribs and waist, creeping slightly over her chest. A flowing black skirt spilled down to her knees. Soft black boots wrapped around her legs up to her knees. She wore her usual necklace, ring and rainbow bracelet. Her hair hung loosely, falling into a part at the side. All three men's eyes widened seeing her. Velda smiled.
"And you look lovely as well Bryn, since these men can't seem to voice it," Velda laughed.
Bryn smiled, "Why thank you Velda!"
The men all cleared their throats and nodded in agreement. Sinbad flashed a killer smile that caught Bryn's eye. "Not used to seeing you dressed as a lady," he said.
"Have I spent so much time with you men that you start to doubt my femininity?"
"'Course not! You Bryn? Never!" Sinbad took Bryn's hand and rubbed it in his own. "Yup, still woman."
The crew laughed and Velda led the way to the door. "Come my friends!" she cheered. As they entered the streets, their faces were caught with awe. All around were springs of pine wrapped around poles and in windows, each with candles nestled in them. The air smelled warm of pine, candles, and sweet food. All around people were dressed in finery. Lovers leaned in to eachother, people sang, everyone was merry.
"It's like a faerie land!" Bryn gasped.
"Aye, that is Yule for you," Velda said.
"Where to lass?" Doubar asked.
"I know of party going on at the edge of town, how does that sound?" Velda said.
"Any party sounds good," Firouz replied.
Velda led the crew down the streets. "It's nice to be able to see this town truly. Last time we were here we were fighting for our lives," Sinbad said.
"Aye, the entire town's lives," Velda added.
As the crew continued down the road, occasionally people would smile and wave at Velda, or yell "merry merry!". The men were convinced that Bryn had the right idea to spend it here.
"Everyone is so happy," Firouz commented.
"Aye," Doubar said, "It's a refreshing change."
Sinbad hurried up a couple of steps and whispered to Firouz, "Look around Firouz at all the happy couples. Put your arm around her or something!"
Firouz nearly choked! "But I-! How do I-? What do I-?" He started waving his arms, as soon as they were extended, Sinbad gave him a shove forward. He hit Velda's back with his arm and it rested on her shoulder. Velda smiled sweetly at him and he gulped, blushing. Sinbad winked. Doubar chuckled. Bryn giggled. Dermott chirped from a roof nearby.
"Here is the place!" Velda said and turned to a house. "This is the house of Enkal and Ariel of Scroff, dear friends of mine. She knocked on the door and a handsome, muscular man with a shock of red hair and a beard to match opened the door.
"Velda!" he said in a bear's voice and pulled her from Firouz into a burly hug.
"Enkal!" she laughed and hugged him. As the separated, a lovely woman with freckles and curly blond hair hugged her. "And you too, Ariel!" she said. "Happy Yule!"
"Who are ye friends?" Ariel asked.
"This," Velda said, taking Firouz's hand, "Is my good friend, Firouz." Firouz nodded and shook Ariel and Enkal's hands. Velda gestured to the rest of the crew, "This is Captain Sinbad of Baghdad, Doubar of Baghdad, and Bryn." They all shook hands and smiled.
"Welcome to my home friends!" Enkal said. "Relax and enjoy yourself and help yourself to all the food and drink you could want!"
The crew meandered about the house. It was decked in holly, pine, and candles. Doubar went straight for the ale and proceeded to down a glass. Bryn looked about and caught sight of a sprig of green leaves and white berries hanging from a rafter beam. She peered closely at it. "Doesn't look like any herb I've seem. Maybe it's that mistletoe Sinbad was talking about." She walked under it and looked up at it. "Sinbad!" she called over.
Sinbad was joining his brother in the ale. He looked over to Bryn, "Yes Bryn?"
She pointed upwards, "Is this that mistletoe you were talking about?"
Sinbad looked to where she was pointed and his heart nearly skipped a beat. Doubar caught eye of it too. "Aye it is lass!" he bellowed and nudged Sinbad, "You know what you have to do now. Get over there and kiss her!"
Sinbad chuckled and stood, walking towards Bryn. She flushed. "Can't break tradition," Sinbad said as he put an arm around her. Bryn felt weak in the knees and so did Sinbad, although he would never admit it. His lips took hold of hers and held them for a few blessed seconds, then released them with some regret. Their eyes met and held eachother's, both unsure what to say. Sinbad's cocky confidence melted in sweat. The crew held their breath, not sure of what would happen. Suddenly Enkal burst into the room with a plate of food and the two jumped back. Everyone exhaled. Velda grinned and patted Firouz on the shoulder.
Sinbad and Bryn joined everyone at the table in a toast. "To the best of times!" Enkal proclaimed. As time wore on more people arrived and new friendships were made. The crew blended more into the good spirit as more food and drink was served.
Eventually, people began to thin down and many left. Enkal and Ariel had long since disappeared. They were both thoroughly intoxicated and the crew grinned when they guessed what they were up to.
Firouz looked ready to pass out. Velda was no better. Bryn sunk into her chair. Doubar and Sinbad poured another round! "Let's head on, I'm going to be sick soon," Firouz moaned. Bryn raised her hand in agreement. Velda fell over against Firouz.
"It's nigh morning," she groaned.
Sinbad and Doubar looked out of the window. True enough the sky was started to colour itself pink and indigo. "I guess we should head back," Sinbad said.
"Aye," Doubar agreed.
"And recover!" Bryn exclaimed.
"Ok ok!" Sinbad said as he stood and stretched. Velda attempted to stand but fell over.
"I guess I can't walk too well…" she moaned. Doubar reached down and picked her up.
"Not to worry lass, I'll carry ye," he said.
"No no, I'll do that," Firouz said. He stood but then fell over. Doubar picked him up and threw him over his shoulder.
"Ok I guess I'm carrying ye both," he said.
"Can you walk Bryn?" Sinbad asked.
"Only one way to see," she said and stood on wobbly legs. "See? I'm just fi-yiiiiiiiii!" she fell over and Sinbad caught her.
"No you're not," he said, "I'm carrying you."
Bryn shrugged and Sinbad lifted her up in his arms, "Less for me to walk then," she said.
First they went to Velda's house and saw to it she was in bed and ok. Next they headed to the inn. Doubar went to dump Firouz in his room and Sinbad carried Bryn into hers. To their surprise, they saw that the room had been decorated in pine and holly.
"Wow," Bryn gasped, "They decorated all the rooms!"
Sinbad laid her on her bed. She smiled and closed her eyes, then fell right asleep. Sinbad looked down her and smiled warmly. How precious she looked when she slept. He gently pulled her boots off, removed her belt and sword, then tucked her under the covers. He looked around the room, the inn had done a splendid job. Even the ceiling was lined in pine and…mistletoe? Sinbad saw a sprig of it right above the bed. He shook his head and chuckled a little. "What the heck," he whispered, leaned down and brushed his lips softly against Bryn's. He felt a little jolt hit him as he stood up. He smiled and left the room quietly, shutting the door behind him. Next door he found Doubar pulling the covers up.
"G'night," he mumbled as he closed his eyes.
"Don’t you mean good-morning?" Sinbad asked as he pulled his boots off.
"Night, morning, whatever. Just go to bed!"
"Yessir!" Sinbad chuckled as he removed his vest and belt, then climbed into bed. Within minutes, he was asleep.
To be continued…