Happy Wintersday everyone! This merry one-shot is part of a collection of stories CoT’s authors made for the festive season as a present to you and all our readers. You can find all the one-shots on the Wintersday Collection 2012 page, or just click here. Have a safe and happy holidays!
Act 1: Indifferent Charr
Wintersday was something new for me. There were never any festivities in my childhood, so once I heard about a day where people give gifts and focus on having fun and spreading cheer… well I couldn’t help but learn as much as I could about it. It was interesting watching the city of Divinity’s Reach transform practically overnight. Everyone seemed to have what they called ‘holiday spirit’.
The first few times I had the chance to actually see how a town would celebrate this holiday I ended up getting interrupted by work. I guess that was the life of a secro, but that won’t be the case this time. There was no work as of now and I sent a letter to my contacts telling them to not hire me for anything for several weeks. Wintersday shall be mine to celebrate… the only problem was how exactly I was going to do that.
“Daniel!” shouted a voice directly downward. “What are you doing up there?”
I looked down from the roof where I was sitting and saw the black charr I shared a house with. He looked at me with the usual look he would have whenever I was caught doing something that would attract too much attention. A raised eyebrow combined with a pair of blue eyes that would practically tell me “What are you doing this time?”
“Anavari!” I cheered. “I’m looking at the city from this trusty vantage point I found. Come join me, we can people watch and see how everyone acts during Wintersday!”
The charr looked around the empty street he stood in and then he returned his attention to me. “I believe I will pass. Besides the neighbors are already complaining about my race alone, I would not want to give them an actual reason to complain now would I?”
“You worry too much big guy!” I said. “Loosen up a bit; it’s the holiday for it after all!”
“Unfortunately I cannot at the moment, Daniel.” Anavari crossed his arms. “I have deliveries that need to be completed.”
I blinked at the charr.
“Deliveries?” I asked in disbelief. I hanged off the edge off the roof I was perched over and leaped over to the street and landed with a roll. I ran over to Anavari and narrowed my eyes.
“You took a job even though I told you not to for the next couple of weeks?” I asked.
“It is only a few local jobs,” Anavari shrugged with indifference. “I will not be leaving the city or anything of the sort. I just needed something to occupy my time at the moment.”
I drew closer to the charr as I rubbed my chin and looked closely into his eyes. I couldn’t see any signs of lying. Anavari instinctively backed away his head as he blinked with confusion. What I could see, however, was that the charr was far grumpier than he normally was. I could practically feel the cloud of gloom around him.
“Well…” the charr rubbed the back of his neck awkwardly. “I have to get back to work. Will I see you at home in time for dinner?”
I brushed off my concern and mustered the biggest smile I could give the big fur ball.
“You know I don’t miss it!” I said. With that Anavari gave a slight chuckle and returned to making his delivery. I waited for the charr to turn the corner before I started thinking to myself.
Okay, Anavari doesn’t look too happy about Wintersday. Doesn’t even look like he cares! But why?
“What could cause him to be so indifferent about this holiday?” I wondered out loud. After remembering that there was no one to answer me I figured that it was probably best for me to learn more about Wintersday, and what better place to look for information that with a trusty informant?
I leaped back onto the rooftop and started making my way to the Ossan quarter.
“Okay, Daniel,” Serenity leaned into her recliner in her library and looked at me with an incredulous look. “We’re friends and all but I know you. You don’t come to me just to have a chat. So tell me, what do you want to know?”
Serenity was very cunning indeed, I dare say almost as cunning as I am. There was no point in me hiding anything from her, she already proved to me and Anavari that she can be trusted. Either way I needed to find out what I needed to and she was my best shot. I leaned back on the recliner on the opposite side of her seat and relaxed a bit before answering.
“Well my dear friend, Serenity,” I said. “I’m in quite the conundrum. Something has my head spinning in circles and I don’t know what to do.”
“Wait, don’t tell me…You mingled with some random woman and you need a way to silence her without causing suspicion from her peers,” concluded Serenity.
“What?!” I said in confusion. “NO! What the hell made you think that?”
Serenity realized how off she was with her answer. “Uh sorry,” she said. “You’d be surprised how many times people come to me for help with that sort of thing…”
“How many?” I asked with a raised eyebrow.
“You don’t want to know,” said Serenity as she scowled. “Anyway, what do you need help with?”
“Well it’s Anavari,” I said. “Wintersday is close and I’ve never seen anyone who’s acted so grumpy this time of year.”
“Well this is Anavari we’re talking about…” said Serenity. “Since when is he ever anything other than grumpy?”
I nodded at her question. “Yeah… well he has his moments.”
“Only when he’s with you,” Serenity signaled her maid who was holding a large silver platter with pastries on it. I think she could see that I couldn’t take my eyes off them. “But why are you concerned with his usual mood?”
“Well I’m just curious. This is a happy time, and well… it looks like the opposite for him. I just want to know what’s causing it and see if I can get him out of it for a change.”
The maid walked over to me and I took as many pastries as my arms could hold before she even had a chance to offer.
“Well Winter is really different for a charr than it is for a human,” began Serenity. I listened as I sank my teeth into a mini fruit tart. “They see it more as a time to prove themselves, kind of like showing off how strong your warband is. Maybe he doesn’t like remembering those times, he never did show any like for how things were done in the citadel.”
“Well,” I said with still half of a pie in my mouth. “Now that you mention it, he would go to bed earlier whenever it was Winter. Almost like he wanted the days to be shorter.”
“They kind of are during the Winter,” Serenity’s eyebrow seemed to be twitching. “…do you want any milk with that?”
“I’m good,” I said shaking my head and swallowing the pie. “So knowing him, he probably didn’t like it that much whenever it was winter. But then again this is the first time we had a chance to celebrate Wintersday, it’s not like he’s still in the citadel. He can enjoy it like the humans do.”
“Yeah but you said this is your first Wintersday.” Serenity rose from her seat, tilted her head and placed one hand on her hip. “Do you even know how to celebrate it?”
I sat there with a blank expression. “Yeah that may be a bit of a problem.” I said sheepishly. Serenity shook her head with a sigh.
“Well I won’t bother telling you about the god lore behind it because you probably wouldn’t care about that part.” She said.
“Which I don’t.” I added with a smile.
“So I’ll tell you the other part. Wintersday is a time for giving,” Serenity’s eyes lit up as she explained. “It’s about spending time with the people you care about and showing your appreciation for them. So you can’t go wrong with a present, that’s what people normally do after all.”
I crossed my legs onto the recliner as I started thinking out loud.
“Hm, a present… But what would the big guy want for Wintersday?”
“You’ve known him longer,” said Serenity. “Shouldn’t you know this kind of stuff?”
She had a point. Then again Anavari never went into too much detail about many things. I knew he liked books but not what kind of books; the same went for weapons, he’s show a lot of appreciation for a nicely made blade but he’d never use anything other than that weird sword of his. I knew a lot of the things he didn’t like; house cats, cat jokes, being called kitty, physical contact from most people, nosy people, loud people, stupid people, and the list would go on. I knew all of that very well, but things he actually did like…
“I’ll have to pull a few tricks out of my sleeve for this one…” I said absentmindedly. Then it came to me, an idea to get the information out of my furry charr friend.
Later that day I bought a large dinner for the both of us. Serenity told me about a few of the holiday treats around the market so I bought some of those too. Again with a bit of Serenity’s advice I was able to use the stove without burning the food or the house. So I sat at the dining table with the grilled steak, cooked chicken, and stuffed mushrooms resting on the table with small columns of steam flowing from them.
I heard the door open and bounced on my seat as I waited for Anavari.
“Daniel I am home!” I heard the charr call out from the door.
“I’m at the table!” I called back. “Dinner is ready by the way!”
I heard the charr’s heavy footsteps; there was something off about them. They sounded like he was dragging his feet. Then Anavari came in, looking worse than he usually was. Turns out he was not only dragging his feet, he was also letting his arms sway in front of him, a light coat of snow was on the back of his neck and shoulders, and his eyes looked utterly exhausted.
“Woa,” I said. “You look like you just wrestled a norn over the last flagon of mead.”
“I believe I would prefer that,” said the charr as he looked at all the food on the table. I could see his eyes widen ever so slightly. “This is quite the feast… did you cook all of this?”
“Like it?” I said. “I thought I would make us something for a change.”
“This looks quite nice,” Anavari went ahead and took a seat. “However are you sure your stomach can handle meat that is not completely cooked?” A small grin spread across his face.
“Very funny.” I said rolling my eyes. “Well it’s properly cooked so you don’t have to worry. So dig in because you don’t want it to get cold.”
I handed the charr a plate and he started throwing a little bit of everything onto it. Without wasting any more time he took his knife and fork and tore apart the meat and shoved it into his muzzle. He was really hungry I could tell that much, but I don’t remember deliveries wearing him out this much.
“So how did the deliveries go?” I asked picking out some food for myself.
“It was mostly just running back and forth around the city. But some of the areas were a little hard to get to; one even had me go as far as Hoelbrak to deliver the damn package.”
“Huh,” I said not really sure how to respond. “Well I’m sure a big meal will get you feeling as good as new!”
“I doubt it. As soon as I am done I am going to bed.” The charr went back to his dinner not really paying attention to anything else. I guess now was as good a time as any to see if I could get anything out of him.
“Hey you know something?” I began. “I was thinking, and I just figured that I don’t know what kind of things you like, a little funny since we’ve known each other for so long don’t ya think?”
“I suppose,” shrugged Anavari not taking his eyes from his food. “I enjoy reading and appreciate a well crafted blade. It does not take much to please me. I know you are easily pleased as well.”
“…come again?” I said leaning on the table.
Anavari chuckled, he set down his utensils and absently looked at the room. “You enjoy being outdoors, especially if it involves high places. Picking things up and looking at them is something else; you enjoy sweet foods, starry nights, the color blue, the smell of lavender, people watching, shiny objects (specifically gemstones), small fluffy animals, the feeling of fur against your fingers, and cold weather simply because you like to bundle up at night. That is all I can think of off the top of my head at least.”
I sat there wide eyed and surprised. How was I supposed to feel when the big guy knew all this about me but I didn’t even know what kind of books he liked.
I’m a bad friend, I thought.
“Well that was very good, Daniel.” Said Anavari as he rubbed a napkin across his muzzle, he finished his food before I was even half done with mine. “Thank you for the meal, I believe I will head off to bed now.”
“Oh…” I said with much more gloom than I wanted. “Well good night!”
Luckily the charr didn’t notice my tone. He nodded and started making his upstairs to his bedroom. I sat back on my chair and realized that I ended up with more questions than answers. He said that he was easily pleased so that was a small hint. I figured that as long as I got him something it would be enough… but that wasn’t the way to approach this. If I was going to get him something it had to be special, it had to be something that would make his face light up once he opened the box. How the hell was I supposed to do that?
I sighed heavily as I rubbed my forehead. Then I head the padded feet of the charr making its way back down the stairs.
“Dancing!” shouted Anavari halfway down the stairs.
“What?!” I shouted back at the randomness.
“You also like Dancing; I knew I missed something important!”
With that he returned back upstairs and I threw my head back in frustration.
Act 2: Unsuspecting Charr
I leaped out of bed and raced down the stairs. I knew Anavari probably wouldn’t be awake yet, at least I knew that he wasn’t a morning person. So I made my way into the kitchen and looked through the grocery bags from last night.
I found the large bottle of milk and box of cookies I had bought. After rummaging through the cupboard I served the milk into a glass and placed it next to a plate of cookies. After that I just sat at the table and waited for the charr again.
I started hearing the gentle chirping of birds outside the house, they sounded close to Anavari’s window.
Wait for it…
The chirping continued.
Wait for it…!
I suddenly heard the humming of magical energy, then a loud blast along with the chirping of birds being silenced.
Here he comes.
The black charr came into the room as he yawned and scratched his neck. I always liked the noise he would make; it sounded a lot like a wildcat’s yawn.
“That is the tenth bird this month.” He said as he walked over to the table and noticed the treats I had laid out.
“You’d think they’d learn after the last few months.” I said with a chuckle. Anavari glanced back and forth between the cookies and me, he eyebrow raised with suspicion.
“Please do not tell me this is another one of your cat jokes.” He said pointing at the glass of milk.
My eyes went wide once I found out that Anavari could have mistaken this small gesture as a joke from my part.
“No no no.” I said quickly. “No cat joke. I just wanted to get you a nice treat that’s all. Just figured you’d want to try some of the Wintersday stuff that’s been going around the market.”
“Hm…” Anavari sat on his chair and eyed the milk and cookies. “Well you certainly are in a rather generous mood recently.” The charr took a cookie and sniffed at it cautiously.
“You really think me of all people is going to poison you?” I asked leaning on the table with my right elbow.
“No,” said Anavari simply as he threw to cookie into his mouth. “You’d find the easiest way, and that would be in my sleep. But that would be if you wanted to kill me.”
“If you were gone who’d be there to hear all the good cat jokes I would come up with?”
“Perish the thought.” Anavari threw another cookie into his mouth obviously liking the taste.
“Good aren’t they?” I asked. The charr nodded. Time to try and get some information again. “I bet it’s almost as good as your favorite food.”
Anavari shook his head. “They are indeed good, however they are nowhere near my favorite.”
I got him! I thought. “Really? So what is your favorite food then?”
Anavari shook his head. “It is… trivial.”
“Aww, c’mon!” I said. “You can’t just bring it up and not say anything about it. Tell me please?”
The charr took his glass of milk as he leaned back on his chair. “Well it was back when I lived in the citadel,” he began. “In the Canton Factorium, my friend Thoc and I would normally visit the kitchen there several times a week. We frequented it so much the cook ended up knowing us quite well and would give us a free meal on occasion. It was a nice little area, then when I started gaining more allies we would all eat there. I would have the greatest conversations in that kitchen, and I would always order the same as well. A steak with mint and peppers, both spicy and minty. I never grew tired of it, so I suppose if you would ask what my favorite food is… I would say that it would be that.”
Anavari blinked his eyes as if he was pulled out of a day dream. He remembered that I was still listening and gave me a sheepish smile. “Like I said, it is something trivial.”
“Don’t say that,” I rebutted. “You have your own reasons for liking that food. It’s not just because you like how it tastes but also because it brings back good memories. That’s as good a reason as any to call a particular food your favorite!”
Anavari blinked, then he gave me one of his rare smiles. “Thank you, Daniel. For…” He gestured at his glass of milk and remaining cookies. “All of this.”
He then began to down his glass of milk and emptied it in seconds. I couldn’t help but start laughing at the white moustache of milk that was left behind on the fur above his lips. I could tell that he knew about it, he was just acting as if he didn’t. Now this was really rare, him actually acting silly was something even I didn’t expect to see in my life time. Maybe he was learning to loosen up.
“You look ridiculous,” I said trying to hold back my laugh.
“Says the man who is barely wearing anything.”
I stopped and looked myself. He was right, in the excitement of today I completely forgot to get dressed.
“Yeah…” I said, “I should probably go fix that.”
I ran back up the stairs and into my bedroom. I quickly looked for my thickest clothing and fur lined boots. I made my way back down and took my coat that was on a rack by the entrance.
“I’m going to see Navai!” I called out.
“Navai?” said the charr as he appeared from the kitchen door, he leaned on the frame and crossed his arms. “For what purpose?”
“I just need to check up on something with him,” I said opening the door.
Anavari shrugged. “Alright, take care.”
With that I raced out of the door and made my way into the streets. As I stepped through the stone floor I silently celebrated my triumph by throwing my fist into the air. I found what Anavari liked to eat the most, but it still wasn’t enough. If this Wintersday gift was going to be just perfect, it needed something else. Which is why I was on my way to see my trusted sylvari friend, and knowing him, he was probably having a drink by now.
The busted flagon was bursting with all sorts of people, even during the morning. It was much more chaotic however, it felt like a bar brawl could break out at any minute. After slipping past a pair of drunk norn I say a hooded figure siting by the counter with a flagon in his hands. I could see a bright yellow color from the small part of his face that was visible under the hood.
That’s him alright.
I walked over and sat on the stool next to him.
“A beer please!” I called out and looked over to the sylvari. “drinking the night away, Navai? Or day I guess…”
Navai slowly glanced over to me; I could see that his eyes were darker than usual. He looked at me with narrow eyes and a faint smile.
“Daniel,” said the yellow sylvari. “And you’re not attached to Anavari’s hip this time. What’s wrong? You two having a… what do you humans call it? Oh! A lover’s quarrel?” The sylvari chuckled at his joke. I simply narrowed my eyes.
“Very funny, banana boy.” I said with an impish smirk. Navai’s face went cold. I figured I was playing with fire here (in more ways than one). Last time someone called Navai a banana boy he nearly scalped the guy with a flaming axe that he conjured. In my defense he was asking for it.
“You’re lucky I know you well, Daniel.” Said Navai taking another chug from his flagon. Now that I looked at it, he was in a much brighter mood than usual. That’s why him and Anavari got along, one was just as grumpy as the other. That and the fact that he was a secro too had something to do with it.
“So why’d you come all the way here without tall black and furry?” continued the Sylvari. “Jokes aside, it’s not like you to walk around the city without him making sure you don’t misbehave.”
“That’s the thing,” I said as the bartender brought my drink. “I need to ask you something about him.”
Navai’s eye went wide and looked at me as if I were insane. “You do know you live with the guy right? Did you hit your head on your way here?”
“I’m fine, Navai.” I reassured. “But remember that one job you two did? Where you had to travel half way into orr?”
“Don’t remind me,” the sylvari shuddered as the memories came back to him. Who could blame him? No one wanted to go to orr, but Anavari and Navai volunteered. Even though I wanted to go with him he convinced me to stay, worst few weeks of my life. “So what about orr?”
“Well you were with Anavari for a long time, and I need to get him something special for Wintersday. Did he say anything during that time that might help me find something?”
“So you want me to remember the worst job I have ever had in my life just so you can see if there is any information that can help you pick out a gift for Anavari?”
I thought about my answer for a second. “…Yeah, pretty much.” I said with a smile. “Besides you’re like what? Six months old? You have plenty of time to get experiences that are much more traumatizing!”
The sylvari slightly nodded his head in agreement. “Well he likes books and a-”
“Nicely crafted blade,” I finished for him. “I know that already, I need something else, something that will leave him stunned!”
Navai rubbed his chin as he started searching his mind for anything that could be useful. Then his eyes widened. “Well… there is something, but… I’m not one hundred percent sure on it, it’s just an observation I found and it may or may not be right.”
“Tell me.” I said as soon as he was finished. The sylvari looked reluctant to give that information.
“Okay, but if it turns out it was something he didn’t want anyone to know then you didn’t hear it from me.”
“Navai it’s me, you know you can trust me right?” I asked. Navai simply narrowed his eyes. “Okay I’ll buy you a bottle of charr whiskey.”
“Alright…” said the sylvari feeling slightly better at the fact that he’ll get a bottle of whiskey after this. He motioned me to draw closer so he could whisper into my ear. I moved in closer and he began to speak. By the time he was done I was left dumbfounded.
“Are… are you sure about this?” I asked just to make sure.
Navai nodded. “I’m pretty sure about it, but I don’t know how you’ll find someone who has the skill to-”
“I can do it!” I interrupted. “The big guy doesn’t know it but he will soon enough.”
“Well then I guess you got everything set,” said Navai with a shrug. “Just don’t forget my whiskey.”
“Will do banana boy!” I ran out of the tavern as fast as I could before the sylvari had a chance to hurl a fireball at me.
Everything was set; I had the gift planned out and knew what to do. All that was left was to gather everything for tomorrow. One last stop at Serenity’s should do the trick.
After reaching her front door for the second time that week I held my coat closer to me. The chilling winter air stung against my face. I started shivering as I waited for someone to open the door. Then after a series of clicks the door swung open to reveal a small woman with flowing black hair. It was odd for Serenity to open the door; she normally had someone do it for her.
“Daniel!” said Serenity surprised. “Back again?”
“Yup!” I replied with an obvious excited tone. I need to call in a favor, I need a P-”
The door opened further and revealed a large mass of black fur wearing a nice set of white clothing. My insides went ice cold; I had to catch myself before I ruined the surprise for Anavari.
“P-…pound of sugar…yeah, that’s totally the only reason I came here for…”
“Hello Daniel,” said Anavari with a raised eyebrow. “Did not expect to see you here, and asking Serenity for sugar… is it not simpler to ask the neighbors for some?”
“Yeah, we’re all out and you know the neighbors don’t like me.” I said biting my lips. It wasn’t a total lie; the neighbors really do hate me. Anavari took the excuse and nodded in agreement.
Note to self, trash the sugar in the cupboard once I get home.
“Does not surprise me.” He said.
Serenity looked at me suspiciously for a second, and then I guess she remembered our conversation from yesterday and realized that Anavari was right next to her. Her eyes went wide.
“W-well you should come in! It’s freezing outside after all.” I quickly took the invitation and strode in a little faster than I wanted to. Turns out Anavari and Serenity were talking in the living room. I was nearly about to spoil the surprise, good thing Anavari came to the door as soon as he heard my name.
“Anavari why don’t you wait in the living room while I get that sugar for Daniel?” asked Serenity looking up to the charr. “Then we can all have some tea to melt off the cold.”
“That sounds like a plan,” said Anavari with a nod. “I cannot stand this chill, and I am the one with fur!”
With that Anavari made his way back to the living room as we made our way to the giant kitchen of her mansion.
“What’s HE doing here?!” I whispered to Serenity.
“What, he can’t come over just because he feels like it?” she spoke just as quietly as I did.
“No, no he can’t,” I said shaking my head. “Not when I’m so close to getting the rest of the gift done!”
“Oh so you figured out what to get him? Why are we whispering by the way?”
“The guy has four ears,” I said. “I always assume he can hear me across rooms just in case.”
“Get rid of him!” I said.
“What?! I can’t just kick him out, that’d make me a bad host!”
I brushed my hair back as I started thinking. “Okay, I only need to give you the information so we still got this.”
“Well we’re taking a long time just to get a little bit of sugar so make it quick!”
I looked around the room just to make sure no one was around. Then I moved over to her ear and whispered my request. Serenity backed away and looked at me as if I were insane.
“What makes you think I have one of those?” She asked.
“Your rich, I’m eighty percent sure that if it’s not in any of the main rooms then it’s either in the attic or basement.”
Serenity crossed her arms and did her best to avoid eye contact. I looked at her with a deadpan expression.
“There’s on in the basement right?”
“…there… might be one…or four.”
“Fantastic!” I said, nearly forgetting that I was supposed to be whispering. “All that’s left is to move it at the right time.”
“You do realize how heavy that thing is right?” asked Serenity. “I don’t have the manpower for that.”
“I already took care of that, some people owe me a few favors and they happen to be norn. All I need now is to get the big guy out of the house long enough for them to drop it off.”
“I take it you have a plan for that too?”
“You know me too well, Serenity.”
After a short explanation I started making my way towards the door, I felt Serenity’s arm hold me back and noticed that she was holding a paper bag full of sugar.
“You’re supposed to come back with a pound of sugar remember?”
“Oh yeah!” I said sheepishly. “Forgot about that.”
So we both walked over to the living room where Anavari sat on a couch waiting for us. We spent the rest of the evening talking about recent events and work. We laughed a little and then I walked back home alongside the charr. On the way there I occasionally looked over him when he wasn’t looking. Everything was set for Wintersday tomorrow.
Get ready my furry charr friend, I thought. You’re getting the best present ever tomorrow.
It was the beginning of Wintersday, and the Black Citadel looked pretty lively for a charr homeland. All sorts of charr walked around with a burning fire in their eyes, I guess that was their equivalent to holiday cheer. Serenity did say that winter was much more different for this race. Anavari didn’t know of my location that was for sure, all I did was wake up early and left a note saying that I was in Rata Sum doing a favor for Serenity. I had no clue what his reaction would be if he knew that I was in the Citadel, and frankly I didn’t want to find out. He avoided the portal to this area like a disease, and he would snap whenever I brought it up.
“Okay,” I muttered to myself. “I need to find the Canton Factorium, so… where is that exactly?”
I looked around the area and found out that it was massive. I would need to ask for directions. I started walking away from the asura gate and onto the metal platform. That led strait to a massive sphere of iron and steel. Now that I looked at it, most of the city was made of metal. It was like a city and a military base rolled into one… maybe it was.
I made it to the center of the city just outside the giant sphere, I could move over to the edge of the platform and see a large coliseum-like area. If I squinted my eyes I could see charr fighting for who knows what reason. I retuned my attention to looking for the Factorium.
Then an idea came to mind, secros were considered to be everywhere so in theory there should be at least one around here too. Naturally a good way to find one was to whistle, so I started imitating a birdcall that every secro would recognize. After using it in the middle of a crowd I receive no reply.
I guess the charr secros are taking a vacation, I thought. After concluding that I was probably not going to find any fellow secros out here I looked for the most official looking person around. I found a big brown charr in plate armor, I asked him to the way to the Canton Factorium. He just laughed and called me a “stupid human”. It was like that for a while, other charr would give me bad information or they would be annoyed at the fact that I was talking to them. I have no clue why, Anavari didn’t find my voice annoying and neither did any of the other secros.
In the end I was lost. The place I found myself in was pretty much the few areas that didn’t have a metal floor. It was simply and dusty dirt. Slightly moist because of the chilly air. Black tents were on one side red ones were on the other, along with a tank. The Tents had some odd symbols on them, probably signifying that they belonged to a certain faction. And to my left was a large building with what seemed like cannons at the very top.
“I’m never going to find that damn Factorium,” I sighed. Then just as if unseen forces heard my plea.
“Either you’re very lost or the most deformed charr I’ve seen in my life.” Said a deep raspy voice from behind me.
“Heh, I’m pretty sure the latter is unlike-” I began as I turned around, but I couldn’t finish my sentence once I saw the person behind me. He was a charr alright, his thick white fur confirmed that, but he was massive too. I thought Anavari was tall compare to me, this guy made the big guy look like a tiny shrimp. This charr also had a set of amber yellow eyes that were underneath a pointy pale blue hat. As I moved my eyes down his body I could see the hulking mass of muscle that he was. So far all he was wearing were plate leggings with spikes by the knees and feet.
“Something wrong, human?” asked the char lowering his head to my level.
“U-um, no!” I said getting my voice back. “You’re just the biggest charr I’ve seen to date that’s all.”
The charr started laughing. “I like you human, “he said. “Not afraid to open your mouth and say your mind!”
“Thanks.” I said with uncertainty.
“So you’re obviously lost,” said the charr. “Where is it you want to go?”
“The Canton Factorium!” I said immediately, “I’ve been asking for hours and no one’s given me a straight answer.”
The big white charr grunted with displeasure. “Sorry for how everyone is behaving here, they see a human and automatically see him as an enemy. With the separatists and our history…”
“Yeah, I get you,” I dismissed with a wave of my hand. “So can you help me?”
The charr looked at me with a grin. “Of course, I’ll even walk ya there just to make sure you make it without getting lost again.”
So now I was walking around the citadel with probably the biggest charr around. Turns out I wasn’t too far off from the Factorium. Once we made it I took a minute to examine the area. The charr explained that it was an area where others took their time to craft items and such, meals included. Then he pointed out the kitchen. It was a simple dome that had basically every cooking tool anyone could ever want. I could see several charr sitting by tables and heating mostly meat.
“Woa,” I said in awe. “This place is pretty neat.”
“The food is good too,” said the massive white charr. “So is it safe to say that the only reason you came here is because you wanted to try the food?”
A chuckle escaped my mouth. “I’m here to get something for my friend. He said that he used to eat a dish here all the time and I wanted to see if the cook was willing to give me the recipe.”
“Oh so you’re cooking for him. I heard you humans have a thing about giving during this time of year.”
“Yeah, Anavari’s always been a bit…grumpy, or at least indifirent.”
“Anavari…” the charr eyes widened at the mention of the name.
“He used to live here,” I said. “Do you know him?”
“Mm? Oh no, I just thought the name was interesting. You don’t see a charr with that kind of name around here.”
“Yeah I heard he got picked on because of that. Well thanks again for taking me here.”
“I’ll wait here until you come back.” The charr tilted his hat down as he walked over to the corner. Of the kitchen and leaned on the wall. I went ahead and walked over to one of the cooks around the area. He was rather large with dark stripes around his fur.
“Hey there,” I said with a smile. The charr looked back at me with a bit of suspicion.
“Well hello there,” said the cook. “Gotta say not many humans go out of their way to eat here… but anyway are you ready to order?” The charr took out a thin pen along with a small notebook.
“Actually I wanted to ask for a particular recipe.”
The charr started scratching the end of his pen against his head. Apparently it was rare that anyone would request such a thing from him.
“Um… what kind of dish did you have in mind?”
“Well I don’t know the name but I do know that you served it frequently at least a couple of years ago.”
The charr tilted his head.
“It’s a steak,” I continued. “But it has a sort of spicy and minty flavor to it.”
The charr’s eyes went wide open. He stared at me in shock. “Is… I mean, are you cooking this for a charr?” His voice was hesitant.
“Yeah,” I nodded. “A little taller than me and he has black fur. Why you know him?”
The charr quickly looked around the area almost as if something were about to attack him at any minute. After making sure the area was ‘safe’ he took his pen and began to write on his notebook as fast as possible.
“He’re the recipe,” he said with haste. “Follow the instructions exactly or it won’t turn out right.”
He tore out the note and handed it to me.
“Don’t show it to anyone,” he continued. “And you didn’t get this from me.”
“Oh…” I said as I took the paper and placed in my coat pocket. “Um, thanks…”
“Now go!” he said shooing me away.
“But I need to pay you for the recipe!” I objected.
“It’s free, just go!”
With that I made my way back to the white charr that was leaning by the wall. “The cooked looked a little spooked,” he said. “Did you say anything that startled him?”
“I don’t think so…” I said. “Just asked for the recipe and started acting all jumpy.”
“The guy must be a loony,” said the white charr with a snort. “Well you have everything you need?”
“Yup,” I gave the charr a smile, and with that he started guiding me back to the asura gate. The trip there was quiet the entire way. Even though this charr was on the cheerful side, he didn’t say much when it came down to it. By the time we reached the asura gate the charr patted me on the shoulder.
“Well here we are!” he said.
“Yup,” I said. “Listen, I’m really grateful for your help. You’re more than welcome to come spend Wintersday with Anavari and me. You can meet the rest of the gang too.”
The charr sighed. “That sounds fun, human. But sadly I can’t. I’m bound to this place if you know what I mean. But I know how you can repay me. That friend of yours, he sounds like a good guy. Just… take care of him.”
“Okay…” I said with suspicion. “Well I guess I’ll see you around.”
I started making my way to the asura gate. Just before I entered the swirling wall of energy I remembered something.
“Oh yeah, what’s your name?” I asked turning around. But there was no massive white charr anymore. He must have been fast for him to have vanished before I could notice.
This place is weird, I thought before stepping through the gate.
I was back in Divinity’s Reach, after running across the market gathering every single ingredient on the recipe I ran back home. After throwing the door open I called out to see if Anavari was home.
“You in here fur ball?” I called out.
Good he’s not here, I though as I strode over to the kitchen. Serenity had the charr distracted and out of the house, now all that was left was to get to work and for my norn friends to bring the final piece for the show.
Without any more delays I took everything out of the shopping bags and lit up the oven.
I was running into Rurikton several hours later. It was getting a bit late, I desperately hopped that the big guy wasn’t getting irritated. I started hearing the distant sounds of laughter and yelling, I was close.
I reached the center of the area with a single water fountain standing there. Around the area was the mansion to some minister I didn’t really care about and a tavern that was to posh for my tastes. What was also around the area were several fellow secros in what looked like the most violent snowball fight I ever saw. People were leaping across the area using whatever skills they had at their disposal; magic, acrobatics, surprise ambushes, you name it. I spotted Serenity throwing several snowballs from behind a wall made of ice. I ran over dodging all the crossfire in the way. I dived behind the wall and appeared before Serenity.
“Hey, you’re back!” said Serenity. “So is everything ready?”
“Almost,” I replied as I peeked over the wall then avoided a snowball that flew over my head. “Half an hour should be enough for the norn to deliver the surprise. So where’s Anavari?”
“He’s over there.” Serenity pointed to a wall of ice all the way to the back, somewhat close to the minister’s mansion. He jut sat there with his arms on his sides as he sat on a green glowing mark on the floor. I could see that he was wearing an extra thick coat with large amounts of animal fur lining the sleeves and hood over his head. From where I stood he kind of looked like a life size plush. What I could also see was that he wore a rather annoyed expression on his face.
“He looks about ready to leave,” said Serenity. “I don’t blame him either. Ever since Navai joined the other team his water magic’s been mowing us down.”
“Don’t worry,” I reassured. “Once I get the big guy into the fight banana boy’s going down!”
I started running over to the charr and stopped myself before stepping into the marking around him. Anavari glanced over me with an indifferent stare.
“I see you are back from Rata Sum.” Said the charr.
“Nice to see you two,” I chuckled. “So what’s with the poofy coat? You look like a charr snowman.”
Anavari shrugged. “Some are more sensitive to the cold I suppose.”
“I find that hard to believe with all your fur and all,” I said. “Can I step in this thing? I don’t want to end up with a poison cloud around me or anything.”
I pointed at the marking on the floor. Anavari acknowledged it and gave a nod.
“It is not set to hurt you, so there is nothing to fear.” He said calmly.
I carefully placed my foot on the marking.
“You really think I, of all people, would harm you in such a way?” Chided Anavari.
“No,” I said taking a seat next to the charr. “You would probably do it head on, make sure I could see your face as you make the final blow. But that’s if you wanted to kill me.”
I looked over the wall of ice and made sure that no one from the enemy team was approaching.
“So what are you doing all the way over here?” I asked. “Not much fun sitting out here where nothing’s going on.”
“Snowball fights are not my specialty. I would rather stay back and not get in the way. Besides, Navai seems unstoppable at this point.”
I once again peered over the wall and looked for the yellow sylvari. I spotted him across the road laughing at the top of his lungs. I could see someone from our team charging in with a snow ball in his hand. With a wave of his staff Navai gathered a massive pile of snow wth his magic and brought it down to the norn. He ended up looking like a giant snowman (another secro was even kind enough to give the snowman a carrot nose).
“Oh we can take him!” I said confidently. “The two of us, just you and me. Navai won’t even see it coming.”
Anavari peeked his head over the wall along with me. His poofy hooded head rested its chin on the top of the wall.
“So how do you think we should approach this?” asked Anavari. “Not many can sneak up on him.”
“I can,” I said. “The old switch tactic?”
“Sounds like a plan.”
Anavari and I leaped over the wall and ran in opposite directions.
I could notice that the charr’s body instantly became translucent as his speed increased. His body also glowed with a bright green glow. It was distraction enough for me to run over to the other side and climb one of the houses without anyone noticing. Thanks to the view I could see how Anavari was doing. He was doing surprisingly well. Everyone in Navai’s team was trying to land a snowball on him, but the extra speed from his spell gave him an edge. After dodging a barrage he deactivated his spell and ran behind the cover of the houses around the district. The enemy team raced in after him.
Don’t worry about the big guy, I thought to myself. He knows what to do.
With that I leaped across another rooftop and gathered a bit of the snow that accumulated there throughout the day. I made a sizable snowball and looked for my yellow target. There I saw him standing by the fountain accumulating snow with his magic. It’s not like he was cheating, the only thing that was off limits was lethal magic. As far as everyone else was concerned, anyone could survive being buried under a mountain of snow for a little while, but Navai was about to get a small taste of his own elements, and I wouldn’t even have to lay a finger on him.
I took a deep breath. “HEY BANANA BOY! YOU’RE TEAM SURE FAILS AT AIMING!”
Navai rounded towards the source with a glare that signaled pure death and spite.
“You’re going to die, Daniel!” he said as he stepped forward and swung his staff. The accumulated snow around him flew out of the floor and shot towards me, except the snow began to split apart and instead of a soft white mass it became a clear and sharp crystal. I leaped to another rooftop as the shard of ice stabbed into the rooftop. I hoped the home owner wouldn’t notice the hole on his roof; at least any time soon, the last thing we needed was the seraph around the district.
“Hey no lethal magic!” I shouted. “That’s what we all agreed on!”
“You should worry about yourself at this point, Daniel!” said Navai as he released another shard of ice.
Well at least he’s distracted, I thought as I dodged his attack.
“You just love poking a fire with a stick of dynamite do you not?” I heard Anavari from the streets as he started running towards Navai with the rest of the enemy team right behind him. His body was once again translucent and glowing green. He was getting closer to the sylvari, but Navai spotted him in time and readied his staff. He brought down a mountain of snow large enough to bury the charr just like the norn that did the last sneak attack. But Anavari knew that was coming, just before the snow came down on him the glow on his body faded and he vanished from existence.
He appeared not a second later behind the pile of snow. He quickly scaled it and leaped towards Navai with a cloud of darkness sprouting from his back. The enemy team was right behind him and they took advantage of the opening Anavari had left.
They readied their snowballs and unleashed the barrage at the charr. Then the cloud of smoke began to envelope the charr and he lost his tangible form. His deathshroud made him look like a charr made of fuming black smoke, it also caused all the snowballs headed towards him to phase right through him and head straight for Navai. Anavari quickly landed and rounded towards me, he splayed his arm and a black jagged hand came out from his shadowy palm. It raced towards me and I reached for it once it was close enough. I felt a deep chill spread through my body.
It crept down to the bone and made it hard to move. The one thing I hated about this plan, but then I felt wave of relief as I felt Anavari strip the ailment away from me as he placed his palm on my shoulder. With that I rounded towards him, laughed and we both shifted our attention towards the aftermath of our plan.
Navai was not fast enough to counter all the snowballs headed his way. He was buried in a small pile of snow; it bought us enough time to signal our own team. I released a loud whistle and could see Serenity catch on to our plan. She signaled he team to fire, and it was all over for Navai’s team. The sky darkened as a rain of snowballs came from our side of the district. What was left was a complete massacre… of snow. Navai’s team was too stunned to move another inch, the snowball fight was over.
Just then I heard a deep laugh from behind me. I rounded towards Anavari who could barely restrain himself.
“Had fun, didn’t you?” I asked. Anavari took several seconds to get back to normal, after realizing that he couldn’t say anything without laughing again he simply nodded.
After a few minutes we were back by the fountain where everyone stood, our fellow secros were now back to normal and it looked like Navai had finally simmered down.
“Well,” I said with enthusiasm. “The big guy and I are off to go back home, you coming Serenity and Navai?”
The sylvari had finished brushing off the snow from his shoulders and nodded.
“I could use something warm,” he said with a nod.
Serenity simply walked over to my side and said, “I’m ready when you are.”
Anavari looked confused. I didn’t blame him; he knew nothing about the small party I had organized. Once again I found myself thankful over the fact that I had kept so many contacts over the years. Without further delay we all walked back home, with the rest of the secros waving goodbye as we left the district.
I opened the door at stepped aside for Anavari. “Fury charr friends first!” I said motioning him to enter. The charr simply looked at me with a raised eyebrow and cautiously walked into the house. I walked in behind him just to see the look on his face. His eyes were wide open and his jaw dropped.
There were several decorations all over the living room. A tree with several ornaments around it stood at the corner of the room and a table with food and drinks was by the other side. In the center of the room stood a large item with a black curtain over it. All that combined with the festive banners and shiny star lamps that were hanged on the ceiling made it look like the perfect little Wintersday party. Serenity and Navai entered the room and looked just as surprised as Anavari.
“Woa,” said Serenity. “This place sure is decorated nicely.”
“Indeed,” agreed Navai.
“What is all this?” asked Anavari.
“Surprise!” I said. “Made the arrangements for a party. Just for the four of us. Like it?”
“It is amazing!” said Anavari. “You went through all this trouble?”
“Well I had a bit of help,” I said motioning towards Serenity and Navai. They both gave the charr a sheepish smile. Before Anavari could say more I walked over to the table and grabbed two bottles of wine.
“So without any more questions, let’s start!”
Our tiny party was a big success to say the least. We drank, we remembered all the good times throughout the year. Anavari and I were among friends and we enjoyed every second of it. Finally the big guy was getting his gift, but there were still two more things I had to give him. Once I noticed that Navai and Serenity had a little too much to drink I left them to their drunken conversation and took Anavari’s arm. I guided him towards the kitchen; all the while he had a puzzled look on his face.
“Another surprise I presume?” asked the charr.
“One of two,” I said as I moved over to the stove. I drew a plate with a shiny metal cover over it. It was still pretty hot to the touch. I moved the plate to the table and offered a seat to Anavari.
Anavari stood there for several seconds as he examined the plate. Then his eyes widened as he realized what was underneath the cover.
“Is that what I think it is?” he asked in disbelief.
I uncovered the plate and revealed the spicy mint steak. Anavari slowly made his way to the table and took a seat.
“How did you…?”
“I know a few people,” I said with a shrug. I figured it was best to leave out that I went into the citadel. “They just so happen to know the recipe and they were kind enough to give it to me.”
I gave the charr a knife and fork. “Well eat up!” I said with a smile.
“What about you?”
“I made this for you and it’s for you alone.” I said while crossing my arms and giving him a smile.
“Well that will not do,” said the charr as he rose from his seat. He moved over to the stove and opened the cupboard next to it. He extracted another set of silverware and a plate. He placed it next to his own and began to cut his steak in half and moved part of it to the other plate.
“You take that one,” he said.
“Trust me,” he interrupted. “This meal is better when it is shared between friends.”
It felt pointless to object. So we both sat at the table and enjoyed the meal.
Once we were done we went back to see how Navai and Serenity were doing. I should have probably taken away a few bottles from them; by the time we returned they had finished all the alcohol. Ad their current state could barely be considered as conscious. I doubt they could even get off the floor let alone stand up.
“Well this is certainly… unexpected,” said Anavari.
Luckily Serenity’s butler came over knowing very well that this would probably be the outcome of the night. While they were at it they took Navai to her mansion while they were at it. Since we had no guest room we immediately agreed to it. Just like that the party was over, Anavari and I were alone. It was time for the last gift.
I walked over to the large black mass in the middle of the room.
“I bet you’re wondering what this is.” I said as I looked at the charr.
Anavari examined the large object that took most of the space in our living room.
“At first glance I thought it was a table,” said the charr. “But obviously I am mistaken.”
With a big grin I took the black sheet and threw it off the object. Anavari looked surprised as he saw the shining black piano revealed before him. He stepped closer and traced his palm over the surface of the keys.
“Now I am very curious as to how you knew I liked music.” Said Anavari.
“Someone might have caught you bobbing your head to someone playing a piano during a delivery.”
“Hm…” Anavari scratched his chin as he wondered who my source was. Though something tells me that he already knew who. “So you know how to play this.”
“Just sit and relax!” I said as I took a chair from the corner of the room and placed it by the piano.
I started playing. I stroked the ivory keys according to the rhythm of the song in my head. It was such a long time ever since I’ve even played an instrument of any kind, but it was good to see that I wasn’t too rusty. It was all a matter of playing from memory and remembering that I was playing for someone else. For some reason it would guarantee that there would be no mistakes.
The sound of music flooded the room, all the while I was occasionally humming according to the melody. Then I felt someone pulling up a chair and sitting right next to me. It took me by surprise once I saw that Anavari knew of the song I was playing to and started playing along with me. Then I saw it in his face, he was smiling. It was not like one’s he would get on those rare occasions, this one was different.
It was as if he was completely disconnected from his past. As if he for these brief moments he could forget everything and live in the present, now this was something I didn’t expect to see. I was just grateful that I was able to get him out of his gloom. Just for today let him think of nothing else but playing this song together.
“Thank you… again,” said Anavari as we both sat on the couch of our living room. “It was a wonderful present.”
“Don’t mention it big guy,” I said. “Just happy that you enjoyed your winter for once.”
Anavari looked puzzled. “What do mean?”
Now it was my turn to look confused. “That gloomy mood you had a few days ago, isn’t it from you not enjoying winter when you were back in the Citadel? I mean I heard about it from Serenity. It sounds like something you wouldn’t normally smile about.”
Anavari looked taken aback. He placed his finger on his chin as he thought about his days in the Citadel.
“I had no problems during winter in the citadel,” He said.
“In fact I believe I spent some very enjoyable times during that time of year. I remember on one occasion we decided to celebrate Wintersday just like the humans. Had our legionnaire found out we would have been beaten within an inch of our lives.” Anavari finished with a chuckle.
“But… but what about your unusually super gloomy mood you were in recently.”
“I simply do not like the cold,” said Anavari nonchalantly. “Why do you think I went out of my way to buy this?”
“Oh… so you weren’t depressed. You were just grumpy because of the cold.”
Anavari nodded. I noticed that his eyes widened as if he just remembered something important.
“Oh! I almost forgot.” He stepped out of the couch and ran up the stairs and into his room. After several seconds he came back down holding a bright green and blue gift box in his arms.
“You did not think I would forget to give you a gift now would I?” he asked. “It is Wintersday after all.”
Yet again I was taken aback by the charr’s ability to hide things from me. All the work on his present made me completely oblivious to all the trips outside the house the charr was taking. He got me a gift and I was too busy to notice it.
Anavari offered me the box and I took it in my hands still in partial disbelief. The charr looked at me expectantly. I took that as a signal to not think about what he might have gotten me and just open the gift. I threw open the top of the box and peered at its contents.
What was inside was not one item, but a bunch of small bits and bobs that he knew I liked. A few shiny gemstones, a plush of an owl griffon, a bunch of the other stuff seemed a little childish but he knew I would like them anyway. Then I spotted something at the very bottom of the box. A small wooden toy. I could not make out its appearance so I reached for it and took it out of the box. It was a slingshot, it was simple but it looked pretty sturdy. I looked at it in awe; I had seen children play with something like this before but never had one of my own. A mischievous grin spread across my face.
“You do know you’re gonna regret giving me this right?” I asked.
“Oh I already do,” said Anavari with a nod. “However I realized that it was the best possible gift I could give you. And who knows? Maybe it will come in handy someday.”
“Thanks big guy!” I said as I leaped at the charr and hugged him. Anavari just stood there for several seconds and to my amazement he returned the hug. This Wintersday brought a lot of unexpected surprises. In the end I guess I did learn what this holiday was about, but then again the real meaning was what I made of it. For me it was just having a good time with Anavari. To have one day to ourselves where we wouldn’t have to worry about anyone killing us, or if out past memories would come back to torment us. To just forget about the past for a while and enjoy the present.