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!
“Thorgrim! I knew it was you, you hoary old norn. Here to enjoy the festivities?”
I swivelled in my seat, eyeing the approaching charr with both a grin and a groan. “Mangonel! What are you doing in Hoelbrak?”
The charr waved in the direction of the expanse of open air beyond the vast balcony. “Seeing the sights, enjoying the weather.” He gave an exaggerated shiver, settling snow shaking off his fur.
“Weather not agreeing with you?” I asked, sipping at my warming horn of ale.
“Not really. Can’t believe you lot actually like it out here.”
“It’s Wintersday. All this snow’s appropriate.”
“Yeah? And what about the other eleven months of the year?” Mangonel swung onto a stool, tail flicking out behind him. “Ballista Geargrind’s got the warband out here on manoeuvres. She thinks the Pact campaign is going to be moving north soon. I’ve got a few days of leave before then, though.”
The charr’s expression brightened. “What is it?” I asked warily.
“Hey, remember the last time we got together? There was music, and fireworks, and drinking-”
I snorted. “And we stole a war machine that ended up with the dredge. Yeah, I remember.”
“But we got it back, didn’t we? No harm done. So…”
“You’re here, I’m here, it’s Wintersday – what could be a better time to celebrate?”
“What did you have in mind?”
Mangonel pointed to my drink. “Well, for starter’s I need to get myself one of those. And then…” His grin widened, revealing a jaw full of wicked teeth. “Then we’ll just let the festivities carry us where they will.”
Nothing but trouble would come out of this, I knew – but I couldn’t help a grin in return, as I raised my ale in salute.
Distantly, through a fog that wouldn’t seem to clear from either my eyes or ears, I could hear laughter. I tried to sit up, but something seemed to be weighing on my chest. A great big, snoring, furry something.
“Hey Mangonel, get offa me,” I said – or tried to say, with a face full of wet charr fur. I levered my arms under myself, and pushed, but still the charr wouldn’t move. He only twitched, violently, muttering something about beef and throwing one arm out into the snow.
The surrounding laughter only got louder. I took a deep breath, and with a final titanic heave, shoved the charr aside. Mangonel rolled off, still twitching, and landed with a thud in a snow drift.
Finally, I sat up. Now I could see the source of the laughter: more than a dozen norn children and a handful of curious adults were gathered in a loose semi-circle around us. I was about to give them a friendly wave when I realised most of their eyes were lifted upwards.
With a growing sense of disbelief, I turned and looked up. And up. And up. Abruptly, Mangonel jerked awake and sat up. He snorted once, looked briefly like he was about to throw up, then swallowed and followed my gaze.
“Well,” said the charr, blinking slowly. “At least it wasn’t the warband’s chugger this time.”
No, it wasn’t the chugger. It was a golem, twice even the height of a norn, and apparently shoved into what I blearily recognised as my own pants and shirt, now ripped almost to tatters. I glanced down at myself, noting I at least still had my boots on. “No wonder it’s so cold out today.”
The scream, when it came, was ear-piercing and went on for several seconds. I winced at the renewed pounding in my head, and managed to focus on a blurry form several feet away. At first I thought the newcomer had sunk several feet into the snowdrift. Then I realised it was an asura.
“What have you done to my golem?” the asura squeaked, voice rising to an almost inaudible pitch.
I cleared my throat. “We appear to have, er, given him a new look.”
Guffaws broke out amongst the crowd. “That was after you used his loudspeaker to broadcast a limerick about sylvari across the entire city,” a voice called.
“And after you rode him through the middle of the keg brawl down at the lake, shouting ‘Stampy wins the day’.”
“But before you started a snowball fight with a pine tree, then climbed up to the top of the Wolf Lodge wearing nothing but your underwear.”
The asura seemed to be turning a vivid shade of aubergine.
“Oh yeah,” Mangonel said suddenly, still blinking. “I think I remember that. Hey, when we were on top of the Wolf Lodge did we write our names in the snow, or something?”
“You used the golem’s lasers,” one of the watching norn piped up. “But it wasn’t your names, it was a gigantic-”
“Stop!” the asura shrieked, arms flailing. “This golem has a highly advanced weaponry and A.I. system. How could you use it for something so ridiculously reckless?”
Mangonel patted the golem’s leg affectionately. “I think Stampy enjoyed himself as much as we did.”
I snorted, rubbing at my head. “He probably remembers it better, anyway.”
Footsteps came crunching through the snow, and the crowd parted to admit the heavily-armoured form of another charr. Ballista stopped, arms folded, as I attempted a weak smile and Mangonel buried his head in his hands.
“You two again,” she barked. “Wipe off those stupid grins and stand up, soldiers.” She pointed back down the hill, in the direction of Hoelbrak’s centre. “You two have got some clearing up to do.”
The pounding in my head had just about receded by the time we finished picking up broken keg pieces, wiping away our ‘artwork’ in the snow and apologising to every sylvari we could find. I accompanied the warband to the city’s Wayfarer Foothills exit, returning Mangonel’s salute as the charr turned to leave.
“I bet we’ll be back in Hoelbrak soon,” Mangonel called, turning the salute into a wave. “Maybe next Wintersday!”
I shouted a farewell, and watched the warband turn a corner. Next Wintersday? I was already making plans for that: somewhere with no alcohol, no heavy machinery – and definitely no charr.