Winter Fest is a Galfarran holiday celebrating, well, winter, obviously, but it’s also a time for families and friends. There’s feasting and partying and fairs and balls all throughout the korva (month, roughly), but the most important celebration is in the middle of the korva. In Sweytz’s northern hemisphere, on Feino 14, known as Winter Fest Eve, there is a large fair during the day, a ball at night, and then while the children are sleeping, the solani — kindly winter spirits — bring them, well, what exactly they bring them depends on family tradition, but it’s always some kind of edible treats.
A drabble is a one hundred word story. They’re not generally a format I write in, as I don’t feel they are really long enough to tell a story, but they can be useful for giving a brief view of a character.
In this case, they give a brief view of Jake, who you can read more about in eight days when Jake’s Last Mission comes out, on various Winter Fest Eves, starting with his first on Sweytz.
Without further preamble, here are the stories:
Winter Fest Eve 260
“Thank you again for having us over,” Jake said to Maia while cuddling his tiny daughter against his chest.
“No need to thank us,” Maia said. “Winter Fest is about family and friends. You’re our friends, and you’re far from your families.”
“Still, Valerie and I appreciate it more than I can say.” Jake’s voice was full of emotion.
Maia touched the young man’s hand. “There’s no need to say anything. It’s your first Winter Fest on Sweytz. You shouldn’t spend it alone. If you can put that little darling down, come help me set the table. Dinner’s almost ready.”
Winter Fest Eve 265
“That is cute,” Jake said to Renata who was excitedly showing him a doll being sold at the Winter Fest Faire. “How much is it?”
With a smile at the cute little girl and her father, the Aslith vendor said, “For you, good sir, only twenty credits.”
Jake pretended to consider the matter, having made up his mind to get it as soon as he heard the price. “Eh, it’s Winter Fest. I’ll take it. And that purple and green drathini there for my son.”
“Good taste, sir,” the vendor said, handing them over. Renata hugged her new doll tight.
Winter Fest Eve 270
Valerie smiled a bit sadly when she saw Jake’s face on the other end of the call. “Hi.”
“Hi,” he replied, looking a bit sad himself. “How’re the kids?”
She sighed. “They miss you. Horribly. But Ren and Bobby seem to understand that the war’s a little bit more important than having their Daddy home for Winter Fest. And Jeff’s too young to care, really.”
“And how are you?” he asked tenderly.
Her lips quivered as she replied, “I miss you even more than they do. Be safe. That’s all I ask.”
“I’ll try. I love you all,” he said.
Winter Fest Eve 275
“Daddy!” Ren said excitedly when she and Tera came in the door. Jake hugged his daughter and her wife tightly.
“Weren’t expecting to see me?” he said teasingly.
“No. I thought you weren’t going to be in until next sulid.”
He smiled. “Great thing about the war being over: easier to convince people to shorten patrols.”
Renata looked at him, mock surprise on her face. “Did you pull strings to get home for the holiday, Father?”
He smirked. “Nope. Just told someone I’d ‘forget’ the money they owed to me from a kista game if they let me come home.”
Winter Fest Eve 280
Jake sat on the couch and his daughter, Ashley, climbed immediately in his lap. “Story?” she said, getting comfortable.
“What kind of story?”
He smiled. “Once a long, long time ago, before Mommy and Daddy were born even, there lived a man named Xavier Flores.”
“I’ve heard of him!” Ashley shouted.
“Shh. You’ll wake your niece,” he said, nodding towards his granddaughter, sleeping peacefully nearby. “There was also a bad man named Roderigo Caballera. Xavier needed a ship to get to him. It was Winter Fest. He called on the solani for help.”
“Yay!” his wee daughter cheered.
Winter Fest Eve 285
Jake ran a hand through his hair and sighed deeply as he double-checked the date back on Sweytz. Cursing the bad timing of his predeccessor’s death yet again, he called Valerie.
“Hi,” she said sadly.
“Hi,” he said, more annoyed than sad. “Sorry I can’t be home. Sorrier I didn’t realize the date until now.”
“It’s okay. You’ve got a whole fleet to run. Ashley and the grandkids understand.”
“Do they?” he asked, a bit incredulous.
She shrugged. “They seem to. We miss you though.”
“Not as much as I miss you guys right now. I love you all.”
Winter Fest Eve 290
“That’s the great thing about running the fleet,” Jake said, smirking. “I control the patrol schedule.”
Gerard, his first officer, chuckled. “And you do everything you can to make sure you get home for Winter Fest.”
“I’m not selfish! I do what I can to make sure my whole crew — which happens to include me — gets home for Winter Fest. Because we deserve it. We do all the hardest shit, after all.”
Gerard nodded. “I suppose that’s the truth. Thanks. Hevel was thrilled to hear I’d be able to spend Winter Fest with him, even though I’d miss the ball.”
Winter Fest Eve 295
“I swear, this damned thing shrunk while it was hanging up,” Jake grumbled as he threw his dress uniform’s jacket aside.
Valerie chuckled as she picked it up. “It couldn’t possibly be that you’ve gotten bigger?” she teased, pecking him on the cheek.
“You saying I’m fat?” He sounded a bit annoyed.
Valeried sighed, wishing he wouldn’t be sensitive about his weight. She hugged him. “No, I’m saying that maybe, just maybe, that third helping of dessert last night wasn’t a great idea.”
“Or the second helping of lunch?” he said, changing suits.
“You said it, not me,” she said.
Winter Fest Eve 300
Jake stretched out on a couch. “Ah, this feels nice. No more needing to worry that someone’s going to ruin my Winter Fest by starting a war.”
Bobby, his son, looked up from the flower he was filling with candy, worried. “Any reason to think anyone’s gonna do that?”
“Who’s intel here? Why do you think a retired mithoska’d know more about things like that than you?”
“Because I’ve been on paternity leave for the past two korvare, and you played kista with Quirino last sulid.”
Jake nodded. “Good reasoning. Nah, everything is fine. Relax and enjoy the holiday, kid.”
Winter Fest Eve 305
“Grandpa!” the excited little girl cried as she ran towards Jake.
He smiled as he picked her up. “Hi there, Courtney! You’ve grown since the last time I saw you.”
“Yep. Daddy Vik thinks I’ll be as tall as Momma Ren soon. I told him that’s a bit silly. She’s lots … Oh … I like the next song!” the five-year-old telepath said as she wiggled free of his arms.
Chuckling, he bowed as he said, “May I have the honor of this dance, dear girl?”
She giggled and then bowed herself and said, “Of course you may, kind sir.”
Winter Fest Eve 310
While dressing for the ball, Jake couldn’t stop staring at Valerie. “You like what you see?” she finally asked.
“Very much,” he said, before giving her a kiss. “There oughta be laws against looking as good as you do. Gonna give some poor old people heart failure.”
“You aren’t so bad looking yourself,” she said, straightening his collar.
“Never look good enough to be with you,” he said, as he’d said almost every time she’d complimented his looks for over fifty years.
She sighed, as she always had, and said, as always, “Because you look so much better than me.”