For the ninth tale of Flashmas the Wildwood gave to me …

The Village Yule Ball

Photo of pine cones, pine leaves and other greenery, baubles and star shaped fairy lights on a wooden table.

Every year, the day before the Winter Solstice, the Village Hall was transformed into an extension of the Wildwood, decked out by the Wood’s inhabitants with holly and ivy, pine and mountain ash, hawthorn and spruce. This largess of greenery was finished off by an explosion of paper chains that the Village children had been making for weeks. Eleanor and Sarah, ably assisted by the best cooks of the village, produced a spread to rival anything a palace kitchen could produce and Amos and Alan, proprietors of The Green Man, provided the drinks; a sublime punch that was never the same two years running, barrels of ale and cider, whisky and rum for those who wanted something stronger and mulled apple juice and bottles of ginger pop for the children or those who preferred their drinks alcohol free.

Once everything was laid out to the committee’s satisfaction – with a large space left in the centre – the doors were flung open and everyone trouped in, also decked in their finest. Witch had her best red boots and stripy stockings on, every fur clad Wildwooder had brushed themselves to a shine and all the birds were bathed and fluffed to a turn. Vixen received many compliments on her cloak trimmed with magpie feathers whilst Fox tried and failed to not look smug about finding a good use for his latest hobby, and Magpie wagged his tail and cackled at the compliments on the shimmering sheen of his feathers. 

Father Langben hobbled about (using the stick Goose had procured for him from Beaver – who was the best carpenter for many leagues hence – in an attempt to ameliorate the damage her terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day had caused) making sure everyone had what they needed and Allan the Raven perched on the back of the Witch’s chair as the pair of them spent the first part of the evening telling the youngsters from Village and Wood stories of ghosties and ghoulies and other things that go bump in the middle of the longest night. But that was merely a prelude, an hour or so for guests to catch up with each other and ensure they were suitably fed and watered before the main event swung into action. 

Wolf, as always, began the ball proper with a shrill whistle that caught everyone’s attention before launching into Mairi’s Wedding on his Northumbrian pipes. He was swiftly joined by Wayland the Blacksmith on the fiddle, Harold the organist on the harmonica, and Bear keeping time on his bodhrán. The centre of the room became a whirling, twirling melee of villagers and Wildwood denizens dancing the darkness away; they stripped the orcadian willow, jigged by the riverside, two-stepped, dashed the sergeant, flew a Scotsman, had an eightsome reel and a circassian circle as well as a do-as-you-please in the middle when the band had rest and Jack, the school master, got his guitar out and played whatever was asked of him. The Witch and Father Langben took it in turns to call the reels and jigs and looked on as everyone took at least one turn around the hall and some did not sit down for the rest of the night. 

The time passed ‘quicker than a wink’ as Old Mr Arkwright was so fond of saying and it was in the wee small hours that sleeping children were gathered up from chairs and benches and borne home by adults whose feet then found the energy for one last dance at their own hearth, be that hearth in Village or in Wood.

And so the magic and the memories of the Yule Ball kept their hearts and hearths warm over the cold months that followed, just as they were supposed to. 

This story is the ninth of a twelve part series that was written at the start of December 2022 in response to daily prompt emails from Writer’s HQ for their 12 Days of Flashmas challenge. It is presented here pretty much just as it was originally written on the ninth day of the challenge. If you’d like to know more my explanatory post can be found here.

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