The Feast of St. Nicholas

So, if you are in parts of Europe (or are some of my students), you have put your shoes out for St. Nicholas to leave things in. Or you are bracing for a visit from St. Nicholas, who will ask you about your deeds for the year, and perhaps toss you to his wild followers if you have misbehaved or cannot say your prayers properly. And the Usual Suspects are raising a fuss of Schwarte Piet, saying that he is racist and evil, or something.

However, if St. Nicholas is your name patron, and Josef Haydn is your court composer, you might end up with something like this:

Leafblowers and Res Publicae

It’s probably been going on for longer than I’ve been noticing, but more and more people are blowing their fallen leaves into the street. Do they ever stop and wonder where those leaves end up? And why they may come back to haunt them? Continue reading

Any Tool at Hand. . .

You know, I’d hate to have to explain to my Maker that I was almost stabbed and beaten to death with a whale’s tooth, except that the police shot me first. The laughter and jeers from the other deceased in line . . .

By now you’ve probably heard or read about how one of the men who stopped the London Bridge attacker grabbed a narwhal tusk out of a display and used it to turn the tables on a terrorist. There’s something oddly (Oddly?) satisfying about the idea of the bad guy being stabbed with the tusk of a sea-going unicorn. Continue reading

Tuesday Tidbit: Magic in the Night

Some things come more easily in the darkness. Perhaps too easily . . .

André turned the pickup off the paved road and stopped at a closed gate. He rolled down the window, holding out one of his ID cards. A voice said, “Roger. I’m on the way.”

“Not a genus loci,” André said, rolling the window back up. “There’s a card camera and reader tucked away, so that the fire department and police can get in without having to call out a ranger. I don’t have quite that level of access.” An unspoken “yet” hung in the air.

Tay rustled in the back. “So that’s what the mysterious bag is for! A bribe.”

“No.” André frowned, glaring at the rear-view mirror. “I would never stoop to bribery while in the United States. It contains a token of my appreciation for Ricardo’s willingness to take a few moments of his down-time to open the gate for us.”

Lelia busied herself looking at the armored shin guards André had presented her with. Do not laugh, do not laugh. And what did he mean by “while in the US?” Does he bribe people elsewhere? I don’t want to know, I don’t think. How do these—Oh, that makes sense. The straps and material went around twice, so that all of her leg was protected, not just the shin.

Dust-softened headlights appeared, and a smaller vehicle rolled up to the other side of the gate. The gate opened, and André drove through, stopping just past a rumbly set of pipes in the ground. He rolled the window down again. A short, deeply tanned man leaned on the door. “Hola. Que tal?”

“Así así.” He turned around and with Lelia’s help, got the bag from the back seat and handed it to the ranger. “Un regalo pequeño.”

“Sir, your pronunciation’s still too Gringo,” the ranger chuckled. He caught sight of Lelia and the smile vanished. “Who’s that?” Continue reading

Happy New Year!*

*Terms and conditions apply, see denomination and calendar for details.

Today is the first Sunday of Advent for those who follow the western liturgical calendar. Advent is the start of a new liturgical year. Christ the King Sunday was the end of the year, the day marking the return of Jesus and the end of this world, the start of a better one. (The Spiritual “Ride on, King Jesus” gets the sense pretty well. So does Natalie Sleeth’s anthem “Joy in the Morning.” Or almost all of Randall Thompson’s The Peaceble Kingdom.)

Then everything restarts. That was one of those things that threw me as a kid. “Wait a sec, we believe that time moves in one direction, and that there was a beginning and there will be an end. OK, got that. So why the cycle of the year?” Continue reading

Saturday Snippet: Turnabout’s Fair Play

In which our protagonist turns the tables on her instructor.

As before, she took west and André took north. He raised the shield on the circle, and she cast the first shadow-shield around herself. “Rings, move to the side, please.” If I anchor on him to start, that might be easier to see. He did as asked, his hunched back and low tail suggesting doubts about the wisdom of her request. She drew power from him and cast the second shield around and over him. Having him there to key on made it easier.

André and Rodney attacked. She deflected all but one blow, and that one she muted. “Good. Now do it again,” the cold voice commanded.

She did, then called, “Rings, to me, please.” He scampered back, leaving the shield behind. She drew more power and let it flow, working with it, allowing it to move as it would more than forcing it.

Something clicked. Literally, her magic shifted, flowing into the second shield almost without her guidance. Lelia nudged it a whisker bit and it responded. Rodney raced forward, jaws open, and she waved magic toward him, bumping him hard enough to deflect him away from herself and Tay. He rolled and trotted back to his mage as Lelia boggled. What if she—? She started working a simple spell to produce light, then added some interruptions to the flow, and colored them.

“Phoenix, we have lift-off,” Rodney intoned. “A successful launch of the mature shadow mage is in progress.” Continue reading