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Authors: Nicole Dennis

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BOOK: Minstrel's Solstice
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“Look who is feeling well. It’s good to see you up and about, Minstrel,” someone called from behind him. A well-dressed man with a head of thick silver hair moved toward Kerryll.

“You may not remember much from our first meeting. I’m the seneschal, Patryk Bladyn,” the man said. “Welcome and thank you for joining us for this Dark Solstice.”

“Aye, thank you for reminding me. Most of the night is missing.”

“You were quite ill. The Duke was afraid you weren’t going to make it until you roused from your unconscious state. He’s kept a close eye upon you himself.”

“I’m thankful for his attention to my care and feel much better. The Duke mentioned Jayme would show me around.”

“Aye, here comes my lady now,” Patryk said and stretched out his hand behind Kerryll.

Turning, Kerryll saw a lady matching Patryk’s simple elegance moving through the large room. Her silver hair was pulled into an up-twist with a few curls around her face. With a smile, he watched the couple grasp hands and exchange a simple but lingering kiss. They were confident and content with one another and their love. It was something Kerryll yearned to have within his life.

“Minstrel, may I present my lovely mate, Jayme,” Patryk said.

“A pleasure to meet you,” Kerryll said.

“Good to see you up and about again. The Duke informed me I should show you around. Would you like some breakfast and a cup of tea?” Jayme asked. “Everyone is so pleased to have a minstrel for the celebrations.”

“Will everyone be able to join in the festivities tonight?” Kerryll waved to the closest window.

“Oh, aye, we’re quite used to the fierce blizzards around here. Patryk, the Duke is waiting in his study. Follow me, Minstrel.”

With a nod of thanks to Patryk, Kerryll hurried to catch up to her. “Call me Kerryll. How will the others outside the castle join us?”

“Over the generations, while the walls and town expanded above ground, they added underground. The earth and water mystics carved tunnels and caverns linking the buildings. Others went to the mountains for storage, safety, and escape. It was thanks to the tunnels most of us managed to escape the plague. We use the tunnels throughout the Dark to continue business and gatherings.” Jayme waved Kerryll to a seat and gathered breakfast for him. She told him more stories of this special castle while he ate. When finished, he followed her through the castle once more until she pushed open a pair of heavy double doors.

“This is the conservatory. Unfortunately, no one has used it in quite some time. There aren’t many musically inclined to give this room its value in opening it during the dark season. With your arrival, we took the liberty to build the fire, clean, and let it air out. There is a marvelous tonal quality. The Duke said you could stay here as long as you need. The main festivities start with the final triple bell. I’ll send someone to inform you.”

“Thank you. This is wonderful.”

“More than welcome. Again, we’re all delighted to have music. I’ll send someone to keep a pot of tea warm while you practice.”

“Appreciate it.”

“Enjoy your stay,” Jayme said and left Kerryll alone.

Walking to the wall of windows peeking through the thick curtains, Kerryll stared at the blustery weather. Turning from them, he enjoyed the beautiful room filled with a wall of bookcases, a grand piano, multiple containers of instruments, and various seating arrangements. The powerful stone fireplace added cheery warmth.

Moving to check all of the areas, Kerryll found what he needed to polish and string his bow and violin. When he was pleased, he settled on a stool, placed the violin on his shoulder, and took a deep breath. He pressed his fingers on the strings and drew the bow across. With those first melodic notes, he lost himself to the music.



dressed in a special shirt embroidered with sun images for the Dark Solstice, Kerryll stood in a darkened hallway awaiting his moment. From his position he watched Gryff, splendid in his elegant solstice attire, stand in front of a large crowd.

Stepping closer, Gryff lifted his hands to address the people. “The Dark Solstice is the time to say good-bye to the old and welcome the new. As the sun returns to the earth, life begins once more. It’s time to bid the Crone farewell and invite the Maiden back into our lives.”

The crowd erupted in cheers and blessings to the triple-face goddess.

“This festival we’re blessed to have a traveling minstrel appear at our gates to supply the music. As in the days of old, once again our ritual includes lights, symbols, and music. Please welcome our chosen ladies who play the roles of the Maiden, the Mother, and the Crone, to help open our ritual and await the birth of the new Sun God to bring life back to our lands.”

At those words Kerryll lifted the violin to his shoulder and played the first few bars of the ancient melody written long ago. He strummed and plied his bow across the strings, dancing from the hall and into the midst of the crowd. Behind him was the procession of the ladies chosen by Gryff to play the goddesses.

The Maiden wore a white robe with sun images and a golden crown and carried a bundle of rosemary, bay, and juniper in her hands. Following her was the Mother figure in a deep red robe, embroidered as well, and wearing a silver crown decorated with evergreen, holly, and mistletoe. Following them, draped in a plain black robe and veil, was the Crone.

Kerryll led the procession as others lit the candles along the path to the large altar, draped in a white and gold embroidered cloth, surrounded with evergreens, holly, mistletoe, and candles. Four stands with additional larger candles stood to create the circle. He danced around to the altar by Gryff, who was the High Priest, and stood by the northern candle. The Maiden moved to the eastern candle and laid her bouquet at the base. The Mother took the southern candle. The Crone took her place to the west. Kerryll trilled a few more notes, announcing it was time to start the circle and bless the festival.

Gryff stepped forward and lifted his hands to call for silence. He took a long stick and lit it, then moved to the east where the Maiden stood.


Hail to the Guardians of the East, Powers of Air!

I ask for your light and warming breath

On this most sacred of nights, Solstice Eve.


Gryff lit the large candle as Kerryll drew notes on the violin. He stepped to the Mother’s position.


Hail to the Guardians of the South, Powers of Fire!

I ask for your heat and burning love

On this most sacred of nights, Solstice Eve.


Gryff lit the large candle as Kerryll made another trill of notes. He stepped to the Crone’s position.


Hail to the Guardians of the West, Powers of Water!

I ask for your depth and fluid emotions

On this most sacred of nights, Solstice Eve.


Gryff lit the large candle as Kerryll played another set of notes. He returned to the northern pedestal.


Hail to the Guardians of the North, Powers of Earth!

I ask for your strength and sturdy comfort

On this most sacred of nights, Solstice Eve.


With the circle cast, Kerryll played another song until it was time for the blessing of the festival. He finished as Gryff stepped forward to speak.


It is the season of the Crone, the time of the winter goddess.

Tonight we celebrate the festival of the Dark Solstice,

As the Wheel of the Seasons turns once more,

we honor the eternal cycle of birth, life, death and rebirth.


Gryff handed a smaller white candle to a young woman, who carried it to the Maiden. The Maiden took the candle and lit it from the pedestal candle. Cupping a hand around the flame, the Maiden went to the Mother and lit her candle. The Mother repeated the procedure to light the candle held by the Crone. Once everyone returned to their positions, Gryff spoke again:


O Crone, the Wheel has turned once more.

It is time for the Maiden to claim what is now hers.

As you lie down for the winter, she is born once again.


The Crone removed her veil and handed it to the Mother. The Mother placed it on the Maiden’s head. The Crone spoke:


The days will now get longer, now the Sun has returned.

My season has ended, yet the season of the Maiden begins.

Listen to the wisdom of those who have come before you,

and yet be wise enough to make your own way.


The Maiden followed:


Thank you for the wisdom of your years,

and for seeing the season through to its end.

You have stepped aside that the new season may begin,

and for this we give you honor.


Gryff took over the blessing and continued:


All changes as new life is born,

and the dead fade away, back into the earth.

The Wheel of the Seasons turns once more.

O Goddess, cast your eyes upon us this night.

Grant us love, wisdom, strength, and peace,

and blessings upon the Earth.


On the longest night of winter,

and the dark night of our souls,

there springs the new spark of hope.

We gather tonight to await the new light.

On this night, the Maiden, who is also Mother

and Crone, prepares to welcome the Sun.

Let’s now prepare to welcome the new light within.


When Gryff finished, Kerryll played a few more notes and let Gryff send an invocation to the Goddess as he lit the waiting log in the main hearth. Another group would repeat the ritual at the smaller fireplace. Gryff spoke:


We light this fire in your honor, Mother Goddess

You have created life from death, warmth from cold

The Sun lives once again, the time of light is waxing.

Bring us new light, the light of your glorious Son.


The Maiden took her candle and moved through the crowd to the fireplace where the new log waited, covered with the ashes of the previous, burned Dark Solstice log. She lit the white candle on the log and said:


I come to you as Maiden

Young and free, fresh as springtime

Yet within me a yearning stirs to create and share

and so I become….


She moved the flame to light the red candle in the middle and spoke:


The Mother

I bring forth the fruit of my creativity

Yet an ancient prophet once told me, as I stood with my son,

A sword shall pierce through thy own heart also

And I knew that I must become….


She finished by lighting the black candle on the end and spoke:


The Crone

The ancient wise one, Lady of Darkness

We three-in-one who brought forth that special child

as long ago, also anointed him for burial

A bright light that grew and sacrificed to be reborn

as a new light.


When the Maiden returned to her position, Gryff picked up the first Goddess taper and lifted it high above his head. He lowered it and blew out the flame to close the ceremonies with the last words:


Thank you most gracious Lady

for your freshness of spirit, your nurturing care,

your infinite wisdom

Live within us throughout the coming year.

So mote it be.


The crowd echoed the words, and Kerryll drew his bow across the strings in a joyous tune to last throughout the longest night of the seasons.



the welcome of the crowd, Kerryll played as long as everyone danced and celebrated. Performing for such an enthusiastic audience energized him and he enjoyed the adulations. He gathered the children by the burning Dark Solstice log and sat them in a circle. He exchanged the violin for the flute and played an ancient magical tune. Between the melody and his magic, the flames danced and transformed into the story of the Dark Solstice. The children’s eyes widened as they exclaimed in glee at the changing images. The adults wandered over to listen to the music and hear the tale. Moving his gaze for a second, Kerryll caught Gryff’s warm gaze as he watched everything.

When Kerryll finished the tune, grateful parents gathered sleepy children and carried them to beds within the castle. He learned most would stay instead of returning to the tunnels and their homes. The castle would remain full throughout the three nights, ending with a final large banquet and presentation of gifts.

Preparing to lift his violin once more to continue music for the celebrating folks, Kerryll felt his arms tremble. Large hands touched his waist, and he glanced over his shoulder to meet Gryff’s gaze.

“Time for us to take our rest. Some will celebrate until the bells toll the dawn,” Gryff said.

“I can play.”

“There is no need. We need you strong for the rest of the nights. Come.”

Kerryll returned the violin and bow to the case and closed it. Carrying it close, he followed Gryff to the large bedchamber. When Gryff closed the doors, he sighed at the peaceful silence.

BOOK: Minstrel's Solstice
10.51Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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