Witches in Muddy River love the Yule time spirit. Hester and Raven decorate their home to celebrate and to invite her coven over for a Yule Eve get-together. Unfortunately, as usual, they’re trying to help a kidnapped witch while they hang cauldron, wand, and pointed hat ornaments on their tree:
It was dark outside, and that always made me feel like it was later in the day, but it was actually only a little after six. Soon, we’d reach the shortest day of the year, and then gradually light would return to our world. In the meantime, we’d don trees and eaves with strands of colored bulbs and light candles to chase away the gloom.
Raven and I headed to the kitchen to start supper. We enjoyed cooking together. He poured us each another glass of wine, then he started slicing onions and peppers while I sliced skinless, boneless chicken thighs to make a quick curry chicken.
Claws padded to the wooden work table to beg for a snack. He wasn’t as fond of hunting along the river banks when snow covered the ground. I tossed him a chicken thigh, and he happily chomped on it. Raven voted on serving the curry with Ramen noodles instead of rice, which made our prep even easier.
“Do you still want to work on putting up Yule decorations?” he asked, as he searched for a bag of frozen stir-fry vegetables in the fridge. This was one of the laziest meals in our repertoire. “We have everything decorated outside the house. You were thinking about starting on the inside tonight.”
“I’d like to put up all the greens and garlands tonight, if we can. Then we can add to them during the week. Once the house is decorated, we’ll starting making as much food ahead as possible for our Christmas Eve get together.”
I invited every witch in my coven, along with their families, to our house for a Yule celebration. That made for a houseful, including their husbands and children. I didn’t make traditional holiday food since they’d have that with their families on Christmas day. So would we. Since neither Raven nor I had families, we invited other friends without any to our house for ham, turkey, and prime rib. They brought side dishes and desserts.
For Yule Eve, we offered party food—shrimp and andouille gumbo dip, sausage Parmesan palmiers, and baked Brie spanakopita, among other things. And I made lots of cookies and candies.
Witches might not celebrate the traditional Christmas story, but white witches value Goodness, Kindness, and generosity of spirit as much as anyone else. And we esteem Nature, so placing a yule log in the fireplace and decorating an evergreen tree are traditions we can appreciate, as well as gift giving to show love and appreciation to one another.
Over supper, Raven and I shared our day’s events. Raven was working a missing person’s case at the moment. A young witch who lived in a nearby mortal town had disappeared. Luckily, Brown, a shifter and deputy sheriff who worked for mortal law enforcement was investigating it. Brown had moved to Muddy River when he mated Meda, one of the witches in my coven.
Raven explained, “The girl’s parents think she ran off with a cat shifter who lives two towns away from them. He disappeared at the same time. The two think they’re in love. His parents didn’t approve of him seeing a witch.”
I rolled my eyes. “His parents must be pure bloods?” There weren’t many of us left. Most supernaturals these days had intermarried, shifters and witches mating with each other or incubi or whatever other species happened to live nearby.
He nodded. “And proud of it. They’d picked out a nice shifter girl they approved of for him.”
I snorted. “Kids don’t put up with arranged marriages these days. At least, most don’t.” I stabbed my last piece of chicken and swiped it through the remaining curry sauce. “Do you think the missing witch could be the young girl in Festus’s dream?”
“It’s possible.” Raven frowned, frustrated. “We haven’t been able to find any kind of trail—no credit cards, food stops, nothing.”
“Did Brown report their car’s license for law officers to watch for?”
Raven nodded, growing more serious. “In the dream, there was an Undead. Witches don’t make those, right?”
I shook my head. “Voodoo rituals deal in spirits and dead bodies.”
“I remember the spirits at Marie’s voodoo village in Kentucky. I know you want to work on decorations this Saturday, but maybe Sunday, when you don’t have to teach, we could drive there and see what Marie’s aunt can tell us.”
“A solid plan. Jamila might be able to help us.” We’d gotten tired of calling the head priestess Marie’s aunt, so finally asked for her name. “I’ll be ready to get out of the house and do something different by then.”
We finished supper and cleaned up after ourselves, then Raven trudged to the trunk of my SUV to drag in the eight-foot pine tree he’d bought in a mortal town. We couldn’t bring ourselves to cut down a live tree, but mortals had no problem killing them to sell.
I filled the stand with a special brew that would keep the tree green and fresh. Then we strung small white lights all over it. Claws kept circling the tree to sniff it. He batted at the bottom string of lights. He might be an ocelot, but he reacted to Christmas decorations much like any cat.
We decided to add the ornaments tomorrow night—the stars and moons, cauldrons and witches’ hats in various colors. We’d need a ladder to place the golden pentagram at the top, much like a star—only for us, the five points represented earth, fire, water, air, and spirit. Then we put candles everywhere in the room. I waved my hand, and they all lit. Raven grinned, tugging me close to his side. “It’s beautiful.”
“Did you ever bother to decorate in your bachelor days?” I asked.
“Not once, but I always had more Christmas goodies than I could eat. I used to walk down streets to give them to the homeless.” When the man was single, women tried to lure him with casseroles and baked goods, besides throwing themselves at him. My demon is stinking hot. Why he chose me, I’ll never understand, but he was happy with his decision. And so was I.
We climbed the steps to our room in a cheerful mood. Moonlight beamed in, and we fell asleep bathed in its silver light.