Now, normally I keep my Tiny Tales under 500 words, but this week is something special. I wrote a story called Midwinter for last year's Circlet Press Advent Calendar. Trouble is, it was only up that one day.
So, here and now, I'm letting it out for the world to see. I hope you enjoy it.
The screech of metal against stone filled the dark, wooded halls of the Oak King's palace. He stood at the grinding wheel, foot pumping, honing his blade. After so many thousands of years, the twining knots on the center were almost nonexistent, but if he held it just right, the moonlight would catch them, revealing the sword's former glory.
He told himself that lie every Midwinter. He knew the designs would come back, brilliant as ever. But not now.
Now, his power was weakened. No amount of polishing or grinding would change that. But, just as it was his place to greet the sun at Midsummer, so too was it his place to fight this fight on Midwinter, no matter how unfit his blade.
A few final passes over the sword. It would get no better. He sighed and looked up at the ceiling. The last remnants of his power lived there. While everything else had turned to gray death and slumber around him, the ceiling of his palace remained green, full of wave-edged leaves, fluttering in the too cold wind.
"My apologies." He held out his hand and watched the leaves wither and fall. Their light flowed into him. Their warmth filled him. And, for those few moments, he could once more make out clearly the tooled patterns filling the flat of his claymore. But it faded, as it always did. His rejuvenation felt empty, not enough for his tastes.
But after the battle, he would see the Holly King again. And that alone gave him the will to slip into the useless, brittle oak armor.
It was nearly Midwinter. Minutes away. And still, the Oak King stood alone at the top of the mound. What would happen if he stayed alone, if they never met? What would become of the wheel of seasons, then?
But he wouldn't find out. Not this Midwinter. The Holly King's light preceded him up the hill, casting long, spidery shadows from the lifeless trees. The Oak King gripped his sword in both hands and waited, tried to ignore the stirring anticipation in his midsection.
Glowing, rapier held to the side, the sight of the Holly King caught the Oak King's breath in his chest. Pale skin like fresh snow. Long, languid limbs that seemed never to end. The pale, peachy armor of holly wood, carved with the same knots as the Oak King's sword. But these knots cut deep, visible even from across the hilltop.
The Holly King stopped a few feet away. "Evening." Streaks of bright red from the holly berries slashed uneven across his cheeks, matching the bright color of his eyes. Empowered. "You came, then."
"I must." The Oak King looked up at the moon. "It's nearly time."
"I know." The Holly King took another step closer, his sword held off to the side. "Must we fight?"
"It's for the humans." How often had the Oak King asked himself the same question over the centuries? "They expect to see the battle."
"No one pays attention, anymore. We've clung to this meaningless ritual too long."
"It's not meaningless." More lies. They both knew the Holly King was right. The battle meant nothing, it only served to keep the respect of the people. What mattered came after, when the crowds cleared.
But there were no crowds anymore.
Another glance to the moon. The Oak King backed up. His claymore felt so heavy, tonight. Perhaps he could just abandon this. But pride wouldn't let him. Not that night. "We don't have anymore time for discussion. Midwinter is here."
The Holly King sighed and spun his own sword around. "Very well." He rushed ahead and thrust. The Oak King spun aside and sliced out with his sword but the holly armor deflected the blow. It shouldn't have, should have shattered under the weight of the claymore. But not on Midwinter.
Metal clanged against metal, filling the night air. Every movement of the Holly King shifted the light and shadows across the hilltop. Sweat already built on the Oak King's forehead, ran down under his armor, slicked the grip of his sword.
He swung again, throwing his body into the movement. And the claymore slid out of his hands, skating across the hilltop and well out of reach.
The Holly King pressed the tip of his rapier against the Oak King's throat. "You give in." It wasn't a question.
The Oak King nodded. "I always do."
Slowly, the rapier lowered. The Oak King stared into the bright, vibrant eyes of the Holly King. Stunningly red. Looking at him felt warm, like taking the last power from his oaken palace had. A ball of light and heat expanding in his chest.
The Holly King's long, pale fingers brushed down the Oak King's cheek. "I've missed you." Down his hand went, untied the breastplate, the pauldrons, the faulds. Soon, the Oak King stood in the night air, nothing but his leggings and tabard between him and the cold.
But he stripped those off, too, let Midwinter embrace him. And the Holly King joined him. They lay together, bare on the hard dirt and stone. The Holly King's light washed over him. Their lips met, locked together. Cold against the Oak King's mouth. Each touch felt like the lightest drop of a snowflake against his skin, only a whisper of chill.
Long fingers walked down the Oak King's body, wrapped into a fist around his shaft. Up and down. Soon, the cold dissipated into hot, silken skin. Up and down, hardening the Oak King's shaft, lengthening it. Up and down.
The Oak King scooted lower, down until the Holly King's curving cock sat even with his lips. He slid the length into his mouth, down to the back of his throat, tongue swirling and spiraling over the soft flesh. The Holly King shivered and groaned, tangling his fingers in the Oak King's coarse, dark mane of hair. The shaft tasted of icy winds, mingled with the earthiness of winter nuts and pine. His white-blonde bush smelled of spicy leaf rot and smoke. All signs of his grandeur, all synonymous with winter.
All perfection, to the Oak King.
The Holly King pulled himself from the Oak King's lips. Those long, thin fingers moved under the Oak King's thighs, lifted him up, exposing his bare opening to the chill night. Soon, now. Soon, Midwinter would take hold, and the Holly King would rule.
Two fingers pressed against the Oak King's hole. He relaxed, letting them slide in. The Holly King spit on them as he worked in and out, loosening the muscles. "I'll try to be gentle."
"I know." He said that line every year. But their battle was not gentle. The change of seasons was not gentle. Thus could their love never be gentle. The snow and the sun must always clash.
The Holly King slipped his fingers out and hoisted the Oak King's legs and ass higher still. His hard shaft pressed against the Oak King. Harder. Harder. In. Quavering waves warped through the Oak King's body, all from that point. His back arched off the ground. He always felt that bite of pain, no matter the Holly King's intentions.
But slowly, it subsided. He fell into the fullness of the shaft inside of him, the gentle ebb and flow as the Holly King's speed built. Coarse hair pressed into the Oak King's ass, then pulled away, taking that glorious, powerful fullness with it. Then back again. Ever faster until finally, skin slapped skin. Each thrust of the Holly King's hips rocked through the Oak King's body, digging a rut into the earth beneath him. This, he longed for every year. Not the weakness. Not the fight. Not the submission. But the closeness. The fullness. Even through Midsummer, when the roles switched, he would think of the pressure moving inside him. He would ache for it, grow hard at the mere thought of the Holly King within him.
The hardness grazed across a spot inside the Oak King. He gasped as new waves of ecstasy warmed him, cooled him, toyed with him. The tip of his cock glistened with wetness, strands of it falling to his belly. Crystalline tethers in the light of the Holly King.
Fingers tightened, pressing into the Oak King's thighs. The Holly King's words stuttered out past quavering lips. "It's nearly finished."
The Oak King resisted the urge to rail against it. Not to preserve his tenuous hold on the seasons. To prolong their coupling, even for a few minutes more.
The Holly King's body tensed. His light intensified. A choked moan rattled out of his mouth. His nails dug deep into the Oak King's legs, scratched down as his grip slid free.
A piercing cold shot through the Oak King's body. A chill of sheer ecstasy. The Holly King's essence filled him. One shot. Two shots. Three. Four. Each time, the chill pushed deeper. The domination of winter over summer, the thriving holly over the slumbering oak. The cold seeped from the Oak King's body, glowing down into the earth. Winter taking hold. The Holly King's palace would bloom from the power, dark green leaves and brilliant red berries, bright snow scattered over it all. Breathtaking. But the Oak King would get only one night there before returning to his own halls of dormant, dark gray oak.
The Holly King pulled out and wiped himself clean on the back of his hand. He smiled as he helped the Oak King to his feet. "Thank you."
"My pleasure." One he would not know again until next Midwinter. The Holly King's seed dripped free, a tiny, jagged-leaved sapling sprouting from the ground where it fell. "I would like very much to visit your palace, now."
The Holly King nodded, kissing the Oak King hard on the lips. "Of course." He picked up his tunic and slid back into it. "My bed is welcome to you, Lord of Midsummer. Whenever you wish to visit."
But it wasn't. The magic prevented that. He only had Midwinter's Day. But the Oak King was no fool. He would make the most of those short hours. He would feel the power of the Holly King again.