Black Lives Matter: Our Stance

Black Lives Matter: Our Stance

I’m speaking as Becca here, so excuse me as occasionally I break the plural “we” I try to use to reference Ginny and I in prior posts. We have had discussions about not only where we stand, but also what we should do with this blog. And of course, how we can help.

Both of us believe in the Black Lives Matter movement and protests. Both of us want to support it.

Of course, we are two writers who are running a gaming blog to try and get sponsorship–there isn’t any money to speak of right now, and neither of us are comfortable going to the protests for health reasons. So we had to look at what we could do. The first thing, obviously, is this blog post showing that we stand with them and support the protests.

Next, we looked at what we could control, that being the characters in the game and representation. We knew we had covered our bases with the playable character creation, we have twenty different skin tones. You will be able to play with all options of skin tones available right at the get go. While right now how many features are set and how many can be customized are in flux because we don’t have an engine, we hope that we are going to continue to be able to provide a wide range there too. Whenever we create “sample” or filler player characters, we always go middle of the road–i.e. olive skin, brown hair, brown eyes–not white.

The next step beyond the player character is the characters you interact with the most. For our game, that’s the mentor-characters. There are seven Light Riders, five Shadow Riders, and because the Diamond District is “neutral” and not claimed by any set mentor, I count the younger prince and princess twins as the district representatives since they will be your source of info in terms of what’s going on and how to do things. So that puts us at fourteen characters to check our ratios on.

Keep in mind, this is our starting area. In an ideal world, there’s three other countries to unlock. For sake of sanity, each has their own, global influence. Astranar’s influence is Europe. But because it’s our starting area, I felt like we needed to push the ratio farther than what most racial statistics tell me the ratio is for Europe, not only to be fair for representation, but also to be realistic to the fact this is one continent, some crossover is going to happen more.

Upon review and some mapping of the characters by Ginny, we decided that yep, we needed to do some adjusting, which had a minor ripple on to another character who wasn’t adjusted. But thankfully we are now happy with it. Since I don’t remember who all has been mentioned where in what context, and editing past history can be viewed very badly in these turbulent times, I am instead going to list out our district representative characters and their current, possibly new backgrounds as well as the thinking behind it all.

Light Riders:
Vesper “Ves” Leilament–American and white, no change.
Shizuka “Kitty” Sweetsong–Japanese and Asian, no change.
Vivienne “Viva” Streetbeats–Tahitian and mixed (Polynesian and black-French), no change.
Elena “Len” Treeharmony–Brazilian and olive complexion, no change
Minna “Minnie” Opuswright–German and black, she is the one who changed the most and the least at the same time. Minnie’s original character for a different project was German and black, we switched her to Middle Eastern when we changed projects before the Shadow Riders existed…and now we’ve changed her back.
Charlotte “Lottie” Mistwaltz–French and white, no change.
Isidora “Izzy” Silvertreble–Russian and white, no change.

Shadow Riders:
Vanessa “Nessie” Ribbonmelody–changed from German to Swiss since Minnie is now (back) to being German, and white, no other change.
Victoria “Vickie” Blackpiano–English and changed from white to being of Indian descent. She grew up in London still, but her family would have immigrated. I wanted us to have more representation from Asia, and it fit the character really well to make this transition. I’m sure we’ll find further edits down the road that will need to happen. (Like my scripts for demo weeks. I literally just realized that. Next on my to do list!)
Veronica “Roni” Highflute–Greek and olive complexion, no change.
Vivian “Viv” Streetbeats (no, not a typo, I swear)–Tahitian and mixed (Polynesian and black-French), no change.
Varteni “Var” Heatforte: Armenian and olive complexion, no change.

Princess Rowan–Astranaran and mixed (black and white, presents black), no change.
Prince Elowen–Astranaran and mixed (black and white, presents black), no change.

Hopefully this ratio makes sense, covers everything well for the start and then we can build it up as we go to other countries to keep things equal. I obviously will have to review our current characters and our new characters as we build them, and make sure each group fits this ratio. Most of the groups aren’t finished yet, which makes it harder to see where we are at, but obviously as the game continues to develop, we will keep a sharp eye on our ratio.

Ginny and I haven’t talked much about the police, but we have talked about having small mounted police, and they will be spread out. We are definitely not going to have any kind of military present in the game, aside from guards in the palace (which is like the Secret Service) and you may run into one cop in an area. Interaction will be limited with them.

Hopefully these steps will show that we are committed to equality and we want to help. If you have any thoughts for how we can further make adjustments, please let me know in the comments or to our e-mail, and we will see what we can do. Change is needed, and we will do our best to speed it along.

12 Days of Christmas: It’s Beginning to Look A Lot Like Christmas (Day 11)

12 Days of Christmas: It’s Beginning to Look A Lot Like Christmas (Day 11)

“It really does look like Candy Cane Lane now!” Pippa said. “But UGH, it’s so much work.”

Vesper groaned and stretched. “It is! Fortunately, for the next bit, we can use magic.”

“We can?” Pippa said.

“Come along and I’ll show you how to make an ornament hut!” Vesper said.

Pippa hurried after Vesper. She stopped. “Wait, what about the trailer?”

“Oh, that gets turned into a float for all the leaders. Big deal or some such. We’ll deal with it soon enough.”

“A float?”

“To follow Santa.”

“Doesn’t that take away from Santa?”

“Not really my call,” Vesper said. “But yeah, I think it’s a bit much too.”

Pippa sighed. “Okay, show me how to make an ornament hut.”

Vesper grinned. “First, you need to cast an ornament spell,” she said and waved her hand. An ornament appeared on the ground in a swirl of red and green sparkles. “Then, you make it BIG.” Another hand wave and the ornament was taller than Vesper, why, it was quite tall enough to walk through! “Then, for a red or white ornament, you cast a light spell,” she said. “And for a red and black check ornament, you cast the red light spell and a bead garland spell, like so!” She cast both spells and grinned at Pippa.

“You just wanted to make a rock’n’roll ornament hut,” Pippa told her.

“Of course!” Vesper wasn’t the least bit repentant. “Now, the shopkeepers can come and set up their wares. Go ahead and do a bunch of them up and down the street.”

Pippa giggled and had fun making different type of ornament huts up and down the street. Some of them, she put smaller lighted ornaments beside them. And as she did so, she felt her phone vibrate. She opened it and looked at her achievement list. “Well, more coupons!” she said and giggled. It looked like there were plenty of ornament huts for her to put up in all the villages. She went back to Vesper. “There, done!”

“And I think that is more than enough for one day. Hey, you better start going around and telling the children that Santa is coming!” Vesper said. “All the villages in the district like to come here.”

“You’re right! And I better tell them about Santa’s horse.”

“Santa’s horse?” Vesper asked, looking confused.

“Santa is riding in on a white horse,” Pippa said. “And, the poor thing, he feels forgotten. I told him I’d tell the children about him. He wants carrots of course.”

“Of course,” Vesper said dryly.

“Well, I’ve got a lot to do then!” Pippa said and waved at her.

“Don’t forget to eat!”

“I won’t!” Pippa shouted.

Vesper sighed and tugged at her hat. “It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas,” she sang and twirled her cane as she walked down the lane to inspect their work.

First Pippa went to the library to look for the mince-meat pie recipe. Oh, they had the book, but someone had loaned it out. Could she come back later or would another recipe do? Pippa told the librarian it had to be that recipe from that cookbook. It was important. Well, the librarian wouldn’t tell her who’d loaned out the cookbook. But, maybe, Granny Gette would have the recipe?

Pippa sighed. She stopped at Granny Gette’s. Granny Gette didn’t have it either. “But I’m not the only granny in the district. Try Granny Kay,” she said and gave directions.

Well, the blacksmith was on the way to Granny Kay. So she stopped in and finished forging her pine needle. It glowed green when it was done and the one end looked like a pine cone and the needle part was golden and very sharp! She thanked the blacksmith and asked if he had any sleigh runner polish. He told her that if she brought him the ingredients, he’d make some for her and have it ready tomorrow.

Pippa left with a list. Granny Kay didn’t have the pie recipe. But she did know who’d borrowed the book. It was her granddaughter. So, Pippa went to visit her. Of course, she was running across children on her travels and telling them about Santa coming to town and his horse. And of course, she was able to get the ingredients for the sleigh runner polish as well. And, thankfully, the granddaughter did have the book and was more than willing to let her copy the recipe for mince meat pies.

So, it was back to the blacksmith with the ingredients for sleigh runner polish. And then to the tailor with her needle. There she picked up her wool and dye and was able to dye the wool! There was even some dye left over. Now all she needed to do was collect the dried popcorn kernels, chestnuts, fresh fallen snow, and mint and she could go see Holda and make Santa a new outfit.

And so, it was back to Magpie Field. Where she baked a mincemeat pie, and, with the left over red dye and a paint recipe, she made red paint for Santa’s sleigh. (In different bowls and on different counters of course!)

Once the mince-meat pie was finished, she took it to the carpenter, who gave her in exchange the seeds for the white air feather fir. She also gave him a copy of the recipe with a bit of a scolding not to use it to light fires with. The carpenter looked contrite and thanked her profusely. The seeds were cold in her hand and were light blue and looked like tiny pine cones.

So, just before she went to bed, Pippa planted the seeds. And over one seed she promised it that she would take that tree and replant it in the wild, in the Mirror World. That seed glowed just a little brighter.

12 Days of Christmas: Run, Rudolph, Run (Day 10)

12 Days of Christmas: Run, Rudolph, Run (Day 10)

She and Marbel headed towards the Mirror World. Once they were on the other side and Pippa was taking off her coat, she asked, “Why do they always want favors of food?”

Marbel snorted. “Because food ties us together.”

“Does it really? I mean, I know you appreciate me taking care of you, but that’s not why you stick with me.”

“It seemed like a good enough answer to me,” Marbel said and sounded pompous.

Pippa sighed. “Okay, find a recipe and make a mince-meat pie. Man, this list keeps getting longer.”

“We could hunt down a white air feather fir for ourselves.”

“You heard him. They’re rare. I’d feel awful cutting down a rare tree to fix Santa’s sleigh.”

“Oh, so that’s where you got the boards.”

“Yes, see, his sleigh looks horrid. We can’t be letting him go into town like that!” She pointed at it.

“You have a point,” Marbel said.

“Good morning!” Pippa said cheerfully to the horse and the reindeer.

They didn’t say anything to her.

Pippa sighed and set out salt licks and scattered carrots, sweet potatoes, and certain nuts for the reindeer. She then went over and put out feed and water for the horse. She brushed his coat and asked him. “Why do you dislike the reindeer?”

“What type of question is that?” the horse said.

“A question of the genuinely curious,” Pippa said.

The horse stomped his hoof. “Look, for hundreds of years, I was the one the children knew. Santa came to town. He rode a white horse.  I can pull a sleigh too. That was the end of it. And then, someone decided that there should be reindeer. And now there are eight of them and no one cares about me anymore! And don’t get me started on the one with the nose!”

“I’m sorry. That has to be awful,” Pippa said. “What if I could help you and tell the children about you. Then would you be able to get along better with the reindeer. All of you do important things. Santa loves all of you.”

“Maybe,” the horse said. “But I want carrots.” He glowered at her. “Lots and lots of carrots.”

Pippa giggled. “I understand,” she said. She understood that bribery worked well with horses.

She went over to check on the reindeer. “Why don’t you like the horse?” she asked.

“Because he’s a stuck up prig,” said one of the reindeer, a female.

Well, that was one way to put it. Pippa thought. “He was around first.”

“We’re here now. Santa doesn’t need him.”

“But Santa does need him. They’re friends!” Pippa said. “You don’t abandon your friends. Especially when they haven’t done anything wrong. I’m sure when you came along he felt horrible, like he wasn’t good enough anymore. Wouldn’t you feel horrible if you thought you weren’t good enough to help Santa anymore?”

“That would never happen.” The reindeer tossed her head.

“It could! You never know. You could be replaced with rabbits, cute and fluffy rabbits.”

The reindeer laughed.

“Or yaks! Or even goats. Hoppy goats!”

They all just looked at her as if she were mad. Pippa sighed. “Please think about it. Maybe if you were nice to him or talked to him about it instead of being rude.”

“He was rude first.”

“Well, being rude back isn’t going to solve anything.” Pippa stomped her foot. “I’m going now. Please try to be nice to each other while I’m gone,” she said loudly.

They just made noises at her.

Pippa sighed and rubbed her face. “I don’t know, Marbel,” she muttered as they trotted back to the normal world.

“It’s all in their heads, I’m sure. It’s nice of you to try.”

“I’m sure all the little boys and girls wouldn’t be pleased to discover that Santa’s horse and reindeer don’t get along.”

“Little girls, yes. Little boys?” Marbel tilted his head. In his experience, little boys would just stir the pot and make the reindeer and horse madder at each other.

“They aren’t all that bad.”

Marbel laughed as they stepped through the portal.

They walked back to town. Vesper waved at them. “Pippa! I need your help. Today we set up half of the light displays!”

“Light displays?”

“Yeah, every big town has them,” Vesper said. She reached up and patted Marbel’s nose. “We’re going to put big presents around the tree. There are huge presents to put up as well. Then the huge reindeer with Santa’s sleigh. There’s a new tribute to Rose Neptuna, since she’s become a huge deal. And the vendors want to put up their ornament shaped huts. Tomorrow we can work on putting up Santa’s house. And then the day after that, it’s just finishing touches and we’re done.”

“That’s, that’s a lot!” Pippa said.

“Of course, that’s why it takes so long,” Vesper said. “I told you that Astranar loves Christmas.”

“Then we better get started!” Pippa said.

“The light displays are in the warehouse. Do you still have the key?”

Pippa reached into her saddle bag and held it up. “Ready!”

The presents under the tree were actually large wire boxes covered with lights to represent paper and bows. They came in red with white bows, white with red bows, striped with red or yellow white bows and red with black beads with white bows. There were also big red and white stockings made of lights with smaller presents “tumbling” out of them. And interspersed among the presents were also ornaments balls made of lights. They all were flat on one side at different angles to make it look like they’d ‘fallen’ from the tree. The lights had to be checked, then the presents positioned, the cords all tied together and then everything plugged in. When it was done, it looked like there was a big pile of presents, stockings and ornaments around the Christmas tree.

“Oops, almost forgot!” Vesper said. “There should be more candy cane and peppermint swirl lights to go in there!”

“On it!” Pippa said and went off to get them. They positioned them among the presents. Pippa giggled. “This looks great.”

“Come on. We need to get the smaller plazas ready along the route then.”

The small plaza closest to the tree had a huge white present with a red bow. In order to get the parts there, they were loaded onto a flat trailer with wheels, then hitched to Marbel. They pulled them through the town. Objects like the large presents were in pieces and would be assembled on site. The present was a good two stories tall and there were openings  between the ‘box’ part and the ‘ribbons’ so people could walk inside it. Smaller present, stockings, ornaments and candy lights went on the edges of the plaza for decorations.

The next plaza was the new display, a tall wire statue of Rose Neptuna in a sweeping formal dress. She carried an umbrella that dripped ornaments, fairy lights, and crystals, just like the lamp lights. Her ‘hair” was fibre optic lights with small fairy lights. The frame skirt was a wire mesh so they could put red, white, and red and black ball ornaments on it. Some of the ball ornaments were clear and they pushed red Christmas lights into them. The bodice of the dress was also ornamented with more ornaments.

They put up more candy cane lights and presents and such in that plaza as well. Vesper told Pippa that the plaza used to have a larger ornament decoration, but Rose Neptuna was better.

“It’s so pretty!” Pippa said.

The next plaza also got a large present. It wasn’t as large as the white present, but it was still at least one story high. It was a red present this time with a white bow. It went up mildly easier than the taller one. Once again, smaller present lights and such went up along the edges of the plaza.

Vesper dusted off her hands. “There. We’re coming along. One more plaza and that has the sleigh and the reindeer.”

Pippa’s eyes widened. The reindeer were HUGE.

Marbel sighed as she hitched the trailer up to the back of his saddle. He pulled them down the street slowly.

They were also large wire light frames. They were as tall as the Rose Neptuna statue. Once they got them to the farthest plaza, they were decorated with more ornaments. There were ornament wreathes around their necks, ornaments hanging inside their bodies, and ornaments even hanging off their antlers! Then, they put together a light display version of Santa’s sleigh. It was red of course and had peppermint stick runners. It had ‘white light’ ribbons and big peppermint swirl candy decorations. And of course, more ornaments made into swags. It made Pippa giggle. But now, she did have a better idea of how to decorate Santa’s sleigh for Christmas!

They set out more small present lights and more ornament lights and more candy lights. Until, well, it looked quite breath taking.

“It really does look like Candy Cane Lane now!” Pippa said. “But ugh, it’s so much work.”

Vesper groaned and stretched. “It is! Fortunately, for the next bit, we can use magic.”

12 Days of Christmas: All I Want for Christmas (Day 9)

12 Days of Christmas: All I Want for Christmas (Day 9)

Once out of the Mirror World, Pippa pulled out her phone and texted Granny Gette. She was a nice old lady, and by any chance did she still have the recipe for Santa Face Cookies? Granny Gette was happy to reply that she did and that if Pippa dropped by her house, she’d be willing to share it. Pippa grinned and put her phone away.

“Okay Mini Hump, time to hunt down some ice gryphons and get some feather ice!”

They peered at the map and at the sky for ice gryphons and ended up high in the mountains. And well, if only it was that easy to collect the ice feathers from the ground. Well, it would have been, if the ice gryphons had been somewhere else.

Because ice gryphons had ice gryphlets, which had as much sense as a bundle of kittens, which was to say, no sense at all! It was a race between her getting all the ice feathers she needed and them upending her bucket and scattering them all over again!

The parents were no help. They found it hilarious. So, they sat about and laughed as Pippa scrambled about. But, at last, she managed and with a pink cheeks and a huff at all the ice gryphlets, she and Mini Hump went back down the mountain to see the blacksmith.

She raised her bucket of feather ice triumphantly.

The blacksmith applauded.

“You don’t want to know what I went through to get that!” she said.

The blacksmith laughed. “Cute little buggers, ice gryphlets.”

“Oh.” Pippa scowled. “Okay, show me how we’re going to forge a pine needle.”

“We. Oh no. You’re doing all the forging.”

Pippa took out her hammer tongs and first, they melted the fir sap over the fire and then used magic on the pine needle to heat that, and then they added them together, pounding it with the hammer. Then, an ice feather was added. Then they used the cypress oil and started all over again.

The blacksmith looked at it. “Good, good. We’ll let it rest overnight and tomorrow, you’ll be able to finish it.”

Pippa wiped her forehead with the back of her hand. “And I’ll be able to sew with it.”

“It’s magic,” the blacksmith said. “I’ll keep your ice feathers safe. They won’t melt here.”

Pippa nodded. “Thanks so much.”

On the way to the tailor, she stopped by Granny Gette’s house and picked up the recipe for Santa Face cookies. “Thank you!”

“You’re welcome, dearie! I remember when I was young and looking for recipes to make.” The old woman winked at her.

Then Pippa had been on her way musing about Grannies in biker leather.

The tailor looked up. “Ready to make some dye and create some wool cloth?”

“Ready!” Pippa said.

They ground up the different items with the mortar and pestle individually, crushing the cranberry and the holly berry so they gushed red juice in different bowls. The poinsettia produced a paste. And the feather a powder.

They stirred the two juices together and brought them to a boil, then added the paste and powder, stirring and stirring.

“There, we’ll let that steep overnight,” the tailor said.

They moved onto the wool. Yule wool was still lovely to look at. They carded it and spun it and then when it was ready, she left it to the tailor to weave. “And that will be ready tomorrow too!”

“The blacksmith says the pine needle will be ready too!” Pippa said. She smiled at the tailor and could hear the electronic loom clacking as she left.

Ugh, she was so tired and there was still so much to do. Pippa decided she’d have to talk to the carpenter at camp tomorrow to ask about the boards. It was back to Magpie Field and to bed!

Day Three!

Pippa had a bit of a late start. She’d almost forgotten about her magical Christmas tree seeds. She’d cleared an area for them and giggled as she planted them, this time humming “Here Comes Santa Claus.” The seeds looked like little gold bells and they actually jangled as she planted them. She wiped off her hands and nodded.

Pippa opened her list of things to do. Well, she needed to show the boards to the carpenter. Find some paint and runner polish. That would be a good start on the sleigh. Of course, she needed to finish Santa’s suit, which meant finishing the pine needle, and collecting both the dye and the wool fabric. She had to check in on the reindeer and the white horse. And she still needed to help Vesper finish up the town square.

It was just so much to do, she wasn’t sure what to do first. Flummoxing. Looking over it all, she decided that the reindeer and the horse were living things. She’d go take care of them first. And on the way, she might as well stop in and talk to the carpenter. If he could tell her what the boards were, maybe he could tell her where to find them!

She found him in his workshop sawing away at some old wood to make it look better. “Mr. Presley. Could you help me? I found these boards and I don’t know what they are.”

He took the boards from her. The carpenter stroked his beard and looked down the boards, hefting them, smelling them and making funny noises.

“Well?” Pippa asked. She had a lot to do and he was dilly dallying.

“Where did you say you got these?” the carpenter asked.

“I didn’t,” Pippa told him. Why was it that everyone had to ask such a question? That was so nosey.

He wrinkled his nose. “It might help me more if you told me.”

Pippa bit her lip. “Well, I can’t. Can’t you tell by looking?”

“I can. I just don’t know where you’d come across these.” The carpenter narrowed his eyes at her. “Because, bless my soul, if this isn’t white air feather fir.”

“That doesn’t sound like a real tree.”

“It’s a magical tree and it’s rare,” the carpenter told her. “Have you ever heard ‘light as a feather, stiff as a board?’”

“I thought that was a silly game,” Pippa said.

“Oh, it is, but it also describes this tree.”

“Where would I find one? This is important.”

“Now, it just so happens that I might have a few seeds of one of these trees. But!” He put up a finger. “I’ll need you to do me a favor.”

“Say please,” Pippa said.

“Please,” the carpenter said contritely.

“All right. Now what do you need?”

“Well, you see, when I was a lad, my mother made the best mince-meat pie. I can’t describe to you how good it was.”

Pippa decided to cut him off before he got into delirious raptures of words to describe this pie. “You need me to find the recipe and make you this pie.”

“How did you know?”

“Lucky guess,” Pippa said. “All right. Do you have any idea where she got the recipe?”

“From her granny, who got it from her granny, but I’m afraid I might have accidentally…” The carpenter made a face. “Cut it up and used it for tinder.”

Pippa squeaked.

“But, but my mother got ribbons for this pie at the winter fair one year. And they supposedly published a book of recipes of all the bakers that year. But I haven’t been able to get my hands on a copy, or at least a copy of the correct year. And I need this pie.”

“Well, that sounds like something a granny would have,” Pippa said. “Or a library. I’ll go check there.”

“Thank you so much, Pippa.”

Pippa smiled and waved at him.

12 Days of Christmas: Oh Christmas Tree (Day 7)

12 Days of Christmas: Oh Christmas Tree (Day 7)

Day Two!

The next morning, Pippa was full of excitement. She barely remembered to brush her hair and teeth and was chowing on toast as she cared for her horses. Her pony, Mini Hump, tried to steal the toast from her and Pippa had to run around the stable and eat it quickly as the pony trotted after her. It was hard to do that and not laugh at the same time. She darted into the house and returned with toast for all three horses. She knew she spoiled them rotten, but sometimes, she just couldn’t help it!

“Marbel, Vesper said I need Marquees Humongous today,” she said. “You’re getting a day off.”

Marbel stomped his foot. After going around everywhere in the district yesterday, he jolly well hoped so!

Pippa made sure to give Marbel an extra pat before she saddled up Marquees. The huge mare seemed a bit shocked and looked up from munching on her hay. ‘Me?’ her face said.

“I know. I know,” Pippa said. “I don’t give you enough love.” She patted the horse’s side and waited for her to finish eating.

She put Marquees through her warmups before they headed out to find Vesper.

Vesper waved her down in the square. “Morning, Pippa! You ready to get to rocking out the square?”

Pippa was beginning to wonder if Vesper was a bit too obsessed with rock’n’roll. “Does that really require an answer?”

Vesper smirked. “Glad to see you brought Marquees. The first thing you need to do while you’re all rested is go get us a huge Christmas tree! Marquees will make that easier. She’s got a lot more muscle and endurance, and you’ll be able to drag the tree faster. Of course, before you can get the tree, you’re going to have to talk to the blacksmith to borrow an ax. If you don’t own one already.”

“No. No ax. I do have a pick ax.”

Vesper made an odd face. “Go talk to the blacksmith.”

The blacksmith blinked. “You again?”

“Me again!” Pippa smiled at him.

“Are you here to forge your pine needle?”

“Not right this minute. I need to get a Christmas tree for the square and for that, I need an ax!”

“Ax, ax, ax,” the blacksmith muttered. “Ah hah! Ax!” The blacksmith narrowed her eyes. “You might want to keep this. It’s an old one. Just sharpen it up on the stone over there and it’s yours.”

“Thank you!”

Pippa got off of Marquees and used the sharpening stone to sharpen the ax. She had to keep it level as the round stone turned and turned. Sparks flew off the ax blade, but soon it was done. She owned her own ax! Maybe she shouldn’t feel so gleeful about that.

“Oh, and while you’re out and about, get a bucket of feather ice for forging your pine needle.” The blacksmith shoved a bucket at her.

“Feather ice?” Pippa asked.

“You know, super thin ice that looks like feathers. You’ll need a whole bucketful.”

“But where am I to find it?” Pippa asked again, not quite daring to say that she’d never heard of feather ice.

The blacksmith looked at her as if she was crazy. “The ice gryphons shed it, of course.”

“Ice gryphons?”

“Yeah, now that it’s cold and snowy on this side of the world instead on the mirror side, the ice gryphons like to come out and play. They shed feathers and, feather ice! Super cold, super durable, filled with magic, and perfect for forging a pine needle!”

Yes, the magic of this world made the people of Astranar crazy.

“They’ll be high up. You might need Mini Hump. Or you can run up yourself. Just look for them flying off the mountains. Now hurry up. You haven’t got all day!” She waggled the bucket.

Pippa grimaced at the bucket and took it. “Okay. I’ll be back later.”

“And don’t forget your feather ice!”

Pippa waved at her, secured both the ax and the bucket to the saddle and headed off into the forest. She needed to find the perfect pine tree for Christmas.

It didn’t take too long to find the perfect tree. It was huge and had branches that fell all the way to the ground. Maybe she should have brought a saw instead. Pippa hefted her ax and looked up at the tree. She swung it and swung and the tree slowly toppled over, away from her and Marquees.

Pippa blew out and patted Marquees on the rump. “Ohkay, now to rope this tree up,” she said. She managed a harness of sorts out of rope and tied the tree to the back of Marquees, wrapping the tree in rope too so she wouldn’t lose any branches.

Pippa bit her lip and looked at the place where the tree was. Vesper had told her that part of their job as magicians was to take care of the land. She couldn’t just cut down a tree and leave a stump. Pippa rubbed her hands together, held them over where the stump was, and closed her eyes, reaching for her magic.

When she opened them, a tiny pine tree stood where the former huge pine tree was. It was little more than stick with a few needles, but it was a pine tree. Pippa knelt down and grinned. “I did it!” she said and carefully patted the pine tree. “You take care now!” she said to it and with a tiny bit more magic made sure the tree would be nice and healthy.

She stood up and laughed. “I grew a pine tree!”

Marquees didn’t seem all that impressed. Pippa would have to tell Marbel. He’d be proud of her for remembering.

Pippa mounted Marquees and they lumbered off. Soon, Pippa could tell what Vesper meant. The tree was big and heavy and Marquees couldn’t manage more than a trot. She didn’t want to think what it would take a normal horse. Why Marbel would be getting so tired, they’d have to rest two to three times as often as Marquees did.

“Now that is what I call a Christmas tree!” Vesper said.

“And I planted a new one.”

“Good work!” Vesper said. “I didn’t even have to remind you!”

Between them, Vesper and Pippa managed to get the tree stand in place and then wrestle the huge tree into it. They undid the rope and checked all the branches.

“Yes, that’s a fine looking tree!” Vesper said. “Now, the first things that need to go on our tree are lights. They’re in the warehouse.”

Pippa groaned. “Can’t we use our Christmas magic?”

“Nope. This tree has to be the old fashioned way. It’s traditional or something.”

Pippa grimaced but went and fetched the lights. Of course, they were all tangled. She and Vesper spent over an hour tying one end to the horse and carefully stretching the lights out into long rows from one end of the street to the other. Marquees was more patient than Marbel and Pippa was glad to have her. She’d never hear the end of this with Marbel.

Well, of course because it was Candy Cane Lane, the Christmas tree lights were done in alternating spirals of red and blue white. And there were thousands of them to cover the tree and each line had to be checked.

But they ended up going around and around and around the Christmas tree. And Pippa had to squeal as they were turned on.

Vesper stepped back and crossed her arms, smiling in appreciation.

“Next! Christmas balls. Red, white, and tartan!” Vesper said.

Of course, the red balls were the biggest and they just weren’t red. They had a large black stripe in the middle like a belt and over the ‘belt’ was a large square of silver sequins with the middle cut out to be a ‘buckle.’ These were to form the biggest part of “bead swags” on the tree. To either side of them went white balls. Smaller still were balls of red and black buffalo check like Vesper’s shirt and hat. Then there were plain red balls to make the “apex” of the swags. Over and under the balls went rope lights in red and yellow-white.

But they weren’t done.

There were candy cane shaped ornaments and ones that looked like peppermint swirls in their wrappers to go on the tree next. Then at the top went a five pointed star made of lights that also looked like candy canes and peppermint swirls. The hooks of the candy canes made a flower pattern in the middle. And there were bigger lights where each of the candy canes met.

Good golly. That had been a lot of work.

Pippa stepped back from the tree. It looked amazing!

“You ready for more?”

“There’s more?”

Vesper had the gall to laugh at her. “We can do more tomorrow. But now you know how to make the trees. There are X amount of trees you can put up all over the district and earn coupons for. Here, take these seeds. They’re magical Christmas tree seeds. They’ll get you started. You can plant them on your farm to grow all the trees you need. As you cut them down, they’ll drop more seeds!”

Pippa made it a note to check her Christmas Achievement list.

Vesper took pity on her. “You look tuckered out. Hey, I hear that the lady is making cookies up at the castle. Maybe you can go see the cook and sneak some away.”

“Oh, thanks Vesper!” There, that was the perfect opportunity to see if the cook had any Christmas recipes.

“And it’s hot cocoa season!” Vesper said.

“I’ll see you later.”

“Yep, still lots to do. But we’re getting there!” Vesper said.

Pippa waved, mounted Marquees, and rode away humming “Santa Claus is Coming to Town.”

X–to be determined later to make sure coupons stay balanced

12 Days of Christmas: Gimme that Cheer (Day 6)

12 Days of Christmas: Gimme that Cheer (Day 6)

It was a lot of work and riding, and there were plenty of trees to decorate on the way! She went to the four cardinal corners of the district and ended up collecting four red items, a red cardinal feather, a cranberry, a holly berry, and a poinsettia.  She found a white pine needle, cypress tree oil, and fir sap. She soon understood why she needed a white pine needle when she saw the other trees. Their needles wouldn’t work as needles at all!

She went to her favorite clearing to try and lure in some rabbits. It took a few tries before she got angora rabbits. She used her calm animal spell and well, the rabbits were very understanding and helpful. Their poor babies were overheating they had so much wool. They were so pleased when Pippa clipped them down to a more reasonable fur length, they even cuddled up to her afterwards. Pippa made sure to keep the baby angora down separate from the adult angora down, as the adults were in need of a trim too before they started pulling their own hair out!

If she’d had room at the farm, she might have taken the entire family home! They were just that adorable.

She brushed snow off her coat as she sat up. She looked at Marbel. “Ready?” she asked.

He whickered at her and rolled his eyes.

She waved at the rabbits who were hopping away and mounted Marbel. They trotted towards an entrance to the Mirror World. They stopped on the other side so Pippa could take off her coat.

“Oh, to be warm!” Pippa groaned.

Marbel rolled his eyes. “And yesterday you wanted snow!”

“I hadn’t been out in it all day yesterday!” Pippa retorted.

Marbel sniffed and made huge eyes at her. “Those apples smell wonderful.”

“They’re for the yule sheep!” Pippa said.

“If I don’t taste one, how will you know they’re good for the Yule sheep?”

“Marbel!” Pippa frowned at him.

He made bigger eyes.

“Oh, fine, ONE!” Pippa said and pulled a Christmas apple out.

Marbel took it and munched on it, making horrible noises of contentment and happiness. Pippa sighed. She knew they’d been fine!

Marbel seemed to know where everything was. When he finished his apple, he trotted deeper into the mirror world. Pippa gasped as they came to the top of a hill and looked into a valley below. It was full of Yule sheep. And Yule sheep weren’t like ordinary sheep at all. Their fur was like silver, it gleamed and sparkled in the sun. And they had red or green faces and legs! The horns of the rams gleamed like bronze and they seemed very over protective of their flock. The flock was huge, full of sedate ewes and lambs that jumped up and down.

Pippa giggled thinking of the goats she’d helped decorate. She reached into her back and took out an apple. Now, she just needed to lure some of the sheep through, there, some bushes with prickers on them! Pippa carefully rolled the apple near some of the sheep. And the baker was right, they couldn’t resist the apples at all. She led them through the pricker bushes and back out again, being careful not to get too close. And soon the sheep were back in the field, munching on grass and the rest of the apples, and she could go and get the bundles of fleece off the bushes.

It sparkled in her hands and she marveled at it as she put the clumps in her bag. It was so beautiful!

“Now, to Wodan.” Pippa frowned. “Oh, he’s probably off chasing elves, How are we going to find him this time?”

“Ho, ho, ho!” Marbel said. “He found you!”

Pippa’s eyes widened as she turned and looked. Yes, the procession of spirits was coming down out of the sky, Wodan and Holda in the lead.

“Been feeding my sheep!” Wodan bellowed at her, but he grinned behind his beard.

“They seem to like apples!” Pippa said in a teasing tone. “And I had special Christmas caramel apples!”

Holda laughed.

Wodan pouted. “And you didn’t save one for me.”

“Well, I thought you’d prefer cookies,” Pippa teased.

Holda laughed harder. “He does! He does!”

Pippa nudged Marbel and the two went to meet Wodan and Holda. “Any luck with the elves?” She asked.

“Not yet,” Wodan grumbled.

“I am glad to see you!” Pippa said. “I’ve been told by an authority that I need lumps of Christmas coal to make a pine needle for your outfit. And I was wondering if I could look in the past naughty and nice book to see who had received Christmas coal.”

Wodan faked a frown. “Well.”

“It’s not top secret,” Holda told him. “Do you want a new outfit or not? This will be faster for Pippa than having to ask everyone in the district! And who would want to admit to being naughty?”

Wodan grumbled. “Still, it sets a bad precedent.”

“I’ll bring you cookies,” Pippa promised.

“See,” Wodan smiled. “That is my type of girl. I’ll let you look at my books and you bring me cookies.”

Holda sighed. “He would have let you look anyways.”

Pippa wrinkled her nose. “This gives me an excuse to look for Christmas cookie recipes and earn Christmas coupons.”

Holda laughed.

Wodan put a finger next to his nose and wriggled it. A sack popped into existence. “There it is!” he said. He reached into the sack and pulled out a stack of books. “Naughty and Nice,” he rumbled. But then he frowned. “Huh.”

“Huh?” both Pippa and Holda asked.

Wodan set the books down and stuck his hand back into the sack, fishing around. “It should be in here,” he mumbled.

Pippa and Holda looked at each other. Holda seemed alarmed. Pippa was just confused.

Wodan’s frown turned into an outright scowl. He stood up and put his fists on his hips. “It’s gone!” he said. And before either Pippa or Holda could ask. “This year’s Naughty and Nice book is missing!”

Now, both Pippa and Holda were alarmed.

“No. That can’t be!” Holda said.

“It is!” Wodan told her.

“We’re going to have to find it,” Pippa said.

Wodan narrowed his eyes. “Yes. Yes. We are. Just another thing to do before Christmas!” He shook his head. “All right, here is the last few years of naughty and nice,” he said. “I’ll have to do some questioning before we look for this year’s book. Whoever took it is going permanently on the naughty list!” he raised his voice into a yell.

Pippa slapped a hand over her mouth. That wasn’t good. That wasn’t good at all!

Pippa flipped through the books and took notes of names. She would have to go and ask all of them, very discreetly of course, if they had Christmas coal. And, she hoped to encourage them to try and be nice this year. There was only so much time before Christmas!

She thanked Wodan for his help in a round about way that didn’t outright say thank you. He just laughed.

“Remember, tomorrow you bring me cookies! And I should have information about the naughty and nice book. Who knows? Maybe you can meet the reindeer and my horse!”

Marbel could barely contain his sarcasm. “Oh joy.”

“Marbel!” Pippa hissed. “I would love to meet them all.” She smiled at Wodan. “See you tomorrow.”

Her horse sighed. “Just. You. Wait,” he said.

“They can’t be that bad.”

Marbel snorted.

Pippa went around and asked those on her list if they had Christmas coal. Most of them were more than happy to give it to her. They knew it had special properties and didn’t want to just get rid of it. But they didn’t want to keep it either. It could be bad luck! Pippa assured them that she would take it and she would tell no one that they had it. They were extremely grateful.

Pippa was ready to return to the tailor and the blacksmith. They were both happy with her finds and told her, predictably, to return tomorrow. Pippa checked in with Vesper.

“Sounds like you’ve had a busy day!” Vesper said. “Here are your coupons,” she said and passed them over with a wink.

“Thanks! See you tomorrow!” Pippa told her.

Vesper grinned. “Tomorrow!”

Pippa yawned.

Marbel yawned too.

“I’m hungry and tired.”

Marbel snorted.

“You had a snack!” Pippa told him, tartly.

Marbel huffed a laugh and they headed back to Magpie Field and to bed.

12 Days of Christmas: Wrapped in Red (Day 5)

12 Days of Christmas: Wrapped in Red (Day 5)

Pippa opened up her journal to where she’d stuck the instructions. Her eyes tickled and the page swam until it formed a picture of Santa’s traditional red outfit. Pippa rubbed her eyes. There was a list of items she was going to need and she didn’t have any of them. Pippa sighed. She needed to track down the tailor. Maybe they’d know more about what was going on. Holda had said not to lose the instructions, not that she couldn’t ask advice on where to find the items on the list.

Pippa headed towards the tailor guild.

The head tailor was more than happy to see her. Pippa carefully explained the items she needed. The tailor frowned. “Those are some very odd items. What are you making again?”

“I didn’t say. It’s a very special outfit.”

The tailor’s lips moved back and forth. “You didn’t say. Of course you didn’t say. A special outfit isn’t very specific. A pine needle, cardinal dye, yule wool, baby angora down?” She sighed. “All of this is very hard to get and all just in season so I don’t have any in stock yet.”

“What am I to do then?” Pippa asked. “This is very important!”

“Do, Do! You’ll have to collect it yourself. Talk to the blacksmith about the pine needle. To collect cardinal dye, you’ll have to go to the 4 cardinal directions of the district and bring back what you find there. Yule wool? Well, you’ll have to go collect it. Yule wool doesn’t come any ordinary sheep. It comes from yule sheep. And they don’t let anyone near them.”

Pippa wanted to frown. If the sheep didn’t let anyone near them, how was she to get their wool? Oh, she’d figure it out.

“And baby angora down? Baby? That’s special. That’s so special, I can’t think of anyone with baby angoras right now.” The tailor tapped her foot.

“Do angoras live in the wild?” Pippa asked.

“Some do. Very well, you’ll have to go collect some wild angoras.” The tailor nodded. “I don’t know what the rest of your list has to do with anything, dried popping corn, chestnuts, fresh snow, mint leaves.” She waved her hands. “That doesn’t have anything to do with tailoring that I know of.”

“I’ll figure it out,” Pippa said. “Thank you for your help!”  Pippa beamed at her.

She went back to Vesper.

“Catch wild angoras?” Vesper asked. “Better talk to the vet. He’ll know what they like. Once you lure them, you can use your calm animal spell.”

“Thanks Vesper!” Pippa said. “I better hurry before it gets dark.”

The blacksmith was fortunately near the vets. She huffed. “A pine needle? A pine needle?”

“Yes, a pine needle,” Pippa said.

“I don’t know what you need one of those for. They’re a specialty item, hard to make, very magical and you can only use them once!”

“I need one,” Pippa said. “Can you show you me how to me make it?”

“All right, all right, but you’re going to need special ingredients. A needle from a white pine tree, cypress tree oil, fir tree sap, a bucket of feather ice, and lumps of Christmas coal.”

“That’s a lot of items!” Pippa said, typing quickly into her phone. It was a good thing she was going out into the forest to find angora rabbits! She frowned as she finished typing in lumps of Christmas coal. “What are lumps of Christmas coal?” she asked.

“Why the coal that Santa leaves to bad children!” the blacksmith said.

Pippa’s eyes widened. “How am I to get any of that?”

“You’re going to have to ask around,” the blacksmith told her.

Pippa bit her lip. Maybe Wodan would know who he’d given Christmas coal to in the past. It would be in his naughty and nice book, correct? She could go ask him. She made a note of that. “Okay, I’ll get right on it,” she told the blacksmith.

Then it was onto the vet.

“Baby angora wool? At this time of year?” The vet seemed confused. “Well, angoras like alfalfa and timothy hay. It may take a few tries to get the right type of rabbit though.”

“I’ll have patience. This is important.”

“Here, take these shears to clip the angoras with,” the vet said, handing her a small set of sheers. “You don’t want to hurt them!”

“Do you know anything about Yule Sheep?”

“Yule sheep? Who told you about Yule sheep?” The vet lowered his voice. “Those don’t live on this side of the world,” he said. “Those are Santa’s sheep and live in the Mirror World. They’re nasty too. Don’t let anyone but Santa and his sooties touch them.”

“Oh no,” Pippa groaned. “Then, how am I to get their wool?”

The vet’s face lit up and his eyes twinkled in mischief. “I hear though they like candy apples. Maybe if you make some candy apples, you can lead them through some rushes and get the wool you need that way.”

“Oh, that’s brilliant!” Pippa said. “I’ll get on it right away. Thank you!”

Pippa looked at her list. So, before she went off into the forest, she was going to need to get some timothy hay and alfalfa mix. That was fine. She had that at the farm. She was also going to have to make some candy apples. She didn’t know if she had the recipe. But she knew who to ask, the head baker!

With a wave and a round of thanks to the vet, Pippa was on her way to the baker.

The baker widened his eyes. “Candy apples for Yule Sheep! Well, you’re going to need my special Christmas candy apple recipe. No ordinary harvest caramel apple is going to lure those sheep away from their feeding.” He rummaged around. “Ah hah! My special Christmas candy apples with candy cane sticks, peppermint flakes, and white chocolate!” He waved the recipe around. “No yule sheep will be able to resist these!”

Pippa giggled. “Or any horse for that matter.”

“Yes, do keep Marbel from poaching,” the baker muttered. “These are for the yule sheep. Here, I’ll make you a copy of the recipes that you’ll need to make them!” He made copies of the candy cane recipe and the candy apple apple recipe. (White chocolate, caramel she probably already has in her recipe book.)

“Thank you!”

“There will be lots of recipes available for the season. So, keep your eyes open!” the baker told her. “Collect enough of them, and there will be coupons in it for you.”

Pippa widened her eyes. “Then, I’ll definitely be on the lookout.” She tucked the recipes away in her journal and made a note that she’d gotten it on her new Christmas Achievement list that Vesper had texted her. She waved to the baker and set off for her farm, Magpie Field.

On the way, she used her new Christmas spell to put lights on the trees along the road, giggling as she did. It was so much fun. After she’d done ten, her phone pinged to tell her that Vesper had a coupon for her! Well, there wasn’t much point in going back to Vesper for one coupon. Not when Pippa had so much to do. She kept decorating trees and tried not to bounce as her phone pinged every time she decorated ten trees.

At the farm, she collected timothy hay and alfalfa from her stores. She always kept it on hand for her own rabbits. She went into her kitchen and set to work making Christmas candy apples. She made candy canes and ended up having to smash half of them for her candy bits. She made white chocolate and caramel. And then mixed the crushed candy cane bits into the white chocolate. She dipped apples into the caramel, then the white chocolate, stuck whole candy canes in them and then drizzled white chocolate tinted red over it in swirls over it, and then while the red chocolate was still tacky she tapped red crystal sugar on it to make the red swirls look like tinsel. There, no Yule sheep was going to be able to resist those!

Pippa giggled, put everything she was going to need into her saddle bags, saddled up Marbel, and hit the road.

12 Days of Christmas: Candy Cane Lane (Day 4)

12 Days of Christmas: Candy Cane Lane (Day 4)

Week One: Santa Claus is Coming to Town!!!

Pippa dashed around Astranar to talk to all the mentors and the Princess and Prince. Everyone had new outfits. Kitty wore an adorable orange and brown gingerbread kimono and carried a lollipop. Viva wore an angel pant suit decorated with stars and a tinsel crown. Marbel put his hoof down when Pippa told Viva she thought he’d look great in one. (Turns out tinsel crowns were available at the shop but Marbel wouldn’t hear of buying one.) Len was dressed like an elf with a vest and bells that jingled. Minnie wore a snow flake themed blue and white tin soldier suit with hat. Lottie wore a pink cardinal themed drindle with pine trees embroidered on her apron. Izzy was dressed up as a pale purple ballerina complete with lots of sequins and pointe shoes. The twins at the Castle were sand “snowmen” and instead of coal for buttons they had shells. On their belts they had star fish.

But in the end Pippa felt loyal to Vesper and went back to the Ruby district to help with Candy Cane Lane.

Vesper grinned at her. “All right! Let’s rock this Christmas out!” She then leaned on her candy cane-cane. “The most important thing we’ve got to do this week is prepare the main drag for Santa’s arrival. Oh, no, no, no, not every village. That would be a lot.” Vesper paused. “Santa comes to the biggest village or town in each district. But, I know every town wants to get their Christmas on.” She tilted her hat down and smiled. “So, we have some special Christmas magic spells to make it easier. Here, just for the season.”

Vesper gave Pippa a bunch of Christmas spells in their own special book.

“Now, they can’t be used everywhere,” Vesper said. “But they’ll speed things up quite a bit.” She put a finger next to her nose and winked. “I’m sure you’ll have no problem being a magic user of Harmony and all. They’re very basic spells!”

Pippa looked at the spells. There were spells to make things bigger. Spells for little fairy lights. And spells for making different colored Christmas balls. And spells for stringing different garlands; beads, tinsel, ever green, holly, berries, and ribbon. Spells for icicles. Spells for snowman forms.

“Some things though,” Vesper said. “We have to do the hard way. Right. One more thing before we get started. Christmas Achievements! Remember, you do so many Christmas Achievements like decorating trees and such, come back to me, and I’ll give you Christmas Coupons to turn in for items of your choosing out of the coupon store. If you save all the coupons, you can get an awesome light display for your farm. Santa is in charge of this season’s coupon store, once he arrives. Don’t worry, these achievements reset every Christmas! Complete all the achievements and you’ll have decorated the entire district! You’ll also get Christmas Coupons through quests. Are you ready?”

“I’ve been ready. Will you just get on with it?” Pippa asked.

“Enthusiasm,” Vesper said in a deadpan voice. “Okay, first things first. We need to put up the lights on Santa’s parade route! Meet you at the village!” Vesper shouted, mounted her horse, and raced away.

Pippa stomped her foot. “Oh! No fair!” she shouted after Vesper. She mounted up on Marbel. “We’ll just have to catch her.”

Marbel snorted, trotted over to the nearest train station and got on. Pippa giggled and gave the destination for the village. Marbel could be so smart.

Turns out Vesper just raced away for show. She was still there before them, but she also came out of a train station. Vesper pretended to pout when she saw them. One good teasing opportunity ruined.

Vesper showed Pippa the route. “Every year, Santa comes down this boulevard and to the square in front of the castle,” she said. “So, we need the hanging lights. They’re all in storage. The mayor no doubt has the key.”

Pippa went to see the mayor for the key.

Of course, the key was missing. He mumbled something about loaning it to someone to borrow decorations for a children’s event sometime during the summer. Pippa struggled not to roll her eyes. He gave her a few clues and sent her looking. It would be so much easier if the people who were supposed to have things, would have them. But once she had that key, she should have full access to all the decorations!

Well, the person did have the key. Returning it to the mayor had just slipped their minds and all. Pippa wasn’t sure how. And could Pippa do them one little favor as they went and retrieved the key.  Pippa knew she was too nice when she said yes, that’s how she ended up tracking down a goat the lady wanted to decorate for Christmas. It turned out there wasn’t ONE goat, there were half a dozen! Pippa didn’t know which goat the person actually wanted and returned with all of them.

The person was delighted. They took the goats in exchange for the key and Pippa thought that would be the end of the matter.

But no, before Pippa was allowed to head off, she needed to help put ribbons on the goats. Once the goats had ribbons on them, Pippa waved and left, happy to have the key so she could get the lights to start setting up the boulevard for Christmas!

The warehouse was stuffed full of Christmas decorations and Pippa got a sick feeling in her stomach. Just what had she signed up for? She found the hanging lights that Vesper had described and headed back to the street.

The be-ribboned goats were bouncing about everywhere. No one seemed to mind. Vesper thought it was hysterical.

Pippa was beginning to wonder if the magic of Astranar made people crazy.

Vesper told her where to hang the lights. They were really rather pretty, clear domed glass with cut outs to make them seem like snowflakes or fancy umbrellas. Glass balls in red and white hung down with little fairy lights and crystals. They were clamped around the street lamps. Once they were finished, the same street lamps needed to be decorated to become candy canes.

Vesper gave her several directions at once. The street lamps needed to be turned into candy canes, which required ribbon and tinsel. The trees along the route needed to be decorated with lights, which could be done with her new Christmas magic spells. And then, they needed to put up the candy cane arch just in front of the square!

Pippa got to work. And it was fun!

When she was finished with everything. Vesper had another job for her. It was time to put out the candy cane lights and turn the place into a real candy cane lane. The candy cane lights were wire frames bent into candy canes, they were covered in tinsel and lights so they’d look like candy canes both day and night. There were also huge red ribbons bows to put on them, ribbons with black centers and silver buckles and white fur at the ends of the bows. It was a lot of work to put them up. First the bows had to be added, then the candy canes put in place, and lastly the lights connected to power.

Vesper made a rock on symbol. “All right, Pippa! That looks great. Tomorrow, we can start on the Christmas tree! Oh, before I forget. You’re going to need your heavy draft horse if you have one. If you don’t, don’t worry too much. But getting the tree will be easier with your heavy draft! See you tomorrow, Pippa!”

Pippa giggled and waved at her. She needed to get started on Santa’s outfit.

12 Days of Christmas: Christmas Time is Here (Day 3)

12 Days of Christmas: Christmas Time is Here (Day 3)

Once they were in the normal world, Pippa sent a text to the headmistress of the school. Christmas was in danger! Santa needed their help to save Christmas. Headmistress Thyme sent a text in reply. Pippa was to report to the nearest mentor.

Pippa put her phone away and first went back to Holda. Jack and the little girl were gone. Holda paced back and forth in the snow.

“Mrs. Holda, Santa says that he’ll do Christmas if I repair his suit and prepare for his arrival,” Pippa said. “He said you’d know how to make a new suit. And he needs your help to hunt down the elves that are supposed to be making toys and aren’t.”

Holda smiled broadly at her. “Hah. So he saw reason.” She nodded. “I’ll give you the instructions on how to make his suit. Follow them carefully,” she said and waved her hand. “And don’t let anyone else see them. They’ll disappear once you’re done and the suit is safely delivered to Wodan.”

Pippa accepted the instructions with care. She put them in her sewing journal. “I’ll be careful.”

Holda put up a hand. “Don’t thank the old ones, child,” she said. “We might call upon the favor one day.”

She nodded rapidly.

Holda mounted her horse and galloped away, fading from sight.

Pippa tucked the journal away in her saddlebag. “To Vesper, Marbel,” she said. He nodded. They rode towards the Ruby District Camp.

Vesper greeted them by waving a long candy cane cane! She was in an entirely new outfit. Over her short black hair she had a red and black buffalo check trilby with a black ribbon and big silver buckle on it with a spray of candy canes. She had a circular white leather chest piece with a mint swirl candy on it that buckled with red belts over a white leather half jacket with a fur cuff and red trimmings. Her shirt that they could see was a red and black check and black cuffs. She wore a red kilt with a thick black belt and silver buckle. Her boots were white with red straps and instead of buckles, had more fake peppermint swirl candies!

She smiled at Pippa. “Welcome to Candy Cane Lane!” she said. She winked at Pippa. “I love Christmas!” Then put her finger over her lips. “But shh, it’s a secret!”

Pippa giggled. “I won’t tell a soul.”

Vesper grinned. “Here in Astranar, we go all out for Christmas.  Every district has a theme. You can choose to help one district set up for Christmas. I’ve uploaded all the information into your phone. The districts you choose not to help will be decorated automatically.”

She leaned on her candy cane, well, cane. “Let me run down them quickly. Here in the Ruby District, we have a rockin’ peppermint Christmas. Santa’s house is set up here and we decorate in red, white, and with plenty of buffalo check. In the Sphalerite District, Kitty is setting up Gingerbread Junction. They have a gingerbread town complete with a train, and decorate in orange, brown, and gold with lots of icing and candy.

“In the Citrine District, Viva is ready to make sweet music with her Angels on High theme! Angels, musical instruments, and stars make the Citrine District’s Christmas out of this world. They decorate in gold of course! In the Emerald District, Len needs your help with her Elven Holly Jolly. Santa’s workshop is there and elves don’t like to work if they can play! They decorate with holly, bells and, of course, lots of elves, and green and silver are the colors of the season.

“In the Sapphire District, Minnie is putting on the Nutcracker Parade. It’s toyland time. Ladies are dancing, lords are leaping, carolers are singing, and the toys are out in force while the snowflakes float down. Sapphire decorates in blue, white, and silver. In the Morganite District, Lottie needs help with her Woodland Christmas. All the woodland creatures have come out with acorns, pine cones, and berries to make the season special. She decorates with pink, white, gold, and brown.

“In the Amethyst District, Izzy is in a tizzy to get going on the Sugar Plum Fairy theme. She’s turning the area into the land of sweets. Cakes, ice cream, popsicles, macarons, and of course, sugar plums, that is. Of course, it is purple, gold, and white. With Izzy, could it be anything else? And last, but not least, the capitol is putting on a Coastal Christmas! Sand castles, star fish, seagulls, and everything associated with the coast is going up in the capitol. The colors are aqua and cream. There, you would talk with the Princess and Prince!”

Pippa didn’t know where she should go. It all sounded so exciting!

Vesper smiled knowingly. “Can’t make up your mind? Go and talk with all of them. See what they have to show you for their Christmas decorations! All the quests are the same in each district and depending on which district you help, you’ll get a special outfit in that district’s colors. Once you decide, you can’t change your mind. So choose wisely!” Vesper twirled her cane and tugged on her hat. “I’ll wait here for your decision, Pippa! Or, you can go to the nearest mentor and tell them your decision.”

Pippa beamed at her. “Thank you, Vesper. I will!” she said and trotted away. First, she needed to look through the information Vesper had given her. There were so many choices. She put Marbel in a stall with a bucket of water and a good brushing. “I’ll be back soon,” she said. “I just want a cocoa to warm up!”

Marbel nuzzled her in complete understanding.

Pippa skipped to the camp’s cafeteria. Although she wasn’t technically a full time camper anymore, she could still use their kitchen. She got a mug of cocoa and sat down at the table to look through the information Vesper put on her phone. She almost squealed in delight. There were pictures of the special parts of the decorations with a girl modeling the outfit they could earn and a horse showing off the gear.

There were also special Christmas recipes to make and Christmas decorations to produce. There were even some special clothes and gear to sew. Also, there was a new app on her phone, an advent calendar! Every day until Christmas, she’d get something special.

Pippa sipped her cocoa and browsed through all the information several times. She still couldn’t make up her mind. Candy Cane Lane? Gingerbread Junction? Woodland Christmas? Sugar Plum Fairy? She was going to have to go visit all of them.  Thank goodness for the train stations!

Ruby District, Watch Your Step!

Ruby District, Watch Your Step!

We keep mentioning our wonderful districts, so now we’re going to start introducing them. Astranar has eight districts, each with their own individual flare, and they can be quite competitive with each other. In Astranar, the districts are named after gemstones. This week, we’ll be discussing Ruby, where Earth magic reigns supreme.


Known for their rolling hills and gorges, Ruby is the heart of Astranar–not quite literally, but it is in the center of the country and shares a border with just about everyone else. Creating it, Ginny was inspired by her childhood home of Upstate New York. The further north you get, closer to the Whistleback Mountains, the more the district resembles the Catskills (though Ginny will make the argument that they are still hills, just really steep ones. I’m from Oklahoma, I don’t have a horse in this race). Whereas the further south you go, the hills are still there, just less dramatic and more reminiscent of the Finger Lakes region. Those gorges are home to picturesque waterfalls that feed the rivers and lakes, watering the tall trees that cover the hills…at least, those that haven’t been “civilized” yet.

It is a favorite place for farmers and ranchers because of the plentiful graze, even if sometimes the sheep wonder off and have to be chased down. Dairy cows also make an appearance, and some vineyards. With all the plentiful supplies, it’s no wonder that craftspeople enjoy the district as well. The local nobility leaves… some… okay, a lot… to be desired, but we can deal with that right…? Well, hopefully. It’s just one count, how bad can it be? The other local lords are more farmers and landlords than real nobility, so they have the farm sense they were born with….right?! Maybe the fact the fashion has a noted punk/rebel edge isn’t a coincidence after all…


Alright, I’ll get to what you actually care about. Possibly because of all the ranches, maybe just because they are quirky, but either way, Ruby is the solace for Western riders in Astranar. Barrel racing, pole bending, shalom, and pony games, there is a wide variety to try, though some will be limited to you owning a pony in addition to your default magical horse. (Don’t at me, there’s a quest to earn you the necessary credits, or at least the majority of them if you are picky on color.)

Ruby is home to Chincoteague ponies in all varieties of coats that they come in. Not to worry if you went to another district first so your default horse is geared more towards another style of riding either, because the Chincoteague isn’t alone in Ruby. American Quarter Horses (which you can turn into American Paints with a few extra credits to add markings) and Tennessee Walking horses are also available for purchase, although because they are considered “extra” horses, purchasing of the initial game license doesn’t earn you credits towards them.


Earth magic resonates with Do on the solfege scale. It is the base, the anchor that holds you safely down. Those who resonate with Earth are down-to-earth personalities that value security and order, and they are very intense about getting it. They are very efficient, and a good person to have in your corner. On the small scale, Earth magic can speed up plant growth and making tilling the fields neatly easier. On the large scale, it can raise or lower the earth itself or effect magnetism. Of course, if you don’t stay in control of it, you could also cause a mudslide, which is not only dangerous, but is going to have a number of people mad at you for property damage.

If you following Ginny’s twitter blog, you’ll know that all of the districts, including Ruby, have their own little specialties and symbols. I won’t bore you with all of them, and I want you to get to enjoy finding them out on your own! (The name is one giant clue to one of them, fyi.) I will mention that the Ruby mentors depend on which side you choose. If you go with the Light, you will look to Vesper Leilament (profile pending), and if you go with the Shadow, you have options: Vanessa Ribbonmelody (profile pending) and Vivian Streetbeats (profile pending).

Want those profiles to come sooner? Consider buying us a ko-fi.