Tomorrow is the first day of Yule, so I thought I’d share a little from the only Yule story I have. Going through my folders to find my files, I realised 24 Dates that was released earlier this month, is the second holiday story I’ve written with an advent calendar.
I should’ve thought of that earlier since I posted Eight Feet of Magic as an advent calendar on my Facebook page last year – one part of the story every day. If you hop on over there and search for Eight Feet of Magic you can read it from beginning to end. Each post has a picture cut out from the cover with a number on it, so it should be easy to find the right order.
I love Eight Feet of Magic. It’s one those stories I wrote more for my sake than with an intended reader in mind. I missed the northern lights (I still miss the northern lights), so I wrote a story with a balloon ship going to the Arctic Circle in December – a good chance of northern lights then.
When the northern lights are painting the sky, the old gods are building a bridge from the Earth to the heavens. The Norsemen believed it dangerous not to show respect for the light.
“Hank. Come on, dear, you have to see this.”
Hank flew up into sitting position on the bed. Steel was leaning over him, soot smeared on his cheek and an oil lamp in his hand. His long black hair fell in a tangled mess down his shoulders, and his eyes glowed.
“What is it? Are we crashing?”
Steel snorted, and Hank was on his feet before he could pull in his next breath. It wasn’t until he was standing in his socks on the cold hardwood floor he realised the ship was sailing smoothly. “Is the storm over?”
“Of course. Storms always pass.”
Hank nodded, his heart doing a double beat when Steel grinned at him.
“Where are we going?”
“It’s part of the magic.”
Hank put on his shoes and followed Steel, wondering for how long he’d been sleeping. Outside the air was crisp, a shiver overtook his body, and he wished he’d put on the god-awful wine-red coat.
“Look.” Steel came to stand close enough to touch. He pointed at the dark sky, and Hank noted a green light clinging to the night. It was eerily beautiful, but it had to be some kind of accident or something creating the light.
“What is it?”
“Aurora Borealis. Have you never seen it before?”
“It does appear in London…on occasion…I think.” He frowned. “Maybe.”
Hank shook his head. He’d never seen anything like it.
“It’s much more common here by the arctic circle, of course. It’s northern lights.”
“Aurora, like the boat?”
“Boat?” Steel threw his hands in the air, then he linked his arm with Hank’s and leaned against him. “Yes, like the boat. She’s a fine airship, though, not a boat.”
“I’ll try to remember that.”
They silently watched the northern lights. Hank shivered from the cold but didn’t want to leave his place by the railing. “Are we close?”
“To Rovaniemi? I don’t know.” Steel kept his gaze at the green sky, unaware of the apprehension sweeping through Hank’s body.
“You don’t know?” He tried to keep his voice even, but since Steel turned to watch him with raised eyebrows, he must’ve failed.
“The equipment went a bit—” He spun his forefinger in the air. “And I might have forgotten where we were on the map, but the storm brought us closer fast.”
Hank forced in a calming breath. “How much extra coal did you bring?”
Steel shrugged. “None.”
“It’ll be all right. Stop fretting.”
“But what if we run out? What if we crash? We’re in the middle of nowhere!”
Steel stared at him for a second. “We’re not. We’re somewhere above Denmark, best case scenario Sweden, worst Germany. It’s really not that big of a deal.”
“Not a big deal!”
Demetrius came stumbling out on deck. “Keep your voices down.” His hiss made the words in Hank’s mouth die. “You’re disturbing the dead.”
“Disturbing the dead?” Hank stared at Steel and then at Demetrius. Both of them had lost their minds.
“The northern lights. It’s the spirits of the dead playing ball with a walrus skull.”
“It is, or it might be the gods building a bridge between the Earth and the heavens. Either way, you’ll show respect.”
Hank opened his mouth to speak, but Demetrius turned to Steel before he could. “I take it this means we’re getting close.”
“It does.” Steel touched his hat but continued to gaze at the sky.
“Good. I want one of you on deck at all times. As soon as you see the Yule Father you come and get me.”
“That’s ridiculous. Dad, even you have to realise—”
“He has a long beard, wears a slouch hat, and rides an eight-legged horse.”
“No, Dad. There are no eight-legged—”
“Shut up. I’ve paid for this; I say how it’s supposed to be.”
Hank filled his lungs to protest, but Steel interrupted. “We’ll do as you wish, but as I said when you hired me, there are no guarantees.”
Hank turned and left; he’d had enough of this nonsense.
There is still magic to be found. Even in the bleakest of places.
Hank Goodenough has spent his entire life in the smoggy streets of London trying to keep his head down and not to get noticed. Not an easy feat when you’re the tallest one in the room and have a brass funnel protruding from your head. When he finds himself laid off work once again, his dad wants to drag him away on a crazy quest. Before he can figure out how to get out of it, he finds himself on a steam-driven airship in search of Odin, the old Norse God and sharing a room with Captain Elazar Steel, a man strutting around on one high-heeled boot and one peg leg.
Steel doesn’t care that the winks, smiles, and small touches he and Hank share might get them hanged once they land on the ground again. He is determined to show Hank there is magic in the world and that there is no better place to be than on his balloon ship steering towards the Arctic Circle.