Yuletide Story – a sequel to Isoldessaga

Yulesaga

This festive story takes place two decades after Isolde had settled in Soomi.

In the month of Geola there are three major end-of-year celebrations, Saturnalia, Solstice-tide and the twelve days of Yule.

The most widely celebrated of all is Yule or Jul as it is known in the northern lands.

5th-December.-Christmas-joy-and-peace-snowscene

A chilly Tiwsday morning in Geola saw, Isolde Nylund, waiting with nervous anticipation in the Arrival Hall at Jyvaskyla Airdock, she had not seen her daughter for nearly two years and had yet to meet her grandson, Beorn. The info-screen still displayed its message; that all passengers had disembarked and were picking up their luggage, so Isolde stood impatiently in the bustling crowd while on the loudspeakers a festive song about a reindeer was followed by a syrupy ditty concerning the Yule Goat.

After what seemed like an eternity, people finally began to stream out and Isolde scrutinised the faces hurrying by, then, feeling a familiar vibration in her abdomen, smiled as she spotted her daughter among the throng.

Sirkku Maunosdottir, wrapped in winter clothes, walked up to her mother, holding a small child about a year old and towing a large case. “Hej, mami, are you pleased to see me?”

Isolde greeted her daughter warmly, hugging her tightly then looked at her grandson, who in turn regarded her curiously with large cornflower blue eyes. “Moi, Beorn, my lapsi I’m your mummo” she cooed. “Who’s my little kulta then?and he beamed at her. “Please, may I hold him, dottir?” she asked.

Sirkku passed her son to her and they strolled across the atrium. “Did you think I wouldn’t be pleased to see you then?” path’d Isolde as they walked past a large set piece of the Wild Hunt in all its gory glory.

“I wasn’t sure I would be welcome?” retorted Sirkku.

Isolde cast her mind back two years, if only I hadn’t invited him to our house!

She blamed herself for what had happened, remembering how the huscarl cohort had come over from Scartho in Aengland, as part of a goodwill mission to Elk base. When they visited the city, people had flocked to get a glimpse of the Novae, who were rumoured to be the result of accidental contamination during the Q-war.

Isolde, of course, knew the truth but couldn’t resist going to see them out of curiosity. They were all young men and women about her daughter’s age and she was reminded of Sirkku’s father Sev. Keeping well back lest they detect her, Isolde, saw that their officer was an older man with the rank of Bydel and she recognised him instantly. It was one of her fellow clones, G3V8a the last surviving male Alpha!

Taking a huge risk she path’d to him. “Veight?”

He started in surprise and looked about. “Who is that?

Isolde had slipped into the background by masking her resonation. “It’s Threevie!” she replied aloud letting her guard down.

Spotting her, he walked across and they hugged tenderly. “Hei, Threevie it’s been such a long time, you’re as lovely as I remember.”

“Thank you, Veight, but I’m Isolde Nylund now, I live outside the city.”

“I changed my name too, meet Rolf Kenward!” replied the huscarl with a smile.

“You were with Adonia Garcia, how is she?”

“We split up and she took our son with her. I don’t see him very often” he replied sadly.

Isolde looked admiringly at him, he was tall handsome and blue-eyed, just like Sev. Feeling something rising inside her, she told herself, nej I am Mau’s wife! But despite her misgivings she invited him home, introducing him first to her husband who shook his hand cautiously then to her daughter, Sirkku, who was more than impressed by the good-looking officer. Isolde had asked him to stay for dinner and they conversed long into the evening with her husband eyeing them suspiciously, Rolf had lost contact with the other clones shortly after they left the bunker, and although Isolde knew Elvene had gone to Purri they hadn’t kept in touch. For all Isolde knew she might no longer even live in Soomi.

He also brought news of telepaths being recruited into a group called the Psi Wing and Isolde had expressed her disapproval of the idea, thinking it could be dangerous and create a power base for the telepaths. With the hour being late, Isolde, insisted he stay overnight, so after Rolf checked in with the base, they all retired to bed. Once alone with Isolde in their bedroom, Mauno, had made it very clear he was unhappy with the handsome ex-colleague staying over. Isolde in turn informed him he was being unnecessarily jealous and that the Alpha represented no threat to their marriage. Nevertheless, Isolde slept fitfully and woke with lustful thoughts in her head and determined to suppress it, she rolled over, pulling up the covers.

But a part of her desired Rolf and finding it impossible to sleep, she slipped out of bed into the dark corridor to sneak quietly across the landing, past her daughter’s bedroom and stop at his door, what harm would it do? Reaching towards the handle she pulled herself up sharply, what are you doing you silly bicce, you love Mau don’t you? After wrestling with her conscience for a moment, Isolde made to move away then heard a familiar giggle coming from the other side of the door, it was followed by noises of a more intimate nature, and realising with alarm it was her daughter threw it wide open.

Sirkku shrieked, pulling the sheet up to cover her modesty and a naked Rolf jumped out of the bed. “Threevie…” he began.

With her infra-red vision she could clearly see their arousal. “You bahstard, how could you… with my daughter!”  Isolde path’d angrily before telekinetically throwing him hard against the ceiling to hold him there.

“Mami, please don’t hurt him, it’s not his fault I charmed him into it!” yelled Sirkku, bursting into tears.

“Is this true?” she asked Rolf.

“Some of it, Threevie, I’m sorry but she reminded me so much of you.”

Isolde looked angrily to her daughter sobbing in the bed to ask. “Koo, why?” Putting her head down, Sirkku gave no answer so she dropped Kenward heavily to the floor and as he got painfully to his feet growled. “Get dressed and get out of my house!”

“Mami, please!” sobbed Sirkku.

“What the…” Mauno, woken by the commotion, stood taking in the tableau, his wife stood in her night-shift, the naked soldier before her, his equally unclothed daughter crying in bed and understandably lost his temper. Isolde hadn’t used her charm on him since they first met but now did so to calm him down…

Isolde drove the shamefaced Kenward back to the base with a dire warning of what she would do if he tried to make contact again. Sirkku sulked for a week then after a vicious exchange with the Takala’s youngest son, Tuomas, stole his waegn and disappeared off to Jyvaskyla. The Ward found the abandoned vehicle at the airdock and informed the Nylunds that she had bought a flight to Aengland, her love-struck daughter had followed the man all the way back to Scartho, and after a brief message saying she was well, Sirkku blocked all attempt by her mother at telepathic communication.

Despite his many faults, Rolf did feel affection for the vivacious young girl and they lived happily together for a while but wyrd, however, was not to be their friend. A few months after Sirkku gave birth to his son, Rolf had crossed the rainbow bridge during a battle in East Frisha. When Isolde received news of his death she felt saddened but also rather guiltily relieved, as it meant there was nothing stopping her daughter from returning home.

Finally, during one of Sirkku’s infrequent calls, Isolde pleaded for her return and she had agreed. “Mauno was livid of course but you are our dottir and you will always be welcome here nej matter what, you believed you were in love with Rolf and I knew you couldn’t help yourself even if your dad couldn’t understand it.”

“I did love him, mami!”

“Did he love you though?”

“I thought he did but I’ll never know now will I?” tears welled in her lilac eyes. “He was still married to that Adonia woman so we were never actually betrothed.”

“Hej, Koo, nej crying you’re home now.” Isolde put her free arm around her daughter. “I’m sure Rolf did love you in his way, now let’s get moving before it snows.”

“Where is Mauno, didn’t he want to see me?” Sirkku wiped her eyes then tickled Beorn under the chin, he chuckled and she blew a kiss at him as they left the airdock building.

“He really wanted to, lapsi, but he’s too busy, old Tuomas’ bad back is playing him again up so your dad had to meet some important buyers in Jyvaskyla on his behalf.”

“And where is Tom, shirking I’ll bet?” asked Sirkku.

“Nej, he went with your dad, he’s changed an awful lot in the past year.” The Takala’s youngest son had grown up to be something of a wastrel, and though seven years older than Sirkku they had briefly dated. Having reached the waegn, Isolde strapped little Beorn into the safety seat she’d had fitted especially. “He’s still very much the singleton, no rightwife as yet.”

“No woman would be stupid enough to have the polho!” complained Sirkku, remembering how particularly unpleasant Tuomas had been to her after they had split up and before she’d run off to Scartho.

“Just don’t be nasty when you see him” her mother path’d.

“Oh nej, I don’t have to talk to him do I?”

“Tuuli is having the traditional party at their house, she’s laying on a Yulebord with a giant ham, an Aenglish Solstice Cake and…”  the Takalas had treated Isolde like one of their own after finding her struggling in the snow and Tuulikki had engineered her and Mauno’s betrothal.

“Check mami,” interrupted Sirkku. “I promise I’ll behave but I’ll have to leave early, I can’t keep Beorn up too late.” She thought this would suffice as an excuse.

Isolde drove the waegn onto the main road “Tuuli’s already thought of that, lapsi, you can both sleep at the big house and we can all check on him regularly during the party,” Isolde and Mauno lived at the lodge next door to the Takalas.

“I’m not so sure about that?” she protested.

“Koo, you will go and you will enjoy yourself and that’s it, you owe this much to us!” replied her mother, laying down the law.

“Check, mami,” she replied with resignation then asked. “One thing’s always bothered me, why did you come to Rolf’s room that night?”

“Erm, I heard a noise,” replied Isolde, hoping her daughter didn’t pick up her evasive tone.

“You went there to lay with him yourself, didn’t you?” she snapped. “Don’t deny it!”

“Jaa dottir… I just wanted to be with one of my kind again just the once, but I stopped at the door.”

“You hypocrite!” was Sirkku’s riposte. “You made me feel terrible for something you were planning to do yourself?”

Dottir, I’m sorry, I love Mauno but he’s a norm and he doesn’t resonate. I just wanted to feel another Alpha’s vibration again, just once. Please don’t tell your dad, it’ll kill him!” her daughter huffed and the journey continued in uncomfortable silence.

Driving down the road to the lodge, Sirkku felt her spirits lifting as she spotted familiar landmarks, the deer were down by the lake and it had been snowing all morning giving everything a seasonal hue. Taking Beorn inside she perused her old home, decked out for Yule. In the hall, a doll of Freya perched at the top of a large fir tree covered in lights and in the main room, standing next to the fireplace, was an old carved Odin figure with a real fur cloak. A straw Yule Goat flanked him while the walls were festooned in greenery, fur, straw and fire, all together, how this place doesn’t burn down every Yule I’ll never know.

“Nothing changes,” she laughed as Beorn craned his neck to see the bright lights. “Look, lapsi, mummo’s made the house all pretty for Yuletide.”

When Mauno returned he embraced his family, fussing his grandchild while regarding the errant Sirkku, who was nearly the double of her mother. He didn’t like to dwell on the fact that his wife was technically only three years older than her daughter, and come to that so was the blue-eyed huscarl who had stolen her away. “I’m glad you’re home, Koo.”

Mauno wasn’t big on words and had a tendency to suppress his feelings till they boiled over.

“See Koo, he missed you.” path’d Isolde then aloud asked. “Did it go well my rakas?”

“Jaa, we got a good price for the timber and young Tom did most of the talking too, I think he’s going to be as good a businessman as his father,” replied Mauno before winking slyly to Isolde. “He stayed in the city, had something important to do.”

“Some woman I’ll bet?” muttered Sirkku and her mother glared at her with slitted lilac eyes.

“Well, he’s young and single.” Mauno paused, having carelessly said the first thing that came to his head. He hoped he hadn’t done the wrong thing, he had, of course.

“That’s so typical of you, if a man seeks adventure away from home its fine but if a woman does it it’s wrong, thanks dad!” snapped Sirkku.

“Koo it wasn’t aimed at you but…” he paused. “Oh what the hell, you’re my dottir!” his pent-up emotion spilled out. “I didn’t think it was clever you running after that blue-eyed bahstard. I didn’t approve then and I still don’t, you were a bloody stupid girl!”

“He’s dead!” she shouted back.

“Well, I won’t cry any tears for him!” retorted Mauno.

“Mau, don’t you dare talk like that, Koo’s lost someone she loved and she’s our lapsi, nej matter what she did!” scolded Isolde.

“Jaa you’re right, Threevie, I’m sorry Koo, I spoke out of turn, I just care about you, that’s all.” He went quickly to the door before anyone spotted his moist eyes. “I’d better go see the old man and tell him how I got on,” although he wasn’t Sirkku’s real father, Mauno, loved her as if she were his own, even if he found it hard to show it.

When he had gone Isolde rounded on her daughter. “It really cut him up when you went off with Rolf, I know you couldn’t help yourself but he found it very hard to accept and I hope you appreciate that he came straight to see you when you he got back, rather than report to his boss.”

“I get it, he’s my dad and he cares about me but Rolf is dead, mami, you don’t know how I feel.”

“What!” Isolde raged. “How dare you? Of course I know how you feel, your real father died in my arms. Mauno took me on while I was pregnant and thinks of you as his own.”

Disturbed by the raised voices Beorn began to cry and Sirkku held him to her. “I’m so sorry, mami, but it hasn’t been easy for me, you know. Aengland is so very different to Soomi and even among the Novae my eyes made me stand out.”

“Why didn’t… why didn’t you let us visit?” Isolde was calmer now.

“After Rolf crossed the bridge the Huscarls let me live at the women’s barracks for free, but it’s not a good place to bring up a child. I didn’t want you to see me there, mami, and was so pleased when you asked me to come back. I’m sorry it’s got off to a bad start.”

“It would have made nej difference to us where you lived dottir, and it’s Mauno you should be apologising to, not me!” Isolde replied, putting an arm around her daughter.

“Jaa I know, I will mami” she sniffed.

Old Tuomas and his foreman were sat talking before the fire in the lounge when Tuulikki walked in. “Tom’s just comm’d, he’s on his way from the city in the omnibus. I’m going to pick him up from the station on the Northern Road” she informed them brightly.

“I’ll go, Tuuli,” suggested Mauno. “You can stay here and Threevie can bring Koo and her son round to see you”

“Thank you, Mau, that would be lovely,” she looked out of the window. “That sky looks rather ominous. I think Tuomas is going to come home just in time, I do hope it doesn’t snow too much before Frigesday.”

“It’ll be fine I’m sure,” announced the foreman as he made for the door.

The snow was falling rapidly by the time he reached the small building on the main road but fortunately, Mauno didn’t have to wait long before the large tracked omnibus arrived. Its last stop would be Kuopio, eighty miles further to the north. A military snowplough rattled by as a single figure disembarked, if they were lucky one might venture down the tributary road that led past the estate.

Tuomas Takala, the younger, got in the waegn and greeted Mauno warmly. “Hej, ystävä I found what I was looking for.”

“I still think you’re hullu, Tom, but hej, it’s up to you.”

The younger man grinned then remarked. “You’re in your waegn? Seeing how the weathers blowing up I thought you might be in the land-track.”

“It wasn’t snowing this bad when I set out but the spiked tyres are on and I’ve driven through a lot worse.” They set off down the minor road that ran parallel to the Northern Carriageway. “You know your parents found Isolde walking down here in a near blizzard?” Mauno started.

“Jaa, she was expecting Sirkku, and mami took pity on her, then she matched you two up,” interjected Tuomas. “They must have told me that story over a hundred times, but don’t you ever wonder what a pregnant girl was doing out here on her own?”

“She lost her heremann boyfriend in the run up to the war then when stasis receded; she went a bit hullu and taking all his kit, headed north for no sane reason.” Mauno knew that Isolde was a clone on the run from the authorities, she had confessed to it after Sirkku was born and together they had concocted a story. “You know that already, Tom?”

“Jaa, still seems odd though?”

Wyrd is an odd thing sometimes,” stated Mauno assuredly. “It brought Isolde and I together.”

“Jaa I suppose… hey what the fuck?” shouted Tom as a large tree, long dead at the roots and top heavy from a build-up of snow fell heavily across their vehicle…

Mauno came to and opened his eyes slowly, I’m not dead then? He carefully checked himself over, the airbags had collapsed to but the steering wheel was pushed against his chest and the bulkhead had crushed trapping his feet, he felt his legs and was relieved to find no damage, well it looks like I’m not going anywhere at the moment.

It was pitch black, he tried the door handle but it refused to move, so locating the interior light he switched it on hoping the power cell was intact. In the dim light he could see Tuomas moving his head slowly, the cabin roof had squashed down and snow was pressed up against the windows.

“Are you hurt?” asked Mauno.

“Bit of a headache, you?” he replied in a slurred voice.

“Feel alright but I’m trapped in my seat, we’re in a fix, I think. We’re stuck under that bloody tree and the doors are jammed, and my comm’ has no signal.”

“Fuck, mine’s the same!” stated Tuomas after checking his communicator band, a small trickle of blood was running down his forehead. “They’ll know we’ll be on this road won’t they?”

“Jaa, but that tree was big and it’s going to take something even bigger to shift it.” Curse it Threevie, if only I could path to you!

“I feel really tired, Mau,” piped up the younger Takala.

“Tom, you must stay awake, it’ll get cold soon and the light won’t last forever.” Having received no answer, Mauno, looked over to see his passenger had lost consciousness…

At the Takala home, Isolde, was looking anxiously at the falling snow, the two men were long overdue. “I’m getting really worried now, Tuuli.”

“I’ve contacted the Ward and they say they can’t get down from the main road even with a land-track and no gyropter can fly in this weather, they must be stuck somewhere out there!” cried a distraught Tuuli. “And all the loggers have gone home for Yule, I’ll have to go out and find my boy, there’s no-one else!”

“Mistress Takala, my dad’s with him I’m coming too!” insisted Sirkku firmly.

“Nej, you will not young lady, if anyone’s going to help look for them it’s me!” said an adamant Isolde. “You have a child to look after.”

“Mami, I’m younger than her and I can use my powers to help.” Sirkku path’d back.

“You’re right, dottir, perhaps if both of us went?” Isolde spoke aloud. “Thinking about it, Koo has a point, we’ll both go and you can look after Beorn. We’ll take the land-track and if they’ve broken down or got stuck we’ll tow them back.”

“Nej!” cried Tuuli.

“Curse my back, I should go!” fumed old Tuomas, painfully attempting to stand.

Isolde, took a decision and did something she hadn’t done for years, she charmed the Takalas.

“Jaa I suppose you’re right seeing as you’re both younger and fitter,” admitted Tuuli. “I’ll look after little Beorn but please be careful, Isolde, and you too, Koo.”

“Wasn’t that a bit wrong, mami, using your power like that?” asked Sirkku as Isolde drove the bright yellow vehicle along the snowy drive.

“I couldn’t waste any more time arguing with them, dottir, Tom and your dad may be in serious trouble,” she replied.

Shortly they came to a fallen tree that had broken into three large pieces and was completely blocking the road. Visible under the debris and poking through the drifted snow was the front of a bright red waegn.

“Oh gods!” cried Isolde out loud. “I hope they’re alright?”

Sirkku levitated over the broken trunk to inspect it from above. “Mami, we’ll have to move the middle piece to get to them, could we get a chain around and pull it with the land-track?”

“Nej, it’s too big, we might crush the roof more if we tried. How’s your telekinesis, Koo?”

“Rusty, mami, I hardly ever use it,” she had re-joined her mother to stand by the tracked vehicle.

“Remember that your dad’s under there, Koo, and use that as a lever to assist you. Now, we must work together and move it from the roof, ready…concentrate!”

Inside the vehicle, Mauno, had turned off the light to save power after tending to Tuomas’ head, the younger man stirred briefly but had sunk back into unconsciousness. Mauno checked the emergency pack that all vehicles had to carry by law. The simple rations would sustain them for a couple of days, hopefully we’ll be found before then! Then there was a series of metallic groans as the buckled roof began relaxing as the snow covering the windows shifted, allowing dim light to break through and reveal two heavily padded figures standing in the falling dusk.

Isolde walked up to the window. “Mau, are you alright?” her voice came faintly through the glass.

“Jaa but the bodywork has been crushed down trapping me in my seat and the bloody door is jammed shut.” he replied.

“How’s Tuomas?” she asked.

“Unconscious, I think he may be concussed.”

Isolde nodded then ordered. “Keep as far away from the door as you can!”

Mauno moved left as much as possible then watched Isolde walk back to stand with fists clenched and her brow furrowed in concentration. The metal of the door groaned in protest then the window exploded outwards in a thousand pieces as it was twisted and wrenched off its hinges to spin away, and fall on the snow some distance from the vehicle. As Isolde approached the stricken waegn, the cabin deformed back to an approximation of its original shape, releasing her husband from its grip.

Sirkku, meanwhile, had opened Tuomas’ door, also unjammed by her mother’s efforts and was attempting to drag him out. “Gods, he’s heavy!” she grumbled.

Isolde helped Mauno to his feet then going to the other side of the vehicle, picked up Tuomas as if he weighed hardly anything and put him over her shoulder while Sirkku stood in askance.

“Sorry, Koo, I’m afraid you only inherited my telepathic abilities.”

Mauno shook his head in disbelief at seeing his short slight spouse carrying the sturdily built Tuomas, a logger like him then turned his attention to the section of the tree that had covered their vehicle. It had been rolled back from the roof to sit on the snow like a ridiculously oversized Yule log.

“How are we going to explain this?” he called to Isolde, sometimes her powers astonished even him, snow flurries were already covering her telekinetic handiwork.

“We’re not, that’s exactly how we found it and you were both out cold. Mau, go and help our dottir, I think the psionic exertion took it out of her.”

Sirkku was swaying slightly. “I’m alright, daddy, my head’s just throbbing a bit,” she explained before falling woozily into his arms. Then following Isolde, he carried his daughter to the tracked vehicle…

The snowstorm abated next day to allow an armoured plough, from nearby Elk Base, through to clear a path while a large tracked crane lifted the wreckage of the waegn. A second tree, further along the road was also found to be unstable and removed, allowing the snowplough to clear the road past the Takala estate and on to the neighbouring settlements. A military haeler arrived to check over Tuomas, who, apart from a slight concussion was none the worse for the experience, and to Tuuli’s further relief, the road was open, meaning she could host the Yuletide feast which had become something of an event.

Frigesday evening arrived and Tuomas Takala the elder solemnly lit the Yule log then stood stiffly, determined that his back trouble would not get in the way of the celebrations. “I would like to thank the gods for allowing my son, Tuomas, and my foreman and good friend, Mauno Nylund, to escape unharmed from the accident and also to thank these two remarkable women, Isolde and Sirkku, who set out to find them in the blizzard and I offer many thanks to the spirits of the woods for looking after them all” he raised his glass to yell “Skal!”

“Tippis!” The reply came from the gathered throng, who drained their glasses to hold them out again for a refill as Tuulikki and Isolde circulated with large pitchers.

“And to our further joy… the dottir of Isolde Nylund has returned to us bringing my good friends the greatest Yuletide gift anyone could ask for, a grandson. To Sirkku and little Beorn, Skal!” he boomed.

“Tippis!” all drained their glasses again.

“My ystävät, the Yule log is burning well, so let us get to feasting, God Jul everyone!”

With the celebrations underway, Sirkku, slipped upstairs to check on Beorn, sleeping peacefully in her old nursing box thoughtfully brought over from the lodge and wiped away a tear on seeing how he resembled his late father.

Sirkku came out of the temporary nursery to find Tuomas, sitting on the top of the stairs and holding two glasses. “Following me round, Tommy?” she was not best pleased at seeing him there and blamed his dalliance in the city for putting her father’s life at risk.

The celebrations were now in full swing downstairs and a raucous song concerning the goddess Freya and a persistent tree spirit drifted up to them. “I wanted to speak to you alone, Sirki, we need to clear the air” Tuomas always called her Sirki, which she liked, feeling she that had outgrown Koo when she was twelve.

Remembering the promise to her mother, she sat next to him on the step and he handed her a glass of spiced wine. “Trying to get round me with drink?” she asked, then. “Why you were so awful to me, Tommy, we used to be so close. I even gave you my maidenhead?”

“And then proceeded on to most of the boys round here as I recall, why didn’t you want to stay with me?”

“I was young and discovering myself, you were older and experienced. I didn’t think you were too bothered, is that why you turned on me?”

“It wasn’t just that, your dad is like an older brother and watching him being torn apart by your carrying on with that blue-eyed creature was unbearable, and your poor mami bore it all so bravely. I couldn’t understand why you were hurting them and was angry with you for being so selfish.”

“Tom, I couldn’t help myself it’s something mami and I share.” She couldn’t tell him of the incredible sensation the Novae felt when their resonations harmonised during lovemaking, he wouldn’t understand. “You called me a hore?”

“I regret that now…” he looked at her, Sirkku was almost the double of her mother. “You and your mami share a lot of things don’t you, lilac eyes, wavy chestnut hair and something else quite special…”

“What?”

“I wasn’t fully unconscious out on the road and I remember quite clearly how we were trapped under all that snow and debris. Tell me, Sirki, how did two small women shift all that to get us out?”

“Oh!”

“And just how did your five-foot nothing mother pick me up and carry me to the land-track like a sack of straw? You pair are just like the blue-eyes, aren’t you?”

“We’re not exactly the same as them, Tom, what are you going to do?” she replied in shock. Moreover what will mami do to you?

“Nothing, I like Isolde a lot, when I first saw her sat in our kitchen I thought an elf had come to stay and do you know what I said to her?” he laughed. “You’ve got funny eyes!”

“You called me a fish-eyed slut.” She jibed.

He ignored her comment and carried on. “She looked so pretty and if anything you are even more lovely, a true kaunotar.”

“Oh!” was all she could say again.

“Do you know why I stayed on in Jyvaskyla the other day?” he put his glass down and produced a small shiny box from his pocket, opening it to display something gold inside.

“It’s a ring, oh gods, it’s a runic betrothal ring!” she cried in surprise.

“Jaa I got it for you, I convinced myself that when you came back you might remember me in a better light and… you know?”

Sirkku said nothing but just stared, open-mouthed.

“I know, I’m pretty sad aren’t I? Your parents gave me their blessing even though they thought I was hullu when I asked them. I think I must actually have been crazy to think it was possible, especially considering you haven’t changed your opinion about me.”

“Tom, why?” she croaked.

“Because I love you, Sirki, I have loved you for years, all the time you were gadding about and even when you went off with that soldier and I’ll still love you even if you say you hate me. I’ll take this trinket back to the shop after Yule and I promise I won’t bother you again, just say you understand.”

“I understand, Tom” she said quietly, staring into her glass for a while then holding out her left hand with the third finger extended, whispered. “Put it on.”

“Really?” it was his turn to be surprised.

“You obviously don’t need to ask dad for my hand and I think it’s my turn to be hullu, put it on before I change my mind.”

He slipped the ring on her finger. “I will be the most honest loving and loyal husband a woman could desire,” he said in the traditional way.

“And I will be the truest rightwife a man could ask for,” she answered in the customary fashion.

“And, Sirki, I will give my name to Beorn and will be as a real father to him.”

“Beorn Tuomasson, it has a certain ring to it” she looked at her bedroom door and smiled coyly. “Should we perhaps celebrate our union?”

“Later, rakas, I think we should join the others and spread the good news.”

Downstairs the guests were singing an old song about the warm glow of the Yule log.

“Can we just stay here for a bit, Tommy?” the couple sat listening to the merriment for a while until Sirki kissed him “God Jul, Tom.”

He embraced her, tenderly returning the kiss “God Jul, Sirki.”

Godyul