The Tale of the Happy Holly Days
By Sam of Skara Brae
"Grandma, will ye please tell me the story of the Holly Days, please."
"Yes, Grand Daughter, I will tell thee if you are quiet and listen to the whole story. For, the Holly Days are near and you must be good."
"Grandma, why is that, why do I have to be good?"
"Hush, and listen and you will find out."
As they sat next to each other in the big chair by the fireplace, Grand Mother leaned over and looked out the window at the gently falling snow, which had just started. For it was the start of the December Moon, and winter was fast approaching. She turned back to her young grand daughter, and remembered the story that her Grand Mother had told her, many years ago.
"Twas many years ago, a girl was born here in Skara Brae, her parents named her Holly, for the beautiful plants that grew in front of their house. Holly grew up bright and healthy, with a skill for words and her numbers. By the time she was five years, she knew all the names of all the people in Skara Brae, young and old, and greeted each as she walked around town with her mother. For, she even learned the names of Sailors and Huntsmen that visited Skara Brae. For this fact, people were amazed at young Holly, and were happy to see her and would talk to her about the world and tell her tales of the sea and forests. All of which she remembered. She also heard of the darker side of life, of thieves, and scoundrels, Pirates, and Brigands. Of this she remembered also.
Twas the Summer of her sixth year, that her mother made her a red dress, and Holly began wearing it as she and her mother walked around town. Seeing Holly talk to the Citizens of Skara Brae, her mother knew that even at Holly's young age that she could care for herself in town, especially since she knew everyone and everyone knew her. So Holly's mother started letting her run errands around town and visit people she knew. So from then on the Citizens would see young Holly, in her red dress running around town completing her errands and greeting all.
Holly started visiting the shoppes of the crafts people of Skara Brae, places she had not been to with her mother, for she had been to the Bakery and Butcher shoppes many times. But now she would stop in the Metal Smith's shoppe, the Alchemist, and all the others. On the way home she would stop by the town hall and ask to borrow one book from the town clerk. Knowing Holly and knowing that the book would be safe, the clerk would let Holly take one book home to read. Promptly the next day, she would return the book.
This went on from summer to summer, during the winter her mother would make her wear a bright red hat to protect her from the cold but she would still complete her errands and sit and watch and talk to the craftsman and citizens of Skara Brae. When a ship sailed into Skara Brae, Holly was there to talk to the Captain and Crew about their adventures or weather or what ever. For she was a great listener. When a traveling Bard, Tinker, Ranger or Mage would visit Skara Brae, she would listen to tales and watch the craftsman at work. When these visitors would ask of a Citizen, most would say 'they didn't know' but Holly knew everyone, and was able to direct the visitor to that Citizen or answer the question posed by the visitor.
Then one day as Holly was walking past the town hall, the Mayor approached her and asked of a citizen who was late for a meeting. Holly answered the Mayor 'the one you seek is home now, for he was hurt yesterday at his shop and can not travel, Sire. He is doing well and will recover from what I hear, knowing he was needed in a meeting, I asked his son to attend, he should be here shortly', the Mayor leaned down to Holly and said, 'Holly, you have a gift, use it wisely.' The Mayor returned to the town hall with his information and Holly remained standing in the street. For she did not fully understand what the Mayor had told her. Those eight words, one word more than her years, bothered her not in their intent for she knew the Mayor to be a kind and wise man, but in their meaning. This bothered Holly, so she decided to ask her Mother what the Mayor meant.
Holly, went directly home, she did not even go into the town hall to get a book. When she arrived home, she found her mother sitting at the table preparing bread for the evening meal. Her mother sensing something was wrong asked Holly if there was a problem. Holly responded, 'The Mayor just told me I have a gift and to use it wisely', 'I do not know what this gift is or even how to use it, wisely or not'.
Holly's mother sat back in her chair and looked at her young daughter. 'Well Holly', she said. 'Sit down and I will explain it to you', Holly sat in her chair at the table and watched her mother with the same attention as she would a visiting Bard, with the goal of learning something new. 'Holly', 'I am but a simple woman, but even I know of this gift, the Mayor spoke of. For I saw it in your eyes the day you were born and I have seen this gift grow each of your seven years.' Holly sat there, still not understanding as her mother continued. 'Holly, what the Mayor spoke of and all the people in Skara Brae know is that you bring light in to their lives, you show interest, you learn, you care, you remember everything that happens in town. You, you... well, I do not know how to say this but you know everything that goes on in Skara Brae, not rumors of barmaids or drunken sailors, but you talk to people and they confide in you. You watch people at work, in the streets, and home and you remember. You know that our Butcher cheats when he sells us a cut of beef,' Holly, in a most unlike Holly way, 'But mother everyone knows that.', Holly's mother now knew she was on the right path to explain the gift to Holly, for she called herself a simple woman but mothers have a way of explaining things to young daughters. 'Ah, Holly, yes we all know that, but what do you know of each of Citizen of Skara Brae?' Holly did not answer for she was only thinking a little faster than her mother, 'Holly, you know the good and the bad, the people who need help, the people that have problems, be it sickness, or need you know it and remember it.' There wasn't much of a pause, since Holly jumped up from her chair. 'I think I understand now, I can remember every thing I hear and see, I think I knew that, before now, but I did not know what that would mean, and I know now what you and the Mayor mean by the gift. But mother I do not know how to use it.' Holly's mother had no intention of interrupting, for Holly would figure it out in a short time. 'Wait, I know, I should use the gift to do good and help others, for if I were to be a Rogue, I would be rich, but my heart and soul would be hurt. I should use the gift to help those that are in need.'
Holly's mother continued, while Holly thought, 'yes, what of the Ranger you told me about, who broke his bow last week,' Holly's eyes lit up, 'Yes, I told the Fletcher about it and he made a bow for the Ranger.' Holly paused as she thought) about the gift and what it really meant. 'Mother, the Fletcher can not replace every bow that is broken by every Ranger in the woods, for he will have no bows to sell and his family will go hungry, but the Ranger needs a bow to hunt to feed his family or they go hungry, and what of the Sailors, and Merchants, and Gentry, and Mages, and Bards, and Thieves, and Rogues, and Lumberjacks. Oh Mother, the combinations are too many to even think about.'
'Ah Holly' Holly's mother continued, 'Knowing of the needs of people is not the gift, or even figuring out how to resolve problems, since the Fletcher we talked about would have heard of the Ranger's need and given him a bow in time. But what of your knowledge of the Fletcher's actions should they not go unnoticed? And what of the two youths that started the fight with the Sailor's son the other day? Should that not go unnoticed? You may not need to report it, for I am sure the Sailor's son did tell his father, but what of the actions of the two youths, fore ye know if it?'
'Mother, what can I do? If I approach the two youths, I will be in a fight just as the Sailor's son was.'
'Holly, you are independent and self reliant, with the gift you have the ability to relate and understand the needs and problems of each and every citizen you meet, and are the wisest young girl born in this realm in ages. Although that is my opinion, being your mother. But I believe you can use your gift, as you become of age , to help others and show that someone in this large world recognizes people that are good and bad. Let people know, that someone knows of their actions and needs, this may only need be done once a year. But this help for good citizens, and reminder to those that were bad may help change things for the good of all.
For I know thou art a caring person and with the gift, you know the actions and needs of each citizen of Skara Brae and many that just pass though our fair city.' Before Holly could answer, her mother continued. 'Holly remember on your last birthday when you gave presents to the family, a shirt you made to your father, and a pair of gloves to G'father. And you gave a stone to your cousin, cause he pulled your hair a summer ago. Remember that the birthday tradition is to give presents to your family and friends on your day of birth. None of the presents were perfect, for you are still young and have not mastered all skills required in life, cept for the stone, it was a good touch. But all your presents were made or picked by you and given with your own inner feelings for each person you gave to. And your present to your cousin did remind him of being bad.
With the gift, your family has grown to all the people you know and care about. For you do care about everyone you know.'
The only sound in the house, was the sound of the fire crackling in the fireplace as Holly's mother waited for a reply. This time Holly's mother waited for Holly, for she knew she had set Holly on a mission that would last a life time, if not more. Soon, Holly looked up and said,
'tis almost time for dinner, we need to finish the bread before father gets home.' At which Holly's mother turned to the bread she had been making and placed it on the hearth to bake for dinner.
Wait, the story of Holly is not finished.
There is a story that on the eve of winter in Skara Brae of that year, in the time of a fortnight about the time of Holly's birthday, in the late of the December Moon, that several of Skara Brae's most needy found a colorful bag on their steps, containing food or clothing or bows, whatever the family needed to survive the winter. It is also told that several would be Rogues in Skara Brae found the same similar colorful bags, containing stones or wood, or in the worst cases a lump of coal. These bags would also contain a tool of some sorts, for use, it was believed, if the Rogue would want to work for a living.
It was said that Holly in the years 'til she became of age, learned many skills; she became an expert in each, where a normal youth or maiden would be come a journeyman in just one skill. In the years following, the presents to the needing and the reminders to the Rogues at heart increased. Each present was left without notice or note. For the needy were thankful and the Rogues were left to ponder. It was said that some neither needy or Rogues received presents, for good deeds were not left unrecognized. The local Butcher who reduced prices for beef and fowl during an especially bad winter, was given a new butchers knife, a loaf of bread, and two coins to weight the scales during good times. Some say they saw a person, dressed in red, running through the snow during the winters eve caring a large red pack, but that was not confirmed for many years.
'But, It was said that Holly, when she became of age at fourteen years, left Skara Brae; it was said she hired on as a mate on a sailing ship to visit far lands. But every winters eve, the presents would be left on door steps around Skara Brae, each left with the gift of knowledge, some good, some bad, each left for the citizens of Skara Brae, to rejoice or ponder.
In the years and decades that followed it was heard from travelers and seaman who visited Skara Brae, that presents were found in far away cities, each placed in the late of the December moon, left on door steps or found in citizens' backpacks. The Citizens of Skara Brae began to tell a tale of a hooded figure dressed in red that would deliver presents to the Citizens of Skara Brae; some knew of Holly, and realized that the presents were being left by her, but they never saw Holly after she left Skara Brae. Holly's family did tell of Holly's visiting from time to time, but did not tell anyone of the gift.
As the years pasted, Holly's family and all who knew Holly as a maiden passed away, but the presents continued. The Citizens of Skara Brae continued the tales of Holly many years later, and even started giving presents among themselves to celebrate the winters eve, for that fortnight became known as The Holly Days, when all would give and receive presents, each hand crafted or selected with care as Holly would do. Presents were given to friends with loving thoughts and no feelings of return.
As the centuries passed, this tradition spread over the all the lands of Britannia. Citizens recognizing the needs of others or to just celebrate friendship and the winters eve would give presents to each other, for they had a reminder each winters eve, or the Holly Days as it began to be called all over Britannia, for there were presents that would be found by the most needy and Rogues alike that would be contained in colorful bags, that no citizen had left save Holly it was believed.
Grandmother, how does Holly get all the presents she gives to people?'
'Grand daughter, it is told that Holly learned and mastered all the known skills in her journeys around Britannia, and she uses all her skills to make and select each present for every citizen of Britannia, either good or bad, the gift provides her the insight to determine the needs of every citizen or to provoke the thoughts of some during this time of year.'
'Grandmother is it true that Holly has tamed Rain deer and got them to fly to aid her in her travels? For Britannia is a large world and citizens live all over the world.'
'Aye, Grand daughter, it is told of that, she is able to visit far away lands and learn who has been good and bad, even young ones like yourself, and then she uses the gift to remember 'til this time of year.'
'Grandmother, have I been good or bad?'
'Grand daughter, I will tell you the same as my Grandmother told me many years ago. You will know unto yourself, your heart will tell you and Holly will remind you if needed.'
'But remember Grand daughter, it is not up to Holly alone to do this, you have in your heart the gift, the knowledge to provide help or thought to others, it may be a truly needy citizen or a friend of yours that you want to celebrate friendship with. The gift is in all of us. In the fortnight around Holly's birthday, winters eve on the 21st moon of December, think about your life, your family and your friends. Make something with your own hands, or select a present which means something to you and to whom you may give it to. For your heart will know.'
'Thank you Grandmother, twas a fine story.' ' Happy Holly Days'
'Thank you Grand daughter,' ' Happy Holly Days to you to.'
Sam, of Skara Brae The 8th Day of the November Moon in the year 1998 of Lord British's Realm
(Tis the tale my Grandmother told me and the one I will tell my Grand daughter in time. Happy Holly Days to all of Britannia)