Lamdi held Ruzi’s hand tighter than usual. She’d only been to earth once before. That had been five years ago when some immortals had kidnapped several people and the rescue had almost failed. They managed to escape to earth in very bad shape. Shunati had brought every healer he could find to help them. Once everyone was stable, they all had to use a giant flying carriage to get home. She and the other kids had done their best to stay distracted with a game but it had been difficult on Lamdi. Being enclosed with all those people who were recovering from injuries and getting ill from the copper and motion sickness overwhelmed her barely trained abilities. This time, Ann would transport them there and back so there would be no flying carriage, but Lamdi was nervous.
Ruzi smiled at her as Ann started the spell then he closed his eyes. Lamdi did too. Through her eyelids, she saw the flash, and then the temperature dropped. She opened her eyes. Rather than seeing grass or dirt, the ground was white.
“It snowed!” Cari cheered and pulled away from her parents. She threw herself down in it.
“Cari, let’s go in and say hi before getting soaked,” Ann suggested.
“Aw,” Cari protested but stood. Now Lamdi understood why Ann wanted them to bring a change of clothes despite that they’d only be there a few hours.
“Have you ever seen snow before?” Ruzi asked Lamdi.
She shook her head. Ruzi picked up a handful. It was cold and wet when she touched it.
Then Ruzi’s eyes gleamed. “And sometimes it’s good for this. He squeezed into a ball and threw it at Andy, hitting him in the back of the leg.
“Hey!” Andy spun.
“She did it,” Ruzi claimed, pointing at Lamdi.
Lamdi laughed. “Me?”
“Ruzi, Ann said to wait,” Thailyn called.
Ruzi sighed. “Yes, sir.” But once the others were distracted, Ruzi leaned close and whispered, “We’ll get them both later.”
“Behave,” she whispered back.
They followed the others into one of the houses. “Mom, Dad,” Andy called out as they entered.
Carla and Steve came to greet them.
“Merry Christmas,” Carla said. “Oh, Lamdi, you made it.” For a minute, Lamdi thought she’d hug her but she stopped, remembering not to touch her. “Let me take your cloaks. Come in.”
“I want to play in the snow,” Cari protested.
Steve picked her up with a wink. “You might want to wait until you see what Santa brought you.”
“Santa?” Lamdi whispered.
“Tell you later,” Ruzi promised.
Cari smiled. “Santa came?”
“He did.” Steve nodded.
“Did he bring presents for Ruzi and Lamdi too?”
“Of course.” Steve nodded again.
They followed Carla and Steve into the house. Everything was covered with tree branches and there was a tree in one of the rooms. Lamdi didn’t remember that from the last time they’d been there but Steve and Carla had moved recently and they may have still been getting settled.
“Why do they have a tree growing inside?” She asked.
“It’s not growing. It’s not even a real tree. It’s just a Christmas decoration. Those are the presents Cari was talking about.” He indicated packages wrapped in colored parchment.
“Should we put our presents there?” She asked. He nodded and she followed him over to the tree and put the bag with her gifts in it with the others.
“Come, sit with me,” he told her and drew her to a chair in the corner.
Thailyn let out a growl. Ruzi frowned. “What? Now I can’t even sit with her? We have chaperones.”
“You might want to look up,” Andy said.
Steve laughed. “Leave it to the kids to find it.”
Lamdi looked at the ceiling. There was a plant with white berries hanging above them.
“I did not see that, I swear.” Ruzi insisted.
“What is it?” Lamdi asked.
“Mistletoe. They hang it up on the ceiling and if you end up under it with someone, you’re supposed to kiss them.” Ruzi explained.
“Well, if it’s a tradition…” Lamdi smiled and kissed his cheek.
“Now you gotta get married,” Cari said.
“What?” Lamdi looked shocked. She liked Ruzi but they were kids and he kept saying he was never getting married so he wouldn’t put his family through what he’d been through.
“That’s not part of the tradition,” Ann assured them.
“But they kissed,” Cari protested. “Everyone who kisses gets married.”
“Not everyone,” Ann assured her. “Uncle Ti kissed me once and so did Uncle Fists.”
“Really?” Cari asked. “Did you know?” She asked Andy.
Andy nodded. “And she knows I kissed Aunt Jo too.”
“Did you want to marry Aunt Jo?”
Andy shook his head. “Back then, I didn’t want to marry anyone.”
“Not even Mommy?”
“I didn’t know Mommy then.”
“Did Jo and Nim go to see Jo’s family?” Carla asked.
Ann nodded. “Amelia insisted Kory needed to be there for Christmas.”
“Is he big enough for transporting or did Nim have to fly them to the gate?” Steve asked.
“He’s almost 2 months and that’s usually the cutoff, but he’s big for his age so I figured he’d be okay,” Thailyn told them.
“How was the wedding?” Carla asked.
“It was beautiful. Jaidu’s dress was gorgeous,” Ann told them. “And I don’t think I’ve ever seen Remmy look so good.”
“Were they able to get away?” Steve asked. “I know you guys sometimes worry about responsibilities demanding too much time.”
“They used my cabin,” Thailyn told them. “It just sits empty. It’s right along the Baj-tisk so it makes the council nervous if I’m there.”
“They danced the chicken dance at the wedding,” Lamdi said. “Jo told me that’s something from here.”
Carla smiled. “It is. I used to play it when I took piano lessons and had it memorized. When Tylan asked about traditions we had, I mentioned it. She had me work with the musicians to teach them.”
“Remmy wasn’t even at your wedding, how did he know?” Steve asked.
“He didn’t. Mom suggested it,” Ann said.
Ruzi laughed. “You should’ve seen his face when he saw how it was done.”
“He danced, but I think he’ll be having words with Mom,” Ann smiled.
Lamdi noticed as they spoke, Cari kept inching closer and closer to the tree. Now, she was practically on top of the presents, though she was careful not to touch them.
“Do you want to open those?” Steve asked.
“How does Santa fit all the presents in his sleigh?” She asked.
Steve shrugged. “Magic.”
She looked at him. “But magic doesn’t work here.”
It’s a different kind of magic,” Andy said.
“Different how? Like immortal magic?” Cari raised an eyebrow.
“Sort of, but different from that too. Christmas magic,” Andy said.
“How about we open them?” Carla suggested.
As they opened them, Ruzi explained what he could about Santa. It seemed very strange to Lamdi. Some of Cari’s gifts were to leave there and some were for playing with outside in the snow. Of course, she wanted to go out and play right away. Ann agreed and the others joined her.
Ruzi watched the others play through the window. The cold was affecting his eyes and his dad had made him come in. It reminded him a little of before his mom had left. Only then, he couldn’t let himself be seen and there were no dragons. Both Ann and Thailyn had taken dragon form and were roasting the snowballs thrown at them. Lamdi and Andy were making them as fast as Cari could throw them.
“You really like Lamdi, don’t you?” Carla asked as she brought him some hot cocoa.
Ruzi nodded. “She’s my best friend.”
“I think she’s more than that. I saw you looking at the mistletoe when we first entered the room.”
Ruzi shook his head. “We’re just friends. That’s all we can be.”
“Why? I bet she shares your feelings. When you get a little older, you could court her.”
He shook his head again. “I’m an abomination. Just me being alive is against the law. Anyone I courted would be breaking the law too.”
“I know that’s not Menthanlan law. You’re Menthanlan now, not Erulian.”
“That’s only because Thailyn adopted me. If something happens to him or if my parents protest the adoption, I go back to being Erulian and they could kill me.”
“Why couldn’t you apply to be a citizen?”
“I’m under age and I’d need permission from Erilu.”
“Wouldn’t Queen Deyama grant it? She doesn’t like the law either.”
“Probably, but I still have to wait till I’m nineteen.”
“You have to wait for Lamdi to grow up anyhow.”
“And Ruzi, you are not an abomination. Whoever made that law is. You are a very special boy with a big heart who’s helped that girl out without complaint, even when you are worried they’d turn you in at any time.”
“I still don’t want my family to be at risk.”
“I thought we said they wouldn’t be if you became a citizen.”
“I know but…”
“It’s hard. I understand. Have you ever talked with Jo?”
“Maybe you should talk more. Do you want me to talk with your dad about it for you?”
“I don’t know.”
“Think about it and come help me set the table for supper.”
“I don’t know how you do it here,” he told her, following her to the kitchen.
“It’s not hard, fork on the left, the other silverware on the right, plate in the middle, of course. But it doesn’t matter. Everybody’s used to how you do it there. As long as we can get the food to our mouths, that’s the important part.”
They ended up back out by the tree after they ate. Lamdi sat with Ruzi in the chair under the mistletoe again. He seriously considered what Carla had said, though he wasn’t sure she truly understood. She didn’t live in Menthanla. Maybe he could talk with someone back home though. Maybe Sinta could help. He glanced at the girl sitting next to him. Only time could truly tell, but eventually, he could court her.
Author's note: The letters on the blocks spell out Midta and Tilla. They aren't in this story, but those will be brother and sister.