Severance Day

Three-hundred years ago, a man called Pulldrid the Riser lifted a town called Seamoore into the sky using a thing called magic. The town was thereafter called Skymoore. It’s still there to this day and, except for one unicorn, everyone who lives in the floating city is pretty pleased with their elevation. They are so pleased with it that they gave Pulldrid that cool title and honor the event with a holiday called Severance Day.

The problem is, for a number of reasons things were hectic at the time of Severance, and nobody bothered marking down exactly when the event occurred. So every year Severance Day is celebrated on a date randomly determined by the mayor. Because Skymoore is a large town and it can be difficult to tell everyone the date, the Association of Weathermancers conducts a relentless snowstorm that lasts for five days before and after the event to let everyone know it’s coming. It rarely snows in Skymoore, so this is a fairly effective system (unless you make your livelihood in a weather-dependent field such as farming, fishing, sun-tanning, mail delivery, polardogm-playing, botany, lawn care, snow selling, or weather forecasting).

It was a time of celebration, tradition, and general merriment. Colored candles and torches decorated almost every street in the city, festive banners and vegetation were placed outside of homes, and all but the most rebellious youth and stuffy adults wore ridiculous clothes of red (symbolizing the bloodshed which led to Skymoore’s ascendance) and green (symbolizing Pulldrid’s favorite color, which was actually a shade of teal that doesn’t pair so well with red).

For Nestor Pinkly, who loved few things more than celebrations, unexpected weather, and the colors red and green, Severance Day was something of a mixed blessing. Dovetail, Nestor’s automaton assistant and friend, had noticed this as they were on their way home from an afternoon of fish-watching in the frozen pond of Oftwood park. They were passing by a halfling man who had set up a makeshift podium outside of an ice cream shop; he was raving about the glory of Skymoore, and thanking Pulldrid for separating the city from the godless swine down below, leaving the Nestor openly dismayed.

“What’s incorrect, Nestor?” Dovetail asked. She was dressed in homemade Severance Day attire which included a hat topped with red and green fruits, and a red skirt with green frills. “Is something bartering you? Bothering.”

“Inside, Dovetail,” Nestor said quietly. “I don’t want to ruin anybody’s celebration.”

The pair lived in the lot behind the ice cream shop, a lot which was shared by a concert hall, an all-natural, no-medicine neo-dentist, and a dojo. Nestor’s miniscule pastel home had been there first, but when the businesses started sprouting up, he hadn’t the heart to tell them to stop.

Their kitchen, which looked as though it belonged in a doll’s house, smelled warm and delicious as they entered. An enchanted spoon was hard at work stirring a heated pot of vegetable stew, while an array of other instruments were set about cooking some of Nestor’s famous watermelon pies (typically Nestor made them by hand, but there was much to be done before the Church of Sol met that evening).  A small piano played a jaunty tune up on the counter, adding to the sense that the home was alive even while vacant.

“I’m going to tell you a story very dear to me, Dovetail,” Nestor said as the automaton took a seat. The gnome took his place at the counter, assisting his utensils in the process of cooking. “It’s the story of Dubedrid Grantham, the greatest hero in the history of Skymoore. No, in all of Solkin!”

Dovetail nodded with interest.

“Mrs. Grantham was a dwarf who lived in this city way back when it was on the ground. In fact, she lived there for the first century of her life, which lasted over two. She’d spent time as a brilliant detective, a fierce monster hunter, and a wise guard captain. Every day and every night, she spent her time making sure Seamoore was the safest city in the world, so that its people could live the happiest lives, even if it made her own more difficult.

“But when Skymoore left the ground, there were no more monsters to hunt and no roaming bandits to fend off, so Mrs. Grantham felt as though she had done her job long enough. As she experimented to find a new purpose, she briefly dabbled in toymaking. Using her innate dwarven craftsmanship, she made three toys of remarkable quality; a moltenwood puppet, a light stone cup-and-ball, and a kaleidoscope made with dragon-forged glass. They were splendid! But what really set them apart was what happened when she gave them away.

“The puppet she gave to a halfling whose voice was taken by a terrible sickness at a young age. The child later found that she could express her thoughts through the doll at will. Telepathic ventriloquism! The cup-and-ball went to a child whose parents sold all his toys so they could afford to eat, and he found that when he got the ball in the cup, it played a delightful chime which lifted the spirits of anybody who heard it. A little boy whose father was cruel and violent received the kaleidoscope, which could show him any place in the world – even places Mrs. Grantham had never heard of – when he needed to escape his troubled life.

“Most miraculous at all: Mrs. Grantham had no magical ability! It’s a phenomenon that Artificers have been studying for years, but the only conclusion is entirely unscientific. Mrs. Grantham’s love for this city and its people was so strong that it imbued the toys with magical properties.

“Despite this, she was discouraged by her peers and told she was wasting her real talents by working on trinkets. So, doing what she thought her town wanted, Mrs. Grantham resumed her position as guard captain, and kept Skymoore safe from what few criminals lurked within.

“Over two decades later, a recently-retired Mrs. Grantham heard news that a local toy shop, Bobble’s Baubles, was scheduled for destruction so that the Windomere family, who owned the land, could mine the crimsontar deep beneath the store. The owner, Ol’ Bobbie Bobble, was too frail to defend her store, so Dubedrid Grantham took the cause upon herself.

“She chained herself to a wall in the shop and refused to move until the destruction was called off. Lord Windomere may have been a harsh businessman, but he wasn’t going to accost a respected former captain. Instead, he played the waiting game. But he didn’t account for the love the city had for her.

“Mrs. Grantham froze on winter nights, so people brought blankets. She grew hungry, so they brought her food. When Lord Windomere called these people trespassers on his land, his own servants began to aid the dwarf. When he fired his servants, still the dwarf remained.

“After six weeks of this game, Lord Orsin Windomere visited the shop in person to invite Mrs. Grantham to dinner. Seeking to reach a peace, she accepted. The dinner was amicable, but the business of the shop was not to be discussed until after the meal and a tour of the estate. Mrs. Grantham accepted these conditions, not wishing to be rude in a host’s home. But as they were touring the lord’s bedroom, he locked the both of them inside, revealing the dinner to have been a trap. While they waited in his home, Bobble’s Baubles was to be torn down.”

Dovetail gasped, which sounded more like a wheeze.

“At first, Mrs. Grantham was angry. She wished to yell. She wished to scream. She wished to fight her way out. But she did none of those things. It wasn’t her way. Instead she calmly looked about her, when she noticed something sitting beside Orsin’s bed. It was small, unnoteworthy, and had gone unmentioned in the lord’s extensive tour.

“An ornate kaleidoscope, crafted by Dubedrid’s own hands.”

Dovetail gasped again.

“‘You don’t have to follow in your father’s heartless footsteps,’ she told the young lord. Lord Windomere was both puzzled and angry. He told her he knew nothing about his father. It was then that Mrs. Grantham revealed the origin of his kaleidoscope.

“Orsin knew she was telling the truth right away, and he began to weep – something very uncharacteristic of the man. Mrs. Grantham only held him, and he wept more, memories of his difficult youth tumbling forth like anxious words. He told her he had been wondering his whole life who crafted the toy, because he wanted to thank them. Instead, he had tortured her. He told her that the toy brought him countless hours of comfort on fearful nights and stressful days. To that day, he looked into it when he was troubled. He asked her how he could make it up to her.

“Mrs. Grantham said only this: ‘save the toy shop, and be kind to strangers; they may not be as strange as you think.’ Her love and empathy filled a long-empty corner of his heart, and Lord Windomere called off the crimsontar mine at once.

“From that day forward, Orisin was a kinder soul, and they say that was the beginning of the Windomeres’ renowned philanthropy. As for Mrs. Grantham, she lived the rest of her days making and selling toys at Bobble’s Baubles. And Skymoore is all the better for both of them.

“So to answer your initial inquiry, Dovetail, most people celebrate Severance Day because they don’t like surface folk, and because they think we’re better than them up here, and that makes me sad. I celebrate it because of the peace it brought us, and how it allows people like Mrs. Grantham to find more pure paths in life. There is enough to celebrate about our city without placing ourselves in opposition to others, and if there’s any lesson to take from this day, it’s that one.”

The automaton nodded slowly, processing the story she’d just heard. “Your answer was…long! But I really liked it. So is that why you talk to her essence on your morning walks? Because you quagmire her? Admire?”

Nestor grinned. “A story for another time! For now, we have pies to make, days to celebrate, and friends to cherish.”

Dovetail smiled. “Happy Mrs. Grantham Day, Nestor.”

“Happy Mrs. Grantham Day, Dovetail!”

And it was.

Hope you have a happy holiday, too!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s