Three different tales centered on the Winter solstice
Approximately 700 words
Fire on the Mountain
Johnny held the glassy rosin puck to his nose and inhaled the faint pine scent. His violin and bow rested on his lap, waiting in the moonglow. A gentle nightwind sent his cloak aflutter. Soon, he would play, but not yet. Darkness reigned for the moment, but before long it would be time for him to summon the Light.
A Circle of beeswax candles flickered at the boundary of the Covenstead. Deep in backwoods Georgia, in the shelter of conifers and hickory trees, the Thirteen gathered, as they had on this night for all of Johnny’s life, to celebrate the Festival of the Unconquered Sun. His family--his aunts, uncles, and cousins--all sat with him in murmured meditations, releasing the Divine that dwelt within their souls. Their faith held steadfast, certain of epiphany when Darkness would end and Light would triumph on this, the longest night of the year.
Johnny stroked the rosin puck across his bow. He welcomed this night. It was a gift to enter the darkness, to be the darkness, to be one with nothingness. Sunset and sunrise were the inevitable cycle of the world, like the cycle of life. Change was what was real. Things were nothing but shadows of reality. Within the stillness, he summoned the will to action, to play his violin, to transform the night.
Footfalls sounded outside the Circle, and the coven hushed.
A stranger swaggered into the group and sat on a hickory stump. His eyes gleamed red and he smiled with gleaming teeth, his presence descending like a shroud over the gathering. He pointed a taloned finger to Johnny’s violin and said, “Boy, let me tell you what. I guess you don’t know, but I’m a fiddle player, too. And if you’d care to take a dare, I’ll make a bet with you.”
No one spoke. Johnny continued to stroke his bow.
The stranger continued. “Now, I’ve heard to say that you play a pretty good fiddle, boy, but give the Devil his due. I’ll bet a fiddle of gold against your soul, ‘cause I think I’m better than you.”
Johnny said, “It might be a sin, but I’ll take your bet. You’re gonna regret, ‘cause I’m the best that’s ever been.”
The stranger snapped his fingers and a violin of gold appeared in his hands. “Rosin up your bow, son, and play your fiddle hard, ‘cause Hell’s loose in these woods and the Devil deals the cards. If you win, you get this shiny fiddle made of gold. But if you lose, the Devil gets your soul.”
The man lifted his fiddle to his chin and said, “I’ll start this show.”
Fire flew from his fingertips as he rosined up his bow. When he pulled it across the strings, it made an evil hiss. A band of demons joined in then, and the concert began. Lightning flashed and winds howled. Glissandos from the violin shrilled a wicked melody of things and need, of lust and greed that burned souls and seared the night. Yearning for infinity filled the air, longing for the impossible.
When the Devil finished his hallelujah to evil, Johnny said, “Well, Old One, you’re pretty good. But sit on that stump right there and let me show you how it’s done.”
His violin sang as never before. His family crooned a bluegrass chorus in time to his beat.
Fire on the Mountain. Run boys, run.
The devil's in the House of the Rising Sun
Johnny’s song was Nature’s song. It swelled with the harmony of change, of life and living, not of things. It celebrated becoming, not mere being. As his paean unfolded, light blossomed on the horizon. Johnny’s music transcended eternity, banished darkness, and conjured the dawn. Johnny’s violin sang of change eternal, love everlasting, and hope fulfilled. The clearing glowed with the sun’s rebirth, and the woods came alive with the chitter of creatures and the rustle of sweet breezes.
The Devil bowed his head because he knew that he'd been beat. He laid that golden fiddle on the ground at Johnny's feet.
Johnny said, "Devil, just come on back if you ever wanna try again. I done told you once you son of a bitch, I'm the best that's ever been."
The sun, unconquered, rose in the east and darkness fled. Fire on the mountain, run boys, run.