Celtic lore says King Oak and King Holly battle every solstice...
|The Great Oak King shook his green head, startling a robin from her nest. Stretching out a wooden arm, he gestured for the bird to come back. With a tender smile he waited as she fluffed herself over her eggs.
"Summer is ending," his whispered breath blew like a gentle wind over the grassy field. A mule deer looked up from her grazing and twitched an expectant ear at him.
"Looking for a treat, are you?" Oak King chuckled, tossing a handful of acorns on the ground. A giant grizzly snorted and loped forward to share in the goodies.
"Ah, my dear friends," he groaned, "the leaves have fallen and the days have grown shorter. Bear will soon be in deep torpor and many feathered folk are flying south."
The grizzly lifted a lip before snuffling the ground in search for another nut.
"As the winter solstice draws near, so does my battle with the Honorable Holly King," the Oak King grinned as a row of mountain quail circled his trunk in search of bugs.
"Tomorrow King Holly and I will fight," the Oak thoughtfully rubbed his tangled brown beard, "And I will slay him, just as I have for centuries."
A flock of wild turkeys cackled at his words before fluttering to roost in the Oak King's low branches for the night.
"I wonder if this tradition could be changed?" the Oak murmured as night fell like a curtain, "Yes, I wonder…"
A layer of ice covered the world when the Great Oak King stretched his branches in the morn. The robin sang as the Oak carefully moved her nest onto the boughs of a sycamore.
"Lo, is the Lord of the Greenwood ready to lay down his crown and relinquish the winter into my care?" King Holly's voice boomed across the frosted field.
"Greetings, brother," King Oak nodded, his beard scraping the hard ground.
King Holly frowned and bowed his own head, dropping several bright red berries from his crown.
"Now that the pleasantries are over…" King Holly grunted, pulling out a serrated green sword.
"Poisoned, I assume?" the Great Oak King questioned, raising a bushy brow.
"Isn't it always?" King Holly sneered.
The Lord of the Greenwood sighed and half-heartedly raised his oaken staff.
"Don't you tire of this game?" King Oak asked, blocking his brother's blow.
"Game?" King Holly grunted, swinging his sword at Oak's bearded face and slicing off a single leaf.
"Every solstice we fight," King Oak explained. Falling to one knee Oak thrust his staff under Holly's feet, knocking him to the ground. King Holly rolled before Oak could land another whack, losing several leaves and berries as he dodged away.
"I beat you every winter and you skulk off to Caer Arianrhod to nurse your wounds."
The Holly King furrowed his white brows, "So?" His sword sang as it flew forward, "I might lose in winter but you don't stand a chance at summer solstice, dear brother!"
King Oak twirled his staff, catching the green sword and flipping it from his brother's grasp. The weapon sailed through the air before embedding itself in the dirt. The Great Oak King pointed the end of his rod at his brother.
"This is where I would release the fungus that would normally end you," Oak bit his lip and lowered his weapon, "However, this year I propose a truce."
King Oak shrugged and leaned against his staff, "What if, this winter, there was no winner or loser? We can return to our homelands and live in peace."
King Holly shook his head, "Mother would never stand for it. Our truce would destroy the way the world works."
"There is a reason we're mortal enemies, brother," Holly sighed and yanked his sword from the ground.
"But nothing. We must finish this battle, just as we have every solstice since time began."
"It is as you say, brother." The Great Oak King nodded solemnly and crouched into a fighters stance, "Until summer, then."
With one last, sad smile King Oak swung his staff.