Another year, another happy holidays! As has become tradition at Jellyneo, we'd like to thank you, our loyal visitors, for making our year great. We always love hearing your kind comments. Here's to a happy and healthy 2018!
What's this? It looks like another story book of some kind! But what kind of story would be sitting here? Guess there's only one way to find out...
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Once upon a time—of all the good days in the year, on Christmas Eve—old King Skarl sat feasting in his hall. Outside it was bitter, foggy and cold, crisp with snow. But Skarl's hall was warmed with a roaring fire, and his table filled with all the foods of the realm.
A knock on his door interrupted his feasting. It was his chamberlain, Lazlo.
"Bah! Out with you!" Skarl bellowed.
"Forgive me, sire, but the townsfolk have come with a request," Lazlo told him. "The weather is set to turn colder still, and as you know the harvest this year has been poor. The farmers are starving and shivering, sire, and hope they might share in your food."
"If they are starving they had better hurry up and do it, and decrease the surplus population!" Skarl ordered. "And while you're at it, inform them I will be raising the Marrow Tax in the morning as punishment for their insolence!"
That night, Skarl retired to his chambers and lit a fire in the hearth to warm his chilled bones. The shadows of the night grew in length and soon the old Skeith was snoring steadily in his chair.
Until, at last, he woke with a start. His clock on the mantle was chiming one in the morning. Skarl muttered dissension but quickly realised he was no longer alone.
It was a strange figure, a Faerie in a black cloak, but more ghost than guest.
"Who are you?" Skarl demanded. "Who let you in here?"
"I am the ghost of Christmas past," the Faerie told him in a soft and gentle voice. "Of the Ambition you once held."
"I have no time for ghosts," Skarl replied. "Leave me!"
The Faerie shook her head, and Skarl felt some strange compulsion to rise from his chair.
"What is it you want?"
"Your reclamation," the Faerie said. "Take heed."
She touched his hand, and with a whisp of magic, they were away.
At once they were elsewhere, and it seemed, elsewhen. It was the castle Skarl remembered, but full of life in a way his halls lacked. Everywhere there was the smell of spice and cooking, and singing could be heard through the windows from the town.
Two young Skeiths sat before them, one blue and one green.
"It is I," Skarl exclaimed. "And my brother, Hagan."
The pair watched as they exchanged gifts of toys. There was laughter and joy to be heard all around, even when the governess arrived.
"Come, Princes," she said to them, "it's time to go with your father to hand out presents to the townsfolk."
The images before old Skarl blurred and swirled as the ghost whisked them away again.
They were back in his chambers, in the dead of night.
"Is that all?" Skarl laughed. "You seek to change me by showing me my childhood happiness? I am happy now, spirit! I have everything I wish for? Is that all?"
The Faerie shook her head.
"Two more spirits will visit you this night," she said. "Expect the second soon."
With a clap of her hands she was gone, and Skarl once more quite alone.
He fell again into a slumber, until the clock struck two and the dying fire suddenly burst to life. There was, again, another figure in the room. This one, another Skeith.
This Skeith was small and sickly–green in colour, with a skull that looked almost transparent.
"You are the second of the spirits?" Skarl asked.
"I am the ghost of Christmas Present," the Skeith replied with a nod. "Here to show you the Greed that consumes you."
Eager to get the entire affair over with, Skarl took the spirit's hand, and they were away again.
The house they came to was unfamiliar to Skarl, but the sight of the castle from the window told him they had not left Meridell.
A family was crowded round a table, giving thanks for their Christmas meal. But where Skarl had a turkey, the center of their feast was nothing more than a single, brown potato. Everywhere, it was bitterly cold, and the children around the table were coughing with more than a winter's cold.
"These are your citizens," the spirit told him. "While you feast in your hall, they suffer in the cold. Starving and sickly."
"Then they should have worked harder in the autumn!" Skarl shouted. "I am their King, not their Keeper!"
The ghost said nothing, but took Skarl by the hand again.
They came not back to Skarl's chambers, but an entirely different castle. Skarl knew it, for he had visited many times before. But not in such a long while.
The Skeith at the head of the table he recognised as his brother Hagan. Seated around him were Lords and Ladies, but by the look of their clothing some commoners as well.
They laughed and joked, and when it came to the end of the meal, Hagan stood to make a speech.
"Thank you for coming, and a very Merry Christmas to you all!" he said.
"Three cheers for King Hagan!" the commoners cheered.
And Skarl overheard as the Lords and Ladies whispered to each other.
"Certainly, more generous than that miserly oaf, Skarl."
Embarrassed, Skarl took the spirit's hand. He had seen enough of that.
They returned to Skarl's chambers, and the spirit disappeared just as the first had. This time, Skarl could not fall asleep, and when the strike of three came, he was staring at the clock.
He felt the chill in the air as the next spirit arrived. A pale Gelert with a sword.
"I am the ghost of Christmas Yet to Come," he proclaimed. "To show you the Revenge that is due."
"Revenge?" Skarl asked. "I am no longer at war with Darigan. Who is there to take revenge against?"
"Come," the Gelert said, grabbing Skarl by the hand.
They arrived in the street leading to Meridell Castle, on another cold Christmas morning some time in the future. But here, the castle was lit with burning orange. Torch-fire.
At the castle gates, a mob has gathered, with pitchforks and angry chants.
"What is happening?" Skarl asked.
"The people have had enough," the Gelert said. "They are taking their Revenge."
There was the sound of wood splintering, as the great gates of the castle buckled inwards, and the rioters poured in.
The Gelert took Skarl's hand, and they were gone again. This time, to a quiet, dusty hall in the heart of Meridell castle. Ahead of them was a tomb, covered in graffiti, ill-cared for and cracked.
Skarl crept forwards to make out the name—King Skarl I
Horror struck him, and the Gelert grabbed his shoulder with the familiar swirl of magic.
Skarl woke with a start as the first rays of sunlight began to shine through his window. He was quite alone again.
"Lazlo!" he cried. "Lazlo!"
His chamberlain came running.
"Stoke the fires in the hall!" Skarl ordered. "And send word to the kitchens to prepare a great feast. Send criers into town—the people are to be invited!"
"Invited, sire?" Lazlo asked. "To what?"
"Why, Christmas, of course!" Skarl said. "This Christmas, and all that may follow! See to it!"
Lazlo gave a smile and nodded, setting off to make preparations.
And from that day forward, on every Christmas, Skarl was known to keep the spirit of the season alive and well. May that be truly said of us, and all of us!
And so, as has often been observed:
Fyora Bless Us, Every One!