Lilyth just can't stay out of trouble. When little Shard shares the tale of the Great White Winter Cat, Lily determines that she will make this solstice celebration the best her kitten has ever seen, no matter the cost.
Set in Melia on the eve of the Crosstime Feast, LILYTH'S MIDWINTER revisits the Daenoths' friends and family and sheds light on a few dark corners of the world OF CATS AND DRAGONS.
Enjoy this new holiday story as our gift to you.
Chapter 1: The Great White Winter Cat
"Today is going to be the bestest day." Shard reached her paws out as if trying to touch the beam of morning light streaming into Lilyth's bedchamber.
"The bestest?" Lilyth, who had been painstakingly running a brush through her long dark hair, section by section, looked over at the kitten rolling on her covers. "How come?"
"Today is the day the Great White Winter Cat is bringing presents to all the cats!" Shard jumped up and spun in tight circles.
Lilyth had heard her brother Omen dismiss Tormy and Tyrin's chatter about the Great White Winter Cat celebration as yet another scheme the wily felines had dreamed up to get food and prizes. She knew Omen was not suspicious of Tormy in general, but after the great hamster poll debacle, even she felt a certain caution when Tyrin pontificated about anything that would, in the end, only benefit his belly.
Lilyth had no such misgivings when it came to her beautiful Shard. The kitten was sweetness itself and, as far as Lily was concerned, didn't have a sneaky bone in her fluffy, round body.
"Why today and not tomorrow?" she asked the kitten. "Tomorrow is the Winter Solstice." She'd been invited to a great many solstice parties all over Melia beginning tomorrow afternoon. Today, she intended to wrap the gifts she'd painstakingly crafted these last few weeks.
"So we is havingnessness presents on the Winter Solstice so we is sharingnessness them," Shard explained guilelessly. "Unless I is eatings all my presents firstly. But I is trying to share, honest, honest."
Grabbing her favorite winter cloak, Lily jumped to her feet.
"So what do we do?"
The gold and silver of the kitten's coat sparkled against her white and black markings, folded ears haloed by wisps of long stray white fur.
"We is getting ready," Shard said, her tone quite serious. "We is making a snack for the Great White Winter Cat."
"Will the Great White Winter Cat be hungry?"
"It is being hard to know." Shard ran a paw over her face and one of her ears. "The Great White Winter Cat is traveling the world, chasing after the moon, and is bringing joy and happiness to all the cats in the world."
"All the cats?"
"All the cats in the world."
"Talking cats like you and Tormy and Tyrin? Or regular cats too?"
Shard tilted her head. "All the cats is being all the cats."
"In the whole world?"
The kitten nodded.
That would mean going almost 2,000 miles an hour. Lily twitched her nose. But that would only be if all the cats were in a straight line — if they're all over the world. . . She tried to calculate how fast someone would have to travel to visit all the cats in the entire world in one day. And what if they're in different realms?
"How can anyone travel that fast?" Lily didn't believe her father would think it scientifically possible.
Unless it's a time-manipulation thing. And Dad says that's really dangerous.
"And how does anyone carry so many presents?" she asked, not quite able to let go of the physics of it all.
"Lady Stargazer is saying that the Great White Winter Cat is keeping all the toys and presents inside a cubby in the moon. When you is looking at the moon, you is seeing all sorts of cubbies for hiding treasures."
Lilyth had looked at the moon through a telescope and had to admit that at certain angles, the craters of the moon could look like cubbies.
But, of course, the craters are caused by asteroids and meteorites hitting the moon's surface. She decided to keep scientific facts to herself. What's the point in ruining Shard's story?
"And all this happens today? What time?"
"Tonightnessness when we is sleepings. When I is wakings ups, I is finding my presents!" The little cat did a happy back flip and then wiggled back down into the bedspread. "Maybe there is being softnessness things for me? I is liking softnessness things, and underwears!"
"You can't eat those," Lily reminded the kitten. "You said you could eat your presents."
"I is not knowing, on account of the fact that I is only three weeks old," Shard reminded her. "This is being my firstest Great White Winter Cat Day."
"You're older than three weeks." Lily smiled at the kitten.
"There is being one other thing." Shard took a deep breath and sighed. She flopped over onto her belly, paws stretched out in all directions on the bedspread. "Only good cats is getting presents from the Great White Winter Cat."
"What?" Lily nearly dropped her cloak as she swung it around her shoulders.
"Bad cats is being passed over." Again, the cat sounded very serious. "Is you thinking I am being badnessness?" Her round eyes darkened.
"Of course not!" Lily ran over to the kitten and folded her into her arms. "You are the best cat in the whole world."
"But I is lyings and hidings from your momsies."
"That was only for a little while when I thought she wouldn't let me keep you and only because I asked you to hide yourself," Lily said, a low-level panic building up in her. What if my sneakiness ruined Shard's chances with the Great White Winter Cat? "You didn't do anything wrong."
"But it is being naughtinessness to lie and hide from momsies."
"That was a special circumstance." Lilyth cast her mind around. Where do I get presents for Shard in a hurry and without her knowing? Do I hide the presents? Do I wrap the presents? "The Great White Winter Cat will understand."
"I is hoping so, on account of the fact that I is wantings to be goodnessness," Shard said with a purr. "I is maybe asking the Great White Winter Cat if I is being goodnessness."
"We get to meet the Great White Winter Cat?" Lilyth asked, astonished. "I thought we'll be asleep."
"I is not knowings," Shard admitted. "But if I is meetings the Great White Winter Cat, I is askings. Is we going to the beach today? I is wantings to swim."
Lilyth glanced at her window. The sun was shining, but there was a thick layer of snow on her windowsill. Looks cold outside. Still trying to calculate how to get presents for Shard, she mentally rearranged her plans for the day. "Maybe we can go visit Tess," she reasoned. "Dad finished the new transfer portal for the Deldano Hold, and the one on the Corsair Isles is done as well. So if we visit Tess, we might be able to go to the Corsair Isles for part of the day — it's warm there, better for swimming." And maybe I can shop while Shard swims with some of the Corsairs.
"Why is we not using the transfer portal in your daddy's office?" Shard questioned curiously.
Yes, Lilyth, tell your sweet cat why we aren't using that transfer portal — explain how we're doing something naughty. Lilyth shook the annoying voice away and smiled at Shard. "Well, I think they're cleaning the office today," she explained. "We don't want to disturb them." And mother won't let us go to the Corsair Isles. Better to ask for forgiveness than permission.
"Oh, I is not liking the cleanings!" Shard gave a full-body shake and wiggled her ears. "Piles of softnessness things on the floor is the bestestest. Why is all the peoples always pickings them ups?"
"Well, you know Mother," Lily replied. "She likes things orderly, and we have—"
*Lilyth!* Her mother's thought popped into her head with a slight ping, like a flick to the ear. *Downstairs right now!*
"Mother wants us downstairs," Lily said to her kitten. "Don't worry about the Great White Winter Cat. We'll figure it all out. And you'll get loads of presents." She headed toward the door again.
Shard leaped down from the bed and followed after her. "Loads?"
"Yes, more presents than you'll know what to do with." Lily twisted the handle to open her chamber's door, all the while trying to figure out exactly how much money she had hidden in the hollowed-out spellbook sitting on her corner shelf.