By SugarVenom

“Can I? Please?” Little Rona danced around a juniper garland-wrapped crate. “I wanna open them now!”

“Patience is the companion of wisdom.” The druid nailed long stockings to the wall of the longhouse.

“But it’s almost midnight.” The fire crackled in the center of the room. Minty smells drifted from the winter holiday candles. It was the eve of the Joy Festival, and the children had all long gone to sleep in hopes of a quick morrow – all except Rona, who at three winters old could not bear to leave her festival gifts unattended.

“One acquires a chicken by hatching the egg, not by smashing it.”

“This one’s moving!” Rona dropped to her knees and pressed her ear to a crate several times her size. “It’s whining!”

“You have had too much maple holiday candy. You are hearing things.”

“I’m not!” The crate rumbled and huffed, then sneezed. “Hear that?”

The druid crouched down beside her and pressed his own ear to the side of the crate. “Ah, so it is. One of your Joy Festival gifts is alive. I suppose opening just one a night early is…”

Before the druid could finish, little Rona had torn away at the garlands that wrapped the crate. She’d lifted the lid just enough to peek inside when a giant four-legged fluffball bounded from inside and shook itself out.

“IT’S A PUPPY!” cried Rona, flinging her arms around its neck.

“Now, Rona, a pet is a big responsib…”


“You will have to feed him, and give him water, and take him outside when he needs to…”


“…Pickles?” The druid scratched his head.


“Ah. He is a dire wolf, you know, his name could be something far more…”

“Ehhmbuehhh beh,” responsed Rona with her face buried in the puppy’s fluffy side.

“…I was thinking something like Fortress. That’s a good strong name.”

“Pickles,” sighed Rona. The puppy rolled onto its back and Rona rubbed its belly.

The druid shrugged. “Pickles it is, then.”

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