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SEVRIN LORE: Winter Wolves

Wolves were last seen on the islands of Sevrin at least two centuries past, but stories persist of a pair of white wolves sighted during the first winter snow. Legend claims that any wish overheard by these Winter Wolves might be granted, but it’s more likely to be turned upside down. As a result, people throughout Sevrin have a deeply ingrained superstition against making a wish, even one made in jest, during the first snowfall.

Even so, the first snowfall brings hunters out in great numbers and festive spirits. No one actually expects to find the Winter Wolves, but the hunt is a fine excuse for spending a few hours in good company, either tramping the woods or sharing a flask and a few tales in one of the hunting huts built on high wooden platforms or into ancient trees.

One year Askur and Bejarki, two fishermen known for their mischievous ways, left off mending nets at the first sign of snow and took to the forest with a jug of spiced mead. They found a hunter’s hut in an old fir tree and settled in. As the hour grew late and the jug grew light, a very tipsy Askur raised his cup and said, “To our wives and sweethearts!”

“May they never meet,” Bejarki said with a grin.

A sharp woof! came from the forest floor, a sound that, though canine in nature, sounded suspiciously like a snort of laughter.  In the clearing below sat two snow-white wolves, tongues lolling from what could only be called wolfish grins.

The fishermen exchanged a look of sheer panic. More worried about wishes than wolves, they scrambled down the ladder and raced back to their village.

Behind them, the illusion of fur and fangs melted away to reveal a slim, winged girl with short brown curls and laughing dark eyes. She settled down on a fallen log and opened a leather volume that proclaimed itself The Book of Vishni’s Exile.  She wrote Winter Wolves at the top of the page and began to record the unfinished tale.

The ending would have to wait until tomorrow.  First, she had some introductions to make.

SEVRIN LORE: Summer Solstice

In Sevrin, no one sleeps on Midsummer’s Eve.  If asked why, most people would shrug and smile and repeat some variation of, “What’s the point?  The night’s too short to bother.” 

It’s true that the midsummer nights are very short. Sevrin lies far to the north, and in midsummer the sun sets only an hour or two before midnight.  But the real reason for Sevrin’s wakefulness lies in the ancient custom of  Walkers Vigil.

Legend has it that the spirits of those destined to die in the coming year will walk during the short night hours.  Since dreams were regarded as a gateway to spirit realms, staying awake was one way to ensure the spirit stayed put.

To most people, however, Vigil is an excuse for a party. The night is celebrated with song and dance, courtship rituals and divination. The most distinctive characterisics of vigil, however, are fire and mead.

Darkness is held at bay with candles and lanterns, bonfires and fireworks displays.  Some people still follow the old custom of placing candles all around their home, creating a circle of light that no spirit can cross. 

Honey is harvested in early summer. The day before the summer solstice, honey wine is made and set up in primary fermentation.  At the next full moon it’s put into oak casks to age for two years.  The ritual of “summersweet”–tapping the casks for the first official sample of mead–takes place at sunset on Midsummer’s Eve.

Midsummer is also a time for storytelling.  Traditional stories–most of them having to do with the fey–are spoken, sung, acted, or danced. 

Such tales are also told on the mainland, but never in public and certainly not during the days and nights surrounding the solstice.  Many people believe that the borderland between the mortal and the fey realm thins during the solstice, allowing fairies to slip across to bedeviled humans.  It is not prudent to draw the attention of the fey.  Some people leave out offerings, most commonly honey cakes and small bouquets of yellow flowers, hoping that any wandering fairy will take the gifts and move on.