The Golden Candle

Buttercup, a low-elf twelve Solar cycles of age, was sitting in the bay window of her family’s tree-house, reading a book of low-elven folklore, when the first snowfall of the Solar Cycle began covering the Greenlands.

She had first felt a chill—although this did not bother her, seeing as she was a low-elf. Then her long, pointy ears had noticed how peculiarly quiet it was, even with her three adoptive brothers—Alder, Pine and Chestnut—playing up in the loft of their tree-house.

Yes, Buttercup had sensed the winds changing, so she paused her reading to gaze out the large bay window and was startled to see snowflakes. They were almost like falling Stars, their whiteness contrasting with the deep blue twilight.

“Cosmos,” she breathed, not believing it. “Snow? This early?”

At once, her adoptive mother came scurrying across the tree-house, toward the bay window. “Oh, it’s snowing!” she cried happily.

And then she called upstairs into the loft, “Everyone, come quick! To see the Greenlands turn white! For it will likely be our last chance to see the greenery until the Worm Moon!”

The last chance to see the greenery? Buttercup thought, horrified.

But she knew her adoptive mother was speaking Truth, for these snowflakes seemed, somehow, different than the ones that fell in the grove down by the coast—her old home. These snowflakes were thicker and heavier, yet also fluffier. Much to Buttercup’s dismay, it did seem as though this snow was going to stick.

“But Mother,” Buttercup began, as her adoptive brothers ran over toward the bay window. “Have we not just had Hallow’s Eve? It’s only the Frost Moon, not the Long Night Moon. Surely, it should not snow for another fortnight—at least.”

Her adoptive mother answered, “Ah, perhaps in the southern Greenlands, on the coast, where you are from. But here in the northern Greenlands, in the valley, things are different.”

This is true: in the northern Greenlands, between the two mountain ranges, there lies a massive valley. This valley is perhaps the densest part of the Greenlandian Forest. Nowadays, this valley is also where the one and only Greenlandian Elven Reserve lies. But back in those times, before the Solar Revolution, this valley was free terrain for anyone to explore.

While the Greenlands is normally, well, green, with the Yuletide season comes a blanket of snow. And since it is much colder up by the mountains than it is in the rest of the Greenlandian Forest, the blanket covering that portion of the land is much thicker. And the valley tucks itself under this blanket of snow much earlier in the Solar cycle. And it sleeps for much longer.

Essentially, at this time, this part of the Greenlands is much more like its neighbouring territory to the north, Winter Whereabouts. Thus, it is easier for the low-elves native to this valley to, throughout the Winter, live like gnomes—until Ostara comes, bringing the rebirth of the land.

Of course, these low-elves do not live underground the way gnomes do—that would not be healthy for an elf! But they do live like gnomes in the sense that, over the course of the snowy season, they spend much of their time indoors.

Perhaps, it would be more accurate to say they live like squirrels; for, unlike the low-elves who reside further south, the low-elves living up by the mountains do not have much access to their food—flowers, moss, pinecones, toadstools and the like—throughout Winter. Because of this, these valley low-elves spend the sunny seasons collecting plants and fungi, and then they preserve much of what they collect.

The low-elves struggle with this time indoors, as they need the Earth like a merfolkian needs water, like a dragon egg needs fire, like the fae need the clouds. And so, they try to fill their home and their lives with as much light and warmth and coziness and Earthiness as possible, always, but especially throughout Winter.

Now, of course, most low-elves adore the snow. Many of them do reside in Winter Whereabouts, after all. But this was Buttercup’s first Solar cycle in the valley…

Buttercup once lived in a little grove with her blood mother and father, in the southern Greenlands—not far from where now, after the Solar Revolution, the Greenlandian Castle stands.

Buttercup was her parents’ only child, and they had loved her dearly. They named her after their favourite flower, and in the Spring and Summer, they would often venture, as a family, into the Greenlandian meadows, to gather buttercups to decorate their tree-house with. In the evenings, they would take long walks up the shore of the West Coast Sea, watching the Moon rise and praying for good fortune—a very elven practice.

However, by the Ostara prior to the start of our story, despite their prayers, both Buttercup’s mother and father had grown very ill. Even with their elven magic—their herbal remedies and their divination—they were not getting any better. They were, indeed, deathly ill.

Before they passed, Buttercup’s parents had called her to their bedside, where they told her they loved her dearly and gave her a long golden candle. On the bottom of the candle was a little carving of the Sun and Moon kissing—a sacred symbol.

“Light this candle when the world appears most dark,” Buttercup’s mother had instructed her. Then, before Buttercup could ask her what she meant by this, her mother laid her head down on her pillow, and both her and her mate met Death together.

Now, Buttercup, being a low-elf, of course, had a whole village of low-elves that would have been overjoyed to look after her. This is the low-elven way, after all: to share both the abundance and the responsibilities.

However, Buttercup simply felt too heartbroken to stay in her familiar grove. Every single low-elf in the village reminded her of her parents, of her loss. And Buttercup had always had an adventurous spirit. (This is quite abnormal for a low-elf.) So she decided to leave her glade and find a new village, a new home and a new life elsewhere.

She dare not go south, for she had heard of the dangers of the Tangleknot Jungle. Even for someone yearning for adventure, that territory seemed too dangerous. Instead, she headed north, until she was in the great valley directly between the West Coast Mountains and the Greenlandian Mountains.

There, because low-elves always share, rather easily, she found a new home, a new village and a new life. She did not miss walks up the shore, because she now had a spectacular view of the mountains, something she had not been able to see too clearly from her grove.

Mount Moon—the mountain located on the east side of the Greenlandian Mountains, the side closest to the Interior—intrigued her the most, and she often wondered if she might one day climb it. Although, she knew such a journey was not for the faint of heart, as climbing Mount Moon requires the adventurer to face, not just the goblins who reside on the mountain, but one’s own inner demons…

But what she had not expected was for the land, the land that was supposed to be green, to be covered in snow for so much of the Solar cycle. And yet, today, Jack Frost had come, bringing his signature white blanket, putting the world to sleep for Winter.

Buttercup hated the thought of not being able to venture out into the woods, freely, without being inhibited by snow. She hated it so much she began to cry.

“There, there, Buttercup,” her adoptive mother said, giving her a comforting pat on the shoulder. “No need to worry! This is why we collected all that food throughout the Sunny seasons, remember?”

Buttercup nodded weakly. Sure, her and her adoptive family would be safe; they would not starve. But that was not what she was worried about. What Buttercup was worried about was how gloomy it would feel to spend all of Winter cooped up in here, with very little light.

With very little Earth.

Of course, Yule came, bringing its joy along with it…

There were a great many feasts held: feasts of roasted chestnuts, apple cider and pumpkin pie. And Buttercup and her adoptive brothers baked plenty of shortbread and ginger cookies.

There were a great many gifts exchanged: Buttercup received a fresh green tunic with gold embroidery, handmade by her adoptive mother. From her adoptive father, she received a brand new pair of boots, perfect for hiking and adventuring, once the weather was again suitable. Alder gave her a book of Greenlandian plants, describing where to find them, how to identify them and their uses. Pine gave her new deck of Tarot cards with an emerald green backing. And little Chestnut gave her a large piece of jade, which is known for its ability to connect you with Earth, attract abundance and render its holder lucky.

Buttercup, Alder, Pine and Chestnut built snowmen and had snowball fights. Then, afterword, they would warm themselves by the fire, with mugs of moss tea.

Yes, Yule was very festive and fun—and this distracted Buttercup, for a while.

However, once the Yuletide season passed and the Wolf Moon came, Buttercup had grown very sullen. In fact, Buttercup was so sick with sadness, she simply could not pull herself out of bed. Of course, she knew how to do it—yet she could not bring herself to. The days simply seemed too short for life to be worthwhile. They seemed much shorter in the valley than they had by the coast. It took a long time for the Sun to climb the Greenlandian Mountains to the East, and all-too-quickly, He would fall behind the West Coast Mountains in the afternoon.

“Are you alright, darling?” her adoptive mother asked, laying a hand on Buttercup’s forehead. “Well, you’re not hot. You don’t have a fever.”

“I think this is an emotional illness,” her adoptive father said wisely, as he pulled at his long ears. “She’s not used to the lack of light.”

Buttercup wondered if she should go back to her old grove on the coast, where there was much less snow, and where she could watch a miraculous sunset every night. But the thought made her even sadder. She simply missed her blood parents too much. That was part of why she hated being cooped up inside: she was inherently adventurous, yes—but ever since her parents’ passing, she had felt the need to be on the move, always.

And yet she could not will herself to climb out of bed and wade through the snow. Sure, she had played outside with her adoptive brothers during the Yuletide season. But it had only snowed more since then, locking her in. It was not just the lack of light that was getting to her, but the lack of green. For almost two Moons now, all she had known was a world of white.

“Well, what do we do with her?” her adoptive mother asked, concern in her voice.

“Nothing can be done,” her adoptive father answered. “She has some deep emotional wounds, and Winter is a time for healing. What she needs is rest.”

No, what I need is adventure! Buttercup thought defiantly. But she could not bring herself to argue.

“But we can’t just leave her like this, sick with sadness,” her adoptive mother argued.

“I think,” her adoptive father began, “come Candlemas, Buttercup will start feeling much better…”

It is true that Candlemas—the half-way point between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox—the promise that Spring will come again, that life will come again—often revitalizes not just low-elves, but all folkians.

But come Candlemas, Buttercup only seemed to feel worse. It had now been three Moons since she had seen the greenery of the land. And according to her adoptive parents, there would likely be another Moon of snow.

Still, she knew the importance of this day, so she forced herself to get up and out of bed. She forced herself to climb down the ladder, from the loft to the common-room. She forced herself to join her adoptive family on the floor, around the hearth.

“Happy Candlemas,” her adoptive family greeted her.

“Happy Candlemas,” Buttercup replied, politely. Then, after giving a little pause, to her adoptive father, she said, “I don’t understand. I thought you said I would feel better on Candlemas. But I don’t. I only seem to feel worse.”

Her adoptive father smiled at her. “Ah, that is because we haven’t yet practised the ritual!”

Buttercup knew what he was talking about, of course. On Candlemas, it is customary to light candles and talk about the new Solar Cycle—as a reminder that warmer, brighter days are coming. This is a custom not just for low-elves, but for all the folkians of New-Camelot.

Although, Buttercup did not see how merely lighting a candle was going to help.

While her adoptive mother poured their moss tea, her adoptive father passed around the candles, all a deep blue colour.

Each of the low-elves took turns lighting their candles from the fireplace and talking about their intentions for the new Solar Cycle:

Her adoptive father intended to grow their garden even larger, grow even more plants and fungi.

Her adoptive mother intended to find new creative, and delicious, ways to cook said plants and fungi.

Alder intended to learn more about herbal magic—he wanted to be a healer when he grew up.

Pine intended to improve his ability to read Tarot cards—he wanted to be a reader when he grew up.

And little Chestnut, who collected crystals, intended to find a new stone that no one had ever found before.

But when it was Buttercup’s turn, though she had lit her candle, she could not think of anything she wanted to pray for.

The warmer, brighter days just seem so far away, even with this ritual, she thought to herself, hopelessly. Will Father Sun ever make His return? Or will Mother Moon rule for the rest of time?

“Buttercup?” her adoptive father prompted. “What are your intentions for the return of the Sun?”

“I—I—” stammered Buttercup, her mind completely blank.

She gazed into the fire and wished for her blood parents. So badly did she want them back. It was all she wanted really. But that was not a proper answer to her adoptive father’s question; she knew there was no magic that could bring people back from the dead.

Buttercup blew out the deep blue candle and laid it on the dirt floor of the tree-house.

“Buttercup!” her adoptive mother scolded, eyes widening.

It would have been a very rude thing to do, had Buttercup been refusing to participate in the ceremony.

However, Buttercup had not blown out her candle because she was refusing to participate. She had blown out her candle because she had only just remembered something…

“No, no!” she cried. “Just wait a moment! It’s not what it seems!”

And she scurried up the ladder, into the loft. There, long forgotten at the bottom of her pack, she found the candle her parents had given her on their deathbed—the golden candle—golden like the Sun, Himself.

With the golden candle, she returned downstairs, beside the hearth, next to her adoptive family.

“My blood parents’ gave me this candle just before they passed away. My mother told me to light it when the world appears most dark. And right now, in the dead of Winter, the world does, indeed, appear dark!”

Her adoptive family did not argue; they could tell what this golden candle meant to her and understood that this might be the very thing to pull Buttercup out of her sickness.

Buttercup extended the candle into the fire, lighting its wick.

The dancing flame captured her—and, for a moment, she could have sworn she saw the faces of her blood parents’ in the fire. Seeing their kind eyes and smiles, knowing they were safe somewhere in the Cosmos, knowing their spirits lived on—this gave her the strength to set an intention for the Solar Cycle…

“When the Sun returns,” Buttercup began, feeling a new strength inside herself, “I will embark on a quest to climb Mount Moon!”

Both Ostara and Beltane had come, bringing the rebirth. Now it was Midsummer, and everything was at its peak. Therefore, Buttercup knew it was time to climb the peak that had been waiting for her: Mount Moon.

Wearing her green and gold tunic, handmade by her adoptive mother—and the boots her adoptive father had given her, perfect for hiking and adventuring, on her feet—she set off, heading East, toward the Greenlandian Mountains.

In her pack, was the book of Greenlandian plants Alder had given her, which would help her forage her meals. She also had the emerald-green Tarot cards Pine had given her, which she would use to give herself readings when she found herself lost and in need of guidance. And, in the pocket of her tunic, she carried the large piece of jade little Chestnut had given her—for luck.

Father Sun had returned, and it was time to make him proud.

Author’s note: The Golden Candle is a piece of folklore from, New-Camelot, the setting of my high-fantasy story. If you want to explore New-Camelot further, for a small donation, you can start reading an early-bird version of my manuscript today. Or you may enjoy reading my short story, The Trial of Titania Brown, which is also set in New-Camelot, and is available for free on my website.

Sincerely,

MD Luna