This piece is not directly part of THUNDER AND LIGHTNING, though it involves both Sonea-Fair and the Fool. And it's also a Kindle tale - it was first written for the 2007 'Home and Hearth' WinterFest collection, so mayhap its timing fits. It seems such things do not happen these tides, which saddens me, for they were great Community events. But every candle burns, and melted wax is melted.
FIRST FOOT was told in the Hall of Mirrors on chaos last night in its original form. This version has had a quick and dirty edit to clean up some things (among others the addiction I had at the time to the ellipsis (...) (blush)). Sonea and I write it together, so I hope she'll forgive me (blushes again.
I promised Tilithia wise one it would be posted, for she could not stay to hear it. So here, with my hope it does not offend, it is.

First Fist, First Foot

It was the night before… Well, thought the Ancient who sat atop the Hall of Mirrors. It was, as far as he could tell, the night before tomorrow’s dawn. But below, the hustle and bustle, the to-and-fro of many, seemed to speak that it was something more. And the Hall? The Hall glowed! Bright lanterns lit the tree-covered walk leading to its door, and swinging glass globes of red, green, aye and blue also, made the Hall a kaleidoscope of color. Twisted paper stretched across the main room, and tables groaned under the weight of ale and such foods as two legs loved. The drake shook his heavy head. Sonea had tried to explain WinterFest to him. That Winter was passing, and a new year waking. That to celebrate, each made merry in their own manner, and of this gathering each Fest, where all would come to hear the new year’s First Tale.
Sephiranoth sighed. He… was not good at merry.
Wings flexed—and cold winds blew where the drake had perched.
ShadowGuard was—as ever it was. Or perhaps not. Though ShadowGate’s spiral kept out the wind and snow, to the Ancient, though Sephiranoth could see marks on each wall and roof, each floor, of tooth and claw, of flame, where he had crafted them, tonight the lair seemed… seemed cold. But it was not a cold of the wind’s chill. It was—in sooth, for all his years, he had no idea what it was. But yes. It was cold. He thought of the Hall. Red. And green. And Blue? Well then. Was Sephiranoth not himself blue? And as for red and green, was he not draku? Had he not made these very tunnels? Wings beat, claws struck—and red lava rocks from Dralk stood here and there about ShadowGuard. Dragon fire could coax any rock to burn red and warm, and these were no different. Now green. Blight there was, of course, but that green seemed somehow wrong for this purpose. Wings beat again to the woods, and soon great pines lent their boughs, willing or no. A few more wingbeats and the scent of resin dripping from torn wood and the bright green of their growth was set about the lair also.
The Ancient looked about. Red. Green. He flexed his wings. Blue. But those very wings, wide flexed, that never knew cold from any wind set shiver in the air. Cold. And not just chill, but spirit-deep.
The dragon’s shoulders slumped.
Of a sudden, a noise came from outside. No such was let pass, so the drake took swift wing to ShadowGate. Standing at the Gate was a young elf, beating upon the Gate’s rim with what appeared to be a large lump of coal. The battered edges of the coal showed this was not the first beating it had given. “First Fist, First Foot!” Clearly delighted at some jest the elfling hopped back and forth across the Gate. Hopped, then stepped. First in, then out. Then in—then out. He turned to Sephiranoth and smiled in glee. “Hah! I was first! They beat me to Maiyr’s place, but I was first to thine! Make sure ye tell them when ye get to the Hall, old one!” The elfling took his lump of coal and dragged it clear round the Gate’s rim leaving a shiny ring of black. And in a flash of feet, the boy was gone.
Gazing at the black scarred gate, Sephiranoth pondered. First Fist? That, clearly, was the coal. And Foot? Aye, the boy had stepped across the gate’s arch, but why? It was not the first year, not the first time the Ancient had pondered this thing, yet it seemed important this time to learn why.
Wings beat. ShadowGuard stood empty. By ShadowGate, unnoticed by drake eyes set to the mystery of coal, a bright-wrapped package sat tucked in a corner.

* * *
Sonea had searched the Hall’s every room, and thrice over, but none held what she sought. But a burning candle waits its flame for none, and tear-blurred eyes saw it was time. The last guest was seated and all were come to hear the new year’s First Tale. So the rite began, as it always did. Youngling voices chanted: " A tale... a tale.... a tale...."
The Hall lights flickered and TaleSpinner appeared. As she settled onto the speaking place a gust of cold air set the lights flickering again. Heads turned and TaleSpinner made to greet the late-comer. But none was there. Still, drake eyes be sharp. And TaleSpinner’s caught a glimpse of a pink trimmed black cloak just as the Hall’s door slipped shut. Her eyes narrowed. She had meant to speak the year’s First Tale, but the Tale could of a time be tricksy-sly. And on this night it seemed the Tale would tell itself. But even the Tale of a time had need of aid, that it be told. Spinner nodded to herself. She left the speaking place and walked among the listeners, quietly making requests of each. Smiles came, and hands busied, and TaleSpinner faded into the night.
When the Fair One reached ShadowGuard, eyes not yet dry, she saw the package still by ShadowGate where she had left it. She picked it up, stepped down the spiral she knew so well. She saw them, each one, no thing of ShadowGuard, but new. The scattered red rocks, cooling now. The torn pine boughs propped against them. Her hand caressed the worn rock, her eyes distant. No rock her fingers touched, but old scales, and older wounds, old days and older lives. Her lips moved, though silent. “Oh, Sephie.” For a moment her eyes filled once more. He was not here. She turned to leave—but she saw she was not alone. For a crowd had gathered behind her, the many and many of Mia’s Edge. And the many had hands, hands heavy laden. And though tears fell, Sonea-Fair smiled, for the night she had thought to see through tear-filled eyes was already no more, and a new one she could see coming—and she smiled.
* * *
There was a place Sephiranoth knew in the high slopes of Mia’s Edge. Of a time he would go there to set thought. And this time was no different. He took wing, and he sat. And there are few things so still as a drake deep in thought. Driving snow drove, and blowing winds blew, gathering the snow against anything in its path. And Sephiranoth was none of different. And after a time, did any pass that place, then a thing they would have seen. For childer did oft roll snow to craft snow-people, but few it was if any had ever crafted what the wind did.
The winds blew, the snow fell—and a snow-dragon sat silent in the night.
One there was who might have seen, but passed unknowing, with cloak wrapped tight against wind and snow. For she had matters of her own, and her own thoughts also. But even snow covered drake ears are keen. And once that one had passed, snow shook and the Ancient stood forth. Soft wing he took, and followed.
At a tree-ringed clearing, the cloaked one hurried to the center. Worn knees creaked as she knelt by a slight shallow in the ground. An aged hand reached forth and brushed the snow, laying bare a space. From a sack, hands drew forth a candle and wedged it in the earth. A single sprig of mistletoe was laid before the candle, followed by a set of logs. Fire sparked, and the logs were set to burning.
When the fire had taken hold, she drew forth a bottle. To a keen drake nose drifted the smell of a strong two-leg drink, of the kind called fuisce. Sonea knew of these things, and had shown different brews to Sephiranoth, once even to taste, and told of them. And this was clearly of the best. The old one smashed the neck of the bottle against a rock and poured the liquid on the flame—and the flames leapt high! The old woman, for clearly it was so, laid the broken empty bottle in the shallow. She stood awhile watching the flames. Then she turned and left the clearing.
Soft wings beat in the night behind her.
The woman came to a weathered cot. But where Sephiranoth expected her to enter, she did not. “Ye have soft wings, dragon. Soft, aye, but old ears are not always deaf. Come out from your hiding. Heh, I’ll not bite, and it be clear ye have some trouble about ye. Else why waste thy time following one as old as I?”
Sephiranoth settled to the ground. After a short, uncomfortable silence, he spoke, as if to the night air itself, though only the woman was there. “Soni tried. But Fool I am, and in this it seems fool also. Red? Green? They did no magery, for all of my blue. First Foot? Many have passed ShadowGate, and yet one now First? And each year the same? And at the Hall, they gathered, but this one stands alone. And they were merry, there in the Hall, yet this one seems calm. Calm, aye, but sorrowed. Sorrowed, aye, but her spirit? I see its warmth. Warm beyond warming. And I am draku. Fire is my very being. YET I AM COLD!”
The anguish in his voice surprised the old woman. Though other drakes she had seen, and though she knew dragons never did weep, there was more than melted snow in this one’s eye. She pondered his words, and much came clear, for the mountains where she lived taught many things, and her life more. She spoke as though to a child. “Hush now, chroi. Hush, heart. Ye see, I am not alone. Not any night, and aye, not this one most of all. For where ye saw me, there lies mo cariad, or ye might say, macushla, the love of my heart. He died—oh years gone. But he never left me.” At the look that came to the dragon’s eyes, the old woman laughed. “Oh, no. No ghost walks here. But—well, gone he is, and sore my heart misses him. But still, still he is with me. Always. And I with him. And this night? On this night, each year as it turns to another, our spirits dance. Together. And I bring him his WinterFest gift, for he loved the fuisce. And he brings me soft memories, and warm dreams. And I deck his sleeping place as we used to the house we shared. For such is what we do, we two-legs, to make joy in the dark places, to share the warmth of our hearts. We tell tales of things past and look forward to new things coming, the new year and the new—us. We give gifts, and we share love we do not always speak. This is WinterFest. And if any we know are not yet come to the celebration, why we go there, and we mark their place to show we have come. And we set foot to their door, and we call them to the joy. This is First Fist and First Foot.”
Sephiranoth looked long at the old woman. Then he turned to a tree. Drake fire came, and a branch burned. Breath came and the burning ceased. He took the branch, now charred, and he looked at the old woman, then at the shallow in the ground. She smiled and nodded. Warm breath came from his mouth, and the snow round the shallow melted. A gentle flick of claw scraped the charred branch across the ground in front of the shallow, round it, a circle of char left behind to ring the shallow. Another claw reached, and set, reached—and set inside the shallow. And a thing few see happened. The drake smiled! “ First Fist! First Foot! Now I know this thing, and I know a place, and it waits, old one. A place, and—if a drake could flushm this one did—a one also! They wait! Oh, they wait!” The ancient blushed again. “Might… might ye company me?” And at the old one’s smile, her nod, only his was wider.
The two had walked long. Now they stood before the Hall, Sephiranoth and the one he counted true Ael-Theyr, for well she had taught him. But the Hall was dark. And empty. Sephiranoth was lost once more. He had thought this maze ‘ravelled, but found it twisted yet. The two turned, and they took them to ShadowGuard, for the wind blew cold and it was too late to return to the mountain. But the ShadowGuard he found was not the one he had left. For fires burned, and much hubbub was within. When they entered, they found all Mia’s Edge a-waiting. The lanterns and streamers that had bedecked the Hall were draped over rock and branch. A board had been brought and piled high with food and drink and childer laughed as they played chase among the warmed lava rocks. But before them all was Sonea. She spied the blue one and, through tears of joy, she smiled. The old woman spotted TaleSpinner off to the side and stepped near. They shared a wink and a smile, for they both saw what the two did not yet see clear. Sephiranoth saw the red, and the green, and above all the Fair One holding a bright-wrapped package. At last, he knew WinterFest. And he spoke. “I have learned new words this night. And I will learn their use. A chroi, macushla… aye, and cariad also. Yet no gift have I brought—so this poor one I offer now.”
All rushed outside as the Ancient took wing. No wind or driving snow might stand before that one’s wings, and the snow cleared. And in the light of the new year’s moon, Sephiranoth sky-danced WinterFest.