A fairy called Nimurella and a ghost named Patricio
The fairy, who for the time was called Nimurella, landed on top of a lamppost as a shiver rolled through her. She recognized the feeling, and her tiny mouth opened in a thrilled gasp.
Midwinter. She hadn’t realized it was so close!
The magic that permeated the peak of any season was some of the most powerful, and brought out interesting reactions in nature and human society alike. In a season of quiet reflection like winter, there was plenty of reason to celebrate. Nimurella always enjoyed the smells of spices, the warmth of fireplaces, and the sounds of laughter that punctuated the winter storms. Perhaps at this juncture, Nimurella thought, she could take a break from her normal work to grant the wishes of the common folk.
Or at least, what she decided they ought to wish for.
Dodging snow flurries, Nimurella flitted through the air with her white moth wings in the direction of the most people she could sense. The glow of shop lights filled her vision, and she recognized where she was.
The waterfront of the city of Altesia was home to a small downtown of locally owned shops that had been there for ages. Nimurella recalled that the storefronts had been standing for decades - she could remember the buildings that used to house sailors on shore leave, or sell the fresh catches of the day. The best grilled salmon she had ever eaten had been shoved into her hands as a thanks for working her magic on this coastland ages ago.
Nimurella let her pin-sized feet touch the snow-covered ground in a shadowy corner where she wouldn’t be noticed. Taking a deep breath, she reached her mind into herself for that flicker of magic that lived inside each fairy. Tonight, it felt like the warmth and itch of a seasonal sweater and she wrapped herself in it, picturing the transformation she wanted for herself as she did so.
The fairy closed her eyes in anticipation, and against the flash of her magic. When she opened them, everything looked so much smaller, but she was familiar with this process. It was she who had gotten bigger. Her wings had disappeared - she would call them back when she needed them again - and her dress, boots, and layers of outerwear were appropriately human sized.
Nimurella smiled, shoved her hands into her pockets, and set out to help society.
She gave an elf child a quarter for a gumball after the youngster’s mother couldn’t find one in her bag, and dropped several bills into a charity’s pail. It was quite lucky that human technology had yet to tell the difference between fairy-conjured money and the real thing.
“Hey, you got a light?” a young man standing outside a restaurant asked her.
Nimurella looked at the stick in the man’s hand. She had heard of these and recalled the damage they did to humans with a frown on her face. Surely, his greatest wish for the season would be to be able to stop smoking the infernal things.
Nimurella nodded, and, once again tapping into the ember of power inside her, summoned a fire into the palm of her hand. She uncurled the flames before the man, noting the wonder in his eyes.
“Is it safe?” he asked.
Nimurella nodded again, staring at him. She wondered if it was her gaze that unnerved him, or her casual use of magic.
The young man hesitantly lifted the cigarette to his lips and bent over to light it from the fire in her hands.
At the moment he did so, Nimurella added an extra charm to the flames.
The man coughed, and the cigarette turned to ash between his fingers.
“What was that?” he asked.
Nimurella demurred. “I’m sorry, I think I made it too strong.”
She snapped her fingers, and a single flame rose above her thumb. “Try again.”
The man took out another stick and leaned over again. To his surprise, when he tried to suck through the cigarette...he couldn’t.
It didn’t take him long to realize what had happened.
“What did you do to me?” he spluttered at Nimurella.
She simply broke into a smile as bright as the sunrise. “Midwinter joy!”
And then she disappeared, at least to the young man’s eyes.
As Nimurella ran away, cloaked in an invisibility spell, she was sure the young man would be grateful for the gift that would keep him from continuing to harm his body. She felt her own Midwinter joy as she continued through the marketplace.
After convincing a young woman that if her boyfriend wanted to lose weight, then a scale would be the perfect gift, Nimurella came across a small shop nestled into a corner on a side street. She frowned, not sure what had drawn her here, although something about it tugged at her as if a yarn had been tied around her waist.
The door was narrow, as most old doors were, but was made even more so by a bucket hanging off of the side of the door frame. Nimurella walked by it, and took in the shop.
It was a jewelry store with glass cases displaying various rings, necklaces, bracelets, wrist watches, pocket watches, and cufflinks.
That all seemed well and good, until Nimurella looked up at the man behind the counter.
He was a ghost.
Nimurella must have looked confused, for as soon as he saw her staring, he grinned and floated over to her. He passed right through her, sending gooseflesh rippling on her skin and a chill deep in her bones that made her teeth chatter. But then he reached his goal, and using what little ability ghosts had to move things, shook the pail that stood in the doorway so it clunked.
He thinks I can’t see him, Nimurella realized. She went back to the bucket, and this time took notice of the sign.
Please take one to see and speak to the shop owner.
Inside were bespelled monocles. Nimurella could smell it, although the enchantment wasn’t so strong that she could tell exactly what spells were used. As a fairy, she could see a ghost with this strong a presence without additional magical assistance, but she took one anyway to not arouse suspicion. She balanced it on her cheekbone and squinted to keep it in place, and faced the shop owner.
“Hello,” she said.
“Hello,” he replied, an excited energy seeming to radiate off of his ghostly form. “My name is Patricio, how can I help you?”
Inspiration struck Nimurella like a lightning bolt. A ghost sticking around this realm to run a shop? It was practically maddening. The crowning achievement of her day of granting wishes would be to give this ghost the peace he needed to move on.
“Hi,” Nimurella said hesitantly. She’d need to figure out why he was still here, especially in his shop. And she couldn’t be rude by flat out asking. “I’m looking...for a special gift.”
Patricio nodded, expecting this sentiment in the days leading up to Midwinter. “Let’s start with the basics. Whom is it for?” he asked as if expecting a saucy tale.
“My…” Nimurella’s mind whirled. “My mother.”
“Ah,” Patricio said, hovering over to a glass case full of pairs of earrings. “Close, are you?”
“Yes,” Nimurella said, for it seemed like the correct answer. “She loves sparkling things.”
“Then you’ve come to the right shop!” Patricio said. “I’ve been running it for nearly forty years, and no customer has left without something they loved.”
“That’s...quite an accomplishment.” So a failing shop isn’t the cause, Nimurella thought. “Is there anything that’s been in your inventory for a while?”
When Patricio seemed confused at the pointed question, Nimurella quickly added, “My mom’s a fan of real vintage stuff.”
“There’s only one thing like that in here.” Patricio gestured to a ruby necklace in a case locked behind the counter. “But I’m holding onto that for sentimental reasons. And, no offense, it’s probably not in anyone’s Midwinter price range.”
Nimurella frowned. Did he need to let go of the necklace? Was his emotional connection to it keeping him on this plane?
The pail in the entrance of the doorway shook once again, and Nimurella looked up at the same time Patricio did.
An elderly woman walked in, smiling with an air of holiday cheer and holding a to-go cup of something that smelled like mulling spices. She wore glasses with thick lenses, and Nimurella quickly got a whiff of a similar enchantment to the one on the monocles in the bucket - only this one was much stronger.
“Hello, welcome,” the woman said to Nimurella and quickly walked past her and up to Patricio. Without preamble, she leaned forward and touched her lips to his ghostly cheek, in what would have been a kiss, had he been made of solid matter.
Patricio looked as though he would have blushed, and chuckled. “This is my wife, Cat. She does anything in the shop that requires...corporeal-ness.”
“Oh, hello,” Nimurella said, and paused. So. His wife was the emotional tie. He wouldn’t be able to move on until she did.
What could a fairy do, then? Kill her?
Nimurella almost laughed. How would that be for Midwinter joy?
The happy couple were murmuring about sales and such, ignoring Nimurella as she turned to look at the various offerings of the store.
“Can I buy that?” Nimurella interjected, pointing at an opal ring and conjuring a wad of bills in her pocket that would cover the posted price.
“Wonderful choice!” Patricio said, and Cat walked over to unlock the case.
Before long, the transaction was complete.
“Midwinter joy,” Patricio said, smiling with it himself.
“Midwinter joy,” Nimurella said, feeling the warmth of the sentiment radiate through her.
As she walked through the downtown shops with her purchase, she noticed a young couple standing and staring at the lights that were strung over the street and wrapped around poles and trees. When he thought his partner wasn’t looking, the man’s gaze slipped into one of complete adoration. Nimurella took note of the way they held each others' hands with the easy confidence of two people who’d been in love for a long time, the way they murmured to each other reminding her of Patricio and Cat.
She made a quick decision.
Casting a look-away spell on herself, so they wouldn’t notice her, she slipped the ring box into the man’s coat pocket, as well as the knowledge that it had always been there in his mind. What he chose to do with it was up to him.
Nimurella continued down the snowy street, delighting in the smiles she saw and the laughter she heard. It certainly was a happy time of year. She thought back on the ghost named Patricio and sighed; she hoped he was happy, even if he wasn’t yet at peace.
Ready to be on to the next task, the fairy ducked into an isolated corner and called her wings back to her. Reaching once again inside herself for that spark of magic, she wrapped herself in the warmth of it and shrunk down to the size of a clothespin. She flapped her wings a few times to stretch her newly rearranged muscles, and soared off into the night.