Fiction Friday: The Sound of Snow

I had a hankering to try my hand at a little overt worldbuilding. So here we go with marriage customs of the caribou-taurs in the Artic Circle.

The snow made a soft shushing sound as it fell, the pit-pat of individual flakes striking their fellows on the ground drowned out by the louder noise of the breeze sweeping them along until they stuck on something. Every now and then, the wind would disturb a branch, and it would shift, dropping its load with a soft, heavy fwump. The sound made her smile.

Gala was alone, but she knew it wouldn't be for long. Blitzen was coming back. So instead of sitting with the little crowd in the gathering hall, she had settled herself in a shallow impression in the snow, breathing in the crisp air and listening to the world turn gently about her. There was nothing quite like the excitement of knowing her mate was coming back to her. Not having expected to have a mate of her own, she had once spent the evenings listening to the other cows greet their families. The loving quibbles, the invitations, the fond embraces. It had been a wonderful background to her own daydreams, but this was ever so much better.

And... yes. There in the distance. Her large white ears twitched slightly to and fro, pinpointing the sound of brass bells chiming in time to the tireless gait of a proud delivery caribou. With a shiver of excitement, Gala tucked her hands even deeper into her sleeves and pricked her ears, turning her face toward the sound.

"Ho the white beauty!" called Blitzen's cheerful voice, and Gala's heart leapt into her throat. Getting to her feet, she stumbled a little in the snow as her hooves sank in, but with a rattle and chime of bells, Blitzen was there with her again, his strong hands keeping her from falling into the powdery sky-ice.

"Your antlers are growing in!" Blitzen sounded utterly delighted, and one of his mittened hands rubbed at the nubs of velveted antler over her ears, which tickled something awful. Of course, he only laughed when she shook her head, and caught her lips in a surprise kiss which sent the other more matronly cows nearby into furious whispers. They thought he was indecent. Sometimes, so did Gala, but she was lucky enough to be the recipient of his indecency, to it was hard to protest too much.

"I've been waiting for you," she told him, feeling the heat of a blush in her cheeks. "Let's go inside."

"Hang on. I got a present for ya; best if ya open it out here." He rummaged in one of his saddle bags, then pressed a medium-sized package into her hands. It felt bulky and squishy, like something soft wrapped in paper. Intrigued, she felt it all over.

"Why should I open it out here?" It took her a little while to find the seam and hook her fingers into the paper.

"Because I want all them nosy old biddies to see that it don't matter what they say. I love ya, and that's the way it'll always be." His tone was both stubborn and proud, and she couldn't help but think she was incredibly lucky to have captured his heart. Unwrapping his gift, she felt it unfold and spill over her hands, yards of soft, woolen fabric. She felt it all over, intrigued, then found the tassels at the edge. With a gasp, she almost dropped it while Blitzen laughed.

"D'ya like it?"

"It's... it's a marriage blanket?" She's heard about them in stories. A wool blanket, woven with the pair's colors and sometimes a pattern of some sort to represent them as a family. It was really more like a very soft tapestry in some of the wealthier families than a real blanket, but in smaller villages like Knot Hill, it was actually a blanket for the married couple to sleep under together or... other things. Gala blushed.

"It is. I asked a friend to make it for us on the way out, then picked it up on the way back in and... well... d'ya like it? It's soft enough, yeah? I wanted it to be extra soft for ya." He was starting to sound worried, and Gala realized she hadn't said out loud how very happy it made her.

"It's... it's like a dream," she admitted softly, forgetting for a moment that everyone else could see her new marriage blanket. "I never thought... I mean... I'm just so lucky...." She trailed off, tears gathering in her eyes, and squeaked softly when Blitzen suddenly put his arms around her.

"Hey now, don't cry. It's supposed to be a good thing, yeah?" She could hear the note of panic in his tone and couldn't help but laugh in spite of the tears making cold trails down her cheeks.

"I've never been happier. Please, let's go inside. I want to put this where I can find it tonight."

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