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Story Notes:
The Challenge: This month we’re setting a Christmas challenge. We’ve got two choices for you. We have 20 words for you and you’ll need to use at least TEN of them, OR we have a line for you to use. The words are: ICE, COLD, HEART, UNWRAP, TEDDY, STOCKING, MISTLETOE, SCROOGE, SNOWFLAKE, BRANDY, RIBBONS, EGGNOG, EYELASH, TINSEL, KISS, SCARF, ANGEL, RED, BOWS, ASSIGNMENT. The line is: FLAMES DANCED IN THE DARKNESS CREATING A WORLD OF MAGIC.


You can use the words, or line, as many times as you want but you must use them at least once in your story.

Please CAPITALIZE the words/line in order to make them stand out.

The words/line must be EXACTLY as noted in the challenge.

Your submission can be of any length, from a line to a full-length story - and it can be SMK, B5 or anything else.
Author's Chapter Notes:
Author’s Note: In the Middle Ages in England it was the custom for noble houses to send their children to the estate of another noble – usually of higher rank – to train. This custom gradually became less popular and went out of fashion with the start of the Civil War in the mid-seventeenth century. You can still see remnants of the system in the British royal household. The Queen has her equerries and ladies in waiting.

Those of you who have read “Black Silk” may remember Cole’s parents being mentioned. This is the story of the day they met. It is taken out of context, therefore a lot of things have to be accepted as understood.

Those of you who have not read “Black Silk”, will be totally confused by this story, and for that I apologize.

The young woman’s heavily embroidered skirts rustled as she shivered and pulled her woolen wrapper tighter around her shoulders. At this time of the evening, the solar was too cold for the other women of the household. During the day the large room with so many windows allowed the sunlight to warm the space, but at night, it was used only as a convenient and private place for trysts.

Solitude, rather than a lovers’ tryst, was what Tamara had been seeking. She sat near the small fire she’d lit and set her neat stitches in the linen she was holding; the large wax work candle giving her enough light to see. Wax candles were a luxury but one she could afford, and her eyes didn’t need a lot of light to see the fine pattern she was fashioning with her needle.

As one of the Duchess’ ladies in waiting, she had many duties, but this evening with the festivities in the great hall, she didn’t think she’d be missed. She’d needed a little time alone to consider the effect their unexpected guest might have on her life.

It was Yuletide in the year of our Lord 1602 and Queen Bess, although frail, was still on the throne of England, and Tamara had a secret.

A secret, that if it were made known, would have her hunted down like an animal.

A secret that was shared by the man who’d arrived that very day.

She’d made discreet enquiries and found his name was Malik Colburn and that he came from the wilds of Ireland. She’d heard him speak, and his accent had made his voice sound like music. Since birth, she’d been taught to respect the name of Colburn, but she’d been out of touch with her kind for so long, she had no idea where he stood in the hierarchy.

Tamara had sensed, had smelled, what he was as soon as he’d stepped into the hall; just as surely as he’d known her as one of his kind. She’d breathed in his scent; a scent that was as welcome as a summer shower after a hot spell, or the wonderful smell of newly cut hay.

Their eyes had met across the hall during the evening meal and he’d inclined his head in acknowledgment of their similarities. She thought, now, of those eyes, the deep blue that seemed to burn into her soul; his black hair that had made her fingers tingle with longing to touch it.

Would he seek her out?

Her sharp ears picked up a slight sound on the stairwell. Turning her head in the direction of the opening at the far end of the room, she had a moment to steady her composure before he appeared in the doorway.

Tamara put aside her sewing and stood, patiently waiting for him to approach. She knew she should be modest and keep her eyes lowered, but she couldn’t resist meeting his gaze. With silent cat-like grace, which obviously came so naturally to him, he advanced to where she sat, and swept her bow. Straightening he took her offered hand and raised it to his lips.

“My lady. You’re alone in this house?” He gestured for her to take her seat again, remaining standing until she’d done so. She knew he hadn’t meant physically alone.

When he was seated on the settle on the opposite side of the hearth, she answered him. “Yes, my lord. My parents sent me to her grace’s household when I was young.”

“And the nobles have not yet discovered you?”

“No, my lord. The fashion for white paint has allowed me to disguise my lack of ageing, but I fear I will need to leave soon. Her grace is beginning to give me strange looks; we have the same number of years, but she feels hers as I do not.” She pulled her sewing on to her lap to give her hands something to hold; to stop them from trembling.

“Where does your family hail from?”

“My family has spent the last several hundred years in Northumberland, my lord.” Even though temptation was strong to look him in the eyes, she kept hers demurely downcast.

“They supported the true queen?”

“Aye, my lord, and will be happy when her son sits on the throne of England.”

“Do you know who I am, my lady?” His voice held a touch of impatience.

“I have heard of your name, my lord.”

“I am the heir.”

Tamara’s eyes grew wide, and scrambled to her feet and then into a deep curtsey; her sampler falling to the floor. “Your highness! I didn’t realize, please forgive me.”

With regal grace, he stood and reaching out he placed one finger under her chin to make her rise up. “Please, there is no need to bow before me.”

Standing, she dared look at his beautiful face again. “But, your highness, one day you will be my king.”

“And when that day comes, who will you owe allegiance to? Prince Jamie who will be king of England or to the leader of your kind?”

“To both of you, your highness.” She lifted her chin a little higher. “We must obey the laws of the land we live in.”

“And if I would have you stand by my side as my mate and as my queen; what would you say?”

Tamara swallowed and wondered if her future really lay with this very regal creature. From deep inside, her pride made itself known. “I would say, that I would want to be courted first.”

Malik stepped closer and took her hand, lifting it to his lips; he let the kiss linger a little longer than was proper. Deliberately he caressed the delicate skin with his mouth and with the roughness of his tongue. “I think I could do that.” He smiled at her and led her to the settle, pulling her down next to him as he sat.

Facing the hearth, he held her hand, and as the FLAMES DANCED IN THE DARKNESS CREATING A WORLD OF MAGIC, they talked of the future.

A future that she hoped would hold centuries of love, freedom, and the continuation of a dynasty.
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