21 WYRDSDAY. Winter Solstice * * * Four days before Yule * * * Since colonial times, City-dwellers from the Northern Old World, including the Old Money Dwergen, pass a bribe to the constabulary so they can practice midwinter mummery by dressing like goblins and other bogies and capering around bonfires in public places.
- From the Almanac of the City 5888: “Accommodated to the Five Baronies But May Without Sensible Error Serve for the Entire Metropolitan District, the Greater Hegemony, and Even Points More Distant”
An ancient Winter Solstice legend among the people of Northern Ealderde holds that the night belongs to Bertha, Queen (also called “Grandmother”) of the White Women--the cast-out witches of the North. On this longest night of the year, the Dwerg-folk would huddle near their hearthfires, their windows shuttered tight, while Bertha and the White Women ruled the night, accompanied in their revelries by goblins, boggarts, and other malicious beings (now extinct). Woe came to any good-folk they caught outside. They either died of fright, or were torn apart by the celebrants in ecstatic frenzy.
The Northern folk developed an apotropaic ritual, wherein they disguised themselves as the various humanoids and malign spirits they feared so that they could pass among them without harm. Today, many people of Northern Ealderdish descent honor their ancestors on the Solstice by dressing up in costume, getting inebriated, and partying.
It was been noted once or twice--though not given much attention--that a somewhat higher number of disappearances and murders occur among the revelers on this night. The inevitable result of drunken foolishness surely, except that more than one shaken and haunted-eyed murder has claimed they had no control over their actions when they committed the deed--indeed many claim no memory of the event. Many of these assaults are committed against complete strangers, so that there is no discernible motive.
And then what are we to make of the few people every year who claim to have glimpsed a pale crone, clad in white, moving silently among the crowds? And the fact that many having this experience require brief hospitalization for inconsolable fear, boarding on hysteria, afterwards?