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    Valkyrie
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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.
Note: While authors are asked to place warnings on their stories for some moderated content, everyone has different thresholds, and it is your responsibility as a reader to avoid stories or stop reading if something bothers you. 

Our Christmas Songbook - 7. Seven Swans a-Swimming

On the seventh day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, seven swans a-swimming.

“You must really like it out here.”

The young man sitting on the wooden park bench jumped and turned toward the speaker.

“Damn! You scared the crap outta me!”

Mikel blushed and stuffed his hands in the pockets of his black wool pea coat. “Sorry, Rio. I didn’t mean to scare you. I’ll leave you alone.” He started walking slowly away.

“Wait! You don’t need to go. You just startled me. No biggie. You’re Mikel, right? From English class?”

Mikel smiled shyly and nodded. “Yeah. I didn’t think…,” he started.

His classmate gestured to the spot next to him. “You didn’t think what?”

Mikel sat next to the young blond man, perching on the edge of his seat. He crossed his arms over his chest, shivering. “I didn’t think you knew who I was.”

Rio smiled. “Of course I do. You always have the best comments in class. Especially about poetry. I was really impressed with your analysis of Yeats last week.”

Mikel beamed. “Really? Thanks.” He glanced at the pond they were sitting in front of. It wasn’t frozen yet, but the snow-covered landscape surrounding it could have been taken from a Christmas card. It was beautiful. A fresh coating of powder clung to the leafless willows hugging the shore and blanketed the ground in untouched white. A group of seven swans swam in slow circles in front of them, like living snow sculptures.

“Most people go to the park in the summer. Not when it’s so freaking cold,” Mikel stated.

“I’ve been coming here for as long as I remember. My mom used to bring me here. Guess I felt like I needed to keep up the tradition after she died.”

“Oh! I’m sorry, Rio. That had to have been hard.”

Rio shrugged and tossed a piece of bread into the pond. The swans beat their wings, diving for the morsel as one.

“Easy guys! There’s enough for all of you!”

“Swans are really nasty, aren’t they.”

Rio scowled. “What do you mean? I love swans. They’re so beautiful and graceful.”

Mikel blanched. “Oh! I… uh… just mean that I heard they can be really aggressive. You know, like geese.”

Rio relaxed his features. “Gotcha. Yeah, I’ve heard that too, but it isn’t true. At least not in my experience.”

The group of swans swam closer, craning their necks to see if Rio would toss more bread. He broke a slice into several pieces and tossed them into different areas of the water. The birds split away from each other, with the exception of one swan who swam closer to Rio, then flapped its wings as it exited the pond. It waddled up to the two young men, leaving large footprints in the snow and cocking its head as it appraised Mikel.

Rio tore off another piece of bread and held his hand out, palm up. The bird delicately removed it from Rio’s hand. “See? This one is special. I don’t know how long swans live, but see the scar over its eye? This same swan has been here every time I’ve visited since I was a kid. So that means it’s at least twenty years old. Weird, huh?”

“Yeah. Wow. That is strange.”

“Here. You feed him.”

Mikel took a piece of bread and held his hand out the same way Rio had. The swan narrowed its eyes and darted its head forward, snatching the morsel away with a bite to Mikel’s palm.

“Ow!” He yanked his hand away.

“Huh! I’ve never seen him do that before!” Rio stated, puzzled.

The swan waddled over to Rio and rubbed its neck against his leg.

Mikel laughed nervously. “It acts like a dog.”

Rio petted its head, smoothing the feathers back. “Yeah, I guess so. I suppose I’m just used to it.”

“Can… uh… can I ask you something?”

“I think you just did.” Rio smirked.

“Ha. Yeah, I guess I did. Can I ask you something else?”

“How about you just tell me what’s on your mind.”

“Yeah, ok. Um… well… it’s you.”

Rio raised an eyebrow. Mikel’s face flushed bright red.

“I was wondering… well… if you’d like to get a cup of coffee sometime,” he finished, the words coming out in a rush.

Rio stared at Mikel. Silence stretched between them as large snowflakes began to fall. Mikel moved his foot back and forth, making a pattern in the snow-covered leaves scattered on the footpath. The swan honked loudly and darted forward, attacking his foot.

“Hey!” Mikel yelped and drew both of his legs to his chest and wrapped his arms around them. “What the hell?”

The swan toddled back and forth, flapping its wings and pacing in front of Mikel, glaring at him.

“Easy, fella!” Rio held out his hand, and the swan sidled over to him, keeping an eye on Mikel the entire time.

Mikel’s face burned with embarrassment. “I guess I made a mistake. I’m so sorry.” He stood and jogged away, hoping the swan wouldn’t attack him again.

Rio raised his arm and started to speak, but the auburn-haired Mikel was already too far away to hear him. He looked at the swan and frowned. He swore the animal was smirking. “Well, what did you do that for? Mikel is really sweet.”

The swan raised its wings as if shrugging, then with a final rub of its neck against Rio’s leg, retreated to the water and swam away.

 

Rio stood at the water’s edge and looked out across the pond’s expanse. Moonlight glinted off the small waves the light wind produced. The air was cold and crisp, but invigorating to the young man as he looked for his beloved swans. They were nowhere to be found. He sighed and retreated to the bench he'd sat on the other day with Mikel. The swans must be sleeping, he thought.

Reaching into his pocket, he withdrew a worn photo taken not too far from his current location. It was of him and his mother next to a group of swans. They were both smiling as they tossed bread to the beautiful birds. Rio held the picture to his chest. He missed her terribly. Coming to the park had been one of their favorite things to do together. They would walk along the tree-lined paths or sit on the bench and feed the swans as they talked about anything and everything. Rio always felt like he could go to her with any of life’s problems.

“I wish I could talk to you now, Mom. I really screwed up,” he said to her picture. “I was so surprised when Mikel asked me to go for coffee that I didn’t say anything. I just stared at him like an idiot. Then our swan attacked him. You know, the one with the scar above its eye? I couldn’t believe it! The poor guy ran away, not that I blame him. He wasn’t in class the final week either, so I couldn’t apologize and tell him yes.” He wiped a tear from his eye, then looked up, toward the pond. He yelped and almost dropped his picture.

The swan with the scar over its eye stood in front of him, cocking its head. They stared at each other for a minute. Rio’s breath came in visible bursts in the frigid night air. His heart pounded from the scare. He wondered where the bird had come from. One minute the pond was empty, the next he had his friend in front of him, regarding him curiously.

The swan lowered its long neck and covered it with its wings. A bright glow enveloped the snow-white animal, causing Rio to shield his eyes and his heart to pound even harder. He wondered what the hell was happening. As its wings unfurled, a tall, slender woman with long, white hair straightened up and stood in front of him. She wore a white dress that billowed slightly in the breeze.

“I’m sorry, Rio. I didn’t mean to startle you,” she said.

“Who… who are you?” he asked, eyes widening.

“My name is Elin, and I have much to explain, but little time.” She sat next to him and took his hand in hers. She smiled wistfully. “I’ve been waiting for this moment for a long time.”

“I don’t understand.”

Elin gently took the picture from Rio’s hand. “She was a lovely woman, your human mother.”

“My… human… mother?” Rio swallowed. What the hell?

Elin gently squeezed his hand. “My dear boy. I gave birth to you twenty-three years ago. Well, twenty-three human years. When you were three years old, a war broke out in Faery, and it wasn’t safe for you to stay. So I brought you to the human realm, to be raised as one of their own.”

Rio stared at her, slack-jawed. “Human realm? Faery? War? What?”

“We are Cygnus. Swan faeries. I was able to visit you in my swan form, but the magic in the human realm is too weak for me to change into my human form. On Christmas Eve, however, there is enough magic for me to change forms for a short time.”

“Why now? After all this time, why tell me this now?” Rio wondered if he was dreaming. This was too crazy to be reality!

“I wanted to tell you about Mikel.”

“Mikel? You attacked him and drove him away!”

Elin sighed. “I’m sorry about that. I had to be sure he wasn’t out to hurt you. The likelihood is small that any of our enemies would make it here or find you, especially now that the war is over, but I wanted to be on the safe side. I’m satisfied he’s not a threat.” She smiled. “He came back the next day, you know. He sat on the bench for hours, talking to his best friend on his cell phone. He was so disappointed in what happened and how he reacted. He really likes you, but is afraid he screwed things up. He’s nervous about seeing you again.”

“I really like him too. I have ever since I saw him in class. He’s so smart and adorable. I really want to get to know him better.”

Elin smiled. “Then reach out to him. Remember that swans mate for life. If you feel this strong a draw to him, then you have something special.” She stood. “I have to go now, but remember, you can visit me every Christmas Eve. Good-bye, my son.”

“Wait! I have so many questions! Don’t go!” Rio yelled after her retreating form.

Elin dove into the water and resurfaced in her swan form, then swam away.

 

A Year Later

“It’s the middle of the night! Why are we here so late on Christmas Eve? We should be home, in bed, where it’s nice and warm,” Mikel complained.

Rio drew him close and kissed him. “I’ll warm you up later.” He waggled his eyebrows.

Mikel giggled. “I really hope that swan isn’t here. I don’t want to get attacked again.”

Rio smiled. “Funny you should say that. I brought you here because there’s someone I want you to meet….”

 

 

We'd love to hear any Christmas/holiday memories you'd like to share, along with favorite songs.  The song with this story isn't a Christmas song, but I thought of it when I came up the idea for my seven swans story.  The singer has such a beautiful voice, I just had to share.  Thanks for reading!  Don't forget to react to the story and leave a recommendation if you like what you've read :) 
Copyright © 2021 Valkyrie, Cole Matthews, Aditus; All Rights Reserved.
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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.
Note: While authors are asked to place warnings on their stories for some moderated content, everyone has different thresholds, and it is your responsibility as a reader to avoid stories or stop reading if something bothers you. 
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5 hours ago, Ivor Slipper said:

Sweet story - thanks!

Thanks for reading!

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5 hours ago, raven1 said:

So short, but surprising and sweet with a very happy ending.  A loving story for seven swans and two romantic lovers of poetry.  The video was equally moving and lovely.

Yeah, this could have been a novel, but I didn't have that much time to write it ;) I'm glad you liked it.  If you liked the video, check out her other works.  She's one of my favorite artists.  

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4 hours ago, chris191070 said:

A lovely sweet story with a happy ending, perfect for Christmas.

Thank you so much :hug:  

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3 hours ago, Parker Owens said:

Thank you for another sweet Christmas treat. This was very lovely. I’m glad Rio and Mikel got a second chance. 

Thank you!  Yes, it's a good thing Mikel didn't let the swan attack keep him away.  

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3 hours ago, Clancy59 said:

Totally not what I was expecting, although I didn’t know WHAT I was expecting.  Terrific story.  And, even though it’s not a Christmas song, Lorena McKennitt has such a wonderful voice.  We’ve been fans for several years.

I’m really enjoying this series!

Thanks!  I'm so glad you're enjoying our stories!  I love Lorena McKennitt.  She has such a talent for singing and also for arranging and writing music as well.  I got to see her in concert ages ago and it was probably the best concert I've ever been to.  

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2 hours ago, drsawzall said:

A very sweet and tender story reminding us of the magic of the season and that true love is eternal!

I love your assessment of each story.  Yes, so true! Thank you :) 

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2 hours ago, Slytherin said:

I love fairytales :hug: A very sweet story and of course I want to know more. What happens next? :funny: 

 

Thanks :hug:  As for what happens next... :X  

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3 hours ago, Mawgrim said:

That was unexpectedly magical.

Thank you! 

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2 hours ago, JeffreyL said:

What a wonderful story! It had so many elements I enjoy: magic creatures, timid lovers, swans, snow. I was not expecting the plot to go in a fairy tale direction, but I loved it and the surprise reveal! Thanks and Merry Christmas!

Thank you so much!  I'm glad you liked it.  Merry Christmas to you, as well :hug: 

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This series started out beautifully and just gets better with each addition. It is amazing what you can do with such few words. Thank you for these holiday gifts.

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