The Mari Lwyd
By Jana Denardo
Author’s note. This is set in my Kept Tears universe. You can find Kept Tears Here
Aaron nestled into the couch listening to Bryn and Bron bantering back and forth. Rhys’s twins had arrived in town for Christmas. He didn’t think they had any hint of Christian faith being fae, but they liked the lights and the gifts and all the parties. He didn’t mind when they came to town, the centuries old Tylwyth Teg twins were amusing. He enjoyed spending time with them.
That said, he’d rather spend the night with Rhys alone. Ah well, there would be other nights. Rhys spent most of his life isolated from his own kind, his family, as one of the guardians of humanity. Aaron could hardly begrudge him a family visit. Besides, the twins had centuries worth of stories about their father. He couldn’t get enough of those.
Someone knocked on Rhys’s door. As Rhys was busy getting drinks, Aaron levered himself up to go answer it. One day, when it came to dealing with the fey, maybe he’d learn to curve his helpful nature, but that day wasn’t today so here he stood, staring at a horse’s skull grinning toothily at him.
Aaron slammed the door shut, leaning on it, the servos in his prosthetic hand whining as he splayed his hand against the wood. “Rhys!”
“What?” he called merrily from his station at the makeshift bar he had set up in the corner of his living room.
“There’s a goddamn horse’s skull on a skeletal body wearing a cape with a bunch of strange people behind it.” He couldn’t keep the slightly hysterical note out of his tone.
“Brilliant,” Bryn cried, popping up off the couch.
“The Mari Lewd. It’s been ages since one of them has shown up,” Bron added.
Aaron pressed his forehead against the door. He should have realized they’d know what the hell was going on. There were days he wondered if he had suffered more brain trauma than he thought when he lost his arm and nearly his leg after his transport was hit during the war. It would explain his complete love for Rhys despite the fact he was fae and had so much accompanying weirdness swirling around him.
“What is the Mari Lwyd?” Aaron said, stumbling a bit over the strange name.
“The Grey Mare, it’s a Christmas tradition in parts of Wales, and you know that’s where my kind once held sway,” Rhys replied, striding toward the door with his sons.
He flung the door open. This time Aaron could see the horse skull held a bell in its jaw. Behind it were several humans but somehow, he doubted the colorfully clothed men and women were remotely human. He knew the fae hide their otherness on this plane.
The horse’s skull nodded, ringing its bell while the others sang. “Wel dyma ni’n dwad. Gyfeillion diniwad. I ofyn am gennod i ganu. Os na chawn ni gennad. Rhowch wybod ar ganiad. Pa fodd mae’r ‘madawiad, nos heno.”
Aaron had no idea what they were talking about. Was it Welsh? Some faery language? They had the same linguist roots for all he knew.
Rhys sang back, “Does genni ddim cinio. Nac arian iw gwario. I wneud i chwi roeso, nos heno.”
“It’s pwnco,” Bryn told Aaron.
“It’s a battle of insults and rhymes,” Bron added.
“Ooookay,” Aaron drew out the word, still confused but what he knew of Welsh holiday traditions could hide in the dot on an I. If La Befana, the Italian Christmas witch showed up tonight too, he was out of here.
The strangers with the Mari Lwyd shot back something more in that foreign language, and the twins answered them. After several exchanges, they changed to English, so Aaron could follow.
“You can’t come in. This is a game you cannot win,” Rhys said, and the Mari Lwyd clattered its jawbone.
Maybe I should just go get a jump on the drinking, Aaron thought, vaguely irritated out by the whole thing. He wondered how long this battle could go on but they all seemed to be enjoying it. He wanted to consider himself open to all cultures, so Aaron tried to jump into the verbal fray. Corrine would have fared better than he.
Finally, Rhys threw his arms open wide and took a step back. “You have triumphed, enter.”
The people trooped in, more than Aaron had thought had been in the hall. He thought he might recognize a few of them. He helped Rhys pour drinks while the twins fetched appetizers. Aaron turned to get a bottle of vodka and when he turned back he yelped, nearly dropping the bottle. A pallid head sat on the table and a headless body leaned against it.
“Donahue, put your damn head on,” Rhys snapped at the fae. “You remember, Donahue, right Aaron?”
Aaron nodded. Donahue the Dullahan and his damn detachable head was how he’d found out about Rhys was fae. It wasn’t any less creepy now.
“And I was putting the head on.” Donahue’s head said, his slack jaw rapping on the table. The Dullahan scooped it up, setting it on his shoulders where it pinked up more lifelike. “Can’t drink without it.”
Aaron sighed and poured him a vodka martini as the twins raced by, their glamour spells dropped, their pointed ears showing. As he handed over the drink he noticed most of the fae had abandoned the spells that made them look human.
Aaron turned to Rhys. “Am I the only human here?”
Rhys let his magic fall away. Long gold curls, delicately pointed ears and luminous eyes, Rhys was even more gorgeous without it. “Yes.” He slipped his arms around Aaron, “but you’re my human.” He kissed Aaron.
It was corny, but Aaron’s heart melted.
“Always.” He leaned against Rhys. “This is the weirdest Christmas ever.”
“Oh, it’s only going to get weirder from here,” Rhys promised, caressing Aaron’s backside.
“I think I need rum, lots of rum.”
Rhys laughed, pulling up two liters of coke, knowing Aaron would want that too. “Not too much. I have plans for you later, and I need you in fighting form.”
Aaron wrapped a strand of Rhys’s long hair around one hand, “Tell me more.”
“Later. If Donahue overhears he might want to join in…or just the head.” Rhys smirked.
Aaron dropped the strand of hair. “And now that you ruined sex forever.”
“Oh, we’ll see about that.” Rhys kissed him again. “Challenge accepted.”
“Weirdest Christmas ever,” Aaron repeated, returning the kiss. “Potential the hottest.”
“As I said, challenge accepted.”
Aaron never wanted a party to be over more but until then, he was going to make the most of the crowd of fae.’ Merry Christmas to him.
Author’s Note – the pwnco was taken from http://www.omniglot.com