On the first day of December

It was the last of twilight. Far to the west, a corner of the sky was orange and teal of an ancient, contemplative hue. Otherwise night had fallen, cold and clear. Stars and frost had begun to dust the darkness.

A little bearded fellow — an elf, in the tongue of some — was walking around a thinly iced-over lake with a lantern. Frozen grass, reeds, and twigs crackled under his boots. Suddenly he stopped.

In the corner of his eye, under the surface: was that a momentary, darting line of light? He held out his lantern over the lake, bringing it to crystalline illumination. "A reflection," he concluded.

Resuming walking, he held the lantern on the other side of himself from the lake. And reeled again to a stop.

An evanescent streak of light under the ice, that time, surely? He peered out, straining his eyes against the night. Nothing.

And yet... there! Further out this time. Like a shooting star.

Nothing. Nothing... Again! And again! Dazzling, arrowing light, bursting ephemerally up under the ice as though trying to break through it. Now here... now there!

The little bearded fellow stood there a long while; then hurried home. Stoking up the fireplace to a blaze, he sat with toast and butter before it, warming his cheeks in its glow, pondering.

This is the first part of an episodic tale written in November and December 2022, lightly edited in December 2023. Next part.

Last updated: 19:17 (GMT+1), 1st December 2023