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That time of the year, on Earth, came around again. A time when most Terrans seemed to take on a completely different demeanor than during the rest of the year.
Cadet Soan th'Hanera never really understood it, just came to accept Christmas and the celebrations around him. It made him curious how other cadets minds would drift so easily at this time of the year.
Yeah, other planets had their certain celebration days, even Andoria was starting to celebrate their rejoining the Federation, but there always seemed something really different about this Christmas holiday.
Soan sat alone in his dorm room. He was reading more about the Earth/Romulan war.
NightWind was walking across the Commons and saw the light shining in his room so she headed up to see if he'd like to take a break from some of the books for a while. She knew that he liked the burritos she fixed up for breakfast, especially the ones with the tail-kinkers, but eh thought that he might"Alright," She stepped into the hallway like to get away from the campus for a while and being an upperclassman had its privileges, especially to escort a fellow cadet and friend to one of the restaurants that served something more upscale than the Academy mess hall. She checked her credit statement and smiled.They could hit one of the more interesting places to eat, a place that also had a show to go with dinner. She wasn't sure why they wanted to make the place to look like a castle though...
She headed up to Soan's door and rang the chime." Hey Soan, want to unbury your nose from the books for a while?"
The Andorian cadet looked up from the PADD. 'Why,' he though to himself. 'All I wanted was some peace and quiet.' He chose to ignore the person at the door.
"Come on, Soan, you don't need to hibernate in there just because there's no classes. Besides, I had heard about something and I thought you might like to go with me to see it." NightWind could be persistent when she wanted to. "I'll treat."
Soan sighed and climbed out of his bunk. Clad in just a pair of academy sweat pants, he crossed to the door and touched the control. The door slid open. "Why me?" th'Hanera asked the Felinoid.
NightWind moved into the room, a brightly wrapped box in her hands which she set on his desk. "Why not? I thought we were friends and I wanted to do something fun with you and also get away from the food in the Mess Hall for once. Where I was thinking that we'd go would combine both."
The Andorian's antennae twisted back in annoyance. 'Why don't you just come in,' he thought. "What if I was enjoying the solitude?"
"If you were enjoying the solitude, then I apologize and I'll leave," she told him contritely before turning and heading for the door.
'Good,' th'Hanera though to himself, but did not say aloud. His antennae slanted back in annoyance again as he suddenly felt guilty. "Give me a moment. I'll get dressed."
''Alright." She stepped into the hallway as the door opened so he could have privacy to dress.
While he was dressing, she called up one of the cabs to take them to a place called 'Medieval Times', a place that was supposed to be a show as well as having dinner in the ticket price.
A few moments later, Soan reappeared wearing a pair of Terran blue jeans and a light blue pullover shirt. He pulled on a leather jacket. "Okay, ready to go."
NightWind had already signed them out of the Academy grounds for the Evening, so she led him over to where the cab was waiting before giving the Cabbie the directions and the credits to pay for the trip.
"So, where we goin'," th'Hanera asked as the hover-cab lifted off the ground and started on its way.
"It's a place called 'Medieval Times', supposed to be styled after a castle and tournament in Spain." She told him.
Soan nodded, then looked to his right, outside the cab. He looked at the residential area they passed over and noted the many brightly lit houses.
She was looking to the left out the cab window at all the multicolored lights and displays on the houses. She touched his hand to point out one display that had the light display synchronized to music.
Soan looked at the display and shook his head. "To think they don't leave displays like that up all year. Only a couple weeks leading to Christmas."
"They sometimes do it for other holidays, I hear a LOT of people go out for the one they call 'Halloween', and then they change the display up the next year," she told him.
"Yeah," th'Hanera acknowledged. "I know all about their Halloween celebrations. And Thanksgiving, and the fourth of July... Independence Day, I believe they call it. And we can't forget First Contact Day, too."
"True, but I think that this Christmas started out as a religious holiday, the birth of their god or something like that. But from what I read in their holy book called the Bible, their god was supposed to be born in the spring by the descriptions of the climate at the time. I guess they changed it to try to get more converts..."
Soan just shook his head in disbelief. "A confused people for certain."
"I've met some of these Christians and they are usually good and generous people who believe that following the teachings of their 'Christ' is the best way for them to live their lives."
Soan simply nodded his understanding and continued looking out the cab'swindow. He saw that it was descending in front of a strange looking building. "Is this the place?"
She looked out the window to the building he pointed to. "Yes, it is"
"Looks.... interesting," th'Hanera said haltingly.
She nodded, her tail twitching happily. "From what I read about it , it is based on a castle in Spain and the owner's family are descendants of the owners of that original castle and they base the show and food off what was done back then."
"Hmm!" the Andorian replied with sudden interest. "I wonder if this will be historically correct."
"I don't know for certain, whenever you commercialize something you lose some of the authenticity, but I hear it's pretty close."
The doors to the cab slid open. Soan climbed out, and turned to watch NightWind exit. Once she was out, he turned again toward the building.
The building was shaped like a castle with a drawbridge over a shallow moat and large iron-bound wooden doors with the iron grate of a raised portcullis over the top of the doorway.
She opened the door and gestured for him to enter as her guest while she headed over to the cashier to pay for their tickets.
Soan followed as she bid. He looked around as other patrons, rather strangely dressed, came strolling past them.: As they went in further into the building, they were given blue paper crowns to identify the section they were going to be in. In the lobby there was a giftshop as well as a bar and a separate area that showed the types of torture devices that were used in the past to extract confessions from the prisoners.
Soan looked at the crown. HIs first inclination was to rebuke donning it, but he saw others wearing them and shrugged. When he saw the torture devices, he smiled. "Now you're talking."
Several sets of closed double doors led further into the castle, probably to where the dinner and show were held. When she saw his interest in the torture devices, she paid the entry fee to let them explore the more twisted avenues of human depravity.
Soan looked at each of the different apparatus they passed. Some seem pretty obvious what their purpose would be. Others, the Andorain could only guess. He glanced over at NightWind, wondering what she made of all this equipment.
"Have you ever seen anything so strange," he asked the Felinoid.
NightWind was studying each piece in there as well, trying to gauge how much pain and damage each piece would cause to the victim. "I've seen a few things but... these seem to be reminders of a more barbaric age, when life was valued less than it is now."
"Sometimes it baffles me how little people can value life," th'Hanera admitted. He thought about the insensitivity he had seen in the early days following the Borg devastation of Andoria.
"Usually it seems to be done to those of a lower caste of society, those with different religious beliefs or those considered to be 'strange' to the rest of the community, but I agree, the depravity and insensitivity shown here is something that I'm glad that it was done away with in truly 'civilized' society. Now, we try to treat the mental illnesses or imprison in rehab colonies for the more dangerous members of society and very rarely deal with the problem individuals by execution."
"What about on your homeworld... Sivao, right?" Soan asked as they walked on toward the dining area.
"Yes, it is and if there is a communal problem with an individual, we'll tell them to find a new place to pitch their tents and exile them from that camp. One time we did have cities, like here, and the inhabitants brought terrible diseases to the camps and were responsible for a number of extinctions. So our ancestors told them to return to the old ways or leave the camp, this time being Sivao itself. It was when the ADF plague came about that Kirk was able to get our peoples reunited, by forcing us to grow up and stop with the blame game."
Soan nodded. They found their table and sat down. The Andorian looked at his dinner companion. "Do you find it strange that the Terrans would romanticize such a barbaric time?"
"No, I don't. Times were hard then, yes, but they did have their good points in that there were some that tried to temper the barbarity with more civilized pursuits and people many times prefer to look for the 'Camelots', rather than the 'Black Death.' It was also the start of the re-education of Europe and even if the study is skewed by the Romanticism, people still learned the lessons from that time in many different fields, like government, law and philosophy, among others."
"How do you know all this?" th'Hanera asked.
NightWind smiled. "I do a LOT of reading and have sat in on discussions with a group of Medieval and Renaissance Reenactors. They do the research for the fun of it, sometimes learning the different crafts like spinning and weaving as well as candle making, blacksmithing and armor making, herbalism and all sorts of different areas. They said that if it was mentioned as to having been done back in that time period, Someone in their group somewhere is researching it."
"Ahhh," Soan acknowledged. He looked around the dining hall. "So, what can we expect tonight?"
"Well, from what I read on their website, they have displays of the horsemanship and fighting styles of that time period as well as a Falconry exhibition and showing some of the way that they train the horses."
"This should be interesting," he commented, though his tone of voice said other wise.
"It should be different and perhaps we could pick up a few techniques to be used with weapons training back at the Academy. It's been said that no learning ever goes to waste..."
Soan made a face, showing his displeasure at NightWind's statement ringing true. Then he shrugged and nodded. "Okay, let's see the show."
She chuckled, a low throaty purr as she noted the costumed servers coming around and bringing the first course of their meal, soup in bowls with handles so that they could be drunk directly from while another servitor was taking drink orders from the other patrons and working their way around their section of the arena.
Soan seemed a bit lost when the servers came to him, so he deferred to NightWind to make the first order.
She ordered mulled cider for them both, guessing that the hot apple drink might be a novelty for him and the spices would give it a distinctive flavor that he might enjoy.
Soan sniffed at the drink. He wasn't certain whether he found it pleasing or not. He took a tentative sip. He felt the same about the taste, so he decided to take another sip.
She grinned and handed him a tail-kinker to add to the drink to see if the spiciness improved the flavor for him.
"No," Soan said refusing the tail-kinker. "I think this is... 'colorful enough' in taste."
"Alright, Soan, I keep some with me just in case they are desired." She nodded as the show began with the introduction of the 'Court' and the horsemaster showing how they began working the younger squires as well as the horses on a lunge line so that both would know what to do if they ever needed to go into battle as a team.
Soan watched the show with great interest. He even took another swig of the cider without even thinking about it.
After the soup, the servers brought out full herbed roast chickens and spareribs as well as herbed potatoes and garlic bread.
Soan's antennae came forward in interest. The food smelled delicious. He immediately grabbed for some of the chicken.
Her whiskers went forward as she saw him enjoying the herb roasted bird with such gusto. It reminded her of her litter mate and the way he would tear into a grabfoot thigh after he had caught one of the small dinosaur like creatures back home. She was more dainty in her eating about the time that the Falconer came out with several raptors, mainly hawks and falcons, to have them fly over the crowd in the arena.
Soan watched the birds fly around. "They look so... awesome," he commented. "Probably one of the only things I really like about the Romulans, is they design their ships after birds like that."
NightWind nodded. "They ARE awesome, Soan, as well as beautiful in their maneuvers in going after the lure. Some of the falcons can reach up to 389 km/h in a full dive."
Soan shook his head, amazed. "Wow."
She nodded. "I too can see why the Romulans chose them for the paint jobs on their ships. Beautiful and deadly."
"and to instill fear into their enemies," Soan added. He looked around. "Those... squires... did you call them? How old were they?"
"Usually, between fourteen and twenty-one, with their training as pages starting around the age of seven. Those ages were not set in stone and some stayed Squires all their lives, usually due to monetary constraints. It took a lot of money to become a knight, especially in buying the armor and horses, because a knight usually had more than one, in case one was tired, injured or killed in combat. That was just the warhorses, then they usually had at least one for regular riding purposes though sometimes they had just one warhorse trained to do everything." She told him.
About then the knights were introduced and began showing off their skills on horseback by running at the rings, that is, trying to skewer rings with their lance while going at a full gallop; and also trying to stick a lance into the center of a target. The countess gave the ones that succeeded flowers to toss into the audience of their section. One of the flowers landed in Soan's lap.
Soan's antennae swiveled as he watched all of this. He found it fascinating and even fancied himself one of the riders.
"They do allow you to come see the horses when they are not performing and oftentimes give castle tours to school aged children." She found it fun to be his teacher in this.
Soan smirked. "I'm no school child, but I believe a good holo-program could do much the same."
"True but even so children get more enjoyment and ability to remember by being able to touch something real rather than go through some holo-simulator exercise."
"I suppose," th'Hanera said, not quite convinced. he was already thinking about looking through the academy's holo-library.
The Servitors moved around the arena, keeping drinks filled and seeing if there were anything else that the patrons might need. One of the children down the table from them grew ill, possibly from too much excitement and noise, and the whole family left, leaving behind most of their dinners. NightWind asked the server they had if it would be alright to abscond with the uneaten chickens and ribs so they could have something back at the Academy for a later snack. The serving wench soon brought a bag and foil to wrap everything up in and helped NightWind gather up everything to take with them before going down to march in the castle staff's parade.
"Where are we going?" Soan asked.
"I was getting it for later tonight back at the dorm and so that it wouldn't go to waste. I was planning on staying till the show was over."
Soan nodded. "Oh, good. Believe it or not, I am enjoying the show."
She smiled. "I was hoping that you would. I thought that this might be a fun something to do that didn't have much to do with all our studies."
"Except that now you make me want to increase my studies," th'Hanera told her. "I want to learn more about this time period."
"Well, there is a group on campus that studies the time period by living it on the weekends. I've got friends in it, if you'd want to go to one of their events some time. It's called the Society for Creative Anachronism and they've been expanding from Berkeley, California to an interplanetary medieval and renaissance recreation group."
"Oh," he exclaimed with some recognition. "They call that group the 'Medies, or something like that?"
"There is a sub-group in the southern USA called "the Kingdom of Meridies" if that's what you mean..."
"Yeah! That's them," Soan acknowledged. "Not real popular among the security crowd."
Her tail corkscrewed so tightly it looked like it would easily turn to knots. "They've been plaguing the Law Enforcement Officers almost since the inception of the group. In fact, they taught a LOT of the California Riot Squads how to do shield walls by locking their rattan swords in behind their shields and then marching through the LEO's lines. That next week, the LEOs were back to learn how to counter and do what the SCA fighters did."
Soan chuckled. "Yeah, I can picture that."
''Mmhmm, There's a whole lot of stories about the tangling between the SCA and different groups like the LEOs and a number of the more billy-bada biker gangs, like the Hell's Angels." She kitty-grinned, remembering THAT story.
"The Hell's what?" Soan asked, his antennae reflecting his confusion.
"Hell's Angels, a group that was supposed to be as evil as the mythical beings that were cast out of Heaven for following the Devil. The Hell's Angels had a really bad reputation for causing damage and trouble along with getting into fights at times which occasionally left several people dead."
Soan considered this with a thoughtful nod. "Fitting name then."
About then the knights started their jousting, trying to knock each other off their horse with long lances by hitting their opponent's shield. Sometimes, they would go to further displays of hitting each other with their swords till one acknowledged defeat.
While the knights were fighting, the servitors brought around Pastries of a number of different varieties for dessert.
"Whoah!" Soan exclaimed. "That's got to hurt."
NightWind nodded. "A LOT of it is choreographed to prevent SERIOUS injuries, but I hear that they have a fair selection of bruises after a night's performance. Also their costumes have padding like the real armor did to absorb some of the force of the blows."
"I should hope so," he replied turning back to the displays.
"From what I understand, you can talk with the performers after the show so you can ask them about it." She knew that she was glad to bring along a number of bottles of 'bruise juice' to give to the performers along with the recipe to make more.
"Nice," th'Hanera said, nodding. "I think I'll do just that."
She grinned more as she settled in to watch the rest of the show. It wasn't long till it was over with the Blue Knight winning the night's tournament.
"Heh!" Soan remarked in triumph. "The blue one wins! As it should."
NightWind kitty-grinned as she hugged him and the servors brought around small glasses of a bubbly drink to everyone. The Count, the one presiding over all the festivities, offered a toast to everyone for a prosperous and happy New Year.
Soan briefly returned the hug, then turned to lift his glass in toast along with the count. He looked over to NightWind. "Happy New Year."
She nodded before touching her glass to his. "Happy New Year, Soan. May this next year be even better than the last and may all our absent friends be held close in our hearts till we can hold them in our arms once more."
Outside, the fireworks started to go off to welcome in the new year.