Campaign of the Month: March 2017

Nocturnum: Rebirth

Happy Christmas, Henry Anders!

On Christmas morning, Henry awakens and immediately smells coffee brewing. Coming downstairs, he finds Emily and Darrek already awake and curled up on the couch together with their coffees. The Christmas tree is lit, and there are wrapped packages underneath of it. Henry’s stocking is stuffed full.

“Good morning, and happy Christmas!” Darrek smiles at him and winks. "Why don’t you go get some coffee and then you can join us and investigate your presents a bit?

Inside of his stocking, there are a bunch of various chocolate and candy treats, a really nice insulated travel coffee mug with the Hive Arcana logo, a pound of their house blend coffee, and gift cards to various stores including Game Stop, Barnes and Noble, Hot Topic, etc. There’s also a membership tag on a lanyard for the Bethel Park Community Center. “They have very nice facilities and programs,” Darrek says. “So I got us a family membership.”

Underneath the tree, Henry opens the following gifts:

An Xbox One, and a Wii U. Darrek grins. “Now you can play any game you bloody well want to.”

The Philosophical Writings of Descartes, Volumes I-III. They appear gently used. When Henry opens the cover, he immediately notices sentences have been underlined and recognizes his father’s handwriting in the margins. Turning to the front, his father’s name is carefully written on the inside cover. Henry can barely hold back tears. After his parents’ belonging were sold at the estate sale, he was sure he would never see any of his father’s books again.

Darrek says, “Some wisdom for you, from your dad.”

In a smaller box, a brass antique compass with a pocket chain attached. “That also belonged to your dad. Em took it to her jeweler, and they replaced the glass, cleaned it, and tightened everything up, so it’s in good working order.”

Several framed pictures of Henry and his parents. Darrek clears his throat. “You can put those up in your room, or we can hang them up down here, with our pictures…whichever you’d prefer.” One of them is from when Henry was a baby, with his mother. There’s also a picture of his parents from their wedding day. Without a word, Henry hangs the picture of his mother holding him over the mantle. He makes quiet plans to himself to get a nice frame for the picture of his parents’ wedding so that he can put it on his nightstand.

A copy of Meditations by Marcus Aurelius, as originally written in Koine Greek. Darrek smiles. “Some more wisdom for you, this time from me. We can work through it together when we start your lessons.”

Henry smiles. “My dad hated Aurelius. He’d go on for hours about how depressing he was. How he was the equivalent of listening to a baby cry. My dad preferred Epicurus. Said he was more ‘authentic,’ whatever that means. I’m glad to see a dissenting perspective.” He hugs Darrek.

Darrek wraps his arms around Henry and chuckles. “Epicurean philosophy was a primary influence on Western culture and values…sort of the root of the idea of, ‘life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.’ Stoicism takes a very different lense on life. My best advice is to read and learn as much as you can, and decide what works and makes the most sense for you.” He ruffles Henry’s hair affectionately, then lets him go.

From Emily, a super soft, crocheted afghan in variegated yarn in all of Henry’s most favorite colors. It is large enough that it fits on his bed. She made it while she was hospitalized at WPIC. The stitch she used looks like tiny little stars.

A large, leather-covered 3 ring binder. Opening it, it is filled with a thick stack of plastic sheets with slots for index cards, which contain recipes, most of them written in his mother’s hand, although some of the ones towards the back are things Emily has made since Henry came to live with them. Henry recognizes so many of his favorite meals, including his mother’s lasagna recipe.

Emily says, “I also scanned them, so there’s an electronic backup.”

Finally, in a large, deep box, there are several pairs of swimming trunks, a rainbow tie-dyed bucket hat. a tee shirt with a white unicorn pooping glittery rainbows, tubes of sunblock and zinc oxide, a water bottle, sunglasses, sandals, an oversized super fluffy beach towel, and an envelope. Inside the envelope is an application for a passport, a money order made out for the processing costs, and several printed receipts from Darrek’s personal email account. Looking at them, Henry can see that Darrek booked a trip for the three of them to go to Mykonos, Greece that they had talked about later in the summer once Henry is done with school for the year.

“Everyone’s invited to come over later, sort of like an informal open house,” Darrek says after Henry finishes opening his gifts.

Emily goes into the kitchen and puts a tray of orange-spiced sweet rolls in the oven. As they bake, the smell of them fills the house. “That’s a Christmas tradition from my family,” Darrek remarks softly.

Henry goes to his room for a moment and comes back with two boxes. He hands one to Darrek and one to Emily. Darrek opens his to find a book of Michel Foucault’s essays on sexuality. Henry has a sly grin on his face as he says, “You’re looking after a 17-year-old boy. I figured this was the best way to make sure you’re prepped for the job. Also, it’s autographed.”

Darrek laughs. “I once was seventeen years old too, you realize.” He winks at Henry. “Thank you for the book, I enjoy Foucalt.”

Emily’s gift is an intricately woven and dyed tapestry. It’s an abstract style, but the colors and shapes seem to be constantly shifting and flowing. There is a faint aura of Essence about the cloth. “I didn’t know what else to get you, so I figured I’d talk to Doctor Armedt. It’s supposed to help you center yourself and focus on your Sight.”

Emily hugs Henry tightly and kisses the top of his head. “What a thoughtful and beautiful gift! I love it. Thank you, sweetheart.” She looks at Darrek. “I want to hang it up in our room.”

He nods. “Sure, love. We can go to Pier One this week and get a hanger for it.”

Her face brightens. “Ooo, I like that plan. We can shop their after-Christmas clearance.” She goes back into the kitchen and pulls the sweet rolls from the oven, puts them onto a plate, and brings them out to Darrek and Henry.

Later, after a light lunch, they work together to get the dinner spread prepared. There’s ham, turkey, roast beef, roasted potatoes, the sweet potato casserole Henry requested, vegetables, and yeast rolls with fresh butter. Emily brings out plates of homemade cookies and sweets and sets them on the coffee table.

Around 4, the doorbell rings as folks start to arrive, including Daniel, Jamie, Anita, Dana, and the rest of the group. They are all given gifts.

For Yun-Xun: an overstuffed, comfy meditation cushion and a hand-thrown pottery tea set for tea ceremony for two. The pottery is a warm, red-brown earthenware and is flecked with shades of lavender and lapis lazuli.

For Hilda: a Zweihander with a leather rig so that she can wear it strapped on her back for maximum mobility. The handle of the sword is engraved in runes.

For Mack, Danny, and Matthew: bottles of Glemorangie Signet


Upon receiving her gifts from the Tinsley / Anders family, Yun-Xun pauses for a moment. Then she quietly says, “Thank you” with a small bow.

Yun-Xun retrieves a small box full of small packages from Matthew’s vehicle.

She hands one package to everyone at the gathering. Inside is a small picture frame protected a piece of embroidered silk.

Each piece has bright colors and bold graphic patterns: flowers, birds, fruits and fish.

She says this is Guangdong embroidery, a style of embroidery from her home area.

She apologizes that she did not have the time or skill to make these herself.

Happy Christmas, Henry Anders!

Hilda slowly rose, a pile of gifts sitting next to her. “I hope you all will understand, I have not given Christmas gifts in some time. I left my parents home before I was a teenager, and my training center did not encourage Christmas celebration.” As she was speaking, the others notice her wearing a necklace they have not seen before, and holding the small medallion at the end of it. Looking down, she realizes she is holding it and lets it go with a slightly embarrassed look. “Well, not many gifts.” she continued, her voice subdued. She paused briefly, and swallowed hard before continuing. “Living with you, fighting beside you, getting to know all of you. You are family to my heart. I hope you like my gifts.”

Turning to Darrek, Hilda extended a large package to him. “I hope this will be a pleasant reminder of home for you.” she said. Darrek opened the package to find a framed poster of a drawing of Winston Churchill, with the caption “We shall Triumph” across the bottom. “Is original from the war, and if you look in the corner, is signed my Mr. Churchill”, said Hilda.

Next she turned to Emily. “I haven’t gotten to know you as well, but I hope you will like this.” Hilda said as she pulled out a smaller package. Inside was an intricately carved comb, which appeared to be made of bone. Hilda explained, “These are traditional in my country. Allegedly they are carved from the bones of ancient dragons. I don’t know if that is true, but I do know they don’t break”.

Turning to Henry, Hilda handed him a sizeable box. Upon taking it, Henry nearly dropped it it was so heavy. Opening the box, Henry found two books. The first appeared to be old and leather bound, with Chinese characters on the front. The second was a large, modern printing of Sun Tzu’s The Art of War. Hilda smirked slightly as she spoke, “They are both Art of War. One in the original language and one translation. You are very smart, I hope these will help you.”

She next turned to Matthew, handing him a long, slim box. Opening it, he found a beautiful leather scabbard, with a small digital panel on it. The panel had a counter and a place to type in names. “Let me guess,” said Matthew, “You gave me a digital counter to keep track of my head count.” Hilda replied, “Just so. The scabbard is fitted to your sword, and now you won’t need to damage the leather.”

The next package was for Yun Xun. Opening it she found a simple silk robe. On the back was a single Chinese character. The one for beauty. The two exchanged a smile as Hilda reached for the next package.

“Danny”, said Hilda, “You are most difficult to shop for. However, I remembered speaking with bodybuilders at a competition and realized the perfect gift for you.” Opening his box, Danny found a leather vest. Hilda smiled as she told him, “tug on it”. He did so, seeing that the leather was set on an elastic framework. “This will change with you, so you will look stylish no matter your form.” said Hilda. Across the back was the symbol for Jaguar cars painted into the leather.

Finally Hilda turned to Mack. “I haven’t had a chance to get to know you like the others. However, I think you will like these.” With that, she pulled out her final box. Opening it, Mack found matching leather holsters with the Don’t Tread on Me logo on them. “I had them sized for a 50 caliber, so they should be right for your pistols” said Hilda.

Hilda looked around the room before she spoke again. “I hope I have done this correctly.” she said as she sat down.

Later that evening, Matthew quietly pulled Hilda aside. Matthew spoke so no one else would hear, “I noticed your new necklace. You got a girlfriend we should know about?” Matthew had a slight smirk on his face, but he removed it when he saw the pained expression that came across Hilda. Hilda spoke slowly, “No, this is not new. I don’t take it out very often. This was a gift from Henri on his last Christmas. It seemed appropriate to wear it today.” Hilda let the necklace fall out of her hands on top of her shirt, and Matthew could see that it was a small Fleur de Lis with a sword across it. Matthew stammered, “Oh, I’m sorry, I didn’t realize. I was just…” Hilda put her finger across his mouth to silence him. “Is okay,” she said, “is life. He will always be the watcher in my heart. But you have been very kind to Hilda, and Hilda would be heartbroken again should you fall too.” There was a pause as both of them thought about what was said. Then Hilda and Matthew hugged for a moment, two friends who had been through much together.

The following morning, Anita came into the office still recovering from her Christmas revels, such as they were. With an unconsumed coffee in one hand, she opened the door to her office to see a single wrapped package on her desk. Given everything that had been happening, she approached it cautiously and read the label. The label said To Miss Anita, with Miss crossed out, From Hilda. Opening the package, she saw a plastic plaque. The top read “Look at an Awesome Person”. The bottom was a mirror. Anita looked at the caption and herself in the mirror for a moment, said “Hell yeah”, and put the frame away as she prepared for what suddenly seemed to be a slightly better day.

Happy Christmas, Henry Anders!
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