I was so focused on NaNoWriMo this month that I missed last week's prompt. I got to this one early this week, though.
They told Natty that it was a great honor. To be chosen to take the offering to the Krampus meant her name would join the others on the wall of the Common Hall and would be sung as part of the Longest Night ceremony forever after. A great honor indeed.
The traditional burden she carried was prepared by the womenfolk: a nice round pumpkin, its skin flawless and its shape a nearly perfect ball, and a woven basket full of the village’s finest delicacies: smoked meats; sweet, savory, and spicy cheeses; a loaf of the baker’s best, made from thrice-ground barley flour; and a jar of hard cider pressed from the bounty of the hillside orchard.
Natty struggled with the heavy basket slung over one arm and the pumpkin tucked beneath the other, but the whole village followed her to the edge of the forest, offering encouragement and saying how proud they were of her. As she started up the trail beneath the low-hanging branches of the towering trees, she saw Mama and Papa with tears of joy, she thought, on their cheeks.
As the sun set and a full moon rose, the craggy branches of oak and hickory swayed, casting shadows that danced to their creaking music and the singing of the wind. Natty quickened her steps despite her burden, bringing her shortly to a clearing with a gnarled yew standing in its center. With a fluttering heart, she set her burden down at its base and hurriedly turned toward home.
The next morning, the entire village was awakened by the joyful cry, “The Offering has been accepted!” All gathered on the lawn of the Common Hall and made a picnic of the now-blessed contents of the basket. All except Mama and Papa, who wept over Natty’s empty bed.