Short Story - Kalan Gwav (The First Day of Winter)

Horn and howl

Breaking Bad becomes Breaking Badger in this tale of spoons, spirits and illicit Pisky Dust, Kalan Gwav (The First Day of Winter) by R. A. Kennedy...

There were many times in her life when the Otter, Tyndle, wished she didn’t have to be a Pisky Dust dealer to get by and to just live a reasonably quiet life.  Today was turning out to be one of those days. After a scuffle with a pissed-off Pisky, and having the sleeve of her lovely red woollen coat ripped in the process, Tyndle decided it would be best if she returned home. It wasn’t like there were many customers around anyway.

"Another slow day in a long line of slow days," Tyndle thought.

She fought back tears of frustration and gritted her teeth in defiance of the cold. As she walked home, she caught sight of the Inn, The Horn and Howl, used by many Spyrys (Fae) in the local area. It would be a good place to get something to eat and drink and perhaps make a few more sales of Pisky Dust on the sly. As long as she was careful.

Her mind studied the morning’s incident. The Pisky placing a knuckleduster made of thorns over his hand and snorting, ‘What does a smelly ol’ Dowrgi need with a coat like that?’ Dowrgi meant Otter in Kernewek and the Pisky had said it with such venom that Tyndle knew his next move would be to lunge at her.  The Pisky was so quick and Tyndle misjudged his first strike. He yanked at the coat knowing that the dust he so craved was in the Otters’s inside pocket. The sleeve ripped from the seams at the shoulder.  Tyndle remembered swearing and then, with a snarl, she kicked the Spyrys in the gut. Her paw felt for the cudgel in the sash across her body. With great speed and precision she bopped the would-be thief on the nose and heard a crunch. The Pisky scampered off with the torn sleeve.

Tyndle approached the entrance of the fabled Horn and Howl high on the hilltop. The Inn looked so warm and inviting, a sanctuary away from from the elements. A few jugs of Mead would certainly help warm her up. She wasn’t looking forward to returning home in the state she was in and especially if the Owl was in a bad mood. Again.

Tyndle sighed as she opened the doors and was greeted by the smell of freshly baked bread and the heat of the fireplace soothing her soul as she walked in. The cold stares of the Spyrys patrons as she approached was gracefully ignored by a flick of her tail.

‘Mead,’ she said to the Innkeeper and placed two silver dynar coins on the bar.  Carrying her drink she made her way to a booth in the corner of the Inn, close to the roaring fire.  Tyndle supped at the mead and looked about the rest of the Inn to see if there were any potential customers perhaps looking to buy some Pisky Dust. As she looked across the room toward a table of Knockers playing cards, a bump and groan diverted her attention to the seat opposite.  A Weasel coughed once and straightened the peculiar shaped hat on its head.

Tyndle stared at the newcomer. The Weasel smiled back with shining teeth.

‘I drink alone.’ Said Tyndle.

‘I’m terribly sorry,’ said the Weasel, ‘Allow me to introduce myself. I am Konna-Gwynn, and I hear you have something that I may want to buy?’

Tyndle stiffened in her seat and her hand felt for the cosh in her sash.

‘Where did you hear this?’ asked Tyndle.

Konna-Gwynn waved his paw, ‘It’s of no concern where I acquired this information and from whom. I can pay you.’

Tyndle was cautious but, deep down, she knew she needed the money and this weasel looked like he had some, judging by some of the silks and jewellery he wore.

‘Fifty dynar.’ She said.

‘Ahh, well ... There may be a slight problem there.’

Tyndle leapt over the table and grabbed the weasel by his silk scarf,

‘What d’ya mean slight problem? I suggest you scarper fore I scat ee’owt. Ain’t got time for no time wasters and fleecers.’

She sat back down with a huff and a bump and angled herself away from him.  The weasel straightened his scarf and gave a small cough.

‘I have little use for coinage these days ... But, I can pay you.’

‘Gesson with ee,’ replied Tyndle, with a wave of her paw.

From her periphery, she saw a metal object flash. Before Konna-Gwynn knew what was going on, Tyndle flew across the table and hurled him to the floor, cosh in hand.

‘You gonna cut me?’ She hissed through her jaws.

A metallic clang sounded on the stone floor near the Weasel’s open paw.

Tyndle was bemused.

For what lay before her eyes was not a knife, nor was it a weapon and, even if it was a weapon, she couldn’t see what damage it would have done. It was the strangest object she had ever seen. A spoon with a perfect hole in the centre and a twisted handle. It was so many different metals, all wound together. Bright in some places and dull in others.

‘What is that?’ asked Tyndle, still on top of the Weasel.

‘That, my dear. Is your payment.’


Tyndle rose from holding the weasel down and returned to her seat. ‘Get away with ee!’

Konna-Gwynn looked hurt at the Otter’s dismissal.

‘My dear Otter. I’m being quite serious. I wish to pay you handsomely for certain ... vices,’ the weasel grinned.

Konna-Gwynn got to his feet and took his seat opposite Tyndle. He placed the peculiar spoon on the table and pushed it toward the Otter.

‘I think you will find it is worth all the dust you have on your person, and much more. But I’m not that greedy.’

Tyndle considered the spoon in front of her. It did look valuable, she thought. Might be enough to make up for the dismal day and maybe more. She looked up from the spoon and into the face of the weasel.

‘I got six thimbles of dust. If you cross me, pray I don't get my paws on you.’

With a shake of the paws, the deal was done.  Tyndle finished her drink and left the Horn and Howl. She had placed the holed spoon in the sash and her paw never left it as she walked home.

Tyndle’s home was small but comfortable. A felled tree that had been hollowed out to be precise. The fallen oak sat in front of a lazy winding river. It was the perfect home for an otter.

‘So ... You decided to come home then. What have you brought me?’ asked Hicca the Owl, perched on a branch just above the front door.  Tyndle waved the spoon in front of the bird’s beady eyes. The Owl did not look impressed. 

‘What is that?’ he asked, ‘Why have you brought me a spoon, and a spoon that isn’t useful at all?’

‘It’s precious, Hicca. We can sell it or trade it. We’ll be able to clear our debts with The Hare!’

‘It’s a lovely thought Tyndle but how do you think The Hare is going to react? Besides I really can’t imagine it is going to be worth as much as you think.’

Hicca considered the spoon for a moment, ‘It is quite beautiful though. Don’t know how you are going to explain it to The Hare.’

‘Oh, never mind him. You let me deal with The Hare,’ replied Tyndle snatching the spoon back and tucking it safely away In her sash.

‘Kyj!’ Hicca swore, ‘Look whose coming up the path.’

Tyndle swiveled her body around to see two Piskies either side of a very large Hare stomping up the path straight toward herself and Hicca. Tyndle looked at the owl and swore through gritted teeth. Hicca flew from his perch and stood next to Tyndle to await the visit of the self proclaimed Dust Lord of Kernow. Their boss.

‘Worms and maggots!’ exclaimed The Hare, ‘Are we not to go inside your humble abode? Move out the way, let me get inside and warm my legs. And put the kettle on will you.’

Tyndle and Hicca let The Hare inside their home first and waited outside whilst the two bodyguards searched their home for anything that they may be used to harm their beloved master.

‘Can’t be to careful,’ they heard The Hare say from inside, over and over again.

When the all-clear was given by one of the Piskies, Tyndle and Hicca were allowed the pleasure of joining their boss and the pleasant company he kept.

‘Worms and maggots! This chair is a bit hard on the ol’ bum. Right, lets get to business,’ The Hare said crossing his legs.

Hicca returned to the sitting room and placed a tray of tea on the table. The owl then took a large jar from the mantelpiece and then was approached by one of the Piskies, who then thrust a bag in front of the Owl’s beak.

‘In here,’ said the Pisky

Hicca placed the contents of the jar into the bag, the contents made a sweet jingling sound.  The Pisky took the bag to his master.

‘Ho, um, Mmm? Yes, Mmm, Indeed.’ The Hare inspected the contents of the jangling bag.  ‘Hmm, yes. Hmm, quite. Worms and Maggots!’

Tyndle tried to hide the fact that she was shaking.

‘This isn’t enough? This simply will not do. This is unacceptable. This is insulting!’ said The Hare, throwing the contents of the bag onto the floor.

‘There should be more! Much more!’

‘Um ... You see, things have been quiet lately,’ replied Hicca. Tyndle shot him a look and mouthed the words, Shut-up.

‘Quiet?’ Said The Hare, ‘No. No, you’re taking me for a ride. You’re pulling my leg! I don’t like my leg pulled.’

‘We can’t break even at the minute. The ingredients cost too much and the price is too high for folk.’ Tyndle cut in.

The Hare considered the otter for a second and pointed at her.

‘Speak out of turn again and you might just see my famous “good mood” change,’ he hissed. ‘No, I can’t have this. I won’t. Worms and Maggots. Skav and Stank here, will have to show you the consequences for letting me down.’

The Hare beckoned to his henchmen, ‘Break the bird’s wing. Give us something to laugh at. An owl flying in circles is sure to improve my mood!’

The two heavies started walking towards Hicca, who just hooted his protest whilst being wide eyed petrified.

‘Wait!’ Tyndle yelled, ‘There is no need for this. C’mon, T.H, we can sort this out without anyone getting hurt.’

The Hare looked straight into Tyndle’s eyes, ‘WHAT DID I JUST SAY ABOUT SPEAKING OUT OF TURN?’

Before she knew what she was doing, Tyndle took the cosh out of her sash. Except it felt odd.

‘And what is that?’ The Hare asked with a disquieting gleeful tone.

Tyndle looked at her paw, and then she knew why the cosh felt strange. It was the peculiar spoon.

‘What a beautiful spoon.’

The henchmen both stood on the spot transfixed by the object but something about their gaze worried Tyndle. It was as if they had seen it before and were quite visibly shaken. Without a word Skav and Stank ran out of Tyndle and Hicca’s home

‘WORMS AND MAGGOTS! COME BACK HERE YOU COWARDS. I’LL HAVE YOU SKINNED AND FED TO THE CROWS!’ The Hare shouted. And then with a grunt and a growl he returned his attention to Tyndle and her spoon.

‘And what, my dear otter, Is this artifact you offer to me?’

‘Tis mine,’ said Tyndle without thinking and then instantly regretted it.

‘Tis yours? Ah but you see, what is yours is also mine. For I own you,’ The Hare pointed his paw at Tyndle and then Hicca, ‘both of you.’

Something inside Tyndle snapped, and she leapt at The Hare. Biting, scratching, gnawing and pawing, kicking, grabbing, snatching and hooting as Hicca joined in the melee. The fight went on for a few minutes, until all paws and wings were holding onto the spoon. A tug of war then took place between the three of them. With a flash and an ear splitting howl of wind, the room started to change and they all felt themselves being lifted off the ground. Flashes of white continued, and the wind howling did not cease as they spun and were lifted further and further away, all the while no one took paw nor wing off the spoon.

Then with a bump ... All went silent.

Tyndle awoke to find that she was covered in a blanket of snow. The delicate flakes kissed her fur as they fell. Hicca was huddling himself from the cold.  The Hare wiped the snow from his body and frantically searched for the spoon.

‘Where is it? Where is it?’ He kept muttering to himself.

Tyndle was still wearing her coat with the missing sleeve, she took it off and placed it over Hicca’s shivering body.  She studied their surroundings and all she could see was snow. Everything was covered in snow. All but a lone, twisted willow tree that grew through an iced-over pond. Tyndle noticed something shiny in the snow and knew exactly what it was and leapt for it, as did The Hare.

‘To whom does that object belong?’ said an unrecognisable voice.

‘It’s mine!' snapped The Hare making a desperate lunge for it. Once snatched, he held it high in the and laughed, ‘It’s mine. I earned it.’

‘I think,’ said the voice, ‘that you will find that it belongs to me and I alone.’

A blast of ice came from behind the willow tree. Tyndle leapt out of the way, she saw Hicca try to take off forgetting that he had her coat on.

At least they were both safe from that blast.

The same could not be said for The Hare who was now a sculpture in the voice’s ice garden.

‘As for you two. You are trespassing in my winter garden. Trespassers and thieves get made into permanent residents.’

A tall, muscled Badger walked out from behind the willow. She was wearing a long brown coat and was carrying a large ice staff.  Tyndle went to grab the spoon and scanned about for a way out of the garden.

‘What do you think you are doing?’ Said the Badger, ‘Did you not witness what happened to your ...’ she pointed at the now solid ice Hare, ‘...friend here?’

‘Tis mine though, Miss...’ replied Tyndle with a jitter in her voice.

‘The name is Rew.' said the Badger, 'Tell me, how did you obtain the artefact?’

‘I earned it.’ Tyndle said firmly, gripping the spoon in her paw.

The Badger named Rew chuckled and said, ‘You are a brave yet foolish creature. Such bravery for an artifact of which you know nothing.’

The Badger went silent and stared at the shivering Owl and Otter.

‘Very well. I will consider a trade for such a fine relic. A worthwhile trade. But...’

‘...I’m listening,’ Replied Tyndle.

‘If you have nothing to trade and if you try to extort me, It will mean you and your friend’s doom.’ Said Rew, ‘Now go. You have one day.’ And then the badger vanished.

‘For kyj sake, Tyndle. How on earth do we get back?’

Tyndle shrugged and looked at the spoon, she wiggled it in the air.


She tried swinging it with all her might and still nothing happened.

With tears forming in her eyes and her paws clenched, she threw the spoon at the snow covered ground.

Something popped, then the air around them started to shimmer.

They felt themselves fall away from the Winter Garden.

Until they fell no more and were back In the living room of their home.

Hicca ran toward the fire and proceeded to warm himself, rubbing the warmth back into his feathery posterior.

‘Great. Brilliant.’ Said Hicca, ‘Tis my spoon Miss!’ Mimicked the owl to a rather unimpressed Tyndle.

‘What the bloody hell are we going to trade? We don’t have anything! The Hare cleared us out, the thieving kyj.’

Tyndle sighed and looked Into the kitchen.

‘The only thing we can trade, is the only thing we are really good at.’


‘Yes, ea- No! Not bleddy eating. Dust! We make Rew the best Dust we’ve ever made.’

Hicca stroked his beak with his wing, ‘Are you sure it will have any effect on Rew? It’s not like cooking up a dodgy batch and giving it to a Pisky who will spend most of their time eating the ceiling. Piskies don't turn powerful Hares into solid ice!’

Tyndle suddenly realized that she was scratching the handle of the spoon with her claw. Dust-like particles covered her paw. With panic she examined the spoon to make sure she had not damaged their prize and could see no claw marks.

The otter looked straight at Hicca.

‘A powerful being needs a powerful mixture.’ She said, holding the spoon outstretched to Hicca.

Hicca hooted and nodded his head.

‘I’ll get the stuff ready.’

‘Hurry, y’hear? We ain’t got long.’

With loud clangs and crashes the pots were set to go, and the ingredients were taken out one by one.

‘Tyndle! I have an idea!’ hooted the Owl. ‘Tomorrow is Kalan Gwav the first day of winter. That means the spirits of the dead will be passing over, hopefully a few should be around now!’

With a rummage and clatter, the owl reached his wing into the cupboard and pulled out a clay pot.

‘Use this,’ he said, ‘and hurry.’

Tyndle grabbed the brown clay pot. It was a spirit jar. She hated catching spirits, it was always a risk that they could pull you into the jar, especially if there was a few of them, not to mention that it could take absolutely forever to catch one.

Tyndle took the lid off the jar and the tiny bell underneath made a muffled ring.  The best thing to do with a spirit jar was to run about the place with the open container as if catching butterflies in a net. Then in quick succession the lid is placed on and off the jar until the bell rings to signal that there is indeed a spirit, or spirits inside.

Tyndle leapt like a ballet dancer, hopping and skipping around the living room, then around Hicca, who swore loudly at her. Then she moved herself outside in front of the winding river dancing high and low spinning like a perfect carousel. She reached the porch at the front and closed the lid for the last time. The bell rang.

Running back to the kitchen as fast as she could, Tyndle then passed the jar to Hicca. With care, Hicca grabbed a small bellows and screwed the clay knob off the top of the jar. The nozzle of the bellows was placed in the hole and Hicca squeezed the bellows, opening them again into the large bubbling cauldron. Tyndle realized she was holding her breath. Hicca adjusted his goggles and added two spoonfuls of grave dirt to bind the moans, into the mixture.

‘How many?’ Tyndle asked

‘Not sure seems like a couple. Judging by the way this is bubbling looks as if the moans are quite potent too.’

Tyndle nodded and started to mix up the basic stuff to make Pisky Dust. Everyday things like flower whispers, laughter from a patch of moss, tears from a bramble, and the sweet melody from a dew drop.

Tyndle added the basic ingredients to the moans of passing spirits and Hicca stirred it in with an unnecessarily large mixing spoon.

The mixture was ready for the final ingredient. With a serrated blade, Tyndle scraped the peculiar spoon relic and watched as the bowl underneath caught the dust.

Each time she scraped the knife against the metal, the dust would fall and the spoon would show that no damage was done.

‘Thats enough.’ Hicca snapped.

Tyndle added some more for good luck. The owl adjusted his googles again and took the bowl over to the cauldron and added it to the mixture. It popped and hissed, then fizzed and went bang, then a plume of purple smoke puffed and whizzed throughout the room. The two friends stared in amazement.

‘Tis supposed to do that ... Right?’ Asked Tyndle.

Hicca, with his beak wide open, grunted and shrugged.

Once the mixture went back to bubbling away, Hicca went to fetch a cooling pot and a glass jar to put the dust in.

Then they waited. When the sun rose on the next day there was a knock at the door.

The door creaked on it’s hinges as it swung open, and the figure of Rew stood in the doorway, impassive yet imposing, ‘Are you ready to trade?’ Said the Badger.

Hicca fetched a large jar, and tipped the now cooled dust inside.  The badger watched from the doorway not saying a word.  Tyndle took the jar from Hicca and carried it to the badger, whose paw was outstretched.   Tyndle walked feeling her legs quake with fear. She gritted her teeth and clasped the jar with her paws.

Her eyes looked at the contents of the jar and she stopped in her tracks. It didn't look right. It was clumping. Dust should never clump it should be finer than sand and lighter than air, never clumpy. Thinking on her feet Tyndle placed the jar on the mantelpiece and took the lid off. Hicca coughed in protestation.

‘Otter. What are you doing?’ Rew asked.

‘Needs stirrin'. For luck,’ Tyndle replied.

With her back to the badger she took the spoon from her sash and stirred it once, twice, thrice. Before her eyes the dust changed colour from that of a golden yellow to a perfect silver. Trying not to show her amazement at this transformation she placed the lid back onto the jar and made the last few steps towards Rew the badger.

‘What is this mixture?’ Asked the badger.

Hicca approached, ‘It is the finest quality Pisky Dust that you will find in this land.’

Rew removed the lid and took a gentle sniff with her long snout.

‘We added a special ingredient to our old recipe. Fit for a ruler of a winter realm.’ Hicca added. If the owl noticed that the dust had changed colour, he did not say.

‘This had better not be a trick. I will not warn you again,’ said the Badger, looking into the eyes of the owl and otter.

With her large paw the Badger scooped up a large helping of the dust. Tyndle bit her lip and tasted blood.

With one swift movement the Badger gulped the dust down, wiping the remnants of the dust from her whiskers with her coat sleeve.

No one said anything, no one even moved.

Time seemed to stand still...

Then it started with a hiccup.

Rew quivered, jumped, span, danced, sung, screamed, and cried. Rew’s fur looked like frog spawn and wobbled the same.

‘Kyj!’ Tyndle and Hicca said in unison.

‘What have you done to me?’ Cried Rew, ‘WHAT HAVE YOU DONE? My realm! My entire being destroyed.’

With a brilliant flash Tyndle and Hicca were flung across the room, accompanied by a loud bang. Tyndle shielded Hicca with her body.

Everything went quiet.

Tyndle opened her eyes to see snow gracefully drifting down into the living room. Rew was no longer where she once stood.

‘What did we do?’ Hicca asked, ‘all for a bloody spoon? Kyj.’

Tyndle placed her paw into the sash but the spoon was not there. It must have fallen out when they were thrown. She spied it a few feet in front of her.  As she reached for it, a large booming voice sounded.

‘You are now the curators of this relic and responsible for the season of winter. Use me wisely. Perhaps you also have learnt a lesson about greed?’

Tyndle and Hicca did not reply to the disembodied voice, but it said no more.

The weasel, Konna-Gwynn was merrily skipping home from The Horn and Howl.  He patted his knapsack as he skipped and sang, and then collided with a cloaked figure in the middle of the path.

‘My deepest apologies. I am drunk with glee and I did not see you approach, please forgive me-’

Ice began to coil around the weasel’s feet and slowly rose up his body. Konna-Gwynn screamed as he felt the ice take him over. The cloaked figure removed its hood, and Konna-Gwynn found himself face-to-face with a very familiar otter.  Tyndle smiled.

‘Tis always bitter on the first day of winter.’

With huge thanks to R A Kennedy for allowing us to publish.
Powered by Blogger.