They burst through the door with such a noise that Star and Ianone actually jumped up startled and one of them (almost certainly not Ianone) uttered a little shriek.
Seven or eight of the burley boys, with Henry at the front, all of them singing “here we come a wassailing” at the top of their lungs (except for Henry who, bless him, doesn’t talk, as you well know, and so was clapping and stamping his feet rhythmically) and hefting on their shoulders a great, black, dripping log. Tenk came in behind them looking, well, he seemed to almost be smiling, which, for him, is like a dance of joy for the rest of us, so was as startling a sight as the boisterous group of men. Their boots were thick with mud and snow and they shuffled about, never once stopping in their tune, but, when they came to the end, just started it up again.
“Love and joy come to you, and to you your wassail too…”
Tenk directed them to shove the end of the log into the fireplace.
“That’s not going to fit!” Star started to protest, who was, naturally, mortified to see all the dirt and slush being slopped across the freshly cleaned floor.
“Oy! I just cleaned that!” Ianone Started forward to stop them but Henry, now finished with the task at hand, took her in his arms and started dancing her around the room
As the log settled drippily, the end just starting to smoulder and the rest of it hanging well out into the room, the men changed their tune, shouting out, “God keep ye merry maidens, let nothing you dismay…” A particularly large gent scooped Star up as if she was a feather and spun her around the room, before passing her onto the next in his group.
Henry had set Ianone on the bar as delicately as if she was made of glass and was now motioning urgently for her to start pulling pints. Both women were caught up in the spirit of this strange madness, and were now laughing and singing along. Ianone lined up pints three deep and Henry started passing them among the boys.
Finally the last dancer dropped Star, breathless, in front of Tenk.
She grinned at him, “What IS going on?”
“That,” He pointed to the log, “is your yule log.”
Star laughed, “That is NOT a log, that is a TREE. And utterly ridiculous.”
“You listen to me,” he gestured her closer, “that is your yule log, are you listening?”
She nodded, eyebrows creasing at his sudden seriousness, but the merry feeling that had filled her at the odd appearance of the burly boys by no means diminishing.
“That is your yule log, you are to mind it and keep it burning until Epiphany. Don’t. Fail.”
“Epiphany! But that’s…that’s twelve days!”
“That’s why it’s not a log, it’s a tree.” He gestured toward it. Someone slapped a pint into his hand and raised it to the log and then to his lips.
The men were singing, “…to save us all from Satan’s power when we were gone astray, oh tidings of comfort and joy, comfort and joy.”
Star turned and smiled lifting her own glass toward them, her own melodic voice raising to join theirs, “Oh, Tidings of comfort and joy!”
The burly boys drank their way through four barrels of ale and long into the night, until they finally took to the streets, leaving, as is the way of men, the women stunned in their wake.
“You’re not really going to leave that log like that, are you?” Ianone asked, starting to clear away the mountain of mugs.
“Of course I am,” Star said, slopping soapy lemon water onto the tiles and swirling the mop through it, “Why ever wouldn’t I?”