THE PSY COUNCIL TRIED TO OUTLAW CHRISTMAS ONCE.
It was in the year 2019, four long decades after the implementation of the Silence Protocol. The Protocol itself arose out of the overwhelming incidence of insanity and serial killing in the Psy populace. Driven to the edge, the Psy made a choice. They conditioned their young to feel nothing—not jealousy, not rage, and definitely not joy at the thought of Christmas morning.
So it was that by 2019, only ice ran in the veins of the Psy politicians who wanted to make Christmas illegal. Since the Psy race controlled government then as it does now, Law 5198: Deletion of Christmas and Associated Holidays was near certain to pass.
There were a few minor hiccups. Some elderly Psy—those who had been too old at the inception of Silence to allow for true conditioning—weren’t certain they wanted the holiday outlawed. But the old ones were few; the last, unwanted vestiges of an emotion-filled past the Psy preferred to forget. They were ignored, their fading voices drowned out by the Silent majority.
Law 5198was read into the statute books and life moved on.
Except that the humans and changelings, the other two parts of the triumvirate that is the world, took no notice. Christmas trees went up as usual, gifts were bought, and carols were sung. Human business owners did a roaring trade in mulled wine, fruit cake, and roasts with all the trimmings.
In comparison, Psy who owned interests in companies that usually profited from Christmas suffered a sharp drop in income—Law 5198meant they could no longer advertise their products in conjunction with the outlawed holiday.
The Psy Council found itself faced with both a mass revolt by the other races, and considerable opposition from the very businesses that backed up its regime. Psy might not feel, but they also did not appreciate their profit margins being compromised. The businesses weren’t the only ones who felt the negative impact of Law 5198 —Enforcement could find no way to prosecute everyone who violated the law against Christmas.
The churches simply acted as if the law didn’t exist. But they, in their solemn dignity, weren’t the worst offenders. The changelings, in particular the nonpredatory deer species, took great amusement in walking the streets in their animal forms, dressed up as Santa’s reindeer.
Then the horse-changelings decided it wouldn’t hurt their pride to be harnessed two by two to large sleds in order to transport shoppers around the cities. Finally, the humans, the weakest of the three races—with neither the psychic powers of the Psy, nor the animal strength of the changelings—came up with the killing strike.
They changed the name of Christmas to the Day of Happiness.
It was unacceptable for Psy to feel happiness. Those who did had their minds wiped clean and their personalities destroyed in a horrifying process known as “rehabilitation.” But it wasn’t illegal for anyone else to celebrate happiness. And if they wanted to do it by singing songs, gathering with loved ones, and attending certain ceremonies dressed in their Sunday best, well, that wasn’t illegal either.
The powerful, deadly Psy Council was used to instant obedience in all things. However, in the year 2021, the Councilors admitted that wasting Psy resources to ensure compliance with Law 5198 made no financial or strategic sense. The law was quietly repealed.
Now, some forty years later, Christmas is a celebration unlike any other. Though the Day of Happiness was retired soon after the repeal of Law 5198 , changelings and humans have always known that they are one and the same thing. Of course, happiness isn’t guaranteed by the magic of Christmas. Sometimes, a woman has to fight with everything in her, with her pride and her fury, her love and her anger, with her very soul, in order to claim the joy…or the man, meant to be hers.
TAMSYN LOOKED ACROSS THE PACK CIRCLE TO THE MEN AND women who stood on the other side. Lachlan, their alpha, his hair going the white of wisdom and age, was saying something to Lucas, who was barely fifteen but carried the scent of a future alpha. The past and the future side by side. One day soon, Lucas would lead them. Everyone knew that. The boy had been drenched in blood, his parents murdered in front of his eyes. But he would lead. It didn’t matter that even if they waited a decade, he’d still be far too young.
Just like Tamsyn was too young at nineteen to be the senior healer for the DarkRiver leopard pack. Her mentor had been Lucas’s mother, Shayla. The attack on Lucas’s family had not only stolen their healer, it had left DarkRiver in a state of constant alert. That didn’t mean they had given up. No, they were quietly building their strength until the day they could destroy the ShadowWalkers—the pack that had murdered their own.
She knew Nate would be one of those who went after the rogue pack when the time came. He stood tall and strong beside Lachlan, his concentration on whatever it was they were discussing. At twenty-nine years of age, he was one of the pack’s top soldiers and would soon be a sentinel, assuming Cian’s position when the older man retired from active duty. The sentinels were the pack’s first line of defense. They were the strongest, most intelligent, and most dangerous predators of them all.
“Tammy, you’re back!”
Startled, she looked away from Nate and into Lysa’s bright green eyes. “I only got in an hour ago.” Even now, she didn’t quite believe she was home—the six months she’d spent at the teaching hospital in New York had been the hardest of her life.
“So the course is over?”
“Yes. That part of it anyway.” She could finish the rest of her medical training in nearby San Francisco. Most changeling healers relied on their inborn gifts, but Tamsyn had made the decision to study conventional medicine as well. It was one more way to compensate for her inexperience, for the healing gifts that hadn’t yet matured to full strength. She refused to allow her youth to disadvantage her pack.