Current Challenge for December: The Holiday Challenge:

This month's challenge, if you should so choose to accept it - with no deadline - is as follows.

Your challenge is to invent a holiday in the Star Wars universe and it must include the following:

1) J/Z (duh)

2) Jedi Master(s) and at least two other characters from the YJK era books (Raynar, Lusa, Jacen, Tenel Ka, Anja, etc...)

3) A snowball fight and a blizzard

4) Hot chocolate

5) A talking mynock

6) An exchange of something (author's choice)

7) The words bivouac, lambent, and gewgaw. (Definitions below. Definitions are from (n) an encampment for the night, usually under little or no shelter

-a temporary encampment often in an unsheltered area

-temporary living quarters specially built by the army for soldiers

-a site where people on holiday can pitch a tent

verb: to camp in a bivouac

-live in or as if in a tent

lambent: (adj) Flickering lightly over or on a surface: lambent moonlight.

-Effortlessly light or brilliant: lambent wit.

-Having a gentle glow; luminous.

-softly bright or radiant

gewgaw: (n) A decorative trinket; a bauble.

-showy trifle

-cheap showy jewelry or ornament on clothing

Ski Lessons

The lambent of the setting sun cast shadows where there had been none before. The snow sparkled in plain relief, untouched and pristine in the high altitude of the mountains. A slight breeze cast a sparkle across the landscape as pieces of the ice encrusted top layer broke free to shimmer and dance in the wind.

The sudden snap-hiss of a lightsaber igniting broke the stillness of the evening. The clashing of two sabers quickly followed by a shriek of excitement was clearly audible.

A sudden spray of snow, followed a large poof as a body impacted, a brilliant emerald lightsaber blade sticking up at an awkward angle next to two skis.

A woman, clad in a ski suit, goggles and scarf closing her face off from the evening's wind, came to a stop next to the groaning heap. She planted her pole and pulled the scarf from her face, revealing steel gray eyes that almost matched the color of the growing shadows. "You will never learn to ski, friend Zekk, if you do not regain your feet."

He groaned from his snow bank, the lightsaber suddenly going out as he shifted, pushing himself out and over so he was sitting in the snow bank. "I don't think I'm cut out for this, Tenel Ka."

Laughter echoed through the nearby woods as two more skiers appeared, neither wearing scarves, their cheeks tinted rosy red beneath their goggles. They pulled up short, spraying the young man in the snow bank with more snow before lifting their goggles.

Zekk flopped back into the bank as the snow hit him. "Ugh! I've been mortally wounded!"

Jaina grinned, brushing a strand of her hair back from her face. "You're being melodramatic again. What would Mara say if she could see you now?"

Zekk lifted his head. "Probably that I can't ski worth a damn and should go back to the backwater bivouac I came from." His two-toned green eyes were sparkling with laughter, his hair loose about his shoulders and sprinkled with snow flakes. "I don't think I'm cut out for this, guys, maybe we should try something else."

"And insult the Queen Mother's hospitality?" Jacen looked appalled.

Tenel Ka reached out to place her hand on his arm. "I do not think Zekk has regained his wits or he would not suggest such a thing."

Zekk groaned, but a smile played about his lips as he flopped back into the snow. "Sure I would. But you're both right, I've just got to try again."

"And quit horsing around with Jaina." Jacen shook his head. "You can't ski and here you're challenging her to a battle while on the run. What did you think would happen?"

Zekk pushed himself back up on his elbows. "I was hoping something funny. Oh wait - I ended up in a snow bank!" His hand suddenly whipped out and a big, wet snowball smacked into Jacen's chest before he could react.

Jacen looked down at the front of his ski suit blankly. Tenel Ka's eyes sparkled. "You should not pick a fight you cannot win, friend Zekk. You are still attached to your skis."

Zekk looked dismayed as Jaina suddenly lunged for him, burying his face in the snow bank and face washing him in the white stuff.

Jacen joined in, tossing snowballs indiscriminately at his sister and their friend. Zekk struggled, like a good captive, drawing laughter from all but the serious Princess of Hapes with his outrageous pleas for mercy and lenience.

A snowball fight ensued on the run, Zekk flailing as he tried to get away from his friends, almost going down repeatedly as they headed for the base of the hill and the chalet where they were staying. He passed the chalet at speed, letting out a dismayed cry as he realized he couldn't stop and slammed into the wall of the storage shed. Snow shook loose from the roof and collapsed down on him, burying him for the umpteenth time that day in cold white stuff.

Jaina slid to a stop next to the pile. "Zekk!" She divulged herself of her skis and quickly began digging through the pile, worried he'd injured himself in his collision.

He groaned as she brushed the snow away from his face. "Anyone catch the make and model of that reckless driver?"

Jaina checked to make sure he hadn't broken anything. Her hands were gentle as she moved the snow away from his body. She noted his eyes were slightly glassy, hazy, as if he'd struck his head. She paused in her snow removal, barely aware that Jacen and Tenel Ka had joined her, and looked down into his face, touching his cheek. "Zekk? Are you alright?"

He blinked a couple of times, trying to focus on her. "Saved by an Angel!" He groaned once before passing out, his skin the color of the snow around him.

Jaina shook her head and clucked her tongue. "I think you'd better grab Uncle Luke, Jacen. Zekk's in rough shape and I think he hit his head."

Jacen grinned, unable to not find humor in the situation. "After the way he hit that shed I'm not surprised. Think he'd be up for skiing again tomorrow?"

Jaina shooed her brother and his girlfriend away. "Ask later, we're going to have to get him to the house, but I want an adult," she stressed the word. "To check his head before we move him."

Jacen disappeared with Tenel Ka and Jaina turned back to her own boyfriend. "You really don't have to do things like this to impress me, you know." She shook her head before planting a shy kiss on his forehead, knowing he couldn't see or hear her.

Zekk awoke later that evening with a massive headache. He was wrapped in layers of blankets, Jaina curled up at his feet, and an ice pack on his head. The roaring fire in front of them made the chalet cozy, but he was almost sweating under all the blankets. He groaned when he tried to move his head, a stabbing pain lancing through his skull.

Jaina jumped to her feet and was at his side in an instant. "You're awake. Good, I was starting to think you'd sleep through the whole day."

He waves one hand at her weakly, shooing her away. "I should never have agreed to your torture methods."

Jaina giggled, grinning. "Spoil sport." She reached behind her and pulled a mug off the nearby table. "Here. Uncle Luke made it, so you know it'll be top notch."

"I didn't know he could cook."

Luke Skywalker chuckled from his chair, just out of Zekk's range of vision. "Only hot chocolate; I'm still learning the finer points of foods."

Zekk didn't need to respond because Jaina had placed the mug carefully to his lips, and he blew softly before taking a sip. It warmed his insides the way the blankets were warming his outsides did. Cozy. Warm.

His headache was slowly fading and he pushed himself up on his elbows, shrugging out of the blankets to cool himself down. "I'm sorry I ruined today by injuring myself. I'm usually much quicker on my feet."

Jaina's eyes dancer merrily as she grinned. "I think you're to be forgiven. You're usually much better on your feet when you're in a familiar surrounding. Thanks for trying to ski with us."

He lifted his arms, pleasantly surprised to note he was starting to feel much better, and took the coca mug from her hand before tugging her down to sit with him. "I couldn't resist; I had helpful persuasion."

Jaina blushed, unable to meet his gaze, her eyes on her hands which were knotted in her lap. "Well... thanks anyway."

Luke moved into view, stoking the fire with a large iron poker. "Jacen and Tenel Ka have already headed for bed, but then, they've also exchanged their gifts." He looked from one apprentice to the other. "I want your word, from both of you that you'll go to bed before the fire dies completely."

"We're being left alone?" Jaina glanced nervously at Zekk, her hands twisting in her lap. She bit her lip, and looked away, anywhere but at him.

Luke chuckled. "I think friends like you will be alright. But don't over tax him, Jaina. He's still injured; remember that."

"Yes Master."

Luke nodded before disappearing, smothering a yawn with one hand.

Silence descended upon the room, broken only by the snapping and popping of the fire. Jaina shifted, her gaze wandering everywhere but to Zekk.

After a long minute of awkward silence, Zekk chuckled. "I see we're nervous now. Figures, I'm laid up and the girl who claims to be my girlfriend won't even take advantage of it."

She blushed, grinning sheepishly and finally looking at him. "Sorry. I just... we just..."

"Have never been trusted like this?" He grinned at her, taking another drink. "I think we'll survive. Besides, this holiday is all about getting away and being with family and friends. That's what the Pod Group holiday is all about."

She snickered. "Whoever came up with the name 'Pod Group' for a holiday sure needed to have their head smacked. I mean, seriously, "Pod Group' Holiday? Why not 'The Murder' Holiday or 'A Business' Holiday or 'Pack Hunter's' Holiday?" She shook her head, sharing a grin with him. "I think whoever came up with it had sea creatures on the brain."

"Or was one."

Jaina laughed. "Or was a talking Mynock."

Zekk blinked and then burst out laughing. "Ow. Ow. Ow!" He grabbed his head, trying to stop the pounding headache that came with his laughter.

"Oh, Zekk, I'm sorry!" She slid to his side, and put her hands over his, gently massaging his temples. "I didn't know making you laugh would hurt!"

He swallowed the laughter which was threatening to continue with difficulty before laying back against his pillows. "Me neither, so I guess we're even."

They shared a smile as Jaina continued to massage his head. His eyes slowly closed, and Zekk began losing himself in the rhythmic motions of her touch. The caressing motions gently making small circles on his forehead were soothing, even though her touch was untrained and innocent. He inhaled deeply as the headache began to fade back to a distant dull pounding in the back of his skull.

Jaina's fingers hesitated on his face and then gently, hesitantly, slid upwards and began to trail through his unbound hair. He shivered, but didn't stop her as she gently began to try and massage the other portions of his scalp, the unintentional caress of his hair more soothing than the massage.

A loud bang brought his eyes snapping open, and Zekk blinked, unable to comprehend what he was seeing.

The shutters at the window were dancing wildly, slapping back and forth in a furious wind; the cause of the bang became apparent when they struck the window sill. Beyond the shutters, darkness mingled with a swirl of white, snow whipping every which way.

Jaina turned, following his gaze and grinned. "It's just a blizzard, silly." She couldn't resist running her hand through his hair one last time. "Can I give you your present now?"

He nodded eagerly. "Yes please."

She laughed. "I suppose you never really got anything before meeting me, huh?" She pushed off the couch and went to the small hutch beside the fire place, opening the drawer before rummaging around inside it. The shutters banged against the windowsill again and she put out her hand, absently stopping their wild fluttering as she searched for the present. She held it up triumphantly before turning her attention to the window and latching the shutters.

She grinned, holing the slim, thin parcel out to him shyly as she stepped back to his side. "Here. Happy Pod Group Holiday."

He returned her grin before accepting the gift. "Yours is in my bag, which I think is still by the door. If you could grab it for me?"

She dashed off and was back moments later, holding his beat up sack in her hands.

Zekk motioned for her to open the bag. "It's wrapped, so the bag isn't yours to keep."

"Aw." She winked at him. "I'm rather attached to its owner; if I keep it he might just have to come retrieve it."

"Jaina." He tried to glare at her, but the innocent expression on her face, and the amusement in her eyes spoiled the effect by making him smile. "Fine, keep the bag, just open it, already, would ya?"

She opened his bag and pulled a funnily wrapped lumpy package from the bag. She blinked, frowning at it. "I think I broke it."

"Not hardly." He took the bag from her fingers and patted the wrapping job proudly. "I didn't want you guessing what it was."

She smiled. "How thoughtful. So do you want to open yours first?"

He saw her fingers twitch with the question and chuckled softly. "Be my guest; I at least have a little patience."

She tore the paper from her gift and blinked when it registered what she was holding. "A... Mynock?"

The plush toy was holding a book and she fingered it, almost loathe to open it.

"Not just any Mynock." Zekk reached over and pressed the tip of its tail and the Mynock began to move, music emitting from its rear. The ears wiggled as the creature sang along with the music. The song was an old one called 'My Life Sucks Power Cables' by The Mynocks.

Jaina burst out laughing. "Talking Mynocks, indeed!" She hugged it as it stopped, her gaze catching the name of the toy. "A Sing with Me Mynock?" She snickered, unable to wipe the smile from her face. "I love it!"

He smiled. "I hoped you would."

She hugged the stuffed toy, careful not to press his tail, and nodded to the gift which lay unopened in his lap. "Your turn."

He gently picked up the box and slit the sealing on the wrapping. In contrast to Jaina, he took his time opening his present, careful he didn't damage the paper beyond the ability to reuse, and carefully folded it once it was off the gift. Jaina was watching him intently, following the moves of his strong fingers as he moved to the box. The lid came open slowly, and Zekk found himself holding his breath. White paper covered the interior and he carefully folded back the layers, his breath whooshing out in a rush, "Oh Jaya..."

She blushed. "It's just a gewgaw, I couldn't afford anything fancy, but I thought you'd like it."

He gently pulled the new chronometer from its bed and examined it carefully. It had only three functions, but the craftsmanship was excellent. "Gewgaw?" He lifted his gaze to hers. "Jaina, this isn't a cheap replica; this is the real thing."

She blushed deeper, ducking her head and hiding her face in the stuffed Mynock. "Do you like it?"

He gently placed the chronometer back in the box. "I can't take this."

Her head popped up. "Yes you can! I saved my allowance for months to be able to afford that. I even-" She stopped, tears lining her eyes.

"You even what, Jaya?"

She bit her lip. "I even traded some of my best ship models at the pawn shop to get enough money for it. You have to take it; you don't have one anymore."

He searched her gaze, and finally smiled, extending his hand to her. She placed her hand in his and was drawn into a firm, comforting hug. "Thank you, Jaya. I'll treasure this."

She sniffled against his shirt. "Your welcome. You're lousy at accepting a gift, you know that? It's not the price, but the thought that counts."

He squeezed her tightly, resting his chin on the crown of her head. "I know. Sometimes I just need to be reminded I'm worth it."

She hugged him fiercely. "You're worth it." She lifted her head, nose-to-nose with him, and smiled. "I'll just have to stick around to keep telling you so until you believe it."

He grinned back and planted a soft kiss on her nose before putting her from him. "Happy Pod Group day, Jaya. I'll see you in the morning."

"Happy Pod Group day, Zekk." She collected her Mynock, gently ruffled his hair, and disappeared towards the room she was sharing with Tenel Ka.

Zekk closed his eyes; his face turned towards the embers of the dying fire, and slowly let himself slip over the edge into dreamland.