My set of 12 Drabble for the 12 Prompts of Rahlmas Challenge on peoplespalace . The title of each drabble is the prompt that was used. No beta, and I wrote these all in one day, so...
Won Best Set of 12 in the 12 Prompts of Rahlmas Challenge. Winner banner is available on my profile.
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Peace on Earth
Cara trudged after her unnaturally cheery traveling companions. A little snow on the ground and some ridiculous holiday, and they were acting like children.
"Tell me again why we're heading to a village in the middle of nowhere when we should be looking for the Stone of Tears," she drawled, not really expecting an answer.
She hated snow.
"Come on Cara," Kahlan chirped, "get into the spirit!" Taking a deep breath of the cool winter air, Kahlan smiled, a look of utter serenity on her face. "Can't you feel it? There's something special about this time of year. Peace on earth, and good will towards men."
"Even heroes need a holiday every once in a while," Richard chimed in. "And families belong together at Yuletide. That's why we're going to see Jennsen. It's tradition."
"I would rather celebrate the Mord'Sith way."
Smiling, already knowing the answer, Zedd asked, "I thought Mord'Sith didn't celebrate holidays?"
Scowl firmly in place, Cara answered, "We don't."
They arrived at the village where Jennsen was living just as Cara's entire body went numb with the cold. Jennsen lived on the outskirts of town, in a little cottage the resistance had built for her.
The windows and doors were adorned with greenery, making the structure slightly ridiculous, more a dollhouse than a dwelling where actual people would live.
The door opened and a small redhead in wonkily knitted winter clothes burst forth, running directly at Richard. Cara's hand was already on her Agiel before she registered that they were smiling and laughing. They embraced, and Richard spun the woman who must be Jennsen around, a bright stream of chatter flowing between them.
The wizard was next, and then a more subdued greeting for Kahlan.
When the small woman turned to Cara, she pulled up short, looking frightened for a moment. Eventually she smiled, shy and sweet.
Cara rolled her eyes.
"Jennsen, this is Cara. Cara, this is my sister, Jennsen."
"Pleased to meet you," Jennsen said quietly, before darting forward to envelope Cara in a hug.
Cara stood there awkwardly until the redhead released her.
"Don't just stand there in the cold!" Jennsen said brightly, turning back to the cottage. "Come in!"
Once in front of the fireplace, Cara removed her gloves to warm her numb fingers. There was more greenery hung throughout the cottage, in the halls, over doors. There were even sprigs of it arranged over the fireplace.
Eyeing the round red berries, Cara reached out, pricking her finger on one of the deep green leaves.
They were sharp.
Before she could react, two small soft hands gently grasped her wrist. "You cut yourself." Jennsen said, big eyes looking up at Cara.
As a bead of blood welled on her fingertip, Cara asked, "Why are all of these plants hanging in your house?"
Jennsen smiled. "It's tradition. Haven't you ever heard the song?"
Voice sweet and a trifle breathy, Jennsen sang:
Deck the halls with boughs of holly, falalalala lalalala
"These aren't boughs," Cara said, glaring at the diminutive springs that adorned the walls.
Jennsen giggled, then put Cara's pricked finger in her mouth, sucking the blood away. A quiet examination and soft kiss to the digit later, and Jennsen said, "Good as new," then headed into the kitchen.
Cara felt her face flush, and told herself it was from the heat of the fire.
Jennsen returned from her tiny kitchen with a wooden tray of cups. The wizard was the first to reach her, eager to get at whatever she was serving them. Richard and Kahlan both took a mug, faces red with merriment as they joined Zedd in singing a holiday folk song.
Apparently Jennsen's small demonstration of the 'deck the halls with sharp plants' song had inspired them.
"What is it?" Cara asked when Jennsen offered a mug to her. She picked it up, studying the thick, frothy, off-white substance dubiously.
"It's eggnog," Jennsen answered. "It will warm you up. And plus, drinking it at Yuletide is – "
"Tradition," Cara finished for her, before tipping back her mug.
She grimaced. "Are there actually eggs in this?"
"Of course," Jennsen said as if the answer should be obvious. "It's eggnog."
The texture was far different from any spirits Cara had ever imbibed. And the aftertaste. Blegh. But watching Jennsen's hips as she sashayed back to the kitchen, Cara had to admit she did feel warmer.
"Jennsen!" Richard called across the room once everyone had stopped singing. "Why don't you have a tree?"
Cara was confused by the question. Why would Jennsen need a tree in the house?
"I just didn't have time to get someone from the village to help me," Jennsen said. "And I wouldn't have been able to do it by myself."
Richard grinned. "Do you have an axe? I did grow up a woodcutter's son."
Jennsen returned his smile and went to fetch them the appropriate tools while Richard herded Cara toward the door.
"Why are you dragging me back into the snow to cut down a tree we can see from the house?"
Richard opened his mouth, but before he could speak Cara said, "No, let me guess. It's tradition to keep a dead tree in your house to celebrate Yuletide."
Richard shrugged sheepishly, chuckling. "It sounds so ridiculous when you say it like that."
Cara rolled her eyes.
When Cara and Richard emerged from the woods, each with a hold on the rope they were using to pull the small evergreen they had felled, they were met with an odd sight.
Well, odd to Cara.
The wizard, Kahlan, and Jennsen were all standing in front of Jennsen's cottage. But they weren't the only figures silhouetted in the setting sun. Along beside them was a misshapen figure of snow.
Jennsen was putting clothes on it.
Cara decided not to ask. It was probably yet another Yuletide tradition to build horribly disfigured people from snow and adorn them in clothes you didn't want anymore.
Perhaps it could be used as a magical focus to torture your enemies.
That was the only explanation that made sense.
Bypassing the wizard, Kahlan, and Jennsen and their strange misshapen snow person, Cara helped Richard drag the evergreen into the house, Richard standing it up somehow.
"Jennsen!" Richard called through the still open door. "Where are your tree decorations?"
Cara moved back to the fireplace to warm up once more. She hated to be cold.
Jennsen appeared in the doorway, stomping the snow from her feet, Kahlan and Zedd right behind her. "I have them in the cupboard," she said as she moved.
Cara eyed the slush in the entryway and shivered. It had rarely snowed in the region of D'Hara where she had been raised and trained.
"Here they are!" Jennsen sang, carrying beaten up wooden box. Something inside jangled.
"Are those?" Zedd asked breathily, a wide grin on his face.
But Jennsen shook her head.
"They aren't mother's," she said sorrowfully. "I couldn't go back for them. But they're almost as good," she added consolingly.
When she opened the lid of the box, Cara saw a myriad of little silver bells.
Jennsen held the box out to Cara first. "The newest in the family puts the first bell on the tree. It's tradition."
All eyes on her, Cara plucked a bell from the box, awkwardly hanging it on the end of a tiny branch.
It dipped and then fell, clattering to the floor. Jennsen picked it up, moving to help Cara find a better place to hang it.
Her laughter sounded like bells.
Every Time a Bell Rings
Cara watched as the rest of the bells were hung on the tree, Kahlan making sure that Richard evenly spaced his allotted bells after he tried to put them all on the same branch.
She had to admit, that as idiotic as it seemed to put a dead tree in your house, after the bells were all hung, it was quite pretty.
If you liked that sort of thing.
In the fading twilight, Jennsen stepped back to stand with Cara, admiring the firelight shimmering on the bells.
"My mother's were magic," she said softly. "Grandfather spelled them to sound like Night Wisps." She turned, a bittersweet smile on her face. "I know now that I could never hear it, of course… but to me, Night Wisps will always sound like ringing bells."
There was an awkward silence.
"Have you ever seen a Night Wisp?" Cara asked, the still peacefulness of the night like a soft fog around them.
"No," Jennsen answered, reaching forward to touch one of the bells with a finger. It jingled, a tiny, silver ping of light.
"I have," Cara said without knowing why. "They are like bells."
Jennsen cheered at that. Kahlan watched them with a knowing look.
Cara hated when Kahlan looked at her that way.
"Every time a bell rings, a spirit finds the Halls of Eternal Peace," Zedd said, breaking the silence. "Do you want me to tell the story?"
"Of course," Jennsen said, discretely wiping at her face. "It's tradition."
Cara's kindness had caused a few tears to fall.
Cookies and Milk
After listening to Zedd tell a syrupy sweet story about a lost soul reunited with his family at Yuletide, Cara found herself wishing the holiday was over.
Camping in the woods looking for the Stone of Tears was more enjoyable than all this… over the top good cheer.
Kahlan emerged from the kitchen, a tray in her hands. "I've never baked on my own before," she said as she set the tray on Jennen's rickety table. "I hope the cookies are alright."
"Yes, Cara," Richard grinned, reminding her of an excited child. "It's a Hartland tradition. The night of the Solstice, you make cookies and milk for the Winter Fae. If they like it, then they fix broken things in your house and bless you hearth with good luck."
There was a beat of silence.
Cara rolled her eyes.
Jennsen patted Richard's hand, "I think it's a lovely tradition, brother."
As she made her way into the tiny bedroom she would be sharing for the night, Cara caught sight of the bed.
She was amused to see large red knitted stockings hanging from the post. When Kahlan entered the room behind her, Cara smirked, nodding toward the stockings.
Kahlan looked confused, then laughed. "That's another tradition, Cara," she explained. "Jennsen doesn't just keep stockings on her bed post."
Slumping onto the lumpy straw mattress, Cara fingered the dangling red things. "Is this one about faeries?"
"No," Kahlan replied, face full of mischief. "Elves."
Cara dropped her head into her arms, wondering how it was she was the only one that found all these traditions bordering on madness.
They See You When You're Sleeping
After Kahlan had explained about the elves that apparently put treats in the stockings while you slept, Cara snorted.
"So if I stay awake tonight, I'll see elves?"
"No," Kahlan chastised. "They know when you're awake. They won't come until you're asleep."
Richard popped his head in the door, "Are you talking about the Yule Elves?"
"Yes," Kahlan smiled, waving him in. "I never knew there were so many traditions Cara had never experienced."
"So these elves know when I'm awake," Cara stated.
"And they see you when you're sleeping," Richard affirmed, putting an arm around Kahlan.
"And neither of you are… disturbed by this?"
When all they did was laugh, Cara got to her feet, going back to the main room.
They were both crazy.
Naughty or Nice
Jennsen was still in the main room, tidying up. Zedd could already be heard snoring in the corner, sounding like a groaning tree that might tumble to earth at any moment.
"I heard them tell you about the Yule Elves," Jennsen said as Cara quietly helped her carry the dishes to the washtub. "To be honest, when I was small, the elves scared me."
She effected a dramatic shiver. "Creepy, you know, being watched all the time."
Cara furrowed her brow, "I thought they just watched while you were sleeping?"
"No, no," Jennsen grinned. "The watch to see if you are kind to others. Mother always said you had nothing to fear from the elves if you were nice… but if you were naughty…"
Taken by the sweet way Jennsen turned her face upwards, her cheeks flushed in the crisp winter air, Cara leaned forward. "And have you been naughty… or nice?"
As she leaned forward, something flickered in the corner of Cara's eye. Startled, she looked up to see yet another piece of greenery hanging from one of the cottage's ceiling beams. The firelight dancing on the leaves was what had attracted her attention.
"What's that? It doesn't look like the rest."
"Mistletoe," Jennsen breathed, laughing nervously. "When two people stand under it, they're supposed to share a Yuletide kiss."
She started to move away, but Cara stopped her with a gentle hand on her waist.
"We've followed all the other traditions," she whispered, voice husky. She parted her lips, her tongue flicking out to run over them before she continued, "We can't stop now that I've finally found one I like."
With a squeak, Jennsen found herself pulled into leather clad arms, firm lips pressed against hers. She couldn't stop herself from relaxing, her lips from parting, as a shock of heat made its way down her spine.
Cara found she was in the Yuletide spirit after all. She had just needed to find a tradition she could relate to.