Summary: Six interconnected drabbles dealing with Dahlia's fear of reindeers, Darken's attempts to have a very merry Yuletide, and Cara's expertise in keeping everyone happy and through it alive. Part of the People's Palace twelve prompts of Rahlmas.
Title/Prompt: Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer
Dahlia froze and Cara halted behind her. As Dahlia drew her agiel slowly, Cara moved to her side.
Cara was expecting a number of scenarios but not the one she was faced with.
"Is that a reindeer?" she asked in a low voice.
Dahlia nodded, lips pressed tightly together.
"I don't think we should be concerned about it," Cara said.
Dahlia shook her head, eyes still fixed on the creature, which was grazing on the longer grass poking up through the early snow. "My grandmother was killed by one of those things. The Yuletide bells rang at midnight and it got spooked and trampled her to death with its vicious hooves."
Cara thought about this. It sounded possible, though not plausible. "Your grandmother was run over by a reindeer?"
"Yes. It was worse than the year before when grandfather was attacked by a horde of chipmunks and he fell over a cliff."
Cara sighed and clapped her hands loudly. "Boo. Get Away," she yelled. The reindeer bolted, galloping off into the woods. She put one hand on Dahlia's shoulder. "I'll protect you from all the scary woodland creatures," she promised.
Dahlia glowered at her, but, as they moved off she sheathed her agiel and took Cara's hand.
Title/Prompt: There Arose Such a Clatter
Cara was in Lord Rahl's bed. Her hair was loose about her shoulders in a shimmering golden curtain. She was wearing a flimsy red gown, barely held together at the waist with a tiny strip of ribbon, and it would have left nothing to the imagination but for the strategically placed bits of holly. Removing the holly would be a painful experience – Darken was stirred by Cara's ingenuity in mixing pain and pleasure in such a seasonal way.
"The Yuletide feast is almost ready," Darken said, approaching the bed and discarding his robe. "There's time for me to savour this delicious aperitif first."
He'd no sooner climbed onto the bed however when there was a loud clatter, the unmistakable sounds of broken plates and spilt cutlery. Darken growled in anger. Did he have to supervise everything?
"To be continued," he told Cara, quickly grabbing up his robe and slipping it back on. Someone was going to be very sorry.
Title/Prompt: Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer
"What is going on here?" Lord Rahl asked as he strode into the dining room.
"Lord Rahl," Dahlia said. "It's a reindeer."
She pointed to the offending animal which had somehow got into the castle and had just tipped over a chair and become tangled in the red tablecloth. Its attempts to extricate itself had led to several plates ending up on the floor, the flower vases being tipped over and the once-carefully arranged fruit being spilt from two large bowls. Dahlia and several other Mord'Sith, along with Captain Grant and a few soldiers, had been trying to corner the terrified reindeer with no success.
"A reindeer?" Lord Rahl asked, cynicism fading in the face of the creature swivelling its head to stare at him. It skittered backwards and one hoof hit an orange, which went spinning off towards the fireplace.
"Be careful," Dahlia said. "They have vicious hooves. My grandmother –"
She fell silent as Lord Rahl's piercing gaze fell upon her.
"It's the horns I'm concerned with," Grant opined.
"They're antlers, not horns," Lord Rahl said in an icy tone. He took a few steps towards the reindeer, hands held out in surrender. He spoke softly to it in a language Dahlia didn't understand – maybe he was magic to soothe the beast? She held her breath, afraid for his safety.
Lord Rahl reached the reindeer. It lowered its head and he stroked its nose gently. He snapped his fingers once and held out his hand. One of the Mord'Sith handed him a lasso. He slipped the rope around the reindeer's neck. "There you are, Rudolph," he said quietly and wiped its nose, red with grape juice from the trampled fruit.
"Someone take the reindeer outside and let it go," he said softly. "No one harms a reindeer at Yuletide. Ever."
Dahlia watched the reindeer from a safe distance as it was led docilely away. She remembered the stories her mother had told her about the Winter Father and how he used reindeer, Rudolph in the lead, to pull his sleigh as he travelled around giving gifts to good children. She never heard the story again after the unfortunate incident with her grandmother, of course, but she'd never forgotten it, nor that it was the reason for never eating reindeer meat until after the Yule feast took place, no matter how hungry you were.
But surely Lord Rahl didn't believe in such childish superstitions? Dahlia shook her head. She'd believe in the Imbolc Bunny before she believed that.
Cara had been awaiting Lord Rahl patiently but, just as he was about to kiss her, there'd been a commotion and he'd left to attend to whatever disaster was threatening his Yuletide party. He'd told her to wait in the room, and she did so, but she still braided her hair once more, ready for action if needed.
At last he returned. "There was a reindeer," he said.
"In the dining hall?" Cara tried to keep the scepticism from her voice. This was Lord Rahl, not a soldier, and he wouldn't tolerate impertinence.
"Yes. Now, where were we?"
He pulled her close and nipped at her earlobe, then her neck. Cara let her head fall back in ecstasy as his hands explored her body, settling on her waist.
"Cara, Cara," he said softly, and her heart rejoiced to hear her name on his lips. "Look at me."
She lifted her head to stare into his blue eyes. He tipped his head and pressed his lips to hers. She returned the kiss hungrily, her hands winding themselves into his hair. He nipped at her lip and the sting of it sent a thrill through her entire body.
Bells sounded outside, filling the air with their peals. Midnight. It was Yule.
"Merry Yule," he said.
"Merry Yule, Lord Rahl," she responded.
He smiled warmly. "Get dressed. We must attend the feast shortly."
It wasn't quite the passionate encounter she'd been hoping for, but it left her warm with pleasure nonetheless.
Title/Prompt: I Can Feel It In My Fingers, Feel It In My Toes
That year's Yule feast had been wonderful, and afterwards Lord Rahl had taken Cara to his bed. A few hours later, when he was asleep, she slipped out of the room and went to find Dahlia. Rahl preferred to wake up alone, and Dahlia would appreciate Cara's presence.
Dahlia lifted her head sleepily as Cara tiptoed, barefoot, into her room. "Cara?" she said with a smile.
"Happy Yule," Cara said, discarding the borrowed robe, and sliding into the bed.
"You're cold," Dahlia complained as Cara wrapped her arms around her.
"The stone floors do draw body heat away," Cara agreed. "But you'll warm me up." She nuzzled her nose into the back of Dahlia's neck.
Today was the last day of Yuletide, Yule itself, and at dawn there would a celebratory breakfast, followed by Lord Rahl's speech to the faithful, and then the gift giving as people pledged their allegiance to him. Cara would be keeping a close eye on the guests in case of an assassination attempt. But for now, she was content and could sleep for another hour or two.
"I can feel your warmth in my fingers," she said softly, her hands warming up where they were pressed to Dahlia's skin. "And in my toes."
"Go to sleep," Dahlia said affectionately. Cara squeezed her tightly and then closed her eyes and slept.
Title/Prompt: We Three Kings
The three kings approached Lord Rahl with due reverence. He left their tiny, neighbouring kingdoms in peace, so long as they didn't attack him nor tolerate rebel forces within their lands. This was the only day of the year they had any contact with him.
The first stepped forward. "For your continued benevolence we thank you, Lord Rahl. I bring you a gift of gold from the mines in my mountains."
Lord Rahl waved one hand lazily at the pile of goods to his right. "Thank you. Place it with the other gifts. Take a token of my goodwill and go in peace."
The king moved to the side and put down the gold. One of the Mord'Sith handed him a parchment. Giller had worked for two moons on these special gifts; each continued within it a spell, good for one use, no magical talent or other ingredients needed.
The second king bowed. "We thank you for your kindness, Lord Rahl. I bring you a gift of spices, some grown within my lands, others traded for from travellers to exotic lands."
Rahl peered at the box of spices. Frankincense, cinnamon, sandalwood, lemongrass, and many other scents he didn't recognise immediately. He thanked the man and had him move to the side.
The third king cleared his throat nervously. "We honour you, Lord Rahl. I bring you a gift from my kingdom."
The man lunged forward with a dagger he'd been hiding in his sleeve. Rahl merely leant back in his throne, and the man missed. Three seconds later the king was dead, and Cara hadn't so much a hair out of place despite her swift movements that had first sent the attacker to the floor and then pressed her agiel to the nape of his neck until he moved no more.
The other two kings huddled together. "We had nothing to do with that," the first king said, crumpling up his parchment in his nervousness.
"I should hope not. I trust you can divide his kingdom between the two of you without disagreement?"
The second king bowed low. "Yes, Lord Rahl. Thank you, Lord Rahl."
It might mean that one of them tried to kill him next year to gain a further share of the lands, but, Rahl thought, it wasn't Yule without some excitement.