Summary: Three interconnected drabbles about Jennsen's midwinter celebrations away from her family but surrounded by new friends. Part of the People's Palace twelve prompts of Rahlmas.
Title/Prompt: You Better Not Cry
The whole village was gathering for the ceremony. Jennsen had been chosen to lead them because, she had been told, she had the best singing voice. She thought maybe it was a kind lie and they merely sought to include her and make her feel less alone at a time when family was the first thought on everyone's mind.
Jennsen was an orphan now, and Richard and Zedd were on their important quest, and Darken Rahl – well, that was a secret that few people knew lest they decide she were as evil as her half-brother, the tyrant ruler of D'Hara. Yet he was lonely too, Jennsen thought, remembering the short time she'd spent with him. He'd deny it, but the pain in his eyes when he'd talked about his father had been real.
She blinked away tears. All eyes would be on her shortly, and this was a time for rejoicing, not mourning. She'd better not cry.
Rahl pride and reserve rose up and gave her much needed strength, while Zorander compassion kept her warm inside.
Title/Prompt: Sing the Blessings
Jennsen sang of the Creator and gave thanks for Her light. The oldest male in the village then lit the first candle, marking the return of the sun. Then Jennsen sang of things to be thankful for; the rain that filled the rivers, the sun that grew the crops, the food upon the table, the smiles of people around her.
When that song was over she softly sang a gentle refrain, over and over. Each person in the village took up a candle and, patiently waiting their turn, lit it from the centre candle. It represented the Creator's light in each of them, and the spreading of the sun's light and warmth to every corner of the world. When the candle was lit, the person would silently give thanks and then join in the song of blessing for the coming year.
Jennsen went last, and now her voice was silent but everyone else was chanting, their imperfect voices joining in glorious harmony. She lit her candle and thought of Richard and Zedd, Kahlan, Cara, and even Darken Rahl. She thought of her mother and hoped she was safe in the Creator's arms. She gave thanks for the kindness of these people who'd taken her in and who were fighting for freedom from tyranny.
After winter follows spring, after dark the light, bless us as we walk the path, hear our song tonight.
The song ended at a signal from the man who had lit the first candle and then there was a cheer from all assembled and they began to disperse toward the tables where warm wine and hot stew was waiting. Jennsen placed her candle close to the still burning centre candle, and then went to join her friends.
Jennsen watched with interest as several villagers picked up their mugs of warm wine and traipsed off towards the fruit trees.
"What are they doing?" she asked. She and her mother had kept to themselves but now she was learning about all sorts of customs that existed in various parts of the Midlands, some being fairly universal, while others were particular to just one town or village.
"Wassailing," she was told. "We thank the trees for their bounty."
Jennsen gathered up her skirts and carefully made her way over to the group who had been joined by many others; children with wooden spoons and cooking pots, women with rattles and bells, men with shields and daggers, and others with ladles to bang against the side of the their mugs. Wine was poured carefully at the base of a tree and then everyone sang. 'Blessings on this tree for the bounty of this year and hope for the next', followed by the cooking pots being rattled at, the bells rung, and shields hammered upon until the clatter was deafening.
It was an odd ritual, but soon Jennsen found herself joining in, stamping her feet in lieu of even an improvised musical instrument. By the finish she was red cheeked with the exertion though her breath showed up, white against the chilly air, and she was laughing with the others, and feeling hope for the return of spring.