Jahera and the Treant
By: Arjan Wardekker
Genre: Fantasy
Wordcount: 1029

A long, long time ago, near the realms of Vilya, there were lands were the small folk dwell. In those realms, the time passes slowly and worries were still far to seek. It is the land known as Byrell, where the Thane of the Halflings rules. There it was, where a young Halfling girl, named Jahera, lived. Jahera was the only daughter of a hard-working farmer and his, also hard-working, wife. They all lived happily together in a small farmhouse near the Lake of the Butterfly, in the farming-community of Rána.

It was in the dark times of winter, in the seventh month, in Mihrívë, during the Days of Darkness. In those dark and cold days, the Halflings used to place candles all around and in their houses and decorate everything, to drive away the darkness. All the streets were cozily illuminated.
It was near the date of the Mid-Winter Feast, when Jahera set out into the nearby woods, to gather some wood for the fireplace. The world was bathing in the white carpet of snow, freshly fallen upon the small Halfling houses and holes, upon the lands and the trees of the woods. Here and there, some furry ears stuck out of a hole, as a snow-white bunny took a quick look around on the alien landscape of this frozen world.
Jahera stepped into the soft snow and happily went on her way, trying to count her footsteps in the snow. After only a while, she gave up on doing this, as it was very difficult to count her footsteps, because the snow reached up to her shoulders. Only a small track, was what she left behind her, looking like a white snake, crawling through the fields and through the woods. She took several candles with her and always kept one of them burning, as it was dark in the woods

For some hours she went on, walking and picking up pieces of wood on the way. After a while, she reached a small river, with clear, unfrozen water, quietly flowing through the forest. She followed this river upstream until she reached an open place in the woods. Some white flowers had survived the cold and they just sat there to be beautiful upon some rocks. Jahera, happy about the surprise of the sudden beauty flowers in the frozen world, started picking them softly. Not too many flowers were picked, when the cold and frightening sound of a wolf, howling to the moon, brought her back to reality and fear struck her little Halfling heart, as she realized that she was lost.
She looked back, trying to discover her path in the snow, but it was gone, because the freshly fallen snow had erased all tracks. Snow was still falling as she ran back to the small river. She knew that she had followed it upstream for a while, so she started walking back downstream, hoping to find some things that she remembered to have encountered. For hours on end, she walked, failing any attempt to discover the way back. The forest was large. Cold and frightened, she rested against a tree trunk, eating some of her mother's home-made cookies to regain a little energy.

After sitting there for some minutes, she heard a faint murmur in the distance. It seemed like someone was singing. The sound came ever nearer. Jahera curiously walked towards the sound and as she moved closer, she saw a tree, slowly walking among the other trees. It was a very strange sighting and it somehow frightened Jahera a bit. But the tree had friendly eyes, so she walked to this walking tree. "Hello there, little Halfling girl. What are you doing this far out in the woods?" said the tree slowly. "I'm lost, Mr. Tree," was her reply. The tree asked her who she was and where she was from. Jahera explained that she was Jahera and that she lived in a farm in Rána. "What's your name, Mr. Tree?" she asked. "I'm Christmas, a Treant and a protector of these woods," said the tree, "Shall I take you to your home, Jahera?" "Yes please, Mr. Christmas," was the little girl's reply.
Christmas the Treant took Jahera up and set her on his strong shoulder. Slowly, as is a custom with the Treants, Christmas walked on, now and then stopping to rest or to talk to one of the wood's many trees. Most of the trees remained silent, at least, Jahera didn't hear them talking. Some of the trees seemed to answer, though, and talk back to Christmas. As the wind blowed through their leaves, a faint voice could be heard, softly and slowly whispering some words. During the many hours of their walk, Jahera tried to lighten their paths by placing candles in the Treant's many branches and they spread a warm glow over the dark and cold woodlands. All around them, animals could be seen, wondering about this strange sighting and the trees whispered in amazement.

Jahera had lost track of time, when they reached the edge of the woods. In the distance, the many lights of Rána by winter, could be seen. As they drew near the town, a crowd had gathered. Many halflings followed Christmas and Jahera. Upon reaching Jahera's farm, her worried parents came running out and warmly greeted Jahera and the Treant. The Halflings were grateful to Christmas and they brightly decorated him, as a thanks for returning Jahera. This was on the eve before the Mid-Winter Feast. Christmas stayed with the Halflings for the Feast and several days thereafter. It was to be a happy winter that year.
To remember these days, the Halflings decorate a tree, every year, when the time of the Mid-Winter Feast draws near. They named this tree the christmas tree, in honor of Christmas, the Treant, who had bravely rescued Jahera. The custom quickly spread among all the Halflings on Alcarin. Up to this date, the custom is kept in honor among the small folk and the story of Jahera and the Treant is told to their children, sitting near the fireplace in the winter, every year.

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