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The Last Yule in Halabor
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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13
Day 13 - The Chandler

For disclaimer and further details see Part 1.

Rating: General, for this part.

Author’s note: I chose the 13th of December for the chandler, because in the Catholic calendar this is the feast of St. Lucia, and Lucia means “light”. Not a Middle-earth reference, I know, but perhaps the Professor would appreciate it. The prayer is based on a litany of Taizé – very vaguely.

This part is dedicated to my wonderful beta, Lady Masterblott, who wanted to know more about the Old Folk.


~~~

Day Thirteen – The Chandler

Outsiders might have wondered why the Old Folk would celebrate the feast of Lugh’s Invoking so shortly before Yule, the longest night of the year. But what did outsiders know about the Old Faith? Even their Dúnadan lords, who had ruled them for three thousand years, knew little about how the Old Folk saw things, how they thought and what they believed. They were a secretive lot who liked to keep their thoughts to themselves.

In the Old Faith, the night of Yule was the feast of Lugh’s Awakening – the darkest night, in which the god of light would finally wake up from his long slumber and return to earth – and with him the light. But in the deepening darkness of Foreyule Lugh needed an invocation to awake in the right moment – and this invocation took place eleven days before Yule, in the middle of the night.

Which was the reason why the candles for Yule – special candles, made of the purest beeswax and enriched with rare spices, like cloves and cinnamon – had to be manufactured in this very night. In this one night, Cador was more than just a mere chandler. In this night he was a priest of the Old Faith – a faith that knew no priests otherwise.

He had his workroom on the ground floor of his house on the Marketplace, right behind the small store where he sold his candles and various other wax products. The room was not heated, save from a small oven on which various pots with tallow or dyed wax were standing, according to the most recent orders. The room had to be cold, for the candles to dry and harden faster, so that they could be either packed into small wooden crates or – in case they were wax candles for more festive occasions – painted and adorned afterwards. Right now, all the pots were filled with liquid wax. Customers wanted better candles for Yule.

A thin pole hung above the oven, with a double row of wick fastened on it. By turning a latch, the pole could be lowered, so that the individual length of wick would be dipped into the hot, liquid wax. Then with pushing the latch into the vertical position, they were pulled out again, covered with wax, and left hanging, so that the wax could harden. This process was repeated every ten minutes, ‘til the candles reached the required girth. Then they were cut from the pole, while the outer layer was still somewhat soft, rolled between two wooden paddles and stored on open shelves for at least one day, in the same unheated room.

This was one way to make candles... the slower, more refined way, although the dipping pole was easy to handle – so easy, indeed, that it was usually Cador’s fourteen-year-old daughter who worked with it. But wax could also be cast into tin forms, so that the result would be sculpted and scented candles or other items of wax: sea roses and small figurines that less wealthy people liked to give their loved ones as gifts. Tonight, however, Cador was going to make the hallowed Yule candles, entirely by hand, as they had been made as long as people’s memories could reach back.

His wife and two sons were sitting at the working table in the store, painting the already finished candles and gluing small glass beads or other tiny adornments on them with drops of hot wax. They had orders for festive candles from all over the town; there was much to do for the whole family. As Cador entered the store, Newellyn was coming in through the other door, bringing another crate full of candles from the workroom.

His oldest son, Briavel, rose from his stool seeing his father.

“’Tis time,” he said. “Everything has been prepared. We can begin at once.”

As the firstborn son, it was Briavel’s duty – and his right – to assist his father in this most sacred of tasks a chandler could perform. No-one else was allowed in the workroom ‘til the Yule candles had been finished, not even the rest of the family. Their presence would disturb the rite and put Lugh’s awakening at Yuletime to risk.

For the Yule candles, only the purest beeswax could be used, which was a costly thing. Fortunately, Cador’s sister had married into the family of the bee-keeper and honey-makers, and thus they could acquire the precious material at a friendly price. Also, Yule candles had to be dipped and rolled, layer by layer, by hand. The exact number of layers of wax was laid down by tradition and known by master chandlers only. This way the candles were less evenly proportioned, but it made them the more valuable, due to the long hours of hard work gone into them.

Cador and his eldest had worked all night. They could never make enough for each family in town, but few of them could afford such candles in any case. Thus they could set for the sacred number of three dozen and hope to sell them to the Castle and to well-to-do merchants and craftsmen who valued them very much. Even so, father and son could barely move their arms when they were done, and their backs threatened to break at any sudden turn.

The thirty-six candles, the same yardstick long each, rolled in gold powder every single one to symbolize the return of light, were finally standing on the shelf in three dense rows. They looked beautiful enough to stand in the enchanted mound of Lugh himself. Cador anointed each wick-point with spiced oil, so that they would burn brightly and easily, and adorned them with a tiny sprig of holly and mistletoe.

All they had to do was to perform the time-honoured ritual to invoke Lugh.

With the help of his tinderbox, Cador lighted the thirty-seventh candle; the one made first, for this very night, and placed it on the candlestick in the middle of the darkened room. This was now the only source of light in the entire house. Briavel went to fetch the rest of the family, for the final blessing required the presence of them all.

They came in with eager steps, led by Cador’s mother who would not miss such a rite for the world, in spite of the tearing in her old, rheumatic limbs. The family formed a circle, sitting on low stools around the candlestick, holding hands. As the eldest of the clan, matron Bouduca was the one to begin to sing the prayer that was as old as the Old Folk itself.

In our darkest night
Rekindle the light
That forever burns
That always returns
In the midst of winter
Under sunless skies.


They would sit there, holding hands and repeating the prayer under the candle burned down completely and the dawn broke. To ensure that Lugh would indeed awake in the night of Yule and the light would return. That had been the way of the Old Folk, from the dawn of time, and would remain as long as one of them lived in these lands.

~The End – for now~

~~~

Note: no-one from the chandler’s family survived the destruction of Halabor.


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