Christmas Wishes

*Note: This is a work in progress—full story to be ready by December 23rd*

There is a legend that exists that says this: The first snow of the winter season brings with it incredible magic, and if you see that snow falling as the sun rises, you are rewarded with a wish.

And so it was that day in that cozy corner house, where a doting husband and loving wife cuddled up beside their fluffy dog and their resistant cat.

“Rhianna, it’s snowing,” the man said.

The lady swept her lovely mane of red hair out of her face, and stood, clutching the little dog close to her chest.  In time, she reached the window that overlooked their yard, and she could not rein in that smile.

“You have to get over here and make a wish, Michael,” she bade.  “It’s the first snow of the season!”

Never one to buck her traditions, the husband rose and scooped the cat along with him.  If he had to be present for such an occasion, it was only fair that their pets both be there as well.

The fellow looked out upon that falling snow and grinned at his wife. “This isn’t one of those things where I can’t know what you wished, is it?”

Rhianna laughed and shook her head.  “I don’t think so.”  She looked down at the dog—her fur almost the same color as the woman’s hair. She pushed as far into Rhianna’s chest as she could, and she laughed as she realized she was attempting to squeeze as far away from the cat as possible.

“I wish that we could communicate with our fluffy little babies.  Would’t it be funny to hear what Peanut and Zelda thought?”

The man chortled and shook his head.  “I have a feeling we would be a little less impressed than you think.  I can just imagine Zelda now: ‘throw the ball, throw the ball, throw the ball!’  And Peanut?  It’d be wasted on her.  Though I guess it would be funny to hear what she says in her sleep.”

“Oh, I just want them to know we love them,” Rhianna said, rubbing her forehead against the dog’s.  She looked up at her husband, who still stared out that window.  “What are you going to wish for?” she asked.

He pondered for a moment, watching as each of those snowflakes dropped.  “Hmm,” he thought.  “This time of year, I bet it’s beautiful in Tellest.”

Rhianna just smiled and rolled her eyes.

Tellest was a world that Michael had imagined for sixteen years.  It was the world that brought the two loved ones together.  Once upon a time, Michael suggested that Rhianna utilize her artistic talents to help him bring that world to life.  They ended up finding other awesome people to help with that, and the two of them ended up forming a beautiful relationship together.  After five years together, they worked on that fantasy universe together, writing stories, creating games and gathering art.

Michael kept wearing that goofy grin, and shrugged.  “I wish that every Christmas, we could visit Tellest.”

*          *          *          *          *

A few days passed, and it was the afternoon before Christmas Eve. Michael heard the telltale buzz of his phone as he was putting on his coat.

“Hewwwoooo,” he cried as he swiped at the screen.

“Michael?” he heard Rhianna say.  “I think you should come home.”

The man arched his eyebrow.  His wife always played around when he first answered the phone.  “What’s wrong?” he asked.

“Well,” she said, “nothing is wrong, per se.  But you’re going to need to see this.”

The prominence in Michael’s throat dropped, and he hurried to his car.  He tried to maintain some air of composure, but he sped home faster than he should have, and when he pulled into the driveway, he nearly forgot to shift the vehicle into park before he jumped out the door.

Michael rushed to the front of the house, jamming his key into the lock and swing the way open.  He was surprised to see his wife sitting on the couch, staring at their dog on the floor.

“What’s the matter?” he asked.

Zelda, their pretty little dog, turned about at once, and stood on her hind legs.  “Daddy!”

Michael smiled as the pup crossed the distance to meet him by the door.  It wasn’t until she reached him that he realized what had transpired.  His eyes went wide, and his gaze slowly drew to Rhianna, still sitting on the couch.  She passed him a knowing nod, confirming that he was not, in fact, going crazy (though some people suspect all DeAngelos are).

He cocked his head to the side, and looked at the eager dog.  “Zelda… did you just speak?”

“Woof!” the pup called out.  It was not the typical bark of the dog when she was called upon to perform her tricks.  No, she said the word—and with great pride, judging by the waggle of her rump.

“You see what this means, don’t you?” Rhianna asked.

Michael returned an absent stare as he put together the clues that he could find.  “It means your wish came true,” he mumbled.

“It means you were wrong!” his wife exclaimed.  “She hasn’t asked me to throw the ball yet!”

Zelda spun about with a gasp, and stared at her mommy.  “Ball?” she cried.

“Wait a minute,” Michael said.  “You wished for the ability to communicate with our animals.  Plural.  Is Peanut able to talk now too?”

In response, Rhianna walked to the window, and swept the curtain out of the way.

The cat was there, and she turned her head to look at the interloper to her bay window refuge.  “Ugh,” she groaned.  “What do you want?”

Rhianna gestured with her hand as if to ask if that was confirmation enough.

“How long have they been like this?”

“Since about an hour ago.”

Michael arched his eyebrow.  “That’s right about the time we noticed the snow a few days ago.”

“You made a wish too, you know,” his wife reminded.  “Did we get any tickets to Tellest lately?”

He shrugged.  “No mail today, it seems.  I don’t think it’s in the cards.”

Just then, a loud, persistent gust battered the back of the house. The french doors shuddered against that buffeting of wind, and the married couple inched closer to that area.

Against all odds, the back yard was covered in white.  Snow had fallen there in a matter of moments.

No, not fallen, they soon realized.  It was being cast out from the ground—and the large swirling vortex that was there.  The wind and snow whipped around like mad, and as more of that white stuff coated the ground and the glass of the door, visibility was limited.

“I think that’s our formal invitation,” Michael said.

“You can’t be serious,” Rhianna protested.

“Our animals are talking.”

His wife opened her mouth to argue further, but the words were caught behind her lips.  She raised a single finger and nodded.  “You make a good point.”

Beyond the glass of those doors, another sound echoed through.  It was the jovial laughter of a fellow they had heard in countless stories and recreations of holiday cheer throughout the years.

“Ho ho ho…”

“It can’t be,” Michael muttered.  He opened the door to hear the sound with more clarity.

“Merry Christmas!” he heard.

Overwhelmed with curiosity, the man opened the door.  He lifted his arm to shield his eyes from that whipping snow.  As he drew closer, he could see that the large hole that manifested in their yard held one more secret: a rippling image was displayed several feet below. A beautiful manor covered in snow with smoke billowing out of several chimneys was there, appearing as though it were on the other side of a pool of water.

While the bewildered man studied that portal to another world, the little brown dog sprinted out of the open door.  “Santa!” she cried.

Inside the house, Rhianna reached out as if the simple gesture could somehow placate the excited pup.  “Zelda, wait!”

It was too late though.  The dog leapt off the ground with glee in her eyes, and even Michael was too slow to catch her.  She descended into that hole at once, and plunged through the rippling image, until she was out of sight.

The man stood there in shock, his mouth agape.  He looked back to his wife, his slow gaze meeting hers.  She was as silent as he was, but she offered a shake of her head.  Rhianna knew that he had already made his decision though.  He forced a sigh out into the air, steam slipping into the cold from between his lips.  Without anymore hesitation, he hopped into that vortex.

“Michael, what are you doing?” Rhianna grumbled.  “I’m in pajamas!” That did nothing to stop her though, and she fumbled to put on a pair of shoes.  As she reached that opened french door, she looked to the cat in her bed on the opposite side of the room.  “Stay here, Peanut.  We’ll be right back.”  She looked to that swirling vortex and tried to bear a grin.  “At least, I hope we will be.”

She shrugged and stepped out of the house, swinging the door shut. She didn’t slow at all as she leaped into the unknown.

That door never closed properly, bouncing back open and letting the chill back into the house.  The cat sighed and rose from her comfortable bed, hopping to the hardwood floor below.  “The least you could have done was make sure you closed the door, you peasants!”  Peanut sauntered to threshold of the house, looking at the whipping wind and the hole just out of reach.  “Good riddance,” she mused.

She spun about then, and approached her food bowl—the only other thing besides sleep that truly gave her comfort and was aghast by the sight of it.

It was empty!

“Wait for me!” she cried as she sped out that open door.

The cat was the last one through that portal, closing her eyes as she took her fateful leap.

With the family of four summoned to that faraway place, the portal closed, and the snow and wind expired with one final blast of air. The door to the DeAngelo abode shut fiercely, and the yard settled back into place, though a circular outline where a deep hole once was remained there to prove the strange event that unfolded.

*          *          *          *          *

The cat tumbled forward in that odd void of gravity.  Images she couldn’t understand whipped by, until she saw one that she couldn’t help but be drawn to.  There, a lavish manor that seemed akin to a huge, longstanding hunting lodge was adorned with lights and decorations.

She was so distracted by the view that she wasn’t prepared for that liquid feeling of the exit portal.

Still, Peanut had enough sense to right herself before she landed in the snow.  With deft skill, the feline landed on her feet, and stared at her familiar loved ones.

Rhianna arched her eyebrow as she swept the snow off of her pajamas.  She lifted her gaze to meet the recently arrived cat, and clicked her tongue.

“Good riddance?” she echoed.

Peanut stood straighter upon hearing that comment.  “Oh, you heard that?” She made no further attempt to apologize, as though an acknowledgement was enough.  She sat down, despite the snow on the ground, and licked her front paws clean.  When she looked past her smirking owner, she saw Michael cradling the dog, and wiping the snow from her nose.

Rhianna walked up beside them, and dusted her husband’s shoulders clear of the white stuff as well.  “So, here’s a question that might be worth asking.  How are we going to get home?”

“A portal that opened up in our backyard just ripped us through space and time before dumping us in front of a gorgeous wintertime manor, and you’re already asking about home?”

She shrugged.  “That’s a fair point.”

By then, the dog was cleaned up, though she narrowed her eyes as the wind whipped more powder about the air.  “I’m going to put you down now, Zelda, alright?  No running off anymore.”

As soon as she was on the ground, she shook her body, discarding any of the snow that the man couldn’t get to.  When she was steady once more, she looked up.  The DeAngelo family watched as the front of that beautiful lodge was awash with a warm glow.

The door opened, and the silhouette of a man with a large form filled that broad entrance.  “Come on then,” the stranger bellowed.  “It might not seem cold in all this snow, but I assure you, a Tellest winter is a dangerous thing!”

Without any further prompting, the dog scurried off into the snow.

“Aaaaand there she goes,” Michael conceded.  “Run along with her, and I’ll get the cat,” he told his wife.

“You will do no such thing,” Peanut moaned.  She didn’t put up much of a fight though, huddling against her owner’s chest as he scooped her up.

Rhianna trudged through that snow until it covered her pajama bottoms, and soaked them thoroughly.  Before she reached the opened gate in front of the lodge, her teeth were already chattering.

Zelda, their typically skittish dog, had no qualms about prancing into the house.  The man obscured by the light took a step back and let the chihuahua slip by before turning his attention back to his other guests.

The redhead stopped just before the steps that led to that building, in awe at what she was seeing.  “It’s you.  It’s really you.”

Behind a  bushy grey beard and beneath a wide-brimmed red hat, the broad fellow bore a warm smile.  “Of course it’s me.  Who else would I be if not myself?”

Rhianna couldn’t bring herself to even blink.  “But I mean, you’re him.  You’re—”

“Santa Claus?” Michael asked as he drew close.  He wasn’t as shocked by the appearance of the fellow, and he offered a nod to him.

“And pleased to be making your acquaintance,” the very spirit of Christmas said to them.  “Why don’t you both come in and settle down with your pets, and I’ll have one of the servants prepare us all some cocoa.”

The two loved ones were surprised, as they entered the house, to see one of the aforementioned servants standing before them.  A dwarf, his head in line with the bottom of Michael’s shoulders, presented a tray before him that carried two neatly stacked outfits.

“I love new clothes,” Rhianna cried as she plucked the  one aside.

Her husband, meanwhile, released his hold on the cat, lifted the jacket that remained, and let it hang before him.  “This looks a lot like the leather jacket I have at home.  This one looks much nicer, though.  It’d be awesome if this thing fits.”

“I assure you, sir, the measurements are accurate,” the dwarf bade.

“How can that be?” Michael asked as Santa made his way deeper into the lodge.

The jolly man in red simply chortled at that cynicism, but the dwarf leaned forward, and brought his hand to his lips.  “He’s sees you when you’re sleeping.”

Rhianna nodded, as if that was all she needed to hear.

That dwarf led them to a small antechamber so that they could change out of their wet clothes into the new ones that were prepared for them.  They looked at one another, impressed with the outfit that—they could scarcely believe it—Santa had set out for them.  After only a few moments, they emerged from that chamber to find that the dwarf had gone.  A quick turn to their side showed the flickering light of a hearth, the crackle of the fire and its glow inviting.

As the husband and wife entered that sitting room, they saw the jolly, white-bearded fellow in a chair near the fire.  Zelda was cuddled up in the seat beside him, while Peanut was perched upon the arm of that chair.

“It seems they’ve taken a liking to you,” Rhianna said.

The owner of that lodge sent a bright smile her way.  “Who wouldn’t like me?” he asked.  “I’m Santa.”  Before his guests could offer up any would-be witty responses, he waved them in.  “Come in, come in. Grab a seat and make yourself comfortable.  We have some things to talk about.”

As Michael and Rhianna cozied up next to each other on the settee opposite the very spirit of Christmas, the stocky fellow leaned forward.  “So, I take it you realize your wishes have actually come true.  That must have come as some surprise for you both today.”

“That’s putting it lightly,” Michael admitted.

Santa chortled as he mused on that.  “A little honesty goes a long way,” he said.  “You weren’t brought here solely for fun and games—not entirely.  Only two of you have had your wishes come to fruition, and we must remedy that at once, though I’ll need your help for the other two.”

“The other two?” Rhianna wondered.

“Of course!” he exclaimed.  “Four DeAngelos watched the fall of that first snow and made their wish.  Just because you couldn’t understand the furriest members of your family, that doesn’t mean they didn’t have a wish.

“Take Zelda here.  What did you wish for, little one?”

The little brown pup looked up to the man in red, her tail wagging furiously.  “I wanted to fly!” she cried.

“And fly you shall, you precious little thing,” he declared.  “But that will come in a little bit.  Your mother and father are going to need to help me with a task in order to fulfill your wish.”

Zelda turned to her owners and stood up on her hind legs, batting at the air.  “Help him you two!  I want to fly!”

“What do we have to—”

Michael stopped Rhianna from finishing her question when he leaned forward.  “Wait a minute.  What did Peanut wish for?”

Santa nodded, twitching his mustache.  “Your cat?  She wished for a—”

“I didn’t implicitly wish for anything,” Peanut grumbled.  “I just… voiced my desires.”

That fellow in red let fly a tremendous belly laugh that had the cat leaping from the chair over to her owners.  “Very well then, you finicky feline,” he said.  “We shall say that  your wish has yet to be made.  It’s in reserve.”

“What did you wish for?” Michael asked the cat as he cast a sidelong glance her way.

Peanut looked at him for a moment before promptly turning away to ignore him.

Father Christmas leaned forward again, lifting his hand to shield his mouth from the persnickety cat.  “She wanted a big, tasty bird.”

“But I did not wish for it,” Peanut made clear to all the others in the room.  “I was just voicing a concern.  When is the last time any of you ever considered what I want?”

“All you want to do is sleep and eat,” Michael said.  “I thought we were fulfilling that wish awfully well!”

Rhianna swept her husband back further in his seat.  “You mentioned that you had a task for us.  What is it you needed from us?”

Santa clapped his hands together.  “Always willing to offer aid when help is needed.  My girl, that is why you’re on my nice list.”  He rose, and stood before the fire, wrapping his arms around his back and clasping them together just above his rump.  “Again, let’s step back to that honestly I was talking about.  Surely you’ve heard all the stories about me: climbing through chimneys, making toys for children—”

“Delivering them all in one night,” Rhianna added.

“Right!” he said, spinning about and pointing a finger at her.  “Now that last one is a bit of a misunderstanding.  How could one man deliver to all of those children in one night?”  Before his guests could offer up a suspicion, he smiled and stepped a bit closer.  “In this world, I’m what is known as a wizard.  Not just any wizard, mind you, but an artificer.  Your husband is no doubt familiar with the concept: I collect magical relics to help me make my tasks a little simpler.”

“Like the sack you keep your toys in,” Michael surmised.  “It’s a bag of holding isn’t it?”

“Right you are, lad.”

“And your sleigh,” Rhianna piped up.  “It can fly, can’t it?”

Santa wore a smile so bright that even his eyes seemed aglow with pride and happiness.  “Parts of it can, of course.  The parts that are fashioned from cordus trees have the ability to float, given the proper treatment.”  He waved his hand then, dismissing his own rambling.  “One of the most important pieces of my collection is this one right here,” he said, pointing to the mantle.  There, a golden bracelet wrapped in holly rested, sitting within a glass display.  “With that, I’m able to travel through time and space, and I use it all to return to that one day a year when children expect gifts and merriment.”

“A bracelet that lets you travel to other places and other worlds,” Michael echoed.  “Isn’t there another wizard who—”

“Spoilers!” Santa said as he draped his arms across his burly chest. He eyed Michael up and arched his eyebrow, but sent a knowing wink his way a moment later.  “In any case, it’s a pretty big commitment.  Nobody realizes how much work it is to make sure every child gets what they need each Christmas.”

“I always thought you had some helpers,” Rhianna said.

“Well of course!” the jolly fellow said.  “I couldn’t possibly do it all myself.  We’ve got craftsman and stable hands, and all manner of assistance.  Wintertide is meant to be a holiday that is embraced by all.  Er… that is what the people of Tellest call Christmas, my dear.”

“Alright, so where do we come in?” Michael asked.  “I’m not about to let our pup go without a chance to fly.”

“Yay!” Zelda exclaimed, leaping off the chair and jumping against her owner’s leg.

“Well then, let’s get to it, shall we?” Santa reasoned.  “I am going to be somewhat busy here through Christmas, as I’m sure you can surmise.  But there are a few things that I need to make sure the holidays go off without a hitch.  One of those aforementioned helpers, an elf named Revan, is waiting for you out in the northern tundra with a few  assistants.”

“Waiting for us?” Rhianna wondered.

“Of course,” he attested.  “Did I not mention I have mastery over time itself?”

The spouses could not tell if the jolly fellow was having a go at them, or if he was serious.

“In any case, Revan and the helpers have a few things that I need. First and foremost, they’re great alchemists.  They’re responsible for a good deal of Christmas magic, and without them, I’m not sure I’d be able to get everything done!”

“Well,” Michael mused, “how are we supposed to find them?  Even though I’ve written about Tellest, I didn’t even know you were here until now.”

“Ah, but that part of the story just wasn’t ready for you yet, lad,” the big fellow said.  “You and your wife are conduits to this realm.  When the tales are ready to be told, I’m sure you and countless others will be ready to spread the word.  And don’t you be worried about finding Revan.  That’s the trouble that I’ve already got worked out for you.  Just make sure you remember this: when you’re there, ask for the three potions.  They’ll know what it means.  While you’re there, I’m sure my other friend Leoden will want to look after the sleigh. He always pays extra attention to it around this time of year.”

He clapped his hands together, then, and proceeded further into the cabin.  His guests waited for just a few moments more before they followed him.  He waited beside the exit to the lodge, and they could see the tremendous sled that waited for them just outside the door.

“Borti,” Santa called out.  In a few moments, the dwarf they met earlier appeared from an adjacent room.  He carried that tray again, but it did not hold clothes any longer.  Instead, a sword, a quiver and a bow were stacked upon it.  “Ah, you read my mind, my friend.  You two are getting your Christmas gifts early,” he said to his guests.

While Michael beamed and scooped up the gear, Rhianna looked at Father Christmas with concern.

“This is Tellest, dear girl,” Santa declared.  “You never know what dangers there might be.  That said, where you’re going, I don’t think you’ll have anything to worry about.”

“Come on, Honeybuns,” Michael said, presenting her with the exquisite bow.  “Where’s your sense of adventure?”

She sighed then, accepting the offered weapon.  He helped her drape the quiver over her shoulder, and together—with both their animals at their feet—they followed the burly man in red out into the snow once more.

As they approached the sleigh, they were stricken by how beautiful it looked.  The grain of the wood was of particular interest.  That ancient piece had no doubt seen a great many events throughout Santa’s life, and Rhianna’s mind went racing to think of all the possibilities.

“There are so many things I want to ask you before we leave,” she lamented.

“Dear girl, do you think this is the last time we’ll meet?” the jolly man asked.  “Your husband wished for a trip to Tellest every Christmas. There are many visits yet to come!  And fret not.  You’ll see me once more before you return to your home.”

She nodded as she accepted his words.  Her attention shifted to Zelda, whose ears perked up as her body straightened.  “Big dogs!” she grumbled.

Michael couldn’t help but laugh at that, because the approaching animals weren’t dogs at all.  A team of eight reindeer marched on the snow toward that sleigh, a large fellow behind them keeping them all in line by their reins.

“That’s impressive,” Rhianna said.

“That’s just Kartan,” Santa said.  “If you need a fellow who can rope eight reindeer with his bare hands, there’s no better type for the job than a haudron.  Those half-giants have got enough strength in them to do some truly uncanny things.”

Kartan led the team to the front of the sleigh, and slotted them there in place as Santa and his guests arrived there.  “Thank you my old friend,” the spirit of Christmas bade.  He turned to the couple and their pets then.  “Are you four ready?”

Michael and Rhianna nodded, scooping their animals into their arms, and sliding onto the seat of the sleigh.  The man in red with the wide-brimmed hat sidled into the seat behind them.

“You’re coming with us?” Rhianna asked.

“Just to get you started,” the jolly fellow said.

That team of reindeer walked on, pulling the hefty sleigh for a few hundred feet.  Kartan was trudging through the snow behind them, but Santa’s visitors were too busy looking at the gorgeous aurora that seemed to circle the mountain near the lodge.

Finally, the team drew to a stop, and they realized they had pulled up before a steep cliff.

“Where do we go from here?” Michael asked.

“Forward, of course,” Santa said as he stepped out of the sleigh.

Both DeAngelo spouses looked at each other with curious expressions.

“What, you don’t trust me?” Santa Claus asked.

“That’s just a cliff,” Rhianna said.  Her eyes opened wide, then, and a bright smile stretched across her face as she turned back to their host.  “Are the reindeer going to fly us to your alchemist?”

Kartan passed by on their side, and they knew that her suspicion was wrong.  He untied the team from the sleigh, never offering a word to the visitors to the unfamiliar realm.

“What’s going on?” Michael wondered.

“Don’t worry,” Santa bade.  “This is all part of the plan, and it’ll make your journey to the workshop that much quicker.  And I wouldn’t trouble yourselves with having to find your own way back.  Revan or Leoden will surely point you in the right direction back to the lodge.”

“Okay, but how are we supposed to get there without any reindeer?” Michael asked.

“Christmas magic,” Rhianna surmised.

Magic seemed to be the furthest thing from it when Kartan gave a mighty push to the back of the sleigh.  The husband and wife sat down and clutched their pets even closer to their chest.

“Now hang on,” Santa ordered.  “This next part is a little bumpy.”

“Santa is going to kill us,” Peanut squeaked from behind Michael’s arms.

“Hold tight,” Santa cried as Kartan gave the sleigh another hefty shove.

They teetered on the edge of the cliff then, and Rhianna could feel Zelda shaking in her grasp.  The half-giant clapped his hands together before placing them against the vehicle one more time.

“Wait!” Santa yelled.  He ran up behind the sleigh, and draped his arms over the back of it.  “I almost forgot the most important part. The magic that brings you there safely only works if you believe.”  He turned to Kartan and offered a nod.  The half-giant gave one last push to the sleigh, sending it off the edge of the cliff.  “See you in a few hours, no doubt,” Santa shouted out with glee.

All four of the DeAngelos screamed as they saw the jagged rocks and the icy water below them.

“I believe, I believe, I believe,” Michael said as Rhianna buried her head against his shoulder.

“Your stupid Christmas wish is going to get us all killed!” Peanut grumbled.

Just then, though, right before those deadly rocks they careened toward, a ripple of time and space appeared.  Michael breathed a sigh of relief, which all of his loved ones could sense.

Zelda perked up as they approached that portal at a rapid pace. “Yay!” the little dog cried.

All at once, the sleigh and the passengers upon it descended into that rippling vortex.

*          *          *          *          *

When they were done floating through that rift in space, they emerged far away—but still pointed down toward certain doom.  All that mirth that they had summoned upon finding the portal was thrown to the wayside as they careened toward the flat expanse below them.  All four of the visitors to Tellest screamed in unison, their voices breaking once the sleigh banged and rocked against some unseen terrain.

The icy slope caught the sleigh, and the passengers were oblivious to their subtle ramp to safety.  With their eyes closed, and all of them huddled together, none of them noticed at first when their sleigh was upright again.  They slid forward, and it wasn’t until they braved the view that they realized they were safe.

“Again!” Zelda demanded.

Another sigh of relief left the lips of the two owners, though they knew not to let down their guard after that harrowing journey—even though it only took them a few moments to arrive there.

Still, the sleigh slid forward, toward a tremendous fir tree that was adorned with ornaments and strange lights.  The sleigh slowed just as it pulled into that area, and it was only then that the passengers could feel how badly their legs were shaking.

“The old fellow didn’t warn you about the portal, did he?” they heard off to their side.

They turned to see a strange man approach them from a building nearby.  No, not a man, they realized soon after.  His pointed ears pegged him as an elf.

“Huh,” Rhianna mused.  “I always thought Santa’s elves would have been the short ones.”

The stranger walked up beside the sleigh, investigating it as he took account of the two humans and their pets.  He had an odd look about him, his arms bare in that cold, and his chest covered only by a blacksmith’s apron.

“You must be Leoden,” Michael said.  “Santa told us there would be a craftsman here who took special care of his sleigh.”

With a nod, the elf stroked his beard.  “Well, when you’re working with something this old, you want to make sure it can last even longer.  Did he tell you the story of this old piece of driftwood?”

Rhianna arched her eyebrow upon hearing it described as that.  “He didn’t.  We didn’t have much time to converse while we were there. What did you mean when you called this driftwood?”

Leoden waved his hand.  “Ah, that’s not a story for me to tell.  But you should ask him about it next time you see him.  It’s sure to be an interesting revelation.”  The elf reached out, and helped the auburn-haired beauty off the sleigh.  “No doubt you’re here to see Revan. Leave this sled in my care and I’ll have it ready to go before you’re done collecting the things you need from him.”

“Thank you very much,” Michael said.

Together, the guests of that encampment made their way around the tree, coming close enough to see all the ornaments upon it.  Little glass balls were strewn about here and there, with shining, floating creatures inside.  Other decorations, fashioned from stone or wood hung from loops of ribbon, each engraved with a heartfelt message.

As they rounded the end of the fir, they noticed a trio of large buildings that looked similar to Santa’s lodge.  All of them seemed like exquisite log cabins, though they were surely the biggest they had ever seen.

The two humans, the dog and the cat were drawn to the center building, and they were surprised to see the door open before they drew too close.

When they ventured inside, that surprise only grew.  Vials and glassware were stacked throughout the room, making the inside of the giant cabin look like the laboratory of a mad scientist instead of a workshop for tiny elves.  Swirls of color were abound in every one of those flasks, the closest row alternating red and white.

“Like a candy cane,” Rhianna whispered.

“Ah, you must be Santa’s newest helpers,” they heard.  At once, a face appeared behind one of those round glasses where clear liquid flowed.  It was awkward and shifted into an odd shape, but the visitors could see the bright smile that person wore.  “I finished the latest batch of potions just in time, it seems!”

The elf emerged from behind the row of glasses, and her expression of glee was even more pronounced, somehow.  She wore a dark green, short-sleeved cincher, with white and red striped leggings that looked like she was propped up on two long peppermints.  Light brown hair tumbled down past her shoulders, and big, happy eyes landed upon the visitors.  She was smitten at once with the little dog who felt brave enough to introduce herself.

“Gorgeous!” the elf maiden said as she dropped to a bent knee to pet the pup.

“You too!” Zelda exclaimed.

Michael shook his head as he tried to make sense of the situation. “Wait, wait… you’re Revan?”

She sprang back up, and extended her arm.  “Pleased to meet you!” He was surprised by the powerful grip, and the enthusiastic shake, but even Michael could’t hold back a smile as the exuberant elf leaped forward and wrapped his wife in a fierce embrace.  “Hope you found the place alright,” she teased.

“Well isn’t she just a ball of sunshine,” Peanut grumbled.

Revan brought her hands to her cheeks and squealed.  “Kitty!” she cried.  The cat wasn’t quick enough to bound away before she was scooped up into the elf’s arms.  Revan twisted this way and that as she squeezed Peanut until she protested with a little groan.

“So, Santa told us to mention three potions,” Rhianna said, ignoring the adorable plight of the feline.

“Oh, of course,” the elf said.  “It’s hard to forget these three—he’s been using the same lot for centuries.”  She moved over to a table on the far side of the room, and gathered up three large flasks of glowing liquid.  One glowed green, one glowed blue, and the last glowed silver.  “You see, moving around with all those goodies takes an awful lot of work.  So what we’ve done is put together a concoction that makes the task a little easier.”  She held up the blue flask, and balanced it in her hand.  “This one here makes the presents he’s put together for the children smaller.  He’ll put them in the bag and it makes it easier for him to get to.  The green potion is sort of like the antidote.  It isn’t really fixing anything, so to speak, but it’s the right amount to get them back to the right size.  Those two potions counteract one another.

“But this one right here,” she said, juggling those flasks until the silver one was most prominent, “this one is the most important one of all.  This is the one that makes things fly.”

Zelda’s ears perked up at those words, and her eyes grew wide and eager.

“Yes, little one,” Revan said.  “Santa told me all about your wish!” The maiden turned to the human visitors, and arched an eyebrow.  “Are you two alright with your little puppy getting some wings?”

“It’s her wish,” Michael said.  “Who are we to get in the way of that?”

Zelda bounced around in excitement, and was the first to follow the elf out into the snow once more.  Revan fell to her knee again, the white and red stripes on that leg settling into the ivory dusting on the ground.  She popped the cork off of the flask, and was careful to tilt the glass over the dog’s head.

“Now remember, this is pretty potent stuff.  Santa is using it for a pretty good length of time, so you only need a drop of it, and it’ll last for hours.”

That drop landed on Zelda’s head, and she crouched low as if she was waiting for it to rain on her.  She narrowed her eyes, and looked about, but nothing seemed out of the ordinary.  “I don’t feel any floatier,” she said.  When she saw Michael and Rhianna’s widening eyes, though, she demonstrated some concern.  She looked down, and realized that she was a few inches off the ground.  A gasp escaped her lips, and she opened her mouth into an adorable canine grin.

“Merry Christmas, Zelda!” Revan said.  “Try it out!”

The little brown dog floated higher and higher, and before long, she grew comfortable with the motions of flight.  She could pitch and roll and dive with ease, and before long she was performing tricks in the air that made it look as though she was flying for years.

“I’m getting dizzy just watching her,” Rhianna said with a bright smile on her face.  Michael stepped up beside her, and wrapped his arm around her shoulder.

“Regretting not wishing for something awesome like that?” he asked Peanut a moment later.

The cat sneered, but stared with interest at her sister.

“So, she’ll be able to do this for a few hours,” Revan said.  “Probably just long enough to get you back to Santa’s lodge, if not further. With luck, she’ll be flying through the portal back to your world.”

“She’s going to be overjoyed,” Rhianna mused.

Revan’s eyebrows went up, and she inched closer to her visitors. “Now here’s something extra we have to talk about.  We were hoping Zelda would want to use her newfound ability to help us and Santa with a little dilemma.”

“What dilemma?” Michael asked.

“Well, getting the sleigh here was easy,” the elf said.  “The portal pretty much drops it off right here without any problems.  But we need to get it back to Santa, and the portal only works in one direction.”

Rhianna arched her eyebrow.  “So you were hoping that—”

“We were hoping that she’d pull the sleigh.”

“Ha!” Peanut snickered.

“But she weighs like… twelve pounds,” Michael argued.

Revan wore as innocent a grin as she could muster, and she lifted the green potion into the air.  “She doesn’t have to be.”

“I could see this being a problem,” Rhianna muttered.  “She already thinks she’s a big dog.”

“Well, let’s see what she says,” Michael said.  “For all we know, she might not even want to do this.”  He whistled just as Zelda did a loop-de-loop in the air.

Despite her incredible mirth with being able to take to the sky, she turned toward her family, and dove toward them.

“Slow down, Zelda,” Rhianna bade.  “Slow down!”

That warning wasn’t enough to dissuade her though.  She skittered down to the ground, losing her balance at once, and rolling through the snow.

Everyone in attendance gasped except for Peanut, who crooned her neck to see what transpired not so far away from them.

“Woo!” Zelda cried.  “That was awesome!”

Michael ran to the snow-covered pup and lifted her off the ground, dusting off her face.  “You alright little girl?”

“Never better!”

He squeezed her close to his chest, noting that she couldn’t stop wagging her tail.  He had never seen it move so fast, and if he wasn’t aware of the Christmas magic, he would have suspected that rapid propelling tail was what made her fly.  “We have a favor to ask of you, puppy dog.”

“A favor?” she echoed.  “You’ve never asked for one of those from me before.”

“Think of it as a really, really amazing trick!” Rhianna said.

“I love tricks!” Zelda said.

“Well we have a really important one for you, darling,” Revan replied. “How would you like to be the one who brings Santa’s sleigh back to his lodge?”

“I could do that?  Really?”

“If you want to!  But we have to use some of this potion on you.  It’ll make you big and strong enough to pull the sleigh.”

“I’m going to be just like one of his reindeer!” she exclaimed.

“That’s right, you will!”

Revan dropped to her knee again, pulling the stopper from the green flask.  “Just like before, all we really need is one drop—more than that and there can be… side effects.  Are you ready, Zelda?”

The dog panted in reply, and put her paws on the elf’s upright knee.

“Alright then.  Hold still, and we’ll get you all set up!”

Once again, that little dog flinched as the drop of that concoction landed on her head.  Revan stood up and took a step back, and at once, Zelda noticed she was growing in stature.

“You guys look so small compared to me now.”

“This is trouble just waiting to happen,” Michael joked.

“Let’s make sure you can still fly, little one,” Revan teased.  “Why don’t we all head over to Leoden’s and see if he’s done with the sleigh?”

Sure enough, Zelda was still able to take to the air.  She pranced like one of the nine famous reindeer that was known to tug Santa’s sleigh across the night sky.  With that much glee, it was hard to catch up to her, but she settled down beside the other elf’s workshop.

“Leoden?” Revan called out.

“Just putting on the finishing touches,” he replied from within.  The doors to that building were thrust open, and a plume of steam rolled out into the snow.  Leoden lifted his goggles, and wore a wide smile behind his beard.  “Your chariot awaits.”

“That was quick,” Rhianna praised.

“Well, when you’ve been at this as long as I have, it’s almost muscle memory.  She’ll serve you and the big man well.  If he treats it right, this sleigh won’t even need to be looked at next year!”

“You say that every year,” Revan reminded.  She stepped up alongside the vehicle, and grabbed the reins, pulling them into place until she had just what she needed.  “Alright there, Zelda.  Are you ready for your harness?”

“Ready!” the eager pup replied.

Leoden walked up to the two humans, and turned them to face away from his shop.  They were almost looking back toward that huge, icy slope that they arrived on.  “So, here’s how to get back to Santa’s lodge.  If you take the sleigh just to the side of that ridge, you’ll see a big, frigid lake.  Just beyond that, there’s an ice canyon.  It’s a beautiful view, but it’s also right in line with where you need to go.  If you just follow that for an hour or so, you’ll eventually see the lodge in the distance.  This time of year, he’s got that place so lit up, you’ll see it from miles away, no doubt.”

“Thank you, Leoden,” Michael said.  “I’m sorry we didn’t get a chance to get to know you better.”

He arched his eyebrow.  “You really think this is the last time we’ll meet?  You’re one of Santa’s champions now.  That’s a fellowship that you never walk away from.”

“In that case, I look forward to seeing you again,” Michael said, extending his hand.  The two shook before Rhianna moved to hug him.

When Michael turned back to the oversized pup, she was all strapped into her harness, attached to the sleigh that would take them back to Santa’s.

“She’s all set,” Revan bade.  “All that’s left to do is get you settled in and get you on your way!”

“We appreciate all you’ve done for us,” Rhianna said.  “I don’t think I’ve ever seen Zelda this happy—and she’s a pretty happy dog by nature!”

“Well, she must have two very nice owners then!”

Peanut, looking up at Zelda with discerning eyes grumbled upon hearing the merry speak of the humans.

“Alright, we hear you, cat,” Michael conceded.  “Everyone ready?” He scooped Peanut up, and placed her on the front bench of the sleigh, and took his place beside her.

Rhianna slipped in next, squeezing in next to her husband.

Revan approached then, with the three flasks.  “Now remember, green makes things bigger, blue makes them smaller.  The silver will make things fly.  We already dabbed the sleigh with some of that, so your little pup won’t have any problems lifting the thing!”

Leoden jogged into the workshop then, and gathered an item from the back seat of the sleigh.  “Almost forgot,” he said, presenting them with a small piece of wood with three holes in it.  “This will keep the things from sliding around.  Not our first try at this,” he informed.

“You sure have thought of everything,” Rhianna jested.

The two elves smiled.  “Alright then.  Best you get on your way,” Revan said.  “Don’t want to risk disappointing the children!”

Michael offered a nod.  “Ready when you are, Zelda.  Time to fly!” The magically grown dog took a few moments to get some traction, but after a few slips and slides of her paws, the sleigh was moving. “Happy Wintertide!” Michael called out to their two new friends.

“Merry Christmas!” the elves called back.

Zelda’s speed and strength was more than anyone expected, and in mere seconds, she pulled away from the workshop village, and into the sky.

“Do you think it’ll be a regular ride back to Santa’s?” Revan asked when the sleigh drifted out of sight.

Leoden cocked his head and wore a mischievous grin.  “When have you ever known Santa’s plans to go off without a hitch?”

*          *          *          *          *

They were making fantastic time, Michael supposed—even though he wasn’t sure how much of a journey they had left.  As the icy canyon whipped by around them, though, he thought there was no way they weren’t on schedule.

“I can’t believe I forgot my phone,” Rhianna lamented.

“Something tells me you wouldn’t get any reception here,” her husband replied.

She gave him a punch on his shoulder that was filled with mock anger.  “I would have loved to have taken pictures of everything.  Is this how you imagined the world we’ve been working on?”

He shrugged.  “I didn’t even know there was a north pole here on Tellest.  And Santa?  How was I supposed to know he was here?”

“So that begs the question: does Tellest exist because you wrote it, or did you write about it because it was already there?”

“Well, technically, it—”

“We may never know!” Rhianna interrupted.

“Are we there yet?” the cat beside them wondered.

Michael narrowed his eyes at that question, and gazed at Peanut. “Don’t make me turn this sleigh around,” he teased.  “If you’re bored, you only have yourself to blame.  Zelda made a pretty awesome wish.  How you doing up there, Zelda?”

“I’m good!” the dog hollered back.  “I just keep imagining the moon is a ball that I can catch if I just fly as fast as I can!”

“See?” Rhianna said.  “That’s a good outlook on life.”

“Ugh, I’m just so bored!” Peanut grumbled.

“We’re flying in Santa’s sleigh!” Michael protested.  “How can you be bored?”

“Take a look around,” Rhianna suggested.  “This canyon is beautiful, the icy reflections are neat to look at—and look!  There’s penguins beneath us!”

Both of the other passengers peered over the side of the sleigh to look at those cold-region birds.

“We know some people back home that would be so jealous to see them in the wild,” Michael mentioned.

“And not just any wild, but wild from another world!”

Peanut sighed and rolled her eyes, walking back to the center of the vehicle.  Her gaze was drawn, then, to the swirling contents of the flasks on the bench seat.  While Michael and Rhianna were busy peering at the fantastic surroundings, she leaped back onto the seat, and watched the potions swish with every movement Zelda made.

She couldn’t deny her feline tendencies, then.  With one quick swat, the green concoction was knocked from the stand.

“Whoa!” Michael cried when he heard the glass roll onto the floor of the sleigh.  “Peanut, we need that for Santa.”

The feline stared back at him, not at all bothered by being chastised. “I’m a cat.”

As it rolled about on the floor, Michael lunged for it, failing at stopping it a few times.  Finally, it wedged into place against the bottom of the seat, hanging off the side of sleigh.

“It’s okay, it’s okay,” the man bade.  “The flask didn’t break, so as long as the cork—”

The pop of the stopper leaving the glass echoed out over the canyon. Once more, Michael lunged for the potion, but he was unable to grasp it before three drops of that bright green liquid spilled from the vial.

Rhianna muttered, then.  “Did… was that…”

“Whatever you think happened, that’s probably what happened,” Michael returned.  He held the flask aloft, praying that more of that liquid wouldn’t slosh out past the top.  “What’s the worst that could happen though?  I mean, if it drops into the water, it’ll probably just end up diluted, right?”

For a few seconds, all three of the passengers stared ahead, as though there was nothing more to be said.

Then, they heard the tremendous splashing from below.

Michael and Rhianna each ventured a glance from either side of the sleigh, and their eyes went wide at the sight of the creatures that emerged from the dark, frigid water.

“You’re seeing what I’m seeing, right?” Michael asked.

“If you’re seeing humongous, angry-looking penguins, then yes, we are seeing the same thing!”

He swallowed hard, but then turned to his wife.  “Hold this for me,” he said, handing over the green flask.  “Do not drop it or let any of it spill.  “Giant angry penguins I can deal with.  I can’t say the same for a giant angry Rhianna!”

She glowered at him, but snagged the flask with as much care as she could.  He didn’t waste too much time trying to placate her.  Instead, he reached for his hip, and tugged the sword Santa gave him out of its scabbard.  Though it was a bit of an endeavor, he kicked his boot off as well, shoving it against the front of the sleigh.

“What are you doing?” his wife asked.

“Well, I’m not going to tear up any of the clothes that Santa gave us. But these are my old dingy socks.  I’ll get new ones.”

Before Rhianna could correct herself, he stabbed the tip of the sword into the sock, and tore a hole into it.  In that condition, it was even easier to tear, and he finished the rest by hand.

“Alright, now you have one sock, but I don’t know why,” Rhianna finally explained.

It was Michael’s turn to glare.  He snagged the flask back from his wife, and balled up the torn up piece of the sock.  Careful not to be too aggressive, he stuffed that into the hole at the top of the vial, and placed it back on the stand the other two flasks sat upon.

Finally, he set his gaze upon the cat once more.  “No touchy,” he said. “There we go.  Problem solved.”

As he sat upon the seat, grabbing his boot once more, Rhianna looked behind the sleigh, and was faced with a bigger problem.

“You know those big angry penguins?” she asked.

“Yes,” Michael said with a grunt as he pulled his boot into place.

“They’re big-angry-penguining this way.”

He stood up and spun about, noticing those massive birds flocking toward them at a hurried pace.  Their eyebrows made them look even fiercer and angrier, and had Michael reaching blindly for his sword.

“Zelda,” the man yelled.  “Go get that ball!”

The pup looked back upon hearing that request, but when she saw the monstrous penguins, she broke into a hasty retreat through the air.  Those birds towered over the sleigh, and she wasn’t about to let her family fall prey to those things.

“We can’t even head up out of the canyon,” Michael grumbled.  “There’s too much ice in the way.”

Their dog pulled the sleigh up and under snowy viaducts.  Those blue and white bridges came close to the vehicle a few times, but Zelda was skilled enough to give them the berth they needed.

“Hold my hand, Michael,” Rhianna bade.

“We’ll be okay,” he assured.  He was surprised then, when she stepped over the front seat, and landed in the back.  “What are you doing?”

She responded by scooping up her quiver, and swinging it over her shoulder.

“Looking out the back?” he asked.  “You’re going to get sick!”

“I can get sick later,” she protested.

As the nearest penguin charged forward—not with an awkward waddle, but a rapid sprint—Rhianna plucked up her bow, and nocked an arrow.  It drew closer, opening its massive beak to show off the bristly, knife-like spines therein.  The woman was having none of it, though, and she loosed her missile, landing it right in the center of its preened, white feathers.

That monstrous bird let fly a painful, loud squawk, and fell from the air, tumbling down the canyon into the water below.

“That… was… amazing,” Michael declared.

She turned to him, bursting with confidence.  “Thanks.  I was aiming for its head.”

He couldn’t shield his goofy smile.

It was wiped away a moment later when Peanut piped up from beside him.

“Problem!” she declared.

Another penguin was running right up beside them.  The side of the canyon angled sharply before them, and the two humans knew that the feisty bird meant to leap from there onto the sleigh.

Michael furrowed his brow and grabbed the reins, giving them a little snap.  “Faster, Zelda.  You can do it!”

He noticed another little tug on the reins then, with Peanut holding onto those straps as well.  “No, slow down!” she chimed in.

“Don’t listen to Peanut,” Michael bade.  “When has she ever had a good idea?”

Zelda obeyed her daddy, panting as she pushed as hard as she could.

“Up, up!” Michael cried.

The penguin was right beside them as they neared the apex of the canyon.  Stalactites hung from the icy ceiling like frosty spears, and everyone on board that sleigh had to duck their heads to avoid being skewered.

It was the moment of truth.  The man brandished his sword as the penguin turned its head and delivered a menacing gaze.  It leaped, its red eyes fixed on the sleigh.  Michael cut across with the sword.

It struck out—not against the penguin, but against one of those large stalactites.  A spray of snow and icy specks cast out, landing in those beady crimson eyes the bird pointed their way.  Blinded as it was, it missed its target, and sailed through the air until it clunked against the opposite wall.

“You’ve had some practice with this, huh?” Rhianna asked.

He flashed a bright smile, and stood taller at the sound of that praise. “Actually, I was hoping I could knock the spike into the darn thing!”

“I’ll take it!” his wife declared.

With the penguins still giving pursuit, the riders knew they had to come up with another plan.

“I have an idea,” they heard.

As they realized it was their adorable dog that said that, they felt a rumbling in their stomachs.

“Why does that make me more scared than anything?” Michael wondered.

“Hold on tight,” Zelda ordered.

The embiggened dog jerked the reins to the side, then, and the sleigh was quick to follow.  As she turned in the air, the sleigh rocked and teetered to its side.  With a tremendous thump, they collided with the sloped wall on that side.  The rails on the bottom of the sleigh slid into place, and the DeAngelos shifted in their spots.

Michael narrowed his eyes and saw what Zelda was trying to do.  Far ahead, a wide aperture led out of the canyon, but there was no way they would be agile enough to sweep up in order to escape…

…unless they looped around that icy bridge that spun about the area. How Zelda had even figured out the logistics of that maneuver was beyond him.

“We’re going upside down,” he warned the other members of his family.  “When she told us to hold on tight, she was serious.”

Peanut’s eyes went wide, and she clung to the only thing she could think of.  With her claws extended, she dug into Michael’s leg.  He scooped up the three potions, and held them in as firm a grasp as he could as he dropped to the ground before the seat.  Pressing his legs into the wood before him, he locked himself into place.  Rhianna landed beside him then, and he wrapped the reins around both their arms.

“Go puppy, go!” he called out.

With that encouragement, Zelda sprinted across the wall until it reached the sloping underside of the nearest bridge.  The penguins encircling them adjusted their paths, but even they were surprised by the movements being made by their prey.  Racing down the opposite side, Zelda and the sleigh gained even more momentum until the ramp jutted upward.

All four of the DeAngelos screamed in unison as they aimed toward that narrow aperture in the icy ceiling.  Penguins flew through the air, just missing their target.

It wasn’t until the sleigh passed through the hole that Michael realized he hadn’t dared to breathe.  Forcing air through his lungs, he felt the heat come back to his body.  The sleigh righted as Zelda leveled out again, and the passengers felt relief.

Michael stood up at once, giving the reins a light snap.

“Now Zelda!” he cried.  “To the top of the canyon, to the top of the wall, back to Santa’s one and all!”

*          *          *          *          *


The burly man in red couldn’t hide his smile as he saw that sleigh soar across the sky.  When he walked out to meet them in that snowy field, though, he could tell that something was amiss.

“You made good time!” he said.  “But, what was the rush?”

“Hey there Santa, we’ve got a bit of a problem,” Michael said.

“A few drops of your growth potion might have got into the water in the canyon,” Rhianna added.

“Oh my,” Father Christmas said.  “Is there anything I should be aware of?”

“Well, I mean, this is Tellest,” Michael said.  “Surely there have been giant, dire penguins before, right?”

A jolly laugh escaped Santa’s lips then.  “I think there’s an easy solution to this.  Why, I could still have you home before Christmas Eve.”

“Really?” Zelda asked.  “What’s your plan?”

He reached up and pet the dog who stood taller than his sleigh.  But it was the smallest member of the family who his gaze was drawn to.

“This could all be fixed if you just make a wish, Peanut,” he bade.

She wore a perplexed gaze as she considered his words.  “What are you getting at, big man?”

He fell to a knee before the cat, and tousled her fur just behind her ears.  “Now, repeat after me,” he said.  “I wish I could eat a big, tasty bird.”

*          *          *          *          *


Those penguins kept charging forward, eager to find the meal that had eluded them.  They scurried through the canyon for miles, until they were upon flat ground once more.  Their red eyes were drawn to the shining lights upon that distant building.  They passed between those snowy mounds, their appetites driving them forward.

So intent on their next meal, they weren’t expecting to become one.

Suddenly, they stood in a tremendous shadow, and the moon was obscured by a new mountain—one of fur and claws and fangs.

Peanut—now twenty feet tall—looked down upon the birds and licked her lips.

*          *          *          *          *

It was Christmas morning, and Michael heard scratching at the door. He was surprised, as Zelda was still curled up in the bed.

Arching his eyebrow, he threw on his pajamas, and opened up the door.

Peanut was there, and she let fly a meow that was loud enough to have Rhianna stirring from her slumber.  The little cat—back to her normal size—skittered back into the living room, and her owner was quick to follow her.

Michael couldn’t hide his smile, as he stood there, looking at their tree.

“What is it?” Rhianna groggily asked.

He pointed to a chest that sat beneath the tree—almost an exact replica of the one that had carried Revan’s potions.  His wife ran over to it, and popped open the lid.  There, inside, were four wrapped presents, each labeled for one of the members of the family.

Rhianna handed them out, and even the animals tore away the wrapping paper.  Michael smiled when he opened his and spotted a new pair of socks.  His wife giggled when she spotted a ball for Zelda, and a stuffed penguin for Peanut.

“Catnip?” she asked, as if expecting the cat to be able to answer her still.

Peanut replied by rubbing her face into the toy’s white belly.

Michael peered over at his wife, and arched his eyebrow.  “What’d you get?” he wondered.

She unwrapped her gift, and was surprised to see an exquisite pair of archery gloves waiting for her.

As she tried them on, smiling all the while, Michael took a step forward, and noticed one more item in the chest.  He plucked out a little envelope, and the letter that was tucked inside.

“What’s it say?” Rhianna asked.  “What’s it say?”

“It’s from Santa,” Michael replied.  “He’s wishing us a Merry Christmas and a Happy Wintertide, and he can’t wait to see us next year!”




Happy holidays everyone!


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Michael DeAngelo

Michael is the creator of the Tellest brand of fantasy novels and stories. He is actively seeking to expand the world of Tellest to be accessible to everyone.