It was a lot of work and riding, and there were plenty of trees to decorate on the way! She went to the four cardinal corners of the district and ended up collecting four red items, a red cardinal feather, a cranberry, a holly berry, and a poinsettia. She found a white pine needle, cypress tree oil, and fir sap. She soon understood why she needed a white pine needle when she saw the other trees. Their needles wouldn’t work as needles at all!
She went to her favorite clearing to try and lure in some rabbits. It took a few tries before she got angora rabbits. She used her calm animal spell and well, the rabbits were very understanding and helpful. Their poor babies were overheating they had so much wool. They were so pleased when Pippa clipped them down to a more reasonable fur length, they even cuddled up to her afterwards. Pippa made sure to keep the baby angora down separate from the adult angora down, as the adults were in need of a trim too before they started pulling their own hair out!
If she’d had room at the farm, she might have taken the entire family home! They were just that adorable.
She brushed snow off her coat as she sat up. She looked at Marbel. “Ready?” she asked.
He whickered at her and rolled his eyes.
She waved at the rabbits who were hopping away and mounted Marbel. They trotted towards an entrance to the Mirror World. They stopped on the other side so Pippa could take off her coat.
“Oh, to be warm!” Pippa groaned.
Marbel rolled his eyes. “And yesterday you wanted snow!”
“I hadn’t been out in it all day yesterday!” Pippa retorted.
Marbel sniffed and made huge eyes at her. “Those apples smell wonderful.”
“They’re for the yule sheep!” Pippa said.
“If I don’t taste one, how will you know they’re good for the Yule sheep?”
“Marbel!” Pippa frowned at him.
He made bigger eyes.
“Oh, fine, ONE!” Pippa said and pulled a Christmas apple out.
Marbel took it and munched on it, making horrible noises of contentment and happiness. Pippa sighed. She knew they’d been fine!
Marbel seemed to know where everything was. When he finished his apple, he trotted deeper into the mirror world. Pippa gasped as they came to the top of a hill and looked into a valley below. It was full of Yule sheep. And Yule sheep weren’t like ordinary sheep at all. Their fur was like silver, it gleamed and sparkled in the sun. And they had red or green faces and legs! The horns of the rams gleamed like bronze and they seemed very over protective of their flock. The flock was huge, full of sedate ewes and lambs that jumped up and down.
Pippa giggled thinking of the goats she’d helped decorate. She reached into her back and took out an apple. Now, she just needed to lure some of the sheep through, there, some bushes with prickers on them! Pippa carefully rolled the apple near some of the sheep. And the baker was right, they couldn’t resist the apples at all. She led them through the pricker bushes and back out again, being careful not to get too close. And soon the sheep were back in the field, munching on grass and the rest of the apples, and she could go and get the bundles of fleece off the bushes.
It sparkled in her hands and she marveled at it as she put the clumps in her bag. It was so beautiful!
“Now, to Wodan.” Pippa frowned. “Oh, he’s probably off chasing elves, How are we going to find him this time?”
“Ho, ho, ho!” Marbel said. “He found you!”
Pippa’s eyes widened as she turned and looked. Yes, the procession of spirits was coming down out of the sky, Wodan and Holda in the lead.
“Been feeding my sheep!” Wodan bellowed at her, but he grinned behind his beard.
“They seem to like apples!” Pippa said in a teasing tone. “And I had special Christmas caramel apples!”
Wodan pouted. “And you didn’t save one for me.”
“Well, I thought you’d prefer cookies,” Pippa teased.
Holda laughed harder. “He does! He does!”
Pippa nudged Marbel and the two went to meet Wodan and Holda. “Any luck with the elves?” She asked.
“Not yet,” Wodan grumbled.
“I am glad to see you!” Pippa said. “I’ve been told by an authority that I need lumps of Christmas coal to make a pine needle for your outfit. And I was wondering if I could look in the past naughty and nice book to see who had received Christmas coal.”
Wodan faked a frown. “Well.”
“It’s not top secret,” Holda told him. “Do you want a new outfit or not? This will be faster for Pippa than having to ask everyone in the district! And who would want to admit to being naughty?”
Wodan grumbled. “Still, it sets a bad precedent.”
“I’ll bring you cookies,” Pippa promised.
“See,” Wodan smiled. “That is my type of girl. I’ll let you look at my books and you bring me cookies.”
Holda sighed. “He would have let you look anyways.”
Pippa wrinkled her nose. “This gives me an excuse to look for Christmas cookie recipes and earn Christmas coupons.”
Wodan put a finger next to his nose and wriggled it. A sack popped into existence. “There it is!” he said. He reached into the sack and pulled out a stack of books. “Naughty and Nice,” he rumbled. But then he frowned. “Huh.”
“Huh?” both Pippa and Holda asked.
Wodan set the books down and stuck his hand back into the sack, fishing around. “It should be in here,” he mumbled.
Pippa and Holda looked at each other. Holda seemed alarmed. Pippa was just confused.
Wodan’s frown turned into an outright scowl. He stood up and put his fists on his hips. “It’s gone!” he said. And before either Pippa or Holda could ask. “This year’s Naughty and Nice book is missing!”
Now, both Pippa and Holda were alarmed.
“No. That can’t be!” Holda said.
“It is!” Wodan told her.
“We’re going to have to find it,” Pippa said.
Wodan narrowed his eyes. “Yes. Yes. We are. Just another thing to do before Christmas!” He shook his head. “All right, here is the last few years of naughty and nice,” he said. “I’ll have to do some questioning before we look for this year’s book. Whoever took it is going permanently on the naughty list!” he raised his voice into a yell.
Pippa slapped a hand over her mouth. That wasn’t good. That wasn’t good at all!
Pippa flipped through the books and took notes of names. She would have to go and ask all of them, very discreetly of course, if they had Christmas coal. And, she hoped to encourage them to try and be nice this year. There was only so much time before Christmas!
She thanked Wodan for his help in a round about way that didn’t outright say thank you. He just laughed.
“Remember, tomorrow you bring me cookies! And I should have information about the naughty and nice book. Who knows? Maybe you can meet the reindeer and my horse!”
Marbel could barely contain his sarcasm. “Oh joy.”
“Marbel!” Pippa hissed. “I would love to meet them all.” She smiled at Wodan. “See you tomorrow.”
Her horse sighed. “Just. You. Wait,” he said.
“They can’t be that bad.”
Pippa went around and asked those on her list if they had Christmas coal. Most of them were more than happy to give it to her. They knew it had special properties and didn’t want to just get rid of it. But they didn’t want to keep it either. It could be bad luck! Pippa assured them that she would take it and she would tell no one that they had it. They were extremely grateful.
Pippa was ready to return to the tailor and the blacksmith. They were both happy with her finds and told her, predictably, to return tomorrow. Pippa checked in with Vesper.
“Sounds like you’ve had a busy day!” Vesper said. “Here are your coupons,” she said and passed them over with a wink.
“Thanks! See you tomorrow!” Pippa told her.
Vesper grinned. “Tomorrow!”
Marbel yawned too.
“I’m hungry and tired.”
“You had a snack!” Pippa told him, tartly.
Marbel huffed a laugh and they headed back to Magpie Field and to bed.