12 Days of Christmas: It’s Beginning to Look A Lot Like Christmas (Day 11)

12 Days of Christmas: It’s Beginning to Look A Lot Like Christmas (Day 11)

“It really does look like Candy Cane Lane now!” Pippa said. “But UGH, it’s so much work.”

Vesper groaned and stretched. “It is! Fortunately, for the next bit, we can use magic.”

“We can?” Pippa said.

“Come along and I’ll show you how to make an ornament hut!” Vesper said.

Pippa hurried after Vesper. She stopped. “Wait, what about the trailer?”

“Oh, that gets turned into a float for all the leaders. Big deal or some such. We’ll deal with it soon enough.”

“A float?”

“To follow Santa.”

“Doesn’t that take away from Santa?”

“Not really my call,” Vesper said. “But yeah, I think it’s a bit much too.”

Pippa sighed. “Okay, show me how to make an ornament hut.”

Vesper grinned. “First, you need to cast an ornament spell,” she said and waved her hand. An ornament appeared on the ground in a swirl of red and green sparkles. “Then, you make it BIG.” Another hand wave and the ornament was taller than Vesper, why, it was quite tall enough to walk through! “Then, for a red or white ornament, you cast a light spell,” she said. “And for a red and black check ornament, you cast the red light spell and a bead garland spell, like so!” She cast both spells and grinned at Pippa.

“You just wanted to make a rock’n’roll ornament hut,” Pippa told her.

“Of course!” Vesper wasn’t the least bit repentant. “Now, the shopkeepers can come and set up their wares. Go ahead and do a bunch of them up and down the street.”

Pippa giggled and had fun making different type of ornament huts up and down the street. Some of them, she put smaller lighted ornaments beside them. And as she did so, she felt her phone vibrate. She opened it and looked at her achievement list. “Well, more coupons!” she said and giggled. It looked like there were plenty of ornament huts for her to put up in all the villages. She went back to Vesper. “There, done!”

“And I think that is more than enough for one day. Hey, you better start going around and telling the children that Santa is coming!” Vesper said. “All the villages in the district like to come here.”

“You’re right! And I better tell them about Santa’s horse.”

“Santa’s horse?” Vesper asked, looking confused.

“Santa is riding in on a white horse,” Pippa said. “And, the poor thing, he feels forgotten. I told him I’d tell the children about him. He wants carrots of course.”

“Of course,” Vesper said dryly.

“Well, I’ve got a lot to do then!” Pippa said and waved at her.

“Don’t forget to eat!”

“I won’t!” Pippa shouted.

Vesper sighed and tugged at her hat. “It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas,” she sang and twirled her cane as she walked down the lane to inspect their work.

First Pippa went to the library to look for the mince-meat pie recipe. Oh, they had the book, but someone had loaned it out. Could she come back later or would another recipe do? Pippa told the librarian it had to be that recipe from that cookbook. It was important. Well, the librarian wouldn’t tell her who’d loaned out the cookbook. But, maybe, Granny Gette would have the recipe?

Pippa sighed. She stopped at Granny Gette’s. Granny Gette didn’t have it either. “But I’m not the only granny in the district. Try Granny Kay,” she said and gave directions.

Well, the blacksmith was on the way to Granny Kay. So she stopped in and finished forging her pine needle. It glowed green when it was done and the one end looked like a pine cone and the needle part was golden and very sharp! She thanked the blacksmith and asked if he had any sleigh runner polish. He told her that if she brought him the ingredients, he’d make some for her and have it ready tomorrow.

Pippa left with a list. Granny Kay didn’t have the pie recipe. But she did know who’d borrowed the book. It was her granddaughter. So, Pippa went to visit her. Of course, she was running across children on her travels and telling them about Santa coming to town and his horse. And of course, she was able to get the ingredients for the sleigh runner polish as well. And, thankfully, the granddaughter did have the book and was more than willing to let her copy the recipe for mince meat pies.

So, it was back to the blacksmith with the ingredients for sleigh runner polish. And then to the tailor with her needle. There she picked up her wool and dye and was able to dye the wool! There was even some dye left over. Now all she needed to do was collect the dried popcorn kernels, chestnuts, fresh fallen snow, and mint and she could go see Holda and make Santa a new outfit.

And so, it was back to Magpie Field. Where she baked a mincemeat pie, and, with the left over red dye and a paint recipe, she made red paint for Santa’s sleigh. (In different bowls and on different counters of course!)

Once the mince-meat pie was finished, she took it to the carpenter, who gave her in exchange the seeds for the white air feather fir. She also gave him a copy of the recipe with a bit of a scolding not to use it to light fires with. The carpenter looked contrite and thanked her profusely. The seeds were cold in her hand and were light blue and looked like tiny pine cones.

So, just before she went to bed, Pippa planted the seeds. And over one seed she promised it that she would take that tree and replant it in the wild, in the Mirror World. That seed glowed just a little brighter.

12 Days of Christmas: Run, Rudolph, Run (Day 10)

12 Days of Christmas: Run, Rudolph, Run (Day 10)

She and Marbel headed towards the Mirror World. Once they were on the other side and Pippa was taking off her coat, she asked, “Why do they always want favors of food?”

Marbel snorted. “Because food ties us together.”

“Does it really? I mean, I know you appreciate me taking care of you, but that’s not why you stick with me.”

“It seemed like a good enough answer to me,” Marbel said and sounded pompous.

Pippa sighed. “Okay, find a recipe and make a mince-meat pie. Man, this list keeps getting longer.”

“We could hunt down a white air feather fir for ourselves.”

“You heard him. They’re rare. I’d feel awful cutting down a rare tree to fix Santa’s sleigh.”

“Oh, so that’s where you got the boards.”

“Yes, see, his sleigh looks horrid. We can’t be letting him go into town like that!” She pointed at it.

“You have a point,” Marbel said.

“Good morning!” Pippa said cheerfully to the horse and the reindeer.

They didn’t say anything to her.

Pippa sighed and set out salt licks and scattered carrots, sweet potatoes, and certain nuts for the reindeer. She then went over and put out feed and water for the horse. She brushed his coat and asked him. “Why do you dislike the reindeer?”

“What type of question is that?” the horse said.

“A question of the genuinely curious,” Pippa said.

The horse stomped his hoof. “Look, for hundreds of years, I was the one the children knew. Santa came to town. He rode a white horse.  I can pull a sleigh too. That was the end of it. And then, someone decided that there should be reindeer. And now there are eight of them and no one cares about me anymore! And don’t get me started on the one with the nose!”

“I’m sorry. That has to be awful,” Pippa said. “What if I could help you and tell the children about you. Then would you be able to get along better with the reindeer. All of you do important things. Santa loves all of you.”

“Maybe,” the horse said. “But I want carrots.” He glowered at her. “Lots and lots of carrots.”

Pippa giggled. “I understand,” she said. She understood that bribery worked well with horses.

She went over to check on the reindeer. “Why don’t you like the horse?” she asked.

“Because he’s a stuck up prig,” said one of the reindeer, a female.

Well, that was one way to put it. Pippa thought. “He was around first.”

“We’re here now. Santa doesn’t need him.”

“But Santa does need him. They’re friends!” Pippa said. “You don’t abandon your friends. Especially when they haven’t done anything wrong. I’m sure when you came along he felt horrible, like he wasn’t good enough anymore. Wouldn’t you feel horrible if you thought you weren’t good enough to help Santa anymore?”

“That would never happen.” The reindeer tossed her head.

“It could! You never know. You could be replaced with rabbits, cute and fluffy rabbits.”

The reindeer laughed.

“Or yaks! Or even goats. Hoppy goats!”

They all just looked at her as if she were mad. Pippa sighed. “Please think about it. Maybe if you were nice to him or talked to him about it instead of being rude.”

“He was rude first.”

“Well, being rude back isn’t going to solve anything.” Pippa stomped her foot. “I’m going now. Please try to be nice to each other while I’m gone,” she said loudly.

They just made noises at her.

Pippa sighed and rubbed her face. “I don’t know, Marbel,” she muttered as they trotted back to the normal world.

“It’s all in their heads, I’m sure. It’s nice of you to try.”

“I’m sure all the little boys and girls wouldn’t be pleased to discover that Santa’s horse and reindeer don’t get along.”

“Little girls, yes. Little boys?” Marbel tilted his head. In his experience, little boys would just stir the pot and make the reindeer and horse madder at each other.

“They aren’t all that bad.”

Marbel laughed as they stepped through the portal.

They walked back to town. Vesper waved at them. “Pippa! I need your help. Today we set up half of the light displays!”

“Light displays?”

“Yeah, every big town has them,” Vesper said. She reached up and patted Marbel’s nose. “We’re going to put big presents around the tree. There are huge presents to put up as well. Then the huge reindeer with Santa’s sleigh. There’s a new tribute to Rose Neptuna, since she’s become a huge deal. And the vendors want to put up their ornament shaped huts. Tomorrow we can work on putting up Santa’s house. And then the day after that, it’s just finishing touches and we’re done.”

“That’s, that’s a lot!” Pippa said.

“Of course, that’s why it takes so long,” Vesper said. “I told you that Astranar loves Christmas.”

“Then we better get started!” Pippa said.

“The light displays are in the warehouse. Do you still have the key?”

Pippa reached into her saddle bag and held it up. “Ready!”

The presents under the tree were actually large wire boxes covered with lights to represent paper and bows. They came in red with white bows, white with red bows, striped with red or yellow white bows and red with black beads with white bows. There were also big red and white stockings made of lights with smaller presents “tumbling” out of them. And interspersed among the presents were also ornaments balls made of lights. They all were flat on one side at different angles to make it look like they’d ‘fallen’ from the tree. The lights had to be checked, then the presents positioned, the cords all tied together and then everything plugged in. When it was done, it looked like there was a big pile of presents, stockings and ornaments around the Christmas tree.

“Oops, almost forgot!” Vesper said. “There should be more candy cane and peppermint swirl lights to go in there!”

“On it!” Pippa said and went off to get them. They positioned them among the presents. Pippa giggled. “This looks great.”

“Come on. We need to get the smaller plazas ready along the route then.”

The small plaza closest to the tree had a huge white present with a red bow. In order to get the parts there, they were loaded onto a flat trailer with wheels, then hitched to Marbel. They pulled them through the town. Objects like the large presents were in pieces and would be assembled on site. The present was a good two stories tall and there were openings  between the ‘box’ part and the ‘ribbons’ so people could walk inside it. Smaller present, stockings, ornaments and candy lights went on the edges of the plaza for decorations.

The next plaza was the new display, a tall wire statue of Rose Neptuna in a sweeping formal dress. She carried an umbrella that dripped ornaments, fairy lights, and crystals, just like the lamp lights. Her ‘hair” was fibre optic lights with small fairy lights. The frame skirt was a wire mesh so they could put red, white, and red and black ball ornaments on it. Some of the ball ornaments were clear and they pushed red Christmas lights into them. The bodice of the dress was also ornamented with more ornaments.

They put up more candy cane lights and presents and such in that plaza as well. Vesper told Pippa that the plaza used to have a larger ornament decoration, but Rose Neptuna was better.

“It’s so pretty!” Pippa said.

The next plaza also got a large present. It wasn’t as large as the white present, but it was still at least one story high. It was a red present this time with a white bow. It went up mildly easier than the taller one. Once again, smaller present lights and such went up along the edges of the plaza.

Vesper dusted off her hands. “There. We’re coming along. One more plaza and that has the sleigh and the reindeer.”

Pippa’s eyes widened. The reindeer were HUGE.

Marbel sighed as she hitched the trailer up to the back of his saddle. He pulled them down the street slowly.

They were also large wire light frames. They were as tall as the Rose Neptuna statue. Once they got them to the farthest plaza, they were decorated with more ornaments. There were ornament wreathes around their necks, ornaments hanging inside their bodies, and ornaments even hanging off their antlers! Then, they put together a light display version of Santa’s sleigh. It was red of course and had peppermint stick runners. It had ‘white light’ ribbons and big peppermint swirl candy decorations. And of course, more ornaments made into swags. It made Pippa giggle. But now, she did have a better idea of how to decorate Santa’s sleigh for Christmas!

They set out more small present lights and more ornament lights and more candy lights. Until, well, it looked quite breath taking.

“It really does look like Candy Cane Lane now!” Pippa said. “But ugh, it’s so much work.”

Vesper groaned and stretched. “It is! Fortunately, for the next bit, we can use magic.”

12 Days of Christmas: Do They Know it’s Christmas? (Day 8)

12 Days of Christmas: Do They Know it’s Christmas? (Day 8)

The castle was in a bustle, but the cook was willing to give her and Marquees some cookies and brightened when she asked for the recipe. They were the lady’s favorite “Russian Tea Cakes” also known as Mexican Wedding Cakes or even Snowball Cookies. He gave her the recipe and as a treat, since she was helping decorate for Candy Cane Lane and all, treated her to peppermint hot cocoa (and gave her the recipe.) He told her that one of the café owners was doing a poinsettia blooming marshmallow flower cocoa but it couldn’t beat his peppermint hot cocoa.

Pippa stifled a giggle. She was going to have to track that poinsettia recipe down!

But now, she had cookies to bake for Wodan. She hoped he liked powdered sugar!

That didn’t explain why the lord’s castle was in such a fuss. The cook quickly explained. There was to be a party and the lady was at wit’s end cleaning everything up. Perhaps when it was closer to the party, Pippa could help decorate. He was sure that the two would love Pippa’s help.

Pippa promised to look into it. Right now she was extremely busy with prepping the town square for Christmas.

“Of course, that has to come first!” the cook agreed.

Pippa quickly finished her cookies and dashed back to the farm. She needed to get Mini Hump and bake some cookies for Wodan.

While she baked cookies, Pippa had a chance to look over her achievement list. There were the ones she already knew about of course, light up so many trees with Christmas lights, find so many Christmas recipes, and decorate with so many Christmas trees. There were others. Put out so many Christmas lamps. Decorate so many lamp posts. Put out candy cane light decorations. Place so many garlands. Hang so many ornaments. String so many lights over the streets. Gather so many pine boughs. Decorate with so many Christmas wreathes. Put out so many presents. Hang so many ribbon bows. Put out so many candelabras in the windows. Create so many icicles. Why, she’d already started on one and didn’t know it, make so many candy canes. That had to be because she was in the Candy Cane Lane district. Knit so many stockings and then decorate with the exact same number of stockings. That made her giggle. There were some she didn’t understand. “Decorate with so many Christmas cones. What are Christmas cones?” Maybe Vesper would know.

There was just so much to do to get the district ready for Christmas. And she was getting coupons for all of it? And there was a light display for her farm if she saved all of them? She wondered what it was! She had a feeling that the coupon store with Santa was going to be extremely tempting!

She finished up the cookies for Wodan.

She had to run Mini Hump through his warm ups before they could go anywhere. But Mini Hump was a cheerful sort of fellow and eager to please. They trotted off into the woods and she remembered to tie him up before she went into the Mirror World. She didn’t want to have to track him down when she came back out.

She took off her coat and put it over her arm, slinging her saddlebags over her should. “Wodan! Wodan! I made you cookies as promised!” she called out.

“Hah!” Wodan shouted back. “I knew you would remember. Come meet my horse and my reindeer.”

He was further back in a clearing.

Pippa beamed at him and then came to stop. There were reindeer everywhere. And Wodan’s horse, well, he was a huge white one. But that’s not what made her stop, she was expecting all of that. No. It was Santa’s sleigh and it, well, there were no other words for it, it looked like a terrible wreck.

“Wodan, what happened?” she asked and pointed at the sleigh. It sagged in the middle. Paint was flaking off. “You can’t show up to the parade like that!”

“Oh, it’s fine.”

“It’s not fine!” Pippa stomped her foot. “We’ll just have to add it to the list of things to fix,” she said. “Here are your cookies!”

“Snowball cookies!” Wodan’s eyes lit up. “Did you know, one year, someone left me Santa faced sugar cookies with coconut beards and currant eyes. Leaving me my face for milk and cookies. I felt like a cannibal. I almost put them on the naughty list next year. But, Granny Gette was a nice old lady and I just couldn’t go through with it.”

Pippa laughed. Wodan was silly.

Wodan gobbled the cookies, getting powdered sugar and crumbs in his beard.

Overhead his crows cawed.

“No. You can’t have any!” Wodan shook his fist at them. “You messed up my suit.” He paused. “How goes that?”

“It’s going. I’ve got most of the materials I need.” She pulled out the instructions. “But, I don’t understand why I need dried popcorn, chestnuts, fresh fallen snow, and mint.”

“Oh, that is for the magic!” Wodan waved his hands. “Holda will help you with that bit.”

“Good to know.” Pippa put the instructions away.

Wodan finished his cookies. “Now. I’ve a lead on my book.” He glowered. “Hugin and Munin brought it to me, as they should! Given all the trouble they’ve caused this year.” Wodan put a finger next to his nose. “You see, to get into my sack you have to have magic like mine. And well, those sooties saw one of the winter elementals rummaging around my sack.” Wodan harrumphed. “He must have taken the book. One of the ones on the naughty list. If he wasn’t, he is now!”

Pippa frowned. “A winter elemental?”

“He’s probably left a trail of ice.” Wodan waved a hand. “But he’s far away now. I’ve got Hugin and Munin looking.” He glared up at them. “Or they’re supposed to be!” The crows cawed and flapped off.  “Well, we’ll figure it out. Ready to meet my horse and the reindeer? I’m leaving it to you to take care of them while I’m off hunting the elves.”

“I’d love to!” Pippa smiled.

Santa introduced her to his steeds and showed her how to care for them. The horse was pretty easy. He just needed the same type of care that her horses needed. The reindeer wanted salt licks and carrots and sweet potatoes. They could eat a lot different things than the horse.

Wodan seemed pleased. He patted her arm and took off on a different horse with six legs.

So, nothing happened until he was gone. And then Pippa had a revolt on her hands. Because, despite the fact they’d been quite quiet while Wodan was there, both the horse and the reindeer could talk. And neither side, the horse and the reindeer, liked each other very much.

The horse despised the reindeer.

The reindeer didn’t want to pull the sleigh or be in any parade if Santa was going to ride the horse.

The two parties glared at each other and separated to opposite sides of the field.

Pippa felt lost. “Oh dear,” she said. But today, neither of them were willing to listen to her. She was going to have to earn their trust and hopefully, Santa’s arrival would go off without a hitch.

Of course, the sleigh needed fixing too. She gave it a detailed inspection and sighed. She was going to have to ask the carpenter what type of wood the sleigh was by taking some of the old falling apart pieces. It needed to be repainted. The sleigh runners polished. And of course, it needed to be redecorated! Maybe some lights and evergreen garlands and ribbons and bells. There had to be sleigh bells. She probably should make sure there were new things for the horse and reindeer as well. Pippa shuddered. She couldn’t send Santa into town like this!

Oh, but it was adding to her list of things to do!

12 Days of Christmas: Oh Christmas Tree (Day 7)

12 Days of Christmas: Oh Christmas Tree (Day 7)

Day Two!

The next morning, Pippa was full of excitement. She barely remembered to brush her hair and teeth and was chowing on toast as she cared for her horses. Her pony, Mini Hump, tried to steal the toast from her and Pippa had to run around the stable and eat it quickly as the pony trotted after her. It was hard to do that and not laugh at the same time. She darted into the house and returned with toast for all three horses. She knew she spoiled them rotten, but sometimes, she just couldn’t help it!

“Marbel, Vesper said I need Marquees Humongous today,” she said. “You’re getting a day off.”

Marbel stomped his foot. After going around everywhere in the district yesterday, he jolly well hoped so!

Pippa made sure to give Marbel an extra pat before she saddled up Marquees. The huge mare seemed a bit shocked and looked up from munching on her hay. ‘Me?’ her face said.

“I know. I know,” Pippa said. “I don’t give you enough love.” She patted the horse’s side and waited for her to finish eating.

She put Marquees through her warmups before they headed out to find Vesper.

Vesper waved her down in the square. “Morning, Pippa! You ready to get to rocking out the square?”

Pippa was beginning to wonder if Vesper was a bit too obsessed with rock’n’roll. “Does that really require an answer?”

Vesper smirked. “Glad to see you brought Marquees. The first thing you need to do while you’re all rested is go get us a huge Christmas tree! Marquees will make that easier. She’s got a lot more muscle and endurance, and you’ll be able to drag the tree faster. Of course, before you can get the tree, you’re going to have to talk to the blacksmith to borrow an ax. If you don’t own one already.”

“No. No ax. I do have a pick ax.”

Vesper made an odd face. “Go talk to the blacksmith.”

The blacksmith blinked. “You again?”

“Me again!” Pippa smiled at him.

“Are you here to forge your pine needle?”

“Not right this minute. I need to get a Christmas tree for the square and for that, I need an ax!”

“Ax, ax, ax,” the blacksmith muttered. “Ah hah! Ax!” The blacksmith narrowed her eyes. “You might want to keep this. It’s an old one. Just sharpen it up on the stone over there and it’s yours.”

“Thank you!”

Pippa got off of Marquees and used the sharpening stone to sharpen the ax. She had to keep it level as the round stone turned and turned. Sparks flew off the ax blade, but soon it was done. She owned her own ax! Maybe she shouldn’t feel so gleeful about that.

“Oh, and while you’re out and about, get a bucket of feather ice for forging your pine needle.” The blacksmith shoved a bucket at her.

“Feather ice?” Pippa asked.

“You know, super thin ice that looks like feathers. You’ll need a whole bucketful.”

“But where am I to find it?” Pippa asked again, not quite daring to say that she’d never heard of feather ice.

The blacksmith looked at her as if she was crazy. “The ice gryphons shed it, of course.”

“Ice gryphons?”

“Yeah, now that it’s cold and snowy on this side of the world instead on the mirror side, the ice gryphons like to come out and play. They shed feathers and, feather ice! Super cold, super durable, filled with magic, and perfect for forging a pine needle!”

Yes, the magic of this world made the people of Astranar crazy.

“They’ll be high up. You might need Mini Hump. Or you can run up yourself. Just look for them flying off the mountains. Now hurry up. You haven’t got all day!” She waggled the bucket.

Pippa grimaced at the bucket and took it. “Okay. I’ll be back later.”

“And don’t forget your feather ice!”

Pippa waved at her, secured both the ax and the bucket to the saddle and headed off into the forest. She needed to find the perfect pine tree for Christmas.

It didn’t take too long to find the perfect tree. It was huge and had branches that fell all the way to the ground. Maybe she should have brought a saw instead. Pippa hefted her ax and looked up at the tree. She swung it and swung and the tree slowly toppled over, away from her and Marquees.

Pippa blew out and patted Marquees on the rump. “Ohkay, now to rope this tree up,” she said. She managed a harness of sorts out of rope and tied the tree to the back of Marquees, wrapping the tree in rope too so she wouldn’t lose any branches.

Pippa bit her lip and looked at the place where the tree was. Vesper had told her that part of their job as magicians was to take care of the land. She couldn’t just cut down a tree and leave a stump. Pippa rubbed her hands together, held them over where the stump was, and closed her eyes, reaching for her magic.

When she opened them, a tiny pine tree stood where the former huge pine tree was. It was little more than stick with a few needles, but it was a pine tree. Pippa knelt down and grinned. “I did it!” she said and carefully patted the pine tree. “You take care now!” she said to it and with a tiny bit more magic made sure the tree would be nice and healthy.

She stood up and laughed. “I grew a pine tree!”

Marquees didn’t seem all that impressed. Pippa would have to tell Marbel. He’d be proud of her for remembering.

Pippa mounted Marquees and they lumbered off. Soon, Pippa could tell what Vesper meant. The tree was big and heavy and Marquees couldn’t manage more than a trot. She didn’t want to think what it would take a normal horse. Why Marbel would be getting so tired, they’d have to rest two to three times as often as Marquees did.

“Now that is what I call a Christmas tree!” Vesper said.

“And I planted a new one.”

“Good work!” Vesper said. “I didn’t even have to remind you!”

Between them, Vesper and Pippa managed to get the tree stand in place and then wrestle the huge tree into it. They undid the rope and checked all the branches.

“Yes, that’s a fine looking tree!” Vesper said. “Now, the first things that need to go on our tree are lights. They’re in the warehouse.”

Pippa groaned. “Can’t we use our Christmas magic?”

“Nope. This tree has to be the old fashioned way. It’s traditional or something.”

Pippa grimaced but went and fetched the lights. Of course, they were all tangled. She and Vesper spent over an hour tying one end to the horse and carefully stretching the lights out into long rows from one end of the street to the other. Marquees was more patient than Marbel and Pippa was glad to have her. She’d never hear the end of this with Marbel.

Well, of course because it was Candy Cane Lane, the Christmas tree lights were done in alternating spirals of red and blue white. And there were thousands of them to cover the tree and each line had to be checked.

But they ended up going around and around and around the Christmas tree. And Pippa had to squeal as they were turned on.

Vesper stepped back and crossed her arms, smiling in appreciation.

“Next! Christmas balls. Red, white, and tartan!” Vesper said.

Of course, the red balls were the biggest and they just weren’t red. They had a large black stripe in the middle like a belt and over the ‘belt’ was a large square of silver sequins with the middle cut out to be a ‘buckle.’ These were to form the biggest part of “bead swags” on the tree. To either side of them went white balls. Smaller still were balls of red and black buffalo check like Vesper’s shirt and hat. Then there were plain red balls to make the “apex” of the swags. Over and under the balls went rope lights in red and yellow-white.

But they weren’t done.

There were candy cane shaped ornaments and ones that looked like peppermint swirls in their wrappers to go on the tree next. Then at the top went a five pointed star made of lights that also looked like candy canes and peppermint swirls. The hooks of the candy canes made a flower pattern in the middle. And there were bigger lights where each of the candy canes met.

Good golly. That had been a lot of work.

Pippa stepped back from the tree. It looked amazing!

“You ready for more?”

“There’s more?”

Vesper had the gall to laugh at her. “We can do more tomorrow. But now you know how to make the trees. There are X amount of trees you can put up all over the district and earn coupons for. Here, take these seeds. They’re magical Christmas tree seeds. They’ll get you started. You can plant them on your farm to grow all the trees you need. As you cut them down, they’ll drop more seeds!”

Pippa made it a note to check her Christmas Achievement list.

Vesper took pity on her. “You look tuckered out. Hey, I hear that the lady is making cookies up at the castle. Maybe you can go see the cook and sneak some away.”

“Oh, thanks Vesper!” There, that was the perfect opportunity to see if the cook had any Christmas recipes.

“And it’s hot cocoa season!” Vesper said.

“I’ll see you later.”

“Yep, still lots to do. But we’re getting there!” Vesper said.

Pippa waved, mounted Marquees, and rode away humming “Santa Claus is Coming to Town.”

X–to be determined later to make sure coupons stay balanced

12 Days of Christmas: Candy Cane Lane (Day 4)

12 Days of Christmas: Candy Cane Lane (Day 4)

Week One: Santa Claus is Coming to Town!!!

Pippa dashed around Astranar to talk to all the mentors and the Princess and Prince. Everyone had new outfits. Kitty wore an adorable orange and brown gingerbread kimono and carried a lollipop. Viva wore an angel pant suit decorated with stars and a tinsel crown. Marbel put his hoof down when Pippa told Viva she thought he’d look great in one. (Turns out tinsel crowns were available at the shop but Marbel wouldn’t hear of buying one.) Len was dressed like an elf with a vest and bells that jingled. Minnie wore a snow flake themed blue and white tin soldier suit with hat. Lottie wore a pink cardinal themed drindle with pine trees embroidered on her apron. Izzy was dressed up as a pale purple ballerina complete with lots of sequins and pointe shoes. The twins at the Castle were sand “snowmen” and instead of coal for buttons they had shells. On their belts they had star fish.

But in the end Pippa felt loyal to Vesper and went back to the Ruby district to help with Candy Cane Lane.

Vesper grinned at her. “All right! Let’s rock this Christmas out!” She then leaned on her candy cane-cane. “The most important thing we’ve got to do this week is prepare the main drag for Santa’s arrival. Oh, no, no, no, not every village. That would be a lot.” Vesper paused. “Santa comes to the biggest village or town in each district. But, I know every town wants to get their Christmas on.” She tilted her hat down and smiled. “So, we have some special Christmas magic spells to make it easier. Here, just for the season.”

Vesper gave Pippa a bunch of Christmas spells in their own special book.

“Now, they can’t be used everywhere,” Vesper said. “But they’ll speed things up quite a bit.” She put a finger next to her nose and winked. “I’m sure you’ll have no problem being a magic user of Harmony and all. They’re very basic spells!”

Pippa looked at the spells. There were spells to make things bigger. Spells for little fairy lights. And spells for making different colored Christmas balls. And spells for stringing different garlands; beads, tinsel, ever green, holly, berries, and ribbon. Spells for icicles. Spells for snowman forms.

“Some things though,” Vesper said. “We have to do the hard way. Right. One more thing before we get started. Christmas Achievements! Remember, you do so many Christmas Achievements like decorating trees and such, come back to me, and I’ll give you Christmas Coupons to turn in for items of your choosing out of the coupon store. If you save all the coupons, you can get an awesome light display for your farm. Santa is in charge of this season’s coupon store, once he arrives. Don’t worry, these achievements reset every Christmas! Complete all the achievements and you’ll have decorated the entire district! You’ll also get Christmas Coupons through quests. Are you ready?”

“I’ve been ready. Will you just get on with it?” Pippa asked.

“Enthusiasm,” Vesper said in a deadpan voice. “Okay, first things first. We need to put up the lights on Santa’s parade route! Meet you at the village!” Vesper shouted, mounted her horse, and raced away.

Pippa stomped her foot. “Oh! No fair!” she shouted after Vesper. She mounted up on Marbel. “We’ll just have to catch her.”

Marbel snorted, trotted over to the nearest train station and got on. Pippa giggled and gave the destination for the village. Marbel could be so smart.

Turns out Vesper just raced away for show. She was still there before them, but she also came out of a train station. Vesper pretended to pout when she saw them. One good teasing opportunity ruined.

Vesper showed Pippa the route. “Every year, Santa comes down this boulevard and to the square in front of the castle,” she said. “So, we need the hanging lights. They’re all in storage. The mayor no doubt has the key.”

Pippa went to see the mayor for the key.

Of course, the key was missing. He mumbled something about loaning it to someone to borrow decorations for a children’s event sometime during the summer. Pippa struggled not to roll her eyes. He gave her a few clues and sent her looking. It would be so much easier if the people who were supposed to have things, would have them. But once she had that key, she should have full access to all the decorations!

Well, the person did have the key. Returning it to the mayor had just slipped their minds and all. Pippa wasn’t sure how. And could Pippa do them one little favor as they went and retrieved the key.  Pippa knew she was too nice when she said yes, that’s how she ended up tracking down a goat the lady wanted to decorate for Christmas. It turned out there wasn’t ONE goat, there were half a dozen! Pippa didn’t know which goat the person actually wanted and returned with all of them.

The person was delighted. They took the goats in exchange for the key and Pippa thought that would be the end of the matter.

But no, before Pippa was allowed to head off, she needed to help put ribbons on the goats. Once the goats had ribbons on them, Pippa waved and left, happy to have the key so she could get the lights to start setting up the boulevard for Christmas!

The warehouse was stuffed full of Christmas decorations and Pippa got a sick feeling in her stomach. Just what had she signed up for? She found the hanging lights that Vesper had described and headed back to the street.

The be-ribboned goats were bouncing about everywhere. No one seemed to mind. Vesper thought it was hysterical.

Pippa was beginning to wonder if the magic of Astranar made people crazy.

Vesper told her where to hang the lights. They were really rather pretty, clear domed glass with cut outs to make them seem like snowflakes or fancy umbrellas. Glass balls in red and white hung down with little fairy lights and crystals. They were clamped around the street lamps. Once they were finished, the same street lamps needed to be decorated to become candy canes.

Vesper gave her several directions at once. The street lamps needed to be turned into candy canes, which required ribbon and tinsel. The trees along the route needed to be decorated with lights, which could be done with her new Christmas magic spells. And then, they needed to put up the candy cane arch just in front of the square!

Pippa got to work. And it was fun!

When she was finished with everything. Vesper had another job for her. It was time to put out the candy cane lights and turn the place into a real candy cane lane. The candy cane lights were wire frames bent into candy canes, they were covered in tinsel and lights so they’d look like candy canes both day and night. There were also huge red ribbons bows to put on them, ribbons with black centers and silver buckles and white fur at the ends of the bows. It was a lot of work to put them up. First the bows had to be added, then the candy canes put in place, and lastly the lights connected to power.

Vesper made a rock on symbol. “All right, Pippa! That looks great. Tomorrow, we can start on the Christmas tree! Oh, before I forget. You’re going to need your heavy draft horse if you have one. If you don’t, don’t worry too much. But getting the tree will be easier with your heavy draft! See you tomorrow, Pippa!”

Pippa giggled and waved at her. She needed to get started on Santa’s outfit.

12 Days of Christmas: Christmas Time is Here (Day 3)

12 Days of Christmas: Christmas Time is Here (Day 3)

Once they were in the normal world, Pippa sent a text to the headmistress of the school. Christmas was in danger! Santa needed their help to save Christmas. Headmistress Thyme sent a text in reply. Pippa was to report to the nearest mentor.

Pippa put her phone away and first went back to Holda. Jack and the little girl were gone. Holda paced back and forth in the snow.

“Mrs. Holda, Santa says that he’ll do Christmas if I repair his suit and prepare for his arrival,” Pippa said. “He said you’d know how to make a new suit. And he needs your help to hunt down the elves that are supposed to be making toys and aren’t.”

Holda smiled broadly at her. “Hah. So he saw reason.” She nodded. “I’ll give you the instructions on how to make his suit. Follow them carefully,” she said and waved her hand. “And don’t let anyone else see them. They’ll disappear once you’re done and the suit is safely delivered to Wodan.”

Pippa accepted the instructions with care. She put them in her sewing journal. “I’ll be careful.”

Holda put up a hand. “Don’t thank the old ones, child,” she said. “We might call upon the favor one day.”

She nodded rapidly.

Holda mounted her horse and galloped away, fading from sight.

Pippa tucked the journal away in her saddlebag. “To Vesper, Marbel,” she said. He nodded. They rode towards the Ruby District Camp.

Vesper greeted them by waving a long candy cane cane! She was in an entirely new outfit. Over her short black hair she had a red and black buffalo check trilby with a black ribbon and big silver buckle on it with a spray of candy canes. She had a circular white leather chest piece with a mint swirl candy on it that buckled with red belts over a white leather half jacket with a fur cuff and red trimmings. Her shirt that they could see was a red and black check and black cuffs. She wore a red kilt with a thick black belt and silver buckle. Her boots were white with red straps and instead of buckles, had more fake peppermint swirl candies!

She smiled at Pippa. “Welcome to Candy Cane Lane!” she said. She winked at Pippa. “I love Christmas!” Then put her finger over her lips. “But shh, it’s a secret!”

Pippa giggled. “I won’t tell a soul.”

Vesper grinned. “Here in Astranar, we go all out for Christmas.  Every district has a theme. You can choose to help one district set up for Christmas. I’ve uploaded all the information into your phone. The districts you choose not to help will be decorated automatically.”

She leaned on her candy cane, well, cane. “Let me run down them quickly. Here in the Ruby District, we have a rockin’ peppermint Christmas. Santa’s house is set up here and we decorate in red, white, and with plenty of buffalo check. In the Sphalerite District, Kitty is setting up Gingerbread Junction. They have a gingerbread town complete with a train, and decorate in orange, brown, and gold with lots of icing and candy.

“In the Citrine District, Viva is ready to make sweet music with her Angels on High theme! Angels, musical instruments, and stars make the Citrine District’s Christmas out of this world. They decorate in gold of course! In the Emerald District, Len needs your help with her Elven Holly Jolly. Santa’s workshop is there and elves don’t like to work if they can play! They decorate with holly, bells and, of course, lots of elves, and green and silver are the colors of the season.

“In the Sapphire District, Minnie is putting on the Nutcracker Parade. It’s toyland time. Ladies are dancing, lords are leaping, carolers are singing, and the toys are out in force while the snowflakes float down. Sapphire decorates in blue, white, and silver. In the Morganite District, Lottie needs help with her Woodland Christmas. All the woodland creatures have come out with acorns, pine cones, and berries to make the season special. She decorates with pink, white, gold, and brown.

“In the Amethyst District, Izzy is in a tizzy to get going on the Sugar Plum Fairy theme. She’s turning the area into the land of sweets. Cakes, ice cream, popsicles, macarons, and of course, sugar plums, that is. Of course, it is purple, gold, and white. With Izzy, could it be anything else? And last, but not least, the capitol is putting on a Coastal Christmas! Sand castles, star fish, seagulls, and everything associated with the coast is going up in the capitol. The colors are aqua and cream. There, you would talk with the Princess and Prince!”

Pippa didn’t know where she should go. It all sounded so exciting!

Vesper smiled knowingly. “Can’t make up your mind? Go and talk with all of them. See what they have to show you for their Christmas decorations! All the quests are the same in each district and depending on which district you help, you’ll get a special outfit in that district’s colors. Once you decide, you can’t change your mind. So choose wisely!” Vesper twirled her cane and tugged on her hat. “I’ll wait here for your decision, Pippa! Or, you can go to the nearest mentor and tell them your decision.”

Pippa beamed at her. “Thank you, Vesper. I will!” she said and trotted away. First, she needed to look through the information Vesper had given her. There were so many choices. She put Marbel in a stall with a bucket of water and a good brushing. “I’ll be back soon,” she said. “I just want a cocoa to warm up!”

Marbel nuzzled her in complete understanding.

Pippa skipped to the camp’s cafeteria. Although she wasn’t technically a full time camper anymore, she could still use their kitchen. She got a mug of cocoa and sat down at the table to look through the information Vesper put on her phone. She almost squealed in delight. There were pictures of the special parts of the decorations with a girl modeling the outfit they could earn and a horse showing off the gear.

There were also special Christmas recipes to make and Christmas decorations to produce. There were even some special clothes and gear to sew. Also, there was a new app on her phone, an advent calendar! Every day until Christmas, she’d get something special.

Pippa sipped her cocoa and browsed through all the information several times. She still couldn’t make up her mind. Candy Cane Lane? Gingerbread Junction? Woodland Christmas? Sugar Plum Fairy? She was going to have to go visit all of them.  Thank goodness for the train stations!