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: Gimme that Cheer (Day 6)

12 Days of Christmas: Gimme that Cheer (Day 6)

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!”

Holda laughed.

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.”

Holda laughed.

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.”

Marbel snorted.

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!”

Pippa yawned.

Marbel yawned too.

“I’m hungry and tired.”

Marbel snorted.

“You had a snack!” Pippa told him, tartly.

Marbel huffed a laugh and they headed back to Magpie Field and to bed.

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.