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!”
“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.”