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!