Merry Christmas everyone!!! I wish you all the very best on this special day and hope you are all able to share it with loved ones!

I’ve written a special mini-story for the occasion called The Sleigh Guide (yes, that is on top of my usual 500 word story starter!), so have a great day and enjoy!

Short Story

Anya shivered and fastened the top button of her thigh-length brown leather jacket. The sun was almost done for the day, hanging low on the horizon and leaving this part of the world colder as dusk slowly settled. Her breath misted in front of her as she briskly rubbed her hands together. She really needed to start heading back to the workshop soon. She didn’t fancy being lost in the snowy woods during the long winter night.

She crouched, straining to see the hoof prints she was tracking in the waning light. She’d been on the trail since before dawn this morning, after hearing the distinctive sound of reindeer bellowing the previous night.

Standing, she readjusted her earmuffs and debated whether to continue tracking her quarry, or head back to the workshop. A glance at the setting sun told her she had less than an hour of daylight left. She really should start making her way back. It was going to be dark by the time she returned and the Boss wouldn’t be happy about her trekking about at night.

With a disheartened sigh, she turned and followed her footprints back the way she’d come. The sleigh-team would have to run one reindeer short this year. The poor things would be stressed and tired when they got back. Perhaps she’d be able to sneak them each an extra carrot. Or two.

This will be the first year for a century that the sleigh has been without a reindeer Sleigh Guide, Anya thought. Some reindeer tamer I turned out to be. She felt tears burning her lids. No Sleigh Guide meant that Santa wouldn’t be able to get to every child on time. It was the worst thing to happen and a catastrophe they had managed to avoid for decades. Until I took up the post of reindeer tamer, she thought bitterly.

Lost in thought, she almost didn’t notice the faint silvery glow off to her left. Dusk had well and truly fallen and Anya knew there were no houses in this area. The Boss had chosen this spot for that specific purpose. Secrecy was imperative for his operations.

Standing completely still, she watched as the glow slowly moved among the snow-laden trees. Her heart raced. The strange light could only be one thing.

A Sleigh Guide!

Quiet snuffling reached her ears as she crept towards the light. She eased the flap of her satchel open and pulled out a bunch of purple carrots – a reindeer’s favourite snack!

Stepping around a large tree trunk, Anya saw the Guide not far off, pawing at the frozen ground. She stood, mesmerised. The magnificent beast had a pure white coat, causing him to almost blend into the surroundings completely. Of course, his most astounding feature was his antlers – elegant branches that glowed with the warm light of guiding magic.

Anya could barely contain her ecstasy. She had found a Guide!

With a snort, the reindeer’s head came up quickly, noticing her presence. It stood as still as a statue, watching her with liquid brown eyes.

Anya murmured softly in the ancient language of the reindeer tamers, thankful once again that her grandfather had made her learn the dead language.

The reindeer’s soft ears flicked forward, listening. His nostrils flared as he caught the scent of the purple carrots she held out.

“Noble Sleigh Guide,” Anya said in the ancient tongue. “Would you guide us through the night sky? Would you help us give hope to the world’s children? Would you lend your magic light?” The words were an old request that had been used by reindeer tamers for centuries. Reindeer were proud beasts, but kind. You had to know how to ask them nicely.

He watched her with his brown eyes, nostrils twitching. After a long moment, he bowed his head, the antlers blazing with a brilliant glow for several seconds. She felt his voice as a deep vibration in the air, rather than hearing it. I will.

Anya whooped and held out the carrots to the eager reindeer. She stroked his fur while he devoured them. “Thank you,” she whispered, relief pouring through her.

Now I will take you home, young one, the reindeer told her. His antlers glowed brightly and he headed in the direction of the workshop, lighting the area around them.

It took them most of the night to reach the workshop. She passed the time giggling with the new Guide about the ridiculous Rudolph myth. While it was true that a special reindeer guided the sleigh, honestly a red nose that glowed? How had someone come up with that idea?

Light eventually welcomed them from between the trees. Warm white fairy lights twinkled around the eaves of the roof of the workshop and golden firelight spilled from the windows. Anya loved this place.

She lead the Sleigh Guide to the stables at the back of the workshop. She heaved open one side of the large, wooden double doors.

“In you go,” she encouraged the reindeer. “Meet your new friends.”

Soft grunts and snuffles filled the air as the reindeer sussed each other out. Anya tried to tune out the low vibrations that filled the air, the sound of the reindeer talking to each other. When there was too much of it around, it made her ticklish.

She headed to the back of the stable. A row of harnesses lined the back wall. Each was made of soft red leather and embellished with small silver bells. In the centre of the line, a gold harness shimmered. This one had no bells on it, but was stitched with silver thread.

Anya reached up and pulled it down. Turning, she found the new reindeer behind her, watching her inquisitively.

“This is yours,” she told him. Gently, she lifted it over his antlers and buckled it in place. Instantly, the Guide raised his head and pranced proudly around the stalls, showing off his fancy new head gear.

Anya laughed. “That’s enough from you now! You all need your rest. You’ve a long night ahead of you tomorrow.”

The Guide returned to her side, bowing his head to let her remove his harness. She gave him a fond scratch between the ears, a place she’d learned reindeers loved attention.

“I knew I could rely on you, Anya.”

Replacing the harness on it’s hook, she glanced at the immense red sleigh taking pride of place in the centre of the barn. A portly old man with a white beard sat there, watching the events in the stables.

“I wasn’t so sure, Boss,” she admitted. “I thought for sure that I had failed you this year.”

He chuckled. “You could never fail me, not when you put your heart and soul into everything you do.” He petted the new reindeer who had wandered over to inspect him.

“Santa’s magic will reach the whole world tomorrow,” she said softly to the Sleigh Guide. “All thanks to you.”

Turning his deep eyes on her, the reindeer’s voice vibrated through her. No, not me. Magic is easily created. I can create magic; Santa can create magic, but spreading the magic is a different story. It takes the effort of all to bring the magic to life in the world. Kindness, compassion and love are the true magics on Earth.

Santa smiled. “He’s right. If it wasn’t for all the hard work you put into finding a Sleigh Guide, Christmas would have been dull for many this year. Your kindness convinced him to help us; your compassion for children will help the reindeer fly; and your love for Christmas will be what makes it magical for everyone. As long as there are enough people in the world who believe in those three things, Christmas will always be merry.”

The first rosy rays of dawn filtered into the stable as Christmas Eve arrived. Warmth filled Anya as she pictured all the children they would bring the Christmas Cheer to that night.

She clapped her hands together. “We’ve got a lot of work to do to make it the best day ever!”

Merry Christmas!