Skulduggery in Elftown
If you head off to the North Pole and take a sharp left by the frozen fir trees, you can find a small iced-over track. Head on down this for a mile or two, and if you sprinkle some magic pixie dust, you might just come across Elftown.
It’s a busy place all year round, but especially at Christmas time. You see, all the elves are helping Santa get his sleigh ready for the big day. It’s no easy task, even for experienced elves, and Pickles, the chief elf, has a very important role to play. He has to make sure that all the elves turn up for work each morning and that the assembly line never breaks down. He also has to ensure that the rubbish dump is always full.
Now, I can imagine you’re wondering why on earth he would have to do this? Well, you see, it’s where the new toys come from. I’m guessing you’re a little confused right now, so let me explain. The elves use magic dust to turn old toys into new ones. After all, haven’t you heard of recycling, and where do you think your old or unwanted gifts end up? They don’t just disappear into thin air – or do they?
So, now you have some idea as to where your new toys come from at Christmas. Of course, they have been totally revamped with magic, and a lot of elbow grease has been used–that’s hard work to you and me. Therefore, you can, understandably, imagine Pickles’s despair when one morning he found the dump almost empty. He actually couldn’t believe his own eyes. For the first time in the two thousand years he’d been doing his job, Pickles now had a serious dilemma on his hands. He didn’t want to admit it, but he hadn’t visited the dump in quite some time. However, he was absolutely positive that the last time he had, there had been plenty of old toys in it. It was now only three days before Christmas, and although most of the toys were already in Santa’s giant sack, there was still the whole of England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales to get ready.
Pickles went back to the toyshop and tried to keep calm, but deep inside he dreaded the thought that the assembly line could grind to a halt at any moment. The workshop was a hive of activity with the elves busy packing away the gifts. Pickles was soon busy too, scribbling on his clipboard, ticking off the toys as they rolled on past. Candy canes and chocolate fountains were in abundance and the atmosphere was filled with cheerful singing and laughter. He then heard a familiar sound: “Ho-ho-ho!”. A shiver crept down his spine and he stared at his feet, pretending not to see Santa heading his way.
“Now then, Pickles,” said Santa, patting him on the back. “Is everything tickety-boo?” Poor Pickles didn’t know what to say. Glancing up, he raised his pencil in the air and replied, “Sorry, Santa, I can’t stop and chat because there’s still a lot of work to be done.” Before Santa could stop him, he’d dashed off to the farthest corner of the workshop, sweat pouring from his brow at his narrow escape.
Not long after, Pickles heard a sharp whistle and put down his clipboard. It was tea break. Every elf downed tools and headed towards the canteen. Everyone, including elves, needs a hot mince pie and a soothing hot chocolate to keep them fuelled ‘til lunchtime. Pickles hurried over to a wooden table filled with delicious food and was soon clutching a warm pastry. Pickles shuddered as he nibbled on his mince pie. What on earth was he going to do? If they ran out of gifts, all the dear, sweet children–never mind the ones on the naughty list–would wake up Christmas morning to find they had no presents at all.
His little friend Walnut came to sit with him. He was a very young elf, only a hundred and twenty seven years old, yet he’d been given the special task of feeding and grooming all of Santa’s reindeers. He plonked himself down and gave Pickles a bright smile.
“I hear Prancer and Dancer are heading the herd with Rudolf this year,” he said casually as he munched his snack. Pickles didn’t reply. He was too busy worrying about how he was going to tell Santa that there wouldn’t be enough toys for all the girls and boys this year. Walnut stopped eating, mid bite, and stared at Pickles. “You alright?” he asked, but before Pickles could reply, the whistle blew again and it was time to go back to work.
Pickles hurried back to the shop floor, his mind in turmoil. He was just about to pick up his clipboard when he saw S’nout, one of the oldest elves, sneaking out of the workshop. S’nout was a very grumpy elf–yes, even elves are grumpy sometimes; it’s not just your granddad!
Pickles eyes turned to slits; what exactly was S’nout up to? It was common knowledge that S’nout wanted to be head elf. Santa, though, had told the grouchy elf on numerous occasions that Pickles was the only elf for the job, but S’nout simply wouldn’t listen.
So, somewhat curious, Pickles placed the clipboard onto a shelf and went in hot pursuit. Within minutes, he was heading out of Elftown and into the crisp, deep snow. One good thing about elves is that they don’t feel the cold. Mind you, he was wearing his thick green and red jumper which his auntie had knitted him the previous Christmas.
Like a stealthy hunter, Pickles stalked S’nout, diving behind a convenient snow-capped tree each time the older elf stopped and looked back. S’nout carried on his journey and climbed a steep hill covered in layers of ice. The ground was slippery underfoot, but Pickles wasn’t about to give up. He hurried on as best he could, slipping and sliding, but then, to his surprise, a large cave loomed in the distance. S’nout turned sharply and checked one more time that he wasn’t being followed before scurrying inside.
Hiding behind a tall fir tree, Pickles waited a few minutes before entering. If he was honest, he was a little afraid. He hadn’t been this way before and the cave was HUGE! It would have been dark inside too, had the walls not shimmered with bright light. Pickles felt his chest rise. S’nout was clearly using magic fairy dust to light his way, a substance all elves were forbidden to use. Pickles felt a sharp stab of apprehension. If Santa found out, S’nout would be in serious trouble.
Without making a sound, Pickles followed S’nout around a corner, and what he then saw made his eyes grow wide in disbelief. Standing in the centre of the cave was S’nout, only he was surrounded by a huge mountain of broken toys! Pickles was stunned. So this was where all last year’s unwanted presents had disappeared to. He shook his head, aghast. How had S’nout managed to get all these gifts inside the cave without anyone knowing?
Pickles ducked between a rocking horse that didn’t rock and a pram that only had three wheels. He watched the naughty elf lift his hand into the air and a stream of colourful butterflies flew towards him. They looked to have threads of silver and gold attached to their wings, yet the same threads appeared to hang from the ceiling. Pickles soon noticed how the butterflies flew in a circle so the fibres became entwined. They worked tirelessly to create a shimmering length of rope and then S’nout shooed the delicate butterflies away and wrapped his hand around the silken cord. He tested its strength, then yanked the rope so hard, part of the ceiling broke away and thousands of toys fell on top of those already heaped up high in the cave. The noise was deafening, but once the dust settled, Pickles glanced up and saw the hole in the ceiling had disappeared.
So that’s how he does it, Pickles thought to himself. He’s created a magic plug right underneath the dump. He shook his head in dismay. How on earth was he going to get the toys back without S’nout or Santa finding out? As he contemplated what to do next, S’nout headed back towards the cave’s entrance. Where was he going? No doubt back to Elftown to tell Santa that Pickles had failed at his job.
Pickles waited a while before crawling out of his hiding place. Then he heard a noise. Oh no, S’nout’s back, he thought and dived behind the rocking horse. To his surprise, he heard Walnut’s voice coming from out of the darkness.
“Pickles, where are you?” he heard his friend call softly.
“I’m over here, but what are you doing here?”
Walnut appeared out of the gloom, his red, rosy cheeks glowing in the darkness.
“I figured something was wrong when you acted all weird at tea break, so I decided to follow you.”
Pickles felt a sense of relief wash over him.
“I’m glad you did, have you seen what I’ve stumbled upon?”
Pickles heard Walnut gasp.
“Look at all these toys. Has S’nout stolen them just to get you into trouble?”
“Yes, so we need to get them back to their rightful place before Santa finds out.”
Walnut gave him a wide grin.
“Leave that to me,” he said, tapping the side of his nose. He whistled, loudly, and a familiar sound of jangling bells filled the air.
“Is that what I think it is?” Pickles asked in delight.
“Yes, that’s right. I’ve brought Rudolf and the other reindeers with me, and they’re pulling Santa’s sleigh.”
Pickles had to stop himself from hugging Walnut, he was that pleased.
“Didn’t Santa mind?” he asked.
“He doesn’t know,” Walnut admitted, pulling a strange face. “I just said I was taking them out for a little exercise.”
“How clever of you,” Pickles chuckled, and at that moment Rudolf came dashing around the bend with the other reindeers in tow.
“Whoa, steady!” Walnut cried, just as the reindeers came to a juddering halt. “You nearly ran me over.”
Pickles watched Rudolf lower his head in greeting.
“It’s alright,” Walnut said, tickling him between his antlers. “I know, you’re over excited because we’re so close to Christmas.”
Rudolf opened his mouth and made a peculiar noise, one that sounded like a grunt.
“Yes, I know, we need to hurry,” Walnut replied. “You know what to do, so you’d best get on with it.”
Rudolf sniffed the ground and then scraped his hoof in the dirt. The other reindeers followed suit.
“What are they doing?” asked Pickles, puzzled.
“They’re trying to locate where S’nout’s hidden the fairy dust.”
Sure enough, after a few minutes, Rudolf stumbled on a small stone which wobbled suspiciously.
Walnut crouched down and lifted the stone. “Well done,” he proclaimed, and, as sure as eggs are eggs, there, in a small hole, lay a velvet bag of fairy dust. He reached down and picked it up. “Wow! There’s enough magic dust in here to move the whole of Elftown.”
“Well, we don’t wish to do that,” Pickles assured him. “All we need do is move this important mountain of junk back to where it belongs.”
“Consider it done,” said Walnut, a twinkle in his eye. He again reached down but this time opened the bag, carefully sprinkling fairy dust on top of each reindeer’s head. As Pickles stood and watched in awe, something magical happened. Rudolf and the other reindeers started to glow. It was a bright golden aura that wrapped itself around their bodies. The reindeers jumped up and down excitedly and Rudolf began to make deep grunting noises again. Then he rushed forward and in seconds the sleigh and all the other reindeers were flying high in the air.
Pickles felt his jaw drop when the reindeers flew ever closer to the ceiling and all the broken toys rose into the air and flew into Santa’s sack. Around and around the reindeers flew, faster and faster, until every broken doll and scraggy soft toy had been sucked inside the sack.
Soon there wasn’t a single toy left on the ground and so Rudolf and the others headed back towards solid ground.
“Well done, Walnut,” Pickles cried, clapping his hands with glee. “You’ve saved Christmas.” Walnut turned towards him and grinned. “So far so good, but we’re not out of the woods yet. I need you to head on home and make sure Santa hasn’t realised what S’nout’s been doing. Then, while you keep him distracted, I will deliver this sack of broken toys to its rightful place.”
“I simply can’t thank you enough,” said Pickles, feeling his chest swell in gratitude.
Walnut merely smiled. ‘”Look, that’s what friends are for, and you’d have done the same for me.”
Pickles knew that that was true, but was grateful nonetheless.
“Okay,” said Walnut, “I’ll meet you back at Elftown.”
“Are you sure you don’t need any help?”
Walnut gave him a wink. “I maybe young, but I’ve got this covered.” He jumped onto the sleigh, and with a flick of the reins, guided the reindeers out of the cave.
Pickles chased after them, watching the sleigh rise into the air, Santa’s sack now bulging with its precious cargo. He noticed the sky was now dark and a silver moon was rising.
“Oh, no, I didn’t realise it was that late. Santa will be wondering where I am,” he gasped, and quickly dashed for home.
By the time he’d reached Elftown his breathing was ragged, but he didn’t care. His only concern was making sure Santa didn’t find out about S’nout’s plans. He dived into the workshop and saw all the elves still busy at work. In the far corner he could see Santa in his bright red suit, a clipboard in his hand. Just then, a loud hooter rang out above his head. It was the warning sound that the conveyor belt was about to stop. Pickles felt a shiver creep down his spine. Never, in all the two thousand years of doing his job, had that alarm sounded. It signalled the dump was empty and that no more toys could be made. Pickles felt the cold hand of dread wrap around his heart. It was clear Walnut hadn’t made it to the dump in time.
Everyone stopped what they were doing and faced Pickles, including Santa. Pickles feet froze to the spot and his eyes grew even wider when he saw Santa heading his way.
Pickles screwed up his eyes and prayed the ground would swallow him whole.
Oh no, he thought, this is not just the end of the line for the toys…
But to his surprise, the hooter died away and the conveyor belt whirled back into life.
He opened his eyes to see Santa standing in front of him. “For a minute there, I thought we’d run out of toys,” Santa declared, clearly ruffled by the experience. Pickles opened and closed his mouth like a goldfish, not sure what to say, but then saw Walnut. The moment their eyes met, the young elf gave him a big thumbs up!
“Oh, it’s nothing to worry about, everything’s in hand,” Pickles told Santa, trying his hardest to stay calm. “It was obviously just a minor hiccup that’s sorted itself out.” Santa’s brows furrowed for a moment, but then his expression softened and he offered Pickles the clipboard.
“Ho-ho-ho, I’ll be off then, to check the naughty list one last time,” he bellowed with a loud chuckle.
Pickles made sure he’d left before letting out a huge sigh of relief. He headed towards the conveyor belt, but out of the corner of his eye he saw S’nout, clearly baffled that the assembly line was still going strong and there were plenty of broken toys for the elves to mend. He rapidly went a very bright shade of red, and for a moment Pickles thought steam was about to come out of his ears. When Pickles followed his gaze, though, he saw Walnut handing Santa the large bag of fairy dust they’d found in the floor of the cave.
Pickles looked back at S’nout.
That’ll teach you for trying to steal my job, he thought to himself. Inside, though, he was, more importantly, grateful to Walnut for being so brave and to Rudolf and the other reindeers for working so hard, and together saving Christmas for all the good boys and girls.
Copyright © Lynette E. Creswell
Merry Christmas Everyone!
I hope you enjoyed my little Christmas story, and don’t forget, I write a whole lot of other stuff too!