‘The Night the Llama Saved Christmas’

Chapter 1

With a thunderous knock on the door, Santa fell from his office chair and onto his bottom, a cloud of papers littered the air. Hearing the thud, an Elf rushed into the room and saw the ordinarily jolly man picking himself up from the ground.

‘I trust you have something rather important to say’ Santa said, in a gruff voice.

The Elf stood there, flustered and blurted out his news.

‘Sir, it’s the Reindeer!’

Santa’s eyes widened and brushing himself off, he stormed towards the open doorway, pulling his red coat from the hanger and disappeared out of the room in a flurry of red and green.

Santa trudged through the snow at an alarming rate.

Nearing the stables where the reindeer lived, Santa could hear the problem.

‘Aaaaaahhh Choo! Ah Choo, Ah Choo!’

The sounds echoed around the North Pole and could be heard even in the Inuit Village, twenty miles away.

The snow that sat on top of the barns shook and shuddered, dropping in clumps to the ground. So much so that Santa and his Elves had to clear a path to get to the front door.  

After a few minutes frantic shovelling, Santa opened the main door and was shocked at the sight.

Noses shone from every pen, a bright and blazing red, and everywhere that Santa looked an Elf ran back and forth, carrying tissue paper to every reindeer in every pen. Some of the worse ‘deer even sat or lay on their straw mattresses, unable to stand to the customary attention as Santa entered the room.

‘Oh dear. Oh dear, oh ‘deer’ he said.

‘This will not do at all. When did this all start?’ Santa asked the Elf who had barged into his office.

‘It began last night, just a sniffle or two, but by this morning, well, as you can see, it got worse’.

‘Yes, I see’ Santa replied.

As Santa walked down the centre of the barn, he turned this way and that, shaking his head, almost without movement, so as to not alarm the reindeer any more than they already were.

Stopping at one pen, Santa addressed the reindeer inside.

‘Hello, my boy, how are you feeling’ knowing the answer very well.

‘I, I er, I …AH CHOO! Uh, I’m fine Sir’ the ‘deer replied.

Santa blinked, reached for a tissue and wiped the snot from his beard.

‘OK boy, you take a seat and feel better soon. The Elves will look after you’.

Santa turned to the Elf at his right as they walked away and through the rest of the barn.

‘Is anyone not sick?’ he asked, with little hope.

The Elf shook his head, ‘Just the reserves, the first team are all poorly, except Blitzen, he’s been training recruits and Sir…’

Santa stopped and gave the nervous Elf his full attention.

‘Yes?’

‘Sir, Dasher is the worst’.

Santa blinked twice, very quickly and sped to the end pens, where the elite of the team slept.

Approaching the pen Santa already knew what he’d have to do. He peered of over the door and saw Dasher, one of the original, one of the best, laid low. He was lying down, covered in blankets and sneezing with alarming regularity. Upon seeing Santa he scrambled to his feet, falling more than once in quick succession.

‘S, S, Santa, Sir!’ he said, with a struggle.

‘No, it’s OK boy, you lie back down’ Santa tried to insist.

‘I’m OK Sir, just a little snif, snif, sni- AH CHOO!’

The pen shook and Dasher almost lost his footing.

‘Yes, I can see that. Look young man, I think, just this once, it’s best if you have the night off’.

Dasher looked back at Santa with despair and worry in his eyes.

‘B, but Santa Sir, I can fly, just give me a chance’ he said with very little confidence.

‘Honestly, boy, please, for me, take the night off. We will manage without you just this once, OK?’

 Santa said in a reassuring voice.

Dasher looked at him, dejected and disappointed.

‘I understand Sir, I’ll miss the night though and the kids”

‘I know you will and they’ll miss you. Get well soon’ Santa turned to the Elf looking after Dasher, ‘extra carrots and plenty of water for this ‘deer, OK’.

The Elf nodded and replaced the blankets on Dasher.

Santa turned to address the team.

 

‘Elves, Reindeer, can I have your attention?’

 

They all turned from their duties and sneezing to look at Santa.

 

‘It seems you’ve all caught a cold’.

 

The Reindeer and Elves looked at each other disconsolately.

 

‘It’s a bit of an odd one, neither the Elves nor I can remember the last time there’s been so much

as a sniffle in the North Pole, but, heigh ho, them’s the breaks. Now, I need ‘yays’ and ‘neighs’ as to whether you’re fit to fly this evening. We’re already replacing Dasher, he seems to have caught the worst of the cold and I need names. Who’s well enough to fly?’

 

The Elves looked at the Reindeer and within seconds ‘yays’ flooded the pen…with coughs and sneezes punctuating.

 

‘Well, that is reassuring, I’m sure we’ll be just fine’.

 

Santa smiled at the ‘deer then turned and looked unconvinced at a worried Elf.

 

‘Jim’. Santa said, addressing the Elf to his side.

 

‘Who’ve we got that you think can replace the fastest ‘deer in our team?’

 

‘Gerald, Sir!’ he answered without a second thought.

 

‘Gerald?’

 

Appearing as if from nowhere, a Reindeer suddenly stood bolt upright at Santa’s side.

 

‘Gerald, I presume?’

 

‘Yes, Sir! Santa, Sir!’

 

A very eager reindeer; Gerald was brown, head to hoof, confident looking but with his juvenile antlers still baring velvet and his 5’9” of height giving away his early years.

 

‘How long have you been in the service, son?’ Santa enquired.

 

‘This is my Third year, Sir!’ Gerald answered with conviction.

 

‘And how many test flights have you been on?’

 

’56, sir!’

 

‘Fifty Six?! What are you? Super-Deer?’ Santa laughed heartily, with Gerald looking confused.

 

‘Smile son, you’re about to get your big break, you’re gonna run the team with Blitzen’.

 

Gerald’s smile, which rose skyward when he heard of his new job, swiftly dropped when he heard

Blitzen’s name.

 

Blitzen! Lord of the Hoof, hero to Deer and Doe alike.

 

Santa glanced over Gerald’s shoulder and into the near distance.

 

Gerald watched his eyes move and turned to see Blitzen approaching, coming out of a blizzard that

seemed to encircle him and disappear at the same time. Before he knew it, Blitzen was before him!

 

Like magic.

 

‘Ah, there you are, Blitzen’. Santa exclaimed.

 

‘Sir! Yes, Sir!’ Blitzen’s voice bounced off the inside walls of the pens and momentarily woke a very

poorly Dasher.

 

‘A little quieter son, we’ve got Deers and Does sleeping in here’, requested Santa.

 

‘Sir, Yes, Sir’, Blitzen’s voice became only slightly less noise-some.

 

‘This is, Gerald…you’re Vice-Captain for tonight’. Santa smiled, he knew exactly what was coming.

 

‘WHAT?!’

 

The pens visibly wobbled, the Elves cowered, the ‘deer’s ears dropped and their heads turned away.

 

Santa smiled joyfully while the alarming sound echoed through the Pole.

 

‘Finished?’ he asked, still smiling.

 

Blitzen looked at Santa with understanding but annoyance. Turning to the replacement he stared right through Gerald.

 

‘Well, let’s get this sleigh ride a movin’!’ he said, very reluctantly.

 

He turned with a swivel and disappeared back into the blizzard from whence he came.

 

Gerald looked at Santa, pleadingly.

 

Smiling back, Santa said, ‘You’ll do fine lad, just follow old Grumpy’s lead. Ha ha haaaaa’.

 

Santa’s laugh disturbed the Reindeer too. He apologised with a hand up and a smile and then

wandered off to get changed for the flight.

 

 

“Changed” for Santa, merely involved a bigger coat, as he only had three colours in his wardrobe-

red, green and brown- although Mrs Claus had tried to get him to try a nice blue from time to time.

 

The full Reindeer team stood harnessed to the sleigh, prepared, awaiting Santa and take off.

 

The toys sat, multi-coloured, piled expertly high but precariously on the back of the sleigh.

So many toys!

 

‘My, oh my, what a lot of presents’, said Santa, staring with his mouth open, ‘must have been a lot of

good children this year!’

 

Santa beamed a smile at the giant red sack.

 

The Reindeer looked back from their positions and smiled as best they could between sneezes and

wobbled a little from side to side.

 

Addressing the head Elf, Santa said,

 

 ‘These ‘deer don’t look too sprightly tonight lad’.

 

‘No Sir, but they’ll get the job done… somehow’.

 

‘Good, good. Well, let’s be away then!’

 

Santa turned and gave Mrs Claus a peck on the cheek and then climbed aboard the sleigh, sat down in his brown, padded chair and strapped his safety belt across his rather wide belly.

 

‘Maybe time to let the belt out another notch’, Santa thought to himself.

 

The Elves had known that for a while, but it’s not nice to tell Santa to go on a diet.

 

‘Everybody, stand back!’ called the runway Elf over the loudspeaker.

 

The spectators all took a few steps backward and even though most of them had seen the team take-

off hundreds or thousands of times before, they all stood with jaws gaping and eyes wide.

 

‘OK, boys and girls, let’s do this!’ Santa shouted with confidence and the joy he always felt before the

start of the yearly trip.

 

Santa cracked the reigns, the Reindeer sprinted into action- a few slipping momentarily on the icy

runway and the sleigh whipped away. The Deer reached take-off speed and Santa gave the command,

 

‘Up, Up, UP!

 

 

The Reindeer tried, but with their colds they were understrength.

 

It took a few more strides but with another command, they were up, up and gone.

 

The Elves on the ground turned and looked at each other, somewhat concerned by the slower than

average take off. Santa looked down over the North Pole and his friends, equally concerned, but jolly, always jolly. A few ‘deer turned to look at Santa, only for him to beam back with trust in his smile and eyes.

 

Looking at his map- although he really didn’t need to, Santa addressed the reindeer.

 

‘OK team, first stop as ever, the Inuit village around the corner’.

 

‘Boss?’ Gerald was staring at Santa, ‘the village is so near, why don’t we just walk the presents

around?’

 

‘Come now, Gerald, where’s the magic, where’s the surprise if Santa and his incredible flying

Reindeer walk around, instead of flying?’

 

‘I get ya, Boss, much more magical’.

 

The team landed only a few minutes after taking off. Despite their rocky start, their landing was

somewhat smoother.

 

The Reindeer’s hooves tip toed down, with the sleigh working as a heavy anchor to slow them upon

touch down.

 

They were situated firmly in the middle of the village. With the Reindeer at a stop, Santa stepped out

and looked at the team.

 

All seemed well, other than the sniffles of course.

 

The people of the village wasted little time and came rushing out, old and young alike.

 

‘Hey, Boss, they’re coming towards us?’ Gerald stated with surprise.

 

‘It’s ok, Gerald, the Inuit people have known about us for thousands of years. They get their gifts first

and almost as importantly, you get a carrot straight away. Sound good?’ Santa asked, smiling.

 

‘Oh yeah, Boss!’ Gerald beamed and the sniffly ‘deer all cheered up somewhat.

 

The children ran up to the poorly ‘deer and started petting them, in between bouts of sneezing.

 

Santa began handing out the Christmas presents to the youngest children first. He sat on his sleigh

 

and the children, one by one, jumped onto his lap.

 

The head of the village came to speak with Santa. In the Inuit language, he asked,

 

‘You Reindeer look a little under the weather. I’ve seen many a poorly ‘deer before, but yours never get sick’ he asked with concern.

 

‘True, it is a turn up for the books, but rest assured, they’re a hardy bunch and tonight will be

completed as ever’ Santa answered with a confident smile.

 

‘I believe in them, Santa. Might we offer the ‘deer a few coats? I realise at the heights you

travel it may not help much…’

 

‘They’d be delighted. Many thanks’, Santa replied.

 

The Inuit Chief turned and gave a signal and his children- the ones not playing with their toys, began

sizing the Deer individually for a coat. Each ‘deer smiled in gratitude.

 

‘Well team, time waits for no man…except me, Ho Ho Ho’!

 

The team had heard Santa’s joke before, in fact, they’d heard them all before, though it didn’t stop

them smiling and Gerald, being new to the team, laughed out loud.

 

‘Thanks boy, I knew that was a good one!’

 

Turning around for take-off, Santa nodded at the Chief, then smiled and waved to the children.

 

‘UP, UP, UP!’

 

The Reindeer began to trot, to canter and then sprinted into the air.

 

A little more gracefully this time, they had an audience after all.

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