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Red Cap Christmas Elf Apprentice 3rd Class In The Five Bells Of Christmas
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The elf announcer fluffed the fur collar of his long white coat and spoke excitedly into his microphone.
"It's a great morning here in Christmas Town; only five more days to go until Christmas.
The sky is clear and the sun is shining brightly after last night's light snowfall.
Today is the opening day of the reindeer games.
Crowds of spectators' from all parts of the world of lore line the runway waiting for the competition to begin.
In keeping with the festivities, Santa has announced that his workshop will be closed for the morning.
Hopeful contestants are prancing and pawing in anticipation of the coming games.
The winners will vie for a coveted spot on Santa's elite team to pull the sleigh on Christmas Eve."
Apart from the noise of the crowd Red Cap paced a circle in the new snow; his best friend Terrance would be in the competition today.
Red Cap thought back on their conversation of last night.
"Don't go!" I told him, "you're not ready.'" The little elf pouted.
Terrance, a less than majestically built reindeer, had answered in his immature, squeaky voice, '"Why not? I'm almost three years old. If I wait much longer I'll be too old to make the team. I want the chance to pull Santa's sleigh at least one time in my life."
Red Cap had sighed. "I know. Many people think Santa uses the same reindeer every year; they don't know that he gets new ones all the time. They think Comet and Cupid and Donner and the others are really the names of the reindeer."
Terrance added, "Those were the original names of Santa's first team, but now they indicate the position on the team, like Dasher is the first position on the left and Dancer is the first position on the right. Nowadays Santa calls out the positions instead of the reindeers' real names."
Red Cap replied, "Well, it would be difficult For Santa to remember every new name, it's much easier this way."
Terrance answered, "Sometimes in my dreams, I can hear Santa calling out to them. "'On, Comet! On Cupid! On, Doner and Blitzen! Now, Dasher! Now, Dancer! Now, Prancer and Vixen!' Just like in the Christmas poem. Oh Red Cap, I so want to be a part of that experience. I want to move on, to do greater things."
Red Cap said, "Everybody wants to get ahead, sometimes it takes a little time to reach your goal. Look at me, Red Cap, Christmas elf, apprentice 3rd class for the last 100 years."
Terrance lowered his shaggy head and his voice was barely a whisper. "I don't have a hundred years," he said.
Red Cap smiled weakly and replied, "You're right, Terrance, sometimes I forget, reindeer are not immortal. You're my best friend and I want you to be happy. So go ahead, enter the reindeer games, and I'll be right there on the sidelines to root for you, but promise me one thing."
"'What's that?" Terrance asked.
Red Cap tried to look as serious as he could. "Please be careful, it can get rough out there and I don't want anything to happen to you," he answered.
Terrance laughed, lifted his short antlers as high as he could and pushed out his smallish chest with false bravado, "Don't worry about me" he said, "I can take care of myself, I'll be fine."
"I hope so." Red Cap sighed.
The little elf jerked back to reality as the horns sounded announcing the start of the reindeer games. He raced to the runway and pushed his way to the front.
The first race had already started. The reindeer needed to run to the bottom of the hill while jumping over colored plastic bricks used to make walls of different heights, and avoiding toy obstacles placed in their paths. The first group of reindeer were already on their way; Terrance, momentarily distracted, was watching sugar plum fairies play and dance in the sun's warm rays and missed the starting horn and now he was trying to make up for lost time by jumping two walls at the same time.
"You can do it" Red Cap shouted as Terrance sailed past him.
Terrance turned his head to look at his friend and quickly lost his forward momentum. His front hoof clipped the top of the second set of walls, scattering plastic bricks everywhere and causing him to tumble head over hooves into the next wall, sending the bricks flying and toys skidding down the hill and under the hooves of the other reindeer; they, in turn, spilled and fell into more walls and competitors. Red Cap and some of the other unlucky spectators standing too close to the action were pulled into the melee.
The entire group slid, tumbled and spun to the bottom of the hill, finally slamming into a snow bank and coming to a stop amongst a pile of plastic bricks, toys, tangled legs and locked horns.
The elf emergency squad rushed in to help. The elf announcer jumped up and down on his announcing platform, wailing into his microphone, "Oh no! Oh no! This is a disaster, reindeer and spectators are laying everywhere. This may be the worst catastrophe in reindeer tryout history. How could this happen? What will Santa say?"
That very afternoon, the elf counsel, with Santa himself presiding, met to discuss the incident and try to resolve an outcome. The eldest of the elves shook his long, white beard and stated, "Santa, everyone here knows whose fault this was."
"Yes! There can be no doubt where the blame lies," added another old elf, sitting at the far end of the long table. Every elf nodded their head in agreement.
Santa paced the floor with his hands clasped behind his back. "Yes I know," he sighed, "they are really good boys at heart, but they do seem to spark a lot of trouble, and always at the worst of times."
A young elf with a neatly trimmed, short, brown beard and wearing a tight-fitting green coat raised his hand. "Yes, what is it Charles?" Santa asked.
Charles replied, "Can't you do something about them, Santa? Send them away maybe banish them to the South Pole or somewhere?" The elves chuckled at the thought of this.
Santa's face broke out in a big smile and he answered, "That just might be the answer I'm looking for."
The elves looked shocked. "You're going to banish them to the South Pole?" Charles asked, alarmed.
"No, no," Santa laughed, and his eyes sparkled, "I will send them on a quest, something to keep them out of trouble."
Charles said, "Something to keep them out of Christmas Town I hope."
"Well, not forever." Santa chuckled, beaming. "Only until after Christmas and everything settles down again, and I know just the quest to send them on."
He laughed his familiar ho, ho, ho, and cheerfully slapped the nearest elf on the shoulder as he merrily left the room for his work shop.
FOUR DAYS BEFORE CHRISTMAS
The next morning, Santa summoned the two misfits to his workshop.
Red Cap and Terrance entered Santa's office slowly, dragging their feet and staring down at the floor. "You wanted to see us?" Red Cap asked in a hushed voice.
Santa looked up from his work, smiled and said, "Come, in boys. I think you know why I wanted to see you."
"We're very sorry, Santa," Red Cap replied "it was an accident."
"Yes," Terrance chimed in, "an accident."
Santa nodded and said, "Yes, boys, I know it was, but people got hurt this time. The Easter Bunny fractured one of his ears, and three reindeer are in recovery at Christmas Tree Hospital."
Red Cap sighed, "I'm sorry, Santa."
"Me too," Terrance added, "I'm very, very sorry, Santa."
Santa smiled and closed the large book he was writing in. He peered over his gold rimmed glasses. "I'm going to give you two a chance to redeem yourselves," he said, "that is if you're up to it."
The two brightened and looked up at him. "We're up to it, Santa," Red Cap and Terrence answered simultaneously. "Anything; we don't care how difficult it is, we'll do it."
"Good, good." Santa laughed at their enthusiasm. "I felt sure you'd feel that way."
Red Cap interrupted. "What do you want us to do, Santa? You want us to round up a herd of wild reindeer? Re-paint the gold ball on the top of the North Pole marker? We could organize a polar bear band, or teach the penguins a new dance. Anything; just name it."
Santa smiled his big Santa smile and his belly shook as he chuckled a loud ho, ho, ho. "No, no, nothing so drastic," he replied, "I want you to bring back one of the elusive golden icicles to Christmas Town. Can you do that for me, boys?"
"We'll do it!" Terrance sang. "Just tell us where it is and we will be back with it in a flash."
"That," said Santa "is the problem. I don't know where one is. A golden icicle could happen anywhere. You will need to look everywhere that an icicle can form. I heard some were seen north of Christmas Town near Candy Cane Valley. You may want to start your search there." Santa looked at the two with a serious expression and cautioned them. "'Be careful out there boys, it can get dangerous and you never know what kind of trouble you might run into."
Red Cap glanced at Terrance; both nodded their heads and said in unison, "Let's do it."
Red Cap tried to look as confident as he could. "Santa," he declared, "we won't let you down, I promise." The two raced out of Santa's workshop and immediately set to work packing their supplies for the journey ahead.
THREE DAYS BEFORE CHRISTMAS
Early the next morning the two adventurers started out on their perilous journey.
Red Cap, perched high on Terrence's back, viewed the beauty of the country side covered by a blanket of new snow. He leaned forward hugging Terrence around the neck and exclaimed, "What a great morning! Plenty of sunshine, new snow on the ground, and the greatest part of all, I am doing this with my best friend in the whole world. I'm sure we'll make Santa proud, Terrence, I'll bet we are back at home before dark."
They plodded on through the snow-covered hills throughout the day.
At last, as they topped a small hill, Terrence shouted, "Red Cap, look! There it is, Candy Cane Valley." Ahead of them lay a long, snow-covered valley that curved around into a big hook like an umbrella at the end. The setting sun caused the tall trees to cast wide, slanted, pink shadows across white snow giving the whole place the appearance of a giant candy cane. The two comrades stood on the hilltop and enjoyed the view for a moment.
Red Cap thought, 'I guess that's why they call it Candy Cane Valley.'
To Terrence he said, "We'd better get going, it's almost dark and we need to find a place to camp."
Terrence took the lead as they plunged through the snow and down the valley wall until they reached the bottom. At the bottom they followed a shadowy, snow-filled path along the valley floor and they soon came upon a deep, dark cave.
Red Cap said, "This will make a perfect camp site for tonight. Don't you agree, Terrence?" Terrence answered cautiously," I think it looks scary, why don't we try a little farther down?"
'It's getting too dark to go any farther," Red Cap said. "This place will do just fine. I'll build us a nice fire at the back to keep us warm. It'll be just like sleeping in front of the fireplace back at Christmas Town.
Later, with the fire glowing warmly, Terrence munched happily on a packet of hay, while Red Cap enjoyed marshmallow cupcakes and a cup of rich hot chocolate.
After their meal the two friends cuddled down together and fell into a restful sleep, dreaming of the golden icicles they would gather the next day.
They were awakened abruptly a few hours later by the sound of a loud crack.
"The ice," Terrence exclaimed, "it's melting."
Red Cap and Terrence ran from the entrance of the cave and hid behind a snow bank for safety.
"Look", Red Cap said, "there at the back of the cave, it looks like a door carved out of stone. I wonder what's behind it."
The door had been forced open slightly by the melting ice.
From behind the door they heard a strange, yet somewhat familiar voice.
The voice bellowed, "Free, I'm free again after all these years!"
"That's Santa's voice", Red Cap said, "what's he doing here?"
"No." Terrence cautioned. "Christmas reindeer have perfect pitch; it's close, but that's not Santa, it's someone or something else."
A dark shadow rose up silently from the opening around the stone door and in the dim light it drifted along the wall of the cave until it reached the entrance.
"I'm free from my ice prison at last", the shadow roared, "now I'll get my revenge! I hate Christmas Town, I hate Christmas, and most of all I hate Santa Claus for imprisoning me in this ice prison."
It laughed an evil sounding laugh and vanished in a ball of smoke and flame.
Terrence was frantic; he paced back and forth erratically. "What just happened? What should we do?" he wailed.
"Calm down," Red Cap said. "We need to get back to Christmas Town and warn Santa."
Terrence forced himself to settle down. "You're right," he said, "let's go!"
Red Cap said doubtfully, "It's too far and too dark; we'll never make it in time."
Terrence brightened. "No problem," he said. "Christmas reindeer can travel around the world without getting tired, and we see very well in the dark. Hop on my back, I'll get us there in no time." Red Cap scrambled up onto Terrence's back and they were off. Terrence scampered up the valley wall and over the snow-covered hills at break-neck speed.
TWO DAYS BEFORE CHRISTMAS
Christmas Town came into view just as the sun was rising. "Red Cap! Wake up, we're here," Terrence shouted over his shoulder.
Red Cap sat up and slipped off Terrence's back, rubbing the sleep from his eyes.
"Oh no," he cried, "we're too late."
Ahead of them Christmas Town lay in ruin. Houses had crumbled, the great Christmas tree that stood in the town square lay on its side, all of the Christmas decorations had been destroyed, the clock tower leaned dangerously to one side and Santa's workshop was flattened. Santa himself was nowhere to be seen.
"What'll we do now?" cried Terrence, his eyes filled with tears. "Everything is destroyed, there's nothing left. We have to do something, but what?"
"I don't know." Red Cap sighed, "However I might know someone who does. Follow me."
He took off at a run. Terrence followed close behind him. They crossed the town square and climbed up the side of a hill at the edge of town. Red Cap stopped in front of a large, ancient oak tree. He tapped three times on one of the exposed roots and a small door opened up in the side of the tree. The little elf called out, "Your Majesty, are you home? Hello?"
From out of the doorway stepped a beautiful white fairy. Red Cap bowed and said with reverence, "Your Majesty."
"Who is she?" Terrence asked in awe.
Red Cap smiled at the fairy and said, "Please allow me to introduce my best friend, Terrence the Christmas Reindeer," as he gestured toward Terrence. To his friend he said, "Terrence, this is her royal majesty, Christine, the Snow Fairy Queen."
"Pleased to meet you," the Fairy Queen replied.
Terrence bowed his head all the way to the ground and said, "Your Majesty".
Turning again to Red Cap Christine asked, "How may I be of help?"
Red Cap explained what had happened the night before and how they had accidently released the shadow Santa. "Isn't there anything we can do to fix this?" he asked.
Christine fluttered about in small circles. "There is only one thing that will fix Christmas Town, save Santa and banish the evil Shadow Santa," she exclaimed. "You must find the five bells of Christmas, bring them here to Christmas Town and ring them in the correct order before the last stroke of midnight on Christmas Eve. If you fail, the shadow Santa wins and Christmas will be lost forever."
Red Cap asked, "Where do we find the bells?"
"Well," the Fairy Queen answered, "I have one and you may have it."
She pointed up the tree and said, "Climb up to that first large branch and knock three times on the tree trunk and you will find it."
Red Cap wasted no time and immediately scaled the tree until he rested on the first limb.
He knocked three times on the tree and a small doorway appeared inside. Red Cap could see a small, golden bell. He reached in and took the bell then slid down the tree to the soft snow below. Bowing to the Fairy Queen, he said, "Thank you so much Your Majesty. Can you tell us where the other bells are?"
She thought for a moment and replied, "I have heard that another one is located in the Hall of Broken Bells. You can find the hall in the Snow Palace on Peppermint Mountain."
"Yes, I know the place", Red Cap said.
He turned to Terrence and said. "Let's go, it should only take us about two hours to reach there." They thanked the Snow Fairy Queen and sped off on their way to the Hall of Broken Bells.
In two short hours they arrived at the base of Peppermint Mountain; however it took them another hour to climb up to the entrance of the Snow Palace.
Red Cap knocked loudly with the brass knocker on the great door.
A tall, thin, snobbish butler in a blue velvet waistcoat and a powered white wig answered and asked in a tinny voice, "What business do you have here?"
Red Cap answered, "The Snow Fairy Queen sent us to look for one of the five bells of Christmas. She said it might be located in the Hall of Broken Bells."
The butler looked down his long nose at the two and snorted at them. In his high-pitched, snobbish voice, he said, "Well, I don't know why she would send such a scruffy pair as you on an important mission like this, but you're welcome to look, follow me."
He led them down along a wide winding staircase.
At the bottom he said, "Here we are," and unlocked the door opening it onto what seemed like an unending hall filled with bells of all shapes, types and sizes.
He sneered, "Good luck, you'll need it."
Then he turned and giggled to himself as if he had made a fine joke.
He walked back up the staircase and disappeared into the palace still laughing loudly.
Terrence said, "We'll never find one bell in all this mess. There must be thousands of bells here."
"Sure we'll find it," Red Cap said. "We'll find it because we have to."
The two adventurers began wading through the bells, grabbing one after another and shaking them vigorously.
"Clank, clink, clunk." The dull bells sounded. They tried bell after bell, but none of them rang true.
Terrence complained, "It's getting dark, soon we won't be able to see anything, what are we going to do?"
"Just keep looking as long as you can," Red Cap replied.
The two continued on until they could no longer see one bell from the next.
Red Cap said, "Well, I guess that's about as much as we can do for tonight, maybe we can try again tomorrow."
As they turned to leave Terrence kicked a stray bell out of his way. "Ding!" The bell rang. "That's it!" Terrence yelled as he grabbed up the bell in his teeth and shook it back and forth.
"Ding, ding, ding!" the little golden bell rang.
Red Cap cried out with delight, "Terrence, you've found it! Now we have two bells; only three more to go." The two ran up the stairs and out into the night clutching their new-found prize. They raced down the mountain and stopped to rest under a large pine tree at the bottom while they discussed their next move.
"If only we had a clue," Red Cap said, "to where the next bell is hidden."
High up in the tree, an owl peered down at them and hooted. "Who..., Whooo!"
"You're not helping," Red Cap said, looking up at the owl, "we're trying to figure out where one of the five bells of Christmas might be hidden, and we can't think with your interruption."
The owl swooped down to the bottom most branch and hooted again. "Who..., Whooo!"
"Now you stop doing that!" Red Cap yelled up at the owl.
The owl sat on a tree limb with his back to them and twisted his head around until his large yellow owl eyes were looking straight at Red Cap.
"You are an impertinent elf," he screeched, "I ought not to help you at all. The question is not where is the bell hidden, the question is Whooo, has hidden it."
"I'm sorry," Red Cap apologized, "do you know who has the third bell?"
"Yes," the owl hooted, "the third bell is in the custody of Bertram Fredrick Underclaw."
Both Terrence and Red Cap swallowed hard.
Red Cap said, "Underclaw? As in Underclaw the ferocious? Underclaw the King of the Polar Bears? The same Underclaw who is the biggest, meanest, and most ill-tempered polar bear of all the polar bears that live in the North Pole? You're not talking about that Bertram Fredrick Underclaw, are you?"
"One and the same," the owl said. "He lives in a giant igloo castle in the center of Polar Bear City." The owl turned his head a little more looked at Terrence and added, "I'd be very careful in Polar Bear City if I were you, their favorite meal is reindeer."
With that, the owl spread his wide wings and flew up and away into the night, leaving the two alone in the dark to ponder their choices.
Red Cap said, "Well, we certainly don't want to be traveling through polar bear country at night."
"No," Terrence agreed. "Too many hungry polar bears wandering around."
"We'll make camp here for tonight and head out first thing in the morning," the little elf said.
"Good idea," Terrence sighed.
ONE DAY BEFORE CHRISTMAS
Early the next morning, the two set off for Polar Bear City.
As they neared the edge of the city they stopped in a large clump of bushes.
"You wait here," Red Cap told Terrence, "and try not to get eaten before I get back. I think I'll be safe enough, but if anything bad should happen, run."
As Terrence waited impatiently hidden in the brush, Red Cap made his way into the city.
He walked straight to the igloo castle and approached the strange looking polar bear guard.
"I'm here to see Underclaw on official business" Red Cap said loudly, trying to sound important.
The polar bear guard regarded Red Cap, and Red Cap regarded the polar bear guard.
'What a strange bear,' Red Cap thought, 'his eyes are crossed and he seems very unsteady on his feet. When he spoke his voice rose and fell in the wrong places making him sound as if he had drunk way too much egg-nog.'
The guard stood on his hind legs, swaying back and forth; he looked down at Red Cap, but one eye was looking up and to the left while the other was looking down and to the right. In a sing-song tenor voice, he said, "THE...k-king under...ca...CLAW...he don't want TO be...d-disturbed, go, go...A-AWAY!"
Red Cap stood his ground and said, "Tell him it's about the five bells of Christmas."
"We...we...Well," the guard bear replied, "we...we'll JUST have to S-SEE about THAT...that."
He turned and, after several tries, finely managed to get through the door to the castle.
From deep inside, Red Cap heard a growl so powerful it reverberated through the ice and sent him sprawling on his face. He looked up just in time to see a mountain of white fur rise up from the castle entrance.
"King Underclaw, I presume," Red Cap ventured.
Underclaw bent down toward the little elf like an avalanche of white fur. The giant bear pushed his big head close to Red Cap and sniffed once with his large, wet, black nose and said, "You look like an elf, but you smell like reindeer. So what do you want here?"
Red Cap blustered , "An owl in the forest near the hall of broken bells told me you may have one of the five bells of Christmas, I need to get it in order to save Santa Claus and Christmas. May I have it, please?"
The great bear turned and said, "Wait here, and don't mind the guard, his mother dropped him headfirst on a tree stump when he was a baby and he hasn't been right since. I only keep him around because he's my cousin."
A moment later he returned with a small, golden bell.
"Is this what you are asking about?" he said and winked at Red Cap.
Red Cap said, "Yes! Also I would appreciate any information you might have on the location of the other bells."
He reached out to take the bell.
Underclaw laughed and lifted the bell up out of Red Cap's reach.
"Well", he laughed, "there is one, I'm told, that it lies at the top of the tallest fir tree in Christmas Tree Hills. Shouldn't be too hard to get, but first you need to get this one."
Underclaw held the bell teasingly above Red Cap's head.
"Please sir," Red Cap pleaded, "I really need that bell and I need to hurry; I don't have a lot of time."
"What's your hurry?" Underclaw growled. "It's almost lunch time. Wouldn't you like to stick around for a little bite?"
He laughed and ran his long, pink tongue over his sharp, white teeth, "A little bite," he said, "get it?
A bite?" He laughed and his eyes gleamed hungrily at the small elf.
From his hiding place Terrence could see all that was transpiring.
He thought to himself, 'I've seen that look before, if I don't do something quick I can't be sure my little buddy will make it out. Well, I know what I have got to do so no sense waiting any longer.'
Terrence lowered his head and ran headlong into Polar Bear City, straight at King Underclaw, catching the big bear flat in his round belly.
Caught by surprise, the king tumbled backwards, dropping the bell as he fell.
Terrence grasped the bell in his mouth and scooped up Red Cap all in one smooth move.
He bolted for the forest and didn't stop running until Polar Bear City was out of sight far behind them.
"Wow!" Red Cap exclaimed when Terrence finally stopped to catch his breath.
"That was close. You saved my life. Thanks, Terrence, thank you very much for being there."
"It was nothing," Terrence said modestly, "you'd have done the same for me. Now we just need to figure out where the next bell is hidden."
Red Cap brightened and said, "I know where it's located, King Underclaw was boasting of its whereabouts when you butted him. He said it's located at the very top of the tallest fir tree in Christmas Tree Hills."
Terrence nodded and replied, "Well, at least we were running in the right direction. If I remember correctly, Christmas Tree Hills shouldn't be too much farther away straight ahead of us."
The two soon made their way to Christmas Tree Hills, but all the trees were so tall that it was impossible to tell which one was the tallest.
"If only we could climb up one of these trees," Terrence said, "we could see which one is the tallest."
"Wait a minute," Red Cap exclaimed excitedly, "you're a Christmas reindeer, and Christmas reindeer can fly."
"Not that easy to do," Terrence said with dismay. "First you need some reindeer dust and then you have to attend Santa's flying school to learn how to do it."
Red Cap smiled and said, "I have the first part covered."
He reached in to his coat pocket and pulled out a small, red, leather pouch.
"I was saving this as a souvenir from the time Santa assigned me to the reindeer barn; it's a small pinch of reindeer dust. I just need to rub it on your hooves."
Red Cap poured the reindeer dust into his palm and danced around Terrence rubbing equal amounts on each of his hooves.
When he had finished he took a step back and said, "There, that should do it. Give it a try, take a running start and jump into the sky."
Terrence backed up a couple of steps and then charged forward and leapt up in the air as high as he could; instantly, he came crashing to the ground.
"I don't think this is how they do it." he said as he got shakily to his feet.
"I don't know," Red Cap responded, "it looks so easy when Santa does it. He just says, 'AWAY,' and the reindeer take off."
At that Terrence stumbled a few steps and found himself hanging in the air above Red Cap's head. "That's it," Red Cap said excitedly, "a magic word, AWAY is the magic word."
He looked at Terrence and said, "Terrence, AWAY up to the top of the trees."
Terrence took a few steps forward and each step carried him higher, soon he was flying around the top of the trees.
"Can you see it?" Red Cap called up to him.
"Yes," Terrence called back, "I see it. I'll head over and see if I can get the bell."
Red Cap followed him as best he could, but soon lost sight of the small flying reindeer.
Standing in a group of towering firs, he thought, 'I'll never find him amongst all these trees, I hope he can get the bell.'
From behind him, Red Cap heard the breaking of branches and the sound of Terrence howling as he fell and slid down a tall fir tree and smacked into a snow drift at the base of the tree, ending up in a pile of broken branches and twisted legs.
Red Cap ran to him and pulled out the remnants of tree branches and untwisted Terrence's legs. "What happened?" he asked.
"I think the reindeer dust wore off," Terrence stammered.
"Oh no," Red Cap cried, "now we'll never be able to get the fourth bell."
Terrence said, as he tried to stand, "Not to worry", he buried his head in the snow drift and in a moment pulled out the small, golden bell. "I got it."
"Just one more to find," Red Cap said. "The problem is this time we have no clue as to its location."
"Maybe," Terrence suggested, "we should go back to Christmas Town, the Snow Fairy Queen may know where it's at."
"Good idea Terrence, hopefully the last bell will be close to Christmas Town because we're running out of time, the sun is already starting to set. Hurry, let's get going," Red Cap said.
They started to walk and Terrence cried out in pain. "Ouch, that hurts; I think I sprained my back leg. You go on ahead and I'll catch up as soon as I can."
"No!" Red Cap exclaimed. "We started together and we'll finish together."
The two trudged through the snow toward Christmas Town as fast as Terrence's injury would allow. By the time they arrived, the town's clock tower showed that only a few minutes remained until midnight.
"Hurry," Terrence said, "we only have a short time left, go and see if the Snow Fairy Queen knows where the last bell is, I hope it's close or we'll never make it on time."
Red Cap raced ahead to the fairy's tree with Terrence following as quickly as he could.
Terrence arrived at the tree to find Red Cap staring at a small snow drift. A light outline of the Fairy Queen could be seen in the snow.
"She melted," Red Cap said sobbing. "We're too late, it's over, we failed."
Terrence said, hopefully, "Maybe she was mistaken; maybe there are only four bells."
Red Cap smiled weakly and replied, "No, if she said there were five then there are five."
Terrence added, "Well, since we only have four let's ring those, maybe it will buy us some time or give us another chance, it's better than doing nothing. There are only a few minutes left. Please, Red Cap, let's give it a try."
"Fine," Red Cap muttered.
He found an over turned table near the clock tower and set it right-side up.
He untied the bells from Terrence's antlers and placed them on the table.
Red Cap grabbed them one at a time and shook them.
"Jing, Dong Jing, Jing," the bells rang, but nothing happened.
Red Cap tried again, "Jing, Jing, Dong, Jing."
The clock tower began to strike, announcing the final countdown to midnight.
"Dong, Dong..." It counted down the last few seconds.
"Wait!" Terrence yelled.
He ran to the table and picked up one of the bells in his teeth, he shook it and then set it back down. He picked up the second bell, shook it and placed it behind the first bell.
The third bell he placed at the front and the fourth he squeezed in-between the last two.
"Now," he said, "play Jingle Bells."
"What?" Red Cap looked confused.
"Trust me, play Jingle Bells, but hurry, there's only one stroke left before midnight."
Red Cap picked the bells, "Jing, Jing, Jing. Jing, Jing, Jing. Jing, Dong Jing, Jing,"
and the clock bell struck the last stroke..."Dong."
Blue lighting flashed across the sky and a strong wind mixed with snow and ice swept into Christmas Town.
"What's happening?" Red Cap yelled over the roar of the wind. "Is this the end?"
"No," Terrence yelled back, "it's the beginning; I told you Christmas reindeer have perfect pitch. The last bell, it was in the clock tower...We just saved Christmas."
The wind howled and the snow blew like a blizzard.
A huge funnel of wind blew past and at the top they could see the shadow Santa trapped in the snow and ice.
"Looks like he's headed south," Red Cap smirked.
Terrence laughed. "I think you're right, that's the last we'll see of him."
The wind softened and the blizzard turned to a light, fluffy snowfall over Christmas Town.
Everywhere order was restored.
The houses were all back in neat rows; smoke billowed from each chimney.
The Christmas tree in the town square stood tall with its lights twinkling.
All the Christmas decorations were back in place.
The clock tower stood straight and tall.
Santa's workshop never looked better and it was abuzz with activity.
Red Cap wondered aloud, "Where is Santa Claus?"
"And Christine," added Terrence
"There," Red Cap cried with excitement, pointing to a pillar of light shimmering near the Christmas tree in the town square.
As the light dimmed, Santa came into view with Christine by his side.
Red Cap and Terrence ran to the spot and exclaimed happily, dancing up and down with excitement, "You're safe! You're safe!"
Santa laughed, "Ho, ho, ho, I knew you boys would come through. You saved Christmas, Christmas Town and me,...Ho, ho, ho, well done."
Christine laughed and her voice sounded like tiny silver bells.
She said, "You also saved me and that means I can grant you one wish. What may I do for you? Anything you want."
Red Cap said, "Nothing for me, everything I could wish for has already come true, Christmas Town is restored, Santa is back and Christmas is safe again, but Terrence has always wanted to be on Santa's reindeer team. Can you help him?"
Santa looked at Terrence with one raised eyebrow and said, "He is a bit small."
"No, he isn't," Christine piped up.
She floated to Terrence and said, "He just needs to bring to the outside the reindeer he's always been on the inside."
She leaned in and whispered in the small reindeer's ear, "You can do this, you only need to believe."
"I believe," Terrence whispered back.
The Snow Fairy Queen touched him lightly on his antler and he was engulfed in a golden glow.
Inside that glow Terrence grew taller and wider, and his antlers spread and became a magnificent crown resting on his head.
Red Cap stuttered. "T-Terrence...you... you're fantastic."
Christine pulled back and said, "Well, this surprises even me. Terrence, you're not just a Christmas reindeer, you're a Christmas reindeer prince."
"Me, a prince?" Terrence said, his voice now deep and powerful.
"Yes," Christine said, "I must tell the others, we haven't had a reindeer prince for a hundred years." She fluttered away to spread the happy news.
Terrence looked at Santa. "Does this mean I can make the team?" he asked in his new, deep voice.
"Make the team?" Santa laughed. "You're going to lead the team, but we must hurry it's almost time to leave."
He started off towards the workshop and the waiting sleigh.
Terrence bent his head to Red Cap and said, "This changes nothing, you're still my best friend ever." Red Cap hugged Terrence around his neck.
Santa called, "Hurry Prince Terrence, we must join the others."
Terrence raised his head and winked at Red Cap and said, "Prince Terrence, I like the sound of that." And he pranced off after Santa.
Red Cap sat alone on a snow-covered log and watched the elves make the last adjustments to the sleigh.
Santa climbed aboard and Red Cap heard him call out. "AWAY,"
The reindeer, with Terrence in the lead, circled high above Christmas Town then swooped down and stopped right in front of Red Cap.
"Is there something wrong, Santa? Red Cap asked.
"Ho, ho, ho," Santa laughed. "You didn't think I'd forget about the elf that saved Christmas on Christmas Eve, did you? Climb aboard, this night's for you, too!"
Red Cap scampered across the snow yelling to his friend, "Terrence, I'm coming with you!"
He jumped aboard and sat smiling up at Santa.
"Hold on," Santa said, "AWAY!" and the sleigh rose high into the clouds
Red Cap looked over the side of the sleigh at the world passing below him and shouted down, "A very happy and merry Christmas to everybody and have a great night," and in less than a heartbeat they were clean out of sight.
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