Toy Factory #CCC

farm stuff CCC5

In the old days, Santa’s elves worked in pretty wooden sheds but now they worked in metal walled factories. The world’s population of children had become too much for the simpler times and with improvements in technology, the choice had been made to allow production to be faster, better and tripled.

Santa walking around the large conveyor belts and machinery on inspection missed the old days. Before the smell of candy canes, fires, newly sawed wood and paint hung in the air. Now it was all oil, smoke, warm plastic and metallic tang.

‘Are you happy elves?’ Santa asked them.

‘Yes, sir!’  cheery voices shouted, ‘we’re not stressed or tried anymore. There’s more time for creating, planning and double checking now.’

Santa nodded, he believed them but he also knew that in their hearts, just like his, they did missing the wooden workshops. Moving with the times had to be done though.

 

(Inspired by; https://crimsonprose.wordpress.com/2018/12/12/crimsons-creative-challenge-5/ with thanks).

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Christmas Day

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Santa arrived back home feeling tried, stuffed and proud of another successful Christmas. Leaving the reindeer in the hands of some tipsy elves, who were eager to get back to the party, he walked into the large, heavily decorated house. Cheering, clapping and shouting voices trailed after him even as he closed the door.

He would celebrate later, once he had rested. Sinking into his favourite chair before the roaring fire, he began to doze. Images swam before his eyes; presents, chimneys, decorated trees and stockings. Christmas music was playing and in the air was the lovely aroma of sweet baking.

Relieved it was all over for another year, Santa turned his thoughts around and thought about all the children now excitedly opening their presents.

The Grotto (Part 4)

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I took a shower when I got back home and as I stood under the hot water, I tried to clear my head. Still though the idea that my little niece was growing up and losing her believe in Christmas bugged me. How could I make things better?

My own childhood hadn’t been merry and bright. I knew around Willow’s age that there was no Santa, because nothing would bring my parents back to life. Alex and I had kept up the pretense for my grandparents a little long but then we had all gotten tried of it. We had grown up before we should have done and that was why Alex wanted his children to experience everything for a longer time.

Washing my hair, I wondered if I could write a letter to Willow pretending to be from Santa. As long as I was careful, it might just work. I could do some internet searching and see how to get it right. No one else would have to know about it.

I set to that plan after getting dressed and having something to eat. My granddad normally went out to the pub tonight but with the bad weather he was staying in. Leaving my grandparents to wrap presents, I went upstairs and loaded up my laptop. Making up a letter from Santa was easier then I thought. Only a few times did I wondered if it was the right thing to do and if I should check with Alex. I was done before I could do anything else though.

The next day when I saw Alex leaving early for work as I headed out myself, I called over the road to him.

‘I have this…’ I said fishing the envelope out of handbag, ‘can you put it under the tree on Christmas eve?’

‘Why?’ he asked, accepting the letter.

‘It’s for Willow. Just thought it might help her believing for a bit longer.’

Alex looked at the large cream envelope before replying, ‘I think we’re going to have to tell her. Jo is getting tried of all the questions and with Luke still being ill….’

‘But Christmas is so soon!’ I pointed out, ‘No, you can’t! Next year, maybe. Just give her the letter.’

I shoved his hand and the letter up and did my best sister pleading eyes.

‘Okay,’ he signed.

‘Good. See you later,’

I hurried away and went to catch my bus. On the ride into work, I wondered how Willow would take it. Would she know it was a fake or would it inspire her to carry on believing? Had I done a good thing or not? It was up to the Spirit of Christmas now.

Working at the college library was a bore most days but at least it paid and forced me to carry on looking for other job. Some days, I was able to leave early and go pick Willow up from school which was close by. She finished in three days now which meant Christmas eve was so close! The college had finished last week but the library was still open for those bookworms and panic studying students.

I finished early and since it was too soon to pick Willow up, I went home. The next few days past far too fast, so I didn’t get a chance to tell Alex about my plan. On Christmas eve, I went out with some friends and finally had some downtime. It was good to just forget about Christmas and Santa and believing for a few hours.

Late on Christmas morning, my grandparents and I went went over to Alex’s. We each had a pot or tray of something homemade that my gran had cooked or baked. Jo opened the door and seemed glad to see us. I had not seen her in a few days and she really looked tried.

‘My parents are running late, come in,’ she added.

Willow dashed out of the front room, something in her hand, ‘Auntie Angel! Dad said I could couldn’t open this till you got here!’

Giving Jo the bowl of stuffing I was holding, I went over to Willow and saw the envelope in her hand. She was still in her pajamas which were pink and the top read Princess whilst the bottoms had crowns and hearts on them.

‘What is it?’ I asked.

Willow shrugged and opened it.

I held my breath and bit my lip.

‘It’s a letter…’ Willow trailed.

I hummed and waited. In the background her baby brother Luke started crying and I heard Alex trying to shush him.

‘From…Santa!’ Willow gasped, ‘Angel! He really wrote to me!’

‘What does it say?’ I pressed, trying to keep the smile from my face.

‘He said; I’m sorry I can’t see you in person but I’ve been really busy. My elves and I are finishing up making toys packing the sleigh today. The reindeer are almost ready to fly and I have so many deliveries to make this year. My cousins have been telling me all about you and so have the elves,’ Willow read excitedly.

‘Well that’s good!’

Willow nodded and carried on, ‘it can be hard for me to write to each child, but I do try and will always take the time for those that have been really good. I hope you love the pink unicorn you asked for, it was made just for you.’

She dropped the letter and turned to the front room, ‘you should see her, Aunt, she’s huge!’ Willow cried.

I laughed, ‘what else does the letter say?’

‘That; I hope like the other presents you got too. Have a good Christmas and it’s a special time to be with your family. Thanks for believing in me. Santa,’ Willow took a deep breath, ‘he’s real! He’s real!’ she cried.

I laughed and hugged her, ‘he really is if you believe hard enough,’ I whispered.

The Grotto (Part 2)

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We walked through a plastic curtain that was meant to be dripping icicles and entered the igloo. There was a thick patterned rug on the floor and a huge red plush throne which Santa was sat upon. There was a female elf at his side with a fake book holding loose papers. I remembered that we had been asked Willow’s name soon after we had joined the queue.

Santa looked like anyone you’d find in other shopping centres and events. He was tall and fat – though his stomach was probably padded out. His red suit was bright and the buttons shining. He had a huge white beard that looked almost real but really couldn’t be and matching long white hair. The face peering out from all of that was wrinkled and brushed with make up. Santa looked tried, but he was hiding it well behind that smile and twinkling blue eyes.

‘And who do we have here?’ Santa asked in a deep, jolly voice.

Willow walked over to him, her head and shoulders high, determined to gather more evidence for her mission. I hung back, hoping that she didn’t embarrass me.

‘Ah, Willow!’ Santa said with quick glance at the elf’s open book.

Willow stopped by his massive black boots and as if she was a toddler, Santa lifted her up and on to his knee. I had a flash thought about wondering how okay that was now a days. Willow seemed happy enough.

‘Have you been a good girl this year?’ Santa asked.

Willow nodded, ‘yes,’ she added.

The elf slide the book further down, allowing Santa to look at the pages.

‘Ah, I can see from the good list you have been! What would you like for Christmas?’ Santa asked.

‘A unicorn,’ Willow said quickly, ‘with a rainbow mane and tale, a golden horn and she has to be pink.’

Santa chuckled before saying, ‘I should be able to do that for you.’

‘Thank you,’ Willow replied then, ‘Can I ask you a few questions? It’s for a report at school.’

Santa looked a little worried and the elf’s big smile turned into a frown.

‘Go on,’ Santa said slowly, some of the jolliness gone from his voice.

‘How are you related to the real Santa? And don’t say you are ’cause I know that’s not true as the real Santa is far too busy right now.’

Santa looked thoughtful and in a whisper said, ‘I’m his cousin.’

‘Santa has a LOT of cousins,’ Willow mused.

‘He sure does but we must keep it a secret.’ Santa winked.

‘Are these elves real or just cousins too?’ Willow questioned.

‘Cousins. All the elves are needed at the moment to make all the toys.’

The elf shot me a look then give a small side nod to Willow. A clean sign she wanted me to remove my niece. I looked away, pretending I’d not seen and forcused on the glitter covered wall next to me as if I thought it was real ice. We had waited so long for this and I wasn’t about to drag Willow away…Unless she got too embarrassing.

‘But do know Santa right?’ Willow carried on talking.

‘Of course! And I’ll tell him you were asking about him,’ Santa replied.

‘What about the reindeer? Do they really fly by magic? Why doesn’t Santa get a motor, like on a speed boat?’

‘The reindeer do fly by magic dust but there is also a motor. It helps to get the sled around faster. That’s why it’s very hard to spot.’

‘What happens if things go wrong?’ Willow pressed.

The elf give a small cough and Santa glanced at her, she was tapping her empty wrist.

‘Santa has many back up plans if anything goes wrong. But everything is fully tested, so nothing ever does. Is that all? There are lots of other children waiting to see me,’ Santa explained.

Willow looked across at me then back up at Santa, ‘I guess….I’m still not closer to the truth though.’

‘The truth?’ Santa echoed.

‘Yes,’ Willow uttered as she swung her legs, ready to get down.

‘You want to know if Santa is really real don’t you?’ Santa voiced.

Willow looked startled at him and I bit my lip. It was so time to leave.

‘If you believe,’ Santa begin, ‘then he is real inside of your heart.’

Willow give a nod and slide off his knee.

‘Oh, don’t forget your present!’ the elf called and she handed Willow a gift wrapped in girly unicorn paper.

‘Is it a unicorn?’ Willow asked excitedly.

Santa laughed loudly and replied, ‘you’ll have to open it and see!’

‘Thanks for coming,’ the elf added.

Willow skipped over to me, a huge grin on her face. She showed me her present, her finger itching to open it.

‘We’ll open it at home,’ I told her.

Saying goodbye to Santa and his elf helper, we left the grotto.

To Be Continued…

The Grotto (Part 1)

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The queue to see Santa at the small shopping outlet was far too long but my eight year old niece, Willow, had really wanted to see him. So, after we had eaten lunch and done some Christmas shopping, we had joined the hour wait behind the red ropes.

‘Haven’t you seen Santa four times already?’ I asked her.

Willow give me a hard stare, her arms folded across her chest and replied, ‘yes, but I’m on a mission.’

I couldn’t help but smile. She was trying to look serious but it didn’t work with the cuteness of the grandma made knitted rainbow bobble hat and bright pink puff coat with unicorns on it.

‘What kind of mission?’ I asked.

‘To prove he’s real,’ Willow said in a low voice.

I lent down to hear her better as she explained, ‘kids in my class say he’s not real and it’s their parents who buy all the presents. I though want to prove he’s real and I can only do that by talking to as many ‘Santas’ as possible.’

I nodded then said, ‘but you know all the Santas are like the real Santa’s relatives, right? The real Santa is far too busy right now.’

Willow pressed her lips together and puffed out her cheeks, ‘I know.’

The queue moved a little and a mother ahead of us stopped a passing male elf to ask how long it would be.

‘It won’t be much longer now!’ the elf cheerily replied, ‘and have you been good children this year?’

I turned to Willow who was watching intently. The elf was too tall and it looked like the green trousers, jacket and hat were far too small for him. He was clean shaven and he had short blond hair. He was wearing fake pointy ear tips, there was a bell on the end of of his hat and also atop each of his green pointy shoes. He had red blush circles on his cheeks too and though it was hard to tell his age, he couldn’t have been more then twenty-six – close to my own age. Actually, if wasn’t dressed like he was I would have found him attractive!

He walked down the line, chatting to adults and kids then he reached us.

‘I think my auntie likes you!’ Willow spoke out.

‘Oi!’ I snapped and give her pink fluffy lined hood a tug.

Willow giggled and beamed at me as I felt my cheeks go red.

‘This is your aunt? Why I thought you were sisters!’ the elf said cheekily.

‘Are you a real elf?’ Willow asked.

‘Of course I am! Fresh from the North Pole! Only the best elves get to travel with Santa.’

‘How much longer is it going to be?’ I asked.

‘Shouldn’t be-‘

‘No,’ I cut him off, ‘the real time. We have a bus to catch.’

Willow look at me in shock but I tugged her hood again to stop her from speaking.

‘Oh….erm….an hour or so. He’s really popular today! I’m sure you could catch another bus….’ the elf trailed with a wide grin, ‘he’s worth the wait!’ he winked at Willow then walked off.

‘Meanie!’ Willow snarled, ‘I’m not leaving till I see him!’

She crossed her arms and turned away from me, nose in the air.

I signed and looked around. The shopping outlet shone and glittered with lights and sparkly decorations. Christmas music was playing in the background but the noise of people made it hard to only make out a few louder notes. The window displays of the near by shops were trying their hardest to compete with one another and also draw customers into spend lots of money. With it being the third Saturday to Christmas, a lot of people were doing just that.

Looking back at the Santa’s Grotto which was shaped like a large igloo covered in glitter surrounded by presents and models of penguins, bears and reindeer, I just couldn’t bring myself to drag Willow out of the queue and leave. So, we waited an hour and twenty minutes watching the shoppers and the elves until we were next.

There were two female elves at the front, one was taking money and the other photographs. They looked like twins with their green costumes, blonde hair, blue eyes and too much make up.

‘It’s five pounds to see Santa and another five if you want your photo taken with him,’ the first elf explained.

I glanced at Willow and she responded, ‘just Santa, please.’

‘Are you sure, sweetie?’ the second elf asked, swaying the large camera around her neck.

‘Yes,’ Willow and I said together.

I handed over the note from my purse and lead Willow up the cotton wool pathway. The family that had been before us came out and we went in.

To Be Continued….

Winter Wanderer (Part 2)

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Beck’s leather boots shuffled up the stone steps, scrapping against small stone. He clutched his short sword in his right hand and held the lantern handle in his left. He controlled his breathing and prepared to face whatever was at the top. The candle light cast upon a wooden plank and Beck stepped on to it.

Looking around he found himself in a small room which led off into others, the quarters of the elven guards and their captain, possibly? He crept forward, being aware of the soft creaking boards under him. He stepped into the room that had been ahead of him and found a broke desk and chair. The wall beside them was streaked with red.

Beck walked out and tried the other four rooms. They were all empty. He went back to the spiral staircase and up another floor. Perhaps it had just been the wind or some animal taking shelter like he was? He passed an arrow slit and felt a brush of icy wind on his hand. Tightening his grip on the short sword he felt the pommel digging into his wrist. The wind whistled behind him, calling him back.

He stepped onto the next floor and saw that it had been used as a kitchen, eating area and store room. He went to the large fire place and toed a shard of wood. His eyes looked into the ash pile inside the fire place and saw a little collection of sticks. Someone had been trying to build a fire – recently. Beck spun and cast his eyes around the room. An old black pot lay in the corner and a row of hooks hung on the wall to his light.

He listened and thought he heard a muffled breathing. Shinning the light over to the store room door, he stayed quiet. He counted, listening to his heartbeat in his ears and small breaths. A soft rustle as if someone was moving clothing against skin.

A flicker of a smile curled Beak’s lips and he went over to the store room door. He placed the lantern at his feet and flung the door open, sword slicing through the air on the other side.

A female scream rang in his ears and he stilled his hand. In what light the candle cast inside the small room, he could see a dress wearing figure curled up at the back. He half lowered his sword.

‘Who are you?’ his gruff voice spoke.

‘Are you going to kill me?’ a softer voice whispered.

‘Depends…’

‘On what?’

‘On who and what you are,’ Beak explained.

‘Who are you?’

‘Come out of there and let me see you.’

‘No!’ squeaked the female voice.

Beck nudged the lantern away, slipped his sword into his belt and entered the store room.

‘Keep away from me!’

‘Why?’ Beck growled.

‘I’m not coming out!’

‘Then I’ll have to kill you then.’

A loud gasp came from the shadows and Beck heard the rush of someone standing up. He reached out, felt his hand touched some soft fabric and fisted it. Yanking it, he heard the same scream again, then he grabbed with his other hand and pulled the female out of the room. She tripped on his feet and tumbled to the floor before him. Beck’s free hand shot to his sword and pulled it out in a smooth motion. He aimed the tip just below a gold belt buckle which was catching his candle light.

He looked and saw the young woman- for it was a human woman he could see that now-, throw back her loose dark blonde hair from her face. She looked up at him with small sharp blue eyes and an anger expression covering her pointy face. She put her hand down on the dirty wooden floor and shuffled into a sitting position.

Beak noticed that she was wearing a simple green cotton riding dress, matching cloak and high leather boots. Around her neck was a thin sliver chain dangling an amulet that was in the shape of a long diamond. It was inlayed with small white stones at the edges and had a large oval blue stone in the middle around which green vines and leaves were coming off. He stared at it and recalled it to be the representation of a large and rich city.

‘You are from Breland?’ he asked.

‘What would you know it?’ she snapped back without losing eye contact.

He give a gentle shrugged, ‘you are wear it’s symbol. I passed through there once.’

‘What are you? An elf?’

Beck stepped back and sheathed the short sword, ignoring her question. He glanced over to the fire then back to her, ‘did you try to get it going?’

She followed his gaze, ‘the wood is damp. And you didn’t answer my question.’

‘What’s your name?’ he shot back.

‘Olwyna. What’s your’s?’

‘Beck.’

He caught the frown on her face as he went to pick up the lantern. He shone it inside the store room, but saw it was empty.

‘Is that short for something?’

He turned, ‘no,’ he answered and began to fully inspect the room.

‘I won’t tell anyone…’ Olwyna said in a low voice.

Beck tried not to pull a face and made himself look busy turning over the black pot.

‘If you are an elf,’ she finished.

‘I have left my horse downstairs and must attend him,’ Beck cut in.

He went to the door and heard the woman stand up behind him. Ignoring her, Beck walked back down the spiral staircase.

 

To Be Continued…

Winter Wanderer (Part 1)

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Beck kept his head down as the snow storm whistled around him and urged his black stallion, Nightstorm on. Grabbing the reins tighter with his numb leather gloved covered fingers, he prayed the old warhorse didn’t stumble. Breathing deeply, Beck risked peering out of his dark green cloak’s deep hood and took in the winter swept forest around him.

Trees were frozen above him, their branches clawing at the dark grey sky in desperation. He couldn’t help but think that they were praying the winter to be over, just like he was. To the left of them the river was iced over and snow covered. Deadly treacherous for man and beast.   Beck blinked away snowflakes and looked down at the edge of the river. He could hardly see it, but worried Nightstorm might get too close, he steered the horse away and closer to the trees.

The warhorse snorted and stomped off to the side as he carried on forward. Beck patted Nightstorm’s long neck and tried to search through the trees. He couldn’t see anything but white peppered tree trunks and freshly falling snow. The forest offered them no protection at all, but Beck knew that somewhere close by was an abandoned elf outpost. He urged Nightstorm on and tried to spot any arrows sticking out of trees or anything else that would signal the way.

The snow crunched loudly under the heavy horse and Nightstorm came to a sudden stop. Beck rose up from the saddle and looked around, but he couldn’t figure out where they were. He swing down and threw the reins over so he could lead his only friend through the blizzard. Nightstorm neighed softly and nuzzled into his leather padded shoulder. Beck patted the horse’s nose and tugged the reins as he started walking.

‘I know it’s around here somewhere,’ Beck mumbled and the wind snatched his words away.

Easing his hood back for a clearer view, he regarded the forest once more. Frowning, he slowly looked in all directions, but the snow blocked his keen eyes and ears. Nightstorm breathed a hot breath on him and Beck rubbed the warhorse’s forehead. He moved up and scratched his ears, Nightstorm’s long black mane tangling around his fingers.

‘Good horse,’ Beck breathed, ‘come on.’

Tugging the reins again, Beck led Nightstorm into the trees, hoping they were going in the right direction. A few feet in and the trees thinned and shorted a little. A smile crept onto Beck’s face and he urged his warhorse on. Something flapped from a tree in the distance and Beck almost slowed Nightstorm down, but then he saw it was only the tattered remains of an old flag.

They walked under it and Beck saw the elf outpost in the distance. Pushing through some struggling saplings that were being dwarfed by their parents, Beck picked up his pace and hurried to the neatly hidden stone building. As he came closer and even through the snow, he could see how hard the elves had tried to hide the structure. Of course that hadn’t worked thirty years ago when goblins had raged in the forest and taken over.

Beck brought Nightstorm to a stop outside the broken wooden door. He tried to listen to see if there was anything hiding inside, but the wind was too loud. Pushing against the heavy door, Beck led Nightstorm inside then tried to fix the door back into place. A soft crying sound made Beck stop and he peered through the darkness of the open ground floor room.

‘It could just be the wind,’ he muttered.

In the gloom, he patted Nightstorm and ran his hands down the side of the saddle. He felt his wrapped up great sword, bow and quiver then a large leather satchel. Beck dug through it and pulled out an old lantern. Next he found his flint and lit the candle inside. Holding up the small flicking light in front of him, Beck caught sight of the blood splatted walls. Pulling out a short sword at his belt, he made the light dance off that instead.

‘Hello?’ he called.

He heard a small female gasp and the crying stopped.

‘Who’s there?’ he called.

Shuffling in the darkness then nothing else, except his and Nightstorm’s breathing and the snow storm outside. Beck waited then moved slowly across the stone floor. He searched the room but found nothing. He came back, checked the horse was well then climbed up the worn stone steps in the corner, knowing he wasn’t alone.

To Be Continued…