The snow was thick and wet and everywhere, and probably very cold and annoying for people who had to worry about that stuff. Anyanka stood in the middle of it, not cold, but starting to get annoyed. She was looking for a woman. There was supposed to be a woman. All she saw was snow.
Finally her solitude was broken by a large antlered creature trotting up over the horizon. A reindeer. A female reindeer. Aha!
Anyanka eyed the doe dubiously. She was wearing a bright red harness with some bells on it, which seemed like a stupid thing for a wild animal to be wearing. Weren't they supposed to try not to attract attention? Well, maybe there weren't any predators up here. And maybe reindeer needed harnesses to entertain themselves. Whatever.
"Are you the one who summoned me?" she asked.
The deer stared at her.
"Do you need to take revenge on a man who's scorned you?"
The deer stuck her tongue out and yawned.
"Okay, well, what's with the bells? You really need those?"
The deer stamped a rear hoof. Anyanka began to suspect that someone had set her up.
She was about to threaten to leave without granting any wishes when a shout interrupted the sadly one-sided conversation she was having with the deer. "Vixen!"
Anyanka turned to see an old woman running toward her, her mittened hands holding up heavy skirts, cheeks rosy from the cold when logically they should have been blue. "Vixen!" she repeated as she got closer, clouds of steam puffing quaintly from her lips. "Bad Vixen! Go home!" She gave the reindeer a firm pat on the rump, and with a single squall of complaint, the deer took off at a loudly jingling canter. Anyanka did a double take when the gait turned into a series of leaps and then rapid, gravity-defying flight before vanishing behind a cloud.
She blinked and turned her attention back to the old woman. "That was a reindeer doe. Not a vixen."
"That's her name," replied the woman with a merry chuckle. "Vixen. One of eight. And my name's Tabitha, but Tabby's fine. Are you the vengeance demon?"
"Anyanka," she confirmed. "So you're the one who brought me here? Well, that makes a little more sense, then."
"I'm sorry for holding you up," said Tabby. "I was here when I did the summoning, but then the deer got loose and I had to go find her, since of course I'm the only one who does any work around here. Won't you come inside? He's not home right now."
Anyanka followed her to a cozy little hut with smoke billowing from the chimney and a red and white candy-striped fence. The paddock beside it contained a picket line of reindeer in matching jinglebell harnesses, with Vixen now standing at the end of the line munching on hay with the rest of them. Tabby stopped there long enough to secure her ties, then herded Anyanka inside, out of the cold which neither of them really seemed to feel.
"It used to be a perfectly happy marriage," explained Tabby as she removed a heavy iron kettle from the fireplace and poured some hot water from it into a teapot. "He would open doors for me, give me compliments, come home early three hundred sixty four nights a year...we got along very well here. Then," she sighed, "I think the problem was that he got too popular."
"Oh, that's a killer," Anyanka agreed, helping herself to a cookie. There certainly seemed to be plenty of those on the table. "Men get a little too much attention, they forget the things that really matter like this." She snapped her fingers.
"That's right!" An indignant frown played across Tabby's overly kind features. "Suddenly he thought he was hot stuff. And it wasn't just to children, either. You wouldn't believe how shameless women can be today. All they care about is flirting with a celebrity."
"It's disgusting, really," said Anyanka around a mouthful of cookie. "You want me to kill them all? Or I could make it so they were never born."
Tabby frowned. "Oh dear me, no. All that murdering and maiming business, it's just not my cup of tea. All I want is to put a stop to his shenanigans."
"Well..." Anyanka considered. "Do you really need me for that? I mean, how often does he even have the chance to cheat on you? You can't possibly get too many flirty women visiting this place."
"No, but that's just the problem. You see, he can get anywhere in the world, and he knows where all the bad girls live."
Anyanka nodded sympathetically. She took off her power center necklace and handed it over to Tabby. "So what would you do about it?"
The old woman placed the pendant around her own neck and put a thoughtful finger to her lips. "I would ruin his reputation."
"I wish nobody looked forward to seeing him come down the chimney."
Anyanka smiled. She liked when people left their wishes open ended. It gave her a chance to be creative. "Done," she replied.
Tabby hesitated as she removed the necklace. "So what happens now?"
"We just wait. Hm. Did you hear something outside?"
The fire crackled and flared. Outside, the snowflakes falling daintily to the ground began turning into a full-scale blizzard, snow piling up on the windowsills as the wind roared. There was an ominous creak on the roof.
Anyanka and Tabby jumped up out of their chairs as something floppy and misshapen and possibly disemboweled dropped down from the chimney. It was followed by the fattest and most gaudily dressed old man that Anyanka had ever seen. Glowering savagely through his billowing white beard, he stood over the small body, wreathed in flame. His eyes burned like chips of flint, and ever so slowly he stepped out of the fireplace, one black boot after the other.
"Merry Christmas to all!" he roared, "and to all a good night!"