Hey everybody. Sorry this is so late. I joined a big college back in the Fall and the stress of being a college student again after 2 years made it hard for me to write at all, much less get inspired. Hopefully it'll be easier with the new semester coming up.

Wasn't much in the Holiday Spirit this year, but after seeing the reviews, I feel I owe it to you guys to see what happened to Melena after she joined the Reindeer Stables.

I also wanted to clear up some questions you all have been asking.

A.) Melena and Leona are not related. Melena was an only child, and Leona's just her friend.

B.) I described earlier in chapter 5 that Leona had a bronze necklace with a Christmas wreath for a pendant. Melena wears an antique silver bracelet with an aquamarine jewel on it, an heirloom from her mother. The aquamarine, (along with turquoise) is the birthstone for December, because Melena was born in that month. It also matches her eyes :)

Now that we got the air cleared on that, now you guys can learn some more that's going on…


Leona was delighted at Melena's fortune.

"It's a good sign if someone asks you," she said to the taller elf during bedtime, "I hope you do well."

"I hope so too," Melena said, more to herself than to her red-haired friend. Somehow, for the first time ever, she actually felt good about what was to happen to her in the morning. She pulled the covers up and fell asleep with the vision of Dancer and other reindeer dancing in the realm of dreams.

~/~/~/~/~

True to her word, Melena arrived at the stables at seven. Curtis appeared at the front door, looking very flustered.

"'Morning, I am so glad you're here!" he said.

"Bonjour," Melena replied with a smile, for she misread his greeting. The spectacled elf grabbed her hand and dragged her in.

"I've been running around all morning, catering to these greedy hoofed creatures—"

"Hey! I resent that!" came a yell from several stalls in the great, straw-filled room.

"We could use all the help we can get," the boy elf told Melena, straightening his glasses. He glanced at Melena's long, soft gold dress with the shimmering green surcoat and said,

"You're gonna need proper clothes. That's too nice to wear in here." Melena colored, but her apology was stillborn as Curtis called over a girl elf that had been cleaning velvet off the antlers of a young buck.

"Marney, I need you to help our new recruit, Melena, get a uniform. I think the one I ordered from Evelyn arrived last night, but check. Sometimes the delivery boys get sloppy." There was then a crash overheard in the back of the great stable. Melena glanced over and saw Curtis's round face turn to worry.

"Oh no, not again," he said to himself. The pint-sized elf rushed off towards the back of the stable.

"Hey! Break it up you two!" the girl elves heard him yell, "I don't want Blitzen dead before Christmas! Take it outside!"

"Razor and Blitzen," Marney said, rolling her eyes, "Those two are always locking antlers. We try putting them on opposite sides of the stable, but one of them is always breaking out and provoking the other. Come on, Curtis can handle it."

"Hey! We're not done!" called the reindeer she had been working on. Thin bits of velvet hung from his antlers like haphazard tinsel on a leafless oak.

"Just do what I suggested," Marney called over her shoulder, "rub your antlers on the sides of your stall. Besides, I'll be back in a minute."

Now Melena got a good look at her new fellow worker. She had long, shiny black hair and almond-shaped eyes. She had very delicate features compared to the other elves Melena had seen so far, and yet the girl carried herself like a sturdy, hard worker. She wore a simple, light brown dress with a white panel down the front. A dark brown belt with pouches and tools hung from her waist, and she wore matching boots. As they walked through the stables, Melena noted other elves wore the same uniform, though the boy elves wore tunics and trousers, rather than the long robes of the girls.

After a quick trip to the back room, Melena was soon clothed in a similar robe to Marney, only made for her height. The dark-haired elf also gave her a stretchy bracelet to tie her hair back with.

Curtis came blustering back through the front doors, looking breathless.

"Whew! Glad that's over with," he said.

"How did it turn out?" Marney asked.

"I had to take both of them out into the meadow. Now the other deer are betting on who will be the winner this time."

"Reindeer gamble?" Melena asked.

"Not quite," Curtis explained, "the only thing they can bet on is flying time. Not every deer in this place is allowed to fly for more than an hour each day, even though they all can." He then noticed Melena's uniform.

"Good, you're all set. Time to get to work. We got a lot to do and only a few weeks left before Christmas."

"But what should I do?" Melena asked.

"Let the deer tell you," the other elf said before going back to his other duties. Marney went back to helping her buck with his antlers.

Melena turned and went over to the nearest reindeer.

"Dancer?" she asked.

"Yup, that's me," the buck said, bobbing his head.

"Do you need anything?" she inquired.

"Well…" the deer said, trying to think.

"I'll tell you what I need," a nearby doe said, "A good brushing, my fur is filthy!" Melena smiled and went to get the bucket and brushes.

That was the beginning of one of the happiest days Melena had experienced in her life. The reindeer warmed up to her almost instantly, and she even found a few that she had met before. Apparently this was the only deer stable in the Elf Community, so it was a small world. Melena was not alone, for there were at least a dozen other elves working there, but none really interacted with the reindeer as she did. She spoke to each one, learning their names. She was especially pleased to see Firedancer, as well as the doe she ran into on her first day.

She got to walk several reindeer around the large, snow-covered pasture before returning them to their stalls, as well as letting some out to roam with the local herd. Melena had never felt so confident, and not a single mistake to be made.

~/~/~/~/~

Leona appeared some time after noon, eager to see how her protégé was doing. Even as she arrived on the scene, Leona could tell something was different about the stable.

"Curtis?" she called. She had to ask several reindeer where the stubby elf was before she finally found him working with an delivery elf wanting to borrow a deer for the day.

"Now remember," Curtis was telling his customer, "no flying. Annabelle is crazy enough on foot, we don't want her getting too excited."

"Easy for you to say," the doe scoffed at him, "I got to miss out on the antler fight." The delivery boy rolled his eyes signed the papers Curtis gave him.

"Where's Melena?" Leona asked as she came up.

"Oh!" Curtis jumped, "Leona! How many times have I told you not to sneak up on me like that?" The redheaded elf giggled.

"More times than I can count. Has Melena been doing okay? Any problems? You know how much trouble she's had here, I can't bear the idea that she might screw up with this job. She seems to take to the reindeer very well."

"Oddly enough, I haven't had this easy a day in the stables since Bernard first exiled me here," Curtis replied, looking over his notes. Leona raised an eyebrow.

"Seriously?" the girl was intrigued.

"Yep. Gotta go. There's still more work to be done, and the Lucky Eight need to do practice flights. See ya."

"Wait!" Leona called, "You still didn't tell me where—"

"She's out in the meadow walking Skydancer." Curtis answered over his shoulder.

"Thanks!"

It was a gorgeous day under the glass dome, with magic-made sunlight shining down over the snow-covered hillsides of the Elf Community. Melena had always enjoyed walking in the woods back in Prades, and walking alongside the graceful white Skydancer wasn't much different. Although, it still felt a little odd, having a large woodland creature that could talk as a companion. She then heard someone calling and saw a familiar crop of red hair flashing over the white snow.

"Melena! There you are!" Leona said with relief, "I've been looking all over for you. How's the job going?" At this, Melena swept up the smaller girl elf in a warm hug.

"This has been the best day I've ever had here! I love it! The reindeer have been wonderful to me, and the other stable hands are so nice. And I haven't had one disaster! Not one! If only I'd gotten this job sooner!" Leona colored at this.

"The Elf Council isn't known for actually asking newbies what they're good at." Confused, Melena put her friend down.

"I beg your pardon, newbies?"

"New elves," Leona explained.

"Ah," the blond elf said.

She then took up Skydancer's harness and started back towards the stables again.

"Come, Leona. Walk with me, I have so much to tell."

"I do too," the child-like elf said, "and I'm so glad Bernard's not breathing down your neck." Melena stopped dead in her tracks.

"He's not here is he?" the elf asked, her eyes filled with worry.

"No, thank God no;" Leona shook her head quickly, "he's over in outdoor sports department, yelling at the kayak-makers. Apparently somebody thought it would be fun to booby-trap the boats with expanding foam, and you could just imagine how annoyed it made him." Melena turned away and started walking quickly.

"I try not to," she said, "that elf is most insufferable person I've ever met." Leona caught up with her taller friend and smiled apologetically.

"He wasn't always like that, you know. Being Head Elf is the hardest job in this whole community, and…well…things haven't been the same since Carol died."

"Carol?" Melena asked, curious. Leona kept her eyes on her boots as they walked.

"We don't normally talk about it around here. This Community is supposed to be a place where elves can live happily and without too much strife. I mean, the world outside of here is a harsh enough place. We lose Santa's all the time and get new ones, but it's a whole different story when we lose a Mrs. Clause."

"I don't understand," Melena said, staring at Leona. The redheaded elf sighed.

"I guess, since I'm your sponsor, and you're still new, that it's best if you heard it from me. It might help you to understand how things are run here."

Melena petted Skydancer and listened as Leona told her about how special human men would often find themselves becoming the beloved symbol of Christmas by chance. They would live many years, much longer than normal men because of the magic surrounding them, and all usually ended up married at some point, due to the magical contract one of the very first Santa's had drafted. However, eventually they slipped up and would come to a fatal end during some random Christmas night, and the red suit would pass to a new mortal. Coincidentally, the accident would happen at the home of the would-be successor, unbeknownst to him.

"This happens more often than you think," Leona told her protégé as they stopped to let Skydancer drink out of a trough,

"We've been through at least fifty or sixty different Santa's in the past five-hundred years alone. Bernard would know the exact number we've had altogether, since he's been here since the beginning. And no matter who the mortal man is, no matter what kind of person he was before the transformation, he will eventually take on the identity of Santa as his own. It's inevitable once he puts on the suit, and the magic starts to take over. However, each Santa is unique, regardless of what the magic does to change his appearance or improve his personality."

"Have any of these men refused to be le Père Noël?" Melena asked as she put Skydancer back in her stall. Leona shrugged.

"A few, but most adapt very well to becoming the very spirit of Christmas. Even our most recent Santa chose to keep the job when he realized he was doing it for both his son, and all the children in the world."

"His son?" Melena asked, surprised, "I didn't know Father Christmas had any children."

"This one did, before he was Santa. Heck, he was divorced before he was Santa."

Bam! The entire stable stopped what they were doing and turned to see Melena staring in shock at Leona. She'd dropped the bucket of feed she was taking to each of the reindeer. The blond elf didn't even seem to notice she had become the center of attention.

"D-d-divorced?" the girl stuttered.

"Melena," Leona said, putting her hands on her hips, "adults are allowed to separate if the marriage isn't working out. It happens all the time among humans, and for some of them, it's for the best. For others, it's a mistake. We have no control over it, and it's just a cultural thing. You're gonna have to learn that the world is a different place from Prades. Besides, it doesn't make a person evil to separate from their spouse."

With that, she got down on her knees and helped Melena clean up the mess of oats off the floor. Some of the reindeer muttered about the hay in their food, but most were more interested in listening to Leona talk.

"Anyway, the point is," the redhead continued, getting back on track, "our current Santa is actually kind of unique among all our most recent rulers."

After grabbing some drinks from a vendor in front of the stables, Leona then told her friend the story of Scott Calvin, from the time he startled the last Santa off his roof, to the point where he found out about the 'Mrs. Clause' in his contract and had to find a wife before he became mortal again. Melena took great delight in hearing of the crazy adventure Scott had in finding Carol and marrying her before time ran out.

"All the elves here loved Carol," Leona said with bliss, "She was beautiful, smart, and despite her last job, she loved children. Guess our looks kinda reminded her of human kids. She even opened a school here to teach some of us elves new things about the world outside. Everyone wanted to go, but only a few were allowed. Most of us had to work for Christmas, but we went on rotations so everyone could eventually attend a class taught by her."

"She sounds wonderful," Melena smiled.

"She was," Leona agreed, "And having her around improved Santa in ways he didn't think were possible. After all, his first marriage failed, and he sometimes worried this one would too. But Carol was a better woman than his last wife, and she knew how to keep the marriage strong."

"So what happened to her?" the blond elf asked. Leona glanced around, noticing that once again, the other elves in the stable were listening in, though most did not appear happy, and some were even shaking their heads, silently begging the redheaded elf not to recount what they all knew. Leona was quiet for a moment.

"Um…Firedancer, you look like you haven't been out of your stall in a while. Time for a walk!"

"But I've already been out—"

"—and you need to go out again," the elf interrupted, "let's go!" She yanked on the white reindeer's harness and managed to drag both Melena and the buck out of the stable in record time. The two reluctantly followed her down to a frozen pond, where some young reindeer were playing and skidding around. The redhead quickly dug a hole in the snow with her boot.

"Here, chew some lichen," Leona ordered Firedancer. The buck made a face at her before digging his own hole with a hoof.

"As I said," the girl elf continued to Melena, "we don't talk much about what happened. It changed everything in the Elf Community."

"Was it really that terrible?" Melena asked, worried that her curiosity had caused trouble.

"Well," Leona said reluctantly, "it kind of started after the Jack Frost Incident. None of us really remembers it, but Santa had to do some time-travel, and a few other crazy things, so only he really knows what happened. Luckily, old Frost-Nose isn't a problem anymore. Nobody's seen him since then, thank heaven. But then, things started changing in the Elf Community.

"After a few years, Carol began to miss the world she left behind when she married Santa, and started going on visits to places all over. She would often go in the off-season, but later on, she started visiting at the start of December, and would come back home right before Christmas Eve."

Now Melena was confused.

"How did she leave? And what did she do out there?" Leona petted a female fawn before answering.

"Santa had his ways of magically helping her get back to the human world, namely her hometown. It's more powerful magic than what any elf can do, I can tell you that much. And she would go around, doing charity work for less-fortunate kids. It was her own way of doing what Santa Clause did on Christmas Eve; giving hope and keeping the holiday spirit alive." Leona smiled to herself at the thought of this.

"Then, a few years ago, Carol was late meeting up with her husband. She was staying with his son Charlie in his old hometown in Michigan, when a blizzard hit. It stranded her at a children's shelter on the edge of town, and lasted for a whole week. Travel was nearly impossible. Santa was so worried he couldn't pay attention to anything going on in the workshop. Carol could barely drive at all in the weather, but she knew she had to get back home before Christmas. Otherwise her husband would be delayed in his duty, and children all over the world would be disappointed. The storm didn't show any sign of letting up on Christmas Eve. Carol decided to risk driving back to Charlie's family's house, which was the agreed checkpoint where Santa could pick her up and take her home. But there was an accident out on the road…she didn't…make it."

Melena couldn't believe what she was hearing. She put a hand to her mouth.

"Oh Leona, I'm so sorry…" she murmured. For the first time ever, she saw a great loss and deep sadness in her shorter friend's eyes. She quickly drew Leona into her arms. Firedancer also rested his chin on the redhead's shoulder, his big brown eyes sympathetic.

"You had to know," Leona's voice was muffled, "no one else would have the guts to tell you." She drew back and wiped a stray tear away.

"It's been a few years, but the Elf Community hasn't been the same since. It's one thing to lose a Santa. We expect him to be replaced all the time. And normally any Mrs. Clause we have goes back to the human world and retires quietly. But this had never happened before. We'd never lost a Mrs. Clause during Christmas Eve before then. And everyone dealt with it in their own way.

"We all had to stay strong for the holiday, but things still changed. Some of the elves over twelve-hundred left, even though they had been delaying for a few years. My best friend Judy was one of them. Boy do I miss her. She helped our current Santa get used to the job when he first came here. Now she's out in one of the Elf Havens somewhere in the world, living a semi-normal life.

"Bernard was one of the ones who didn't change for the better. He's always been a grouch, and one reason we all love our current Santa was because his ingenuity and sense of humor helped improve Bernard's disposition a lot. They, of course, still had their run-ins, but that's just life with the Head Elf. Bernard was even planning on going on a sabbatical before Santa found out about the 'Mrs. Clause.' That's why he was training Curtis to take over for him—"

"Wait a moment," Melena interrupted, "you mean the same Curtis who runs the reindeer stables?" Now Leona looked a little embarrassed.

"Yeah, him. But you're jumping ahead—Bernard felt he'd done enough work for the Elf Community, and wanted to retire. He'd actually started his Sabbatical and gone off to live in Canada when the Jack Frost Incident happened. He was furious when he learned how poorly Curtis had handled it, letting Santa's greatest enemy learn one of the most guarded secrets in the North Pole. He came back and not only stripped the elf of his title, but banished him back to the reindeer stables where he started. The Elf Council didn't refuse him, considering they knew such a thing wouldn't have happened if Bernard had been in charge. The two of them haven't spoken to each other since. And Carol's death only made Bernard worse, because they had been close friends.

"But the person who has suffered the most is Santa Clause himself. He used to be so lively, Melena. He was actually better than our last Santa. He had all sorts of ideas for new toys for us to make, namely because his human job involved a toy company. He's one of the most creative Santa's the Elf Community has ever seen. As I said before, he had a great sense of humor, and was an expert at getting even Bernard to laugh. Even his son Charlie was a big help at times. Santa didn't even mind of some of the newer elves played pranks on him, so long as they were all in good cheer. Sometimes he'd even take it as a challenge and play football with us."

"What's football?" Melena laughed, finding the word peculiar.

"It's a fun game involving a funny-shaped pigskin ball and elves chasing each other. The best part is when we all made a dog pile on Santa." At this Leona started giggling. She then looked startled.

"Goodness, I haven't laughed about that in years," she said, looking at Melena in wonder.

"Perhaps I could convince some of the elves to arrange a game, though it will take some convincing. No one's played it since…well, you know."

The blond elf smiled in understanding.

"It's all right, mon ami," Melena told her, "thank you very much for telling me. Everything makes much more sense now."

"Glad to have cleared that up for you," Leona said as they headed back to the stables with Firedancer.

A sense of relief spread through the redheaded elf as they crossed the snow-covered meadow. However, despite that explanation, Leona knew there was still much Melena had to learn about the Elf Community. She only hoped her taller friend would learn quickly enough.


Okay, don't hate me for writing out Carol. But there's a reason behind everything I write here, and this will come into play. Besides, I didn't really fall in love with her as a character anyway.

At least now you know why Bernard is the way he is, and why Curtis isn't training to become Head Elf anymore. I know this fanfic wasn't gonna include "Santa Clause 3" in it, but I guess some people felt it was a part of the movie lore. But I promise, we WILL NOT have Jack Frost back. Besides, there are worse things to deal with in the North Pole compared to him. I would tell why, but it's still a secret for now ;)

In case anyone is curious, I had to do research on reindeer when first writing this story, since they're featured so prominently. When reindeer first grow antlers, they're covered in a thin, furry skin called "velvet," which is shed once the antlers are finished growing.

Also, a "surcoat" is a special type of robe from the Middle Ages. Some of Melena's costumes have a semi-Medieval look about them. You can Google the word and find images of it on the web, like here: http: /medieval weddingdresses .ideasforweddings. net/wp -content/ uploads / 2009/05/

I have something else to explain. I started writing this fanfic back around Christmas of 2010, so the "big day" I mentioned at the end of the last chapter was December 25th, Christmas Day. Only thing was, I got caught up in the celebrations, and by the time I got back to the fanfic, the holiday was over & it didn't feel right to keep writing a Christmas story, after Christmas. Plus, it felt silly writing about it any other time of the year.

But, being supportive as you all have been as reviewers, you've finally given me the drive to continue :) I got most of this story planned out; it's just kinda fuzzy in the middle.

Thank you all for inspiring me again, and a very late Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you all!

P.S. If you're all really eager, I might update once more before January ends.