By Valerie Brown.
I feel the snow beneath my pounding hooves give way as I race through the thick Douglas Firs. Their needles whip at my nose, but I hardly notice—I’m running too dang fast! I leap over a fallen tree and soar through the air. Landing on a steep slope, my hooves slip just a little, causing little balls of snow to roll down before me.
My breath hangs in the air like small clouds, letting the others know I’m well ahead. My silhouette rips across an ice wall, tall antlers, long legs—yeah, I’m quite the specimen—whoa! A branch to the face—gotta pay attention.
I cut down a snowy path, the mountain’s not as steep over here. My legs are burning, but I see the glowing lights ahead, see the roof-tops of Festive Village. The scents of peppermint and rosemary tickle my nose. The faint tinkling of silver bells dances on the air. I’m digging deep now, darting across the snowy plains. Nothing stands between me and victory!
I streak between the velvet ropes lining the road. The people are screaming! They’re tossing corn and ginger snaps, but I can’t get distracted. I lean into the sprint, my antlers guiding the way as I rip through the green ribbon.
Skidding to a stop in the middle of the winner’s circle, my tongue falls out of my grinning mouth. Father Elf puts a wreath of holly around my neck—I don’t let him see me nibble it—and slaps my brown hide. “The race is over,” he shouts, “Toboggan wins!”
The crowd goes wild. Little elves and fat humans wave and chant my name. I’m pelted with little bits of candy cane and sugared popcorn. Father elf is saying something, but I’m too busy drinking hot cocoa to listen.
The other reindeer cross the finish line as I lap up the chocolate dregs from the bottom of the bucket. They look winded, chests heaving and mouths gaping wide. They nod to me in congratulations before heading to the stables.
Father Elf saddles me in brown leather and gold bells. He slathers the bronze bridle in peppermint oil, then slips it between my teeth. We ride across the snow covered hills. I can see the Big House looming in the distance. A three story, red striped home with thick pearl pillars supporting the wraparound porch. Draperies of soft yellow and green lights dangle from the roof. My ears twitch up at the sound of music—Jingle Bell Rock—and my hooves naturally take up the bouncy rhythm.
On the front porch sit two enormous cedar chairs, their arms wrapped in holly. The chair-backs are engraved with scenes of children at play. I’m suddenly nervous, winded, and all four of my knees get a little weak. Father Elf pulls up on the reins and we stop just short of the grand staircase. My hooves sink into the soft snow; I stare at them as he dismounts. The stairs squeak beneath his tiny leather boots. He opens the front door. From my position I hear the jingle of heavy sleigh bells and smell fresh baked cookies.
I stand in the cold, by myself, wrestling my nerves. I wish I hadn’t drunk so much cocoa. There’s a salt lick at the corner of the stairs, it settles my stomach. The front door opens as the music wafting through changes to Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer. Clad in red velvet and white rabbit’s fur, Mr. Clause descends the steps, a smile on his soft pink face. He pats my shoulder with a gloved hand.
“I hear you broke the previous record?”
I grin, the bells on my bridle jingle softly.
“I needn’t warn you that Blitzen can get pretty jealous.” Mr. Clause pulls a cookie from his pocket and offers it to me.
“Don’t worry about Toboggan,” laughs Father Elf, “Blitzen won’t be able to catch him.”
Mr. Clause chuckles mirthfully, his glinting belt buckle dances. “So,” he says, “you won the Games. Congratulations!” He pats my head. “Welcome to the most prestigious sled team on earth.”
Valerie Brown has been writing for five years. She loves creating character driven stories in the genres of fantasy, science fiction, and speculative fiction. Inspired by Jane Austen, she loves a good romantic twist and charming male leads.
She lives just north of Richmond, Virginia with her husband, rowdy two year old daughter, a golden couch potato/dog, and two wired tabbies.
She is seeking representation for her first science fiction novel.