Adley is an unusual elf. He prefers skiing to parties, doesn’t like to sing, and cares so little for elf conventions that his brother despairs of him ever getting married. Which is fine, because Adley has no intention of marrying just anyone.
When he meets Keru at the annual Christmas Eve party, the two are drawn to each other. The party may be the most important event of the elvish social calendar, but neither Adley nor Keru minds leaving early to take a walk. They enjoy an idyllic and romantic first date under an aurora, rescuing a reindeer calf along the way, and a relationship seems promising.
But their second date takes a dire turn when a skiing trip brings them face to face with a polar bear. They’d like to keep seeing each other ... if they can make it through their second date without being eaten!
"I'd rather not meet a polar bear," said Adley.
"It would make a good story, as long as we survived to tell it. I do love having a good story, but I don't have a death wish either."
"I'm glad, since I don't."
They crested a small hill and looked down on the source of the noise. Not a polar bear, to Adley's considerable relief. It was a reindeer, and a rather young one at that judging by its small size.
"We don't have to worry about being eaten, anyway," said Keru. "Poor calf. I think it's trapped."
The reindeer groaned again as they slid down the hill. It certainly was trapped, and oddly enough alone. Calves weren't usually by themselves without their mother, though older ones like this ensnared calf been known to escape from time to time. Its mother was probably frantic with worry.
Santa's reindeer, while they didn't talk or sing like in the absurd human movie Fedment found on the internet, were quite intelligent. They shared social bonds, assisted their fellows in need, and frequently invented their own games. Reindeer mothers in particular were very devoted to their offspring and retained a familial tie even into their calves' adulthood.
The calf moaned softly this time, looking quite forlorn. It seemed to have punched through the top layer of ice into snow below, putting its body in an awkward pose as its front two legs were much lower down than its rear pair, which scrabbled against the ice to no avail. To make matters worse, Adley noticed a small red streak of reindeer blood which suggested a cut foreleg.
"How much do you know about reindeer?" Keru asked.
"Not more than anyone else." Elves were not herdsmen, if for no other reason than their small size. The reindeer were principally looked after by Sarelle, or as she was more commonly known, Mrs. Claus. "You?"
"The same." Keru looked at the scene in front of them, frowning. "It doesn't take great reindeer knowledge to realize we can't do this ourselves."
Adley's mechanical mind went to work. "We might be able to if we had some ropes, and maybe a pulley."
"Since we have neither, I think we should go get Sarelle."
"It's a better idea anyway. I can predict what the reindeer's weight is likely to do, but not how the actual reindeer would react, and we don't want to make its injury worse."
"Also, Sarelle has magic," said Keru.
"That, too." Santa might have received most of the appreciation from humans, but his wife was no less important nor less powerful.
They'd no sooner turned to leave when the reindeer made another low sound of distress. "I don't think it wants to be left alone," Adley said. "I can stay here if you go get Sarelle." Generally speaking, two elves on a date were expected to remain together. This was turning into a very unusual date.
"I'll be back as soon as I can."
After Keru took off, Adley sat down in sight of the trapped calf. He wondered how one reassured an injured reindeer. Sarelle was known to talk to the creatures, so he decided to try it, though he lacked anything inspiring to share.
"This is an inconvenient interruption of the first date I've had in some time. Not for lack of opportunity, you understand, but for lack of reciprocating interest. Then again, I suppose being stuck in ice is even less convenient for you, so I oughtn't to complain about my evening so much."
The calf didn't so much as blink. Adley felt rather foolish trying to speak with it, so he turned his attention to the aurora overhead and hoped Keru would return with help soon.