Part Two: The Elves
Naomi dropped Blair off at Reindeer University on the shores of Great Bear Lake in Canada. "Sweetie, are you sure about this? As elves, we can travel the world, meeting with others of our kind and learning from them."
"Mom, I want a formal education. I'd like to develop my powers, learn languages, like Dwarven, and not have to hide my identity and ears," Blair answered, pointing to his long, curly locks. Besides, he thought, I might meet a sentinel elf.
"If you need me, send out vibes and I'll whisk right over." With a hug and a blink, Naomi was gone.
Blair was headed to the main building when something made his soul twitch. He turned to see a tall elf--a tall, muscular elf--who was being dropped off by his dad. After the father disappeared, he headed away.
Surprised, Blair hurried to catch up. "Hey, where're you going? My name's Blair, by the way."
"I'm Jim and I'm leaving for the North Pole," Jim replied and kept walking.
"Why? Don't you want to go to college?"
"It's okay, I guess, but not for me. I want to get hired at the Workshop. I'm good with my hands and like the smell and feel of wood. And I hear the snow is so pure it's the most delicious thing you can catch on your tongue. Most snowflakes taste kind of… oily or smelly or something."
It can't be, could it? "Are you a sentinel?" Blair asked excitedly.
Jim shrugged. "That's what my mom says--she was sensitive, too. Mom said I should follow my heart instead of attending college like Dad wanted."
"Cool! So, how do we get there?"
"Well, sure! I've always been interested in sentinels since I heard about them from my zeyde. He said they're the best at anything they try because of the senses. He said it's lucky to know one."
Jim frowned. "I don't want to be someone's lucky charm."
Blair rolled his eyes. "Don't get offended! I'm a good friend to have. Give me a chance." When Jim said nothing, he continued. "So, how do we get there?"
Jim looked around and lowered his voice. "Mom said to make friends with the reindeer. Once they trust you, they'll get you there."
Blair rubbed his hands together. "Great, let's get started." He trudged after his new acquaintance as Jim headed to the far side of the lake. "Not that I don't like a good hike--"
"Shhh! You'll scare them," Jim hissed.
"Scare who? I don't see anyone."
"The reindeer. They're hiding but I can smell them," Jim said softly. "They smell… not afraid, exactly. More like concerned."
"Here," said Blair, matching Jim's soft tones. "Let me try." He walked to the edge of the forest and closed his eyes. A large reindeer approached Blair, sniffing him. A few more joined the bull. Blair opened his eyes, putting out his hand for them to smell, then touched them each in turn. He beckoned to Jim.
Jim complied, touching soft hair, smelling musk, seeing intelligence in their eyes. Two of the reindeer butted him lightly, playing with him.
"What now?" Blair asked softly. "How do they get us to the Workshop?"
"We only have to say one word." Jim turned toward the reindeer nearest him. "Santa."
Jim had no idea what would happen next. Fortunately, the reindeer dropped them at a huge front door, which opened immediately.
"Ho, ho!" a large elf greeted them. "I'm Henri, the Head Elf. Welcome to Santa's Workshop. Come in and get out of this weather." He ushered them into a large hall with a huge fireplace built into one end. The heat drew them like a magnet. They sat in three large armchairs.
"There're some chestnuts, if you like," Henri said. A chestnut roaster floated over the flames as if some invisible hand were holding it. Henri scrunched his forehead and the roaster moved to the table in front of them, tipping the chestnuts into a large brass bowl. The roaster floated back to the hearth. "Help yourself."
"Thanks," Blair said, picking up a nut and blowing on it. He cracked it open and ate the soft, moist flesh. "It's delicious--the best I've ever tasted. Jim, you should try some."
Jim was always leery about new foods and how his taste buds would react, but he didn't want to be impolite and the smell was heavenly. He put a small piece in his mouth and was happily surprised by the flavor. "It's really good," he said with a smile.
Henri grinned. "Well, let's get down to business. You're here for work?" They nodded and he handed them some papers. "It's our standard work contract. Hours, pay, housing, benefits, etc. You'll find we're competitive." They started reading as he continued. "Right now is our crazy time, getting ready for Christmas. You'll be expected to put in overtime if necessary." They nodded. "So, what skills do you have?"
"Well, sir," Jim began, "I like to work with wood. Making things with my hands."
"Great! You're hired! You can't believe how many elves don't like woodworking. Too many splinters. You can start right away. What about you?" he asked Blair.
"I can do just about anything. I drove trucks with my uncle one summer--"
"Not much use for that here. What else?"
"I can handle a blowtorch, I teach meditation, give massages, I can train horses," Blair noted the frown on Henri's face. "I worked as a short-order cook in Alaska--"
"Great!" Henri cried out. "We could use a new menu--something to make us jollier. Read the paperwork and we'll meet in the morning. In the meantime, we'll get you bunked down. You can call me 'H'. The only one you call 'sir' is Santa. Rafe!" H bellowed, and a dapper-dressed elf appeared. "Get these guys fed and settled in. And get their names. I'm heading over to Shipping to find those batteries."
And with that, H disappeared and Rafe led them to the dormitories.