by Norsebard






This (hopefully) humorous piece of Elfin spookiness belongs in the Uber category. All characters are created by me, though they may remind you of someone.

This story depicts a loving relationship between consenting adult Elves of the female kind. If such a story frightens you, you better click on the X in the top-right corner and find something else to read.

This story contains some humorous profanity. Readers who are easily offended by bad language may wish to read something other than this story.

All characters depicted, names used, and incidents portrayed in this story are fictitious. No identification with actual persons (or Elves) is intended nor should be inferred. Any resemblance of the characters portrayed to actual persons (or Elves), living or dead is purely coincidental.





Written: July 21st - 24th, 2021, for the 2021 Royal Academy Of Bards Halloween Invitational.

- Thank you very much for your help, Phineas Redux!


As usual, I'd like to say a great, big THANK YOU to my mates at AUSXIP Talking Xena, especially to the gals and guys in Subtext Central. I really appreciate your support - Thanks, everybody! :D


Description: From: Santa -- To: Yuletide Elves Rockabye Elf and Epilotta Elf of Elf Springs in the Norselands -- C/O: The A-Team Elves, the elite squad of Elfin problem-solvers -- Assignment: Spooky-Elf Lantern Elf has suffered a pumpkin-related accident. Your mission is to fly to the realm of the Humans and help Lantern Elf and his associate Laizeebohnes Elf with the final push so they can get their haunted house ride up and running for Halloween -- Ends. In short, Rocky and Lotta return with more Elfin-good adventure, humor and a touch of spookiness for the entire Elfin family…






We humans have always had a heap of questions about the mythical Yuletide Elves - like who and what they really are, where they live, and what they do during the rest of the year. Here's a few answers straight from the Elfin source:

Yuletide Elves are good-natured, good-humored, jolly ol' beings who work tirelessly designing, producing and delivering the countless gifts Santa gives to the people of the world on the Night Of Nights. They're also social creatures who love to sing and dance the night away, eat and drink with wild abandon, and spend quality time with their Elfin friends and loved ones.

Yes, they're all short, have pointy ears and wear clogs and other types of traditional clothing, but beyond those common traits, they're as different as Humans - and as to 'what' they are, well, they're direct descendants of the Great Elf who was born an Elfin eon ago among the roots of the Sacred Pine Tree as the offspring of Mother Nature and Father Earth. For further questions regarding Elfin mythology, please contact professor Karthago Elf at Ye Olde Elfin Academie.

The Elves have settled all over planet Earth, but the largest gathering is in the capital of the Elfin realm, Elf Springs, and the hinterland that stretches as far north as the Magical Calshiweah Forest where the Sacred Pine Tree stands to this day. Oh, and just in case you're planning on going there on your next vacation, don't bother - Elf Springs is in an undisclosed location in the far, far north so the Humans won't overrun it and take all sorts of inappropriate pictures of Elves in their natural habitat and/or awkward situations that will only embarrass even the most rugged Elf.

The Elfin calendar uses the same months as the Human year to keep the hassle to a minimum. The first few months after the New Year are used by the Elves to recharge their batteries after the hectic Season To Be Jolly - those months are reserved for all the Elfin-good activities like ice lake fishing, sleighing, skating and wild snowball fights that sometimes involve entire neighborhoods.

The brief months of summer are filled with plenty of educational seminars where the adult Elves are brought up to speed on the latest trends and fads among the Humans. Many junior-Elves join the Elf Pathfinder Corps or go to Elfin summer camps to meet new friends and to learn more about themselves.

As autumn rolls around in early September, the new semester starts at Ye Olde Elfin Academie. The age-old institution is located in a picturesque valley close to the Maliqqa River and the Roaring Falls west of the Calshiweah Forest. The new batch of hopeful junior-Elves begin their decade-long schooling on math, language skills, Elfin mythology, general interaction with the Humans and various schmutting and gift-dropping techniques that will come in handy in their later careers.

At the toy factories and at Santa's Central Administration, the first prototypes of the year's new toys roll off the pre-production assembly lines. Once the basic design and actual build quality have been approved or rejected by a committee of senior-Elf toy experts, the worker-Elves set off producing the items so the local and remote warehouses can be fully stocked once the Season To Be Jolly starts in mid-December.

October and November are used to get back in shape after what has undoubtedly been an easy-going year until then for most Elves - those months also see new recipes tested, early gifts knitted, sewn or glued together, Yuletide decorations dusted off and checked, homegrown fruit and vegetables harvested and pickled, butter churned, wood chopped, fallen autumn leaves swept off the porches and many other typical chores around the Elfin household.

Of course, some Elves are even busier in October than December - namely those who have specialized in the particular Human holiday known as Halloween. When the business-minded Elves discovered the large, untapped market for spookiness, gore and mayhem, it was only natural they exploited it to the fullest using the skills they had learned in the Season To Be Jolly.

The Spooky-Elves and their close associates the Teasing Fairies have since created a business empire that's just as thriving and widespread as that of the classic Yuletide Elves - the items they create are just night-and-day different from those made by their red-clad Elfin brothers and sisters.

Over time, the Spooky-Elves splintered off from the main body of Elves as they were seen as rebels who went against the spirit of the Yuletide by making a living off scaring Humans instead of making them laugh. Although they're still of Elfin blood, the Spooky-Elves are rare guests in and around Elf Springs as they prefer to keep to themselves down south in the Human world.

Some Elves work with both groups, like the owner-operator Rockabye Elf whose parcel delivery service has her flying all over the world delivering various items throughout the year; others, like Epilotta Elf, are staunch traditionalists who cannot stand any kind of spookiness regardless of how mild or bland a Spooky-Elf would consider it to be.

However, Rocky and Lotta are also among the select few members of the elite squad of Elves known as Santa's A-Team - their Elfin hats have the golden bobbles to prove it - and their strong Elfin pride and undying loyalty toward the Man With The Bag occasionally necessitates pushing their own preferences aside for the cause of the greater good.

What follows is a true story. Certain Spooky-Elf names have been changed to protect yours truly from an Elfin-big lawsuit…


M. Norsebard,

Founder of the Elf Springs Appreciation Society,
Member No.4 of the Official Epilotta Elf Fan Club
Honorary member of Santa's A-Team Elves.


As mentioned, the Yuletide Elves are generally speaking good-natured beings - there are, however, a few rules that must be adhered to when it comes to interacting with them. At the top of that particular list is 'Never, under any circumstance, should you disturb an Elf while he or she is enjoying a meal. Doing so will only bring out their inner tickle-monster and that's rarely a pretty sight.'

Such a situation had just occurred in the living room of Epilotta 'Lotta' Elf's Pine Cone Villa at seventeen Chestnut Street in Elf Springs.

The logs in the fireplace were burning with great enthusiasm and sent out all kinds of merry snaps, crackles and pops like they were really enjoying their moment in the spotlight. The low table in front of the couch saw three hand-crafted ceramic jars filled beyond capacity with almond cookies, a new blend of vanilla rings and finally peppernuts that actually contained pepper for a change. The ceramic jars were lined up next to a plate that held nothing but cookie crumbs, and a score sheet had been readied to keep track of the initial sensation of taste of the three new recipes.

A mug of steaming-hot, chunky Yule-tea - red tea with almonds, cinnamon, cloves and raisins - stood next to the plate with all the crumbs. An Elfin hand belonging to a lady-Elf held onto the mug's ear with such strength that it almost seemed she was trying to break it off.

The rest of the lady-Elf in question sat on the couch and did indeed resemble a tickle-monster despite her classic Elfin looks: a mere two-foot-seven in socks, Epilotta Elf had a pert nose, pointy ears, reddish hair, sparkling green eyes and milky-white skin except for her cheeks that sported a pair of red blotches no doubt brought on by the recent disturbance.

She had a sprinkling of faint freckles on the upper part of her round cheeks and she had what appeared to be an old scar immediately above her right eyebrow. The scar was the result of a ladder stunt gone wrong when she had been a stubborn ninety-year-old who had tried to convince her parents that a girl-Elf could work as a gift-dropper no matter what family traditions said. Back then, she had been slender to the point of appearing scrawny or even fragile, but her years working as a member of Santa's elite squad had added plenty of muscle to her bones.

She wore indoor clogs, long-legged red stockings, a pale-gray skirt and a dark-gray vest over a red blouse. Her neck was graced by a braided leather strap that held the wooden Joining ring she had been given by the Lady-Elf of her heart upon their engagement several years earlier; the physical nature of their jobs meant it was too risky to have the rings on their fingers like Elfin tradition dictated.

The simple reason for Epilotta Elf's sublime annoyance was located across the room on her sideboard: her snow cone talky-thing that soon took off all over again - it rang and rang and rang and rang and rang:

'Oh!  The bells will jingle, jingle, jingle, the bells will jingle, jingle, jingle so sweet. Ohhhhhhhhh!  The bells will jingle, jingle, jingle, the bells will jingle, jingle, jingle so sweet!' blasted out of the apparatus sung by a choir of young lady-Elves.

"Cotton-candy, I really need to change that Elfin ringtone… it's beginning to gnaw on my verrrry last hazelnut," Epilotta mumbled as she got up from the couch for literally the fourth time during her all-too-brief afternoon snack. "Greetings, this is Epilo- what?  You again?!  N! O!  That spells 'no,' as in no, you can't get to talk to Blicktude Elf 'cos Blicktude Elf doesn't live here!  And he never has, either!" - Deep breath - "Miss Elf, I understand that you badly need a plumber but I can't help you with any kind of plumbing 'cos I'm just a regular Elf and not a plumber-Elf- no. Yes. No. Yes. No-" - Deep breath - "Goodbye, Miss Elf!  And pleeeeeeeeeease don't call again 'cos I'm just trying out a new set of recipes for this year's Yuletide cookies and they're real yummy but you keep disturbing me by calling me the whole time and- and- and- oh… she hung up."

Shrugging, Epilotta put her snow cone into the charger and shuffled back to the couch, the Yule-tea and the experimental cookies. She remained on the edge of the seat for the rest of the meal to be able to hurry over to the talky-thing in case it rang again, but it left her alone to evaluate the new cookies.

"Hmmm," she mumbled while she chewed on the butt of the pencil she used, "the pepper-peppernuts aren't as Elfin yummy as they were supposed to be… so I'll scratch those off the list. The new vanilla rings are okay, but not really any better than the existing ones, so… gone. But the almond cookies are Elfin yummy so they stay!"

Nodding to herself, she drained the rest of the chunky Yule-tea and shuffled into her kitchen to put it all in the sink for later. Her Elfin eyes fell on the wall-mounted calendar that read October 30th. She couldn't care less about the upcoming Halloween, but she knew it was a big deal down south in the Human world.

A brief glimpse out of her kitchen window proved dusk was almost upon Elf Springs. The pumpkin patch in her front garden needed a little weeding, so instead of wasting time thinking about something she had no interest in, she shuffled upstairs to her bedroom to put on her outdoor clog-boots, don her gardening gloves and pick out an Elfin hat that would suit the occasion.


A while later, she and her trusty old scuffle-hoe were busy tending to the pumpkin patch. It was the first year she had tried to grow the weird, orange vegetables and she still wasn't convinced about their qualities - however, the pumpkin pie her mother Ingeborg Elf had made for her was so good she wanted to try for herself. Lotta's father Thorbjorn Elf and his younger brother Rumlefrans Elf had made pumpkin schnapps, but that had been such a foul-tasting bust it was better left as a footnote in the family annals.

Her pointy Elfin ears soon picked up the sound of a jinglestick that let out its regular merry sound from somewhere out on Chestnut Street. Many Elfin sleighs carried jinglesticks, but there was something oh-so-familiar about the warm tones that it made her Elfin heart flutter.

Hurrying into her garden shed at the far side of her villa, she hung the tool on its nail on the wall before she whipped off her gardening gloves and strode down the garden path to the gate. As expected, the jinglestick she had heard was mounted on a wooden sleigh decorated primarily in crimson and forest-green. The intricately designed runners were made of stainless steel, and colorful, elaborate Elfin carvings covered every last piece of available surface apart from the flatbed itself and the little sign that said Rocky's Parcel Delivery Service.

If an Elf doesn't respond with the greatest enthusiasm when the other half of his or her soul comes home from work, the Elfin world would undoubtedly come to an end. Lotta wasn't about to risk that, so she waved her rigid-cone Elf hat high in the air while letting out a resounding Elfin whoop. The cry turned out so loud that her opposite neighbor Trickamore 'Trixie' Elf peeked out of her kitchen window to see what was going on; Lotta waved and whooped at her as well.

Rockabye Elf soon whoa-ed the two reindeer that pulled her cargo-sleigh. As she tugged the reins to let the deer find their own way over to the curb, she stood up and waved her floppy Elfin hat.

Unlike Epilotta, Rocky stuck out from the norm among the Elves with her three-foot-three frame, black hair, blue eyes and bronzed skin. She was the result of a romantic tryst between the local lady-Elf Bellflower Elf and the dashing Southerner Carlo Michele Lamberto Elf who had been working at the Central Administration as an exchange consultant at the time.

As always when she worked, she wore the type of schmutting outfit favored by nine out of ten long-haul sleigh drivers: black ankle boots, insulated, dark-blue pants held in place by a leather belt, a dark-blue double-breasted jacket and finally an ascot that signaled the wearer's years of seniority within the Elfin realm. Everybody started with a green ascot, then yellow, onto a red and finally a black one to show they were elders who should be treated with the utmost respect. Rocky's ascot was red, but she was only a few decades from obtaining a black one.

"Greetings, my darling Rockabye!" Lotta cried so everyone on Chestnut Street could hear her.

Grinning, Rocky retrieved something from the storage box underneath the seat of her sleigh. She kept the mysterious item hidden behind her back as she stepped off her ride and strolled over to the garden gate - only then did she reveal that she had bought Lotta a potted batch of purple saxifrage. "Greetings, sweet Lotta," she said and puckered up her lips.

The Elves duly made lip-on-lip contact over the closed garden gate before Lotta snickered out loud and let Rocky in. "Awwwwww!  They're Elfin adorable!  Thank you!" she said as she took the arctic flowers and held them to her pert nose. The sniff she took was so deep she nearly tore several petals off the purple flowers, but she managed to avoid any mishaps.

Rocky yawned and scratched her black hair as she and Lotta strolled up the garden path. "You're welcome. Were you able to get through all the A-Team mail today?"

"No, I still have two sacks left. There were more Elves asking for advice than I've seen for months and months. Some of them were just Elfin nutty… I'll show you later. Supper is almost ready… we're having stewed cranberries. The side dish is fresh wholegrain buns that a delivery-Elf just brought over from the Elfin-neat bakery on Beechwood Drive!"

"Oooooh!" Rocky said as she stepped into the hall beyond their front door. There wasn't any mistletoe hanging above the door unlike at Yuletide, but that didn't stop them from kissing again.

Over the span of the next four Elfin seconds, Lotta's expressive face gained such a deep frown it almost looked like she had accidentally bitten into a citrus fruit that should have been thrown out the past Season To Be Jolly - the reason wasn't the kiss they shared but the fact that the snow cone talky-thing had begun to ring all over again in the living room.

'Oh!  The bells will jingle, jingle, jingle, the bells will jingle, jingle, jingle so sweet. Ohhhhhhhhh!  The bells will jingle, jingle, jingle, the bells will jingle, jingle, jingle so sweet!'

"Corn-on-a-cob, I don't beli-eeeeeeeee-ve it," she growled as she strode over to a wooden display cabinet in the corner of the living room to retrieve an ornamental flower pot for the purple saxifrage.

'Oh!  The bells will jingle, jingle, jingle, the bells will jingle, jingle, jingle so sweet. Ohhhhhhhhh!  The bells will jingle, jingle, jingle, the bells will jingle, jingle, jingle so sweet!'

"I Elfin heard you the first time!"

'Oh!  The bells will jingle, jingle, jingle, the bells will jingle, jingle, jingle so sweet. Ohhhhhhhhh!  The bells will jingle, jingle, jingle, the bells will jingle, jingle, jingle so sweet!'

"I'm Elfin coming!  I'm coming!" Lotta growled as she put the flower pot and the saxifrage on the table by the fireplace for later. "Santa's Suspenders, this isn't my day…"

'Oh!  The bells will jingle, jingle, jingle-'

Growling, Lotta snatched the snow cone's talky-thing and held it up to her pointy ear. "Attention!  Attention!  This is not the plumber Blicktude Elf!" she barked into the apparatus; another Elfin second later, she stood up straight and clapped an Elfin hand over her eyes. "Uh… greetings, Miss Yuttan Elf. No, I… I mean, yes, this is Epilotta Elf. The plumber?  Ohhhh, that's a long story. I see. I see. Oh!  Oh… hang on…" - Deep breath - "please hang on for two Elfin seconds while I get my dearest, dearest Rockabye over to the snow cone so I don't have to repeat everything and maybe get something wrong and every-Elf knows how easy it is to make that mistake… Rocky?  Rocky, I need you!"

That plea was too good to ignore for any-Elf, so Rocky sprinted into the living room wearing a grin that reached from one pointy ear to the other. She initially had her Elfin-sights set on the couch by the cozy fireplace and was somewhat surprised to see Lotta over by the sideboard instead.

"Uh… at the snow cone," Lotta continued and snickered into her hand.

"Cheeky-Elf," Rocky said as she slowed down to her regular Elfin speed on the last stretch over to where Lotta waited for her. Her heavy work boots with the high-grip soles were designed to offer maximum traction on slippery roofs and thus didn't work too well on delicate carpets; once she reached the sideboard, she leaned against it to take off her boots so she wouldn't ruin anything.

Lotta snickered again before she held the snow cone up to her pointy ear. "My dearest Rockabye is here now. Go on, Miss Yuttan!"

A few fumbles were heard over the connection; soon, the familiar, bassy voice of Santa Claus came through loud and clear: 'Greetings, Miss Epilotta Elf. Are you there?'

"Ohhhh, it's Santa!" Lotta cried and made a small, joyous leap. "Buh… yes, I'm here and Rocky's here and we're both here, Mister Santa, Sir!" she continued while she held up the snow cone's talky-thing so they could all hear each other. "Your A-Team is ready, willing and able to carry out any task… right after supper, at least. We're having cranb- oh, but never mind that now."

'That's fine, Miss Epilotta. I know how important food is for you Elves. Once you've eaten, I need you to fly south to the world of the Humans. You see, I've been contacted by the central administration of the Spooky-Elves. It seems that one of your counterparts in their organization, Lantern Elf, has suffered an accident at the worst possible moment-'

"Oh, no!  How terrible!"

'-not that there's any good moment to be in an accident, but I digress. He was trying to cook lunch when the pumpkin exploded and showered him in chunky debris.'

"Ohhhh, what a tickle-monster… I remember a similar situation a couple of years ago when I was trying a new recipe for an apple charlotte but something was wrong or I read it wrong and the apple charlotte turned into a lump of coal in my oven-" - Deep, deep breath - "and there was smoke and soot and charred apple-gunk everywhere and it took me several days to get the stink out of my kitchen and that was real bad 'cos my Mammi was due to come over and that would have been very Elfin embarrassing but… but… but… oh, go on, Mister Santa, Sir."

Snickering, Rocky reached over to claw Lotta's shoulder.

'Thank you. Lantern Elf and his team have been working all month to set up a Haunted House ride for tomorrow night, but they can't accomplish their task in time even with the help they have-'

Lotta's Elfin eyes grew wide while the corners of her mouth went south. She stood like that for a few moments while Santa spoke on, but she eventually let out a croaking "A hau- hau- hau- haunted hou- hou- house, Mister Santa, Sir?  Us, Mister Santa, Sir?  You want us to help the Spooky-Elves build a hau- hau- haunted hou- hou- house…?"

Rocky furrowed her brow as well; not for the reason that caused Lotta to stutter, but because she was no friend of the Humans and their filthy, smelly world.

'Yes, Miss Epilotta, that's exactly what I have in mind. You shouldn't worry too much about the level of spookiness, though. The president of the League Of Spooky-Elves, Hansemanni Elf, has assured me the event has been designed for children. Yuletide Elves should be perfectly safe!' The comment was followed by Santa's characteristic, booming laugh that echoed through Lotta's living room though he had let it out a good distance away from Elf Springs.

Lotta gulped. Then she gulped again. She blinked twice before she nodded at the snow cone's talky-thing almost like she expected that Santa would be able to see it. When she realized what she did, she cleared her Elfin throat and said: "You can depend on the A-Team, Mister Santa, Sir. We'll… we'll do whatever it takes to get the hau- hau- uhhh… ride up and running. Yes Sir, Mister Santa, Sir."

'Good!  I expect to hear all about it the next time we meet. Oh, and I'll send an express courier-Elf with the maps you'll need to get there. Goodbye, Miss Epilotta!  You too, Miss Rockabye!'

"Goodbye, Mister Santa, Sir!" Rocky said loudly; Lotta was unable to do much beyond putting the snow cone's talky-thing back into its charger and shuffling over to the table by the fireplace.

She gazed at the flickering flames for a couple of moments before she looked back at Rocky with a mix of skepticism and worry written all over her expressive Elfin face. "A haunted house… I'm not good with haunted houses," she said in a croak.

Rocky snickered into her hand as she strolled over to the table to join the other half of her Elfin-soul. Once she was there, she wrapped an arm around Lotta's shoulders and pulled her in for a sideways hug. "For Human kids, sweet Lotta… that ought to be manageable, even for you."

"Still… there'll be Spooky-Elves…"


"And Teasing Fairies."


"And Poultry-Elves. You know, the Elves who make things go bump in the night?"

"Polter-Elves, sweet Lotta. Polter-Elves," Rocky said and leaned in to place a tender kiss on Lotta's neck.

"Oh… right. I always get that wrong. Sugar plum mush, I wasn't planning on flying south tonight," Lotta said and let out a deep sigh. "I better make a huge bundle of in-flight snacks. My Elfin tummy tells me it's going to be a ten-bun operation. Or maybe even a twelve-bun operation."

"Better make it fifteen. And don't forget to look at the butter before you scoop any out. Remember the last time?"

No Elf anywhere in the Elfin realm would be able to forget the horrific sight and smell of rancid butter once their Elfin eyes and nostrils had been exposed to it, so Lotta broke out in a strong shiver as the gruesome experience of having an entire bag of buns with no butter to put on them flashed through her Elfin mind. "By the Great Elf… I'll never forget… it ruined my entire Elfin week," she croaked.


Smiling nervously, Lotta turned to something she knew would cheer her up: the ornamental flower pot, or rather the potted saxifrage that she put in it. She picked up one of the delicate flowers and studied it at close range. "I love purple saxifrage," she said as she turned the flower over to look at it from all sides.

"I know."

"And I love lady-Elves who bring me purple saxifrage," Lotta continued with a wink.

Rocky grinned and moved in close for an Elfin kiss. Once they separated, she traced Lotta's fine features with an index finger. "I'm glad to hear it. I settled for flowers… but I did think of buying a box of the chocolate frogs with the creamy caramel-"


"Tell you what," Rocky continued after another kiss. "Let's share the tasks. I'll butter the buns and fix the rest of the in-flight snacks while you make supper. We can work out the flight plan once we've eaten… provided the express courier-Elf has been here, of course."

Lotta nodded as she followed Rocky away from the fireplace and out into the kitchen. "Sounds like an Elfin-good plan, dearest Rocky. I'll just add a touch of water to my new flowers first."

While Rocky found the items needed to prepare the snacks, Lotta made sure the flowers were happy and content with their watery company before she moved over to the large pot on her stove. "A haunted house… cotton-candy. Sometimes an Elf needs to make sacrifices. I suppose I'll get over it… eventually," she mumbled as she stirred the pot where the stewed cranberries had been simmering for the best part of the afternoon.


An Elfin hour later, Rocky's two reindeer Ballumbalytis and Wellokesso had the sleigh going well at the preferred cruising altitude of twelve-hundred feet. Due to the advanced aerodynamic design of all Elfin sleighs, Rocky and Lotta weren't exposed to the headwind if they remained sitting on the fur-lined bench seat; it meant they could wear regular schmutting uniforms rather than their heavy-duty winter gear that occasionally saw action when they went out at night during the autumn or winter months. Two pairs of snow goggles were ready in the storage area under the seat, but the weather was still far too nice for that.

Rocky had changed into a fresh, dark-blue uniform while Lotta wore dark-green schmutting pants and a heavy-duty, double-breasted jacket in a lighter shade of green that matched her eyes. Since they were on official business, they wore their golden-bobbled A-Team Elf hats and their ascots with pride. Lotta had moved up a class after completing her novice years: she now wore a yellow ascot rather than the green one she had worn ever since graduating from the Academie.

A barrel of sweet white ale had been stored in the back of the sleigh just in case they needed a pick-me-up later on. The barrel shared the cargo space with a rolled-up, double-wide sleeping bag, feed and water for the beasts of burden and a box of cinnamon-flavored trekking crackers that Lotta had saved in her pantry for the right occasion - in short, they weren't about to run out of yummy things to eat and drink.

They were on a south-easterly course so the sunset took place to their right. While Rocky kept the reins loose to allow the veteran reindeer to control their own pace, Lotta observed Mother Nature's splendid play of colors while she munched on a well-buttered bun and sipped from a mug of chunky Yule-tea.

Before they had taken to the skies, they had needed to stop at the famous bakery on Beechwood Drive to get some of Rocky's beloved gingerbread. It appeared that some cheeky-Elf or other had snatched the last slice without buying a new pack. When Rocky could only find the empty bag in the pantry, the cheeky-Elf in question - who bore a striking resemblance to Epilotta Elf - had broken out in a double-cheeked blush and had shuffled from side to side like Elves have done since time immemorial whenever they were acutely embarrassed about something.

None of that mattered an Elfin bit when the kringles were good and runny, and they invariably were when bought at the famous bakery, so Rocky munched happily on a slice of gingerbread while she made sure to keep a safe distance to pelicans, guillemots, unruly flocks of geese and every other type of feathered wildlife.


The terrain they flew across was of the dark-gray and wet kind so there wasn't anything to look at for long stretches of their journey. That fact and the cloud cover that had rolled in as the evening had turned to night meant they couldn't even play Name The Constellation or I Spy With My Elfin Eye.

Such trivialities had never stopped Elves from having an Elfin-good time, however, so Lotta had broken out in song instead. After singing the first seventeen verses of the Hustle And Bustle Song, she went straight into the Elf Trekking Song, one of her favorites from the first edition of the Great Elfin Songbook: "Here we go a-wanderin'… a-wan, a-wan, a-wanderin' over the fields so green… ohhhhh, the little Elf traveled far!  Up hill and down vale and oh-so far!  Ohhhhh, the little Elf saw a star!  She wished upon the star!  O-le, o-le, o-lar!"

Up front, Ballumbalytis and Wellokesso shared a brief look before they carried on pulling the sleigh.

"Oh, I love the Trekking Song. Don't you love the Trekking Song, dearest Rocky?" Lotta said before she bit into a new bun.

Rocky turned to her companion and flashed her a broad grin. "I sure do. And you sing it so well, sweet Lotta."

"Awww… thank you!" The bun Lotta had just started munching on only lasted five Elfin seconds - then it was all gone down to the last crumb.

"You're welcome. Anyway, don't you think you should slow down a little?  I know you prepared twenty-four buns just to be on the safe side, but they need to last for a while, you know."

"But… no buns?" Lotta said in a voice that had already gone past Sad and Very Sad and was headed for Oh-So-Elfin-Sad.

"I didn't say that, sweet Lotta," Rocky said and offered a smile of sympathy. "I just wanted to remind you that we can't get any proper Elfin buns while we're down south."

"Oh… you're right. We tried those… those… those clumps of dough they call buns. Santa's Suspenders, they were horr-rr-rrible!  I'll just have one more and-"


Lotta had already stuck her entire arm into the bag of halved, pre-buttered buns, but she stopped what she was doing and pulled it back out. "You're right. No more buns. I promise. How about another song instead?"

"Now that we can agree on!"

"Elfin neat!  Here's one of my favorites!" Lotta said and bobbed up and down on the bench seat. "C'mon, dearest Rocky… sing along!  In a cabin in a wood, a little old Elf by the window stood. Saw a rabbit hoppin' by, knockin' at his door. Help me!  Help me Sir! it said, or the Human will cook me dead!  Come little rabbit, come with me, happy, happy we will be," she sang, stomping her feet, clapping her hands and creating her own rabbit chirps and bird-song sound effects between the verses.

"And such a classic it is, too," Rocky said and let out a snicker.


The lights at the foreign coast soon came into view not too far ahead of the sleigh and the A-Team Elves. Beyond the first settlements closest to the shore, a long stretch of land was pitch-black which wasn't helpful in the least when it came to navigating through an unknown area.

Lotta had been delighted when the express courier-Elf who brought the maps that Santa had sent to the Pine Cone Villa had turned out to be their old acquaintance Hambergh Elf, but the excitable Elf's joy had been short-lived as she had clapped her Elfin eyes on the pitiful quality of the map and the route plan.

One thing that never seemed to get any better was the route planning and the directions the long-haul sleigh drivers needed to follow. They were either far too vague, far too dependant on landmarks that couldn't be seen at night, or simply years out of date. The mapmaker-Elves were cooped up somewhere in the north of Greenland and rarely, if ever, left their offices, but the Humans were always busy doing something to the landscape or their cities - it was a bad case of Elfin heartburn waiting to happen for the professional sleigh drivers who were struggling with tight schedules to begin with.

Rocky craned her neck in every direction to search for the moon in the hope it would provide the natural light they needed. When she found the luminous disk in the sky, it was playing peek-an-Elf with the thick cloud cover. The maps and the route plan stated they had to find and follow a river that would lead them to the city where the Halloween ride would await them, but no light from above meant no river could be seen down below.

"Lotta, I need you to keep your eyes on the ground," Rocky said as she gave the reins a slight tug - the experienced beasts of burden knew it meant they were to slow down and begin an easy descent. "Let me know the Elfin second you see what could be a river or some other body of water down there."

"Will do," Lotta said and leaned over the edge of the sleigh to see what went on below them. Once her head was outside of the turbulence-free zone created by the advanced aerodynamics, she needed to clamp a hand onto her precious golden-bobbled A-Team hat so it wouldn't fly off and begin a slow descent of its own.

"Got it!  Got it!  Oooooh, got it!" -- "There it is… at twelve o'clock," Lotta and Rocky said as one only a short Elfin minute later upon spotting the river that snaked its way across the open landscape beyond the coast.

Rocky's comment had barely gone past Lotta's pointy ears before the latter looked up at the dark sky and let out a puzzled grunt. "Well, I'm sorry, dearest Rocky, but it must be well past midnight by now. Let me see… it was already dark when we left Elf Springs and we've been in the air for… oh… uh… hmmm… three hours?  No, closer to four. And that's Human hours, of course… or maybe I should use Elfin hours?  I suppose I should. I mean, we are Yuletide Elves, that's undeniable. Oh, never mind that now. In any case-"

"How can I put it, Lotta…" Rocky said while the reindeer continued the controlled descent, "that's not what it means… it's something I picked up from talking to some of the Elves in the Arctic Patrol. Twelve o'clock means straight ahead past the tip of your Elfin nose."

Lotta let out an "Ohhhh… I see," in a voice that proved she didn't see at all. When the situation turned a little embarrassing, she looked away while her cheeks burned brightly. "Cotton-candy, now I need Elfin lessons in addition to my Human language classes," she continued in a barely audible mumble. The moment called for a well-buttered bun, but she couldn't even get one of those unless she broke her promise to Rocky - that was out of the question, so she had to settle for dreaming about munching on one.

All talk had to be pushed aside as Rocky steered the reindeer down to a ground-skimming altitude of fifty feet so they would be able to follow the river. It went well for the most part, but they did have to double back at one point when the river turned due-east while the sleigh continued south.


A short quarter of an Elfin hour went by before they spotted the massive light pollution above one of the Humans' cities - they only had to follow the sheen that colored the sky in shades of orange, white and green to get where they needed to be.

The commercial district was soon located in the north-western part of the city. Once they had arrived there, Rocky tugged the reins which made Ballumbalytis and Wellokesso go into a gently banked turn; the sleigh went through several sweeping semi-circles above the countless identical flat-topped warehouses and other types of low buildings while Rocky and Lotta scouted intently for the haunted house attraction.

It appeared the Elves and their trusty reindeer were in no danger of being seen by Humans since every street in the area was devoid of life, but it didn't help much if they were unable to find the correct building.

A second pass was followed by a third one before Rocky's keen Elfin eyes spotted a large banner that had been attached to the side of a concrete warehouse. The colorful banner featured all sorts of skeletons, carved pumpkins, witches and tombstones so there was no doubt they had found the right location. "I can't imagine that's not it, so… I'm going to put it down in that alley over yonder. Assume landing positions!"

Lotta snickered into her hand as she scooted backward on the bench seat so her tush was up against the backrest. After planting her boots firmly on the floor of the sleigh, she grabbed hold of the upper edge of the hand-rail in front of her to literally sit tight. "Landing positions assumed, Cap'n Rocky!" she said and let out another snicker.

"Excellent," Rocky said and flashed Lotta a broad grin. By tugging the reins, she let Ballumbalytis and Wellokesso know they should aim for a dark alley that ran parallel to the warehouse. The experienced beasts of burden soon entered final approach, and it wasn't long before the stainless steel runners touched down on the alley's somewhat uneven surface.

Discarded cardboard boxes and several other types of leftovers were flung aside by the wake of the sleigh as it hurtled through the alley. "Whoooooooooa!  Whoa, Ballumbalytis… whoa, Wellokesso!" Rocky said as she pulled hard on the reins to get the beasts to stop while they were still protected by the shadows created by the warehouse.

The undramatic landing soon came to an end which made Lotta stand up and stretch out for the first time since leaving Elf Springs. After going through an entire stretching, limbering and gyrating routine, she yawned, smacked her Elfin lips and began to look around. "Oy… what an introduction to the Human world. Dreary, drearier… and this place. Couldn't they have put up just one ornament?  A garland here or a blinky-light there would have sufficed!"

"It's not Yuletide yet, sweet Lotta," Rocky said as she jumped off the sleigh and went up to the reindeer to carry out her usual post-flight inspection of their hooves and harnesses.

"Still… the Human who invented gray concrete really should be ashamed of himself," Lotta continued as she reached up to adjust her golden-bobbled A-Team Elf hat. The stylish headgear was soon sitting like she preferred: slightly cocked to the right with the floppy cone resting on her right shoulder.

A teeth-watering metallic whine suddenly filled the air as a door was opened on the side of the warehouse - it revealed what appeared to be a three feet tall walking mummy.

Gasping, Lotta jumped up on tip-toes and hurriedly pulled down her A-Team hat to make it cover her eyes. "Ro- Ro- Ro- Rocky!  Tic- Tic- Tic- Tickle-monster!" she squeaked as she ran back to the sleigh and dove for cover.

"Who ya callin' a tickle-monster, Yule-Elf?" the strange-looking being said in Elfish; the voice was muffled by what had to be half a mile of gauze bandage. The Elf's head and both hands save for his Elfin fingers had been fully wrapped in the white fabric which gave him an odd, disproportionate look. Round holes had been cut in the gauze to allow him to see, and a rectangular opening at his mouth made sure he could still eat as well - and breathe, of course.

The Elf wore black boots and a pale-brown coverall that was similar to the schmutting outfits used by the Yuletide Elves. A dark-gray, rigid-cone Elf hat had been safety-pinned onto the upper layers of the gauze to stop it from falling off seven-hundred-and-fifty-seven times a day.

"I'm Lantern Elf," the strange-looking member of the Spooky-Elves continued, "and unless I'm very much mistaken, you're the Yuletide Elves the ol' Santa fella sent to help us… yeah?"

Rocky chuckled as she walked around the sleigh to coax the spooked Epilotta into showing herself. She succeeded, and the two lady-Elves were soon approaching the Spooky-Elf. "That's right, Lantern. I'm Rockabye Elf and this is Epilotta Elf. Greetings."

"Are you sure her name ain't Shaky-Leaf Elf?  Hi."

Lotta stared wide-eyed at the bandaged Elf like she wasn't sure if he was kidding or not; she cast a concerned glance at Rocky before she stepped forward and instinctively put out her hand for the traditional Elfin arm clasp. "Greetings, Lantern Elf. I'm Epilotta… oh… never mind."

"Yeah, never mind," Lantern Elf said and held up his bandaged paws. "I think you need glasses. Or maybe a seeing-eye mutt would be better."

The golden bobble on Lotta's A-Team Elf hat moved on its own and jumped from her right shoulder to her left as a direct result of the Spooky-Elf's harsh words. "Buh… I beg your pard-" she said and shook her head like she was still trying to make the comment fit into any kind of drawer or box inside her Elfin mind.

"We don't have time for chit-chat. C'mon inside. You need to meet the gang," Lantern Elf said and moved back into the warehouse.

Even Rocky had to scratch her neck at the vast differences in behavior between themselves and the Spooky-Elves. Lotta just sighed and looked back at the reindeer, the sleigh, the barrel of sweet white ale, the box of trekking crackers and last-but-not-least her bag of buns like she was planning their return flight already. "You know, dearest Rocky… that made me a sad, sad, little Elf… why was Lantern Elf so mean to us?  He doesn't even know us!"

"The vibes between the Yuletide Elves and the Spooky-Elves have been Elfin-bad for generations, Lotta. It's a long story that we won't be able to change. Look at the bright side… the sooner we get the job done, the sooner we can fly home to Elf Springs."

Lotta nodded and set off for the side door. "It can't come soon enough… corn-on-a-cob, it's hard being a Yuletide Elf…"


The interior of the warehouse was no improvement over the drab exterior or the alley where the sleigh had been parked. Concrete, concrete, concrete everywhere - the floor, the ceiling and the massive support pillars that connected the two were all made of the same lifeless, pale-gray material.

An enormous backdrop thirty feet tall and hundreds of yards long had been put up to act as a separator between the access corridors and the central section of the warehouse - the black fabric was so dense that no light would be able to filter through from either direction. Rocky and Lotta's vantage point didn't offer any clues as to what went on on the other side of it.

They followed Lantern Elf into a dull, gray crew room at the back where another male Spooky-Elf lazed about with his boots up on the corner of a table while reading a newspaper. "Why dontcha say hello to everybody while I make some calls?" Lantern Elf said before he went over to a second table that carried an apparatus that seemed to work like the snow cone talky-things up north.

"Greetings, everybody!  I'm Epilotta Elf and this is my dearest, dearest life-mate Rockabye Elf. We've been sent by Mister Santa to give you a hand with the ride," Lotta said though she found it hard to dig into her usually so inexhaustible supply of enthusiasm.

Two Teasing Fairies who shared a couch rose to greet the Yuletide Elves, but the lazy Spooky-Elf couldn't be bothered so he just waved. "Greetings, Epilotta… we're Dizzie and Bizzie," the Fairies said; both spoke the exact same words in fair voices that were so close to each other it sounded like a single Fairie talking.

They were as tall - or short - as Lotta, so she was able to lock eyes with them without getting a crimp in the neck like she nearly always did when talking to the vastly taller Santa.

Like all members of their extensive clan, Dizzie and Bizzie wore long, breezy dresses held mainly in pastel nuances with a few darker highlights here and there. Their eyes were a striking spring-green and their skin a pasty white that featured dots of transparent pigmentation in several places - whenever they were on a teasing assignment, the dots could be manipulated into coagulating and thus creating a perfect camouflage that rendered them invisible to Humans, Elves and animals.

Unlike most Teasing Fairies, these two had wild hairdos that had been dyed in strong colors: Dizzie had predominantly blue hair with a few streaks of silver while Bizzie seemed to prefer a carrot-orange mixed with a strawberry-red.

Lotta spent several Elfin seconds just staring at the hair before she remembered her Elfin manners and put out her hand for an arm-clasping. "Uh… greetings, Dizzie and Bizzie… pleased to… uh… see you," she croaked while she and the Fairies performed the traditional greeting.

"Psst… you need to get out more, sweet Lotta," Rocky said out of the corner of her mouth before it was her turn to greet the Teasing Fairies. "Greetings, I'm Rockabye Elf. Call me Rocky," she continued as she performed the special Fairie salute by folding her hands in front of her. The Teasing Twins giggled and mirrored the salute.

"Uh-huh… I'm beginning to understand that, dearest Rocky," Lotta mumbled as she looked at the lazy Spooky-Elf at the table who still couldn't be bothered to pull his legs down. "Greetings, Mister Elf, I'm Epi-"

"Laizeebohnes Elf. Hiya," the lazy Spooky-Elf said as he flipped the newspaper over to read the next page. He appeared to be in his mid-two-hundreds and wore a pale-brown coverall like Lantern Elf. His boots were identical too, but his pale-gray Elf hat was of the traditional floppy design rather than sporting a rigid cone. A forest of fuzz graced his chin and cheeks like he was trying to grow a proper beard - or maybe he was just too lazy to shave.

"Uh… right. Greetings, Laizeebohnes Elf," Lotta said as she began to shuffle from side to side. It didn't look good for a member of Santa's elite A-Team to be embarrassed like that, so she stopped fidgeting the Elfin second she noticed it. "Laizeebohnes… that's an unusual name," she offered to be a polite Elf.

"Nah," Laizeebohnes said and folded the newspaper in another direction - he had yet to cast even the briefest of glimpses at either of the Yuletide Elves.

Lotta tried to come up with a reply to that, but soon gave up and settled for a half-mumbled "Rocky… help!"

Relief did in fact come, but from Lantern Elf rather than Rocky. After he had put the Spooky-Elf version of the talky-thing into the charger, he got up from the table and went over to Rocky and Lotta. "All right. Let's go see what this show's about. Laizeebohnes Elf, get off your fat butt!  This ain't no Elfin summer camp."

"Yeah, yeah, whatever," Laizeebohnes Elf said and put away the newspaper. After getting up, he could finally be bothered to look at Rocky and Lotta - the latter stared at him with eyes as wide as the saucers typically used for freshly baked fruit-of-the-forest pies. "What's with you?  Did I forget to zip my fly or something?" he said as he looked down at his uniform. "Nah… everything's tucked in like it's supposed to be."

Lotta was about to yank her golden-bobbled hat down to cover her eyes all over again when Rocky took her by the shoulders and let her out of the dull crew room. "Dearest Rocky… I wanna go home. No, first I want a well-buttered bun and then I wanna go home… no, first I want some cinnamon-flavored trekking crackers and then a well-buttered-"

"We'll do that a little later, sweet Lotta. We need to do what Santa sent us here for," Rocky said for Lotta's pointy ears only.

A long sigh escaped the younger of the two Yuletide Elves. "You're right. Oh, sugar plum mush…"


Lantern Elf soon unzipped a section of the huge backdrop to allow the mismatched group of Elves and Teasing Fairies access to the haunted house ride itself.

"Novra!  Øjjjj, nissemanner… se li'e alt det der, kæreste Rocky!" Lotta exclaimed in the strange, southern-Elf dialect she could only dip into when she was struck by surprise over something - she shook her head to get her own voice back. "I mean… corn-on-a-cob, wouldya look at that, dearest Rocky!"

Her Elfin eyes took in all the sights as they darted around on a quick tour of the premises: A set of tracks connected by ties - making it look like a miniature railroad - had been laid out in a snaking path that reached all the way around the warehouse. Some sections were straight and some were tight S-turns, and each of the turns featured a pair of six-by-six-feet displays that the carriages were to drive past at greatly reduced speed to get the full effect of the scares lurking there.

The scares weren't all that effective at present since most of the things had yet to be installed, but one display had been completed by Lantern Elf and Laizeebohnes Elf before the unfortunate accident with the exploding pumpkin. In it, a full-sized puppet depicted a creepy, white-faced man in a black suit who seemed ready to jump out at the people in the carriages. A few rubber bats were flapping on springs next to him, but even the easily startled Lotta wasn't too impressed by their looks under the revealing lamps.

Every single strip light had been turned on inside the warehouse while the Spooky-Elves and the Teasing Fairies worked there. The brightness took the edge off the frights so it was difficult even for Rocky to get a feel for how effective the ride would be. "Lantern, how long did it take you and Laizeebohnes to set all this up?  It must have been a while."

"Yeah," Lantern Elf said as he guided the Yuletide Elves along the tracks so they could get to the next S-turn. "Damn thing took us all month. Not that the lazy bum over there did much of it," he continued as he nodded at Laizeebohnes Elf. "And so long my hands are wrapped up like this, I can't even scratch my you-know-what. That's why we need you Yule-Elves for the last push."

Lotta shuffled, blushed, shuffled a little more and yanked her Elf hat down to cover her eyes and pointy ears to protect herself from all the negative vibes and bad language that flew out of Lantern Elf's mouth.

She hadn't experienced that much negativity in one place since her wide-framed uncle Rumlefrans Elf had accidentally smashed not only an antique set of porcelain Yule-mugs but also a wooden chair at the big Joining ceremony - although, as her Elfin mind wandered further back in time, the rude talking moose she had encountered in a barn way, way, way-the-cotton-candy up north on their age-long trip to Peary Land did in fact rival it.

"But anyway," Lantern Elf continued, "how about you and the Fairies slap your butts into one of the carriages and take a spin 'round the facility?  That'll give you a better impression of what we're trying to achieve."

"Sounds like a plan, Lantern," Rocky said and pulled Lotta's hat up. The priceless velvet creation finally let go of the burning-red, pointy ears with a ploppp. After snickering into her hand at the sight of the excruciatingly embarrassed Epilotta Elf, Rocky wrapped an arm around the smaller Elf's slender frame and guided her along.


Five Elfin minutes later, Rocky and Lotta had relocated to a section of the warehouse that was just inside the main entrance. The space had been set up as the start/finish point for the spook-train's loop so it had been decorated with all sorts of horrific Halloween imagery and life-sized puppets to showcase what the paying customers could expect from the ride.

Lotta's Elfin eyes grew wide at the sight of a hairy Bigfoot beast that was easily three times her size. Next to the giant monstrosity, evil-looking, possessed dogs or wolves with red eyes were clearly ready to sink their fangs into juicy Yuletide-Elves. There were carved pumpkins, witches' cauldrons, bats, bloody axes, hunchbacks and undead Humans here, there and everywhere - it was an impressive sight, but Lotta was too busy hiding underneath her golden-bobbled Elf hat to see any of it.

A train of connected carriages shaped like old gold mine carts was ready to head out onto the tracks. Rocky steered the spooked Lotta over to the leading carriage and helped her get up into it. Soon, they were once again sitting next to each other in a means of transport - that it wasn't an Elfin sleigh was less important.

Dizzie and Bizzie took the next carriage behind the Elves, and Lantern brought up the rear so he could keep a running commentary on the various displays as they arrived at them.

A control panel resembling an old-fashioned upright piano - only with colorful levers, buttons, switches and knobs instead of keys - was the brain that controlled it all. It had been pushed off to the side so it wouldn't be too obvious, but it remained so close to the track that the operator was able to see a small section to verify that everything was going well.

For the demonstration, the operator was none other than Laizeebohnes Elf. The lazy Spooky-Elf seemed satisfied with his job: the first thing he did was to wheel over a swivel-chair that he promptly sat down on.

Lantern Elf shouted: "Lower the bar so we can get underway, Laizeebohnes!"

"Uh-huh," the lazy Spooky-Elf said and clicked on one of the buttons that soon changed color from green to red - the action lowered a safety bar onto the passengers' laps so they couldn't fall out during the ride.

"Are you excited, sweet Lotta?" Rocky whispered for Lotta's pointy ears only.

Lotta shook her head. "Actually, I'm Elfin terrified… I'm so Elfin terrified I didn't even know an Elf could be this Elfin terrified… I just hope it's not too scary-"

A sudden Ka-lonk! and a metallic whine originated somewhere very close to her.

Letting out a resounding "GAAAHHH!" Lotta jerked around and threw her Elfin arms in the air. They flailed there for a few Elfin seconds before everything came back down with an Elfin bump.

Upon landing, she was startled once more as a tremor rolled through the carriage; then the spook-train departed from its starting point at no more than walking pace - it was soon heading for the first bend. "What?!  Is?!  This?!  What's happening?!  What are they doing?!" she said in a high-pitched screech.

"Lotta…" Rocky tried, but she was cut off at once:

"Where are we going?!  Do I even wanna go?"


"I don't wanna go!  Ohhhhhh, I just know I'm gonna be a sad, sad little Elf and I don't wanna be a sad, sad little Elf!" she croaked as she dug her strong fingers into Rocky's arm.

"That, sweet Lotta, was a… I need my arm now… please… Lotta?" Rocky said while she tried to pry the short, but super-strong, Elfin fingers off her uniform's sleeve. "I need two arms to hold the reins when we fly home… Lotta…"

"Oh… oh… sorr- sorr- sorry," Lotta said and broke out in a desperate-sounding snicker that she concealed with a trembling hand like Elves have a tendency to do. After moving her other hand back from Rocky's arm, she smoothed out the wrinkle she had made there. "Buh… I'm so scared… I've never been this Elfin scared!"

"Lotta, we've hardly even left the station!"

"So it's only gonna get worse?!  Corn-on-a-cob…"

"And that sound before was a clamp hooking onto on the drive-line that runs between the rails down below. That's how the carriages are controlled," Rocky explained as she pointed down at the floor ahead of them.

Lotta tried to lean forward but the metal bar prevented her from doing so. Instead, she turned around and looked at the control panel next to Laizeebohnes Elf while it was still in sight. One of the levers had been moved down which seemed to indicate it was responsible for getting the carriages to move. "Ah. I see… Elfin clever. I can do this. I can do this. I can do this. Epilotta Elf, you can do this," she chanted as she shuffled around to sit like she was intended to.

The first S-turn came up shortly after leaving the start/finish point. It was the one with the creepy, white-faced man in the black suit and cape so they had already seen it - and Lotta still wasn't impressed by the spring-operated bats.

The carriage creaked, rocked and groaned as it drove through the S-turn and onto the next straight. When the next danger zone only offered a pair of empty displays, Lantern Elf said: "On your left will be a glow-in-the-dark skeleton of a seventeenth-century pirate. It was literally delivered as a box of plastic bones… a real moaner to assemble, lemme tell ya… he had a parrot but we threw the damn thing away 'cos it looked stupid. And to your right will be good, ol' Frankie-"

An Elfin-sized, Yuletide-red question mark had time to form over Epilotta Elf's head before Lantern continued:

"Frankenstein's Monster, yep. The puppet's so heavy we need to carry it here in pieces and then assemble it where he needs to stand. I hope we can get the artificial lighting effects to work or else the customers won't be able to see much of him. Maybe we could point a directional spotlight with some kind of puke-green filter on ol' Frankie, but it might be a fire hazard. Eh. We'll work it out."

The first display at the next S-turn only held a wooden cage of some kind. A sound effect of a tiger roaring was played as the carriage approached, but the animal itself couldn't be seen. Rocky and Lotta looked at each other and broke out in identical shrugs. "Lantern," Rocky said, "what's this supposed to be?"

"You're meant to believe the tiger has escaped and is waiting around the corner to tear you to shreds. I agree, it's stupid, but… hey, what can I say. The big bosses wanted it so who gives a stuffed turkey what we grunts think, right?"

Lotta shook her head in a most puzzled fashion. Her golden-bobbled Elf hat was about to take off all over again, but she managed to keep it on her reddish locks by holding onto the lower hem. "Dearest Rocky," she said out of the corner of her mouth, "I've just thought of something that would be really, really Elfin-good for my Yuletide present… a Norse-Elf-Spooky-Elf dictionary. Or better yet, an Elfin book explaining Spooky-Elf slang. I need it 'cos I don't understand half the Elfin words coming out of Lantern Elf's mouth!"

Chuckling, Rocky patted Lotta's hand before she entwined their fingers so the impressionable Elf had something to hold onto.

The display on the opposite side of the same S-turn was a large cobweb filled with ugly, mechanical bugs that moved up and down the web in a jerky fashion. The pizzicato string effect playing from a hidden speaker was meant to make the skin crawl on the people passing by, but it wasn't entirely convincing.

The next four displays the spook-train went past were yet to be set up but would, according to Lantern Elf, contain various scenes typical of Halloween. Two S-turns further down the line, the Elves and the Fairies arrived at what appeared to be a wax-figure cabinet. The puppets were designed to look like historical figures only with a twist - and a grotesque one at that.

"Pah. That's how the Humans always look," Rocky said and let out a snort. Lotta was far too busy pretending to study the fascinating array of strip lights in the ceiling to make any kind of comment about the horrifying wax cabinet.

The carriages creaked through a series of easier bends that weren't yet lined by displays before they arrived at the last puppet: a larger-than-life figure of a cloaked Grim Reaper whose scythe seemed poised to make everyone - or every-Elf - a head shorter. As the small spook-train approached the puppet, the Reaper raised his left hand to point a bony finger at the Elves in the leading carriage.

It was at that point Epilotta Elf fainted.


When she woke up ten Elfin minutes later, it was to a horrific soundtrack of terrified screams, moans of agony and cries of desperation. She was about to faint all over again when she heard Lantern Elf's familiar voice roar: 'Laizeebohnes, you dimwitted numbskull-Elf!  I said, activate the lights in sector four, not the damn sound effects!  I damn near filled my shorts out here!'

Lotta decided to open her eyes to see where she was - inside the dull crew room was the short answer. She was lying on her back on a bunk bed that hadn't been there the first time she had seen the room. Groaning, she swung her legs over the side of the bunk and rubbed her face several times. Someone, probably Rocky, had taken off Lotta's golden-bobbled A-Team hat and had put it on the nearest table for safety.

Just as Lotta got up to get her precious hat, Rocky entered the crew room holding two mugs of what appeared to be sweet white ale. The tough long-haul sleigh driver let out a sigh of relief as she upped her pace to get to her life-mate. "How are you feeling, sweet Lotta?" she said after she had put down the mugs on a table so she could pull Lotta into a hug instead.

The hug was just what the doctor-Elf had ordered, and Lotta made sure to stay close to Rocky for as long as Elfinly possible. "I'm not having an Elfin-good time right now, dearest Rocky… ooooh, is that sweet white ale?"

"You betcha," Rocky said and quickly handed Lotta one of the mugs.

Grinning, the petite Elf took several deep swigs of the dark-brown, sweet beer that formed an integral part of any-Elf's upbringing up north in Elf Springs. "Ohhhhhhhhhhh… I needed that," she said in a croak before her Elfin-pink tongue ran along her upper lip to remove the inevitable suds-mustache.

She had plenty of other things to say as well, but Lantern Elf hogged the airwaves by cussing and swearing at Laizeebohnes Elf and the creators of the light system he was trying to install - that he had limited use of his hands only exacerbated his problems.

Rocky and Lotta shared a brief look before Lotta emptied the mug. "I'm not sure I like that Elf… and that doesn't happen often," she said as she peeked out onto the rear side of the black backdrop that seemed to vibrate from all the cussing.

"No. It's been a while since you've said that, that's a fact," Rocky said and offered her own mug of sweet white ale to her life-mate who obviously needed it more.

A kiss was duly exchanged before Lotta brought the second mug to her Elfin lips to take a long swig. "I'm a little peckish… I could eat a bun. How far are we from the sleigh, dearest Rocky?"

"Only thirty yards or so-"

Then the lights went out - and this time, it was in the literal sense.

Two Elfin seconds of nothing went by before Lantern Elf exploded in such a screaming, raging, spit-flying Elfin hissy fit directed at Laizeebohnes Elf that Lotta needed to plug her pointy ears with her fingers. "Ohhhhhh… I really don't like that Spooky-Elf," she mumbled.

"And we're stuck with them all night and nearly all of tomorrow as well. Now isn't that just soooo Elfin lovely," Rocky said from somewhere in the darkness - the scathing sarcasm that dripped from her words quickly forming a puddle in the middle of the crew room's concrete floor.


The following day, October 31st - after breakfast, brunch, lunch, a quick bite at one and afternoon tea for two at three.

The rest of the evening and night had gone surprisingly well although the double-wide sleeping bag out in the back of Rocky's sleigh had turned out to be somewhat insufficient when it came to protecting the users from low temperatures. Rocky and Lotta had simply spent the night spooning to stay warm - that was how they always slept so it was no big deal.

They had left Lantern Elf, Laizeebohnes Elf and the two Teasing Fairies Dizzie and Bizzie to deal with all the continuing dramas of which there had been a few. The first part of the new day had continued in much the same vein with a little whoopsie here, a little oopsie there and a great deal of cussing and swearing by Lantern Elf.


Back in the dull crew room for her hard-earned tea-break, Lotta shook her head repeatedly at Laizeebohnes Elf whose idea of working hard amounted to five Elfin minutes' worth of activity and fifty-five Elfin minutes' worth of lazing about per hour. The lazy-Elf couldn't be bothered to respond to Lotta's head-shaking but simply turned the page of the newspaper he had bought. As always, he slouched on the chair with his boots resting on the corner of the table in front of him.

Lantern Elf's poor hands hadn't improved over night, so Rocky had been tasked with the strenuous job of carrying all the body parts of Frankenstein's Monster over to the display where ol' Frankie was to conduct his frightening affairs. It was a tough gig even for the strong Rockabye, so she had needed to take off her double-breasted schmutting jacket to get some cooler air onto her upper body - the black tank-top she wore underneath her jacket was no longer in a particularly fresh state.

Once the Monster's square head had been screwed on right - not that it made much difference as 'handsome' had never been used to describe him - Rocky climbed down from the tall ladder she had been balancing on and strode straight back to the crew room. Upon arriving, she made a beeline for the table that held the last of the fizzy drinks Lantern had ordered from the official Spooky-Elf Facility Service.

The raspberry fizz soon disappeared down her gullet after which she let out an Elfin burp that was quieter than it could have been. Her energy levels replenished, she shuffled over to the table where a tired-looking Lotta had found a free spot. "Greetings, sweet Lotta… I spent the last Elfin hour screwing some-Elf's ugly head on. I hope you had an Elfin-good time?" she said and let out a sigh.

Lotta leaned over the table to place a peck on Rocky's flushed Elfin cheek. "Yes and no. I helped Dizzie and Bizzie set up the glow-in-the-dark skeleton-thingy. Cotton-candy, that's one Elfin load of work. And it doesn't even look good!  I think the little kids will be disappointed when they see all this…"

"Yeah. Maybe. But don't forget it'll take place in the dark-"

Lantern Elf suddenly burst into the crew room searching for Laizeebohnes Elf. When he found him lazing about reading the newspaper as usual, he stomped over there and gave the chair such a hard kick it nearly broke. "Get off your fat behind, you lazy fool-Elf!  We've got things to test," he said strongly before he turned to glare at Rocky and Lotta. "And you!  Yule-Elves, weren't you supposed to help us?  Well, get to it!  The clock is ticking fast!"

Lotta's face scrunched up into an Elfin-sour mask that didn't bear any resemblance to the happy-go-lucky Epilotta Elf at all. She drew a deep breath to unleash her inner tickle-monster, but Rocky stopped her by putting a hand on her arm. A few mumbled "Corn-on-a-cob," "Santa's Suspenders," and even a "Sugar plum mush," did escape her, but it never amounted to more than that.


The next break a few Elfin hours later was no less frustrating. While Rocky tried to play every-Elf's favorite card game Olsen with Lantern Elf and Laizeebohnes Elf, Lotta received tutoring from Dizzie and Bizzie on how to frighten, scare, horrify, spook and generally set people's nerves on edge. Though Lotta had always been at or near the top of every class she had taken at Ye Olde Elfin Academie, she found the business of Fright exceedingly difficult to master.

"Boooooo!" she howled as she jumped up from behind a box. To get into character, she wore a checkered tablecloth over her shoulders like a cape. As she rose to her full height of two-foot-seven, she stretched out her arms like she had seen one of the puppets do - she even sneered, snarled and pulled every other kind of horrific grimace she could think of.

The Teasing Fairies looked at each other before they broke out in identical shrugs.

"Oh, Cotton-candy… it's still not scary?" Lotta said and let her arms fall down her sides. When all she got from the twins was another shrug, she sighed and moved back down on her Elfin knees so she would be out of sight before her next attempt. "All right. Corn-on-a-cob. Let me try again… for the Elfin nineteenth time…"

Two Elfin seconds went by before:

"Booooo-hooooo-hoooo-hoooo-and-another-boooooo!" Lotta cried at the top of her lungs during her next go at impressing the Teasing Fairies. Unfortunately, the twins just sat there with blank expressions. "Oh, you have got to be Elfin kiddin' me!  Don't tell me that didn't Elfin work either?"

"Well… no," Dizzie and Bizzie said in one voice.

Lotta sighed. Then she sighed again. "Never mind. I Elfin quit," she said and threw down the tablecloth.

Stomping over to watch the card game in progress, she let out a constant mumble that sounded very much like: "Corn-on-a-cob, I could be at home sipping chunky Yule-tea or hot chocolate and eat cookies and apple charlotte with whipped cream-" - Deep breath - "or knit with my dear neighbor Trixie Elf or call Mammi and Pappi over the snow cone and all kinds of Elfin-good things-" - Deep breath - "but now I'm stuck here in Purga-Elfin-tory with a bunch of Spooky-Elves and whatnots and- and- and- cotton-candy. And yesterday started so well, too!"

She let out another deep sigh as she moved over to stand behind Rocky to observe the classic game of Olsen. She wasn't a card sharp like her life-mate, but even she could see there was something Elfin-fishy about how the game unfolded. The three Elves were playing for toothpicks and pieces of candy as usual, but Lantern Elf and Laizeebohnes Elf had somehow managed to gather up far larger stashes than Rocky - and that never, ever happened in any regular game.

It seemed that Rocky could smell the seafood as well, because she squinted hard at Lantern Elf after he had put down a card on the active pile. The gesture left him with only three while Rocky had five. "Wait… you can't do that, Lantern. The pile had a nine of clubs on top… you can't add a seven of spades. You need to match the suit or the-"

"That's how we've always played it, Yule-Elf," Laizeebohnes Elf said.

"I wasn't talking to you… Spooky-Elf," Rocky said without taking her eyes off Lantern.

The bandaged boss of the Spooky-Elf construction team let out a grunt and shuffled around on the chair. "I picked the wrong card. My bad. The sore hands, you know. They hinder me."

Rocky appeared to be counting to ten inwardly - then she threw down her remaining cards and pushed her chair back. "Yeah?  And my pointy ears are sore from listening to your moaning. Have fun playing with each other."

The mood inside the crew room headed downhill at Elfin speed, but an electronic doorbell ringing somewhere inside the large warehouse gave the Elves something better to do than to glare at each other. "That'll be the pizza I ordered," Lantern Elf said and stepped away from the game to answer the door.

The promise of food finally made Laizeebohnes Elf grow a little more active: he moved from the playing table over to another where he promptly sat down again.

Lotta shook her head at the lazy nature of Laizeebohnes, but he didn't even notice. "Psst, Rocky… what's a pizza?" she said out of the corner of her mouth while she and Rocky shuffled over to a free table clear across the crew room.

"It's a large, circular bread with melted cheese and lots of toppings and stuff on it. Veggies, sausages, meatballs, tuna… things like that. You've tried it, sweet Lotta. Don't you remember?"

"No… oh!  Sure I do!  We had it last year when we visited your Mammi and Pappi down south in Trentino!"

"That's right," Rocky said with a grin.

The grin was mirrored on Lotta's face for all of four Elfin seconds before it turned into a frown. "I didn't like it. The bread was sort-of Elfin okay, but I don't eat meat and I'm not too fond of veggies… only healthy, nutritious food like" - Deep breath - "rice pudding with cinnamon and butter and buttered raisin buns and crullers and vanilla rings and cardamom cookies and buttered cinnamon buns-" - Deep breath - "and peppernuts and star cookies and raspberry Welch bread and gingerbread with plenty of runny-honey and buttered raisin buns-"

"You already said that, sweet Lotta," Rocky said and snickered into her hand.

"I know!  But I Elfin-super-duper-love well-buttered raisin buns!"

Lantern Elf soon returned with the family-sized pizza tray and put it on one of the vacant tables. "Come get some," he said as he opened it and grabbed the largest slice for himself.

Lotta went over to the table to take a look but soon shied back from the hot dish. Her expressive eyebrows went on a tour of her forehead as she took in the sight of the numerous meaty toppings and the melted cheese. "Ah… no thanks. You wouldn't happen to know if any-Elf can deliver rice pudding with a proper glob of butter and a sprinkling of cinnamon, would you, Mister Lantern Elf, Sir?"

"Rice pudding?" Lantern said around a large bite of pizza. He stared at Laizeebohnes Elf and the two Teasing Fairies who had just joined them - then he broke out in a loud, obnoxious and somewhat condescending laugh that sent pizza crumbs and other items flying out of the rectangular opening in the gauze where his mouth was.

Lotta let out a sigh before she shuffled back to Rocky - it soon became clear the last few buns out in the sleigh would be all the nourishment she would get for the rest of Halloween.


With fifteen Elfin minutes to go until the grand opening, Lotta hurriedly schmutted down a drainpipe, ran around the corner of the warehouse and flew through the side door. Everything was dark and ominous inside because Lantern Elf and Rockabye were giving the ride a final check before showtime, but the darkness didn't stop Lotta from racing over to the control panel to bring everyone up to speed on her findings - her short legs moved like drumsticks as she sprinted through the dark corridors.

"Good news, ev'ry-Elf!" she cried just as she rounded the final corner. "There's a looooooooong line of Human kids and their parents outside and every-Elf… or everybody, I s'pose… is happy and smiling and giggling and looking like they can't wait to try the ride!"

Laizeebohnes Elf offered Lotta a short glance before he let out a miffed grunt and concentrated on keeping track of the panel's many levers - the lazy Spooky-Elf had been stricken with a severe case of grumpiness all afternoon after being told that he needed to stand up while working.

The Teasing Fairies Dizzie and Bizzie were there as well, but they were even less enthusiastic about Lotta's message than Laizeebohnes Elf had been.

Struck speechless for once, Lotta threw her Elfin arms in the air in a fit of frustration. She let them hang there for a while in the hope the good news would be awarded with even the briefest of smiles from her co-workers. Nothing. "Oy-oy-oy… this has got to be theeee weirdest job my dearest Rocky and I have ever been on," she mumbled as she finally lowered her arms.

The situation didn't have time to grow too awkward as the spook-train came around the final bend to finish the test run at the exact same time. After Laizeebohnes Elf had operated the lever that controlled the metal bars protecting the passengers, Rocky and Lantern Elf stepped out of the leading carriage and went their separate ways without speaking a word to each other.

"Oy-oy-oy…" Lotta mumbled again as she intercepted her life-mate. Rocky's face proved that a disagreement had taken place during the ride, but not the exact details. "Dearest Rocky… you look a little Elfin upset. Was it that Elfin scary?"

Rocky shook her head and turned to be able to see Laizeebohnes Elf at the panel. "Yes and no. Lantern Elf and I had a difference of opinion. I said the ride was far too scary for the kiddie customers… he said it was the dullest ride he had ever been on and that it could only be salvaged if we went full hardcore."

"Uhhhh…" Lotta said and scratched her neck. "When you say 'full hardcore,' I think of the Elfin-good, round chocolate treats that have the whole hazelnut in the center… you know, the ones where we have to lick off all the chocol-"

"He means gobs of gore, murderous mayhem, buckets of blood, slime and every other Human type of horror you can think of."

Lotta blinked several times as the evil words did their best to infiltrate her Elfin brain through her pointy Elfin ears. "Cotton-candy, if that's not a tickle-monster, I don't know what is," she eventually croaked. "I prefer the Elfin-good, round chocolate treats to… to… to… that."

"Yeah… me too," Rocky said with a tired grin.

"But what are we going to do, dearest Rocky?  There's a looooooooooong line of kids and parents waiting outside!  They want to have a little spooky fun!  Not sit through gobs of gore and… and… all that!"

Rocky rubbed her chin and squinted at the control panel. Laizeebohnes Elf had already broken his promise to Lantern Elf by having wheeled over a chair so he could sit and read his ubiquitous newspaper. "I have an idea. I have an Elfin-good idea… follow my lead, sweet Lotta!"

"Now we're Elfing!" Lotta said with a wide grin that she soon wiped from her face so she wouldn't appear suspicious.

"Laizeebohnes Elf, I have a proposition for you," Rocky said once she was close enough to the lazy worker. She had used a harsh voice the last few times she had spoken to him, but her vocal cords now sounded as if they had been dipped in honey so the ruse had a better chance of working.


"You've labored so hard all day… why don't you go back to the crew room for a while and have the last of the pizza?  Epilotta and I could operate the levers for the first few runs."

"Pizza's all gone," Laizeebohnes Elf said before he turned the page.

Rocky's Elfin eyes had time to roll a great distance before she took a deep breath and tried again: "Oh, but I'm sure Lantern Elf wouldn't mind if you ordered a new one, Laizeebohnes. I mean, that way, you could get exactly what you wanted on it and you didn't even have to share with any-Elf."

"Can't afford it."

Lotta slapped a palm over her eyes and let out a long, long, long Elfin sigh.

"What are you talking about, my good Elf?" Rocky said in a voice that held a little less honey than earlier. She caught it in time and screwed a fake smile on her Elfin face for the next part that she knew, or hoped at least, would be enough to get Laizeebohnes Elf away from the controls: "Every-Elf knows the pizzas are free when you call the Spooky-Elf Facility Service!"

That tidbit of information was finally enough to arouse Laizeebohnes Elf's interest, and he even put down the newspaper to shoot Rocky a glance. "I didn't know that… they are?"

"Really. Cross my Elfin heart, hope to Elf," Rocky said with great sincerity written all over her Elfin face.

Lotta peeked out from behind Rocky's broad back and offered the lazy Spooky-Elf a very large nod. "I can vouch for that, Laizeebohnes!"

"Huh. Yeah, well… I guess I could eat," Laizeebohnes Elf said and got up from the chair. He scratched himself here, there and everywhere before he let out a burp and shuffled off to the crew room.

Rocky and Lotta tracked him with their Elfin eyes until he shuffled around the corner and went out of sight. With the control panel now at their disposal, they walked over to it to familiarize themselves with all the levers, knobs, switches and buttons. "Dearest Rocky… would you mind clueing me in?  Because I have to admit I'm an itty-bitty Elfin lost as to why we're doing this," Lotta said as she reached up to scratch her neck.

"Not at all, sweet Lotta. The entire ride is controlled by the levers and these other things," Rocky said and tapped a knuckle against the upright panel. "The intensity of the lighting, the volume of the sound effects and how strongly the puppets move when the carriages drive past. As long as we're in charge of all this, we can keep everything at Elfin-fun levels. Get it?"

"Ohhhh… that's so Elfin clever!  That way, we can stop Lantern Elf from scaring every-Elf and the Human kids half to death with all his… his… his… hard-nut business."

"Exactly. You might say we control the horizontal and the vertical," Rocky said while displaying a wide grin.

Lotta blinked several times before she broke out in a shrug. "Now you Elfin lost me again… cotton-candy…"


A little later on, a pair of strange-looking ghosts who wore white sheets that covered all of their Yuletide Elf-sized bodies - save for round holes where the eyes were - walked around the main entrance ushering in kids and their parents in groups so there wouldn't be any crowding and thus reduce the risk of wailing.

Much to the Elfin-vocal disappointment of the Yuletide Elves, their excellent ruse had been all for naught when the Spooky-Elves Facility Service had provided a Human technician who was to man the controls for the ride. He was a bearded, chubby, sloppily-dressed fellow in his mid-thirties who looked to be a long-lost relative of Laizeebohnes Elf as they shared several physical and mental characteristics.

Even such an unexpected hiccup posed no problem for the members of Santa's elite A-Team - Rocky and Lotta had already agreed on being as close to the control panel as Elfinly possible throughout the evening so they could take over in case the going got a little too gruesome. At present, there was no need for urgent action since everything had run smoothly since the ride had opened for the public.

Lotta had a genuine smile plastered all over her Elfin face under her ghostly sheet as she helped usher in the next group of visitors. Her pointy Elfin ears were filled by the sweetest of all Human sounds - children's laughter - and that made her feel right at home.

Creaking and squeaking from the spook-train arriving back at the start/finish point made the excited murmuring among the next set of visitors increase several notches. After the carriages had been emptied out, Lotta and Rocky helped guide the new kids and their parents into the seats; a non-verbal signal to lower the protective bar was soon given to the Human helper who responded by pulling the correct lever.

As the spook-train departed once more and the hallway at the main entrance soon cleared out, Lotta lifted the ghostly sheet so she could slap her dearest friend and life-mate a resounding high-five. Unfortunately, Lotta's Elfin-good mood was about to take a knock that would rate an eight or a nine out of ten on the tickle-monster-scale - trouble was literally just around the corner.


Unnoticed by either of the Yuletide Elves, the spooky quartet of Lantern Elf, Laizeebohnes Elf and the Teasing Fairies Dizzie and Bizzie had moved into a huddle. The reams of whispering that flew back and forth between them proved that whatever they were planning, it would undoubtedly result in Elfin-bad news for every-Elf but themselves. Now and then, one of the four broke out of the huddle to cast a quick glance at the control panel, the Human technician and the two Yuletide Elves.

An agreement seemed to have been reached when the Teasing Fairies nodded and stepped out of the huddle. A moment later, Dizzie and Bizzie simply vanished into thin air - a sure-fire sign that Rocky and Lotta's attempt at making their Halloween assignment a fun and positive one for every-Elf was about to be scuppered by a downright nasty tickle-monster.

The mayhem started with a minute manipulation of one of the levers just to check if the Human service technician was paying attention. He was, and soon moved the lever back into its proper position. Then the next one moved on its own.

Furrowing his brow, the technician moved that one back to its starting point as well. He was about to call for assistance from Rocky and Lotta when the Teasing Fairies released an entire broadside of mass confusion in his direction.

A second later, nine of the levers moved at random; some went up, some went down, some went up and down and up and down. The technician tried to keep up to the best of his abilities, but when more levers were moved, buttons were pushed, switches were activated and knobs were twisted, he cried out for help.

Rocky and Lotta were there in a flash. Lotta tore off the ghostly disguise and stared wide-Elfin-eyed at the spectacle ahead of her. Not one button, knob, lever or switch was left untouched; every last one of them was pulled, pushed, activated, deactivated, moved up or moved down completely at random and without any kind of physical interaction.

"Sugar!  Plum!  Mush!" Lotta cried and threw her Elfin arms high in the air.

The results weren't slow in coming: the sounds produced by the kids and their parents changed from laughter and happy squealing to cries of terror and bursts of loud bawling.

"Santa's Suspenders… we gotta… we gotta… we gotta-" Lotta croaked as her petite Elfin hands flew across the control panel to re-adjust all the switches, buttons, knobs, levers and everything else she could wrap her fingers around. "-we gotta… it won't… it won't… it won't Elfin stop!  Some-Elf make it stop!  Aaaaargh!"

The lights went from full brightness to full darkness and back again; the volume for the sound effects fluctuated from hardly there at all to deafening. The imaginary tiger's roars almost brought the roof down upon their pointy ears, and the rattling noises that burst out of the hidden speaker behind the pirate's glow-in-the-dark skeleton were so powerful it did in fact loosen the bindings of the collection of plastic bones to such an extent the whole thing broke apart and collapsed.

When the sound suddenly disappeared altogether, the effects were quickly replaced by crying and screaming of the decidedly uncool kind - then the sound effects returned prompting even more unrestrained screaming.

"Aaaaaaargh!" Lotta roared again as her Elfin hands continued to zip this way, that way and every other way to keep up with the evil-minded ghost that seemed to have possessed the control panel.

More frightened screaming from inside the ride's area was prompted by the cloaked Grim Reaper whose body and bony fingers were being manipulated by unseen hands; the puppet rocked back and forth which caused its scythe to get dangerously close to breaking off.

While all that went on, Rocky and the Human technician crawled around on their hands and knees at the rear of the control panel to find the cause for the malfunctions - they had already checked the cables and connections without finding any short-circuits that could explain the dramas.

An endless array of corn-on-a-cobs, cotton-candys, sugar-plum-mushes and numerous other Elfin-good cuss words escaped Rocky as she and the technician were stuck in a permanent heads-down-tushes-up position while they went through all the electrical doodads, wotsits, dippyduts and thingamabobs.

The proverbial Elfin tallow candle was suddenly lit up inside Rocky's Elfin mind, and she leaned back on her legs while she looked around. "Wait an Elfin minute… wait a cotton-candy Elfin minute," she mumbled as she clambered to her feet. After looking around a little more and finding absolutely nothing - when there should have been something, or rather some-Elf and a couple of Teasing Fairies - she took the disguise she had discarded earlier and fluffed it out.

Whistling through her teeth like everything was zip-a-dee-do-Elf, she strolled around the corner of the control panel to watch Lotta hustle around like a crazed mountain hare to keep up with the possessed levers, buttons, knobs and switches. She and her life-mate made a silent connection when they locked eyes.

Though Lotta was frazzled beyond belief, she understood from Rocky's winks that something was up and that she needed to play along. She nodded almost imperceptibly.

"Jump back, Lotta!" Rocky suddenly cried; Lotta quickly performed a backward, schmutting-style somersault that saw her clear the control panel in an Elfin second - then Rocky threw her ghost-disguise over the panel like a white fishing net.

Sure enough, two head-shaped lumps appeared under the disguise though none had been there before. The Teasing Fairies Dizzie and Bizzie, who had been caught red-handed, stopped their destructive game and slunk away from the control panel. They turned visible once more when the sheet was pulled off them - when, at least, they had the good graces to look guilty.

The terrified screams continued from beyond the black backdrop, so Lotta jumped forward at once and began resetting every lever, button and switch as well as all the other controls so the special effects would return to the levels they were supposed to be at. As she did so, she mouthed a long line of caustic Elfin comments that would have been Elfin-perfect as vinegar had they been bottled.

An Elfin minute later, the spook-train came around the final corner and proceeded to the start/finish point. The passengers bolted from the carriages as soon as Lotta had moved the lever that controlled the metal bar; most of the parents complaining loudly while the kids cried their eyes out.

Rocky and Lotta had once again donned their ghostly disguises so the Humans wouldn't get startled by the appearance of two Yuletide Elves at what was supposed to be a Halloween attraction. No sooner had the Human service technician escorted the swearing parents and crying children out of the warehouse before Lotta tore off her disguise and stomped back toward the crew room looking very much like a polar bear with a bellyache.

She stopped dead in the doorway to the crew room when she spotted Lantern Elf and Laizeebohnes Elf playing their version of Olsen like nothing had happened. Two empty pizza trays had been thrown onto the floor where they joined several empty cans of raspberry fizz. The Teasing Fairies Dizzie and Bizzie shared the couch, and the Terrible Twins had to look away when Lotta sent an Elfin-angry glare in their direction.

After having counted to twenty and back to zero, Lotta drew a deep breath and assumed a neutral expression. "My fellow Elves… and Teasing Fairies… lend me your pointy ears. I have something important to say. I like to consider myself a fun-loving Elf," she said in an Elfin voice that was remarkably civil - at least to begin with. Then she took another Elfin-deep breath: "I love the big Elfin parties where I can mingle with my Elfin friends and family and listen to wonderful Yuletide music and drink egg nog and chunky Yule-tea and warm milk with honey. Eat buttered raisin buns and cookies and crullers and try new treats baked by my dear, dear neighbor Trickamore Elf or my Mammi-"

"Whoop-di-doo, good for you," Laizeebohnes Elf said in a rather droll fashion.

Lotta was too far down memory lane to notice the needling: "-And play tag or pin the reindeer or capture the flag… or when we dance the Woods-Elf Clog Polka!  Ohhhhh, that's such an Elfin goodie!  I'll bet you Spooky-Elves dance that too!" - Deep breath - "Four revolutions one way, four revolutions the other way, hop-hop-hop and a hand clap, and then start over- or the Merry Widow Polka, or the Two-Ahead-And-Two-To-The-Side Mazurka or the Sweetheart Shuffle for that Elfin matter…" - Deep breath - "But this!  This wasn't Elfin funny in the least!  You made the children cry!  We're Elves!  We make children smile and love and laugh!  Why is that so cotton-candy difficult for you Spooky-Elves and Teasing Fairies to understand?!"

Lantern Elf and Laizeebohnes Elf only shot her a brief look before they returned to their card game; Dizzie and Bizzie seemed embarrassed by it all but didn't make any kind of comment beyond that.

"Oy-oy-oy, this is just too Elfin swell," Lotta continued in a mumble before she returned to her previous volume: "Let me tell you Spooky-Elves something…" - Deep breath - "My dearest, dearest friend Rockabye Elf and I won't let Santa down just because a bunch o' Poultry-Elves don't understand the first Elfin thing about what we're actually trying to Elfin accomplish here!  Oh, will you stop playing and listen to me, for the Great Elf's sake!"

Lantern Elf snorted and put down a king of diamonds on the active pile. Laizeebohnes Elf matched the snort with a grunt, and matched the king of diamonds with a king of clubs.

"Tell me, do you Spooky-Elves want to make me a sad, sad, little Elf?" Lotta said and slammed her hands onto her slender hips. "I don't know if you are, but it's not going to work!  It's Elfin not!" - Deep breath - "Ever since I was an itty-bitty Elf, I've always worked so Elfin hard to make Human children laugh and smile and- and- and- when I was at Ye Olde Elfin Academie, all I could think of was their smiling faces when they discover the gifts under the wonnnn-derful Yuletree on Yuletide Morn" - Deep breath - "or the Night of Nights for those Humans who celebrate that… but you!  You Spooky-Elves and Teasing Fairies only think of how to make them cry and scream and cry a little more and wet their Elfin pants!  Where's the charm and joy and pleasure and-"

"Oh, get off your high reindeer, Yule-Elf," Lantern Elf said and put down a three of spades. It left him holding only two cards which meant he was on the verge of winning the hand. "None of us Spooky-Elves ever went to your gold-rimmed Elfin Academy. Hell, they'd kick us out if we ever showed up!  We learned our craft on the street. And trust me, there's no charm, no joy and no laughter there."

The harsh rebuttal snatched the wind straight out of Lotta's sails and she promptly deflated. "But we're all Elves… we're all the Great Elf's children… we're bound by blood," she mumbled.

"And there she goes again with all those archaic Yule-Elf notions. Yadda, yadda, yadda, nev-a gonn-a stopp-a," Lantern Elf said and threw down his penultimate card. When he showed his playing partner his final one - which was an eight of hearts that would trump any other card - Laizeebohnes gave up and threw down what was left of his own hand.

"But all right," Lantern Elf continued. "The Yule-Elf wants the reins. Let's give 'em to her. Hey Laizeebohnes, buddy… you wanna stay here and listen to the Yule-Elf yapping, or you wanna go over to Uncle Crack's Jive-Dive and tickle your thistle?"

"The Jive-Dive," Laizeebohnes Elf said and finally showed some energy by getting up, grabbing a jacket from a nearby coat rack and shuffling straight past a mortified Epilotta Elf without even acknowledging her.

When Lantern Elf followed his friend out of the crew room, he did in fact give Lotta a salute, but it was one he had picked up while working as an Elfin courier downtown so it wasn't too respectful.

Lotta's chin started quivering, but she steeled her Elfin jaw and let a grim mask of determination fall over her instead. She glared at the Teasing Fairies who had remained on the couch. "What'll it be, Fairies?  Are you Elfin with us or not?"

"We're sorry for the mess we made," Dizzie and Bizzie said as one. "It was Lantern Elf who said we should do it. It sounded like fun at the time… we're really sorry."

"Thank the Great Elf that some Elves… and Teasing Fairies… can still use their Elfin heads!  All right!  Let's get to it!" Lotta said and clapped her Elfin hands. "We've got an Elfin amount of things to get on top of before we can let the next group of Humans in… c'mon, let's hustle like a pack of crazed mountain hares!"

With that, she spun around and stormed out of the crew room. She was soon back at the control panel where Rockabye and the Human service technician had just completed a test of the equipment. "Rocky!  Is everything set?"

Rocky wiped her damp brow on her sleeve after she had crawled back out from underneath the panels. "Just about… we still need to give it a final check-up. Was that the back door I heard whining just now?"

"Yes. Lantern Elf and Laizeebohnes Elf have left. Good riddance to bad Spooky-Elves," Lotta said vehemently. "The Teasing Fairies have chosen to stay and help us. Do you think that we can get it back on… uh… track?  It would truly make me a sad, sad little Elf if we had to explain to Santa that we messed up…"

Rocky grinned and pulled Lotta in for a strong hug. "We can get it back on track, sweet Lotta. Aren't we Santa's A-Team Elves?  Sure we are!  How about a little song to make the work flow easier?"

"Yipp-pp-ie!" Lotta cried and jumped an Elfin foot in the air. Upon landing, she drew a deep breath and belted out the traditional Elfin anthem: "Ohhhh, it's so good to be an Elf!  Elves, always so kind and warm and free!  Elves, the best friends you could ever hope to have!  C'mon, Rocky!  Join me on the chorus… ohhhhhhh, we're Elves, Elves, Elves. We always have an Elfin good time!  Elves, Elves, Elves. And we're simply so cute and fiiiiih-ne!"


The final check revealed that all Rocky and Lotta's Elfin hard work had succeeded in restoring everything to good working condition after the drama - everything save for what was perhaps the most important fright on the entire ride: the cloaked Grim Reaper puppet.

This time it was Lotta who did all the crawling on her Elfin hands and knees, and she literally had her Elfin head up the puppet's skirt to look at the internal components. Amazed to see that the terrifying apparition was nothing more than nuts, bolts and electrical wires, she shook her Elfin head at how such basic parts could create such a frightening illusion.

A grunt escaped her when her Elfin eyes fell on a brownish liquid that leaked from a pump or actuator of some kind. "Rocky!  I know what's wrong!  Mister Spooky-Reaper here needs a new diaper!" she yelled before she broke out in an Elfin snicker that she couldn't even hide with a hand because they were both busy.

Rocky jogged around the corner from the control panel to see for herself. Getting down on the floor, she soon had her head up the Reaper's cloak where she joined her life-mate in looking at the leaking liquid. "Hello there, sweet Lotta. Come here often?" she said before she leaned over to place a kiss on Lotta's Elfin cheek - a few Elfin snickers were duly exchanged.

Turning more serious, Rocky let out a "Hmmm…" as she studied the pump the brownish liquid came from. "I'm no expert on mechanical maladies, but I think that's hydraulic fluid. It needs to be inside the pumps that control the puppet's motions. It's not, so… uh… I think the Reaper needs to lie down for a while."

"Oh… corn-on-a-cob," Lotta said and scratched her neck. "Now what?  Do we have another puppet we can put up here?"

"There are a few in storage but they've all been dismantled. We don't have time to put 'em together."

Lotta clenched her Elfin fist and smacked it onto the concrete floor. "Cotton-candy… just when things were looking brighter!"

The Yuletide Elves crawled back out and got to their feet. After dusting each other off, a great deal of Elfin hemming and hawing broke out. Rocky kept glancing at the puppet and then at Lotta like she was measuring her up for some grand appearance. The Elf being measured was too busy thinking out loud to notice anything: "But couldn't we… no. What if we… no. On the other hand, wouldn't it… no. How about we, uh… no. Sugar plum mush, this is a real Elfin brain-buster!  Oh!  Oh, I got it!  We could… could… no. Cotton-candy."

"I have an idea, sweet Lotta," Rocky said and reached for the Reaper's black, hooded cloak. Sweeping it off the puppet, she fluffed it once before she let it fall over Lotta's Elfin head. To call it too long would be an understatement: although the top part looked surprisingly good, the lower third of the black cloth pooled in an unruly pile around Lotta's high-grip schmutting boots. "Yeah… that could work," Rocky said as she took a step back to survey the creation.

"Uh… you really think so, dearest Rocky?" Lotta said in a voice that had been severely muffled by the abundance of cloth around her head. When she tried to look left and right, she found the light-weight material easy to work with because it followed her every move. "Oh… this is Elfin neat!  Yeah!  This could work!  Oooooh, do you know who I look like?"

"A cloaked Grim Reaper?"

"Silly-Elf!  I look like Theodore Elf!  Remember him?  The bass singer we met at the Amateur Elf Talent Show a few Elfin years back. We've seen him around Elf Springs, too, 'cos he's a member of the fire-watch corps!"

"Oh, that's right… his cape was gray, though," Rocky said as she thought back to the spectacular event on Little Yuletide Eve that had seen Lotta finish runner-up to the Seven Snowflakes Caroling Choir and their lead singer Patticake Elf. Lotta's prize for finishing second had been 180 free raisin buns so not winning hadn't been all bad.

Returning to the present, Rocky eyed Lotta's appearance once more. "You need something to stand on… that'll make it even better. An upturned box or crate of some kind… and with your excellent schmutting skills, you'll have no problem keeping your balance while the carriages drive past you."

"Awwww-shucks… thank you, dearest Rocky!" Lotta said somewhere underneath the hood.

"You're welcome. Please don't go anywhere… I'll Elf right back," Rocky said and zipped off to find a box of some kind they could use.


There were no boxes or crates anywhere so a four-legged chair had soon been appropriated from the crew room. After it had been set up at the ride's final display, Lotta hopped up on its seat and got herself comfortable. She let the black cloth fall down over her slender frame and marveled at how well it covered the lower parts of the chair - none of the spook-train's passengers would be able to see through the illusion.

The wooden scythe was held in her right hand while she raised her left like she had seen the original puppet do. Unfortunately, her arm wasn't long enough for the pantomime effect to look convincing, so a little more Elfin-quick thinking was needed. "Oh!  Why don't I just use the Elfin scythe?" she said and held out the traditional harvesting tool. "Rocky!  Rocky!  I think I Elfin got it!"

Rocky hurried back to the display and arrived just as Lotta lowered the scythe and said "You're mine!" in the deepest register she could manage - which wasn't very deep at all.

"But sweet Lotta… I'm already yours," Rocky said and stuck out her Elfin-pink tongue. "Looks Elfin swell and dandy. I'd say we're ready for the next group of Humans."

"Let's get 'em in here!" Lotta said in her usual, fair Elfin voice that was completely at odds with her ominous disguise.


Much to Rocky and Lotta's delight, laughter, happiness and a few squeals of gentle fright returned to the Halloween ride as the spook-train's carriages rolled around the track carrying scores of visitors. The empty tiger cage and the cobweb with the mechanical bugs were big hits with several of the children while the adults seemed to enjoy Frankenstein's Monster and the Count Dracula puppet more.

The glow-in-the-dark pirate skeleton had been too badly messed up to be reassembled in the short amount of time Rocky and Lotta had at their disposal, so the Cap'n had simply been swept up and dumped into a plastic bag for later restoration. A pile of pumpkins had been moved to the pirate's corner as a last-minute replacement, but they weren't a hit with anyone since there had been no time to carve faces into them.

The cloaked Elfin-Grim Reaper drew plenty of squeals and even a genuine scream or two as the scythe was pointed at the people in the carriages as they moved past the final display. Lotta's keen Elfin hearing overheard several Humans mentioning something about how lifelike the puppet was, but her Human was still not up to scratch so she didn't pick up all the details - what she did understand left her beaming underneath the black cloak.


After the final set of visitors had disembarked the evening's final spook-train, Lotta took off the black cloak and let out a sigh of relief. She wiped her damp brow on the sleeve of her schmutting jacket before she jumped off the chair and began to collect the various things she had used. The golden-bobbled A-Team Elf hat was soon back on her reddish locks where it sat even prouder than usual.

Walking through the zippable doorway in the black backdrop, she strolled out onto the start/finish point where she waved at Rocky and the Human service technician. Her Elfin throat was bone dry, but all she had access to inside the warehouse was a carton of artificial orange juice and the technician's thermos of coffee.

The horrendous taste of the so-called orange juice had nearly caused her to spew when she had sampled it in the crew room earlier, so that was out of the question - and she knew for an Elfin fact that she should not go anywhere near coffee or any other kind of grotesquely bitter liquid. The short answer was of course to go out to the sleigh and get some of the sweet white ale they had brought with them, but she didn't want to leave without seeing Rocky first, not even for something as important as the refreshing sweet ale.

The tough gig of impersonating the Grim Reaper under a spotlight and wearing a black cloak had made her internal Elfin reactor go into high gear. To let out some of the steam that billowed around inside her Elfin being, she opened her schmutting jacket and took it off.

As her toned shoulders and arms came into view, it was plainly evident she was no longer the scrawny 170-year old who had been afraid of even setting foot in the hallowed halls of Ye Olde Elfin Academie. She had become an experienced schmutterer and gift-dropper in her late two-hundreds who had been everywhere and had seen and done everything imaginable in their special trade.

Her tank top - a piece of garment that Rocky had inspired her to wear - clung to her in all the wrong places, so she took hold of the lower hem and began to move it back and forth like a fan. The scent she created by doing that was rather more Elfin than she had anticipated, and she broke out in a wild blush and a matching snicker.

Rocky looked up and winked at her life-mate.

"Dearest Rocky, what's left on the agenda?" Lotta said and shuffled closer to the control panel.

"Very little. We'll turn the lights up to full brightness now…" - The technician did so while Rocky spoke - "and then we need to walk around the track to see if there are any lost items. If there are, we'll put them in a tray by the main entrance."

"I see," Lotta said and wiped her brow another time. "So we're not going to take down all those Elfin displays and-"

"Nope!  We'll leave that to Lantern Elf and Laizeebohnes Elf if and when they return," Rocky said, wearing a broad grin.

The grin was soon mirrored on Lotta's face. "Sounds like an Elfin-good idea to me!  I'd like to see their Elfin reactions when they realize they actually have to work for a change… speaking of seeing… uh… what happened to the Teasing Fairies Dizzie and Bizzie?  Did they go all invisible on us again, dearest Rocky?"

"They fluttered out of here some time ago. I think they found the going a little too kiddie-friendly and boring. No big loss."

"No. Cotton-candy, I guess it's real Elfin difficult to get good help down here…" Lotta said and broke out in a wide shrug. "I guarantee you that none of this tickle-monster-mess would have happened back home in Elf Springs… well… we wouldn't have had a haunted house ride in the first place, of course."

Lotta suddenly fell silent and began to rub her chin. While the Human service technician moved away from the control panel to follow the tracks on foot like Rocky had said, Lotta let out a few Elfin sounds that proved she was thinking really Elfin hard about something.

Rocky knew it was best not to interrupt so she kept back while the proverbial Elfin rice pudding was reaching boiling point between Lotta's pointy ears. Two Elfin minutes later, the grin that spread over Lotta's expressive face proved the rice pudding was ready to be served.

"I can tell you have an idea about something, sweet Lotta," Rocky said as she caressed Lotta's toned shoulders with her thumbs,

Lotta nodded so hard the golden bobble bobbled up and down. "I have an idea. I have an Elfin-good idea!  Remember the great, big Junior-Elf Pathfinder Corps Jamboree that's coming up in December?  We're the guests of honor." - Deep breath - "What if we created a ride just like this one… well, not exactly like this one because it wouldn't be an Elfin scary ride at all… but a ride that would have displays that… uh… displayed certain important moments in Elfin history!" - Deep breath - "Yes-yes-yes, we could have- uh… but not with puppets. No, it should be real Elves in costumes who would re-enact alllll the big events since the birth of the Great Elf herself and up to… to… later." - Deep breath - "Ooooooh!  I could even call my dear, dear friend Silvermoon Elf up at Ye Olde Elfin Academie and ask if she or any-Elf from the faculty would like to participate. Professor Karthago Elf would love to be involved, that's an Elfin fact." - Deep breath - "So we could lay down tracks and have little sleighs being pulled around or we could have baby reindeer pull baby-sized sleighs… no, that would probably be too hard on the little darlings… so we could have tracks and little sleighs like here and Elfin everything!  Ohhhh, that would be so much fun!  I need to give it a little more Elfin thought, but don't you think that sounds like an Elfin-good idea, dearest Rocky?"

"I certainly do," Rocky said while flashing a Very Broad Grin. "Awwww, you look so cotton-candy Elfin cute when you go off like that. I've said it a hundred times… you're a real marzipan piggy. Pink, cute and tasty."

Lotta's tongue briefly came out of its cave before she broke out in a wild snicker. "Should we talk a little more or should we kiss?" - It was an Elfin-silly question, and she never made it further than that as her lips were too occupied being introduced to Rocky's.

The kissing turned so Elfin-good they didn't hear the main entrance being opened behind them; they didn't hear a Human ask "Hello?  Hello?" either, nor the gasp that followed. They did, however, hear the shriek that burst out of an adult female two point three seconds later.

Lotta nearly swallowed her tongue - and Rocky's - when the shriek assaulted her Elfin ear drums inside her pointy ears. She jumped up on tip-toes and needed to clamp down on her golden-bobbled Elf hat to stop it from flying off. It was a good thing she did as the cone and the bobble had already started spinning to act as an ejection seat for the rest of the priceless garment.

The Human female who had caught the Yuletide Elves in the glorious act of kissing clapped her hands on her cheeks and stared at them with such wide eyes it was a miracle they didn't fall out of her head. A moment later, she passed out cold and collapsed in a heap.

Rocky hurried over to the fallen woman to check up on her. Kneeling, she felt for a pulse. It was present if a little erratic, so she unbuttoned the woman's overcoat and let it hang loose on either side of her supine body. "What in the Elfin world was that all about?" she said as she leaned back on her thighs.

"I'll be Elfed if I know," Lotta said and stuck an Elfin finger into her Elfin ear to get the last echoes of the shriek to leave. "I'm beginning to agree with you, dearest Rocky. The Humans are weird, weird people. Just because a couple of swell lady-Elves do a little kissing, they shriek and faint and Elfin whatnot… I mean… really?"

Chuckling, Rocky got back on her feet and moved away from the woman. "It might have been that… or it might have been the sight of your arms, sweet Lotta… I don't think people down here are ready for buff Yuletide Elves. Well, any kind of Elf to be honest…"

"Yeah… I suppose," Lotta said and scratched her neck. "Oh, well. Not our Elfin concern. Do you know what I think we should do now, dearest Rocky?"


"Yeeeessss… but we better wait until we're out in the sleigh."

"Oh, corn-on-a-cob…"

"Don't be a silly-Elf!" Lotta said and snickered into her hand. "No, I think we should fly home. This Elfin gig is Elfin done, done, done. Like in all-over-and-I-Elfin-hope-we-never-have-to-do-it-again-done."

Nodding, Rocky wrapped an arm around her life-mate's bare shoulders. "Sounds like an Elfin-good plan, sweet Lotta," she said as they began to shuffle off toward the crew room so they could gather up their various things and get back out to their sleigh.

They had already made it fifteen Elfin paces across the concrete floor when they suddenly remembered the supine woman. Turning around, they looked at her for a few Elfin moments - then they both shrugged and carried on.

"Dearest Rocky, I think we need to stop at an Elfin grocery store once we get back up north," Lotta said in a voice that slowly grew fainter as they moved away from the main room. "Mammi and Pappi are coming over the day after tomorrow and I need a little of this, a little of that, a bottle of the Elfin-good port and plenty of…"




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