To fully enjoy “Catching Ire,” read “The Reindeer Games” first.
“May the Claus be ever in your favor!”
With those words, Mrs. The Fat Man, bedecked in a bedazzling array of greens and reds, left the podium. Most of us sauntered away to find our mentors, to glean some parting wisdom from their past experiences in The Pole’s most formidable event.
The Reindeer Games were about to begin.
I’d lost track of Rue the night before, too wracked with inner guilt to see what had become of him. Now, I wanted to know who he’d gotten as a mentor. For the kid’s sake, I hoped he’d found someone good—maybe one of the grizzled elves that looked innocent enough, but knew how to wield a hammer.
I followed tiny hoofprints to a nearby grove of Christmas trees, a constant stream of smoke billowing above the tree line. The runt with the shiny nose had scampered off to Frosty’s igloo.
This did not bode well for the kid’s chances.
It’s not that Frosty was inept; it’s that he was an iceaholic. I guess I would be too if the only thing that could keep me from melting away into nothingness was the constant intake of ice. It’s what he added to the ice that caused issues. [ref]Try as I might, he never told me what that was.[/ref]
The guy smoked a lot too.
Back when I first came to The Pole, Frosty told us about his first Reindeer Games. I’d heard about Frosty before, through the songs and legends that all little reindeers hear. Let’s just say that his trademark “Thumpity thump thump” took on a whole new meaning after hearing his stories.
If Frosty was sober, he would have been a stellar mentor. His beady, coal-black eyes betrayed nothing, a stoic visage despite his supposedly mirthful ways. As it stood, Frosty had been sober as many times as The Fat Man had ever missed a delivery.
I slid behind a nearby tree, my steps muffled by the constant snowing. Rue tentatively approached Frosty.
“Mr. Sir Frosty?”
“What am I supposed to do tomorrow?”
“Not get killed.”
” … ”
“Don’t look at me that way kid. I didn’t make up these games. Just try to stay out of the way and let the other reindeer take each other out. Then … ”
“Don’t get killed.”
“Yeah, do that. And don’t forget your secret weapon that we talked about last night.”
“Yeah, my secret weapon. I’m sure that will help so much. Thanks Mr. Sir Frosty.”
I stifled a laugh into my hoof. The kid was spitting sarcasm at the old iceaholic. Maybe he could tell that Frosty wasn’t of much use. Maybe Rue had already resigned himself to a fate he couldn’t control, one that was already being written by Dash, Dan, and Don. I was starting to feel sorry for the kid until I saw him saunter away from Frosty’s.
His nose started to change color, a stark contrast to his light brown coloring and the winter wonderland that surrounded us for miles.
It almost looked like—and I know how ridiculous this sounds—his nose was emitting fire.
Secret weapon indeed.
I ran back to my herd, anxious to tell the Triple D’s about my fact-finding mission. The remorse I’d slept with had thoroughly melted away. To be honest, a twinge of fear shuddered through my body, a reaction to this new revelation of Rue’s decidedly unique characteristic.
But as soon as I approached the guys, all fear had left, fully replaced by a rising anger, an almost righteous pride to defend my place as The Fat Man’s chosen one.
That red-nosed freak was deer meat already.