NORTHERNMOST: THE TALE OF SANTA’S GREATEST HELPER

Rachel Lianna, September 5, 2014

Rating: G

Word Count: 5560 words

Summary: The tale of Santa’s greatest helper

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Image Credit: Dreamworks Animation

    Santa had a favorite helper who went around the globe with him every Christmas Eve. Her name was Irene. She was a very bright, cheerful little Elf who enjoyed her job, especially since she always worked so closely with Santa. She was his first assistant, because she was also the helping hand he needed when feeling poorly, which was becoming more frequent.

    You see, Santa Claus had been doing this for a long time, and he was beginning to think about retirement. Whereas he was surrounded by immortally cheerful little Elves, Santa Claus had once been a man, from Germany. He had been doing his charitable runs around the world for seventy years now, and he was tired.

    One Christmas Eve, as they were going around the globe leaving gifts for those who had none that season (very few people believed in Santa Claus anymore; only those who had desperate need to believe did, and thus only the poor or lonely received those magical gifts from the North Pole), they visited the apartment of a young man who had no family to go to, no friends, and no funds to treat himself for the holiday. Santa had somehow (Irene never knew how he learned these things) discovered the young man’s existence, and proposed that they stop by and bring him something.

    Apartments don’t have chimneys, but that was all right. It was their last stop for the night, in Anchorage, Alaska before they went home, and so a minor deviation from tradition would do no harm. Irene picked the lock (she had been an Elf for longer than Santa had been Santa), and led the way into the bare, messy living room.

    Elves hate messes. While Santa Claus erected a tiny tree on the table and placed a small but heavy pile of textbooks beneath the tree, Irene went about tidying the room. She washed all the dishes (Elves are also very fast), threw away all the garbage strewn carelessly around the living room, and swept the floor. She wiped off the tables and cleaned the television screen, all the while shaking her head and muttering to herself. Meanwhile, Santa finished adding dainty, cheerful touches to the tree, and then sat down on the just-cleaned sofa and double checked the huge book he had been toting around all night.

    “Why are young humans so messy?” Irene asked, as she finished, coming out of the kitchen with a towel over her shoulder. Santa looked up at her and chuckled.

    “Because they don’t have Elves to teach them how to do it right,” he replied, with his faint German accent.

    “Do you think it would be different if they did?”

    “I think it would.”

    He closed his big book and rose from the sofa with a sigh. Irene looked thoughtful.

    “What would you think of me staying here and teaching him how to clean?” she asked.

     “I think that would keep you far away from home for a very long time,” Santa Claus replied. He cradled the book in one arm as he slipped out of the apartment and back out to the sleigh, which was resting in the apartment courtyard. Irene followed him with a speculative expression.

     Fifteen minutes later and just after midnight, Santa Claus flew the sleigh into the reindeer stable, and dismounted with a merry “Ho-ho-ho!” All the Elves cheered. Santa turned back to the sleigh and lifted down his heavy book. The corner of a handkerchief was poking out between the pages. As Elves unharnessed the reindeer and cleaned the sleigh, Santa went to a nearby table and opened the book to where the handkerchief marked the entry of the young man in Anchorage.

    Curling across the handkerchief in faint blue sparkles were the words: “See you in a year. Love, Irene.”

    Going back into Anchorage and demanding the return of his favorite Elf would not have been a wise thing for Santa to do. It was against the rules to go into any town and let his presence be known, except for on Christmas Eve. And for another thing–Irene was notoriously stubborn.

    And so Santa waited a year and coped with the absence of his favorite Elf as well as he could. He had a small kingdom of helpers, of course, but no one of them could quite do the job that Irene had. He therefore looked forward to Christmas Eve with almost more delight than he usually did, which is saying much.

    But, since it’s not the story of Irene I’m intending to tell, I’ll make the account of Santa’s visit brief. It had been a year, as stated above: In that year, the young man had become aware of Irene’s existence, learned how to clean, fallen in love, gotten married, and had a baby girl. And that was Irene’s story too, because she was the woman he had fallen in love with.

   The baby was the only consolation Santa was able to find in the entire event. Irene would not be returning to the North Pole, but she promised that someday, when the baby was older, that child would visit for a year or two.

    The child’s name was Tyanna, and she visited the North Pole sooner than anyone thought. She’s the one I really wanted to tell a story about.

***

A human too small is still an Elf too large.

    Tyanna was taller than her mother by the time she was ten, but still shorter than even the youngest people in her classes at school. She was a talented musician, dancer, artist, storyteller, and escape artist. Grounding an Elf is impossible, so if you ever have the opportunity to do so (highly unlikely), don’t even bother. Everyone at the school was jealous of Tyanna because of her multitude of talents, and made fun of her because of her small stature, piquant facial features, and especially because of her pointy ears. It was because she was so bullied that she went to the North Pole sooner than anyone had thought. Santa Claus took her away on the Christmas Eve after her twelfth birthday. She was four feet and two inches tall (her mother was exactly four feet in height), and weighed sixty-five pounds.

    Tyanna adapted quickly to the temperature of the North Pole–she was half-Elf, after all. But what she didn’t adapt to, at all, was the culture. Although she was the most talented person to ever attend the Anchorage public schools, Tyanna’s skills were much less than that of the least clever or talented Elf: Whereas before she had seemed like a Fairy amidst all the school children, she was now, in comparison to the Christmas Elves, clumsy, flat-voiced, dull-minded, and slow.

    During her first year there she had a growth spurt, after which she was not only the slowest, dullest Elf, but also the tallest and strongest. She always stood out in the crowd with her piercing blue eyes peering over the caps of everyone else, her unruly strawberry blond hair refusing to curl or stay in pins or braids, and her shoulders just a little broader than even the burliest Elf lad’s.

    In Alaska she had been teased for being tiny and talented. In the North Pole she was teased for being big and clumsy.

    Let’s take a peek at the first day of school after she had been there a year. The classroom was filling up, and as the hands on the clock jerked slowly into position, the last students came hurrying through the door. The last one in was the largest person to enter the room; her cap was crumpled in her hand along with her list of classes, her strawberry-blond hair was tousled and in absolutely no semblance of style whatsoever–unless mayhem counts. One of her eyebrows had a cowlick right above her nose, which was also slightly crooked; she looked not only disheveled, but rakish, and the grin she flashed at the teacher as she squeezed into her seat made her seem incorrigible.

      The teacher glanced across the fairly uniform sizes of the other students, who all fit at their desks, had their caps perched impeccably upon their platinum or chestnut or black or cinnamon heads, and were both composed and eager to learn. Then her gaze returned to the over-large, flush-faced human-Elf whose hair was sticking to a sweaty neck, and groaned. And so the year began.

    You may think that that was an extreme example, but you would be wrong.

    Witness, the fight in the Yule Hall in late January of that same school year:

    Disheveled blond hair dank with sweat, Tyanna dodged the charge of the biggest Elf in the Kingdom, grabbed the second largest around the waist, hefted him into the air, and threw him into Santa’s giant chair. Upon Santa entering the room, all the yells of the spectators ceased, the large, mature Elves attacking Tyanna righted themselves and tried to look composed, and the human-Elf herself staggered towards Santa while sticking a hand into her mass of hair in a futile attempt to control it.

    “I’m sorry,” she said. “I didn’t want to fight with them.”

    “You’re very strong,” Santa said. He looked around at the crowds. “Well, I don’t think school is going very well for you, and social events usually end with you in a brawl. So I have a proposition: I need a strong Elf to help me with my tasks; I’m getting old. How would you like to be Santa’s personal helper, like your mother was?”

    “Yes, please!” Tyanna exclaimed gratefully.

    And that was that. She never went back to one of those classrooms with the tiny desks. Santa had a personal secretary, but Tyanna was helpful with other things, like helping him up the tower so he could look out across the frozen landscape, or lifting heavy boxes and bags. Mrs. Claus had died some twenty years before. Tyanna hadn’t noticed before how much Santa missed her, and how much he still loved her. On days when he was not particularly busy, he helped Tyanna with her studies, which couldn’t be halted just because she no longer went to school. Between working on mathematics, writing, history, and North Pole budgeting, he would tell her stories about Mrs. Claus or his native Germany.

***

    Five years after becoming his helper, Tyanna was looking over the schedule and noting when she was supposed to go to the stable and check the state of the harnesses, when she overheard the secretary saying:

    “Tyanna has given you a new enthusiasm, I’ve noted, but you know this can’t last. You said ten years ago that you meant to retire. Eventually, your health will begin to fail again, and then what will happen? There aren’t enough humans good enough or believing enough to take this post.”

    “You’ve all been muttering about an Elf being Santa Claus for decades,” Santa stated, “but I still think it’s unwise. You don’t understand or appreciate humans. Just look at how you’ve treated Tyanna, who’s only half-human. It’s disgraceful. An Elf Santa would eventually fail his duties.”

    “You underestimate us,” the secretary said stiffly. Tyanna could imagine her sticking her pointy nose into the air and looking over it at Santa’s red, friendly, age-creased face in disdain. The image made her blood boil. She got up from her seat and slipped into the office, where she saw exactly what she had imagined.

    “Madame Laior,” Tyanna said with forced politeness, her nostrils flaring and her jaw clenched. “I will kindly ask you to leave now. Santa has other business to attend to this morning.”

    The secretary gave her a venomous look and left the room. Santa studied Tyanna for a moment, and then his jolly face broke into a grin.

    “Tyanna, you certainly are my best helper.” His smile suddenly faded. “What will you do when I am gone?”

    The question was sickening. She didn’t answer for a moment, and then she forced a smile and knelt beside his chair, patting his knee.

    “By the time that happens, I’ll be all grown up, and will have found my place,” she promised him. He smiled in a contemplative way that was almost sad, and patted her hand.

    “But where is your place, Tyanna?” he asked. They thought about this in silence. Tyanna shrugged.

***

    The next year, in mid-November, and after Tyanna had turned nineteen, Santa’s health began to fail again. He spent several whole days in bed, and Tyanna did everything that he usually did at that time of year. Elves looked sourly at her as she checked on the production levels in the workshops. Madame Laior asserted her dominance in Santa’s absence, and soon Tyanna found that the Elves had taken the North Pole to themselves. She retreated to Santa and told him of the state of things downstairs.

    “I expected as much,” he said. “Tyanna, you’ve been an excellent help for me, but the time has come for you to go and find your own place. Sadly, I do not think you belong among the Elves. I’m not sure how much longer I have left. You had best go now.”

    “I want to be here with you…”

    “You can visit before the end–because this is not the end, I know–but in the meanwhile, try to find your place in the world. Take Undan with you. She’ll like that. And Rudolph too; he’s been having trouble with his father lately anyway.”

    “Where am I to go?”

    “You’ve lived in the artic for long enough…try to be a researcher, a scientist. Go to the nearest scientific research outpost. There’s a map in the desk. Go there. Learn about science. You’re bright. You can be anything you want. Among humans you’re a genius. Go out there, and make your destiny.”

    “But, you…”

    “I’ll be fine. You’ll be fine.” He smiled. “I have a good feeling about this.”

***

    The next morning, with tears in her eyes and the hood of her parka drawn over her disheveled hair, Tyanna went out to the stables. Rudolph, a sulky young reindeer with golden fur, was standing alone. All the other reindeer were out exercising.

    “Santa said I can take you with me on an adventure,” Tyanna announced, getting a saddle down from the wall. Rudolph cocked his head on one side and surveyed her. “I’m not sure when we’re coming back, if we do come back. I’m supposed to find my place in the world. How do you feel about it? You want to come? I think I’m going to the research outpost. You know the place?”

    Rudolph nodded. He began to look slightly less sulky. Tyanna grinned.

    “Good. You want to come?”

    The sparkle in his eyes said yes. Tyanna saddled him, mounted, and he trotted out of the stable and out onto the frozen waste beyond the North Pole’s walls. She told him to stop, and produced a whistle on a string from around her neck. She blew a piercing note that was taken away on the fierce artic wind. After a few minutes, an artic fox ran over a rise. Tyanna clapped her hands, and Undan the fox leapt up onto Rudolph’s back.

    “There we go,” Tyanna said. “Now we’re ready to start on our adventure.”

    Consulting with her compass and the map from Santa’s desk, Tyanna led them towards the research outpost, musing about her destiny between muttering over longitude and latitude.

    “Being a human didn’t work before,” she muttered around the compass, which she was biting as she angled the map for better light from the starry sky. There was no sun in the arctic winter; it had not been seen for more than a month already. She squinted at the symbol that was the outpost on the map, and then lifted her head and looked around. “And I’m not a good Elf, either. Rudolph, I need a little light, if you please.”

    Rudolph’s golden coat gave off a faint luminescence. He increased the glow at will, and did so now, that Tyanna might study the map again.

    “It’s not that I wasn’t a good human,” she continued muttering, taking out a pencil, marking their place on the map, and then using the compass to decide on a direction to travel. “I was a superb human…and everyone hated me. Maybe now it will be better, since I’m an adult. I don’t mind being human.”

    Undan lifted her pointy nose and sniffed the air.

     “If you could smell out the outpost, that would be indescribably awesome,” Tyanna said. Undan looked at her with shrewd, mirthful eyes, and leapt down. Rudolph followed the fox through the darkness.

    They traveled in this manner for several days, building ice caves to rest in at night from the fierce winds. On the fifth day, the outpost came into view, white buildings alight and casting shadows upon the ground beneath the iridescent glow of the aurora borealis.

    “This is where the journey really begins,” Tyanna said, forcing her enthusiasm. She glanced over her shoulder at the white expanse behind them, and heaved a sigh. “Goodbye, North Pole.”

    She dismounted at the door of one of the buildings and knocked firmly on it. Undan sat down at her feet and Rudolph glanced around disdainfully upon this human abode. The door swung open to reveal the cramped interior of the building, where four men and three women were in the middle of eating dinner. The one who had answered the door was still holding his bowl of soup.

    “This one has a reindeer and an arctic fox!” he exclaimed.

    “Hi,” Tyanna offered, smiling at him, and waving at all the people in the background. “My name is Tyanna. I’m thinking about becoming a scientist, studying the arctic, and all that. Could you guys give me some pointers? That would be great.”

    “Who are you?” one of the women asked, as the man let Tyanna in. They let her take a seat at the table. Someone gave her a bowl of soup. Tyanna poked it with her spoon for a few moments before answering the question.

    “I’m Tyanna. I’m from Anchorage, but I’ve been living up here with my crazy relatives for a few years. I’ve decided that’s over now, and I’m thinking about my career. Since I’ve been up here for so long already and I’m used to the cold, I thought I might as well study something about the arctic. What sort of researchers are you?”

    “I study magnetism,” the man who had answered the door replied. He had an enormous beard. It reminded Tyanna of Santa’s beard, except shorter, and brown. The others told her their specialties, and she asked them questions about where and how they studied, if they did internships, etc.

    “Your story about your relatives is odd, but you’re not nearly as weird as the last person who came,” the bearded man said. “He was Russian, I think. We’ve got him isolated in the back. He was talking about the North Pole like he expected to find Santa there.”

    Tyanna looked up from her soup and sucked on her lips. “That’s weird. What’s his name?”

    “Nicholai or something like that,” the man replied.

    “Can I meet him?”

    “If this sort of thing fascinates you, maybe you should study psychology instead,” one of the women said. “He seems deranged.”

    “I’m okay with that. I just want to see him.”

    After dinner the bearded man took her to another room which had three bunks in it. In one of the bottom bunks a man was sprawled, one arm draped across his face, as if he was sleeping, or perhaps suffering from dramatic despair.

    “Nicholai, whoever you are, we’ve got another visitor,” the bearded man said.

    “Is he from your government?” Nicholai asked.

    “Nope,” Tyanna replied. “I’m from the North Pole, been living up here for a while. They said you were asking some strange questions.”

    Nicholai moved his arm and sat up on the edge of the bed, looking over at Tyanna.

    “Good gracious,” he said, studying her. “You’re a Christmas Elf.”

    “I told you he was nuts,” the other man said.

    “I’ll talk to him for a while,” Tyanna said. “Maybe he’s just gotten really lonely, crossing the ice, and all that. It takes a long time to get here.”

    “All right; I’ll leave the door open,” their host said, and left. Tyanna glanced back through the doorway at the crowded room in which she had eaten. Then she studied Nicholai. He was in his mid-twenties, tan, but with platinum blond hair and icy blue eyes. He was studying her just about as sharply.

    “Was I right?” he asked. “Are you a Christmas Elf? You’re tiny and clever looking, and your voice rings. I think you must be.” His accent was Russian, but he spoke perfect English. Tyanna knelt on the floor in front of him and continued studying his face.

    “Why do you believe in Santa?” she asked. “Why do you want to find the North Pole?”

    “I know you’re an Elf. I know you know the way.”

    “If I were an Elf, you’d have to convince me there was a good reason for you to still believe in Santa. Nobody believes in Santa anymore.”

    The young man looked embarrassed. “I grew up quite poor. But we always had a Christmas. Even my parents had no idea who brought the food or gifts. So I know there’s a Santa Claus. And I know you’re an Elf. Look here: You don’t have to show me the way to the North Pole. I’ll find it, if you can only tell me where it is. There are three places it could be: Magnetic North, the Northern Axis, or the wandering point on the globe that is Northernmost. I’ve been thinking about it for a long time, and I’ve decided it’s probably one of these three. Which is it? Can you tell me?”

    Tyanna had to smile, and there was a sparkle of admiration in her eyes. “You really have thought about it. So…why do you want to find the North Pole? Is it gratitude, or avarice?”

    “Gratitude, and fascination,” he replied. “No one believes anymore. It’s hard to be the way I am–so open and frank–and be surrounded by people who disbelieve. Why did you leave the North Pole?”

    “Have you ever met an Elf before?” Tyanna asked him.

    “No.”

    “Well, I’m a poor example,” Tyanna replied. “I’m only half-Elf. I’m from Anchorage, Alaska. Anyway, you were right. When referring to Santa’s home, the North Pole isn’t the northern axis of the earth…it’s the Northernmost place on the globe, and it’s constantly migrating.”

    “Thank you!” Nicholai exclaimed, his accent suddenly very strong as he grinned. “But you didn’t tell me why you left the North Pole.”

    “The Elves don’t like me,” she replied. “But I don’t want you to wander the waste forever, so I’ll take you there. Santa Claus has been feeling sickly lately. He’s ancient. Anyway, I’ll tell the scientists that you were trying to find my relatives and that I’ll take you back to them.”

    “Thank you! You’re very kind.”

***

    The next morning the researchers released Nicholai into Tyanna’s charge. He harnessed his huskies to the dog sled he had made the journey in, and followed Tyanna, Rudolph, and Undan as the reindeer cantered across the snow. Even with Rudolph’s fur glowing softly, Nicholai had to use a flashlight to guide the huskies across the undulating surface of the frozen waste.

    Tyanna repeatedly questioned what she was doing as they travelled. Taking a human to the North Pole was against tradition–in fact, it had never happened. She had never heard of how Santa Claus came there, but she was fairly certain that he hadn’t been dragged in by a half-breed Elf.

    They stopped after many hours of traveling, so that the animals could rest. After a full day’s work they stopped again, and Tyanna taught Nicholai how to make an arctic snow fort. They slept in this with Undan and a few of the huskies. The dogs would have been fine outside, but Nicholai needed them for warmth.

    They traveled for several days like this, following Rudolph’s innate sense of homeward direction and using Undan’s tracking abilities. Nicholai wondered if it was fun to ride a reindeer or have an arctic fox for a friend. He also wondered what it was like to be an Elf, and what sort of people–besides Santa–he would meet at the North Pole. Tyanna’s eccentricities were what spawned this curiosity. He woke one night after only resting a few hours to find her gone.

    Peeking out of the snow fort, he discovered that she had recruited or summoned (something) three polar bears, and was dancing with them one by one beneath the Northern Lights, while Rudolph further lit the scene with his golden gleaming. Nicholai laughed, and–although a little nervous because of the bears–asked her for the next dance. The only music they heard was the harsh arctic wind whistling across the ice, but that was all the music they needed: Laughter and innocence are wealthy assets.

***

    The ever-night of winter grew oppressive to him on the fourth day. He asked Tyanna what sort of lighting the North Pole had.

    “Well, it’s a little hard to explain,” she said thoughtfully, munching on an apple. It was during their lunch break. Tyanna had already realized that getting back to the North Pole was going to take a few days longer than getting away from it had. For one thing, it had moved, and they had to track it down; for another thing, Nicholai and his huskies were not quite as fast as an Elf on a reindeer.

    “North Pole lighting isn’t like normal light,” Tyanna continued. “It isn’t electrical. It mostly comes from the sun or the other elements. And there are these tubes full of stuff that looks like snow but is actually some sort of energy that special Elves produce. I never learned how. ‘Course, they don’t let me do much at the North Pole, since I’m only half-Elf. They won’t be thrilled when I bring you in, either.”

    “I suppose Elves don’t like humans,” Nicholai said hesitantly.

    “Well,” Tyanna shrugged, “They don’t like them to visit the North Pole. My mother married a human, so I can’t say they hate them. Besides, I think Santa will like you. You’re nice. You seem really innocent…I don’t know what I mean by that…” She trailed off.

    Nicholai laughed.

    “You have wide eyes,” Tyanna stuttered. “It’s like you haven’t started closing them to the wonders and horrors of the world yet. I like that, even if it means that you’re perpetually shocked. Don’t think I haven’t noticed that, Nicholai–which is a nice name. Anyway, I think the huskies are rested, and Rudolph is always ready for more running. Let’s go.”

   Nicholai liked Tyanna’s name too, and more than that, he thought she was the most charming person he had ever met…and he had decided years before that there were just no more charming people left in the world. He was glad to be proven wrong.

***

    They reached the North Pole late in the morning of the sixth day. Tall white gates loomed up in the darkness, gleaming beneath the light of the aurora borealis. Rudolph and the huskies slowed as they approached the walls. Tyanna glanced back at Nicholai and smiled at the look of ecstatic wonder on his face. She led them right up to the gates and opened them.

    Nicholai dismounted from the dogsled and passed through the gates on foot, Tyanna beside him. A few Elves in the street in front of the gate suddenly stopped their business and gaped at the duo and their animal companions.

    “We’d better hurry to Santa before someone arrests us,” Tyanna muttered. Then a contemplative look came over her face, and she grinned. “But then again…the two of us could probably handle twenty of these guys. Well, come on. Rudolph, can you please lead the huskies to the stables? Thank you. Undan, you can come with us if you want.”

    Tyanna carried the arctic fox as she led Nicholai quickly through the streets. Most Elves looked confused; some looked frightened. A few looked angry. But there were some who looked at Nicholai and grinned as they whispered to each other. Nicholai himself was grinning in happiness, obviously reaching the fulfillment of a lifetime dream and cherished belief.

   When they reached the center, where Santa’s headquarters were, they were stopped by the secretary, Laior, and the biggest, toughest Elves she could find on short notice. Not understanding what was happening, Nicholai continued smiling; Tyanna glowered down at the group.

    “I’m taking Nicholai to see Santa,” Tyanna told Laior.

    “Santa is indisposed for visitors,” Laior replied.

    “Nicholai didn’t come all the way from Russia for nothing,” Tyanna said. “And besides, I knew that Santa was sick. I also know that Santa likes visitors. Let us through.”

    “Oh,” Nicholai said, suddenly understanding that the little Elves didn’t want to let him pass. He looked at Tyanna. She put her hands on her hips and stared down at Laior and the burly Elves.

   “Look, we’ve seen how it goes when I get into fights with you guys,” she said. “You always lose. So just step out of the way.”

    “I can’t believe you brought a human in here, half-breed,” one of the big Elves said.

    “That’s it!” Tyanna exclaimed. “Get out of the way!”

    She plowed through them. Nicholai followed her example, and they pushed their way through into the yule hall. Tyanna broke into a run, and Nicholai followed her, across the hall, through several hallways, and up a spiral staircase. He was panting and blowing by the time they reached the top, and Tyanna was squeezing Undan somewhat tightly. The half-Elf went down a hall and knocked on a big, solid-looking door. They heard a cough, and then a merry, booming voice called “Come in!”

    Tyanna opened the door and slipped into Santa’s bedroom. “Hey Santa, I’m back!” she declared.

    Nicholai stepped into the room behind her.

    “My goodness,” Santa said. He was sitting in a big armchair and reading a book about current political unrest in the Middle East. He studied Tyanna for a moment, seemed convinced that she was unharmed since last he saw her, and then surveyed Nicholai.

    “I knew it was time I retired,” he said after a moment, with a wink at Tyanna. “Well done, Santa’s helper. Nicholai, if I could have chosen anyone for the job, it would have been you, because I still remember you, you know. Come over here and let me look at you.”

    Nicholai obediently went to Santa’s side. The young man wasn’t grinning anymore, but he still looked happy, and a little over-awed, like a child seeing something spectacular for the first time. Santa took his hand and smiled up at him.

    “Yes, I’m very glad that you’ve come,” Santa concluded. “What do you think of the North Pole?”

    “It’s beautiful,” Nicholai said immediately, smiling again, but looking nervous. “But…I don’t think the Elves are happy that I’m here.”

    “They’re just worried about change,” Santa said calmly. “They’ll come to love you. Christmas is in a few weeks. I’ll need your help. You don’t mind staying, do you?”

    “Oh, not at all!”

    “That’s exactly what I thought,” Santa said with a pleased smile. He rose slowly from his chair. “Tyanna, would you mind getting me my coat?”

    She ran and got the red coat from the wardrobe where it always hung, and helped Santa pull it on. Just as he was buttoning it up Laior burst into the room. She stopped after a few steps, stuttered, stared venomously at Tyanna, and then nodded politely to Santa.

    “What is happening here?” she asked in a tense voice.

    “Oh, my helper has returned with another helper,” Santa explained, smiling cheerfully. “Laior, this is Nicholai, from Russia, a very sweet young man.”

    Laior looked at Nicholai again, and her expression softened. She lowered her head and took several steps back towards the door. “Oh, I see. Welcome to the North Pole, Nicholai. Would you like a tour?”

    “I think Tyanna and I will give him a tour,” Santa said. “But thank you.”

    He led them out and down into the busy workshops, showing Nicholai the grand work that was progressing as Christmas approached.

    I think you understand what eventually happened. Nicholai helped Santa for several years, and then Mr. Claus passed the name and duty on to Nicholai before retiring. Tyanna continued as helper for both of them during the entire transition. This may seem like a strange story, since it was about Tyanna, and not the passing of one Santa to the next. But it isn’t strange at all. Tyanna found her place, and it wasn’t just as Santa’s helper. There was a certain place, too small for a human and too big for an Elf, into which she fit just perfectly. It was in a certain heart, and in a few years, she was known to all the Elves in the North Pole as Mrs. Tyanna Claus, wife of Nicholai Claus, Santa’s greatest helper.

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