As we landed in the field in front of the barn, the large doors were suddenly thrown open and a whole team of elves, there must have been 50 or more of them, came out of the doors and rushed towards the sleigh. They were dressed in little green outfits with white trim. They had on the classic pointy hats and shoes with small silver bells on the tip of each toe. Each elf had a leather belt around their waist, and I was able to see that their ears were pointed as well. The only major difference that I noticed about the elves, from what the media has led us to believe anyway, was that they weren't as short as we have been told. They weren't tall, but they weren't tiny either. The tallest of the elves (that I saw anyway) was about 5 feet, and he was clearly the head elf of these 50, as he was directing groups of elves to each reindeer. The shortest elf was just over 3 feet.

As the elves approached the sleigh, Santa stood up and stepped down onto the snowy ground. It was at this point that I realized just how big he was. While he does have a big round belly, he is also extremely tall. He had to be at least 8 feet tall! He was so tall he made me feel like a child again. As he stepped down onto the ground, he turned and reached his hand up, offering it to me and he helped me hop down out of the sleigh. As I turned and looked back, I saw the reindeer being lined up in front of a small barn to the left of the big one, and the first three in the line were led inside. Santa must have noticed me looking because he explained that the smaller barn was where the reindeer were washed when they came in from a run. After he said that I asked him why only 3 were inside and he explained that there were only 3 stalls inside for cleaning the reindeer, so they took them back in groups. And then he proceeded to ask me if I would like to watch the process that they go through to get each reindeer cleaned up and bedded down after a run, and I quickly responded with a yes.

With that, Santa took my small hand in his larger one, and led me over to the barn. When we got inside, they were just getting the first three reindeer into the stalls. The elves were in groups of 5 or 6 and moments after we entered the barn, they started the water and proceeded to begin cleaning each reindeer. It took about 10 minutes and was remarkably similar to the way you clean a horse. They got them wet and then using special brushes they soaped down the reindeer's bodies before quickly rinsing the soap off and massaging a special moisturizing lotion on their antlers. Santa explained that the lotion the elves were putting on the antlers helped to keep the reindeer's antlers strong and it also helped to give the antlers the slight shine that was on them. After that they gently dried each reindeer off and led those three, I think it was Vixen, Comet, and Dancer out of the small barn and the short distance through the snow to the large barn, while the next three reindeer, Rudolf, and I think Donner, and Dasher were led into the stalls.

Santa and I followed the first group over to the large barn, where three of the elves were getting each reindeer settled in their respective stall while the other two elves from each group were getting carrots, apples, alfalfa, and hay and placing them in troughs in the reindeers stalls for them to eat. I quickly surveyed the barn. It was huge, and each reindeer's stall was at least 10 feet by 10 feet. The doors were half doors and had each reindeers name on front. I noticed that the walls were covered with different things that were used to attach the reindeer to the sleigh, and even a few sets of tack, such as saddles and saddle pads and stuff like that for if someone needed to ride just a single reindeer instead of taking out the whole team.

I then turned back to where the elves were getting the reindeer settled in their stalls and noticed that they also placed a blanket over the back of each of the reindeer. Santa explained that the blankets would help to keep the reindeer warm. He told me that even though the reindeer were equipped for the extreme cold and were sheltered by the barn, that the temperatures here could fall to extremes and drop too low and cause them to become ill or even cause them to die. Just as the first group of elves finished up getting the food and getting their reindeer settled in the second group brought in their reindeer and proceeded to begin the same process as the first group had, while the first group disappeared through the front doors of the barn. I asked Santa where they were going, and he said that they stay here, that the 50 elves I saw when we arrived are all assigned to the reindeer barns, and they were headed to check on the other reindeer.

I looked at Santa, obviously confused as I asked him what other reindeer there were, and he chuckled as he told me that they kept 100 reindeer here for the elves to use when they had to leave the city on errands for him, that they had several barns similar to this one spread throughout this particular section of forest and each housed anywhere between 10 and 20 reindeer.

Santa then led me out of the barn and to a small dirt lane. We began walking down the dirt lane, when I suddenly realized that I was extremely cold now, having been in the warm barn, and now we were out in the wind and the snow. My body was quickly becoming numb. I began to involuntarily shiver, and my teeth started to chatter causing Santa to suddenly look over at me. It must have been only just then that he realized I was wearing nothing but a thin top, slippers, and pajama pants with no coat or anything, because in only seconds I was cradled in his arms close to his body and he was moving very rapidly down the lane. He spoke to me, and over my chattering teeth I could barely hear what he said. He asked me why I came out in only my pajamas with no coat, but I was unable to answer him back at that particular moment.

Within minutes we arrived at a Santa's home. It was a huge, beautiful mansion. It appeared to be made with stone and red wood. It had white, wooden window frames and red trim. There were also many balconies spread across parts of the home that were wrapped with white fencing to keep you from falling. The doors appeared to be a solid oak and they were a beautiful snow-white color that matched the window frames. They weren't fancy and overstated. Instead they were simple, yet elegant at the same time. Adjusting me so that he could hold me in one arm, Santa quickly flung open the door and rushed inside. The warmth of the house on my freezing body actually, physically hurt as he rushed to a sofa and grabbed a thick, red, velvety blanket and snuggly wrapped it around me before laying me on the sofa and telling me to rest while my body temperature warmed back up.

I was hesitant to drift off, afraid that I would wake up and this would all be a dream, but Santa, kneeling by my side, assured me that he would be there when I awoke. With that I drifted off into a fitful slumber, my body temperature slowly rising back to normal.

To be continued…

This is a link to a picture similar to Santa's house. I've searched and searched the internet, and this is the closest picture I can find to what it actually looks like (again, remove the spaces). www . kakslauttanen . fi / santas – home / (If you come up to a website that is not just the picture, just click on the Santa's home link and scroll down to the last picture, let me know if it stops working by the way.)

Disclaimer: Keep in mind, that I do not own Santa... he belongs to all of the stories told over time. This story is gaining me no financial profit and is written solely as an outlet for some of my creative juices. I'm not going to beg for reviews, but I will say that any reviews are greatly appreciated (they let me know you guys are reading my story and how you feel about it) and reviews with constructive criticism are even better. I will say though, that without reviews updates will come slower and when I feel in the mood to write (maybe every month or so unless things change). Reviews will speed that up as I will know that people are reading and enjoying the story, even if it's something as simple as saying "Hey, read your story." *Wink wink.

I also do not own the picture of Santa's house I've linked to here. If you, or anyone you know does own the picture, PLEASE, contact me so I can either ask your permission to use it (if you say no, I will remove the picture) if it's yours, or I can contact the owner and ask permission.

Same with the picture of the sleigh that identifies the story. Unless you count having it saved to your pictures folder on your computer as owning it (which I did since you have to "own" the picture for fanfiction to allow you to use it), then I do not own that one either. I would like to get permission from the original artist to use the photo, so if you know them, drop me a message with their contact info.