Larisa Oleynik exhaled a sigh of  relief when she turned finally found the country road she’d been looking for. She’d accidentally passed it ten minutes before and had to backtrack to find it. Luckily, the heavily wooded country lane twelve miles north of New York City had been recently plowed and there was only a modest covering of snow on it’s surface, but the shadows of Christmas Eve night were quickly driving away the last remnants of daylight.

       Larisa couldn’t help but chuckle at finding herself driving all alone in the New York countryside on this Christmas Eve. The temperature was in the low twenties and forecasts for tonight were calling for snow and wind chill factors near five degrees.

     She glancing up at her reflection in the rear view mirror above the dash.  “We Oleyniks are definitely a strange lot...”

     But Larisa wasn’t going to be deterred, especially after meeting Alicia  Morris one week ago in a mall in New York. The nice, dark haired lady was trying to raise funds for the orphanage she worked for, and when Larisa made a sizeable donation, Ms. Morris immediately recognized the twenty-two year old actress from ‘The Secret World of Alex Mack’ and the movie ‘Ten Things I Hate About You’. Larisa was so taken by the woman’s sincerity they wound up talking for over half an hour.

     Ms. Morris explained to Larisa she had quite a few fans amongst the children at the orphanage, and if it wasn’t an inconvenience, could she find the time to stop by and make an appearance during their Christmas Eve party to cheer the kids up. Larisa was delighted to accept the offer.

     The road took a wide turn to the right and became darker, and Larisa turned on the rented SUV’s  headlights. Looking back up, she thought she saw a figure on the roadside just ahead. It was the same size of a small child.

    “Who in the world would let their kid out in this weather?” she said aloud.

    She slowed the truck and finally stopped where she’d seen the figure. From her vantage point, Larisa scanned the roadside on her right but saw nothing, then decided to get out. The blistery wind cut through her jeans and thick, gray, turtleneck sweater, and she could feel the heavy cold creeping through her insolated winter boots the moment her feet hit the near-frozen surface of the road. Her coat and gloves sat on the passenger seat, but she was anxious to get out if she had to help someone’s child. She stood beside the front of the SUV, peering across the hood into the woods beyond.

     “Hello?!” she yelled out, watching carefully for anyone to appear. “Is there anyone out there?”. 

The only answer was the howl of the wind and purring of the SUV’s engine. Larisa wrapped her arms around herself against the cold as she waited for a response, but there was none.

     With one final glance, she reconsidered and got back into the SUV, hurriedly closing the door beside her and furiously rubbing her hands together. In her rear view mirror, her cheeks and nose had turned a deep crimson from the cold and they burned and tingled as the heat of the SUV’s interior warmed them.

     Shadows she thought. Shadows on road were just playing tricks.

     With one final look around, Larisa placed her SUV in drive again and warily drove on towards the orphanage.

     The tail lights of Larisa’s SUV disappeared around the curve just as a small whirlwind of snow began to whip up on the roadside where she’d been stopped. It grew in intensity and spun even more rapidly, picking up leaves and small debris around it. When the small, snowy twister expanded to ten feet across, it suddenly vanished a brilliant flash of blue light, revealing two small points of blue light hovering several inches off the ground where it had previously been. The strange lights began to expand upwards and outwards, stretching, flowing, and taking on human shape until the illuminations were almost three feet tall.

     The bright glows subsided, and where there’d been two glowing balls of energy, there now stood two three foot tall beings. One was male, the other female, with sharp noses and tall, pointed ears. They were clothed in skin-tight green pants, red boots, heavy green coats adorned with red cuffs and collars, and topped off by green Robin Hood style caps with a long, red feather in each of them.

      “Oh, great landing Sebastion” said the cute, petite elfin woman to the brooding, dark haired male beside her. “A ‘perfect landing’ you promised, and here we are in the middle of nowhere!”.

      “Stop complaining. I’m doing the best I can considering the circumstances” Sebastion snapped.

      “And this weather” she complained, taking off her hat and running her hand through her curly red locks. “It’s ruining my hair”.

      Sebastion took a deep breath and regarded her calmly. “Your hair is the least of our worries Ophelia. We may have lost track of our target”.

     “Well then, use the orb to find his trail again”.

     Sebastion rolled his eyes at Ophelia. In his left hand, Sebastion held up a small, clear orb which glowed with a blue light within. He supported it high in front of him and it began to glow brighter. The orb exerted a mystical force against Sebastion’s hand, and it turned him towards the direction which Larisa’s truck had departed.

     Sebastion squinted against the cold wind in his face and pointed down the road. “He went that way”.

     “Oh my” came Ophelia’s voice from behind him.

     “What is it Ophelia?” Sebastion asked nervously.

     “I think he’s hitched a ride with someone”. Ophelia pointed down at the road. A set of tire tracks stretched down the road in front of them, and beside them was another set of small footprints which crossed over the tire track closer to the road‘s edge, and then abruptly ended. They looked at one another for a moment and shuddered

     Sebastion considered the situation carefully. “It looks like he’s hitched a ride. Come on Ophelia, we don’t have a lot of time before everything up North gets started”.








      Larisa laughed at her new friend Alicia Morris. She watched the energetic woman happily scurry about, tending to the orphans in the huge den of the old Victorian style orphanage as they ate cake, pumpkin pie, and ice cream. Some of the older ones were seated dutifully, while the younger children ran rampant around the room with the expected Christmas Eve zeal. They were all there to see Larisa for their annual Christmas party.

      She arrived forty five minutes ago and been having a wonderful time enjoying the kids from the moment they mobbed her when  Ms. Morris introduced her.

      After settling into a comfortable, high backed chair near the large, roaring fireplace positioned in the far wall of the room bordered on both sides by large bay windows, Larisa could feel the excitement of the children as Christmas approached. More than once, she’d almost cried when she thought about the hardships many of these children had experienced in their young lives and silently gave thanks for how fortunate she was.

     Watching them band together as an informal family and laugh and squeal their appreciation for her being there helped her to put on a brave face.

       She’d grown particularly fond of a five year little girl named Becky who‘d recently returned to the orphanage after being hospitalized with a serious bout of pneumonia. Larisa couldn’t help but see some of herself in the little girl; she looked a lot like she did when she recalled pictures of herself at that age. She was a timid, well-behaved little girl. Larisa figured she wasn’t running about with the other children because she was still recovering from her illness.

     Becky was sitting snugly in Larisa’s lap and remained reserved when Ms. Morris announced that everyone was going to get to open a present under the huge spruce Christmas tree in the center of the room. It was over ten feet tall, the bright, blinking electric star atop it’s branches  nearly scraping the twelve foot high ceiling.

      Dozens of presents were stacked beneath it, most of them bought for the children through donations.

      A chorus of cheers echoed in the room as the kids quickly formed a neat line near the tree as Ms. Morris and another employee, Racheal, began handing out gifts. 

      Larisa leaned her head down near the little girl’s and beamed a sweet smile at her. “Aren’t you going to get in line Becky? They’re handing out presents”. Becky remained reserved and still, seemingly content to watch the other children and not participate.

      “Becky?” Larisa asked again, softly. The little girl looked up her with big, soulful, brown eyes.

      “Maybe, but what I want for Christmas isn’t under the tree” she replied meekly.

       Larisa looked the other children opening their presents and then back at Becky.

      “Then what do you want for Christmas?” Larisa asked curiously.

      “A giant candy cane”. Becky stretching her arms out as wide as she could. “One as big as you!”.

      “You do? One this big?” Larisa giggled, stretching her arms out wide and mimicking Becky’s gesture. Becky giggled too.

      “Yes, I love candy canes. I think they’re beautiful”.

      “I do too Becky” Larisa said, gently squeezing Becky’s hand.

      Ms. Morris appeared in front of Larisa to pick Becky up out of her lap. “You have to open your present now Becky, and then we have to get you off to bed. It‘s a big day tomorrow”.

      Larisa stood and followed them to the tree and sat down indian-style among the children as they opened their presents. Becky opened her’s to reveal a thick, fluffy teddy bear, which she hugged closely to her. Larisa could feel herself becoming teary eyed again.

      After the children were done, Ms. Morris spoke up again. “O.k. guys! We need to get the younger children to their rooms and ready for bed, but first, let’s thank Larisa for coming by to see us!”

     There were presently twenty-two children at the orphanage, all of them between the ages of four and eleven except for two older kids who were both fourteen. After they offered Larisa a group goodbye, the two fourteen year olds helped the staff shepherd the younger children into a line behind Racheal, and they in turn fell into the end of the line when they were all in a row. With Racheal leading them in song, they all sang ‘Jingle Bells” as they marched from the den and headed towards their rooms.

      “You looked sort of taken with Becky“ Ms. Morris said to Larisa once the two were alone in the room.

      “She’s absolutely adorable” Larisa said, wiping a tear from her cheek. Ms. Morris saw the look of concern on Larisa’s face for her new friend.

      “Becky gave us a scare when she got sick. It was touch and go there for a little while, but she’s a strong little girl, and the doctor said she’d be completely well in about another week or so”.

      “That’s great. She’s just so sweet”.

      “I know. I think she’s everyone’s favorite here” Ms. Morris pointed out. “She’s been with us almost a year now. We’re still trying to find a family for her”.

     “She deserves a good family” Larisa agreed.

      “Larisa, I can’t thank you enough for coming out. It meant so much to the kids. We‘ve never had a movie star out here before”. It was Ms. Morris’ turn to get teary-eyed.

      “It’s been an amazing experience Ms. Morris. It meant a lot to me too”. Larisa absently looked at her watch. It was almost nine o‘clock. “Well, I guess I better get going before it gets any later”.

      Ms. Morris took Larisa’s hand. “You have a thirty minute drive back home. Let me get you a thermos of hot chocolate for the ride back before you go”.

     “Thanks, that’d be great Ms. Morris”. Larisa beamed gratefully at her host.

     “Please, call me Alicia”.

      Ms. Morris spun on her heel and walked into the kitchen across the hall. Larisa sat back down in the chair near the fireplace.

      Yes, I’m glad I came.





     “He’s here?” Ophelia moaned. “He’s in an orphanage?!”

     Ophelia and Sebastion were standing in the heavy falling snow outside the orphanage behind Larisa’s rental car. The sky above was thick with low, dark gray clouds, and the wind and heavy snow flurries were beginning to pick up.

     Sebastion held the glowing orb before him again and read whatever message it’s blue light  secretly related to him. “The orb says he‘s here and he’s inside. It also says he‘s used an entrapment spell to seal the building off. Everyone inside is in danger”.

     “This is disastrous!“” she exclaimed.

     Sebastion spun around to glare impatiently at his companion. “It’s our own fault Ophelia! If we’d have just done what we were supposed to do, we wouldn’t be in this fix!”. He turned back towards the large house and  continued to inspect it from their hidden vantage point. “Christmas could be ruined, maybe forever”.

     “What do we do now Sebastion?”.

     “We have to go inside the orphanage and stop him before it’s too late, that’s what”.

     “But how? You said the building is sealed off magically”.

     “We can go inside of our own free will, but we won’t be able to get out again unless we stop him. Come on Ophelia, let‘s go, and be careful”.

      When the two elves simultaneously snapped their fingers, their bodies dissolved into small clouds of glowing, greenish dust motes which wafted through the air towards the orphanage. Once on the building’s front porch, they drifted through the keyhole on the front door and went  inside.









     Larisa had already put on her coat, scarf, and gloves and was waiting for Ms. Morris to return with the hot chocolate she offered, and while she waited, she was examining the increasing snow flurries outside the big bay window to the right of the fireplace. She was becoming concerned with the strengthening snowstorm. If she waited any longer she may not be able to get back to town. The window’s glass reflected the large room behind her, and for a moment, she thought she saw twinkling green lights pass by the room’s doorway to the outer hall.

     She turned around to see what it was, and gasped in surprise to find Ms. Morris coming to a stop in front of her with a thermos of hot chocolate in her hands. She never heard her approach.

     She laughed nervously, embarrassed.

     “I’m sorry” Ms. Morris apologized. “I didn’t mean to startled you Larisa. Here’s your hot chocolate for the trip back”.

      Larisa once again beamed her patented beauty pageant smile and accepted the small thermos. “That’s really sweet of you Ms. Mo... Alicia. I guess I better get going”.

     Alicia accompanied Larisa to the front door, and after one more round of thanks and goodbyes, she grabbed the polished brass knob of the large, oak door and tried to turn it. It didn’t move.

     “That’s strange” she half-laughed, glancing at Larisa when the doorknob wouldn’t turn. She took hold of the knob with both hands and tried again, but it wouldn’t budge. Alicia tried again, this time pushing hard and applying most of her body weight against the door. Nothing.

      “Is everything o.k. Alicia?” asked Larisa, watching the women’s struggle with the stubborn door.

      “The door won’t open. It’s stuck”. Larisa didn’t say anything for fear of being rude.

      Alicia stepped back and placed her hands on both hips, inspecting the door with deep thought. “It must be the weather outside, swelled the door shut. Come on, there’s a metal door on the service entrance at the end of the hall. You can go out that way”.

     Larisa smiled with nervous appreciation and followed her host down the hall and around a corner at it’s end. There, in a small vestibule, was the dull gray metal door which led to a sidewalk outside which ran along the west side of the building and back around to the front drive where Larisa was parked.

     Alicia politely tried to open the door for Larisa, but was surprised to find this one wouldn’t open either. She shoved again harder, and it too, wouldn’t budge.

     “I don’t understand” she explained to Larisa, an impatient edge to her voice. “This one is like the front door, as if it were nailed shut or something. It won’t budge, not even a millimeter”.

      “Let me try” Larisa offered, stepping between Alicia and the door. She grasped the metal knob and pushed hard, then again, and one more time, and got the same results as Alicia.

      “Wow, these are some stubborn doors” Larisa gasped, looking at Alicia for an answer.

      “Well, it has to be the weather doing this, though it‘s quite odd” Alicia reasoned. “Come on, there’s some French double-doors in the kitchen that lead to the back patio. If we have to, we can pull both open if they’re swollen too. They’ll open for sure”.

     Forty-five seconds later in the kitchen, Alicia had lost her patience. She first tried the right hand French door and it wouldn’t open, then she unlocked the upper and lower latches on the left door and tried to pull both open at the same time, but that didn’t work either. Larisa and Alicia could see the prevalent cracks between the doors indicating they weren’t swollen shut, yet they just wouldn’t open.

     “This is uncanny” Alicia exclaimed. “How can all the doors be stuck like this?!”.

     A chill ran up Larisa’s spine. Something wasn’t right here. She could feel it.

    “Ms. Morris!” came a woman’s panicked voice from the hall behind them. It was the other staff member, Racheal.

    “What is it Racheal?” Alicia asked, trying to mask her frustration.

    “It’s the children Ms. Morris! They’re missing!”.

     Larisa’s and Alicia’s mouths fell agape simultaneously.





     Larisa, Alicia, and Racheal stood in one of the two girls’ rooms on the second floor in the south wing of the house. Larisa had already taken off her coat, gloves, and scarf again, realizing she couldn’t get outside for now and had no choice but to follow Alicia and Racheal upstairs. The light was on and exposed eight single beds, four on each side of the room. Where the girls had snuggled into their beds only a few moments before, there now lay a huge candy cane in each bed where the children had been, covered up neatly and exposing only their curved necks above the top of the sheets.

     “What’s going on here Racheal?” Alicia demanded, spinning on her employee. “Is this some sort of holiday prank you and the children are playing, because it isn’t funny”.

     “No Ms. Morris. I swear! If the kids are playing a joke, I wasn’t let in on it” Racheal promised. Larisa stood by silently, baffled by what was happening. First the stuck exits, now this.

     “Racheal, go check the other girls room on the floor and then the boys’ rooms downstairs” Alicia directed, barely containing her irritation. “Off you go...”. Racheal nodded and hurried from the room obediently. Larisa was thinking how hot the room felt, much warmer than the hallway outside.

     “I wouldn’t be surprised if the boys planned this and the entire bunch are hiding downstairs somewhere“.

     “Does this happen often Alicia?” Larisa prodded carefully, trying to be delicate. “I mean, the kids playing tricks like these?”.

     “A couple of the boys are jokesters, but have never done anything like this before, and I still don’t know why all the doors downstairs suddenly became glued shut“. Alicia walked to the nearest bed and pulled the cover off of one of the gigantic candy canes. She touched the cane and leaned down to smell it.

      “It’s a real candy cane“ she stuttered with amazement, straightening up again. “Only I can’t figure out how in the world the kids could find or afford candy canes this size, least of all get them inside past the staff to play a prank like this”.

      “Why, they didn’t buy them dear lady” squawked a gravelly, sarcastic voice behind them. Both Larisa and Alicia spun around to see a three foot tall man in a green and red outfit standing in the doorway to the room.

      “Who, who are you?” Alicia gasped, ready to scream out. Larisa’s eyes widened as she realized she was looking at a real live elf.

      “Allow me to introduce myself headmistress” the little elf said, bowing with fake humbleness. “I am Loki, and what you see in those beds around you is the result of my handiwork. Impressive attention to detail, don’t you think?”.

      “Your, your handiwork?” Larisa gulped. “You mean these candy canes are...?”.

      “The children, yes. I transformed them into candy canes” the elf replied, very proud of himself. “Allow me to demonstrate”.

     Loki stretched his right hand out in front of him and stuck out his pointer finger, aiming it at Alicia. He twirled it around three times, and then jabbed it at her. A circular orb of red energy flew outwards from his fingertip and struck Alicia square in the chest, entering her body. The energy instantly spread throughout her entire form, her skin glowing red all over. Her mouth gaped open and eyes widened with surprise, and with a final “Oh my” slipping from her lips, she transformed into a 5 foot 5 inch tall candy cane.

     “Oh my God” Larisa said, aghast, staring at the candy cane which was once Alicia Morris. She slowly turned her head and looked hesitantly at Loki, who was grinning from ear to ear.

    “Not bad, eh pretty one?” he snickered confidently at Larisa. “Some of my finest work to date if I might say so myself. Now, let’s see what a pretty candy cane you will make”.

     Loki began twirling his finger at Larisa, but she was too afraid to move.










     Frozen with fear, a flood of thoughts rushed through Larisa’s mind as Loki prepared to transform her into a candy cane. This is why the doors downstairs wouldn’t open. Somehow, this being had sealed all the doors shut where no one could get out.  Then Larisa thought of her new little friend, Becky. Has this evil elf  already changed her into a candy cane for all time? Larisa knew she had to overcome her fear and do something to protect herself; find some way to get help and stop this maniacal little creature.

     “Enjoy eternity as a candy cane my pretty” exclaimed Loki as he launched another red energy bolt from his fingertips. At the last moment, Larisa urged her body to move, and ducked the bolt by diving to the floor behind one of the girls’ beds.

     “Drat!” Loki spat, frustrated he missed. “But that won’t save you girl! I’ll get you eventually!”.

     Larisa laid belly-down on the floor, plotting her next move. She knew she didn’t have a lot of time. She needed a distraction. Loki was blocking the doorway to the room, the only way out. If she could get out into the hallway and find a way outside to her car, she could go get help. Since all the doors were locked, how she was going to even get outside she had no idea, but she had to try. Lying on the floor behind this bed wasn’t going to protect her for more than a few more seconds anyway, so she acted.

     Pulling herself up, Larisa grabbed a small reading lamp off of a night table beside the bed she was using as cover, stood up on her knees, and heaved it towards the last place Loki was standing. Luckily for her, the elf had not moved from his position, apparently confused by his victims’ resistance.

     “What?!” Loki screeched, stunned to find himself on the defensive.

     “How dare you!”. The evil elf quickly ducked the lamp which smashed against the door frame behind him, but Larisa didn’t waste any time finding more objects to throw at the loathsome creature. She grabbed a book off the end table next and threw it at him, then a plastic cup, a hairbrush, and a bottle of hand lotion. Loki was already running across the room trying to avoid Larisa’s barrage. She silently cheered herself as her plan was working; Loki was no longer blocking the doorway.

     Grabbing the pillow stuffed under the hook of the candy cane on the bed beside her, Larisa jumped to her feet for leverage and flung the pillow as hard as she could at the retreating elf. As soon as the pillow was airborne, she turned and ran for the doorway.


     Larisa reached the door, but her victory was short-lived. As she passed through the doorway, Alicia’s staff assistant, Racheal, was rushing back into the room. Larisa twisted her body at the last moment to avoid slamming face first into the smaller, petite woman, but the two women wound up on the floor in the doorway in a tangled mess. Racheal was lying halfway in the bedroom while Larisa was halfway lying in the hall.

      “Racheal!” Larisa shouted. “Get up! We have to run!.

      “What’s going on? Why are you running?” Racheal  asked, shaken by the collision but trying to get up.

      “There’s no time! We have to go!”. Larisa grabbed Racheal’s hand and pulled her to her feet. She almost yanked Racheal back down as she tugged her down the hallway. As they reached the top of the stairs, Larisa felt Racheal’s hand suddenly become very warm and heard a loud gasp come from the girl. Racheal’s hand slithered out of  her grasp as if it were water, and Larisa saw a bright red flash behind her.

      Oh Racheal, no.... Larisa stopped and turned, and where Racheal once was, a candy cane stood in her place. Loki was standing at the end of the hall with an evil grin stretching across his face, blowing on the end of his finger as if it were the barrel of a gun.

      Larisa bolted for the stairs, but with a wave of his hand, Loki’s magic swept Larisa up into the air and flung her backwards against the hallway wall with a rough thump!. Larisa exhaled from the impact, partially stunned and pinned spread eagle against the wall, unable to move.

     “A merry chase, a merry one indeed pretty one!” Loki cackled, moving several steps closer.  “What fire from a mortal girl! I commend you lass! You have spirit, but alas, it’s time for this chase to end. I have plans to attend to and you would only be a distraction”.

     As Loki slowly approached, he began to twirl his hand at her.




     “No escape this time my pretty” Loki boasted as power surged in his hand. Larisa knew she was only a couple of seconds away from being a turned into a candy cane forever. Will it hurt? she wondered hopelessly.

     Then someone grabbed her leg.

     Larisa looked down and saw a small arm in a green sleeve and red cuff appeared from the surface of the wall and clasped her leg just above the knee! Larisa tingled all over like she’d been painlessly electrified, and before she could open her mouth to scream her surprise, she fell backwards into the wall with the sensation of diving into a heated swimming pool, except that she was the water. The last image she had of Loki was the furious look on his face.

      “Sorry about that” a girl’s high-pitched voice apologized as Larisa  recovered from the disorienting experience of passing through the wall. Larisa focused and found herself in a dimly lit room. Only a few feet away, she saw two more elves standing before her. One was a cute girl and the other a man with a serious scowl on his face, but still much less scarier-looking than Loki. Instinctively, she lurched backwards from them and bumped against the wall. She expected the worst.

       The female elf stepped forward. “Don’t worry, we’re not like Loki. I’m Ophelia, and this is Sebastion. We’re here to stop Loki and reverse what’s he’s done”. Her voice was soft and soothing. Larisa eased herself from the wall. She could feel the benevolence coming from the two elves.

      “Did, did I just pass  through a wall?”.

       This time, Sebastion spoke up. “I made you intangible and pulled you through to save you from Loki. You should be thanking me” he scoffed. Larisa let out a breath she realized she’d been holding for a long time.

      “Thank you” she exhaled. “But who’s this Loki guy, and why does he have such a grudge against an orphanage?”.

      “We’ll explain in a moment” Ophelia said, “but right now, we have to hide from Loki before he summons the courage to come in here to confront us”.

      “And we have to have a plan first before we confront him. He‘s much too powerful to face one-on-one” Sebastion added.

      Larisa looked around her; it was a large storage room, but there was nowhere to hide. Boxes and folding chairs were crammed into the back corner, and several pieces of old furniture sat covered with sheets on the other side.

     “There’s nowhere to hide in here. Are we going through the wall into another room?” she asked the elves.

     “No” Sebastion answered. “But we want Loki to think we did so we’ll have a chance to make a plan while he’s looking for us elsewhere in the house. First of all, we have to disguise ourselves”.

       “I don’t think I like the sound of that” Larisa said nervously as Sebastion and Ophelia snapped their fingers.








     The door to the storage room flew inwards from it’s hinges and landed on the floor with a loud crash. Loki entered with both hands held in front of him, glowing with bright red magic.

    “Sebastion! Ophelia! Come out, come out where ever you are!” he mocked confidently. “I know you’re in the house. You might as well face me now and get it over with”.

     Loki stepped deeper into the room, it’s only illumination a 40 watt light bulb dangling from a cord from the ceiling. There was nothing but storage around him and a fine layer of dust on the floor. Then he saw the footprints on the dusty floor.

     Three sets, two small and one human size, all leading to the far wall and ending only inches away from it. “Aha!”.

    Loki levitated several inches off the floor and flew towards the wall, passing through it and out of the room. Several seconds passed. The dust on the floor stirred and silently whipped up into the air, concentrating itself into two distinct dervishes. The small whirlwinds spun faster and accumulated more and more dust from about the room until both were thick, gray clouds spinning in place. They collapsed in upon themselves, the dust congealing into central forms, and Sebastion and Ophelia appeared.

     “He’s gone, for now” Sebastion said, relieved.

     “What do we do next?” asked Ophelia.

     “Uh, hello? Guys?” called Larisa’s disembodied voice from somewhere in the room. “Forget something?”.

     Ophelia frowned, her cheeks blushing. “Oops! Sorry! I’ll change you back”.

     “She’d probably be better off staying hidden as dust anyway” Sebastion implied with a sneer.

     “That’s ridiculous Sebastion. She could be of help to us”.

     “All I’m saying Ophelia, is that she’s probably safer as...”

     “Hey!” interrupted Larisa’s angry voice out of the ether. “That’s not your decision to make. Turn me back now!”. Sebastion rolled his eyes while Ophelia snapped her fingers, and instantly another whirlwind of dust flew up from around the room and coalesced into Larisa’s human form. Larisa staggered slightly after the transformation, feeling her hips, stomach and face to make sure she was whole again.


     “Are you alright?” Ophelia asked Larisa, taking her hand in her‘s and helping to steady her.

    “Yeah, I guess so, as alright as someone who’s just passed through a wall and was turned into dust can be. It just feels so...”.

    “Funky?” Ophelia finished her sentence.

    “Yeah”. Larisa finally composed herself. “Those are some really awesome powers you have. Can you guys turn into whatever you want?”.

    “Sure!” Ophelia said, eager to please. “Whatever, or whoever we wish. See?”. She snapped her fingers, and Ophelia’s body rapidly flowed like water. The next moment, Larisa was staring at an identical twin of herself, even dressed in the same clothes.

     Larisa was awe-struck. “Oh my God”. She hesitantly touched her double’s face. Her twin smiled at her. “You’re really... me”.

     “Right down to the last molecule” Ophelia answered in Larisa’s voice. “But don’t be afraid, it’s still me, Ophelia”. She snapped her fingers again and turned back into her real elf-self. “We can affect other things and people too, like when I turned you into dust. Want to be turned into an eagle? How about a motorcycle?”.

    “Uh, maybe later”.

    “Matt Damon perhaps? He‘s so dreamy” Ophelia pressed, her attention wandering.

    “No thanks”.

    “Ophelia, you‘re getting sidetracked again” Sebastion warned steadily.

     She looked disappointed at his rebuke. “Then I suppose you’ll require an explanation now, won’t you Larisa?”.

    “That’d help. This is pretty overwhelming for me. I can’t believe I’m standing here with real live magical elves, and how did you know my name?”.

     “Your movies” Ophelia swooned. “I watched ‘A Time For Dancing‘. I cried at the ending, and I’ve seen every episode of Alex Mack”.

     “Uh, thank you” Larisa offered politely, a little embarrassed. Larisa thought Ophelia was endearing.

     Sebastion rolled his eyes at his female counterpart, trying to maintain his patience. “Anyway,  Santa isn’t the only one who knows everyone’s names”.

    Larisa balked. “Santa?! The Santa Claus?”.

    “The one and only” Ophelia said, smiling with pride. “Only right now, Loki could ruin Christmas if we don’t stop him”.

    “And possibly every Christmas to come” added Sebastion.

     Larisa took a deep breath and then held her hands up in front of her to get the elves’ attention. “Tell me what’s going on. Who is Loki, what’s his beef with this orphanage, and how do we stop him?”.

     Ophelia glanced at Sebastion and gave him the floor. He looked at Larisa with a serious gaze and began to explain. “Like all of Santa’s elves, Loki once had a position he was responsible for in Santa‘s yearly preparation for Christmas, Christmas canes; or ‘candy’ canes as you humans like to call them. Loki was Santa‘s second in command, mainly because he’s been with Santa since the beginning”.

    “The beginning? When was that?”.

    “Many, many centuries ago, only Santa really knows the answer”.

     Sebastion continued.  “Since Loki is almost as old as Santa is, he’s a very powerful elf in his own right, and became jealous of Santa’s fame, so he tried to take over Santa’s operation on Christmas Eve one hundred years ago by trying to steal Santa’s magic with a spell, but he underestimated Santa‘s power. Loki’s own spell backfired on him and cast him to a nether region, and though it broke his heart to do it, Santa renewed the banishment spell every year. It was mine and Ophelia’s turn to renew the spell this year, but we, we didn’t”.

     “Why didn’t you?” Larisa asked, confused.

     Ophelia cast her eyes downwards guiltily. “We forgot”.

     “We forgot” Sebastion repeated.

    “You forgot?! Something that important, and you  forgot?”. Larisa was trying not to hurt their feelings, but she was stunned at their admission.

    “We were so busy this year” Ophelia responded defensively. “Everything was backed up, Santa’s sleigh was only half loaded, and there was mass confusion. We just, forgot. And when we finally remembered, Sebastion and I ran to the room where the spell had to be cast, and we found Loki had escaped back into our realm”.

    “So Santa sent you two to find him and banish him again?”.

    “Not exactly” Sebastion said, averting his eyes. “Santa doesn’t know Loki got out, or that Ophelia and I set out to chase him”.    

     Larisa closed her eyes, trying to keep her composure, but was nearly ready to concede defeat. “So you set out on your own to stop him. But you just turned all of us into dust to hide from him. How is that stopping him?”.

     “It’s not that simple Larisa” Ophelia cut in. “Loki is more powerful than Sebastion or me. After saving you, we needed time to think instead of just rushing into a confrontation with him”.

      “So there’s no way to stop him?”.

      “Yes, there is, and this is how” Sebastion whispered, reaching into his interior coat pocket coat pocket with his right hand and pulling out a tiny glass orb. He held it in the palm of his hand for Larisa to see. It was as small as a marble as first, but began to glow with a faint blue energy and grew to the size of a baseball.

    “This is a magic Christmas orb, it‘s very powerful” he explained. “It was originally used by Santa to banish Loki, so it’s linked to him. It’s how Ophelia and I were able to track him here. Loki is very powerful, but this orb is his weakness. Santa used it to turn Loki’s own power against him, banishing him, and this very orb has been used to renew Loki’s banishment spell for the last one hundred years. All it’s wielder has to do is hold the orb out towards Loki and will him away, the spell will activate, and he will be banished again”.

     “That’s it?“ Larisa asked, unsure if it could be that easy. “What if he zaps you before you can use the orb on him?“.

     “As long as you’re facing Loki, the orb will protect you from his magic, because it will reflect his power back at him. Reflect Loki’s own power against him, he will be banished again”.

     “O.k., I have that figured out. Now, why has he sealed us in this orphanage? Wouldn’t the little devil want to be out there turning everybody into candy canes?”.

     “His plan is obviously to trap Santa here” Sebastion elaborated. “We only sensed his entrapment spell on the orphanage because we had the orb. If Santa comes inside without any warning, he’ll be under the influence of Loki’s spell and couldn’t leave, and wouldn’t be able to finish delivering his Christmas gifts. He’d be stuck here, on Loki’s terms”.

     Larisa was chewing absently on her fingernail. “That’s not good”.

     “It‘s worse, Larisa” Ophelia interjected. “Once Loki has Santa trapped here and his magic contained, he could banish this entire orphanage and us with it into any nether region of his choosing. We would all be gone, forever”.

     Definitely not good” Larisa sighed. She realized her fingernail fetish and stopped with a blush. “So what’s our plan Sebastion?”.

    Sebastion snapped his fingers on his left hand and two buttons flew off his green tunic, hovering in the air between the three of them. They reformed into baseball-sized, glass orbs glowing with blue energy just like the real Christmas orb he held in his right hand. With a nod of his head, they floated into Ophelia’s and Larisa’s hands. They held them out with questioning looks on their faces.

     Sebastion explained. “We have Loki looking for us, so hopefully, while he thinks we’re on the defensive, we can sneak up on him and catch him off guard with the orb. If you two can distract him with the fake, I can banish him”.

     Larisa cocked her head and eyed Sebastion suspiciously. “We’re going to be bait? What is he uses his powers on one of us before he’s banished?”.

     “Then we’ll be turned into Christmas canes, or whatever Loki wants to turn us into” Sebastion replied nonchalantly.

     Larisa’s eyes widened in apprehension. “What?!”.

    “Don’t worry Larisa” Sebastion added calmly. “Once I banish Loki, his spells will reverse”.

    “I’m not liking this, again”.








     Thirty, nerve-wracking minutes later, Larisa and her two elfin companions had searched the entire second floor and part of the first with no sightings of Loki. At every turn, Larisa expected the evil elf to jump out at them. Larisa wasn’t sure how much she trusted Sebastion’s plan but it seemed the only feasible one at the moment. Of course, even with the dire circumstances, Larisa had been enjoying traveling through the house “elf style”; magically passing through walls and traveling room to room as sparkling, floating, green dust courtesy of Ophelia‘s magic.

      The last room they inspected was the boys’ downstairs bedroom, and like the three other bedrooms before it, all contained candy canes; remnants of the children that Loki transformed. Now they entered the outer downstairs hall and made their way towards the east wing of the house which contained the kitchen, dining room, and the spacious den where the Christmas party had been held.

      The dining hall was located in the back of the house. Like the den, it was a large room, running lengthwise east to west along the back of the house. The only entrances were doors connecting it to the kitchen and the hall. It was deathly still as they entered, the only sound, the howling wind outside rumbling against the half dozen windows on the exterior wall, their panes streaked and dripping with condensation.

     The room was illuminated by a row of overhead lights which ran the length of the room’s ceiling. There were two, eight foot long oak tables lined end to end down the center of the room, bordered by many high backed chairs positioned neatly underneath them. A large cabinet made of deep red cherry sat against the exterior wall at the far end, storing the plates, bowls, and utensils used by the orphans at meals.

     “I don’t like this” Ophelia whispered. “He’s onto us. I’m sure of it”. The room’s temperature seemed to be rising. Larisa had noticed this before.

      “Stop being so dramatic Ophelia” Sebastion admonished. “He’s searching for us. He doesn’t know...”.

     “Oh but I do!” exclaimed Loki, stepping out from an impossibly thin space behind the cabinet at the end of the room. “I’m no fool!”.

     Larisa, Sebastion, and Ophelia were caught completely off guard. Loki wasted no time in pressing his advantage, advancing deeper into the room along the back wall and firing a bolt of magical energy at the threesome. Larisa instinctively shoved Ophelia down and dove onto the floor behind her to avoid the attack.

     Sebastion was left all alone, but barely managed to avoid the bolt. “Now!” he ordered. Ophelia and Larisa jumped to their feet and held out their fake Christmas orbs while Sebastion held his up, and all three of the spheres began to glow.

     “What?!” Loki gulped, fear and uncertainty spread across his face as he stopped dead in his tracks. The three heroes spread out along the interior wall of the room while Loki was caught standing against the exterior wall. His gaze kept switching to all three of his foes, not knowing which one held the power to banish him.

      “Just surrender and accept your fate Loki. It’s all over now” Sebastion boasted. Larisa and Ophelia could hear the overconfidence in his voice. Just banish him Sebastion Larisa thought.

      Loki’s posture eased and he stood as straight as he could, raising his hands above his head in surrender.

“Very well, you have me. Be done with it then”.

      Larisa didn’t like this, it was too easy. She watched Loki carefully, and then noticed his form cast no shadow on the wall behind him. Everything else in the room was casting a shadow from the overhead lights, but Loki didn’t.

     She swept her hand towards Sebastion as he held up the Christmas orb to banish Loki. “Wait Sebastion! It’s a trick!”.

     Loki suddenly vanished. Surprised by Larisa’s warning and Loki‘s disappearance, Sebastion managed to turn his head halfway towards Larisa before he was struck from behind with a bolt of red energy coming through the doorway they used to enter the room only seconds before. His body was consumed by red magic, and he realized Loki had outsmarted him. Loki had cast an illusion of himself in the room to distract them while he hid in ambush.

     At the last possible moment, Sebastion tossed the orb at Larisa. “Stop him, save... Christmas” he gasped weakly.

    Larisa didn’t expect Sebastion to throw the orb at her, and frantically reached out with both hands to catch it. She barely snared it on her fingertips, but managed to haul it in. Then Loki walked in, starting angrily at them, and he was blocking the way out of the room.

    Chills rode up Larisa’s spine as Ophelia grabbed her hand. “Run!”.

    Ophelia led her to the far end of the room. Stopping against the wall, they turned and saw the three foot tall candy cane where Sebastion had once been. Sebastion never had the chance to face Loki to use the orb against him. Larisa heard an audible moan from Ophelia while Loki was already twirling his hands to zap them.

    Ophelia quickly snapped her fingers, and the room was plunged into inky blackness.

    Loki countered her magic by snapping his own fingers, and the blackness disappeared. “You didn’t think I was dumb enough to fall for your little tricks, did you?” he snorted. Raising his hand, he twirled it around again and fired a large bolt of red energy at the two girls, but to Loki’s surprise, it passed through them and harmlessly dissipated against the wall behind them. Then Ophelia’s and Larisa’s forms vanished in a modest wink of light.

    “No!” he raged, stamping his feet in frustration. “No, no, no!”. In the moment Ophelia had blacked out the room, she used Loki’s own illusion trick against him for her and Larisa to escape.

     “This isn’t over!” he bellowed furiously, shaking his fist at the wall where they‘d been. “You won’t stop me from having my revenge against Claus!”.











     The green, shimmering dust passed into the interior of the sheetrock wall separating the dining room from the main downstairs hall and floated upwards to the next floor. It exited by passing through the wall once again into a dark laundry room where it took on the forms of Larisa and Ophelia. Fortunately for Larisa, she’d been through this transformation nearly a dozen times in the past half hour and had finally overcome it’s disorientating affect.

      “Do you think he followed us?” she asked Ophelia.

      “Oh, I really hope not. I don’t think. I mean, he scares me, and I don’t know what to do without Sebastion. He was the one who thought of the plans”. Larisa could hear the terror in Ophelia’s voice. She was amazed such a magically powerful being could be afraid of anything, but Loki was pretty scary.

      He’d probably give Godzilla nightmares.

      Larisa had to take control of the situation, it was Christmas‘ only chance. It was Santa‘s only chance. It was little Becky‘s only chance. “Ophelia, we have to stick to Sebastion’s plan and try to banish him with the orb. It’s our only chance”.

      “I know. If we don’t do something by midnight, Santa will be here and it’ll be too late” Ophelia explained nervously.

      “Midnight? That’s when Santa will be here?”.

      “Actually, Santa will be everywhere at midnight, but if he enters here with Loki’s spell still intact, his magic will be trapped and then he’ll be... just here”.

      Larisa tossed her hands up in frustration. “O.k., I’m confused again”.

      “It’s got to do with Christmas magic“ Ophelia told her, her voice still shaky. “It’s how Santa can cover the whole world in one night, but I really can’t tell you how”.

      “Why not?”.

      “It’s top secret”.

      Larisa rolled her eyes, but guessed she was probably better off not knowing. Right now, they had a bigger fish to fry.

     Ophelia placed her hand on Larisa’s arm. “Larisa, have you still got the Christmas orb?”. Larisa nodded and held out her right hand and opened it. The orb sat inert in the palm of her hand. It had shrunk down to marble size while it was inactive.

     “Here” Larisa offered, pushing it towards Ophelia, but she waved it off.

     “No, you keep it with you. Just think about the orb Larisa. Will it to turn on and lead you to Loki” Ophelia instructed. Larisa cocked her head for a few seconds, almost disbelieving Ophelia, but finally she did as her small elfin friend asked. The orb immediately began to glow and grew to the size of a baseball in seconds. She could feel the orb’s energy pulsating in her hand. It’s glow was mesmerizing.

     “Wow” she whispered in awe, staring into the heart of the orb. “I can ’hear’ it, inside my head. I can sense through it that Loki is still downstairs, in the den”.

     “Then that’s where we have to go” Ophelia said, her courage returning.





     Larisa and Ophelia carefully poked their heads through the wall into the den to take a cursory look around. Nothing, no sightings of Loki, but Larisa insisted he was in there. The den was dark except for the Christmas tree lights and the dying fire in the fireplace. Loki had extinguished all the other lights. They pulled their heads back through into the dark broom closet which sat adjacent to the den.

     Larisa glanced at her new friend. “We have to flush him out Ophelia, it’s the only way”.

     Ophelia nodded in agreement. “You enter the room along this wall. You won’t turn solid again until you walk through into the den, but wait for me to come in the main entrance from the hall so I can distract Loki”.

     “Are you sure this is what you want to do?” Larisa prodded unsurely. She was nervous about Ophelia leaving the banishing of a powerful evil elf to a mere human girl like herself.

    “I’m sure” Ophelia assured her.  “I have magic to distract him with and keep him busy while you banish him. Just use the orb like I showed you how a few minutes ago, and we should be alright”.

     Larisa watched Ophelia snap her fingers and turn into shimmering green mist and float out of the broom closet by exiting under the door. She stuck her head back through the wall just far enough where her face stuck into the darkened den and watched for Ophelia’s entrance. As she waited, the rest of her body back in the broom closet could feel the temperature suddenly increase.

     Larisa’s eyes widened. Oh no!. She’d felt this twice before, the room getting hotter when Loki entered. She had no doubt he doubled around behind them and was setting up another ambush. Larisa had no choice; she bolted through the wall into the den before Ophelia entered. Larisa emerged from the wall right beside the padded leather chair she shared with Becky during the Christmas party, and she crashed into it and tripped face down onto the floor, slightly stunning her. The Christmas orb fell out of her hand and rolled across the den to stop against the rug under the Christmas tree.

     Ophelia’s green, misty form wafted into the room through the hall entrance and suddenly hesitated when Larisa shouted out a warning. “He tricked us again!”.

     Ophelia solidified back into her elf-self and instinctively ran to her aid, but Larisa tried to wave her off knowing Loki was nearby. Just as Ophelia reached Larisa, a bolt of red energy struck the female elf, and she fell to her knees beside Larisa. Her body began to change into a candy cane.

     “No!” shouted Larisa, scared and angry at the same time.

     Glowing all over with red energy, Ophelia reached down and touched Larisa’s arm, and she felt a sharp prickling like static electricity. “My power is your’s now Larisa. It’s up to you...”. Ophelia finished transforming into a candy cane. Larisa touched the Ophelia-cane and nearly began to cry.









    “I told you my revenge against Claus would not be prevented my pretty” echoed Loki’s voice from behind her. Larisa slowly rolled over and got to her feet to face him. He was standing against the wall where she passed through just seconds before, patiently watching her with his arms crossed.

     He had been behind her in the broom closet, just as she suspected, and now that he was in the den it was stifling hot in here too. Interestingly enough, Larisa observed Loki didn’t seem to notice he heated up rooms when he entered. It was something she intended to use to her advantage, if she got the chance again that is. Right now, she was wondering why the evil little elf was hasn’t turned her into a candy cane by now, and how she was going to get to the orb under the Christmas tree to banish him before he could. Larisa looked behind her at the orb resting under the Christmas tree, trying to decide whether to risk going for it or not. She looked back around for Loki, but he was gone.

     “Lose something my pretty?” Loki said from behind her again. Larisa jumped and yelped at the same time. She spun around to see Loki standing beside the Christmas tree holding the magical Christmas orb in his hand. He’d whisked there in the blink of an eye.

     “Oh no” she sighed, defeated.

     “Oh yes” Loki laughed. “What are you going to do now without this orb to banish me my pretty? I was trapped for a hundred years before I escaped again tonight, and I do not intend to fall for amateur tricks again. Santa Claus will pay for banishing me, and he will pay tonight. But I’ve decided to offer you something that I did not offer your two companions; a chance to save yourself”.

      “What, what do you mean?” Larisa asked nervously.

      “When midnight tolls, Santa will arrive and enter this house and be trapped by my spell. Yet, he is still very powerful, and I cannot weaken him enough unless I can catch him unawares. If you help me by distracting him, I’ll set you free.

      “That is, unless you would like to...”. Loki trailed off, staring at her longingly.

      “Like to what?” she demanded, placing her hands on her hips, eyes narrowing with suspicion.

      Loki acted offended by Larisa’s question. “Be my queen when I return to the North Pole to rule it of course”.       

     “Let me answer that with a definite eeewwww”.

      A look of rage appeared on Loki’s features. He held his hand up and began twirling it at Larisa. “Very well my pretty, then you will suffer the fate of all your friends”.

     Larisa began to back away from Loki, holding her hands out in defense. “Don’t...”.

     Loki fired the magical bolt at her, and all Larisa could do was think about dodging it. She felt a tingling  wave of energy race through her entire body, and she suddenly exploded into a cloud of luminescent green dust which twisted and spiraled around the oncoming bolt, avoiding it.

     Now Larisa recalled Ophelia‘s last words before she was transformed into a candy cane. ‘My power is your’s now Larisa, it’s up to you’”. She remembered the shock she received when Ophelia touched her.

    I have Ophelia’s magic powers!. Larisa felt renewed hope. Maybe she still had a chance. Maybe she could still do something to foil Loki’s plan.

    “What?!“ Loki raged. “How did you do that? You’re just a mortal!“. Loki fired another bolt at her, and Larisa twirled her mist form away from it.

     She felt free, powerful. This is socool!.

    “You’re not getting away with this you ugly little shrimp!“. Larisa didn’t want to get overconfident in her borrowed powers, but she couldn‘t help herself. She had to form some kind of plan to stop Loki. She still had over an hour before midnight. He was still trying to zap her when she willed herself to disperse, and every tiny, mote of shiny green dust instantly scattered outwards all over the room and vanished.

      Loki looked all around the den for Larisa. “I know Ophelia must have given you her powers pretty one, but it will do you no good. I am too old and too wise. You cannot win! I may not be able to see you, but I can still sense the presence of magic, so I know you‘re in this room”.

      Without warning, a sparrow flew down from the rafters, snatched the inactive Christmas orb out of his hand and flew out of the den through the hallway entrance. Loki was stunned. He’d been outsmarted by, by a mortal!

     “How dare you!”. He changed into a hawk and chased after her.

   Now Larisa knew how to beat Loki; make him so angry he’ll react without thinking, and hopefully he would leave himself open to make a mistake. She flew rapidly down the hall with the orb grasped firmly in her claws. Loki was in hot pursuit. As he gained on her, Larisa faked to the right and then darted to the left into one of the downstairs boys’ bedrooms.

     Since Loki was a much bigger bird than Larisa, he was unable to adjust and crashed into the wall at the end of the hall. He changed back after he impacted, landing on his butt on the hallway floor. His face was contorted with embarrassment and rage as he stormed into the bedroom, his hands crackling with red energy. Like both the girls’ rooms upstairs, this one had eight beds, four to each side, and six contained candy canes from his previous visit.

     Where are you?!” he shouted venomously. Beds and nightstands began to slide across the room as Loki’s temper was becoming uncontrollable.

    “Where are you I said! Show yourself!” he demanded. At the end of the room, Loki espied a slight twinkle of light on the floor. In the blink of an eye, Larisa shot upwards from an miniscule spot and grew to her full height, in human form.

     “What’s the matter ‘shorty’? Having a bad day?” Larisa taunted, cocking her head and winking at him.

     “Sh, sh, shorty?!” he stuttered, face turning deep red. Without warning, Larisa was no longer there, and Loki felt something kick him in his butt. He fell face first to the floor. He rolled over to see Larisa standing behind him. She held the orb up to banish him.

     Screeching, he waved his hand at her. Then Larisa found herself sprawled on the floor when one of the beds slid across the room under Loki’s power and collided with her, but she was ready for Loki’s sneak attacks this time. As he got up to zap her, Larisa pushed up from the floor and kept on going up into the air and passed through the ceiling. The last thing she heard was Loki screaming in anger.

      On the next floor, Larisa paused to catch her breath. She actually had a headache from using all that magic.

  This is taking a lot of effort, and he doesn’t even seem to be tired yet. But her plan was working. Minutes before, Loki would have never let her get so close, but she’d made him so angry she almost had him.

     She had to keep it up. Keep him angry and distracted until she got another chance to banish him.




     Loki levitated up through the floor into the attic of the house. He sensed the magic Larisa possessed like a homing beacon and finally tracked her here. She wasn’t experienced enough to mask it like Sebastion and Ophelia were. The attic ran the entire length of the house, with an eight foot high ceiling of unpainted pine wood rafters which still smelled as if they’d been cut yesterday. It was drafty and dusty, cluttered with boxes and storage.

     Outside, the snowstorm weakened, and breaks in the heavy, low lying clouds appeared. On each side of the attic, bay windows allowed sporadic glimpses of moonlight to peek in and give the room an eerie, bluish illumination.

     “I know you’re here pretty one. It’s only a matter of time before I find you” Loki threatened.

     Larisa has hiding behind a stack of heavy wooden crates halfway down the length of the room, with the Christmas orb at the ready. She was hoping to lure Loki into the room and ambush him for once, but she had to work on keeping him angry and irrational.

     “And maybe you won’t find me shorty. If you’re so old, they say the eyesight is the first thing to go!” she teased him from her hiding spot, but using Ophelia’s magic to make her voice echo throughout the entire attic.

     “Stop, calling, me, ’shorty’!” he growled. The entire attic rumbled with his power. Larisa was beginning to have second thoughts about making this powerful, evil elf angry. Lost in her revery about Loki, Larisa nearly jumped out of her when a hand gently touched her shoulder from behind. She turned to see little Becky in her night gown and bathrobe crouched down behind her. Without thinking, she reached out and hugged the little girl.

      “Becky!” she whispered. “You’re alright. How did you get away from Loki?”.

      “I hid under my bed when he came in the room Larisa, then I came up here to get away from him” she answered meekly.

      “You did good Becky, but you have to stay with me so I can keep you safe”.

      She tugged on Larisa‘s sweater sleeve. “Larisa, are you magic like him?”. Her voice was tired. Larisa knew all of this excitement and a drafty attic wasn’t good for a little girl recovering from pneumonia.

     “Yes Becky, at least for now I am”.

     The stacked crates they were crouched behind suddenly began falling over towards them. He’d found them! Larisa grabbed Becky’s hand and ran away from the crates, but Loki made a another wall of storage and boxes slide across their path of retreat and block their escape. Larisa didn’t stop, concentrating, but she ran into the boxes and bounce off of them, dazed. Becky ran into Larisa’s back and nearly fell down,

     “No more passing through things young one” Loki mocked. “I’ve cast a spell to make everything in this room, as well as all the exits, impassable. You have nowhere else to run, not you, or this little one I seemed to have missed when I first arrived”. Becky screamed as Loki approached with his evil grin.

    Larisa looked at the obstacle ahead of her and Becky. The storage was stacked ceiling high, wall to wall, and Loki was only twenty feet away and walking closer.

    He said I can’t pass through it, but not between it. Still grasping Becky’s hand, Larisa stepped into a crack less than a quarter of an inch wide in the barricade before her, and pulled Becky along with her. Paper thin, both girls slipped through to the other side, but there was only about a dozen feet of room left. There was nowhere else to run. Larisa knew it was only a few more seconds before Loki removed his wall and she had to face him. First, she made sure Becky was safe.

     She secured her little friend behind an old writing desk against the back wall. “Stay here Becky, and whatever you do, just close your eyes and don’t look”. Becky nodded and closed her eyes tightly. With a deafening groan, the massive wall of debris magically split in the middle, moved to each side like swinging doors, and Loki stepped through.

    “You’re a tricky one girl, I‘ll give you that, very tricky” Loki said, his voice trembling with impatience. “You’d have made a fine elf, but these games end now”.

     “Maybe not”. Larisa held the orb out in front of her and it began to glow bright blue. This was it, this was her final chance, but before she could will it to banish her foe, an empty clothes rack under Loki’s spell slammed into her from the side. Larisa landed on her butt, back against the wall. She tried to hold the orb up again to banish Loki, but a dusty old book flew against her wrist and knocked the orb from her hand, and upon hitting the floor, it rolled straight to where Loki was standing. He picked it up and placed it in an interior coat pocket. Larisa transformed herself into a sparrow again, but she couldn’t move from the spot she was in. She tried the form of a cat, then green, sparkling dust, but she was stuck in place. She transformed back into human shape, hopelessly held in place by Loki’s powerful magic.

     “I said these games are finished. You are going nowhere this time. Stand up pretty one“.

Larisa obeyed, pushing herself up to her feet using the wall behind her. Loki began to twirl his hand at her as his powers began to glow bright red in his hand.

     “A candy cane isn’t a fitting finish for one who has been such a troublesome, yet beautiful, opponent. I think you would make an attractive granite statue for the front lawn. What do you think?”.

    “Do I have a choice?” she spat at him, trying to buy time. There was something dancing just at the edge of her memory, something Sebastion said. What was it?.

    “Actually, no, you don’t. and when I’m finished with you, perhaps I’ll transform your little friend hiding behind the desk into the insignificant flea she really is”.

     Then Sebastion’s words came to her. ”Reflect Loki’s own power against him, he will be banished again”. Larisa no longer had the orb, and Loki was about to zap her into a statue. Her mind raced.

     How can I reflect...? Yes! I can’t move from this spot, but I can still change form!

     “Go ahead shorty, just get it over with, and spare me another minute of having to look at you” Larisa snarled bravely.

     “Very well my pretty!” Loki shot a bolt at her, but Larisa’s thoughts were to change form one more time, and she hoped this worked. Her body flattened into a standing mirror. Loki’s magic bolt struck Larisa’s reflective surface and it ricocheted right back at him, striking him square in the chest.

     “Nooo!” Loki wailed as his body glowed brightly and his entire form was consumed with dark red energy. His own magic spiraled outwards in bands around him, turned, and flowed back into him. In seconds, all there was left of Loki was a single spot of red light, barely the size of a marble floating two feet off the floor. Then it winked out of existence.

      Larisa changed back into her human form and ran to Becky behind the desk. “Are you alright?” she asked, stroking the little girl’s hair and then picking her up in her arms.

      “Is the bad elf gone?” she said sheepishly.

      Larisa hugged the child to her. “Yes, he’s gone. He can’t hurt anyone else anymore”.

      “Gone forever as a matter of fact” said a man’s voice from behind them.












     Larisa spun in place, ready to run with Becky, but standing barely ten feet away was a tall, heavy set, bearded man dressed in a red and white suit with black boots and gloves. His thumbs were stuck into the front of his belt, and he laughed loudly. Ho! Ho! Ho!

     Larisa smiled in relief, as did Becky.

     Santa Claus! The real Santa Claus!

     “Santa!” squealed little Becky.

     “Yes Becky!” he chuckled. “And as I just witnessed, it seems you and Larisa have been very, very busy; as well as a couple of my elves”.

     Larisa was worried Ophelia and Sebastion were in deep trouble with Santa and thought she’d try to remedy the situation. “Santa, it was a mistake. Sebastion and Ophelia were just trying to...”.

     “It’s alright Larisa” interrupted Sebastion, who’d just appeared in the room with Ophelia beside him. “It’s our fault Loki got out. No need for you to take up for us”.

     “So” Santa began, eying his two elves with a stern gaze. “It was your turn to renew Loki’s banishment spell and you didn’t. Lucky for all of us, Larisa outsmarted him”.

    Sebastion and Ophelia hung their heads in shame. Larisa’s heart went out to them. “If it wasn’t for Ophelia giving me her powers, Loki would have never been stopped”. She hoped she was doing more good than harm.

    “I see” said Santa, examining the situation. “And the Christmas orb?”.

    “Loki had it on him when I reflected his powers against him” Larisa explained.

    “Hmmm...” Santa pondered. “Then it seems Loki’s own antics have cost him forever this time, because if he had the orb with him when he was banished, there’s no way he can ever return again without it on this end to bring him back. Too bad, but his evil ways were his own undoing.

    “Santa” Larisa continued. “Sebastion and Ophelia really tried hard to make up for what they did. Go easy on them”.

     “Thankfully, everything turned out for the best Larisa, but I’m going to have to have a long talk with Sebastion and Ophelia when I get them back to the North Pole.

     “Is everything, and everyone back to normal Sebastion?”.

      Sebastion nodded, but looked at Larisa. “Yes Santa. I repaired all of Loki’s damage and everyone has been returned to normal. They are all asleep in their beds with no memory of what happened tonight, that is, except for Larisa and Becky”.

     Santa’s soft gaze fell on the two girls. With a grin, he snapped his fingers. A sparkling cloud of green energy flew out of Larisa’s chest and back into Ophelia’s. “Your powers are restored Ophelia” Santa indicated, walking over to where Larisa was holding Becky. He took the young girl from Larisa into his own arms and ho, ho, ho-ed for her. Becky laughed again. Larisa couldn’t believe her little friend was actually enjoying all of this after such a scary experience. Becky hugged the jolly old elf and he laughed again.

     Santa snapped his fingers and Becky turned into green, sparkling dust which flew across the room and passed down through the floor. Larisa was momentarily alarmed until Santa explained.

     “She’s back asleep in her bed with only a dream as a memory of this” Santa informed her with a smile. “But after the brave way you acted tonight Larisa, I believe our secret will be safe with you. Ho! Ho! Ho!”.

     “Thanks Santa. It is” Larisa assured him.

     “Now, is there any way I can repay you for banishing that mischievous Loki? How a ride in my sleigh? Some pointed ears would look great on you”.

     Larisa blushed. “Yes, there is something  you could do for me Santa”. Larisa whispered quietly in his ear.

     “Ho! Ho! Ho! Done!”. Santa snapped his fingers, and Larisa saw only blackness.




     Larisa woke with a start and sat up quickly. She was dressed in her own pajamas, in her bed in her own apartment in New York. Santa had sent her home.

     It was eight o’clock Christmas morning.

     She picked up the phone beside her bed and called the orphanage. Alicia Morris answered with a pleasant voice. “Hello?”.

     “Alicia? This is Larisa Oleynik. I was wondering how everyone was doing this morning”.

     “Why we’re fine Larisa. Thank you for checking in on us. The children enjoyed having you here last night, it meant a lot to them, and they loved all the extra presents you left for them”.

     “Extra presents?” Larisa asked, confused.

     “Yes” Alicia acknowledged. “There were several dozen extra presents left for each child under the tree, and Becky got a gigantic candy cane too. It was marvelous! How can we ever thank you for your generosity?”.

     Larisa giggled. “Thank Santa”. Alicia laughed on the other side of the phone, believing Larisa was only being modest. Actually, Larisa was being honest.

     “And you won’t believe the news about Becky either” Alicia bubbled over.

    “What?”. Larisa waited expectantly for the answer.

    “Well, not only does it seem she’s fully recovered from her pneumonia, but we found a letter in the mail basket from Children’s Resources. We must have missed it somehow yesterday, but we’ve found her a wonderful family that wants to adopt, right in New York City too. We’re so happy!”.

     Larisa smiled and her eyes began to tear up. “That’s wonderful news Alicia. I’m happy too”. After a few more words, Larisa hung up. She crawled out of bed and walked into the living room and saw her Christmas tree had almost two dozen presents under it that weren’t there the night before.

     She smiled. Santa Claus.

     But one small gift in a red and white box with a bow on it began to glow with a green hue. Larisa walked hesitantly over and picked it up. The name tag on it said To Larisa. She pulled the top off the box and sparkling green light came out and flew into her chest. Larisa felt a tingling all over her body.

      She pulled a small card from the box which said Elf powers for Christmas Day, Enjoy! :Sebastion and Ophelia.

     Larisa laughed.



                                                                  THE END