(advent) Sunday, December 2

“So wait a minute,” Drew McIntyre said, frowning at his wife, his tea mug stopped halfway to his mouth. “Someone broke into the Snow Queen’s palace?”

“That’s what she said,” Molly said, concentrating on her icing. She had a tray of glazed snowflake sugar cookies in front of her, and she was laying down thin stripes of white in an intricate design. Once she was done, she had edible glitter to sprinkle over them.


“But why?”


Molly paused in her icing to shrug. “That’s as good a question as any. Jade did mention that she was concerned someone would want to interfere with the charging of the wards on the Cove, but if that was the case, then why send it on to the children?”


Drew turned on his stool to look at the open kitchen door, which is where they’d hung the Advent Calendar. The little cat was asleep under the Christmas tree in the first attic room. “Could they have tampered with it?”


“If they did, she couldn’t tell.” Molly laid aside the icing bag and picked up the shaker jar of glitter. “And Jack came by later to check too. As far as either of them knows, whoever stole it just finished the spells. They didn’t add anything that they could find.”


“So weird.” Drew shook his head and finally remembered to put his tea mug down. “And the activities?”


“Well, yesterday nothing really happened, so we went ahead with the plan. They helped me cut out all the snowflakes and snowmen for the bake sale.” Molly finished dusting the glitter over the snowflakes and laid the tray on the far counter. Then she retrieved the second one. “As far as we know, it should follow the list.”


When she had first offered the idea of the Advent Calendar to Jade, Molly had given her a list of activities the children could do, so the Snow Queen could construct the magic. All the little bits and pieces that had been put together for this year had still been within the calendar, which allayed her concern a bit. Still, they were all being watchful.


“That’s good.” Drew looked at his watch. “Okay, much as I’d like to sit here and watch you be amazing all day, I have to get back to the Station. Mal said the mines have been working overtime and there’s a seven or eight cart load coming through.”


“Wow, I wonder why?”


He shrugged. “Must be a big order. It’s all stone, too.”


There was a pocket Realm on the western edge of the Cove, where the granite mine that had stood there for years mixed and mingled with a mine that held far more exotic metals and materials. A clan of dwarves had lived there for as long as anyone knew, and supplied the surrounding Realms with enchanted generators, building materials, and occasionally jewelry.


“Good for them,” Molly said now, kissing her husband gently as he came around the edge of the island and hugged her. “There’s a package in the refrigerator for you to take back. Mal said you were running low on sandwich rolls.”


“Have you ever thought of just being a personal baker for the Cove?” Drew said, retrieving the cloth bag. “You’d never lack for customers.”


“We’d have to make our kitchen at home commercial grade,” she said. “That’s a lot of work.”


“I take it you’ve thought of it, then.”


She nodded. “That was actually the plan when I got out of college. But it was so expensive – this was the compromise.”


“That was also some years ago, and you aren’t doing it alone this time,” Drew said. “Might be time to revisit it.”


“Maybe.” They shared a secret smile, and then he sighed.


“Okay, enough bespelling me, witch. Work calls.” Drew kissed her once more and headed out.


Molly went back to her decorating, but her mind wasn’t on the task. Luckily, her fingers knew how to do it without her conscious thought. The same thoughts wound through her head. Who had stolen the Advent calendar? And why? And what had they done to it?


“Molly? Are you here?” Kaylee’s voice broke through her musings.


“Where else would I be?” she said, smiling at them as all the children gathered around her. “There’s a bake sale coming!”


“Can we have a cookie?” Gideon asked. “For quality control.”


Molly laughed at that, but nodded. “Go ahead. I’m done with these ones.”


As each child reached for a cookie, she pulled out some of the special doggy cookies that she always had for Aurora and Jack, since sugar wasn’t good for them. “Are you guys ready to see what the calendar has in store for you today?”


“Always!” Lily and Zoey said together.


“Molly, it’s snowing outside again!” Kaylee said.


“What did you expect?” her sister said. “It’s winter.”


Kaylee stuck her tongue out at Lily. “But it wasn’t snowing earlier! And we don’t know if she’s been outside.”


Look! The cat’s awake!


Schrodinger’s shout interrupted what could have been the beginning of an argument, for which Molly was grateful. They all clustered around the calendar, where the little cat was indeed awake.
It wandered through a door into the next attic room, which did not have a tree in it.

Instead, there was a rocking horse that was attached to a small sleigh, garlands of evergreens and bright red apples connecting the two. The cat nosed the rocking horse, who shook its head and mane and whinnied.


“Wow, everything in this house is magical!” Zoey said softly.


“I wish I could live there,” Gideon agreed. “That’s an amazing house.”


Molly silently agreed. The house was gorgeous.


After greeting the rocking horse, the cat jumped into the sleigh. There was a bag on the back of the sleigh, very reminiscent of Santa’s sack, and he stuck his head in it. After a few moments, he pulled out a long scarf that he then wrapped around his neck, and a jaunty Santa hat that he put on his head. More smoke came out of the bag, and once again, Molly smelled pine and cinnamon.


The smoke formed letters that said, “It’s a winter wonderland! Get out and enjoy it!”


Then, to their astonishment, the smoke formed into a sparkling ball and shot out of the calendar to hover above the children. It formed more words: “Follow me!” and then zoomed out of the door.


“Well, go!” Molly said, as the others gaped at it. “You don’t want to lose sight of it, do you?”


Schrodinger, Jack, and Aurora were already in hot pursuit, and Molly heard the front door open. We’ll keep it in sight! The CrossCat’s voice was excited. Get your coats and follow our voices!


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The ball of sparkling smoke moved faster than they had expected, but it left a trail of brilliant sparks floating in the air that was easy to follow, even through the snow. The air was crisp and cold, but Schrodinger’s nose filled with the scent of pine trees and cinnamon that seemed to be the calendar’s signature this year.


Where do you think it’s going? Aurora ran easily next to him, the two of them trailing Jack, who was in full hound mode and baying happily.


I’ll bet it’s something to do with sledding! Schrodinger said, as they wove through trees in the park across the road from the bookstore.


Being on the rocky Maine coast, there were plenty of hills in Carter’s Cove to sled on in the winter, but the ball of smoke didn’t seem to be heading to any of the ones that they were familiar with. A stray thought from Lily crossed his mind: the kids were in their coats and mittens, and the sparkles were still visible to them. Which made sense, when he thought about it. What good was a track that they couldn’t follow?


Wow, you guys! Wait until you see this!
Jack’s baying increased, and when Schrodinger and Aurora burst out of the trees next to him, they understood why.

There was a large mound of snow, almost a mountain, and atop it, balanced as if waiting for them, was a large tobaggon.


They gave us a sled big enough for all of us! Aurora barked happily. Indeed, the sled was huge, but even it was dwarfed by the mound of snow it sat upon.


“Where did the snow mountain come from?” Zoey asked, as the kids hurried up beside them. “This wasn’t here yesterday!”


They all looked around. “I think it came from there!” Lily said, pointed to a vacant lot across the road from the edge of the park. “Look, it’s been all cleared!”


The sled forgotten for a moment, they went to the edge of the park. “What was here before?” Gideon asked, as they looked at the cleaned lot. It was large, and even now, with the snow falling around them, the ground was bare.


“They must have a spell on it,” Kaylee whispered. “Look, you can see the snow melting!”


Not melting, Schrodinger said. It’s being put onto the mountain!


And so it was. As they looked, the sled moved a bit, and the hill got even longer and higher.


“Let’s go!” Gideon said. “This is going to be awesome!”

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