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    KF-SRC-01 Cold Hooves

    KF-SRC-01 Cold Hooves
    By Darrel Vanwinkle (Lord Pouchlaw)
    January 1st, 2015

    Chapter One

    "Don't go too far!"

    "I won't, dad!"

    That had been the last Kristofer Falkner had seen of his father, the family car and camping trailer when he headed off to the edge of the only picnic site which was available that late Summer afternoon. He hadn't intended to go that far at all; just down toward the overlook in the woods which wasn't all that high over a small glade on the other side of a forest stream. The overlook itself was a quaint little spot and almost silent when he arrived. But when he saw what appeared to be an obviously out of place caribou buck dart past him and toward the overlook itself, he really shouldn't have attempted to leap after it to stop it from falling off of short drop off point. The momentum of trying to stop the buck from going over the drop caused him to jump outward directly behind the caribou in question which seemed to disappear in mid air just ahead of him. But since he couldn't stop himself from making the same flight, he soon felt himself pass through what felt like an unseen curtain of mist which had been hanging in mid air and in an instant, he was likewise gone from the national park.

    The landing both surprised the boy as well as threw him off guard as he landed on all fours in a deep snow bank. Despite landing in snow, something seemed very far wrong with how he landed because it felt as if he had lost his clothes in mid-jump. Be that as it was, he didn't appear to be cold within that snow drift. He then attempted to climb out of the drift which seemed a lot hard than it should have been. But just as he was almost free of the deep snow, he saw that instead of hands on his forearms, he had black cloven hooves. And his arms were covered in caribou fur. "What in the Hell happened to me?" he quietly voiced as he glanced toward his waist and legs. That was when he noticed that he was completely covered in fur all the way down to his back hoofs which were also black and cloven. Atop his rump was a cervine like tail. "I need to see what I look like in the stream or a mirror. I hope I can find the stream." He deftly stood up, finding that he could stand on his new hoofs and legs, and he slowly moved forward toward what he hoped was the stream.

    It wasn't all that hard to walk as the caribou buck he seemed to be at that moment; in fact, it came easier than he thought it would. He was just glad that despite his transformation, he could still talk. Losing his voice in a new body would have freaked him out. He then stopped at the edge of the stream he had thankfully found and he looked at his reflection in the still waters between the ice. What he saw was a teenage reindeer buck looking back at him and this deer had an unusual marking on his forehead; it appeared to be the symbol of a meteor in free fall. "A meteor marking. That's weird. I hope I can find my way out of this snow covered forest and back to the campground. Dad is gonna freak if I don't return before nightfall." He then lowered his head and took a slow drought of water. He remembered how animals drank water, thankfully from visits to the zoo, and after getting his drink, he began to head off in an attempt to find his way back to his father.

    When he poked his head out of the edge of the forest, he stopped in his tracks when he saw a reindeer with a sports whistle around his neck and he had a cap on his head which read 'Trainer'. There were a group of other bucks gathered nearby looking skittish and nervous. Kristofer slowly emerged from the trees and approached the buck with the cap. "Excuse me, sir? I think I'm a little lost. How can I find my way back to Park Road 49?"

    The Trainer buck glanced over at the newcomer as he raised one eye brow. "There are no park roads anywhere in this forest, young buck. What's your name?"

    But then, just as he had been about to give his human name, a single word came out of his muzzle instead of his real name. "Meteor, sir. I am Meteor from South Timber." Kristofer blinked his eyes as those words came out of his own mouth. What in the world just happened? I tried to say my real name and that stuff came out. And where is South Timber? I've never heard of the place. Something very wrong is going on here. I need to try to get home. But how?

    The Trainer nodded his head as he looked at what appeared to be a clipboard full of names and locations. "I was supposed to get a Codine from South Timber today but you aren't on my list. However, since you appear to be lost, you can come back to camp with us and I'll let you use the maps there to see about finding your way. I am Captain Jumper from Christmas Town; I am currently on a recruitment mission to sign up new stunt reindeer to train toward substituting for stars who get cold hooves. Sometimes it is the best way to get recognition in the filming industry; filling in for a star who gets scared of a simple trick. Just wait over there with the others for a bit and as soon as Codine arrives, we can head back to camp."

    As he walked over to stand with the others, he found the bucks to slowly be looking him over and sniffing him in a curious way. Then a few broke the ice, so to speak, and they one by one introduced themselves to him as they tried to be friendly and accept him for who he seemed to be. But the thought on his mind then was that whoever this Codine was, he would know that Kristofer wasn't from South Timber as he had blurted out just earlier. And what had made him use the name 'Meteor'?

    Soon afterward, another buck arrived and introduced himself to the trainer. "Codine from South Timber, sir. Sorry I was late; the Veil gates have been acting funny as of late. I landed a few miles from here and almost forgot which way North was. Thankfully I found that stream and made my way here."

    "It's okay, Codine," said the trainer. "Someone else from South Timber arrived just before you did and he said he was lost. His name is Meteor; do you know him?"

    "I'm not familiar with the name, sir," said Codine. "There is no way I can possibly know every single reindeer in South Timber; the population changes every year. But perhaps I can make a new friend out of this 'Meteor' guy; who knows? He might actually be a prime candidate for the stunt core. Give me some time with him and I'll see if I can get him to agree to try it out for a short while. All you need is for him to sign the recruitment form like the rest of us did and then you'll be able to call on him whenever you wanted."

    End of Chapter One

    Chapter Two

    The hike back to the training camp wasn't all that far, thankfully, and Kristofer was taken to the main stable building where Captain Jumper kept the maps of the region. Despite everyone calling him Meteor, he had already made a few friends among the stalwart hopefuls. Aside from Captain Jumper and Codine, the others in no particular order were: Surger of Glacier Falls, a buck who had an odd looking rocket marking on his forehead; Rapid of Cascade River, a buck with a two-tone coat which resembled a river; Gusto of Swansong Woods, a buck with a hearty outlook on life; Danger of Cavern Heights, a buck who seemed as if he might jump if you said boo; Laugher of Humor Meadow, a buck with a touchy funny bone; and Grave of Soul Creek, a heart-fallen buck with dark skull markings on both sides of his head. Something about Jumper training seven reindeer made Kristofer suspicious but for now he would focus on looking over those maps that the captain had indicated him having.

    Jumper led Kristofer into the building marked with the reindeer symbol for navigation and pointed him over at a wall full of the local maps. Walking over, the former human boy noted that while the maps had the right continental shape, highways, known cities, and the usual national forest listings were all missing. Instead, the rivers had odd names, only the reindeer settlements were named, and known flight paths between each reindeer community. Although in one part of the map to the far north was something he knew did not exist on any Earth map at all: Christmas Town. So that's where Santa's workshop and village is located; it's on another world. And sadly, I am on that world. This isn't my Earth at all. Now where is... Ah, there it is. South Timber. That's the place Mr. Meteor and Codine are from. Man, it's the furthest south on the map. And I recall Codine saying that the Veil Gates weren't working right. If that is what I passed through to get into this world, then I need to learn more about Veil Gates. But how do I ask about them without tipping anyone off that I'm not a reindeer?

    Glancing aside, Kristofer now noticed that Codine was standing right beside him at the wall of maps looking at the layout himself. "Had the gates been working right, I would have arrived where you did, Meteor. Now that we're alone and since we're both from South Timber, let me just say this... as I told Captain Jumper earlier, there is no way for me to know every reindeer in my home village. The population changes every year. That part is true; what wasn't true is who populates my home settlement. Although I am not one myself, the majority of the reindeer in South Timber are former humans who either got stuck as a reindeer for too long or couldn't find their way back to some mythical world they called Earth. The weird part of these transformed reindeer are that they claim that they have another name but their current bodies won't let them speak the name while in our world. Therefore, I must now ask you, Meteor... are you one of these newcomer transformed reindeer or are you legit like I am? And please, just be honest; isn't that the best policy?"

    "While my body's name is Meteor, my real name is similar to part of Santa's alternate name," he replied. "But every time I try to say it, this body makes me use the Meteor name. I used to be a human teenager. I was at a national park picnic grounds with my family just off of Park Road 49. There was an overlook with a nice view of a pristine grazing meadow just beyond a stream and suddenly a caribou galloped right past where I was standing. He was heading straight toward the edge and stupidly, I tried to make a grab for him because I didn't want to see him get hurt when he went over the edge. But there must have been one of those gate things you keep mentioning in mid air because he went through it and vanished... and when I went through, I crash landed into a deep snow drift. When I managed to climb out, I was in this body."

    Codine smiled. "So your human name was Kris or Kristofer or something like that." Kristofer smiled at that point. "The second one; on the nose. I am glad to hear someone use my real name despite Meteor making himself be topside. But since we are on the topic of honesty being the best policy... tell me about these Veil Gates. I need to know how they work." The other reindeer turned to look directly at his associate. "In order to explain the Veil Gates fully, it will take longer for you to understand how they work than you currently have and I joined Jumper to be trained in becoming a stunt reindeer. So I'll make you a deal, Kristofer... you join the rest of us for the duration in this training and in our spare time, I will teach you about the Veil Gates and where each one leads to. There are gates all over the Earth in various locations and all over Veil also in varied locales. Usually when you travel through a gate, as long as you know your destination, you always arrive at that locale. But when it is your first time, your landing zone is randomized. You could have landed in a sticky bog in the far south territories. And how messy that would have been because there is no telling when any reindeer would have found you. So what do you say? Join up in exchange for the knowledge to get home? Or decline and try to find your way without my help? It is your decision."

    "That difficult to understand, huh?" replied the reindeer called Meteor. "I do want to get home and the more I can learn about traveling through these gates, the better of my chances of teaming up with you and the others more often after I did get home." He quietly thought about the offer before nodding his head one time. "Okay, Codine... I'll sign up with the stunt core with the rest of you. I take it there is an incentive toward completing the course?" The other reindeer smiled. "Well, you will be taught how to access your flight powers, for one..." Oh yes, he went straight for the jugular by mentioning the reindeer flight power. Kristofer smiled in return as he brightened up a bit more. "The flight power? Cool! I'm in. What do I do?"

    Moments later, Codine had Kristofer standing before the reindeer trainer himself. "Like I said before, sir... Meteor is a good team player. He has chosen to sign up with the rest of us in exchange for the hospitality that we are giving him while he is among us. And it turns out that I had briefly met him in South Timber; I just never learned his name then." Captain Jumper nodded his head as he had Kristofer dampen one hoof and press it down on a sign up form as he spoke his name. The paper glowed with magic when this occurred and what was left behind was not the hoof print itself; instead the full name was on the page: Kristofer "Meteor" Falkner. Jumper glanced from the form to look at the reindeer with the meteor marking once again. "Kristofer Falkner, is it? Were you an adult or a teenager back home?" To which the answer was, "A teenager, sir. My family is probably worried sick about me by now."

    Captain Jumper gently placed a hoof on the former human's shoulder. "Time is different here in Veil, Kristofer. After you learn your flight power, you should be, by then, educated in how to see Veil Gates and to know which one leads to where on Earth. Former humans assume animal form here in Veil; but on Earth they regain their humanity. So rest assured when I say that as long as you remember your family back home, you will always be able to return to your other life. By enrolling here, when I call upon you three times, you will come instantly. Thus, when you hear my voice the first time, that is your warning that I need you. If you are human when you hear me, if you are undressed, get your clothes on as fast as possible. When you hear my name a third time, there will be a few moments to let you say a short sentence before you vanish from Earth and return to Veil." Kristofer nodded his head. "I understand, sir."

    End of Chapter Two


      Chapter Three

      After being shown where his quarters would be (which was a little more than a warm stall in a reindeer stables building, built by only the gods knew whom,) Kristofer joined the others for the line up where each of them were given a small bag of what looked like raw corn but tasted as if each morsel had been soaked in sugar or something similar. He actually hoped the meals got better than this. He was starting to hanker for a pizza or some spaghetti or even a taco. But a reindeer's body likely couldn't stomach what a human could so at the moment, the sweetened corn was it for their meal. Although after eating the corny treat, he began to feel energy coursing through every part of his reindeer body and he was beginning to experience a hyperactive sensation as if he had gorged himself on too much Halloween candy. And he noticed that all of the other reindeer seemed to be experiencing the same as he was.

      "What is this feeling I am having?" asked the former human boy turned reindeer. "It feels like I ate too many sweets and drank too much energy drink." He glanced toward Captain Jumper who was simply standing there watching the stunt core recruits undergo their internal metabolism metamorphosis without so much as an emotion. "What did you do to us, Jumper?" After a few moments of silence, the training reindeer captain replied. "Now the sensations you have all experienced should have passed through the majority of your bodies and should have settled into your legs, hoofs, and antlers. This initial treat was to imbue you all with the stunt reindeer core flight ability. This means that you will be able to fly, with practice, any time of the year; not just on Christmas like the more famous sleigh pulling reindeer. In fact, one of their number will be coming by this afternoon to check on your initial training."

      Those last few words distracted everyone present to ignore what they had been feeling and gaze directly toward their captain. Jumper then continued. "The first part of your training is to get you to the hopeful rank of a level one flyer. This simply entails basic flight and landing; no fancy tricks or stunts just yet. We don't want Dasher and Comet seeing you recruits wiping out in snow banks, do we?" He shot a wink and a smile at the lot of his recruits. Yes, he said it: Dasher and Comet. Two of the main flyers from Santa's team. "That initial treat was a super concentrated version of the magic corn that allows the reindeer to fly for Mr. Claus. The reason you need a special version of it is because you will be stunt reindeer; bucks who would be performing all manner of outrageous tricks and stunts when other reindeer cannot do it themselves. And properly trained, you won't get hurt doing these stunts."

      What felt like the next few days to Kristofer involved the basics of proper leaping, landing, and yes, reindeer flight. Gliding was first, followed by slow flying, steadying for balance, and finally the hardest one, hovering in mid air. The last one was the most important since that was the one required to impress the big brass himself. According to Captain Jumper. Once everyone was able to fly at least decently well, everyone was hitched up to a standard sleigh and then came the full team flight training. Working together to keep the line balanced. Tip the wrong way and the sleigh spilled. What perhaps made this exercise worse than it had to be was that Jumper had positioned fragile eggs along the rims of the sleigh. Since the sleigh was behind the reindeer, they wouldn't know if they broke an egg until after the landing. Of course Jumper flew along beside the others to instruct them on their alignment.

      Kristofer stood under a waterfall allowing the cold water to wash the sweat and grime off of his body that he and the others had built up during the last training outing. "I am sorely starting to miss Head and Shoulders and decent underarm deodorant."

      Codine waited nearby. "Captain Jumper told me to teach you on how to see the Veil gates tonight, Meteor. That means you could be home by midnight. Although you are one of us now. Earlier, Dasher and Comet said you were perhaps one of the best fliers they had ever seen trained from Jumper's school. I really like you, Meteor. Don't stay gone too long. You did sign a contract with Jumper. And he can summon you back if you try to go AWOL."

      Kristofer stepped out of the waterfall and he gave Codine a kiss on the muzzle. "I promise to come back. You are my friend, Codine. I couldn't just leave you training here by yourself."

      Codine smiled as he raised up a little. "Hold still while I lick your eyes. This might sting a little. But this is the first step for seeing Veil gates." Kristofer held as still as he could but as Codine licked the surface of his eyes, he couldn't help but to flinch ever so slightly. "I am sorry if that hurt, Kris. now follow me. I am going to take you to the closest Veil gate. The important thing to remember about these gates is that you can see the locale they go to before you jump through. Therefore, when you find a veil gate that goes to a location you recognize, memorize where that is so you can continue to use that one."

      When they reached the veil gate simply hanging in mid air before them, Kristofer watched the changing location images for a bit until he said, "I recognize where that is now. It's the overlook where I first came here from. Although it is no where near my home."

      Codine replied, "Once you are back on Earth, don't forget that you will be able to fly in your human form exactly as Jumper taught you. Also remember that you will be initially naked. When you first came here and changed into your reindeer form, you ripped out of your clothes due to the transformation. The next time, your clothes will make the change with you. So fly home and square things away with your parents, then take a bath and wash your hair. You are going to smell like you had your head in a reindeer's lap. It is a scent that has to wear off. but you can at least make yourself smell nice. Use your time at home to locate the nearest Veil gate. Once Jumper starts calling for you, it will be do or die time. You are the best friend I've ever had, Kris. I love you." And he gave Kristofer a kiss on the muzzle before stepping back to allow his friend to make the crossing."

      "Too bad I cannot use my reindeer form on Earth." remarked Kristofer as he stared at the Veil gate.

      Codine replied, "One of Jumper's trainer friends can help you learn how to do that. I'll mention your request to Jumper while you are gone and when you return, we can see about teaching you how to switch forms on either side."

      Happy that Codine thought of that idea, Kristofer waited until the image of the overlook came into view before he ran and leaped through the gate.

      End of Chapter Three


        Chapter Four

        As Kristofer arrived human albeit in the nude, he found himself floating in mid air just above the ground. It made sense since he jumped up at an angle to make the leap through the gate. Glancing around, he followed the trail back up through the woods to where the campsite had been.When he arrived at that spot, he found the markings and tracks of what seemed to be a very old mobile command center. in a waste basket nearby, he found a map of the area wadded up and left there. As he looked over the map which was marked all over with search notations with his own name on them, his reindeer senses which seemed to still be with him for some reason, suddenly alerted him that he was being watched. He turned his head sharply directly toward the watcher and saw the very surprised park ranger standing there with his patrol dog. Seeing a naked floating human boy was what was causing the shocked expression.

        Some time later, back within the local park ranger station, and having thankfully been permitted a bath and a fresh meal, Kristofer Falkner sat in an easy chair wrapped up in a winter blanket as the park Ranger spoke on the phone to his superior. "That's what I said, Frank. The boy was at the old mobile search command base without a stitch of clothing and he smelled like a buck in rut. When I said his name, he nodded his head and I brought him back to the ranger station. I think his family will be ecstatic that he finally reappeared from where ever he had been. I think he is still in some shock. When I tried to ask him where he had been, he said Christmas Town Valley. He also said that one of the local reindeer helped him get back to the park. His parents; I was about to call them when I made the call to you to report this in. A promotion, Frank? I told you when I came to work here that I've seen stuff like this all the time. What's another mystery solved to me. I won't stop you from filing a promotion for this old wolf. The extra income will be helpful for my own family back in Europe."

        After hanging up the phone, the park ranger went into the kitchen and returned with a meal and hot cocoa for the boy. "I am going to call your parents now. Your father used to call out here every other day originally. I don't know what he will say about that mark on your forehead. It looks like a meteor in free fall."

        Kristofer was surprised that his reindeer marking made the crossing with him. It was the only reminder of his adventure as a reindeer. "My dad is a good man. I will try to explain it to him what happened to me since you think I can't remember what happened correctly. What part of I fell over the overlook is so hard to understand?"

        The park ranger then made the second call to Mr. Falkner while Kristofer had dinner. "Your son is recovering nicely, sir.I didn't detect any injuries, although he does have a strange mark on his forehead. he hasn't mentioned any headaches or pain. But his reappearance stark naked was what surprised me the most, sir."

        Kristofer noted that the park ranger was omitting the fact that he had seen the boy floating in mid air almost as if the fact didn't surprise him at all. When the ranger hung up the phone, Kristofer asked, "How come you haven't been mentioning that you saw me floating in mid air?" The park ranger replied, "There are some things you cannot mention to other adult humans because they won't believe you when you say them." and now that Kristofer had heard him say humans with some disgust, he thought he knew he rest of the story. "You are a Veil citizen, aren't you?"

        The Park ranger looked squarely at the boy and squatted down before saying, "I made the crossing from Veil to Earth a long time ago. I am just a human now. If I could get home, I would resume my normal form. You see, I am an arctic wolf. When I saw you floating, I knew where you had been. You found one of the gates. I was assigned to this post to watch and guard over the local Veil gate here in the park. You ended up with Jumper's Stunt Core, didn't you? That's why you smell like a buck in rut. That smell has to wear off."

        Kristofer nodded his head slowly once again. "Captain Jumper was really nice to me. As was Codine of South Timber."

        The park ranger said, "I know Codine, although if you met him, you should be careful around him. He's been into some drugs lately. You can totally trust Jumper though. He was the one who hired me to take up watch at this location. I get to see a lot of cuties in the park. And seeing you naked was a treat, too. Here on the Earth side, some might call me a werewolf. What name do you go by in Veil?"

        Kristopher replied, "My reindeer form said he was Meteor of South Timber."

        The park Ranger then said, "The old Meteor died a few months ago. I guess that explains how you ended up with his form. He tried to force a Veil Gate to work in reverse so he and several others could return to Earth. When he attempted to leap through, it killed him part way through the gate. His form was never seen again, until you ended up with it. You should strive to be a much better Meteor than he was. Jumper is counting on you."

        "Forcing a Veil gate sounds bad."

        "It is very bad. It took the entire time you were with Jumper to get the Veil Gates working correctly once again. Now remember: when you are with your dad, don't mention too much about Veil or he might think you will need a doctor visit and some unnecessary medication. Finish up your meal and then rest and relax," he said, "Your dad will be bringing you a change of clothes and a pair of your spare sneakers. If memory serves me correctly, there is a Veil gate near your parents' home in the woods. Once you find that spot, mark the area in a way that will tip you off the moment you see it through a gate from Veil. Then you can find it easily the next time. And don't worry, Meteor... I am proud to meet you. a buck in rut smells fine to a wolf like me."

        "I won't forget what you told me and how nice you were to me. I can mention my seeing you to Jumper and then he won't be so worried."

        End of Chapter Four


          Chapter Five

          After getting home from the park, Kristofer chose to take a second bath with soap and shampoo and a nice application of deodorant. He even used some of his mother's scented shampoo to kill off some of the reindeer scent which lingered in his hair. He had almost considered using Lysol spray on his hair. Once he was dressed once again, and remembering what the park ranger had said about the woods near his home. He went out to look for the nearby Veil Gate. He took along a can of red paint and a paintbrush and an old bicycle reflector. his plan was to paint the trunk of a tree red within view of the Veil gate and then nail the old bicycle reflector to the center of the painted spot on the tree. Something he could in no way mistake when looking at it.

          Once he finished this task, he took the paint brush and can of paint back to the house and clean up once again. Then he had lunch, although he was in the mood for a sandwich, he began to find that he had no stomach for the bologna meat in the refrigerator. He instead placed two leafs of lettuce between two slices of bread along with a carrot and he ate that instead. He pondered being a vegetarian because of his adventure. However, his next thoughts would be delayed when his dad brought in a pizza from a local pizzeria and he offered a slice to Kristofer. "Um, Dad... thanks but... meat isn't agreeing with my digestion at the moment. Don't get me wrong, I love pizza, but... I tried to eat some bologna earlier and I couldn't stomach it."

          His dad was understanding as he pulled the cheese up from a slice of pizza and he carefully removed the meat from the slice and then he replaced the melted cheese and handed Kristofer the slice. "You need to get hot food into your body or else I will have to take you to the doctor in town for an examination. I know you had to rough it in the park, but please try to eat something cooked."

          "Dad, do you believe in Santa Claus?"

          "Yes, if I want to be on his good list, I better believe in him. I actually got to see some of his reindeer once. I met Cupid and Donder. Nice guys although they took most of my lunch that day. And Donder kept sniffing at my pants. Santa said that they were simply missing their mates which is why they were acting funny like that. Then Santa asked me if I had any kids. And I told him about you, Kris. I am so glad you are home."

          "Dad... I might disappear in a few days and if I do, please don't call out a search party. One of Santa's reindeer helped me find my way back to the park road and I owe him a favor for his helping me. He said he would come and fetch me when he needed me. And since you believe in Santa, please trust me and let me keep my word."

          "So when you said in the car that one of Santa's reindeer helped you find your way back, you weren't kidding. If you get to see Cupid and Donder, let them know that I would like to see them again. I can give Cupid another lunch and since Donder likes my pants, I can let him sniff them some more."

          "Dad, I am sure he was sniffing your groin, not your pants. But if I see them, I'll give them the message."

          "What did you do while I was away this afternoon?"

          "I explored the woods behind the house. The park ranger said I should try to memorize my surroundings so I can recognize my home area if I should ever get lost around here."

          Thankfully, there was no more conversation about the reindeer because the phone rang and when Kristofer's father answered the phone, from his pained facial expression, Kristofer knew who was calling. It was his mother who had divorced his father not long after Kristofer was born. At the time she had said she didn't care about Kristofer nor raising him. Now she called once a week trying to get visitation. Kristofer walked over to where his father was speaking on the phone and when he heard his father say, "You want to come see Kristofer with your fiance?" he grabbed the phone out of his dad's hands and said, "Maybe I don't want to see you, Little Miss divorce upon birth and run away from responsibility. You let dad raise me by himself and now that I am almost grown, you want to be in my life. If you come here, don't expect me to be around much." And then he handed the phone back to his father before leaving the house for the backyard. That woman made him so angry. "Jumper... if you're going to call for me, please do it before my mom shows up. She is worse than a female dog."

          Soon, his father joined him in the backyard. "Your mother spoke to a lawyer and he agreed with her that she has the right to see you. I know you don't like it, but it is the law."

          Fortunately for Kristofer, he barely heard Jumper's mental voice. "Meteor! First warning!" And then Kristofer turned and looked at his father. "Dad... the reindeer are calling for me. I am about to disappear on you. This is another reason why mom should not come here. She would freak out."

          "Meteor! Second Warning! Please be decent this time!"

          "Go talk to the park ranger, Wolfe, about this. I don't want to lie to you, dad. Ask him about Veil." and then Kristofer heard the the final call. "Meteor! I hope you are ready for this!"

          As his father watched, Kristofer suddenly turned transparent right in front of him and then his transparent human form changed into his Meteor Reindeer form before completely fading away, leaving his father standing there with his jaw agape.

          End of Chapter Five


            Chapter Six

            When his surroundings came back into focus, Kristofer as Meteor found himself standing in his reindeer stall at Jumper's training camp. he then quickly emerged from the stall and exited the building where he saw everyone in his training group in a line up. Meteor quietly took his position in the line up. Standing in front of the reindeer group was none other than Santa Claus himself. "SO, these are your students this year, Jumper. A fine collection of Stunt Reindeer. Although Dasher and Comet told me great praises about Meteor. Where is he?"

            Kristofer then spoke up at that moment. "I am right here, sir. Sorry I'm late. I was squaring things away with my father."

            Santa then turned around and knelt to one knee as he began to examine Meteor up close. "A human turned reindeer," he whispered, "Just as Comet said." To which Meteor quietly replied, "My father would like to see Cupid and Donder again some day." Santa nodded his head as he stood up once again and turned to Jumper. "Have them demonstrate the sleigh run, Jumper. Today is their proving day. Succeed today, boys, and you will be advanced to the main Reindeer stunt core in Christmas Town."

            Jumper guided his charges to the training sleigh. "This is the big day, boys. Just like the previous times. Sure and steady keeping the line balanced. The only difference is that I won't be able to fly beside you to give advice this time. This is the main test I was preparing you for. I believe in all of you. I know you can do this. Remember, When Santa shouts the words Role Call, give your names in order, from the back to the front like I taught you."

            "This is the last pep talk I am going to be able to give you. Although if you do advance, you can return to talk to me in camp whenever you like. I am the main recruit trainer. Once you are in Christmas Town, your trainer will be Comet. He is both fair and just. And he can be a very good friend. He already likes Meteor so don't disappoint him. I will always be proud of you guys. Now get in there and show me that you can do this."

            Soon the stunt reindeer bucks were in the air with the sleigh. Meteor and Codine were located up at the front of the line. And then they heard Santa shout, "Role Call!" "Surger! Gusto! Danger! Grave! Rapid!, Laugher! Meteor! Codine!" And then the winds around their test began to play a bit unfair as Meteor felt the entire line seem to buckle to the right. He quickly tugged on the line of the reins to send a warning to the others that the balance was tipping and thankfully, they remembered their training and righted the load. Finally they brought the sleigh around for the landing on top of one of the practice roofs which was set up to train reindeer for landing on a house's roof.

            Even from the ground, Jumper had seen the sleigh tip and and he just as easily saw who had guided the others in stabilizing the line. he rushed over to check on his students.

            As Santa was approaching, Jumper was about done checking out the reindeer in the line. He was about to turn away from Codine when he stoppped and sniffed the air around the reindeer. "Codine? Why am I smelling whiskey and Opium around you?" Meteor turned his head to look at Codine and said, "You didn't?! Park Ranger Wolfe told me you were into some things, Codine! I was hoping he was wrong." Codine said with a blush, "I had a small binge last night. I thought I had kicked the habit before coming to join Stunt Core. But without you being around, Meteor, I had a weakness last night and I went to an elf locally who sells the stuff."

            Santa then said, "What is the elf's name and where is he set up? We've been looking for him for quite a while."

            Codine sighed with a frown as he said, "The elf's name is Dingle and he is set up in the rear of the sugar bear's sweet shop in Christmas Town. At least that's where he was last night."

            Santa blew a whistle and that is when a gigantic arctic wolf came loping out of the timber line. "Sheriff Fenris! We have a lead on Dingle the Drug Elf. go sniff around the rear of Sweet Bear's shop and see if you can pick up the elf's trail."

            Fenris replied in a deep voice, "As you say, Mr. Claus." And he took off with a loping run and with a final leap, vanished into the timber line.

            Meteor then quietly asked Jumper, "Who was that wolf?"

            Jumper replied, "That was Fenris of the North Pole's Secret Police. He can be a good friend or a horrible enemy."

            "What's going to happen to Codine?" Kristofer asked out of some concern.

            Santa said, "Codine will have to spend some time in Christmas Town's detox center at the hospital. If he pulls through, he could rejoin the stunt team before the end of the month."

            Meteor then said to Jumper, "Before I went home the last time, Codine told me that you have a trainer friend who could help me learn to have both my forms here in Veil as well as on Earth. Is that true?"

            Jumper replied, "It is true, although in order to learn the ability, you have to be an advanced Stunt Core Reindeer first... which you just earned today. Santa will escort you and the others back to Christmas Town where you will be assigned to your new lodging quarters at the Advanced Stunt Core HQ."

            End of Chapter Six


              Chapter Seven

              The Advanced Stunt Core HQ was more like a combination saloon and hotel for reindeer. Santa brought the newest stunt reindeer in and introduced them to Commander Thunder, the reindeer in charge of the Local stunt core. "These are Jumper's newest winners, Thunder. Give them some rooms and run them through the daily routine. I have to escort Codine to the clinic for his treatment. Oh, And this reindeer, Meteor, has gained Comet's favor. So no funny business, Okay?" "Yes sir, Mr. Claus." he replied as the jolly man departed. "Okay, you young bucks... follow me. Spacing is rather limited due to there being so many stunt reindeer these days. I keep trying to get Santa to agree to put together a second sleigh team. But you know how humans are when they are old and set in their ways." He led the group upstairs to the second floor balcony.

              "Alright, boys... Surger and Rapid, you will be sharing a room with a stunt Reindeer named Sledder. As a matter of fact, he should about done with the mail run right about now. Stunt reindeer often hold down a side job so they don't get too bored." He then led the others further along the balcony.

              "Danger and Grave. "You will be sharing Midnight's room. He's in there right now, but since he holds down a night job, he is asleep. We don't have too many solid black reindeer with red eyes, but he is a good one. Go on in and claim a corner and by all that is holy, don't wake him up." A little further along the balcony, He stopped again.

              "Gusto and Laugher... you will be sharing a room with Boaster. He can tell some whoppers when he is drinking and hyped up on sugar, but overall, he is a nice guy. If you get him to talking, good luck with shutting him up."

              As Meteor was the only one left, he was surprised when Thunder led him further upstairs to the roof top chateau lodgings. "Okay, Meteor, since you have Comet's favor, you get to have a room up here in the flyer's suite. Comet doesn't live here himself since he got married to that doe of his. They live further on in town. But since you earned Comet's favor, you get to lodge in Comet's old suite yourself. In fact, Donder himself lives up here still when he isn't filling in for Donner. You can even see Rudolph and Zoey over in Rudolph's personal quarters from time to time since it is so private. If you see an arctic fox and a polar bear up here, do not panic. They are friends of Rudolph's." He led Meteor into Comet's suite and showed him around. Kristofer was glad to see a real bed in Comet's quarters.

              Thunder then led Meteor back downstairs. "Every morning, line up in front of the bar for role call. You will get breakfast at that time and the doc will make sure no one is sick." He winked, before continuing. " the head." "Since you have Comet's favor, your daily task will be to assist Comet in his Coaching duties. He trains the young bucks and does in flying. To prepare them for the reindeer games. a collection of overrated poppycock if you ask me. The whole purpose of winning the reindeer games is to someday get to be chosen to pull Santa's sleigh as an official flier. To this day, I have never heard of any winner getting to pull that overrated over weighted sleigh of Christmas junk."

              Having gotten directions from Thunder, Meteor made his way through Christmas Town and finally arrived at the Reindeer School for Young Bucks and Does. He smiled when he saw the coaches cap on Comet's head as he trotted over and with a playful flip, sent the cap flying into the air before catching it on his own head. "Hiya Comet! Thunder assigned me to be your assistant from now on. I hope your not upset that I decapped you."

              Comet smiled back. He didn't look all that upset. In fact, he looked happy to be getting Meteor. "Better to be decapped than depants'ed. He then winked to show that he knew that Meteor was really a human turned reindeer. He then took the coaches cap in his teeth before flipping it back up upon his own head. "I am glad you made it, Meteor. Where did you get lodging at?"

              Meteor replied, "Thunder put me in your old suite. He said you rarely use it anymore since you got hitched."

              Comet smiled. "Sometimes I wonder why the others didn't stop me from getting married. My doe can be pretty demanding sometimes."

              "Well, I am here to help you now. What can I do?"

              "Get the young bucks lined up for their initial practice jumps and give encouragement when it seems necessary. Everyone gets a chance."

              Meteor went over and did his task easily, he spoke to the ones who seemed nervous and when the jumps were made, everyone got good grades. Then Comet and Meteor began walking back through Christmas Town. "Jumper asked me to take you over to Madame Salena's Arcane miracles tent. She can teach you on how to change forms on both sides of Veil. In fact, I can't wait to see how sexy you look as a human boy." "This Madame Salena is a magic using Reindeer?" "That is correct. She hasn't had an apprentice in quite a while and you might be just the type she has been waiting for."

              Comet led Meteor into a highly decorated dark blue tent with Gold laced trim. Inside the tent, there was a female reindeer wearing gold beads around her neck as she gazed into a crystal ball. "Salena? This is Jumper's boy Meteor." She slowly lifted her head to look at her guests. Her eyes sparkled like stars in twilight. "Ah, Kristofer Falkner. Come closer; Jumper asked me to assist you. How would you like to learn the magic of the ages?" Meteor replied, "If the Magic of the ages includes making my deadbeat mother leave me alone, I might be interested. Although I might not be so good at magic early on. But I am willing to learn. Salena then smiled. "You are wise to be wary around your mother and her new fiance. Come with me and I will get you started on your first bit of magic. Then we can see for ourselves how you look as a human." She then led Meteor through the flap in the back of the tent into her inner sanctum where she would begin to educate Kristofer in the reindeer arts of magic.

              End of Chapter Seven


                Chapter Eight

                After an extensively interactive and fun educational magic session with Salena in which Kristofer learned more than just magic, he emerged from the back room in his clothed human form where he gently hugged Comet. "And this is what I look like in my human form of Kristofer Falkner." He then let Comet look and scent him all over as he smiled just before his form sparkled and he resumed his reindeer form of Meteor. "Salena said that my form holding ability would get stronger over time. This was about the current length of my being able to hold my human form here in Veil for now. Santa and Mrs. Claus have had years of experience over me since they have been here longer."

                Comet smiled. "Thanks for letting me see you entirely and permitting me to memorize your human scent. Now I can find you any time you are in your human form. I better get you back to Stunt HQ before Thunder sends out a search party. By the way, what did you think of Salena?"

                Meteor blushed as he walked with Comet through Christmas Town. "She is a good kisser."

                "Only a good kisser? My nose detected more than that. I am a married buck, Meteor."

                "She insisted that I try it, Comet. She had to teach me how to do it."

                "I am sure it was a good lesson. And she was right, unless you are going to be like Donder, you needed to know how a buck does it. You now have more of a respected buck scent."

                "I smell like a reindeer in rut again? That smell is going to be nearly impossible to deal with in my human form back on Earth. I may have to use Lysol or Glade next time."

                "Are you serious, Meteor? You considered spraying yourself with Lysol and Glade?"

                "My hair smelled like a sweaty body builder's arm pit of the cervine variety."

                "You are exaggerating now," laughed Comet as they walked through Christmas Town.

                After dropping Meteor off at the Stunt Core HQ, Comet continued home where his own doe was awaiting him. Meteor went inside and met up with Thunder.

                After one sniff, Commander Thunder said, "So, Meteor... who was the lucky doe?"

                "That magic using reindeer called Salena over on the other side of Christmas Town."

                Thunder turned pale for a moment. "Meteor... Salena has been dead for over fifty years. I don't know who you met up with, but if they are calling themselves Salena, then they are hiding their actual identity for some unknown reason. If you don't believe me, you can go ask Santa Claus. It is in his records."

                Meteor looked disturbed by that information. "I may just do that, Thunder. By your leave?"

                "Of course, go on and learn for yourself."

                Meteor departed the Stunt core and made his way across Christmas Town and as he neared the edge of town where the nearby forest met the road, he said into the trees, "Fenris? I've come across a mystery and I might need your help with this one."

                Fenris then poked his nose out of the timber line and he approached Meteor who was just standing there. "What mystery do you have for me, Meteor?"

                "Take a good sniff of the doe scent on me and see if you can find out who she really is. She told me that her name was Salena. And she has Comet and Jumper believing that she is that Magic using Reindeer on the other side of Christmas Town. Commander Thunder told me that the old Salena died fifty years ago."

                "She did. I saw the body." He then took a good sniff of Meteor's body and licked his hind legs at the same time. "Got it, And I think I know the doe. I'll be back soon." And off he loped disappearing into the trees as he was fond of doing.

                "I asked him to sniff me for the doe scent. I wonder what the lick was for aside from making me feel tingly all over my legs?" He then started off for Santa's workshop at the top of the hill overlooking Christmas Town.

                The locals in Veil seemed to do the strangest things. and it made Meteor wonder what was really going on in that strange looking-glass world.

                End of Chapter Eight


                  Chapter Nine

                  Arriving at the workshop on the hill overlooking Christmas Town, Meteor stepped inside of the workshop where he saw the elves hard at work making toys for good little boys and girls back on Earth. Meteor saw Santa standing up on an upper landing and he focus his trip up to where Santa stood to talk to him. When he landed near Santa, he said, "Good afternoon, Santa. Thunder said that I should ask you about the magic using reindeer called Salena. I met a doe who was using that name and she taught me some magic. Thunder said that she couldn't have been Salena since the last Salena died fifty years ago. He said you would know more about this."

                  Santa replied, "She did die fifty years ago in an unfortunate accident. Her home was struck by an avalanche and she died instantly. Fenris was the one who found her body. If there is a doe using her name and using magic, then you should be very careful if you have any dealings with her from now on. What magic were you supposed to learn?"

                  Meteor told Santa the truth. "The ability to change into either my human form or my reindeer form on either side of the veil like the magic that you and Mrs. Claus have that permits you both to retain your humanity in Veil."

                  Santa then rubbed on Meteor's head fur. "I would suggest you go speak to a goat wizard here in the north called Adrian. Tell him that I sent you to him and then explain everything you told me to him and ask him to help you with the magic you need to know. You might have to do a few favors for him but when it comes to magic, he is currently the best animal magic user in the north next to Braymeister the donkey sorcerer. If you happen to meet Braymeister before you speak to Adrian, be polite and be honest with him. He may be a donkey, but like Adrian, he can help you. I would have suggested Stormella, but she deals in weather magic and wishes. To earn a wish, you would have to do something outstanding for her. You can find Adrian further north of here in a village called Ornament Valley. Braymeister lives in an old tower up on Sleigh Run Peak. My yearly flight goes right by there every year and each year he waves with a smile. He stays on the good list so he gets good presents every year. I hope I have been helpful, Meteor."

                  As Meteor emerged from Santa's workshop, he was about knocked over by Fenris. "Tag, Meteor. I found the lying doe. she tried to run away from me when I said the name Salena, then she threw a few spells at me and missed. Her real name is Dolene. Some say she used to be Adrian's apprentice."

                  Meteor said, "Santa suggested that I speak to either Adrian or Braymeister to learn magic from. And how I should avoid that doe from now on."

                  Fenris said, "Since Santa said to avoid her, you best go speak to Braymeister. Dolene was fleeing toward Ornament Valley. And if you go there, you might encounter her. I'll escort you up to Sleigh Run Peak. Come with me." And he began padding off through the snow with Meteor following him.

                  When they arrived at the base of the tower, Fenris pulled on a rope cord next to the door and then he waited. After a few moments, the door opened, and they were greeted by a donkey walking on his hind legs. He wore a sorcerer's robe and held a book in one hand. Although he looked young, he had the appearance of a donkey boy of the Lampwick variety. "Ah... Fenris. I have been good. What can I do for the Secret Police on this fine afternoon?"

                  Fenris pulled out a small bag of gold coins and pressed it into Braymeister's hands as he whispered the request into the sorcerer's ear. "Dolene seduced this nice reindeer, restore his virginity for him. This is your payment. Aside from that, Santa is vouching for this reindeer so he can learn transformation magic from a reliable source. Santa mentioned your rival Adrian and yourself as being the best two to teach Meteor here. If you have further need of me, Meteor, just call into the forest and say my name."

                  Before he could depart, Braymeister caught him by the fur of his chin and said, "Dolene took over Adrian's workshop recently, after Adrian disappeared. I suspect foul play, but I have no proof, Fenris. Tread carefully." And he let the wolf go finally before bringing Meteor inside and closing the door. "I would be glad to have you as my apprentice, Meteor. Then I could teach you all the magic you needed. I can use magic through a blessing from Lady Aurora herself. And once I help you to attain that blessing, Meteor, we will talk about your apprenticeship to me. Would you be willing to have me as your master for learning magic? I haven't had an apprentice in several years. But I know the ritual for making it official. I just hope you don't get upset when we make it official."

                  "So who was your last Apprentice?" asked Meteor out of curiosity.

                  "A nice reindeer named Lustre, with the 'E' at the end of the 'R'. He excelled at magic use under my guidance. When his apprenticeship ended, he moved back into Christmas Town to open a reindeer specialty Bucks club on one of the back streets. One of his biggest customers is a stunt reindeer called Donder. He is Donner's twin brother."

                  Meteor smiled. "My dad back on Earth likes Donder. I am really a human boy back home. The magic I was wanting to learn is the kind that would allow me to use my human form here in veil occasionally and to use my reindeer form back on Earth, whenever I needed to. Santa said you could help me with that."

                  "I can. But only after you accept the apprenticeship. But first, I need to fulfill Fenris' request concerning undoing what Dolene did to you underhandedly. I get to restore your virginity. Which will get rid of your Buck in Rut scent that Comet likely said smelled good on you. But after we consummate the apprenticeship, Comet won't be able to tell who you've been with."

                  Meteor wasn't sure what was going to be involved in the ritual especially since the sorcerer implied it would make it so Comet couldn't tell if he had been with a doe or not.

                  End of Chapter Nine


                    Chapter Ten

                    Out at the ranger station in the national park, Mr. Falkner pulled his truck up to the front of the main office and he quickly got out and approached the building in as calm a speed as he could muster. Seeing his son vanish like it had happened was still fresh in his mind. When he reached the door he soundly knocked on it and waited. Within he could hear the ranger's dog barking and then, the door slowly opened.

                    "Mr. Falkner? This is a surprise. what brings you back to the park? How is Kristofer?"

                    "Wolfe! Kristofer vanished right in front of me. Before it happened, he tried to give me a warning that it was about to happen. He said I should come talk to you about Veil. May I please come inside?"

                    Park Ranger Wolfe permitted the man to enter the ranger station and that was when Mr. Falkner noticed that Wolfe had a wolf tail sticking out the back of his pants. "What is going on? What is that sticking out of your pants?"

                    After allowing the man entry and closing the door securely, Wolfe replied, "It is my tail, of course. I am what you might call a werewolf. But more so, I am the gate guardian of the local Veil Gate. I told Kristofer not to tell you about Veil, Deryn. Now have a seat and tell me exactly what happened with you and Kristofer just before he vanished on you."

                    Deryn Falkner tried to remain calm as he explained exactly what had occurred just before the back yard discussion when Kristofer suddenly said that Jumper was calling for him and how his son didn't want to lie to him. "He said you I should talk to you about this, Wolfe. Please, you've come to know me over the last year and a half. I need to know, for my own sanity at least. What is Veil and why is my son part of it?"

                    "In ancient times, when mankind first began to get into that state of mind to believe that all species not human were to be considered as monsters, the enlightened few who survived man's misguided killing spree requested a boon to Mother Earth to grant them access to a place on Earth beyond the sight of man. She listened to their plea and thus, she created Veil, a wondrous place just beyond the curtain of man's reality. Veil became an Earth-like world all its own minus all of the horrors of man-kind. Although few humans can exist there and stay human, there are elves, sprites, and varied animal species living there, as well as those mythical species which you can no longer find upon the Earth today, like dragons and yes, my people, werewolves. Santa Claus and his wife, Mrs. Claus dwell there as the sole human custodians of that world. They were permitted to stay because they were good and just in heart and mind while holding no hatred for any species."

                    "When a human first encounters a Veil gate in any location on Earth, when they pass through the gate, they are instantly transformed into the Veil species of the least resistance. The ending species can be adjusted if a Veil citizen has already vouched for you at least once in your life or if you had shown some compassion or kindness to them during your life."

                    Deryn replied, "I gave Cupid my lunch one Christmas while Donder seemed infatuated with sniffing my pants as if I had spilled something he liked on them. I met Santa that same night. And yes, I had mentioned Kristofer to them at the same time."

                    "If you fed Cupid, then he would be your voucher. When you cross over into Veil, you would become a reindeer like them. Your new species form will already know a local name to call himself. If you plan on going there, find Captain Jumper and and tell him that I said you should ask him about Meteor because you are his father. He will understand what that means. As for returning to Earth later, let one of the reindeer there lick your eyes so you can gain the ability to see Veil gates on either side. Also, have Jumper give you some of the flying reindeer serum so you have that power in Veil. He might want to give you some training, and I advise that you accept it. When training ends, head to Christmas Town and find Cupid and tell him the truth. He can help you find where ever Meteor is at that time. Although Comet may know since he has the ability to know a human turned reindeer."

                    Wolfe then said, "I can show you where the local Veil gate is and have you jump through it. You will land in snow, so don't let that surprise you. You will find a stream out in front of you, cross that stream and head to the upper right. There you will find Captain Jumper's training camp. He is a nice friend to know. He and I have been friends for years. Simply leave your truck parked in front of my station. I would also advise that you empty your pockets here in the station because on the first crossing, you will lose anything you carry in your pockets along with your clothes. Reindeer don't wear clothes, obviously, nor do they carry ID."

                    Deryn stood up and emptied his pockets into a drawer Wolfe provided. He also removed his clothes and placed them into the drawer as well. Then Wolfe wrapped a cloak around the man and led him out of the station and through a wooded trail to a familiar overlook. "The Veil gate is floating just off the edge in mid air. This is much like the leap of faith. Believe in what I have said and you will be able to find your son." The park ranger took back the cloak and pointed Deryn in the correct direction as the man stepped back and took the run and leaped over the edge, vanishing in mid air exactly as Wolfe had told him. "Good luck, Deryn. Don't lose yourself. I am fond of both you and your son." He then returned to the ranger station.

                    Landing in almost the exact same spot his son had landed in months before, the new reindeer buck pulled himself out of the snow bank and made his way to the stream. When he saw his reflection in the water, he recalled what Park Ranger Wolfe had told him. In his reflection, he saw what appeared to be a crescent moon shape in along both sides of his muzzle. Within his new reindeer mind, he learned his name. "I am Lunar of South Timber, Meteor's father. Now to find Captain Jumper." And he crossed the stream and started to follow Wolfe's directions. When he emerged from the woods and saw the reindeer in training, he smiled as he made his way over to speak to the good captain.

                    End of Chapter Ten
                    End of Episode One

                    Stay tuned for the next episode, Reindeer Reunion.