What's Santa Claws?
"Good night, Ember."
"G'night, Mom," a young Eventide Cybunny murmured as she lay her head on her pillow. Her mom smiled and gently closed the door. She'd just put her daughter to bed with a Christmas story about a Kougra called Santa Claws. He supposedly flew around Neopia in a sleigh that was pulled by nine water Alabriss, giving out presents to young Neopets everywhere on Christmas eve. And had been doing so for thousands of years.
Ember was kinda doubtful about that -- Neopets simply didn't live that long -- but she was still excited to find out if he was real, so she was going to stay up all night tonight to see if he would come. The Cybunny was very curious to know how he could be so old.
To keep herself awake, Ember got up and walked over to the window. She leaned on the sill and turned her gaze to the shimmering towers of the Faerieland castle. She'd heard that Fyora's magic was keeping it bright, so it shone like a star. Why the faeries lit the top of the castle every year was beyond her, but she really liked it. It reminded her of that other story her mom had told her, about the Christmas star the faeries used to re-power their magic every year -- but she knew that one wasn't real.
After another ten minutes of staring at the sky, Ember decided to go get herself a snack. She was just getting up to leave when the light outside suddenly darkened.
"Huh?" Ember stopped and stared out at the towers; they had gone out completely.
"That's never happened before," she murmured quietly, eyes narrowed. Snack forgotten, Ember opened the window and stuck her head out, ears twitching tentatively. All the lights seemed to have gone out, leaving only the moon and stars to illuminate the night. Everything was silent too, like the world was holding its breath. She didn't like that.
Then, without warning, a big flash lit up the night sky. Ember's head jerked up to watch what looked like a meteor plunging toward the ground, smoke and bits of fire trailing behind it. She held her breath as the wind pulled away the flames that half-engulfed it to reveal a...
"OH, MY GOODNESS!" Ember screeched, recognizing her mom's description of Santa's sleigh falling to earth. She immediately covered her mouth, hoping her mother hadn't heard, and watched, wide-eyed, as the flying sleigh crashed to the ground nearby.
"Ohmyohmyohmy," Ember said as she raced downstairs. She stopped at the door and slipped on her boots, as it was rather snowy out, opened the door and rushed outside.
The snow crunched under her feet as the Cybunny jogged across the field that was her backyard where the sleigh had landed. When she reached it, Ember cautiously circled 'round the back to find nine little wet Alabriss beginning to regain consciousness. One shook itself as it stood up, spraying water everywhere. Another sneezed a few droplets, and the rest just dripped everywhere while they tried to stand up.
Ember watched them do this and realized that one wasn't moving at all. It was laying next to a large green sack that had fallen out of the sleigh, its eyes closed and completely still. Ember gasped and made her way over to it, knelt down, and picked it up. It was freezing, almost ice. The poor thing was hardly breathing too. "Aw, you poor thing," Ember whispered. "Don't worry, I'll help you."
"Would you mind helping me?"
Ember jumped in shock at the rough voice coming from behind the sack. One of the Alabriss snorted and walked over to it, headbutting the sack before gazing up at Ember with a pleading look. She got the idea, and knelt down next to the sleigh, bending so her head didn't hit the tilted side.
"Um, hello? Anyone out there?" the voice spoke up again just before Ember saw around the sack. There she saw a Kougra dressed in bright red fluffy clothing, and a hat, so she couldn't see his face.
"U-um, hello." Ember replied awkwardly, although inside she was thinking, 'It's Santa Claws! It's Santa!'. "Y-you need some help there?"
The Kougra shifted around. "Yes, I believe so. My legs are stuck under the gift-bag."
'Gift. Bag.' Ember thought. 'YES, I am meeting Santa Claws!'
She said, "Ah, o-okay. Just a sec." Ember turned and set her Alabriss in the sleigh then went and crawled into the small space Santa wasn't occupying behind the sack. ('Santa!')
"Okay," the Kougra said. "Just lean on the wall, and push the sack with your back."
Ember hesitated, thinking, then leaned her back against the sack. She counted to three in her head, then shoved with all her might. It took a full minute -- and a few of the petpets helping her -- but Ember finally managed to shove the huge sack off of the Kougra's legs.
"Phew," Santa gasped as he pulled himself out of the sleigh. "Thank you! The faeries' magic malfunctioned or something. The lights went out, and I couldn't see where I was going. Must've hit a rogue cloud."
As he was saying this, Ember held the injured Alabriss in her paws. She couldn't find anything wrong with it, except that it was as cold as ice. Santa Claws noticed her holding the petpet and chuckled. "I see you've taken an interest in Toreth. He's my lead Alabriss, but the poor thing nearly freezes to death being the only one up front."
Ember looked down at the petpet -- Toreth -- and hugged him closer. "Then why do you make him?"
"Well, this is only his second time. I thought the first time that he just wasn't used to it, but I guess not."
Ember started petting Toreth's mane. Then suddenly looked up at Santa. "Wait, I've been wanting to ask you something."
"How are you so old?"
Santa stared at her for a moment then burst out in laughter.
Ember blinked. "What's so funn-oh." She realized what she'd just said. "Uh, sorry."
The Kougra ended his laughter in a metallic chuckle. "Oh, that's okay. I know what you meant. And I think you deserve an explanation, after saving me from my own bag." He chuckled again as he took hold of his hat and pulled it gingerly off his head.
Ember's eyes widened in shock when she saw what was underneath.
"Heh, yeah. When I started this job I thought it would be fun to get myself painted robot, since robots don't age."
'Santa's a robot.'
The robot Kougra heaved himself to his feet. He tried to stretch his legs, and was rewarded by metallic creaking noises. "Oh, ho oh, my legs." He groaned. "I think the metal's dented."
"Oh!" Ember exclaimed in alarm. "Will you not be able to, uh, finish your rounds in time?"
"I most certainly will." Santa smiled. "I'm sure the faeries will give me some extra time after that incident."
"Yeah, " Santa said, "See, every year the faeries stop time for me with their magic. Usually it stops kids from waking up until morning, but I guess you weren't sleeping."
Ember smiled shyly. "N-n-no."
Santa Claws noticed her shivering. "You cold, um..?"
"E-Ember. And y-yes, I'm staring to get cold." The Cybunny's teeth started chattering.
"Well," Santa said, glancing around at his sleigh's wreckage, "you should get back inside then." He smiled again. "And maybe when you wake up tomorrow I'll have given you a little reward for helping me."
* * * * *
"Ember, come downstairs! There are presents!"
The Eventide Cybunny groggily lifted her off the pillow. Her mind struggled to get out of dream state as she sat up and rubbed her eyes. 'What happened last night?' she thought to herself, remembering the lights going out, meeting Santa Claws...
But wait, was that all a dream? It felt like a dream, and it was all fuzzy after Santa said something about a reward for something... She groaned. Of course it was a dream! Mom's story must've gotten to her head.
Sighing, Ember slipped out of bed and walked over to her door, slipping on her fluffy blue slippers on the way. She yawned and opened it, walking out and downstairs. She stopped just inside the family room and smiled at her little Wocky sister playing with a Red Kougra Plushie.
"I see you're finally awake." Ember turned to find her mom smiling down at her and holding a fresh batch of Christmas cookies. "Cookie?" she said, holding them out.
Ember smiled in gratitude and took one, stuffing it into her mouth and walking over to the tree, which was housing about a dozen presents. "Wow, there are an awful lot of presents this year."
"Santa brought them!" her little sister, Cara exclaimed happily.
Ember giggled. "So Mom told you that story too, huh?"
The Wocky just nodded.
"And there's a special gift just for you, Ember." Their mom smiled. "Over there, right next to Cara."
Ember smiled and moved over to the sparkling blue box to sit down next to it. There was a little note tied to it, so she took it off and read:
'Here's a little something for helping me out.
I was done some good damage by that rogue cloud,
So because you helped me and were so kind
I give you this gift, I'm sure you don't mind.
Merry Christmas, take care. I'll see you next year.'
Ember sat staring at the note for a full minute. 'It wasn't a dream! I really met Santa Claws! I wonder what he gave me?' With this in mind, the Cybunny folded up the note and began to untie the bow. She lifted the lid off the box and gasped at what was inside.
"What? What is it?!" Cara squealed, trying to move in for a look.
"Toreth," Ember breathed, grinning.
"Um, nothing," Ember said, picking up the sleeping Alabriss. "Hey, Mom! Look what Santa gave me!"
Her mom saw the petpet and gasped. "Oh, that's so cute! What are you going to name it?"
"Toreth," Ember replied with no hesitation. "His name is Toreth."
The three person family continued to open presents. Toreth woke up at some point and Ember gave him some food and a blanket; the poor thing was sneezing from last night, but he seemed happy.
After opening presents, when her sister was playing and her mom was in the kitchen cooking, Ember went back upstairs to show her new petpet her room. He lay on the windowsill watching the clouds roll by, seeming perfectly content. Ember sat there, stroking his mane, and watched the sky as well. She imagined one of the clouds looked like Santa's sleigh and smiled. Her curiosity was satisfied after last night, and now she was just grateful for her new Alabriss.
"Thanks, Santa," she murmured quietly.