1: Cookies and Calamities

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                  "Here you are," he smiled at her.

                  "Thank you." Erica handed the dough and a roller to Frieda, who went to work immediately while the others began to cover the table in flour and pick out their favorite cookie-cutters. By the time Harry returned to his corner of the kitchen, his elflings were already beginning the next batch.


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                   "MAKE SURE YOU haven't forgotten your scarves or mittens!" Harry called over his shoulder as he began to lead everyone out of the kitchen and into the cold. Fourteen of them, Harry included, carried wrapped plates with a dozen cookies each carefully down the icy path that led to the dining hall. Harry was grateful the Maintenance Elves had gotten this far today with their shovels; there'd been a blizzard the night before and the pathway to the kitchen often gets neglected as it's so out of the way. It might have still been icy, but at least they wouldn't be trudging through knee-deep snow.

                  There were no incidents on the way to the dining hall. Harry and the other thirteen elflings that had been carrying the cookies delivered their plates to the dessert table, and then he bid them farewell so that they could return to their parents.

                  Harry's mother smiled at her son when he took his seat beside her at the table in the far right corner of the hall. They always sat back here, have for as long as Harry could remember. "How'd it go?" she asked, removing her hat so that she could fix the loose bun she'd tied her hair into that morning.

                  "Really great. Ed never showed, but the elflings were all well-behaved as always," Harry told her, peeking over his shoulder to see if the carrot-top in question was going to make an appearance for food that he was allowed to eat.

                  "Harry," his mother said, "look at me when we're talking, bub."

                  "Sorry."

                  The hall was filling quickly with the elves of the second sector. The North Pole was separated into five sectors technically, but nobody referred to Claus Village as the fifth sector. It sat at the center of the other four and was essentially just Santa's mansion and the Elf Council building. The second sector, where Harry and his mother and sister lived, was responsible for raising and educating and training the elflings. Harry's mum and his sister Gemma were teachers; Gemma had just begun her first year.

                   The first sector was where the factories were. If Santa couldn't be found at Claus Village, he was likely in the first sector overseeing his Worker Elves. Harry's only been to the first sector a handful of times, and for as long as he can continue to avoid it, he'll never go back. The Worker Elves weren't particularly the most pleasant.

                  Harry liked the third sector. That was where the reindeer stables were. Sometimes, when he had nothing else to do, he'd go to the arena there and watch the Stable Elves train the yearlings. The yearlings were clumsy and clueless, but it was fascinating to see how well the Stable Elves knew how to do their jobs. After just a week, a yearling that was totally unable to fly in a straight line would be able to fly laps around the arena flawlessly.

                  The fourth sector was where Harry went to work when he wasn't helping with the elflings, which he volunteered to do mostly on the weekends. Weekday mornings, he traveled through the third sector by horse-drawn sleigh to his favorite place in all of the North Pole: the Hit-Maker House.

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