Fizz (full name at birth – Frederick Fizzgiggle Sniffsmith) inched his big beautiful black moist shnozzle through the tiny gap in the snowfall shored up at the entrance to the den and puffed a few foggy little breath clouds into the deep night outside. Sniff, sniff.
Fliffing heck it’s cold! But look how beautiful it is!
He took a second to glance back deep into the den at his pack, he could hear yips of joy and contented snuffling: he knew they were dreaming of chasing fast prey, tasty morsels to eat and having their bellies scratched. What self-respecting dog wouldn’t?
Fizz felt the responsibility of being pack alpha lifting, the alpha’s burden is to be rufty tufty at all times, woe betide opening the smallest crack in a shot at his leadership. No, that would never do, the pack would fall into immediate chaos, there would be in-fighting – fliffing drama queens – and he would have to fight for his right to be top dog! Again!
Well forget that! Didn’t scrap my way to the top only to have to start from scratch. No way!
He turned his attention back to the task at hand and steeled his resolve to complete the mission.
This is something only I can do, come snow or high iceballs. The Snowfather trusts me and I can’t let him down.
Still, would the pack really be okay without him? He took a moment to remind himself that his second in commands – Miffy and Pitstop – would keep the pack safe till he returned but still . . . yes, there it was . . . a momentary pang of loss. Keep your mind focused and stay on mission, he scolded. Just do exactly as the Snowfather directed, no more, no less. Back in no time!
He forced his way through the dog-high snowpile and popped out the other side, careful to push some of the snow back to reseal the den. No need for them to get cold.
Here we go.
Nose to the air he started forward sniffing this way and that to catch a scent. The Snowfather instructions were specific so he was following them to the letter. He first must seek out the Fir Fae Witch Queen. She was relatively easy to find if the wind was favourable and the night reasonably still. The unmistakeable aroma of fir needles and cones would lead him straight to her, or at least to her companions. From there, it was just a matter of being charming, no Fir Fae could resist being flattered into oblivion, they lapped it up! Silly little flibbertijibberts!
Sniff, sniff. There! Got it! Fizz pointed himself in the direction of the dense snowforests nestling at the base of the Ice Hills and worked up to a gentle trot. One paw up, then another, up with the hind two! Aaaaaand, take flight! Yessss!! Flying!! He navigated on a true course and injected some speed. From this height he could spy all sorts of things. He could see the iceflies casting their blue-white glow, flitting here and there seeking out mischief to do. And look! There were the Flurriers ushering a wave of blizzards at Pitchafit village, no doubt to keep them on their toes!
Fizz caught a big, fat warm thermal and relaxed. No need to get all worn out when you can just ride the airwaves.
Some cold minutes later he began his descent, landing with a soft ‘pffff’ on the edge of the forest. Fizz immediately lay flat to the ground so he could scout his surroundings without being spotted. Aargh! Fliff! Cover already blown!! An icefly going by the name of Candlecracker landed on the tip of his moist nose and made a deliberate attempt to tickle the tips of his whiskers in an all out effort to make him sneeze, thereby revealing his position. Fizz studied the little mistress of mischief intently suppressing a giggle of infinite smugness.
She has no idea the training I have gone through to combat this exact scenario. This is nothing! Execute tactic no.9, on my mark!
He puffed a little hot air upward, just as a gentle warning shot that more could come her way and would surely melt her if she kept this up! You’ve got to be ruthless! Candlecracker let out a teeny squeal and zoomed off at lightning speed. Fizz finally let out the restrained sniggle. Silly little fliffing flibbertijibbert! But he did so love iceflies, so easy to scare! Although, in truth, he couldn’t possibly hurt one they were just so fliffing pretty!
Focus! He wriggled his body round so he was pointed in a northerly direction and dove beneath the thick blanket of snow, inching his way forward. Firfae always kept to a northerly ley line so he couldn’t miss with this strategy. And If anyone spotted the shifting snow they would likely think it was a snow serpent and stay away. His plan was simple and effective. He aimed to come up right behind a tree so he could use it as cover and survey the forest from a safe vantage point. Using the soft pads of his paws to sense his way he eventually felt the roots of a tree, slippery and slick with freezing cold ice. He kept moving till the roots merged into the trunk and finally he carefully surfaced to find himself exactly where he wanted to be.
Fizz peeked round the tree and took in his surroundings, he could smell the unmistakeable waft of woodsmoke and toasted marshmallow. So predictable! He shifted a tree or two nearer and heard the familiar crackling of a well-built fire. Another peek. Aha, I see her! Fizz gathered his wits, he was always a little mesmerised by the Firfae Witch’s pale beauty and knew that her soft smooth voice would be honey to his ears. He was smitten and generally stayed away from her for this very reason. He shook his fur out in the hopes that he looked suitably presentable and boldly stepped from behind the tree. Fizz strode out attempting to appear nonchalant and cool – he highly suspected this wasn’t working well for him as it tended to make him look like he had a limp!
He tried to get her attention with a low, rumbling cough and a very polite, “My Lady!”
The Firfae Witch – who’s name by the way was Philomena – cast her pale blue eyes in his direction and sparked a dazzling glint his way, Fizz’s heart picked up a beat and he felt sure he was panting more heavily than he should be. Get a grip! She’s just trying to bewitch you!
“I have instructions to take instructions from you, so I’m here to be instructed!” he blurted bumblingly. Did I really just say that?
Philomena laughed mirthfully at the wonderful effect she could create on this handsome hound and handed him a wooden box with a perfect snowflake carved into the lid. “Open it!” she ordered.
Fizz looked at the box suspiciously as though any moment now it would explode or turn into a giant hound eating monster, nevertheless he cautiously pried open the box with a claw and peeked inside. He could hear a faint melody coming from the box and a sparkling stream of snow notes started to swirl, forming a tornado of music around him. He could hear singing and felt laughter and joy as each snow note touched him. An icy white glow appeared and a silver key floated out of the box. And as he listened carefully to the music he heard the voice of the Snowfather reciting a rhyme, over and over, the echoes getting louder and louder.
Through the blizzard . . . Through the blizzard . . . Through the blizzard . . .
In the arms of the wizard . . . In the arms of the wizard . . . In the arms of the wizard . . .
My faithful hound . . . My faithful hound . . . My faithful hound . . .
Use the key to my secret door . . . Use the key to my secret door . . . Use the key to my secret door . . .
What have you found . . . ? What have you found . . . ? What have you found . . . ?
Could it be . . . Could it be . . . Could it be . . .
A little something from me . . . ? A little something from me . . . ? A little something from me . . .?
He grabbed the key and thought that would be the end of it but the words and notes were getting thicker and thicker with each reciting until he was surrounded by a rotating spiral of music and snowflakes. Not to mention a smidgen of confusion! What did the Snowfather mean? Was this swirling mass the first thing? Or the second? It must be the second, he decided. Alarmingly, Fizz felt himself being picked up by the force of this magical wizardly tornado and was in danger of being spirited away, he instinctively tried to fight it but it just got more dense with each wriggle and squirm. Trust the Snowfather. Finally he gave himself to it utterly. I must trust the Snowfather and go wherever this takes me. Fizz surrendered to the curious transport and perceived it ascending skyward taking him along with it.
As he travelled ever more up Fizz’s mind was filled with all the good things in his life. The Snowfather and his faith in Fizz. His pack and their undying loyalty. Icy cold water to drink at the end of a long, hard run. A warm fire that could chase the chill out of the bones. A hearty meal shared with family. Simple things. Powerful things.
Fizz considered himself very fortunate. He was loved and cherished and that was all that mattered to him. And with luck he would solve this riddle. He came to the abrupt conclusion that there would probably be further instructions once he opened whatever door it was that the fliffing key opened.
And with these thoughts running round his head, he fell asleep! And dreamt.
Fizz dreamt of falling. Falling, falling, falling. Through ice caverns, snow tunnels and blizzard tubes.
He suddenly woke with the horrible realisation that he was falling, actually falling.
He scrabbled to launch himself into flight but nothing was happening. Had he lost the power to fly?
Before he could answer he landed in a snowbank and softly tumbled to a stop. He righted himself and sat up, shaking the snow from his whiskers. He didn’t recognise anything. Where the fliff was he?
I’m lost! Fizz’s conclusion was not without merit. He had never been here which was ridiculous since he had circumnavigated Oddball on many occasion and knew every nook and cranny of the nutty little planet.
Curiously, he wasn’t concerned. Instead he felt a comfort and peace and somehow this stilled his addled and panicked mind.
As he tried to orient himself to no particular point of reference he saw a golden glow coming from the trees. Wait! What’s that? Using the trees for cover he crept toward the light . . . and it moved towards him. What is this sorcery?
The light particles pulled and tugged at him, drawing him ever closer. To what though? Where am I going?
The light dragged him through the forest to a small clearing. Sitting in the middle of the clearing was a beautiful log cabin decorated with pine cones, fir branches and snowberries. It was beautiful. There was a small set of steps leading to a porch on which two rocking chairs were set with thick blankets and plump cushions which begged to be sat on. Even better, Fizz could swear he smelled hot cocoa and marshmallows. He licked his chops whilst simultaneously going on full alert
Firfae! Is this a trick? It didn’t feel like a trick. He climbed the steps and came to the door of the cabin. There, in the middle of the door was a keyhole. The key! He took the metal device that he had been tightly clinging onto, pushed it into the lock and turned it. There was a satisfying click and the door opened.
What the fliff? The cabin was as beautiful inside as it was out. A roaring fire with yet another rocking chair, gently swaying back and forth! A table with hot chocolate. The smell of food wafting from behind a closed door. Fizz was tired and the chair was the final invitation to sleep. One he couldn’t resist. He plopped down into the chair making a grab for the hot chocolate at the last second. He took a sip. It was just as he liked it, not sweet and sickly but hot and spicy. He fought his way through the marshmallows and drank deeply. He liked to save the mallows till last, picking them out with a claw, one by one.
Fizz set the empty vessel onto the table and noticed an envelope with his name on it.
He was fit for a good nap but knew he would have to see what was inside the paper parcel before he could close his peepers.
It was a card. It read . . .
My dear faithful, loyal hound of the First Order.
Fizz, you are the best of all that I hold dear and deserve a day off. This is where I take my leave when I need a rest. My own private cabin.
Sleep all you want, eat and drink all you want and then sleep some more. Sleep deep with the knowledge that the pack is in my care, and that you have not a care in the world. No-one to be beholden to and no-one to serve. You are protected and safe.
Merry Snowtide, my friend.
A very grateful Snowfather.