“It’s that old silk hat they found.” The glass orbs hooked to Mrs. Claus’ belt clinked softly as she paced the perimeter of the map room. Each colored orb held a different mixture of magic and modern explosives. Right now, she wanted nothing more than to jam them into Frosty’s snowballs and blow him to flurries. She knew each elf at the Pole by name. They were family, every one. But there would be time to mourn Kane and the others once this crisis was over. “We knew the hat was magic. We never asked where that magic came from.”
“He’s made of Christmas snow.” Hermie the elf looked at the snow-dusted map of the North Pole, a living sculpture of frosted crystal. Frosty had struck three times over the course of the day, testing the outer defenses. “Doesn’t that mean he can never be destroyed? Santa said so himself.”
“Christmas snow is magical, yes,” said Mrs. Claus. She knew that deep down, despite everything he had been through, Hermie the elf still thought of himself as a misfit. But he was tougher than most people gave him credit for. Any dentist who could pull the teeth from an Abominable Snowman was a dentist to be reckoned with. He wore a dagger made of an Abominable Snowman fang through his sash. “But something—someone—used the power of that hat to shape the snow into what we always believed to be a jolly, happy soul.”
The map room was traditionally used for planning out Santa’s Christmas route each year. It could foretell the weather five days in advance, and used a form of supernatural radar based on tiny particles of ice in the atmosphere to track even the most sophisticated stealth aircraft. No one wanted to risk another Roswell incident.
“What about Jack Frost?” Emma was a relatively young elf who had transferred from Cookie Dept. into R&D a mere ten years earlier. She and Hermie had been smitten with each other for months, but they were taking things slowly, which was the elfin way.
“Jack is strong enough, but what does he gain by attacking the Pole?” Mrs. Claus shook her head. “Despite that awful Tim Allen movie, Jack and Santa have always been allies. Santa was best man at his wedding.”
“Krampus?” suggested Hermie.
The demonic anti-Santa who kidnapped naughty children certainly had reason to attack the North Pole, but he lacked subtlety. The Awgwas, perhaps? But they had been dormant for decades. Mrs. Claus pulled the radio from her pocket and called Galleta in the Vault. “What’s the last known location of Professor Hinkle?”
The would-be magician had once tried to steal Frosty’s hat, and had temporarily succeeded in melting the snowman, until Santa arrived to restore Frosty. Santa had shown mercy to the nasally professor, but mortals had been known to mistake mercy for weakness. If Hinkle’s defeat had festered all these years—
“He’s working a Disney cruise,” said Galleta. “I show him on the nice list, though he’s borderline. Looks like he cheated on his boyfriend earlier this year.”
“What about his rabbit?” asked Hermie. “Hocus Pocus was a friend of Frosty. He might know—”
“Hocus Pocus died two years ago,” Mrs. Claus said gently. Elves understood the ephemeral nature of childhood, but tended to forget how short the lives of mortals were. “He was fourteen years old, which is elderly for a rabbit.” She stared at the map, trying to uncover any hint of a pattern, any clue to suggest where Frosty would strike next.
Galleta’s voice cracked over the radio, half an octave higher than usual. “Vixen has eyes on the snowman! He’s in the woods to the east!”
Hermie zoomed the map in on that location. “That’s close to the flight school.”
The reindeer calves would be in the midst of their training. “All available forces to the flight school.”
“What if that’s what he wants?” asked Hermie. “Frosty could be trying to draw us away from the Pole.”
He was right, dammit. “Belay that. Send teams three and four. Tell the reindeer to hold back. I want them circling the whole perimeter.” To Galleta, she said, “Track down everyone Frosty’s been close to, and put them under guard. Especially Karen.” The girl had been Frosty’s closest friend when he first came to life. When people erupted into this kind violence, they often targeted those closest to them.
More than anything, Mrs. Claus wanted to arm herself with shield and flamethrower, and to ride Blitzen into battle to protect her home. But with Santa in post-Christmas hibernation, it was up to her to remain here to coordinate the defense.
Had Frosty and his master timed this assault deliberately, knowing Santa would be vulnerable in the weeks following Christmas? That the North Pole would be protected not by Saint Nicholas himself, but his wife?
If so, they were about to find out how serious a mistake they had made.