Rudolph by FoxSkunkDeer99 (critique requested)

"You know Dasher and Dancer and Prancer and Vixen,

Comet and Cupid and Donner and Blitzen,

But do you recall...

The most famous reindeer of all?"

These were the words chanted by an assortment of calves, huddled around a variety of flames,
in the midst of an otherwise-crisp wind.

They continued their tune from "All of the other reindeer, used to laugh and call him names", to "Rudolph, with your nose so bright, won't you guide my sleigh tonight?" To "Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer, you'll go down in history..." All with the same upbeat ring in their vocals.

"Hey guys, come on! You're gonna miss it!" A fellow cervine hollered.

The whole gang raced to the center of their hometown to observe nine adult reindeer emerge from a cabin, followed by a set of miniature individuals with pointed ears, then by a great man dressed entirely in red and white, with rosy cheeks, a long white beard, and a tiny set of glasses perched on his face.

After a succession of claps and cries of praise, the large man raised a hand, inspiring his peers to quiet themselves.

"I'm sorry to say, but... I've forgotten to check my list twice!" The man announced, followed by a series of groans.

"Don't worry, I won't be too long. Those of you with calves can meet the team, if you want!" The round man declared, before re-entering his cabin.

No sooner than this departure, the young comrades made their way through the throng, before stopping at a particular adult reindeer. He had a quartet of strong legs, a pair of thick, grand antlers,a string of bells secured around his neck, and an unconventional trait from his peers: A shining red nose.

"Hey, this ain't a museum!" A stubby elf snapped at the children.

"Let 'em watch! You only get a few years of your life to meet Santa's Reindeer in person with the heart of a calf..." Responded the red-nosed cervine.

"You excited to see us pull the sleigh for the first time?"

"Actually, I've been watching you do that since I was born."

"Same here."

"Same here."

"This is MY first time." Responded the youngest calf. "Well, hope you enjoy." Declared the adult, with a benevolent smile.

"Just can't wait to see 'em fly, can you?" Declared a sudden female voice from behind the group of youngsters.

The calves turned to discover a beautiful doe standing behind them.

"Well, did you know he almost DIDN'T ma..."

"Yes." The tykes replied in unison.

"You know, that song isn't even HALF of the whole story... How'd you like to hear about Rudolph's start?"

The young reindeer stood in tranquility, before looking at their newer companion.

"I'd like to." He declared.

The preteens then responded with "Alright", "OK", and "I don't mind".

"Great, kids!" Responded the doe as she escorted the children back to their fire.

"It all started 21 years ago, on this very night..."

"Wow! Years ago! THIS sure isn't like every story I've heard!" Responded the eldest of the calves in a snide tone.

"Hey, if it all happened yesterday, none of you would be here." The doe replied sternly.

"Sorry..."

"Anyway, it was Christmas Eve, and Santa had just finished his sleigh preparation..."

"Comet! Comet! Blast it all, where's that... Oh, sorry." Santa apologized immediately after noticing the appearance of a male reindeer with hazel eyes, cream-colored strokes on his otherwise-brunette coat, and one or two cheek bone marks.

"I apologize, sir..." The cervine replied in a Scottish pronunciation. "The missus just wanted our new tyke to personally see his ol' man fly."

Comet signaled to a white-coated doe, alongside a small, wide-eyed, dark-brown calf.

Santa approached the young caribou, who immediately took a couple steps away from him in timidness.

"Don't worry, lad. This man won't do ye no harm."

The juvenile reindeer continued to tremble a bit, while observing the human's welcoming hands fitted into tight, warm leather gloves.

Eventually, the calf found it in himself to step towards St. Nick, who proceeded to stroke his head and back.

"Has he got a name?"

"Rudolph, in fact. Ida came up with it. I wanted a Sylvia myself, 'til I realized t'was a boy."

"Well, he seems to have warmed up mighty fast."

"He's normally not one to speak in the slightest, especially around strangers."

Ida then leaned in to Comet's ear. "Should we mention... It?"

"Oh, aye."

"Sure he won't mind?"

"Only things he minds are kids who stuff saliva in their sis' ears..."

"Sir?"

"Yes?"

"There's something we almost forgot to mention 'bout him... He... Well, he..."

At that moment, Santa stepped away from a rapid flash of red light, emitting from Rudolph's nose.

The red-and-white man gazed at this unconventional sight, utterly devoid of any possible remarks.

"Haven't got a clue why he does that." "And we both agreed I didn't eat or drink anything on our honeymoon."

"Well, maybe it'll go away after a while."

"Hope so, sir. First day of classes start in a week, and I don't want anyone noticin'."

"Tell you what. I'll take him to the infirmary tomorrow morning, and the elves can try to make sense of all this. 'Til then, time to fly..." Santa declared, before fitting Comet in his bell-infested reins.

THE NEXT MORNING...

Comet and Ida could feel their hearts heat up and their skin flame up, even in the snow, as they stood outside the infirmary.

"Comet? Ida?" An elf eventually stepped out with Rudolph just behind him.

"We have decided that our observations are... Inconclusive."

"What?"

"All we know is that it gave one of us this." The miniature being held up a white glove with a red circular mark, releasing a thin streak of vapor.

"Had a feeling you'd say that..." Was all Comet could muster.

"You really think this is good for him?"

"Well, would you rather have 'im grow up without learnin' so much as a kick in the air?" Comet retaliated to his mate.

"No, but to risk letting him into the world with that?" Ida signaled to her child's nose.

"We could home-school him."

"C'mon, how's he gonna make any friends like that? 'Sides, I was known as 'limp-legged Comet' as a wee lad, and look at me now!"

"First of all, that was common for calves back then, we still don't know if this case is temporary or not. Who knows how he'll turn up? Second, how do YOU know he won't be seen as... Weird?"

The couple then noticed Rudolph observing their quarrel, his ears drooped down and his eyes relaying an intimidated attitude towards their bitter conflict.

"Look... I honestly don't know. But I do believe he deserves a chance to appropriately experience a reindeer's life."

Ida struggled with her words, until eventually releasing a breath of reluctance.

"Fine. We'll sign him up first thing in the morning."

"Thank you, dear. It's risky, I know. But it's the humane thing to do..."

"Rudy? Rudy, lad?" The red-nosed calf awoke to the sweet voice of his father.

"C'mon! It's your first day of class! You're gonna have so much fun! You'll make a load of friends, and play a lot of games, and..." Comet ceased his upbeat attitude at the sight of his mate's deadpan expression.

"Sorry lass... Let's be off!"

MEANWHILE...

"Alright, sir, I've put that kid's name twice on the 'naughty' list." Declared an elf as he followed Santa to his cottage.

"Good. Maybe NOW he won't forget, or repeat, the time he stuffed saliva in his sibling's ear... Ho-ho-ho! Now, I've gotta get my 'nice' list reorganized for the New Year, would you mind keeping watch?"

"Not at all, sir."

"Thank you, Felonious." The big man replied.

No sooner than Felonious positioned himself right by the door, a brief and minor, yet sharp, pain struck the back of his neck.

He reached back, and plucked off a tiny ball of paper covered in a translucent substance, before flicking it away, unaware of a pair of cackling calves secreted behind a snow-covered boulder.

"Ha-ha-ha-snort-ha...! That was... Did you see...? C'mon, lemme try!" Whispered the lanky young reindeer to the plump one holding a straw.

He obliged, and his companion slipped two more bits inside, before launching them at Felonious.

"Alright, who's there?! C'mon! I ain't gonna hurt ya! I'm just gonna give a suggestion for the big man's 'naughty' list!" The elf gazed through the clear white atmosphere, before eventually resuming his post.

"He-he-he...! Good luck with your sugge... Oh, Kriegon!" The stout calf reacted to a third preteen reindeer approaching.

This one was shorter and more meaty than one, yet taller and better fit than the other, and had a blond hairdo that was oiled and combed back, with a fresh set of developing antlers that were already as sharp as the average adult caribou's.

"We were just, uh... You weren't missing anything, this was all a..."

The handsome young calf stood indifferently at the two cowardly children.

"Gimme the straw." Was all he replied.

The minute he looked down at his watch, Felonious heard a zip just above him, then took his green pointed hat off his head to discover a small hole in the leather, with a stream of vapor emitting from the damage.

"OK, that does it! I don't care who you are, or what that was, but you're definitely getting something this year, and it ain't a seat by the fireplace!"

The ticked-off creature shouted, his fists violently fidgeting with the hat, before tossing it to the ground, and smothering it with his foot, cursing under his breath.

The calves, on the other hand, were struggling to reduce the volume of their guffawing.

"C'mon! We're gonna be late!" A fourth young caribou announced to the three, before they all headed for a large barn in the center of the village.

"Well, 'ere we are!" Declared Comet as he and his family arrived at the center barn, where an assortment of other reindeer, young and old, was gathered.

"'Ave fun, Rudy! See ya at 5!"

The minute Comet finished his sentence, Ida approached her son, before kneeling.

"Rudolph..."

Her mind was swarmed with the possibilities of what to say under his condition.

"... Good luck..." Was all she stated, before giving Rudolph a peck on the forehead, and vacating the area with her husband.

"Good morning, everyone. I'm Mister Lucas. Now, I assume you're here thinking you're just gonna learn your ABCs and 123s all over like your folks taught ya."

Mr. Lucas was responded to by a few slight nods or shakes of the heads of his peers.

"Well, you better reconsider! At your age, every calf starts to increase in physique and intelligence, and it's MY job to help you all learn how to use both, whether it's for entertainment or something as skill-and/or-experience-required as pulling Kringle's sleigh! But, before we get ahead of ourselves, we've got a new pupil."

The adult caribou signaled to Rudolph, who then stepped up before the crowd, alongside his tutor.

"Now, maybe you'd like to tell us something 'bout yourself. Like, what tree were you grown from?"

Rudolph looked up at Lucas, a look of uncertainty planted on his face.

"Which of Santa's team are you from? If your folks aren't from the team, mind telling us 'bout them? What would you like to do once you've become as big as me? At the very least, could you just give us your name?"

Rudolph gazed at all his fellow classmates, seated in anticipation.

Finally, he opened his mouth to say something, until he was interjected by his red external organ, much to the surprise of the class.

"He-he... Must be Blinky..." "Or Flash..." "Or maybe his parents just landed him with 'The Only Reindeer Who Needs A Fresh Battery Every Few Months'..."

"Hey, it's Rudolph, ok?! Comet's my dad, and I wanna be on the sleigh team when I'm grown-up!" The calf yelled, much to the immediate silence of the other reindeer.

"Alright. Got that everyone? He's Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer!" Kriegon announced, to the amusement of his companions.

"EVERYONE! Come on, let's all be mature here!" Mr. Lucas demanded, to no avail.

"I'm gonna have to tell your parents when... Wait..."

SSCCCCRRRREEEETTTTCHHHH!

All the calves were silenced by an ear-piercing sound, immediately revealed to be Lucas' antlers struck against a nearby chalkboard.

"OK, I know our new kid has a light-bulb for a nose, but we've got... 3, 7, 10... 'Bout 12 years worth of lessons to learn, so sit down!"

The caribou then seated, and silenced, themselves before being accompanied by Rudolph.

"Good. Now, where was I...? Oh, yeah, your career choices..."

LATER...

"See ya tomorrow, Blinky!"

Rudolph cringed as Kriegon pranced off with a complacent smile on his face.

"Evenin' Rudy! How was...?"

"Don't talk..." Was all Comet's son groaned as they walked back home.

"They laughed at you, didn't they?"

"You said this nose was normal for my age!"

"Well, what was I supposed to tell ya? That you'll be the laughing stock for the rest of your life?"

"Why'd it have to be me? Should've been that jerk Kri..."

"Now, now... Don't go on bein' bitter..."

"Should'a just put dirt on it or somethin'..."

"Now, lass, that's just filthy... Maybe we can get ya in a different class..."

"So I can be jeered at all over again?"

"Well, what other option is there?"

"Again, we can just home-school him. You are on the team, after all."

"Exactly!"

"Alright, QUIET EVERYONE!"

The bickering was immediately ceased at the increased volume of Comet's voice.

"Rudolph, lass. Why don't ya just give another shot tomorrow? I don't want ya to spend the rest of your life under a rock. Maybe you could make a friend or two? Please?"

Rudolph looked at his father, with a pair of wide affectionate eyes planted just below his forehead.

"OK... I'll try."

"Your father did that when he asked me to marry him... Guess you've got your mothers blood..."

Rudolph chuckled with Ida at that.

"Could you give 'im a scratch 'ere?" Comet pleaded, as he lay on his back, exposing his round torso, with the same look in his eyes.

Rudolph responded by rubbing his hooves down the cream-colored patch of fur covering his stomach.

"You want me to return the favor?" The caribou replied, before rapidly racing his own hooves through Rudolph's neck, prompting a series of snickers from the calf.

"Please... The neck's fine, just don't do the stomach..." Rudolph replied in-between giggles, with a crack in his voice that told Comet to do the opposite of what he was just told.

"I'll take care of this..." Declared Ida, her appendages at the ready.

"No no! Please don't!" Responded Comet in a breathless vocal, with the same innocent expression, before his mate directly applied her hooves to the male's belly.

The family spent the next few minutes rubbing hooves in the midst of their continuous chortling, until they finally ended their teasing, yet couldn't find themselves to cease their wheezing.

"Who knows, lad? Maybe that joke will have gotten old by t'morrow..."

"Oh my god! It's been 24 hours, and I still can't stop thinkin' 'bout that red-nosed freak!"

Kriegon struggled to hold back his cackling as he announced this.

"Yeah, yeah, I've been aware of that all night..." Another, significantly older, reindeer approached the calf with an indifferent expression and voice.

"Well, Blitzen, if you saw him for yerself, Dad'd have a field day keepin' you quiet..."

"OK. You can tell him that. Tell him so he can be prepared for our next family reunion!"

Kriegon ceased his laughter at the remark.

"So what did you learn 'bout flyin' yesterday?"

"Uh...."

"Yeah. Had a feeling you'd say that. That nose of his must have been as glaring as the sun, and as loud as a fax machine."

"Well Mr...."

"Wow. Can't even remember your teacher's name, huh? Kriegon, I've always been, and will always be yer big brother. Lookit me now!"

Blitzen then presented a set of reins secured on his neck, with an assortment of bells, decorated, and a golden sphere portraying a lightning bolt dangling before his chest.

"Our father, grandpa, and great-great-great grandpa have had this for practically the whole millennium! I'd hate to see my successor lose the opportunity to wear it."

"What do ya mean?"

"Look, you have our family's speed, agility, and strength. But the only reason I know that is 'cause yer wastin' it on shootin' spitballs at elves, or givin' the big man a shave. Which list would you rather be on?"

"The one where I pull the sleigh."

"Well, you better hold back on the prankin', and get on with the learnin' and exercisin'. Now, off ya go. Yer gonna be late."

"Got the speed, agility, and strength, eh?" Kriegon pondered as he exited his barn. "Maybe that Red Rudy could use some extra lessons..."

"Good luck, lad! And remember: If anyone says somethin' 'bout yer nose, say somethin' 'bout their 'air, or tail, or somethin'!"

"OK. I'll try!" Replied Rudolph in-between chuckles, as Comet pranced off.

"Hey Red Rudy!"

Rudolph turned to see Kriegon just a few feet away.

"It's Rudolph."

"Whatever. So, you wanna join the sleigh team, eh?"

"....... Yes."

"Well, with the blood of one of the head reindeer, I've offered some pretty high expectations." The calf announced in a prideful and mocking tone. "One kick to this overgrown plant..." The blond reindeer signaled to a small Christmas tree, before striking the bark with a single hoof.

The hardwood then proceeded to rasp and sway, before eventually collapsing into the snow just behind Kriegon.

"Well, MY dad's on the team too."

"Prove it."

Rudolph looked at the assortment of green and brown, then at the mixture of red and white in the form of a rectangle stating: "NORTH POLE FOREST RESERVE: ANYONE CAUGHT ENGAGING IN DISRESPECTFUL BEHAVIOR WILL BE IMMEDIATELY REPORTED TO THE AUTHORITIES"

"I don't think so..."

"See anyone around?"

"No."

"Then, what's the harm? Maybe all yer power was wasted in that nose of yers..."

Rudolph groaned at these words.

"Kriegon? Mr. Lucas is waiting."

Rudolph's attention was immediately fixed on the young doe who declared those words.

She had a coat of straight, cream-colored fur, and a pair of sparkling eyes that were as blue as the Polar Lake, albeit before it froze.

"I was showin' the new student here some new tricks, but he's quite the disobedient type."

"Just come on Kriegon... You're as good a teacher as a fish is a land-lover." "Thank you, Diana."

As Rudolph trotted along with his two fellow calves, he couldn't ignore the glare Diana was giving him.

"Have I met you before?"

"No, I didn't see you in my class yesterday."

"Who's your teacher?"

"Mr. Lucas."

"I'm with Mr. Kubrick. You've got a cute nose."

Rudolph recalled his conversation with Comet, before bringing his attention back to the beautiful calf.

"Well... You've got cute ears..."

Diana chuckled as Rudolph's cheeks turned as red as his nose.

"Diane, you're starin' again..."

"Sorry, Kriegon, I was just..."

"Up! There's Mr. Kubrick callin' yer name! Don't want yer first detention, do ya?"

"Bye Rudolph!"

"Bye, Diana!"

ONE MONTH LATER...

"Now, Racer. What's the first location Santa visits on Christmas Eve?"

".... Cairo?"

"Wrong! The answer is Iceland, since it's as close to our climate as the non-polar continents come. You expect to just go whatever route you want and hinder the Sleigh Team's direction and formation?"

As Mr. Lucas continued his lecture, Rudolph continuously found himself picturing Diana seated right beside him, her glimmering pupils aimed at his own.

"Rudolph!"

"Oh, sorry! What, Mr. Lucas?" Rudolph responded as a slew of silent chortles spread across the room.

"What is the average speed a reindeer travels at in his sleigh transportation?"

".... 93 miles per hour?"

"Correct. What, you all thought we deliver over a million pounds in assorted items throughout every single town in every single county in every single continent of the world in one night by just racing at five meters? I knew you didn't. Now, Kriegon..."

"Yes?"

"How many items does Santa normally deliver per location?"

"Seven?"

"Wrong! He delivers as much as 31. Can anyone explain why?"

"'Cause for one thing, he's watching for not only whether a child's been naughty or nice, but also their interests, and for another, 31 is an estimated quota for each of the billions of families around the world."

"Very good, Rudolph. Maybe Kriegon could use some extra lessons..."

The blond caribou groaned heavily in annoyance at that statement.

"How do you know all that?"

"Sometimes it pays to be the son of one of the lead sleigh-carriers."

"Wow. And I thought you were at your brightest on the first day!" Kriegon jested, followed by a traditional uproar among the students.

"Very funny..." Was all the red-nosed calf replied in a sardonic tone.

"Now, next week, we'll be gettin' into the stuff you've been waiting for as future members of the sleigh team: How to defend against any possible attacks! So, better get yer antlers filed!"

"Hey Diana!"

"Oh, hey Rudolph! How was class?"

"Good. Got an A on my oral exam."

"Wow! I was just leading up to that. See, I'm scheduling to practice my flight next week. So, with your skill, is there any chance you could tutor me after school by then?"

"Why didn't you ask your teacher?"

"Well... That nose of yours would make a good flashlight..."

Rudolph cringed at that.

"No, seriously! See? I can see you specifically among everyone else with that nose! It's a pretty light."

"Sorry... And thanks. How's Tuesday?"

"Got evening lessons on Tuesday. How 'bout Wednesday?"

"Great time! My dad's here. G'night!"

"See ya!" Diana replied as she pranced off with her own father.

"I can tell sometin' else is glowin' red, am I right, lad?"

"No, she was just a friend..."

"Come on, Rudy. I 'ad that look at yer age when I first met yer mum."

"OK. I admit it. Just please don't go on about you and mom..."

"Alright, alright... I promise..."

"You sure you don't need 'elp with yer tutoring?"

"No thanks. I've learned so much from you for so long."

"Well, good luck on your lassons... I mean yer lass and lessons!"

"If I'm not back by 10, I'll be at the Reindeer Hall!"

"See ya!"

"You seem surprisingly cool with yer tyke's nose..."

Comet turned to find Blitzen just 3 feet away.

"Well, it's not like 'e's doin' any 'arm..."

"My little brother was just going on and on about it, doesn't even care about his lessons."

"Yes. I heard..." Comet groaned.

"'How does it glow?' 'Why does it glow?' 'Is it all just some kind of rare disorder?'" A second, more-high-pitched, mocking voice demanded, as a plump caribou with a canine shaped onto his gold necklace. "Did that annoy the ever-living daylights outta you? Well, that's what I'VE had to sit through this past month!"

"Is he diseased? Are we all gonna die? The end is coming! Christmas is extinct!" A leaner reindeer raced up, his golden garment with a clear pattern of accelerated lines dangling amidst his paranoid behavior.

"My daughter is gettin' it on pretty good with this kid... Did'ya even give 'im his shots? 'Cause I don't want a red mutant for a grandson/daughter in the future!"

"I like him! He's funny!"

The five other reindeer turned to see a sixth of their kind standing with his pupils trailing off, his front teeth dislodged, and his own golden chain, portraying a cervine figure leaping about aimlessly, with a trail of a dark liquid spilling from his lips.

They then resumed their bickering, as a seventh caribou eventually stepped in.

"SHUT UP!"

The argument came to a halt as a doe, with a necklace portraying a caribou frolicking in a field, albiet more daintily than the previous illustration, firmly drove her hoof through the snow.

"I know this guy's nose is... Unconventional, to say the least, but don't we have enough to rant about? Isn't the rumor of a lethal apocalyptic snowstorm in a few years enough?"

The others gave no answer.

"Come on, just give this guy a chance. Who knows? Maybe he'd be a great flyer! We represent Christmas, for God's sake! The time of year where families and friends provide an extra amount of compassion and love for each other..."

"Is THIS how you wanna spread that message, lads?"

The rest of the caribou then responded with "OK..." "Oh, alright..." and "Leave it to Ms. I-Gotta-Speak-For-Someone's-Rights, here..."

"Thanks, everyone." Replied Comet, in spite of his fellow flyers' disrespectful attitude.

"Alright, Diana. Shoot away."

"What? I don't have a gun. None of us do."

"I meant what do you need help with?"

"Oh, sorry. Well, I got as far as the actual takeoff. Watch."

The calf then trotted past Rudolph, until she had reached the very end of the white, powdered field. A couple of seconds after, Diana then sped back the path she made, lowered her head in anticipation, and leaped into the thin, breezy air, soaring across about 4 inches of snow, before giving way after 4 seconds.

"Ohhh... Well, the most important part of lifting off is the thrust of the hooves."

"I HAVE been doi..."

"Yeah, you need to really, and I mean REALLY, just... Kick the ground like it's a wolf or bear on your back or somethin'... Like this..."

Rudolph then traveled at the precise spot his companion had just raced from, then charged back, his antlers aimed straight at the foreseeable road, and his hooves striking assorted chunks of snow as he accelerated towards the center, until, with a firm pound on the buried grass, he sprung from the Earth, and proceeded to soar higher and higher, until all that Diana could see was he red snout. Not that that bothered her, though. Diana gazed at the petite light as it traced through the clouds with minimal difficulty, and as it's owner swiftly pounced atop various perches on what little roof was overshadowing her view, somewhat envious, but still perplexed by this uncommon sight.

Rudolph finally hopped from his current position back onto Diana's level.

"See? It's all in the thrust."

"OK..."

Diana, having witnessed one of the grandest flights of her kind, could already sense her own face turning red as she stepped back to the edge to duplicate Rudolph's performance. She tightened her eyelids more than ever, pressed her hooves against the frozen soil, and then, with determination serving as her flesh and blood, stampeded straight back. The instant she felt prepared, Diana pounded her hooves down, and bounded 4 feet in the air, before dropping back to the outer crust.

"Diana, maybe we can just worry 'bout this in a week or month. I mean, it IS pretty early this year to be thinking about..."

"No-no-no! I got this!" Diana insisted, before attempting another aviation, and collapsing back to the cold dirt.

The young doe then spent the next 10 minutes racing down the identical track, until she had practically eliminated the snow from the ground, throwing all her strength into each thrust, rising for 5 seconds, and crashing face-down on the field.

"I... I can do this... Don't worry..." Was all she could muster with her lips and teeth trembling against the below-zero temperature.

"You don't look so hot. I mean, that's just obvious, but I think you should just go home and have some cocoa..."

"No-no-no... I feel like the inside of the largest volcano..."

As she uttered this, Diana began to frequently stumble in her now-sluggish steps.

"Come on, your bones must be ready to shatter by now..."

"I'm fine, OK?!"

Diana continued trudging through the field, her legs barely sturdy and her breath emitting like puffs of smoke, until she finally collapsed just a quarter away from her flying point.

"........ You can't fly, can you?"

"...... Nope..."

"Then why're you out here freezing to death?"

"...... I may not have a glowing red nose, but... I have probably the worst class ever, ANYWHERE on Earth. Everywhere I turn... 'Hey, you should join the sleigh team!' 'Don't female reindeer have antlers too?' 'The sleigh team could use more girl power, even though there's already at least ONE doe pulling the Big Man's cart!'"

"Well, what did you have in mind?"

"Ever since I was a yearling, I've always looked forward to the time of December, where we'd hear a knock on the door, and answer to a chorus singing 'Silent Night', 'Hallelujah', or 'Jingle Bells'. And at every Reindeer Game, there'd be a reindeer that'll start off with a nice, soothing carol before the action. It doesn't even matter whether they're male or female, all they need is a decent voice."

"Ever thought of being one of them, for just one day?"

"I don't know... I haven't really sung bef..."

"Well, here's your chance to start."

"What if someone hears?"

"I highly doubt that. Besides, so what if they heard you?"

"Well... I might start an avalanche."

"Come on. How sensitive do you really think those mountains are?"

".... OK. I'll try."

With that, Diana shut her eyes, and cleared her throat.

"....... Angels We Have Heard On High,

Sweetly Singing O'er The Plains.

And The Mountains In Reply,

Echoing Their Joyous Strains.

Glo-oooo-o-oooo-o-oooo-oria, In Excelcis Deo...

Glo-oooo-o-oooo-o-oooo-oria, In Excelcis De-eo..."

As Diana's sweet vocals relayed these lyrics, Rudolph could only seat himself on the ground, and listen.

Once he did this, his eyes suddenly adjusted to the bright inside of his barn. Now, he was looking up at what appeared to be his own mother, chanting the hymn in the midst of a blizzard.

"Shepards, Why This Jubilee,

Why Your Joyous Strains Prolong?

What The Gladsome Tidings Be,

Which Inspire Your Heavenly Song?"

Her warm voice assisted in distracting Rudolph from the chilling sound of the snow intensifying.

"Come To Bethlehem And See,

Him Whose Birth The Angels Sing.

Come Adore On Bended Knee,

Christ The Lord The Newborn King..."

Rudolph then observed his home slowly disintegrate into thin air, and the doe decreasing in age, before his sight returned to his current location.

"See Him In A Manger Laid,

Whom The Choirs Of Angels Praise.

Mary, Joseph, Lend Your Aid,

While Our Hearts In Love We Raise.

Glo-oooo-o-oooo-o-oooo-oria, In Excelcis Deo...

Glo-oooo-o-oooo-o-oooo-oria, In Excelcis De-eo..."

Diana observed her single audience, who said nothing for the next minute.

But she saw a single sparkle in his eye, which grew and grew, until it was revealed to be a tear, which then made it's way from Rudolph's lower eyelid to the Earth.

"Get that audition..."

"No, I couldn't..."

"I mean it! I don't even know if you'd NEED an audition to test your talents! You'd be awesome at the Ceremony! I can't... Just... Screw those guys! If you're gonna use any of that Sleigh-Team power, push 'em aside with it! I'll even bet you can beat that kid Kriegon ri... Oops."

Rudolph and Diana felt their hearts stop at the sight of the blond calf.

"Sorry. I was just walking home when I heard someone say 'Beat Kriegon'..."

"Well, I didn't mean it in THAT..."

"From my doe, on top of that..."

"I'm not your..."

"You saw me getting 'Ooh's and 'Aah's, you wanted some popularity advice, you're my doe."

"I never said I wanted you as..."

"What's that? You don't want me to go from the funniest calf on the North Pole to the fittest? OH! I can almost feel my self-esteem slowly shriveling away! There goes my promise to not let my big brother down... I'm so sorry I couldn't live up to you, Blitzen! What's even the point of living out here in the cold? I'd rather go meet up with that Krampus guy, where everything is so warm and... I dunno, NOT the North Pole!"

Kriegon continued his never-ending sob speech, much to Diana's annoyance.

"Cut it out. I've already had to listen to all that since my first class."

Kriegon then looked at Diana with his own sense of annoyance.

"Hey, Red Rudy... I think it's time you started going back to my lessons..."

Once those words left his mouth, Kriegon immediately stood on his hind legs, and pushed Diana on the ground, prompting Rudolph's nose to briefly illuminate at this sight.

"OW! KRIEGON! GET YER...! LET ME...!" Was all Diana could utter as the blond calf violently sunk his canines into her back.

"Trust me, you NEVER want a wolf to do THIS to you..." Kriegon mumbled with his jaws occupied.

"Kriegon, I've had it! I'm telling... OUCH!" Diana then found herself vigorously pinned against the dirt by the juvenile hooves of the bully.

"Good thing we've got those horns, eh, Rudolph?"

As Kriegon lifted his head up in the air, his antlers aimed at the captive doe, Rudolph felt his blood heat, his jaws clench, and his eyebrows lower in rage.

He then charged at the blond, significantly faster than his previous exercises, and shoved him away from Diana.

"Wow... You're more the competitive type then I thought..." Kriegon responded, his knees slightly trembling, then rising.

"Guess it's time for you to move up to the next education level..."

Rudolph then experienced sharp kicks, shoves, and pokes from Kriegon's lower hooves, upper hooves, and antlers for the next five seconds.

"Stay away from...!" Diana could only go that far before finding herself clutching her stomach in agony, which now had a hoof-mark printed on.

"Now, my pupil..." Kriegon stated as Rudolph coughed under the weight of his appendages. "Let's see if you can win that extra credit..."

The blond then aggressively chomped onto his opponent's nose, which then lit up like the Fourth of July.

"AGH! TOO HOT! TOO HOT! MOM! MOM!" Kriegon shrieked as he raced off the fields.

Rudolph could only rise on his lower legs, which were now barely trotting along a couple centimeters to a cringing Diana, before he eventually managed to bring his nose up to her, and observe her assorted bruises.

"See? He was just gonna do the same thing to Diana!" The familiar snobby voice returned to the scene, interrupting Rudolph's examination.

"'Give this guy a chance!' You said! 'He's no harm!' You said! Yeah, real enlightening, Vomit..." Was all the stern caribou stated to the glowing calf's shocked dad.

"Get these kids to the Infirmary! Stay back everyone! This is NOT a drill!" Dasher announced to the newfound throng of protesting parents, as Rudolph, Kriegon, and Diana were then dragged home by their respective guardians.

"What was I supposed to do?! Let Kriegon just KILL Diana?!" Rudolph demanded as his minor injuries were tended to by his parents.

"Look, Rudolph... I'm sorry about what happened. We both are. But you know how strong he and his family is. You could've just looked for the nearest adult for help, like you learned last month."

"HMPH! I wish HE was the one with the red nose..."

"Now, lad. That's a bit harsh. We already told 'is folks, and I'm sure they're workin' it out..."

Comet was then interrupted by a faux cough from his mate, who then nodded with a stern expression.

"Come on, let's not break it to him right now..."

"He's gonna find out either way..."

"Find WHAT out?"

Comet turned to his wide-eyed tyke, then back at Ida, still nodding.

"Bu... I... He..." Was all the caribou could muster, before hanging his head in shame.

"Rudolph... I REALLY hate to say this, but... You won't be joining any Reindeer Games..."

"...... What?"

Comet struggled at the sight of his son's face, which was now starting to turn as red as his nose.

"What your father's saying is, with all the other reindeer laughing, calling you names, and being put in the risk of your nose, Mr. Kringle is banning you from the premises."

"Come on! Please don't let them do this! I promise I'll be more careful!"

"Sorry, lad. That nose of yours has proven to be quite hazardous."

"I didn't mean for it to be that way!"

"We know. But it still is, and there's nothin' we can do 'bout it..."

"Please just go see Kringle! His elves are so good at making things, see if they can make a mask or something!"

"Sorry, but they don't take personal requests. They only make what's on the Earth kid's wishlists..."

"There's gotta be SOMETHING we can do about this!"

"What CAN we do about this?"

"I DON'T KNOW!"

The trio sat there, devoid of words, for the next 10 seconds.

"But... I DO know that... Diana... Didn't really want to pull the sleigh. All she wanted... Was respect from boys... She went on about wanting to sing at the Reindeer Games... She even had the voice... Now... I'll never get to see... Or hear... her again..."

Comet nudged Ida as Rudolph began to sob.

"..... OK, Rudolph... Tell you what. You can practice at home, until you're all grown-up. Maybe the incident will be forgotten by then, and you can participate in the Games..."

Rudolph soaked up a bit of his tears, before growing a small, yet poignant, smile.

"..... Thanks mom..." He responded, before embracing the doe.

"So... When, and where, do ya wanna start?"

ONE MONTH LATER...

"Whoa, whoa, there, lad! Mah bones may not be fragile, but I'm no Spring buck!" Comet assured as his son aggressively struck his brand-new antlers against his own.

"'Sides, ye need to look where ye lock..." The caribou lectured between chuckles as Rudolph continued to jerk his head violently, and frantically scatter his legs on the ground, much to the slight amusement of Ida.

THREE WEEKS LATER...

"OK, lad! Ye got the thrust down to a T, now focus on yer destination!" Comet announced as Rudolph aimlessly hopped on every icy ledge in the area.

"Good, now watch yer ste... Oh! Hold on! Just keep yer hooves pressed to the... Wha... NO! DON'T DO...!"

SNAP!

Comet could only cringe in sympathy as Rudolph walked up to him with two sore red dots where his antlers previously stood, then race off to the nearest trough the minute he noticed two sharp bone-like edges sticking out of the frozen mountain.

NINE MONTHS LATER...

"Now, I know this may sound risky, but don't look down!" The reindeer shouted as the red-nosed adolescent clung to the top of a white mount, then eventually bounded to the next ledge.

"Don't rush it! Just take one skip per tip! Remember that! One skip per tip! Oh, and be wary of...!"

CRASH!

".... Trees..." Comet resumed as Rudolph dangled by his re-grown antlers on the appendage of a fir tree.

Rudolph continued his training throughout the rest of the year into the next, and when he wasn't learning to defend himself from a bear or wolf, or how to accelerate in speed in midair, he was cheerfully setting up the tree or making gingerbread for December with his folks, albeit with his developing skills.

Back in North Village, Diana would gaze out her window to observe a distant red glow in the evening, hoping that someday, somehow, her red-nosed friend would return.

"Alright, dad. What's the report?" "...... Well... Um... You..." Comet struggled to find a flaw in his son's significantly-thicker antlers and appendeges.

"Come on... There's gotta be something wrong with me."

"...... You got something in yer teeth?" The caribou eventually relayed, much to the teenage cervine's amusement.

Comet's days, including the ones where he chipped a hoof, or lost an antler, were always relieved of their weight every time he assisted Rudolph in his exercises, and even Ida shed a tear at her now-fully-grown calf's physical maturation, and his separation from the world.

"Comet?"

"Aye?"

"Do you know when the Big Man's available?"

5 YEARS LATER...

The sound of Rudolph's hooves firmly, and rapidly kicking the dirt rang through the ears of Ida, as he halted before her, his respiratory system struggling for peace, and she had worked up the wording for her new announcement.

"Rudolph? I just got back from the office of Mr. Kringle... He said you can join the Reindeer Games tomorrow night. As long as you keep your nose away from the competitors."

The stag could feel his heart erupting at this news, then accelerating with delight, before his weary expression literally lightened up in joy.

"YES! OH, THANKS SANTA! NORTH VILLAGE, HERE I..."

Rudolph paused in his victory at the sight of his aging progenitors, which he then raced up to to embrace.

"Thanks Mom. Thanks Dad."

"Night, lad. And Merry Christmas..."

"Well wouldn't ye know? Red Rudy's back! Hey Rudy!" A physically mature blond buck announced disrespectfully.

Rudolph's prances and grin of anticipation quickly turned to trudges and glances of annoyance at the familiar crack of snobbishness in Kriegon's voice.

"While yer nose DID leave me with a week of painful oral medical treatment, I just wanted to share a little lesson ye may 'ave missed! Yer nose can't save ye now! If that thing gets within one foot of any of us, you'll only be known as the lava-sneezer!"

Rudolph ground his jaws at these insults, but thought back to Comet's advice.

"Really? Well, you'll be the ones who dared each other to try to prove your point when you were 9!"

Kriegon and his fellow competitors paused in embarrassment at Rudolph's retaliation.

"..... Just keep your snout away from us!"

"I'll tr... Oof!" Rudolph replied, before colliding with a doe.

"Sorry, ma'am! You O..." The caribou ceased his apology the minute he discovered a familiar pair of glimmering blue eyes among a streak of cream-immersed fur.

"....K?"

Diana's heart raced as she observed her childhood tutor now developed into a tall, handsome buck.

"I'm... I'm fine, thank you. I've been wearing a protective gel in case... You came back..." Diana attempted, and failed to turn her face to hide her warm cheeks from her admirer.

"What else have you been doing lately?"

"Well... I... I've been taking vocal lessons..."

"Knew it."

"No-no-no... I was just congested and... I couldn't have my voice flawed whether you returned or not..."

"You're singing here, aren't you?" Rudolph responded with a smug grin on his face.

"Well, no, I... I was gonna... I thought I'd... Yes. Yes I am."

"Well, good luck."

"... Same here..."

No sooner than she said that, Diana trotted up to her object of affection, and puckered her lips before withdrawing at the sudden illumination.

Reminded of her childhood incident, she stepped to Rudolph's side, and gave a peck on the cheek, before racing off for the arena.

Rudolph did nothing for the next ten seconds but allow his warmed-up blood to flow, mesmerized by his first kiss that didn't come from his parents, before eventually dashing for the tournament.

"Glo-oooo-o-oooo-o-oooo-oria, In Excelcis Deo...
Glo-oooo-o-oooo-o-oooo-oria, In Excelcis De-eo..."

Rudolph stood steadfast by the gate restricting his direction, yet lowered in his defenses by the sweet vocals relaying this tune that had been playing in his head since Diana first sung to him like a playlist on repeat.

"Enjoy it while it lasts, Rudy... He-he..."

Rudolph's brain and jaws tightened at these words, but faced the white path before him, just outside the pen.

"In Excelcis Deo...
Glo-oooo-o-oooo-o-oooo-oria,In Excelcis De-eo..."

The entire stadium was then stuffed to the brim with applause, much to Rudolph's satisfaction, before slowly, but surely, lowering, until there was no sound other than the trots of Diana's hooves as they exited.

"Thanks you, Diana." Santa announced, as he stepped into the spotlight.

"Now, just to clarify, the reindeer with the most winning laps gets to lead the sleigh for the year! This isn't a competition. All the runner ups will still get a place on the team, so don't get too bitter here. With that said... Let the tournament begin, and may the best reindeer win!"

BANG!

The bars swung open, and Rudolph could do nothing but charge at the precise sounding of the pistol with his fellow caribou.

"And our glowing outsider has taken the lead! Just barely in his league is Kriegon! All you Blitzen fans better keep yer fingers crossed for the family tree to thrive!"

Amidst these announcements, a combination of adrenaline and anxiety raced through Rudolph's heart, lungs, and brain, faster than the rate of his hooves pounding through the winterized track.

"Ooh... Look's like Kriegon's finally starting to live up to his inheritance!"

Rudolph trailed his eyes and mind away from the smirking competitor, in spite of his current victory.

"Not bad... For a calve's challenge!"

No sooner than that statement rang through the stadium, the core of Rudolph's eye was blocked by a slew of mechanical objects in the guise of polar bears and arctic wolves.

He then briefly pictured his teenage self jabbing a sack of oats in the side with his new antlers, allowing the contents to spill out, before continuing his daily flight routine.

Brought back to the games by the glowing yellow eyes of the animatronics, Rudolph fiercely drove his headgear into the artificial organs of the lifeless ursine, and booted the canine in the control-center, before resuming his bolting straight across the darted red chalk stroke in the snow, only pausing for half a second to spot Kriegon desperately struggling to yank the goons off his back.

"Watch out for those cliffs! Those hoofs ain't gonna thrust in midair!"

Rudolph took heed of the announcement, and swiftly turned away from the edge just 3 feet away from the stadium.

"You heard 'em, Racer! Watch out for the edge, watch out for the edge, WATCH OUT FOR THE EDGE!"

"Push those chumps in de mud, Vulp!"

"Remember what Kubrick told ya, Zemeckis!"

"Hope that boy of yer's learned not to go after my Diana..."

"Hey, ye never know who ye fall fer sometimes..."

Comet's reply was met with nothing but a sneer from Cupid.

"... If I was you, I'd dunk my head in the Polar Lake on a January mornin'..."

"What?" Cupid responded to Comet's whisper.

"Oh, uh... Show 'em, Rudy! Show that ass of a reindeer!"

"What?" Blitzen reacted.

"..... Never mind..."

The hours flew by faster than any of the competitors could hope to be, and Rudolph never paused his track once.

He didn't care how intense the obstacles grew.

He didn't care who triggered the applause.

He didn't care whether he'd be with Diana.

He didn't care about making the Sleigh Team.

He didn't even care what anyone said about his nose anymore.

All Rudolph needed was the warm blood racing through his flesh, contrasting the bitter rapid wind and snow blowing on his fur, and his minimal, yet still existing, presence among his kind.

CRACK!

At that moment, Rudolph's concentration raced towards his recently-cramped hoof, then his lost footing, which immediately switched to a steaming spot on Kriegon's torso as it was thrown across the chalked line by his legs.

"Whoa, whadda dodge-of-the-bullet!"

Rudolph restored his balance to discover his golden competitor prancing across the fields, shrieking in victory.

"DASH AWAY ALL, KRIEGON! TO THE PORCH AND THE WALL!"

Amid all the reinforcement of Kriegon's success, Diana's heart refused to brake as her sight caught her glowing friend.

"Oh, and credit where it's due, folks! Give Red Rudy the prize for the most pathetic failed attempt at cheating!"

Before his mind could piece the puzzle of the distorted pattern of words he heard, Rudolph was greeted face-to-face with a blob of raw dough.

His ears then quickly recognized an uproar of disgust, as he was violently struck by handfuls of icing, fruitcake, and ginger, and bottles of milk and egg nog.

"Rudolph!" Diana yelled in concern as she escaped the brawling crowd, only to discover a red glow dissolving in the distance.

"Rudolph?! RUDOLPH!"

"So, turns out the big man had an extra vacant rein on his sleigh..." Diana's desperate pursuit was interrupted by the chest-tufted victor.

"Said 'twas fer Red Rudy to 'pologize or somethin'... Well, looks like we won't 'ave to worry 'bout that extra weight now... He-he... I'm somethin', ain't I?"

"...... You're something, alright..." Diana replied, her tone as cold as the wind.

She then chomped into Kriegon's antlers, and threw them to the snow with the rest of his body.

"Do you know how much it takes to shorten out a lightbulb?! DO YOU?!" Diana fiercely demanded, much to Kriegon's silence, and disappearance.

The doe returned her eyes to where the red light was previously visible.

"RUDOLPH?! RUDOLPH?! RUUUUUDOOOOLPH!!!!"

Diana's cries were drowned out by the tense wind, and Rudolph's sobbing.

The caribou didn't cease for the next half-hour in his aimless race away from North Village, for fear of being brought back to that moment on the field.

As the milk and eggnog were washed away by his tears, he stopped at a boulder, where he briefly turned to observe the distant lights of his residence.

"Don't look back..." These words swarmed through his brain like a hive of bees.

Rudolph's subconscious was suddenly invaded by Kriegon's scathing words.

"You'll only be known as the lava-sneezer..."

"Red Rudy! Red Rudy! Red Rudy! RED RUDY!"

Rudolph threw his head against the stone in anger, his actions becoming more and more aggressive with each and every skip of the words "Red Rudy", with the intention of ratting them out.

After chipping off a good chunk of the frozen snow on the rock, the caribou still couldn't think back to anything other than "Red Rudy!". His parents and Diana were only in the minority of an entire population biased against him, all for his deformed nose.

Eventually, Rudolph's legs buckled, allowing his torso and head to slump down with them, and all he could do was cry.

Cry to pass all the time leading up to the moment when he'd be reduced to an icy mound of bones by either the cold or a wolf, when he'd rid North Village of his hazardous nose, when he'd free Comet and Ida of their burden that has cost them the respect of their fellow Sleigh drivers, when he'd no longer be a danger to Kriegon's reputation, when his glowing nose would dim out, until it was nothing short of a malfunctioned light-bulb.

No later than 5 seconds, however, Rudolph heard a soft rush just above him, followed by a great roar from a large furry white creature.

The reindeer immediately looked up, and discovered what looked like a snow hare and arctic vixen being pursued by the largest, and only, polar bear he'd ever discovered.

"NO PLEASE! I'VE GOT A FAMILY!! SPARE ME!"

"HEY! LEAVE HIM ALONE!" Rudolph snapped, heading to cease the ursine's merciless rampage, figuring it was the least he could do. If not, at least he'd serve as a good entree.

"AREN'T THERE ENOUGH CREATURES OUT HERE THAT'VE SUFFERED FROM YOUR KIND ALREADY?!" Rudolph demanded as he followed the round white form.

Finally, he caught the lagomorph and vulpine cornered by the predator, with his jaws and claws unsheathed.

CHOMP!

The bear immediately lowered his defenses the minute his tail was yanked by the teeth of the caribou.

"YOU'RE LUCKY I DIDN'T USE THESE, YOU SOULLESS YETI!" Rudolph aggressively scolded, displaying his antlers.

His tone then shifted when the polar bear's eyes unexpectedly widened, and his lips quivered, before abruptly unleashing a flood of tears, and a cry that practically shook the entire northern hemisphere.

"Thanks for yer cooperation in 'Snow Tag', jack..." The hare unapologetic-ally remarked.

"Now it'll be next December 25th by the time he gets over it..."

"Sorry, I..."

"Sorry you didn't see us getting brutally mauled to death/near-death? Nice eyesight..."

The rabbit was suddenly jerked by the tail by the vixen, who gave him a look that said: "Looks like there IS a heartless monster among us...", Which he responded to with a deep groan of annoyance.

"OK. You're forgiven... Now why don't 'cha find a sleigh ta..." The hare stopped as he observed Rudolph trudging off with his head dragged down to his chest.

His previously-cold tone slowly began to melt at the sight.

"Hey-hey-hey, what's eatin' ya?" The hare questioned, catching up with the reindeer.

"If only I could answer with 'the strongest, most relentless wolf on the North Pole'..."

"Not exac... Wait, what's with the nose? You jus' escape from the ci..."

The cotton-tailed mammal was interrupted by a red blaze from the nose, instantly mesmerized by the next second.

He reached his paw out to touch it.

"AUGH!"

His hand now scalding so that his fur was at the risk of slowly disintegrating, the long-legged creature hopped off Rudolph's back, and desperately plunged his appendages into the nearest mount of snow.

"Hahhh... Winter... Can't live with it, can't live without it... Now lemme guess... That nose has somethin' to do with yer mood, am I right? No-one likes ya for it, eh? I haven't really had the best dentures..." The loppy-eared mammal replied, displaying his chipped buckteeth.

Rudolph refused to respond.

"Alright, I'll take that as a yes... Tell ya what, Mr..... Reindeer?"

"Rudolph."

"Rudolph, yeah. How's 'bout we let ya in our..." The hare looked back at the bear, still blubbering away, with the vixen attempting to comfort him.

".... Team... Jus' the four of us 'gainst the world... Rudolph, Whittier, and me- Ski-Legs!"

Ski-Legs was then approached by the larger-than-life ursine, who now had a smile bigger than a clowns.

".... And Flesh..."

THWACK!

"You really couldn't climb this thing and get those yerself?" Rudolph demanded, signaling to a frozen tree, where an assortment of berries dangled above him and his trio of companions.

"Hey, I may get to jump 30 feet high, but these ain't for climbin' on solid ice!"

Thankfully, the conflict was halted once the bright, blue fruits snapped from their stems, and dropped into the gullets of the mammals.

".... Mmmff... And to fink tey pride temselfes on dairy and sweets..." The reindeer mumbled, his muzzle stuffed to the brim with the succulent dots.

"Who?"

Rudolph forced the crushed food down his throat, before replying to Ski-Legs.

"Santa and his elves..."

This answer was abruptly met with a piercing chortle from the hare.

"He-he-he... Look, Rudolph... Maybe I'm deaf, but I've seen many things on the North Pole, and a fat guy in a white beard and red coat, with flying reindeer and midgets with sharper ears then mine ain't one of 'em..."

".... When we both end up with our innards scattered, don't say it's my fault for not believin'..." Lamented Ski-Legs, as he and Whittier clung to Rudolph's neck as he backed away from a sharp ledge.

Eventually, the caribou altered direction, accelerated his speed, and finally, pounced with all his strength off the cliff, his passengers initially screeching in horror.

After becoming suspicious at the wind blowing toward, rather than underneath him, Ski-Legs had nothing to do but gaze at Rudolph's thick hooves racing on thin air, right above the never-ending trench.

Once they had reached the opposite ground, Whittier found herself trembling in disbelief, devoid of every possible sense, and buried in the petrifying powder.

"What...?! Why...?! How...?!"

"It's all in the thrust." Was all Rudolph felt obliged to relay.

At that moment, Rudolph and Ski-Legs discovered the weighty predator leaping off the border, and then sailing down to the pit, with only his ecstatic vocals to keep him company.

"Sorry, I should've said..."

"Oh, don't worry, he's just one of those SPECIAL polar bears..."

"Oh, wow!" Declared Ski-Legs in an exaggerated tone.

"That Rudolph and his superior cloaking!"

The arctic lagomorph attempted, and failed, to hold back his giggling at the sight of his cervine friend's antlers behind a boulder.

"Well, either way, FIRE!"

At this order, Flesh and Whittier immediately tossed a rapid succession of snowballs at Rudolph's headgear, which merely skewed the weapons as if they were apples.

Rudolph then rose with a devilish smile, and flung the frozen spheres back at his assailants.

"God... Those things are... Hey, Rudy, mind doin' yer ol' Ski-Legs a favor?"

"Aaaaannnddd... There!" Ski-Legs congratulated himself for his recent construction of a snow-hare with his exact features.

"It's not me lookin' my best, I know, but you think you can use this for..."

Ski-Legs was interrupted by a sleet shooting from a nearby ice block.

Once the snow cleared, the rabbit stared in admiration at a frozen replica of himself right before him, with Rudolph's antlers dripping in the remains of his work.

Ski-Legs stepped up to embrace this masterpiece.

TWICK!

The reindeer and hare turned to discover Flesh with his right claws wedged in a slab of ice, struggling to free himself.

"I'll handle this..." Rudolph responded, his antlers prepared.

"Hope yer not cuttin' there!" Ski-Legs motivated, seated on his companion's back, as the caribou swiftly drove his hooves through the slick, numb exterior of what was originally the Polar Lake.

"Oh no ye don't!" Challenged the hare as his vulpine companion gracefully accelerated past them.

The mammals dashed and raced and leaped across the ice, until Rudolph stopped to discover a portrait of a cervine drawn in the center, as Whittier stood with a prideful smile on her face.

Rudolph responded with a smirk.

"You made me look like a scrawny deer..." He said.

"DUCK AND COVER!!!" Ski-Legs screamed as Flesh raced towards the lake, and pounced up, curled into a ball.

He and Whittier clung onto Rudolph's neck tuft as he jumped off just as the bear was nearing the exterior.

SMACK!

The three mammals looked back at Flesh, who was seated on the ice, which wasn't even cracked by that point, with his eyes flooding.

"I'll get the fir-berries..."

"Nnrrrggghh.... Done!"

Rudolph stepped back a bit as he looked inside a cave.

"Any wolves or anything?"

"None. 'Sides, if there WERE, there wouldn't have been a chunk of ice blocking their exit..."

Rudolph's hooves were just beginning to feel numb as they clung to the top of the cave's exterior.

"Perfect!" Announced Ski-Legs before plunging a stick into the solidified snow atop.

The rabbit was interrupted by a faux cough from his caribou companion, who held a torn piece of red cloth in his teeth.

"Oh yeah, sorry..." He took the cloth, which had a hoof-mark, and three different paw-prints dyed in ink, and tied it firmly on the staff.

"I hereby declare this cave... The Outsider's Lair! Confirmed property of Ski-Legs, Rudolph, Whittier, and Flesh! Now let's get some firewood!"

The quartet hopped off to the ground level before Whittier headed off to the forest.

"Would ye be kind enough to protect our new home?" Ski-Legs requested his glowing friend.

"It would be an honor, sir!" Rudolph responded in a firm tone.

"Thanks."

"No..."

Rudolph paused the hare with a step on the tail and a smile on his muzzle.

"... Thank YOU..."

Ski-legs' initial annoyance at his intervention slowly degraded into a warm sense as fuzzy as himself.

"Don't mention it... OK, enough of the sentiments..." He replied, before he regrouped with his furry white groupies in the woods.

"Any minute now..." Dasher anxiously glanced at a nearby clock, then back outside, where a couple measly white specks were starting to fall.

"You sure it's tonight?"

"Has the radar ever been wrong?" Replied Felonius to his red and white client.

"Mama, when's it gonna start, and when's it gonna be over?"

"I don't know, Sprinter, just stay in here, and we'll be alright..."

"I never even got to tell him his score..."

"Now, Ida... He's gotta come back... Eventually..." Comet gently nuzzled his mate's snout as she tried to hold back her tears.

Throughout all this, Diana had nothing to do in the secluded storm-shelter but gaze outside at the already-abundant snow, and sob for her lost friend.

"Aww... Young love..." Diana's view was shattered by that snobby voice.

"Don't worry, nothing lasts forever... But I do." Kriegon taunted with that nuisance of a grin on his snout.

Diana just gave a sour glance at the blondie.

"C'mon... It's Christmas! Is that a mistletoe up there?"

Diana responded by kicking at the caribou's back appendages as he leaned in with his lips puckered.

"What'sa matter? Need that warm nose by yer side?"

Kriegon was then struck in the knees again.

"Oh, get over it Daney... That nose is probably... Magnetizing... A pack'o wolves right now... Even the most nearsighted predator can see that flashlight in this fog..."

The doe turned to Kriegon, her antlers lifted in intimidation, until her frown, eyebrows, and attitude suddenly lightened.

"Flashlight.... Fog... Mr. Kringle!"

"Yes?"

"Rudolph can help us!"

"What?" "That warped clown?"

"The nose! He can guide us through the storm with it!"

"How do you know it's not gonna..."

" It was an accident, OK? He can take the front so you don't have to worry 'bout those burns!"

The assorted families gave glances of suspicion, while Santa did nothing but consider Diana's solution.

"Please?" She begged. "I love him..."

"..... OK. We'll go for it."

"Who's gonna find him?"

"Let me an' the missuss..."

"No, Comet. I can't risk losing you too..." Santa firmly asserted.

"But we're the only ones he'll trust..." Ida replied.

"So am I..."

The others looked at Diana.

"It's enough for me te worry 'bout my calf with that... THING! But, to go out there and freeze to death fer 'im?"

"Just... SHOW SOME DAMN CHRISTMAS SPIRIT! ALL OF YOU!"

Everyone turned to Ida and Comet, both snorting aggressively.

"You all still call me limp-legged Comet for God's sake? I've already 'eard 'nough 'bout my son! What if I called YER calf 'snotty' or 'blinky', or whatever?!"

No-one bothered to interrupt the soft, exhausted breathing of the enraged cervines.

"....... Go 'head, lass..." Comet eventually assured Diana, handing her a scarf.

By 8:30, the wind started to strengthen, the temperature had shriveled to a bitter 20 degrees, and the snowflake count had profoundly increased by the thousands.

Every creature of the North Pole had settled in their balmy homes, feasting on their hard-earned food, comforting their offspring, or just dozing off until the weather toned down.

All except for one determined doe.

"RUDOLPH!"

Diana was worried, not just for the fate of her red-nosed companion, but for the volume in her voice.

Since she was a calf, Diana had been told to be wary of her vocals in the open Northern hemisphere, for there's no telling how much could set off an avalanche.

Even with this in mind, the caribou would dampen neither her pitch nor her steps. She knew they would have snow one way or another tonight.

All that was on her mind was one name.

"RUDOLPH!"

"Rudolph?"

"Yeah?"

"Think you could...?" Ski-Legs signaled at the two sticks he was desperately rubbing over the remaining kindling.

Rudolph responded by giving the wood a single tap with a glow in his muzzle.

Ski-Legs kneaded the staffs faster, until they shot a herd of fiery red specks, igniting the pile.

"What would we do without ye?"

"What a way to spend Christmas Eve..." Ski-Legs declared, his mouth full of melted berries.

"Livin' in a cave, with a reasonable fire, and no-one but yer..."

He looked at his assorted crew in uncertainty.

"F-f-f-f... Familial gang."

"C'mon! No need to hide it!" Rudolph enthusiastically replied.

"Fuh-fuh-fuh-fuh... F-f-f-f... Family..."

"Knew it! You're as soft on the inside as the outside!"

Rudolph then began embracing the rabbit, much to his annoyance.

"Ok, OK! Let's change the subject..."

"Alright... Is there anyone in particular that you'd give your deepest Christmas affection to?"

Ski-Legs opened his mouth to say something along the lines of: "Me, and me alone!" Only to be abruptly approached by Whittier.

The white vixen traced every inch of her tail around the hare's ears, her slender fingers around his chest tuft, and her toes around his aptly-named ski-legs.

He eventually accepted there was only one way to get out of this situation.

"Ever since I set foot on the top'f the world, at least once a month, she'd pounce outta nowhere, pin me in the snow, and give me... Those eyes..."

Whittier looked at him, fluttering her 'lids, her blue pupils shining like the most expensive sapphires.

"Every time, I'd cringe and wait for 'er to do me in, but, for some reason, she never did..."

"Tried asking her why?"

"Yep. Nothin'. Literally. Not a bit of tongue in her mouth."

"How do you know?"

"............ Might've seen 'er mouth once or twice........... SO! You got one?"

Rudolph's playful mood slid a bit.

"One what?"

"A dame? Gal? Significant other? Girlfriend?"

Rudolph's heart dropped as he recalled the doe he ditched that night.

"Huh?"

"Y-No."

"You hesitated."

"N-no I didn't."

"Did it again."

"Haven't you heard the one about Santa only visiting when we're sleeping?"

"Tell us who your girlfriend is!"

Rudolph released a groan of defeat.

"...... Her name was Diana... She wished me luck.... And I just.... Left her..."

The reindeer slumped to the granite whimpering as his friends gazed in unease.

"....... And I thought HE was pathetic..." Ski-Legs signaled to Flesh, before his ears abruptly picked up a distant call.

"RUDOLPH!"

"'Ey Rudy... Think that's her?"

".... No, I..."

Rudolph's heart and torso leaped at his newfound realization, and he trotted right into the blinding-white snow.

"RUDOLPH!"

"D-Diana?"

"RUDOLPH!"

"DIANA?!"

"Rudolph?"

By this point, the source of that sweet voice was now a dark figure amidst the storm.

"DIANA!"

"RUDOLPH!!!"

The two reindeer's spirits and speed were raised at the sight of each other, and they wouldn't have cared any less that they were prancing around exposed to a below-zero climate.

"I KNEW YOU WERE ALIVE!!!"

"Would the nose lie?"

"They said it'd... I thought it'd... Oh, who cares? YOU'RE ALIVE!!!" Neither of them felt it necessary to ease their playful attitudes.

Ski-Legs, Whittier, and Flesh emerged from their den just in time to find the caribou embracing.

After half a minute of prodding Rudolph's muzzle, a bright red flash brought her back to her mission.

"Let's go."

"......What?"

"Back to North Village! Time is of the es...!"

At this point Diana was just beginning her race back home, which halted at Rudolph's sudden absence.

".....Cense..."

She returned to her glowing friend.

"C'mon! It's time to go home!"

"........ Why would I do that?"

"Don't you wanna see your family again?"

"And the guys who did THIS?" Rudolph signaled at a string of dried-up egg-nog on his chest.

"....... Rudolph, they need you."

"Me? 'Red Rudy'? The 'fire-sneezer'? The 'only reindeer who needs a fresh battery every few months'?" The reindeer sarcastically replied.

"Look, Santa can't do his routine in this weather, but your nose can help."

"What do you mean?"

"How else did I find you in this fog? Would the nose lie?"

"...... Hey, have you met these guys?" Rudolph started walking back to his den.

"Rudolph, please. There are over a trillion kids in the whole world who're counting on Santa tonight. Waiting for their most-wanted gifts. Gifts that most of their parents can't afford. ........ Don't tell me you're just gonna... Leave them like that."

"Well, Santa should've thought about that before lettin' them literally sugarcoat me!"

"They just didn't know what to do with your nose!"

"Oh, and NOW they do?"

"Yes. And you can change them by going down there and helping Santa!"

"How do YOU know? What makes you think that succumbing to their demands will 'change them'? Huh?"

By this point, Diana had run low on defenses.

"How?"

The doe still had nothing to say.

"HOW?!"

Diana stepped back in fear as Rudolph's nose abruptly flared just a couple inches from her face.

"........ My thought exactly..." He sternly replied, before turning back without even a "Merry Christmas, Diana".

Rudolph's admirer lowered her ears, and let her head drop in depression.

"...... You've changed me. Think about that."

Rudolph stopped in his tracks to look back and find a trail of hoof-prints where Diana originally stood.

His eyebrows and jaws loosened up at this sight, but not enough to alter his path back to the cave.

"...... Rudolph? Hey, what happened back..."

Ski-Legs was interrupted by a jab in the tail from Whittier's claws and look of disapproval.

He looked back to find his caribou companion slumped back in the corner.

"...... Never mind..."

"Any luck, lass?"

Diana struggled to find the right words to say to Rudolph's dad, but eventually just shook her head in defeat.

As Ida sobbed away, Santa held up a golden necklace with a pattern of lights carved on it, then winced, and tossed it at his caribou team in disappointment.

Realizing the weight of their treatment of the promised owner, the seven reindeer's' ears drooped, and some of them released a tear or two.

After pushing away what felt like Kriegon's millionth act of nuisance, Diana took the garment, and hung it over her spot in the shelter.

"Why'd it have to be this way?" Was all she could ponder.

Diana gazed once more out into the chilling atmosphere, observing a tiny glimmer of red.

"If it pleases you... Merry Christmas..." She whispered before settling into her own slumber.

"How was I s'pposed to know he could do that?"

Flesh gave a "ta-da" pose the minute he finished carving his name onto the cold white exterior of their residence.

Whittier made an assortment of gestures to her lagomorph admirer.

"Well, you could'a told me Rudolph taught him while I was 'scapin' that wolf!"

The vixen shrugged, then beckoned with a prideful grin on her snout.

"Alright, a deal's a deal..." Ski-Legs admitted, before handing his entire pile of berries to the canine, who already had an hour's worth of her own, while Flesh had a mere branch with the fruits still developing.

"If it's my last action, I'll..."

Ski-Legs stopped his threat as the bear looked back in obliviousness.

The rabbit repeatedly strained his vocals to finish what he started, comprehending his companion's naive stance.

Whittier giggled at his clumsy speech.

"..... I'll tear every hair off yer body!"

The vixen gave him her grin that said "Really?"

"W.... With my teeth!"

The slinky mammal stroked the jagged edges of his front dentures.

"....... They'll grow back! In the spring!"

Whittier massaged his spine with a quantity of snow.

"Who knows? Maybe fer once this'll be traded fer rain! And flowers! And grass! And... Rain!"

The glimmer in Whittier's pupils told him he'd once again been beaten at his own game.

"Hmph...... Wasn't ME who had the glowing red nose....."

Ski-Legs' admirer refused to alter that smirk.

"...... The guy had a problem! Santa or not, he could've been down there with his own kind! Should I 'ave let 'im rot that night?"

Whittier gently stroked his chest.

"..... OK. He's done a lot fer me. I'm glad I asked what was wrong with him..."

Meanwhile, Rudolph had been sulking in the corner of his cave, reflecting on his conversation with Diana, until he heard his friends alluding to him.

Those six words. "He's done a lot for me..."

He thought back to Comet and Ida, their sacrifice for his sake, and the time they spent leading up to the Games.

He thought back to his first meeting with Ski-Legs and co. How they took him in his darkest hour.

Finally, he thought back to Diana, her unending loyalty to him, and her last words.

"You've changed me...."

Why else did she take singing lessons since their last moments in their calf-hood?

Why else was she suddenly so dismissive of Kriegon?

Why else would she trudge through a blizzard?

As these questions flooded Rudolph's mind, he knew his rightful place.

"Hey, Rudolph! Saved a quarter o'these for ye!" Ski-Legs and co. Walked over with a handful of fir-berries.

"Consider it an early Christmas gift! Not the most lavish, I know, but you 'xpect more in th...?"

The gang each skidded at the trail of hoof-prints just outside the cave.

"Rudolph?"

All the reindeer in North Village were each safely secured in their own barn, adjusting their slumber positions, watching over their young, or trying to keep even the most insignificant gust of wind out of their area.

Dasher kept his eyes open for any signs of danger, Comet nuzzled the straw underneath like his own son was still there with him, Blitzen cringed in disgust at every conceited gaze his brother gave, and Cupid, by this point, had sunken to his own daughter's emotional state.

"'Ey, it's still Christmas Eve..." He walked up to the droopy-eyed Doe. "..... Tell ya what, if Rudy gets back, I'll let 'im know yer still sing..."

"No, no. I'm fine..." Diana softly replied. "He's done enough for me..."

Cupid then left her to doze off, and knelt into his own haystack to do the same.

".......... Nggrrrhhh...... Zemeckis, ye really thinks it's a good time for a drink from the tren...?"

Donner's lecture was cut short the instant he discovered a glaring red light just outside his door.

"............. Ida.... Pinch me..... I must be dreamin'...."

".......... It'll do ya no good..."

"Well, looks like someone needed a new bulb fer..... Acchh..."

Kriegon whimpered at the chip in his hoof while Blitzen peeked through the cracks of his window.

Rudolph only stepped backwards once, in response to an especially strong flurry, before resuming his relentless path to the cottage in the center of the town.

Once the sounds of shriveling broken chains ceased, Rudolph swung the right door all the way, his sight fixed on the red sleigh with the mammoth sack of brightly-colored boxes.

The reindeer rooted the front straps before the craft, until they were caught in his antlers, which he shook fiercely until they slid onto his neck.

He took a couple strides to the exit, immediately challenged by the weight of his burden.

He wouldn't let it bother him, though. He was either gonna deliver the presents to their appropriate owners, or he was gonna die trying.

Rudolph's blood boiled hotter than any impact his nose left as he dragged the sleigh two centimeters away from it's original spot.

His reins started to grow eerily similar to a noose the more he tugged.

He was now practically a robot, with no other goal than to take the sled out into the fragile outdoors, no matter how intense the weight, the weather, or the grasp on his neck.

Rudolph was starting to anticipate the snow to relieve the sweat in his fur, when his hooves abruptly strode five times faster, and he sprung at two pokes at his posterior.

"Merry Christmas, lad."

"If ye want, Diane's still single..."

Rudolph looked back to find Comet two rows behind him, beside Cupid, in front of Vixen, Prancer, Dasher, and Dancer, and just behind Blitzen and Donner, all beaming in affection.

He soon caved in to their optimistic attitude, just as they marched into the intense hail.

"Now Rudolph!"

The glowing caribou proudly galloped for the bearded commandeer, before his eight fellow cervines followed.

"Now Dasher, now Dancer, now Prancer and Vixen!

On Comet, on Cupid, on Donner and Blitzen!"

The nine pilots raced towards the nearest cliff, grunting faster and lower with every inch, until they each thrust the ground in time, and lept off for the grey stratosphere.

"To the top of the porch, to the top of the wall..."

The initial glee Rudolph experienced at the Reindeer Games was now in full force.

"NOW DASH AWAY, DASH AWAY, DASH AWAY ALL!!!!"

Diana watched in awe as Rudolph inexplicably sped in half a second, taking his comrades and the sleigh with him, leaving nothing but a colossal eruption of wind that trembled the entire neighborhood.

"Good luck..."

"Alright, we're approaching Reykjavik! Get ready to..."

Santa and his chauffeurs were immediately interrupted by the increasing strength of the snow.

".... Looks like it'll be a long night..." He begrudgingly announced.

"Not on my watch!"

Rudolph recognized that Brooklyn accent anywhere.

"Ski-Legs?"

"T'ought we'd miss our first evenin' delivery, let alone in person?"

The hare hopped up from the colossal sack, and onto Comet's antlers, as Whittier pounced onto Cupid's own rack, each holding a wrapped box, and observed the address, before they were redirected to a particular neighborhood.

"Mind if I...?" Ski-Legs requested, securing a band around the caribou's horns.

"Go 'head..."

Ski-Legs then stretched the gift onto the makeshift catapult, and eventually released his grasp, allowing it to rain down the chimney as his vulpine companion repeated his actions.

They shot the remaining 29 packages in the bunch down into their respective destination in the span of 7 seconds, much to the caribou's disbelief.

"Where'd you get the ban...?"

"Don't ask, we've got over 330 trillion more of these to do in 10 hours!"

With that, they prepared for their next location.

Five hours passed as Rudolph, Comet, and the rest sped through the mist, and Ski-Legs and Whittier continued launching boxed goods below at the speed of light.

Some continents, such as the lavish blurs of Paris, Tokyo, and London, had significantly fewer snow than Chicago, Canada, Antarctica, and, more recently, the vicinity of Moscow.

But no matter how harsh the weather, how luminous the atmosphere, or how weary his legs grew, Rudolph's nose wouldn't dim the slightest bit, nor would his spirit.

He was now a bright red blur in the dusky sky that could only be seen by the human eye as a tiny crater, aimlessly scurrying for a place to land.

"329,485,934,026,746 down, 514,065,973,254 to go! Damn, I never thought I'd this'd be so relatively..."

BANG!

"..... Easy..."

It was difficult to identify from above the clouds, but Rudolph tracked the cause of the noise to a multiplying collision of fiery red puffs.

Santa's blood heated in uncertainty at this sight, but looked back at his Nice List, and urged his pack to head down.

"Where's 3028, Molowski Lane?" Ski-Legs demanded, his voice attempting to rival the whistling silver pellets, after whipping out his round of gifts.

"Should be right by that thi..."

BOOM!

The caribou desperately evaded the white-and-red rocket fired from a giant metal machine.

"AH! What are these?!" Vixen tightened his shoulder in pain once it was shot.

"I dunno, Vixen, but keep yer distance from 'em!"

Rudolph did as Ski-Legs told, and narrowly swerved, swayed, rose, lowered, and spun with every bullet.

His fur had become immersed in sweat from the combination of snow and fire and his chest grew weary of the reins it supported, but he still retained his consistent flight, and Ski-Legs and Whittier was firing presents by the million each second.

".... Only 580 gifts and 1 hour left!" Ski-Legs announced, his arms now burning out from his reflexes.

"Good! Rudolph! Take us over to 8592..."

CLASH!

"DAD!!!"

Rudolph immediately halted to find Comet raining from the sleigh, and into the steepest mountains of Russia.

Looking back at the damage to the reins literally ignited by the lightning, he chomped into his own harness, and sailed to the ground.

"Just stay there, I'll be right back!"

Rudolph gravely turned every direction with his nose as his guide, until it found a pair of antlers sticking from a trench.

"Dad, is that you?!"

"Aye..." An exhausted Scottish voice replied.

The younger reindeer raced up to his father to observe his scars.

"Kringle, he's injured! Sorely! Come on down!"

As Santa rerouted his sleigh, Rudolph carefully dragged his antlers underneath Comet's torso.

"Ye... Ye could'a gone on w'thout me..."

"I'm not letting our years of training go to waste..."

"What do we do?"

"Just... Just hold him... 'Til the end... Of the ride..." Rudolph responded, his voice and body weighted by the crippled caribou.

As he trudged toward the sleigh, he didn't see the steep edge by the landing spot.

"Th... Thanks, lad..."

"... Don't men... Oof! Mention it..."

His hoof cluelessly neared the slope as he struggled with the burden.

"Grrnngghh... There!"

BANG!

Rudolph gripped his shoulder in agony following the sharp strike, his hoof hovering over the abyss.

"OHP!"

"RUDOLPH!" Ski-Legs shrieked in terror as his friend slid off the cliff, and tripped over every boulder forming it, calling out in distress.

The next thing he knew, Rudolph was slumped on the powdered white ground, struggling to adjust his vision.

"Ty eto slyshal?"

"Da, prishel ottuda!"

BANG!

Rudolph's senses kicked in at the gunshot, and he hastily got up and escaped the voices, or so he believed.

"Gde ty?"

The caribou dashed from his position.

BANG! BANG!

"Chto eto za krasnyy svet?"

"YA ne znayu, no eto vedet nas k nashemu zharkomu..." The lead hunter replied, his knife at the ready.

With no other option in sight, Rudolph dove into a nearby cave.

"Vizhu!" One of the shabbily-dressed humans pointed at the shadow of the reindeer as displayed by his illumination.

"Found anything yet, Ski-Legs?!" Santa's voice rose in the wind as he grasped Comet.

"Nah, just more tipped trees..."

Rudolph laid low in his security, with only his own puffs of breath as company.

"Vykhodite, vykhodite, gde by vy ni byli..."

His fur trickled with sweat with every gleam, his bones twitched in fear, his lungs and heartbeat accelerated, and he constantly tried to beat his nose without burning his hoof.

"Cut it out, cut it out, cut it out..."

Right then and there, he saw another, more distant light just outside his lair.

He knew that his nose could either kill him or save him.

After half a minute of agonizing resolving, Rudolph held his breath, locked his eyelids, stood, and stepped out, distinctly presenting his nose.

"Vot ono!"

"Come on..."

"Rudolph?! Rudolph?!"

"Uh, Mr. Kringle?"

"What?"

Ski-Legs pointed down to the reindeer standing in the open for all to see.

"Come-on-come-on-come-on-come-on-come-on-come-on..."

His speech grew faster and faster as the footsteps that rang through his head became louder and louder.

BANG!

"I'M RIGHT HERE, SANTA!"

The hunters halted the minute they heard this animal speak.

Their jaws spread wider than a garage as they saw him approach Santa's sleigh and step inside his fixed harness.

Then, as Rudolph and his fellows kicked the ground, soared off the snow, and speed to the stars like a bullet, one of the slovenly woodsmen yanked out a glass of vodka, and tossed it over his shoulder back into the forest.

"Ow!"

Diana rapidly stomped on the tail of a calf who attempted to flick a tiny chunk of mucus at another, much to his annoyance.

"Hey, be grateful it wasn't these..." Diana lowered her antlers to the naughty tyke.

"Mph, sorry..."

BOOM!

Rudolph was the first to tear through the stratosphere, inevitably followed by Blitzen, Donner, Cupid, Vixen, Prancer, Dancer, Dasher, Ski-Legs, Whittier, and Kris Kringle still cradling Comet.

"THAT'S RUDOLPH!!!"

The entire throng of caribou followed a shrieking Diana to the center of the town, where the sleigh and hooves skidded.

"RUDOLPH! RUDOLPH! RUDOLPH! RUDOLPH! RUDOLPH!"

He had nothing to say for all his peers chanting his name.

His actual name.

Not "fire-sneezer", not "Red Rudy", not "Blinky", not "Flash", not "The Only Reindeer Who Needs A Fresh Battery Every Few Months"...

"RUDOLPH!"

"Diana!"

The doe pushed aside a spiteful Kriegon to sprint right up to Rudolph and kiss him on the muzzle for a whole 10 seconds.

His eyelids shot open and his cheeks glowed with his nose as Diana brushed a handful of snow on her face.

She did nothing but gaze him straight in the eyes that reflected the orange sunrise against a pink sky.

"..... Don't get any ideas..." Ski-Legs huffed as he turned from Whittier.

The vixen began to wrap her tail around the hare and stroke his shoulders, when he suddenly grabbed her by the arms, and planted his lips right on hers.

Flesh then raced up to the two mammals, and their romantic smiles faded away as they were trapped between the bear's flab and arms.

"... Think we should get away from this noise?"

Rudolph looked around him at everyone, reindeer and elf, not to mention Santa Claus, congratulating him.

"Looks like yer goin' down in history, Rudy!"

".... Oh, I think we can stay 'bout... 2 minutes longer, Diana..."

She shrugged, and continued nuzzling him by the chin as they proudly stood among the cheering village.

"Then all the reindeer loved him, as they shouted out with glee,
Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer, you'll go down in history..."

Diana's soft, warm mood turned sour once she noticed a vacant circle of logs surrounding an extinguished fire.

"Mrrpphh..."

"Eh, kids these days... He-he..." Rudolph replied in an mocking elderly voice.

"Oh, Rudolph..." Diana chuckled while nudging him playfully.

"How's the nice list?"

"Oh, he's almost done... Just about 308 names to look over..."

The doe sighed, and glanced back at the stadium, where her mate taught, or at least tried to teach, her to fly back in their calf-hoods.

Rudolph soon found himself seated beside her, doing the same.

Even when they didn't say a thing, they pondered multiple possibilities.

But for those 30 seconds, Rudolph and Diana were content just remembering.

Remembering the day Rudolph first met someone around his age who didn't mind his nose.

Remembering the time Rudolph asked Diana to sing for him.

Remembering their first meeting in 5 to 6 years.

Remembering her journey away from North Village to find the reindeer who inspired her.

Remembering all the snow and muscle and fire he went through, because of her feelings for him.

"...... Diana?"

"Yes?"

"...... Thank you..."

"....... Same here..."

Their attention turned to their gleaming eyes for 20 more seconds.

"'Ey Rudolph! We got over 20 million boxes in 'ere and 10 hours to get rid of 'em!" A familiar Brooklyn accent demanded.

".... Well, Merry Christmas, Diana."

"Merry Christmas Rudolph..."

As he headed for the sleigh, Rudolph stopped at a hazel-eyed, brunette reindeer with cream strokes, a cheek bone or two, a cast on two of his legs, and a sore circle where one of the antlers would be.

"Best of luck to ye, lad."

A snow-white doe approached him next.

".... Good luck, Rudolph... That's what got you here..."

"Merry Christmas."

"Said all yer pray'rs, Rudy?"

Rudolph nodded.

"Good. Don't go near 'te lake, Flesh! Or really anywhere outside yer cabin!"

The polar bear nodded at Ski-Legs' request as Rudolph secured his straps.

"Merry Christmas anyway..." The hare replied under his breath.

"And Merry Christmas to you all!"

The reindeer and elves, young and old, applauded to Santa.

"Now dash away!"

Rudolph cheerfully charged for the slope, and launched himself into the air with the others, more grateful than ever for his position.

Diana, nested in her own mass of hay, in her barn, dreamily gazed at the red light as it sped off into the dark-blue stratosphere, and vanished.

Then she looked down at a second red glow from inside her belly.

THE END.

Rudolph (critique requested)

FoxSkunkDeer99

18 June 2018 at 09:15:04 MDT

Rudolph isn't all mine! I just wanted to do my own retelling of a classic Christmas icon! Hope you enjoy!

PS: I know it's technically not Christmas yet, but I still wanted to get my story out to all you wonderful furries!

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