this was the busiest time of year for the lady. now that the last month was upon them and the day almost here, the littles tended to be nicer and calmer. but her seers knew.
people thought that the man in red just knew who was naughty and who was nice, but that wasn’t the case. the man in red oversaw the elves and kept on top of the latest trends, but it was the seers that sorted out the wheat from the chaff. the network of seers was really the most important part of the operations in the north, and everyone knew it. the lady was in charge of the seers.
the seers were posted year-round all throughout the world, just watching and reporting back to the pole. they saw fights that erupted in the middle of a schoolyard; a helping hand with chores; a smile or a frown toward a stranger. what they saw went directly into the giant database at the pole, which crunched the numbers and spit out the lists first at the 6th of the last month, when the naughty were given a warning and good rewarded, and then at the 25th, when the final results were compiled. it was very rare that a naughty would turn to nice.
even though the seers had been watching all year, it seemed that double the information came in around this time. add onto that that the seers started gathering lists, and it was a lot for the lady to make sure went smoothly.
the lists were actually a fun part of the year. the seers gathered the letters and lists the little wrote. depending on where they were, the seers gathered the letters from windowsills, above chimneys after littles sent their letters up in the waft of fire breeze, or from local letter carriers. she hired temps to help read, decipher, and transcribe the lists into the database, where it would be cross referenced with what the elves had already made this year, then it would adjust what items needed to be put into more production. then it was up to the man in red.
of course there were asks for things she couldn’t put under a tree or fireplace or in shoes or at the foot of a bed: a good harvest, a happier home life, a pet, a baby sister. but they always tried with the things they could put in the littles’ homes.
it was the first night of the temps’ month-long job, and the pile of letters that had already arrived over the past couple weeks would keep them busy for a couple days before they really started coming in. at that point, mariah should have made it to the pole, and she was more than happy to help keep the temps in line. while the temps started in with the lists, the lady walked over to the pile of letters, running her hands along them. a few were decorated grandly in reds and greens, others had sprigs of holly attached to them. she opened one and read the explanation that this little had been very good, her dad could attest to that, and then a very short list of what she would like. the lady smiled and closed it up. soon the seers would be making their nightly drop.
this time of year, the pole was almost always dark, but the seers were called seers for a reason. not only could they see in heart of hearts, but their eyesight wasn’t bad either. even when the moon failed to make an appearance, the seers easily found their way by starlight or even in cloud cover.
the lady strode out to the far end of the complex, to the large doors where the reindeer entered on the big night. she really did enjoy this part of the year, as busy as it was. she glanced up at the timekeeper on the wall, then swung open the large doors to the chilly night, yellow light spreading into darkness.
the moon was out, almost full and shining brightly on snow that had fallen just a couple nights before. it was the sort of silence that soft, new snow only brings. the lady watched skies in the silence, waiting.
she always heard them before she saw them – twinkly, sharp notes floating across the air, like icicles clinking together or frozen branches waving in the wind. then a rush as the small, air-borne seers flew into the large room, wings brushing against her cheeks leaving warmth and happiness.
they chattered amongst themselves, their voices the source of the twinkling noise she always heard before she saw. most times the lady didn’t even try to understand them, even though she could if she tried. one by one, they dropped their bundles of letters on a large table at one end of the room. they didn’t spend much time at the pole, as their work was never done. in a rush, they left the room and darted into the night. the lady stood by the door, watching them spread across the sky.
she felt a brush of wings at her elbow, and glanced down. one seer – the one from the northeast – looked up at her, holding a single letter in her hands and a concerned look on her face. the letter was on brown paper, one that looked as if it’d been used more than once, and singed on one end. this household must be chimney sender. she took the letter and looked at the seer.
“i’m sorry, lady. i’ve never seen anything like it. i thought you’d want it.” and the seer fluttered off into the night. the lady watched. she knew the location and name of the little would already be in the database or in her files, tagged important. she knew how organized her seers were.
she glanced at the letter, devoid of any decoration, then turned it over and opened it.
it was addressed: “to the other.”
the air went out of her. instinctively, she searched her pockets for a peppermint, then the lady shut the doors and ran to find the man in red.