Mrs Hedgehog stood by the fireplace trimming off unwanted twigs to shape a small fir into the perfect Christmas tree. ‘There, children. Doesn’t that look splendid?’
‘Gosh,’ Prickles said, ‘I love it.’
‘Can I do the sparkly baubles this time?’ Primrose hopped on one leg with excitement. ‘Please Mum, because Prickles did it last year. Remember, you said I was too small.’
Mum smiled. ‘Why don’t you decorate the tree together? There are enough trinkets inside the box for you both.’
‘Shall we?’ Prickles scurried over and shoved his nose inside a tatty cardboard box. He turned towards his sister. ‘Mum’s right. There’s plenty to share.’
Primrose skipped over to her brother. ‘Okay, let’s see how quickly we can finish.’
‘Oh, no.’ Mum tutted. ‘You mustn’t rush the job. You should cherish decorating the tree. After all, we only do it once a year.’
‘What’s that dear?’ Dad entered the room carrying a tray of drinks and worm flavoured biscuits. ‘What’s this about rushing the job?’
Prickles offered Primrose a shiny Santa’s hat with a silver bell on the end. ‘Go ahead.’ He pressed the delicate ornament into the palm of her paw. ‘You go first.’
Primrose beamed as she clutched the bauble to her chest and reached over to place it onto a branch. ‘I’ll dust these off and you hang them on the tree.’ Prickles passed her another.
The fire crackled and glowed as the two hoglets worked together. Within half an hour the tree was finished… well, almost.
‘Where’s the star?’ Prickles hunted through the last bits and bobs. ‘I can’t find it anywhere?’
‘It must be there.’ Dad scratched his head, delving inside the box. His paws pushed bits of tissue paper and golden thread to one side. Gasping, he lifted out glittery shards of glass. ‘Oh, dear,’ he said, holding tiny splinters of yellow towards the light. ‘It’s shattered with age.’
Mrs Hedgehog grunted and a tear trickled from her eye. ‘But what are we to do? We can’t have a tree without a star. It’s Christmas Eve and far too late to forage around dustbins in the hope of finding a replacement.’
‘We’ll think of something,’ said Prickles, ‘I’ll pop outside and see what I can find.’
‘Can I come too?’ Primrose tugged at Prickles sleeve. ‘Two sets of eyes are much better than one.’
‘That’s a good idea,’ Mum said, ‘but don’t be too long because it’s growing dark.’
‘We won’t go out of the wood,’ Prickles promised. ‘If there’s anything there to use, we’ll find it.’
Mrs Hedgehog didn’t look convinced. ‘Don’t go near the main road. I don’t want any of the village folk spotting you and trying to take you home.’
Prickles and Primrose left the safety of their home in search of a new star.
‘How are we going to find something special on Christmas Eve?’ Primrose fixed her nose to the ground, sniffing withered blades of grass and dark brown chunks of moss in the hope of coming across something useful.
‘We have to try.’ Prickles turned over a pile of rotting leaves with his nose and inspected them. ‘After all, we can’t have a tree without a star on top.’
The hoglets wandered deeper and deeper into the undergrowth until they came to the edge of the wood. Prickles heard loud grunting. He lifted his nose and sniffed, catching the strange odour of an animal he didn’t recognise. The grunting grew louder and louder and thinking the animal was hurt, Prickles ran closer, his tiny legs hurrying as fast as they could with Primrose at his heels. As quick as a flash, Prickles broke through spindly shrubs but then ground to a halt. Right in front of him, stood a huge man with a sleigh and a long line of reindeer.
Prickles turned to Primrose when she gasped out loud.
‘Is that who I think it is?’ she said, her eyes wide.
‘I guess so,’ Prickles said.
‘But what’s he doing here… in our wood?’
‘I’ve no idea. Something must be wrong otherwise he’d be out delivering presents.’
‘Yeah, I think so too,’ Primrose agreed.
‘Whoa there, Dancer and Prancer,’ the man dressed in red shouted. ‘I understand we’re on a tight schedule, but I need to find that doll. We don’t want some little girl thinking she’s on the naughty list now do we?’
Prickles shivered with fright.
‘Hey there, hoglets, get over here and introduce yourselves,’ the stranger boomed. Prickles watched as Santa waved his hand, beckoning for them to come closer. The hedgehogs rolled into tight balls.
‘No need to be frightened, I’m far friendlier than I sound.’
Prickles unrolled, nudged his sister to do the same and they both hurried over.
Once everyone had introduced themselves, Santa said, ‘I’ll come straight to the point. I was flying overhead when a flock of starlings almost took out my sleigh. I had to swerve sharply and a few of the toys flew out of my sack. I thought I’d caught them all, but the elves informed me that I’ve lost a doll somewhere around here. I’ve hunted high and low but to no avail.’
‘Can’t you get the elves to bring you another?’ asked Prickles.
Santa frowned. ‘If only. We simply don’t have any toys left at the North Pole. Everything made in the workshop is inside this sack.’ He pointed to a large gold-trimmed bag.
‘Then you’re going to need our help,’ said Primrose with a beaming smile. ‘Our noses are good at sniffing things out. Leave it to us. If the doll’s here, we’ll find it.’
‘You’re very kind,’ said Santa. ‘If you discover the toy, we’d be eternally grateful.’
‘We’ll be back as soon as we can.’ Prickles enjoyed a flutter of excitement at the thought of helping Santa. He turned tail with Primrose, once again at his heels, heading back towards the trees.
‘Where shall we try first?’ asked his sister.
‘Let’s speak to Wise Old Owl. He may have seen something from his hideaway.’
‘That’s a great idea. Owl’s beady eyes never miss a trick and he may have seen where the doll landed.’
‘Exactly.’ Prickles feet rustled through a carpet of dead leaves. ‘He’s our only hope.’
Heading towards a tiny stream, Prickles heard a hoot. ‘Did you hear him, sis? Owl’s visiting his usual haunts just as I’d hoped.’
‘You’re a clever hoglet.’ Primrose shuffled along behind him.
After passing three large stones covered in dead moss, Prickles stopped by the trunk of a rather tall tree.
‘Hello, Mr Owl, please can you help us?’ The hoglets listened and waited. At last, they heard a twit-twoo and the sound of wings flapping.
Mr Owl swooshed in the air and landed on a branch inches from their faces. “What do you want with me at such an hour?’ he bellowed. ‘I have dinner to catch.’
‘Oh, we’re terribly sorry to bother you,’ Primrose interrupted, ‘only Santa’s had a bit of an accident with his sleigh. He bumped into a flock of birds and lost one of the children’s presents. He’s against the clock and asked if we can help him find a lost toy.’
Prickles watched as Mr Owl’s head went full circle. His large golden eyes grew wide. He blinked.
‘A lost toy you say?’
Both hedgehogs nodded at once.
Owl brought the feathery tip of his wing to his mouth in deep thought. ‘Hmm, well let me think. By chance did it look like a human child with long dark hair?’
‘We’re not certain,’ said Prickles. ‘But that sounds like a doll, and that’s the present Santa’s lost.’
‘I did see something of that description fall from the sky,’ explained Wise Old Owl. ‘It landed in the bushes, just outside Badger’s hideout.’
‘Thanks, that’s really helpful,’ said Prickles. ‘Especially with it being just a stone’s throw away from here.’
Then you’d better be quick, little ones,’ Owl insisted. ‘If you want it back, you’d best not let the badgers’ get their paws on it. If they find the doll before you do, they’ll use it as a teething tool for their cubs.’
‘Oh, no, that would never do. We must be on our way,’ Prickles gasped. ‘Thanks again for your help.’
‘My pleasure.’ Owl flapped his wings and took to the skies. ‘A merry Christmas to you both.’
Prickles and Primrose raced to the badgers set hidden in the woods.
Primrose whispered in Prickles ear, ‘I’m scared of badgers.’
Prickles smiled. ‘Don’t worry sis, they’ll not hear us if we’re quiet. Just keep your head low and don’t get too close to their den. We’ll search the bushes and if we’re lucky we’ll find the doll before they notice someone’s outside.’
Primrose headed towards the shrubbery. Prickles nosed his way closer to the badgers set where a hole in the ground hid the entrance to their home. His nose sniffed the earth, inspecting fallen twigs and shrivelled leaves in search of clues. Without warning he picked up an unusual scent. It was a smell he’d never encountered before. He drew closer and nudged his way through a gap in a bush. Two blue glass eyes stared back at him making him jump. He almost cried out in fright, but when the eyes continued to stare, he realised it was a plastic doll. His little teeth tugged at her skirt, but she wouldn’t budge. He pulled harder, but the toy was stuck within a mesh of brambles. Biting down, he yanked so hard he thought his teeth might fall out. The doll broke loose from its bonds and he let go to take a deep breath. His eyes searched for Primrose and he relaxed a little when the leaves of a nearby bush shook. He rushed over. ‘Hey, Primrose over here,’ he whispered.
‘What are you doing on my land?’ asked a gruff voice.
Prickles shrank back and the leaves parted to reveal a badger. A black stripe covered each eye making him resemble a thief in the night. Prickles spines quivered. ‘Oh, Mr Badger, I didn’t see you there.’ Prickles swallowed, aware of a lump in his throat. ‘I was passing through and thought I’d wish you and your family a Merry Christmas.’ He was doomed and the doll would soon be in the crook’s paws.
‘Thanks. Now shouldn’t you be on your way?’ badger asked.
‘Well, I’m, err…’
The sound of a twig snapping made badger spin on his heels. ‘Who else is out here?’ Without waiting for a reply, he hurried off in the direction of the noise.
Prickles took a chance and grabbed one of the doll’s feet between his teeth and dragged it away. Although he was small, he was strong and within minutes sped out of the badger’s territory. Once he knew it was safe, he stopped, concerned for the whereabouts of Primrose. Just as he was starting to worry, he heard a giggle and Primrose hurtled towards him.
‘You’ve found Santa’s present,’ she cried in delight.
‘It was stuck in the brambles, but I managed to drag it out.’
‘Is that when Mr Badger came across you?’
‘I thought so. That’s why I lured him away by snapping a stick and doubling back on myself.’
‘You did a great job,’ said Prickles. ‘If you hadn’t distracted him, he’d have spotted the doll for sure.’
Primrose sniffed. Her wet nose wandered over the plastic arms and legs. ‘Well, at least it doesn’t appear damaged?’
‘No. I gave her the once over and she seems fine. The ground’s hard and there’s no mud to ruin her pretty dress.’
Primrose grinned. ‘Then we must hurry back to Santa as I’m sure he’ll be impressed.’
‘Alright,’ Prickles said, ‘let’s hurry.’
The two little hedgehogs scurried through the wood, dragging the doll along the ground by her feet. It was hard work but their determination to help Santa kept them going. It wasn’t too long before they were once again by his side.
‘Well done hoglets,’ Santa cried. ‘I can’t believe you’ve found her.’
‘It wasn’t easy,’ said Prickles, ‘but we couldn’t let a little girl think she was on the naughty list.’
‘You’re both kind and brave,’ said Santa with a smile. ‘You’ve certainly gone the extra mile and I’m therefore forever in your debt.’ Santa bent down and picked up the doll, placing her back inside his sack. ‘Now, I must be on my way and get these presents to all the good little boys and girls. However, before I do, I’d like to give you a present to thank you for your help.’
Prickles’ cheeks burned under his fur. ‘Oh, no, that’s okay Santa. We couldn’t possibly take anything.’
‘Fiddlesticks and poppycock,’ Santa boomed, with a dismissive flick of his hand. ‘I’m not leaving here without rewarding you.’
Primrose nudged Prickles who took a step closer to Santa Claus. ‘Well, actually, there is one thing we’d both like if it’s possible, please,’ Prickles said.
Santa’s eyebrows knitted together. ‘I’m intrigued. What would you like?’
‘If it isn’t too much trouble, we’d love a new star for our Christmas tree. The old one’s broken, and we haven’t been able to find anything else to replace it.’
Santa chuckled, tapping the side of his nose. He thrust a hand inside his red coat pocket. ‘Pick a star,’ he said.
‘Err… I don’t understand?’ said Prickles.
Santa pointed towards the sky. ‘Take a good look. There’s plenty to choose from.’
Primrose gulped. ‘You mean we can have any star we like?’
Santa winked. ‘Sure, but don’t pick the moon otherwise I won’t be able to see where I’m going.’
‘How about that bright shiny star to your left?’ Prickles said.
‘Good choice. That’s the one I’d have picked. Are you ready?’ Santa asked.
The two hedgehogs watched in fascination as Santa opened his hand to reveal a silvery powder in his palm. ‘Magic fairy dust,’ he explained. ‘Now watch closely.’ He lifted his hand and blew the particles into the air. Like a rainbow of silver, a sparkling stream of light flew across the sky until it reached the chosen star. A bright explosion of colour filled the air then a blinding silver flash forced the hedgehogs to close their eyes. When they re-opened them the light was gone, and Santa was holding something sparkly in his hand. ‘This is for you.’ He placed the object onto the ground.
Prickles had never seen anything like it before. It was indeed a star, but each of the points glowed in a prism of light. ‘I can see every colour of the rainbow inside,’ he gasped. ‘It’s beautiful.’
‘Take it. You’ve earned it.’ Santa climbed into the sleigh. ‘Now I must hurry and be on my way.’
‘Thank you, Santa,’ Prickles said. ‘We’ll treasure your gift forever.’
‘Ho-ho-ho.’ Santa picked up the reins, turning his attention to the reindeer. ‘Let’s go Prancer, let’s go Dancer, and Rudolf you know the drill.’ A noise like thunder filled the air and the sleigh shot up into the sky. ‘Enjoy Christmas,’ Santa shouted, his voice fading and then, in a breath, he was gone.
Prickles stared at his sister. ‘Did that really happen, or did I knock myself out and it’s all been a dream?’
Primrose giggled. ‘No, you’re not dreaming. We should get home.’
‘Yes, you’re right, let’s go!’
The hoglets scurried home dragging the star.
Prickles barged through the front door. ‘Mum, you’ll never guess what.’
‘We’ve received a gift from Santa for helping him,’ Primrose panted.
‘What on earth are you both talking about?’ Mum hurried over to greet them. ‘I’m glad you’re home safe. We were worried.’
‘We’ve had the best time ever.’ Prickles explained the whole adventure to Mum and Dad over tea.
‘What an amazing time you’ve had.’ Mum laughed.
‘Not to mention you saved Christmas for one little girl,’ Dad interrupted.
‘We’re extremely proud of you both,’ Mum added softly.
‘Don’t forget the star.’ Prickles gazed up at the tree.
‘How could we?’ Mum said, ‘it’s our own special piece of Christmas.’
Prickles nudged Primrose. He glanced over at Mum and noticed a tear in her eye.
‘I’m blessed with such wonderful children.’ Mum hugged them both. ‘To think you faced danger with Mr Badger and still toiled with the doll to get her back to Santa.’ She pulled the hoglets to their feet and with Dad by her side, they circled the Christmas tree.
‘A merry Christmas to one and all,’ said Mum.
‘Merry Christmas,’ Prickles and Primrose chimed together.
They gazed up at the tree and the star grew bright, twinkling with Christmas magic.
© Lynette E. Creswell
*Please note I have written three more stories about the hoglets and their friends. I’m actively searching for an agent or publisher and if anyone in the industry is interested in learning more about these three stories, please contact me via my email address: Creswelllyn@aol.com