Sheeny was already working when Covski arrived. 

        "It's a beautiful day." Covski winked at Sheeny.

        Sheeny smiled. "Yes, it is.  You'll have plenty of light." 

        "That's what's great about the late spring.  It's not quite as cold, and I can see a little better." Covski grabbed her backpack. "I appreciate you filling in today."

        "Oh, it's not a problem.  Jackson can handle things at the Gingerbread House."

        Sheeny didn't mind helping Covski. The trip was important to the entire community. When Covski returned,  she would bring the most delectable ingredients for their confections.

***

        The mountain range was one of the North Pole's best kept secrets, not because it was obscure, but because it was off limits.  Besides, snow never fell on peaks of the Swiss Chocolate Alps, and the absence of snow and ice made the helpers a little  apprehensive.  The dark mountains loomed in the distance, and the terrain was difficult, at best. 

        While the rest of the helpers steered clear of the mountains, Covski had never been intimidated by them.  Indeed, it was just the opposite.  She had loved the Alps for hundreds of years.  As an elfling, she had been intrigued by the ominous area, and risked her very life by entering the uncharted land.  Her courage was rewarded with beauty beyond belief.  Fields of lollipops, ripe for picking, and veins of gumdrops, ready for mining -- marshmallow clouds and sugar galore.  Sugar combined with wuffle dust to create the Majestic Falls, and a pool of warm fudge formed Hot Chocolate Springs.

 

       When she stumbled upon the sugar hills, Covski, an elfalescent, was thrilled. She kept it a secret, though.  Then one day, while Covski was still in training, Mrs. Claus visited her at Helpers Unlimited..

       "Santa tells me you've found something special," Mrs Claus said.

        Covski looked at her shoes and nodded. "Yes, Ma'am."

        "The area is known as the Swiss Chocloate Alps. Because you have discovered the area, and not told anyone, we have a special job for you."

        "Really?"

        "You've been here long enough, so Santa's giving you a shop. Your most important job, though, will be to make several trips each year to the Alps, and gather ingredients for our goodies."

        "I'm getting a shop?"

        "Yes, dear. It's called 'Covski's Nuts, Crackers, and Sweets Shop.' Violet is dusting the area on Candy Cane Lane, near the post office. She will do that tomorrow, and you must occupy it within 24 hours or it will disappear."

        "Yes, Ma'am, but why me?"

        "You discovered the Swiss Chocolate Alps, and you were respectful. You didn't eat until you were sick. Until now, I've gathered the ingredients. Santa and I believe that you are the right elf for the job."

        "I won't disappoint you," Covski said.

        After she left Covski, Mrs. Claus followed a path to where it forked. She read the current sign which directed the traveler to the Christmas Tree Forest or North Pole Proper. She posted a new sign in front of the snowy expanse which was straight ahead. It read 'Authorized Personnel Only. And, although one other elf, Brojo, has seen the Swiss Chocoate Alps, to this day, Covski is the only helper authorized to visit the forbidden mountains.

***

       Gathering goodie ingredients was Covski's most important duty. She examined the rocky terrain carefully, then raised her pick above her head.  She let it fall and it lodged in the base of the mountain.  She freed it and let it fall again, and again.  At last, a huge chunk of chocolate rolled toward her.  She located her wuffle dust and sprinkled the chocolate.  "POOF!"  It all but disappeared.  She picked it up and dropped it into her backpack. 

        Using a walking stick, Covski made her way through the Alps until she reached the mouth of the Gumdrop Mine. She lowered herself to her knees, and crawled into the small opening which she had discovered so long ago.  The veins of gumdrops sparkled like colored gemstones.  Again, working with her pick, she loosened gumdrops, dusted them, and dropped them into her pack.  Then she made her way to the heart of the mine, where it was always warm. She thanked the bees as she harvested a jar of North Pole honey. She fell to her knees, and retraced her path through the mouth of the Gumdrop Mine. 

        Next she scaled the side of the highest mountain.  When she reached the summit, Covski stood on her tip toes and reached into the fluffy white clouds that hovered above her. She retrieved several fists full of marshmallow fluff, dusted it, and put it into her pack.  Then she picked glistening razzel cherries from the bushes that were growing there.  She popped a cherry or two into her mouth, then dusted the remaining cherries and dropped them into the pack.

      She followed the winding path down Rocky Road and rested at Hot Chocolate Springs.  Before she resumed her journey, Covski filled a jar with the bubbling liquid.  "Ouch!" she exclaimed, licking the steaming chocolate from her finger.  "Mmmm, that's so yummy." She dusted the jar and carefully placed it in her bag. 

       Gathering rock candy along the way, she next journeyed to Majestic Falls.  She filled another jug with magical sugar, then turned to the lollipop field which grew on the banks of the Majestic Falls.  She gathered her lollipops, then she descended to the Twinkle Berry Forest, which was on the far side of the Alps.  She picked hundreds of twinkle berries and put them in her pack. These mountain berries were much sweeter than those that grew in Polar Park.  Finally, she circled the base of the mountains by way of Raisin Run, and collected raisins along the way.

       Covski glanced at the sky. Although it was still light, for it was springtime, she knew it was getting late, so she hurried around to the Mocha River. Here she filled another jar, dusted it and dropped it in her satchel. She tightened the straps on her pack, and traveled back to the North Pole Proper.  Her trip had taken all day.

***

         When Covski  returned to the shop, Sheeny had closed it, and was sweeping the floor.

         Sheeny heaved a sigh of relief. "This time I thought you were lost, for sure."

        "Sheeny, you know I don't get lost in the Swiss Chocolate Alps," Covski said.  "Why, I know those mountains inside out."

        "I know, but you were gone so long," Sheeny said.

        "It takes a long time, but it's worth it.  Just look at all the goodies I have." Covski carefully removed the contents from her bag.  She and Sheeny blew on them and "POOF!" They returned to their original sizes.

        "Awesome!" Sheeny grabbed a couple of raisins and popped them in her mouth. "I fret while you're gone but I love all of the wonderful treats."

        Covski offered her a handful of razzle cherries. "Here, taste these." 

        "Well, maybe just one." Sheeny accepted the cherries.  "Gosh, these are delicious.  I'm going to give the rest of these to Jackson."

        "He's a lucky guy." Covski began storing the supplies. "Come by tomorrow with your list and I'll fill your order."

         "I'll be here," Sheeny said."Are you going to be much longer?"

        "No, go home.  And thanks for your help. Oh, if you see Tubbs, tell him I'm back with the stuff."

        "I miss working with you," Sheeny said, "And I'm happy to help any way I can.  Bye."


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