Rudolph had a problem.
"Now dash away, dash away, dash away all!" Santa cried.
Unfortunately, one reindeer had taken Santa's words too much to heart. Dasher had done a dash and left an empty harness behind.
They had nearly finished delivering presents to all the Australian boys and girls and were headed to Indonesia next. Dasher could have "dashed" anywhere between Perth, where Santa last did reindeer roll call, and Darwin.
Rudolph remembered that Dasher had been a bit down in the dumps lately, talking about retirement and leaving the North Pole for someplace warmer. Had Dasher seized his chance on Christmas Eve?
As captain of the reindeer team, Rudolph was in a pickle. Sure, they could fly without Dasher and still make it around the world if everydeer put in a big effort, but there was the Reindeer Code to consider.
"Santa! We're going to have to turn this sleigh around," Rudolph called.
Santa obliged with a knowing nod and a wink. There was nothing Santa didn't know.
The team did a 180-degree turn at breakneck speed and swooped toward the coast. A lovely full moon lit the balmy, summery night. The reindeer, and Santa, were panting and sweating from the heat.
Rudolph turned his nose up to full power, and using it as a searchlight, the team began checking each and every beach along the coast of Western Australia for their wayward friend.
"Over there!" shouted Prancer, and they all saw Dasher at once. They flew towards him swiftly and saw his body twisted on the beach in an awkward position.
"Dasher!" Rudolph shouted, his voice full of concern.
"What happened?" he asked.
Dasher turned his head to look up at his friends.
"It's bloody hot," he said. His fur glistened with sweat.
"This lying on the beach ain't all it's cracked up to be," he added.
Rudolph just shook his head, relieved.
"Up you get, Dash, we've got a big night ahead of us," he said.
"Why'd you come back for me?" Dasher asked.
"No deer left behind," Rudolph said, quoting the Reindeer Code.
This story is part of the 2014 Story Advent Calendar, with stories written by a variety of authors.