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Author: E

Chapter 18: A Really, Really, Stupid Plan

Secrets for Surviving in Fairyland:

Be careful to whom you trust your soul.

 

Mara stopped short.  “Robbie,” she whispered.  

“It’s ok,” I hastened to assure her.  “I told you, I had some time to think.  We’ll do it your way.”

“Wait, Robbie,” she began.

“Mara, I decided.  Ok? Just leave it alone.”

She fell silent.  

“It shouldn’t be too hard.  I’ll go alone, or maybe with Sime or Blythe, get in, get out with the prince.  Easy.”

“What about the guards?” asked Simeur.  “Think they are just going to let you take him, just like that?”

“They’ve got the main doors.  I won’t use those.”

“Hmph.”  Sime wasn’t satisfied.

I didn’t really care.  I hadn’t forgiven him for ganging up on me yesterday.  “If we have both Jake and the prince we should be unstoppable.  Besides, while I’m in the castle I can talk to Arlin and get his help figured out.  It’ll be good.”

“When are you going?” asked Simeur.  

That was a good question.  I thought for a minute. “After it’s completely dark,” I decided.  Might as well keep the ball rolling. I was still on the adrenaline high from the fight with Jake that afternoon.  Storming the castle should work fine in my current state of mind.

Blythe glared at me ferociously, so I translated the plan for him.  “I’m coming with you,” was the first thing he said after I’d explained everything.  

“And just why do you think you should go?” asked Simeur pointedly.

“I know my way around the castle.  You don’t. And I know Arlin. Besides, I’m small.  I can stay out of sight and scout things out so he doesn’t get caught.”

“He has a point,” I said to Simeur.  

“Fine, take the little twerp.  I still don’t trust him,” said Simeur, not in dwarvish.

I rolled my eyes.  “Don’t be a pain, Sime.”  Then I turned to Jake. “This looks like a good place to meet again.  I’ll head for the castle with Blythe and once it’s dark sneak in. You, Simeur, and Mara wait here, and I’ll meet you with the prince once we’re done.  Sound good?”

Jake nodded and was about to speak, but Mara interrupted.  “I’m coming with you.”

I stared at her in astonishment.  “Just why do you think that?”

“You’re going because of me.  I’m coming with you.”

“It’s too dangerous.  You’ll get hurt. You can’t come, Mara.”

“Don’t tell me what I can’t do,” she said quietly and fiercely, looking straight at me.

There was no way for me to argue with that, but it kind of made me mad.  “Fine,” I spit out. “You can come. We’re leaving now, let’s go.” I saluted Jake and Sime, and stalked into the woods.  Blythe and Mara had to run to keep up.

Ok, I was a little bit wound up.  It had been a stressful couple of days, to be sure.  

Eventually I slowed down, and the other two caught up.  “Are you alright?” asked Blythe uncertainly.

“Dandy.”

At some point, as we walked through the woods toward the entrance to the secret tunnels to the castle, my mood lightened.  After all, we were doing something dangerous and death defying. My mood had to lift at some point during the operation.

We found the tunnels without any problem other than I got nice and scratched up trying to move all the branches away from the opening, and then setting them back in place after we were through.  Blythe and Mara weren’t a whole lot of help with that part of things.

Creeping through the tunnel wasn’t all that terrifying either.  Mara stepped on a snake and had to hold my arm the whole time afterward because she freaked out.  It was pitch black in there, too, so I wasn’t sure if we were going to find the turn because we didn’t have any torches.  I did find the turn, however, and soon afterward a place where they kept some torches and matches. Then we had some light, so next time Mara could at least see the snake before she stepped on it.  That didn’t encourage her much, so she kept trying to squeeze the life out of my arm. I refrained from any I-told-you-so’s. But really, she shouldn’t have come. This was not an adventure for the little princess.  Nothing glamorous, just tunnels and snakes. And since when do princesses come to rescue princes? It just wasn’t right, even by my screwed up version of the way the world should work.

When we got to the trapdoor I went first, just to make sure it had gotten good and dark while we wandered around in the tunnels.  It had been dusk when we went in, but now it was almost pitch black out. A thick cloud cover hid the moon and stars. You couldn’t see anything.  It was almost as bad as the tunnels. Maybe less snakes though. The page boys took too much delight in tormenting any snakes that showed their heads, so we probably wouldn’t run into any, as I assured Mara.  Why are all girls afraid of snakes, anyway? They really aren’t that bad!

We used the kitchen door to get into the castle.  No one was there, not this late. Then we crept through some of the back servant hallways hoping no one would discover us.

Blythe was somewhere ahead of us, scouting things out and making sure we didn’t run into any guards.  I grabbed Mara’s hand and pulled her along behind me as we snuck through the dark hallways.

The plan was to get around and use the prince’s window, sort of like I did in my devastating attempt to spy on the king.  I don’t know what made me think it would work this time when it completely failed before, but sometimes I am a slow learner.  

Through an extraordinary stroke of luck, no soldiers caught us while on our way to the prince’s rooms.  Like with the king, we got into the room above the prince’s, which fortunately was empty. I secured a rope to the banister around the balcony and Blythe was the first one to slide down the rope onto the prince’s balcony.  For a moment, I saw his tiny white face peer up at me, then he disappeared.

Mara looked at me like I was crazy.  “You want me to slide down that thing?” she whispered fiercely.

“You’re the one who wanted to come,” I replied.

She glared at me.

“I’ll go first, and catch you on the bottom, ok?”

“All right,” she agreed, unwillingly.

Down I went.  “Come on!” I whispered loudly.  A second later she slid down slowly and I grabbed her before she could land.  “See, no problem,” I whispered with a grin.

“Yeah,” she muttered.  

I glanced around the balcony.  There was no sign of Blythe. Maybe he had already gone into the room or something, I thought.  I grabbed Mara’s hand again and pulled aside the curtain to get into Roy’s room. It was pitch black inside, darker even than it had been outside.  I stumbled forward a step and whispered, “Blythe?”

That was a dreadful mistake.  The entire room exploded with light, showing very plainly that the room was also full of soldiers.  At the far end was the sorcerer, with Blythe standing on the floor in front of him, unable to meet my eyes.  

The sorcerer laughed.  “Such fools, you humans are.”

“The whole time?  You’ve been working for him this whole time?” I asked Blythe, disbelieving.

He barely nodded, staring at the floor.  “The whole time,” he whispered. “I’m sorry.”

“I bet you are.”

“So,” said the sorcerer, stepping toward me, “we meet again, DiShaun.  This time I do not think you will find it so easy to escape from what we have planned for you.”

I just glared at him.  It would be pointless to argue with the evil, overdramatic maniac.

He snapped his fingers and four of the guards closed in and seized me, taking away yet another of my swords and holding me roughly.  Only one grabbed Mara’s arm. Apparently they thought I was the more dangerous character of the bunch.

The sorcerer laughed and took another step toward me.  He stood close enough now that I could smell his breath.  It stunk. “By the time we finish with you, DiShaun, you will wish you died the first time.”

With that he thrust one long-fingered, claw-like hand toward me and I was hit with the worst pain I had felt in my whole life.  It flung me on the floor in an instant, writhing and seizing. My head felt like it would explode, and all I could think about was the agony.  I can’t even describe it. It took everything in me not to start screaming, but I still had a little bit of pride.

The whole world turned black and still the pain continued.  I’m not sure for how long, it felt like hours, but it probably lasted only seconds.  A scream suddenly pierced the blackness. A scream I very definitely recognized as Mara’s.  The pain stopped with it.

I opened my eyes as fast as possible.  What was he doing to my little princess?

Apparently that was the wrong question to ask.  As far as I could tell, the little princess was doing most of the doing.

The soldier who had been holding her arm stood there empty-handed, and his own arm was bleeding from a set of teeth marks.  As for Mara, she had apparently jumped forward and grabbed the sorcerer’s hand and pushed it away from me. She clung to both of his arms, pushing him away, and he looked like he had completely lost his balance and was just trying to catch it again.  She was doing pretty good for a kid her size.

That is, until the sorcerer suddenly caught his balance and with a fling of his arm sent Mara flying into the wall with a thud.

My heart stopped when Mara hit the floor.  “No!” I screamed, and leapt from where I still knelt on the floor.  There were several soldiers between Mara and me. They never even stood a chance.    

I flew straight through the soldiers and knocked them down like bowling pins.  I threw them out of the way, not even caring what would happen when they got back up again, and knelt next to Mara’s still frame.  For a terrifying moment it looked like she was dead.

“Mara,” I whispered, holding her head.  “Come on, Mara, don’t die on me now.”

She groaned, her eyes fluttered, and her hand moved until it held mine.  “Robbie,” she barely whispered.

Oh, how I wanted to just sit there and hold her and take care of her.  Never again would I look on her the same way. But that option was not left for me.

Valkav’s soldiers did not particularly care that I was in the middle of a serious moment with Mara.  They pulled me up and yanked me away. Valkav looked as if he had never been attacked with the sharpened claws of a furious D.I.D. before, and it would take him a few minutes to recover.  In any case, he wasn’t interested in torturing me any more, for the moment at least. Instead, he gave his troops orders. “Throw them both in the dungeons!”

The soldiers were only too happy to comply.  I couldn’t even see what happened to Mara, or if she ever stood up, they pulled me away so fast.  I only had a moment to struggle and yell, “Mara!” very loudly, before they had me out of the room and halfway down the hall.

Once again, the iron gates to the dungeon clanked shut behind me.  My life was getting repetitive.

This time, though, they couldn’t hold me there.  After the sorcerer’s little display of power upstairs, I certainly didn’t want to still be here when he recovered from shock well enough to begin killing me again.  

But I couldn’t go, not yet.  There was something I had to do before leaving this place.  And I knew he would come

I had to wait until well into the middle of the night, sitting in the back of my prison, arms crossed, staring at the gate.  Finally I saw a light. A moment later the door opened and Blythe walked into my cell. Someone must have been with him, because the door shut and latched behind him.  

Blythe met my gaze for only a moment, then his eyes fell to the ground.  

“How dare you,” I said lowly.

He looked up at me briefly once more.  “I’m sorry, Robbie, really I am. I didn’t want to.  I didn’t have a choice.”

“Tell me.  You owe me that much.”

“It’s kind of a long story.”

“Talk.”

He sighed.  “It goes back a long time.  I was never a very good gnome, see.  Didn’t get along that well with the other gnomes, didn’t fit in, you know.  So when I had a chance to leave, I took it. Got in lots of trouble, out in the real world.  A lot of scrapes that went a long way over my head. But I liked it. It wasn’t the dark caves of the gnome-world anymore, it was bigger and stronger and better.  I enjoyed it. That is, until I messed with the wrong person.”

“What kind of person?’

“A godmother.  I played a prank on her.  Utterly humiliated her.” He grinned broadly, remembering.  “It was a great prank, but the godmother didn’t see the humor.  She was furious and said she was going to kill me. I had to make a run for it.  Running doesn’t do a whole lot of good when someone who knows magic is after you though, and it was only a matter of time before she was going to find me.  There was a young man, working in one of the magic shops there, who helped me. He said he had learned a lot of magic and wanted to set out on his own. He also said he could protect me from the godmother, as long as I promised to work for him and help him for as long as he needed me.

“It was only afterward that I found out he had sorcerer blood, and it wasn’t good sorcerer blood either.  He made me do all kinds of things and dragged me deeper and deeper in. I got into so much trouble; I did terrible, terrible things for him.  I didn’t want to, but he said if I stopped the godmother would destroy me. At some point the godmother must have forgotten me, to be sure. But there are lots of other people out there who would love to lay their hands on me by now.  Like I said, I’ve done terrible things. I was afraid to stop, afraid to turn against him.

“When he started this enterprise he told me it was our big chance, and after this he would set me free.  Now I am sure he lied, but then I believed him. Otherwise, I would never have agreed to help him destroy an entire kingdom.  He told me only one person in the entire kingdom who could possibly stand in our way: the prince.

“You were gone on your mission to rescue the princess by the time we were ready to go after him.  He told me to go in the general direction went and he would give me more instructions. Sorcerers have all kinds of interesting ways of communicating with their minions.  

“I found you eventually, and followed you until the gnomes captured you.  They caught me at the same time. It took all the tricks in my book to get them to allow me to be your translator and, eventually, talk to you on my own.  Then it was a simple matter of telling you whatever I wanted to get your trust, and tell them whatever they wanted to keep theirs so I could help you escape.  I knew if I helped you escape from the gnomes you would trust me implicitly. You know the rest. Valkav really wanted me to be a double agent, and that’s what I’ve been.

I was silent for a minute.  “Did you have anything to do with the last time I got caught?”

“No.  No, Robbie, I swear.”  Tears welled up in his tiny eyes.  “I never wanted any of this to happen.  And I really did take care of Mara while you were gone.  I didn’t want to hurt anybody, truly. I didn’t have a choice.”

“I believe you,” I said quietly.

He looked up at me, sudden hope in his eyes.  “Really?”

“Yes.  I understand.  You work for someone and you have to do what they say, even when you don’t want to.  I know how it is. I’ve never had to betray anybody, but I’ve done some pretty awful things myself.  I don’t hold that against you.”

His face fell.  “But you still can’t forgive me?”

I looked straight at him.  “You took her from me, Blythe.  You think they can keep me down here until I’m dead?  Not this time. But I can’t get her out. I have to leave Mara back in this place, because of you.  Do you understand that?” He couldn’t meet my gaze anymore. “Mara means everything to me, Blythe, everything.  And you took her from me. I’m sorry, but I can’t forgive you, not for that.”

“I understand,” he whispered.  “I don’t blame you. I wouldn’t forgive me either.”

I nodded and stood up.  “Are you going to tell them I’m escaping?”

He looked back up at me, and smiled grimly.  “No. I have to do whatever he says, but no more than that.  I won’t tell.”

“Thank you.  I’m sorry it had to end this way.”

“So am I,” he said quietly.  He turned, tapped three times on the door, and it opened.  Blythe was gone.

It took a few minutes to process everything.  At some point, I realized thinking about it wasn’t doing anything other than make my blood boil.  It was time to get out of there.

A long time ago Arlin showed me a trick to get out of the dungeons.  Not very many people knew about it, but in my line of work it is important to know things like that.  It’s pretty simple, but not really something you would get by guessing. It’s a trick with the latch and the bolt in the door.  Sometimes it took a couple of tries, especially if the door was rusty, but I had practiced. Never know when something like that will come in handy.

I did remember this trick the last time I got myself locked in the dungeons about to be killed.  But with the threat on the village I couldn’t use it. This time no one knew I was here, so it wouldn’t make a lot of sense to blame the people in the village.  Whatever happened, I was spitting mad and couldn’t stand to sit around there any longer.

It took two tries to get the latch and the bolt to slide open at the same time.  I jumped out and took down the guard in front of the door so he couldn’t alert anyone else to my escape.  I also got his sword, which was definitely a plus.

Once out I looked around.  Mara was locked away somewhere in these dungeons..  It almost killed me to leave without her. Even if I could find her before everyone knew I escaped, she’d been hurt.  I would never be able to get her out in one piece. In fact, she was probably safer locked up here. They wouldn’t want to kill her, not yet.  If she ran away with me they might just change their minds.

No matter how much I thought it would to kill me, I had to leave her in the dungeons.  I took a deep breath. Then I ran.

I was so distracted, I almost ran over one of the castle guard.  I probably would have attacked him if he hadn’t said my name in surprise and I recognized him.  “Take me to Arlin. Hurry,” I commanded. He did as told.

Arlin’s face paled in shock when he saw me.  “Robbie! What are you doing here? Why aren’t you in the forest?  I told you we’d keep you posted.”

“I know.  Things happened, I can’t explain right now.  Mara and I got caught. The gnome betrayed us.  He’s been working for the sorcerer the whole time.  I couldn’t get Mara out, she is still locked up.”

He sank into his chair.  “Wha—what? How did this all happen so fast?”

“It’s complicated.  Listen, how many men do you have, or can you get by tomorrow night?”

“By tomorrow?  150, maybe 200 tops.  If I had more time, maybe 300.”

“We don’t have more time.  How many men does Valkav have now?”

“It’s impossible to say.  Their numbers change every day.”

“Give me an estimate.”

“An estimate?  400-500.”

“Ok,” I took a moment to process that.  “Can you have your men ready by tomorrow night to fight the sorcerer?”

“Tomorrow night?  Robbie, I don’t know.  We need more time.”

“We don’t have more time.  He has Mara.”

Robbie, we don’t have the resources.  My men aren’t prepared to fight that many soldiers.  We would need something drastic.”

“How does a dragon sound?”

“A what?”

“I have a dragon.  He’s going to help us.  Would that help?”

He nodded, thunderstruck.  Dragons tend to have that affect on people.

“And if you have a dragon, can you be ready by tomorrow night?”

Arlin glanced at the other soldier who was in the room with us.  “What do you think? Can you men be ready?”

The man nodded, grinning.  “We’re ready to kick those blasted witchlovers out.  We can be ready whenever Robbie needs us.”

That made me smile.  Arlin too. “All right, then,” I said.  “Arlin, do you think you could get out to the woods tomorrow?  Meet me at the end of the tunnel at noon?”

“Yes, I can do that.”

“Good, we can finish our plans then.”

“You need to get out of the castle, for now.”

“Good plan.  It would really stink if they caught me now.”

“I’ll say.”  He walked with me to the tunnel entrance.  “I better not go in with you. Good luck. I’ll see you tomorrow, at noon.”

“Do you think you could bring me some armor when you come?  And maybe a better sword or two?”

He smiled.  “Done.”

 

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Santa Clause and the Midlife Crisis

By Laura Trude

If you’ve been delivering toys for 300-plus years and your species is only supposed to have a life expectancy of maybe 1/5 of that, you’d probably have a mental breakdown too.  Now don’t get me wrong, Santa loves his job.  He gets to invent toys and deliver them and spend all year at the toy making capitol of the world – the North Pole.  Maybe that’s his problem.  When you’re surrounded by snow and ice year round, even if there’s lots of hot chocolate and cookies, and the sky either tends to be dark, cloudy, or everlasting day, you might get depressed too.  I think that’s what happened to Santa.

He woke up as he usually did.  Mrs. Claus had already gone to get his hot chocolate and cinnamon toasted pancakes.  But Mr. Claus found he couldn’t get out of bed.  It wasn’t like he was sick, the Fountain of Youth had cured that, or that his legs didn’t work, but mentally, he couldn’t make himself get up.

“How long have I been delivering toys now?” he asked his wife as she came in with his tray of food.  

“About 300 years, dear.”  Mrs. Claus set the tray on his lap and he absentmindedly began eating.

“But what have I done, really?” he protested, through a mouthful of dough.

“You’ve brought joy to billions of children, dear.”  Mrs. Claus took a sip of her hot chocolate and sat at the desk next to his bed.

“One toy each, and they get tired of it and throw it away!  All my work, ends up in the trash.”  His fork clattered to the red, Christmas tree lined plate.  Soon, poor Mr. Claus was sobbing into his hands.

“That’s why you bring them another one next year,” Patricia rubbed her husband’s back with one hand.  “And you must admit, they’re rather excited when they see those toys at first.”

“At first, then they’re disappointed when they find out what they really are.”  Santa sobbed some more.  By now, his pancakes were getting pretty mushy.  A crowd was starting to gather by the door.

“That’s only 10% of the time.  Really, you oughtn’t cry over 10% who are so spoiled they can’t find joy in a Christmas present from my dear husband.”

“There are quite a few spoiled brats, nowadays, aren’t there?”  Santa was looking up to his wife through puffy eyes.

“There are, my dear,” Mrs. Claus patted down his matted hair.

“We ought to adopt them!” Santa sat up so quickly, his tray clattered onto the floor, spewing pieces of pancake, syrup, and hot chocolate all over his red satin quilt and matted white beard.

“Adopt them, my dear?  Are you mad?  Do you remember what happened last time you tried to adopt children?  And these ones already have parents.”  Being pragmatic, Mrs. Claus stood up and began gathering pieces of broken glass.

“Rotten parents, they are.  I know!  I ought to be a school teacher, and knock some sense into them!” Santa shook his fist and succeeded in only throwing his breakfast even further around the room.  It was like snow, except that it can get moldy.

“Knocking isn’t allowed anymore.  And who would hire you?  They do background checks nowadays and as far as they know, you don’t exist.  You’re better off here.”

 

If men always followed their wives advice, perhaps they wouldn’t be in as sticky predicaments as they are nowadays.  As you ascertained from the previous statement, Mr. Claus did indeed, not follow his wife’s advice.  First he tried creating himself an ID in the states (they were the most excited about Christmas), but the FBI didn’t seem to think “Santa Claus” could be considered a real name (in other words, he earned himself a file under the Patriot Act and was imprisoned without trial for “suspicious activities” until Gwendoline broke him from the secret army base.  Apparently, naming yourself after a supposedly fictional character can get you labeled as a terrorist).  Next, he tried forming his own school.  However, since it was in the middle of nowhere and didn’t have state licensing, he had no students.  Finally, he decided on something Mrs. Claus suggested (do what you do best): a Christmas camp.  

At first, Santa Claus was thrilled.  Not only could he teach these kids about the meaning of Christmas, but he could teach them to be grateful, to be friends, and best of all, to love his toys.  If you are a parent or grandparent, or even an older sibling, aunt or uncle, you may know that attempts at training children do not go as planned.  From day one at Santa’s Christmas camp, things were a disaster.  Many of the children who showed up either had been forced to go by parents who thought their children were too young to not believe in Santa Claus, those that were young enough to believe but not yet potty trained, and those that were only there in hopes of Christmas everyday and who clearly enjoyed Christmas and were not part of the 10% who didn’t.

“Meet the Reindeer Day” became “I peed in my pants Day;” “Create your own Toy Day” became “I poured glue in my hair and it Won’t Come Out Day;” “Dress up like an Elf” was “Who are those funny midgets in suits?  I want one, Day.”  If the camp trained one of those kids, even in the slightest, it was a miracle.  However, the camp accomplished two things.  One, it convinced Santa Claus that he did NOT want to be a teacher, EVER.  Secondly, it convinced him that he needed a vacation, not just any vacation, a vacation to someplace as unlike the North Pole as any place could possibly be.  And that meant Africa.

“Honey dear, do you want to go on a Safari with me to Africa?” Santa popped the question as Mrs. Claus was stirring up a batch of brownies.

“Africa?  And kill all those beautiful animals?  Hmprh.” She turned her back, clearly not in a good mood since one of Santa’s campers smeared reindeer poop all over her kitchen.

“What else is there to do there?”  Remember, Santa hadn’t spent much time in the real world since Great Britain was an imperialist country and ruled most of the world.  His remarks would have been perfectly ordinary 300 years ago, when most noblemen went to Africa for just such sport.  However, this wasn’t 300 years ago.

“You could just admire their beauty as live animals.  Trust me, they’re much prettier when they’re moving.  Take reindeer, for example.  You would hardly like to see one of those heads on the wall.”  Mrs. Claus finished fixing her batter and poured it into a large pan, smoothing off the top before placing it into the oven to bake for sixty minutes.  “What about Antarctica?  I’ve always wanted to see Emperor Penguins.”

“Brr, it’s cold enough in the North Pole, thank you.  I need to go someplace warm.”

So that’s why Santa Claus ended up going to Africa alone and got kidnaped by terrorists who thought he was an American (and they were partially right).  Once again, he did not listen to Mrs. Claus.  He ended up spending his vacation in a tiny jail cell, very hot, with little water, his face getting redder and redder while the United States figured out that Santa had escaped from their prison and why was this terrorist being held by other terrorists?  Unfortunately for Santa, the United States decided that either this was a trick by terrorists or Santa was from another faction who didn’t get along with the one who had kidnaped him, so Santa did not get rescued until his vacation time expired and the elves started looking for him (Mrs. Claus did not look first because she was still mad at him).

You would think that after this many adventures, Santa Claus would settle down and be Santa for another 300 years, but actually, all that Santa had accomplished from his expeditions was to finally recognize that perhaps Mrs. Claus had some wisdom after all.  So he went to Antarctica with her (which was quite a relief after three months in an African prison), was enamored by the beauty of the place, calmed down somewhat, met some really kind children thanks to Mrs. Claus’s connections, and decided to give Christmas another chance.  One incident in particular made him decide that perhaps bringing toys was a good occupation.

Santa was creeping away from the Christmas tree with his sack when a little girl peeped up from the couch.

“Santa Claus!”  The girl, probably three or four, jumped up and down in her lacy pink nightgown and ran over to Santa.  “What is it?”  She picked up the box the old man had just placed under the tree and shook it (she must have been peeking).

Santa’s hard features softened into a wide, melty grin.  He walked back to her, put one arm over her shoulder and whispered, “Why don’t you find out?”

The little girl practically jumped on his foot as she tumbled onto the floor and began ripping open the paper of her very own package.  Inside, she found a long white box taped on one side.  She looked up to Santa Claus with two very sweet brown eyes.  She couldn’t get the box open.  Santa set his bag on the floor and pulled out a pocket knife.  With one stroke, he slit open the tape.  “It’s made so you need help,” he whispered.  Gingerly, the little girl opened the box and pulled out a little doll who looked just like her.

“Dolly!” she yelled and ran around the room laughing, her doll flying with her through the air.  Footsteps sounded in the hall.  Quickly, Santa picked up his bag and lumbered back to the fireplace.  As he was making his way up, he overhead the parents talking.

“Oh, what did you get?” The mommy asked.

“Santa brought me, brought me, a dolly!” the girl squealed.

The dad yawned and then smiled knowingly at the mom, “That was a nice gift for him to get.”

That was all Santa heard before he was back on the roof and back in his sleigh.  But that was all he needed to hear.  For in that moment, he realized that if he changed one person’s life for the better, even just by making the parents smile with their child’s joy, being Santa Claus was worth it all.  Even the mental crisis.

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The Rebellion of the Elves

by Laura Trude

    Karl Marx was right about a lot of things.  For instance, did you know that he was one of the first people to point out that united, people have a lot of power?  You have to remember, he first wrote this when the Industrial Revolution was just getting underway.  This was back in the days when most people generally subsisted on what they made themselves.  What they couldn’t make, they got from others who pretty much lived the same way.  Some people made shoes, others produced food, clothes, and various other necessities and frivolities.  It may be hard to imagine in today’s consumerist economy, but that’s about all people needed for the last millennium: clothes, food, and water.  If you had your own land, you could probably take care of all these needs yourself.  Grow some cotton or buy some sheep, and you could make clothes.  Get some seeds, till some soil, and there’s your dinner, assuming you have some trees or shit to burn (I mean this literally; cow dung makes excellent fuel, minus the smell).  Dig a well (or not), and there’s your water supply.  All the basic needs of life, taken care of right there.

    Granted, you may insist you need a Sealey mattress, or a light bulb, even a stove or internet connection, but you don’t really, because people have gotten by without those things for thousands and thousands of years.  That brings me back to Karl Marx.  You see, if that’s all people need, then obviously the people who produce things like food and clothing should have a lot of say in the goings on of the world.  If the fancy-ass landlords who live on cheese and caviar, sitting on their silken couches embroidering pillows, decide not to be very nice to their field workers, well guess what?  Those field workers decide to stop producing food and their idolatrous overseers starve to death.  Or better yet, the workers (who far outnumber the gentry) band together, burn down the nobleman’s house, and take over the land for themselves.  At least, that was the theory.  

    The elves were having a lovely time in their North Pole hideaway.  They drank hot chocolate, designed toys, sled down mounds of ice, made toys, and celebrated Christmas all year-round.  Like the peasants, they could deal with their lot in life, even enjoyed it, as they actually had free time, unlike many peasants.  They were the happy elves you see in all the cartoons, until two things happened: one, an increase in the world’s population; two, the invention of the television.

    The papers always write about the effect of overpopulation on the environment.  Will we have enough food to feed seven billion people?  Where will they live?  What will happen to the animals driven into dwindling forests to make way for housing subdivisions?  And most importantly, will our natural resources (especially oil) be enough?  What you never hear about is the effect of overpopulation on the North Pole.  With more people, you have to produce more toys; more toys means longer hours; longer hours means unhappy workers.

    First, the elves had to cut short their two hour lunch break.  Since the elves live in the North Pole, that lunch break was often the only daylight they saw, i.e. the only time to play outside.  The hockey went, then the figure skating, then the ice-fishing, and pretty soon they were drinking their hot chocolate on the job!  It wasn’t enough.  

    Elves, you remember, are very vain creatures.  If they make something, they want to do it well.  They want it to be their own craftsmanship and make the quality of their work a point of pride.  Thus, Santa’s announcement came as a bit of a shock.

    “My dear toy makers, I’m afraid I have some terrible news.  Even with all your hard labor, production cannot keep up with all the wonderful new children being brought into the world around the earth.”  Santa Claus looked as if his dearest friend had just died.  The elves felt worse.  He at least could still go around Christmas Eve as he always had, delivering toys to most of the girls and boys.  It wouldn’t be his fault if a few of them got shorted: toy production was the job of the elf.  The elves grumbled amongst themselves as Santa took a big breath.

    “As a result, I have decided we will mechanize.”  His face was grave as he made this announcement.  Like the elves, he felt that this was a betrayal of one of the fundamentals of Christmas theology.  Wasn’t a much greater gift to be given something someone had made?  

    “What?!”

    “You can’t do that!”

    “We won’t be turned into factory workers!”  The elves were outraged.  Santa leaned against his wife as the crowd of elves surged forward.

    “Peace!  Peace!” cried the head elf.  “You know we can’t meet the quota.  What other choice to we have?”  Mobs, unfortunately, are not swayed by reason. Runton Felbriggs discovered this as he watched his house burn to the ground. Emmanuel Lipman learned this lesson after negotiating failed and workers destroyed his factory. Keith Frogson never learned this lesson, because he died before he had a chance to learn it.  Looking throughout history, I have seen the same pattern repeated again and again.  King Louis XVI guillotined by his French countrymen. Gobel Babelin burnt under suspicions of being a witch.  And the North Pole elves’ revolt.  You see, the intelligence of a mob can always be measured by its angriest, loudest, and often, least learned member.  One angry shout, and the entire balance of the crowd is swayed.  Santa didn’t even have time to grab his naughty and nice list.

    “Down with the machines!”

    “Down with mindless activity!” (The elves didn’t even notice the irony)

    “Down with Christmas!”

In some cultures, “down with” is a phrase equivalent to “I’m groovy with.”  This phrase originated with the onset of disco dancing in the mid-1970s, when “dancing” meant “shaking your bottom and bending your knees as much as possible without losing your balance.”  In the Christmas of the elves’ rebellion, “down with” found its parallel in Shakespeare’s play, Julius Caesar, “Down with Julius Caesar!”  If you are familiar with the play, you may remember that Caesar was killed shortly thereafter.  Thankfully, Santa was not.

    “Run for the sleigh!” Santa Claus shouted to his wife.

    “After his sled!” ordered on slightly less intelligent member of the elven species.

    “Stop the reindeer!” amended another.

    “He’s escaping!”

    “What do we care?  We’re on strike!”

    “Elves on strike!  Elves on strike!”

I’m sure they went on like that for quite a while, but I wouldn’t know, because I was on the sleigh with Santa.

    “Santa, dear?”  Mrs. Claus was snuggled tight under a polar-bear blanket.

    “Yes, honey?” Santa looked understandably distracted.

    “What do we do now?”  Indeed, what would they do?  Without the elves making the toys, there would be no Christmas.  Before, they had been behind on production, but now the elves weren’t producing anything at all!

    “Who else makes toys?” I asked.

    “Well, factories, I suppose.” Santa Claus mumbled.

    “Then let’s approach them.”

By the time we reached New York City, word of the elves strike had spread to the local newspapers.  Santa called the suppliers of FAO Schwartz as soon as we landed.

    “Schwartz and Company?”

    “How can I be of service?” replied the operator.

    “I need to put in an order.”

The elves declared it a betrayal.  Santa called it saving Christmas.  Mrs. Claus was only happy to have something to do.  I felt awful.  What is it called when one betrays one’s own species?  Oh yes, treason.  

    While the elves were striking at every street corner, Santa had the factories installed.  I suppose he had good reason for it.  The elves weren’t around to object, he had already said he would to the same, and production, like a show, must go on.  Sometimes I wonder if Santa was right to place his first loyalties with children he hardly knew rather than friends with which he spent everyday.  Other days, I think that perhaps Santa was merely getting on with the inevitable in hopes that the sooner the factories were installed, the sooner the elves would realize their stupidity.  After all, how could they produce any more toys than they already were producing?

    That’s when I thought of Santa Claus’s magical timer.  You know, the one he uses to get to all those houses on Christmas Eve.  Why couldn’t we use it and make the year longer?  We could make it as long as we needed to produce enough toys for every girl and boy.  I passed the word on to the leader of the rebellion.

    “The magical timer?”

    “Yeah, why can’t we use it?”

    “Won’t it only work for Santa Claus or something?”

    “Why shouldn’t he work it for us?  He only conceded the factories because we didn’t have enough time.”

Whispers of the elves new idea floated quickly to Santa’s ears.

    “The magical timer, eh?” he appeared to think about it.

    “Yes, why can’t we use it?” I waited hopefully.  If this didn’t work, what would happen to the elves?  Would they come work in the factories?  Would Santa hire new workers?  Wouldn’t they demand wages?  How would Santa pay them?

    “Wouldn’t you get tired of 500 days between Christmases?  Or more?” Santa stared me down.  He wanted an honest answer.  He hadn’t installed those factories for nothing.  He had probably thought of the magical timer before…  I didn’t know what to say.  I couldn’t think for my fellow elves.  As for myself…  I remembered back to the days of long afternoons of ice skating, snow ball tournaments, and sticky-gooey candies perfected by generations of elven grandmothers.  If we could make the year longer, we could make it long enough to return to our two hour lunch periods and finish all the toys, elven-fashion.  I replied carefully.

    “A long time ago, the elves pledged their allegiance to your mission of bringing toys to the good girls and boys of the world.  Before then, we had very little to do but carve figurines from whale bones during the long winter hours and provide enough food and fuel to sustain us.  But you brought something more to our lives.  Making toys for children, bringing smiles to the world, that gave us, or me at least, a purpose.  Not only were we able to make a difference in the world, not only our own little space of it, mind you, but the world, we learned new things, had enough food for once, could spend time having fun, making hot cocoa, smashing each other with snow balls.”  I took a deep breath, “Santa, as long as you make enough time for us to enjoy our lives, to have both a purpose, making toys, and, time to laugh and play, I, for my lot, am satisfied.”

    “Well spoken, my dear friend.”  Santa looked at me for a long time, with that steady-gaze peering into your soul type of look.  I remained calm and stared back, knowing that my words were true, and realizing something else as well.  Perhaps Karl Marx had had a similar realization as well.  It’s not just food and clothing that make this life, but purpose, love, and fun.  If you merely work your whole life and don’t do anything useful with it, or take the time to enjoy this life with friends and family, what’s the point?  Aren’t you then no better than a cog in a factory?  “My friend, if you are willing, will you deliver this message to your fellow elves?  ‘With the magical timer, Santa Claus can make enough time in the year so that the elves can make all the toys this world ever needs, and time for your two hour lunches.  If this proposal meets your agreement, I, Santa Claus, will personally oversee the removal of the FAO Schwartz factories.  Won’t you please join with me again in bringing smiles to the world and forgive my clouded heart?  In seeking to save Christmas, I forgot what’s important: friends.’  Does that sound good?  Will you deliver it?”  Santa suddenly looked old, beyond his 200 plus years.

    I agreed that his message would likely meet the approval of my colleagues and ventured into their camp to deliver it.  I was surprised to find everyone gathered around a large electronic screen with some moving images on it.  Everything else around them was a mess, an absolute mess.  Yes, in their free time, the elves had discovered television.  I was certainly glad to deliver my message.  Even then, it took quite a speech to remind them that life did not consist in pictures on a screen, but in living it.  Eventually they returned to the North Pole, which thankfully has absolutely no reception (and thankfully, the elves had yet to discover the use of the satellite dish).

    With time, the factories were removed, snow covered their foundations, and life as an elf returned back to normal.  Time again for hours of sledding, time again for Aunt Silvia’s nuclear gingerbread cookies, time again for life.  Too bad the rest of the world doesn’t have a magical timer, too.

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Santa Clause and the Fountain of Youth

By Laura Trude

Well, now my friends are curious about Santa Claus’s encounter with the Fountain of Youth.  As I said, Santa Claus had set up shop in the North Pole and the elves had adopted a European decorating scheme.  The town witch doctor had managed to make the resident reindeer fly and the current head elf at the time was busy directing tree-cutting operations, since wooden toys were all the rage back then.  This was Santa’s thirtieth Christmas as the spreader of universal Christmas joy (which only included European countries back then), and Santa was starting to realize he was over-the-hill.  

    Us elves had a huge celebration for his fiftieth birthday.  We had the entire village decked out in red streamers and icicles and the wife of the head elf, Mitzkuvit (she was named before European names became popular), baked Santa a cake that was a life-size version of himself.  Santa took one look at that cake and cried.  At first we thought it was because he was so happy (Mitzkuvit was sure beaming), but then we realized it was something else.  See, we elves, since we live a few hundred years, thought turning fifty was like becoming a full-fledged adult.  For Santa, turning fifty meant he might die at any moment (this was before modern medicine).  He began wondering who would take over when he was gone and couldn’t bear to think that Christmas might not be celebrated any longer (this tradition had been going on for thirty years now, remember, although he needn’t really have worried, because we elves could certainly have done the job.  Although, we had become rather fond of this fat red man with a beard, as fond of him as he was of frosted sugar cookies).  

    Aunt Eloviouse, our town witch doctor, was the first person to realize Santa Claus’s predicament.  She stabbed Santa on the toe with her whale-bone cane and muttered, “Stop whining and find yourself a replacement.”  That began Santa’s journey to find a Santa Claus in-training.  Eloviouse used the same magic she whips up to determine the naughty and nice list to find herself some good candidates for a new Santa Claus.

    That Christmas Eve, while Santa was making his rounds, rather than leaving the house as quietly and quickly as possible (after devouring the cookies and milk left for him), Santa began waking up those Aunt Eloviouse considered potential new Santa Clauses.  Some of them thought he was an intruder and rung the police.  Others thought they were dreaming and went back to bed.  A few took his offer seriously, but then explained to him that they had far too many responsibilities at home to take up such a job.  Then he found Patricia Wade.  She was a lovely middle-aged lady, who had never got around to marrying, but made things for all the children in the neighborhood as if they were her own.  And she made scrumptious sprinkled sugar cookies.  Santa fell in love and soon they were married.  The problem was, she was almost as old as him, too old to have children, so the search for the new Santa continued the next Christmas.

    Mrs. Claus suggested he try the little children at the orphanages.  They were young enough to believe him and didn’t have any connections to leave behind (unless they had siblings at the orphanage with them).  The problem was, he couldn’t just wake up one child, because all the children slept in the same room.  And if he were to take one, the orphanage would cry “murder!” or “kidnapper!” as soon as they found out.  Thus, Santa decided to adopt a child.

    As you can guess, this didn’t work out.  See, social workers don’t consider old people suitable parents.  “But what about all those poor children stuck in orphanages?” you ask.  These social workers are so picky about who’s good enough to take care of a child, that no one takes care of them.  At least, that used to be the case.  Since then, things have changed, and since then, Santa Claus found the Fountain of Youth.

    “So how did we get from adopting a child to the Fountain of Youth?” you ask.  While Mr. and Mrs. Claus were being frustrated by adoption services, Aunt Eloviouse was looking for alternatives.  As much as she didn’t like to admit it, she had become rather fond of the old man and was worried that she wouldn’t feel nearly the same way about a new Santa Claus.  She still had another 200 years to live, remember.  So she got in touch with all her witch doctor friends (well, more like colleagues then friends; they didn’t get along very well), and soon extracted some information from one of them in Brazil about the Fountain of Youth.

    “Okay, okay!  So I have heard something!” Meveir admitted, his dark face cringing in Eloviouse’s bowl of ice water.

    “Oh?”  Eloviouse’s face looked so dangerous, she didn’t need to say any more than that.

    “They say,” Meveir whispered, his face closing in on the glass, “deep in the forest, past spiders and scorpions, mind you, lies the Fountain of Youth.  The Incas tapped into this holy place long ago and paid dearly for it.  Remember how they were all wiped out by the Europeans?”

    “That’s old history, Meveir.  And it wasn’t really the Europeans as much as it was the micro-organisms they carried,” Eloviouse smirked at him.

    “Fine, fine,” Meveir grimaced.  “I just can’t stand the thought of something so tiny killing off so many of my ancestors.”

    “So you say this water will cause someone to live eternally?” Eloviouse brought him back to the point.

    “Well, I’m not sure if it’s the water exactly, and as I said, it didn’t work for the Incas.  Some say you can only have a very good reason for drinking the water, otherwise…” Meveir looked off into the distance.  Eloviouse nodded her head, images of sick and dying Incans crowding her thoughts.  What if that happened to the elves?

    “So it’s only a last resort, really.”

    “Hmph, yes,” Meveir looked tired.  Perhaps the connection was draining him.

    “Well, if you’re going to die soon anyway, what do you have to lose?”  Eloviouse decided that it could have nothing to do with the elves.  It was Santa they wanted eternal life for, giver of toys.  The elves lived long enough; there was no need to threaten a plague.  “Tell us how to get there.”

    Thus, Santa soon found himself on the way to the Amazon, with Aunt Eloviouse and Mrs. Claus in tow (“There’s no way I want to live forever without my wife,” he insisted.  “I’ll go with him to the death,” Mrs. Claus trembled).  On the way, they found cacao beans, which soon became an important part of Christmas, especially as carried on by the tradition of chocolate Santa Clauses.  As you know, Santa Claus didn’t die (because Christmas still goes on), and so the chocolate version of himself became a symbol of how fortunate he was to have the opportunity to continue bringing Christmas cheer (and then you eat it – I wonder what that means?  That we can all take a bite out of happiness?  Or perhaps that we can share in it?).  

    Once Eloviouse met up with Meveir, he led them deep into the jungle (well, not that deep, because then he freaked out and was either eaten by a poisonous snake or still wanders around screaming in the jungle to this day; they weren’t really sure which).  With the ancient Incan map still to guide them (which, unbeknownst to Eloviouse, Meveir had acquired at great price because he was really fond of her; too bad he never had a chance to tell her that….), they found their way to the Fountain of Youth.  Now the Fountain of Youth doesn’t look exactly like a fountain you may think of, with the bowl of water and sprayer shooting from the top.  The word “fountain” comes from the Latin “fontanus,” which means “a spring.”  Indeed, inside the cave was a spring issuing from the rock into a basin, about the size of a kiddie pool.

    “Can this be it?” Mrs. Claus asked.  I gather it didn’t look as ornate as she had imagined it.  You know, when something is given a really fancy name like, the “Fountain of Youth,” you expect it to be gorgeous.  Perhaps she had imagined a marble pedestal with lion heads carved into it, or at least lots of tiles on the wall forming a picture of Eden (I wonder if pointillism emerged from tile art?).  There were a few carvings on the wall though, writing of some sort.  

    “Can you read that?” Santa asked Aunt Eloviouse.

    “Unfortunately, no,” Eloviouse was inspecting around the fountain carefully.  Santa held his torch closer.  “That doesn’t help, because I don’t know the language.  Now if Meveir was here…”  Just then, they heard a scream in the jungle.

    “Perhaps we don’t want him here,” Mrs. Claus suggested nervously.

    “Right.”  Aunt Eloviouse paused.  “Now I’m going to try an incantation.”  So she raised her arms above the spring and chanted some words that I wouldn’t in a thousand years understand.  Mrs. Claus eyed the cave entrance nervously, as if wondering whether a maniac Meveir might enter at any moment, or some other dangerous creature.  Santa was staring closely at the fountain, and so he was the first to notice a silver figure appearing in the mist.

    She, if it was a she, looked like an exotic form of man.  Her hair waved about her like sea tentacles in the mist and her slender figure was covered in a veil which disappeared below her knees into the pool of water.  Her eyes were a very lustrous blue, which glowed slightly, and the rest of her nearly blended in the water behind her.  Eloviouse gasped and sank to the ground.  

    When the water-figure first spoke, no one could understand her.  Then her words modulated and rang through the shallow cave like a clear bell.  “Drinkers, beware.  This water springs only for the deserving.  It does not promise eternal gladness, only a life free from the detriments of age and disease, not a violent death.  It is for you to choose, and choose carefully.  For those who aren’t considered worthy, will die most painfully.”  The figure vanished.  Mrs. Claus clung tightly to Santa’s elbow and Eloviouse rose slowly from the ground.  

    Santa Claus threw back his shoulders and uncurled his sloping spine, “I am not afraid.”  He put his right hand over his wife’s where she held his elbow, and walked to the fountain.  He disentangled himself from her grip, cupped his hands into the water, and took a long, deep, drink.

    Now there are many brave deeds in the world, but I consider this one of the bravest.  Don’t get me wrong, jumping in front of a train is not brave, but stupid.  Risking your life to save someone else’s, is brave.  But Santa, while he may not have had much longer to live, not only risked his life, but devoted his life to others’ happiness.  You may not always be happy with the toys Santa Claus brings you, but that does not stop him.  He continues to bring toys to children around the world, expanding his business every year.  Did you know, he was even giving to African slaves before slavery was considered illegal?  He cared about them even when no one else did.  But not only did he decide to give to others during his lifetime, he decided to extend that life by an eternity, so he could keep on giving.  That to me, shows courage.

    “Well, I’m not dead yet,” Santa chuckled.  Mrs. Claus smiled at him and then took a step closer.  He kissed her on the cheek and then stood aside so she could get to the fountain.  Eloviouse held her breath.  Mrs. Claus cupped her wrinkled fingers, lowered them into the water, and raised them to her rosy-red lips.  She took a sip.  Nothing happened.  Mrs. Claus ran into Santa’s arms where he embraced her fiercely.  

    “Don’t celebrate yet,” Aunt Eloviouse cautioned them.  “He didn’t say the stuff would kill you right away.  And we still have that jungle to get through.”

    But as you already know, they arrived home safely, with lots of cacao beans, and lived together very happily until Santa had his mental breakdown.  But that’s another story.

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Santa Clause of the Universe

Attention Lovely Readers:

In case you had not noticed from the name of this chapter this post is NOT part of Happily Ever After (gasp).  This is in fact the work of the lovely Laura Trude, a fellow fantasy and short story writer.  She has written four Christmas stories with we will be posting this month in place of HEA.

So without further Adieu….

Santa Clause of the Universe

By Laura Trude

 

A thousand years from now, on a planet far away, lies the north pole: of the galaxy, that is.  Santa Clause not only has a single planet full of toys to deliver, but hundreds.  He has devoted the resources of an entire world to that end (he had to expand his business a bit), innovated the rules of the space-time continuum to allow him enough time to deliver over a trillion toys in six hours, and has a dozen rocket-scientists on staff, devoted to the creation and upkeep of his intergalactic sleigh.  

How did Old Saint Nick become the Santa Clause of the Universe, you ask?  Well, I’m the perfect person to ask, because I’m the head elf of this particular operation.  Where should I start?  With the discovery of the fountain of youth that has allowed Santa to maintain his charming over-the-hill looks?  To his mental breakdown upon the realization that he would have yet another thousand years of delivering toys when it had gotten old after five-hundred?  With the first genetic cloning of reindeer after they became extinct (sorry, they don’t live forever, although we do tend to give them the same names as their predecessors; in fact, we have an entire school devoted to the training of these fine creatures; they feel so honored when they get selected to be Blitzen the 200th)?  Or perhaps with the removal of the North Pole Enterprises to the stars?  Hmph; my wife tells me I should begin at the beginning, where all good stories start.

Well, about fifteen-hundred years ago, there was this man named Nicholas, who was later declared a saint by the Catholic church.  Actually, one pope de-sanctified him and said Nicholas had never existed, but later popes realized that particular pope, well, he wasn’t quite right in the head.  This Saint Nick liked to give toys to the children on the eve of Christ’s birth, or what they figured it to be.  Well, he did this for a while, but then he got pretty old and, sad to say it, he died.  A few hundred years later, Santa Clause was born.  My ancestor elves tell me that he was an inventor born somewhere in Europe and had a fascination with Saint Nicholas.  One day, while working on a new toy, he had a vision of himself as the Saint Nicholas of the world.  

“How on earth could I do this?” he asked the angel in his vision.  Because before, Old Saint Nick just gave out toys to the children he could reach in one night on foot, which wasn’t very many.  

“Find the North Pole,” the angel replied.  “There you will find the answers you seek.”  Well, Santa had heard something about this North Pole, but as far as he knew, it was just some theoretical place, like the Fountain of Youth (which he later found out wasn’t so theoretical, although you did have to have a very good reason in order to be granted eternal, or nearly eternal, life; apparently giving toys to lots of children counts).  This was well before anyone had explored much north of the St. Lawrence River, and the North Pole was only known as “the place where your compass points.”  Santa, God bless him, had faith in his vision and sold his toy shop to charter a ship to the northernmost point of Canada he could get to (which was then controlled by the British Empire).  Needless to say, the journey was rather rough and more than one crew member perished from dysteria on the voyage over.  Santa found out he was seasick.  

From there, he bought some skis from the Dutch and a polar bear fur coat (which unfortunately became died bright red due to an accident at the onset of his journey) and headed north with his compass.  Compasses were still rather new, but thankfully he had learned how to use one from the sailors aboard the ship.  They took rather a liking to this odd fellow, especially since he could make almost anything from scraps of wood and nails, or whatever else they had lying around.  After many close calls with wintery storms in the middle of summer and Caribou, Santa Clause found us elves.  We were living in igloos back then and mainly lived by hunting seals and in our free time, enjoyed carving pieces of bone.  When Santa Clause found us, he collapsed on the ground and praised heaven.  Unfortunately, we thought he was a demon who had come to kill us by muttering a curse and nearly slaughtered him then and there (Sorry, Santa Clause!).  Thankfully, my great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great Aunt Eloviouse, who was known as something of the town witch doctor, had had an alternative vision; rather than coming to kill us, this strange red man (he had gotten sunburn from the arctic snow-glare) had come to bring joy to the world.

From there, things were pretty much history, minus a few confusions while the language barrier was still being worked out.  He explained his vision and we set about making a European village while our witch doctor worked out the magic.  Of course, we’ve made a few modifications since then; our fascination with candy canes completely changed the decor, and of course we added Rudolph a while back (which we replaced with a red electric lamp when he died, although we kept the reindeer for quite a while, even after they were “extinct” as I said, because they had become something of a tradition).  Then, to make the actual toys, we had to do some fund-raising after electronics became popular.  You just can’t make an I-Pod without some fancy technological equipment and sand for the microprocessors, which we don’t have in the north pole.  Plus the whole “training up” bit.  Thankfully, Santa was quite good at making his own inventions and pretty soon, we were patenting popular toys that toymakers were buying up world-wide like a seal swims for water when a polar bear is after it.

“Go on, go on,” my wife says.  Okay, we’ll skip a few hundred years.

Like I said at the beginning, North Pole Enterprises had to expand.  With the population boom and the populating the galaxy thing, we had to build a spaceship.  Pretty soon, we needed a new world to ourselves.  Something more central, something with room to work so we could actually meet our quota.  Then we found Lazarus.

I wasn’t actually there when they found it; this was still a few hundred years before my time.  My great-great grandfather was on the crew though, Old John Huxley V.  Santa had sent out exploratory teams to find us our very own home-world.  The nano-processor had made us rich enough to send the teams, and boy, we needed the space.  We were living twenty bunks to a room originally created for two, working elbow-to-elbow as fast as we could, even with our robotic helpers, we just couldn’t make enough toys to give to everyone on the nice list.  Oh, that cut Santa’s heart.  Eventually he had to raise the standards.  And with the polar ice caps melting, we had to leave the pole, or sink.

The teams were heading towards the outskirts of the populated galaxy.  Santa Clause figured there might still be some good planets left there and before long, the outer-rim would become the inner-circle, and we’d be right at the center of things again.  Well, some elves found rocky worlds with lots of resources and others found ones with poisonous plant life; one found a tropical world, but that just didn’t seem right after evolving for a few thousand years on a sheet of ice.  It was my great-great-grandfather’s group who found the perfect place: a mountainous world with year-round snow.  The space-geographers had labeled it Lazarus; we dubbed it, the North Pole.  Unlike those feeble telescope-burners, we didn’t mind the cold.  The cold meant hot chocolate, snowball fights, ice-skating, and of course, sledding, my favorite past-time activity (and Santa’s as well; he got kinda tired of skiing after that very long trip to the original magnetized toy land).

There, we built our very own Frosty Metropolis, everyone had their own house, we had huge factories, and eventually we spread out to the suburbs of Chocolate Lake and Icicleville.  We began producing toys again on a massive scale after our initial immigration, and soon, we were prepared to take up our roles as the premiere toy-makers of Christmas cheer for another thousand years.  That, my friends, is the story of how Old Saint Nick became the Santa Clause of the Universe.

 

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