Wednesday, August 31, 2005

The trial begins

“Who accuses this woman of witchcraft?” the judge asked.

The farmer stood.

“I do.”

“What did she do?”

“Well,” the farmer said, “You know my farm has always been good.”

From the looks of it, that farm hasn’t been good in years.

“But this year,” the farmer continued, “nothing is growing. You all have that problem.”

Many of the men in the room shook their heads.

“I knew something was wrong,” the farmer said. “Then one night I heard music in the woods.

“I went to find out what was wrong. I took my guard dog, Kaiser. You know he’s tear the arm off anyone who dared come on my land.

“Well, in the woods we saw a fire. We got near, and I saw women dancing. They were naked.”

The farmers all looked at Anna, hungry looks in their eyes. She blushed.

Nicholas started to react, but I shook my head.

“I, I saw them bring out a child,” the farmer went on. “The child was screaming.”

He started to cry. A fine job of acting, I thought.

“I wanted to do something, but I was afraid. I thought of running away.

“But I knew I had to do something. I said, `Go save the child, Kaiser.’ He ran toward the circle where they were dancing. I couldn’t see him in the brush. I started running toward them. Then I heard Kaiser yelp. He ran past me, away form them. Then I saw people moving in the woods toward me. And animals. There were bears. And wolves. And some of the people were changing into animals.”

He stopped and sobbed. The priest patted him on the back. The other men in the room all looked at him sympathetically.

“Go on,” the judge said.

“Kaiser and I ran all the way home. I closed the door and prayed and prayed. We heard sounds outside, but no one came in. In the morning, all my chickens were dead. My cow was dry. Kaiser began to lose weight. Oh, but he was still a good guard dog.

“Then yesterday, that woman came to my gate. You all know Kaiser. He bites anyone except me. Well, she walked right up to the gate, said some strange words, and Kaiser just lay there. He even let her touch him.

“I was in the barn, working, when I saw her. I was about to say something, when it hit me she looked familiar.

“That’s when I remembered. She was one of the ones dancing naked in the woods. She was dancing a witch dance. Naked.”

Now the men really began to look at Anna with hunger.

“She’s a witch. How else would she have such control over Kaiser?”

The priest rose.

I have heard many such tales,” he said. ”The power of the evil one is very strong. That is why our people get sick, our crops fail, our animals die. Even the forest is touched by evil. Trees are dying. How many wild animals have wandered into town? ”

The crowd murmured.

I stood.

“May I speak?”

“I saw him in the woods,” the farmer yelled. “He was the leader. He’s the devil!”

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Putting a plan in motion

Morning came.

I was used to the birds on my farm singing in the morning light.

Here, there was only silence.

The sunlight streamed in through the window.

I watched a spider spinning a web in a corner of the room. There was a pile of dirt and dust below his web.

Just what I needed.

Our jailer arrived a short time later. He brought more bread and water.

“The judge will see you in an hour,” he snarled, and left.

“Instead of pouring it out, give me the water,” I said, handing Nicholas my little flask.

I took the water and went into the corner.

“What are you doing?” Nicholas asked as he chewed on the stale bread.

“I like to leave behind messages wherever I go,” I said. I smiled at him and shrugged. “It’s one of my quirks.”

“You are a strange man,” he said, smiling. “Carrying on conversations with yourself, throwing your voice, making ink out of dirt and water.”

I chuckled, then started to mix the soil and water in my hand, making a thin, black mud.

When it was the right consistency, I went to the window and began to write on the sill.

“What kind of letters are those?” Nicholas asked, looking over my shoulder.

“Runes,” I said. “I learned them in my travels.”

I didn’t tell him I learned them from the elves.

“No one will understand them,” he said.

“That’s part of the pleasure. It will puzzle them.”

“But might they think they’re wizard letters?”

“Perhaps. But I think we will be free before any of the villagers see it.”

Or, I hoped, none of them would see it – but my elves would.

“What are you writing?” he asked.

“Oh, I think it’s something you’d consider nonsense. But this last one is my name.”

I hoped he wouldn’t keep pressing. Fortunately, we heard the constable returning.

We left the window and went to the door.

The door opened.

“The judge waits.”

We followed him out into the hall. He opened Anna’s cell. Nicholas approached her to hug her. The constable snarled.

“Stay away from the witch.”

“That must still be proven,” I said.

I could see Nicholas getting upset.

“Keep quiet before the judge,” I whispered. “Let me talk.”

“Quiet you two,” the constable snapped.

He led us out of the jail. A small crowd stood waiting.

“There’s the witch!”

“I’ve got fire wood waiting!”

“Let’s not waste time on a trial!”

“We have to do it right,” the constable growled.

We entered the town hall. It was filled.

Sitting in the front of the hall was a tall, thin man. At first, I thought it was the priest, but then I saw the priest enter from a side door with the farmer.

It suddenly dawned on me: the priest, the judge, and the farmer were all relatives.

I looked about the room, and saw several windows, all of them open.


“Let the trial begin,” the judge said.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Covering for an oops (part 8)

“Sorry if I woke you up,” I said.

“Who were you talking to,” he said in a low voice.

“Who? Do you see anyone here?”

“I heard you.”

I then played a trick on him.

I held up my hand, moved it like a mouth talking, and using ventriloquism, I said in a high, elf-like voice, “Of course you heard me.”

“What kind of magic is this?” He gasped.

“It’s no magic. It’s a skill you can learn, like juggling. It’s called throwing your voice.”

“Throwing your voice? How can you throw your voice? Isn’t that magic?”

“No at all. By moving my hand like this” I then moved it like a mouth again, and continued in the same high voice, “I can make you think my hand is talking.”

I put my hand down and said in the same voice, “But when I put my hand down, part of the trick is gone, and you can plainly see that it is me.

“But,” I added in my own voice, “if you thought it was magic, they might, too. I’d better be careful.”

“It''s a trick? Where did you learn such a trick?”

“Oh, I’ve known a few traveling performers in my time. I’ve also learned to juggle, and to play some different musical instruments. I could teach you.”

“Maybe later,” he said, finally relaxing. “But this is not the place.”


“Do you have any tricks that will get us out of here?”

“I could get us out, but then we’ll never be able to help these people.”

“At this point, should we?”

“Everyone deserves help, no matter how misguided they are.”

“I agree,” Anna said from her cell.

“Let’s just wait to see why they think you are a witch,” I said.

“We used to joke that she was a witch,” Nicholas said. “She had a way with animals. I’ve seen her charm squirrels out of trees, and get birds to land on her hand to eat.”

I thought of the bees when she gathered honey. And that dog on the way here.

“It took work. I would spend days on each squirrel getting them so they wouldn’t be afraid.”

“It takes patience, not magic,” I said.

“Yes,” she said.

I thought of the dog.

He was a large dog. A guard dog. Yet he had acted like a puppy with her.

I had an idea.

I just hoped I could tell it to my elves in time.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

In jail! (part 7)

“A witch!” Nicholas exclaimed, his face red. “Why, I’ve…”

I put my hand on his arm.

“Let’s just go along peacefully,” I said. “We will work this out.”


I shook my head. Nicholas sighed loudly, but said nothing.

“Wise decision,” the constable snarled. “Come this way.”

By this time, a few people had come out into the street. I heard a few mutter, “Witch” and a couple said, “The plague.”

I did not like the sound of that.

By the time the constable got us to the jail, there was a small crowd.

“If we burn the witch, the plague will end,” someone shouted.

“There will be no burning until there’s been a trial,” she constable growled.

He led us into the back area, putting Anna Kristina in one cell, and Nicholas and me in another.

“Excuse me, sir,” I said. “This is all a mistake. Probably just a misunderstanding. Can we know why she is accused?”

“The only mistake you made was coming to our town,” he said. “We know how to deal with witches.”

With that, he left.

“My sister is no witch,” Nicholas said angrily. “How could anyone make such a mistake?”

“Remember,” I said. “This town has been struck by an illness. There is a lot of fear. When people are afraid, they sometimes blame strangers.”

“But we just got into town.”

“For all they know, we could have been haunting the woods around the town for days or weeks,” I said.

“But Anna?”

“I suspect in this town women are expected to keep their mouths shut when men are around,” I said. “Remember how the constable reacted when Anna spoke? He didn’t like that.”

‘He’s right,” Anna said from her cell. “Not al villages are like ours.”

“What do we do?” Nicholas said.

“We wait,” I said.

“For what, some trial where they’ve already made up their minds?”

“Trust me,” I said. “All will be well.”

How could I expect him to take the word of an old man when his sister’s life was in danger - and maybe his as well?

But he didn’t know about my elves.

We spent the afternoon in the jail. Outside we could hear occasional cries of “Witch.” At dinner time, the constable brought us some stale bread and some water. He never said a word.

As soon as the sconstable left, I said, "Don't drink the water. Experience tells me that it may be what is making the people sick."

"Then what do we drink?"

I took two small flasks out of my pocket.

"Good thing he didn't search me," I said. "Slide one of these to your sister."

The door to the room was a heavy wooden one, with a few small bars in the middle instead of a window. But the bottom of the door was high enough to fit an arm under.

"Anna," he called, "stick out your hand under the door and catch this."

He slid it.

"Got it," she said. "I heard that this is what I should drink."

Nicholas took a bite of the stale bread, and took a sip from the flask.

"It's sweet."

"Flavored with honey," I said. I didn't add that elves did the flavoring.

Darkness came.

Nicholas paced for a long while, then finally settled down on the floor – there were no beds.

After a while, he was breathing regularly.

“Nicholas,” a tiny voice said.

“Shhh,” I answered.

My elves had come.

‘What do you want us to do?”

“Did you scout outside?”

“Yes,” Eloham said. “Everyone has gone. We could get you out now.”

“But then we wouldn’t be able to help the people,” I said. “No, we need to come up with a plan.”

‘We will keep watch, then,” Dahrima said.

They left.

I looked over at Nicholas.

He was staring at me, his eyes wide open.


Saturday, August 27, 2005

We arrive in Rhundveld (part 6)

As we neared the town of Rhundveld, the forest began to change.

It grew darker. The trees looked sick, and dried out. The bushes along the sides of the road all looked dead. The air smelled stange and unpleasant.

"I haven't been here in several months," Nicholas said. "It's gotten worse."

"The poor people," Anna Kristina said.

I felt guilty. I had been so concerned with staying about my home and Kringlesburg that I'd not visited the nearby towns and villages.

I'd had something else on my mind.

"It was not like this before?" I asked.

"Well," Nicholas said, "Rhundveld was never a very happy place. But it was never this bad."

We came to the edge of the forest. Many of the trees here had been stripped of bark.

Then we came to a large field of tree stumps.

"Oh my, the poor forest," Anna said.

I knew my elves would not be pleased. That explained a little why they had not looked happy when they had returned this morning.

We passed a farm. The fields looked bere except for a few straggly plants. There no animals in sight except for a dog lying near the gate. He had clearly been a large dog. Now he just looked thin.

He looked up at us, growled weakly, then put his head down.

"Stop," Anna said.

She jumped of he cart, and approached the dog.

He eyed her cautiously.

Anna bent down, and reached through the gate to let the dog sniff her hand.

He growled again, but then sniffed. He wagged his tail ever so slightly.

She slowly and carefully began to pet him.

The dog wagged his tail weakly again.

She then cupped her hand and poured some water in it. The dog lapped it all up.

She then gave him a bit of bread.

He chewed eagerly.

She gave him a little more water, then returned to the cart.

"I know I should have saved the bread for the people," she said.

"Animals need to eat, too," I said.

We entered the village a few minutes later.

There were a few people about. Most of the shops were closed even though it was the middle of the day. The fountain in the town square was dry.

Even before we climbed down from the cart, a man in a uniform came over to us. He was holding a club.

"What brings you to Rhunveld," he said in a harsh voice.

"I am Nicholas, the son of Jakob the Baker in Kringlesburg. I have done business here before. We heard that there was illness here. We came to see if we could help."

"We don't need your help," the man said. "You better leave town."

"We would like to help," Anna said. She pointed to me. "My friend here is a wise man who has some ideas."

The man sneared and said to Nicholas, "You let your women speak so openly?"

"She is my sister," Nicholas said.

"Just the same. Move on."

"NO!" a voice bellowed.

We turned to see a tall, thin priest approaching with a man dressed in rags.

"Arrest them," the priest said. "She is accused of being a witch."

Friday, August 26, 2005

Mrs. Claus, Part 5: A pleasant trip

Anna Kristina and Nicholas arrived one hour later. There were several baskets of bread in the back of the cart.

I climbed aboard, and we set out immediately.

“I’m so glad you came,” she said.

“I am happy to help in any way I can,” I said. “I am a neighbor.”

I remember that ride to this day. She was so beautiful sitting there, wrapped with that red shawl, knitting a red scarf as we talked.

We talked about all sorts of things, we three. The war, the famine and drought, and the plague, yes, but also the songs of the birds, the beauty of the forest, the clouds drifting by, the joy of being part of loving family.

“It’s funny to meet someone else with my brother’s name,” she said. My father was always devoted to St. Nicholas. He used to tell us all sorts of stories about him.”

“You can’t believe everything you hear,” I said. “People exaggerate.”

“They stories aren’t true?“ She said.

“Some are legends, told to teach lessons, or share ideas, or even entertain. After all, Our Lord told parables. You don’t believe they were literal stories about real people?”

“True,” she said.

And the other stories, well, let’s talk about you.”

“Me?” she said.

“Yes. You show up with your basket full of bread. You never seem to run out. Maybe some day there will be stories about you performing a miracle so that you never run out.”

“It’s no miracle,” she said. “We bake it all.”

“True. But what a great story a miraculous supply of bread would be.”

“Did your parents know the stories about St. Nicholas,” she asked. “Is that why they named you after him?”

“I don’t believe they heard any of those stories. They just liked the name.”

“Still,” she said. “He must have been a great man that people would tell such stories about him. We don’t have men like that these days.”

I think there are men and women like him today,” I said. “Just look at your own family.”

“We’re not saints,” she said.

“You can say that again, Kris,” Nicholas said laughing.

“Kris?” I said.

“Her middle name. Kristina. We all call her that, when we want to tease her. She used ot be a bit of a tomboy.”

She playfully slapped his shoulder.

“You should see the scar on her knee from when she fell out of a tree,” he said. "Right, Kris?"

“Nicholas!” she said, blushing. “And that was a long time ago.”

“Yes, I suppose two years is a long time,” he said with a laugh.

The playful bantering and conversation continued until we reached the outskirts of Rhundveld.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Meeting Mrs. Claus, part 4: Planning a trip

The elves spent the night in Rhundveld.

Elves have a wonderful way of finding out secrets and mysteries – always without being seen.

They came back the next day and joined Peter and me at breakfast.

“There is a sickness,” said Eloham, one of the elves. “Not like the Black Death.”

The Black Death was a terrible plague that swept through parts of Europe, killing many of the people. It was spread by fleas on rats. But people blamed it on cats, killing many of the cats. That meant that the number of rats grew, and the plague spread even more.

“Do you know what causes it?” I asked.

“It seems to be in the water,” Dahrima answered. “We think that the people are nort careful to keep used water away from drinking water.”

“Sanitation is the problem,” I remarked, nodding my head sadly. “So if we could get them to boil their water, it would help.”

“Yes,” Eloham said. “We also have some medicines that help to clean the water when added to it.”

“Do we have some of this medicine?”

“We can make it,” Dahrima said. “But it might take too long to help.”

“Boiling, then. And being careful not to mix the water. Thank you.”

When Anna Kristina came to my house later, I was ready.

“I will travel with you, with your father’s permission, of course,” I said. “And At least one of your brothers should go with us.”

She flashed that beautiful smile.

“Thank you. I knew you were kind hearted,” she said. “Father has already said yes. He says he could tell you were a good man. And my brother Nicholas will go with us. We will be back in an hour with a wagon.”

Then, unexpectedly, she gave me a had and hurried away.

I turned as saw Peter grinning.

“You are as red as her scarf,” he said.

He was right.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Meeting Mrs. Claus, Part 3

Back to the story of how I met my wife.

I visited the convent orphanage not long after I learned about it. The sisters were doing a good job of taking care of the children considering how little the convent had.

I made sure that there were some new toys for the children, and a few coins to help buy food.

With the help of Peter and my elves, I visited a few other places where the poor and the parentless gathered.

The church ran a soup kitchen. Many of the people served there brought in what little food they had to throw into the community pot. That way the food was stretched. I left a few contributions myself.

I also noticed that there was always fresh bread and rolls.

The tailor and shoe maker guilds held regular drives to collect and fix old clothes and shoes for the poor.

My elves helped a night with the shoes.

I noticed among the clothes well-made blankets for infants, all looking like they were made by the same person who made the shawl I’d seen the baker’s daughter wear.

The farmers held a public market every week. Food that was left over was put into baskets and given to poor families. The baskets always included bread and rolls.

“There is much charity going on in this town,” I said to Peter over dinner one evening.

“It’s the baker and his family,” he said. “That’s the word about town. Whenever there is a need, they help.”

“It makes our job easier,” I said.

I would have to speak to the baker.

Before I could do that, however, his daughter came to see me.

It was a few days after I’d had that dinner conversation with Peter.

There was a knock at the door. I answered.

She stood there, wrapped in that lovely red shawl.

“I hope I am not disturbing you, Master Nicholas,” she said.

“Not at all,” I said. “Come in.”

I led her to our visiting room, and she sat in a large chair.

“Would you like some tea?”

“No. Thank you. I have come for something else.”

“Yes?” I said, sitting in a chair opposite hers.

“Your servant, Peter…”

“Friend, not servant,” I corrected.

“Oh. Your friend, Peter, has sometimes come into town with medicines. He, or you, must have great skills.”

Or at least my elves do, but I did not say that!

“We find some things of that sort,” I said.

“There is a plague spreading through neighboring villages,” she said. “I fear it will strike ours. Is there something you, or he, could make?”

This was long before modern medicine. My elves were skilled, however.

“If we knew the nature of the illness, we can sometimes find something to help,” I said.

“Will you travel with me to Rhundveld, one of the villages where the illness has struck?” she asked.

“You would be taking a risk, yourself,” I said.

“When people need help, I must do what I can,” she said.

“Tell you what,” I said. “I will think about this, and give you an answer tomorrow.”

She smiled that wonderful smile.

“I look forward to your answer,” she said, standing.

I escorted her to the door, and watched as she walked down the path.

“She is pretty,” a voice said.

I turned to see Peter smiling at me.

“Yes, er, I , um, suppose,” I said.

He smiled even more broadly.

“Why,” I sputtered, “I’m old enough to be …”

“Her great great grandfather many times over,” Peter finished. “Still, you must admit she is lovely.”

“Yes, she is. And she's right. We do need to investigate this illness. I will ask some of the elves to pay a visit to Rhundveld tonight.”

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Back to the stories: Two snow giants visit

Back to the stories I was telling.

As I had mentioned, Kracknovag and Kackanokack had arrived at the village unexpectedly.

They actually arrived just before dinner.

Of course, the elves scrambled to make food for our large guests.

I managed or find some mead. I hoped there was enough to do justice to the giants’ thirst.

The giants joined us in the great hall. Mrs. Claus and I, as well as many members of the Assembly ate there as well.

Giants work at their own speed (but once they make up their minds, there’s no stopping them!).

Finally, Kackanokack, the leader of the snow giants at the North Pole, spoke.

“We thank you for this food and drink,” he said. “We are honored to have such friends.

“We thank you for your help with our frozen brother, Kickingik. He is well. He has gone to live with our southern brother. So have other brothers who loved with us here for many years.”

I did not like the sound of that.

“Gikanogark Honors you for your hospitality,” Kackanokack said of the leader of the southern giants. “But he left not happy.”

He paused; I waited to see if he would go on. It became clear he was waiting for me to say something.

“Was he not pleased with our actions?” I asked.

“Your help pleased him. But it also pleased him not. He said giants should help giants. Help from … smaller ones is not in our tradition.”

I looked at Eomar. There are many who are uneasy about those who are different.

“We were glad to be of help,” I said. “But we do not mean to offend.”

“I was not offended,” Kackanokack said. “But some of my brothers were not happy. They have gone to where only giants live. For now.”

What did he mean, “For now?”

“I hope they will be happy,” I said. “They are always welcome here as guests.”

“I do not think we will see them for many years,” he said. “But I fear we will hear of them.”

He slowly looked around at all the assembled elves, dwarves and gnomes. Then he looked at me.

”Humans are a curious race,” he said finally, and picked up his mead.

It took a moment, but then I understood.

The evening passed with no more words about the southern giants.

Finally, Kracknovag and Kackanokack took their leave and went back to their village.

As soon as they were gone, the members of the Council joined me at my table.

Gimlitin, who represents the dwarves, said, “What was he really saying?”

“He was saying that there might be trouble at the South Pole,” I answered.

“Why?” Dwobnab, the representative of the gnomes asked.

“Humans,” Eomar said bluntly.

“Yes, humans are a curious race,” I said. “They like to explore. Everywhere.”

Dwobnab nodded thoughtfully.

Gimlitin scratched his beard. Finally, he grunted and said, “And they will explore the South Pole.”

“Exactly,” I said.

“So if humans run into giants at the South Pole, what business is that of ours at the North Pole?” Gimlitin said.

“Because Santa cares about all races,” Dwobnab said.

“And Santa is a human,” Eomar added.

Gimlitin muttered, “Ah.”

Ah, indeed. This is something I will have to deal with at some point soon.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Power restored!


When I tried to write yesterday, I thought all the bugs had been worked out.

Maybe they had, but not the “bear.”

To begin again: Dimmis had come up with a planl to generate more power.

Dimmis works in our bicycle factory. He’s a painter there. He does a very nice job.

Dimmis also helps out with the bicycle testing.

The way we test is for elves to pick out bikes at random after they are built, and to ride them around on a track.

One day, Dimmis wondered if there might be some way to harness all the energy that’s expended on riding the bikes.

Then he came up with a plan.

Instead of going around the track, the bikes could be ridden on a treadmill. The treadmill would be attached to a generator, and would create power.

Dimmis and his friends Elmoey, Larrie and Kerlee, actually built a small treadmill in their spare time, and had tested it.

It had worked fine.

If at that point they had told one of the research elves what they were doing and had tested their system further, all would have been well.

But they decided to surprise us on Saturday.

They had run a line from their generator directly into the main power supply.

Then they rigged some lights on the village square that read WE HAVE THE POWER.

While many of us were outside for quagnog and other games, they began riding their bikes. Then Dimmis flipped the switch to transfer it all to the main power source.

Dimmis is a fine painter and a good bike rider.

He is no electrician.

He should have guessed that there might be a problem when the sparks began to fly out of their generator, or the lights in the buildings began to flicker.

He just thought that they needed to peddle harder. So they did.

That’s when the generator blew up, and all the main circuits blew.

Luckily, they were not hurt – though Larrie’s hair was left in curls and Kerlee lost all his hair! – but we had to replace many of our power lines and repair many of the circuits.

We had no power all day Saturday – except from a few small emergency generators so we could see to work, and to keep the freezers operating so the ice cream and the popsicles wouldn’t melt.

Fortunately, all the buildings have fire places, so we were able to keep warm and cook food.

We also used candles for light. I forgot the feeling of sitting in room with just a crackling fire, and going up to bed by candle light.

By Sunday, we were able to restore all the power.

That lasted about one minute.

But when the power had first gone out, the North Polar Bear had been listening to some music. When the music stopped, he thought it was his cd player or a circuit breaker in his house, so he had turned on a few other things to see if there was any power.

By the time he was done checking, he had turned on every electrical device in his house, in the laundry where he worked, and in the pretzel factory that he likes to visit.

Everything at full power.

And he forgot to turn them all off.

So when the power came back on, everything he had left on caused a power surge that blew out parts of the system again!

We had to shut everything down once more.

Today, everything is fine. We think.

Ah well, two good things came out of this.

The dwarves are very good when it comes to technical matters, and they were a great help in repairing the electrical system. I think even some of the reluctant elves appreciated that.

And both nights, the gnomes put on concerts to help pass the time and keep spirits up.

They did a fine job, and I think their efforts were appreciated as well.

Truth be told, I actually enjoyed the powerless evenings. It was like the old days, with people gathered around the fires and doing things by candlelight.

That brought back many happy memories.

Now I’d better file this, just in case.

You never know when the bear is…

Just kidding.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

More power!

My goodness.

We have been without power since Saturday morning.

One of my more creative elves, Dimmis, had an idea about a new way to generate power.

It worked – for a few minutes.

Then, unfortunately

Friday, August 19, 2005


Two surprise visitors tonight - Kackanokack and Kracknovag – so little time to write.

I’ll tell you why they stopped by – and more of how I met my darling wife - tomorrow.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

More on meeting Mrs. Claus (part 2)

“Do we tell her to stay away,” Peter asked.

“No, she is only taking a little honey,” I said. “I wonder what she does with it?”

I found out a few days later.

Peter and I had to go into Kringlesburg. We needed to buy a few things. I also wanted to measure the need there, the first town in the area we would try to help.

I visited the town’s Catholic Church to say a few prayers, and to find out when the Masses were.

I noticed with satisfaction that the church was clean and well-kept, but simple. There was a beautiful carved wooden statue of the Holy Family – something I had rarely seen. There were a few other nice carved statues in the church as well.

A woman was visiting the church at the same time I was. As she left, I hurried out after her.

“Excuse me,” I said. “I couldn’t help notice the lovely statues in the church. Where did they come from?”

“They come from the baker and his family,” she said. “He and his boys like to carve.”

“They are quite nice,” I said.

“The baker is good,” the woman said. “His oldest son, Nicholas is very good.”

I smiled. “Nicholas?”

“Yes, after the holy bishop who helps children,” she said.

I thanked her, and thought I would try to find this baker.

It was easy.

I walked down the main street. I passed a side street, and saw just a few shops down it a beautiful carved statue of a woman with a bird perched on her finger.
I recognized the woman immediately.

I walked to the statue, and entered the bakery it stood outside.

The smell of fresh bread washed over my face.

I took a deep breath.

I looked at all the loaves of bread and rolls on shelves.

I also noticed a number of carved statues.

A man who made me look thin (!) stepped out from the back room.

“May I help you?”

“Yes,” I said. “I wanted some bread. Four loaves.”

I pointed to the shelf behind him.

He turned and got four loaves and put them on the counter. I sniffed them.

I nodded to him in appreciation.

Smiling, he said in a friendly way, ”New in town? Or traveling through?”

“Here for a while. I bought a place just outside of town along the road to Nielfink.”

“Ah, the old Muenster farm. He was a good man. All his children died before he did, so there was no one to help keep up the farm. It’s sad when a man’s children die before he does. Not right.”

“True,” I said. “Do you have children?

He laughed heartily. ”Do I have children? Ten of them.”

“Ten? No wonder you have to bake so much bread.”

“Yes, I am lucky. Everyone needs bread, so I am able to keep food on our own table. The famine is hurting so many families.”

“How do people pay in these hard times,” I asked.

“Well. Some can’t. But they are neighbors and friends. Enough do to keep me going.”

“What happens with the ones who can’t pay?”

“Oh, they will. Some day. Or with what they can do. I never have to worry about wood for my ovens. Or wild game from the forest. They do the best they can. And if they can’t, well, God never asked to be paid.”

“Amen,” I said. “You are a good man.”

“I am a baker. Now, are you one of those who can pay, or do we need to work out an arrangement?”

I took out my coin purse. “I have money.”

I counted out much more than the bread cost.

“I can’t make change for that,” he said.

“Then consider it a payment in advance.”

I pointed to one of the statues.

“I understand you carve as well.”

“Oh, a little. My boys are better.”

“I couldn’t help but notice the statue out front.”

“My son Nicholas did that. It’s of my oldest daughter.”

He turned to the back room and called, “Anna Kristina.”

She came out. It was she. Her eyes flashed. My heart fluttered.

“This is my Anna,” he said. “She helps here in the shop.”

“A pleasure to meet you,” I said. “My name is Nicholas.”

She smiled broadly. “Like my brother.”

Her voice sounded as musical when she spoke as when she sang.

“Yes,” I said. “It’s a name my parents liked.”

“I am glad to meet you,” she said. “But without being rude, I need to leave.”

“Are all the loaves ready?” the baker said.

“Yes, I just put the last in the basket when you called.”

The baker nodded. Anna Kristina looked at me and flashed a beautiful smile.

“Until we meet again, God be with you,” she said.

She went into the back room. I saw her pick up a basket full of bread, wrap herself in a red shawl, and go out the back door.

I looked at the baker.

“She is delivering bread to the convent. The good sisters take in orphans. There are so many children without parents these days.”

“It is a hard time for children,” I said. “I take it that you have an arrangement with the sisters.”

“The best. They pray for my eternal soul. That’s better than gold.”

“Amen,” I found myself saying again. Twice in one conversation. But he inspired that.

So did she.

“Does she just take them bread?”

“Oh, no,” he said. “Sometimes she makes them honey cakes if it’s a special day like a birthday or a feast day. And toys that my boys and I have made.”


I took my bread and left.

An orphanage to check into.

But that was not the only thing on my mind.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

How I met my wife (and Peter, too) Part 1

Many years ago, I had no workshop. In fact, I had no real home. I just moved from place to place as needed.

I wasn’t widely known as Santa Claus.

I was Nicholas, a man born in what is now Patara, Turkey (though I was connected with Myra).

Oh, I was a gift-giver – that was a special blessing allowed me by the Lord (I’ll explain how some other time) – but not just at Christmas.

I traveled throughout the Christian world helping in any way I could. Christianity had not yet spread around the world, so my travels were generally limited to Europe, the Middle East, and parts of northern Africa.

I would arrive in an area, buy a house and some land where I could have privacy, then tried to help the poor, and especially the poor children.

I would give gifts of money, medicine and food, and, of course, some toys. But often I had to make sure the child was healthy enough and fed enough to play with toys.

I would work with local people – some of whom figured out who I was – to set up ways to help the poor. Many organizations that help the poor and needy to this day can trace their roots back to those charitable societies and special collections we started then.

We would help at any time of the year. But, of course, holiday times were times when people would far more easily remember those in need, or the idea of giving gifts, so gradually my work focused more and more on those times. To this day, holidays such as my feast day (December 6), Christmas, The Feast of the Three Kings, and others are special times for gifts (I don’t just work on Christmas, you know!).

Once the local people were ready to run things on their own, I would move on.

After I was gone, people would tell stories about me. Some of the stories got exaggerated. Sometimes good deeds others did were told about me. Sometimes good things I did were told about others. Soon, there were all sorts of legends about me and other gift givers.

As long as the stories captured the spirit of love and sharing, I didn’t mind.

Of course, I couldn’t help the whole world, even though God had given me special abilities.

Despite my best efforts and of those who helped me, there were still children who were poor, and hungry and sick.

But God sent other people to help in their own ways, as well.

That’s how I met my lovely wife.

My travels had brought me to Bavaria in what is now Germany. I had bought a house and land in the woods near the small village of Kringlesburg.

There had been a war fought near here, followed by a drought. Disease and hunger were affecting all the towns and villages in region. Many people had no money, and little food.

The soil on the land that I bought was poor – but I had a way of helping things grow. And, by this point, a few elves had begun to help me. They had green thumbs – in some cases, literally!

Of course, they had to keep out of sight during the day. People did not understand elves. Unfortunately, some elves had earned people’s fear because of the tricks they played. Some of those tricks were unkind.

Not my elves, though (at least no longer!)

They were helpful in growing food. They knew how to make all kinds of medicines. They were skilled workmen, and they had ways of sneaking in and out of houses without being seen. I learned a few tricks from them, I can tell you.

The elves did a lot of their work at night. They would do all sorts of chores on the farm, plant crops, and sneak into the forest to find all the medicinal plants hereabouts.

They also began to sneak into neighboring farms. They farmers would wake up to find their sick animals feeling better, their broken farm tools fixed, their leaky roofs repaired.

During the day, people could see me – a portly old man with a white beard – and my companion Peter.

People later came to call him Black Peter. That’s one of the legends I wish I could get rid of!

According to the legends, Peter was the devil. I had by magic enslaved him, and so now he had to do what I ordered.

Not true! But, as is often the case, the legends have a little bit of truth in them.

Peter had been a slave before I met him. He had escaped and lived by stealing.

One night he saw me, a fat, old traveler, with many bags on my horses. And all alone.

He snuck into my camp to rob me after he thought I’d gone to sleep.


Next thing he knew was he was tied to a tree, and I was studying him.

“Let me go!” he yelled. “My men will be here soon, and they will do terrible things to you!”

“Oh,” I said. “There are many trees and plenty of rope waiting for them.”

“I...I know magic,” he said. “If you don’t let me go, I will …I’ll call down fire from the sky.”

“Good, it is a bit chilly tonight,” I said.

He thought for a moment, then he quietly said, “I know these parts. I could guide you.”

“Ah,” I said, “now you are beginning to sound more reasonable. But I don’t think I will let you go yet.”

“Are you afraid of me?” he asked.

“Not at all,” I answered. "But there are bear in the woods, and I’d be afraid for your safety.”

At that moment, a mother bear and two cubs came out of the woods.

He screamed.

“Hush, now,” I said. “You are safe while you are with me.”

The mother bear sniffed the air.

“Yes, your nose is right,” I said. “I do have a bit of honey cake.”

I stood, and took a cake out of my pack. I put it on the ground in front of the bear. She sauntered over to it, sat down, and broke it into three pieces. She gave a piece to each of her cubs, then ate the last one herself.

When they finished, the cubs went over to my prisoner and began to sniff his feet.

He was whimpering.

“Mother bear,” I said. “You don’t know where those feet have been. Perhaps you should call your cubs away.”

She grunted, and the cubs rejoined her. They slowly began to walk back into the forest. Just as they were about to disappear into the darkness, the mother bear turned to me and snorted.

“You’re welcome,” I said.

“You can talk to bears?” my prisoner asked with awe in his voice.

“In a manner of speaking,” I said, smiling. “Now, having seen how I was able to tie you up without you even knowing what happened, and how I can carry on with bears, can I trust you not to do anything foolish if I set you free?”


“First things first,” I said. “What is your name?”


And that’s how we met. When I set him free, he told me his life story. How he had been a slave to a cruel master who beat him and who taught him to steal. How he had escaped one night when his master had had too much to drink. How he had lived by his wits for years, stealing what he needed.

“Ah, you are a devil,” I said, though with a smile.

It turns out he did not know what the devil was. His master had not taught him about religion. In fact, his master had not taught him many things, including how to read or write, or how to take a bath (which, to be honest, was one of the reasons I knew he was sneaking into my camp!).

I taught him many things, and in time baptized him. He traveled with me not as a slave or a servant, but as a friend and co-worker.

And he does none of the things people say he does, such as beating bad boys and girls.

It was Peter who first spotted my future wife.

He had gone into the forest to find some mushrooms for our dinner when he spotted a person walking down a well-traveled path.

He came running back to find me.

“Nicholas,” he called.

I was in the barn brushing my horse.

“I am here,” I called out.

He rushed into the barn.

“There is a person in our woods all covered with cloth,” he said.

“Covered with cloth?”

“Yes, like a robe from the top of his head to his feet.”

He led me to the path, and we cautiously went in the direction the person had gone.

Finally, we spotted the person near a tree. We faded back into the bushes so we could no be seen (one of the tricks the elves had taught me!).

I immediately recognized what the person had on.

“That’s a costume to protect one from bees,” I whispered to Peter.

I pointed to the tree the person was near. There were bees flying in and out of a large hole.

The person approached the hole and began to sing!

She – for clearly this was a she – had a beautiful voice. The song was a strange one, almost like a bee’s buzz.

I noticed that the bees were settling down on the tree.

Still singing, she reached up inside the tree and pulled out a honey comb. She gently removed the bees from the comb, then put it in a basket. She reached in and got a second comb out, and did the same thing.

Then she stepped back and stopped singing.

“Thank you brother bees,” she said.

She walked away a few feet, then took off the cloth that had covered her head.

She had golden hair and blue eyes that flashed with life and laughter.

I had never seen anyone so beautiful in my long life.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

The side effects of marriage

A wonderful day

Lotina and Alegas returned in time for lunch.

Of course, that meant that little work got done until well after lunch.

They both looked very happy.

I was reminded of the days after Mrs. Claus and I first married.

Tomorrow, I will tell you about some of the things that happened then – as I promised.

But today, I celebrate Alegas and Lotina.

They have a nice house near his uncle’s house. After lunch, they retired there to unpack and to rest from their trip (which included a long sled dog ride across the ice. Brrrr. Just the thought of it tires me out - and freezes the tip of my nose.)

As for the tensions of the last few days – they were all buried by the return of the honeymooners. Amen.

Marriage provides so many blessings beyond the ones enjoyed by the couple themselves!

Monday, August 15, 2005

Almost back to normal (even that bear!)

All the elves were back at work today (except Endilnas, who broke his leg trying to do a back flip during a quagnog game on Saturday, so he had a good excuse!)

Even at the foundry – all the elves were there including Eomar.

Things are still uneasy, though. Maybe with time and with the unhappy elves getting used to working with gnomes and dwarves will find their fears and concerns are not necessary.

Everything else was fine today. I got a lot of letters answered. Work in the new fireworks factory began.

The North Polar Bear tried to get into the factory to see how things were going. Elves were on guard at the front door, so he tried sneaking in a back door.

They had set a trap, though, and he spent much of the morning trapped upside down ten feet in the air in a net!

(Don’t worry, we let him down for lunch!)

Also, we got good news: Lotina and Alegas will be returning form their honeymoon tomorrow.

I can’t wait to see them.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

At home with some gnomes

A positive sign. Eomar and many of the other elves who have been “sick” were at church today.

I made a point of going over to Eomar at the end of the service.

“I’m glad to see you here,” I said. I hope you’re feeling better.”

He looked at me uncomfortably, then mumbled, “Yes, a bit.”

This afternoon Mrs. Claus and I went to visit the family of Coryto and Dalmadge. Coryto works in the greenhouses with a number of the other gnomes.

He and Dalmadge have eight children – not usual in gnome families. Their children are Dalmil, Gerpen, Gerwyn, Glimwocket, Hedmut, Jebbiddle, Punger, and Roonbell.

My goodness, they’re a lively bunch!

I was impressed with how they have changed the home assigned to them – adding beds and storage space to accommodate the whole family. They also have potted plants everywhere!

“Ho!” I said when we entered their home,”It’s like a garden in here.”

“We just brought a few plants from our old garden back in Norway,” Coryto explained. “My wife has a green thumb.”

“From the looks of it, very green,” Mrs. Claus said. “How delightful.”

At that, Dalmadge just had to give us a tour. Room after room of plants. Some of the flowers were blooming, in fact, filling the house with all sorts of wonderful smells.

The children scampered between the plants, sometimes hiding behind larger ones and popping out to surprise us. I laughed many times.

“This is the first gnome home I’ve been in since your people have arrived here,” I said as we returned to the living room. “Are all the homes like this?”

“Some are,” Coryto said.

“Many of our people brought plants,” Dalmadge added.

“Some have even more plants,” Coryto finished.

Gnomes do everything together – even talking.

We had a delicious meal – all vegetables and fruit, in typical gnome style. (Though they are not strictly vegetarians, gnomes tend to prefer plants to meat.)

As we enjoyed a cherry pie for dessert, young Gerpen asked, “When will there be a forest?”

Both Coryto and Dalmadge said at the same moment, “Gerpen!”

I laughed.

“I think that’s a good question,” I said. “Now, there is a study that will be done. We have to find out if it is even possible here at the North Pole. Why we’d have to bring up so much dirt, and we’d have to build a big enough greenhouse, and we’d have to keep it warm. We’d also have to find out if we will be able to keep it hidden so that planes or satellites won’t see it – even though most governments keep our secret.

“We’ll have an answer by next February if it’s possible,” I continued. “If it will work out, then it will probably take a year or so to build it, and many years for the trees to grow big and tall.”

Gerpen, Dalmil, Gerwyn, and Glimwocket all squeaked, “Years!”

Forests take a long time to grow,” Coryto said.

“Why I when I was a little gnome about your ages,” Dalmadge said. “I planted an apple tree.”

“It was just big enough for us to have our head table under at our wedding,” Coryto.

“Though Uncle Wimmut did bump his head on a branch,” Dalmadge said.

“He’s one of the tallest gnomes in Norway,” Coryto added, looking at me,
“He’s a giant,” Glimwocket said.

I think I would like to see a “giant” gnome, I thought. He might reach my belt buckle!

The visit ended with a traditional gnome ceremony of holding hands in a circle and singing a parting song. The children have already begun to learn harmonies.

It was beautiful. I’m glad that we have gnomes back at the North Pole.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Sticky buns made with love

A day of play and concern.

And sticky buns.

The gnomes and dwarves continue to try to master the game of quagnog – with some amusing results.

But many of the elf teams were down some players, A number of the elves who called in sick on Friday did not show up.


I will have to see if they make it to church.

My dear wife continues to try to keep my spirits up.

She made some sticky buns with honey – just the way her father used to make them back in his bakery in Bavaria.

I think the honey was also in response to the way I said I first saw her – even though she still thinks I first saw her in her home village.

But then, I suppose she is right in one sense. The first time I saw her as an adult was in the woods. But when I think back, the first time I would have seen her was when she was a little girl sound asleep in the pre-dawn hours of Christmas.

I must tell you the story of how we met some time.

Right now, I have to wash my hands to get the stickiness off from those sticky buns!

Friday, August 12, 2005

Troubles with the elves

I awoke this morning with an uneasy feeling. I barely touched my breakfast – only six pancakes three eggs.

“Are you all right?” my wife asked.

“It’s last night’s meeting,” I said. “I must find Eomar and talk to him.”

“I’m sure you’ll be able to ease the problem,” she said. “You are so good at that.”

I looked up at her. She was smiling. Her silver hair was in a bun on her head. She was wearing a green apron over a red plaid dress.

She looked beautiful.

“You are as lovely as the day I first spotted you in the woods,” I said.

“Now, now. None of that,” she said, even as she blushed. “Besides, it was in a town.”

“Oh, that was much later. I first saw you in the woods, getting honey. But now, I must find Eomar.”

I went to the iron foundry where Eomar worked.

He was not in. He had called in sick. So had more than a dozen other elves.

I remember several of them voting against letting the dwarves and gnomes vote.

The foundry was one of the places where a number of dwarves worked, being skilled in metal work. They were all there. They nodded to me, but I could tell they were not happy.

I went to the dorm where Eomar and a number of he other unmarried elves lived.

I was told he was in bed asleep.

I visited several of the other workshops.

There were a number of elves who had called in sick.

If it was the flu, I’d say we had an epidemic.

I will wait before I do anything. Perhaps they will cool down over the weekend.

Tonight after dinner I sat before the fire in my rocking chair trying to read. Mrs. Claus was knitting, sitting in her own rocking chair.

We sat for an hour. The only sound was the crackling of the fire, and the occasional grunts of Shulun dreaming at my feet.

Mrs. Claus put down her knitting, and came over to me. She gave me a big hug.

“Thank you,” I said.

“I know you,” she said. “You will worry and fret all night, the way you do over all the naughty children in the world every year as we get near Christmas.”

“What saddens me is that it’s Eomar,” I said. “I’ve known him since he was a boy.”

“And he knows you. He’ll listen in the end.”

“I pray that he will,” I said.

“Why don’t we go in the chapel and do just that,” she said.

So we prayed. We held hands and prayed.

Now as I ready for bed, I can honestly say I feel better.

I’m glad I noticed her in those woods all those years ago!

Thursday, August 11, 2005

A troubled decision and trouble ahead?

Oh my.

The meeting did not go at all as I planned.

But it did go as I feared.

We started off with the official dedication of the fireworks factory.

There were a number of speeches praising the workmanship, the design of the building, and the new fire preventions systems (everyone looked at the North Polar Bear at that point!).

Then came time for the proposals.

Here were several about such things as new toy projects, expanding the greenhouses to produce more food because of our growing population, and creating a new quagnog tournament.

All passed easily.

Finally I rose.

“Thank you all for your wonderful ideas,” I began. “I too have some ideas.

“As you know, during our recent situation, a number of new people came to the North pole to help us. I wish first to thank them.”

Everyone broke into applause. The gnomes and dwarves, who were all dressed in their finest and were sitting in the visitor’s gallery, smile and waved and bowed.

“Some of these friends are staying with us now,” I continued, “and they have brought their own gifts and skills with them. I think they have added ideas wherever they are working.”

I saw a number of elves nod.

“One gift the dwarves have is with the building of tunnels. Gimlitin has already proposed connection all the buildings with tunnels to help during times of emergency and with getting about when the weather gets bad. I don’t have to remind anyone here what it can be like when we have a snow story with 40 miles and hours winds when the air is already 20 below zero.”

More nods, and play shivers.

“I therefore ask that we approve a study to determine if tunnels can be dug safely, how they can be protected so that we don’t have infestations of gremlins like we had many years ago, and how long such a project would take...”

Eomar stood.

“This would just be for a study, and not for approval at this time?”

“Just a study. If it is completed in time, we can review it at our February meeting.”

The proposal passed unanimously.

“I have a second proposal,” I said. “As you know, our visitors are used to different climates than our brisk north.”

A number of the elves laughed.

“In particular,” I continued, “the gnomes are forest dwellers. I dare say so are many of our elves, who, in the name of Christmas, have sacrifices their love of wooded glades. I am forever grateful for their sacrifice.”

Nods all around.

“So I propose a second study. Is it feasible to build a greenhouse large enough, yet hidden enough, to grow a small forest where all may go for a respite from the ice and snow?”

There were gasps.

Eidin rose.

“Why, such a greenhouse would have to be…”

“Yes,” I said. “Large.”

“But, the amount of work required to build a greenhouse just to raise food…and this, it would be beyond anything we’ve done,” he sputtered.

“Yes. And it may not be feasible. Or it may have to be small. That’s why I propose just a study at this point.”

Eomar rose.

“If such a forest greenhouse were built, would it be for elves as well, and not just gnomes?”

“Of course,” I said. “It would be for everyone.”

The study was approved. But not unanimously.

I then came to the third proposal.

“As you all know, some of our dwarf and gnome friends have come to live with us. I heartily welcome them.

“Now, our chief decision making bodies are this Assembly and the Council we elect.

“In light of the fact that they have committed to live with us, I propose that we make them equal partners in running the North Pole. Each of you is being given some proposed changes in our charter to allow the dwarves and gnomes to become voting members of this Assembly, and for each group here at the North Pole to have at least one representative on the Council.”

Eomar jumped up.

“The Assembly and the Council are for elves. It’s written in our charter.”

“I have proposed changes to the charter that will remove that problem," I said.

“The charter is what we have lived with for two centuries,” Eomar said. “It has worked well. Why change it.”

“We change with the changing circumstances,” I said. “When I began my ministry, I did it alone. I added a wife, and a few elves, and then a workshop in Bavaria, and flying reindeer, and finally our village here at the North Pole. Things changed as the world changed and the needs changed.”

“Yes,” he said, “and they are working well now.”

“Think of how much better they might become,” I said.

“Might. Might not. I do not see the need for change,” he said. “Besides, how do we know that the dwarves and the gnomes will stay? They left before. Only the elves remained loyal.”

Several of the dwarves objected loudly, only to be silenced by their fellow dwarves. The gnomes all held hands.

“Such displays are not appropriate for our Assembly,” Eomar said, pointing to the dwarves. “I will vote no for the sake of decorum and purity at the North Pole.”

The debate went back and forth with elves taking both sides.

I sat in my chair, stunned and saddened.

Finally, the vote came.

The Assembly voted to accept the gnomes and dwarves, but by only a small margin.

We then held a vote for the Council.

Gimlitin and Dwobnab were elected to represent their people.

Eomar was elected, too.

As soon as the meeting ended, Eomar and a number of other elves stormed out before I could talk to them.

I wanted to follow, but was caught up in the celebration to welcome the dwarves and gnomes to full participation

Gimlitin shook my hand.

“Thank you for this honor,” he said. “But I think there is much hard work ahead of us – and not just with tunnels or greenhouses.”

I fear he is right.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Democracy at the North Pole

Gimlitin and his dwarves have been busy in the tunnels. I’ve barely seen them.

Meanwhile, we’ve nearly finished moving all the equipment and furniture into the fireworks factory.

At tomorrow nights general meeting, we will officially declare it open.

I also plan to propose that dwarves and gnomes be given votes as part of the assembly.

Let me explain.

I am the official authority at the North Pole. Depending on who is talking, I am the owner, chief executive officer, pastor, king of the North Pole.

So I could run things by myself.

But of course, I really couldn’t run things all by myself. Imagine me all by myself making all the Christmas gifts.

About 200 years ago, inspired by what was going on in the United States and other countries developing democracy, I created an Assembly that includes all the elves.

We are small enough that all the residents of the North Pole can meet to vote for plans, rules, whatever big decisions we need to make. The Assembly meets twice a year – in February (after we recover from Christmas) and August (as we start to get ready for the Christmas season).

The assembly votes for a Council. The ten members of the Council meets with me on a monthly basis to make lesser decisions.

The Assembly voted to build the new fireworks factory. The Council might vote on the hours for the factory.

When I first created the Assembly, I only included the elves in it. They had been with me the longest, and there were only a few dwarves and gnomes living at the North Pole. Then the Dwarves and gnomes all left, so it was never an issue.

But things are different now. I think it’s only fair that if the dwarves and elves choose to live here, they should have a say in what goes on here.

So tomorrow I am going to propose that we change the rules. I’m going to suggest that everyone living at the Pole be part of the Assembly, and that we have to have at least one representative from every one of the major groups at the North Pole on the Council.

I’m looking forward to tomorrow night.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

A poem from a friend

I got this poem in today’s mail. I liked it!

My father thinks he’s Santa Claus,
he has the beard and hair.
The only clothes he’ll wear are red
(including underwear).

All day long he practices
laughing, Ho! Ho! Ho!
And he orders milk and cookies
everywhere we go.

The garage he made a stable,
it’s where his reindeer dwell.
And he sold his car to purchase
a sleigh that looks real swell.

The neighbors say he’s crazy.
My friends all think so, too.
But he just says, “Merry Christmas,
and Happy New Year, too.”

My poor mother, she’s so worried,
but I know what to do.
I’m making a Christmas wish list,
just in case – wouldn’t you?

Monday, August 08, 2005

The caverns beneath the Pole

A wonderful day, but a day also of memories.

At one p.m., I arrived at the great hall to find Gimlitin waiting. He had a lantern, spare torches, a pick, an ax, and a dagger!

“My goodness,” I said. “What do you expect to find?”

“I believe in being prepared,” he said. “I heard what happened there before.”

His words brought back memories of the great goblin battles in the early 1930s. The goblins had gotten into the great caverns beneath the North Pole, and had tunneled into our storage rooms.

At first, they used the tunnels just to steal things. But then they attacked us. The worst battle was in 1933.

The North Polar Bear’s great-grandfather had held to defeat the goblins then. Oh, I remember him swinging right and left with his great paws, sending dozens of goblins flying.

So I invited our current North Polar Bear to come with us. I also invited Dwobnab, the leader of the gnome guild, for gnomes played a key role in defeating the goblins. And I invited Eomar, the head of North Pole security, and Eidin, the chief research elf to join us.

When Gimlitin saw then, he almost looked disappointed.

“No dwarf has ever seen these caverns and tunnels,” I said. “It is an honor to have you with us.”

That seemed to help a little. At least his grunt seemed a little happier.

I took out the key to the door, and unlocked it. We swung the door open … to reveal a second door. I took out the key for that door.

We swung it open to reveal stairs leading down into the darkness.

With lanterns turned on we went down, down, down, until we came to the main tunnel. We could see other tunnels branching off in several directions.

Gimlitin studied the walls.

“Not well made,” he grunted.

“Goblin work,” I said.

He grunted.

I led them to a tunnel running off the tunnel we were in. This slopped downward. Sometimes the slope was so steep we nearly slipped.

Finally we entered the first of the great caverns.

Gimlitin said “Ha” in a way that showed he liked what he saw.

“This is part of a system of caverns that run under the North Pole. The Cave Bears used to live in here. They all moved out after the Goblin troubles. The goblins also used to live down here, until we drove them away.”

I turned to the North Polar Bear.

“Do you smell any goblins?”

He sniffed deeply several times, then nodded no.

“Dwobnab, your people were a great help in defeating the goblins,” I said.

“My people still tell stores about the battles here, and in the places where the goblins fled,” he said.

Yes, I remember, what the human nations called the Second World War. Even as the humans fought, the powers of darkness the goblins were part of fought the elves, dwarves, gnomes and others.

It had been a terrible time.

“Your people fought well,” I said.

We wandered through the caverns. In many, we found ancient paintings on the walls. They’d been made centuries before by cave bears, early men who had explored here long before I moved to the North Pole., and, more recently, goblins.

Gimlitin studied the drawings.

“Some good ones of animals,” he said. “Dwarves could do better.”

“Dwarves are known the world over for their art,” I said.

We continued to explore for several hours.

Suddenly the North Polar Bear’s stomach growled!

“Ah,” I said. “I think it’s about time for dinner.”

It took us nearly an hour to get back into the great hall.

I carefully locked both doors, then tuned to Gimlitin.

“I know you will need to explore these tunnels and caverns more as you make your plans,” I said.

I handed him the key.

For the second day in a row, I think he wanted to hug me.

“You and your fellow dwarves should explore down there some more,” I said. “In a week, we can meet to see what ideas you have.”

Eomar gave me a questioning look.

I just smiled.

But it made me uneasy. I hope it’s nothing.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

How to make a dwarf happy

Sunday. A day for prayer and rest.

And guests.

Today we invited Gimlitin, the dwarf, his lovely wife, Tirba, and their four children -
Hihi, Ieru, Rrovt, and Tideh – for lunch.

The first thing I learned is that their family name is Deepspirit.

The second thing I learned is that Gimlitin had been planning tunnels. He brought with him so many maps he could barely get through the door! And he kept dropping maps, constantly having to stoop over to pick them up, then dropping more as he stooped.

“Santa,” he said when he, all the maps, and his family were all through the door, “I have some ideas.”

“I’m sure you do,” I said. "But today is a day to relax and enjoy each other’s company."

He looked a bit flustered at this, but followed me into the living room.

Hihi, Ieru and Rrovt, were already playing keep-away with Shulun and his pull rope. Shulun’s tail was wagging happily.

“Children,” Tirba began, with the sound of chastising in her voice.

“Don’t worry,” I said. “Shulun is enjoying it.”

Amid the sound of playful growls from Shulun, and the laughter of dwarf children, we enjoyed tankards of mead – the honey wine that dwarves (and I) enjoy.

Mrs. Claus sat with us, the meal well underway in the kitchen.

“Where are you coming from?” she asked.

“We now live beneath Pic de Vignemale in the French Pyrenees,” Gimlitin said. “But for many years we lived in the Jura Mountains in Switzerland.”

“Both beautiful areas,” I said.

“We are glad that you have come to stay with us,” Mrs. Claus said, “But after living in such mountains, it must be strange moving to the North Pole.”

“My people have been talking about the need for dwarves to return to the North Pole,” Gimlitin said. “There has been too long a history of dwarves working with the great Santa Claus for at some of us not to be here. Tradition must be served.”

I nodded.

“Besides,” Tirba said,” my great-great grandfather and grandmother lived here. Perhaps you remember Laggi and Larni Bladesmith?”

“Laggi Bladesmith!” I exclaimed. “I most certainly remember him. He could thrown an ax as far as many elves could fire an arrow – and often with greater accuracy.”

She smiled with pleasure. Gimlitin nodded.

“There are many songs about Laggi,” he said.

“I don’t doubt it,” I said. “So you are Laggi’s descendant. You come from a great family.”

I then looked at Gimlitin. “To have married one from such a family, your family must have many things to sing about in its own past.”

He nodded with satisfaction at my compliment.

We enjoyed a wonderful lunch, telling stories of the past. I made sure I brought up as many stories involving dwarves as I could.

As we enjoyed dessert – a lovely cheesecake – Gimlitin said, “I will honor your desire not to talk about business today. Perhaps we could meet tomorrow. I have many questions about the tunnels that are already beneath the North Pole.”

“I am helping with some work at the fireworks factory first thing in the morning, then I have to catch up on some mail,” I said. "But right after lunch would be fine. In fact, let’s meet in the basement of the great hall. There’s a secret entrance into the tunnels there.”

“We…we can go into the tunnels?” he said, his eyes glowing.

“Ho! Ho!” I laughed. “After seeing the look in your eyes, how can we not?”

If he hadn’t been a dwarf, I think he would have hugged me right then. As it was, he shook my hand so fiercely when they left that it tingled for 10 minutes!

“I think you and Shulun have made friends,” Mrs. Claus said.

I looked at Shulun. He was sound asleep inform of the fire, exhausted after having played at length with Hihi, Ieru and Rrovt.

I shook my tingling hand.

“I just hope Gimlitin doesn’t have the same effect on me!”

Saturday, August 06, 2005

A day for play - and some serious thoughts

Today was a day for play.

The elves explained to the gnomes and the dwarves the rules of quagnog, their favorite game. Then they split them up into teams.

At first dwarves just played dwarves and gnomes just played gnomes. The elves thought it would be unfair for them to play against elves who had more experience with the game.

I watched them with interest.

He dwarves are not as fast and graceful as the elves, but they are strong. I saw one dwarf throw the guagnog ball almost the entire length of the field!

Their games ended up with near fights, and several minor injuries.

The gnomes, on the other hand, are faster, more graceful, and, for their size stronger than the elves (though not as strong as the dwarves).

But they have to do everything together. This led to clumps of players all together, but no one else anywhere else on the field, making impossible to pass the ball. Sometimes the goalies left their hoops to join with their teammates in the middle of the field.

I think the elves were right to not play them yet.

The dwarves then set up bowling lanes on the ice, and started teaching the elves and gnomes how to play.

Unfortunately, because of the icy ground, the balls kept sliding out of the lanes. Sometimes they bowled over spectators!

The dwarves were very frustrated. They have determined to figure out a way to bowl, ice or no ice.

This evening, the gnomes got the elves and the dwarves to join in on one of their favorite activities: singing.

The gnomes are very good. They are able to sing such wonderful harmonies. There were times when I almost wanted to cry, they sounded so wonderful.

Elves are also very good singers. But they are used to singing alone. They like to listen to songs that tell stories. Their songs are simpler so that the words are clear. They had a hard time singing in harmony, but the gnomes were very patient and I think I actually heard some voices blending.

Dwarves love to sing, but their songs are loud and wild – the kinds of songs suitable for taverns.

Melody for them is something you aim at, but you don’ have to get exactly right. What counts is volume!

So harmonies are, at best, accidents, because two or more dwarves happen to sing the right notes at the same time.

All different styles. All beautiful in their own ways.

But listening to them, it made me wonder how we will all work together.

It also made Shulun howl several times!

Hmm. I’m getting too serious.

Time for some hot chocolate, and working on my greenhouse forest idea.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Someone else who will like the trees!

I am excited about my idea for a greenhouse forest!

The gnomes and elves would be so happy.

Of course, it will not be an easy thing to do.

We have some small greenhouses where we grow some food for everyone at the North Pole.

But to build them we had to create a space in the ice, put down layers to protect the plants from the ice below, provide sources of heat and light for the long winter months when there is little or no sun, bring in soil, and cover the growing area with something that will keep in the heat, and keep anyone from the outside from seeing all the green where there should only be the white of snow and ice.

A forest would mean an even bigger challenge.

I must talk to Eidin. He can help with the plans.

The rest of the day was spent moving into the new fireworks factory. He paint is now all dry. We put in cabinets and shelves, and brought in the worktables and machines.

By the end of the day, we were all very tired.

I am looking forward to this weekend. It will be nice ot relax – and to plan the greenhouse.

As I write, Shulun, our dog, is lying at my feet. I wonder what he will think of trees at the North Pole!

Thursday, August 04, 2005

A Tree-mendous idea

I kept my promise to the reindeer this morning. We took about an hour’s flight.

It was uneventful, and fun.

Of course, there were no gnomes aboard.

All day I have been thinking about the general meeting and the situation with the gnomes and dwarves.

As I mentioned earlier, although they have been with us for short stays - especially when we needed help with the Christmas rush – they have not been a part of the North Pole community for a long times.

Oh, I remember the days when we had elves, fairies, dwarves, gnomes, and even a few trolls living together here at the North Pole.

Gradually, their numbers dwindled. It wasn’t because they were mad and left. Dwarves and trolls are creatures of the earth, and gnomes love fields and forests. At the North Pole all they found was ice and snow. So they drifted away.

The elves are also creatures of nature, but their bond to me was so strong that it overcame their longing for greener realms.

But these gnomes and dwarves with us now say they want to stay. I want them to stay. We are a better place when we are diverse.

So how to keep them happier here? The tunnel idea might just help the dwarves feel more at home.

But for the gnomes?

And then it hit me. A way to help make them feel more comfortable – and a reward for the elves for all they have done for me over the years.

A greenhouse forest!

I can’t wait until the general meeting to spring this idea on them!

Ho! Ho! Ho!

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Leaping gnomes, what a flight!

Today I took the reindeer for a flight.

That was a good idea. They need to get some exercise.

I also brought along some gnomes.

That was not a good idea.

Now the gnomes who had come to the North Pole for wedding had flown on the blimps to Bavaria. But that’s not the same as flying on the sleigh.

Still, at breakfast this morning when I mentioned I was going to take the sleigh out, Dwobnab, the leader of the gnome red guild, said, “I’ve always wanted to fly in the sleigh. I’ve heard there’s nothing like it.”

“Oh,“ I said, “I’ve been on some rides in amusement parks that are like it. But it is an experience. Would you care to join me?”

He clapped his hands in excitement.

“May my brothers come, too?”

I said certainly. And so it was that Dwobnab, Ellyjodo, Fonwicket, Minninottin,and Nacklemalkin met with me outside the stable.

I must admit I have a hard time telling gnomes apart. I did not know which one was Dwobnab, so I said to the group, “All set, Dwoibnab?”

The one in the red cap said, “Yes. We are very excited.”

They introduced themselves again. I think they knew I wasn’t sure who each of them was. Each had worn a different colored cap, so that made it easier to remember.

“Now,” I explained, “there is a magic in the sleigh so as long as you stay seated, when it is flying normally you can’t fly out. But for safety sake, we have put in seatbelts.”

The all nodded and smiled, then climbed into the seat behind mine.

I got in. The reindeer were snorting with excitement.

“Now dash away all!” I called out.

We gathered speed on the snow, they rose into the air.

I kept them in check. I didn’t want my riders to be frightened.

I circled the village.

The gnomes babbled excitedly.
Then I flew out to where the giants had been encamped. I followed their trail across the snow and ice until I drew near the giant village.

I turned the sleigh around before we reached the camp.

As we started for home, I turned to my riders.

Dwobnab and Ellyjodo were smiling broadly. Two others Fonwicket and Minninottin looked uneasy.

Nacklemalkin had a strange look on his face.

“Are you all right. Nacklemalkin?”

“I .. I.” He suddenly took out a large handkerchief and sneezed.

But he sneezed so hard he flew out of his seat belt and into the air!

As he flew away behind us, the other four all climbed out of their seats and jumped after him!

“Turn, boys,” I yelled to the reindeer.

We turned about as fast as we could. In the distance I saw a black dot falling that must have been the gnomes.

As we drew near, I saw they were holding hands.

I flew beneath them and they landed in the seat behind me with a thump,

“I’m not staying in this contraption,” one of them squeaked.

I couldn’t tell which one. They’d lost their hats.

But before I could say anything, he jumped!

Then the others jumped after him!

I swung the sleigh about again and caught them once more.

I started to say, “Now, hold on,“ but one of them jumped again, followed by the other four!

I caught them four more times. They jumped four more times. After the last jump, they landed in the snow.

I landed and got out.

“Why did you do that?” I said. I was frightened and a little angry, so my voice must have been too loud.

All five of them covered their ears.

“It’s all right,” I said. “I’m not angry. I’m just a little upset.”

“We will never get in that terrible sleigh again,” one of them said.

“It’s a long way back to the village,” I said. ”You might get lost.”

But they refused. We went back and forth.

Finally, they agreed to get in, but only if we did not fly.

So it was that we returned to the village on the ground. The reindeer were so put out. They wanted to fly!

It took us four hours.

As soon as we were back, the gnomes ran off as fast as they could.

I took the reindeer back to the stables, and promised them a flight the next day.

But you can bet we won’t have any gnomes on board!

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Dwarf improvements and ideas

Today was a day of work.

The paint in the fireworks factory is still wet, so we couldn’t do anything there. But all the other workshops were up to speed.

The dwarves have already made some wonderful suggestions about ways to improve some of the machines at the North Pole. They are very clever that way.

I also took some dwarves with me to the ice cave left by the snow giants.

It is a big space, We will be able to fit a big factory in there. I will meet with the elves to decide what to move there.

But then Gimlitin, one of the dwarves, had an idea.

“You should dig tunnels,” Gimlitin said. “That way, you could connect al the workshops for times when the weather is bad. Tunnels could also help in times of trouble.”

I felt a shudder when he mentioned tunnels.

There are already tunnels under the North Pole. The goblins used them years ago to steal toys and attack us. That was a terrible time.

After the troubles of the 1930s, we closed off all the tunnels.

I explained all that to Gimlitin.

“You did not have dwarves helping you,” he said. “We can show you how to hide them, and to protect them. We know how to keep goblins out.”
Dwarves are very skilled when it comes to tunnels. My first workshop in Bavaria was in a former dwarf tunnel complex.

And goblins do try to keep away from dwarves.

I will have to think about Gimlitin’s offer. Another thing to discuss with the elves!

Oh, but now I must think differently. We have dwarves and gnomes helping us here at the North. They should have a say, too.

We have a meeting coming up in a week. I will have to invite them to sit in.

We are becoming like the United Nations up here at the North Pole. Except we should be called the United Species!

Monday, August 01, 2005

A dull day - Phew!

After the events of the last few weeks, today was blessedly dull.

The great hall is now back in shape.

In the fireworks factory, we’ve turned on the heat and set up fans to help the paint dry. (It’s so cold up here even in the summer that paint dries only slowly.)

Because everyone worked so hard on Saturday, I told them to take today off.

But something comes to mind in all this.

You might wonder how we have power at the North Pole to run the fans, and the lights.

I must admit, for many years we did not have electricity. We heated by fire, and lighted by candles and lanterns.

We also used a little magic.

Our first source of electric power was generators. But the fuel was hard to get.

We toyed with nuclear, but I was concerned about the possible environmental effects.

But our inventive elves have come up with all sorts of sources in recent years.

We now get power from windmills and solar panels – especially when we have sunlight for 24-hours a day. We have huge storage batteries to save the power generated.

We also generate power from deep sea currents flowing under the ice. The drilling project was amazing!

And we still have generators.

We also still use fire places, and make use of candles and lanterns.

In addition, we use a little magic!