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AkresiusFri 25-Dec-15 02:47 PM
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#688, "Twas the Night Before Christmas - a submission by Phantom Menace"


Posted by the Phantom Menace on December 22, 2000 at 15:57:25:

A festive aura hung about the common room of the Inn of the Eternal
Star. Evergreen garlands hung from the roof's massive crossbeams,
dark with age and cookfire smoke. Twinkling lights of faerie fire
(the priestly sort - no magic to drive the Ragers off) flickered on
the walls and along the heavy, alcohol-stained bar. Olin whistled
a cheerful tune as he dried glasses, sniffing appreciatively at the
delightful odors wafting from the huge black oven and the heavily
loaded trays carried through the crowd by smiling Troupers. And oh,
but what a crowd there was! Servants of the Dawn and Arbiters of
Law mingled freely, chatting cheerfully with their companions, while
a small contingent of Imperial Citizens stayed aloof in a dark corner.
Grizzled Battle Ragers glared at the magi before glancing back down
to their thick mugs of dwarven ale. Entropists wandered around, starting
random conversations and picking random pockets, and thin, studious
Masters sipped quietly at their eggnog. Even a clan of Orcs was
in residence, delightedly quaffing mug after mug of stale beer and
laughing uproariously at each others' dirty jokes. By the Stage of
Fools, as far from the roaring fireplace as possible, a huge pine
tree stood, decorated with baubles and garlands of all description,
with its starred tip nearly brushing the ceiling. A live tree, this,
in its own giant earthen pot, and its own squadron of Sylvan Warders
keeping careful watch over its safety.

Sitting by the fire, a young bard put down the notes he was glancing
over and stood up. He said nothing, made no overt gestures, but
slowly the hubbub and murmur of conversation ceased. Seemingly
at random, one person after another drifted through the Inn to
stand or sit beside him, until the entire crowd rested quietly
on the stools, chairs, or bare floor by the Tale-Telling Fire.
All eyes fastened on the bard, who suddenly blushed a deep red
from his chin to the tips of his pointed ears. Stammering,
he tried several times to speak, but merely stuttered a few
syllables before coming to an embarrassed stop.

"Come on, lad," yelled Olin from behind the bar, "spit it out!"
and there was a general murmur (with a few shouts) of agreement.

"Um," said the poor bard, now a bright crimson hue, "I, I've
written a poem - to celebrate the season, you know." He
ignored the obligatory catcalls of "No, we don't, tell us!"
"And, well, how about I just read it?" This motion being carried
with nearly unanimous approval, the bard shuffled his papers,
cleared his throat, and, embarrassment fading as bardic training
came to the forefront of his mind, began.

Twas the night before Christmas,

"Oi! What's Christmas? Never heard of it!"

"W-well, Christmas is a holiday on which we celebrate the
birth of Jesus Christ, the son of God."



"We give presents, and decorate, and sing Christmas carols,
and give thanks that He was born to redeem us."

"So, this Jesus is a god? Will Poetry be angry that we're
worshipping him here?"

"I d-don't think so."

"What are Christmas carols? Prayers?"

"Sung prayers, yes."

"Do you think if I sung them, Jesus would empower me?"

(a VOICE booms from the heavens) "I KNOW OF NO JESUS IN

"Ahem. Can I continue, please?"

Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the house

Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.

"Of course not. How can you expect the things of the wild,
trapped in your constrictive civilized environment, to move
about freely? They're trapped, bound by the fear of your
unnatural domicile-"


The stockings were hung by the chimney with care

In hopes that Saint Nicholas soon would be there.

"Stockings? Oi! Who is this Saint Nicholas, a panty-stealing

"Not at all, my dear fellow. This Nicholas is obviously a
minor demon, under the aspect of Baphomet, Lord of Lust.
The superstitious peasants, believing that he roams free
on this 'Christ-mas', hang women's undergarments about
their homes as wards, in hopes that the demon will be
satisfied with this token and not ravish their wives and

"I-I'm pretty sure that's not how it goes."

"Of course it is! Look, also, to the term of 'Saint' - an
obvious attempt at flattering the demon, just as the beings
of faerie are called the 'Fair Folk' though they snatch
away children and leave changelings in their place-"

"Shut yer blather, mage! I wants to hear this!"

The children were nestled all snug in their beds,

"Heh heh. Kiddie sandwiches."

(general orcish laughter)

While visions of sugarplums danced in their heads;

"So, what's a sugarplum?"

"Elementary, my dear fellow. It is obviously another demon,
imaginary, perhaps - some sort of bogeyman to frighten-"

"I-it's a candy. We have some in the kitchen."


And Mamma in her kerchief and I in my cap

"Lousy armor. Crack 'em heads good."

(general orcish and dwarvish laughter)

Had just settled down for a long winter's nap,

"Ah, these folk know to live with nature! They
hibernate the long, cold winters away, like the bears."

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,

"I take that all back. Lawns are abominations, making
slaves of innocent grasses and bushes, forcing the wild
flowers to conform to civilized ideals of beauty-"

(a sharp *WHACK* resounds through the Inn)


"Me pleasure."

I sprang from my bed to see what was the matter,

Away to the window I flew like a flash,

Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.

"Oh, that must have hurt."

"Dat nothing. Me throw up whole set of armor once."

"You swallowed a whole set of armor?"

"Too hungry to shell out Knight."

The moon on the breast of the new fallen snow

"Heh heh. You say 'breast'."

(the speaker is pummeled by thrown mugs from the other Orcs)

Gave the luster of midday to objects below,

When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,

But a minature sleigh and eight tiny reindeer,

"What! Reindeer, ripped from their natural habitat,
forced to drag the conveyance of some unfeeling-"

"Gee, you woke up fast."

(sounds of someone scooting very fast away from someone else)

With a little old driver so lively and quick,

I knew in a moment it must be Saint Nick.

"Speaking of Nick, did you notice that thief?"

"Bastard! Give back that dagger!"

"Dagger? What dagger? Oh, this one? It had fallen almost
out of its sheath, so I was keeping it safe for you-"

(Another loud *WHACK* echoes through the Inn)

"You shouldn't swing that club so hard. Look, you put a dent
in Olin's perfectly good floor. You ought to be ashamed."

"Ah, get to yer seat, you daft bugger, and no more stealing."

More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,

(An eagle flies in, circles the bard's head a few times, then
perches on an overstuffed chair and transforms)

And he whistled and shouted and called them by name,

"Now, Dasher! Now, Dancer! Now, Prancer and Vixen!

On Comet! On Cupid! On Donner and Blitzen!

"What degrading names for such noble forest creatures."

"Um, reindeer live on the plains."

"Well, they wander into the forest by accident sometimes."

To the top of the porch, to the top of the wall,

Now dash away, dash away, dash away, all!"

(a few Entropists jump up and dash away)

As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,

(the Entropists open the Inn's great doors, only to
be blown back by a raging blizzard. Struggling, they
finally push the door back into place against the gale,
and shame-facedly wander back to their seats)

When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky,

So up to the housetop the coursers they flew

With the sleigh full of toys and Saint Nicholas, too.

"Bloody hell! Nick's a sodding mage, he is! Shut this
poem up, you!"

"Oh, come now. Surely even an unthinking brute like yourself
can appreciate the value of culture?"

"And ye kin bugger yerself with yer own magic staff, shorty."

"Fine, then. Put this under 'knowing your enemy'.

(sour dwarvish grumbling can be heard for quite a while)

And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof

The prancing and pawing of each tiny hoof.

"Tsk. Trespassing on private property. That's a flaggable

As I drew in my head and was turning around,

Down the chimney Saint Nicholas came with a bound.

"... and how big is this chimney, again?"

"I tell yas, he's a bleedin' mage!"

He was dressed all in fur from his head to his foot,

"And how many animals did you slaughter for that fur, you
murdering reindeer-slaver?"

And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot;

A bundle of toys he had flung on his back

And he looked like a peddler just opening his pack.

"He no peddler. Peddlers, dey go 'Hi, want to buy dis,
no, no, put dat axe down, aaargh, aaargh.' But nice toys."

(general orcish laughter, joined by a few of the rougher
Sylvans and Ragers. The Arbiters look disapproving)

His eyes, how they twinkled! His dimples, how merry!

His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry.

"Hey, Olin, he looks sort of like you!"

"Must be a man who knows good liquor."

His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,

"It was stitched shut?"

"Hey, who let the necromancer in?"

And the beard on his chin was as white as the snow.

The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,

And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath.

"Den his beard catch on fire from pipe and he die."

(loud orcish laughter)

He had a broad face, and a round little belly

That shook when he laughed like a bowl full of jelly.

"This Nick seems like the perfect dwarf."

He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,

"But elves are tall and thin, and they don't have beards."

And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself.

"Oh, sure, a strange man with a big sack comes down my
chimney. Hilarious."

A wink of his eye and a twist of his head

Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread.

"Hypnosis spell! Bloody damn, I'm telling yas he's a mage!"

"Will you quit with the mage business?"

He spoke not a word but went straight to his work,

"Slaughtering the entire family?"

"No, making dem take de Bloodoath!"

(orcs laugh, Imperials glare)

And filled all the stockings, then turned with a jerk,

"Filled 'em? With what?"

"Evil magic stuff, wands and things, methinks-"

"No, no, no. Santa Claus brings presents to children."

"For free? Can't be much profit in that."

"He's altruistic, okay?"

(the Servants of the Dawn nod understandingly)

"He has this huge workshop, run by elves-"

"More slave labor! Is there no end to this Nick's crimes
against nature?"

"-RUN, I say, by elves, who make millions of toys. On the
night before Christmas day, he loads all these toys into
the sled and delivers them to all the children in Thera."

"A sleigh that can cross the unbounded lands of Thera in but
a single night? Fascinating. The Empire must gain control
of this remarkable conveyance."

"The Emperor!"

"Welcome, your Majesty!

"Hail the Emperor!"

(whispered) "Who dat?"

(whispered) "Dat Empr'or. All bow."

"You and you. Go. Find this 'Santa Claus' and demand of him
the Bloodoath. And I strongly suggest you not fail me."

"Yes, your Majesty!"

And laying his finger aside of his nose,

And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose.

"See? See? I told yas he was a bloody flyin' mage! Now will
ye sods believe me?"

"Alright, all right, Santa's a mage. Now sit down, will you?"

He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,

And away they all flew like the down of a thistle;

"If, that is, the down of a thistle was composed of a bearded,
drunken, overweight, defiler of Nature, who cruelly exploits
the muscle and sinew of captive reindeer for his own perverse
transportational needs, and who imprisons uncounted multitudes
of elves to labor for him in durance vile-"

(yet another *WHACK* echoes through the Inn, this one followed
by a hollow *thump* as a body slides head-first into the side
of the Christmas tree's clay pot)

But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight,

"And good riddance!"

"Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!"

"Bah, humbug!"

As the poem came to an end, the young bard quietly folded his notes
and tried to sneak away; an attempt doomed to failure, as a party
of drunken giants had decided to express their appreciation by dousing
him with mugs of ale. Smiling wryly, the soaked bard glanced down at
his equally soaked notes - the ink already dissolved to the point of
incomprehension - and decided that, all in all, the reception had been
better than he'd hoped for.

Straightening his robes of state, the Emperor strode out the door,
followed closely by his fawning Imperial entourage. The rest of the
party-goers returned to partying, their enthuasiasm undimmed. Except,
that is, for one.

"Here, cousin, where're you going?" shouted Olin to the dwarf standing
by the big doors. This dwarf was heavily muffled in armor and warm furs,
and in each hand clutched a wicked-looking mithril axe.

"Up on th' bloody roof, that's where I'm going! No bloody mage is gonna
be a-sneaking down yer chimney, not while I'm on guard!" And so saying,
the Battle Rager stalked out into the blizzard.

Olin and the ale-soaked bard shared a glance.

"You know, now that I think of it," mused the bard, "I forgot to mention
that Santa Claus is entirely fictional. I'll have to put that in the
next draft."

There came a odd sound from outside - a muffled *THUMP* followed by a low,
steady mutter, almost like a dwarf cursing after falling off an icy roof.

Merry freakin' Christmas, from the Phantom Menace.


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