My annual/traditional gift to all the Jatraquero's out there is a small story that tries to capture the true meaning of Santa Claus...
THE SANTARILLION By Dan Davis
Galadorn stood atop of the massive fortress wall. His sword dripped fresh blood, the frozen wind whipped his cape about him, but he did not notice these things. His elvish mind was on another time, another battle, ages and ages ago. “Professor T was right,” he yelled to the snow and wind. “He said that the nameless one would return to his fortress in the far north. He said he would take on a form most pleasing to childish men. Professor T. was right.”
He refused to name this particular Professor, master of languages, writer of epics. The elves did not name the dead.
Galadorn jumped down from the walls and into the first inner courtyard of this northernmost fortress, remembering Professor T’s epic. Professor T. had crudely translated from the original timeless elvish into the constraining English sub-language of men. He did the best any human could but what was translated lost its timeless Elvish double meaning. What was history and prophesy became barely history, mostly fantasy. Its deep and confusing story of a fallen power seeking the light of the western world, stealing it by tricking the world with a pleasing appearance, then hiding away to spread his evil in a vast northern fortress has all but been forgotten in these modern times.
The Elves remember. What is called the Light by the western world? What being seems to be the least threatening, most caring, yet has stolen that light, and corrupts it? Why the North Pole? The Elves know. The elves are prepared. Galadorn began singing:
“Don we now or gay apparel Fa la la la, la la la, la, la, la. To this ancient Yule time peril Fa la la la la, la la, la, la.
At this point six of the Un-Elves broke from their hiding places and charged Galadorn. Un-elves were creations of the nameless one. He called them elves but they held no grace, no honor, no beauty. Closer to goblins yet without their strength, they were more comic than threatening. They were shorter than the thin, graceful Galadorn’s six feet. They were more the size of those halflings that caused the Nameless One’s favorite such trouble an age or so ago. Standing at maybe four foot tall they were not heavy but angular and pointed: pointy ears, pointy faces, pointy toes. They fought well, wielding perverted saws and hammers that were more weapons than tools, more used to rend than to build.
Galadorn, however, had been a warrior since the first age. He held a sword crafted by those who lived in the golden isles no longer in the west. They fought with hatred and anger, rushing in to destroy. Galadorn fought with grace and determination. They came at him in a line. He rushed through the line, dipping his blade just low enough to catch the neck of one Un-Elf, then spun, slicing through the spine of a second. Their weapons fell harmlessly around him, none expecting Galadorn’s speed or agility. All of them were incensed as he continued to sing in the Elvish.
“When real Elves are known no more by all but a few His pleasing face will convince most that these Goblin goo Are all that Elves can ever be, or all they ever were Jokes and dreams of fools and drunks and forgotten curs”
They turned on Galadorn, but his sword was longer than their reach. A third went down with a lunge, then Galadorn grabbed the fourth as a shield. His friends dispatched him quickly, but their strange weapons, so fearsome in appearance, became entangled in the corpse’s body. Galadorn twisted the body, yanking the weapons from the Un-Elf hands. They turned and ran.
A shot rang out and one of the Un-elves died. A second shot, and the second died. A third shot and Galadorn fell. From out of the shadows came a horned one. “Fools” he muttered. “We aren’t in the fourth age any more. Your hands craft digital death in video format all day long. Why did you have to fight him with steal?” By now the Horned One had stepped up to the two dead Un-Elves. He kicked their bodies out of his way as he sauntered toward the real elf.
Suddenly he stopped. From the snow covered ground around the elf there came a noise.
“On Dasher, On Dancer, On Prancer, On Blitzen” Galadorn began to stand. “On Comet, On Cupid, On Donner, On Vixen” Donner, for that was the name of this Horned One, stepped back and fired again. The bullet bounced off the Elf’s mithril armor.
“These are the horned ones the Nameless does call. Lesser in power but Evil in all”
Horned Ones were spirits of destruction. They can take on the shapes of men to do their evil deeds, but once a year the nine returned back to the northern fortress, to the evil that bound them. Once a year they must put away their favorite vices and take on their true forms.
Donner started to shake. He stood almost seven feet tall, with not just two impotent bull’s horns on his head, but a full rack of antlers, each tip sharpened and poisoned. His arms were well muscled, his legs were strong. His feet ended in iron-shod hoofs as is common with such demons. Donner could have picked up Galadorn and thrown him to his death into one of the many smoking pits that littered the fortress courtyard. He could have pierced Galadorn with an antler tip and watched him die slowly from the poison. Donner did none of these things. Donner was scared. The fear came from the unnatural rise of Galadorn, and the ancient song he sang. The fear came from spells that encased Galadorn like a womb, and spells that flew from him like light. Donner did not remember his horns, or his massive arms. He did not think about aiming the gun elsewhere. He just fired, again and again, into the Mirthril covered chest of Galadorn.
Galadorn took a deep breath, then spun, bringing his now glowing blade up high. There was hardly any resistance as the blade passed through the neck of Donner. With a groan, the demonic head landed at his feet like some demented hunter’s trophy. Donner fired three more shots before his body realized it was dead.
“Die now Donner, and may the Powers That Be make you suffer for all your crimes. May you starve in the afterlife as those whom you’ve tricked into the winter California mountains starved. May you feast only upon the decaying flesh of rotting friends, as you have led others to do. Go to your Party now Donner, and enjoy it not.”
The death of a few Un-Elves may have gone unnoticed. Even gunplay in the Fortress of the Far North is not unusual. However, all with a hint of power would notice the death of a Horned One. The other Horned Ones would come running. Even the Nameless One would take note.
Galadorn had to reach his goal before they caught him. This was a mission of speed and surprise. Only if he reached his goal, only if he freed the prisoner, was there any chance of escaping a long and painful death.
There were pits and holes littering the large courtyard. Some were sized only to fit the smallest Un-Elf. Others were large enough to swallow a helicopter. Most of them emitted fumes of various colors and stenches. Galadorn ran from one to the next, using his ears and his nose to find where the prisoner was kept. He did so quickly, for already the powers within the fortress were stirring. Howls of agony and joy over the death of their brother had ended for the Horned Ones. Now they would come hunting.
As he searched a platoon of Un-Elves came marching toward him, singing their work song as the overseer emphasized the downbeat with his whip.
“Oh you better watch out, you better not cry You better not shout. I’m telling you why Satan Claws is coming and soon.
He’s making a list, checking each day. Run my fools. Don’t get in his way. Satan Claws is coming and soon.
He knows when you are sleeping He knows when you’re awake He knows what you are all up to So you better do what ever it takes
Oh you better watch out You better not cry You better not shout I’m telling you why Satan Claws us coming and soon.
Galandor paused. There it was, that wonderful smell of baking cookies, that sound of a silent night, a trace of that feeling you get when you’ve touched another person with a smile or a well-loved gift. It was this hole in the ground that led to the prison he sought. Down there the prisoner lay, his short life even now running out like so many others in the past. The Un-Elves were forming up into an organized charge.
Quickly Galandor reached into the small pack on his back. From it he pulled out a long section of thin soft elven rope. He lassoed Donner’s head, wrapped some around himself, and then jumped into the hole. The head, some sixty feet away, slid across the courtyard grounds, then into the hole. The antlers, long and sharp and poisoned, were too large to fit down the hole. Like a giant grappling hook, but stronger than steal, they stopped the head from falling into the hole. With a sharp jerk, they stopped Galandor’s descent as well. Galandor smiled. No one would easily remove that set of antlers and survive. He calmly rappelled down the remainder of the hole. The hole was a sticky slimy bore in the ground that dropped over two hundred yards almost straight down, than angled off and up quickly, like the trap under a sink. When he reached the bottom Galandor left his rope and worked on climbing up to where the smell came from. What started out as dark and slimy became even stickier and even darker. Only the light of his blade could be seen as it sliced through the thickening webs. Its light was dimming.
The carrion and filth brought by the Unnamed One’s followers brought flies to the arctic for the first time. They were no major problem. What the frost didn’t kill, spiders by the scores devoured. These spiders were not the normal, mostly harmless, multi-hairy legged creatures we see every day. They were evil, poisonous and large, the size of a fat house cat. They were all decedents from...Galandor didn’t name her, even in his thoughts. He was too close to her to risk such magic. The tunnel was now clogged with webs, some of them thick as Christmas tinsel. Others were thicker than bicycle tires. Each of these was barely touched by his sword, and they shriveled from its light. With each web dissolved the glow of the sword dimmed slightly as well.
A sound broke through the darkness. I low painful moan.
“Good dinner. Cry dinner” a raspy ancient crones voice replied. “Do not move dinner, or I will hurts you, my dinner.”
Galandor sensed the closeness of his goal and hurried, bringing his blade down faster, destroying more of the web. This destruction sent vibrations along the web, signaling its creator that more prey was nearby. She silenced immediately.
Galandor noted the silence, and stepped back into the clearing he had previously cut. If she were to attack, it would be soon. He raised his sword and began the ancient chant.
“The icky sticky spider hunted all about.”
From the darkest recess of the web the auto-sized spider lunged forward, the webs that had filled the tunnel spread apart to allow her charge. Galandor was surprised at how big the tunnel had grown. He didn’t let the surprise slow him down. He met the spider’s charge with his shining blade and the ancient poem.
“Down came the pain, and knocked the spider out.”
The blade took her deep in the chest. Galandor left the blade their and dove between her legs, under her massive bloated belly, and rolled to safety, dodging the pincers that sought out his soul. She reached for him twice before the pain of his elvish blade, and the light it gave, was too much. She screamed, and the fortress shook with its echoes. “The Pain” She cried. “The Pain!”
As Galandor came to his knees and faced her, he pulled out a small vial of light from his pack.
“Out came the sun, and drove the dark away.”
She screamed again. The webs around her shriveled in the light that burst forth from the vial. Darkness darker than a moonless cloudy midnight suddenly became as bright as an August noon. She covered her eyes, but it was too late. The light in the vial grew brighter in challenge to its dark surroundings. Like a shadow at dawn, she melted away. Galandor’s sword, now rusted and destroyed, fell to the floor with a clang.
“And the Icky Sticky Spider, in peace may she lay.”
All of her webs of darkness vanished in the light of Galandor’s vial. What Galandor thought was a web filled tunnel was revealed to be an odd shaped room fifty or so yards around. Galandor stood just barely past the entrance to this big room. There were a few white bones scattered on the floor, all the rest of the large round room was a drab gray. All, that is, except the prisoner. He was an eruption of color in the drab colorless world of “Her” lair. He wore a long cloak of greens and gold and had a white beard, blue eyes that shone brighter than the vial and bright red stockings that were barely seen above the glare of his silver shoes. A purple sack at his feet bulged with gifts. From its top a myriad of colored wrappings poked out.
Slowly the prisoner stood, a smile as broad as possible broke across his face. He let out the strangest of all sounds ever heard in the Fortress of the North. He laughed. It wasn’t a viscous sound, or an insane cackle. It was a deep and heartfelt expression of unbridled joy. “Merry Christmas Galandor!”
Despite the exhaustion and the dread that comes from even seeing the Fortress of the North, Galandor smiled. “And a very merry holiday to you Spirit.” The spirit reached into his pocket and brought out a handful of glittering dust. He threw it in the air. The transformation was remarkable. No tinsel sprang up; no garland grew in the cold permafrost. The air, however, became sweet and delicious, with a touch of vanilla. As Galandor put away the vial of light, he noted the room filled with the light of moonlight reflected off of snow.
“Come my elvish friend. My time is short, and there is much to do. The Spirit of Christmas Present has spent too much time here.”
“You aren’t going anywhere,” came a dark deep voice echoing down the tunnel. Down the corridor marched the feet of Un-Elves.
Galandor looked up at The Spirit and said. “There must have been a larger hidden entrance to this tunnel. What do we do now?” The Spirit reached into a large parcel filled bag that lay at his fee. He pulled out a bright new sword and handed it to Galandor. Galandor noted the tag--Merry Solstice.
“We do what I do every night. We try and take over the world, with the spirit of Christmas.”
Galandor moved into his best fighting posture. “Easy for you to say. You’re only here for one more day. I had plans for New Year’s Eve.”
“HO! HO! HO” Echoed down the tunnel. The elf cursed. This was not the same jubilant laugh of Christmas Present. This was the deep accursed laugh of the nameless one, he who can’t be named, the evil one himself. His laughter was followed by the Un-Elf chant:
“Here comes Satan Claws Here Comes Satan Claws Right down deaths hallway.
Making toys From girls and Boys That get into his way”
Ten un-elves marched into the room forcing the Spirit and elf to back up. Behind them could be seen the towering antlers of the Horned Ones. Behind them that dangerous voice boomed. “Let me meet this would be Beren, come to steal a gem from my crown?” he called. The un-elves backed out of the now small room. In marched four of the Horned Ones, then Him Who Can’t Be Named, then four more of the Horned Ones.
“You know Dasher, and Dancer, and Comet, and Blitzen Donner is dead but not Cupid or Vixen.”
“But do you recall?” Said the very first Horned One, who’s red glowing eyes reminded Galandor of a laser range finder on some sniper’s rifle, “The most deadly Horned One of All?”
“Yes” growled Galandor “I know you, Rudolph, spreader of lies, father of Propaganda. I know you too Blitzen, who’s genius was so appreciated by the Nazis, they named their strategy after you. I know you too Cupid, despoiler of innocence, who confuses lust and Love and obsession. I know you Comet, harbinger of death. I know you Vixen, as if any deer, of any family, would take a canine name.”
“What of me!” Said the not so jolly, not an elf. He was a huge man, fat and grotesque, smoking some foul weed in his pipe.
“I know you too, master thief. As you stole the light of the western lands when you stole the light of the first trees, so you have set out to steal the light of the western world by stealing Christmas itself. You’ve stolen the identity of a saint, and turned it into a mockery of his own beliefs. Where peace and love should be shared, you’ve filled the world with stress and greed.”
Rudolph laughed. “The best part is, in every movie, song or story they tell about him” Rudolph hissed, “He comes across as the person trying hard to bring the true meaning of Christmas back. He’s the god damned good guy!”
The un-elves laughed along with most of the Horned Ones. Cupid and Blitzen and Mr. Claws did not.
“Of course,” Said the Spirit “As long as your late spider pet kept me and my earlier incarnations trapped in her webs, no true meaning could emerge.”
“Poor what’s her name” sympathized Santa. “Every year a new Spirit of Christmas comes to earth, going first where the need for Christmas Cheer is the worst. It didn’t take me long to ensure that place was right here, in her lair, where her magic webs would hold them tight while she drained them of their powers.”
“Except in 1914, as men count years now.” Added Galandor.
“Yes, at the depths of World War 1, there was a place even gloomier than this lair. Your earlier incarnation first flew to the trenches and brought a week of peace disrupting a war I had worked so hard to create.”
“Even you cannot win them all.”
Mr. Claws just glared. “The question then remains, who are you little elf? I knew Beren and you are no Beren.”
Galandor relaxed from his attack posture, and bowed deeply “Galandor Evergreen never at your service sir. I represent the remainder of the White Council and am here to right a few wrongs.”
A moment of silence filled the lair, then great bouts of laughter erupted from the crowd. “And how are you going to do this. You’ve tried warning the world. The dreams you sent to the talented were wasted. Charlie Brown, A Wonderful Life, even my favorite, The Grinch, all warned the world not to trust a Santa Christmas. The results have only been a growth in my popularity.”
“But now the True Spirit of Christmas Present is free to spread the real meaning,” responded the Spirit with a smile. He reached into his pocket for a second handful of dust. As he did so the Horned Ones pulled out large caliber automatic weapons. Comet had a rocket launcher. Most of the Un-Elves just had knives and forks. Galandor realized even his Mirthril would not stand against this firepower. Still he stepped in front of the Spirit of Christmas Present and raised his new blade.
“Oh the brave elf. Tell me sprite, would you really kill Santa Claus? Would you slay him on Christmas Eve?”
“Why not defiler. I am no Christian.”
“But you would die for me Galandor” asked the Spirit of Christmas Present.
Galandor turned to the towering Spirit behind him. “Yes. You are no church. You are in many ways like the elves that remain. All you seek is Joy, Peace, and Friendship. You may be a Christian Spirit, but your ideals cannot be contained in that limited theology.”
The Spirit smiled. “Then honor my ideals sir. Slay no more on Christmas day.” Galandor lowered his sword.
“Then you will die,” said the evilest one, with no fear or malice, but as fact.
“I think not.” Responded the spirit. “You have no hold on me any more. I will leave, and take my friend with me. Before we go, however, be warned. The Spirits of Christmas Present, Future, and Past, are stronger now than ever. We owe this to you, master of evil. You spread us to the entire world. You spread us to the unbelievers and the believers of other things. When the world was loosing its magic you kept some of it alive. Best of all, your marketing strategy has given me a longer wonderful life. The Spirits of Christmas used to be alive only on Christmas Day. Then we grew to Christmas Eve. We thought ourselves lucky to live through 12 days a year. Now you have people thinking and dreaming about Christmas as early as All Hallow’s Eve. Why there are a few sales and holiday spirited people that even call us out as early as Mid-Summers Eve. Smile and remember that I will be around to counter your plots on all those days, thanks to you.”
“And I and my kind will serve with the Spirits as well.” Galandor laughed. “You’ve brought us together with your taunting un-elves. We shall spread joy and brotherhood and the real meaning of the holy days to the world. We shall do what we do best, sing and dance, laugh and tell stories, and every now and then, slay a Horned One. How well will Santa and his un-elves do against The Spirits of Christmas and real elves.”
The nameless one was no longer laughing. He just turned to the Horned Ones and said “fire”. A wall of fire, depleted uranium, hollow point rounds, and explosive grenades erupted from the Horned Ones weapons. Before any of the explosives or bullets reached their targets the Spirit of Christmas Present took his great cloak and wrapped it around Galandor. They vanished like a star at dawn. All that was left, before the bullets began ricocheting back and the grenade shrapnel started ripping through the enclosed room, was the sweetly whispered sound “Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!”
May each of you avoid the mercantile Satan Claws and find the true Spirit of Christmas Present, no matter what your beliefs may be.
Posts: 11895 | Registered: Apr 2002
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I'm going to read this later. Got to go do.....ok. So I don't have the patience right now to sit in front of a screen long enough to read it. But I will read it.
Posts: 35 | Registered: Nov 2005
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Dan, I just read it. That was brilliant. I've had to work harder this year than usual to get into the Christmas Spirit, and this just tipped the scales. I really needed that. From now on I promise not to complain about early Christmas Sales or pre-Halloween Christmas decorations.