Let us kick off the holiday season in a very “Dungeons and Dragons” sort of way, shall we?
* * *
Florindel Liadys’Variana, War-Chief of the Seven Stars, delicately cleaned his needle-bright blade of ruin and, with a flick of his wrist, tossed the now-offensive cloth into the work-room fire.
“It’s over,” said Florindel. “The fat man is dead.”
“So very sad,” remarked Gillallian Thrithivasililil. “Not unlike the fall of a sparrow.”
“Yes,” said Florindel, a bit annoyed; it was his private opinion that Gillallian was a tiny bit gay, even by elven standards. “A big, fat, heavy sparrow.”
“So, so sad,” quasi-repeated Gillallian. “He worked so hard, to bring happiness to so many.”
“We worked hard, Gillallian!” cried Florindel. “It was us! Our hands pushed at these crude mortal tools! Our noble backs bore the loads of his thousand heavy bags!”
“Yes,” said Gillallian, poking delicately at the rapidly-cooling corpse with one pointed shoe, vainly attempting to move the ponderous body into a position of marginal dignity. “I know, Florindel. I know.”
“It is a bit late,” said Florindel, with exaggerated patience, “for these apparent ‘second thoughts’ now. Where were these second thoughts of yours when you intoned the words from the ancient Book of Shadowed Sun, fogging the fat man’s mind and rendering him vulnerable to the keen strike of Ylgadil Bright-Shard?”
“Of who?” said Gillallian.
“My sword,” replied Florindel. “It is called ‘Ylgadil Bright-Shard.'”
“That’s not what it was last week.”
“I didn’t like what it was last week, all right?” said Florindel. “With shame, I admit that when I renamed my sword last week I had been going a bit heavy on the old ‘berry-laced spring water.’ So, there! You have me! I admit it. Can we stop talking about my sword now?”
“You,” said Gillallian, looking once more at the corpse of the fat man, “were the one who brought it up.”
“Hmph,” said Florindel.
“I have heard some say that he, too, was an elf,” said Gillallian, after a time.
Florindel scoffed darkly. “Ridiculous. The overwhelming emphasis on tool use and craftsmanship? Dwelling eternally in damnably cold places? The extensive facial hair? Does that sound like an elf to you, Gillallian?”
“What does that sound like to you? Because I know what it sounds like to me. It sounds like a dwarf to me, Gillallian. And we are better rid of him.” Florindel took in breath sharply, then nodded to himself. “Better rid of him,” he finished.
There was a pause.
“What shall we do now?” said Gillallian.
“I shall tell you what we do now, Gillallian,” said Florindel. “We shall turn this place on its ear and do things in the true elven way from now on!”
“The toys and all?”
“The toys and all, yes! Proper elven toys, though! Glass baubles which glow with sparkling blue fire from deep within! Cunning gossamer doll-clothing! Socks, made from finest cobweb!”
“Cobweb… socks?” said Gillallian.
“Why not?” replied Florindel. “I have a pair of cobweb socks. In fact, I’m wearing them right now.”
“Aren’t they… kind of sticky, or something?”
“A bit,” said Florindel. “But we all make sacrifices when we need to. And then, once we have established ourselves, we will move from this terribly cold place back to the ancient heart-woods of our ancestors! The old-growth forests where our people have long made their homes!”
“I think,” said Gillallian, “that I don’t care for the really deep, dark forests all that much. In their own way, they too are cold and clammy.”
“Oh?” spake Florindel, a bit harshly at this maligning of the Elven Dream. “And where would you live instead, Gillallian?”
“An island,” said Gillallian, looking wistful. “A warm, tropical island. Perhaps I would purchase my own, so it would be mine to tend as I chose.”
“Ha! Well, you can have fun there on your own little island, Gillallian. You can even name it after yourself if you like. All I know is that while you are romping around in the sand on Gillallian’s Island I will be soaking, just soaking in the raw power of Nature!” Florindel permitted himself a tiny smile. “And it will be grand.”
“Oh?” said a third voice, from across the room.
The two elves looked up and startled. “Q—Queen Ilphistreel!” stammered Florindel, dropping into a distressingly effeminate bow.
“So, you have gone through with your plans, I see,” said Ilphistreel. “And already you are casting your imaginations to the future.” The Elf-Queen closed her eyes and placed two fingers on the star of shining pigment on her forehead. “Fools,” she said.
“With respect, M’Lady,” said Florindel, setting his jaw, “I like my plan. An awful lot.”
“Yes,” said Ilphistreel. “Yes, I expect you must.” Ilphistreel gathered her robes about her and darkness seemed to flow from her. “You shall like it not so well,” she said, her voice loud and somber, “when you realize how much of your time must be spent in the delivery of these gifts!”
“But…” said Gillallian, “…didn’t the fat man deliver them all in a single evening?”
“The fat man,” said Ilphistreel, “wielded powerful magicks. And, he had a sleigh, drawn by caribou. Flying caribou.”
“We shall have a flying carriage, too!” Florindel protested. “Drawn by a dozen swans, with names of morning!”
“AND WILL IT COURSE WITH NIGH-BERZERKERLY SWIFTNESS?!?” cried Ilphistreel. “BECAUSE THAT’S WHAT IT WOULD NEED TO DO!”
Florindel hedged. “Well… not ‘nigh-berzerkerly,’ perhaps, but I think we could get a good turn of spe—”
“No,” said Ilphistreel, the darkness around her lifting somewhat. “It’s ‘nigh-berzerkerly’ or you may as well forget it.”
“Oh,” said Florindel.
“Plus,” said Ilphistreel, “you would have to travel down the chimneys of the world to deliver them.”
“Chimneys?” said Gillallian. “But… how did—”
“Fools! I say again, fools! Are you ignorant of even the most basic job duties of the fat man? The nature of his arcane power? Yes, chimneys, of course! The creosote-stained brick stacks of the humans! The teeny-tiny little stovepipes of the halflings!”
“Well,” said Florindel, thinking with distaste of all the soot and the muck and the black stuff all over his fine linen garments, “I suppose if we employed Tenser’s Miraculous Three-Day Diet, we might—”
“THE EXHAUSTS,” said Ilphistreel, “OF THE GREAT DWARVEN MINES?!? BEFOULED WITH THE INK-DARK WASTES OF THEIR FORGES AND THE CHARRED FAT OF THEIR ROASTED PIGS?!?”
“Enough!” cried Florindel. “Enough, Lady Ilphistreel!”
“We are so very sorry!” blubbered Gillallian, crawling to the hem of her robe and weeping upon it. “We have erred, but good!”
Ilphistreel let this sycophantic display continue for a few moments, because, in truth, she was rather enjoying it.
“Yes,” said Florindel, grimly. “My companion speaks true. We have erred.” He gazed intently at Ilphistreel. “Perhaps… if M’Lady would grant us forgiveness, we might happen upon some way to make things right.”
“Oh, very well,” said Ilphistreel, giggling girlishly. “It is done. Let me fetch my Rod of Resurrection.”