Thursday, January 12, 2012

How Captain Frobisher Saved Christmas. pt.3

I was thrown against the bench back as we crashed through the timbers and shingles of the barn roof. John, who had been tying down provisions given by the elves was thrown to the floor behind the bench. The planking and splinters blew off quickly leaving us careening into the ice blue heavens drawn by these eight mad reindeer.
"John!" I cried out over the wind, "Why are we not on the ground?"
"I've no idea, Cap'n. Maybe we're going too fast! How hard did you crack 'em with that crop?"
"Not nearly hard enough, I think." I raised the crop against the wind once more and cracked it hard. The reindeer slackened their steps and the sleigh leveled out a bit some 500 fathoms from the ground.
"Cap'n. You'll never believe what's in this pack!" John cried, having just discovered what had broken his fall. "bottles of brandy, a whole tub of roast mutton and turnips, a roast goose and..." The man was silent for some minutes. I was enjoying it and did not wish to interrupt whatever passed for thought in his mind. All too soon he continued. "NEW POTS! A whole set of new pots." he cried out in glee. "They've even got my name on! Saint Nickolas must have had them set aside for me this Christmas."
"All due respect to the missing myth but I don't see that this was the best time to provide them to you. We're hardly going to be doing any cooking up here. I don't even know how we're going to get down or where down will be. See if there's a parcel in there marked High Admiral of Cathay. It ought to have a length of rop, a map of the north pole and an excuse out of this situation in it."
"No Cap'n. All we've got is the food and my pots." his eyes got all glinty and he held the shiny new pot up so the clear arctic sun could shimmer off the metal.
"So, do you think Father Christmas will be far off? How far can he have gone?"
"I can't even think why he would leave" John responded, "He's got that nice little village full of hard workers and boiled sweets. Why go somewhere else in the arctic? You don't suppose he..." As my Bosun spoke my mind drifted off. Paying him no mind, I looked down to the ice and noted that at the speed with which we were careening through the air we had traveled quite far. Quite independently I came to a disturbing conclusion.
"John, I don't think we're staying in the arctic. We're already starting toward some low pines and I can see patches of grass toward the horizon."
"Cap'n I was jus'..."
"Shut up John! We might cross over the Straights of Anean at any moment! Maybe this wasn't a childish waste of time after all." Tying down the reigns I slid over to the side of the sleigh and peered at the earth unfolding beneath us. White changed to brown. Brown transitioned to green. Then green began to be broken by patches of blue. "Hawser, Look below! Do my eyes deceive me or is that a great bay out of the sea?"
"I think me, Cap'n these be just great lakes."
"They never are! Look it goes all the way out to the East toward Frobisher Bay and... damn they're gone already. You'll see when we come back this way. I'll bet that was it! Proof!" I have rarely been so euphoric. For a while all I could do was sketch what I'd seen onto a spare bit of parchment while John watched the landscape slip by beneath us. After some twenty minutes John reached to the back where I was finishing my map. He prodded me lightly and giggled.
"Cap'n, look. This bit of land looks like a willy."
"John, I think that's New Spain. Leave it to the Spanish to find the biggest pizzle in the world to colonize. I can't tell if it's because they like it so much or because they need to compensate for something."
"Probably both, Cap'n."
"Fair point." I conceded. Suddenly my stomach jumped and the horizon moved higher. "Are we getting closer to the ground?"
"I think so. Saint Nick wouldn't go to New Spain for holidays would he?" John asked, looking very worried indeed.
"Not on purpose. Papists still remember the true meaning of Christmas. They wouldn't be his sort. It's only in the North of Europe and England that we know the glory of the old winter festivals. This can only mean one thing. The Spanish have abducted Father Christmas!
"If they have it their way no child will set his shoes out hoping to find questionable sweets in them the morning after, nor will they hang their socks to dry on the hearth and hope to find them filled with trinkets. Worse still, no one will run skyclad round their local pub whipping each other with switches. If we don't save father Christmas it will be all masses and candles without any presents, overeating or recreational drinking.
"John, more than ever our mission is clear. We must save Christmas!"

Thursday, January 5, 2012

How Captain Frobisher Saved Christmas. pt.2

'Twere like what I imagine a cannon shot feels like as it is blown from the muzzle at mad speed. I were pulled by the foot out across the arctic sky far to the north. As I flew the lights played around me and I saw their beauty and how they came to be. As it turns out they are birthed of... Nevermind I'll tell you when you're older.
Before long I found myself standing firm on packed snow and not far off I espied a small village in the Norwegian style. Behind me was Hawser and quickly I found the source of my troubles. "John," I said in a reasonable tone, "what have you done? Are we in Scandinavia? If we've gone east instead of west I'll have your rubbish doublet up the ensign line with you still in it."
"I wouldn' think so cap'n. If we were somewhere like that there'd be reindeer."
At just that moment the gods of poor timing smiled down upon us and eight smallish reindeer were led into sight chuffing and sweating from a run.
"I can hear it now; Reports of a ship taking cargo off the coast of Spain flying the flag of a strangely dressed man flailing. That's what master Walsingham is going to say to the queen come autumn."
"Cap'n did you notice the man leadin' those reindeer?"
"Child, John. When they are that size we call them children."
"He had a beard!"
"Perhaps there is a fancy dress party later."
"Let's just ask him then."

Since I speak not a word of Norwegian I called out to him in the time honoured manner of persons who need to make contact.
“Oy!” said I. Then, slowly and clearly so he was sure to know my meaning, “WHERE… ARE… WE?”
The boy turned, his full beard brushing his shoulder as he craned his neck behind to see us. Without a word he reached a hand out toward us and waved for us to follow him toward a small barn which I presumed to be the resting place of the reindeer. We followed across the frozen plain. The only features of the land were small rises in the ground and no plants whatever grew there. As far as the eye could see the only mark that heaven and firmament had ever been rent was this small cluster of brightly painted houses. While we trudged I pulled my emergency whiskey reserve flask from my exploring codpiece and took a dram to keep off the chill. John turned it down for some reason and we soldiered on.
As we approached the boy made a funny whistle and the doors were pulled open. Inside the barn everything was a bustle. There were little people, like our guide. They were busily crafting all manner of things. Tiny wooden people were scattered on every workbench. Little skin animals sat in organized bins. Crate upon crate of bladders ready for inflating were stacked against a wall. Every kind of toy a person could imagine was being assembled in this tiny workshop. There were even frustrated looking little people trying to tie strings to wooden chickens. Even more of the workshop was devoted to clothes. Big warm woolen socks and knit jumpers, fluffy sheepskin coats and silly fox fur caps were stacked, hung and draped over more than half the space.
“What manner of place is this?” I asked forgetting that our guide could speak no English.
This is the workshop of St. Nickolaus.” He responded in a tiny voice. John’s eyes nearly fell from his head and his mouth fell open. “We are making the toys and presents for all the children of the world to receive this Christmas.”
“Provided they follow the true faith, of course.” I responded knowing that infidels and savages do not celebrate our holy day.
We are not picky. Children will explain it for whatever celebration they observe.”
“I will pretend I never heard that. John, you didn’t hear it either.”
“Aye, Capn’. Bishop wouldn’ like it at all.” He said, coming back to what passes for his senses.
“Indeed. More importantly though, if we have found ourselves at the workshop of St. Nickolaus, it still does not tell us where in the world we are. Honestly, I thought this was more of a somewhere-magic-and-far-away sort of place which didn’t exist.”
We are on the North Pole. Since you are the first people to visit us here we thought it was suitably far away and magic. Perhaps we shall have to move now. Though, it may not matter if St. Nickolaus never comes back.”
“Are you telling me that not only am I on the North Pole in the workshop of St. Nick but I’ve come on a day when he’s away? This is frustrating. John, I am blaming you for this.” I said trying to remain calm.
Perhaps you have been sent to replace him! You, John, you could be the new father Christmas. We’d have to work on you some but you might pass for the old one.” The little man squeaked hopefully.
“I am flattered. But if you don’ mind my askin’. What happened to the old one?”
He never came back from his month off in January. Here it’s July and we’ve not seen him. We’re behind schedule on bon bons and boiled sweets, we have no idea what new things we ought to make or whether the children have been naughty or nice and even worse there’s no one to deliver everything.”
“Has anyone been to check on him? Have you sent a missive?” I asked, wondering at such irresponsible behaviour from a magical person.
We haven’t the resources. Who would we send? How would we send them? We are too few to send anyone and too small to drive the sleigh.
“Well, we certainly aren’t going to help sort children or boil sweets and there is no way Hawser is going to stay here and play at being a mythical person. However, if there’s voyaging to be done, we’re your men. Hitch up the sleigh. We’ll retrieve the man for you!”
You want to…” the little man began.
“I said hitch up the sleigh didn’t I? Get on it. I’ve no time. I have a continent to explore, a passage to Cathay to find and a barrel of wine to dump overboard.”
“Cap’n,” John started, “are you sure this is a good idea…”
“John. I think things are fairly clear here. We’ve been caught in a holiday story. Father Christmas must be returned or there will be no Christmas presents for the children of the world. Compared with rampant plagues, war, strife and the looming Spanish threat to our very kingdom it may not seem important but trust me, we cannot go back to the way things were until we save Christmas.” A crash broke the bustle of the workshop. “That wall looked perfectly sturdy, what happened?” I asked of John who was looking at the planks I had just destroyed.
“I’m not sure myself, Capn’. It’ll be okay though. There are three other walls here. I’m sure the elves will have the fourth one back up in no time.”
“Right, well the sleigh looks ready now. Let us make our way to Father Christmas wherever he may have gone.” With that I mounted the sleigh, took the reigns from the small man and waited for John to clamber in.
“So, are you an elf?” I asked, offhandedly.
Not really, we prefer to think of ourselves as… yes, I’m an elf.”
"Good to know."
With that, I cracked an ancient looking whip which happened to be nearby and we vaulted into the sky.