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!"