Santa Down

The Greatest Gift is a Loving Partner.

A.M. Sardar

Art by Ash Collins

Copyright © 2014 by A.M. Sardar v1.0

Suitable for all ages.

* * *


my daughter Kinza

* * *


Once Upon a Christmas Eve there was a riot in Santa Land caused by severe industrial unrest.
All the little Elves, all the large Globs and all the other various enchanted creatures, gathered together and tried to burn down the workshop.
Voices were raised, fingers were pointed, and on occasion, violent harm was done to both persons and property. At one point it looked very likely that Santa Claus would fail to deliver any toys on Christmas Eve.
But fear not children, there was a happy outcome to all this unhappiness and beastliness; the return of the lost Santa, Santa Clown.
For you see, dear fragrant readers, Santa Clown delivered his presents with a joke and a trick; believing the gift of a smile was the greatest gift of all. Alas the strain of constant good humour proved too much and he retired to be replaced by his younger brother, Santa Claus.
Unfortunately the storms of unrest gathered in Santa Land; machines were sabotaged, seditious leaflets were distributed, an Elf was wrongly accused, an odd couple were miss-betrothed and a love-struck Blob violently expressed his outrage.
By providence and good luck Santa Clown returned to bring harmony to Santa Land and, as in all good tales, the villain was unmasked and rudely chastised, lovers were reunited (although they weren't really parted), brothers reconciled and the ingenuity of our hero was recognised.

Santa Down

* * *


The Council Of Santas

Mr Drole
ONCE upon a Valentine Eve the Council of Santas gathered to punish the guilty, reprieve the miss-judged and admonish the culpable.
Mr Drole the Troll stood up and looked across the vast expanse of the Great Ballroom at the multitude of seated workers eagerly awaiting his opening statement. He moved forward effortlessly, his lean figure dressed smartly in a sober dark suit, a crisp white shirt and the crimson legal robes of Santa Land. He glanced up towards the stage where, at a large table, sat the rotund figure of Santa Claus, the lean figure of Santa Clown and the matronly figure of Mrs Santa Claus.
"We are not here to punish anyone," began Drole, "we all made some mistakes and said and did things in the heat of the moment which, now on reflection, I am sure we all regret."
A few heads nodded in agreement, Santa Claus sighed wearily at the recollection and Santa Clown absentmindedly picked his nose.
"It's not for the three Honourable Santas to judge the rights and wrongs of the accused, that is for all of you," continued Drole, "you will hear the vidence and you will decide their innocence or perhaps, regrettably, their guilt."
The seated workers of Santa Land fingered their voting buttons in anticipation.
"Just a minute Drole," interrupted Santa Claus, "I want to clarify that we have issued a general amnesty for the majority of the rioters."
A slight breeze of approval clapping wafted through the Great Ballroom, Santa Claus raised his hand for silence and continued, "These trials are only for the principles, the ones who either instigated the actions or were involved in prolonging them and making them worse."
All eyes turned to the accused in the dock to the left of the stage, some withered before the audience's glare whilst others affected not to be effected and a lone culprit whined pitifully.
"Now Drole here," said Santa Claus, "will present the damning evidence and young Kushloo will offer excuses."
Kushloo, the young Elf, looked up from his seat and cast Drole a worrying glance. Drole suppressed a half smile and said, "I believe the phrase is mitigating circumstances."
"Humph," said Santa in irritation and banged the heavy gavel, "yes, whatever. Carry on."
Drole paused for a moment to gather his thoughts, he glanced at his papers, gave a little sniff with his large thumb-sized nostrils, looked at the Court Clerk, the ancient Troll Scrimpner, and said "Call the first accused. Call Elf Elvis."
Scrimpner stood up very, very slowly, at one point his knees buckled dangerously, and the onlookers thought he would sit down again, but he steadied himself, attained his full magisterial height and said "Elf Elvis to the witness stand."
A rotund Elf, dressed in a sequined white jump suit with an elaborate cape covered in rhinestones, got up and carefully made his way from the dock to the solitary chair in the centre of the room. He looked nervously across the audience and attempted a little warming smile but the moment overwhelmed him and it was washed from his face by the tide of impending disaster. He climbed awkwardly into the large chair, squirmed a little to free the cape from his large bottom and expectantly turned to face Mr Drole.
"Are you Elf Elvis?" Mr Drole began.
"Uhm, I prefer Elvis the Elf," he corrected in a strong American accent from the Deep South.
Drole sighed wearily and began again, "Are you Elvis the Elf?"
"Sure am. Thank you very much," he replied confidently, throwing his cape behind him in a dramatic gesture and shooting his index finger like a pistol at Drole.
"May I remind you, you are in a Courtroom," said Drole menacingly, "not at an audition."
"Oh sorry!" said the shame-faced Elf as the audience tittered at Drole's joke.
Drole grinned confidently and continued, "Now, you are accused of leading the rioters into the building and up towards the sleigh launch pad. Do you have anything to say?"
The Elf thought for a moment and then replied, "Uhm, sorry but that's what I do. I'm a tour guide. I guide people to where they want to go."
"Really?" said Drole sarcastically, "Even guiding rioters to the launch pad so they can destroy it?"
An audible gasp rose from the audience and Santa Claus slammed his gavel down, "Oh stop that, we all know what happened."
"Do we?" asked Santa Clown cracking a walnut with the gavel and sending bits flying everywhere.
"Yes, we do. Pay attention and," replied Santa Claus snatching back the gavel, "that's not what it's for."
"Well?" asked Drole, turning to face the Elf.
"Uhm sorry, I guess now and then there's a fool such as I," he replied.
"Now, wait a minute," snapped Drole and asked "did you just reply with one of your song titles?"
The Elf smiled weakly and looked down in modest shame and even Drole was a little moved by his plight.
"No more questions," said Drole sitting down in his chair.
All eyes turned to young Kushloo as he rose from his chair, he smiled broadly and the accused smile back. Kushloo came close to the Elf and asked "Are you sorry for what you did?"
"Yes," said a slightly confused Elf, "I sure am."
Kushloo smiled again, nodded to the Judges, said "That's all," and returned to his seat.
Santa Claus slammed his gavel loudly and instructed the audience, "Now you've all heard both sides of the story and can pass judgement. Chose the correct button and press now."
Each of the voting pads suddenly burst into life, bright blue lights flashed and blinked, and the two large buttons, marked red for 'Guilty' and off-white for 'Innocent', pulsated invitingly. Everyone pressed the button of their choice and waited patiently for the result to be announced.
Scrimpner glanced at the ornate console before him, waited patiently for everyone to finish voting, and, satisfied everyone had done their judicial duty, nodded at Santa Claus who in turn banged his gavel. He seemed inordinately fond of banging his gavel, much to the annoyance of his wife and the envious glances of Santa Clown, and announced, "The voting is now complete. The results please Scrimpner."
The desiccated, twig-like legs of the Court Clerk creaked into action and he stood up firmly to pronounce, "The verdict is," he paused for effect, "Quite Guilty."
"Oh dear, looks like Jailhouse Rock for me," said the defendant Elf miserably.
The Santa's conferred amongst themselves for a short time and then Santa Claus banged his gavel, again, and said, "You have been found guilty by your peers and we, The Three Santas, have decided to demote you to Post Boy for six months."
Once again Santa Claus banged his gavel, yet again, and said loudly "Next case."
Drole once again stood up and read from his charge list, "Call Elfe Elsie."
Scrimpner looked at the remaining defendants in the dock and motioned Elfe Elsie with his forefinger. She smiled broadly, flashing her 'oh-so-perfect' teeth, and walked slowly, with a sensuous swagger, to the chair. Her slow progress across the courtroom was far too annoying for Mrs Santa and she snapped "Oh, for Heaven's sake, hurry up!"
Drole suppressed a smile, Elsie was startled at the verbal slap and all the males quickly averted their eyes, a little too quickly.
She seated herself in the chair, crossed her legs leisurely, flicked her blonde locks and moistened her lips with a slow lick of her tongue.
Drole sighed, the girl was treating this like a first date, 'when were the accused going to treat it like a trail' he wondered, and began the questioning, "You are Elfe Elsie?"
"If you say so," she said absentmindedly.
Drole ignored her reply and continued, "You were responsible for distributing these seditious leaflets," holding up one of the offending items.
Elsie raised one of her immaculately plucked eyebrows questioningly.
"The one that says 'Shoot Santa Claus Down Bring back the Santa Clown', were you responsible?" he asked again.
"If you say so," replied Elsie.
"It's not what I say, it's what you did," said an exasperated Drole.
"Did I?" she asked, ever- so-innocently.
"Yes, you did!" said Drole firmly and then continued, "What is the matter with you? Why is everything I say such a surprise to you?"
"Is it?"
"Oh be quiet, you silly girl," retorted Drole waspishly.
"Objection, your Honourable Santas," said Kushloo quickly.
"On what grounds?" asked Santa Claus.
"She can't answer questions if he asks her to be quiet," pointed out Kushloo with a crafty smile.
"That's quite right you know, she can't keep quiet on the witness stand. How can she reply?" pointed out Santa Claus.
Drole glared at Kushloo and then cracked an awkward smile at the judges, "My apologies your Esteemed Santas, I merely meant she should give clear answers."
"Very well, carry on," said Santa Claus and, once again, needlessly banged his gavel.
Drole resumed his poise and questioning, "Did you distribute these leaflets?"
"If you say," she smiled, "oh sorry; yes."
"Good, now…" began Drole, but before he could continue Elsie interrupted him.
"But if you look at it, Santa Clown came back, so where's the harm?" she said sweetly.
"Where's the harm? You seem to have overlooked the slight case of advocating shooting Santa Claus. Hmm?" pointed out Drole and Elsie's confidence momentarily waned and she pulled a face.
"Quite," said Drole smugly, scanned the courtroom to make sure everyone understood his point and resumed his seat with a curt, "no more questions."
Kushloo rose confidently and approached Elsie, she rewarded him with a genuine smile, and asked "Are you sorry you distributed these leaflets?"
"Well," she smiled slowly, "yes, I suppose I am."
Kushloo returned the smile, confused as to why she was taking this so calmly and in such good humour.
"For the few that I did," she added with a whiplash flick of her right eyebrow.
Kushloo was confused by her answer and asked "What do you mean?"
"I only handed out one or two. I gave you the bag and your friend Alf 'distributed' them out of the control room. Perhaps you two should be here instead of me?" she said with a poisonous smile.
A worried look flashed across Kushloo's face and he realised everyone was now staring at him and not Elsie; he suddenly felt very uncomfortable and behind him Drole beamed widely.
"Yes, uhm, yes; that's true up to a point," he stammered quickly trying to regain his composure, "but, uhm, did you, eh… did you tell me what the bag contained?"
"Did you ask?" Elsie replied quickly.
"Ah yes, but you said your locker was broke; that's why I took the bag."
"It was broke," she replied flatly.
"You broke it yourself," snapped Kushloo angrily.
Elsie smiled, leaned forward and locked eyes with him, "I said it was broke. You didn't ask who broke it?"
"Who asks if you broke your own locker?" he argued.
"Who takes a bag without asking what's in it?" she replied tartly, leaning back.
There was a stillness in the courtroom as the two locked eyes defiantly.
The moment was broken when Santa Claus banged his gavel, yet again, and said "Alright, alright! Enough of this; we're supposed to be trying her not him. Move on!"
Kushloo stepped back from Elsie and asked "Are you sorry for what you did?"
"Which bit in particular?" she asked innocently.
"Distributing seditious leaflets, of course," he replied sharply.
"For the little that I did," she paused and added, "then I am a little bit sorry," taking care to over-emphasize the word 'little'.
"Thank you," said Kushloo with relief and returned to his seat.
Once again Santa Claus instructed the audience, once again they voted and once again Scrimpner announced the result of the voting, "Little Bit Guilty."
Mrs Santa Claus conferred with the other Santas and pronounced, "Elfe Elsie you have been found Little Bit Guilty of spreading seditious leaflets and I hereby sentence you to three months without make-up or hair products."
A despairing scream of terror, torn from the darkest depths of her soul, erupted from Elsie, "Noooooooo! That's monstrous, that's inhumane!" she screamed.
She jumped up from the witness chair and ran towards the Santas.
"You can't do this! It's horrible, it's horrible, no makeup? I'll just be plain. Nooooo!" she shouted before seizing a jug of water from the Court Clerk's desk and hurling it at the Judges.
"Control that Elfe!" demanded Santa Claus, banging his gavel loudly.
The jug hit Santa Clown on his shoulder, drenching him in water.
"I didn't sentence you, she did," he said, pointing at Mrs Santa Claus.
"Good grief, what a carry on," observed Drole as Elsie was forcibly restrained.
"You were useless," she spat at Kushloo as she was led away.
"Call Glob Blob," shouted Scrimpner the desiccated Troll.
The towering and awesome figure of the creature known as Glob Blob lumbered its way across the court towards the witness chair; his giant muscles strained in his tight jacket, one of his multiple forked-tongues flicked out and his giant feet thumped across the floor. He paused for a moment when confronted by the miniscule seat and looked at Scrimpner in an even more confused state than normal.
The Troll understood the creature's dilemma and said, "Perhaps it's best that you stand."
The creature nodded with a deep growl and turned to face Drole.
"You are charged with wilful damage of property, including my office. What do you have to say?" demanded Drole.
Glob Blob thought for a painfully slow moment, scratched his left breast, and replied in a deep and hollow voice, "Sorry!"
"Is that all?" enquired Drole.
The creature returned to his perpetual confused state, thought even harder, and replied, "Very sorry."
"Hmmf," sniffed Drole dismissively, "no more questions."
Kushloo stood up and addressed the Judges, "I don't have questions for the accused but, if your Honours approve, I'd like to call a defence witness."
Drole tutted loudly, his annoyance at this unwanted distraction was all too obvious, and he asked "Do we have time for this?"
"It won't take long," replied Kushloo.
"Is this person reliable?" persisted Drole.
"You can be the judge of that," answered Kushloo with a faint smile.
A suspicious look came into Drole's eyes, but before he could object, Santa Claus banged his wretched gavel and said "Alright, you can call him. Who is it?"
Kushloo smiled and said "Why. It's Mr Drole."
A tide of shocked "Oohs" arose from the audience and washed over the Santas.
Santa Clown raised his hands slowly, waggling his fingers, saying, "Up, up, up" and the crowd responded to his instructions with louder "Oohs". He then lowered his hands slowly saying, "Down, down, down," and they followed likewise with more subdued "Oohs".
Santa Claus picked up the gavel and smacked it lightly on Santa Clown's wiggling fingers and said "Stop that!"
The crowd went "Ow!"
"And you can stop that as well; not a ruddy pantomime," he added threateningly and the crowd fell silent.
Drole smiled at Santa Claus and turned to address Kushloo, "An interesting and novel twist to the proceedings," he smiled insincerely before continuing, "but what's the point?"
Kushloo suppressed a smile and replied, "Lets save the questions for the stand shall we?"
Drole stood proud and erect, sniffed his most dismissive sniff at Kushloo and sat in the empty witness chair next to Glob Blob. The huge creature eyed Drole dolefully, pulled a comical face, and said "You too eh?"
Drole flicked his head in annoyance and turned to glare at Kushloo.
Kushloo smiled at Drole, received nothing in return, and started his questioning, "Are you Mr Drole, Head of Production?"
"You know I am, I've been standing there arguing against you all morning," snapped the Troll irritably.
Kushloo ignored the tone and carried on, "Congratulations on your marriage."
"Thank you," replied Drole contritely, smiled at his lovely wife Spenser sitting in the crowd and then added, "though, not quite sure what it has to do with this."
"First marriage?" asked Kushloo brightly.
"Yes, of course," answered Drole, sniffing a little and straightening his cuffs.
"But not your first engagement?" responded Kushloo quickly.
"What?" said a flustered Drole.
Once again a little tide of shocked "Oohs" washed through the hall.
"I've told you before, none of that," said Santa Claus banging his annoying gavel.
The crowd fell silent again.
Drole composed himself and replied confidently, "If you are referring to my assistant Glob Yule; that was an error."
Suddenly Glob Yule's mountainous frame lurched up from the crowd and she growled, "I knew it!"
Drole hid his face in shame, as the crowd tittered at his distress, and a soft "Oh, dear," escaped his lips.
"Yes, your assistant Glob Yule, charming Lady," said Kushloo quickly and then pointed out, "she wasn't actually free to be engaged to you, was she?"
Drole resented his private affairs being dragged into the trial but he was powerless to prevent it. He straightened his back and replied, "I was not overly familiar with her private life."
"Perhaps you should have been, considering the accused Glob Blob had been her longstanding boyfriend."
A gasp went round the courtroom, a pause then Santa Clown added "Oh, Treacherous Troll!"
"Stop that," said Santa Claus, banging his aggravating gavel.
"An unfortunate turn of affairs," continued Drole, "but as I said, that engagement wasn't a real one, it was a mistake."
A loud, snot-ridden snob erupted from Glob Yule, "You're the mistake."
A low level of laughter and tittering sprayed into the courtroom, Santa Claus raised his gavel and the audience had the good sense to stop the leak.
Drole turned a light shade of pink as his embarrassment grew but unfortunately Kushloo wasn't letting him off the hook, "Yes, I am sure, a mistake. But you can see how Glob Blob would be upset."
"Possibly," said Drole through gritted teeth.
"How he would seek out the person responsible for stealing his girlfriend," prodded Kushloo.
"I didn't steal her! I didn't even want her!" said Drole suddenly.
A heavy silence fell over the court. No one spoke for an uncomfortably long time.
"You haven't answered the question," said Kushloo softly.
Slowly the words were dragged out of the reluctant Troll, "Yes, I suppose I can see how he would be upset."
"And furthermore, how he could become despondent and perhaps, fearing the loss of his one true love, become agitated," added Kushloo.
"Agitated? Agitated?" snapped Drole fiercely, "he had a great big dirty club and was going to smash my head in."
"Would you," began Kushloo, as he turned to look all too obviously at Spenser in the front row, "do any less if someone tried to steal your wife Spenser from you?"
A calm and quiet moment followed as Drole contemplated his answer, to say otherwise would be to admit the creature loved Glob Yule more than he loved his wife; Kushloo had cleverly forced Drole to agree with him.
Drole composed himself and answered gently, "No; no, I wouldn't."
Spenser smiled at this public declaration of affection, even if it was painfully extracted like an old decayed tooth.
"No more questions," said Kushloo.
The votes were cast, the votes were counted and finally the verdict was pronounced by Scrimpner, "Smidgeon Guilty."
"Your turn to sentence," said Santa Claus to Santa Clown.
Santa Clown smiled, quickly grabbed the gavel from Santa Claus and banged it loudly, "Silence! Silence in Court!"
"No one is saying anything," pointed out Santa Claus, ever-so-politely.
"Oh, yes, thank you. Now where's my Black Cap?" asked Santa Clown looking around the bench.
"Good Heaven's, you're not going to sentence him to death," hissed Santa Claus, a little too loudly.
"Death?" growled Glob Blob confused whilst in the stands Glob Yule swooned, silently crushing a few Elves nearby. A mounting wave of hysteria started to build in the stands.
"Stop that! Stop that! No one is being punished by death," said Santa Claus loudly, to a chorus of "Phews" from the crowd.
"And stop those ruddy interactive responses," bellowed Santa Claus and the courtroom fell silent.
He turned to Santa Clown and said pointedly, "Now can you sentence him without scaring the beejeesus out of everyone!"
Santa Clown, suitably chastised, coughed once, banged his gavel loudly and spoke in a deep serious tone, "You've been found a Smidgeon Guilty for breaking the control room doors. I hereby sentence you to…" he paused for effect.
Then he paused for a bit more effect.
He then paused because a stray mote of dust wafted across his line of vision.
He then paused because he forgot what he was going to say.
He then paused because…
"Get on with it!" shouted Santa Claus.
"Yes, get on with it!" shouted the audience.
Santa Clown snapped to attention and said briskly, "I hereby sentence you to read bedtime stories in the Elf nursery for two months."
A collective sigh of relief escaped from the audience and then Santa Clown continued, "You must read them with expression, good tone and silly voices."
"Oooh," replied the audience in an impressed tone.
"Oh, for Heaven's sake! I give up," muttered Santa Claus.
"But," began Glob Blob from the floor of the court and the whole room fell silent, eager to hear what the creature had to say, "I can't read," he continued.
"Well, now is a good time to learn," smiled Santa Clown.
"Good grief, is there much more of this? I'm getting tired," said Santa Claus loudly to Scrimpner.
"Just the little fat Elf and," Scrimpner paused for effect, "you know who."
"Ah, yes. Him," said Santa Claus thoughtfully, "very well, let's carry on."
Santa Down

* * *


The Judgement

THE attack on the control room had been led by Elf Zwolf, an overly pompous German Elf who liked to give orders.
"Call Elf Zwolf," said Scrimpner loudly.
The short fat Elf jauntily marched to the witness chair, breezily offering greetings to all, "Guten tag to you. Guten tag to you and you."
He had just sat down when Drole quickly cut him off, "Let's see if it's still a good day after we've finished with you."
The Elf deflated a little and fell back into the chair.
"You are accused of leading the revolt to the control room and causing the aborting of the first launch," said Drole.
The Elf looked blank and asked, "Iz dere a queztion?"
Drole smiled, "Yes, just a little one; why did you do it?"
"Dat Elvis nincompoop vas making a debacle of der revoluzion," replied Elf Zwolf.
"I'm sure we're grateful for your efficiency," said Drole pleasantly and then added, "but look where it's landed you," indicating the courtroom.
"Oh…" said the Elf and a little more of his pomposity leaked out.
"Did you lead the rioters to the control room and order them to stop the launch," asked Drole sharply.
"Ja, I did," he replied quietly, with a heavy dose of embarrassment.
"No more questions," said Drole dismissively.
Kushloo stood up and asked his standard defence question; "Are you sorry for what you did?"
However the accused mistook the opportunity for contrition as an opportunity to explain his motivation, "Am I zorry fur leading zem properly, mit precize inztructionz und ztrategic clarity? Nein, I am not."
"Really?" asked a somewhat bewildered Kushloo.
"Ja. Aber if ich bin zorry fur der direction auf mein leadership, den I am sehr sorry," explained Elf Zwolf and then added, "Ve should hav negoziated,"
"Phew!" breathed Kushloo and quickly added, "no more questions."
The votes were cast, the votes were counted and the verdict pronounced "Embarrassingly Guilty."
"You've been found Embarrassingly Guilty of leading the rioters. You are sentenced to six months as a children traffic warden. You like leading? Well you can lead them safely to school," said Santa Claus.
Elf Zwolf limped away dejectedly and, as he proceeded to vacate the chair for the next defendant, a slow increase in tension and anticipation spread throughout the courtroom. It was time for the main course; it was time for Campion, the ringleader.
"Call Emile Adonis Egor Campion," said Scrimpner loudly.
All eyes turned to the tall elegant figure of Campion, immaculate in a charcoal grey three-piece suit, his long blonde hair cascading effortlessly down his neck and his head tilted up, proud and defiant as always.
"It's Igor not Egor," he corrected Scrimpner as he gracefully sat down in the witness chair.
"Are you sure?" replied Scrimpner languidly.
Campion shot him a sharp look and a steam of hissing spread out into the courtroom from the audience.
He sniffed loudly and said, "We seem to have a lot of snakes in here today."
The hissing grew louder, but this time was seasoned with booing and the odd raspberry (Santa Clown).
"You would know," smiled Drole, "oh, King of the Snakes."
"Are we going to insult each other or actually go through this charade of a trial," replied Campion examining his fingernails.
Santa Claus banged the dreaded gavel and commanded Drole, "Read the charges."
Drole breathed deeply and began to read the charges, "Campion you are charged with wilfully and maliciously causing dissension and disharmony in Santa Land."
Campion pretended to be bored and gazed casually at the ceiling.
"You did," continued Drole, "manufacture seditious and inflammatory leaflets, you did seek to distribute them among the workers to cause the breakdown of Christmas. You did tamper and sabotage various machines to halt production of essential toys…"
Campion barely stifled a yawn with the back of his gloved hand.
"…and you did, through acts yet to be identified, conspire to bring about the fall of Santa Clown. How do you plead?"
A palpable air of fear and trepidation hung in the room, everyone waited to hear what Campion would say. He had been caught red handed, he had admitted his plotting and, to settle the matter beyond all reasonable doubt, Santa Claus had actually punched him on the nose. What, the assembled workers wondered, could he possibly say?
Campion smiled, a fat self-satisfied smile, he would let them dangle a little longer, and just as the tension started to became too much he spoke, "So many things I'm accused of. All of you sitting here in judgement on me, and those two, the fool and the fatty presuming to judge me."
Drole smirked at the man's arrogance and quipped, "I enjoy a drowning man folding his arms. What's your point?"
"What's my point? I shall tell you my point; none of you have any right to judge my actions," he proclaimed loudly.
"Of course we do," replied Drole sternly, "you admitted you wanted to be Santa. Do you deny it?"
Once again the self-satisfied smile, a moment to casually flick back his golden locks, to preen a little more before slapping back the odious Troll, "No, of course not."
Astonished gasps erupted from the crowd and a shriek from Santa Clown, the sheer brass-necked brazenness of the man was astounding.
"Oh, be quiet you plebs, grown ups are talking; well one of them anyway," Campion continued.
The crowd fell silent before his commanding presence, Campion sniffed derisively in their direction and continued, "Why shouldn't I be Santa? Just because his family got here first? Who chose them? No one! That's who. They turned up and set themselves up as Santas."
Gasps erupted from the crowd; gasps beyond astonishment, beyond sheer audacity, gasps bordering on disbelief and the breakdown of Western civilisation;
"You know that's not how it works," explained Drole, "they are a chain in the great tradition of Santas, Christmas is nothing if not traditional."
Campion waved away his explanation, "Tradition? That's how all those inbred royal idiots ruined Europe. Any fool next in line would inherit the throne," pausing for a moment to look pointedly at Santa Clown who in turn looked behind him to see what he was looking at, "that's what tradition gives you. And is that fair?"
He stood up and directly addressed the audience, "Is it fair? I ask you? What happened to merit? To ability? Why are the Elves the workers and the Trolls the managers? Why is that? Tradition you say, 'tosh' I say. They used to send little boys up chimneys, that was a lovely tradition, why don't we bring that one back? Eh? Because not all traditions are worth preserving," he proclaimed waving his hand at the Judges.
"I ask you, Why can't I be Santa?  I'm more than capable and," he paused for effect, "I'd look damn good in those robes!"
'Good grief,' thought Drole, 'the fool was trying to tear down the whole edifice. There couldn't be any Santa Land without the Santas, the rightful Santas.'
A lonely "Yay!" went up from the rear of the crowd.
"QUIET!" Roared Santa Claus, hammering the gavel so hard it broke, the head flew across the bench and bounced onto the floor.
The entire room was frozen in time, all creatures stilled by the command, no one dared breath, afraid to anger Santa Claus any further. After a long moment he spoke in a soft but firm voice, "It's very simple Campion. We are Santas because we have sacrificed our lives for the purpose of delivering Christmas to little children.
"You, Campion, are nothing more than a glory hound, you seek the adulation of the masses, the adoration of the public. You are nothing more than a peacock. And what happens when you are bored and tired of that attention? Of little hands clawing at you, demanding ever more gifts? What happens to them! You don't have the strength or the stamina to be a Santa."
His words hung heavy in the air as he stared at Campion. Campion, being Campion, was not awed by the old man's stare and taunted back, "Nonsense, if he can do it," pointing at Santa Clown, "I can do it."
"That's just the point," replied Santa Claus, nodding at his brother, "he couldn't. That's why he had his little episode."
"But I'm diff…" began Campion but Santa Claus cut him short and snapped, "ENOUGH! I don't want to hear any more of your self-serving drivel."
He brought down his gavel and then realised the head was missing. He paused to look at it for a moment, threw it away and slapped his huge meaty hand on the bench making a loud thwacking noise and started to say, "I sentence you to…"
"But we haven't voted," said a lone voice from the audience.
"There's no point, he's admitted his guilt," said Santa Claus.
"We'd still like to vote," came the soft reply.
"Oh very well, go on then," said Santa and sat down.
Once again, dear perfumed readers, the voting routine was performed until Scrimpner stood up and pronounced "Incredibly Guilty."
"I thought he'd get off," said Santa Clown, shaking his head in disbelief.
"Oh, be quiet," derided Santa Claus and then turned to address the court, "thank you Scrimpner. Now as I was saying, I hereby sentence you to nothing."
A metaphorical tumbleweed rolled across the disbelieving courtroom.
"What?" asked a confused Campion.
"What a let down. I was expecting at least hung, drawn and quartered," murmured Drole.
The crowd started to become restless and Campion foolishly smiled.
"What do you mean nothing?" asked a confused Santa Clown.
"Nothing, absolutely nothing! Campion you are to do nothing for ten months. You will have no job, no menial task, no condescending chore, no counter-intuitive social interaction. Nothing! You will be ignored. You will not be acknowledged, greeted, praised, smiled at or in any other way receive the endorsement or approval of others. I sentence you to that which you abhor the most; insignificance!" declared Santa Claus.
A sheer look of terror infused Campion as the enormity of the punishment struck home for the preening peacock and then a scream of disbelieving horror wrenched from his immaculate but cold soul, rang out across the courtroom, "Nooooooo! You can't do that to me! It's inhumaaaaaaaaaaane!"
"Tut! Tut!" smiled Drole, "These little girls just can't handle their punishment."
Santa Down

* * *


The Travails Of Emile Campion

"CAN'T we go home now? I'm feeling a little tired," said Spenser, resting on the casual chair in Drole's office.
Drole looked up from his desk, he was just packing away the prosecution files, "Is something the matter?" he asked concerned.
"Oh, it's nothing dear, I just feel a bit listless," she reassured him.
"Well, why don't you go ahead and I'll catch up with you later," he suggested.
"What's there to do?" she enquired.
Drole closed his desk drawer and came to sit by Spenser, he held her hand and gently kissed it, "Just a couple of things from the trial today," he explained.
"Oh, really? Such as?" she asked intrigued.
"Well for one, I have Elfe Elsie coming round in a moment."
"That flirty floozy; what does she want?" asked Spenser in a mildly irritated tone.
"Don't you remember the scene this morning when she was sentenced?" he reminded her.
"Oh, that awful racket about not wearing makeup," she smiled, "I was impressed with the perversity of the punishment."
"I have to make sure she abides by the ruling," said Drole standing up and adjusting his coat.
Spenser pulled a face and teased him, "What do you know about make up?"
"I know when a girl is wearing it," he replied uncertainly.
"My dear, darling Rufus, there's more to make up than lipstick."
Drole looked blankly at Spenser.
"Pay attention; there's foundation, blusher, concealers, mascara, lip-liners, lip gloss, eye-liners, eye-shadow, bronzers, eyebrow pencils, eye-shadow primers and face primers," said Spenser reeling off the contents of an imaginary beauty counter.
"Good grief," said a shocked Drole, "you're not wearing all that now are you?"
"If you have to ask," smiled Spenser, "then you're not the right person for this task."
"What task?" asked Elfe Elsie from the doorway, the brazen Elfe had marched in without pausing to knock.
"Come here Elfe," said Spenser frostily from the chair.
Elsie immediately knew Spenser didn't like her and a little insect of fear creepy-crawled along her spine.
"Stand here, under the light," commanded Spenser.
Elsie obliged and moved into the light, waiting patiently for Spenser to begin her examination.
Spenser looked at Elsie and immediately said, "You're wearing a foundation."
"Oh, I need that for my skin, its a medical condition," explained Elsie breezily.
"Really? If you don't look bronze do Elves pass out? Take it off. Here wipe your face," she said handing her a wet wipe tissue.
Elsie took it reluctantly and held it near her face and began to whine, "But it's not fair. I need this to…" Spenser cut her short, "Stop whining and start wiping."
Elsie whimpered miserably as she began to wipe the foundation off.
"And that eyebrow liner needs to go," ordered Spenser.
The Elfe's wailing grew louder.
"And the lip gloss too."
More wailing and whining.
Drole retreated from the scene into the far corner of his office, finding last year's productions figures immensely interesting.
The facial denuding of Elfe Elsie continued with Spenser finding ever more items to remove, "and let's not forget the clear nail varnish, both hands and feet."
"Nooooooo!" wailed Elsie as she fumbled with the polish remover, endeavouring to obey the vindictive Trollette.
After a few painful minutes Elsie had managed to comply with the orders.
Finally Spenser was satisfied, she surveyed Elsie from foundation-free head to polish-free toes and said, "You are now sans makeup!"
"I'm ugly, waaaaaaaaaaah!" cried Elsie hanging her head down and turning to leave the office.
"And if you sneak some on it'll only lengthen your punishment," reminded Spenser as Elsie vacated the room.
"Wasn't that just a little too cruel?" asked Drole approaching Spenser.
"I didn't hand down the punishment," she replied sternly.
"But you seemed to take an inordinate amount of delight in applying it," he observed.
She didn't answer but licked her lips and smiled mysteriously.
"Do you want to do the next one too?" teased Drole.
"No dearest, I'm tired now. I think I'll go home," she said as she began to gather her things.
Then a thought occurred to her, she turned sharply and asked, "Who's next?"
"Campion," smiled Drole, "I have to kick him out of his apartment."

Campion stretched out on his chaise lounge, adjusted his silk Chinese gown and lazily sipped his cocktail. The day had been more trying than he had anticipated, Drole had been particularly tiresome, but he had managed to fire off a few barbs at the pompous Santa fools. Perhaps now others would start to ask the same questions and, 'Oh what delicious irony' he thought, his trial may have been the prefect recruiting platform.
His idle thoughts of Santa Land dominance were curtailed by the chimes on his doorbell.
"Drat," he moaned as he rose laboriously from the recliner and made his way to the door.
Campion was surprised to see Drole, with a large Glob loitering behind him, "What are you doing here? I didn't call for you," he said with annoyance.
Drole smiled and replied, "No, you didn't."
"Well, you can go away and take that Glob with you," he said dismissively, as he went to close the door.
"Ah, unfortunately not," replied Drole pushing pack on the closing door, "if anyone's going away it most assuredly is not me," he paused for effect and then continued, "but you."
Campion stopped and narrowed his eyes suspiciously, "What do you mean? Don't be ridiculous, I have a multitude of things to do."
Drole smiled again, "Yes, I'm sure you have. But not here. You see, this is a Grace and Favour apartment, a benefit of being Head of Control. Unfortunately as you no longer hold that position, this apartment is no longer available to you."
Campion waved his explanation, "What tedious nonsense. I shall be resuming my position very shortly, so there's no need to inconvenience me by attempting to move me out."
Again Drole smiled and slowly impaled Campion with his words, "What capacity you will return to work in is currently unknown. It would be presumptuous of you to stay on in the anticipation you will be Head of Control once again."
"No, you're new wife has occupied that position," replied Campion waspishly.
Drole gave a dry smile, one restricted to his lips, and said, "You have one hour to pack and vacate the apartment. Only take what belongs to you. Glob Al will stay here to ensure you leave."
Campion fumed with anger, almost struck speechless by the audacity of the departing Troll and shouted "This is outrageous! How dare you come here and threaten me. I won't forget this you know!"
Drole stopped and turned to face Campion, a look of hard cold steel glinted in his eyes, "Did you really think your plotting would have no consequence? You pathetic narcissistic egomaniac! Be a man and deal with it!"
The two exchanged spiteful looks but before Campion could respond Drole had turned and walked away.
"This is outrageous! Where do you expect me to go? Answer me! Come back here," shouted Campion at the empty corridor.

"I'm glad that's over. It's hard punishing colleagues," sighed Drole as he hung his jacket and closed the door to Spenser's apartment.
Spenser smiled from the sofa as she nursed a glass of seaweed juice, "Would you like a drink?"
"Oh, don't bother, I can get it myself," said Drole as he moved towards the drinks cabinet. He filled a glass with some white wine and then turned to his wife, "Wine darling?"
"No, I'm fine with this," she replied holding up her glass of green sludge.
"What is that?" he asked.
"Seaweed juice, I seem to have acquired a taste for it," she explained.
Drole decided not to comment and came forward to sit on the sofa with his wife.
"And how did Campion take it?" she asked.
"Not well, I'm glad to say," replied Drole sipping his drink.
"Good! I think he's getting off far too lightly considering all the damage he caused," said Spenser.
"Being ignored is deathly to a strutting peacock like him," pointed out Drole.
"If you say so, let's talk about something else," she said politely.
"Yes, let's."
"Do we have to go this dinner with them?" she asked, with a trace of annoyance.
"But we accepted, it's in honour of our marriage," said Drole.
"I know but I don't think I could cope with his loudness," Spenser pleaded and then added, "why couldn't they give a boxed gift like everyone else?"
"Is something the matter dear?" asked Drole, her reluctance to attend was starting to cause him concern.
"Oh, it's nothing; I've just got this evil migraine," she replied rubbing her temples.
"We can skip it if you like, plead ill health?" he offered.
"Oh no, let's get it out of the way; they'll only re-invite," she replied.
They continued to drink quietly for a few moments and then Drole realised the seaweed juice, not only had a very powerful aroma, but was also turning his wife's teeth green. He thought about mentioning it but something in her mood made him stop. He decided to distract her onto neutral ground, "I must say young Kushloo was a revelation; I didn't think he'd be so good in court."
"He certainly put you on the spot," smiled his wife, greenly.
"Quite," he paused, mesmerised by her teeth and then, before she could comment, he continued, "he has a surprising array of talents."
"That's not good," she replied.
He turned to look at her, "Why do you say that?"
"Do you think he can be satisfied as a simple Tally Elf? He's tasted adventure and now standing up to you in court. His confidence is growing; he may soon become a little too big for his Elf shoes."
"I like him, and if he needs challenges to match his skills then I'm sure I can find them for him. Speaking of challenges; have you considered who should replace you in the Tally Room?" asked Drole.
"Elf Alf not suitable?" replied Spenser raising a solitary eyebrow.
Drole pulled a face, a twisting churning visage which perfectly revealed his doubts about the suggestion, "Is he really management material?"
"He's very capable, isn't that more important?" she replied quickly but she could tell he wasn't convinced, "or do you have someone else in mind?"
He remained quiet for a little while, as if to convey his deep thinking on the subject but she wasn't fooled, he'd already thought of someone. After a further tortured pause he finally said, "What do you think of Scuze?"
"That drunk who got off with Campion at our wedding?" she replied quickly.
"I think Head of Lost and Found is more accurate," he corrected her.
"She returns lost gloves," Spenser pointed out.
"She's in charge of Elves."
"One Elf. That slow-witted Olaf," replied Spenser.
"Really?" said Drole quizzically as he rose to refresh his drink, "I thought there were more. Well, that's by the by. She is management after all."
Spenser looked away distracted, sipped her drink, and said "Your choice, but it's not one I endorse."
She turned away from him and a perceptible coolness invaded the space between them, he didn't know why but he was disturbed by her attitude. He looked at his watch and realised they needed to start preparing for their meal with Mr and Mrs Santa Claus, "I think it's time to get ready."
She didn't move but he knew she had heard him, "If we don't want to be late," he added.
"I'm ready," she replied without turning her head.
"Really? Not worried about your Hulk-teeth?" he quipped without realising the enormity of his words.
"What DID you say?"

"The Presidential Suite, thank you very much," said Campion as he stood at the reception desk in the lobby of the Grand Hotel, still wearing his Chinese silk dressing gown and clutching his overnight bag. 'He would show them,' he thought, 'nothing would affect his plans for the night.'
The receptionist continued to fiddle with her paperwork without looking up.
"Come on, come on, tout de suite!" he said ringing the small bell on the marble counter with his palm.
However the receptionist continued to ignore him and carried on oblivious to his presence.
"You there, I'm talking to you, yes you, Elfe…" he carefully read the name tag, "Fey, what a silly name, come on service."
But his insistent and badgering manner had no effect on the Elfe, she continued to fiddle with her paperwork.
The situation was becoming intolerable to Campion, "What is the matter? Are you deaf? HELLO! HELLO!" he shouted loudly, repeatedly ringing the bell on the counter.
The Elfe looked up, "Ah, at last. What is the matter with you?" began Campion but she ignored him, snatched the bell from him, placed it underneath the counter and returned to purposefully ignoring him.
Campion was shocked, his flabber was gasted and his dumb was, well and truly, founded. Before he could speak, and unleash a torrent of abuse upon her, the manager, a portly Troll, came to the desk.
"Any new guests?" he asked the receptionist.
"No, sir," she replied with a frosty smile and then, she looked straight at Campion and added, "Not one worthy of attention."
The penny dropped with a loud metallic clang, "How dare you! You vile insect! You pathetic excremental detritus! I'll crush you! You hear me! I'll ruin you," he roared.
His angry rant grew and grew, feeding upon itself, until it was a volcano of invective, he cursed and spat at them, maligning them, their parents, their near relatives, their distant relatives, and anyone else remotely from the same gene pool. The other guests in the lobby became all too aware of this ruction but perversely chose to studiously ignore it.
"I'm not going anywhere until I get a room," proclaimed Campion loudly, folding his arms and standing stubbornly in front of the desk.
"Security," uttered the manager into his walkie-talkie, "I have an undesirable at the front desk; needs urgent and violent removal."
Campion's courage, though it fought bravely with his arrogance, failed him when the two large Globs started coming towards him. He fled through the lobby, cursing all around him.
The polar winds cut through Campion's silk gown and his casual wear, he shivered involuntarily and cursed them, "I'll have my revenge on you all!"

Elf Alf whistled a jaunty little tune as he skipped up the stairs towards his girlfriend's apartment clutching the shopping bag containing her presents. It was still a little strange going out with Elfe Elsie after she'd used his best friend Kushloo but that was all ancient history now. The trial had turned out better than he'd hoped, she had cleverly shifted some of the blame onto Kushloo ('naughty girl' he thought) and had managed to get away with a very light sentence. 'No make up? That was hardly punishment at all,' he thought. She was a stunning Elfe, with or without make up, and he knew he was very fortunate to be going out with her.
It was good to see Campion get his comeuppance and with Spenser promoted he was the natural choice to get her position. 'Oh yes,' he thought, 'life is bleeding great!'
He tapped on Elsie's door with the same tempo as his whistling and waited for her to open the door. There was no answer. He repeated the knocking, with the same rhythm, but even he had to admit it lacked the previous spontaneity.
Still no answer. He was beginning to lose some of his confidence, "Elsie! You there?" he shouted.
After a long moment her heard her familiar voice, "Who is it?"
"It's me Alf. Come on, open up," he said impatiently.
"What do you want?" came the sullen reply.
"Want? Want?" he asked incredulously, "it's Valentine's Night. I've come with your presents."
"Ahhhh, it's not fair!" she wailed loudly from the other side of the door.
"What's the matter with you?" he asked anxiously.
"I'm uglyyyyyyywaaaaaaaaah!" she wailed.
"Oh, crikey! What's happened?" he asked urgently.
"They made me take it all off," she sobbed.
"What? The make up?"
"Yes, that!" she blubbered.
"Come on, let me in, I don't care about that," he said impolitely.
"You don't care what I look like? Waaaaah!" she said, resuming her previous moaning.
"Off course I care, but you're overdoing it," he explained quickly.
"No, I'm ugly," she insisted.
"No, you're not! Stop being such a mardy-arse. Just put a hat on or something," he pleaded with her.
There was no answer and he was beginning to despair she would ever see reason. He thought he'd try a different tactic and appeal to her greed, "Don't you want your presents?" he asked.
There was long pause but Alf waited her out and finally she admitted in a low tone, "Yes."
"And the chocolates?" he persisted.
A shorted pause before she replied more clearly, "Yes."
"And the flowers?" he said briskly, confident he had her hooked.
"Yes," she replied quickly.
"Well then, open the bleeding door, why-don't-cha?" he said rudely.
"Just a minute," she said as he heard her move away. He waited patiently until he could hear her approach again and the tell-tale sign of the latch being undone. He stepped back, straightened his hat, adjusted his bow tie and waited to greet his beautiful girlfriend.
The door opened to reveal Elsie wearing a paper bag over her head; albeit with three holes for her eyes and mouth.
Alf looked on in disbelief, "What the bleeding hell are you supposed to be?"

Kushloo slowly climbed the stairs to Mr Drole's apartment, he felt a melancholy agitation that was difficult to understand. He wasn't bothered that he didn't have a girlfriend on Valentines night or that none his defendants were actually acquitted, there was something else missing that he was unable to describe. An emptiness at his core that no distraction could fill.
He stood before the large imposing door of Mr Drole's apartment, sighed in weariness, and almost turned back. But the climb had been a long one and he felt foolish leaving without ringing the doorbell.
He rang the doorbell and waited patiently.
Shortly Mr Chunga, the Indian midge who assisted Mr Drole, opened the door, "Ah, Elf Kushloo. How may I be off assistance to you?"
Kushloo surveyed the blue-hued midge, with his crooked ant-like antennae, dressed in casual lounging pyjamas holding a cup of tea.
"I was looking for Mr Drole," began Kushloo, "I just wanted to make sure he wasn't annoyed with me at the trial."
"I do not believe he was. It was a masterly cross-examination," praised Mr Chunga, "Mr Drole would have to repudiate his wife to press the charge."
Kushloo smiled and asked, "Thank you. Can I come in?"
"You may but he is not here," said Mr Chunga stepping aside, ushering the young Elf inside and closing the door.
"I suppose he's out celebrating Valentine's night?" said Kushloo as they walked into the large, somewhat untidy, lounge.
"I would not presume to hazard a guess. The fact is, he no longer lives here; he now resides at his wife's apartment," elaborated Mr Chunga as he eased himself onto the large sofa.
"So who lives here now?" asked Kushloo.
"Mr Munga and I. Just two bachelors together," said Mr Chunga waving at Mr Munga, also a midge, in the corner.
Mr Munga looked at the mention of his name and waved at his friend Kushloo before returning to play with his steam engine. It was a faithful miniature reproduction of Stephenson's original which Mr Munga was trying to run along the track he had laid down. The steam was hissing from the long stack as he fiddled and adjusted various tiny valves to start the great piston moving; occasionally he'd burn his fingers on the hot boiler and cry out silently before resuming his fiddling.
"Will it work?" asked Kushloo.
"I have no interest in his interests but it keeps him amused and occupied," said Mr Chunga nosily sipping his herbal tea. He noticed that Kushloo was looking at his tea and immediately realised his error, "Pardon me for being a poor host, would you like something to drink?"
"Tea would be nice, it is bitterly cold outside," replied Kushloo.
"Ah," said Mr Chunga as he rose from the sofa and made his way to the kitchen area, "love blossoms in all weathers. Herbal tea or traditional?" he shouted.
"Traditional, milk no sugar," shouted back Kushloo.
"Wise choice," replied Mr Chunga, and presently he returned with a cup and laid it beside Kushloo.
Both sat in silence enjoying their hot drinks until Mr Chunga turned to Kushloo and asked teasingly, "You are not with your beloved on Valentine's night?"
Kushloo smiled wistfully and replied, "I'm between girlfriends."
"Let us hope it is indeed between and not at the end," said Mr Chunga.
Kushloo pulled a face at Mr Chunga and then asked, "What about you Mr Chunga? Don't you have a girlfriend?"
"No I do not. I used to be married. Ah, dear Parvati, she was a goddess," he replied dreamily.
"My, you must have loved her," said Kushloo, impressed with his devotion.
"No, she really was a Goddess; a minor deity," corrected Mr Chunga.
"Really?" asked a Kushloo.
"Yes. India is the land of ancient enchantments. We have thousands of gods and goddesses; so it's not a strange matter for it to happen," elucidated Mr Chunga.
"And how was it?" enquired the young Elf.
"Well, you know what happens when a midge marries a goddess?" replied Mr Chunga.
"Uhm," said a confused Kushloo, "no, I don't."
"Don't you?" asked Mr Chunga surprised, "Ah, well, we had too many relatives. Her relatives, their relatives and my relatives and their relatives; they numbered in the thousands."
"Is that a bad thing? Were there problems?" asked Kushloo sniffing loudly, he hadn't realised how cold it was outside.
"Well, you know what happens in Indian dramas, just like that," said Mr Chunga.
"Uhm, I don't know what happens in Indian dramas, I don't watch them," said a confused Kushloo again.
"Lots of shouting, cursing, crying and making up and then repeat every day for forever," explained Mr Chunga.
"Ugh! Sounds tiring," said Kushloo.
"Yes, it most certainly was. That is why I ran away."
"You ran away from home?" said Kushloo surprised.
"Like a little boy?" questioned the Elf.
"I am not a little boy," said an affronted Mr Chunga, "and as I recall little boys try to run away and are inevitably found and returned."
Mr Munga sniggered loudly at the remark before resuming his engine manipulation.
Kushloo looked over at the mischievous midge and a stray thought crossed his mind, "I've been wondering, why doesn't he talk?"
"Why don't you ask him?" teased Mr Chunga.
Kushloo pulled his face again and said, "Seriously, why doesn't he?"
"It's because he had a trauma as a school boy?" said Mr Chunga in hushed tones.
"Really?" replied Kushloo in low whisper.
"Oh yes, they took him to school and it traumatised him for life," said Mr Chunga with a laugh and Mr Munga started shaking his sides in mock laughter.
"I think you two are joshing me," said Kushloo finishing his drink. He stood up and pulled his jacket straight, "I must be going, it's getting late and there's a storm brewing."
Mr Chunga stood up and said, "Why don't you stay the night? He isn't much company, it would be good to have someone to talk to."
Kushloo contemplated the offer for a moment, the apartment was spacious and, although ill-kept, quite decently furnished; much preferable than his hostel room. Mr Munga was listening intently, hoping Kushloo would accept the offer, he nodded his head in encouragement and Kushloo relented, "Well, if you're sure. Thank you."
He took off his jacket and sat back down again, "I pity the fool who's out in this weather."

"I'm Campion, do you hear me! I demand a room in your flea-pit hovel," shouted the ex-Head of Control at the large Glob towering behind the broken reception desk.
The creature made no sound or other recognisable movement that would indicate it had heard Campion; it continued to stare blankly into space. Campion had trudged from one hotel to another, suffering one insolent repudiation after another, until he had ended up at this place. A place so ramshackle and dilapidated no self-respecting Elf would venture to lodge here but alas, this too was off limits to him. He was beginning to understand the power Santa exerted over his fiefdom and, more importantly, the despicable punishment that had been meted out to him.
Powerless in the face of the Glob who didn't acknowledge him or actually make any movement whatsoever, (either the creature was extraordinarily slow-witted or it was actually stuffed) Campion retreated back out of the lobby. It had started to snow now, a nasty wet kind of snow known locally as 'snizzle' (a mixture of snow and drizzle). The wind was getting stronger, "Blast!" muttered Campion as he pulled the wet silk gown around him and wandered off into the darkening night.

Santa Down

* * *


When Titans Clash

"AH, here are the love birds," said Santa Claus, clapping loudly at the arrival of the chilled pair, Drole and Spenser. The weather was turning severe and they had thought more than once of turning back, but once inside the plush, cosy restaurant, all such thoughts were banished.
A few of the other diners turned to look at Santa and his loud welcome.
Spenser shot Drole an annoyed look and the Troll could only smirk in embarrassment. He obligingly pulled out a chair for her and she seated herself at the table and said coolly, "Thank you, you're too kind. "
Mrs Claus noticed Spenser's cool gaze and asked, "How are ypu feeling dear? You look a little peeky."
"I have a little headache," replied Spenser.
"Oh, I'm sure it'll pass once we have a few drinks," said Santa loudly and Spenser winced a little at the noise.
The waiter quickly served the drinks, Santa having ordered previously, and soon all were merrily sipping away. Drole decided to steer the conversation onto neutral ground, "I thought you both looked very noble in your robes."
"Thank you Drole, that's most kind of you, "said Mrs Claus.
"Yes, thank you Drole," added Santa, "not a pleasant task passing sentences on colleagues."
"And such light sentences at that?" observed Spenser coolly.
The atmosphere inside the restaurant was beginning to match the one outside.
"There's no need for that; we've discussed it already," hissed Drole, leaning in close to his wife.
"No, no, let her speak. Please go on Spenser, I'd like to know what you think," encouraged Santa.
Spenser took a deep breath and began, "For his treasonous acts, Campion is to be ignored? Really? Is that all? Some hermits would yearn for a punishment like that."
"It's punishment enough for a vain person like him," said Santa.
"Exactly what I said. There we are, let's move on," said Drole quickly.
But Spenser hadn't finished, "And his questioning of your right to rule? "
Mrs Claus intercepted the verbal arrow and replied, "Well, that was unfortunate but Kris put him straight. Shall we order starters?"
Drole and Santa exchanged worried looks, this was not the conversation either had in mind when they sat down at the table.
"Yes, you slapped him down but his point stands," stated Spenser.
The atmosphere inside the restaurant was now cooler than the one outside; all three turned to glare at Spenser.
"What point was that dear?" asked Drole hesitantly; he was dreading the reply but hoped against hope that it was an innocuous point.
Spenser took a sip of her drink, paused to compose herself and then pulled the pin on her verbal hand grenade, "Why perpetuate a hereditary principle when there are no heirs?"
Mrs Claus spluttered into her drink sending it flying everywhere, Santa was left open mouthed and Drole snorted some wine up his nose and started choking.
As the startled trio tried to recompose themselves Spenser pressed home her point, "May be you should have let him be Santa; it's not like you can go on for ever."
"Spenser!" shouted Drole angrily in between the gasps.
"Please, there's no need to bite my head off. If I'm saying it, don't you think others are thinking it too?" replied Spenser and she casually sipped her drink.
Mrs Claus began to sob quietly into her napkin and said "How could you say that?"
Spenser's remark had scratched at a very sore point with Mrs Claus; that she had no children who could carry on the Santa tradition. Years of suppressed emotion had been unleashed by the unkind observation.
Drole moved around and tried to console Mrs Claus, "There, there, I'm sure she didn't mean anything by it," turning to shoot a reproachful glance at Spenser.
Spenser was ashamed and tried to apologise, "I'm sorry; I didn't mean to upset you."
Drole smiled tersely and rebuked Spenser for her ill-thought comments, "Perhaps that migraine of yours is catching. I think I have it too."
Spenser shot him a sharp look and turned away from them.
"There, there dear," said Santa moving next to his wife and replacing Drole, "let's not dwell on such things now. There's no use crying over things we can't control. Don't be upset dear."
Drole stepped back and realised the meal was ruined and any attempt to salvage it would be futile, "Let's do this another time?" he suggested with mock humour.
Mrs Santa suddenly sat bolt upright and gave Spenser the evil-eye and said sharply, "Let's not!"
"I think you'd better leave," suggested Santa.
"Yes, I think that's best," said Drole moving away from the table and gesturing Spenser to follow him. She got up quickly, said a barely audible "Good night," and moved towards the door without waiting for Drole. He hurried after her, paused to collect their coats, tipped the head waiter (unnecessarily he thought) and asked for their sleigh to be brought to the front. When it arrived they silently climbed into it, oblivious to the snow swirling around them, and returned in silence to their apartment.
Inside the restaurant Mrs Claus had managed to compose herself and they ordered another round of drinks. Unfortunately the waiter hadn't realised the dinner party was now minus two and laid out the four drinks as before.
Mrs Claus looked at the fresh drink placed in front of Spenser's empty chair and said painfully, "How could she say that?"
"She wasn't feeling herself," replied Santa, he had a soft spot for Spenser and couldn't understand why she had acted this way; it was totally out of character.
"She didn't need to be so cruel," said Mrs Claus sorrowfully and then she turned quickly to Santa and added, "I've always wanted children, you know that?"
Santa held her hands, patted them gently and said, "Of course I do. Now calm yourself, dear. No good will come from dwelling on the past."
She smiled weakly and touched his face reassuringly, "You are a good man," she said lovingly.
"And you are good woman too. I could never have done this without your support; people don't realise how much I rely on you," he said comfortingly and she smiled, a little embarrassed at his effusive praise.
Spenser's words still floated at the table however and Santa had great difficulty ignoring them. After a few moments he gave voice to his dark thoughts, "What worries me is we've never even thought about a succession."

Campion, cold and wet, wearing inadequate polar clothes, stood in front of Scuze's modest house contemplating his next move. He was at the end of his metaphorical tether, his options had all been blown away by the raging storm, either he stayed here or he left Santa Land; that was the choice in front of him. He'd enjoyed Scuze's company at the wedding and they'd had a very good time. But he hadn't seen the needy Trollette since then, his trial consuming all of his time, and was now unsure how he would be received.
Inside the house Scuze was preparing her solitary evening meal, grilled chicken and salad, when there was a loud knock on the front door.
'That's strange,' she thought, 'who'd be mad enough to visit on stormy night like this.'
Tentatively she approached the front door and asked loudly, "Who is it?"
"It is I!" came the reply in an all too familiar voice.
Her initial trepidation changed to annoyance and she replied rudely, "Go away Campion, I'm supposed to ignore you."
"How did you know?" came the reply from the other side of the door.
"None of my friends say 'I' they all say 'Me!" she explained.
"You need to improve your circle of friends or at least enrol them for some grammar lessons," he joked.
"Go away," she insisted and started to move away from the door.
"It's snizzling outside and I'm freezing, please won't you open the door," he whined in his most pathetic voice.
She stood frozen inside, as much he was frozen outside, deliberating what to do. Her common decency prevailed, she turned reluctantly and opened the door, "What do you want?"
The sight of the once proud Campion standing shivering in a wet Chinese gown moved her.
"Well, uhh, I have a little problem," explained Campion, "as you probably know I was found guilty of those silly charges…"
"I thought it was Incredibly Guilty," corrected Scuze.
"That as it may be, but unfortunately one of the consequences is that since I've lost my job I've also lost my apartment; apparently the two go together like a couple," he elaborated and raised a wet naughty eyebrow at the end.
His blatant flirtation irritated Scuze and her previous resolve returned, "So?" she asked indifferently.
"Well, if you recall that fat oaf sentenced me to be nothing, really as if a Sylphid of my special talents could be nothing," he said casually moving forward as he spoke, but when she blocked him he retreated a little.
"Have you quite finished preening? I shouldn't even be talking to you," she said tersely and moved to close the door on him.
"No! No, wait," he said desperately, "the thing of it is, I can't get a room, they all just ignore me as if I'm invisible. I stand and stand. I berate them, shout at them, but nothing!"
A slow smile seeped across her face but she remained silent.
He saw she wasn't going to speak, so he carried on his pitiful tale of woe, "I can't get food or even a drink, they all just pass me by. I thought of stealing but I'd only get into even more bother."
"Boo hoo!" mocked Scuze, unmoved by his plight.
"Oh, don't be like that Scuze, it's dreadful what that man has sentenced me to; being ignored. The only smile I see now is my own in the mirror; and I can tell that's insincere. How awful is that?" he expanded at length.
"It's what you deserve," she snapped callously.
"Oh, dear, dear Scuze. We had a lovely time at the wedding, let's not forget that," he smiled and winked at her blatantly, trying to rekindle the memory of their night together.
"You had a lovely time, I had a hangover," she retorted.
He moved towards her and said in a cute endearing voice, "Couldn't I stay just for a little while, just little old me, I wouldn't be any trouble."
"No! You are trouble!" she yelled stepping back and added "with a big T!" slamming the door shut.
"I believe you mean a capital T," he corrected through the closed door.
Scuze retreated to her kitchen and resumed preparing her meal for one, occasionally looking at the closed door, wondering what had become of Campion, 'perhaps he'd left,' she thought.
But she was mistaken, at that moment Campion delivered his parting plea, "Alright, I suppose you're right, I deserve this."
She paused her meal preparation and moved tentatively half way towards the front door.
Campion's voice grew a little fainter, half drowned out by the howling gales outside, "I only wanted to use my talents to bring happiness to children, I suppose that's wrong these days."
Even fainter now, "I shall wander off into the dark now, crawl into the gutter and freeze to death in this storm. Goodbye Scuze."
She moved up close to the door to hear his parting words, "Goodbye dearest Scuze. Bury me standing up, I don't want to take up too much room in the cemetery."
And then he was gone.  No more long, posh words. No more pleading.
She stood at the door waiting for some further utterances, but there was nothing.
On the other side of the door, only a few feet away, Campion stood with cupped hands around his mouth; still in the pose he had used to make his voice fade away. After a few moments he tip toed behind a trestle of climbing hydrangea and crouched low to hide himself; waiting to see what she would do.
Inside the house Scuze made a dismissive huff and returned to her meal but her heart wasn't in it. The wind howled and roared around the house, rattling the window shutters and shaking the roof tiles, and inside Scuze tried vainly to finish preparing her meal. Suddenly a giant gust blew a pot plant off the porch and it crashed loudly into the front door making Scuze scream.
"Damn" she muttered under her breath as she raced across the room, paused to throw on a thin shawl and hurried out on to the porch, searching frantically for him. The wind blew snow into her face as she vainly searched for the pathetic figure of Campion. She ran down the steps onto the street, the snow covered her slippers and the fierce wind blew hail into her eyes. She turned one way and then the other, desperately searching for him. She turned left but had only taken a few steps before her house gown was completely drenched.
"Campion, come back! Campion come back!" she shouted into the wind.
She walked a few paces, stumbled and fell just as the storm grew even more fierce, battering her frail ill-clad frame. Unable to stand up in the face of the hurricane she turned and began to crawl back up the porch to the safety of her house. She pulled herself up on the handrail and just as she steadied herself, Campion stepped out from behind her hydrangea.
She did a double take, looking at the street and then at him, her frozen mind unable to comprehend where he had come from.
"Nasty weather for an evening walk," he observed casually, surveying her soaked figure.
"I was," gasped Scuze, "looking for you."
"You changed your mind, how generous of you," he said brightly, gleefully clapping his hands together and moving towards the open door, "I shan't be any bother, just a soft bed, a warm fire, good food, plenty of quality drink, a decent laundry pickup and a comprehensive maid service; nothing too onerous. I shall send for my trunks in the morning. This will be too, too delicious."
"I," gasped Scuze, "thought you left!"
He turned to look at her in mock puzzlement and then looked past her at the raging storm, "In this weather? You must be deluded! Come now," he said, marching into her house and clapping his hands, "that cup of skinny Mocha won't make itself."
Scuze steadied herself in the doorway and emitted a low, bestial growl.

Santa Down

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