Posted on: 2009-10-27
Santa could no longer avoid the obligation.
All of the other mythical and fictional characters had taken their turn chairing the M.E.S.S.A.G.E. (Mythical Experience Subjects Safeguarding Additional General Entertainment) Board and now it was Santa's turn. Mr. Claus's summer vacation had ended, and he was up to his snowy beard in design proposals for the forthcoming festive season. An emergency hearing of the M.E.S.S.A.G.E Board was the last thing he needed.
The M.E.S.S.A.G.E. Board had been established initially as a focal point for establishing 'reasonable boundaries' between the jurisdiction of various mythical and fictional characters. It was this very board, back in the eighteenth century, that had confirmed that the title 'Tooth Fairy' did exist, and, to this day, continued to determine the current rate of money to be placed under a pillow in exchange for a lost baby tooth. In more recent times, the M.E.S.S.A.G.E Board had intervened in the dispute between the Easter Bunny and the Easter Bilby, as to which animal should be represented in chocolate for Australian children at Easter. Jack Frost presided over that particular dispute. When the outcome of 'shared responsibility' was reported, comments were made that it was just as well Jack Frost was the Chairman of the M.E.S.S.A.G.E. Board at the time, as his chilling comments kept the heated discussions in check. Through his personal intervention, a choctastrophe was avoided.
When Santa had assumed the post, he found to his dismay that there were a number of outstanding issues that required intervention. The claims from various mythical identities had accumulated during the chairpersonship of the Queen Mab, who had unfortunately dreamed so deeply that she could not be aroused by her assistants to undertake her tasks. Santa found long standing claims from the leprechauns who were holding out for M.E.S.S.A.G.E. Board pot of gold guarantees in the wake of the global financial crisis, while the unicorns sought approval to use tea tree oil as a renewable source for their regular horn polishing. The werewolves and dragons were head to head over which one more rightly deserved priority for subsidised dental treatment with the werewolves citing that they were more worthy given they only had limited opportunities to receive dental treatment in their were form, during the period of the full moon.
As worthy as these cases were, the items that drew his attention, and deemed most important, outlined the current situation between the P.L.O.T (Possible Leads On Thoughts) Bunnies (or PB's), and the Muses. It appeared that their differences, which had come to his attention the previous festive season, remained. As a result, the man known for his fairness in making decisions, realised this particular difference of opinion required emergency status due to a threatened strike, giving it the priority over the other claims.
What made this particular dispute even more concerning was that dispute notices had been posted to the M.E.S.S.A.G.E Board by both parties one from the Muses and another from the P.L.O.T. Bunnies. Other disputes were traditionally lodged by one party only. In this particular case, each group claimed to have the greatest influence on story development for fanfic authors, thereby seeking overall control of idea generation, story length specification, character roles and responsibilities, as well as posting schedules.
After a tense and busy period the previous festive season, and with no group in overall charge, both the Muses and the PB's had left their respective positions, seeking Rest and Recreation (R&R), rather than Writing and Recommendations (W&R) . Despite the progress of many months, and interim shared responsibilities, the disagreement as to who should be in overall charge of story writing and development remained unresolved.
This had not been considered a problem until now, as stories had progressed, and new stories had begun. However, with the posting of the respective claims it was apparent that both parties harboured some deep seated resentment and that this was impacting on story output. The basis of each groups' argument was that they were more effective in generating and progressing individual story ideas than the other party. Each group believed that they should be in complete charge and have some level of authority in telling the other group what they could and should do.
Relations between the two groups had deteriorated to the extent that the disputes had been brought to the attention of the M.E.S.S.A.G.E. Board. Given Elf Austen's new familiarity with the DWG, and fan fiction in general over the period since the previous Christmas*, Santa chose that noted elf to assist him in mediating this particular dispute. Santa was still reluctant to explain his Austen fanfic obsession with others who inhabited the North Pole and, as a result, determined that Elf Austen, already knowing of the Claus's secret pastime, was best placed to act as his official secretary for this case.
Having considered the other M.E.S.S.A.G.E. Board applications, and determined the priorities, Santa had called his head elf to his office and apprised him of the background information. The dispute notices, and relevant claims were quickly outlined. The elf did not waste time in making his thoughts known.
"We need to intervene quickly, sir. If we don't resolve this within the next 24 hours, the muses and the P.L.O.T. bunnies threaten to strike you know what that means," he stated.
The elfin creature's pronouncement did not surprise Santa - the elf's thoughts mirrored his own. Furrowing his brow, he said what was on his mind. "Did I hear a rumour that they are threatening to withhold all Halloween stories?"
Santa gave the elf a knowing look over the top of his silver famed spectacles. Conspiratorially, he said, "We cannot have that happen a great number of people look forward to that all year."
Throwing Santa a wink his reply came quickly. "I know, sir; something must be done to prevent that happening, or many will be disappointed".
The holder of the Order of the Holly (First Class) shook his head sadly. "Why can they not work together?" He sighed, lifting his hand to scratch the snowy hair crowning his head. "Mrs. Claus says that they seem to work best when their thoughts and ideas complement each other each taking turns, depending on the story thread and where it rests."
The elf responded glumly, "Well, it seems sir, that ever since last Christmas, when they were both A.W.O.L. (Away from Writing Our Literature), they have been unable to reach agreement. This report says that they have had preliminary discussions with B.R.A.N.D.O.N. (Brokered Reconciliation Arbitrator for Niceties and Determining Onward Negotiations), an evaluation of writings by the S.T.E.E.L.E. (Special Time Expended for Evaluating Literary Entertainment) unit, and an intervention session with F.E.R.R.A.S. (Final Examination of Roles and Responsibilities for Advancing Scripts) all to no avail. Only after all those steps have been taken can this type of claim reach the M.E.S.S.A.G.E. Board."
"Anything related in the Tea Room postings such as suggestions to authors and the like?" Santa asked hopefully.
"Unfortunately, no. I have been monitoring the Tea Room boards, and did not note any unusual activity, although, the MP monitor has risen 60% in the past month."
"A Mansfield Park index?"
"No, sir, it stand for the More Please index. I started keeping records of how many 'more please' requests had been posted about various stories to monitor the success of the responses to last year's request for muses."
The red suited gentlemen chuckled slightly as he reached out for the graphs presented in the elf's gloved hands. He glanced through the tables and graphs that indicated a growing list of titles where continuations had been requested. "There is some telling evidence here, and I must compliment you on your foresight to collect these figures." While continuing to scan the information portrayed on the pages he added "And you managed to do this while keeping track of toy requests and the naughty and nice list?"
"Quite easily, sir. The S.T.U.D.M.U.F.F.I.N. (Software To Undertake Direct Management of Universal Facts For Informing the Northpole) programme I developed for those purposes was easily adapted to capture the MP data."
"Well done, Austen. Is there any other source of information we can draw on such as the groups representing B.E.T.A's (Brilliant Exemplars Taking Action)?"
"I did speak with some of my contacts, however, they were reluctant to comment most unlike the betas. They are refusing to take sides, sir. They support both parties and don't wish to sour relations. "
"Hmmm" muttered Santa. Finally, after expelling a frustrated breath, he said what was on his mind. "I do understand, and I can't say that I blame the B.E.T.A.s. For my own part I have tried to remain distant and not pressure them for an opinion, as I do not wish to be seen as overbearing in influencing their decisions. I am not surprised by their stance, but it does not help us, Austen."
"No, sir, you're right, it doesn't help at all. Not us, nor the readers who are expecting further instalments on works in progress, and who are waiting for new works to commence. I must admit, I am at a loss to suggest anything that will settle this matter" said the elf determinedly.
"We are of similar minds then. Well, it appears that there is nothing for it other than to call a preliminary hearing. I'd rather have it occur sooner rather than later so that the JAOctGoHoNo, and NaNoWriMo stories are not affected in the short term, but I'd much prefer a long term resolution to the problem. Austen, please send the parties an Elf Mail immediately. State that I would like to see representatives from both sides in the S.W.O.R.D (Santa's Workplace for Organizing Resolutions to Difficulties) Room tomorrow at 10am."
"Should I mention that if they don't turn up that the other party will automatically be declared in charge?"
"Excellent suggestion that will ensure they will definitely be there."
"Very good Santa, I'll send the Elf Mail right now!" An enthusiastic Elf Austen turned on his heel and rushed out of Santa's office. His bell capped toes were heard jingling all the way down the hall.
The next day, in the S.W.O.R.D room, 10 a.m.
The aggrieved parties sat in their assigned places trying to intimidate each other.
The current Master Muse Muse-Ack represented that inspiring group, and two other committee members twins Muse-Ick, and Muse-Ical accompanied her.
On the other side of the table, the current Chief Cottontail Bun-Knee - led the P.L.O.T. Bunnies team, along with two assistants -- Bun-Ting, and Bun-Galow. The bunnies were a bun-dle of energy, hopping about much to the annoyance of the muses.
Pointed glares were exchanged before the muses began to exercise their vocal chords by emitting ear piercing tones a move not welcomed by the PB's sensitive bunny ears. To retaliate, the PB's chose to start munching on carrots very loudly and throw the tops and stalks in front of the muses desks until a small pile began to form. They all seemed rather self assured, certain that Santa would rule in their group's favour. Little did they know that Santa's mind was focussed on achieving co-operation and consensus rather than judging one group more important than the other.
Elf Austen entered the S.W.O.R.D. room, and cried, "All rise. This hearing of the M.E.S.S.A.G.E. Board is now in session. Mr. S. Claus CEO, Christmas, Inc., Order of the Holly - First Class, Keeper of the Candy Cane, and Patron to the Society for the Protection of Reindeer - presiding."
Santa, moved purposefully to his position at the judges table, and placed his candy cane gavel on its stand. He then motioned for everyone to take their seats. The sound of shuffling feet and moving chairs momentarily filled the room, followed by a sudden, uncomfortable hush, brought about by the very stern look upon Santa's face.
The normally jolly fellow began in a very serious tone. "I will being these proceedings by stating my disappointment concerning this dispute and the fact that it has progressed to such a stage that I have been required to intervene. I find it frustrating that previous attempts at mediation, including the attempts of F.E.R.R.A.S., have failed. After the progress made last festive season, I had hoped that the worst was behind us; that story inspiration and production would continue as it has in previous years as a shared responsibility. However, it appears, sadly, that this is not the case." His stern tone now set the mood of the room.
The bravado that had been apparent in the posture of those present before Santa entered the room, had quickly disappeared. At his opening admonishment, the expressions of those representing both parties turned decidedly contrite.
The red suited judge continued, "I will now call on a representative from each party to make an opening statement, after which, I shall decide how to proceed. Master Muse," Santa gazed down over the rim of his glasses, "let us hear from you first."
Muse-Ack rose from her chair, flounced, and flicked her long tresses back over her shoulder. While doing this, she managed to throw a smug glance back at Bun-Knee. This muse was convinced that speaking first gave her team an advantage.
Drawing in a deep breath, she began, "The tradition of muses in guiding stories and poems is one of long standing. It is only right and proper that with such a well-established history that muses should be in charge of all story and plot development. We are the source of artistic inspiration, of which writing is a part."
Santa could detect that this approach would quickly going to deteriorate into a battle of wits and one-up-manship. He quickly moved to allow the opposition a turn. "Thank you, I now seek an opening comment from the P.L.O.T. Bunnies." He waggled his finger to indicate that they should rise.
Bun-Knee jumped onto the table, and assumed a dramatic stance, paw-sing momentarily, before commencing his statement. "Who needs an old approach?" said the bunny, buffing his claws against the brilliant white fur on his chest. "Stories written for modern times require youth, vigour, and enthusiasm for inspiration something that we P.L.O.T. Bunnies have in abundance. Don't forget (he said, while waggling his cotton tail in the direction of the muses), we create a never ending ready supply of new P.L.O.T. Bunnies. Out with the old, in with the new, we say!"
"What else would you expect from a group who thinks it's the highlight of their year to visit the World Carrot Museum?" snapped Muse-Ical.
"Better than a group who hangs around all day in old sheets!" retorted Bun-Ting flexing his long ears in a threatening manner.
After Bun-Ting's flippant comment, the insults and name calling continued for close to an hour, with both Mr. Claus and Elf Austen trying in vain to intervene in the war of words. Finally, the chief adjudicator had had more than his fill. Without warning, he rose to his feet.
"Enough!" Santa bellowed. He pounded his fist on the desk so strongly that his candy cane gavel bounced from it's resting place. "This sort of behaviour is getting us nowhere. It's high time that you began thinking about others rather than yourselves. Do you understand how your dispute affects readers and writers? People all around the world enjoy reading and writing stories. You're so caught up in trying to best each other, rather than combining your talents for the benefit of all, that you can't see the harm you're causing! I ask you to sit and ponder on that while I withdraw to my office to consider what determination to recommend." Santa's cheeks were redder than normal; closely matching the main colour of his suit. Had Mrs. Claus seen him at this particular moment, she would have been rather concerned that the proceedings had aversely affected his blood pressure.
Elf Austen did not hesitate and jumped to his feet, directing those present to rise so that Santa could withdraw to consider what to do next. Once the presiding judge had departed, the elf quickly followed, walking very carefully so that the jingle bells on his toes did not ring.
Santa had called for the break in proceedings more for himself that the disagreed parties. He was truly alarmed to see that neither side would budge and that did they not realise all that was at stake! The only solution he could envisage was to force some sort of reconciliation, but it would require a C.O.M.P.R.O.M.I.S.E. (Considerate and Optimistic Manner Promoting Rapid Ongoing Management Involving Sensible Explanations) from both parties. Whether he could achieve this easily remained to be seen. In the meantime, and to ensure that a strike did not eventuate to prevent publication of the JAOctGoHoNo pieces, he was determined to have the parties, at the very least, work together in some form of harmony, at least for the short term. Having made this resolution, Santa drew a deep breath and returned to the chambers. He had a plan.
Upon returning to the S.W.O.R.D. room, Santa motioned for the parties to take their seats, and then began his pronouncement.
"I have no intention of allowing this dispute to drag on. Therefore, showing respect for the skills, expertise, and importance of both parties and their efforts, I propose the following --"
Santa's comment surprised both the P.L.O.T. bunnies and the Muses. They all stood in rapt attention awaiting Santa's decree. What was the good man going to say?
He did not make them wait long; although, he did pause for effect before continuing. Santa leaned over his bench and then peered, piercingly, at each creature in the hearing room. "There will be a challenge between the Muses and the Bunnies. In this challenge you shall each prepare a story using the titles of fanfic stories that have appeared over the past year. A list of those titles shall be provided to you by Elf Austen." Santa nodded in the helpful little fellow's direction. "With that list, you must construct a readable story, and you must do this using the titles, only linking words are permitted, of course; however, the majority of the story must be formed from the titles alone. The story must relate to the works of Jane Austen. Judging criteria will include an analysis of the logic of the story, its continuity, and its ability to be uploaded in one posting. You shall present your completed tales to me before the M.E.S.S.A.G.E. Board has a hearing scheduled to take place before Christmas on the winter solstice December 21."
Bun-Knee then sought a clarification, "Would a poem be permitted in lieu of a story?"
"I believe that should be acceptable, assuming it meets the requirements of the challenge," Santa replied. Bun-Knee smirked at the Muses poetry was that particular bunny's forte.
"What about a poem within a story?" Muse-Ick countered with an equally challenging glance back at the bunnies' team.
"That would be acceptable, as well," said Santa.
Santa then thought of one possible situation that may arise. "On thinking further, I should clarify the time frame of the story titles to be included. You may use any titles from stories that were commenced, completed, or had chapters posted between December last year and the date of today's hearing. That way no party can arrange any advantageous last minute postings with titles that will assist their writing."
Both parties were seen to mutter under their breath, however Bun-Ting's comments were loud enough to be heard "bother, we could have added a few more titles to help us."
Raising his snowy white eyebrows, Santa said smugly "did you wish to add something Bun-Ting?"
The bunny furiously shook his head "No Santa, nothing of importance." He was mortified that his comment had been overheard by the current head of the M.E.S.S.A.G.E. Board.
"Are there any other conditions?" Bun-Galow asked, trying to deflect attention away from his fellow cottontail.
Santa could see that these creative groups would continue to attempt to gain points in order to make the others look bad, and was clearly frustrated with them all. "Yes, as a matter of fact there are. First, you agree to work together on other stories as requested in any form of writing including novels and fandoms until the Christmas hearing. Second, cordial relations are required and shall be maintained between both parties until further notice. And, last, but not least, you shall not do anything that might negatively affect writing for the JAOctGoHoNo and NaNoWriMo."
Sensing Santa's rapidly diminishing patience they were heard to grumble "Yes, yes, Santa, of course, we'll do exactly as you say."
Mr. Claus confirmed his fading tolerance with his next statement, uttered in his most official tone, "If any party does not participate, or fails work in good faith" he paused looking pointedly at all before him " their festive season submission shall be disqualified, and the other party shall be declared the lead inspiration department. Do I make myself clear?"
"Yes, Santa" said the parties in unison. Their responses were confident, although, to the educated ear, they belied an underlying nervous tone.
Santa smiled inwardly, pleased to have at least some consensus on these points. Wishing to ensure some formal acknowledgement of the agreement, he went on to say, "Elf Austen, will draw up a document to outline all that has been discussed and agreed upon today?"
Austen acknowledged Santa's request with a nod in his direction. Santa then turned his attention to the warring parties and their task.
"I will require a signed copy of this Agreement. Representatives of both parties must sign a copy and it return to me."
It was now the turn of the Muses and P.L.O.T Bunnies to indicate that they accepted the proposition put forth by Santa and were willing to uphold his decision. They indicated this by murmurings of consent. Both parties were reluctant to indicate their compliance on a more vocal level.
The red suited man was then heard to ask "Have you any more questions?"
After a few, brief moments, the muses felt it necessary to determine what parameters applied when the stories were being determined. In his capacity of head Muse, he was heard to shout out "Y yes Santa," said Muse-Ick, hesitantly.
Santa nodded at him to continue.
"How are you aware that we are associated with the DWG?"
Mr. Claus hesitated slightly before responding. He did not wish to give away any indication of his familiarity with the DWG site. Looking down at the paperwork, he was relieved to find that a reference to the DWG had been made on the relevant claims. With that in mind he framed his response "It does indicate that in the paperwork your point being?"
"As our claim has been lodged under the auspices of the DWG are there any restrictions on the titles we can use from that site? For example, as stories are posted in various genres do we use titles only from Epilogue Abbey, or may we use those from Fantasia Gallery as well?"
It seemed that the parties were interested in his suggestion. Realising this, he said decisively. "Select titles from both boards."
Bun-Galow then challenged, "Are we allowed to use works in progress on the main DWG posting board, or mentioned in the DWG Tea Room where they are posted on other fandom sites?"
"They may be included, but they must have been updated since December last." He was about to add a comment about the JAFF index, but quickly realised he would be revealing how much he really knew about JAFF. So, instead, Santa opened the floor to see if there were any additional questions. "Does anyone else have anything to add to those present?"
"Not at this stage," said Muse-Ack.
Bun-Knee responded, "No more from here, for now" while furiously shaking his head cause his ears to flap in his face.
Pleased with the response from the precocious young bunny, he then went onto say, "Very well then, you each have some work ahead of you. I suggest that your teams start immediately and, in the meantime, ensure that your "slow down" on providing ideas and plot lines is removed and that there are no further threats of strikes. Henceforth, I expect all writing to proceed at a pace." Santa then lifted his candy cane gavel, tapped it lightly on the desk, and concluded, "Hearing adjourned; we will reconvene in December to review your contributions, the date will be confirmed by a Festive Decree (F.D.)." He was pleased with the result of this hearing, and wore a smile of satisfaction on his face as he left the room.
As they were filing out, Muse-Ick was overheard by Muse-Ack, who was waxing lyrically to Muse-Ical, "Of course, we would have to have the date confirmed by a Darce."
Muse-Ack brought them quickly back into line, "Don't let Santa hear you say that you know the initials F.D. are not to be toyed with in his presence!"
Mus-Ick pouted before whining "It's time Santa realised that we all know about his secret obsession. He is still suffering under the thought that none of us know that he likes Jane Austen fanfic."
"The old bat, Lady Cat was useful for something couldn't believe that she let that one slip!" Added Muse-Ical.
"It's amazing what she says after a few glasses of holly liqueur maybe we should slip her some more!" replied the twin.
"Don't even think about it" said Muse-Ack directing the errant muses towards the door. "We have enough to do without playing tricks on Lady Cat. It's time we went back to the Muse-Eum to start planning our story - we have a lot of work to do."
Fortunately for the Muses, Santa was well on the way to the relative quiet of his chambers. Mr. Clause was still none the wiser that everyone knew of his fanfic obsession!
Upon reaching his chambers at the rear of the S.W.O.R.D room, Santa sought Elf Austen's opinion on how the proceedings had gone.
"I think it went rather well, sir. Your challenge was an inspired thought and should prove to generate some entertainment while we are in the thick of Christmas preparations."
"Don't say thick, son; Christmas cookies and milk aren't that far away. Mrs. Claus always worries about such things. Any reminder that the snack season is fast approaching and she will have me out walking to work off my excess or even worse jogging behind the reindeer that is never pleasant for the senses! Come to think of it, fresh air and exercise are the last things I need less time for fanfic eh Austen?"
"Quite so, sir. That being said, I had better begin the W.R.A.P.P.I.N.G. (Written Requirements Agreed by Parties Post-meeting with Instructional Notes and Guidelines) paper."
Encouraged by the turn that the hearing had taken, Santa looked forward to the bonus the challenge would provide while those at the North Pole saw preparations for their world tour kick into high gear. "I thought we deserved a little enjoyment at their expense. Some might argue that it's not quite ethical; I, however, hope it will bring entertainment to many around the world, and not just to ourselves."
Elf Austen nodded, and then began preparing the paper W.R.A.P.P.I.N.G. outlining the terms of the agreement that the Muses and P.L.O.T. Bunnies had verbally approved.
At least, Santa thought, this should provide me with a selection of new stories before Christmas, and, now, I can look forward to JAOctGoHoNo in peace!
NB. The "challenge" will produce light hearted pieces, mirroring some of the discussions that have taken place in the Tea Room, where various story titles have been strung together. The works by the muses and PB's will only use the titles of stories and comments as words and make no inferences to the plot or context of the stories themselves.
Posted on: 2009-12-03
(DNA) Things have been rather busy at the North Pole and in the Southern Hemisphere due to the end of the academic/school year. However, as some of the other RL obligations are now out of the way, Elf Austen and Santa will act more diligently in following up on the efforts of the Plot Bunnies's and Muses. Despite a 'note to self' to try and avoid more acronyms, they just somehow crop up I can't explain it. So, now that the Bunnies and Muses know what they have to work with, and if you'd like, you can join in, too;) it's is totally up to you no prizes or awards, just little bit of festive fun. This has just had a little bit of beta'ing (thanks to a very urgent email sent to Sybil superstar!) and does need more, but given Jose has set such a high benchmark to get the challenge rolling thought this need to be posted in its current form. Sybil does deserve a huge accolade for the challenge name And, yes, Jose, your one Tea Room comment sent my PB's careering in the most amazing direction! (RA)
One month after the meeting of the M.E.S.S.A.G.E. Board in the S.W.O.R.D. room
"Elf Austen to see you, sir," announced Elf Holl-Lee, Santa's secretary. Upon hearing this, the red-suited executive of all things festive, sitting at his sleigh-shaped desk, sat forward in eager anticipation.
Upon seeing his head elf enter, documents held firmly in the elf's slender fingers, Santa Claus could not contain himself and quickly said, "So the list is finally ready for distribution?"
"Yes, Santa", replied the sprite, a broad grin lighting up his wizened face. He handed the pages of parchment to his snowy-bearded boss before continuing. "I began compiling the lists once the W.R.A.P.P.I.N.G. papers had been returned."
"And, have the parties complied with the agreement to date?" asked Santa, hesitantly. While he had noticed a recent flurry of activity on the posting board, he was also aware that there requests for the continuation of various stories were still appearing in the Tea Room. He remained concerned that the P.L.O.T. Bunnies and Muses had not fully abided by all of the terms they had previously agreed to in the S.W.O.R.D. Room.
Elf Austen drew a deep breath. "Well, they both fulfilled the requirements in so far as JAOctGoHoNo was not affected; however, the M.P. index remains at its previous seasonal highs."
The CEO of Christmas, Inc. pondered this reply for a few moments, before grasping his beard in contemplation. "Hmmm, and how is the A.N.G.S.T. (Authors' Notions Generating Situations with Tension) Index?"
"A few spikes have appeared on my monitors of late; however, on closer examination, it appears primarily due to An Unforgiving Temper and Project Pride and Prejudice. This is nothing out of the ordinary, as there are often a few stories that raise the levels of A.N.G.S.T., particularly after the JAOctGoHoNo stories are posted. This increase is usually relieved by large doses of S.W.O.O.N (Sudden Waves Of Overarching Niceties) which often proves an effective cure. The P.L.O.T. Bunnies and the Muses seem to derive some measure of pleasure from having readers anxiously awaiting the next posting when a story is left with a C.L.I.F.F.I.E. (Critical Literary Information needed For Fanfic Incident Establishment)" said Austen in all seriousness.
Santa responded quickly. "Well, we must set an example to demonstrate our resolution that they comply with all the conditions I'm just dismayed that I mentioned nothing about managing A.N.G.S.T. when I set out the rules. Upon more careful consideration, rather than just send them an Elf Mail containing the list of titles they must use in the challenge, I feel that this is important enough to communicate via the P.O.S.T (Personal Overseas Satellite Telecommunication) so that we avoid an I.G.L.O.O. (Interpersonal Gossip Leading to Other Opinions). I would like you to set up a N.I.C.E. (Northpole Interpersonal Communication Event) link with both parties in one hours' time. Is that possible?"
"Quite achievable, Santa. I have had the Muses and PB's on standby the past two days."
"Two days?" asked Santa incredulously, raising his brows in wonder.
"I hope you don't mind, sir, I thought they should gain some understanding of what it's like to be on the receiving end of A.N.G.S.T. for a while," declared Elf Austen, his face reddening more deeply as he continued. The reliable elf needn't have been so concerned.
Santa chuckled lightly, causing his large tummy to quiver. "Well done, Austen. It's about time they received a dose of their own medicine!"
The mood within the Muse-Eum was tense. Having been waiting for an announcement from Santa for two days, the usually placid Muses were beginning to show their frustration.
Muse-Ack reclined gracefully on the chaise facing the bank of plasma screens adorning the wall; her tired eyes scanning the messages for any hint of a missive the Chief High Toymaker; her foot tapping, impatiently. Meanwhile, a team of subordinate Muses worked furiously at their computers, trying to stimulate ideas for those authors currently experiencing writer's block. They were still trying to clear the backlog of idea requests that had accumulated during the slow down while trying to get far enough ahead to create an opening in which to work on the challenge piece.
Some of the other Muses, who were taking a rest break, were beginning to annoy those who were hard at work writing on their MacMuse Prose computers.
Muse-Ment was one of those pacing the floor. Instead of reclining gracefully, and trying to restore her creative juices, she walked back and forth in an agitated manner, the folds of her toga gathering around her ankles as paraded up and down the writing centre. "We cannot let them win", she muttered under her breath, in the metre of a mantra.
"Pardon?" interrupted Muse-Sing, ceasing her turn about the room to swing around to look at Muse-Ment.
Her bewildered expression caused Muse-Ment to snap back, the result of an odd mixture of sarcastic humour, reserve and caprice , "I am very cognisant that we should remain focussed on the objective. We should all be taking this very seriously. I am not in the habit of brooking disappointment."
"Nor am I. This is a very serious matter, involving the honour and credit due to us as Muses" shrilled an annoyed Mus-Sing.
Seeing that the situation was quickly deteriorating Muse-Ick chose to intervene, stating "No need to be in a tizzy, either of you - we have a plan."
"Plan, what plan?" asked a confused Muse-Zy.
"Muse-Zy? I cannot believe you haven't listened to a single thing we've said," uttered Muse-Ack disparagingly, rising from the chaise while rolling her eyes in exasperation. "For the fourth and final time, our plan to beat the Bunnies and uphold our rights; the rights of Muses to act as sole instigators of storytelling, story threads, and the like. You remember? Muse-Ick, Muse-Ical, and I briefed you after our meeting with Santa and those hairy things that masquerade as P.L.O.T Bunnies."
"Those cute furry things with cotton tails?" said Muse-Zy, innocently. Muse-Zy was not the brightest exhibit in the Muse-Eum, having had an unfortunate incident involving a bottle of ink labelled "Muse Enhancing Elixir". Having found a small bottle in the Muse-eum Cafι, it was found that Muse-Zy had consumed it, hoping to improve her mind, and improve her ability to contribute to story development. Alas, the Elixir had the opposite effect. It had resulted in not only the clouding of her mind at various times, but also her skin, which had turned an unflattering shade of grey. It was determined that this particular muse was 'lost' at present. Whether her lapse would be of short or long term duration, no one knew. Muse-Ack had a fair idea of who had planted the draught that Muse-Zy had found, but did not have any proof to formally file a complaint.
Knowing that Muse-Zy would not be able to remember anything she heard during her bouts of befuddlement, Muse-Ack continued, "They may be furry, but they most certainly are not cute. Remember that they are trying to take over our roles and responsibilities as the instigators of stories we must do everything to stop them and that means winning this challenge."
"Remember what?" uttered Muse-Zy, idly swaying from foot to foot where she stood.
Shaking her head in frustration, Muse-Ack guided the lost muse to a sofa at the edge of the room, saw her safely settled, and muttered under her breath, "We have enough to deal with at present without having to manage more muddled Muses!"
Muse-Ology agreed, "At least we don't live in a TIP!"
"Don't you mean that they live in a dump?" asked Muse-Hik.
"What's the difference?" retorted Muse-Ology. "However you describe it, their living standards leave a lot to be desired. How can anyone develop creative stories in a messy, untidy, and dirty place, litered with carrot and lettuce leftovers?"
Meanwhile at the Bunnies headquarters known as Talie'sin* Progress dugout
The P.L.O.T. Bunnies reacted similarly to the standby notice from Elf Austen.
After the meeting the previous month, the PB's had temporarily redirected their operations from the satellite hutch at the North Pole, to their chief writing centre The Talie'sIn* Progress dugout, or more commonly known as 'the Tip' where some heated debates had taken place regarding possible plots for the challenge. After Bun'Knee had apprised his fellow P.L.O.T. Bunnies of the task at hand (well, for the Bunnies, it could more accuragely be called a task at paw), the TIP had seen some heated debates regarding possible plots for the challenge.
The delay in receiving the list from the current head of the M.E.S.S.A.G.E. Board had caused the Bunnies to take some drastic steps in order to keep their minds generating ideas. They had ordered in extra supplies of a special type of carrot the Zino's known for their quality at exhibitions thinking this would aid in their challenge story development. They had originally sourced a variety of carrots known as Artists, thinking the name was appropriate to this cause; however, the Bunnies abandoned that plan when a contact at the supplier overhead the Muses planning to spike the carrots with a forgetfulness potion.
It had been that action that prompted the Bunnies to procure the muse elixir that they then planted at the Muse-Eum. They had been very careful to cover their tracks, using their burrowing skills to tunnel under the Muse-Eum and into the underground archives. From there, it was a hop, skip, and jump to the Muse-Eum kitchens, where the Bunnies were sure some unsuspecting Muse would be tempted by the elixir label. To the best of their knowledge, no evidence of their actions had been found.
Bun-Galow was hopping about, desirous of some news on the challenge, when he noticed a new Elf-Mail appear in their Inbox. "Quick," he yelled to his fellow lapins, "something regarding the challenge might have arrived at last".
A warren of Bunnies quickly surrounded the screen, as Bung-Ting moved his paw over the touch pad and clicked to open the message; however, their constant jumping prevented most from reading the message that had been received.
"Will everyone just stop hopping for a moment?" pleaded Bun-Ion, whose paws were quite sore.
"I'll try," said Bun-Gee. "Though I find it quite difficult."
"Settle, settle," cried Bun-Knee in a firm tone. "If you will all just calm down, we can see what the message says."
Eventually the mounds of bobbing heads, tails, and ears stilled, and for the benefit of all, Bun-Knee read the Elf-Mail aloud. "Please be available at noon today for a N.I.C.E. link with Mr. S. Claus, CEO, Christmas, Inc., Order of the Holly - First Class, Keeper of etc etc to discuss Festive Decree Number FD1812. Details of the SCNoPoJAHoHoHo writing challenge will be confirmed at this time. Elf Austen."
Bun-Kum wiggled his nose, while pawing his whiskers, briskly. "What is meant by SCNoPoJAHoHoHo?"
Bun-In-the-Oven replied, "I have no idea; I suppose we will find out when the details of the Darce are made clear."
Bun-Kum declared, "Well at least we'll find out soon the last two days have been trying."
"Don't I know it, my poor nerves," wailed Bun-Ette, her paws flailing about, her ears twitching, rapidly, and her foot thumping, repeatedly. "If we do not win this challenge I do not know what we shall do."
"Should I fetch you some restorative carrots or herbs?" asked Bun-Kum, tersely, shaking his head in disgust at Bun-Ette's tremblings and flutterings.
"I don't think that will be necessary yet," insisted Bun-dle, before Bun-Ette had a chance to respond. "A quick dose of celery juice usually does the trick. Here", he said, passing a green flask, "get her to drink this, and she should settle enough to stay for the link."
"One can only hope," said Bun-Kum.
At precisely twelve, the N.I.C.E. link activated. Elf Austen introduced the current chief of the M.E.S.S.A.G.E. Board as his image came upon the screen, and the presentation began. The link carried both audio and visual communications, so all in attendance could see some aspect of the other parties' situations.
"Good afternoon to you all," began Santa. "I have activated this link to announce Festive Decree Number FD1812."
The sensitive microphones suddenly picked up the words, "Finally, the Darce," causing Santa to hesitate before stating, "Did someone say Darce?"
Very astute and diplomatic, Elf Austen knew that any attempt to lessen the importance of a Festive Decree would not be well received by Mr. Claus. Knowing this, he sought to cover up the comment, "I believe the words were 'a chance' Santa" he said with a fearsome stare down the camera lens.
"Sorry, I forgot about the button," said a very contrite Muse-Ick, "..and it just sort of slipped out."
"We are fortunate that Austen covered for us - don't let it happen again, too much is at stake," stated Muse-Ack, nearly shouting.
"Shhh! We may miss something," interceded Muse-Ical.
Santa could easily see some of those at the other end of the camera rushing to their screens to peruse the list, with seemingly little interest in what he intended to say. Wishing to clarify some points in order to end the link quickly, he needed to regain their attention. Before he had the chance to act on his notion, he heard a piercing whistle.
Screwing up his face and sticking his fingers in his ears until the shrill noise ceased, the CEO of Christmas, Inc., opened his eyes just far enough to see that Elf Austen had used his candy cane whistle that was normally used to summon the reindeer.
The next minute, he heard a clattering of hooves thundering down the hallway to Santa's office. Elf Austen hurried to the door to inform the reindeer of the error, apologize for the false alarm, and notify them that they could resume their normal duties. They were, after all, in the middle of pre-Christmas Eve training.
It was a few moments more before peace was restored, and Santa was at liberty to continue.
"As I began to say, the list of titles that must be included has been dispatched to you all. The more of these story names you use, the better your score. There is also consideration given to story structure and, as previously mentioned, your story must relate to the works of Jane Austen. Judging criteria will include an analysis of the logic of the story, its continuity, and its ability to be uploaded to the DWG board in one posting. "
"Can we include A.N.G.S.T.?" asked Bun-Knee.
Santa responded patiently "While I do not object to its inclusion, I believe it should be kept to a minimum, given that this is a single posting challenge and that we are in the Festive Season."
"Elf Austen's message said something about SCNoPoJAHoHoHo. What does this mean?" asked Muse-Ack.
"Ah, that! A stroke of genius, if I do say so myself. Every challenge deserves an appropriate title, and it seemed appropriate to call this the Santa Claus North Pole Jane Austen HoHoHo Challenge."
"HoHoHo? Does this mean that the challenge is one that requires a humorous story?" asked Muse-Ed.
The North Pole Executive smiled broadly, his rosy red cheeks glowing. "HoHoHo was to define this as a festive challenge, only no need for humour, unless it is warranted by to the story line. Though, on reflection, we can all do with a laugh, now and then."
Bun-In-the-Oven asked, "Are you intending that the challenge be extended to others, besides the Muses and us?"
The eyes of merry man of the north twinkled. "I don't see why not. If others wish to join in, they can do so at their leisure, but I would hope that postings should be uploaded by winter solstice or summer solstice for those in the southern hemisphere."
Muse-Ical then asked "Are we required to use the entire title, where explanatory or detailed explanations are added?"
Santa was slightly suspicious too much information would reveal his DWG lurking. As a result he thought it prudent to phrase his response very carefully. "Could you give me an example?"
The theatrically inclined muse responded "Of course Sir. Something like Lizzy, the Witch, and the Wardrobe: A Sardines Epic , do we have to use sardines in our work?"
A response to this question came quickly. "I would deem it not necessary, but would be considered favourably if such an inclusion was to eventuate."
"But is it essential?" Muse-Ical asked, nervously seeking further clarification.
Mr Claus could sense that there was a level of anxiousness arising. Knowing this, and desirous of a conciliatory outcome, he sought to minimise the fears of both parties. "All I seek is a result that demonstrates your skills in developing a story, using some specific titles, in one posting. Beyond that, I will evaluate each story on its' individual merits."
Bun-Ting wanted some further advice. "Will there be a published marking criteria?"
A slight snort was heard, as Santa tried to control his sense of humour at the comment that had been made. "I don't believe we have turned into an academic institution well, at least not yet. I believe I established this challenge as an opportunity for you to display your talents, and demonstrate your skills."
Elf Austen could see that the continuation of specific questioning would deteriorate into a discussion based on semantics, rather than the spirit of the initial challenge. Therefore, he deemed it necessary to end the N.I.C.E. Link. Signing off, Elf Austen, and Santa were relieved that this part of the challenge was over - it meant that both parties could focus on the stories, rather than the arguments surrounding them.
Once the link had been cancelled, the P.L.O.T. Bunnies continued their analysis of the link communication. "I bet the old man will have a go himself!" muttered Bun-Kum under his breath.
Bun-Dle replied "That would mean he would have to reveal that he does read DWG Fanfic and I don't think that's likely to happen."
"I think he set the deadline so he could read any stories before the Christmas Eve flight" said Bun-Ting.
"He probably did but enough of this chatter we have a story to write!" responded Bun-Knee. "Let's all hop to it!"
Fantasia Gallery Titles
Darcy's Adventures Through the Looking Glass
Between the Night And The Morrow
Project Pride & Prejudice
The Price of a Good Education
R5 A Modern Philly Take on Pride and Prejudice
An A-muse-ing Dispute
The Dairy Maid's Daughters or A Tyrolean Sense and Sensibility
Racecars, Jane Austen and the Monon Trail
The Ferris Wheel
Live and Let Die
Miss Bennet and the Frog
L'Histoire de la Rose Blanche
I Told You So .
Lizzy, the Witch, and the Wardrobe: A Sardines Epic
The English Night Sky
A Case of Catastrophe
A Regency Lady in New York City
Songs from the Heartland .
Great Pleasure in the Power of Choice
You Were The First Mile .
Take Two Pride and Prejudice meets Shrek
Just The Two Of Us
Sir Walter and the Leprechaun .
The Hamilton Documents: Pemberley
Ode to Mr Darcy .
The Girl Who Did Not Know Angst
A Whole New World .
P&P in the Fandom .
Regrets and Resolutions
What REALLY Happened at Waterloo
Mistletoe in Austen Place
Take a Chance on Me
The Fairest of Them All
Midnight Ride of Santa Dear .
Of Mice and Uncles
The 2008 Christmas Poem
The Twelve Days of Persuasion
The Perfect Pair
Babies and Bodies .
Kinghorn of the Castle .
The Mystery of Colby Green .
A Shocking Inheritance .
An Unfashionable Couple .
The Misogynist Club .
A Lost Discovery
An Honourable Offer .
Part by Part .
Harold the Horribly Hairy
The Nanny's Story .
Untitled Story .
All too Handsome
Princesses, Peas, and Other Imponderables
*A small play on, and slightly warped homage to, Frank Lloyd Wright and his Taliesin and Taliesin West I'm a big FLW fan, and in trying to create a name for the PLOT Bunnies hide out, I was 'diverted' and decided on this title a hutch was just too plain, so I needed something with a little more zing.
Posted on: 2009-12-19The week before Christmas
The deadline for the posting of the SCNoPoJAHoHoHo writing challenge was looming, and amidst the flurry of festive North Pole activity, Santa was eagerly awaiting the submissions of the P.L.O.T Bunnies and the Muses. The North Pole CEO had to force himself to concentrate on the important tasks at hand, and not be distracted by the anticipation of the seasonal writings.
The jolly man's thirst for more stories had been partially quenched by some clever pieces by Jose and Sybil, and was delighted at the level of creativity displayed. However, it was his personal Christmas wish that there would be a few more stories that he could read, or even listen to when travelling on December 24, via his C.O.L.L.I.N.S. software programme (Computerised Oral Literary Linkage Input Node for Sleighs). C.O.L.L.I.N.S. * was his high speed speech recognition programme that formed part of the equipment affixed to his reindeer powered present delivery transport, and allowed for DWG pages to be read aloud. This way Santa could concentrate on ensuring that those expecting gifts were reached, and his tight schedule was maintained, while affording himself some entertainment while in intercontinental mode.
Knowing that the Festive Decree stated that the stories by the PB's and Muses had to be posted by the winter solstice, Mr. Claus had spent many hours over the previous weeks checking the boards to see whether the P.L.O.T Bunnies and the Muses would be the first to upload their tale. He was initially surprised that the PB's had not raced ahead to place their story on the board early, as they liked to remain a hop, skip and a jump ahead of their competition. After further contemplation, he realised that both parties would likely leave it until the last minute to submit their pieces so that their ideas would not be borrowed or upstaged. Hmmm, as it seems they are both trying to achieve an element of surprise it appears I shall just have to wait a little longer
Mindful of the many pressing issues related to his responsibilities of the Christmas Eve flight still requiring his attention, he reluctantly minimised the screen that displayed his RSS feed from the DWG. He drew a deep breath before resuming his fatherly role as the CEO of Christmas Inc., and addressing the items on his To Do which began with a review of the latest North Pole progress reports from Elf Austen.
Perusing the sheets of holly embossed parchment, a pair of mirthful eyes scanned the neat rows of figures, supplemented with colourful graphs depicting the performance of various areas of festive functionality. His red cheeks glowed as a smile graced his face, noting that the organic feed procured for the reindeers had led to an improvement in reindeer endurance and minimised their greenhouse gas emissions, and that the majority of requests for Christmas gifts were reasonable and not excessive. At the rear of the reports he saw that Elf Austen had included the latest report on the M.P. (More Please) Index.
It was apparent that there was an alarming increase in the volume of story continuation requests. Are the PB's and Muses continuing to support their writers and beta's or are they distracted with the SCNoPoJAHoHoHo challenge? Best I get Austen in here for his opinion... The red suited executive had to reposition himself in his chair in order to reach the Elf-Com device. It appeared that his rather large stomach was in the way. Chastising himself slightly as he patted his tummy, he muttered "it seems I have indulged in a few too many hot chocolates of late I must go back to the gym in the New Year."
His finger gently pressed the gum drop button to activate the connection between his office and that of Elf Austen. A buzzing sound was heard briefly before Austen's elf like voice could be heard uttering "Yes Sir?"
"Austen, could you come to my office for a moment, I would greatly value your opinion on something."
"Certainly Sir, I shall be there in a jiffy."
It took only a few minutes for the Executive Elf to arrive at Santa's office, where he was immediately ushered into the office to meet with his red suited manager.
"Firstly I must complement you on your excellent reports very comprehensive, and it appears that we are ahead of where we were at this point last year."
"Thank you Sir. Everyone has worked diligently. While we are fortunate that there is no financial crisis in the areas under our jurisdiction, everyone wished to demonstrate their skills and dedication to the tasks at hand." Elf Austen beamed thanks to the praise received from his velvet robed boss.
"There is one aspect of the reports I would appreciate some further advice." Santa smiled conspiratorially.
The North Pole's Chief Elf cheekily raised his eyebrows before stating "I am happy to provide whatever feedback I can" thinking Santa had more than gift giving on his mind.
Glancing over the edge of his silver rimmed spectacles, Mr Claus asked "Are the PB's and Muses still assisting authors as requested? I see that the MP index remains quite high."
"I did ask myself the same question when I prepared the report, and as a result made some discrete enquiries. It seems that both parties are providing assistance, however, with seasonal and festive activities some authors appear to be finding the present situation challenging between seasonal commitments and real life issues."
"Well" said Santa nodding in understanding "I can certainly appreciate that many have commitments at this time of year. However, I hope it is not just an excuse put forward by the Bunnies and Muses so that they can concentrate on their challenge stories."
The reliable Elf replied "I did think that may be the case, but given the feedback comments on the DWG Boards the reasons given are supported by the comments from the authors themselves".
Santa was appeased but still somewhat frustrated by what Elf Austen had related. Surely there was some G.O.S.S.I.P.I.N.G. (Governing Opinion that Stipulates Situational Information Presenting Ideas Negating Generalisations) that would assuage his fears. He felt it necessary to articulate his thoughts. "Are we quite sure?"
The chief Elf gave an enigmatic smile. "Quite so, Sir. I did undertake some M.O.N.I.T.O.R.I.N.G. (Manual Online Network Interrogation Technical Observation Rigorously Independent and Nicely Governed), which revealed a widespread amount of P.A.N.I.C. (Personal Angst Necessitated due to Impending Considerations) within both groups."
"They deserve all of the P.A.N.I.C. they are experiencing after the recent doses of A.N.G.S.T. we have experienced!" the jolly man chuckled. "Can you describe the scenes?" he asked, his eyes twinkling in merriment.
"Well, the PB's did seem organised, they had allocated groups of titles to teams of Bunnies, but it seems they have fragments of stories that did not connect. I happened to tune in when they realised that they had a series of individual paragraphs and discussions became quite heated."
Santa leaned back in his chair, enjoying Elf Austen's tale. "Those Bunnies have a bit of a temper problem when their thoughts go in different directions. And the Muses?" he posed.
"The Muses were still busy pondering, seeking flashes of inspiration."
"You mean they haven't even started writing?" asked the Head of the North Pole incredulously.
"No they haven't" smirked Elf Austen.
"Well they certainly have their work cut out the deadline is only a few days away" retorted the red suited executive. He paused briefly before stating "Perhaps I should upstage them though (he added dejectedly) that would mean revealing my preference for Austen related fanfic."
Elf Austen drew a short breath. He was in a quandary he was aware of something that Santa was not. The question now was should he reveal what he knew? He realised it was time to finally confront his boss with some knowledge he had withheld for some time. Austen swallowed deeply before continuing "If I may be so bold, Sir, that may not be the challenge that you think."
Santa drew his brows together in confusion. "What do you mean?"
The usually energetic Elf, was slightly cautious. He had contemplated this moment occurring for some period of time. As a result he had prepared a response that he hoped would be appropriate to the situation now being faced. "It would seem that there are some who are already aware that you are a lurking Dwiggie."
The CEO of Christmas Inc. was taken aback. "They know? All of them? I have been outed?" he asked incredulously. The jolly man's face was as red as his suit.
"It would appear so, sir. I know you do not like eves dropping, however I could not help overhearing a conversation between a few members of the aggrieved parties" said Elf Austen hesitantly.
"Go on" urged Santa. Having been presented with some alarming information he wished to know it all.
"Very well Sir. It all occurred from the time of our meeting in the S.W.O.R.D. Room. I had accidentally left the S.W.O.R.D. Room monitoring device open, and it captured a comment by a couple of the aggrieved parties. I did not wish to bring it to your attention until I could confirm the veracity of their statements."
Santa contemplated this for a moment before querying"And I take it that you have verified what was said?" His snowy brows were furrowed in contemplation.
"E..e..r ..Yes sir" responded Austen, with a face as red as the suit of most senior North Pole personage.
Santa's blush matched that of his most senior Elf. "Oh dear. I find myself quite embarrassed. What will Mrs Claus say? We had been so careful. I hardly know what to think!"
Elf Austen sought to reassure his highly respected manager. "Sir, they were not commenting about the fact that you were a lurking Dwiggie, more to the fact that you didn't realise that they knew."
"You mean that they do not seem to mind that I like fan-fic?"
"On the contrary Sir, they seem to accept that many people do not wish to admit to their fan-fic obsession."
"Do we have any idea how they found out? asked Santa.
Elf Austen replied "Apparently it was down to Lady Cat."
"But she hardly leaves her rooms! Nobody appears to like visiting her rooms so how could they have found out?"
The respected Elf was quick to respond. "Well I can solve two mysteries at the one time. You recall you had conducted an inventory on the Holly Liqueur, after it was discovered that elves Wickham and Willoughby were found drunk at the Sanditon Regiment for Retired Reindeers?"
"I do recall we extended their sentence for cleaning out the stalls by a further 12 months." Santa rolled his eyes while shaking his head, causing his beard to brush against his plush suit. "Some elves will never learn."
"In order to hide their misdeeds they left the bottle in Lady Cat's suite, not realising that she has to be constantly monitored due to her bouts of erratic behaviour. I reviewed the T.O.N. (Tapes of the North) recordings from the day that Wickham and Willoughby went missing. She can be seen taking a rather large swig of the liqueur bottle when they passed it to her, and her antics after that are quite amusing. She disclosed many things, one of which was your enjoyment of fanfic."
"I just hope that doesn't end up on Y.O.U.T.U.B.E."(Yuletide Online Universal Tapings Uploaded and Broadcast Extensively) inquired Santa. Seeking some clarification he went on to ask "What do you suggest Austen?"
"That if you choose to post comments, or even a story in the future that you acknowledge who you really are there seems no need to remain anonymous" posited the Elf.
"I appreciate your candour, Austen. I will discuss it with Mrs. Claus this evening."
"So will you be posting in your own name in the future?" asked Austen in all seriousness.
"Take it as a question on notice. It is not a matter than can be decided upon quickly, nor just by myself. Your candid and pertinent advice is appreciated as always." Said Santa in all sincerity. He truly appreciated the honesty and integrity displayed by his most senior Elf. "Given the few days remaining until my Christmas Eve duties, I may choose to post in my name before Christmas, or give further consideration and begin posting as my true self in the New Year it is too early to tell." Santa now seemed to require some time for self reflection as a result Elf Austen thought it was timely to return to his own office.
"Would you mind, Sir, if I returned to my duties there are a couple of approvals that should be processed this day to keep present delivery on track" asked Austen.
Distractedly, the North Pole Inc., CEO replied "Of course, I should not wish to prevent you from addressing urgent tasks. I shall contemplate this further, and let you know accordingly."
"Very good, Sir. I shall return to my duties now."
Santa was cognisant of letting the well regarded Elf know that his frankness and honesty were really respected. "Austen, I appreciate your efforts this day there are not many who would be so honest with me particularly about such a sensitive subject."
Elf Austen gave Santa a genuine smile. "It is my pleasure. I hope the Dwiggies will benefit from your observations and interpretations that way we may all benefit from your 'outing'".
"Thank you Austen now away with you! There are much more pressing deadlines than these!"
With a beaming smile, filled with a great sense of relief, Elf Austen left Santa's chambers and returned to his rooms to recommence his tasks.
*The COLLINS software, and Santa's sleigh specifications were outlined in An A-Muse-ing Little Christmas Tale