The ghost of Ceywren haunts us:
It's white. You notice that at once. And large. At first it seems to be completely featureless, but then you see, ahead of you, a small town. There are tiny moving figures, but you are still too far from the surface to make them out.
At this point you are getting rather bored. You have fallen for quite a while and....
Well, you seem to have stopped falling. You don't seem to be dead (hopefully), but where you are now is difficult to discern. The air seems to be solid and slightly translucent. It is white, however, and everywhere, and also extremely cold, especially when it falls into the collar of your shirt. It surrounds you on all sides and you feel a moment of panic before you remember the words on the cover of your favourite book: DON'T PANIC.
Thinking about this, you take a deep breath and allow yourself a calm inspection of your surroundings. It's still solid, still white, but you notice now that the translucence seems most concentrated around your head. You remember the spinning globe's proximity to the sun, and saying a brief prayer to whatever politician happens to be currently in power, you begin to dig upwards.
Within moments your hand breaks through the solid air into a more manageable atmosphere of various gases. More than likely that combination of oxygen and CO2 that most humanoids breathe in order to surive. You surface cautiously, looking around as you do. There seems to be nothing dangerous around except an enormous furry white creature that lumbers past you incuriously on four legs.
Curious, you climb out of your hole. It seems that, improbably, landing in a great drift of the cold white substance has saved you from being splattered like a baby Gleeble in the hands of Captain Brazen.
Your sense of gratitude quickly leaves you, however, in the face of the featureless plain that stretches ominously out on all sides. It is all white. Everything. How in the name of the Dog does anyone find their way in a world that has no landmarks!
It's then that you remember the small town and its moving dots that you saw when falling. Pulling out your Christmas Compass, you watch as it slowly spins and finally stops on one of the points. Ah. So there be humbugs. Since this situation is complicated enough without worrying about people muttering things like "bah!" and "humbug" in your ears, you decide that perhaps it is best to go in the opposite direction of where the Christmas Compass indicates these humbugs reside. So praying to the Universal Forces of Fortunate Happenings, you begin to walk.
The white stuff makes a pleasant crunching sound as you plough your way through it, but it�s also heavy and deep, causing you to grow tired quickly. It's also very cold in this place, wherever it is. Even without the white stuff in your collar (which has now turned into a water-like substance and caused the entire back of your shirt to be soaked through) you find yourself shivering. Wishing fervently for something warm and dry to wear, you top (yet another) rise and find yourself confronted with a very bizarre sight.
It rises from the ground in a candy-cane striped pattern. Hanging from it, a large, furry, very warm and dry looking coat hangs. It's a nice creamy white, and upon touching it you feel that it is very soft. You put it on eagerly and see that concealed beneath it was a pair of boots, also very warm looking. You put them on and see that they are a perfect fit.
Feeling much better about the whole situation you start walking again. You don't get far when, topping yet another rise, the most heart-warming sight meets your eye: the town!
It spreads before you in a wonder of gingerbread houses with cinnamon stick chimneys. The puffs of smoke curling from them is blown towards you by the cold wind, and instead of being choked by it, it carries the sharp, fragrant scent of pine. The walls are made of cookies and the mortar holding them together is icing. The gate towers you see, as you come towards it, is the same as the pole that gave you your coat and boots: candy cane. You tentatively go forward, tasting it just to be sure it's all real. Yes! It's definitely candy cane! Unfortunately, you are now stuck to it.
You try to curse, but since your tongue is stuck to a candy cane pole you find it both difficult and painful. As you're standing there helplessly, you realize that you hear a crunching sound. Familiar now to you: the sound of someone walking through the white stuff. As it most certainly isn't you, you decide that it must be someone else walking towards you. Feeling utterly ridiculous, you attempt to make yourself look as dignified as possible. You fail miserably.
Out of the corner of your eye you can see the person who is now approaching you. They are very short and yet oddly proportionate and obviously humanoid in nature.
"Hnnh oo eh ee?" you say as the small creature stops before you with an amused expression across its small, sharp features.
The slightly slanted eyes crinkle in laughter as it replies. "You're tall," it says. Rather obviously, you think.
Refusing to degrade yourself further, you say nothing in answer to this but remain silent, glaring sideways at it as indignantly as you can manage. It watches you for several more moments before shrugging and reaching into its pocket. Its hand re-emerges again with a small handful of a strange silver powder. Unceremoniously, it clambers gracefully up your body until it is perched easily on your shoulder in easy reach of your tongue.
"Hold still," it says, then tosses the silver powder onto your tongue. You sneeze as it finds its way up your nose. You prepare yourself for a great deal of pain in having your tongue involuntarily wrenched loose by a sneeze, but miraculously there is no sensation save a slight tingling and you open your eyes again to realize that you are free.
The small creature is still perched on your shoulder and it is smiling again. "I'm Dwarrow," it says, then jumps down before you can reply and begins to walk away.
"Wait," you call, stumbling after it. It doesn't turn around but neither does it seem to object to you following it, so you keep going.
At a surprisingly quick pace, it leads you through the candy cane gates and into the little town. It�s crowded with other creatures like your Dwarrow, all looking happy and busy, some of them even singing quietly under their breath as they go. You see more of the large furry four-legged creatures. They seem to be like pets here or something, for everywhere they are lounging or playing happily with each other, generally causing a great deal of chaos around them as they really are quite large. You pass one of them carrying one of the short creatures on their back and you overhear it saying "nice polar bear," in a low tone into the round white ear. Your stomach rumbles cheerfully at all the edible buildings around you and the self-proclaimed Dwarrow glances backwards grinningly. "Soon enough," it says. "We're almost there."
You trudge after this Dwarrow creature hungrily, wondering where exactly "there" is and also how impolite it would be to eat someone's house. Lost in these reflections, you forget where you are and stumble, falling face-first into the freezing white stuff. Spluttering, you resurface. Dwarrow is laughing cheerfully at you. "The snow can be difficult to walk in if you don't pay attention," it says as it comes over to help you up.
"Snow?" you repeat gleefully. Having never seen real snow before, you are at once astonished and delighted. You bend down and take a handful of it. You remember the stories about snowballs and snowmen and snow angels, and experimentally you crush the handful into a spherical shape. It holds together well and you toss it above your head because that was what the stories said you were supposed to do with snowballs. Several seconds later it comes back down and hits you on the head. Dwarrow is laughing again.
"You're supposed to throw it at someone else," it says. "Haven't you ever played with snow before?"
You explain where you come from. It listens attentively and when you are finished it smiles again and gestures around. "Well, surely you've heard of Christmas."
"Of course!" you say indignantly. "That's where we have all the stories about snow from."
"Well, this is where Christmas comes from," Dwarrow says. "This is the North Pole and I'm and Elf. Now come on, it's almost time. Follow me!"
The Elf named Dwarrow turns and hurries off again and you are left with no choice but to follow some more. It isn't long this time, however. Upon rounding a final corner, it stops and points to a two-story gingerbread building with a sign over the door that reads The Quiller's Mint in careful, iced script.
"There," says Dwarrow. "Just go in there. It's warm and restful and you can get something to eat and drink. You can stay as long as you like."
You nod your thanks and say goodbye as the Elf hurries away again. You watch it go until it turns a corner and is out of sight, and a bit nervously you push the door open and go inside.
You are immediately and suddenly encompassed by the warmth. Happily, you shed your soft coat and hang it up beside the door and look around. There is a great roaring fire on the right wall and around it crowds couches and chairs of the softest, most lovely stuff you've ever seen. On the mantel, over-sized socks are hanging with strange names stitched into them. You read a few of them curiously: Renfield; Em; Cyan; Ad1tu; Ylvs; Lunar_Strain; Miiru; Sahi; Mabinogi; Mike; Deegec; Jaime; Hiraeth; Ceywren; Stuart; Kunohara; Magpie; Libra; Gen to name a few only. You know what these are. Christmas stockings!
On the other wall are stairs leading up to where there are probably rooms to stay, and on the far wall, directly across from you, there is a large bar where several Elves are busily serving drinks to other Elves and all manner of other strange looking creatures that you have no name for. Some of them have antlers and walk on four hoofed feet, while others are those polar bear creatures that you saw playing in the street. They are all drinking and talking (though not all in a language you can understand) to each other. Though they are an entirely different species from you, you get the impression that everyone here is very happy.
Behind the bar a door leads to what you assume is a kitchen, for the most inviting smells are wafting from inside of it. Cookies and breads and scones and meats and cakes and candies and every good thing you could ever imagine.
So, welcome Traveller! Have a seat, forget the cold (or the heat) and have a drink on the house. A simple warning, however: we are not responsible for any damage caused by flying snowballs.