Ros, Reverand Mother of the True Temple of Jovan (not to be confused with the False Temple of Jovan that sent gibbering minions and skeletons to attack defenseless towns), appeared at the door of the Demon Arms Inn, resplendent in her crimson robes.

“Were there not more of you before?” she said in melodious tones. “I have come to offer thanks and apologize for my earlier brusqueness.”

“Tinuviel and Chanel decided to spend the night outside, camping in the streets,” said Iffy the elven conjurer. “Gora the Seventh did kind of pick our pocket before she offered us free room and board for the winter.”

“I see,” said Ros. “Well, I wanted to offer you a nugget of information in recompense. When the followers of false Jovan invaded, as you know, you allowed them to escape with a wagon filled with prisoners.”

Adenan the halfling bruiser bristled at this suggestion that they had failed. “What about it?”

“One of the Jovan cultists was captured by the city guard. He…perished…under interrogaion, but not before revealing the heading that the prisoners may have followed.”

“Excellent!” Iffy cried. “We can go rescue them, really live up to our status as associate junior guards!”

“I must admit,” added Reverend Mother Ros, “normally I have to pay quite handsomely in bribes for this sort of information from the guards. But this time, one of the guards offered it to me quite willingly.”

Iffy and Adenan looked at each other with loaded expressions. They knew all about their halfling ne’er-do-well friend Tinuviel’s continuing flirtations with Vakt the city guard.

Ros held up a scroll. “The guard only insisted that the information be given directly and personally to a short woman,” she continued. She thrust the scroll into Adenan’s hands, oblivious to the halfling’s eyes suddenly swelling to saucers. “He also asked that I give you…something else…but I regret that my oath as a Reverand Mother of Jovan makes that impossible.”

The Reverand Mother departed, leaving Adenan holding the scroll, stunned, and her companions overtaken by hopeless laughter.


The last gibberling–a tiny whirlwind of teeth and fur that seemed a cross between a gibbon and a Pomeranian pup–took Chanel’s blow to the head and passed out cold. The others tied him up, and turned to Adenan to converse with the creature, since she had taken a minor in Gibber Languages at university.

“Who are you?” she said in Gibbertongue. “Who else is in this cave? Talk or I’ll throw you into the river!”

“You-killed-my-friends!” the gibberling motormouthed. “You-killed-Gus! You-squashed-him-into-jelly! Gus-had-gibberlettes-and-a-gibberwife!”

Adenan bonked the gibberling over the head. “Who are you?” she repeated. “Who else is in this cave?”

“I’m-Gus. Gus-Two. Lots-of-Gusses,” the gibberling…well…gibbered. “Lots-of-us-in-here. Some-big-green-ones-too. And-the-boss.”

“What’s the boss?”

“Big!”

Adenan rolled her eyes. “What about the prisoners?”

“Oh-yeah-boss-has-some-prisoners. Gonna-eat-em-soon! Taste-good. Like-the-horses-outside. Ate-them-and-then-burned-the-bits-for-fun!”


Attempting to sneak around a corner of Ransack Cavern, Tinuviel the halfling rogue instead came face to face with a young troll–one of the “green-ones” that Gus Two had gibbered on about before he had run off screaming and broken his neck in a deadfall trap.

Normally, she was decently sneaky. But this time, Tinuviel tripped over her own foot-hairs and tumbled straight to the ground. Her cooking set tumbled out of her rucksack, making such a ruckus that it could have woken the dead (had any of the skeletons they’d fought earlier been present).

“What that?” the troll cried. “Who there?”

Thinking quickly, Tinuviel got up, dusted herself off, and bowed deeply. “Why, I’m one of you! My most humble apologies, sir. I seem to have gotten lost looking for the boss.”

The troll regarded the tiny halfling with deep suspicion. “You smell like Gus,” he snarled. “Smell like Gus Two. Like Gus Two’s gooey bits. You kill him?”

“Of course not,” saif Tinuviel, bowing again. “He killed himself by running into a deadfall. But I’m still one of you, one of the Ransack Cavern gang through and through.”

“What the password?” the troll said, readying its fists.

“The password is…” Tinuviel racked her thoughts, and coughed up the first word that came to mind: “…flugelhorn.”

The troll gaped. The password was indeed “flugelhorn,” after the boss’s ill-fated stint as a brass player. “How you know that?”

“Like I said,” Tinuviel grinned. “I’m one of you.”

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“I do not believe you for a minute,” said Ockham the Red. “You are surely one of them.”

He had an impressive countenance as a full-blooded orc, made all the more so by his immaculate sky-blue uniform with crossed white belts and brass polished to a mirror-shine. It was undermined somewhat by the fact that he and the other two Vallia guardsmen, Vakt the Rosy and Pyse the Peach, had been locked in the jail of their own stockade, blindsided by the insane cultists of Jovan and their attendent skeletons.

“Didn’t you see the light show downstairs?” said Tinuviel the halfling. “Our cleric Chanel just channeled enough positive energy to be seen from the Caldera rim and it double-killed four skeletons all at once.”

Ockham harrumphed. “You lie. I wouldn’t believe you if you laid the severed heads of those Jovan-addled brigands downstairs at my feet.”

“Funny you should mention that,” said Tinuviel. “Adenan, let ‘erm rip.”

The two halflings each unfurled the dripping bundles in their hands, revealing the severed heads of the brigands that they had just killed. Adenan rolled the head of the white-kerchiefed brigand who had sicced the skeletons on them into Ockham’s cell. Tinuviel spun the red-kerchiefed head of the villian who had stabbed poor Iffy to within an ich of her squishy life into
Vakt’s prison.

Ockham picked up the dripping countenance and nodded curtly. “I am not afraid to admit when I am wrong,” said he. “This is definitely one of the foul brigands from the hills who turned of late to Jovan-worshipping insanity. Truly you are not one of they.”

“Damn straight,” groused Adenan, handing the cell keys to her halfling compatriot. She was still upset that her threat to hurl Ockham into the river had been laughed off.

Tinuviel unlocked Ockham’s cell, and then Vakt’s. That guard, given the gift of the dripping head of his enemy, looked down at the tiny halfling opening his cell with starry eyes. He fell to his knees as she opened the door.

“T-thank you, my lady,” he whispered through trembling besotted lips. “I have never seen a woman as…short…and as…formidible…as you.”

Tinuviel winked at him and tossed him the weapon the Jovan-crazed villains had deprived him of. Already on his knees, Vakt swooned a bit and awkwardly blew her a kiss.

The halfling mimed catching it, and placed it in her pocket before traipsing off and opening the last cell.

“I hope you realize that you’ve just made that poor guy fall in love with you,” groused Adenan.

“It’s cute,” said Tinuviel, dismissively. “What’s the worst that could happen?”

Adenan looked back at Vakt the Rosy, who was busy composing a love poem on the blood-soaked kerchief of the severed head in his cell. “What indeed,” she sighed.

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“Nope!” cried Tinuviel, looking at the ten-foot-high battlements of the Vallia Stockade. “You are NOT throwing me up there! Nobody tosses this halfling!”

Adenan walked up to her halfling compatriot, on whom she had a good few inches (to say nothing of her much more fit physique). With her nose a mere inch from Tinuviel’s, her eyes narrowed, she riposted: “I’m going to toss you either way,” she growled. “It’s up to you whether you land on the battlements or in the river.”

The vivacious halfling wilted like a summer daisy in the face of her companion’s intimidating surety. “Fine, fine!” she cried, raising her hands. “Just be careful Watch the face!”

“I’m always careful,” Adenan said in her customary monotone. “Now stop whining or I’ll carefully chuck you in the shallowest part of the river.”

“How is she going to do it?” whispered their companion, Iffy the elf. “They’re practically the same size.”

“Don’t screw around with a halfling who knows what she wants,” replied Chanel, their other elf fellow-traveler. “Adenan can throw anything.”

As the fairfolk whisprered, Adenan seized her smaller compatriot by one arm and one leg. Spinning around several times like a shot-putter to gain momentum, she lifted Tinuviel up and released her at the apogee of the swing.

“Crap, crap, crap, craaaaaaaaaaap!” shrieked the smaller, shorter halfling as she sailed upward in a parabolic arc. It was enough to surmount the low battlements of the stockade, and the others hear her come to a safe landing above, at least judging by the volume of complaints that drifted down.

“Now throw down a rope so I can help you get in,” huffed Adenan. “We’ll open the door from the inside and get the drop on them.”

“No, I’m going in alone!” Tinuviel pouted from the battlements.

“I’m coming up there whether it’s with a rope or with my nails,” said Adenan flatly. “And whether I beat the window in with my fists or with your head depends entirely on that.”

“Don’t screw around with a halfling that knows what she wants,” Iffy echoed with a low whistle.

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Much as Vallis was founded by humans after the catastophe that created the Caldera, so too were Morinth’s Delving and Welkor’s Light founded by dwarven and elvish colonists, respectively.

In the north of the Caldera, the dwarven colonists stumbled upon a warren of volcanic caverns and subterranean steam vents created from empty magma chambers. This ready-made dwelling also had access to veins of precious metals, plenty of room for growth, and many avenues of access for trade with both the surface and the Underdark. Within a generation, a powerful line of dwarven dukes had arisen, and for many years they were the primary power within the Caldera. While many of the mines have closed, and other colonies have since eclipsed Morinth’s Delving, Morinth IX still rules over a wealthy and potent kingdom.

Welkor’s Light was an aboveground settlement dedicated to studying the potent magical aftereffects of the calamity that created the Caldera. A fortress set on a wooded crag, it clowly grew to encompass a full-fledged community of elves despite its beginning as a mere research outpost. There was continual tension between Welkor, the leader of the settlement, and the various members of Morinth’s line, each accusing the other of a variety of misdeeds. In time, though, Welkor’s Light became a powerful fortress, capable of withstanding a lengthy siege and a powerful producer of artifacts in its own right.

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Lapur Xianuende, an elven engineer formerly in the employ of Baron Hecoran, and Sustrai Xianuende, a dwarven mercenary hired to protect Hecoran Keep as the Baron consolidated his forces for a confrontation with his neighbor Baroness Ioxus. They met and fell in love, which resulted in the expulsion of Lapur from his family and the blacklisting of Sustrai from her unit. Forced to make ends meet as they could, the pair ended up fleeing into the wilds of northern Hecoran where they fell in with the bandit leader Mtos. Despite their circumstance, they managed to have seven children in four sets of twins:

Mailu (age 15)
Favoring his father, Mailu is already taller than all of his siblings at 15 but has inherited his mother’s incredible swarthiness with a growing beard that will one day be the envy of many a full-blooded dwarf. His strength and height have found him work as a longshoreman on Pexate’s rivers, felling trees even at his young age. He harbors a dream to become a soldier, though he lacks the money and martial skill to do so.

Harro (age 15)
Mailu’s twin, Harro favors his mother and has never grown any taller than her. Despite this, he has the slim build and features of an elf, and appears very like a rare halfling of Daqin, a people like the ogres and trolls on the verge of extinction. As such, he has joined a treveling carnival under the name “Arqin the Last Halfling from the East” and currently tours Pexate. His parents consider this a phase that he will grow out of, failing to see the unintentional pun therein.

Gezi (age 20)
Gezi favors his mother, being of average dwarvish height and build but with his father’s dazzlingly blonde and straight hair and delicate ear-points. Even so, he lives as a full dwarf in the settlement of Noaad near the Pexate-Layyia border and writes only occasionally of his work there as a miner and prospector.

Alkate (age 20)
Gezi’s twin, Lantza is between her parents’ heights, on the short side of the elven norm, with ears that are semi-pointed and wavy brown hair. Unable to fit in with anyone but her parents, she serves their band of bandits as a scout and a courier, gathering supplies and passing messages. She finds the work quite thankless and is rather desperate to find another elf-dwarf hybrid of similar appearance so that she can feel a greater sense of belonging.

Brankan (age 25)
Living in Toan, Brankan is studying to become a Priest of the Sepulcher under the Bishop-Baron of Toan. On the short side but still rather taller than his mother, his dwarf-like thick bushy blonde hair allows him to hide his delicately pointed ears and pass for human, while his taking of the cloth as a celibate man of the Creator will serve to disguise his inability to have children. Far and away his parents’ favorite, his studious and dull personality is constatntly held up as an example for the others despite the fact that Brankan clearly wants nothing to do with his parents.

Zaldi (age 25)
Brankan’s twin, she favors her father and has an elflike height and build with her mother’s black and curly hair and semi-rounded ears. Though she could pass for human, she instead lives as an elf and works as a waitress and occasional actress in the Elf Quarter of Aiov in the Barony of Varrett. The money she sends home does not make up for her parents’ stern disapproval of her lifestyle.

Lantza (age 30)
The sole survivor of Sustrai’s first difficult pregnancy; her twin Daic was stillborn. As tall as her father, but with her mother’s stout build, she is a mercenary in the city of Simnel and moonlights as a wrestler in the city’s famous but illegal Mud Pits. Despite the fact that she is an elf-dwarf hybrid and cannot have children of her own, her lack of a husband continually bedevils her parents who are always writing her with suggestions.

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Elves are of course known for their slow metabolisms and rather different rate of aging. Compared to others like humans and orcs, they do indeed age at a slower rate, with puberty occurring at age 24-26, adulthood and full maturity at 36-38, with geriatric elves being 130-140. The oldest elf on record since modern figures were kept lived to 257 years, a full 20 years longer than any since. Tales from less enlightened ages about elves being immortal or living to the age of 1000 years or more are, of course, ridiculous.

The slow rate of growth and slow reproduction (with a gestation period of 18-24 months and a refractory period after birth of 24-36 months preventing a further pregnancy during that time) has had a profound impact on elven culture, which tends to prize safety and stasis and is slow to adapt to sociological and technological change. These same factors have made them highly valued as bureaucrats and administrators in various empires that have arisen and fallen, with elves present in human, orcish, and other empires throughout history. Indeed, Hamur himself specifically set elves apart from his Hamurabash, granting them protection but exempting them from its provisions (though many modern orcs refuse to associate with elves who have not embraced the Hamurabash).

Though history is full of elven usupers and elven dynasties ruling empires largely made up of other peoples, the lower numbers of elves in general means that they have never ruled large empires of their own, nor have they ever formed colonies. Their metabolism generally precludes direct combat, as the exertions from sustained and intense movement exhaust them easily and drain their reserves of energy. This makes them unparallelled siege artists and defenders; Hamur the orc recruited a legion of elves he referred to as his Crocodiles (“their eventual strike being all the more brutal for the long patient inaction which preceeds it”).

Elvish beliefs are quite unique, and are responsible for much friction with other peoples, though as with any group there are many who hold others or none at all. The majority of elves follow precepts that they call the “Eternal Way” which is predicated on the notion that all beings ascend to godhood over lesser creatures given time. Others often misinterpret this as meaning that the elves fancy themselves gods over the other peoples of the world, something which their aloofness and percieved wealth and inaction does little to dispel.

But a better rendering would be that the elves consider themselves gods of lesser creatures, ascended from their number. The elvish philosopher Tsianlwyn put it thus: “We are from and of the lesser creatures, and as their gods owe them mercy and justice. Our ascension to godhood over them is a trust which is binding. Other peoples are, whether they know it or not, bound to the same sphere and must exercise their godly dominion over life with the same trust and restraint.”

It would therefore be more accurate to say that the elves consider all sapient peoples co-gods, and their philosophy doen not concern itself with–but does not discount–the existence of “gods above the gods.” Still, this has led to grievous misunderstandings over time, the elves being contnually villified as “worshipping themselves” and beliving themselves “gods over men.” Human religions tend to consider such beliefs self-centered at best and blasphemous at worst, while the orcs are often insistent that elves deny their beliefs in their own divinity and embrace the atheist and ancestor-centric Hamurabash.

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Dear New Low-Card Santa,

Let me be the first to welcome you to the World Santa Federation! You’ve just joined a fraternity that’s dedicated to the performing art of Professional Clausing™, people that Claus for love of the game and for hardcore fans of Clausing everywhere. I’d like to take this opportunity to share with you a few pieces of information and advice:

1. “Kayfabe” is our term for maintaining a sense of reality and willing suspension of disbelief about our performances. We do not break kayfabe in the WSF. Let me say that again: WE DO NOT BREAK KAYFABE IN THE WSF. When in costume, you will be expected to hold to the notion that you are the one, the only, the indisputable Santa Claus. Where this is not possible, as in the case of older children and multi-performer Clausing events, you will be expected to maintain that you are a magical helper fully bonded and licensed by the one, the only, the indisputable Santa Claus. Breaking kayfabe is grounds for immediate and irrevocable expulsion from the WSF. Keep in mind that you are also expected to maintain kayfabe if recognized when out of costume, so always be ready for some fun improvisational Clausing, even in June.

2. Breaking kayfabe is allowable in the WSF under the following circumstances only:
– Legitimate injury requiring medical treatment.
– Physical violence or threats of violence by non-WSF individuals.
– Other circumstances authorized in writing by the WSF.

3. Let me be clear about one thing: nobody goes straight from amateur Clausing to the 34th Street Macy’s right away. WSF membership offers you the benefits of our promotional network and negotiated pay scale, but make no mistake: you will be starting as a low-card, the bottom rung of the ladder, and will be expected to work your way up. Expect to Claus in small-town stores, Wal-Marts, and private functions. If you do well at these, more opportunities like small shopping centers and suburban mall anchor stores will open up. Eventually, you might work your way up to the level of Gilner “Krampusbane” Kirks or Lian “Zwarte Klaüs” Atchisson–but don’t count on it. And hey, if low-card or mid-card Clausing is all you want to do, great! The WCF is nothing without talented people Clausing at all levels.

4. You may choose your own team of elves and a Mrs. Claus, but keep in mind that they must be members of our affiliates WEF and WMCF respectively, and offered WEF/WMCF scale pay and benefits as appropriate. Refer to your handbook for the formula on which events and venues the WCF will compensate you for elf/Mrs. Claus use and which we will not. Remember that WEF/WMCF members are strictly prohibited from Clausing themselves; they are not substitutes. Similarly, appearing as an elf or Mrs. Claus yourself will be considered a break of kayfabe and grounds for immediate dismissal.

5. Costume rental or purchase are at your discretion; WCF members qualify for discounts from most major suppliers. If you choose to go off-brand, keep in mind that costuming of you, your elves, and your Mrs. Claus must meet WCF standards or you risk WCF sanctions for breaking kayfabe. The same goes for set dressing and props.

Again, let me renew my welcome. You’ve made the right decision by going pro with the WCF and we’re here to help you with your Clausing experience at every step of the way. Wherever your Professional Clausing™ journey begins and ends, the WCF is right behind you.

Sincerely,
Atlas Cunas
Founder and CEO, World Santa Federation

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Brief History
Elvish oral histories speak of a time when all elves lived together in a distant land, in harmony with nature and themselves. Discord supposedly arose when the ancient elves began splitting into factions: one believed that elvenkind was inherently evil, and strove to contain this evil nature with laws and a structured society, while the other held that elves were inherently good and trusted them to act on their instincts without recourse to law and organization.

There may be a germ of truth in this, as it does explain the difference between the two major groups of elves, the light and the dark. The names arose because of minor differences in skin tone, though the genetic differences between the two groups are nil. Both existed in the oral histories of the other, despite immense geographical isolation: the first recorded meeting between light and dark elves took place only in recent times.

“Light” elves
As early as the third century of the recorded era, advanced elvish civilizations had begun to arise on the western seaboard of the major continent. Beginning as a series of petty kingdoms, over the course of centuries the various elvish principalities were united under a single king. While the dynasties in power changed relatively frequently, a light elvish king remained on the throne until the very recent era of revolutions.

However, increasing dogmatism and a rigid hierarchy eventually led this sophisticated civilization to stagnate. While the light elvish kingdom was the most technologically advanced in the world at one point, by the dawn of the modern era it was weak and suffered invasion and strife on an unprecedented scale. Only recently has progress been made in forging the light elves into a modern nation state.

“Dark” elves
While a number of powerful dark elven kingdoms rose and fell on the minor continent, they never approached the size or complexity of the light elves’. By and large, most of the dark elves lived in small groups, widely scattered, living as hunters, gatherers, or farmers.

This lack of centralized states left the dark elves vulnerable to conquest from abroad, and following the reestablishment of contact between the major and minor continents, they were largely subjugated by human and dwarvish conquerors. The elves were decimated in battle, and their numbers have remained low ever since, largely supplanted by settlers from the major continent.

Biological Sketch
Elves, like humans, range considerably in height, though they are generally of slender build. While strong, they lack the constitution of humans, dwarves, and orcs and must make up for their disadvantage in strength through their lithe nature and rigorous training. Skin tone ranges are similar to those of humans, with light elves tending toward lighter colors and dark elves toward a tanner complexion.

Elves have slow and difficult pregnancies; gestation lasts fourteen to eighteen months on average, and there is a refraction period of 2-4 years before another pregnancy is possible. Elvish children also mature very slowly, typically reaching adulthood at thirty to thirty-five years. Their slow metabolism gives elves significant resistance to poison and environmental toxins, however, and also greatly increases their lifespan, which is two hundred years on average. No upper limit is known; exceptionally hardy elves have been known to live over a thousand years, though documentation is difficult to come by.

Cultural Notes
Elvish cultures are often collectivist, focusing on the good of the group over that of the individual. Many dark elves lack personal names, substituting some earned deed or distinction instead. Both “light” and “dark” elvish cultures tend toward xenophobia and isolation, and while they have never been known to enslave or conquer other races (preferring suzerainty), many elvish cultures still hold them in low esteem.

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“The story teller says that it’s in a place beyond seeking,” Solanine said. “A grove in the deepest forest where the leaves turn and fall year-round.”

“That should be warning enough,” replied Dalonyn. “An overt warning followed by an impossibility. Beyond seeking means it cannot be sought for to do so is folly, while year-round leaffall would bury a tree to its crown. Can’t you see that the storyteller is using this as a metaphor? He seeks to describe a foolhardy chasing of shadows in terms our ancestors understood.”

Solanine folder her arms. “If that were the case, why not simply say so? If it’s in the stories, it must be true.”

“You’ll find that many of the stories are metaphors, lessons for living a good life wrapped up in our ancestors’ tales,” Dalonyn sighed. “Do you honestly believe the tale of Kulynan spearing the moon or Linoni flooding a valley to drive out spirits? It is the same with the Everfall Glen and the miraculous panacea it contains.”

“The storyteller holds them to be true,” replied Solanine, defiantly. “He says nothing of metaphor. When I seek and find it, you’ll see how wrong you’ve been.