I keep making mysterious allusions to things that have already happened--which have gotten even more tangled up now that Christmas is a thing of the past as well--so bear with me. When we last left the actual goings-on, it was last fall; Betsy 2.0 died, I went through a couple of Camilles, and now I have Lizzie, my beloved laptop. And then MORE CRAP HAPPENED. There were no updates for many moons. It happens. So yes, I was hinting at a great number of things that had happened in the interim, involving Faramir and Serafina, and Anna being shifty, and the intrigues of squirrels, and Tonner Edward's migraines, but no, you hadn't actually found out what they were. You didn't miss anything. But back in the fall, they were preparing for The Coming Squirrelmageddon. (Don't worry, it hasn't happened yet. Winter led to a cessation of hostilities; as Helm's Deep Aragorn informed me, campaign season was over until the spring.)
However, I don't want us to miss Christmas--it just won't be as fun however many months from now it takes me to catch up--so I'll try to go ahead and tell you what I can.
There are a lot of things about the Shelfians that I do not understand. They were all very eager to contribute to the Christmas party, naturally enough. Lizzie raided the liquor cabinet (well, I mean, it's more just a kitchen cabinet that also happens to have a couple of bottles in it) downstairs to make rum punch. Purple Arwen mixed up a batch of miruvor, just like Daddy used to make (she said), but--I don't know how. Isn't it supposed to be, like, distilled from the nectar of the undying flowers of Yavanna or something? And the last time I checked... we didn't have so much as an undead flower in the house. I do know how Eowyn made her more earthbound mead, because I let her have an ancient squeezy bear full of honey, since, clearly, none of us big people were using it. So Eowyn set about getting it to ferment in a relatively short amount of time ("SANTA EORL WON'T COME IF WE DON'T LEAVE HIM MEAD!"), hovering and fretting over the old Mason jar, urging it to DO STUFF, DO IT FASTER, and covering it up with her starry mantle at night. ("Shhhh," she would say. "It needs to sleep.")
The two things I really couldn't figure out, though, were Serafina's stew and Legolas's Christmas gift to the gang--he disappeared for a couple of days and came back laden with pipeweed. Where did he find it? What kind of plant was it? Because it had to be a fresh plant, right? It's not like there was anyone he could go trade with for it, right? Or... is there a doll-friendly trading post somewhere near? Had he come across it on his travels to reach the house in the first place? Who the hell was running it? Raccoons? All I know is, he came back with a cloakful of the finest pipeweed to be found in the woods of Alabama. "This," he announced, to the delight of the Aragorns, "is some primo shit." But what was it? As long as they remembered to turn the ceiling fan on while they were smoking it, well... I wasn't going to inquire.
I also didn't think to wonder where Serafina got the rabbit for her stew until long after I was disinclined to ask.
Galadriel spent a December weekend passing on the secrets of the Breadgiver to Purple Arwen and The Littlest Bella--she has been otherwise occupied with prophecy-raveling, after all, and had never been terribly interested in baking--so that the two of them were able to make enough lembas both for Christmas and to stockpile for the coming war, at Legolas's request (although he rather hindered this effort by snaffling pieces from the cooling rack). Bella also made her croquembouche after a great deal of hard work and constant bitching; it was a six-inch pyramid of sticky splendor, appreciated by all (even The Littlest Edward, even though he couldn't keep it down). And this is not even to speak of the piles of doll cookies and doll pies and doll fudge. I've never understood how Bella's mix of plastic and real-food cooking actually works, but there's a point where you just kind of throw up your hands and go with it.
The ponies, meanwhile, feasted on a box of sugar cubes and a bag of carrot sticks--you know, the little pre-cut matchstick carrots--and the Arwens and the Ranch-Hands of Gondor even came and caroled for them. The Littlest Edward, meanwhile, was so busy guarding the punch bowls and mead cups against any attempts at underage drinking that he totally did not notice that Lyra and The Littlest Bella had finally discovered a common cause: sneaking off to the bathroom to experiment with pipeweed.
"Look! Look what that delinquent has done to my Bella!" he cried. It did not help that the girls' reaction to being caught was to roll around and laugh hysterically.
"Edward, she's twelve--"
"And twice Bella's height! DELINQUENT! GIANT, POSSUM-ASSISTED DELINQUENT!"
(Pan giggled so hard just then that it turned into a snort, which I don't think helped Edward's mood.)
"Dude, it's all-natural, no worries."
"MANY TEMPTATIONS ARE NATURAL!"
I just decided to keep my mouth shut at that point.
On Christmas morning, I piled up the presents from "Santa Eorl" on my desk (and poured out enough of the mead to look like someone who was definitely not me had drunk it, because I wasn't going to touch that mess). The Ellowynes got new outfits, as promised. (Look, okay, it was on deep discount and she picked it out. If Ellowyne Two's goal in life is to dress like a Victorian pimp, that is not for me to judge.) And, like I said, I had really wanted to get the gang some more weapons--that's what they would have liked best--but decided to get a few other
I did get Galadriel a tiny Ouija board for her own personal use, under the strict understanding that no one else is to use it.
"Of course not! Eru knows what foul shades Lyra would call up." Then she gave me an interested look: "Do you have any ghosts in the house? I've never sensed any before."
"Not to my knowledge, although we did have one in our old house." Supposedly this was--I am not making this up--"Ashley," a 17-year-old girl murdered by her boyfriend several decades before. Our house was about eighty years old--but not in a really awesome picturesque way, just in a crumbly, leaky-ceilings, tiny-closets, awful-'70s-wallpaper kind of way. And occasionally, things would go missing--I had a mood ring (yes, in the early '90s) that I left on my chest of drawers that then disappeared. Things like that. The really freaky incident was when my mother drove home from work, got to the front door, and couldn't find her keys. You know, the keys she had used to drive herself home. So I let her into the house... and she found her keys lying on her bed.
"Just be careful who you contact," I said, and I figured that Gladdy was powerful enough--and sensible enough--that that would be the end of that.
Speaking of ghosts--going back to Christmas Eve--Lyra insisted that a major Crimbo tradition back at her Oxford had been the telling of scary stories, so, after all the ponies had been put to bed (and the Arwens had sobered Lyra and Bella up a tad with a dose of miruvor), I lit a single tea light and the gang all circled round. I even forced Tonner Edward to be sociable, which of course blew up in my face; he spent his turn clutching at his chest, looking rather like a wraith himself in the pipe-smoky near-darkness, recounting the various murders he had committed as a rebellious young vampire in dead, bitter tones. Lyra thought this was awesome, and protested vociferously when I cut him off in the middle of a particularly vivid throat-tearing episode. The Aragorns, bless them, jumped in with tales of phantom armies and marsh ghosts, which Lyra liked a lot. Of course, Lizzie had lots of swashbuckling stories about ghost pirates, which Lyra liked even more, and Anna... well, Anna had stories about slaying vampires. Very enthusiastically. Uh. I know! I thought. Clarice is pro-vampire, right? I'll give her a turn! And then Clarice narrowed her eyes and told a wool-curdling tale of a teenage girl who was supposed to be pony-sitting but instead spent all her time on the phone with her boyfriend, but then another call came through--a Deep Velvet Voice asking the girl if she had CHECKED ON THE PONIES LATELY, but the call was coming from upstairs, because... dolls have phones? What? And the last that was heard of the teenage girl was a shrill, bitchy scream and when help arrived (too late!), ALL THE BABY PONIES HAD BEEN EATEN, at which point Tonner Edward stormed off, and if Bella had not already fallen asleep on The Littlest Edward's shoulder, I am sure it would have pissed her off like whoa.
(The Littlest Edward shot me a frightened look, at which point I gave him a tiny nod, to express that I would see to the problem of Clarice. Somehow.)
Lyra was already asleep as well, curled up against Iorek's back--the effectiveness of Clarice's story was blessedly undermined by Pan's little ferret snores--and so Serafina carried her off to bed.
(And meanwhile, there was Iorek, the candlelight glinting off his skyfoil as he stared at Clarice in wide-eyed terror.)
By morning, everyone seemed to have slept off their various intoxications. Eowyn was overjoyed that Santa Eorl had found her mead worthy; the Faramirs were eager to brush up on their battle strategies with chess. It turned out that Lyra had been better at skipping school than spelling, so only Legolas was really mellow enough to play Scrabble with her.
"You know, like, we understand each other. We're not confined to letters. And that's a beautiful thing."
Anna, meanwhile, had served her time--I had been so mad (more on that later) that I had made her serve maybe a bit more than she deserved, and I was hoping that a treat--something I've wanted to get her for a very long time--would mollify her.
"So, will you be good now?"
"Yes... AT FULFILLING THE DESTINY OF MY ANCESTORS!" she shouted, and pelted off with her new weapon before I could snatch it back. Knowing what I know now... I would not have done that.
So that was our Christmas. Mead and miruvor, ponies and pie, board games and bitching, temptation and terror. Peace on The Shelf; goodwill towards dolls.
(Secret Life read-through; fan community; TV Tropes page)