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Of Field, of Wood & Hedgerow
Part IV: Changeling.

Gazing into the distance, she listens nearer, feels farther for the scent of the beast. Rubs the ground softly with tender feet, holds a stone between her toes and sways gently in the chattering wind.

No, Virginia, I’m not Santa Claus

But I appreciate you saying I look like him.

More than once, children have asked me if I am some bizarre embodiment of Father Christmas… a younger version perhaps, but considering how old the fellow must be by now, that’s still not exactly top-notch flattery.

Maybe the ‘N’ in N. Robin Crossby does stand for ‘Nick’, but I think of that as my nickname, and I have not yet been canonised. Truth is, my father’s name is Victor, and my older brother’s name is also Victor. It was my mother who ordained that she would not have two Vics and a Nick in the same house, because no one would ever come when they were called. She insisted that everyone call me Robin. She may be gone, but I’m not ready to cross her on this; my mother was a formidable woman and threatened to haunt me (and not in a nice way) on more than one occasion.

Maybe I have a jolly-looking belly, but that’s not intentional. The size of my belly has a more sinister genesis… not my fault… and my belly won’t wiggle, although it looks like it should.
I don’t live on milk and cookies (not enough fat/flavour for my taste).

Red may be my favourite colour, but I seldom wear it (never on away missions), and I’m against ‘real’ fur in any case. (Well, I’m not ‘against fur’ per se; I think it’s fine on the critters wot grows it).

Speaking of fur… My beard and moustache are not white; they are a youthful ‘auburn-blonde’ (not ginger and white as some would have it). Nor are they long and thick (after all, they exist simply to save me the trouble of shaving, certainly not for aesthetic reasons). Besides, it all keeps falling out. (Well that’s really only happened once, but that was more than enough, thank you very much.)

So, no Virginia, I’m not Santa Claus… but I have met him.

It was a while ago, I was young, younger than I ever recall being, but I have a memory as clear as the difference between dusk and twilight. I was young. It was late in December, I was at home in a house that no longer exists in a London that probably no longer exists either. We had a recently cut tree; it smelled like the kind of forest I’d never seen, but it was dry, and it was covered with lights and chocolate wrapped in bright foil. The tree smelled like Christmas, and it tasted like Christmas too. There were brilliant, coloured balls and inside each one, your face looked back at you from a world that was obviously poles apart. Later, there would be presents wrapped up in red green and white papers with snowmen, and jolly little elves, and reindeer, and bunnies (ok, I’m not quite sure about the bunnies) and some that would just remind us of Christmas (or of Italy if one thought in terms of flags).

So we had regular expeditions, my little sister and I, into the tree itself, we sought out things we’d not seen, and ate treats we’d never eaten. No matter how many times we went in, and regardless of how much chocolate we found, there always seemed to be more next time. We weren’t supposed to take chocolate off the tree without asking, but somehow there was a rule that said we could as long as no one was looking. Besides, the tree lived (or at least stood) in another dimension altogether, somewhere where the ordinary rules of time and space did not apply.

I was sure I could get to Lapland by crawling behind the sofa and approaching the tree from along the wall. The big light in the middle of the ceiling had to be out of course; the lounge had to be lit by the little tree lights. I could do this in my jammies, because apparently, the Lapland where Father Christmas lives is different from the one where the Lapps reside in their fur coats, hoods and cloaks. All I had to do to make the magic was believe I could. It had to be as profound a belief as a human could manage, and it might be beyond the knack of a six-year-old, but that always seemed a poor reason not to try.

I would emerge from behind the couch and into the scarcely lit world under the tree. It was like a green tunnel and the tiny lights seemed to perplex the eye, the depth was boundless and I seemed to fall, spinning upward into vague green branches. It was the magic. I could touch it and it sang in my senses, a fleeting moment and one that lingers yet. I may resemble the Jolly fellow on the outside, but there’s an explorer in the deep remembrance. There is a lot of stuff he still believes, despite all the mundane and tiresome events that have spanned the time since. He still knows where the magic is, as profound a belief as a human can manage, just at his fingertips, brushing the skin on the edge of the vague, dancing lights.

I am not Santa, but I did meet him that one time.

People also seem to ask me for presents around this time of year, and for some of you, I’m working on some fairly special things. Remember, though, you’re not supposed to go poking through the cupboards… also everything tends to take longer than we want.

Speaking of big bellies… Today I went to see my lump-doctor…

Apparently, after being off chemotherapy for seven wonderful (short) months, my oncs (Mal, Wash and Book) are back. Not quite as big as before, but plenty big enough to warrant a bit of chemical warfare. She asked me when we should restart, and I suggested that Christmas day would not be my first choice. So we (by which we mean I) start another cycle of chemo on my daughter’s twenty-first birthday in January. Oddly enough, I was diagnosed with cancer on her eighteenth birthday. She suggests we organise her presents right now, before January… she wants a season lift pass for one of the local mountains… While I’m getting chemo, she’ll be snowboarding… I’ve never been skiing or snowboarding… hmmm… She’s probably trying to distract me from more ponderous matters… She’s daddy’s little angel. :)

Wingeo Ergo Svm:

The Proper Organisation of the World

I just realised that the one advantage of getting old is that the world is organised entirely for my personal convenience... Well, it should be. I’m always in the market for new ‘words to live by’. I have to be alive in order to gripe. This is a step in a direction. Gripeo Ergo Svm...

Someone suggested that ‘yes, that’s a good theory, your convenience, and all that, but what about me?’ Well, I’ve thought of that too:

(1) when you’re not in the room you don’t matter;

(2) when you’re sitting in front of me the world can be organised entirely for your benefit.

What’s that you say? Isn’t there a ‘logic meter’ in my head that goes beep, beep, beep, when I ask it to believe two contradictory things at the same time? Well yes there is: it’s like a smoke alarm, right? Loud noise? Wakes you up in the middle of the night? Makes you feel uncomfortable and disoriented? Yep. I turned that off years ago… George Orwell showed us how. Dovblecogeto Ergo Svm.

I was going to write an article about the monarchy, or about why a monarchy is much better than the alternatives. In fact I did write it, but the person who read it described it with words like ‘pedantic’ and ‘pompous’, although I think he probably meant to say ‘forceful’ and ‘persuasive’. Maybe he didn’t know that the entire world is supposed to be arranged entirely for my personal benefit. I’ll give his criticism the consideration it warrants and maybe publish the monarchy piece later. Ignoreo Ergo Svm.

I’m never sure who reads these blogs. Here’s what I do know: I get more feedback on these than on anything else I write…. Maybe I should just discharge whatever pops into my sad, abused brain, if and when there’s room. That sounds like how the world should be organised entirely for my personal convenience. Blogo Ergo Svm.

Maybe this is why I decided to invent my own world… a place in which no one is older than I am (and therefore more deserving of convenience) where no one else is in the room, and where everything really is arranged exclusively for my personal convenience (If you’re thinking, ‘oh no it isn’t’ you’re missing the point of this… go back to the beginning and start over). Imagine, all the little denizens dancing around to the strains of my personal straining, choreography by me, produced and directed by me, art and music, camera, grips, gripes and all. What a narcissistic, egotistical, self-absorbed fellow I must be! (That’s the other thing about getting old… you don’t care so much about being a narcissistic, egotistical, self-absorbed fellow.) Bombastico Ergo Svm.

Ironically, as one gets older, it gets more difficult to be entirely self-satisfied. On the other hand, I think we also acquire a greater appreciation of irony. I can open a childproof medicine bottle with one hand, but I can’t remember if I’ve taken my pills. This reminds me of one of my favourite aphorisms: ‘only kids want to be grownups’, and only grownups have the proficiency to be truly childish. Regresso Ergo Svm.

I got back from my adventure to the soft underbelly of the world, and threw myself back into work… I’ve been distracted a lot lately, by the sense that my tummy hurts, so my wonderful HârnMakers (I say ‘my’ HârnMakers in the same sense I would say ‘my family’) have been throwing many under-appreciated hours at the Great Work (yes there does seem to be quite a lot of alchemy involved).

So over the past few months, we beaver away on the Great City of Chélemby. It is huge. Twelve districts, each more detailed than a Hârnic town. Twelve towns in one, you might say. I hope you all want the kitchen sink, because this module comes with several… If I weren’t getting some serious help on this project I would have gone insane years ago. Um…is ‘insaner’ a word? Now I share the insanity. You know who you are, you have earned the eternal gratitude of a faded wossname... er... whatever I am. Delegato Ergo Svm.

So the proper organisation of the world, for all you youngsters, is like this: Honour your mother and father (especially Dad), honour everyone else’s mother and father, especially, honour everyone who is older than you… Next week: we talk about exactly what we mean by ‘honour’ in this context, but for now: just make life as convenient and pleasant as possible for the aforementioned… do their work for them, buy them nice stuff, forgive them that they are curmudgeonly (we work hard to be cormudgeonly). Build something nice for others to look at and admire. Fabricatvs Ergo Svm.

We are getting personal...

But don't worry -- it's for your benefit :). kelestia.com has been updated to give you more options for personalisation and self-portrayal.

The new features are:

  1. A couple of optional fields in your member profile -- allowing you to tell other Hârniacs a bit about yourself and your (Hârnic) interests; you can access them by clicking on My account, then on the Edit tab, then on Additional Information.
  2. A user list showing you all registered members of kelestia.com; it can be sorted by certain profile data, possibly helping you to find fellow role-players (or friends) in your area.

Last but not least, a new poll is online -- this time about character creation in role-playing groups.

Welcome to kelestia.com mark um...

It's not that we've been off admiring our electronic navels (well not all of us, some of us, in fact went off to contemplate our actual navels) but kelestia.com has been a bit quiet lately. So what could be better than a complete reorganisation and redesign?

It's good for what ails us. Not that anything much is ailing us a whole lot, but there were problems with the old site.

The problems with the old site were well, not leigion, but several. One was that we had do disable registration and commenting to prevent spam. Now we have email registration, profiling and even avatars, so you can comment and even post to our new fora!

We have built a new eShop, and you need to register to use it, but registration is ridiculously easy and we are keeping the (pittance of) information we collect confidential. Also, the download system should make it a lot easier for you to download your files. "User Friendly" are two of our middle names...

We have created a new fanon licence. It is part of our updated FAQ. There's lots of information in there now.

More Lore (a new category that somehow always existed)... more Penny Arcane and more blogs... for some reason, people tell us they want to read our blogs (but oh my... how I hate that word).

Overall, the site should be a happier, friendlier place, and a lot more community oriented. Just to make sure this is so, we have created a chat room called the Tavern. There you can talk to us online in realime, or to each other, for that matter... you can even create a chat room for 'play by chat' gaming if you want to.

Naturally, the fact that we have eliminated a bunch of problems from the old site, doesn't mean we haven't created a slew of new problems. This is where you can help... point out our flaws!

And welcome to kelestia.com mark III ? IV ? well... welcome to whatever version it is... it's definitely the newest and best. Enjoy.