Christmas Shopping with Der Drache von der Himmeln Christmas Shopping with Der Drache von der Himmeln

The morning outside was clear and frosty as our favorite author, Der Drache von der Himmeln, groaned and rolled herself out of bed. She lay facedown on the floor for a few moments, before finally finding the strength in her to pick herself up and relieve herself of the pain in her face from having all of her weight shifted onto it. And so she sat up, rubbed her nose, and yawned; then, stretching, she attempted to stand up. It took her a few tries before she finally got herself onto her feet, and even then she was unsteady- as a matter of fact, she looked like an old building swaying in a hurricane wind. After running into a few things because of this, she stumbled over to her dresser and pulled out a shirt and, yes, a pair of shorts.

A few moments later, the blond-haired girl fumbled with her doorknob, before finally opening the door and stumbling down the hallway, heading for the kitchen. In a manner reminiscent of a drunken walk, she got a bowl out of the kitchen cabinet, and then a box of chocolate cereal; it was a few minutes before she actually got the cereal into the bowl. After she did, however, she stumbled over to the refrigerator, got out some milk, and managed to pour it into the bowl without getting all over herself and the counter in the process. Managing to open her eyes halfway, she put it back into the 'fridge before attempting to carry her bowl of cereal into the dining room.

It was an interesting struggle, and it lasted for about ten minutes, but Der Drache finally made it to her seat, which she promptly fell into- that is, after she managed to set down her cereal bowl on the table. Her head nodded a few times, and she almost fell asleep, but she eventually stopped herself from doing that- on the basis that her neck was REALLY starting to hurt- and forced herself to eat her cereal.

Manfred, sitting across the table from her and reading his ubiquitous newspaper, lowered it just enough to see her.

"Insomnia?" he questioned.

Der Drache managed a nod before she shoved a giant spoonful of what was essentially chocoloate and sugar into her mouth. Manfred followed the blond girl's lead and nodded his acknowledgement of her reply, before going back to reading the morning news.

A few minutes later, when Der Drache fell asleep in her cereal bowl, Manfred once again lowered the ever-present morning newspaper and said to Erique, "Is there any way to keep her awake?"

"Theoretically, you could tell her that the chandelier is about to fall. She always loves watching that."

"Ja, that is true. Any comments, Griffin?"

"That 'chibi Darien' thing worked last time, didn't it?"

"Yes, but I doubt she would fall for that again," Erique supplied.

"You never know with her."

"No, you don't. Maybe Chibi Claude?"

"Yes?" Claude looked up from where he had been reading the front page of Manfred's newspaper, the only part that he had managed to procure. "Did someone say my name?"

"Ja," Manfred replied. "We were trying to think of how to arouse Der Drache."

"Ah. I think 'Chibi Claude' might work."

"Then who wants to try it?"

Everybody stared at one another for a moment, before Griffin finally volunteered.

He stood up, pushing his chair away, before walking over to Der Drache and saying, "Chibi Claude!"

Der Drache von der Himmeln instantly shot up, exclaiming, "Chibi Claude! Where?"

She looked around for a moment, until she answered herself with, "No Chibi Claude, but Claude just the same." And she rubbed the sleep out of her eyes.

She stuffed another giant spoonful of cereal in her mouth, chewing and swallowing it before asking, "Does anyone want to go Christmas shopping today?"

The tall blond was met by a chorus of groans.

She pushed her now-empty cereal bowl away from herself and said, "Well, you're coming with me anyway. I need someone to take me. Can anyone here drive a car? I should think yes? Have I resorted to answering my own questions? . . ."


She glanced all around the table; Manfred was just looking at her over his newspaper, and she couldn't tell either Griffin's or Erique's respective expressions- and Claude was arching his eyebrows at her.

"Stop it!" she finally shouted. "Stop it! You're all driving me insane! Somebody talk besides me!"

"I'll drive," Claude offered.

Der Drache von der Himmeln fell over.

Fifteen minutes later . . .

"Where am I?"

Der Drache sat up, rubbing her head fitfully; after a couple of moments of this behavior, she looked around to find that she was in . . . a German staff car?!

"Manfred, where did you get this?" she asked, beginning to rub her poor, aching head once again.

He turned to look at her from where he was sitting, before replying, "It was not in use . . . so I concluded that we might be able to use it ourselves."

There was silence for a couple of moments as Der Drache strove to piece together an intelligible sentence, a task proving rather difficult as a result of the conditions she was in.

"Did you notice that we're driving fifteen miles an hour, and everybody else is doing fifty?" she finally asked, after looking around for a few moments. Manfred now turned to look out the window, before replying in his accented voice, "So I see."

"It's going to take us a while to get to the mall. You should've let me take care of this- I could've gotten something more . . . ah . . . up to date. Although I've always wanted to ride in an antique car- and a German staff car, nonetheless!"

Der Drache von der Himmeln smiled happily.

"But the only problem being, it's about an hour's drive at fifteen miles per hour to the mall . . . oh, well. I guess I should just sit back and enjoy the ride," the author sighed.

The blond girl settled down into a comfortable position and promptly fell asleep.

There were a few moments of silence after this new turn of events, before Erique said, "She's asleep! We can actually speak without her adding something nonsensical . . ."

"Isn't that a relief?"

"I would have to agree."

"And so would I."

"Well, in any case . . ." Griffin began, glancing at the soundly sleeping author, "What should we all get her for Christmas?"

"I have no idea."

"Neither do I."

"Don't you think she's happy enough as it is?"

"I'm not sure about that . . . hey!" the Invisible One suddenly exclaimed. "We can hear it from her . . . take her to go see Santa at this 'mall' . . . after all, I've heard from that glowing, speaking box that children love that . . . maybe Santa will know."

"Good point."

"I agree."

"It's settled, then," said Erique, taking up for Griffin. "We take her to see Santa . . . maybe that will make her happy, too."

Approximately one hour later . . .

"Man, you can never find a parking place here, can you?" Der Drache exclaimed, having just opened her eyes to see how packed the mall was. "Oh, cursed bane that is holiday shopping! Why must you torment poor human beings with thine endless ravages?"

"So she finally speaks normally," Erique said.

They wound up sitting behind some clown bunny who took fifteen minutes just to back out of his parking space, denting about five cars in the process, before he finally drove off with rap music blaring from his speakers. Erique clapped his hands over his ears and exclaimed, "Is this what your generation calls 'music,' Der Drache?"

Der Drache nodded sadly.

As soon as everybody had managed to pile out of the car, Claude looked at it and said, "Won't somebody steal it while we're gone?"

"I'll use my Powers of Author-ness to make sure it's safe," Der Drache replied.

She shrugged, and they all began to walk towards the building.

Considering the fact that they had parked in the Back Forty of the Mall's parking lot, it took them quite some time to actually get into the building. On top of all of that, though, the moronic drivers seemed out in full force today, and Der Drache and her little ensemble were almost run over numerous times. Numerous times as well did Der Drache promise Griffin that he could later go hunt down the moronic drivers and do some . . . ah . . . mean things to them. So, when they finally arrived at the blessed building, they were all very relieved.

But Der Drache stopped them just before they went inside.

"Now, mein Kameraden," she said, placing her hands behind her back, "it is going to be worse than any nightmare that you've ever had in there . . . yes, Griffin, worse than suddenly becoming visible in front of everybody. Everybody inside is going to be doing some last-minute Christmas shopping, and it's going to be a true madhouse. Remember, stay together, and keep your arms and hands close to you, for fear of . . . well, just so that nothing horrible will happen to them. Stay directly behind me, and I will help us to get through safely."

So saying, she turned on her heel and marched into the building.

She was correct- left and right were people scavenging the shelves, fighting over the last item, screaming, yelling- oh, for the love of humanity, it was worse than a madhouse! Nobody even noticed Der Drache and her entourage, so busy were they fighting over everything and trying to get into check-out lines. Somehow, through all the ravaging forces, Der Drache von der Himmeln managed to lead Manfred, Erique, Griffin, and Claude through to safety in the more open main walkway of the mall. There, they all paused to catch their breath, and Griffin remembered what he had suggested they do- and reminded everyone else of it.

So, with the promise of some random goodies- including a pipe organ- they got Der Drache into the line to sit on Santa's lap. It soon became painfully apparent of the fact that she was the oldest person to do so; all the other people in the line, besides parents and her own companions, were little kids that barely made it up to her waist.

"You know, I haven't talked to Santa in years," Der Drache said, using her height to glance over to the sea of heads to wear the mall's Santa sat, enshrined among Christmas-y splendor. "This just might be a fun reunion."

Well, it turned out to be, but that was after about fifteen or twenty minutes spent in line.

When Der Drache finally ran up and planted herself on Santa's lap, the guy leaned over and whispered, "Aren't you a little too old for this?"

Der Drache pulled her "I-am-not-amused" face and said, in a low and somewhat menacing voice, "You're never too old to sit on Santa's lap."

Well, when she put it that way . . .

"Well then, young lady, what would you like for Christmas?"

As soon as she opened her mouth to speak, Santa knew he was making a BIIIG mistake.

"To begin with," Der Drache said, her face lighting up, "I want a DVD player and 'Notorious' on DVD to go with it, and a horse, and a trip to the Paris Opera, and . . ."

Fifteen minutes later, she was just finishing her list up.

" . . . a trip to the seventh cellar beneath the Paris Opera, a visit to Manfred's birthplace, a pipe organ, a violin, and a new French Horn. And that's about it."

Santa had long ago rested his elbow on the arm of his chair, his head in his palm, and fallen asleep. Der Drache made a displeased face, shifted her position a little, and dug one of her bony elbows Santa's ribs. She then began to smile brightly.

"Oh, you're done?" he asked, afterwaking up and regaining his wits. "Well, then, have a merry Christmas and happy New Year. Good-bye!"

"Auf wiedersehen!" Der Drache exclaimed as she hopped off of his lap. She then proceeded to walk off with the rest of her entourage.

Santa eyed her as she did so, muttering, "Kids these days. Always running around with the weirdest characters . . ."

"So, where are we going to go now, seeing as how the whole Santa escapade is over?" Der Drache finally asked, after glancing over at her shoulder where hordes of hyperactive kids waited to sit on Santa's lap. Nobody answered her as they walked along; finally, she told them, "I'm going into Coach House Gifts to see if there's anything good in there, and you all have to come with me, since otherwise I'd be all alone."

She was met by a chorus of groans.

"Oh, get over it," she said, glancing around at all of them. "There are fates worse than Coach House. J.C. Penney's is one of them."

And so Der Drache dragged them into and through Coach House as best as she could, taking into consideration all the ravaging hordes of holiday shoppers. When they finally made it out into the safety of the main hallway, Der Drache said, "Note to self: never go in Coach House during last-minute Christmas shopping season."

After doing that, she turned around and said, "Anywhere that you want to go?"


"So we don't get run over, do you want to go sit down so you can stare at me?"


She dragged them over to a couple of benches, and forced them all to sit there.

"Now," our favorite blond-haired author told us, "you can stare all you like."

They did, and she proceeded to stare back.

Twenty minutes later-

"I can't take it any longer! Even I, the Queen of the Stare-Down, can take no more! I think I'm going to go insane- well, even more than I was before . . . but that's besides that point!"

So saying, she turned and grabbed the nearest person to her by the shirt collar, rage flashing in her eyes, and began to shake them vigorously.


When she finally managed to stop shouting at and shaking the poor person, she realized just who it was . . . and it was Fedallah!

"Hey, man," she said, reaching out to shake his hand with less violence than she had the rest of him, "how's it going? Has Captain Ahab found Moby Dick yet?"

Simultaneously, Claude and Erique arched their eyebrows. Manfred just sighed resignedly.

Poor Fedallah was just giving Der Drache an "I think I'll just back slowly away now" look, terror hiding behind his slanted eyes. And he began to slink quietly away . . .

"Hey, mein Kamerad, don't leave just yet. Are you here alone, or are you with somebody else? Because, if you're alone, I'm sure the rest of these guys could keep you company."

And Der Drache gestured towards the rest of her little ensemble.

Fedallah continued to back away.

"Hey, man, don't leave just yet! I need someone to talk to! These guys won't say a word to me!"

Fedallah now turned and began running from Der Drache, only to collide with . . . Captain Ahab?!

"What're you doing here?" Der Drache exclaimed, not seeming to notice as Fedallah silently picked himself up from off the dirty mall floor.

The rest of her entourage arched their eyebrows, simultaneously.

Captain Ahab followed suit.

"Ookay, you people are all scaring me," Der Drache said, a bit nervously. She was greeted by an awkward silence.

"So, are you going to answer me or not? What are you doing among these ravaging hordes?"

"I be searching for the crew of the Pequod. Hast seen them?"

"No. Oh, by the way . . . did you ever find Moby Dick yet?"

"No. Hast seen him, either?"

"Nein, herr Kapitän. You might want to try the Pacific Ocean, though- you just might have better luck there."

"Sound advice," Griffin added.

Captain Ahab gave him one withering look, before saying, "Come, Fedallah. We must find the rest of the crew." And he turned and began stumping off.

"Hey, wait a minute!" Der Drache exclaimed, stopping him in his tracks. "Fedallah's mine! I need someone to talk to. You can have him back at the end of the day!"

Fedallah gave Captain Ahab a pleading look.

"Pleeease?" Der Drache made big puppy dog eyes. All of them stood like this for a few moments, as Ahab contemplated the situation; he glanced first at Fedallah, then at Der Drache, then at Fedallah again, and finally at the blond-haired author. And Der Drache, seeing as how even her puppy dog eyes weren't getting her anywhere, muttered, "If you let me borrow him, I promise to write a fan fic where you get Moby Dick."

There was silence between her, her entourage, Fedallah, and- last, but certainly not least- Captain Ahab, as he contemplated this new turn of events. The heavy, awkward quietness hung over them like a shroud for a few agonizing moments, until Captain Ahab finally said, "I am sorry, Fedallah, but she has made me an offer I cannot refuse."

Fedallah turned and looked at Der Drache, rolling his slanted eyes heavenward as she grinned broadly at him.

"And now, I must be going."

Captain Ahab turned and began stumping off in search of his crew.

"I wouldn't worry about him, Fedallah," Der Drache said, watching as the Nantucketer walked off. "He can hold off those hordes. And whoever gives him a hard time for the whale-bone leg better run for the hills . . . and prayerfully, nobody from PETA's here today."

Der Drache von der Himmeln shrugged.

About thirty minutes of fighting off the ravaging hordes later, Der Drache von der Himmeln had hidden herself deep within the recesses of the book store's history section, occasionally peeking out over the shelves from behind a copy of "An Illustrated History of World War I," which she was skimming through. The rest of her entourage, including the newly-joined Fedallah, were sitting down at Fruilatti, doing who-knew-what. As long as she had some peace and quiet for a few moments . . .

Before long, though, she had to leave the bookstore; she couldn't resist one last, longing glance at the history section, though, before she exited her quiet place of solitude and stepped into the deadly ruckus of the main passageway.

There, she positioned herself so that she could keep an eye on the rest of her entourage without them seeing her. She began to settle back into her bench and become comfortable . . .

" . . . and that is how Der Drache von der Himmeln dragged me home with her," Manfred finished in his German-accented voice, sighing afterwards. Everybody else nodded in agreement with what he had said earlier, and Manfred took a rather disconsolate sip of his fruit drink.

"I understand what you mean," Griffin said, "although you were already there when she took me home with her. It was kind of interesting how she won me, however; she and Flora had a . . . catfight, did she call it? . . . over me; except for the fact that Der Drache says she fights like no 'normal' girl does. That was an interesting scene, though, for all the hubbub . . ."

Everybody else nodded in agreement.

"And I was there when she took you home," he said, turning to Erique. "That did prove to be kind of . . . well . . . humorous. I've never seen so many Phantoms in one place, at one time. And all fighting over one Christine . . . I still wonder where Der Drache got that idea from."

"I still don't know what I'm doing here," Claude broke in. Everybody else shrugged, before silently nodding once again.

They sat in silence for a few minutes.

That was abruptly broken as a moron who was swaying like a drunk came staggering up. He tried to stand still, and opened his mouth to speak; but he promptly fell over onto one of his buddies, who actually looked sober.

"Hey, man," he slurred, addressing Fedallah, "why don't you wear shome more color? Even Gothsh wear a little more than jusht black, you know . . . hey! Don't you shay nuttin' about my buddy here! He'sh the besht friend a guy could have! . . ."

And the moron proceeded to take a half-hearted and absolutely weak swing at Fedallah, before falling over onto his friend once again.

Der Drache's entourage glanced at each other for a couple seconds, before Griffin suggested, "You could always knock him out . . ."

Fedallah now looked at all of them, and they were nodding their heads in agreement; so he stood up and pushed his chair away from him.

"Oh, look," said the seemingly-drunken teenager. "The Goth'shh going to punch my lightsh out . . . take your besht shot, man, I dare ya!" The moron stood himself shakily onto his feet, his buddy holding him up from behind. It was clear that his friend was having a hard time doing so.

Fedallah said nothing, but turned to look at the rest of Der Drache's entourage once more; meanwhile, the seeming-drunk swayed unsteadily, and his buddy gave a grunt of exertion from attempting to hold him up . . .

And Der Drache von der Himmeln watched on from her hidden vantage point.

The last thing the moron saw was Fedallah's large tiger-yellow fist as it knocked him out. He fell over backwards, stumbling over his friend and dropping his Coke Icee, before landing spread-eagle on the floor.

Der Drache von der Himmeln came walking calmly over, and gave the moron a few good kicks while he lay on the dirty mall floor. She glanced down at him, before saying, "You know . . . harpooneers, as a general rule, tend to be rather strong. I wouldn't recommend calling this one a Goth . . . because he isn't going to say anything, he's just going to knock your teeth out. Don't mess with the whalers, man."

And she gave him another kick.

"Well, then," she said, turning back to her group. "Where to now?"

"Ah, Icees, the best of the best," Der Drache sighed happily as she stood in line for her favorite frozen drink. "I just hope that they don't run out before we get there . . . it seems that everyone's buying them today. It would be horrible if none of you ever got to taste an Icee."

She gave another happy sigh, before murmuring, "Ah, sweet ambrosia that is the Coke Icee! . . ."

Claude arched his eyebrows.

When Der Drache von der Himmeln and her little ensemble finally reached the counter, Der Drache said, "Six Coke Icees, please."

"I'm sorry, we're all out," the person working the cash register replied.

Der Drache's eye began to twitch as she walked away, and her ensemble gave her a little more room. They all knew by now what was going to happen . . .

"STUPID CURSED DUMM SCHWEINHUND IDIOT DINGEN! WRETCHED LEBEN! OH, MEIN ELEND LEBEN! Im der Name von der gluklich Affen, mein Leben ist elend! Gut Kummer!"

Manfred didn't bother to translate- most of her group could just discern what she was saying.

Once again, she reached out and grabbed the nearest person to her, all the while screaming, "Mein elend Leben! Im der Name von der gluklich Affen, mein Leben ist elend!"

The person just stared back at her, frightened out of his wits.

Der Drache continued ranting and raving in a variety of languages for several moments, before her wrath finally wore itself out, and she let the poor person run screaming for the hills . . . or, rather, the nearest Abercrombie and Fitch store, which turned out to be where they practically lived. But that's beside the point.

When her eyeball stopped twitching, Der Drache von der Himmeln went over to a bench and proceeded to park herself there, putting her head in her heads and beginning to cry for her Coke Icee.

This proved a case that none of her entourage could solve, not even with many mentions of chibis and promising to bring chibis. As a matter of fact, not even offering her a chance to go harpoon something- a suggestion made by Fedallah- would cheer her up, even though they all knew that after reading Moby-Dick, she did like to harpoon things- and did it quite frequently, too. So they all left her to bemoan the fate of her Icee, when one of them- they could never tell which- suggested that they go ask the Icee person why everone was buying them today, and to see if they could manage to procure one for the disenhearted Der Drache.

This lead to the Great Quest to the Icee Place, which was- quite amazingly- deserted, absolutely devoid of any intelligent life form. And so they walked in a cluster towards the counter, and noticed very soon that the people working in the magnificent Icee Place were giving them weird looks- but after all, if you saw the Red Baron, the Invisible Man, the Phantom of the Opera, Claude Rains, and a scary Eastern-looking harpooneer dressed in funereal black coming towards you, you would probably give the group weird looks, too.

They all strode up to the counter, making quite the odd assortment of characters, and stood there awkwardly conferring among themselves for a few moments, before they pushed Claude up to the counter to speak to the person behind the cash register.

"I would like to inquire about the 'Icees' . . ." he began a bit hesitantly, wondering why on earth he was doing this. He never got further, though, because the person behind the cash register cut him off.

"Whaddya wanna know? We're all sold out right now, but we're fixin' up another batch," the register-worker interjected in an accent, complete with nasal drone, that would make your skin crawl. "If you're wanderin' why we're all out, everone's buyin' 'em today. Beats me why they do."

"Oh, in that case . . ."

And Claude began to turn back to the group.

"Hey, buddy," the register-worker said, and further added, "Yeah, I'm talkin' to you," when he noticed Claude hesitate. He gave the actor just enough time to turn around, before saying, "You can take it up wid de manager if you've got a problem with that. I ain't givin' out no Icees for free, despite your in-con-venience. You can pay reg'lar like everbody else."

Claude bristled a bit, saying, "I had no intention of begging . . ."

Erique intervened, though, and said, "Let me handle this." Moving Claude aside, he walked up to the surly co-worker who had replaced the nice Icee lady only moments before, and very calmly proceeded to strangle him for all his life's worth. This went on for a few seconds, before Griffin intervened.

"No, no, you're doing it all wrong," he said, removing Erique's hands from around the surly guy's throat. "Like this." And he proceeded to demonstrate the proper fashion to strangle people.

He waited until the guy turned blue before letting go, and while the cash register worker was regaining his breath, Manfred went over and got Der Drache. She was waiting for him whenever he finally gained back his wind, and then said to him, "Manfred told me that you had something to say to me."

The surly cash register guy fumbled for words, all the time sweating under Erique's and Griffin's apprehensive stares. After a few moments of this, when time seemed to stand still, he finally blurted out, "We're makin' more Icees right now . . . you can have one for free when they're ready . . . and until then, you can go back there and see how the Icee machine woiks . . ."

Der Drache shrugged, nodded, and proceeded to hop the counter. The rest of her entourage followed; but Erique, Griffin, and Fedallah all had to impart evil glares upon the surly guy before they followed the rest of the group towards the Icee machine.

The blond-haired author poked and prodded at it a few times, before she lifted the lid and looked at the wondrous mixture inside.

It was a glorious blend of pure sugar and coke flavoring that was, even as she gazed at it, being churned and frozen into a semi-solid state. She just stared, wide-eyed, at its beauty for more than a few moments, before she proceeded to dip her finger in and taste the yet-unprepared mix.

For a fleeting instant, her face was etched with ecstasy; but then, that expression changed to confusion, and finally a bit of consternation. She put another finger in, and proceeded to taste it; before she turned with a look of concern and exclaimed to her group, "Somebody's spiked the Icee machine!"

Many eyebrows raised at the moment, before Der Drache explained to them what it meant to spike the drinks. Instantly, the same look of concern flashed upon every face; and the blond-haired author said, "That would explain why the moron you knocked out was drunk, Fedallah. But what about everybody else that bought an Icee? . . ."

Everybody simultaneously turned to gaze out at the swarming mall-going multitudes. They all seemed to be holding an Icee . . .

The pile of drunken morons was growing increasingly larger every moment; presently, it was around three feet tall. The majority of them had been knocked out by Fedallah, but Griffin and Erique had gotten a few, too. Well, Der Drache had also taken out a particularly annoying one, but still . . . that was namely because she could finally take no more of the sheer idiocy. It was at that point that she had resigned herself to putting her head in her hands, and for a few moments, she stayed that way; but then, she began to beat her head on the mall bench. She continued doing that for so long that the rest of her entourage were wont to remove the jacket from one of the unconscious morons, roll it up, and place it between her head and the hard, cold wood of the bench.

With the sound of Der Drache continuing to beat her head against the jacket in the background, the rest of her entourage talked about what to do.

"I do not believe we can do much, seeing as how almost everyone here has a 'spiked' Icee," Claude said; all the others nodded in agreement of the futility of the situation. They were silent for a moment, occasionally glancing at Der Drache as she continued to beat her head against the moron's rolled-up jacket, before Manfred spoke up.

"The least we can do is take her home," he supplied, "since the situation here might, and probably will, grow worse, as the day progresses and more people buy Icees."

"I agree."

"So do I."

"You did make a good point."

Fedallah just nodded his agreement with the others.

They were quiet for a moment; then Griffin supplied, "If we do that, we had better get her out of here as soon as possible . . . I don't think even the rolled-up jacket can keep her from hurting her head now."

"Ja, that is the truth."


"Very true."

Once again, Fedallah nodded.

"Well, then," Erique said, taking up for Griffin, "someone get Der Drache, and we can all leave this madness behind."

"Good point," Claude said; "but who's strong enough to wrench her away from that bench?"

"That should be easy," Griffin said.

"You've been here longer than he has, and you still don't know," the Phantom of the Opera said. "She can use her Powers of Author-ness to keep herself rooted to that bench for as long as she wishes. Weren't you there for the Uno game?"

"Oh, yes . . . the Uno game . . . and all the oddity that goes along with that. Yes, I was there."

"I have an idea," Manfred said. "Promises of meeting more of her favorite people have always worked. And if that does not . . ."

He was cut off by Claude as he said, in a sort of trance-like manner, "Will you look at that . . ."

Everybody turned to where his gaze was trained, and a look of confusion etched itself on all of their faces. What they saw was bringing about the grand, hallucinatoric finish . . .

Der Drache von der Himmeln shot up at Claude's statement, and was gazing at the anomaly before Erique, Griffin, Manfred, or Fedallah. It took her a moment to fully comprehend what she was seeing, so odd and hallucinatorically frightening was it; but soon, she came to her senses, and began to run after the oddity.

What they had all seen was something that not even the drunken morons would pass off as a hallucination, so incredibly, stupidly WEIRD was it. The anomalous thing was this: a fully-grown Sperm Whale (or parmacetti, as Der Drache shouted at it), swimming, in mid-air down the main hallway of the mall. The first thing you noticed about it, though, was its color- snow white- and then, everything else fell into place: the crooked jaw, the wrinkled brow, the scalloped tail. First, the author gave a sharp exclamation in German, and then she raised the cry of "Moby Dick!"

Yes, through some bizarrety unknown to man until that point, Moby Dick was swimming in mid-air, down the main walkway of the mall, over the heads of all the drunken morons. The scalloped tail fanned the air dangerously close to the ceiling, occasionally taking out one of the Christmas decorations. Those fell to the ground with large crashes. People were frozen in place, awed by the spectacle before . . . er, above them.

Then, as they were staring at the majesty of the White Whale swimming silently down the hall, they were bowled over by the people coming behind it.

As it was, half of the crew of the Pequod was chasing the pale parmacetti, and Der Drache could make out among the sea of bodies the forms of the three pagan harpooneers, each carrying his favorite iron in his hand. Before she knew what was happening, she saw a gamboge form streak by her; Fedallah had joined in the hunt. So, shrugging, she gave another cry of "Moby Dick!" and joined in the chase.

One week later . . .

Der Drache von der Himmeln sat wearily in the pile of wrapping paper she had created, barely able to contain her enthusiasm. It was Christmas morning, and the blond-haired teen had already opened all of her presents . . . well, all but one. But she was ABOUT to open that one; it was special, and so she had saved it for last.

She sighed, glancing around her. Manfred was busy talking to all of his squadron mates from Jasta 11 (they had been invited over just because it was Christmas; it was Der Drache's present to Manfred). Erique was tenderly stroking his old violin, which the author of this story had managed to procure for him; Claude was being amused by watching a biography of himself that Der Drache had bought off the Internet; Griffin was off somewhere creating small explosions with the chemistry set he had received; and Fedallah was sharpening the barbs on a new harpoon.

The blond-haired girl thought about the latter for a moment. She had wound up not returning him to Captain Ahab, after all- for she was firmly convinced that she needed someone her understood her strange whaling talk, and who would also listen to her for hours on end without making a sound. That actually made him rather amusing sometimes.

Der Drache sighed again, before moving towards the last present.

It was a huge box with airholes cut in the wrapping paper on top; something inside was thrashing around wildly and giving muffled shouts in what sounded like German. The blond teen arched an eyebrow before reaching over and beginning to pull the wrapping paper off.

In a few moments, she had managed to strip the package of its paper and tear off the lid; but it was so tall that she couldn't see inside.

"Darn it," she murmured under her breath, and proceeded to tear at one of the sides.

Finally, she succeeded in pulling it open, despite the wild thrashings of whatever was inside. She stepped back as someone came tumbling out, muttering under their breath in German.

"General-Feldmarschall Rommel?"

And indeed, it was he- Erwin Rommel, who had, through some bizarre twist of fate, been put in a box and wrapped up as a Christmas present for Der Drache von der Himmeln . . . and he didn't seem too dreadfully happy about it.

"Herr Rommel! So glad to meet you!" Der Drache exclaimed excitedly. And then, suddenly remembering herself, she clicked her heels and saluted.

Herr Rommel slowly returned the salute, looking around at his surroundings in confusion.

"Verzeihung, mein Fräulein, aber . . . wo bin ich?"

Der Drache grinned and replied, "I can't tell you exactly, but I can say this: du bist nicht im Afrika."

There was a confused silence for a moment as the famous Field Marshal drew in his surroundings.

Meanwhile, Manfred and his kameraden had noticed what was going on, and had stopped conversing long enough to watch the scene taking place before them. Of course, Manfred knew what was happening- after all, it had been he and the rest of Der Drache's entourage who had added another member to it. And, with any luck at all, no one would notice the Field Marshal's absence from the Second World War. Just maybe.

Herr Rommel sighed and began a murmured soliloquy in German; Der Drache just looked at him for a moment, before using her powers of author-ness to translate what he was saying into English.

"No, I don't think you're going to get away any time soon," she broke in suddenly, answering a question he had uttered in his monologue. She grinned impishly, adding, "You get to stay with me for a while."

The Field Marshal turned a pleading gaze toward Manfred, who just shook his head and responded, "Do not try to fight it. There is nothing we can do to help you."

He turned his gaze back to Der Drache, before sighing resignedly and sitting down next to Claude on the couch.

"Hi," Claude said.

"Guten Tag," Herr Rommel responded.

Awkward silence.

They both went back to watching the movie.

Der Drache von der Himmeln quickly used her powers of author-ness to stop time back in World War II (so it would be like Herr Rommel was never gone), since she didn't want to horribly mess up history AGAIN. And then, sighing happily, she sat down next to the Field Marshal and Claude and began watching along with them.

Manfred turned back to his squadron mates, and they all began conversing again.

Fedallah continued to sharpen his harpoon in the calm that had fallen over the living room.

Suddenly, there came an explosion from the back of the house that knocked the trio on the couch onto the floor and everyone else off their feet; after sitting herself up, Der Drache rubbed her head and thought, "What on earth could THAT be?..."

A moment later, the blackened form of a man whose entire head was swathed in bandages came in and, very calmly, sat down in an easy chair. He looked around at all the people on the floor, who were staring accusingly at him (all but Herr Rommel and Manfred's buddies; none of them knew what was going on), and began to whistle innocently.

And then, in response to the question that was going through everyone's minds, he said calmly, "No, I don't know anything about the sudden and utterly inexplicable explosion of the bathroom . . ."

Der Drache von der Himmeln just sighed and slapped her palm against her forehead.