The white-bearded man looked out of his element, wringing his hands while sitting by himself at one side of an impressively large table in an opulent meeting room. Across the table sat a delegation of sharp-suited men, all wearing warm smiles under neatly cut, straight black hair. A lengthy ritual of serving and drinking tea was done, as the man continued.
“The elves are really good at making the old fashioned toys, you know. Like dolls, teddybears, building blocks. Even board games. But kids today only want gyro-stabilised monowheels, airpods and videogames. Stuff like that. These are things we can’t make ourselves,” the man said with resignation. “Now, I appreciate your business invitation, but we don’t really use money up North. However, we do need large amounts of the kind of toys you make here each year. What can we do? I’m at my wits’ end.”
Their interpreter finished her translation of his words, and three of the representatives conferred at length. The man could not understand a word they said. This was a part of the world he had rarely visited. They hadn’t really started celebrating his holiday here until recently, and even then the wishlists that reached him were gibberish. Their writing looked like little boxes with lines in them, and he could not make heads nor tails of it. He supposed he would have to try to learn to read it, and made a mental note to get some language courses to bring back North.
His musings were interrupted as the interpreter addressed him again. “We certainly have the production capacity. It is an honour to help. We do not worry about payment. In return, all we ask is that you help us with some deliveries now and then. Sometimes we also have gifts to be delivered, all over the world. You just bring them along on your rounds each year, and leave them in the houses we specify. A win-win situation!”
Their warm smiles did not reach their cold eyes. “To show our commitment, the agreement will be signed by The Party Chairman himself.”