And here continues the Christmas Saga of 2020. Like the days of yore when newspapers published anxiously anticipated serialized stories, here is my annual version, Hidden within the words is a secret message. Find the secret and send an email to me at firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line, MAGIC. First five to discover the secret wins a copy of every book I publish this year.
This story is as old as the legend of St. Nicholas, handed down over years and years. Told to Christmas Elves as they rested from their work, there is magic within if you’ve the heart and eyes to see it.
But don’t look for it, feel it in your heart. Speak the words to learn the secret
Down the hill, off to the side of the cottage, stood a lone wolf, eyes locked onto us.
“The wolf is friendly, right?” I asked, glancing between Seamus and the salivating wolf.
“Chimney stones and fiddlesticks, you’re not to be a wolf snack, my boy. St. Nicholas wouldn’t have sent you all this way to feed a wolf. Came all this way to feed a wolf, ha!” he muttered.
With a wave of his hand, the wolf bounded over and lay at his feet.
“A friend is he, young man. Bound to your protection not digestion,” Seamus said, scratching the wolf’s ears. He nodded to me, and I knelt to pet the wolf.
Was this happening, I wondered, as another surprise unveiled itself.
Dressed like an elf, a man appeared at the door of the cabin. All covered in green and red, a huge smile crossed the man’s face. In a flash, a woman appeared next to him. Fur clad, taller, she appeared more like me than an elf.
From the door to hugging me in the blink of an eye, the two new people embraced me.
“His time has come,” the woman said. “Head inside, Clarke, we’ve much to tell the boy.”
To my surprise, these two smiling elves seemed familiar. His face more so than hers, her voice more so than his.
“Foot and feathers,” Clark exclaimed, “he’s taller than I imagined, Sonja. And he looks just like…”
His words were stopped mid-sentence by the woman’s, who I now knew was named Sonja, hand. “Clothes are waiting in your… I mean, the back room,” Sonja said. “Were you wanting to eat now, or later?”
“All of us, starved we are, said Seamus, and pointed me and Jedidiah toward the back.
Tarnished old bells lay scattered throughout the house, lining the halls all the way to the back. With Jedidiah walking behind me, I knew he would be tempted to ring the bell, Elves loved the sound of bells.
Ashes suddenly enveloped the room, blown in from the fireplace. And we ran back to see what caused it. Soot covered everything, including Clark, Sonja, and Seamus.
“A Harpy is on the tree over the house,” whispered Clark, holding his finger over his mouth for us to be quiet. “Bundle yourselves up and be quiet as they can’t see the house, but they know we are nearby.”
Of all the crazy notions I had of what I might find on this trip, huddling with three strangers, a terrifying looking wolf, and Jedidiah in an invisible cabin being chased by Harpy eagles wasn’t one of them.
Toys and all that went with building them in Christmas Town was all I could think of, I just wanted to go back there.
“He looks a little scared, Jedidiah,” Clark said, “had he thought coming here would be easy?”
Flung suddenly about by a force from behind, we all tumbled toward the back of the house, unsure of what had happened.
On the mantle above the fireplace, now stood a gray, swirling, and changing shape with fiery eyes glaring at us.
“His ssssself hasssss returned,” hissed a sinister voice.
“Back away, Sash,” Jedidiah said, as he as and Seamus moved to stand before me.
And in that moment, as the terror enveloped me, I knew what would happen. He was the one who Santa warned us about, the one who hates Christmas and all the joy of the season.
“Looked like you were trying to sssslip passsst me, SsssSash, weren’t you,” the spirit hissed,
Like it or not, I knew this was what I had to face, what I came to find out. A moment later, I was blinded by a flash of light, then surrounded by darkness and silence
A small spark of a flame suddenly appeared before me, just barely visible in the pitch blackness.
“Peddler of joy in the making I see,” hissed the demon, appearing as the flame grew into a full flame in a cavern-like fireplace.
Just as I started to look around for the others, I knew I was no longer in the cabin. Opening my eyes wider, I saw damp, spider-web covered walls and heard the sounds of moaning and wailing.
His movement brought a chill as the demon passed by, the cold breeze chilling me to the bone.
“Pack for a long visit, did you, Sash?” he demon asked. “His letting you come here didn’t include telling you you’d never return, did it?”
His eyes seemed to at once to be both burning through me and showing a bit of fear. Eyes never lie, he was powerful and strong, but he was also afraid of something.
How could something this powerful fear me? They don’t make any more goofy an elf by adoption than me.
“Twinkled,” I said, because I could think of nothing else. His reaction—stepping back a bit—told me all I needed to know.
“Dimples dashing round the tree,” I yelled, and the demon backed away. How I knew this I had no idea, but this creature thought I was magic.
“Merry Christmas to you, sir, now take me back to my friends.”
His reaction this time was different, he moved closed. Cheeks, if that what they were, came close to my face
“Were you so foolisssssh to think I wassss really afraid?” he said. “Like a half-elf, half-human could ever frighten me,” he snarled, roaring with an evil laughter
Part IX Tomorrow!