For those of you who read my book know I love love love Christmas - and for the next few weeks, I'm taking a brief respite from the serious side of things to nibble a few Christmas cookies in the from of a a short story I wrote to cheer up my sister a few years back... and I'm hoping it works for us all. Here then is chapter2 enjoy!
Chapter 2 “and so it began...”
Rudolph, tanned, relaxed and eager to return to the glory and fame waiting for him at his North Pole home, arrived with the compulsory lei's and chocolate covered macadamia nuts for everyone. After a big welcome home bash, Rudolph nestled down without a care in the world, content that he was finally accepted by his own, and never dreaming for one moment that all the reindeer didn't love him or that he wouldn't "go down in his-tor-reeeeeeee..."
In through the darkness crept two hulking black silhouettes, finding the barn door open just as Vixen has promised. And before Rudolph knew what hit him, he was bagged, gagged and spirited away, bound for the southern reaches, where no one could ever, ever, never find him. As the muffled snorts of Rudolph's protests faded in the snow of the North Pole night, Vixen smiled and rested his head on the bag of silver tipped, frosted, sugar cookies, which, as you know, are like catnip to the reindeer.
Baba Raga, for her part, made good time as she headed across the Forgotten Valley, down the fouled river of Sludge and into the Craggs of Doom to capture the two-headed Mountain troll, named Malco & Disco -- or the Tentz brothers as they are affectionately called by their dark brethren.
Baba Raga, truth be told, was known throughout the netherworld for her culinary skills, and the Mountain troll was only too happy to be called her Prisoner.
And while Rudolph was sold to a traveling sideshow with your hot and cold running sideshow professionals – you know, the standard: bearded lady, monkey-boy, snake-charmer kind, Baba Raga worked her fingers to the bone (with not so much as a peep of appreciation!) to feed Malco & Disco Tentz a steady diet of:
Little white lies,
and a soup of cooked-up facts,
until they farted and belched a hideous fog that enshrouded the earth, clouding the hearts of men, and dimming the light of hope and belief.
For almost a year, the foul, thick-as-pea-soup smog, sapped the very life from the entire world. Only Bah Humbug could know that the real weapon was not the fog, but the depression itself... Everyone knew that something was wrong, but nobody seemed to care to fix it... and with no end in sight, the world trudged on, trying to just finish its business and get home to curl up in the dankness, pull their covers over their heads and hide...
Oh, Yes, the times were bleak… oddly enough, down south, people found that the few grimy coins required for entrance to the sideshow were worth it – if for nothing else, to gawk at someone who was even less fortunate than themselves... The sideshow was doing the best business in years.
Rudolph, as you can guess, was miserable, he lay in a constant funk – a matted brown lump in the corner of his dirty cage, flashing his famous nose on demand, but hating himself every minute of it.
At night, alone and scared, Rudolph would cry himself to sleep, clinging to a shred of faith in his fellow reindeer. “It will all be over soon. My brothers will come. They will. They will.” The poor little nipper was never aware that it was his “brothers” and their fragile egos that had sold him down the river in the first place.
Red warning flags went up all over the Kingdom of Imagination. All who lived there could feel the power of the kingdom beginning to fade. The first to discover the problem were the sailors who ferried the citizens of the Kingdom across the ocean of dreams. Several boats had capsized, while others were mysteriously becalmed... adrift for weeks, their passengers stranded, unable to enter the world of children.
After months of disappointment, the power of the Toothfairy, the Easter bunny, and those darn leprechauns, became nothing more than an ugly joke, and as the year came round again to the Christmas season, that special time of the year reserved for goodwill, silver bells and hot chocolate, Bah Humbug was gearing up for the killing blow... the biggest legend, of them all, Santa, Kris Kringle, St. Nicholas, Sinter Klaus himself, would renege on his promise to every child around the world, which will snuff out the light of hope and close off access to the hearts of men forever.
And then the summons came: Bah Humbug would see the Witch Baba Raga...
"Everything is as you wish," reported the witch as she peered through the slightly less-intense bars of light that throbbed menacingly between her and her foul Master.
"Everything?" challenged Bah Humbug, who tossed an unfortunate hobgoblin, into the bars of light -- "AHHHHHH" PPPFFFT! The Hobgoblin was zapped by the blazing light, turning instantly to stone on the other side of the cell wall.
Bah Humbug counted the seconds the Hobgoblin screamed before turning into stone and noted it on the wall. Hmm... yes, in fact, there was... a discernable diminishing of the power of his prison bars.
Baba Raga had had enough. "Did I stutter? Everything. The fog as you can see has covered the earth like a cow turd covers a daisy -- you couldn't find your nose on your own face -- as for Rudolph, he's currently touring some backwater village as the warm-up act to a broken down Lizard-boy routine for Frostelli's Fabulous Freakshow and Lavish Lot of Legerdemain. The red-proboscis'd Rudy is so danged depressed that he hasn't eaten in weeks and even his legendary schnoz is fading. The toothfairy hasn't made a delivery in months and the Easter bunny's debacle last spring sent the world's children spinning."
"So..." sneered Bah Humbug. "Why is that I detect another shoe about to drop?"
The witch smiled a toothless grin, "because, Hummie, baby, you and I, as they say, are cut from the same cloth."
"Let me guess," said the Evil Bah Humbug. "You see the genius of my plan working better than we expected and want a bigger piece of the action."
The witch batted her lonely eyelash -- coy was not one of her strongest spells, "Not only are you a genius, but you're smart too."
"Name your price, witch."
"Now, Hummie, dearest, is that any way to talk to your bride?"
"I'm, flattered." He lied, "But I'm a confirmed bachelor."
"Don't piss me off, Humbug," warned the hag, "I can be a real witch when I get angry."
"I'll consider it."
"You'll promise it or I stop feeding the trolls right now."
Humbug paced behind the white-hot bars of light, feeling sooooo close to victory he could taste it… but try as he might, he could not keep his eyes from staring at warts on Baba Raga’s nose twitching with lust. But what’s an evil genius to do? She had him right where she wanted him… and she knew it. So, like all good poker players, he swallowed hard, looked her right in the wart, and declared: "I... promise. As soon as I'm free, it's all about you and me."
She left happy as loon, and Bah Humbug returned his attention to stewing on his evil plan.
And so it was...
For Rudolph was, as the witch had promised, depressed and downtrodden. His hope had shriveled to almost nothing. The only rays of light in his pitiful existence came from a young orphan named Hannah, who cleaned his cage and fed him each night, and a young mouse, named Ecko who shared his cage and brought the reindeer remnants of the popcorn and cookies that the visitors of the sideshow dropped on the ground. They made a funny group, the orphans club they called themselves, and Hannah was probably the only little girl in the world who ever knew that reindeer could talk.
But comforting as their nightly talks were, it was Ecko's streetsmarts that finally wizened the reindeer up for good. "Get with the piture, Rudy ol' boy. If they really cared about you, they woulda' busted you outta here a long time ago. My money sez they never did dig the fact that you saved Santa's arse, and they finally found away to get the spotlight back from you and your schnozola"
It worked. Between that and the fog that was starting to blot the sun out everyday, Rudolph was convinced that Ecko was right. And as time wore on, the kids that came to see the infamous reindeer stopped looking in on him with wonder and instead laughed and called him names.
And Hannah wasn’t fairing much better, either. The owner of the freakshow, Balderdash Frostelli, was a cruel and cantankerous man, who lavished his own daughter with gifts and praise while taking out his anger on the young orphan girl.
It must be said that Hannah's parents had once owned all that made the freakshow: the tents, the wagons and scores of glorious and wondrous animals. It was, at that time, a magical circus. But that was years ago, and Hannah's parents were lost under mysterious circumstances. Their will stipulated that everything be left to their closest kin, and Balderdash Frostelli became the owner, changed everything to a freak show, cut the wonderous animals loose and took on the charge of raising the young orphan. His plan was like that of every unimaginative secondary character. He would raise Hannah until such time as he could cut her loose into the cold, cruel world. Until then, she was cheap labor, didn't even have to be paid and she grew to know no better... her life was dirty cages, insults from a spoiled cousin and constant badgering from a cruel (as we've said) skinflint uncle.
Hannah and Rudolph were of course made for each other, and though Eecko painted a bleak picture of life as they knew it, Rudolph would try to get Hannah to give that cousin of hers a good bump on the nose for all her schenanigans, while Hannah would hug her hoofed friend, saying that he shouldn't let anything get him down, after all, no one could ever take away his accomplishments.
And so it was.
And back in the Kingdom of Imagination, “the piture,” as Eecko would say was bleak as all get out…
"Something has got to give! Look at us!" Cried the beleaguered Toothfairy as she stared at her fading reflection in a silvery pond. Her companion, Peter Cottontail, normally hopped at the chance to gaze at his dapper form in anything reflective, but was very reluctant to see if his fading good looks were as transparent as hers, "I'll take your word for it, Toothie."
"If we ever get our hands on the rogue who's behind all this we'll take the shillelagh upside their heads!" roared the leprechauns who ringed the pond. They formed an odd band, a posse if you will, of seasonal characters. To the outside world, they appeared like a mix-up at the Hallmark store, but with the right attitude (and a straight-up helping of Bling) they might be able to pull off the posse part. But I digress as usual…
"We better get word to the Empress, she'll have an answer for this."
Chapter 3 “Her Highness, the Empress of Grace...”