Colorado Author Damon Garn regales us with his Fantasy Christmas short story that includes trolls, aliens and a reluctant Santa.
From the historical writings of Bostonius the Legible, events having taken place one thousand years ago, or so……. Probably….
Strom Coalbeard, the Archmage of the Black Tower of Athar, had wandered the world with his best friend and fellow mischief-maker Ash Brightspark, the Red Dragon of Death. The two were traveling near the town of Endir when Strom had a catastrophic laundry accident. They decided to venture into Endir, having no idea it was a festival day, or that Strom resembled a certain legendary character of childhood dreams.
“I hate red,” grumbled Strom Coalbeard, Archmage of the Black Tower of Athar to his sidekick Ash Brightspark, the Red Dragon of Death. The two were walking toward the main gate of the riverside town of Endir.
Ash had magically altered himself to look like an elf in order not to startle the locals. Apparently they took a dim view of dragons in their downtown shopping district. He’d chosen a green tunic.
“I told you not to mix new red undies with your robes before casting the laundry spell, but did you listen? No! You cast the spell anyway,” Ash replied. “Besides, I happen to think red is a great color! You look very festive.”
Strom’s robes were bright red, which contrasted nicely with his new black leather belt and boots. Even his floppy wizard hat was red, though the very tip remained a sparkly white. Strom had a magical bottomless bag slung over his shoulder.
The guard posted at the gates of Endir stopped them.
“What’s your business in Endir?” he asked in a bored tone.
“We need to get some new robes for my friend here,” explained the dragon-in-elf-form. “He had a laundry quandary.”
“And we need directions to a good bar, too!” Strom put in.
“Uh, okay,” answered the guard. “Take this street toward the northern part of town. There is a great little bar by the flagstaff.”
“Okay,” said Strom. “We take this street to the north pole. Got it.”
The two friends followed the guard’s directions. It had begun to snow lightly and they were both anxious to get inside.
“Kringle’s,” squinted Ash, looking at the sign over the door a little while later. “This must be it.”
“Yep,” Strom said, inhaling the fresh scent of hot food that was emanating from the tavern. “Let’s eat.”
They ordered two plates of the Special of the Day, which turned out to be turkey with veggies. They promptly opened a tab.
Three hours and several pitchers of ale later, they headed to a recommended inn across the street to get a room.
“You’re San Taclaus,” said a small, timid voice from somewhere near the ground. Strom looked blearily down to see a little boy, maybe four years old, staring up at him.
“Who?” he mumbled.
“San Taclaus,” repeated the boy, louder.
“Never met the guy,” said Strom.
“But you’re him!” the child insisted.
“Nope. Not your guy. Does he owe you money or something?” slurred the wizard.
The child’s lower lip trembled perilously.
“Who is this Taclaus character?” Ash asked in his most not-dragon voice. He was trying to distract the kid from a total meltdown.
“He brings gifts to the good children of the town at midwinter,” explained the boy. “I want to ask him to bring me a special gift.”
“What the —,” started Strom before Ash hastily cut in. He didn’t want the grouchy old wizard expanding the child’s vocabulary.
“He sounds like a great guy,” Ash said to the boy. “But I can assure you there is not a nice bone in this man’s body.” He pointed to the wizard.
The child glanced at Strom uncertainly.
“He’s right, kid,” agreed Strom. “No nice bones.”
“In fact,” continued Ash. “He’s actually a big jerk.”
“Yep. That’s me. Big jerk,” said Strom.
“Always waits for me to pick up the bill at dinner.”
“Er — yeah,” stuttered Strom. “I think he gets it.”
“Last week I saw him BBQ a unicorn. And kick a puppy.”
“Now wait just one minute!” argued Strom. “That puppy started it!”
“You kicked a puppy?” sputtered the little boy, getting quivery-chinned and teary-eyed.
“Oh now look what you did,” grumbled Strom to Ash.
“He always takes the last of the coffee without brewing another pot.”
“You took the last cup of coffee without brewing another pot?” The little boy’s eyes went wide. “My mommy said that’s why daddy is going to Hell.”
“You’d be amazed at how many people are there for that very reason,” said Strom wisely. Ash nodded vigorously in agreement.
“You don’t sound like San Taclause,” decided the little boy.
“That’s what I’ve been trying to tell you, kid.”
“But I’m going to believe in you anyway,” said the boy. “C’mon.”
He grabbed the mage’s hand and began to drag him down the street toward the center of town. Laughing, Ash followed the pair to see what would happen next.
The little boy began yelling at the top of his lungs as they emerged into the village center.
“I found him! I found him! I found San Taclaus!” his voice was shrill. Ash discreetly cast a spell to amplify the boy’s voice so that it rang out through the entire town.
Strom flipped Ash a rude gesture.
In the middle of town was a bonfire where a midwinter celebration was going on. Trees were decorated, people sang merrily, sleigh bells rang out. There were tables with food piled high and people socializing in little groups. Overall, it was exactly the kind of thing that Strom hated.
The little boy, whose name turned out to be Nick, pushed Strom into a high backed chair covered with holly. Or poison ivy – it was hard to be sure.
Nick hopped on the wizard’s lap, assuring Strom this is what San Taclaus expected. Nick managed to land one of his snow boots right in Strom’s twig and berries. Ash handed him a mug and the mage took a long pull of the special eggnog to kill the pain.
“So now you have to remember all the things my friends and I want, okay?” asked Nick eagerly. “Do you need some paper?”
“Nope,” groaned Strom, still smarting from the kid’s kick. “My faithful elven assistant here will be memorizing everything.” He pointed to Ash, who looked on with glee at Strom’s discomfort.
“Okay. So I want a Sir Harvey the White Paladin of Goodness action figure,” said the boy.
“A Sir Harvey the White Paladin of Goodness action figure,” repeated Nick.
“I remember Sir Harvey,” said Ash, licking his lips. “He certainly was good.” He rubbed his belly.
“I knew Harvey, kid, and trust me, you don’t want his action figure. Especially if it’s anatomically correct.”
“But that’s what I asked for,” stuttered Nick. “Why are you telling me no?”
“It’s for your own good.” He reached into the magic bag slung over his shoulder. “Here, let me find you something better.” He fished around for a moment, shoulder deep in the tiny bag. “Aha, here, take this.” He handed the boy a long object wrapped in cloth.
“If it starts to glow, run away. Harvey never figured that part out. And don’t show it to your mother.”
The boy stared dubiously at the longsword.
“Now get out of here, kid.” Strom lifted Nick off his leg. The boy walked away, the paladin’s longsword dragging in the snow behind him. Nick was no sooner gone than another child hopped up to take his place.
“Whoa there! What are you doing?”
“I’m here to ask for a present, San Taclaus” said the girl. “Nick said I could and that you would give me something.”
“Well, what is it you want?”
“I want a pony!” demanded the girl.
“A pony?” Strom asked.
“Like a little horse?”
“Yes!” she was getting irate.
“Let me see what I can do,” Strom reached into the bag. “Ah, here we go!”
He pulled out a miniature horse from the Gnomish Steppes. The beast fit in the palm of the girl’s hand and was as real as any other horse. Her jaw dropped open and her eyes widened in excitement.
“I got a pony!” she screeched.
It promptly pooped in her hand and she ran off screaming.
The next child was a young boy, maybe seven or eight years old.
“San Taclaus, I want a baby sister,” he stated.
“Umm, you’re going to have to discuss that with your parents.”
“They said no already. Daddy’s exact words were “I’d rather sandpaper a wolverine’s butt in an outhouse.”
“Well, we can’t exactly go against your parents, can we?” Strom asked reasonably.
“You can. You can do anything.”
“Well, not really. Let me tell you how baby making works. You see when two people love each other very much —.”
“Whoa!” interrupted Ash. “I think that’s about enough of that talk, San Taclaus.” He turned to the boy. “Just go tell your folks to get busy, young man. And pour a bit of this in their water when you get the chance.” Ash handed him a small vial named Aphrodisiac 3.
The child looked confused but walked away.
The next little girl was about five years old. She determinedly climbed up Strom’s leg, using his long beard as a handhold.
Massaging his chin, he said, “And what can I do for you?”
“I want a new baby brother,” she said.
“Oh jeez, what’s with these kids? We just went through this,” Ash said.
“What’s wrong with your current baby brother?” Strom asked the girl.
“I don’t like him.”
“You don’t what?”
“I don’t like him.”
“He smells funny,” the girl said.
“So does this old man,” interjected Ash. “But we like him anyway, right?”
“Not helping here,” muttered Strom.
“And he follows me around,” complained the little girl.
“Well, I know how annoying that can be,” agreed Strom with a sidelong look at Ash. “Happens to me all the time, too.”
“So I get a new brother?”
“I’ll see what I can do but no promises, young lady. In the meantime, here. Have a never-ending chocolate bar.”
“Pass me some more of the special eggnog, Ash,” said Strom as the little girl walked away.
The next kid was no child at all, but a teenage boy. He sauntered up to the ancient mage, obviously having been pushed forward by his snickering buddies and endeavoring to look as cool as only a seventeen-year-old can.
“If you sit on my lap, I’ll break your neck, boy,” Strom growled. “What do you want?”
“Uh, you know, got any stuff?”
“Of course I have stuff. What do you think I’ve been giving out to all the other children?”
“No, dude, I mean stuff.”
Strom stared blankly at him.
Ash leaned down and whispered in the mage’s ear. Being nearly deaf, the old man didn’t hear a word of it.
“What?” he squawked at Ash. “Speak up, my elven minion!”
“He wants our medical supplies, O Great and Mighty San Taclaus.”
“Oooooh. Gotcha.” He turned back to the young man, who now looked around fearfully. The dragon’s explanation had not been subtle. “Just a moment, kid.” Strom scrounged through his bag, then pulled out a white box with a vertical green X on it. “Medical supplies,” he whispered conspiratorially. “Very useful.” He handed the entire box to the young man, who walked away with a big grin.
His friends were stunned.
Quickly, however, another of the teens stepped forward. Kind of awkward and geeky looking, the kid leaned down and spoke quietly into Strom’s ear for a moment.
Shaking his head, the mage reached into his bag and felt around. At last, he pulled out a small sphere with a rabbit’s head engraved on it.
“This oughta do it, kid. Crystal ball. She’ll kill you if she catches you with it. Don’t go blind.”
The boy headed straight home.
The two took a break for a few minutes.
Ash wandered through the crowd. He was curious to see the humans celebrating and he enjoyed his elven disguise. He’d even danced a reel or two with the Widow Carmichael, an apparently notorious woman in the town. Many of the men had pulled him aside and encouraged him to visit her small farm just down the road.
“Bring some cash,” advised one of them with a wink.
The women of the community just glared at her.
Ash was eating cookies by the buffet when the screaming started. It came from outside the town center where the feast was being held. Moments later a man burst into view.
“Troll! Troll!” he cried in warning.
Mothers frantically began searching for their children as the men organized a defense. The captain of the town militia gathered his men and tried to sober them up.
Ash continued eating cookies, shoveling them into his mouth as quickly as he could. Across the village center, he could see Strom at the makeshift bar that had been set up. Apparently, the bartender was part of the militia, so he’d left Strom in charge.
Ash shook his head and chuckled evilly. The bartender had made a very expensive mistake by trusting the old mage. Strom was sucking down the contents of one whiskey jug while piling more jugs into his bottomless magic bag. In a rare fit of generosity, the mage was giving one of the local dogs shots of the whiskey, too.
The militia itself had formed up in the town square, looking rather terrified as they stared down the street where the troll’s roars grew louder. Ash picked up an entire pumpkin pie and moseyed over to the bar to join Strom.
“Who’s your new drinking partner?” Ash pointed at the dog.
“I don’t know,” the mage turned to the dog. “What’s your name?”
The dog stared at him for a moment.
“Spot,” said Strom. “His name is Spot.”
The dog growled slightly.
“Oops, no. That’s not it.” He stared again at the dog.
The dog whined.
“This is worse than when you forgot your girlfriend’s name during her birthday toast,” laughed Ash.
The dog barked once.
“Max! That’s it. His name is Max.” Strom pointed between the dog and the dragon-in-the-form-of-an-elf. “Max – Ash. Ash – Max.”
“How do you do?” asked Ash politely. The dog didn’t reply, but his eyes seemed to drift a lot, as though he were seeing three or four of Ash.
“Uh, you probably should not give him any more whiskey,” Ash suggested.
The troll had emerged into the town square by this time and was gesturing menacingly at the militia. He had four long, spindly arms, a slightly crooked snout, and a sprout of shockingly purple hair. His green skin was mostly covered by what appeared to be a very large ladies ballgown. He looked somewhere between terrifying and absurd. He brandished a long wooden club.
The men looked nervous. The militia captain, straddling that fine line between brave and stupid, stood in front of his men, facing the troll.
“Militia!” he called. “Prepare arms!”
Some of the militia men lowered their spears and pikes in the troll’s general direction.
“Militia! Prepare to charge!”
To a man, the entire militia unit took three steps backward. The captain, with his back to his men, had no idea he now faced the troll alone.
Ash watched in fascination – he’d never seen a military tactic where a “prepare to charge” order looked so much like the beginning of a retreat.
“Charge!” called the captain, running forward with his sword drawn.
The militia didn’t move a muscle.
The big troll punched the militia captain in the gut and hurled him into the nearest snowbank. The troll then turned to the militia and roared a challenge.
The militia scattered like hens with a fox in the coop. Trails of yellow snow followed several of them as they broke and ran.
The troll grunted in satisfaction and began moving toward where Strom, Ash and Max were standing. The mage hadn’t watched a moment of the battle. One could watch humans fleeing from a troll any time. An open bar was another matter altogether.
Strom had just finished refilling Max’s bowl with berry brandy when the troll arrived. The archmage looked up to find the smelly green troll standing right in front of him. Even accounting for Strom’s pointy wizard hat, the troll was much taller.
Strom tended to be friendly when he was drunk so he thrust a mug of ale toward the troll’s outstretched hand.
“Here ya go, friend. Can you believe these people left all this unsupervised?” he asked gleefully.
The troll knocked the mug from Strom’s hand and growled deep in his throat.
“Hey! That was a nice mug of ale.”
The troll growled again, his big mouth opened wide.
Ash thought he could almost hear words.
“No, you can get your own drinks from now on if you’re going to be rude about it,” scolded Strom.
The troll snarled again, gesturing at Strom with a threatening look.
Max the dog whined and began carefully dragging his bowl of berry brandy away from the angry troll.
“Sannnn Taaaaaclaaaus,” the troll said from a dry raspy throat.
“He thinks you’re this San Taclaus character, too,” laughed Ash. “He wants to sit on your lap and get a gift like the children!”
The troll agreed with a big grin.
“Sannnn Taaaaclaaaus.” The troll pointed at Strom.
“Well that ain’t gonna happen,” decided Strom immediately. “Look at the size of that thing. He’d crush me.”
The troll looked offended.
“No,” insisted the mage.
The troll swung his club, smashing an entire tray of holiday cakes.
“Hey! That was just uncalled for!” yelled Strom.
The troll stalked toward the mage, swinging his club and knocking a massive tray of turkey meat to the ground. Max dashed over and began eating the tasty meat.
Strom backed up, clutching his bag protectively.
“You’re not sitting on my lap and I’m all out of gifts anyway.”
The troll threw back his head and roared in anger.
Just then a snowball slammed into the side of the troll’s face.
“You leave San Taclaus alone!” shouted Nick, the small child who had dragged Strom to the festival.
Another snowball arced toward the troll. This one came from the little girl who’d asked for replacement baby brother. “He’s our San Taclaus! You be nice!” Her snowball hit the troll square in the face, momentarily blinding the beast.
Suddenly, the air was full of snowballs. An army of children materialized in the village square, shouting and throwing snowballs at the troll. The troll retreated toward the feast table, then flipped the table on its side and cowered from the barrage. The children paused in their attack, wondering what their foe would do.
“Uh oh,” muttered Ash. “Never give the enemy a chance to regroup.”
The troll popped up from behind the table, all four hands clutching big snowballs. He hurled them at the kids, nailing three boys in the stomach and the little girl in the face. He was already scooping more snow.
The kids stood in shock. Well, most of them. Three were writhing on the ground. The little girl looked really pissed off. With a scream, she led the charge, the army of kids threw snowballs as fast as they could.
Ash enjoyed the show for several minutes. The troll gave as good as he got. He’d picked his club back up and was using it to block snowballs while throwing with his other three hands. Even though the children outnumbered him, they didn’t throw with the same accuracy he did. Several enterprising young ones quickly set up a snow fort made of tables and dropped militia shields.
“This has the makings of a long siege,” Strom grumbled.
“Let’s liven things up a bit,” Ash suggested.
Ash muttered a few words of magic and gestured toward the snow at his feet. Three giant balls of snow rolled toward him and then stacked themselves atop one another. Two long serving spoons flew through the air and stuck in the sides of the snowman, giving it arms. A pair of meatballs took the place of eyes. Red sauce dripped from the meatballs like bloody tears running down its face. Ash grabbed Strom’s magic hat and stuck it on top of the snowman’s head. A flash of magic and the snow golem came to life.
“Go!” Ash ordered. “Cry havoc and let slip the snowman of war!”
The snowman grinned wickedly at its masters, then turned to face the battle. It slid forward silently, coming up behind the children’s snow fort. The serving spoon arms whirled, scooping snow and then launching it in a devastating barrage. The children screamed and turned toward the new threat. They propped up more militia shields and gamely returned fire.
The snowman grew larger and larger as more snowballs hit its body.
Several of the younger children began edging toward the street leading out of the village square. The older kids dug in to fight harder, but they were badly outclassed by the four-armed troll and the ever-growing snow golem. The small kids fled, yelling as they were pelted by snowballs from the troll. The teens ducked behind the militia shields in the snow fort and awaited the final assault.
But it was not to be.
The troll eyed the snow golem.
The snow golem eyed the troll.
The two began to circle each other warily.
With a cry, the troll snatched up a bench in all four of its arms and brought it down squarely on the top of the snowman’s head, obliterating the golem.
“My hat!” cried Strom.
The troll, brandishing its bench, looked in their direction.
Strom hiked up his robes and sprinted away. Max scrambled after the mage. Shaking his head in shame over what they’d become, Ash jogged after them.
A big tear trickled down the troll’s face as he turned and walked slowly home, dragging his bench forlornly in the snow behind him.
“Sannnn Taaaaaclaaaaus,” he said mournfully.
Strom and Max, having no idea the troll wasn’t pursuing them, fled down the empty street at a pace only a centuries-old drunk mage in robes could manage. Strom came to an exhausted stop after almost twenty five feet.
“I can’t keep running,” he panted.
“There’s a one horse open sleigh,” said Ash. “Let’s use that.”
“We don’t have a horse.”
They both turned to look at Max, who growled back at them.
“Okay, so we can’t use the dog, either,” muttered Ash.
“Turn yourself back into a dragon,” Strom suggested. “Then pull the sleigh.”
“What am I, some kind of uber designated driver?” grumbled Ash.
“Just do it. I think I see the bartender coming.” Since they’d barely fled twenty five feet from the smashed bar, it was pretty easy for Strom to see him moving in their direction. The dragon was nearly blind of course, but he could hear the man swearing.
“Oh all right,” he grumbled. “Hop in.”
The angry bartender was almost upon them when Ash magicked himself back into his natural dragon form.
“Good thing that man’s wearing brown pants,” giggled Strom, seeing the man’s expression after the massive red dragon popped into being right in front of him.
Grasping the sleigh’s traces in his teeth, Ash leaped forward and flapped his great wings. With a gust of air and swirling snow, the dragon, the mage and the dog rocketed into the air. They gained altitude quickly, then Ash banked gracefully to the north and pulled them across the sky.
From the village far below, a little boy watched them as for a moment they were silhouetted against the full moon.
“Goodbye, San Taclaus,” Nick exclaimed, ere they drove out of sight.
Damon Garn lives in Colorado Springs, CO with his wife and two children. He enjoys hiking, writing and annoying his neighbors with mediocre guitar playing. He writes in the fantasy/sci-fi realm experimenting in flash fiction, short stories and a novel. Follow on Twitter: dmgwrites or at dmgwrites.wordpress.com