Addergoole
Bonus Story
Christmas Horror 1

Christmas Break, Year Five of the Addergoole School

‘Twas a week before Christmas and all through the school
Rang a desperate air, a hurried handing of spruce
A whispered humming as the psychics did warn:
Trouble would soon take those hallways by storm.

You'd better be ready, you'd better be jolly
You'd better hang hawthorn up with that holly.
You'd better be cautious and you'd better watch out
Because St. Nickolas is coming to town.


Caity hummed to herself as she and the rest of cy'Akatil – the sweet and far-too-pretty Renata and the overprotective Taro – hung long garlands of holly twisted with hawthorn along the hallways of Addergoole. Behind them, Magnolia and Ty cy'Linden murmured Workings, the garlands slipping into existence from their gloved hands.

"Do you think it will work?" Caity asked Taro, as he pushed another nail into the wall. His casual strength was kind of fascinating and a bit nerve-wracking; she could never figure out whether to be glad or regretful that she didn't register as a girl to him – or really, to anyone in the school, except, once in a while, Richard.

"Hrmm?" He glanced at her, seeming surprised she'd talked to him. "I guess it ought to. It's hawthorn, after all."

"Wouldn't we need to know what we were doing to know if it will work?" Renata offered. Caity tried hard not to hate the other girl; she was friendly and sweet, and it wasn't really her fault she had a face and a body like a perfect little princess, while Caity had one more like a bear.

"Professor Pelletier said ‘protection,'" she offered, trying not to think too hard about princesses and bears.

"But from what? I know the hawthorn is poisonous, but why are we hanging pretty garlands of poison?"

"Because we were told to?" Taro offered. "Pass me another nail, would you?"

"I'd guess it has something to do with…" Caity knew her theories weren't the most popular things with her cy'ree, but sometimes she couldn't help herself. This time, it seemed, Christmas was going to help her whether she wanted it or not.

"Ho, ho, ho!" The voice didn't so much ring down the halls as it echoed in their minds, shook the building, and made the backs of Caity's teeth vibrate. "Time for all you naughty boys and girls to get to work!"

Caity looked around at her cy'ree, and at the two cy'Linden who had dropped their garlands and begun working together; a thick, thorny shrub was rapidly filling the hallway. "Get to your rooms," Magnolia snapped. "Now!"

Caity ran.

~~

On the first day of Christmas, St. Nickolas gave to me
A shackle on a short chain.

On the second day of Christmas, St. Nickolas gave to me
Two cups of porridge
And a shackle on a short chain.

On the third day of Christmas, St. Nickolas gave to me
Three hours sleep
Two cups of porridge
And a shackle on a short chain.

Smitty stared blearily at the tool in his hand. He knew he was supposed to be doing something with it. He knew, more importantly, that if he didn't, then the nasty little fuckers would hurt Sarita and Azumi, who were chained nearby, or would do something worse than that to Mea, who had, with a couple of the other girls, been dragged to their own special corner of the meeting-hall-turned-sweatshop.

But, for the life of him, he couldn't remember what it was he was supposed to be doing.

The goblin thing smacked the belt across his bare back, and he hissed in pain. "Stupid whelp. Screw the toy together. Shape the face into a pretty girl like the picture. Pass it down the line."

Screw the toy together. He could do that. He picked up the tiny screws in his clumsy fingers and placed them, slowly, into the holes. Screw the toy together. He was beginning to feel like this little marionette himself, all his strings hanging loose. He didn't know what day it was anymore, but Christmas had to be coming soon. Christmas, or rescue.

"Here." He blinked blearily as the person to his left… Carter, that was Carter cy'Pelletier… took the toy from him and deftly attached the limbs. "There, now you just have to Shape the face."

"Thanks… thanks." He looked at the picture on the bench, but all he could think about was Mea, vibrant, wonderful Mea somewhere over there. He had to Shape the doll or they'd hurt her. He had to shape the face like the pretty girl.

"Qorawiyay unutu beta koukla, qorawiyay unutu beta koukla." There, she didn't have any hair yet, but she looked like a pretty girl.

On the other side of him, Rozen barked a tired laugh. "A new pretty girl. We've all had that one."

He looked down at the doll, realizing blearily that it looked a lot like Mea. We've all had that one. We've all… He roared in rage and bashed at Rozen with the stupid plastic doll, wielding it like a club, smashing for the monster's smug nose with the frozen replica of Mea's smile.

Rozen caught it easily in one hand, shaking his head. "You need to rest more and think less, man."

Smitty coughed out something that sounded way too much like a whinny for his own comfort. "I sleep when the fuckers let us." Except he wasn't sleeping, was he? He was worrying about the girls, hating their captors and, worse, hating how easily they'd been caught. "Fuck this shit, man. We need to get out of here."

"And we're not going to do it by running ourselves down and being impatient."

"But… fuck. You're right." He glared at the bigger man grumpily. "I hate it when you're right." He turned his anger on the doll. "Qorawiyay unutu beta koukla, qorawiyay unutu beta koukla."


~~
On the sixth day of Christmas, St. Nickolas gave to me
Six minds a-plotting
Five snapped ribs Four broken toys
Three hours sleep
Two cups of porridge
And a shackle on a short chain.

Caity was tired, cranky, hungry, and sick of making pretty little clothes for pretty little dolls. Bad enough to be trapped inside a freaking magical sweatshop for some nutjob monster who thought he was Santa Claus. Bad enough to be half-starved and entirely exhausted, chained to this freaking bench between the eternally-grumpy Taro and the scary half-starved vampire. Worse to be making stupid little princess dolls.

"What's wrong with a freaking engineer doll? Even Barbie has like Police Officer Barbie. None of this freaking pretty princess shit."

"What's got your panties in a twist? The dolls aren't dykie enough for you?"

That, that was it. With a growl of rage, Caity slammed the dolls down on the bench and grabbed a hammer out of Taro's hand. Die, stupid princesses. Die pretty vacuous useless little thing. Die!

The dolls shattered into a thousand smushed plastic pieces, flying all over the place. Maybe the pretty blue eye would lodge in Taro's stupid throat and make him choke. Maybe… There were stupid elves all over her, pinning her down, dragging her out of the room. She flailed with the hammer, but they grabbed it from her before she broke more than a couple fingers. At least she'd killed the stupid princess thing.

~

Smitty stared after the goblins dragging the small Fifthy off, actually started to follow before he was jerked to the end of his chair. "Damnit," he muttered angrily. The little monsters didn't play fair, and blast Taro anyway, for prodding her. He glared down the end of the line at the smug-looking bastard. "Hope you're happy now, you bastard."

Taro shrugged tiredly. "Not my fault she went postal. She's been twitching for a day anyway." He frowned after her. "Fuck. I hope they're not too rough on her. She's just a kid."

Smitty's glare died, and he glanced without thinking back at Azumi and Sarita. They were sleeping now, thankfully. He hoped they'd forgive him. He hoped they hadn't been hurt too badly. "I… They won't be too rough on her," he lied. "She just cracked a bit, Taro. We all do."

"Interesting, though," Rozen said, far too calmly for what was happening. "Did you notice?"

"Them dragging the poor kid off? Yeah, I noticed that." Fucker.

"They all showed up to drag her off. The whole bunch of them. Look, Taro's a bulldozer, he could break the shackles in half a second if the shits weren't all around him. And when they grabbed the girl…"

"They were all at that end of the room," Smitty finished slowly. "Great. So we need one person to take the fall."

"They're elves. How bad can they be?"

~

Caity screamed as the hammer came down on her ribs, choked, gasping for air, and screamed again.

"Bad dolls get broken, is that it?" the nasty little elf-thing sneered at her. "Bad dolls get smashed? We'll smash you, then. Spread her hand out on the table."

"Oh, oh god, no, not my," she sobbed, trying for coherence, "not my hands, no please, I'll do anything."

"Anything?" The creep waggled his eyebrows. "Fine. Take off her pants instead."

The bad elves acknowledged her as a girl. Great.

--

On the ninth day of Christmas, St. Nickolas gave to me
Nine minutes' running Eight guards a-napping
Seven traps a-springing
Six minds a-plotting
Five snapped ribs Four broken toys
Three hours sleep
Two cups of porridge
And a shackle on a short chain.

They'd debated it back and forth, Smitty, one of two cy'Luca in the group, for once not feeling self-sacrificing, being stubborn and mulish.

"If it's me, who will rescue the girls? I can't see it being you, Rozen." Or, for that matter, Acacia, Magnolia, Ty, Phelen, or Taro. Cassidy had Mabina to worry about, Dysmas had Nydia, you never knew with Carter, and Mark had his harem.

"But you make a great sacrifice," Acacia grinned at him.

"It's not going to be any of the girls," Mark put in firmly. "We're not putting anyone else in that situation."

Smitty wasn't inclined to disagree with that one, although Rozen was. "Sacrificing a non-combatant seems like a good plan," he argued.

"Who're you calling a non-combatant?"

"Magnolia and Tya," Mark offered, apparently blind to Ty's current male-ness.

"Fair enough," Acacia nodded. "So not the girls. Not Smitty. Then who?"

"I…" Cassidy frowned. Smitty interrupted him.

"If it won't be me, then it won't be you or Mark or Dysmas either, for the same reason."

"Hrmph," Phelen grumped. "I'm out."
"I'll do it," Carter cut off the negotiations. "When?"

"Just after the rest time. They're less organized then, and we'll have had some sleep." Rozen had, somewhere in there, taken charge.

It wasn't much of a rest, but Smitty forced himself to sleep. The elves woke him up with a kick to the ribs, and he struggled to his feet to make another doll. Another vacant-eyed blonde doll. Who liked these things anyway? For that matter, who were these presents for? Would the monster Santa, high on his throne in the Dining Hall, actually be giving them to kids, and, if so, why?

He was so lost in his groggy thoughts that he almost missed the signal, inasmuch as Carter starting to smash stuff was a signal. And he smashed them with gusto, pieces of dollies flying all over the place, half of a toy train shooting just over Smitty's mane. He ducked, rolling his eyes to watch the carnage and hoping this wasn't all in vain.

It took every single elf to subdue Carter; he was fighting like a maniac, kicking and dodging and pushing his power to the limits. They just kept piling on him, those nasty little shits, until he went down under their sheer weight.

"Now," hissed Rozen, as they dragged Carter away, kicking at him with every step. Taro snapped his own chain, then, rapidly, everyone else's. Rozen first, Cay, Dysmas, Mark, Smitty, then the non-combatants, and all eleven of them rushed for the door on the far side of the hall.

The words of the Working fought Smitty. He was tired; they were all tired, worn out, and the elves were powerful for all their small stature. But he shouted out his Words along with everyone else, drowning the nasty little creatures in sleep, overwhelming them with exhaustion, physical, mental, and emotional.

They fell, every little bugger of them tumbling to the ground. There would be more, though, soon, and that had been the last bit of juice Smitty had in him. He grabbed the semi-conscious Carter, and they ran.

That had been the hardest thing to accept in the plan. They had to get out, first. They had to regroup, get weapons, and regain their strength before they could rescue everyone else. They had to leave the rest behind in order to succeed.

Smitty tried not to think about that as they ran. He was good at running, embarrassingly good at running, thanks to the horse that was his Change, so he ran, picked up Ty and carried him and ran while the slender cy'Linden threw curses to cover their trail.


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