Background: The character of Fable Skelly is part of series that will be released by Five Smiling Fish in the coming years. The series revolves around an immortal trapped in the form of a sixteen year old girl. She was the former minion of an ancient, obsolete goddess who manipulates her life at every turn. The task of keeping Fable from falling back under the control of her old boss has been given to Riley Carter, an idealistic seventeen year old. Riley Carter considers forcing the anti-social Fable to interact with other people as a part of his responsibility. This scene is from a holiday story in-which Riley and his best friend, Todd, have convinced Fable to come along to a large family gathering at a house in the Coconino National Forest near Flagstaff, Arizona. Enjoy and happy Kram— I mean St. Nicholas Day!
Tossing my coat at me, Riley called into the kitchen, “Mom, we’re going for a walk.”
“Stay warm,” the woman yelled back, “and be back before lunch.”
Todd started to bundle himself, circling his neck with a thick scarf and struggling to pull on gloves.
As I buttoned my own coat, I eyed him critically. “Seriously? It’s not that cold outside.”
He pulled another jacket over the one he was already wearing, making the movement of his arms difficult. “Maybe not for you. You’ve lived all over the world. But I was born and raised in Phoenix and that out there is the white stuff of my nightmares. Plus, if we’re going to be eaten by a monster, I’m dying while warm.”
“Good. Because you aren’t going to be able to run very far dressed like.” Riley slapped his buddy on the shoulder, nearly toppling him over.
After another two minutes of Todd reassembling his outfit into something with more mobility, we trekked outside. Pine and dirt tickled my nose. Philos ran out ahead of us, rolling his furry body in the white powder. Standing back on all fours, he shook the wet from his back and grinned at me.
“At least someone is having fun,” Todd mournfully stated. He watched miserably as his own breath clouds dispersed around him.
We walked a little further and Phil skipped ahead of us with glee. By the time we had caught up, the large dog had frozen in his tracks. His fur bristled as a tall, broad shouldered man stepped out from behind a tree. He wore an expensive, well-tailored suit with a bright red tie under a wool trench coat. His cheeks glowed a cheery pink over the top of his white beard.
“Nicholas,” I groaned. “What are you doing here?”
Riley took his place at my side, tense and ready for a conflict. “Nicholas?”
“Yes. Saint Nicholas.” As I said the name, my dog stopped his attack stance and sat in the snow at attention.
Nick held out his hand for Riley to shake. “Riley Carter. It is very good to meet you my boy.”
Riley’s eyes grew wide. Of all the mythical creatures he’d learned of, this was the first time I saw a twinkle within his iris. “You too, Mr. Claus.”
The snow crunched. From behind the same tree emerged a monster, matted fur covered most of his body. He walked on a pair of goat legs and carried a birch switch and a chain in his human-like hands. Two impressive horns protruded from the top of his brown head as he turned his squinted eyes upon me. A long, forked tongue pointed at me and he chuckled.
Todd gawked at the bow legs of the creature. “What is that?”
“Krampus,” I explained. “From Europe. It used to be his job to punish the naughty children while Nick rewarded the good, but he got dropped from tradition for a while.”
“What is he doing here?” Riley nervously wondered, glancing back at the house full of young cousins.
“Renewed interests in the Krampus has permitted him to begin accompanying me once again,” Nick added. “It cuts down on my work load in certain parts of the world.”
The furry creature stooped a little, the basket upon his back tilting when he moved. He licked his long tongue around the outer part of his lips. His wide eyes ogled Riley and Todd with excitement. He started to burble in his awful grunts, spit flying from his mouth.
Nick translated. “He says the boys have lustful thoughts and he would like to beat them with his birch switch.”
Both of the guys shifted uncomfortably and took a step back. I set my hands upon my hips and stared down the Krampus. “No. You may not beat them.”
The monster began to blurt another series of babbles which ended in a raspberry.
“Of course they have lustful thoughts! They're teenage boys!” I explained.
“They're both pretty good kids. Either way, that isn't the reason why we are here.” Nicholas motioned for me to come nearer to him.
“Why are you here?” I repeated. “Your saint day was weeks ago.”
“There are a lot of frightened children in that house and I have power from my saint day to the twelfth night. That was the deal, remember.”
“Okay, fine. Then why is he here?” I pointed at the Krampus who circled Todd and Riley again with his switch menacingly slapping his palm.
Nick gave me a withered expression. “We were on our way to a holiday party. I’m his d.d.”
“Are you kidding me?”
“You want a drunk Krampus wandering around, then you keep criticizing me, young woman.” He straightened his coat as if it would retain his dignity.
“Don’t you ‘young lady’ me. I’m older than you. And I’m handling this. Whatever is going on in that house isn’t something sugar plums will solve.”
The saint stiffened a little and adjusted his leather gloves. “Very well. We’ll be off.” He whistled and Krampus stopped short. He had been hovering behind the pair of young men, his tongue inching closer to a wincing Todd’s ear.
With a disappointed grunt, he trudged through the snow towards Nicholas. He only paused briefly to give me an awkward kiss on top of my hair.
With a roll of my eyes, I watched him rejoin Nick. “I missed you too, I guess,” I told him with a smirk.
The two Christmas characters started to move back out of sight, and then paused. Nicholas tossed a pear at me. The firm peel felt cool and dry against my palms as I caught the fruit.
Touching a finger to his nose, he gave me a grin. “If you do need us, let me know. Happy Christmas.”
This time, I did let myself smile. None of us spoke until Nick and Krampus had vanished. Then I heard a yip and saw Todd jump a little. “Holy crap! That was Santa Claus! I knew he was real!”
I tilted my head at him. “Why did you believe in Santa Claus? You’re Jewish.”
“Just let him have this,” Riley softly chided, a warm smile refusing to fall from his face.