Santa's Angels

Everyone knows about Santa Claus. Not everyone knows about Krampus. And not everyone knows of the heroes that protects Claus, children, and everyone else from Krampus and the evil he sends out from the Burzee Plane.

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1. Santa's Angels - Chapter 1

Santa’s Angels

Chapter 1

If you whine and steal and disobey, Krampus will come and make you pay.

The sing-songy rhyme is a warning to children, scaring them into being polite and honest throughout their childhood. Those who heard but ignored it and continued to misbehave no longer have a childhood, or even a life. 

Some don’t know of Krampus, a yuletide demon who kidnaps bad children and brings them to the darkest depths of his kingdom, Black Spire.  The childrens’ souls are sucked out and locked away in a hidden area within his castle, leaving them partially-sentient and their bodies frozen in time.  They are forgotten by their families and friends, doomed to work in the boundless coal mines and serve Krampus, his court, and his kingdom however he sees fit.

. . .but one boy gets a second chance.

His pale, gray skin matched the atmosphere in the dark, depressing mines.  His mind was blank except for his orders to mine enough coal to meet this month’s quota.  His empty eyes faced the rock wall and the repetitive clinking from his pickaxe sounded muffled in his ears as he dug to get to the coal.  Blind obedience was all he had with his soul taken away.  No complaints from him or the rest of his group who have met the same fate.

He suddenly stopped in mid-swing.  Luckily his overseer, a wicked-looking, animalistic satyr-like creature, was in a deep sleep.  Something familiar was seeping and spreading throughout the little boy’s entire body.  A creeping warmth turned his skin back to his fair tone, each strand of his short, scruffy white hair slowly turned black, and his pupils changed from faded purple to bright green.  Memories flooded his mind: his name is Tommy Lightfoot, he is nine years old, he lives in Niagara Falls, New York with his mom, dad, and his twin sister named Zoe.

Tommy inhaled a deep, sharp breath and dropped his pick-axe, stumbling back from the wall.  It felt like he had been holding his breath for years.  He winced from aches in his palms and saw they were covered in blisters and sores.  Looking further down, the only he was wearing was a pair of dirty, ragged pants. 

The pickaxes clinking in the walls and squeaky mine cart wheels turned his attention to his surroundings.  He stood at the base of a circular rock wall that went up for miles and saw thousands of sickly, pasty-skinned children digging into the walls with manual mining tools or trudging slowly as they pushed around mine carts filled with coal. 

Tommy ran up to a little girl closest to him.  He shook her shoulder and her skin was freezing-cold to the touch, “Hey, where are we?”

The girl didn’t acknowledge him. She didn’t even stop swinging her pickaxe. Tommy saw her bloodshot, unnatural colored eyes and it looked like nearly all of light in them were gone.  He slowly backed away.

He didn’t know where he was or how he had gotten there, but he didn’t like it and he didn’t want to be there any longer. 

He headed for the large cavern doorway, the only way out.  He jumped seeing the horned creature snoring next to the doorway, covered from head to hooves in black fur with its feet propped up on an old wooden table.  He kept his eyes on it until he successfully sneaked out the door.

Sneaking down many corridors, Tommy discovered that he was in a massive coal mine with robotic-minded children digging and collecting coal and the short, hooved overseers used thick branches to discipline any of the kids that didn’t obeying orders correctly or moving too slow.  He watched in horror from a hiding place when one creature whipped a boy that tripped over a mine cart rail.  The boy didn’t flinch, cry out, or try to get away.  He only got up when the overseer hollered at him to get back to work and continued hauling baskets of coal with bleeding welts on his back.

Rooms in each part of the mine had a unique security system where he had to pull levers to open doors in certain orders.  There were times he had to hide in tarp-covered mine carts when he heard the imps’ hooves clopping nearby.

Tommy felt like he would never get out of the endless cursed maze.  He was nearly caught when four imps suddenly ran into a room he entered and quickly blended in a line with the zombiefied kids that carried empty baskets as they marched to the mines. 

“Did any of you idiots find it yet?!” One of the imps squealed loudly.  The others quickly shook their heads. 

One of them grabbed their head, stomping up and down on his hooves, “This is bad!  So bad!  Could this get any worse?!”

“Be quiet!  You want Boss to hear?!  We’ll be cleaning the entire castle with our tongues after he cleans our clocks when he finds out!” Another imp whimpered.

One imp jerked a pointed at one imp across from him, “This is all your fault!”

The imp that was pointed at whined, “How is this all MY fault?!”

“ ‘I know! Let’s do this job UN-alphabetically!’ ” The imp posed in a childish exaggeration, eyes crossed, tongue hanging out, and bouncing around on one leg, supposedly imitating him.

Two of them laughed.  The one being imitated said, “I said ‘backwards’, not ‘un-alphabetically’. I don’t even think that’s a word.” He cringed from a swift punch to the head.

“Shut up! We’re not getting anywhere with you playing around! We’ll split up again. We HAVE to find that kid’s soul before the boss finds out what happened, now get going!” The three imps ran panicked into different mines while the fourth ran off downstairs into a deep mine. 

Tommy didn’t want to stick around to find out what or who they were looking for.  Far as he knew, they were looking for him! 

He found his way to a larger part of the mine where it was just imps and lots of mine carts, empty and full, automatically rolling around on the rails.  Carts filled with coal, covered with a cloth tarp, came out of a tunnel and rolled on tracks to the far right, stopping onto metal platform that lifted them up through a wide elevator shaft.  Empty carts on the left came down through another shaft on another metal platform and rolled onto the tracks and back into the mines.

Tommy crept low next to one of the empty carts and found a mini rail junction a little ways between the loading room and the mines.  Timing it carefully, he pulled the lever to get an empty cart to wheel over to where the full ones were going before setting the lever back again.  He loaded the cart with some coal, laid in the hollowed-out middle, and pulled the tarp over himself. 

His heart pounded against his chest when the cart moved forward.  He froze when the imps’ voices got louder as he drew closer.  They were too occupied talking about an oncoming celebration to notice that the cart rolling on the platform wasn’t as full as the others or hear the startled gasp when the elevator lifted that cart up.

It was pitch black when Tommy was carried up.  The loud humming from the machinery powering the elevator didn’t comfort him either.  He felt the cart being tipped forward.  The wheels squeaked as the cart rolled quickly down the rail.  An abrupt stop tossed Tommy out of the cart, tangling him in the tarp, and into a massive coal pile.  He rolled to his feet and frantically looked around, expecting to see more of those imps.  

The room was even more unsettling than the mines.  The wooden rustic wall paneling, the small brass lamps nailed on them, and the steel chandeliers hanging overhead had Tommy thinking he was in a medieval dungeon. There were small barrels arranged in columns stacked high in diamond patterns instead of cells.  He tip-toed down the curved corridor heading into a much larger room with larger barrels against the walls and a steel rack in the middle holding green bottles filled with dark red liquid.

He heard soft mumbling as he walked beside the wine rack.  He peeked around it and nearly bit his tongue seeing two imps standing in front of a stone staircase.  They sat under one of the large barrels that had a dripping tap.  The first imp was sprawled on the stone floor, snoring and snorting loudly.  The second imp danced wobbly on his hooves, groaning one second, giggling loudly the next, then going completely silent and standing still while leaning to the side.  The alcohol finally took over and it stumbled face-first against the bottom barrels with a loud thud.  It slid to the floor and Tommy could hear it snoring and wheezing.

He warily stepped over the imps and quietly crawled up the stone steps.  He cringed when the door above squeaked as he lifted it and nearly went blind when he was greeted by bright light.  He stepped into the room, shielding his eyes. 

His bare feet stepped off the stairs and onto cold stone tile flooring. There was a wall to his left and what looked like counters to his right.  Not hearing any noises, he walked past the counters and peered around the left bend.  There was a massive iron relic of a kitchen stove with five large smoke stacks that went through the ceiling with a good amount of firewood beside it.  The wooden logs had strange black and purple bark.  Various kitchen utensils and strange plants of herbs and spices dangled from the far left wall. 

He could see light flickering from the crevices of the stove and an appetizing aroma made Tommy’s mouth water.  It was like he had not smelled anything so delicious in years aa terrible pain knotted up in his stomach. 

Silence was broken when he heard a door creaking open.  He quickly looked behind him but didn’t see the imps from the cellar were coming up.  He heard feet patting along the floor and took cover behind the counters.  He heard another door, metallic, creaking open, metal scraping against metal, and another creak as whoever else was in the kitchen closed the door.  The smell of food made him feel weak and his empty stomach hurt even more.  He felt if he didn’t get any food soon, he might drop on the spot.

He peered around the corner when he heard the footsteps heading away from him.  He saw a wooden door appear as it opened and disappear as it closed.  He darted from his hiding spot and climbed up a wooden bar stool up to a large platter with steaming sliced bread loaves. 

He gorged on a couple of pieces, enjoying the crunchy, buttery crust and bittersweet flavor within.  He couldn’t just stop at four loaves, not as hungry as he felt.  He stuffed himself with loaf after loaf, not noticing that the wooden door behind him was opening.  He stopped in mid-eating when he felt a cold chill go down his back and whirled around. 

He saw a girl, about his age, wearing a long, dirty faded-white dress blotted with stains and a cap over her long, white hair. She had some of the same physical resemblances as him except her skin was pale, her hair was white, and her eyes were a dull purple, just like the children he saw in the mines. 

He expected to start screaming for help.  She just stared at him with a vacant, semi-sleepy stare.  Flashbacks spun in his head as he looked back at her, then a familiar bond reignited within, “Zoe!”

Tommy jumped down and hugged her tightly.  Her skin felt similar to flaking tree bark from a dead tree.  He grabbed her hands, “Zoe, it’s me. Don’t you recognize me?” The girl said nothing.  She continued with a far away gaze.

“What happened to you?  Where are we?  Where’s mom and dad?  Say something, please Zoe!” All he got in response was silence.  Seeing her in the troubling state, Tommy forgot where he was and his outburst from his last sentence attracted attention from downstairs.

“What’s all that noise up there?!” A screechy, growly voice called from a large door.  Tommy panicked hearing the rapid clopping.  He grabbed Zoe’s arm heading in the opposite direction only to be pulled back.  Zoe stayed in her place, only leaning to his tugging.  He struggled to pick her up. She felt as heavy as a stack of cement blocks.  Hearing the imps voices getting louder, he had no choice but to hide.

The door swung open violently and a taller imp marched in glaring, “If I find any of you lots foolin’ around in here, there’s gonna be some major consequences!” 

Tommy could feel his heavy hooves stomping by his hiding place.  Pots, pans, and other kitchen-wares jingled quietly around him.  The imp walked over to Zoe, who was sweeping the floor with a straw broom.  The imp saw bread crumbs scattered along the floor in front of her.  He looked at the platter and felt a lump in his throat when he saw that the majority of the bread loves were gone.

“Wha--wha--Master’s breakfast!!!” He instantly glared at the slave girl still sweeping, “You little brat. . .you ate the master’s bread didn’t you!?”

Without flinching or uttering a sound, Zoe stopped sweeping and faced the towering imp. Bread crumbs were stuck onto her apron, some rolling down to her feet.

The imp growled, “You think you can get cheeky just because you moved up from the mines and into the Master’s castle?  Think again, brat!” He pulled out a bundle of thin branches tied together  on one end from behind his back and swung it up high over the mute Zoe. 

Before he could swing it down, he froze from a scream.  Something hard and heavy collided with the back of his head with a loud clang.  The large imp was knocked out before he fell to the floor.

Tommy stood over the imp wielding a large iron skillet in both hands.  He turned his attention back to his sister, who was unfazed by all the action. 

“Zoe, c’mon. We gotta get outta here,” he tugged on her arm again.  She leaned from the tug staring at him.  It was like she was in a trance and only the imp’s words made her move when his couldn’t.  She stared longingly at Tommy; it was as if she recognized him although the spell she was under prevented her from talking.

He heard more clopping, more than one pair of hooves, stomping up the stairs.  He quickly wiped Zoe’s apron clean of crumbs, then grabbed more bread loaves and crumbled them, sprinkling a trail of large crumbs as he scurried backwards toward the opposite door. 

Zoe continued staring at him. “I’ll be back for you,” He whispered before running down the hall, just as the small imps barged in and saw the big imp laying on the floor and the trail of bread crumbs going out the other door.

Tommy took notice of the various rooms he ran past: a throne room with the four thrones, three small ones seat up high and behind the sole large one in the middle, facing a wine-red tinted window that went from the ceiling to the floor, a game room with wall-sized flat-screen TVs, arcade consoles, and slot and pachinko machines, a bathing room with beautiful feminine creatures soaking in tiled bathtubs, a treasure room filled with treasure chests, large vases and pots overflowing with gold and jewels, and a dungeon where he caught a glimpse of imps receiving vicious beatings.  

No doubt about it, he was in some bizarre, hellish castle.  How to get out was more in his thought than how did he get here.  He could hear the imps rapidly scurrying behind walls and on floors above him.  They knew there was an intruder in the building.  Tommy felt like he had hopped out of the frying pan and into the fire. 

He made it to the bottom floor where he saw large wooden double doors down the split foyer stairs.  A handful of imps blocked the way as he raced down the stairs.  He wildly swung the skillet like at any imp who grabbed and lunged at him as he ran back up the stairs.  The imps where on his tail as he ran down the left corridor.  He skidded to a stop when he reached a dead end. 

“Now we got ya!” One of the imps cackled, “And back to the mines you’ll go!” 

Tommy’s arms ached and his grip quivered around the skillet handle.  His eyes darted around as the imps crept towards him.  He spotted a small, square silver door in the wall labeled ‘trash chute’ to his right.  He threw the skillet at the closest imp, sending it flying into the wall.

“Don’t let him escape!” An imp screeched when Tommy lunged for the chute.  He was halfway in, smelling a foul, indescribable odor, when a couple of imps grabbed his left foot.   He held on to the top edge of the chute and frantically kicked at them with his other foot.  A third imp lashed a branch at his leg.  Tommy cringed and yelped from each strike, still holding on and pulling away.  One good kick went at the imp’s face.  It howled and stuttered back, holding its mouth.  The second one couldn’t hold on any longer as the boy’s weight got heavier and was forced to let go.  Tommy screamed as he slid down head first down the chute.

The imps flicked opened the chute to see if they had a chance to grab the boy again.  All they saw was darkness. One imp cursed, “Nice goin’, loser! Why’d you let him go?”

The imp who had been kicked growled, showing his blood stained teeth, “You try holding a kid down when he’s kicking you!  You want me to kick you in the face? See how it feels?” 

“Would you two quit arguin’?!” A third imp stood in between the two, “We have to get that kid back before the boss knows he’s escaped.”

“Uh...I think he already knows.” The imps looked back. Their legs quivered and they fell to their knees staring up at the much, much larger ‘imp’ standing behind them, his large, ominous shadow looming over them.

Tommy hit the bottom, landing on in something wet, sticky, and smelly.  He opened his eyes and couldn’t see his hands in front of his face.  The horrible smell of garbage nearly suffocated him.  Low but loud gurgling sounds and something large shuffling echoed throughout the room.  He had to get out! 

He crawled around in the dark, feeling along the walls for a doorway.  Whenever he tried standing up, a wave of garbage would trip him and he felt a large lump sweep out from under him.  He finally found a wall and stood up and sidled along it.  He could feel when the garbage was pushing against his feet and timed it so he jump over it.  He reached a part of the endless wall that felt thin against his fingers.  He clawed into it, some of the wall crumbling, and made a little hole, letting a pinprick of light in.  He gasped when clear oxygen filled his nostrils. 

He dug into the weak wall like a rabid dog until it gave way and he fell forward outside in the bright light.  A tremendous gut-trembling roar from behind sent him running up the earthen ramp.  He glanced back and saw something gigantic with countless number of beady orange eyes, a massive mouth with rows of flat teeth, smeared and stained with garbage, and large, thick scaled tentacles beating against the walls.  It was trying to retreat into whatever shadows the immense light made.

Tommy ran backwards seeing the tall, sinister castle, that was craft-fully chiseled into a massive stalagmite, he had escaped from.  He recognized the horizontal curved window at the top of the building and his thoughts were already on his twin sister’s well-being.  Looking above the castle and around him, the the ceiling, the walls, and the ground were made of earth and rock.  Wherever he was, it was all inside a spacious, hollow cave big enough to hid an underground kingdom.

Another loud roar from the creature startled the bipedal creatures and demons standing outside of the castle walls.  They didn’t even notice the little human running by them.  Tommy ducked into a cavern passageway running by homes built into the rock walls and market stands selling strange glowing minerals, breathing fruits, and vicious monstrous pets.  It was a miracle that the creatures walking around didn’t notice him and those that did only caught a blur of him.

Tommy stopped to catch his breath when he made it outside, or at least he thought he was outside.  The sky was deep shade of purple with black clouds hovering overhead that flashed with lightning every few seconds.  More strange creatures and demons walked past him as they entered the rock-walled corridor, some giving him a weird glance before proceeding inside.

He walked through large crowds of strange creatures: tentacle monsters with a bulb of numerous eyes for a head, ‘humans’ with no facial features after lifting up their masks, beautiful pure white maidens wearing kimonos that gave off literal freezing air, ghostly boars with quills made of stone sticking out of their backs.  One creature stood out among all the rest and made Tommy’s hair stand up and his heart jump into his throat.  He saw a taller imp, like the one he faced in the castle kitchen, in the middle of the crowd.  It stood, squinting its eyes as it looked through the crowds.  It was searching for him.

Tommy squeezed into thick groups as he distanced himself from the tall imp as far away as he could.  He cringed when he bumped into a creature’s leg.  It gave a yelp and the imp to looked up toward the sound.  He backed into a market stand.  Though the imp hadn’t seen him yet, he felt trapped.  All it would take was for the imp to turn his way once more time when the crowd cleared or someone curious to ask it what the imp was looking for.

“78...79...8,000 ducats for you, good sir!” A seller behind the stand said to his customer. Tommy peered around the corner and saw a tall, hefty creature in wearing colorful robes and shining jewelry with the flesh around his face dripped like melting butter.  He handed a jingling satchel to three pairs of bronzed arms behind the stand.  The arms handed the melted-face ogre a decorated two-handled vase. 

“My children will be so happy with their new pets,” The melted face ogre walked over to a nearby covered wagon and placed the pot in behind the curtains.

“If I may ask, sir, where do you live?” The seller asked.

“The Kochkumach Deserts.” The ogre replied.

“Oh my, that is long way from here.  Would you like to some fruit for the road?  You’ve been such a great customer, I’ll give you a discount,” The ogre was intrigued by the deal and headed back over to the stand. 

With the ogre distracted, Tommy whisked by and climbed into the wagon.  He didn’t think to look for anyone else in the wagon.  Luckily, the only things in the ogre’s wagon were vases and wares that was tied down with belts or chains.  The two ‘horses’ strapped to the front had lime green and dark blue scales, long, fin-tipped tails that whipped the air, and draconic ear-fins wrapped around the base of their thick, gnarled horns on their head.  One turned its head and Tommy saw its golden, thin slit eyes and numerous dagger-like teeth when it yawned.

Tommy ducked down hearing footsteps and nervously watched a shadow walk by the cover.  The ogre climbed into the driver’s seat. The bronze arms appeared from the side handing him a net of strange fruit.  The ogre took a bite out of one of them and gooey, blue juice dripped from his mouth. He licked his fingers clean, “Thank you so much for your generosity. I’ll be sure to return next week!” 

Tommy scooted behind one of the vases when the ogre turned to put the net of fruit in the wagon behind him.  The ogre grabbed the reins and flicked them hard. The equine beasts trotted pulling the cart behind with them.

Tommy relaxed a little.  He didn’t know or care where was this ogre going, as long as he didn’t notice him and hoped wherever this ‘Kochkumach Desert’ was would be far away from the patrolling imps.

He peeked out the back of the wagon as they got farther away from the odd market place and saw that the plaza was settled at the base of a craggy mountain that stood up like a massive black spire in the middle of the purple wasteland.  

The ogre drove his wagon to a forest thick with black-barked trees.  It flicked the reigns a couple of times and the horses galloped at full-speed.  It made Tommy nervous.  Was something chasing the wagon?  Did the the imps find him again?

Tommy suddenly felt lighter and held on tight to the vase when he felt the cart leaning back. He gasped quietly looking ahead when he saw the forest ahead had disappeared. The curtains behind him flapped wildly scaring him and he saw that they were level with the summit of the distant mountain. He carefully let go of the wobbling vase and slid into an empty strap.

The ogre hummed a tune as he drove his now flying carriage.  He reached behind him, without looking, and grabbed another piece of fruit.  Some rolled out the net and rolled to the back.  One thumped Tommy on the head.  He grabbed it, ready to eat again since the bread, but the fruit gave off a strong, pungent aroma.  He let it roll beside the one by the other escaped fruit. 

For a few miles, Tommy laid there silently listening to the air whistling around him, the ogre’s hums, and the loose fruits continuously rolling back and forth a round him as the carriage swayed.  His mind was on Zoe.  He hoped nothing had happened to her since his escape.  He pressed his fists against his eyes trying to hold back his tears.  How did he and Zoe end up in this foreboding place? 

He was brought out of his thoughts by a shattering sound. He tilted his head back and saw one of the rolling fruits had crashed into the base of the recently purchased pot. . .and a group large cockroaches, the size of his palm, skittered out, flicking their antennae and hissing loudly. 

Tommy scooted away, forgetting he was tied down with the strap, as the bugs spread out and crawled on everything.  Some roaches crept to him flicking their feelers at him.  It wasn’t until one crawled on the back of his hand and the uncomfortably-tickling feeling made him yell out.

“What the?!” The ogre looked back and saw the hissing roaches all over his wares.  He directed his galloping horses downward to the mountain barrier below.  Tommy felt his stomach drop as the carriage made the quick descent.  He wildly batted away at the roaches and fell on top of a good amount of them when the horses touched solid ground. 

The ogre pulled on the reigns and the horses roared as they dragged their hooves to slow them to a stop.  “The roaches! How did they escape?” The ogre jumped from the driver’s seat, his flesh dripping onto his clothes, and hurried to the back of the carriage.  As soon as he opened the curtains, Tommy lunged out and rolled along the ground, getting the remaining roaches and the squished roach entrails off of him.

“Looks like I got a stowaway!” The ogre said.  Tommy didn’t pay attention to the monster.  He was still making sure he got everything off of him. 

“You look like one of those kids from the mines.” The ogre gasped, “I aided an escapee! If he finds out. . .alright you dirty little urchin, I’m taking you back! Back in the carriage with you!”

Tommy was listening now.  He slowly backed away from the ogre as he advanced on him.  “Don’t you dare run,” The ogre threatened. Fear and reverse psychology set in and Tommy turned around and bolted.  The ogre was only able to run a few feet before he had to stop and gasp for air.

Tommy walked around for miles on rocky mountain paths and through dark caves.  The scenery always looked the same so he though he was going in circles.  He hid behind rocks or ducked in nearby caves whenever he heard the monster horse’s roars overhead.  The ogre had unhitched one of his demonic mounts and was flying around on it searching for him. 

Weakness and fatigue wore down on Tommy, but fear of being taken back to whatever hell he escaped kept him going.  Zoe popped up in his head again and his heart ached. The more he thought about her, the more tempted he was to turn around. He knew it would mean death, or something much worse, if he tried to sneak in. It could possibly mean more danger on Zoe too, since the imps didn’t know they were siblings.

He limped as he traveled through a much longer cave that took him downward.  He saw light at the curved end of the tunnel.  He shivered when a blast of freezing cold wind greeted him and was nearly blinded by the bright snow covering the ground.  He thought his vision was hazy at first until his bare foot stepped in it.

He turned around to go back in the cave until heard the demon horse’s roars over head.  He wrapped his arms around himself and forced another step in the snow, leaving behind a small track of deep footprints.

Tommy was exhausted, starving, and now freezing cold.  Each step in the snow sapped away his remaining strength.  He tripped over a hidden rock and fell face down in a snow pile.  He tried to lift himself up, but he could only turn his head.  His eyes couldn’t stay open any longer and his chest hurt each time he breathed in the freezing air.  Tears welled up in his eyes and he murmured to himself before passing out, “Zoe, I’m sorry.”

“Annoying little urchin. Getting us lost in the one place I don’t want to be,” The ogre grumbled.  He watched the boy from the air for a few seconds and guided his beast to land when he didn’t get up.

He jumped down from his horse, rubbing his shoulder as he quickly looked around, “Good, neither of them’s around.  Okay you brat, back where you belong.” He hurried over and started to pull Tommy up by his hair. 

A sudden rush of ice wind startled the ogre and he let go of Tommy’s hair and stuttered back.  An invisible force violently rushed against the ogre and he slid along the frozen ground and into one of his horse’s legs.  The beast screeched and flew off in a panic.  The ogre scrambled to his feet, sputtering snow and dirt out of his mouth.  He heard a noise over his shoulder and his hearts beat faster than usual seeing two humans, a teenaged boy and girl, standing next to the unconscious boy.  He turned to run only to crash into the chest of someone.

He cried out as a young man tugged him up by the front of his robe, lifting him off the ground.  The most terrifying feature about him was their giant, fan-shaped steel-gray wings with sharp blades at each tip behind his back. 

“You know you don’t belong on this side of the mountain.” The winged man growled unfolding his wings, “State your business.”

The ogre hyperventilated seeing the frightening wingspan and hearing the blade-tipped feathers menacingly clinking together.  He pointed a shaky finger at the downed boy. “I--I’ve come to retrieve that boy,” he spoke in a shaky voice. “You see, h--he stowed away in my carriage and--”

The wings behind the person curled his wings so the blades closed in on the ogre.  “Well too bad. Anything of yours, thing or person, that falls on this side of the Sorina Mountains is ours,” The man snarled.

The ogre yelled, “You can’t do that! Our laws-”

“We don’t follow your laws! Now you got two options, either get the hell out of here or I could slice your ugly ass up into tidbits!” The human shook him so hard that the ogre’s teeth clicked together.  The ogre swore he could feel the sharp feathers tearing into his clothes and into his flesh.

“Okay, okay! He’s yours! I won’t report it! Please just let me go!” The ogre pleaded.

The human sneered.  The ogre felt his soul wrench from his cold glare.  With one arm, the man flung the ogre back and threw him at the mountain wall.  The ogre crashed into the rock wall with tremendous force, leaving an impressive, cracked dent.  He crawled a little before getting to his feet and running into the cave, blubbering loudly and holding his lower back.

“Well, someone’s pissed.” The young woman standing by Tommy said.

The first man joined her and the second standing next to her. “I’ve been wanting to get that out of my system for awhile,” He folded his wings against his back as he looked down at the boy, “Where’d this kid come from?”

The second boy, a bit shorter than the first, held Tommy up and shook him lightly, “Êtes-vous d'accord, petit garçon?” He pressed two fingers on the little boy’s neck, “He is alive but scarcely.”

“Wait a second.” The first man knelt down to get a closer look, “Either this is a konaki-jiji in a real deep sleep or this kid’s from the mines!”

The girl replied, “With all the security and the danger between here and the mountain?  That’d be impossible.”

“You heard the fat fuck, he got a free ride in his carriage,” he reminded her. “How he got out the mines, I dunno.”

The smaller man said, “If you wonder any longer, this little boy and all of us will freeze to death.  Let us back.”

The taller male scooped Tommy into his arms.  The girl and smaller male grabbed at something under their shirts and their own wings simultaneously materialized onto their backs.   All it took was one jump to send them shooting into the sky, flying at an incredible speed, soaring their way toward a large castle hidden behind a mountain in the distance.

All characters are © Rai Pager.

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