The Royal Committee of Time Travellers Newsletter #158
“Because we have all the time in the world.”
Hello, and welcome to another exciting edition of the newsletter.
Lots have gone on since we last wrote; we busted more paradoxes, unlocked new and exciting time periods, and saw new members enter the fold. Please welcome Juliet, the newborn daughter of Dr. Walker, into our community. You can congratulate her via her email, or travel back to time bookmark #17683 to arrive just after Juliet was born.
As usual, we’ve filled these pages with news, community inputs, and funny gags. Enjoy!
~Gerald, Head of RCTT
We’re excited to mention that we managed to pinpoint the exact moment and location of Julius Caesar’s assassination. All travellers who wish to see it in person can do so using time bookmark #17882. For the sakes of keeping time disturbances at a low, please do not walk too far away from the pillar you’ll find yourself standing behind. This is the best hiding spot we could find, and you can see all the action by peering around it. Togas not needed.
~Cathy, Chief Event Hunter
Can whoever it is that is trying to change the etymology of the word ‘father’ to ‘farter’ please stop. We’ve seen the parallel world that arises when this occurs. It’s not funny there, either.
~Paul, Time Regulator
Jacob — managed to track down where your parents went after they left you home alone as a kid on January 4th, 1978. I bookmarked it at #18932, but you may not want to see it. I’ll just say this; drinking and driving is a b***h (no swearing, please! – editor). Never do it, folks. Stay safe and smart.
~Alexander, Event Hunter
Be careful when bringing back pristine, mint-condition artifacts for museums to have. They’re starting to get suspicious. They’re validating the artifacts as authentic, but now they’re wondering how we managed to get our hands on several perfect quality Egyptian treasures. Please keep it on the low. If the historians discover our sheltered community, they’ll siege our walls until we give up our technology. Just say you found it in an air-tight chest you dug up on a farm or something, I don’t know.
~Patricia, Time Regulator
We regretfully and shamefully have to announce that we have had to put Adolf Hitler on the list of highly protected historical figures.
I was very lenient and patient with you all, and I explained countless times the dangers of trying to subvert World War II. Despite this, I’m still getting reports from our time regulators of avid time tourists still trying to make themselves a hero by nipping the source at the bud.
Due to Adolf Hitler’s elevated protection status, all standard-level time travellers, including event hunters, may not approach within 5 miles of Adolf Hitler or any of his ancestors at any time period. Anyone caught violating this rule will be taken immediately for brainwashing and expulsion from the Royal Committee of Time Travellers.
I’ve had to take away the memories of many a good person because they didn’t believe the rules applied to them. I don’t want to have to do it to any one of you.
~Gerald, Head of RCTT
Go to time bookmark #18772. Look for me in the chair making the sweet-ass shot from across the office into the wastebin. It’s okay to come out and congratulate me for the based god that I am. I knew at the time that I’d boast about it here. Peace.
~Marc, Time Tourist
Q: Why was World War 1 so quick?
A: Because they were Russian.
Q: Why was World War 2 so slow?
A: Because they were Stalin.
~Caroline, Time Regulator
Question: can anyone give me relationship advice on marrying a non-traveller? I have no idea how I’m going to break it to my fiance that I take photographs of dinosaurs as a hobby. He’d probably have me locked up in an asylum. If I keep it a strict secret, what do I tell him when I want to do some travelling? Anyone got a solid alibi?
~Anna, Time Tourist
In reply to Daniel’s question in the last newsletter: I found where you left your keys. You left them at the bar after you staggered home for the night. The bartender found them and placed them in safe storage. I’m sure if you turned up and asked for them, you’ll get them back. Small hint from a friend to a friend: don’t try to belt out ‘It’s Raining Men’ while smashed out of your face at two in the morning. Honestly, it sounded as if you thought you could sing it well, but you really couldn’t.
~Courtney, Event Hunter
Please do not travel back into 15th Century Spain in order to burst into random houses and yell ‘Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition’. While incredibly funny, it is, in fact, a disturbance in time. While there is no formal punishment for such a light prank, I cannot say the same for the time regulators that have to fix the disturbance. If you find that some of your old family photos have been photobombed by a member of the time regulators, you’ll know you pissed at least one of them off.
~Gerald, Head of RCTT
You were the beautiful paradox engineer that helped me solve the twist in time I created after I tried to kill my own grandfather to see what would happen. At the time, I was really scared and didn’t think much about it, but after serving my time in confinement learning about the dangers of paradoxes, I realised how gorgeous you were. Blonde hair, green eyes, red dress, told me that I was a ‘buffoon’ and an ‘imbecile’ and that I ‘had a death wish’. Didn’t catch your name. If you want, we can hook up for coffee. Contact me via email. Tell me the name of my grandfather that you saved, so I know it’s really you.
HMU, I think we could really make something work out.
~George, Time Tourist
Nobody in the group would deny that the Freak Show was one of the best shows they had ever seen. They had already seen such amazing specimens, such as the man with no legs, the woman whose half of her body was rotting from some unknown disease, and the deformed monster who didn’t understand English. The previously-amazing freaks just made the much-advertised, much-hyped ‘Freak of the Century’ even more exciting. The whole group muttered to one another about how bad this freak could be.
“And now!” the showmaster said, stopping the group in front of a cage covered with a cloth. “The freakiest freak of them all! The queen of hideousness! The lady of all that is horrid! I show you…Brittany!”
Brittany, as she believed, wasn’t a freak. In fact, she looked relatively normal in her own time period. The problem, however, with a punk rocker girl being thrown approximately two-hundred years into the past was that you absolutely, definitely were mistaken for a freak. She wasn’t happy with this. She made this apparent with a deadly glare at the crowd from her corner of the cell.
“Heavens!” someone in the crowd said.
“What a freak! What an honest-to-God freak!”
“Ladies and gentlemen!” the tour guide called, causing the babbling group to quiet down. “I present to you a human from far-away lands, whose culture is barbaric and brutal. See before your very eyes this amazing specimen, kept safe behind bars. See how strange and coloured her hair is!”
“It’s called a mohawk,” Brittany spat. “It’s fashionable where I’m from.”
“Do you hear that? A ‘mow-hawk’, they call it. I don’t know about you, but it looks nothing like a hawk to me!”
The group tittered and guffawed.
“Witness and marvel at the strange metal that goes through her nose!”
“That’s a piercing,” Brittany added.
“Stare and gaze at the weird tribal paintings etched into her skin!”
“It’s a tattoo.” Brittany rolled up her sleeve to show it. “It’s of a skull with blood coming out of every orifice. Cost me a lot, you know.”
“Who knows what kind of strange and barbaric languages this creature can speak in? Who knows what kind of crude and offensive activities this savage partakes in?”
Brittany let them know with a rude hand gesture. The crowd gasped. One nearly fainted.
“Never fear!” the guide reassured. “Don’t be alarmed. As long as she is behind the bars, she cannot perform any harm to you. She is probably from a cannibalistic race from far away, and can’t be trusted with anything less than containment.”
“What if she knows magic?” a crowd member hesitantly asked.
“What if she knows voodoo magic?” added another, with worry in their voice.
“I assure you that such uncultured tribes know nothing of such thing, don’t you worry. I assure each and every one of you that this dim-witted cretin knows not of magics, or of curses, or even of the Devil himself.”
“The Devil?” Brittany said, perking up. “Yeah, I know of stuff like that. Love that kind of thing.”
The tour guide gave her a worried glance. Brittany smirked.
“Uhm,” the guide managed, as the crowd began to back off. “Don’t be alarmed! She knows not of what she speaks of. Don’t be fooled, as she simply wants to spread the seeds of fear in our hearts. Such is the dastardly tactics of those who are foreign to our–”
A horrible male yell came from within Brittany’s cage. She had obviously gotten bored of being a crowd’s plaything, as she was now blasting heavy metal through her phone’s speakers, smirking as she did.
“Good heavens!” a crowd member said. “She channels the power of Hell itself!”
“Guards! Guards!” another yelled. “A witch! There’s a witch in here!”
The crowd, including the tour guide, suddenly split and ran from the ‘attraction’. Brittany may have bought her way out of the cage, but she might have to fight for it. Still, she managed to punch out three policemen in a bar and still got away with it, so maybe she wasn’t in such dire straits after all.
Jacob had never thought of himself as a ranger, especially not in the mountains. After the botched heist in the nearby city of Helmsbrad, however, the guards were on the hunt for him across the land. For Jacob, the mountains were the only place he could go.
Of course, he could take the lives of humans easy, but deer and rams were not so easily snuck-up upon. The only prey he could find that he could actually catch and eat were fruit and berries.
That’s why, when the lingering smell of a cooking stew caught his nose, he threw caution to the wind and immediately gave chase to whatever the source was, regardless to the fact that stew isn’t a native mountain species. The chase led him across jagged rocks, past a mountain river, tumbling down a sudden unexpected drop, and landing in the vicinity of two ogres.
They were ugly. Ogres were never not ugly. With a singular eye that took up the majority of their head, leaving very little room for their mouths and causing their noses to simply be two holes in their face, they didn’t win in diplomacy. At thirty feet tall and the strength of a stampede, they didn’t need it.
Given the hungry eyes (one each) they had as they stood from their stewing pot, it didn’t look like they were keen to try it any time soon, either.
“Oh, lookee!” one of them chirped happily. “More grubs falling from the sky. Likes it when they do that. Saves on huntings.”
“Spindly,” the other one noted. “Maybe a bit stringy. Still, is good meats. We can bung in pot, eats for supper, ‘long with all the goats and stuff.”
“I assure you, attacking me would be a mistake,” Jacob hissed. Of course, he knew attacking him would be the utmost best thing the ogres could do, as all he had to fight them was a dagger the size of a small twig. It would give an ogre a splinter at most. Still, he felt he had to start somewhere.
“Me’s not so sure,” an ogre said. “Eat bears bigger than you.”
“And eat their gubbins,” the other said. “All the gubbins. Put it in pot. Doesn’t matter what. Some gubbins more tastiest than the other bits though.”
“Like the heart. And the eyes. Eyes go bang on teeth. Like little bombs.”
“Juicy, gooey, tasty bombs. Think I’ll like havings this man’s eyes. And his feets.”
“Yes! And I’ll make sausages out of his fingers, and gnaw on his arms, and bite on his brain. And then, when I’m done, I’ll eats his heart. Always the best bit.”
“And I’ll have both of his legs, all to meself. Then I’ll nibble on his tongue and chew on his ears then feast on his guts ’til he’s gone. Then when he’s all nearly gone, I’ll take out his heart and roast it good. Heart’s me favourite bit.”
The ogres were now creeping toward Jacob with hungry looks in their individual eyes. Jacob backed toward the cliff wall he had just stumbled down, unsure if he would outrun such giant beasts. Yet, all that he could think about was all the nasty stuff they just said about what they’d do to him. His eyes, his arms, his heart…
Wait a minute. His heart?
“I only have one,” he said.
Both ogres paused. “What?” they said in unison.
“I said, I only have one heart. You both said it was your favourite bit. But I only have one.”
The ogres took an awkwardly long time to mull over what the problem was, exactly. Jacob knew when it clicked, however, because suddenly the pair of them glared at each other with intense fury. “Oi!” one of them yelled, raising fists into a fighting stance. “You said you’s gonna nick the best parts?”
“Me?!” the other said, with matching fists. “I saids I’ll have it first!”
“Well I’s the smarter one, so I have it?”
“Yeah? Wanna know what I think of your ‘smarts’?”
“What of it?”
Jacob knew the moment he heard fist against chin that it was now or never. Dashing past the flurry of punching and kicking ogres, he ran until he was fully sure they would never find him again.
It wasn’t until the next day when the guards of the nearby city came across the pot while scouting the mountainside for Jacob. They never found him, but they did find two bruised and bloody ogres, both of which lay dead on the floor. At that point, they agreed that anyone that could take out two ogres and live was probably not worth chasing after and gave it up. Nobody blamed them, either.
Stuart was, as far as he was concerned, having a wonderful day.
Everyone else at the hero academy always called him names. ‘Stupid Stu’ was always their favourite one. It definitely got to him at the time, but hearing more and more reports of his hero academy bullies being slain by evil dictators, wizards, and demons, he felt he was the most intelligent simply through outliving everyone else. Even if Stuart’s enemies did call him ‘cute’ or ‘pathetic’ or ‘too idiotic to kill’.
But he was the one laughing now. In fact, he was laughing now, swinging his newly-acquired sword back and forth as he walked the forest path. The sword was entirely jet-black, apart from its hilt, which was blood-red and shaped like bat wings. The sword rippled the air with a black mist as Stuart swung it side to side.
A demonic face on the upper part of the hilt grimaced. “Please stop that, I feel sick.”
Stuart beamed happily at the demonic face. “Well, I have to practice for when I go on my many adventures. Do you know what those many adventures will contain?”
“Please, educate me. I’m so keen to know.”
“Adventure!” Stuart boasted. “And lots of evil slaying. Yes, you and I are going to be the best heroes this land has ever seen! I’ll get lots of ladies, and you’ll get lots of…lady swords. Are there lady swords?”
“I have no idea.”
“Well, if there are, you’ll get them!”
“Very nice. Say, while we’re discussing who we are, do you mind if I tell you what I am, exactly?”
“Sure!” Stuart beamed. “I love introductions.”
“That’s good, for I am Bloodbane, and I was forged in the deepest pits of hell to terrorise the puny mortals above. I have corrupted many a mind before you; all those who holt my hilt are driven to insanity, bloodlust, and murder.”
Stuart blinked. “I don’t feel much different.”
“Yes, that’s because you were too stupid for me to take over.”
“Hurray! Stuart saves the day again!”
“But it’s not too late, you know. Just because the clay is unmolded, doesn’t mean it always has to be that way. My effects can be used even if I don’t control your puny mind. You could hold me aloft and cry ‘Alomadora’ and a bolt of undeath will strike all in front of you, killing them instantly. Do you not want that sort of power?”
“Do you also know what you can do? Slice bad guys in half. And, if you ask me, that’s a very important feature of a sword.”
“Untold power can be yours!”
“Sure, but I bet you’d make a fuss about me using it for evil and all that nonsense. But you still cut well! That’s a plus!”
“Yes, but if you’d only listen, I can make you–”
A bush by the path rustled. A man, with a cruel face and knife in hand, jumped out of it, pointing his blade at Stuart. “A’right,” the robber said. “Think I’ve ‘eard enough. Your little trinket there sounds jus’ what I’m needin’, so I’m gonna be wantin’ you to hand it over or I’ll open up your neck.”
“Yes!” the sword exclaimed in happiness. It shot forward on its own, desperate to escape Stuart’s grasp and give itself to its new master. “Take me! I’m your sword now! Wield me!”
“No!” Stuart said, pulling back as if he was trying to control a kite in strong winds. “”Bad sword! Bad, naughty sword! No running away!”
“Do it! Take me! I’ll give you untold power! Summoning beasts from the realms of nightmare! Pain and anguish to all your enemies! Just take me already!”
A smirk crept up on the robber’s face as he cautiously approached. “Looks like your own sword isn’t happy with ya,” he said. “Sorry, mate.”
“No! He’s a very good sword and he’s going to help me defeat evil! He just needs to learn how to behave and be swung when he’s told to! I’m sure there’s obedience classes for this sort of thing!”
“You cannot tame me!” the sword spat. “I will not let you swing me! Let me go!”
“Oh, wait a minute. I don’t even need to swing you, do I? What was that word you said that can ‘strike all in front of me’?”
“No!” the sword cried. “Don’t you dare!”
“Oh, yeah! I think I remember the word you said!”
“You’ll regret this!”
“Alomadora!” Stuart cried out.
A black bolt of lightning shot out of the sword, striking the robber in the chest and blasting him backward, his clothes catching on fire instantly. The sound of the air cracking and the robbers yelp drowned out the sword as it cried out in dismay.
Stuart stared into the distance for a while, as if processing what had just happened. Once he had gotten over that, he said, “cor! That was excellent. You’re right, you’re definitely a very lovely sword. I’ll be smiting so much evil with you.”
“But I don’t want to smite evil!” the sword cried, sounding on the brink of tears. “I want to earn havok!”
“Well, with an attitude like that, the only thing you’re earning is twenty minutes in the naughty sheath.”
“No! Not the sheath! It smells like–”
The rest of the sword’s words were muffled as Stuart slid the cursed sword into a sheath on his waist. He continued down the path, smiling and humming as he went. Yes, this was going to be a fine sword indeed.
Inspired by this prompt.
Hannah had been told never to open the door to strangers when she was home alone. She always harboured the desire to, though. The grown-ups always got to talk to the interesting people. The postman with the mail. The window cleaner with his toothy grin and charm. Sometimes even an old friend Hannah’s parents hadn’t seen in years. So, when the doorbell rang and Hannah was alone, she went to open it anyway. It might even be the babysitter. She loved the babysitter.
When she opened the door, she at least expected someone she recognised. Instead, the visitor was a man in a clean black and white suit, sunglasses that hid his eyes, and a haircut close to his scalp. In one ear was an earpiece which, on occasion, Hannah could hear a voice talking from, but could never make out what it was saying. Under the man’s right arm was a teddy bear.
As soon as Hannah opened the door, the man gave her a steeled look. “Is this 45 Chancellor’s Street?” he said, in a consistently deadpan tone.
Hannah nodded sheepishly,
“I take it you must be Hannah.” The man took the bear from under his arm and held it out to her. “Good afternoon. I am your Wish Granter for today. This is yours.”
Hannah took the bear. While it was very nice, and she was sure she would love it if it was hers, she had never seen the bear in her life. “This isn’t mine,” she said.
“Management granted this bear to be yours early this morning. All the paperwork has been filed. It is yours now. Please enjoy it. Good day.”
Then the suited man turned and left.
“Wait!” the girl called out, causing the man to pause. “Why are you giving this to me?”
The man turned back toward Hannah, drew a piece of paper from a chest pocket, and unfolded it. “On Thursday 23rd at approximately 11:23 at night,” he read out loud, “Wishing Star #34 logged a wish from this address under the name of ‘Hannah Ruderman’ as it passed by this area. The wish stated, very clearly, for one teddy bear. We processed this wish through management, and the Wishgiver deemed the wish valid and filed the paperwork to have it granted.”
Hannah looked down at her bear again. Now that she knew why it was here, it felt a little more magical than just having been given it by a man in a suit. “So if you make a wish on a shooting star, they come true?”
“Only wishes directed at Wishing Stars owned by Hope Cooperation facilities are logged. We cannot guarantee the logging of any wishes directed toward a competitor product, or an actual shooting star. All wishes are processed through management and the Wishgiver for practicality. We cannot guarantee the fulfillment of every wish. By accepting your wish, you accept that the wish was as you asked, and that your right to a refund from Hope Cooperation is now void. Please enjoy your wish.”
The man turned and left again.
“Wait!” the girl called out. “Can I have a pony?”
“What about my own castle?”
“Please enjoy your bear, ma’am.”
As the man walked down the path, a black limo with tinted windows pulled up to the house. More men in black suits climbed out of it, opening the door for Hannah’s Wish Granter.
“How did it go?” one of the other men said.
“Wish was successfully granted. Take me back to HQ ASAP. We need to figure out the logistics of getting Batman to our next client before time runs out.”
The men climbed into the limo and drove off.
Hannah looked back down at her bear. She didn’t realise it before, but it came with a small tag on its side that read ‘Created with love and care at HOPE COOPERATION WISH FACTORY #3. MAY CONTAIN NUTS’.
Hannah gave it a hug. Maybe wishes really do come true, after all.
Inspired by this prompt.
As some of you may have noticed, there was no Flash Friday published on the 30th of December. This wasn’t because I was recovering from the Christmas festivities and preparing for the New Years ones (I wish!) but it was due to an internal issue I’m currently having with my fiction. Previously when I had these, I just sucked it up and kept writing Flash Friday, but this is a large enough shift in change that I can’t just cover it up and keep going as if nothing is happening.
To begin with, I’ll explain what, exactly, is ‘going wrong’ with my current Flash Friday plan:
- The Flash Friday community is on the decline. I’ve seen writers comment about it, and the owner mention it, and I can see it reflected on my view counts. 2016 was the first year where I failed to pull more views than the previous year. Instead, it garnered very similar views to 2014, leaving 2015 still my best year for reads.
- I’m noticing an internal shift in the way I think up and write stories. When I was just starting out, I was content writing silly stories; parodies, little anecdotes, and observations. I’m beginning to notice, however, that my mindset for writing stores has shifted away from ‘a cute funny idea’ to ‘stories with weight and intrigue to them’. The problem was that I had so many loyal readers who genuinely liked my sillier stories that I felt scared to adapt to my new way of writing stories.
When I first saw that the Flash Friday community was on the decline, I initially felt pretty bad about it; I’m sure anyone else in my position would do, too. But I’ve come to realise that this is a ‘one door closes, another door opens’ situation.
I used to be worried about experimenting with my style, in case I alienated those who liked my silly stories. But now, those people aren’t reading my stories anymore. While definitely saddening to see some great readers and commenters go, it also means that I can start again from square one and turn over a new leaf. I can get rid of the expectation that I’m ‘that writer who writes cute silly stories’ and can now sink my teeth into making stronger, more engaging, more ‘serious’ stories.
So, here’s what to expect from my 2017 Flash Fridays:
- I’m going to be looking for another way to put out Flash Friday. This may be simply linking the stories to more social feeds to get more attention. This may mean reposting the stories on a website where people can read and comment on stories. The idea is, I want to spread my wings farther than just the Flash Friday group.
- The stories will shift away from silly anecdotes and will mostly try to develop really awesome characters, settings, and situations. Ideally, I want to make Flash Friday feel like a snapshot of something larger, rather than a one-off throwaway funny idea.
- The humour will stay! It may be more muted than in past stories, but it’s definitely staying. I’m not jumping into the deep end and writing hard science fiction or grim detective stories. Humour is 80% of why I write stories, and it’s sticking around. Despite this, while my previous stories consisted of thinking of a funny story idea and writing it, my new method will have me thinking of a really interesting story idea and allowing the humour to ‘leak through’ naturally in my writing.
- The stories will maintain an element of imagination about them. This means lots and lots of fantasy and sci-fi, and if the story takes place in the current day, you can be sure there will be vampires, aliens, and wizards about. I love these sort of fantastical elements to stories, and killing it off in my own stories will be near suicidal.
The truth is, this change isn’t something where I woke up this morning and thought “everything must go”. If you look at my past Flash Fridays, you can see stories where this sort of mindset had a ‘breakthrough’ and manifested as a Flash Friday before going back to the more whimsical ideas. I’ve been scared of making the jump to this new style, but given how the audience has dwindled and people aren’t reading my stories as much anymore, who is there to be afraid of?
If you’re interested, here’s a list of past Flash Fridays which, I believe, embody the new style I’m aiming for. You can see by the publication dates that this style has been around for a long time, and just needed an excuse to break out.
Past stories that definitely capture the style I’m adapting towards:
Flash Friday 17/01/2014: Creature Comforts (a really old one, but I still love it!)
Past stories that are similar or very close to the style I’m adapting towards:
If you’re saddened by this change, I’m very sorry. Unfortunately, for the sakes of wanting to continue writing fiction, I need to make these cuts so I can better write what I want to write, and not what I think others expect me to write.
If you’re indifferent (or even excited!) for this change, then I’ll see you later in 2017 with this new style. I’m not sure how long it’ll take for me to jump back on the Flash Friday bandwagon — perhaps weeks, perhaps months, perhaps it’ll be back to normal this coming Friday — but I definitely won’t be giving up.
Thanks for reading, and happy new year.
“Once you hit rock bottom, that’s where you perfectly stand; That’s your chance of restarting, but restarting the right way.”
― Justin Kanayurak
Ever since the now-charred and blackened town of Eastshire fell to the might dragon Galrosh, nobody had set foot within its borders. Deep within Eastfall’s cathedral, resting under half a roof, Galrosh rested upon his hoard of spoils, collected from centuries of people who fell to his black scaled wrath.
He was usually alone. Today, however, he wasn’t.
A young boy by the name of Toby had stumbled upon the ruins of Eastfall looking for shelter. At first sight of the huge black dragon, he almost turned and fled, but Galrosh took pity and told him that if he wanted Toby dead, he would have done it long ago. With not much else providing for him elsewhere, Toby cautiously stepped into the main cathedral as Galrosh flew through a large hole in the ruined ceiling.
“So, then,” Galrosh spoke. His voice was smooth like honey, yet had an aura of poison about it. Galrosh settled himself down on his golden, glittering hoard in front of a large stained glass window at the back of the cathedral. “Just a quick rule; please don’t touch the hoard unless I tell you that you may. Dragon’s nature to keep everything as it should be, you see.”
Toby nodded meekly. “I won’t.”
“Excellent. Then we won’t have any problems. If you’d like to find somewhere within the ruins of Eastshire that you’d like to stay in, be my guest. I do admit, however, that I did quite the number to this place, but I’m sure there’s some house or barn I left unscathed. Why don’t you go along and explore it, hm? I’ll be right here.”
The boy didn’t move. He simply stood there, looking meek.
“What’s wrong?” Galrosh said. “Something the matter?”
“I think I’ve heard of you,” Toby said. “You’re Galrosh the Black, aren’t you?”
Galrosh nodded slowly.
“I’ve heard stories about you. They say you murder all you come across and feast on their bones.”
Galrosh snorted. “Yes, of course they would. Humans typically do. They seek nothing but to spread rumour of our behaviours and send more knights and adventurers after us.”
“But why did you take me in?”
“It’s almost Christmas. Nobody should be alone for Christmas.”
“Even though I’m a human?”
“You don’t look to be hunting either my gold or my head, so yes, even you. How did you come about to be homeless, anyway? Did something happen to your family?”
The child looked to the floor. “Orcs.”
Galrosh snorted. “Horrible beings. Us black dragons may be reputed for being evil, but at least we don’t murder people for no reason. What colour was their face-paint?”
“Ah. Bloodthirst Clan. Very well. Hopefully they still line their hut roofs with that flammable tar they love so much. But where are my manners? It’s almost Christmas, and you haven’t got any gifts to celebrate it. Stay still.”
Galrosh rose from his hoard and began digging through it with a claw, sending expensive goblets, giant gems, and jewel-encrusted weaponry tumbling down its sides. Eventually, he plucked out a dark swirling orb between two claws and dropped it into the cupped hands of Toby.
“This,” Galrosh hissed, “was the Orb of Slaughter I took from the corpse of a shadow thief who tried to take from my hoard. I suppose he thought it would work on me, but we can both see how that ended.
“Simply envision a being in your mind while holding this orb and it will tell you all of their weaknesses. Their injuries. Their flaws. Their insecurities. With this orb, you can become very powerful, Toby. You can kill anyone who stands in your way and become a feared man, indeed. After the world took everything you hold dear, why not pay it back for its treachery? So? Won’t you take it? Won’t you become powerful?”
Toby turned the orb over in his hands, peering into the black mist that spiralled around in the orb. Looking back up at Galrosh, he said, “it sounds lovely, mister, but what I really wanted for Christmas was a hobby horse.”
“There are no hobby horses in my hoard.”
“Oh.” Toby’s face fell. He went back to peering at the orb, this time more halfheartedly. “Maybe next year, then.”
The pair shared a small silence as Toby continued to look sorry for himself.
“Oh, alright,” Galrosh said against his own will. “The next time I find myself razing a town, I’ll keep an eye out for one. But you have to be good and not get into any trouble, okay? And I want the orb back.”
Toby held it out for Galrosh to take. “Will there be a Christmas feast?”
“Oh, yes, I suppose you humans have those, too. What do you prefer; chicken, beef, or pork?”
“I like beef, myself.”
“Excellent. Cow farmers are pretty bad at keeping an eye on their livestock. I shall be back with food, and perhaps a hobby horse should a town be stupid enough to attack me. While I’m gone, please, please don’t touch my hoard. I will know, and I will get angry, and I will have to exact justice. Understood?”
“Excellent.” Galrosh began to clamour up the side of the cathedral walls toward the hole in the ceiling. “You go ahead and scout out the town for somewhere you’d like to stay. Should you need to, you’re always welcome to stay here in the cathedral, but I have a tendency to sometimes spit fire in my sleep. Find somewhere you can truly call your own without having to share cot with a dragon. Oh,” Galrosh said, with a toothy smile that was both heartwarming and sinister at the same time. “And Merry Christmas.”
Then, with a thunderous boom of his wings, Galrosh took off through the hole and into the sky.
Toby slowly turned and shuffled his way toward the cathedral entrance. Perhaps the Eastshire school had some toys that managed to survive the attack.
Deep under the city, hidden within the sewer systems, in a room so far abandoned that perhaps the people who ordered it to be build have long since died, a demon stirred.
He was not alone. Cultists scurried around in front of his throne adorned with bones and skulls. He drummed his fingers on an armrest (with a skull on the end, which made a particularly nice sound when fingers were drummed on it) as he waited for news to arrive.
Finally, a man holding a large tome and donned in a hooded red robe covering everything bar his mouth stepped forward. “Lord Ala’khan, We have confirmation from the other countries,” he said in a grave voice, despite the news being good. He never really said anything in a positive tone; he could have won the lottery and still announced it as if it were his own funeral. “They are ready for you to give the order to gather the ritual reagents.”
“Perfect,” Ala’khan said, his deep voice rattling the room. “Give the order to start collecting immediately. I’ve consulted the seers and the witch doctors, and they speak of a ritual that consists of a fresh virgin sacrifice, the blood of ten innocents, and the flayed skin of a criminal.
“Have each group gather these materials by themselves, and report back when they are finished. Meanwhile, check the Forbidden Tome for the Ritual of the Dark Sisters. Make sure you know it well, for any hesitation during its casting will prove catastrophic for you. I have sent the summons for Lady Alrein to arrive as soon as possible to aid you in your studies.”
“Very well. I shall begin right away.”
Then the cultist opened the book to the correct page and began studying.
Ala’khan began drumming his fingers on the skull again. He looked around the room and gave a relaxed sigh.
“But you know,” the demon said in a much more relaxed tone than before. “I think if we had some of those top-quality cursed sacrificial knives, it’d be a lot better.”
The cultist nodded as he read. “I agree. It would be very nice.”
Ala’khan drummed his fingers again. The cultist turned a page.
“But they’re really rare, you know,” the demon continued. “You need to find something cursed by a very powerful cultist, and those guys never stay under the radar for long before they’re found and killed. Sometimes a cursed sacrificial knife is the last thing they ever make. Sort of like a swan song, really.”
Another nod from the cultist. “Yes, they certainly sound very rare. I haven’t heard of one ’til now.”
Ala’khan tapped his index fingers together. One of the cultists in the room coughed.
“You know,” Ala’khan said, “if you managed to get me some of those, I will most certainly be really pleased.”
“You’re not saying this because Christmas is around the corner, are you?”
“Oh, no, no! Not at all, just an observation.”
The cultist turned the page and continued reading.
“You know,” the demon mused. “If we had a Christmas tree up somewhere in here, it’d contrast the dull greys. Especially with baubles.”
The cultist sighed. “I knew it.”
“There’s absolutely nothing wrong with getting into the Christmas spirit.”
“Christmas is a Christian tradition. It’s not really suiting for people like us.”
“But you don’t have to be good to enjoy gifts, right? I mean, right? So why don’t we get a tree down here and celebrate some good times?”
“We don’t have any room for a tree. We’re already filled up the room when we acquired the portal to the Nether Realms, the sacrificial table, the altar to The Foul Ones That Skulk, and the slaves chained to the wall.”
“Oh, let the slaves free. It’s Christmas after all! That should give us room for a nice big tree, and some presents under it, and–ooh! Do you think we could fit a table and have a Christmas feast, too?”
“I would like to remind you that you are Ala’khan, the Bloodletter and the Destroyer of Minds. Evil demonic overlords such as yourself don’t really fit in a santa suit.”
“Oh, come off it. I don’t want anything big. It’s not like I’m trying to get you guys to do a nativity play. Just a little bit of cheer and thanksgiving over this holiday period, that’s all. And some reindeer. And maybe some Christmas lights, too. Oh, and we can turn the altar into a grotto, and we can have–”
“I’m sorry?” came a female voice beside Ala’khan.
Ala’khan almost jumped out of his demonic skin. A female figure surrounded in an impenetrable pitch-black aura and piercing white eyes was standing beside his throne.”Oh, y-you arrived, Lady Alrein. I didn’t hear you.”
“Perhaps not, but I certainly heard you talking about performing some particularly un-evil and wholesome activities without proper consent of the higher ups.”
Ala’khan began wringing his hands together. “Sorry.”
“I warn you that if I catch you doing this again, I’ll have no other choice but to report you to our overlords and have you appropriately punished. Do not have these thoughts again.”
“Yes, sorry, sorry.”
Ala’khan sheepishly looked to the floor as Lady Alrein simply watched him, arms folded. After a small silence, Ala’khan spoke with a small voice; “But you have to admit, I think he’d look great as a Santa Claus,” referring to the cultist. “Just put a beard on him.”
Lady Alrein cast a steely gaze over the cultist, as if personally judging his abilities. After a slightly tense silence, she said “you know, if you change their robes to brown and give them all reindeer antler headbands and red noses, you might be on to something.”
The cultist sighed. This year’s Christmas was going to be, unfortunately, a merry one.
Packing Santa’s sleigh was definitely the most annoying part of the present packing. Reading the present list was fun. Making the toys was fun. Loading an entire planet’s worth of presents into a sleigh was anything but. Even so, the elves made short work of it, especially when the chief sleigh-packer elf Apple was slave-driving everyone to work as fast as they could. The reindeer stood ready in front of the sleight, awaiting the command to leave.
When the final present had been placed on the sleigh, the elves gave a collective sigh of relief.
“Alright!” Apple said, sounding much more invigorated given he didn’t lift a single present and simply bossed everyone else around. “That’s the last present, Santa. You’re good to go.”
From the seat in his sled, Santa gave a thumbs-up. “I knew I could count on you. We managed to load it up in record time, this year.”
“I know,” Apple said, folding his arms with a smug smile on his face. “And it was all due to my hard work and determination. You’re welcome, by the way.”
Every other elf simply glared.
“Yes, well. Thank you, everyone–”
“And you, Apple, for another successful Christmas delivery. And now, I ought to do my part. Tally ho, and Merry Christmas to you all!”
Santa flicked the reins of the sleigh to start the journey.
All of the reindeer fell over into the snow at once.
“What?” Santa said, looking over the sleigh at the prone reindeer. “What’s wrong with them?”
“Doesn’t look like anything’s wrong with them, per se,” Apple said, crouching down beside Prancer. Billows of steam came from Prancer’s nose as she panted and breathed, as if she had just run a marathon. “I think they’re just…getting old.”
“Old? Nonsense. Why, it feels like I met with these magical reindeer yesterday. How old are they now? Five? Ten?”
“Let’s see. If ‘Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer’ was composed when he was three, and that was recorded back in…” Apple stuck his hand into the pile of sleigh presents, unwrapped a smartphone, and entered a search term on it. “1939?! But that would make the reindeer at least seventy-seven years old!”
Santa shrugged. “I’m older than that, and I still feel in my prime.”
“The average life expectancy of a reindeer is fifteen!”
Santa looked over at his worn-out reindeer with mild concern. “Well, I mean,” he began. “They are magical and all, so it should be–”
“There’s no way you’re taking those poor things out for another flight.”
“I’m sure they’re as good as new–”
“Rudolphs nose used to glow like a miniature star! Now he’ll be lucky if it passes off as a night light!”
“But–” Santa began. All it took was another glance over at the reindeer for him to come to his senses. “No, you’re right. They’ve been dragging my sleight for over three-quarters of a century. I think it’s about time we let the reindeer take the rest they’ve earned.”
“So now what?” Apple said, as Santa got to untying the reindeer. “What are you going to do?”
“I fail to see what you mean.”
“What I mean is, this is the first year you’ve been without reindeer on delivery night. You can’t seriously expect to let Christmas go without presents, can you?”
“So you have replacements for the reindeer, then, I take it.”
Santa rubbed his forehead. “…no, not exactly, actually.”
“So you’re telling me you’ve been Santa for all this time, and yet you didn’t think of a single solution for if the reindeer go out of commission.”
“I suppose it never crossed my mind.”
“Well that’s just outrageous. Utterly unthinkable. I can’t believe the man behind Christmas itself is going to miss out on it because he didn’t prepare properly. Now all the kids around the world are going to be miserable, and it’s all your fault.”
Santa looked over his shoulder in mild surprise. “What’s gotten into you?”
“Oh, I don’t know, the fact that I’m working for a guy who clearly doesn’t know how to keep tabs of his own animals. If I weren’t here, you’d probably have worked them to death! Right now, you’re here with zero reindeers to drag your sleigh and only hours away until Christmas, and you have no plans whatsoever.”
“…no,” Santa said, with a smirk. “I just had one pop up just now. I just need a sprinkle of magic fairy dust to make someone fly.”
“Oh?” Apple said, reprimanding. “And who, pray-tell, are you going to sucker into pulling your sled for you?”
The air was silent around the sleepy town as Christmas Eve moved to Christmas day. Nobody was awake to listen out, but if someone were, they’d hear the sound of distant sleigh bells and a constant stream of muttering.
With a thud, the sleigh landed upon a snowy rooftop, causing snow to cascade off the edge. The sleigh came to a sliding halt before Santa stepped out, picking out a present from the sleigh.
“You know,” Santa said, “I could get used to this.”
“I couldn’t,” Apple said in between exhausted breaths, the reins tied around his waist and a red nose haphazardly strapped over his own. “You know, you could have conscripted more elves than just me to pull the sleigh.”
“You were the only one giving me sass.”
“You did deserve it.”
“And comments like that will only extend your shift,” Santa said, smirking as he passed Apple and began his climb down the chimney. “Now be a nice reindeer and sit still.”
“You know, I don’t think this would catch on as much as the reindeers did.”
“I don’t know, I think ‘Apple the Smart-Arsed Jerk Elf’ has a nice ring to it. Be back soon!”
Then Santa vanished down the chimney with a puff of soot.
Apple snarled to himself, folding his arms and waiting. Maybe they should just buy a jet fighter and forget the sleigh ever happened.
Agatha’s Home for Lonely Children wasn’t really a home, per-se. It was originally made to be a home for children of all different worlds and dimensions to stay, should they find themselves with nobody to turn to.
Agatha soon discovered, however, that no matter how magical their new world is, children eventually long to go back. Therefore, it became more of a shelter which lonely children can use whenever they like until they got their feet in life. They would take the time to gain friends and seek magical adventures before heading back to their own worlds, where they’d find that no time has passed since they’d left.
Every child had their own room that they could use as they see fit. Agatha had seen her fair share of lost souls and shy recluses, all of which eventually found their strength. One of the new girls, however, had Agatha completely stumped.
Agatha rapped on the door to Tracy’s room.
“Come in,” came the young voice from within.
Agatha pushed the door open with one hand, the other one holding a small food tray. Tracy was still hunched over her desk, the candle on her desk acting as the only light in the room, peering through her microscope at a magic wand. She was wearing a lab coat that was slightly too big for her.
“Here’s your dinner,” Agatha said, placing the tray on the table beside the microscope. “You know, the other children are asking about you, Tracy. They really miss you.”
“I see,” Tracy said, as if told an interesting piece of trivia. She reached for a pencil, her hand knocking against the side of the food tray. She gently pushed her dinner away, grabbed the pencil, then began to scribble notes on a piece of paper. “I’ll come to dinner one day, I promise.”
Agatha watched awkwardly as Tracy resumed peering through her microscope. “So, uhm,” Agatha said. “Are you feeling less lonely?”
Tracy nodded. “Lots of very good friends here.”
“Do you want to talk about what made you lonely to begin with?”
“I used to have a friend,” Tracy said. “I wasn’t always lonely.”
“Did something bad happen to your friend?”
“Not to her, really. Her cat passed away and she was really sad, because neither she nor her family really knew why.”
“That is sad, isn’t it?”
“Yeah, it is. That’s why I performed an autopsy and discovered it had a tumour on the cerebellum, which would explain why it looked dizzy sometimes.” Tracy sighed. “I thought my friend would appreciate the effort, but she didn’t want to be my friend after that.”
Agatha swallowed. “Well, let’s change the subject, shall we? Your dinner’s getting cold. Aren’t you hungry?”
Tracy looked up from the microscope, peering into the distance as if asked a tricky question. She nodded. “Yes, I don’t think I’ve eaten for a while. Thank you.”
Then Tracy looked through the microscope again, leaving the dinner be.
“What are you doing to the wand?” Agatha asked.
“I’m studying it to see how it was made and how it works. If I can figure out the mechanisms that drive this wand, I could make millions back home. This wand, the fact time stops back home while I’m here, the portal that takes me there and back…if I crack those, I can bring them back home. As a woman of science, I am blessed with this scenario, and I must make the best of it.”
“But Tracy, it’s all magic.”
“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic,” Tracy noted. “It has to have some sort of logic and method to it. When I crack it, I should therefore be able to reproduce it.”
“You know, the Elf Lord gave you that wand so you could–” Agatha began. She was interrupted by Tracy picking up a small hammer and striking the wand. Agatha flinched. “So you could learn how to utilise magic.”
“I did. It only produced flowers.”
“Yes, that’s the point. It’s supposed to be something nice and easy to lead you into the world of magic.”
“I don’t like it when things are easy,” Tracy said, adjusting the zoom. “I want the advanced stuff.”
“Well…perhaps the Elf Lord will allow you to use better wands when you next meet him.”
“No need. I’ve identified that this wand draws energy from its environment and passes it through a magically-enchanted band set to a specific variable, which defines the element of the spell. Technically, if you change this band, it will change the result that comes out of the end of the wand. All it needs is a tweak, and you’ll be able to set it to produce whatever you’d like. So that’s what I’m trying.”
“I’m sure the Elf Lord will give you all the answers to your questions when you next meet him. For now, how about putting the wand away and eating your dinner? It would be awful if you ended up breaking your wand and–”
In a fluid motion, Tracy stood from her chair, took the wand from under the microscope, and flicked it in the direction of a teddy bear sitting on her bed. The air filled with sparks as a bolt of lightning shot out of the wand and struck the bear in the head. The bear fell backward, a scorch mark left on its forehead which quickly smoldered into a fire.
A grin creeped up on Tracy’s face.
“I did it!” she boasted. “I managed to change the variable in the wand!”
“That was…very intelligent of you,” Agatha said, beating out the small flame with a pillow. “Can you please not do that again?”
“Sure!” Tracy beamed. “It’ll take me a little longer to figure out how to summon demons with it, anyway.”
“That’s…good to hear,” Agatha noted. Perhaps it wasn’t best to introduce the fairies to Tracy tomorrow. That, or make sure to confiscate Tracy’s scalpel first.