FWC "Troll the ancient yuletide carol" RESULTS

Started by Baron, 18 Dec 2021, 04:59

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Baron

What's with those lyrics of yore?  Why come they make some little sense?    ;)  Or maybe they do....  Are round yon virgins actually plump?  Do nautical explorers repeat the sounding joy?  If one were to ring a ling would water drip out?  Perhaps verily some of our authors might toil along the climbing way as we...

Troll the Ancient Yuletide Carol


Did you know that in Iceland Christmas trolls (above) eat naughty children??!?  Kinda puts the old lump o' coal to shame....

The theme in a roasting chestnut shell:  Reinterpret a seasonal song/story/trope, in a good or bad way as you see fit.  In a footnote after your story please include a 1-2 sentence indication of what you were trolling, as not all seasonal songs/stories/tropes are universally well-known.  The seasonal element that you remix could be as short as a line from a song or a poem, in which case just citing the lyric/line would suffice.  Tangents, expanded universes, and collateral damage are of course all welcomed and encouraged so long as they keep their hands to themselves under that infernal mistletoe.

Deadline:  I'm thinking we can try to have our stories in by Thursday December 30 to avoid any conflicts with the Gregorian calendar.  So, let nothing you dismay and may the rude wind's wild lament not refer to any of the works submitted herein.  ;)  Good luck!


Mandle

THE PLANS THAT WE'VE MADE

What a night to be alive and with my soon-to-be bride by my side.

I hold her close, to keep the cold from her as best I can without seeming too forward before we are properly made husband and wife.

I look down into her face, grinning up at me from where she snuggles under my arm.

"We are conspirators in league," I tell her and her grin grows wider although her brow draws tight and I realize she does not understand my flowery language, being the daughter of a rough man of the land, and not born into as lofty a family as I.

Despite her shortcomings in education, which I will take the greatest pleasure in rectifying, I just lean down and kiss her on her creased brow and say "I mean, we are eloping to be married without our parents' consent and that is the most romantic thing I can imagine that anyone in the entire world is doing right now."

Her brow smooths, contented by my words, and she snuggles in closer and says "James, the way you say such things. How do you..." but I cut her off with "Shush, shush, my gentle dove-wing. We are reaching the end of town and the tables are still laden with warm mead and fine edibles. We should take these bountiful fares to sup and dine upon on our way to the chapel of the Parson."

We open taps on kegs into our mugs and cut slices from hanks of warm steaming ham onto our plates as we leave the crowded streets of the lantern-lit town and head out onto the trail to the chapel.

As we nibble and sup on our gathered fare, the sounds of the winter festivities, and the chance of us being discovered by either of our families, grow dimmer behind us as we climb the white breast of the snowy crest of the hill between dark bulkheads of fir trees on either side. Above us, silhouetted against the brilliant swirl of the majesty of the Milky Way, I see the figure of Parson Brown at the very swell of the hill-top.

I wave to him with my free hand and he waves back with his thin elderly arm.

I feel my darling hesitate, her steps upward missing a beat, and she says "James, but where is the chapel? You said..." and I am forced to cut her off again with "Hush, my beautiful angel, I tried my best, but I couldn't arrange the chapel in time after how long it took me to make sure the Parson was ready. But we shall be married out here under God in this marvelous winter wonderland. The Milky Way itself shall be the soaring ceiling of our chapel, and our steps through the white virgin snow beneath us the train of your wedding gown."

She sighs and leans up, offering her lips to mine but I say "Save this kiss for after our vows are spoken. I see the Parson opening his book and we are almost there."

Parson Brown looks down on us with his deep, black eyes as he reads the familiar but fresh words from his book that will bind my love and I in holy wedlock.

But now, what is this?!

I feel a sharp pain slice through my chest and I fall to my knees in the snow.

I let go of my beloved and she falls and rolls a short way down the hill, coming to a stop with a concerned look of her face as I tumble, face-down into the deep drifted snow.

I struggle to lift my pained torso from the white, freezing shroud of the hill and, as the Parson drones on, I drag myself down to where my darling lays.

I hear the words "You are now man and wife." from what seems like far behind and above me as I reach her, my chest on fire with a pain so great that it should melt the snow around us, but does not.

"You may now kiss the bride," I hear and I bend my head to hers to do so.

My warm red lips touch her cold blue ones and I know that we are wed, destined to be together forever, as my vision fades and I know no more.

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Major Gregory Krizmov led the search party up into the mountain pass the following Spring, after the thaw allowed.

All those months ago, he had cautioned the two families not to attempt the pass so far into November, but they had been way too confident and optimistic after their unexpectedly easy crossing of the country from the east, to be talked into wintering in town.

As the Major and his troops approached the scene of their last camp-site, and saw the blackened ribs of the burnt wagons against the backdrop of the green fir-treed mountains towering behind them, he called back to his men "It is as I had feared. They never made it even close to the top of the pass before getting snowed in."

The grim investigation of the camp revealed some, but not all, of the gruesome details of the two families' last night in this world:

A campfire had been made, but the food in the wagons had never been cooked on it.

What remained of the bodies of the adults, mostly skeletal, showed that their heads had been split with the blade of an ax found discarded nearby. The smaller children had had their necks broken either before or after the adults had been killed, but two of them, the eldest boy from one family and the eldest daughter from the other, were missing.

The troops fanned out and it was not long before one of them grunted out "Sir, the girl is here..." before falling sick to the ground, retching up his luncheon rations.

The posse gathered around the body and saw that the poor girl, no older than her mid-teens, had several organs missing from her abdomen, and had had another ungodly mutilation performed upon her, most likely by the same ax that had ended the lives of her parents.

Following a faded trail of pink sun-bleached blood, and traces of jerky-like flesh chewed upon by what was assumed to be scavenging animals, up the hillock from the torched wagons, the search party came upon the almost mummified and bird-stripped body of the eldest boy.

In the bones and stringy tendons of his arms was cradled, in a disturbing parody of tenderness, the dried-out head of the eldest daughter, the sun-starched skin of her once youthful lips pulling back from her teeth in a horrible semblance of a grin.

It was concluded that it was not the weather that had caused the brutal end to the two families' westward journey after all.

Notations in the boy's journal showed his growing obsession with the daughter of the other family, and the steadfast rejection of his advances by her parents.

His journal had been found atop the hillock, a few meters up from where his body lay cradling its horrific treasure.

The mystery of the meaning of the hat, scarf, pieces of coal, and crossed sticks arranged around the journal was never solved, but the Major went on record as saying that he suspected they were the leavings of some unholy ritual that had been performed upon the site.

His request that the entire hilltop be drenched with holy water and blessed by men of the cloth was met within the month.

The remains of the families were interred back in town, except for those of the eldest boy, James, which were handed over to a local Indian tribe who, seeming to be in superstitious dread of them, insisted on disposing of the bones in accordance to their own religious rituals and shunned the mountain pass for countless generations to come.
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Footnote on the Christmas tradition:
Hide: ShowHide
I targeted the song "Walking In A Winter Wonderland" here, especially the verses:

In the meadow we can build a snowman.
Then pretend that he is Parson Brown.
He'll say: Are you married?
We'll say: No man.
But you can do the job,
when you're in town.

Later on,
We'll conspire.
As we dream by the fire,
To face unafraid,
The plans that we've made,
Walking in a winter wonderland.

Baron

Excellent, my good Mandle!  It's as if someone has distilled the pure essence of Christmas itself (from the juiced remains of those who tried to celebrate it)!   ;-D

Keep 'em coming, folks!

Stupot

Dear Y---,

  It has been a long time since our last interaction. I'm sure you can understand
  my reluctance to pursue contact considering how things were left between us.

  It is not that I do not think about you. In fact, it has become something of a
  game I play with myself to try not to think about you. The only rule is that
  whenever I hear your name, or see your photo in the newspaper, I lose the game.
  I play the game every day and have never won. In fact, as the holiday approaches
  it has become even harder to play, as I'm sure you will appreciate.

  That Christmas night, your iconic black mini-dress and beehive haircut against
  the white of the falling snow, I knew I was in love. Of course, I knew who you
  were, I just didn't believe it. No entourage, no paparazzi, just Y---, in all
  your beauty, collapsed, alone on a park bench in the dead of winter. I knew I
  had to help.

  We returned to my flat. I undressed you and washed the vomit out of your hair
  and your clothes, do you remember? One cup of coffee later, you were almost
  human again. I wished I had thought to decorate but I hadn't been expecting
  company. I hoped you didn't mind.

  You did look ever-so grateful, but you hadn't yet spoken. And then you
  silently nodded at my coffee table and I saw the headline on my Sun: "Heartless
  B**** Ruins Christmas for 2000 fans". I'd read it. You had cancelled your
  Christmas show due to "ill health" but were then spotted shopping with friends.
  No longer England's darling of pop. Where were your friends now? They had all of
  them fled your side when they saw those headlines. Even that boyfriend of yours
  was nowhere to be seen - doubtless off somewhere buried in a different kind of
  snow.

  But now... I was your friend. I guess I was a shoulder to cry on. But I wanted
  to give you more.

  I knew just the thing. I turned on the TV for you; some Christmas special or
  another. I went into the kitchen, picked up the biggest knife I could find and
  began to dig it into my chest, tearing through flesh and sawing through bone.
  Thankfully, I'm a slight fellow and there isn't much meat in my chest. After a
  while, I was able to reach into my ribcage with my fingers and pull out my
  still-beating heart. Unfortunately, I had nothing with which to wrap it, but I
  found that one of my arteries made for a handy ribbon and so I tied it as best I
  could. It was a little clumsy, I'll admit, but as last-minute Christmas gifts
  go, it wasn't bad.

  When I went back into the living room to give you the present, you screamed in
  delight, do you remember? Oh, it was such a beautiful moment. Then, it all went
  kind of blank and I guess you let yourself out because that was the last time I
  saw you.

  You have no idea how excited I was when I woke up on Boxing Day. I couldn't wait
  to see you again. I just had a quick tidy up. There was still some blood on the
  floor but that's how you know you've had a good Christmas.

  I have to be honest, a naive part of me thought you might be in the door at any
  moment with a thank-you gift for me, or perhaps some breakfast, though I wasn't
  particularly hungry, truth-be-told.

  I waited a while and you didn't return. I'm sure you had your reasons, but you
  must understand how confusing that was for me. I ran the previous evening
  through in my mind. Was it the decorations? I knew I should have put up a tree
  or something. Was it the TV? Those sitcoms aren't everyone's cup of tea, but
  that's no reason to ghost someone. Was it the way I wrapped my present? I want
  you to know, Y---, that it isn't easy to tie a nice bow with those things. It
  was the best I could do with what I had.

  Then, I saw you. Your face appeared on the TV, which had not been switched off
  since the previous night. You were on the news. I turned up the volume with a
  schoolboy excitement.

  "...gave the organ to the officer, who then..."

  Well. That was all I heard, and all I really needed to hear. I wasn't planning
  to spell out to you why this upset me, but as I write this it occurs to me that
  you have no consideration for anyone but yourself, so perhaps an explanation is
  in order. Last Christmas, Y---, I gave you my heart. And the very next day, what
  did you do? You gave it away, didn't you? Just like that, to some stupid
  policeman?

  I apologise. I promised to approach the writing of this letter with more calm
  and composure, but as you can probably tell, it is still a little raw. Perhaps I
  should not have undertaken to write this letter after all.

  The headline on that newspaper changed that Boxing Day morning:
  "Heartless B**** Ruins Christmas for 2001 Fans". I'm looking at it now, just as
  I do every day. I'm never going to win that game, am I?

  Yours, regretfully,
  G---


Footnote:
[spoiler]
Last Christmas,
I gave you my heart.
But the very next day,
You gave it away.


(by our very own WHAM)[/spoiler]

BarbWire

SNOW WAY!

It was Christmas. Wrapped in an expensive overcoat, Kingsley West snuggled into the leather seat of his, chauffeur driven, Rolls Royce. He was to be guest of honour
at a lavish banquet, arranged by his business partner, Steve Frost, to celebrate an extremely profitable year on the Stock Market. The event was to be held at Musgrove
Hall, some twenty miles away.
As Kingsley gazed out of the car window at a curtain of white flakes floating by, he couldn't help but wonder if there was a cruel streak in Steve.
Leaving the luxury of his penthouse apartment, in Mayfair, on a crisp wintry night, had not filled him with enthusiasm. Now, in his sixty fifth year, the cold chilled every
bone in his ageing body.
Swishing wipers interrupted his thoughts. Even at high speed they struggled to clear the windscreen. Deep snow made road conditions hazardous and although he had
complete faith in his driver, it didn't stop him from feeling anxious. Glancing at his Rolex watch, he noted that it was seven forty five. Since setting out on their journey
not a word had been spoken. Kingsley broke the silence. "Time is against us, I am afraid Benson. We only have fifteen minutes to reach our destination."
"Don't worry, Sir." Came the reply. "I know of a shortcut, which I will try."
"Thank you, Benson. Anything you can do will be much appreciated."
Suddenly, there was a loud bang and the Roller skidded to a halt.
"I'm sorry, Sir, but my idea didn't work out too well. The car hit a patch of black ice. We are stationary in the middle of a roundabout, with a badly damaged wheel. I
will have to notify the breakdown service. We could be marooned here for a while."
Before Kingsley could answer, there came a tapping on his window. A more unlikely happening  he could not imagine. Who on earth could it be?
Benson, braving the cold, stepped out of the vehicle. He returned moments later. Through chattering teeth, he explained, the best he could, that there was a scruffy
man outside with a can clasped in his frozen fingers. Apparently, this lowly individual had run out of petrol, on his way to visit his pregnant wife in hospital, and he
shared their predicament in that he was stranded.
"I'll send him away, shall I, Sir?"
"No, no. I shall not hear of such a thing. We must help this poor soul."
Opening the car door, he invited the shocked man inside. He, then, poured a glass of brandy, from the mini bar, and handed it to his guest.
"Now, please tell me all about yourself."
Hearing a heartbreaking tale of woe, the listener was nearly reduced to tears. Tycoons have the reputation of being uncaring and ruthless, but this
did not apply to Kingsley. Charitable causes were always uppermost in his mind. Many of them had benefited from his generous donations, and were eternally
grateful for his support.
The breakdown truck finally arrived and rescued the hapless travellers. Kingsley vowed to aid Peter, his new friend, in any way he could.
The banquet turned out to be a no show, on the guest of honours part, but this did not bother him because he had done a good deed.
Kingsley was a good man, if ever there was one.

[spoiler]Inspired by the carol 'Good King Wenceslas.'[/spoiler]

Sinitrena

Content Warning:
Hide: ShowHide
Bullying; Murder-Suicide



Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer


Rudolph lay in the warm straw on his side and minded his own business while the others played ball not far from him. He favored his left side, where Vixen had kicked him the day before. It was an accident, of course. And it was not Vixen's fault, oh no. How could it be? Poor Vixen just wanted to kick the empty air where Rudolph just happened to stand. Not Vixen's fault, not at all.

Not even Rudolph could suffer his own sarcasm and he snorted derisively. It was a mistake. The boisterous showing-off and teasing among the other reindeer quickly stopped and they turned their attention to the one who wasn't really part of their herd.

"What's there to laugh?" Donner asked and trampled towards Rudolph.

The younger reindeer put his paws over his snout, moving some of the straw in the process. Maybe it was a desperate attempt to hide his shining red nose, but who was he kidding? Even hidden under straw and layers of fur, the nose shone bright and red.

"Well, now?" Prancer added, standing over Rudolph, too close to comfort. "Are you nosing into things that are not your concern again, Reddi-Rudi?"

"I... I didn't... l...l...laugh... about..."

"Or rubbing your nose up someone's behind?" Comet laughed.

"Or shining the humans the way to our home, Glowy-Slowy?" Dasher snorted.

Rudolph's legs slithered in the straw as he tried to get up. It wasn't helped by Dancer's hoof slightly sliding under him and kicking up, so that Rudolph struggled and fell forwards. His red nose bonked against the wooden wall as baying laughter filled the stable.

"What's going on here?" a loud voice interrupted the favorite game of 88,89% of the reindeer and the pack moved aside to offer Rudolph an undisturbed look of a very disapproving Nikolaus, who stood with his hands in his hips at the door to the enclosure.

"We're dealing with a problem." Blitzen answered in a matter-of-fact tone and shook his head in Rudolph's direction. "This one doesn't know his place."

Nikolaus, his large belly hanging out of the shirt he wore this morning, nodded once, then turned away, as if this was no concern of his. After a few steps, he hesitated, then turned back with a grin on his lips.

"What exactly is the problem?", he asked.

"The nose!" Vixen said.

"His attitude!" Blitzen added.

"Shiny and red."

"Like... like Christmas decoration!" Cupid almost screamed and the other reindeer shook in exaggerated discomfort.

Nikolaus came forward and knelt down next to the shaking Rudolph. He put his meaty hand under his chin and turned his head towards him. "Like a Christmas light, indeed." he said and patted Rudolph's snout almost gently. "The sleigh wouldn't even need a lantern!"

Nikolaus stood back up. His heavy red boots brushed against Rudolph's flank. "Maybe," Nikolaus said pensively, "maybe I should harness him in the front? Yes, yes, so that he can shine us all a light!"

With that, Nikolaus turned around and strutted through the other eight reindeer, who stood like an honor guard for him. A deep, belly-laugh filled the cold air as he walked away from the stable, followed by two of the reindeer, Donner and Vixen, his favorites. The laugh didn't reach his eyes, the same way it never warmed his cold black heart, but to people who did not know him, it was boisterous joy and nothing else.

Rudolph's head sank back onto his paws while new bullying of the remaining six reindeer washed over him and he tried to ignore it.

*

The next days were weird. Nikolaus didn't take back his idea, on the contrary, he had the lead harness adjusted for Rudolph's rather slim frame. At first, the young reindeer didn't understand why. Surely, the great master didn't actually mean to have him be the lead for this Christmas? Surely one of his favorites would be it again? Surely he would be harnessed closer to the sleigh again, so that the master's whip was more likely to touch him?

But no, the harness was adjusted and the angry taunting and jeering of the other reindeer became a constant stream of abuse. And that was when he understood. When he looked into the eyes of Donner and Vixen, into the deep hatred they felt for Rudolph. And then he noticed the hatred they felt for their master which was reflected there and multiplied. Nikolaus' laughter echoed in his ears.

Nikolaus, who whipped his elven slaves into bloody masses and played reindeer against reindeer, who had banned Ruprecht, his once most faithful servant, to the coal mines, just really enjoyed to see everyone suffer. Almost giddy, he patted Rudolph's still hurting flank on one of the last test-drives before the great day. Christmas Eve was just one sleep away and Rudolph already feared it with all his heart. His pelt bristled and his nose glowed brighter than ever and his antlers shook as the sleigh started to move over the endless white of the North Pole.

The test-drive was during the day and the bright sun tickled Rudolph's nose so that most of his concentration was spent on keeping the light out of his eyes and still keeping his hooves on the cushion of air the reindeer ran on. Nikolaus was the one who decided the direction and speed by pulling on the reins and cracking the whip but it was the reindeer in the lead that actually trampled the flying magic out of the thin and cold air. His hooves sparked on the emptiness and the other eight reindeer, in pairs of two, followed in his path.

When they returned, Rudolph was panting heavily and his bright, glowing nose dazzled him, so that he didn't see the other reindeer nearly trampling him in time. They laughed merrily as he stumbled out of their way and towards the wall of Nikolaus' house and factory where some of the elves had used the time their master was away to get a bit of fresh air. The master's whip soon forced them back into the building, just one or two lagging behind a bit.

Rudolph blinked bright light and exhaustion out of his eyes when one of the elves made a rude gesture behind Nikolaus' back. Then he blinked again when he recognized the elf. Looking between the elf and the sleigh some other elves were already filling with presents and sacks of coal, an idea began to form in his head.

They laughed. The other reindeer laughed even though they hated Nikolaus, but Rudolph did not laugh. Neither did Ruprecht, who cared for the rejected elves in his mines, and neither did Fridol, the elf that had just disrespected the master behind his back. It was a small gesture, but enough for Rudolph to see and enough for him to recognize the elf who was sent to the mines last year. He wasn't supposed to be here, he wasn't supposed to work here, wasn't supposed to be seen by Nikolaus, but the old man never bothered to remember his servants, with very few exceptions.

"Fridol!" Rudolph hissed as the young elf now passed him near the stable. "Fridol!"

The elf slowed down, then slowly turned towards the reindeer. Compared to the steed, the elf was small, tiny, and his legs and long ears trembled as he looked up to Rudolph. "You... you must mistake me..."

"No, I don't. You're spying for Ruprecht, aren't you?" Rudolph was angry, angry at the other reindeer, angry at Nikolaus, angry at his stupid nose that just decided to glow like firework one day less than a year ago, and angry at the young elf that didn't want to admit who he was. Though, he did recognize that not all this anger was of the same category and equally justified. "Listen," he continued in a hushed voice, "Tell Ruprecht right after midnight tonight, on the seventh sheet of ice, the one that's about to break. Tell him to be there."

Fridol blinked a couple of times, not knowing what to think about this message but before he had time to ask, Rudolph, the red-nosed reindeer, had turned his back to him and strutted into the stable where the other reindeer lay on the straw and slept or played before their great job in the evening.

Rudolph ignored them and headed to his own corner in the stable. Putting his paws over his shining nose, he started to actually think about his spontaneous idea... and discarded it right away. It was stupid, dangerous, deadly, traitorous, wrong. It was, most of all, probably not feasible. Did he really think he would have control – keep control when he left the chosen path? Did he think Ruprecht would get his message? Get it through Fridol, the traitorous elf, would get its meaning? Would listen to him, to a reindeer, when the reindeer usually stood side by side with their master and helped intimidating the elves?

Rudolph hammered the ground with his hooves, creating the cushion of air that so naturally emerged from his magic. No matter whether he really did it or not, he should have rested and not wasted his magic like that. But the anger still seeped through every fiber of his body and he didn't care. Though it also seeped slowly away, with every hit to the innocent ground, it subsided just this tiny bit, leaving him feeling helpless, because the wrong surface was struck. Nevertheless, he slowly closed his eyes to rest.

*

He woke to the sound of hooves close to his head and the relentless string of name-calling he had become accustomed to. Reddi-Rudi – Blinking Bitch – Showy-Glowy Childish and mean, they still stung and brought him to his feet with a jolt.

A foggy day had turned into a freezing night and the little light that shone from the factory and mansion of their master did little to show the path to the snow to the sleigh. As a matter of fact, Rudolph's red nose, shining in the dark of night, was rather helpful for finding the right way. It didn't stop the calls following him, it didn't stop the calls from Dasher and Dancer who walked in front of him and looked back just to tease and torture him. While his plan, his uncouth, half-baked plan had somewhat disappeared during the short sleep he had had, it now returned fully formed, as if he had worked on it for many hours. It was simple, yet so unheard off...

The elves stood shaking in the cold, clothed in just their thin blankets, while the imposing reindeer strutted through the snow fairly comfortable in their warm fur. As Nikolaus had given no other orders, Rudolph was harnessed into the lead position, in front of all the other eight reindeer, the only one with no partner at his side. He should have felt proud, part of him told him so, but the feeling of enemies in his back didn't exactly instill this feeling in his heart.

Golden ringlets and silver bells hung at the harness and red and green blankets were tied onto their backs. The sleigh glowed in silver sprinkles and the presents in its back shone in all colors of the rainbow and in some the humans could not see but where obvious to elf and reindeer. A heavy red blanket with white trims was prepared for the master and the whip was already in its usual place. All was ready.

Nikolaus flounced through the lines of waiting elves who were shaking and jittering and had no purpose in the cold but to see him off. He climbed onto the sleigh without so much as looking at his servants and then the crack of his whip sent the reindeer off.

Rudolph trampled the ground, running over the frozen soil towards the cliff overlooking the arctic ice. His feet pounded the magic from the air and with every step the sleigh jumped slightly, bouncing on emptiness that couldn't quite carry it yet. When he reached the cliff, Rudolph took one giant leap and the harness pulled heavily on his tired shoulders. Then the skids tumbled onto the tail-end of the reindeer's magic and slithered over air like it were ice.

The bells jingled, the reindeer trampled and the sleigh flew through the night, with Rudolph's nose lighting the path ahead. Nikolaus' whip cracked again, urging the reindeer to a faster pace, and a slight tug at the reins directed them to the left. They flew over the arctic ice, following unseen routes, jingling and bouncing and bringing joy.

At least, in the minds of some. But Rudolph could still hear the mean comments of his herd through their labored breathing and he still felt shame for the reddish light that was his nose, even though he had no reason to. Hardly paying attention to the directions of his master, Rudolph mostly looked downwards to the ice and the snow, towards the wide open plains of ice and the ragged hills and mountains that glittered like crystals in the moonlight and the natural shine of the sleigh.

Rudolph didn't care about the beauty of his home. His eyes tried to find the seventh sheet of ice, the one he had indicated to Fridol, the one that was about to break. It would be minutes, just minutes until it came into view and Rudolph was desperate to find any sign of Ruprecht and the elves. Would they come? Would he really do it?

There it was, the seventh, creaking and cracking in the cold that was still too warm. Rocks of ice threw shadows over the nearly uniform landscape, obscuring his view to all living beings that might hide their. Whether Ruprecht had come or not, he could not tell.

But now was the moment. For a second, Rudolph slowed down, wondering about his decision. The reindeer behind him stumbled into his back, the unexpected change in pace sending a jolt through the harness. Nikolaus' whip cracked again, the signal clear, the impatience as well. But Rudolph was the one to lead the reindeer, to control the sleigh, not Nikolaus. Still, his hooves started to trample the air faster again, sending a second jolt through the harness. He hesitated again, but this hesitation didn't show in his pace, it wasn't noticeable in his movements. And then Rudolph took up the pace even more and he turned his glowing snout towards the ground. Cold air was swishing past him as he raced towards the ice, pulling the other reindeer with him. Nikolaus' whip cracked, he pulled on the reins, he shouted, but he wasn't the one to control the magic. Rudolph was, and Rudolph dove towards the arctic ice in a wild dash. Almost vertical to the ground now, presents tumbled from the back of the sleigh. Their colorful packaging sent sparks through the air as they fell, slower than the wild ride of the reindeer, so that they seemed to stand still behind them.

Dasher and Dancer and Prancer and Vixen, Comet and Cupid and Donner and Blitzen, they all pulled back, tried to pull their younger brother back up, tried to pull the sleigh back into a horizontal position. But Rudolph was the lead, Rudolph had control and the wild fall could not be stopped.

Nikolaus clung to the handrails of the sleigh, the whip long gone from his gloved hands.

And then the ground was in front of his face. And then Rudolph's red nose collided with the ice. His antlers drilled into the ground, then they broke and his head fell to the side. The other reindeer fell over him, their wild dash stopped suddenly by Rudolph's collision with the ground but still unable to stop themselves from falling just like him. And the sleigh, without magic of its own, buried them under a sea of presents and silver decoration.

For a moment, the ice sheet was eerily silent. Then a single cry came from somewhere to Rudolph's right and a squad of maybe twenty to thirty elves stormed out from the shadows. Hidden behind rocks, they had seen the sleigh fall and now they surrounded the dazed reindeer and shouting Nikolaus. He was trapped under the heavy sleigh and the reindeer were tangled in the harness. For once, the little elves looked down at them. Armed with hatchets and picks, their faces black from coal they dug year in and year out and that they had now smeared on their greenish skin, they looked, for once, imposing. Among them stood Ruprecht, the old servant who had long stopped to serve.

With a cold expression and just the tiniest amount of pity, he looked down onto the crash. His eyes found Rudolph, clearly distinguishable by his red nose. After a while, while Rudolph looked up at him, unable to move, unable to feel any pain, Ruprecht knelt down next to the reindeer. He patted Rudolph's flank, whispering a breathless "Thank you." into his ear. To the elves around him, he said, "Kill them all." then he plunked a knife into his neck.

The last thing Rudolph saw was the glow of his nose fading away.


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It's probably not difficult to guess the inspiration for this story:

Rudolph, The Red-Nosed Reindeer

You know Dasher and Dancer and Prancer and Vixen
Comet and Cupid and Donner and Blitzen
But do you recall
The most famous reindeer of all?

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
Had a very shiny nose
And if you ever saw it
You would even say it glows

All of the other reindeer
Used to laugh and call him names
They never let poor Rudolph
Join in any reindeer games

Then one foggy Christmas Eve
Santa came to say
"Rudolph, with your nose so bright
Won't you guide my sleigh tonight?"

Then how the reindeer loved him
As they shouted out with glee
"Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
You'll go down in history"

I don't believe it. Bullying doesn't stop like that. Sorry, not even Santa can do that.

--------

You probably wonder about Nikolaus' (Santa Claus' (well, Saint Nicholas, actually, but it's complicated and I mix different traditions here anyway)) characterization and who Fridol and Ruprecht are – this story is a sequel to my FWC entry from December 2019 Nuts! and you should probably have read that one. I normally try to avoid giving no explanation for elements from other stories, but I'm a bit pressed for time. I hope it still makes enough sense.

Baron

...and we're closed!  Nice to see such a bevvy of submissions - the competition will no doubt be as stiff as a troll's left horn.  ;)

We now proceed to the voting phase of the competition.  Our entrants, in order of appearance (chronological, not beauty - sorry Mandle):

Mandle with The Plans That We've Made
Stupot with Dear Y---
Barb Wire with SNOW WAY!
Sinitrena with Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer

Voting will be via PM to me.  You have 10 votes to allocate in whole integers as you see fit.  Thus, your favourite entry might receive 5 votes, while the runner up and the runner after that get 3 and 2 votes respectively.  It's entirely up to you to distribute votes as you see fit, based on the merit of each story in your personal opinion.  As we have a fairly global holiday intervening in the voting period I will extend the voting deadline to Tuesday January 4, 2022, with results to be published the following day.  As always, while the votes themselves are secret, it is considered classy to post a bit of feedback here in the thread to help the authors hone their craft.

Good luck to all participants!

Sinitrena

What an eclectic bunch of stories (and carols) we have here, though I think we all shifted the original in slightly darker or negative paths (BarbWire least of all, but still slightly).


Mandle:
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All is not as it seems in the first half of your story, obviously, as shown by the second half. Consequently, they have a different tone and atmosphere. While one can see a certain amount of wonder and romance in the first part (fitting for the song you chose) we shift to a scene of absolute horror in the second part.
I'm not sure I get completely what happened: The people were murdered, of course, but by whom? Was it James, psychotic due to the rejection of the families? But then, who killed James? But if it wasn't James, how did he escape long enough to cut the girls head off and built the snowman and then get killed just as he 'marries' her? The time-line of the event is not too clear (unless I'm missing something).
There are some elements that only make sense in connection with the song. Unless you know about the line "In the meadow we can build a snowman./Then pretend that he is Parson Brown." it's nearly impossible to figure out that there wasn't a real person for the ceremony, and the line "The mystery of the meaning of the hat, scarf, pieces of coal, and crossed sticks arranged around the journal was never solved" also only makes sense once the reader knows about the song you used as inspiration.
I think this story needs some more explanations in order to stand on its own, but I do like the dissonance between the two parts, between the romantic and the gruesome, between a winter of dreams and a summer of realities, so to speak.


Stupot:
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This one took a turn for the grotesque about halfway through. Unlike Mandle's story, I don't think knowledge of the song is required to get a whole picture of the story here, but it does give a bit of an aha-moment.
It is a weird story, mainly due to a weird protagonist. I'm left with questions here as well, though: In what kind of world does this story take place? The letter writer can obviously literally cut his heart out and survive. I don't have a problem with that, and I'm fine with him doing that as a romantic gesture as well, if it's just part of his culture or whatever. Suspension of disbelieve accepts that without problem. But: Why isn't it normal for Y? Or, alternately, why doesn't G realize that it isn't normal for Y? There's a rather large gap not just between how these two people see the world, but what is reality to them, and it doesn't really fit no matter from what point you look at it.
An interessting idea to take this line from the song literally and run with it, but some kind of explenation concerning the completely different realities of the two people involved, exploring what they are a bit more, would probably have been a good idea.


BarbWire:
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Now, this is an interesting one. If you read my note above that all our stories went on a darker path than the inspiration, you might wonder why I included your story in this assessment. On the first glance, this is not accurate. We have a rich person helping a poor one and then getting rescued by a third party. The difference between your version and the song is who does the rescuing (truck vs. God), who needs rescuing (everybody in your story vs. just the page in the song) and why they need rescue (bad luck in the snow vs. the page following his master who goes out of his way to bring the peasant food and wood).
The carol makes it very clear that the king's page is only in peril because his master tries to help (that's a bit unfair (and a whole other can of worms), but not the point here) but it also makes it clear that a miracle occurs because Wenceslas went out of his way to help. This connection, between the good deed and the holy help, is completely severed in your version. There, Kingsley West would have been saved even if he hadn't helped the other man. All that happens is pure accident, instead of a deliberate choice (or at least much less of a deliberate action in that moment) on either the protagonist or the rescuer, and that makes the message of your story darker: You might be lucky or you might not - no need to help anyone, but, I guess it's nice if you do indeed help. - That's obviously not the intended meaning and it can only be seen like that when compared to the original carol, but it is there. (Compare to the original message, which is outright stated in the last line of the song: 'Ye who now will bless the poor shall yourselves find blessing') (Edit: I should point out that this different, darker message is not bad, mainly because it's more realistic and takes the religious element out of the tale.)
That was a rather long explanation for an interpretation that's neither the intended meaning nor the most obvious one, and I wonder if I should delete it. But it's some of the ideas that came to my mind once I actually listened to Good King Wenceslas - because I didn't know this carol beforehand. I heard about it, but never actually heard it.
Disconnected from the song, and without the complicated interpretation and comparison, this story gives a nice cozy feeling of helping your neighbour and is thus the most chrismas-y one of the bunch. It's short and sweet and I rather like it.



I'll have to think about my votes a bit longer, so for once I don't send them right before or after writing this feedback post.

Edit: In BarbWire's comment; see there.

Edit2: Votes sent.

BarbWire


In the words of a spiritualist medium "Is there anybody there?"  I sent my votes off to Baron, yesterday, because the winner of the latest FWC will be, supposedly, announced today.
Sinitrena has been the only one to review and make comments on the entries
Wearing the hat of a critique is not my forte, because I'm scared of hurting peoples feelings. I will just make a couple of comments though.

MANDLE: You old romantic. I liked the similie to the Milky Way being the soaring ceiling of the chapel, and steps through virgin snow the train of the wedding gown. Your whole interpretation
of the song 'Winter Wonderland' was excellent.

STUPOT: Telling the story in the form of a letter was unusual and very good. It made me laugh when I read the paragraph  about using arteries to make a handy ribbon to wrap the heart.
Also, blood on the floor meant you'd had a good Christmas. I think Wham would have liked your version of 'Last Christmas.'

SINITRINA:  Your offering about 'Rudolph, The Red Nosed Reindeer' was well told and a certain amount of research had been undertaken. It seem to me, though, that you followed the
original words of the song rather than reinterpret them.
Thank you for taking the time to comment on my entry. I know it was a bit on the short side, but I felt I had written everything that needed to be said.  There was no religious meaning to the
story it was simply a play on words. ie. 'When the snow lay round about, became a roundabout. 'Gathering winter fuel, (wood) became a guy with a petrol can.

Best wishes to one and all.

Stupot

Thanks for the comments ladies.

I'm hoping for an extra day. I still have one more story to read and haven't had a moment to myself to think about votes/feedback. I should be able to tomorrow though.

Baron

OK, voting will remain open until Stupot votes (or until Friday night, whichever comes first).

Baron

And that's a wrap, folks!  A ...Christmas wrap?  :undecided:

It was interesting to see where different authors took their trolling. 

Mandle created a winter wonderland replete with sentient snowman preachers, snow demons (?), and most disturbing of all FREE BEER!  Frankly it's a wonder that anyone at all could survive that winter hellscape with their liver intact, and I'm not talking about the organ-eating snow creatures in the upper passes.   ;)  Still, it was bizarre even in the enchanting environment that the young couple walked through town to their wedding on the slopes, even though both families seemed to be camped up in the mountains near where the couple's body was found.  Just a thought but... why not get married in town if the folks were back up the mountainside?  Otherwise, as a horrific wonderland your story was certainly gripping, at least in a white-walker kinda way. 

Stupot exposed the weirdness of Wham!'s lyrics - the hell you gave his heart away?!?  How does one even do that?  Well, Stupot knows how.  Yeah, there are a few loose threads (or are those arteries?), but as an exercise in incisive literalism I think Stupot takes the blood soaked Christmas pudding.  :)

BarbWire played a tune on my own heartstrings by having a run at good King Wenceslas (one of my favourites).  I liked how it was updated to modern times (the "gathering winter fuel" insight has already been remarked upon), but in the end I think it's missing something as a character lesson.  Your Kingsley renders help from the comfort of his Rolls Royce, while Wenceslas himself was out there slogging through the rude wind's wild lament to help the peasant (and later his page).  I think as the gesture requires less sacrifice on Kingsley West's part, so the story lacks a bit of the power of the original.

Sinitrena launched a bloody revolution against seasonal injustice with a kamikaze reindeer and an army of elvish troglodytes.  It's an unfortunate undertone that the story affirms the hopelessness of dealing with bullies and glorifies suicide as a means of vengeance, but I think your trolling cleaves closer to reality than many would be comfortable with.  At the very least your story makes us think about the conditions in which things we take for granted are produced/transported, but I still found it a depressing tale.

Anyway, let's see what our voting public thought:

Mandle with 12 votes
Stupot with 11 votes
Sinitrena with 9 votes
BarbWire with 8 votes

It was clearly a close affair, but in the end it is Mandle who wins the competition by the slimmest of margins!  ;-D  Congratulations, Mandle!!!  It now falls onto your shoulders that awesome burden of contest administration.  Bear it well, my friend! 


....and to all a goodnight!


Mandle

Oh, wow, quite the honor! I have also been busy lately and will try to post feedback ASAP. I didn't make it last time, sorry.

And now to think on the next theme... hmmmmm.

BarbWire

#13
CONGRATULATIONS, Mandle. A well deserved victory.  (nod)

Now let's discuss my story 'SNOW WAY!' ("Do we have to?" I hear you cry.)  How many of you picked up on the following:

First verse of carol - 'Good King Wenceslas looked out' - Kingsley West (Same initials) looking out of his car window at the snow.

'On the Feast of Stephen' (Boxing day) The banquet arranged by Steve.

'When the snow lay round about' - Roundabout where accident occured.

'Though the frost was cruel.' - Kingsley wondered if Steve Frost was being cruel, making him leave his cosy penthouse.

'When a poor man came in sight, Gathering winter fuel' (wood) - The poor man had a petrol can grasped in frozen fingers.

The second verse tells of Wenceslas talking to his page about the peasant, asking about his lifestyle. - In my version, Benson,  Kingsleys Chauffeur,
questions the lowly individual, then passes on the information to his employer who, then, wants to know the man's lifestory.

The third verse mentions wine. - This became Brandy.  It also talks of Wenceslas and Page going forth together. In my telling, three people, finally, went forth together.

The forth verse begins 'Mark my footsteps good my page, tread thou in them boldly.' - Kingsley, chides Benson telling him to follow in his masters footsteps and be kind
to those less fortunate.

The fifth verse ends. 'Ye who now will bless the poor, shall yourself find blessing.' - Kingsley had blessed his new found friend, and had been blessed through his charitable donations

I reinterpreted the Carol, as required, so obviously it didn't pan out exactly the same.

PHEW!  I rest my case.  :)

Baron

Ah, I totally missed the "feast of Stephen" and the "roundabout" reference....  (roll) 

Well done, BarbWire!

BarbWire


Thanks, Baron.  When I read 'Well Done' it made me feel like I was back at school, and had been patted on the head by my favourite English teacher.   

I now know that my efforts weren't totally in vain.    ;-D

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