Blip ‘Wiry’ Skipperson and his elite team of special forces black ops elves were on a cocoa break when all heckerdoodles broke loose in the workshop. Unknown invaders blew up part of the workshop. Just over twenty four hours until the Big Day, and the Big Man’s Sleigh had been stolen. The team tracked the sleigh on the Global Present-tracking System to an abandoned toy lab facility that hadn’t been in use since the early seventies. The team has explored most of the facility, and found it infested with Naughty toys and wild creatures. They also discovered that Santa’s Sleigh had been here… and has left through a tunnel that the enemy collapsed behind them.
– December 23, 23:48 hours
We stood around the blazing corpse of the Wild Pine that Doc had just put out of its misery. I guess since we took out two of them, that would make it not so much a corpse as a copse of Wild Pines.
“Well, we’ve got a job to do and no marshmallows to roast over the fire. Shade, Cambo, report.”
“Nothing too interesting in the gym, boss. Other than the fact that these guys had a leg machine forty years ago. But we don’t have one in our gym back at home base. That totally stuffs coal.”
“Can it. We found Santa’s Sack in there, and another collapsed tunnel. That must have been how they escaped.”
“Tinseltoes!” exclaimed Cambo, “Now we’ll never find them.”
“Take it easy. We stick to procedure. They used this building as a waypoint for some reason. We have to find out why. Now, Bobbi, Tina, check out the rec room. We three have water, we can put out this fire before it spreads. The last thing we need is for this whole place to go up in flames.”
Doc and Shade trooped off, and the three of us pulled out our backup Super Squirter pistols. Elf magic enchants our cartridges so they never run out of ammo, but these things don’t really pack that much of a punch. Salt water is good against ice and snow creatures, acid stings just about anything it hits and can melt through locks if we’re willing to take the time, and the cartridges with spiced rum or eggnog hurt anything that’s anti-Christmas. And if you aim the rum at their mouths, it just might get them drunk too.
The two came back as the fire was slowly guttering out. “Just what it looks like, Boss. Lots of old chairs.”
“Okay. Regroup. We’ve only covered about half of this place. Let’s finish checking out the dorms.”
We went back out into the hall, and took the next door in. We were in a wide hallway with two doors on each side. There were eight dorm rooms in this building, according to the map.
And from the one on our immediate left, we heard sounds. Little ‘scrunch scrunch’ rhythmic sounds. I put up a fist and threw our hand signal that meant ‘keep your weapons ready.’ I eased the door open and poked my pistol into the room.
All I could see was a lot of felt and lace and some scraggly red yarn. And the sound of old rusty bedsprings. The figure standing at the edge of the rusted bunk bed turned around. “Bloody ‘ell… knock fehst! We’re *bleep*in’ busy in ‘ere. Literally!”
A female voice just out of sight said, “Oh, ‘oneycomb, let ‘em watch. Some people like that sort o’ fing.”
I slammed the door shut.
Cambo said, “Was that…”
“Yeah. That was Ragged Rory. And Ragged Raina. Being very, very Naughty.”
I heard Rory’s voice from inside the room, “Damn it all, now I’ve gone and lost it. You get yeh knickers in order, dear. I’ll deal with these bloody peeping toms. It’ll take me a few minutes to get my stuffin’ back into place.”
A moment later there was a click of the door latch, and the doll walked out of the room. “What do you wankers want? The missus and I were trying to enjoy a romantic night togever.” He put a candy cigarette to his embroidered lips and took a drag. Powdered sugar drifted from the end.
“We’re looking for someone. More specifically, we’re looking for something.”
“Yeah yeah, I know what you wankers want. A bunch o’ ugly buggers came frough here with a nice shiny lookin’ sleigh. Information like that’s gotta be worff somethin’. How ‘bout you cut me a deal that’s worff my while.”
I just crossed my arms. I didn’t have anything the little yarnball wanted, and I didn’t have time to play good elf/bad elf. Shade took my cue, and pulled out a cleaning cloth. Then she took out her ice axe and started wiping the Wild Pine sap off of the blade.
Ragged Rory tried to cross his arms and stare me down, but I saw his button eyes flicker over in Shade’s direction. “Look, all I’m askin’ for is a little kickback maybe. Somefin’ that’ll benefit me somehow in all of this.”
“And all we need is some information, and then we’ll go away and leave you and your lady friend in piece. As opposed to what we usually do to toys that go Naughty.”
“Now just a bleedin’ minute! I ain’t like the rest of ‘em. Me and Raina, we ain’t violent or nuffin. We just want to be left alone!”
Shade dripped a bit of sap on the floor.
“All right, look, they used this place as a stopover. There used to be a bunch o’ old tunnels that ran between all of the outlyin’ workshop buildings and the main hub, way back in the day. But some of ‘em have fallen in over time. So they had to pop up here on the surface. Came out of a cave not too far from here. Popped back into the cave system here in this building. But I’ve done my fair share of exploring before me and Raina found this place. I know exactly where that cave leads.”
“There’s an old elf town, used to be busy and bustling with activity. Back before you wankers all switched to conveyer belts and machines, back when they needed three times as many elf-hours of work to get the same amount done. It’s backed up against a mountain, so it doubled as an extra workshop and a coal mine. But when the coal ran out, and you lot centralized your operations, it went dark. Everybody moved out. That’s where they took the sleigh.”
Shade finished cleaning her ice axe and tossed the sap-covered rag aside. “Got a location?”
“No, but there’s a map. Over in the visitor’s room.” Rory tossed his candy cigarette onto the floor and stepped on it.
I said, “Thank you. You’ve been very helpful.”
We left the dorms as a group and closed the door behind us. As we were closing the door, we heard Rory say, “Bloody wankers… oh, look. My stuffing’s back in order. Oi! Raina! You ready for round two?”
The door clicked closed, and I was very glad that it was a thick door. Because one by one, we burst out laughing. I think Cambo or Doc started it, I’m not sure. But it spread, and pretty soon four of us were trying not to fall on the ground.
“What are you guys laughing about?” asked Longshot, “That was horrifying! I think I saw… never mind. I don’t want to think about what I saw when you opened that door.”
We finally calmed down, and I started picking the lock to the entrance anteroom. It took me a little work, since I still had occasional twitches due to laughter hiccoughs. Once we got in, the room was just as horrid as it had looked from the outside. Ugly carpet, old faded posters for ugly toys, and a broken down desk decorated the room. The door to the visitor’s waiting room was unlocked. I pushed the door open, and it creaked loudly.
The wall in the far corner looked like something had gnawed a hole in it. But the ugly little doll was telling the truth. Above it was a map of the area, an old map. When I got close, something large, gold, and shiny popped out of the hole in the wall and chittered at me.
“Gyah! Humbug!” I yelled.
I could already hear Cammy switching her ammo to coal rounds, and I knew in a second or two Longshot was going to have his ammo switched out for armor penetrating spearmint crossbow bolts.
But the thing was right in front of me, so I had to act. A staple, aimed right at its face made it rear back. I was aiming for the sensitive antennae, but the thing wouldn’t hold still.
I backpedaled, holstering my industrial strength staple gun and pulling out my workshop mallet. If I couldn’t shoot through the thing’s carapace, then I was gonna have to squash me a bug.
Right on time, I heard Benji’s crossbow ‘twing’ and the creature sprouted a new green, red, and white candy cane swirled limb in its shoulder. And then Cambo’s coal round hit it at full force, stunning it. A cloud of coal dust spread from the impact, and while it was stunned I ran forward and bashed it on the top of its shell.
Its legs skittered out from under it, splaying around it from the force of the impact. Then it breathed in the coal dust, and I knew it was all over. It twitched and tried to clamber back into its nest. But it was too late. A creature of pure greed and Naughtyness just breathed in coal dust. The punishment we give to the Naughty. It got halfway back into its hole, then it collapsed. The grasping legs twitched a few more times, and then it stopped twitching entirely.
Stay tuned for tomorrow’s episode of Saving Christmas – Slay Bells.
A note from the creator:
Howdy folks, this is Hugh. I’m the one who writes, records, and makes the soundtracks for this podcast. I had hoped to finish rerecording and remastering Saving Christmas in time for at least the new year, but since I’m uploading episode 4 or 11 on January second, obviously that didn’t happen.
My day job at the moment is a retail one, and things got a bit crazy around Christmas. Even though I’ve done this for the last few years while I was trying to finish my degree, I forgot just how draining holiday retail work really is, and I didn’t get nearly as much done as I would have liked. So I’m continuing on, hoping to finish Saving Christmas in the next couple of weeks. After that, we’ll start what I hope will be my regular programming for quite some time. I write pulp. Sci-fi, fantasy, murder mysteries, I write adventure potboiler pulp. During the early days of publishing, pulp got popular because it was addictive, fun, and cheap to print. Now that the internet makes it entirely free to distribute, serialized fiction has been making a bit of a comeback, and I’m hoping to add my contribution to the fun.
At the moment, I’ve got three big pulp projects in the works. A pirate fantasy adventure on the high seas, a murder mystery featuring a werechicken detective, and a cyberpunk street runner action story. I’m sure you won’t need too many clues to guess which of the three inspired the name of this website and podcast.
I’m not sure which one will kick off my regular serials, but the one that’s closest to being ready to publish is the pirate one, so hopefully in a month or two I’ll be bringing you guys an epic adventure on the high seas. There’ll be enough blood shed to make this one be rated Arrrrr. But first, tune in sometime in the next few days for the next episode of Saving Christmas: Slay Bells.