Wishing you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! Here’s the second part of my holiday short story, with the conclusion to be posted in a few days.
An hour later, their Krampus count was up to twenty-two, which put them in the lead, but Hazel and Calloway were only behind them by two.
Sera deposited the struggling Krampus’ into the collection point, aka a circle portal that would transport them into a holding cell. “I don’t remember them being this good last year.”
“I hear they’ve been training with wild chickens,” Jason said. “There’s a commotion that way.”
“Ooh, I hear chains. Krampus sighting,” Sera said in a lilting tone.
“It sounds as though someone has already beaten us to them,” Jason said as they moved towards the noise.
“Damn. Well, hunting rules: finders keepers.” She was ready to turn around when she heard something that sounded like a yowl. “That’s not Mage noises.”
They took off in a run and found a group of five Krampus’ – mother lode! – engaged in a battle with Rio Sanchez and Erik Lukas.
These Krampus’ were putting up a fight too. One in particular was larger and hairier than the others, his hair dragging on the ground as he shrieked and yelled, snapping crooked yellow teeth in their faces, swinging the lethal chains around with impressive skill.
Except Rio and Erik were the third and fourth of the Clowder, aka the cat shifter group that the Coven considered public enemy no. 1. They were not easy to take down.
“They’re herding them towards that tree,” Sera said approvingly. “Should we help?”
“I’m sure they can handle it,” Jason said mildly.
But Rio Sanchez was never one to let his guard down, even when faced with monsters. He turned his head, his ears practically pricking when he saw them. He signaled to Erik and they changed direction, herding the Krampus’ towards the Mages.
“It seems we’ve been spotted,” Jason said.
“Ya think?” Sera sighed and held out the canvas bag. “On three. One, two…”
Jason slammed a fist into the ground. With a rumble a crack appeared on the earth, stretching for a good few feet, snow falling into the gap and causing the Krampus’ to freeze in their tracks. Sera took the moment to swoop in and wrap them inside the bag.
“Always the dramatic one, Zuchang,” Erik said, brushing snow off his shoulder. He was wearing a very nice suit under the coat, tie and all. Rio, on the other hand, was wearing a god-awful holiday sweater.
“Does that thing light up?” Sera asked, staring at the giant knitted snowman.
“And plays music,” Rio said, wrapping his coat around his sweater nonchalantly. “Getting a tad sluggish with the Krampus hunting, aren’t you?”
“You shouldn’t be outside, there’s a curfew,” Jason said, fixing a thousand-yard stare on them.
“That’s for children and humans,” Rio said. “If a Krampus runs into us, he’s the one who’d better watch out.”
“Told you that song was popular,” Sera said, then shot the cats her patented customer service smile. “Thank you, kind citizen, for helping out the Coven during our time of need. I’ll be sure to mention your names for our good Samaritan board.”
“Don’t do us any favors,” Erik snapped.
“Now, now, it’s the season of giving after all,” Rio said with a sharp smile. “And I quite like being in the Coven’s debt.”
“Good Samaritans don’t ask to be repaid,” Sera said.
“Good thing I’m not a Samaritan then.”
They were interrupted by the announcer from Sera and Jason’s pocket, calling, “Another five for Kishao and Zuchang, which brings them up to twenty-seven! That’s a total of eighty-three Krampus’ that have been caught, only twenty-five more to go!”
“You heard her, only twenty-five more to go,” Rio said with a smirk. “You should hurry along, wouldn’t want to break your streak.”
“You wouldn’t want to play bait for us, would you?” Sera asked sweetly. “That sweater could probably attract twenty-five Krampus’.”
“As much as I’d love to watch you two be trampled by ugly, hairy goat creatures, I’m afraid we have a prior engagement,” Rio said. “Let’s go, Erik. Happy hunting.”
“And a Merry Solstice to you too,” Sera called. “I hope you find a cockroach in your eggnog.”
“Same to you!” Rio gave a wave and the two of them disappeared into the night.
“How is he so irritating even when he barely does anything?” Sera muttered.
“Must be something in the air,” Jason said dryly.
The Krampus’ were quite spread out this year. Even with all their training, Sera was started to feel winded and dearly wanted to call it quits. But then, they ran into two Krampus’ who were locked onto a house. One was circling the barbed wire-encased chimney while the other banged his chains against the windows.
“Must have been one naughty kid,” Sera muttered. Over the years, the Krampus’ had figured out that houses were well-protected against them so they started to avoid houses altogether. However, there would always be a few stragglers who would try their luck with houses.
This time, Sera insisted on being the one to do the chasing.
“You can hold the damn bag.” She threw the canvas at him and went after the Krampus’, her whip appearing in her hand making a quick, elegant arc to snag first the Krampus at the chimney. He was a feisty one, immediately swinging a chain with bells on it to smack the whip back.
Well, she did like a challenge. She swung the whip again, and then aimed a quick ice spell on the roof tiles. As the Krampus growled and moved to swing his chains, his cloven hooves skidded on the ice, sending him careening down. He dug long nails into the tiles, managing to brake his fall, then the other Krampus by the window raced at her, swinging a bundle of birch branches like a club. She kicked a gust of wind at him, forcing him back, then snapped her wrist, her whip wrapping around the Krampus on the roof. He hung tight, but a blast of magick through the whip loosened his hold and he dropped. All it took was another pull for him to land on the other Krampus, knocking them both out.
“Well, that was fast,” Sera said, breath blowing out in a small fog. “Bag ‘em, Jason.”
He gave her look but did indeed bag them. “That’s seven. We’ll drop them off at the next collection point.”
“Wonder what kind of kid lives here to draw two Krampus’,” Sera said.
“Ask Calloway. I believe they’re related,” Jason said, pointing at the mailbox that read “Ramsbuckle”.