We hope you and yours had a very merry Christmas!
(And for those who didn’t celebrate Christmas, we hope your day was filled with good cheer and wintry fun.)
Thank you to everyone who wrote in. We’re grateful for your feedback and the time you took to give it. We’re taking every suggestion into consideration as we figure out where to go from here cover-wise. This “marketing” thing may be our greatest foe yet, but we’re determined to conquer it.
And if you have any ideas to help us defeat that foe, do send them to us!
I (Ran) or our scribe (Melinda) answer every email we receive. You can always reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org. 🙂
And now, what you’ve been waiting for, part 3 of our special holiday adventure:
Shards for His Present:
A Curse Breaker Christmas Exclusive
The horned man framed in the ornament wore the same cloak as the old woman decorating the tree behind Ran.
“Who are you?” Ran asked, pulling out of the memory.
She didn’t answer. She just kept singing about a silent night, a holy night. The ornament in his hands winked on and off in time with her slow, hypnotic singing, drawing his attention back to it.
Inside that glass globe, the horned stranger glanced around as if he’d heard Ran call out across space and time. His white fur cloak flared when he turned to go. As the fellow backed away, he revealed an empty basket. The baby was gone.
Ran’s legs gave out. He sat on the frozen ground under the Tannenbaum as the wind whipped past him, ruffling its needles. It presaged a bad storm, but Ran ignored it. As the first flakes fell, he watched the man creep past sleeping children rolled up in their blankets with his baby-self in his arms. One of those sleepers looked familiar.
Is Uncle Miren the third child from the left? Oh, surely not, the boy looked too young and those curls–could it be?
Uncle Miren and his father were only half brothers who only vaguely looked related and only then in good lighting. Miren had only been ten when Ran was born. So that boy might be his uncle.
Uncle Miren? Get up and do something. Help me! I mean help baby me.
But Uncle Miren kept right on sleeping as the hooved kidnapper tiptoed through the clutter. Here a tin cup balanced on a short stack of books. There a bell lay on its side and in between, a minefield of combs, jacks, brushes, buckets, crusts of moldy things that were once bread or cheese, wizened apples, holey cloaks, discarded socks, broken shoelaces, cracked plates and so on littered the floor. There wasn’t an inch of the stone floor free of abandoned items. Belongings were strewn everywhere around the children rolled up in their blankets, sleeping the night away–until the kidnapper’s hoof bumped a glass.
It fell with such a clatter, the boy he’d been watching stirred. Upon seeing a hoof an inch from his face, Uncle Miren looked up and up, eyes widening in shock.
“He’s got my nephew! Stop him!”
Uncle Miren grabbed at the furry leg, but the beast-man leaped out of reach. He knocked over a stack of crates spilling straw and more plates, upended a hammock and dumped fourteen-year-old Will, one of Papa’s best friends, onto his back. Twirling on one hoof, the creature flung himself into a wall, crushing poor Will. But lanky Will clung on with shaking arms despite the beast-man’s bucking.
“Put the baby down!”
Uncle Miren and his friends rushed in throwing cups, plates, unlit candles and every potential projectile they could grab at the creature’s legs. Breaking crockery cut the man-beast’s goat legs. Blood trickled from a dozen cuts, but he kept slamming Will against the wall while in his arms, baby Ran screamed.
It was disorienting, seeing himself in anyone’s arms but Papa’s. Still more so because he remembered none of this.
“What the hell is going out here?”
Beku’s shout froze everyone. Well except Uncle Miren, who lobbed one more projectile–a tin cup–at the creature’s head. It missed by a handspan as Will slid from the beast-man’s back ripping his fur cloak. Ran cheered for his uncle.
Wow, Uncle Miren, all this time, I thought you hated me because I supplanted you in Papa’s affections.
Of course, Ran had supplanted him, but that was only natural. He was the son and Uncle Miren was just Papa’s half-brother. Ran stared at the globe in his hand in rapt fascination. What would Mama do to save her baby boy?
Beku jerked aside the curtain screening off her private alcove. She was a tough, no-nonsense woman, stout in heart and build, decades older Ran’s absent father who would only have been about sixteen or seventeen at this time. Beku paled and she fell back a step at the sight of her infant son in the beast-man’s arms. Her hand fluttered over her open mouth.
The man-beast nodded to her and turned, his white cloak swirling like the flakes falling around Ran then he was gone. Ran shook the globe. There had to be some mistake.
I don’t remember being kidnapped. In fact, Ran didn’t recall much of his early years just bits and pieces starring his beloved father. Papa was in every memory.
Where was Papa when this happened? Why wasn’t he there to save me?
At work probably. The Rangers used to keep Papa away for many hours and sometimes days at a time when I was little. Mama hated it, but the arrangement had predated her involvement in Papa’s life. So she could only but grumble about it when Papa staggered in from work.
I used to crawl into his arms and wait for him to wake up. He always had a smile for me and a word or two, even if he had none for anyone else. And those smiles and whispered words had meant the world to Ran.
A song interrupted his speculation, dragging Ran back to the park and the snow dusting his lap. As the scene in the glass globe changed, the old woman sang:
“The stars in the sky looked at his father, a young Ranger named Sarn, tramping through the snow–” the old woman paused as she stretched to reach a high branch and the wind tugged at her white fur cloak.
Everything blurred leaving only the scene framed in the glass globe in focus then Ran was falling into a mind that wasn’t his–a mind he’d long wanted to know better.
Papa was the most wonderful father in the world, but he was a quiet man, given more to silence than speech.
Ran looked out through eyes that glowed and finally saw the world the way his father did. Or well, this teenaged version of him–with a pronounced green tint.
To be continued next week.
Until next time, this is Future Ran signing off.
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Until next time, dear reader
This is Ran, son of Sarn, “Merry Character” wishing you a great week!
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