Our scribe, Melinda, and the cast of the Curse Breaker series wish you a very Merry Christmas!
Welcome to our *special* holiday issue. Melinda bought me a 3D tree this year, and I got busy rendering am e-card with some familiar faces in it.
Left to right, we have a test version of Nolo in an old-fashioned Santa suit, (please excuse his hair. Melinda is searching for the right one.) Next, we have me, (Ran), on the sled. Papa is behind me, and Auntie Sovvan is fiddling with the star on top of the Christmas tree because she kept tripping over he heels. I put her in some festive gear too.
Papa’s not thrilled I made him wear red. I couldn’t help it. He has glowing green eyes. Add in a red tunic, and he’s a walking advertisement for Christmas. 🙂
If you see him around Mount Eredren, you might not want to mention that to him. He’s still a little annoyed at me for hiding his Ranger greens. 🙂 I’ll give them back after Christmas. I promise.
And now, settle in by the fire with your reading device. It’s time for our *special* holiday story. If you missed part 1, read it here.
Stealing Christmas: A Curse Breaker Story
Three years ago…
Two figures argued in a dark wood. Too bad neither were paying the trees that surrounded them any mind. But the forest was aware of them. Most of the trees within earshot were settling down for a long winter’s nap—all except the tree that stood opposite the two quarreling creatures.
Since it was just a tree, it didn’t have eyes. But that didn’t stop it from glaring at the two creatures disturbing its rest though. Since it was an enchanted tree, it could stare at them through the magic flowing through it if it wished, but that required more effort than it took to bend one of its branches and swat the glowing thing the shorter creature was waving around. Since it was sleepy, its aim was a little off, so its branch swung wide of the mark.
Any sane individual would have packed it in and called it a night but not these two. They kept jabbering on and waving that luminous thing around. Had the object just glowed, the gnarled old oak tree would have ignored it. But no, the damned thing was a magical relic, so it also emitted a low hum that kept changing harmonics every few minutes, and that more than the angry conversation kept waking the tree up every time it was about to drift off and sleep the Winter Sleep.
After twenty minutes of this, it had finally had enough. So when the shorter creature gesticulated to make some point or other, it took careful aim and lashed out. This time its branch connected with the creature’s fleshy hand and sent that thingamabob flying. It rolled along the frost-covered leaf mold until a root shot out and captured it.
What to do with this strange object now? The enchanted tree pondered this as the relic pulsated and sent annoying vibrations up its root. I know what to do. I’ll put in the ground.
So the tree retracted its root and the magical thingamabob dropped into a hole in the earth. And there the matter should have ended. But this is Shayari, so that was only the beginning.
“What just happened?” asked the smaller creature.
It was shivering under the dark, shapeless thing that draped it from head to foot. Some of the Rangers wore similar garments, but neither of these fools were Rangers. Where was a Ranger when you needed one?
The enchanted tree considered sending out feelers to search for one, but it was tired. Finding those particular humans took effort. Well, all except the one with glowing eyes and magic in his blood. He was easy to find, but he wasn’t always with the Rangers. It was inconsiderate of them to leave him behind.
But they hadn’t tonight. His magic spread out in concentric rings around him as he entered the forest. Good, then he could deal with this annoying thing. The enchanted tree nudged its neighbor.
“It doesn’t matter,” the taller, leaner creature said after a long pause. She was similarly draped but not in night-colors. Her clothing was blood-stained and torn in places.
If the tree had a nose to smell with, it would have smelled the bloodlust simmering away under her false face, and it would have known her for what she was—a wild huntress. But it was no longer interested in these two since the object that had really gotten under its bark was currently passing from root to root on its way to a very specific Ranger’s hands.
“It does matter. I risked my life to bring that gem to you. Oh, where the hell is it? It couldn’t have gone far. The ground is so uneven,” said the smaller creature as bent low to the ground and searched. It was a species of elf and no larger than a child, but it was definitely not a child given the thick beard covering the lower half of his face.
The Huntress ignored his feeble excuse. Yes, he had brought it then he’d lost it, and that was putting an unexpected kink in her plans. Someone must pay for that. Her lips curved into a bloodthirsty smile as she stalked toward the pointy-eared elf. With every step, her nails lengthened, and so did her canines. Hunger twisted her insides.
The forest had three rules. One of them was ‘do no harm,’ but it didn’t apply to the wild things living here. And she was as wild as the wolves as she ran with.
“You want me to do what?” Sarn stared at Nolo. Had the man lost his reason?
A chill wind rustled the bare branches of the enchanted trees dozing around them. Even their magic moved sluggishly through them, not so with his magic. It was rushing around inside Sarn and bouncing off important things like nerves, and that was making him extra twitchy tonight.
Sarn pulled his woolen cloak tighter around him, and it helped a little. Moving would help even more, but he was too stunned to do anything other than stand there and stare at his master.
Well, at the back of his master because Nolo was walking away from him. With his black skin and dark green winter gear, Nolo was almost invisible once he stepped beyond the green glow Sarn’s eyes cast. I should follow him before he melts into the night. But Sarn just stood there like a fool. His mental map had a fix on Nolo, so it’s not like he could lose the man in the dark.
“You heard me.”
“I did, but I don’t understand.”
“What don’t you understand?” Nolo finally turned so he faced him. “I thought I was clear about what I want you to do and why.”
“I don’t understand how I’m supposed to stay out of sight if I’m helping your son with a school play. Did you forget that my eyes glow all the damned time? Jerlo gave me explicit orders to stay out of sight. I can’t violate that.”
“I’m not asking you to. In fact, I want you to stay behind the scenes.”
“But why? It’s just a holiday play.”
“Which will be watched by some very important people.”
“I don’t know for certain.”
“But you have a guess?”
“Jerlo does, but he’s not sharing.”
Somethings never changed. Jerlo liked to play things close to his vest, but this was ridiculous.
“Does he know about this?”
Nolo gave him a look. “Of course, he does. I cleared with him before I met up with you tonight.”
Well, that was good. Wasn’t it? “But these important people will have guards,” Sarn felt impelled to point out.
What could I possibly do that they won’t? Nothing sprang to mind since Sarn wasn’t trained to use anything other than a bow, and he wouldn’t have access to one unless Nolo lent him it. Somehow, I don’t see that happening.
“They will, but those guards will be outside the theater and so will a contingent of Mount Eredren’s Guards.”
“Why won’t they be inside the theater?”
“There’s not enough room inside for them and the audience,” Nolo said.
“Yeah, and that’s the part that confuses me. Why would anyone want to disrupt a holiday play starring a bunch of kids?”
“I don’t know, okay? Jerlo couldn’t ferret that out, and he tried.”
Well, wasn’t that a stunner. Jerlo had never met a secret he couldn’t uncover. So why was this one any different?
Nolo closed the distance between them and grasped Sarn’s shoulder. “Look, I know this is a strange assignment, but I’m trusting you to watch over my son. Nerule’s in the play, and I don’t want anything to happen to him. That’s your sole job: protect my son. Don’t do anything else. I mean it.”
“And where will you be?”
Nolo let go of Sarn and gestured to the forest. “I’ll be out here with a bunch of antsy Rangers freezing their arses off on sentry duty.”
So the Rangers would be doing what they do every night. All except me. I’ll be at a holiday play. And Sarn had no idea what that would entail, but he could figure that out later. Maybe Shade will have a few ideas. Drama is Shade’s thing, not mine. And, his best friend would be another pair of eyes.
Sarn decided to find Shade when he got off work in the morning. We could hash out the details such as they are over breakfast. Shade might even have a few ideas about what’s really going on.
“Just protect my son. If anything happens, and I do mean anything, grab him and go. Let the Guards handle everything else. And don’t let them see you. You’re to stay out of sight. Sarn? Are you even listening to me?”
No, he wasn’t because at that moment, two things happened at once—a scream shattered the silent night, and the ground spat a glowing object at Sarn.
“What the hell is that?” Nolo spun, searching for the source of that distress call.
Find out what happens next in volume two of our *special* holiday presentation. It will arrive in your inbox on New Years’ Eve for your reading pleasure. Until then, our scribe and the cast of the Curse Breaker series wish you and yours a very merry Christmas!
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Until next time, dear reader
This is Ran, son of Sarn, “decorator of 3D trees,” wishing you a great week! 😉
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