Christmas in Kingsport Part 3 - Lord of the Krampus
CoC 1-6e Dreamlands Jazz Age
“When are they gonna send for us?” Gerdie called.
There was no answer.
“Hey, krampus!” she called.
“Vhat? Vhat?” one of them replied. “Are you hungry? Are you thirsty? Vhat do you vant?”
He came down the corridor to her cell.
“When will they send for us?” Gerdie whined. “It’s been forever!”
“I don’t know,” the krampus said. “The master has his own time and place for everyzhing.”
“Well, why don’t we just go there right now? We know who the Great Betrayer is. We can tell him.”
“Vhat? You know?”
“But it smells like you!”
“It’s not us.”
“I vill take you up zhere. Climb out your hole.”
“But we need to all be there together.”
“No, he vants to talk one at a time to each child.”
“Why do you all have to be there?”
“Because she doesn’t want to go by herself,” Gordon said. “She’s scared.”
“Oh, are you scared, little girl?” the krampus asked.
“Yes,” Gerdie said.
Tears appeared in the krampus’ eyes and he looked like he felt really bad.
“I have to do as the master says,” he finally said. “The master says one at a time. When he calls. I am sorry.”
“Why can’t we go right now?” Gerdie said. “Don’t you think─”
“Because it’s not until ze master is ready.”
“Well … when is the master due to get ready?”
“Iunno. He is the master.”
“It’s taking forever.”
“Well, take a nap. Sleep is good. I enjoy sleep ze most.”
He walked back up the hallway.
“All right, plan B,” Gordon said.
They discussed fighting the things and Gerdie was not enthused about their chances.
“Is it time to break the glass?” George whispered to them.
“What are you going to do after that, dummy?” Gerdie asked.
“Beat ‘em down!” George said. “Just like the New York Yankees.”
“Gordie hit them with an axe and they didn’t die!”
“You get one of them down here and we’ll bust out and beat ‘em up and then we’ll go get the other one. Yeah!”
“And what do we do if we don’t beat ‘em up?”
“I guess we’ll be in prison again. But we’re already in prison. Man … I need a cigarette!”
“George, shut up!” Donald said.
“You shut up!” George said.
“You shut up!”
“George you ain’t smoked a day in your life,” Gordon said.
“Hey, you shut up!” George said. “I might’ve. You don’t know nothing.”
“Tried some of pa’s chaw one time,” Gordon said. “It wasn’t so good.”
Gerdie had changed her mind about dealing with the krampus. She wanted to get to the master and tell him who the great betrayer was so they would take them home. Gordon agreed and they passed the word to the other children. Gordon went ahead and cut the rope. He thought he could squeeze through.
“Hey krampus!” Gerdie called.
“Vhat?” one of the krampus called back. “Are you hungry? Are you thirsty?”
“I tried to turn the iron bar back and it disappeared!”
“Wait, is this it?” George whispered to the girl as the krampus walked down the hallway towards them. “Are we going?”
“The glass is broken,” he said.
“No no no!” Gerdie said. “Not yet.”
“That’s not what you’re supposed to say,” George said.
The krampus came down and saw the broken rope. He groaned.
“I don’t know what to do!” Gerdie lied. “I tried to fix it.”
“Well fix it!” the krampus said. “You’re a dreamer! Fix this.”
“I tried to.”
“And it broke more!”
He grabbed the two ends of the rope and tried to push them back together.
“Was that the signal?” George called.
“Damn it, George!” Donald said.
“George, just go!” Gordon said.
There was the tinkling of shattered glass and George ran out of the cell and rushed the krampus, swinging his baseball bat but missing completely.
“God damn it, George!” Donald cried.
Gordon pulled out his axe but, not really wanting to hurt the krampus, turned it around so it was the blunt end of the axe instead of the sharp blade. He rushed to the bars and swung the axe through the hole, slamming the krampus in the left hand and knocking him back. There was a crack and the krampus grabbed his hand in the other hand with a cry.
Another door opened down the corridor and Alice ran to the krampus with a shriek and stabbed him in the back. Gerdie tried to hit the thing with her shovel through the hole in the bars, smacking him in the side of the head but not really hurting him. Donald beat on the krampus with his fists, punching the creature in the gut.
Edward held back and watched down the corridor, peeking from his cell.
Donald punched the krampus in the gut again. Gerdie quickly climbed out of the cell and lunged at the krampus, trying to push him over. She struck the krampus in the knees and he stumbled.
“Hey, vhat’s going on down there?” the krampus at the end of the hallway called.
“Oh, you terrible children!” the krampus they were all beating on yelled. “Stop!”
He tried to punch at Alice. Though he had terrible claws, he made a fist and tried to punch the girl, almost as if he didn’t want to really hurt her.
“Vhy do you have a knife?” he cried out. “Little girls shouldn’t have knives!
George swung away again, missing with the baseball bat and almost spinning himself completely around. Gordon swung through the hole in the bars but missed completely. He was too far away. Alice screamed and stabbed the krampus with her switchblade.
“Guys, hurry up!” Edward said, backing towards them from his cell.
“You are not supposed to be doing that!” the other krampus yelled as he walked down the corridor towards them.
Donald punched the krampus again, clocking the creature in the side of the face. Gerdie swung away with her shovel but missed completely.
“You terrible children!” the further krampus yelled.
“Get off!” the one they fought cried out.
The krampus punched Donald in the head and the boy stumbled back and fell to the ground, unconscious.
“Oh no!” the krampus cried out. “I’m so sorry.”
George struck the krampus in the back with his baseball bat but missed again. Gordon leapt out of the cell and swung at the krampus but the back of the axe merely scored a glancing blow. Alice stabbed at the thing again, this time drawing blood.
“You are the worst!” she shrieked.
“The other one’s coming!” Edward said, backing towards them. “Maybe we should’ve sent them for gruel or something first!”
Gerdie dropped the shovel and attacked the krampus with her bare hands. The creature swung wildly. George beat on the krampus with his baseball bat, finally hitting the thing. Gordon swung again and struck the krampus, who shrieked and fell to the ground.
“Donald!” George screamed. “He killed Donald!”
Edward reached them as the other krampus approached. Gordon tried to tend to Donald’s wounds but wasn’t able to wake the youth.
“He’s fine, George,” Gordon said. “Shut up!”
“He’s dead!” George shrieked. “He’s dead!”
“He’s still breathing, dummy!”
“Oh. I should kick him for tricking me.”
“You children, put down those terrible, evil weapons!” the other krampus called as it approached.
Gerdie lunged at the krampus, trying to knock him over but just crashed into his legs and bounced off.
“Vhat are you doing, little girl!?!” he cried out. “Go back to your cell!”
He tried to cuff her but missed as she ducked out of the way.
“Batter up!” George yelled, thinking he was being clever.
He rushed the krampus and swung his baseball bat but missed completely.
“You suck at baseball, George!” Gerdie yelled.
“Hey, shut up!” he yelled.
Gordon leapt up and rushed the other krampus, swinging the blunt side of the axe at him, but the blow just bounced off the thing. Alice shrieked and rushed the creature.
“You’re gonna die too!” she screamed, stabbing ineffectually at it.
“Those knives are dangerous, little girl,” the krampus said.
Edward ran to Donald and tried to see to his wounds. Donald blinked his eyes and looked around. He leapt up.
“You filthy krampus!” he yelled. “You stink! You smell!”
“Now, dat is very hurtful,” the krampus said. “Why would you say such a thing?”
Donald rushed the krampus and punched him in the gut. It didn’t seem to hurt the creature. Gerdie, meanwhile, crept behind the krampus and tried to shove the backs of his knees to knock him over. She ended up pushing on his thighs.
“Little girl, that’s not appropriate!” the krampus called out.
He punched Donald in the face and the youth went down, out cold. George let out a shriek.
“Nooooo!” he yelled. “Donald is dead! For real this time!”
He struck the krampus in the horn with his baseball bat. Then Gordon swung at the thing but missed completely. Alice tried to stab the krampus and missed as Edward pulled Donald out of the way and tried to bind his wounds again.
Gerdie tried to punch the krampus in the back of the knee without effect. The krampus turned to George and punched the kid in the head.
“You son of a bitch!” George yelled, tears in his eyes.
“Don’t use such language, little boy!” the krampus scolded him.
George swung away again, popping the krampus in the side. Gordon swung and missed completely again. Alice swung wildly with her knife.
“Hey, should you be fighting with your prisoners?” Edward called. “You might hurt us and then you’ll be in trouble, right?”
Gerdie punched the krampus again, hitting the thing in the leg once more. The krampus swiped at her but missed. George slammed the krampus in the head with his baseball bat and the thing stumbled but did not fall.
“It’s up to you, Gordie!” he yelled.
Gordon struck the krampus with the blunt side of the axe, cracking him in the side of the head and the creature went down, out cold.
Gerdie searched the two krampus but they only had the harnesses they wore. They dragged them into one of the cells though Gerdie complained they would just vanish. There was a short argument between Gordon and Gerdie about it.
“It would probably take less time if you two would quit arguing!” George said.
“Let’s just get out of here!” Gerdie said. “Grab everything!”
She grabbed a pocketful of sand from Edward’s lock. Gerdie helped revive Donald at least enough for him to stumble along after them. Alice stood over the unconscious krampus with her knife as if thinking about stabbing them.
“C’mon Alice,” Gordon said.
She followed after them.
A door stood at the other end of the corridor and opened into a spiral staircase going upwards. As they headed up the stairs, they suddenly shifted and changed into a spiral slide. However, the children didn’t slide down them, but hastily slid upwards.
“Weeee!” Gerdie and Donald cried out.
They slid for what felt like a while before they were hurled into a room at the top. Donald landed perfectly and smiled, holding up his arms. The rest of the children also landed well except for Gordon, who crashed to the floor in a heap.
They found themselves in a circular room, obviously the highest room in the Tower of Punishment. After recovering their senses, after the long slide and harsh landing, they were able to quickly take measure of their surroundings. It was clear they were in the tallest chamber of the tower. Torches and a massive brazier of burning coals lit the room. The sounds of cruelly blowing winds would be heard howling just outside. There were a dozen high windows commanding a good view of the surrounding area. All around the tower, as far as the eye could see, was a rocky wasteland enveloped in ice and eternal darkness. The ceiling of the room was very high to accommodate the massive being who dwelt there. The one item of furniture in the room was a massive granite throne upon which sat the Lord of the Krampus.
The creature towered above them like some giant out of a fairy tale, as tall as two men. It appeared much as the other krampus, only more hideous. Thick, black fur covered its body, its feet ending in massive cloven hooves. Its face sported a muzzle filled with black, jagged teeth; its eyes burned red and glowing with hate. Its head was crowned with long, curved horns, between which hovered a burning mass of blue flame. On its hip, hanging from its massive leather harness, was a vicious-looking whip with many leather strands, each tipped with dozens of metal hooks.
It looked over each of them carefully, its lips curling back in disappointment. It spoke in a deep, menacing voice.
“None of you are ze one I seek, yet you bear her scent,” it said. “No matter. You will tell me vhere she is before ze end. You stand before me to be judged! Step forward. Tell me your names and where I can find … ‘The Great Betrayer!’”
George screamed and ran back to the spiral slide, jumped in, flew out and landed, jumped in, flew out and landed, and repeated that process for the next minute or so until he regained his sanity.
“Vhat is your name?” the Lord said to Gerdie.
“Gerdie Pope,” she replied.
“Vhere is the Great Betrayer?”
“Ze Great Betrayer! Her smell is all over you? Vhere is she?”
“Oh, because of this knitted stuff?”
She realized she was no longer wearing the gifts from Aunt Gretchen.
“Oh,” she said.
She stared at the creature.
“Speak up, child!” it said.
“I mean, Aunt Gretchen gave us all knitted stuff,” she said.
“She is ze vun! Vhere is she!?! Vhere is she!?! Vhere is ze Great Betrayer!?!”
“I don’t think she’s in the Dreamlands!”
“Vhat!?! This is the only place for her to be!”
“I mean, she didn’t come with us into the Dreamlands.”
“Vhere is she!?! Vhere is she?”
“Vhere is zhis Kingsport?”
The creature seemed to be becoming more and more agitated.
“Vhere is she!?!” the Lord said again. “She is ze Great Betrayer!”
“Is she a dreamer?” Gerdie said.
“Vhat are you talking about? Zhis is not a dream! Tell me vhere she is!”
“How did she betray you?”
The Lord sputtered.
“Zhat does not matter,” it said uncertainly. “Zhat does not matter. I must find her. She must be punished as an insolent and disobedient child!”
“She’s not a child anymore,” Gerdie said.
“It matters not! She has gone against her father’s wishes. She must be punished for zhese things.”
“Oh, because she married Uncle Wally?”
“She married ze American, yes. She married him. She laughed in her father’s face and married against his wishes, yes. And she must be punished for the way she is acting. You!”
He pointed at Gordon.
“Vhere is she?” the Lord bellowed. “Vhat is your name?”
“Gordon Brewster,” Gordon said.
“Vhere is the Great Betrayer? You know her. Her smell is on you.”
“We said she’s in Kingsport.”
“No no no! That is lies. Tell me or I will become angry and have to hurt you all, you terrible children!”
It reached down and clutched the whip.
“She’s at our Great Aunt Norma’s,” Gordon said. “You can take her too, if you want.”
“Vhat?” the Lord said. “Norma? I do not know this Norma.”
“She’s very mean,” Gerdie said.
“I don’t care about her!” the Lord said. “I must punish The Great Betrayer!”
“I mean, we can go get her.”
“Just tell me vhere she is!”
“When we were dreaming, we were dreaming in Kingsport, right?”
“Yeah,” Gordon said.
None of the other children were sure when they started actually dreaming. Alice noted Aunt Gretchen had seemed sad when she talked about her father and their last words.
“Cousin Melba would know, wouldn’t she?” Gerdie said.
“Yeah,” Gordon said.
“Did you kidnap Cousin Melba too?” Gerdie asked the Lord of the Krampus.
“No!” the Lord replied. “I only kidnapped those … that … ugh. Children are so stupid. I was trying to find the Great Betrayer and my krampus brought me you six! And they snatched up the other six children as well, though they did not smell of the Great Betrayer. She has betrayed her father without remorse and she must be punished!”
“Wait, why’d they snatch up the other six children?”
“Because they’re stupid. They’re krampus! They’re idiots!”
“I’m standing right here,” a krampus who was loitering in a nearby doorway muttered.
“Go!” the Lord of the Krampus yelled at him. “Go do something with yourself!”
“Yes sir,” the krampus said with a pout. “I’ll go do something with myself. You don’t have to be hurtful.”
“Well, if we just wake up, we can bring Gretchen,” Gerdie said.
“You will not escape easily!” the Lord of the Krampus said. “I varn you.”
Gordon and Gerdie both realized the Lord of the Krampus was probably Gretchen’s father, whom the girl had told them she’d had a terrible argument with just before leaving Austria a week or so before.
“But Aunt Gretchen misses Austria,” Gerdie suddenly said.
“Vhat!?!” the Lord of the Krampus replied.
“She misses Austria.”
“No no no! She has no remorse for what she’s done! She has left! She has left her father!”
“Yeah, she looked kind of sad when she was talking about it,” Gordon said.
“She looked … she looked sad?” the Lord of the Krampus said, his voice softer.
His voice had suddenly become more human and the flame between his horns dimmed a little bit.
“She told us she missed her family,” Gerdie said. “And she wanted to spend Christmas with them.”
The flame over the Lord of the Krampus went out and tears welled up in his eyes, rolling down his face.
“They wanted to come visit you,” Gordon said.
The hideous giant melted away, leaving behind a man. He was an older gentleman in his 50s with white hair, a black mustache, a care-wrinkled face, a white cape, walking stick, and a top hat. He was crying.
“Who’s that?” Donald said, still very confused and loopy.
“Do we take him out?” George whispered to the rest.
He had finally gotten over being afraid.
“Do we take him out?” he whispered again. “Who is he?”
“Who is that?” Edward said. “Who are you?”
“He’s another dreamer,” Gerdie said.
“Yah,” the man said, wiping his eyes. “I am so sorry, children, for the terrible things I have done. Krampus! Get in here now!”
The krampus came running up the sliding stairway. There were some 30 of the strange beasts. The one Gordon had injured earlier limped into the room. He looked at Gordon in horror.
“That’s the one!” he cried, pointing at Gordon. “That’s the one!”
“I told them to say I was sorry,” Gordon said.
He went over to hug the krampus who shrieked in terror and ran away.
Even the two the children had knocked unconscious stumbled into the room, apparently still out cold.
“Ve vill transport all of you back to Castle Mitzividor,” the old man said.
The krampus grabbed the children and they all suddenly appeared inside Cousin Melba’s castle. After the others there realized it was not another attack, the old man surrendered himself to the White Maiden, begging her forgiveness and throwing himself upon her mercy. The children told her everything that had happened and saw that the orphan children had been returned as well. She forgave the man on the condition that he contact his daughter in the waking world as soon as he awakened. He agreed, telling her that was his greatest wish anyway. Then he turned control of the krampus over to the White Maiden.
“You will follow her instructions and orders now as you would have followed mine,” he said.
Then they all woke up!
* * *
The children awoke, sunlight streaming into their rooms. It was Christmas morning! According to the clock, it was 10 a.m. They could hear Aunt Norma badgering someone.
“It’s Christmas,” Gordon said with a smile.
They ran downstairs and enjoyed a wonderful Christmas morning. All of the children had slept in and felt well-rested despite their strange ordeal in the Dreamlands. They privately whispered with Melba about their adventures and opened their presents. Gordon got the cleaning kit for his rifle. Gerdie got her shovel and was surprised it looked just like the one she’d created in the Dreamlands. George got his football, Alice got a Raggedy Anne, Edward got his Latin book, and Donald got his art supplies.
“What happened?” Donald said after they’d opened their presents. “All I remember is someone hit me and some old guy was there with a mustache.”
“You’re just not a very good dreamer,” Gerdie said, patting his hand.
He just looked at her.
“Shut up!” he finally said with a pout. “I’m a good dreamer!”
Shortly after that, a knock came at the front door. It proved to be an older man, finely dressed, who apologized for his rude intrusion in a thick, Austrian accent. He humbly asked if he could enter and speak to “Wally and Gretchen Weedon, my son-in-law and daughter.”
He was shown inside and proved to be the man they had met in the Dreamlands. He introduced himself as Günter von Khol. Wally and Gretchen were shocked to see him in Kingsport but were even more so when he apologized to them both for being such a fool and begged them both to forgive him. What followed was a very tearful reunion between father and daughter with even the war veteran Wally Weedon shedding a few tears at their happiness.
He spent Christmas with the family.
After a few hours, he snuck off to speak with Melba and the children. He explained he had created a gate between Vienna and Kingsport, as it was the fastest way to travel between the two cities. He thanked them all from the bottom of his heart.
“I owe each of you a debt that I can never repay,” he said. “But that won’t stop me from trying. Please, allow a foolish old man to hand out a few Christmas gifts.”
He gave Melba and each of the children a signet ring with the von Khol crest, explaining they were now under the protection of his family. He said if they were ever in Europe, they could use the rings to get help as people would recognize the crest and help them, especially in Austria. He told them they could open the gate to Vienna using the rings as well, giving them the location of the hidden, magical portal in the city. He invited them to visit him in Vienna whenever they liked, noting the gate opened in his castle there. They also learned he and Gretchen were both Austrian nobility. He said he had other gifts for the children and thanked them so much for saving him from the terrible madness that filled him when he daughter left him for Wally.
They all had a very merry Christmas.