Christmas in Kingsport Part 2 - Kidnapping
CoC 1-6e Dreamlands Jazz Age
There were cries of alarm and then both Gerdie and Gordon saw something appear in the darkness next to them. For some reason, they could see the thing, as if the darkness were not around them anymore though nothing else was visible.
Each of them saw a bipedal creature covered in black fur with a hideous bare face. The things had hooves and horns. They were dressed only in harnesses and had strong claws and a large tongue. Over each of their backs was a sack and they moved almost without any sound whatsoever.
“Is that a gug!?!” Gerdie screamed.
They could hear fighting going on around them and the cries of the other children and shouts of adults at the party.
Gerdie swung her shovel at the terrible thing but missed it completely. Then it grabbed her and held the screaming child. She struggled against it.
“Cousin Melba!” she cried.
“Just hold still,” the creature said in a strange accent.
Somewhere nearby, another of the creatures grabbed Gordon but the youth broke free. He grabbed his axe, which leaned against his chair. The thing tried to grab him again.
“Come here!” the creature said in a strange accent. “Come here little man. I have my orders.”
Gordon struck the creature a solid blow with his axe and the thing let out a howl.
“Ach du lieber!” the creature cried out.
The thing tried to grab the youth despite the blood and obvious pain it was in. Gordon brought the axe back around but the blow merely bounced off the creature’s thick hide. It continued to try to grab him as he defended himself with the axe. Then the thing grabbed the little boy, who tried to break free.
“No so easy zhis time!” the creature said.
The darkness suddenly vanished and Gordon found himself in a prison cell with the creature. Gerdie was there as well, looking around in confusion. The creature flung Gordon away from himself and the little boy flung the axe as he stumbled back. The wood axe flew through the air clumsily but struck the creature in the left leg.
“You terrible child!” the creature screamed as he disappeared.
“Go on!” Gordon said. “ Git!”
The creature appeared outside of the cell.
“Ach!” the creature said. “You are a bad little boy! Bad little boy!”
The thing limped away, taking Gordon’s axe with him.
The cell they were in had thick stone walls, strong iron bars, and sturdy locks on the barred doors. Inside of the cell was a pile of hay and a bucket. The two children were the only ones there.
Gerdie examined the bucket and found it had a rope handle. She started working on the knot on the rope to free it. Gordon looked around and went to the bars. He could see there was a hallway that led off to the right and was lit by a strange, ambient light. He noticed a large iron lock on the door of the cell.
He also heard other children nearby and recognized his cousins’ voices.
Gordon concentrated on the lock, trying to turn it into a rock in the hopes that would free them. He could hear the voices of the creatures with their strange accents from somewhere up the hallway. Then he heard George curse.
“Hey, lemme outta here!” George called from a nearby cell. “You can’t keep me here! Do you know who you’re dealing with? I’m a dreamer! Yeah!”
He heard someone rattling a metal door. Unfortunately, his own lock had not changed. He was not yet a competent enough dreamer to change it.
“George, is that you?” they heard Alice call.
“Yeah, it’s me!” George replied. “I’m angry!”
“You’re angry?” Gerdie called. “I thought you were George.”
“Gerdie, shut up!” George called. “You’re so stupid.”
“I think we can figure a way out of this situation if we just put our minds to it,” Edward called.
“Hey, you children!” the voice of one of the creatures came down the hallway. “You children …”
They heard hoof beats come down the hallway and saw one of the creatures there. Gordon backed away from the door. The terrible thing stopped in front of Gordon’s cell.
“I understand you are bad little child!” the creature said. “Are you hungry? Are you thirsty? Do you need anything? Food? Water? You need anything?”
Gordon ignored the creature.
“No, don’t be bad,” the creature said. “Ve had our orders. Ve had to grab you. And you know, you hurt Dhariah. He’s not happy vith you.”
Gordon motioned for the creature to come closer and the youth spit in his face.
“Aw, that is not very nice!” the creature said. “Ve’re just doing our job. Ve have to do our job for the Lord of the Krampus.”
Gordon sat in the corner.
“Okay,” the krampus said. “If you get hungry or thirsty, you let us know, okay? Okay!”
“But we just ate,” Gerdie said.
“Vell, then when you get hungry or thirsty, you just let us know,” the krampus said. “Okay? Okay!”
The creature went to the next cell.
“Hey you big lummox!” George shouted. “I’ll get you! Just open this cell door! I’ll knock you out! I’ll pop you right in the jaw!”
“Oh, are you hungry or thirsty?” the krampus said.
“What!?!” George replied.
The creature went on down the line.
Gordon went to Gerdie, who was trying to pull the knot out of the rope handle of the bucket. He watched her while she worked on it. They could hear two of the krampus talking up the hall, presumably their guards. Listening to them while Gerdie worked, they learned a few things.
The two guards were apparently named Deveron and Keireon and spoke with a strange accent that reminded each of the children of their new Aunt Gretchen. They were waiting for the signal from their master to summon the prisoners to be judged. Their master created all krampus and they had no other purpose but to obey his commands. They had apparently been ordered to capture a child their master called “The Great Betrayer,” whose scent they followed to the castle of Mitzividor. They were confused because the scent seemed like it belonged to an adult and they were told the target was a disobedient child. They were uneasy about actually hurting the children they’d captured, feeling somehow they were only meant to frighten them. They were afraid of what would happen when their master discovered which of the children was “The Great Betrayer.”
Gerdie finally got the rope out.
“You can make your axe!” she told Gordon, handing him the rope.
“Oh!” the boy said.
He concentrated on the rope and tried to change it into his axe once again. Nothing happened. He tried to make it into a stick.
“C’mon, you can do it Gordie!” Gerdie said.
He had no success in changing the rope into anything.
They soon established that all six of the cousins were locked in the various cells along the hall. Up the hallway, the two krampus continued to chat amicably.
“Vhich von is it?” one said. “Vhich one is ze Great Betrayer?”
“I don’t know,” the other replied. “He seems really angry! Why is he so angry?”
“I don’t know! How would I know zhis?”
“You … you’re the smart one.”
“I thought you vere ze smart von.”
The small talk went on like that.
“What can I turn this bucket into?” Gerdie asked.
“Would you mind turning this rope into a stick?” Gordon said.
“But you made an axe before!”
“That was before, when I had days to do it. I don’t have time enough now.”
She sighed and took the rope, concentrating on it. It became a stick.
“Hey!” they heard George yell. “Where’s my baseball bat, you jerks.”
One of the krampus walked down the hall.
“Little boy, are you hungry?” it asked.
“You shut up!” George yelled. “Leave me alone!”
Cocky, Gerdie tried to form the stick into an axe but wasn’t able to do it. She handed the stick to Gordon.
“Ha ha!” they heard George cry out.
Then they heard what sounded like a tin cup being rattled on the bars of one of the other cells.
“That’s right!” George cried out. “I made a tin cup! This is annoying, isn’t it?”
He rattled the tin cup on the bars.
“George, why didn’t you make your baseball bat?” Donald asked.
The rattling stopped.
“God damn it!” George yelled.
“Oh, you made tin cup?” one of the krampus said, going to the cell. “Are you thirsty little boy?”
“No!” George yelled. “Leave me alone!”
Gerdie looked at the bars of the cell. They were too narrow for her to get her head through. She talked about making one of the bars into rope so they could squeeze out. Gordon tried to change it but had no luck, but Gerdie concentrated and changed a section of the bar about a foot or so long into a piece of rope. She guessed she could squeeze out of the cell though they would need another bar changed for Gordon to slip through.
George was still rattling his tin cup when she stuck her head through the hole to peek out. Their cell was at the end of a long hall with seven cells on one side. They were the furthest from a door at the opposite end where the two krampus stood and talked. They seemed very relaxed, one with one of his hoofs up against the wall under him and the other leaning against the wall comfortably.
Gordon tried one last time to make the bar into a rope but the strain was too much for him and he quietly collapsed to the floor, unconscious. Gerdie sighed.
“Gordie,” she said. “You need to know your limits.”
The others wanted to know what had happened and Gerdie told them.
George kept rattling his tin cup, off and on. Every time he did, one of the krampus would come down the corridor and ask if the youth wanted something to eat or drink. George just yelled at the terrible things.
“Ve have some gruel,” one of them said to him. “It’s not very good but it’s very, very good for you!”
“Get out of here!” George yelled.
“You know what they do with that bucket, don’t you kid?”
“Just get outta here!”
Gerdie tried to change the lock into sand without any luck. She guessed it was a working lock that took a large key and wondered about making one for it. She was feeling tired so decided to wait on doing anything more.
It was two hours before Gordon woke up. He looked around, a bit confused. Gerdie walked over to him and put her hands on her hips.
“Gordie, you need to know your limits,” she said to him.
“Shut up, Gerdie,” he muttered. “How long was I out?”
“I don’t know. Dream time’s kind of weird.”
“Well, how long did it feel like I was out?”
“Did you do anything while I was asleep?”
“I tried to turn the lock into sand but it didn’t do anything.”
“Could’ve tried turning it into a rock. That might have been easier.”
“But then the rock might have been stuck! At least with sand, it will fall. We’ve still got this bucket. And Cousin Melba said we could make anything if we thought about it hard enough. Feels like forever. But even if we escape, what are we going to do? I don’t think cousin Melba’s here. She wouldn’t have gotten caught by those krampus.”
“Hey, have you figured out how to get us out of here yet?” George called before rattling his tin cup on the bars again.
They took a count of the cousins and found George and Donald were in the cell next to Gordon and Gerdie, with Edward and Alice in the cell next to that one. No one else was being held in the dungeon. There was no sign of the other children from the party.
“Maybe we can tunnel out,” Gerdie suggested. “I got a shovel.”
She suggested turning the flagstone floor to dirt and then just digging their way out. George called back to her, asking what if it was rock under that.
“Do you children need anything?” one of the krampus called.
“No, we don’t need anything!” George screamed. “I hate those guys.”
One of the creatures walked down to the cells.
“Are you sure you’re not hungry?” he asked. “It is very good gruel, for gruel. All right.”
“How many times have I got to tell you!?!” George yelled. “I don’t want anything to eat!”
“Oh, you’ll get hungry sooner or later. I’m hungry all the time.”
“I hate that guy!”
The krampus went away.
“Change the lock into something else at the same time,” Gerdie whispered to the next cell. “Pass it on.”
“What do we do then?” Donald whispered back.
“We’re gonna go escape.”
“I … how?”
“She don’t know nothing,” George said.
“George, shut up,” Donald said.
George started rattling his tin cup on the bars again.
“I want my baseball bat,” she heard George mutter. “Oh, I’m going to try to make my baseball bat.”
There was silence for a few moments.
“Damn it!” George said.
“Well, ask Edward,” Gerdie whispered. “He’s the smart one.”
“You and that stupid cup!” Donald said.
“Shut up,” George said. “Oh, I feel dizzy. Oh, I don’t feel so good.”
“Try again, George,” Gordon called. “I’m sure you’ll get it next time.”
“S-Shut up!” George called. “Who is that? Is that hick boy? Gordon. Gordie. Gordo. Don’t mouth off at me. I made a tin cup.”
Donald whispered to them and they discussed getting rid of the locks. Gerdie suggested turning it to sand or water or something and he passed that information on. Donald was concerned the krampus would hear.
“Gordon wanted to turn it into a rock, but I don’t think that would work,” Gerdie said.
“What?” Donald said. “A rock? Wouldn’t that just be a rock lock?”
He got the joke, Gordon thought.
“That’s funny,” Donald said. “I don’t know how well it would work.”
After a moment they heard talking from the next cell again.
“Hold on,” Donald said. “Give me that tin cup, you idiot.”
“My tin cup!” George said.
There was a moment of silence.
“Here’s your stupid baseball bat,” Donald said.
“My baseball bat!” George said. “My baseball bat. Okay, make me a catcher’s mitt.”
“Shut up!” Donald said. “George, just sit there for a while.”
“What good is that without a baseball anyhow?” Gerdie asked.
“Yeah, make me a baseball!” he said. “I’ll tell you what good it is! I’m gonna beat me some demon men guys … whatever they are.”
“Those are krampus, stupid,” Donald said.
“How do you know?”
“Didn’t you even listen to Aunt Gretchen? They even sound like her!”
“Hey, where’s them other kids,” Edward called down from his cell. “Why aren’t they here? Hey! You krampus! You … things! Where’s them other kids?”
“Oh, we don’t know,” one of the krampus called back. “They were taken to other cells.”
“What’re you going to do with us!?!” Edward called.
“Lord of Krampus, he is looking for ze Great … I can’t tell you that!” one of the krampus said. “I’m not supposed to tell you that!”
“Oh,” Edward said. “Sorry.”
The krampus came down to see if any of the children were hungry or thirsty again.
Gerdie tried to turn her lock into sand again but was unsuccessful.
“Okay, stay here, I’m going to look around,” she told Gordon.
She slipped out of the wide spot made by changing one of the cell bars to rope. She could see the krampus at the other end of the hallway but they didn’t seem to notice her. She saw there were seven cells on the right side, each of them with bars between them and the hall and a door made of bars as well.
She crept up the hallway, passing the other two cells and peeking into the cell past Edward and Alice.
“Hey!” one of the krampus called. “How did you get out of your cell!?! That is not allowed!”
“Oh, it’s not?” Gerdie said.
The krampus came down the corridor to the girl.
“What?” she said. “I just need to go─”
“Little girl, you are not to leave your cell until the master sends for you,” the krampus said.
“I … I have to pee.”
“That’s what the bucket is for!”
“Oh. I turned that─”
“Which cell were you in?”
“I don’t know.”
“She smells just like the Great Betrayer.”
“We know that!” the other krampus called down the tunnel. “Shut up! You’re not supposed to tell them!”
“Oh yeah,” the nearer krampus said.
“Who’s the great betrayer?” Gerdie asked.
“We don’t know. He’s looking for her.”
“Would you shut up!” the further krampus called.
“I’m sorry,” the nearer one said. “I’m sorry. I forgot.”
He took Gerdie by the hand and led her back to her cell. As she passed Edward and Alice’s cell, she saw Alice had a switchblade like the one she always carried. She hid it from the krampus but glared at the creature. She nodded at Gerdie. Edward looked at her nervously. When she passed Donald and George’s cell, she spotted George hide the baseball bat.
“Ah, you are in this cell,” the krampus said when they reached the end. “What did you do to the bars? No no! Change them back!”
“I don’t know how,” Gerdie said.
The creature growled.
“Vell, get in there!” he said.
He shoved her through the bars where the rope bar was.
“Now, do not come out again!” the krampus said. “Wait, are you hungry? Are you thirsty? How about him?”
Gordon pretended to sleep in the corner.
“All right,” the krampus said. “All right. Don’t get out again!”
He walked away.
“She got out!” he called to his companion. “She changed the bars!”
“Did she change them back?” the other called down the corridor.
“No, she didn’t change them back! She didn’t know how!”
“How’d she change them in the first place!?!”
He walked back.
“Hey!” he said to Gerdie. “How-how did you change those bars in the first place? Those are supposed to be metal! I could get in lots of trouble for this.”
“Is she the great betrayer?” the other krampus called.
“She wouldn’t tell me. Wait. Are you the great betrayer?”
“What’s a great betrayer?” Gerdie asked.
“We don’t know,” the krampus said. “He won’t tell us.”
“Who won’t tell you?”
“Him. The master. The master of all of us krampus.”
“What? Who? No! Not Santa! Who is Santa?”
“Are you going to eat us?”
“Then why are you trying to feed us? You’re trying to fatten us up aren’t you?”
“No! No, we’re just trying to be polite.”
He turned from the cell.
“They’re so suspicious!” he called to his compatriot.
“Yes, yes,” the other krampus yelled back.
“Well you do sound like Germans,” Gerdie said.
“We sound like … we sound like Germans?” the krampus said. “Ve’re not … what is Germans? Zhere’s no Germans here! Zhis is the Dreamlands, I know that. Ve’re in a bad part of the Dreamlands though. It’s very dark all the time. But, that’s what the master wants.”
“Why don’t you make a sun?”
“Make a sign?”
“Like a light in the sky. Then it won’t be so dark.”
“We can’t do that! I don’t know how to do that.”
“Well, what if I did that?”
“Well, you can try. Good luck wit zat.”
He sniffed at the girl again.
“Smells just like the Great Betrayer!” he called down the hall. “So does that one. The one in the corner there. You all do! Been rolling around in The Great Betrayer or something? What’s wrong with you children?”
He started to walk away again.
“What does the Great Betrayer smell like?” Gerdie called after him.
“Like you!” the krampus called back.
“How do you know what it smells like?”
“Because he told us what it smells like!”
“How can you tell someone what it smells like?”
“It’s not easy!”
“Well, does the master know what we look like?”
“Does he know what the Great Betrayer looks like?”
“Iunno. I hope he knows something or else ve could be here a long time.
“Those other kids didn’t smell like the great betrayer,” the other krampus called down the corridor.
“Now you say something we aren’t supposed to say out loud instead of me!” the first called.
“Verdammit!” the second cursed.
The krampus made his way back up, sniffing at each of the children.
“So, what’s the test?” Gerdie called.
“What?” the krampus said, coming back.
“Is it like a math test?”
“I’m not good at math.”
“There is no test.”
“You all smell like adults, well, one adult. But you’re children. We don’t know what’s going to happen when the master …”
“Are you sure you grabbed the right betrayers?”
“Yes! You all smell like the Great Betrayer. He said it was a disobedient child! But it smells like an adult. But then you are children. Is it me? It’s not me. It’s her, right? It’s them!”
“You’re fine!” the other krampus called.
“See, I’m fine,” the first said.
“What if I made you smell like the Great Betrayer?” Gerdie asked.
“Meh,” the krampus said. “How would you know what she smells like?”
“Good luck with that.”
He wandered back up.
“Do we need to meet the master?” Gerdie called.
“He will send for you!” the krampus called back. “One at a time!”
“Why not two at a time? That seems a lot more efficient.”
“I don’t know! He’s the master. He doesn’t tell me all the things! I just work here. Right?”
“You’re telling her too much,” the other krampus said.
“Oh yeah,” the first said.
“Did he tell you to put the Great Betrayer in these cells?” Gerdie asked.
“Yes,” the krampus said.
“Why are there seven?”
“Iunno. That’s how he made the place.”
“He made this place?”
“Is it a big place?”
“Did the master make this place?”
“The master made the Tower of Punishment!” the other krampus said dramatically.
“Is that where we are?” the first said.
“Do you not pay attention?”
“ … yes. We’re in the Tower of Punishment. That is why he’s looking for a bad child, a disobedient child, he said. She did something she was not supposed to and now we’re supposed to find her. Her?”
“She will be punished. That child will be.”
The two children suspected that the Great Betrayer might be Aunt Gretchen, which might make the master her father, whom she had had the great falling out with about marrying Uncle Wally.
They began to whisper with the other children, trying to figure out if someone else could make Gordon an axe.
“Him and his stupid axes,” Alice whispered back.
Though unhappy about the axe, she said she’d try to make it though she needed something to make it out of. Gerdie climbed back out of the cell and crept down the hallway, handing the stick to Alice. She crept back without the krampus noticing her.
“Pst, I got your axe,” Alice whispered down the line.
Gerdie snuck out of the cell again, got the axe, and crept back.
“Thank you Alice,” Gordon called.
“You’re welcome,” Alice said.
He concealed the axe under the hay.
Gerdie whispered down the line for the others to turn their locks into sand. They soon learned that Edward was able to turn his lock into sand after several attempts. Gerdie suggested he put the sand in his pocket but he whispered the sand hadn’t moved yet and he didn’t want to touch it until they were ready to escape.
“I think when I touch it, it’s going to fall apart,” Edward whispered. “But it’s just sitting there now.”
He was also too tired to do anything more.
They waited a couple of hours before they decided to move. In that time, the krampus visited them every once in a while to see if they wanted food or drink. The krampus told Gerdie to change the bar back when she could. All of the children asked for food and drink eventually and were given a wooden bowl of gruel, a wooden spoon, and a wooden cup filled with water.
Gordon asked the krampus to apologize to the one he’d maimed with his axe when they were kidnapped.
“That is so sweet of you!” the krampus said. “I will tell him. Next time I see him.”
Gerdie got water after Gordon drank his, convinced it was not poisoned when her cousin didn’t die.
Gordon tried to make the bar next to the rope bar into rope as well but didn’t have any luck.
In the next cell, George tried to change the lock on their door to sand without luck. Donald was successful, however, changing his own lock.
“I made my lock glass,” he whispered to them.
“That’s going to make noise!” Gerdie whispered back.
“Yeah, it is,” Donald said proudly. “But George could break it real quick. So, when you’re ready to make a break, George’ll smash it. I don’t think they’ll notice. It’s a dark glass.”
Donald described the glass, noting it was coffee colored that matched the iron bars almost exactly but, when examined closely, you could actually see the gears within.
“I hate to break it,” he said.
Gerdie tried one more time to make the bar into a rope but failed again. Gordon figured he might be able to squeeze through. Then he realized he had an axe and could just cut the rope that was there, making the gap big enough.
“Well, hot dog!” he said.
They told the others they had a way out of the cell so each of the cells was now technically open. Gerdie told Gordon to grab the sand when they escaped.
“What if we threaten them to take us back?” Gerdie asked.
“What are we going to threaten them with?” Gordon asked.
“We got weapons.”
“We got … they’ll just take ‘em again.”
“We’re not the great betrayer and we know who it is. Why don’t tell them we can take them to her?”
“Yeah, maybe that’s a better way to do it.”
“Hide your weapons.”
The children all hid the weapons they’d created.
“I’m putting mine down my pants!” George said. “I’m ready. You just give the word and the glass is broken!”
“George, God damn it,” Donald muttered. “You read too many comic books.”
“Donald, shut up!” George said. “That’s the call sign: ‘The glass is broken.’”
“Oh my God, George,” Donald said. “What is wrong with you?”