Can you believe it’s only 11 days until Christmas?! We can’t either! Today we have a festive Dark Fantasy by the lovely Olivia Hinebaugh to sink our teeth into. Olivia usually writes YA and MG, so see how she does with dark and twisty. I think she did an amazing job.
A Krampus Carol
by Olivia Hinebaugh
Berta was naughty. No, it was more than that. Berta was wicked, and she had been for most of her twenty-two years.
Never had she loved her own wickedness more than she did right now, on the shortest day of the year, the day she’d been looking forward to since the frost crept down the mountain.
The day was coming to a close, the color leeching out of the trees and the sky and the other cabins at an alarming clip. The shadows were as long and thin as they could get. Berta admired her own shadow as she stood outside waiting for nightfall. Even in its stretched shape, her curves were noticeable. She turned to the side to get a better view of her breasts. She wasn’t dressed nearly warm enough for this weather. But she didn’t want to risk being unprepared should he decide to arrive early.
Everything must be perfect. Berta put the finishing touches on the exterior of her house. Like her neighbors, she placed candles of various sizes on every flat surface. She loved candles. She loved fire. She loved when a small tongue of flame leapt from one surface to another, going from small, controllable sprite to hungry, destructive monster. She loved when something that had been solid and real for one moment, crumbled into a million stars.
No one else in her small mountain village knew just how much she loved fire. No one ever suspected her when their sheds burned down or their roofs caved in. She was always the first to arrive to throw a bucket of snow on the consuming flames. She’d wrap the victims of her arson in blankets and invite them to sit with her until morning came and they could assess the damage. Her neighbors thought she was kind and gentle.
She waved to the son of the man who lived next door. “Beautiful evening,” she called in her singsong voice.
The son, whose name was Willem she thought–or maybe Willem was a different adolescent boy in the village who lusted after her–dropped the long wooden match he had been using to light his candles. Flustered, he bent down and picked it up, keeping his eyes on her exposed cleavage, which was gleaming white in the last light of the day.
Berta pretended not to notice, but her effect on him was obvious. She took a moment to savor her power and then she turned to light her own candles. Reverently, she moved from candle to candle, enjoying the moment when the wick accepted the flame.
Happy carols filled the air as the other villagers retreated into the warmth of their homes. They were welcoming Niklaus, hoping he’d bring blessings, a mild winter, treats for the children. No one wanted to acknowledge the darker forces at work on this night, no one except Berta, obviously.
When all the candles were lit, Berta stood back and soaked up the light. It was cold enough that she could feel the warmth the candles provided. Satisfied with the results, she stepped toward her front door and hung the finishing touch: a wreath she had crafted out of birch branches. Yes, he would appreciate this and know he was welcome here.
When the sun was entirely behind the mountains, Berta went inside. She didn’t light a Yule log, opting for more pillar candles. Berta knew that candles were better for seduction.
Seduction was one of the more prominent features on the list of the ways Berta had been naughty. But surely Krampus was more experienced. Each year he punished naughty children and chased after buxom girls. He’d chased Berta more than a few times since she had turned thirteen, but then her grandmother had been alive, her kind, good, wonderful grandmother who need only sing her favorite tune–something about holly–and Krampus would snarl and leave. Only the bundles of birch sticks he left behind was proof that he visited. The memories were always hazy, tinged at the edges with cloudy wonder.
No matter, this year, he would be here, he had to be.
Grandmother wouldn’t be in the way this year, Berta made sure of it. She was getting old anyway. Berta half-thought that killing her was a kindness. Not that Berta had done it herself. For someone so wicked, Berta had a strong repulsion against blood. One of the lads in town had done it for her, all in exchange for her letting him up her skirt. It was well worth it. For a flash of her breasts, the lad had cleaned up the blood and entrails as well. The rest of the village thought that a bear had taken Grandmother.
The villagers had shown her such kindness after her grandmother’s disappearance. Pies and stews were left on her doorstep for months. The old ladies in the village cleaned her house and brushed her hair and made a fuss. Berta didn’t cry. The villagers thought she was too stunned. She hid her glee well.
Berta sat in her grandmother’s chair near the empty fireplace. She reached to the tray of confections that lay next to her, jellied honey coated in powdery sugar, pickled fruits and sugared ginger. It was her midwinter tradition, dining on the spoils of her small-time thievery. She only stole candies from the children who were not yet verbal enough to tell their parents what had happened. They’d cry out when she took their candy and she’d make a fuss over them. The parents never suspected her under her friendly exterior.
The chill in the air indicated that the sun was well and truly set. Berta grew restless. She grew cold and drew her grandmother’s prized felted blanket around herself and watched the candles burn down.
Finally, she heard it, the bells and the chains, the only metallic sound in her world of lumber and wool. As always, they were coming down the mountain. It was a mystery where they came from, as far as Berta knew, there was no village higher up than hers.
A shiver of anticipation surprised Berta. She was actually a little nervous, the emotion completely unfamiliar. She glanced over her white breasts and her even whiter gown. It would be any moment. Her small cabin backed up to the mountain. Niklaus had often stopped here first. Grandmother always had warm mulled wine and thought the aroma helped to invite Niklaus to their house early in the evening. Berta always suspected there was more going on, since her Grandmother, the village witch, was able to concoct brews for many purposes. Her mulled wine was enticing. Even Berta loved it, though it drew many of their neighbors to their cabin during midwinter. Being around people celebrating and laughing was always a chore. No, this was much better, being alone, awaiting Krampus.
Berta almost missed the smell of the mulled wine. Despite her many talents in seduction, Berta could not think of an aroma that might entice Krampus. She thought of roasting one of her mountain goats, though she wondered if that wouldn’t be a little cannibalistic to the cloven-hoofed, dual-horned demon. On second thought, if he didn’t appreciate cannibalism, Berta didn’t know who would.
The lack of aroma must be what was keeping the two unlikely friends. Berta knew that the sound of laughter and caroling probably meant that Niklaus had found his first house to visit. If all of the occupants were good, righteous folk–as most people in this village were–Krampus would probably be hiding outside, long tongue lolling out of his mouth, salivating over the naughty children he would punish or capture. Hopefully he was also thinking of her.
It took self-control for Berta not to just run out her birch-laden door to find him. But Berta had self-control in spades. Yes, she could wait.
Lower on the hill, the rattling of the chains alerted Berta once again to Krampus’s whereabouts. She heard his gloriously sinister laugh and the screams of a child. The sound thrilled her and she ran to the window. A few candles blew out in the gust she left in her wake.
She peered out her window, carefully arranging her face into a look of concern and empathy, even though what she saw caused the familiar surge of heat between her legs. There was Krampus, in his dark fur, his snarling almost-human face, his beautiful long, pointy tongue, his yellow eyes flashing with delighted fury as his clawed hands grasped at a young boy’s ear. Berta knew this boy. And she knew he was naughty. He picked on any kids smaller than him, though he himself did not come up much past her waist. Wickedness knew wickedness, and this boy deserved the lashing he was receiving.
Krampus threw the boy in the snow. It was dark. Many of the candles on his cabin had been blown out. But still, Berta could make out the familiar gestures of a lashing. The parents of the boy stood in the doorway, silhouetted against their cheerful yule log. The mother was clearly crying, but doing nothing to intercede. This boy must be a holy terror for the mother to allow such punishment.
Berta pinched her cheeks and placed a candle in the window, hoping the orange glow didn’t cast unflattering shadows upon her face. She wished with all her might that Krampus would grace her with a glance. He was otherwise occupied. He let out a deep and grating laugh, so loud it drowned out the boy’s sobs.
Satisfied he had had enough, Krampus turned to the mother. He handed his bundle of birch sticks over to her. That boy would think twice before peeing in her soup or slapping her face.
Niklaus joined his friend when the whipping was done. He had a mug of something steaming which he offered to Krampus. But Krampus snorted disdainfully, to which Niklaus laughed. Krampus stomped off and Niklaus set to work re-lighting the candles that had blown out in the fray. The boy was still weeping on the dark, soggy ground. Niklaus handed him a candy and ruffled his hair. The boy couldn’t be all bad to get candy from Niklaus. In all her life, Berta had never gotten a thing. Niklaus had never paid her any mind.
But then Niklaus’s gaze caught hers. He laughed and winked at her. Berta backed away from the window, pretending not to notice the eye contact they had made. What would Krampus think? She was devoted only to him, and always had been. Worship would perhaps be the right way to put it.
Berta took careful step after careful step away from the frosty window until she slammed into something solid, and warm, and furry, and pleasantly musty and coppery-smelling. She drew in a quick breath. How had he entered her house so silently?
His long claws gripped her shoulders and she shivered. He turned her around and she took in every inch of him, relishing the fur, the hooves, the gruesome blood-soaked chains he had draped around him, his strong arms and massive chest and his face.
Oh his face. Each of his teeth was perfectly tapered. His wide grinning mouth couldn’t contain the length of his tongue, also perfectly tapered to a point. His nose was completely unique, unlike any beast she had ever come across. Wide, flat, nostrils flaring with each noisy exhale. The multitude of candles flickered in his yellow eyes and Berta felt extremely pleased that they had the desired visual effect.
This is a moment to relish, she thought. His hands were still on her shoulders. They were heavy, restrictive. Berta longed to reach up and grab one of his great helixed horns. But before the urge had communicated from her fingers to her brain, Krampus anticipated it and pinned her arms against his sides.
“Wicked girl,” he said. He laughed that unearthly demonic laugh.
“I’ve waited for you,” she said. Her voice was shaky, almost unsure, and completely unrecognizable to her.
He eyed her cleavage hungrily. His admiration of buxom girls was legend. And sure enough he bent his head slowly toward the crevice. He kept the tips of his long nails on the outside of her arms while pressing his palms into her breasts, mashing them together more than even her corset had done. His tongue licked the space between them and Berta gasped. This was the moment. Then his tongue snaked upward, leaving a cooled trail of spit on her sternum, and the hollow at the base of her neck, and under her chin. Her admiration of him from afar had never done justice to his beautiful tongue. ‘Snake’ was the exact word to describe it, it moved with agile certainty. It had just begun to tickle Berta’s red lip when it withdrew and his hands dropped suddenly from her arms.
Again, she gasped, this time from the displeasure. His eyes rolled backward as if trying to recall a distant memory and his nostrils flared larger than she had seen. He smelled the air. A grin spread his mouth almost the whole way to his pointy ears. He turned with dizzying speed and threw the door closed behind him, again without making a sound.
Berta blinked once. Twice. Had she imagined that? She crossed her arms around herself and pushed her fingers into the flesh of her upper arms. Yes, it was tender. She felt the wetness on her neck. His touch had been real and his smell was still in the air, mixing with the smell of smoke and wax.
Surely he would come back. He had to finish what he had started. She had not been waiting all year for a single moment with the demon. She wanted more, a million such moments. Her body ached for him, missing him the way she felt cold when her fires had been extinguished.
She would wait for him. He would come back. Doubt, another unfamiliar emotion, crept up her back, perched on her shoulder and tormented her.
Self control was overrated, she thought as she threw the felt blanket around her shoulders and opened her door. The wind was bitter and cold and it howled against the mountain. She strained her ears, ignoring the gusts and the carols and listening only for the quick flick of a birch switch or the rattle of chains.
She strained her eyes. So many of the neighbors’ candles were extinguished from the wind. She caught a flash of movement, almost definitely a tail with a thatched tip. Krampus. She flew down the mountainside, weaving amongst the tight formation of cabins and found her lord.
He wasn’t alone. Berta froze. He stood in the doorframe. His arm wrapped around a young lady’s back. He dipped her low. The Yule log in the house perfectly lit the girl’s face. She was probably fourteen or fifteen. She had tears streaming down her eyes and she let out wails that were simultaneously pitiful and pleasureful and frightened. Berta’s beloved Krampus was bent over her exposed breasts, her nightgown torn all the way to her pubis.
Berta had never seen a more enviable scene. It was both enraging and erotic. Berta felt a flame of emotion deep inside her like nothing she had ever felt. That was her Krampus. The other girl’s nipples being nibbled on with his sharp teeth.
Berta let out a shriek.
Behind her, a chuckle. “You think you are the only naughty girl in the village?” Jolly, cruel Niklaus downed a tankard of port.
Krampus looked at her and grinned as best as he could with his mouth so busy. He held out an arm beckoning Berta to join in the fun. Berta knew just the way to add to this party, this celebration of lust and wrath.
She stepped intentionally, slowly, down the rest of the hill to the door. All of her strength was gathered, her confidence returned. She reached in the small of her back and drew the knife she kept for cutting rope from her goats’ necks.
Berta reached the girl. The girl looked at her with pleading eyes. Was she pleading to be rescued, or for Berta to join in? Berta recognized her, though she couldn’t be bothered to know her name. This is the girl that gossips instead of spinning the wool her mother gives her. Not the worst of offenses, but enough for Berta. She took clumps of the girls hair and wrapped it around her hand until her fingers grew falsely warm with lack of blood.
Krampus looked at her expectantly and tightened his grip on the girl’s waist, but he lifted his head. “Go on,” he ordered Berta.
Only Berta’s hate of blood gave her pause. But then Krampus’s tongue was in her ear. With hot breath he whispered, “Do it, angel.”
So Berta plunged her small knife into the girl’s belly and dragged it jaggedly across. The girl made a pathetic sound, halfway between screaming and gagging. Berta’s hand was suddenly hot, warm pulpy matter covered her forearms and blood spilled quickly on the dirt floor.
The girl went limp and Krampus folded her, beginning to stuff her in his burlap sack. Berta stared at the blood on the floor, on her hands, soaking into the white felt blanket. She felt nothing of her former disgust. Even though the girl’s body was disappearing into the bag, the long strand of organs got tangled on Berta’s arm and on Krampus’s long fingers.
Niklaus still looked on. “You were right about this one, Krampus.” He nodded toward Berta, a gleam in his eye. Perhaps she had underestimated Niklaus.
Krampus nodded and threw the sack over his shoulder. He took Berta’s blood soaked hand in his.
As they wove through the familiar cabins, back up the mountain, Berta could see the frightened looks of the faces in the windows. The wind howled fiercer than she had ever known, but it didn’t feel cold. She let the wind take her grandmother’s blanket, revealing her gauzy white dress, now speckled and dipped in red. She shook her head, releasing her long curly hair from her demure bun.
Krampus laughed. Berta laughed too, her voice sparkling and powerful. At the top of the village, she spotted Willem–if that was his name–staring at her through the window. She grinned at him and realized now that her teeth were pointy also. She was finally who she was always meant to be.
Niklaus and Krampus flew up the mountainside, up past the timber line. Berta kept up. When they reached a rocky cliff face, Krampus crashed into her, his tongue and tail weaving around her arms, her legs, her hair. She gasped with wanting, with fulfillment, with joy.