Author: Kat Lee
Character/Pairing: Santa, Jolakotturinn, Gryla, Yule Lads, OCs
Challenge/Prompt: faerie_wish13 Monsters of Christmas: Jolakotturinn, Gryla, Yule Lads
Word Count: 2,712
Date Written: 26 December 2017
Disclaimer: This one's all mine.
“You lie!” the Giantess hisses, her seething words popping and hissing in the cold, night air like drops of fire falling on ice. “You lie! No child is so good!”
“These children are,” the man in red declares, his muscular arms folded before his hearty chest. “They are without parents and have only each other to rely upon. They would never steal from one another, or do anything else to hurt the other!” He glares at one of the Giantess’ numerous children, who even now is licking clean a pot he stole from over the children’s simple fire. “Instead of quarreling about who gets the last bite of food in the house or stealing it from another, they freely offer it to one another and never take it themselves! That’s the only reason why those last drops of food were even left.”
The wind whistles through the chimney. The children tremble in their beds, pulling their covers tighter around their sleeping frames, for though the two legendary figures stand in their one-room cabin debating their fate, they can not be heard by the children nor can the wailing yowl that accompanies the whistling wind. “Your cat will do you no good here, Gryla! He will find not one child without at least a new sock!”
The little cabin shakes as the cat paws the earth just outside it. Gryla glowers at the good Samaritan, a man who has always given children too much and taken too little for himself. He stares her down calmly. “I suggest you find a different meal for yourself this Christmas night!”
“But if I do not feast tonight -- “
“You will die by morning’s light? Such a pity for one as evil as you!”
She hisses an Icelandic curse, but the former Saint simply steps to the side and waves a large hand through the cold air. “Go ahead,” he offers. “Find a child that will suit your needs in this cabin, if you can. You picked the wrong village tonight, Gryla. These children are all that are left of their hometown, and you will not find an evil one among them or even one spoiled or just slightly naughty! They do all they can for one another!”
The steady gaze of his clear, blue eyes travels the twelve beds, going from one sleeping, peaceful, but painfully thin face to another. These children truly did embody the very best of mankind. “You’ll have to find another to devour if you wish your evil to remain in this world!”
“No, it can not be! It can not be!” She continues to cry out denials as she moves from one bed to the next, sniffing the children as they slumber, completely unaware of the danger of her presence. “It can not be! No child is so good!”
The man raises his gaze to meet the beady, Demonic eyes of another kind of child peering in at them from the one window in the cabin. “Not all your children are like your minions,” he tells the monstrous Giantess. “Not all are wicked. If you wish to devour a naughty child, you’ll have to look elsewhere.”
“But time is running out!” she cries, stomping her foot and making the cabin shake. The children murmur in their sleep, but Saint Nicholas, as some still call him, simply waves his hand through the air and their dreams are once more made peaceful to content them. “I must have a naughty child!”
“You have thirteen of them,” he answers coldly. Gryla looks at him, her hooked mouth agape that he should suggest such a thing. Window-Peeper quickly ducks back out of sight. Three others flee the cabin, but Spoon-Licker continues to go through the dirty spoons from the children’s light supper while Pot-Scraper finishes off their meal.
“You do,” Nicholas repeats with a shrug. “They are still children, but they are naughty things, far naughtier than these children or any other mortal souls will ever be.” He can feel the minutes of the night ticking away in his bones just as she can. Soon, he will have to return to his home up North. Soon, he will have to leave the children behind, but not while she still lingers.
“The choice is yours,” he announces bravely. “You can fight me for these innocent souls. You can move elsewhere, if you still have time to find naughty children. You can let your power go or -- “
He doesn’t have to finish his sentence for right then, the final seconds of the night are ticking away. Gryla’s horrid shriek echoes through the cabin, disturbing the children’s sleep once again, and Santa looks away as she devours her own flesh and blood. Still shrieking, she flees into the night. He knows she won’t return for another year, nor, he reflects sadly, gazing at the lonely children who are finally beginning to awaken, will he. With but a thought, he’s back in his sleigh and flying away. He can still hear Gryla’s shrieks echoing in the still, cold night.
He hears her all night long as he makes his annual travel, delivering presents to those children he can still reach, to those who still believe in him and have not been too naughty for him to be allowed to gift them with surprises to delight them in the morning’s golden light. By the time that light reaches his bright, red sleigh, Santa is pulling into his own home. He descends from his sleigh, leaving his magical, bottomless but now empty bag behind him, and strokes the head of each of his reindeer as he releases them from their harnesses.
Cupid bucks her head against the palm of Santa’s gloved hand. “You have changed many things this night,” she murmurs.
He smiles sadly at her. “I did not wish to see them slaughtered in such a way,” he admits, “but at least their wrongdoing is finally at an end.”
“And you saved those children,” she reminds him, licking his palm.
“I would save them all,” he tells her, “if I could.” Her mate calls to her, and Cupid bounds away from her only human friend to rejoin the other reindeer. Santa makes his rounds, releasing the rest of the reindeer, before heading alone into his vast and empty home. Every corner holds projects on which he will continue working to create new toys in the coming year or other items of the simple life he leads, dirty dishes stacked to the rafters, cobwebs covering old books, spiders dangling from enchanted lamps that flicker to life at the approach of his magical boots, even a vast and empty bed.
But when Santa reaches his bed, he stops suddenly for he is no longer alone. He pauses in his own doorway and blinks rapidly, looking at the giant cat sprawled on the floor before his bed. The cat opens one eye and yawns long and slow. His pink tongue curls back up into his mouth, and Santa shivers for it’s big enough to devour an entire village in that single curl. “What are you doing here?” he demands.
The creature called Jolakotturinn looks at him. “You saved me,” he declares, “and yet you ask what I am doing here?”
“Santa!” a young voice suddenly pipes up.
Santa stumbles backwards as not one or two or even three children flip the covers off of their tiny frames in his enormous bed but twelve appear suddenly before his startled eyes. Some crawl; some jump. Still others stumble. But each of the twelve children from the lonely village makes their way to him.
“How -- How?” Santa asks in disbelief.
“You need help,” he says with a shrug. “They wanted to know why the monsters did not eat them. I told them the truth: You saved them, and in causing Gryla to devour her own children and go mad, you also stopped her. You freed me.” The warm cabin shakes as the giant cat’s tail thumps the wooden floor. He will not say the “s” word where he himself is concerned, but Santa is slowly coming to an understanding.
“You were never one of them.”
“Of course not. I was forced to devour the children I did. I never did care for human flesh. I much prefer mice or birds.”
“Santa!” the youngest child cries as she wraps her arms around his beefy leg. “Please don’t leave us!”
“Yes, Santa! Don’t leave us!”
“Don’t make us go!”
“Let us stay!”
“Let us help you!”
“We have all been alone in this darkening world for too long,” Jolakotturinn murmurs. He looks pointedly at the oldest human he’s ever known. “And you could use the help in your shop and in bringing joy to those children who deserve it.”
“All children deserve joy,” Santa remarks, “even the naughty ones. Often they are naughty because, like the Yule Lads, they know no better way.”
“Then let us help you, Santa!”
“Yeah! Together we can show them a better way!”
“But you will never survive these temperatures,” Santa says, frowning down at the children.
“Yes, we will!”
“We can stay warm!”
“And we can help you!”
“The old man has a point, kids,” Jolakotturinn announces, whipping his tail through the air that would be freezing if they were just beyond the walls of Santa’s cabin. “The magic in this house keeps it warm, but it doesn’t make it a home, does it, Saint Nick?”
“What are you going on about, cat?”
“Admit it. You’re lonely.”
“I may be, but I’m not about to tell these children they can stay when doing so would kill them! You should never have brought them!”
“You bring every child in the world a present on this night every year.”
Santa doesn’t say anything. He presses his lips firmly closed instead. He wishes nothing more than he could give a present to every child, but there are still those who are too naughty to receive the presents he’d like to give them and those whose parents or other caretakers do not want him in their homes. There are still so many children he can not reach, and it takes him all year to make the presents he gives. He’ll have to start again tomorrow, even before the new year has come into being.
“You gave me a present tonight, and you helped to save these children’s lives. Gryla would have tried to eat them if you had not been there, regardless of the fact that they are truly good and would have poisoned her. You found another way for her to lose her magic but still saved these lives.” His tail taps the floor again. “Let us help you now.”
“But -- “
The giant cat rolls his eyes. “You humans really do try to mess up everything, don’t you?” he growls, having become annoyed by Santa’s constant protests.
“It isn’t as simple as you try to make it, cat -- “
“But it is,” Jolakotturinn declares smoothly. “Watch and learn.” He stands and does not even have to take a single step to reach the child surrounding Santa Claus. He is suddenly so big again that he fills the bedroom, almost pushing Santa and the children out into the hallway. “For all the harm I have done, for all the lives I have taken, it is past time I was able to give back something.”
His purr fills the cabin and pours out into the freezing North Pole night. The reindeer stop and turn their heads outside, but Santa doesn’t call them. He doesn’t need them for this. He doesn’t need to fly or otherwise be rescued, because Jolakotturinn isn’t an enemy after all. He is a friend who knows freedom and the choice to use his magic as he sees fit at long last.
He presses the soft fur of his face into the palm of the tallest child. The boy instantly loses some of his stature, but his body also becomes stronger and sturdier. His ears becoming longer.
“Stop!” Santa demands.
“Have the child tell me to stop,” Jolakotturinn returns calmly, “and I will.” But the child does not protest nor does the next child or the next, and soon, Santa is standing in his bedroom surrounded by twelve Elves who have far greater strength and durability than any child and a magical cat who’s not even a twelfth the size that he was scant moments before.
“Now,” Jolakotturinn says, still purring, “you will find that not only are all twelve children able to survive a Winter here at the North Pole, but they are able to help you in all the ways you need help.”
“Please don’t send us away, Santa!” the oldest cries again, hugging him.
“Please don’t!” pleads another.
“Yeah! We can help you!”
“And you can help us,” adds a small boy, “to not be so lonely . . . “
“We can help each other,” says the youngest girl, “to not be so lonely, and we can be with you forever, thanks to Jo-Jolak-Jolako -- “
The cat chuckles, and the fire seems to leap in its fireplace. “Just call me Jolak, child,” he tells her. She reaches out and pets his head. Hers is the only gentle touch the ancient cat has ever known. He closes his amber eyes, leaning into her caress, and his purr deepens, reaching even further than the North Pole and sounding like thunder rumbling across the world.
“But they’re no longer children, Jolakotturinn! You’ve turned them into Elves!”
“So that they can stay with you,” he tells the old, odd human, “forever if you all choose. But they are still children, Nicholas. All children are children, regardless of rather they are humans, Elves, cats, Trolls . . . “ he says, looking pointedly at him. “And now, with these children and others we may find who need us, you can soon help them all.”
“We could help more,” Santa muses, “working together.”
“Yes! Yes, we could!” the children eagerly cry in agreement.
“And you said we could find more children, cat? Are you proposing we bring them here as well?”
The cat’s long tail lashes out. Where once it would have whipped through the room, now it covers only a meager five feet instead. “Is this not a much better fate, Saint Nicholas, than staying with those parents who abuse them? Than surviving on their own as these orphans have? Or worse yet, being taken into homes and used as slaves as so many orphans are?”
“What’s he talking about, Santa?” asks one of the boys, tilting his head curiously.
“Yes. Children as slaves?”
Santa’s eyes take on an eerie glow. He knows exactly to what, and some of who, Jolakotturinn is referring. “Yes,” he says gravely. “Not all children have the happy lives they deserve.”
“Wouldn’t you like to help those children, Nicholas?” Jolakotturinn asks, his eyes glowing steadily as he gazes intently up at him and, it seems, to the brave, old, loving man, into his very soul. “I know I would.”
“We can,” Nicholas whispers. “We can help them all!”
“All I have to do is find them,” Jolakotturinn says, “and I can bring them here and they can become your Elves, your special helpers . . . I can start immediately.”
“No!” the little girl whose arms are still wrapped around Jolakotturinn’s thick, dark fur protests. “Not now! Stay today! Stay with us! Then go find other children!”
“But, Mary . . . “
“It’s Christmas! I don’t want him to be alone on Christmas!”
Santa smiles. “No one should be alone on Christmas,” he agrees and reaches out with his large hands and ruffles both the child’s and the cat’s head. “Ho! Ho! Ho!” he laughs, his belly shaking, and beams. This is the very present he’s been yearning for for centuries!
“Fine,” Jolakotturinn mutters. “We’ll start tomorrow.” But slyly, he hides a smile. It would seem that he at last has a true family. He does a double take and almost unleashes his deadly claws when he’s suddenly yanked up, but it’s only a bear hug as Santa crushes the cat and all twelve, newly made Elves into the biggest, warmest hug any of them have ever known. Christmas was about to change; from now on, he would reach all the children!