Krampus Comes Calling
By Steve Stred
Jotun surveyed the land.
Before him, the fjord stretched out.
How he loved this spot.
Some five hundred years ago, he stumbled on this place. The glacial lake surrounded by the forbidden mountains. Other than a decade long spell where he was tending to Fritjof, he’d trekked here annually. His Hell hounds loved the grassy field that overlooked the pristine waters. At some point, he’d made himself a nice bench, where he now sat.
The frost giant marveled at how still nature could be; nary a bird nor rodent skittered or sang.
He stroked his beard, puffing on his pipe, when it clicked. The silence wasn’t due to solitude, at least not this time. No, something was happening to create a ripple through the mountains.
Jotun let out a whistle, summoning his two Hell hounds.
While the sun was out where they currently were, looking to the east, he saw a squall had arrived.
“Come, we must see what this means,” he said to the mangy beasts.
The trio set off in the direction of the growing storm. Where humans would be hiding or taking shelter from such a devastating turn in the weather, Jotun found it a mere annoyance.
He’d lived through worse.
As they left the sun behind and the darkened clouds began to roll over them, Jotun searched for the cause behind this storm.
“You smell anything?” he asked, watching their tails.
With no visible response, they moved on.
Making their way through some trees and over a hill, they came to an opening that resembled a horseshoe. Within the middle of the area the storm raged on, lightning flashed and thunder rumbled. Hail pounded the ground, the noise creating a roar that echoed around them.
“I’ve seen this before, some years back,” he said, his two companions staring ahead. “If I’m not mistaken, the source of this disturbance will arrive here shortly.”
As if waiting for Jotun to finish speaking, a shadow appeared in the center of the whirling snow. As it approached it turned from an indistinguishable figure to a defined shape. Horns protruding from the top of its head removed any doubt as to who this was. From the waist up, the figure could be mistaken for a man, if you ignored the horns. From the waist down, that illusion disappeared completely. Fur covered legs carried it forward on top of hooves instead of human feet.
“Ah, Krampus,” Jotun said, greeting the creature. “What brings your terrible soul to these parts of the world?”
“Gahhhh. You? What makes you think I have any interest in chatting with such an old man?”
Jotun just smiled. Krampus was miserable, sure, but he knew deep down that the giant was considered a friend.
“Well, pardon me. I’ll be on my way.” Jotun whistled for his dogs and they turned, heading back to their sunny place by the water.
“Hold up. I need your help. I’m looking for Sleipnir.”
Jotun stopped at the name.
“What need does a bottom dweller like you have for an eight-legged stallion?”
Meeting his gaze, the giant saw trepidation in the demon’s eyes. He was hiding something. This didn’t surprise Jotun but he knew how volatile the beast could be. If he pushed, Krampus would simply disappear.
“Forget it. You don’t want to tell me, then I don’t need to know. Best of luck searching,” he said, walking away from the goat.
It didn’t take long before he heard movement and looking beside him saw that Krampus had caught up and was walking with them.
“Ok, if you simply must know. I guess when you get to be as old and boring as you are these days, you need some gossip to keep you occupied for the next century or two.”
Jotun laughed at this, happy to hear the creature still had a sense of humor.
“Well, get on with it. As you said, I’m old. I could drop dead right here.”
Krampus smiled at this jest.
“The wild hunt.”
“The wild hunt?”
Krampus nodded, then got before the giant, forcing him to stop.
“Yes. It appears your friend longed for some fun and so a group of… in-between folk have organized a hunt. It hasn’t happened for many years. Unfortunately, I’ve been tasked to find Sleipnir. The gods above want to ensure its safety. They don’t trust that an accident may occur.
If Sleipnir was to fall,” Krampus let out a whistle here. “Not good.”
Jotun nodded. That would be an understatement. While he was tasked to patrol the northern mountains, he knew of the goings-on with Hel to far north. What was Balder up to now? He knew he’d been growing restless.
“So then, Krampus. What say you? How can we find Sleipnir?”
Krampus grinned wide. A human would have been petrified at this show of teeth, but Jotun recognized the slyness for what it was – Krampus needed a favor.
“I need to speak nicely to Mr. Claus. He will be able to use his magic bag and retrieve Sleipnir from wherever the animal resides.”
“Of course. I get it now. Because you two still have this hatred towards each other, the jolly man won’t have any desire to help you. But me? Nick would help me and you know that.”
“Aye. I will.”
As they shook hands in agreement a rumble occurred behind them and they both turned. From the storm came a horde of the trapped. The undead who wished to have another kill, rushed forth. They were armed with swords and bows. See-through and decayed they came in wave after wave, death the only thing to flash through their eyes.
“We must go,” Krampus said, hurriedly.
“But what of my hounds?”
Krampus shook his head. Jotun understood.
Jotun grabbed ahold of the demon and felt the air move around them.
As they were transported from the forest, he watched as his dogs put up a valiant fight, not stopping until they breathed their last breath.
The air around them swirled before Jotun found they were standing in a spacious room. A fireplace roared with warm flames nearby, blocked in view by an impressive chair.
“Krampus? I can smell your stink from here,” a voice said.
A man stood, appearing from behind the chair. White beard, portly belly. Smile covering his aged face.
“Mr. Claus. Always a pleasure,” Krampus sarcastically replied.
“Jotun? What are you doing cavorting with the underbelly of society?”
“I’m only here to help keep the peace, Claus. We have a situation and Krampus needs your assistance.”
Krampus then filled Mr. Claus in on the horde, the wild hunt that had begun and the
importance to find Sleipnir.
“So you want to use my sack to retrieve the stallion?” Mr. Claus asked doubtfully.
Krampus nodded, walked over to the lounge chair and hopped on.
“In this case, because Jotun is here, I will allow it.”
The man left the room, leaving the giant and the demon to warm themselves by the fire.
In short time, Claus returned carrying a red, fur-covered sack with him.
“If we are to have any success, we must exit my house and attempt to locate the animal in the outdoors.”
Krampus looked at Jotun. Jotun shrugged, what did he know about how the magic worked?
Following the man, Krampus and Jotun headed outside, the daylight greeting them.
“Now, Krampus, you are the one who needs to peer into the sack for Sleipnir. You have been given this task – your connection will be the strongest.”
It was Krampus’ turn to shrug and took the bag from the old man. Opening the sack wide,
Krampus crouched down, looking into the blackness that greeted the goat.
Faster than Jotun would have believed possible, if he’d not witnessed it with his own eyes,
Claus grabbed the sack and kicked Krampus inside. Cinching it shut, he pulled a dagger from his belt and began to stab Krampus repeatedly through the bag. The creature was furiously kicking and fighting to get free, but Claus didn’t plan on relenting. His arm went up and down like a jackhammer, Jotun losing count of how many times the sack was punctured. After some last futile kicks, Krampus no longer fought back.
Claus didn’t stop there. He kicked and stomped on the shape in the bag, before retrieving a hefty stone nearby and dropping it onto the sack.
During the continued attack, Jotun took a seat on a tree stump and lit his pipe, deciding to let things play out.
Finally, Claus stopped the barrage. Huffing and puffing, he flopped to the ground trying to catch his breath.
“So, that was an interesting turn,” Jotun spoke after some time.
“I could never stand that farm animal,” Claus said, spitting towards the sack.
“This is true.”
“That vile thing had it coming.”
“Can’t argue with that,” Jotun replied, exhaling some held smoke. “What of the wild hunt?”
“Sometimes even someone as jolly as I has a trick or two up their sleeve.”
Jotun grinned but his eyes showed the pain.
“That stunt of yours killed my dogs.”
“Did it now? You certain that the horde was even real?”
Jotun stared at the man, who winked in return.
“You need help getting home?” Claus asked.
“That’s most kind, but I’ll walk,” the giant replied. “I need some time to think, clear my head.”
Claus walked to the man, extending his blood-covered hand. They shook then, two old friends who wouldn’t see each other again for some time.
“Until we meet again.”
“Aye. Until we meet again.”
Jotun left, walking towards his home.
It was time for him to think before he hibernated.
Steve Stred writes dark, bleak horror fiction.
Steve is the author of the novels Invisible & The Stranger, the novellas The Girl Who Hid in the Trees, Wagon Buddy, Yuri and Jane: the 816 Chronicles and two collections of short stories; Frostbitten: 12 Hymns of Misery and Left Hand Path: 13 More Tales of Black Magick, and the dark poetry collection Dim the Sun.
On September 1st, 2019 his second collection of dark poetry and drabbles called The Night Crawls In will arrive. This release was specifically created to help fund the 1st Annual LOHF Writers Grant.
Steve is also a voracious reader, reviewing everything he reads and submitting the majority of his reviews to be featured on Kendall Reviews.
Steve Stred is based in Edmonton, AB, Canada and lives with his wife, his son and their dog OJ.
You can follow Steve on Twitter @stevestred
You can visit Steve’s Official website here
Piece Of Me
Over a decade ago, Kari’s husband and son went hunting and never returned.
As she prepares for another long winter she longs for their return.
Then one day things change. The night creatures who live in the dark have visited the day and a mysterious figure who arrives may hold the key to reuniting her with her family.
For Kari, the question becomes – just how far will she go to be reunited?