‘Twas the Snatching Before Christmas

This story takes place twelve years before the events in Assassins! Accidental Matchmakers. The events happen before but are loosely related to those in  Night of the Sisters, Stuck in a Cabin for the Holidays, and Making that left turn at New Albion


Monday the 24th of December, 1990 – Westmeath, Ontario

There it was, the sound of hoofbeats on the roof, followed by gentle jingle bells. For any other child on December twenty fourth, that noise would bring joy. Not so for the fourteen-year-old Jason Johnson. He knew it wasn’t Santa, and he was ready.

A little over a year ago, he’d developed powers. Like his father, he could manipulate shadows and he could also travel inside them. Hiding his powers from everyone but his best friend and his father, at night he became The Phantom. His one goal was to find and save the people who were being kidnapped from his Community. 

His father was the leader of the Aetherborn of Oldtown in Westmeath, Ontario. Aetherborn are people created from the chaos of magic with the help, mostly accidentally, of the human imagination. It meant there were a lot of pop culture and mythological people, and regular humans weren’t very accepting. 

They found safety in Oldtown, but something had been preying on the innocent Aetherborn and they’d been disappearing. Jason had heard rumours of something taking kids around Christmas. He’d spread some rumours that he’d been misbehaving and was waiting up in his all-black Phantom suit for something to happen.

He heard the noises and waited; nothing happened. Then in his mind, he heard his sister scream for help. Mindspeak was something Aetherborn could do with family.

Zoey, what’s wrong?

She didn’t reply. Either she was already too far away or unconscious. 

Jumping out of bed, he scrambled to his window and climbed the trellis to the roof just in time to see something horrible; A half goat demon with a large basket. He could see several heads poking out, asleep.

The demon didn’t fly or leap into the air, it melted into shadow and reappeared on another roof. Jason stood in shock and almost lost sight of the creature. The air left behind had an awful smell, like meat that had been in the heat too long.

The smell was incongruous with the frigid cold air. Jason regretted not having a coat under his black outfit.

Knowing there must be more kids in the thing’s lair, Jason decided to follow and save them all instead of fighting it on the rooftops. He’d have a better chance on even footing than on the snow and ice covered roofs.

Travelling by shadow was draining and Jason had never gone this far. He followed the thing across Oldtown and into the downtown core. To his surprise, the last trip had the thing land on the top of one of the new skyscrapers that housed a tech company. He’d expected a dark cave or abandoned warehouse, not the top of a shiny new building.

On the roof, he realized how new the building really was. It had a state of the art camera system and keycard lock. Jason tried the door and was pleasantly surprised that no alarms went off; it seemed nothing was hooked up yet.

The heat was thankfully on, and Jason tried to be both quiet and stay loose. His martial arts teacher had told him that he needed to be ready for a fight at any time. 

“Boo!” a loud voice said just behind him. He punched toward it but it was gone. Stumbling down the stairs, Jason reached the top floor, which was one large open office with no furniture yet. Another, “Boo”, and failed punch and he knew he was being herded.

“What do you want?”

“Krampus wants to snatch the naughty little boys and girls.” Its voice, high and nasally, came from a dark corner of the room. It looked like he was perched on a chair or a rolled up rug.  “I want to eat them too, but Beast says I cannot. Sad for me, but still fun to snatch.”

“Why’d you let me follow you?” Jason could see dozens of children asleep on the floor. He needed to stop this thing, but didn’t know what he could do if it kept disappearing every time he tried to hit it.

“You didn’t fall asleep like the others. You play with shadows like me. I wanted to have some fun.” The Krampus disappeared and reappeared right in front of Jason. He tried to punch it, but the thing was already travelling in shadow. “Ho ho. Not very fast are you? Maybe you’re not much fun.”

It was trying to make him mad. It wasn’t going to work. Zoe was an expert at making him mad and she was unconscious here somewhere.

The room was flooded with shadows from the lights outside, this should be his environment. This should be where he was in control, but he couldn’t tell when this thing was going to move.

He closed his eyes and took a deep breath. Maybe he could feel the shadows and they could tell him. Reaching out, he felt his senses expand, and just like that, the room was as bright as day for him. The Krampus was still perched, but Jason could see his perch was an old man with a grey-white beard.

He could also see that the Krampus was wearing an amulet of pure shadow. It didn’t travel naturally.

This time when it said, “Boo,” Jason faked a punch and grabbed at the amulet while it travelled through shadow. It ripped off the thing’s neck and Jason smashed it. A black smoke came out and tried to fly toward Jason, but a ball of glittering energy contained it first.

As he watched, the Krampus transformed, writhing into a man. It was old man Dulac, one of the Oldtown Council members. 

The former perch wiggled his eyebrows and whole body before flopping to his side, trying to get free. Jason rushed over and cut the ropes holding the man and helped him up.

The old man straightened and reached out to the shimmering ball. He waved his hands and the ball turned into a stone with the smoke hidden deep inside. The man put it in his pocket and said, “Well, well, if it isn’t little Jason Johnson.” The man’s dark brown skin looked almost grey in the shadows, and Jason could feel power emanating from him.

“Are you…?” Jason couldn’t finish. Was this just some wizard or was it Santa? With enough belief and magic, it could be.

The man laughed, he was thin and not round like on television, but it was a sound of pure pleasure. “I have been called the S word a few times.” Changing the subject, the man said, “However, now it looks like I need to deliver the children to the presents and not the other way around.”

“What about Mister Dulac?” Jason asked.

The old man walked over to the council member and poked him gently. “A small transmutation spell stored in the amulet. Nasty piece of work. I bet someone gave it to him, and he won’t remember a thing.”

Jason hoped that was true and the Council members weren’t involved in the abductions.

“Do you know everyone here?” the man who might be Santa asked. Nodding, Jason recognized them all as Aetherborn from Oldtown. “Good good. Here’s a map.” A flick of the wrist and a three dimensional overhead map of Oldtown appeared on the wall. “When I’m done with one, you point out their house.”

“Done? What are you going to do?” His tone was challenging, but the other man was an unknown wizard, and Jason was worried.

In a calming voice, he said, “It’s okay, Jason. I’m going to give them all a small freckle. Inside that freckle will be a spell that will help prevent them from being kidnapped again. It’s not much, but it’s something I can do.”

Each child was marked and Jason would point out the house, then the man would pull open a blue portal and place the kid on his bed. The portal would snap shut and they continued on with the next child.

They’d returned all the other kids and Mr. Dulac with only Zoe and himself left. As Santa, maybe, put the freckle on the back of Zoe’s neck, Jason burst into tears. “Thank you!” he said.

The man’s eyes were blue, soothing, and so sad. He hugged Jason and said, “I can’t give you one. It would change too much.” 

Through the hug and the crying, Jason said, “That’s okay. You got Zoe. She’s safe.”

Jason carried his sister to her bed and turned to see the portal closing. The old man placed a finger next to his nose and smiled. 

The boy was never sure if it really was Santa, but decided it didn’t matter because there was a man who looked like Santa out there and he helped protect Zoe. That was the best present he could ask for.


Read more holiday stories featuring Merlin:

Santa Part 2

A short story for Christmas when Kennedy was 8 years old. This was not written for small children.

It was, however, written for those who recently found out the truth about Santa Claus, a group to which my daughter now belongs.

Read Part 1 here

“Hey, Tommy. Are you taking a bath with me?” Kennedy asked the seven-month-old, who was sitting in the empty laundry basket next to the tub.

The little boy smiled happily at her and waved the yellow duck bath toy clutched firmly in his fist.

“No, he had his bath this afternoon,” her mother said. “He’s here because the big kids have chores and homework to do.”

“Oh, I don’t mind.” Kennedy made quick work of her clothes, dropping them in a little pile next to the basket. “I love hanging out with him.”

The water was nice and hot, and she sank into it with a sigh of satisfaction, propping her elbows on the edge of the tub so she could continue to watch Tommy playing.

“I got a call from Mrs. Fox, Sadie’s mom, this afternoon,” her mother said, digging a washcloth out of the linen closet behind the door.

Kennedy dropped below the edge of the tub, sinking as much of herself under the water as possible, but didn’t say anything.

“Sadie told her that her bloody nose wasn’t as bad as your black eye.” Her mother squirted a bottle of bubble bath into the water near the faucet before perching on the edge of the tub and sighing. “Kennedy, we need to talk.”

“They were being mean to the grade ones!” Kennedy blurted out.

“The grade eight boys?”

Kennedy nodded and swished herself around until she was sitting cross-legged, her knees poking out of the water. “Sadie told them to leave the kids alone, to stop telling lies about Santa not existing. They wouldn’t leave!”

“And instead of going to get a teacher, you decided to fight them?”

“I was angry.” Kennedy scooped some bubbles up with her hands and made them into a tower.

“Did it solve anything?”

“Maybe they’ll think twice next time.” Kennedy squished her mountain fiercely, sending bubbles splashing up the wall and onto her mother’s leg. “Oops. Sorry, Mom.”

“Would it be worth it if I got angry with you right now? You know you’re not supposed to splash in the tub.”

“No,” Kennedy replied quietly.

“What could you have done differently?”

Kennedy gathered the bubbles into a large circle in front of herself. “They attacked Sadie first. If I’d run for a teacher, she might have gotten hurt worse. I suppose… I could have asked a little kid to get a teacher and screamed my head off?”

“They attacked Sadie first?” Her mother’s mouth thinned. “I hadn’t heard that part. I think we need to have a discussion with those boys and their parents with the principal present.”

“Good idea. They need to know that they can’t tell lies and get away with it.” Kennedy started making a smaller circle above the big one.

“You’re right, but Kennedy, darling, we need to talk about Santa Claus.”

“Did he not get my letter?” Kennedy asked, sloshing the water when she flailed.

“Sweetheart, he doesn’t exist.”

“Of course he does!” Kennedy said, brushing off her mother’s words unconcernedly. “I have his letters to me in my closet.”

“No, dear, your father wrote those.”

“They don’t look like his writing.” Kennedy narrowed her eyes suspiciously at her mother. “Why are you saying this?”

“He wrote them with his left hand.” Her mother waved a hand in the air. “That’s not the point. The point is that you are old enough to understand that Santa is a concept used to teach little kids about the spirit of giving.”

“But…” Kennedy couldn’t stop the tears, her throat going tight with the pressure of them. “But Santa!” she gasped. “He’s real!” She buried her face in her hands, regretting that she was in the bath and couldn’t hug her mother.

“Oh, sweetie.” Gentle hands smoothed her hair back. “I think you know I’m telling you the truth.”

“What about Tommy?” she sobbed.

“What about him?”

“If Santa’s not real, how can he bring Tommy presents? It’s not fair that he doesn’t get presents from Santa!” She inelegantly wiped her nose with the heel of her hand.

Her mother chuckled. “Your father and I will buy him Santa presents, just like we did for you and your older siblings.”

“What about the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy? They’re real, aren’t they?” Kennedy asked, grasping at straws. She couldn’t believe it.

“What do you think?”

A fresh wave of sadness swamped Kennedy. “No,” she said softly, tears flowing silently down her cheeks. “I guess they’re not either.”

“But now that you know the truth, you can help make Christmas special for Tommy and for the other little kids at your school,” her mother said.

“How?”

“Well, what is it that Santa does?”

Kennedy swallowed a knot in her throat. “He gives presents.”

“Okay. And?”

“He spreads joy.”

“How do you think you can do that?”

“By being nice to people?”

“How do you want to do that?”

“I could give them presents?” Kennedy frowned. “I don’t have any money.”

“You don’t. But you have time. How would you like to volunteer with the church youth group? They’re going to be wrapping presents for the homeless shelter after the service on Sunday.”

Kennedy brightened. “I can do that! I wrap really well!”

“You do.”

“I can wrap the presents for you too!”

“Not yours,” her mother teased.

“Of course not! I want to be surprised!” Kennedy said, shocked at the idea. She leaned over the edge of the tub and gave Tommy a kiss on the forehead.

He burbled back at her and grabbed for her hair.

“No, Tommy. We don’t grab hair,” her mother said firmly. “Are you feeling better about the whole Santa thing, dear?”

Kennedy sniffed. “I’m sad that he’s not real. I feel like someone I loved died.”

“He’s still here. He’s in all of us.”

“That’s what you said when Great-Uncle Ernest died,” Kennedy accused.

“So I did. Was I wrong? He lives on in the stories we tell about him.”

“I suppose.”

“Come on, let’s get you washed.”

“But I didn’t get to play!” she protested, sticking her bottom lip out. “And you just told me that Santa doesn’t exist!”

Her mother chuckled and shook her head. “That will only work for tonight. I can make your favourite for dinner, how’s that?”

“Chicken casserole? The one with the carrots?” Kennedy said, perking up. Usually that was dinner when they had company.

“Yes, that one.”

“Okay. Can I help?”

“You can peel the carrots.”

“Awesome. Where’s my washcloth?”

Cover art by @pinkpiggy93 on Tumblr and Instagram

Monsters! Incidental Wedding Guests by Jen and Éric Desmarais is available for pre-order now!

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Add it to your “Want to read” on Goodreads here!

Santa Part 1

A short story for Christmas when Kennedy was 8 years old. This was not written for small children.

It was, however, written for those who recently found out the truth about Santa Claus, a group to which my daughter now belongs.

Friday the 9th of December, 1988 – Parry Sound, Ontario

Kennedy wiped her nose on the back of her woollen mitten as she waited for her older siblings to pass her on the bus. The eight-year-old avoided eye contact with the other kids on the bus, fixing them on the grey leather of the seat back in front of her.

“Come on, kiddo,” Phillip said, pushing her hat down over her eyes as he passed.

Kennedy fixed her hat and got up, dragging her backpack by a strap behind her.

“Have a good day!” the bus driver called after her, but she didn’t answer the way she usually did.

Instead, Kennedy trailed after her sisters, her backpack bumping against her leg with each step.

“You going to be okay?” Phillip asked. He was still beside her and she hadn’t noticed.

Not that she cared. She shrugged.

“Can I check your eye?”

“Okay.” Kennedy paused and looked up at her big brother. “When did you get so tall?”

He chuckled. “Probably when I turned sixteen last year.” He bit the finger of his glove and worked it off before gently holding her chin in his hand and tilting her head toward the light of the moon. He exhaled slowly, the steam of his breath fogging the air between them before putting his glove back on. “That’s a beauty. It’ll be nice and purple tomorrow. Does it hurt?”

“Only when I smile.”

“Best not to do that then.” They started walking again. “Why were you fighting?”

“The big kids ganged up on Sadie,” Kennedy said. “I couldn’t let her face them on her own.”

Phillip’s eyebrows rose. “Sadie, your best friend, who wouldn’t hurt a fly? Why?

“They were saying mean things. Telling the little kids that there wasn’t a Santa Claus. Why would they do that?” Kennedy sniffed hard. “Of course there’s a Santa Claus. Why make up such an obvious lie?”

“Let me get this straight,” Phillip said, frowning. “You heard some of the big kids telling lies to little kids, Sadie stepped in, then you joined her, and where exactly did the fighting come into play?”

“We were all yelling pretty loudly, and one boy took a swing at Sadie’s head. He was probably the biggest there. When she fell, I jumped on him and bit his nose,” Kennedy said unapologetically.

“Bit his nose?” There was a strange squeaky tone to Phillip’s voice, but when the eight-year-old glanced at him suspiciously, his expression was devoid of emotion.

“It was the only part of him not covered by winter gear,” Kennedy explained.

“Right.” He coughed. “And then?”

“We fought.”

“So I gather.” He sighed. “You’re going to get in trouble with mom.”

“I know.” She pouted.

“You were very brave to help your friend.”

She brightened. “You think so?”

“I know so, kiddo.” He pushed her hat down again and ran ahead, slowly enough that once she could see, she could chase after him.

The twins were still hanging up their coats by the time Kennedy and Phillip burst through the front door, rosy-cheeked and out of breath. Phillip’s jeans were soaked, but Kennedy’s snow pants had kept her dry.

Their mother was waiting for them, the baby on her hip. “Kennedy, it’s time for your bath.”

“Before my snack?”

“There’s a piece of cheese wrapped in cold meat on the counter. Grab it and let’s go.”

Kennedy brought her My Little Pony lunch box into the kitchen and left it on the counter next to the sink. Grabbing her snack, she returned to the front hall.

“You’re in trouble,” Eliza sing-songed, MacKenzie joining in on the second round.

Kennedy ignored them and trudged up the stairs. She could hear the water running in the shared bathroom at the top before she entered.

Part 2 is here!

Cover art by @pinkpiggy93 on Tumblr and Instagram

Monsters! Incidental Wedding Guests by Jen and Éric Desmarais is available for pre-order now!

49th Shelf Monsters! Incidental Wedding Guests
Indigo Books Monsters! Incidental Wedding Guests
Archambault Monsters! Incidental Wedding Guests
Amazon Monsters! Incidental Wedding Guests
Rakuten Kobo Monsters! Incidental Wedding Guests
Apple Books Monsters! Incidental Wedding Guests

Add it to your “Want to read” on Goodreads here!

Help for the Holidays  – JenEric Movie Review

How This Works – Read Other Reviews

Hello Cinephiles,

Today we’re talking about the 2012 film Help for the Holidays.

Story

Adorable story that didn’t take itself too seriously. Everything is wrapped up nicely and well explained.

Score: 0.5

Characters

The main character is adorable beyond reason. They manage to make her innocent and full of wonder without infantilizing her.

The kids were adorable and better actors than most, and the love interest was appropriately attractive and sweet.

The actor who played Santa was fantastic and did a great omniscient Santa.

Score: 1

Dialogue

Lots of holiday sweet and lots of optimism. There were several very appropriate confused moments that made for great humour.

Score: 0.5

Visuals and Music

The camera work is great, the sets simple but pretty, and the sparse special effects are good.

The music is jingly but forgettable.

Score: 0.5

Fun

If you like saccharine sweet and adorable Christmas movies, this one’s for you. Everyone in the family that watched it loved it.

Score: 1

Overall

Filled with the holiday spirit and lots of adorable charm, if you like your holiday movies with a little more magic, this is a great choice.

Final Score: 3.5 Stars out of 5

Dear Dragon – Easter Bunny

Dear Dragon,

Last night in a desperate plea to not sleep, you asked me if the Easter Bunny hid the easter stuff or if I did. Here’s how that conversation played out:

Papa: What do you think?

Dragon: I think you do it. Am I right?

P: Why do you think that?

D: Because it would be a very long way for him to go all the way here and all the way back.

P (Trying not to laugh): Where do you think the Easter Bunny comes from?

D (With all the confidence of a 5yo): Very far away.

P: So why can Santa do it and not the Easter Bunny?

D (No hesitation at all): Because Santa has a magic sleigh and the Easter Bunny doesn’t. So am I right?

This is the point where I panicked and worried that I might say something that would cause you to stop believing in the Easter Bunny and/or Santa.

I told you that it was really well thought out and we’d talk about it the next day. That’s today as I write this letter. Then I said goodnight and ran away despite you still asking.

It only occured to me later that you seemed to firmly believe the Easter Bunny existed but that he can’t deliver all the stuff. I wonder if you think that he ships it to us?

As I write this, I need to go wake you, your brother, and your mother. I hope a good night’s sleep will make you forget the questions.

You’re very clever and absolutely adorable.

Love you little Dragon,

Papa

Dear Dragon and Pegasus – Easter

Dear Dragon and Pegasus,

You both know by now that I’m not a religious man, but I love Easter. Both for the imagery of spring and rebirth and because of the little traditions.

When I was young my mom, and often brother, would set up a hunt. I don’t remember it all, but there were riddles and maps. It was awesome. It was so much fun.

Yesterday was Easter and we had a simple hunt, a free-for-all type of hunt. It was fun. So much fun that Dragon asked me to do another. When I said I could hide the empty eggs, she was ready to do it right away. It was seriously adorable.

There’s a special sense of wonder and joy that I get watching you both being exited and happy. It makes everything slightly better.

As you get older I’m planning on making the hunts more elaborate. I have so many ideas.

Thank you for your enthusiasm and your joy.

I love you!

Papa

Dear Dragon and Pegasus – Holiday Magic

Dear Dragon and Pegasus,

By the time you’re reading this you’ll know the truth about Santa. At the very least, you’ll think you do.

The winter holidays, in my opinion, are not about Santa, presents, decorations, or sappy movies. To me, they are about being with family and actually spending time with them. Hopefully we’ll be doing that a little all year round, but in December we hopefully have more time.

When I grew up, it meant that my big brother was home and I didn’t have to go to school. I was bullied my entire grade school by students and one teacher, so it was nice to be with my Mom and brother and not need to worry about it. We played video games, watched movies, cooked, and baked. My Mom struggled with depression and the holidays were a time she always seemed to be happier. I hope she was.

The magic was family, a sort of warmth that the holidays had. The holidays never lost their magic for me when I learnt about Santa; they dimmed when my Mom died, but are still magical.

Santa Claus is a myth, a lot of myths mushed together. From all over the world and influenced by many cultures (and ad campaigns). Both Santa and Christmas are tapestries woven from hundreds of myths, traditions, holidays, and ideals. From Festival of Lights, to Saturnalia, to Yule, and of course Solstice.

The spirit of these festivals is to celebrate surviving the long winters (not as long as they used to be now). The magic of them in is in giving and helping those in our communities. From donating clothing or money to giving gifts or even just giving a genuine compliment; that’s how you make the magic happen. It’s not the date, the decorations, or anything like that.

This year, Dragon, you decided to make a gift for Santa, and that’s by far the sweetest thought. You are both loving and generous and I hope that grows in you no matter what happens. I hope when you discover that Santa isn’t a person, that you discover that he’s a parable. That he is the triumph of survival, the warmth of family, and spirit of giving.

I hope that we’ve managed to spark the joy and magic in you during the holidays.

Happy holidays Dragon and Pegasus. I love you!

Papa

Advent Calendar Deadline for October Shipping

Hello Coffee Lovers,

You have until this Wednesday (September 30th) to order your advent calendars for shipping in mid-October.

Here are the options for this year:

  • 24 Bags at 1oz each ($50)
  • 12 Bags at 2oz each ($50)
  • 24 Bags at 2oz each ($100)

This is a pre-order for our Advent Calendars. Flavours will be picked from our current selection and a few experimental flavours.

There will be two sets of pre-orders.
Deadline to order first wave September 30th – Orders will ship mid-October.
Deadline to order second wave November 9th – Orders will ship mid-November.

ALLERGY If you have allergies please email us at JenEricDesigns(AT)gmail.com to let us know your specific allergy.

Pre-orders are open now

Thank you,

Éric

More Advent News!

Hello Coffee and Crochet Lovers,

Last year Jen made fantastic festive coloured baskets. (I liked them so much I asked for one for Christmas.)

This year she levelled up her game and decided to make 3 new types; Santa, Snowman, and Gingerbread Man.

Aren’t these fantastic? Each Advent calendar will come packaged in one of the baskets and the 24 packet 2 oz will require 2.

Here are the options for this year:

  • 24 Bags at 1oz each ($50)
  • 12 Bags at 2oz each ($50)
  • 24 Bags at 2oz each ($100)

This is a pre-order for our Advent Calendars. Flavours will be picked from our current selection and a few experimental flavours.

There will be two sets of pre-orders.
Deadline to order first wave September 30th – Orders will ship mid-October.
Deadline to order second wave November 9th – Orders will ship mid-November.

ALLERGY If you have allergies please email us at JenEricDesigns(AT)gmail.com to let us know your specific allergy.

Pre-orders are open now

Enjoy your coffee!

Éric

Tom Cavanagh

Tom was a delight to meet. Most of the people in line were there for him because of The Flash, but not us. (You can find him on Twitter here.)

We were there because he plays Santa in our favourite Christmas movie: Snow.

So we asked him if there was a chance of a third movie (because there’s already a sequel). He said that if there’s a good enough script, he’d do it. Nice.

The sign on the back of our daughter’s shirt has our business name, our table number, and Eric’s cell number, just in case she got away from us. She never ran away. What a great little 2.5 year old! 😀 (P.S. I was pregnant with Pegasus at the time of this picture. He’d arrive in a little over a month and a half from this day.)

Matching Mommy-and-me Captain Marvel shirts by Popsquatch Designs.