Christmas in Transylvania
A Deadly Angels Novella
By Sandra Hill
For the first time ever the leader of the Viking Vampire Angels, Vikar Sigurdsson, has been talked into celebrating a traditional Christmas! The tree has been decorated, the gifts have been wrapped and the stockings have been hung. And that’s mistletoe, not cobwebs hanging from the ceiling of the creepy castle full of vangels…really!
The icing on the vampire cookie comes when vangel Karl Mortensen rescues Faith Larson, a battered young waitress, from her abusive boyfriend and hides her in the castle amidst the Christmas chaos. But what Karl thought was a frail young teenager is actually a very tempting woman. And she thinks his fangs are sexy!
But a strange “Christmas visitor” at the castle and demon vampires up to their old tricks could threaten the budding romance between Karl and Faith. It’s an impossible match: a human and a vangel, but Christmas is a time for magic.
Karl and Faith don’t stand a chance…
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Santa with fangs?…
“’Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the castle, not a creature was stirring, not even a bat–”
“Very funny!” Vikar Sigurdsson elbowed Karl Mortensen and almost knocked him off his kitchen stool. They sat side by side at the twenty-foot island counter in the huge castle kitchen. Karl’s halfbrained rewording of the famous yuletide story had been in response to Vikar’s telling him that Alex, Vikar’s wife, wanted them to have a traditional Christmas celebration this year, complete with holly, and decorated trees, and caroling, and feasts, and Santa Claus, and jingle bells, and gifts. All that ho-ho-ho nonsense.
‘Twas enough to give a thousand-plus-year-old Viking vampire angel a headache!
Yes, Vikar lived in a lackwit, rundown castle (more like falling down, if you ask me, which no one ever does) in lackwit Transylvania, and, no, not Transylvania, Romania. No, this was lackwit Transylvania, Pennsylvania (Don’t ask!). As for bats, three years ago when he’d begun the renovation of this hundred-year-old, seventy-five room monstrosity, they’d had to first remove ten tons of guano. (That’s bat shit, to you uninformed.) And they still hadn’t eliminated all of the irksome creatures. Try sleeping at night to the sound of flapping wings in the turrets. Not that vangels (Viking vampire angels, to you uniformed, again. Jeesh!), like himself, weren’t accustomed to the sound of flapping wings, but usually it was from St. Michael the Archangel, their heavenly mentor aka Pain In The Arse, whom they rudely referred to as Mike. (When he was not around.)
Vikar sipped at his long-necked bottle of beer. He and Karl were enjoying a mid-afternoon break from battle training down in the dungeons while Alex was off somewhere, probably dreaming up more of her honey-do jobs for him. Not that I haven’t told her more than once that they are more like honey-damn-don’t chores.
This is how the conversations usually went:
“Honey, we need another bathroom on the fourth floor.”
What was it with this “we” business. Women always used the “we” card when trying to convince men of one thing or another.
“We already have two bathrooms on the fourth floor.”
Vikar recalled a time when the only toilet facilities were wooden holes in an outdoor privy or a private spot in the woods. It had been cold enough betimes to turn a cock into an icicle.
“I know. That’s why we need three. Whew! It is so hot today. I think I’ll go take a bubble bath. I don’t suppose…”
Alex knew sure as Eve tempted Adam that Vikar loved taking bubble baths with her. There was something about popping bubbles that appealed to the boy in him. Or the man.
Face it, she pays no attention to my complaints. All she has to do is smile in that certain way, or hint at some sexual play, and I am Norse putty in her hands. Like this most recent, brilliant idea of hers. Holy clouds! She will be turning us all into ridiculous Santa Clauses. With fangs!
He glanced over at Karl who was sipping with distaste from a bottle of Fake-O. Vikar could have told him it was better to just chug the crap down and cleanse the palate with a bottle of beer. Fake-O was the synthetic blood vangels drank when they’d been too long from feeding during a mission.
Karl was a quiet kind of guy, the type that didn’t feel the need to talk just to fill gaps in a conversation. A man’s man, modern folks would say. He did the jobs that were handed to him with competency. No whining or complaints, like Vikar’s brother Trond was wont to do, especially if it involved anything strenuous. Trond was a sloth if there ever was one, although he was working to reform himself from his grave sin, as they all were.
There was a sadness about Karl, too, but not like Vikar’s brother Mordr who for centuries turned his sadness into a berserk madness, killing practically everything that got in his pathway. Mordr’s sin had of course been wrath.
Vikar liked Karl.
Breaking the companionable silence, Vikar continued with his tirade, “It would be a sacrilege for us to celebrate such a commercial holiday, wouldn’t it? We’re practically angels.”
“Practically?” Karl snorted. “You didn’t look very angelic when I saw you coming out of your bedroom this morning.
Vikar grinned in remembrance. Three years he’d been wed, with more than a thousand years of experience in the bed arts under his belt, literally, and still his wife could surprise him.
“Besides, Vikings back in your time celebrated the holiday season, didn’t you?”
In my time? Vikar mused. Makes me sound ancient. Which I am. Still, I like to think of myself as my thirty-three human years.
Karl was a Viking, too…all vangels were, by birth if not descent…but he was young for a vangel, having died only about forty years ago during the Vietnam War.
“Vikings celebrated the Yule season with great vigor. ‘Tis true. Yule logs and gift giving. Feasts. Not a religious holiday, more a commemoration of the Winter Solstice. It was nothing like the secular extremes evident today. Even though we did, of course, have reindeer in the Norselands. None with a red nose, though, that I recall.”
“It could be as secular or not, as you wish,” Karl said. “Besides, Alex is right. Kids should experience the holiday season. And this will be the first Christmas that yours are old enough to understand.”
The traitor! Vikar thought at Karl’s siding with his wife, but then he was probably right. Gunnar and Gunnora, Vikar and Alex’s “adopted” twins, were three years old. For the past four days, ever since Thanksgiving…another chaotic holiday Alex had talked him into!…Gun and Nora had been yipping and yapping about Santa this and Rudolph that and jingle belling ‘til Vikar’s head hurt. It had all started when they’d gone to something called “Black Friggsday” at the mall. Rather, “Black Friday.” Betimes, he still fell into the old Norse words, like Friggsday for Friday, because, after all, despite being a vampire angel, he was a Viking at heart. Which should be good enough reason to not have to be reminded to ever fall for that trap again. “Honey, would you drive us to the mall? Gun and Nora need new shoes. It will be fun.” Hah! If I never hear “Alvin and the Chipmunks” again, it will be too soon!
“Did you celebrate Christmas when you were growing up?” he asked Karl.
The young man…even though Karl had forty-two vangel years on top of his twenty-two human ones, Vikar still thought of him as young…rarely spoke of his past. His situation had been unique amongst the vampire angels since he’d left behind a young wife who lived out her human years until she died two years ago at age sixty-two. Imagine staying the same age yourself but watching a loved one grow older and older and then perish of a wasting disease!
Karl smiled. A sad smile, Vikar noticed. “Yes. I grew up on a small farm in Minnesota with a brother and two sisters. We were poor as church mice, even though my Dad worked from dawn ‘til dusk milking cows and growing corn and hay. Mom had a big vegetable garden and put away hundreds of Mason jars filled with different things every fall. String beans, carrots, peas, corn, limas, beets, pickles, chow chow, peaches, pears, applesauce. If it grew, she preserved it.
“We had a Christmas tree, of course, with strings of ancient lights that were probably a fire hazard. And old ornaments. Homemade ones, too. We believed in Santa Claus, early on, anyhow. We even believed the old tale that animals talk on Christmas Eve. Many a night, us kids snuck out of the house to the barn to listen. I swore I heard old Bessie say, ‘Moo-rry Christmas’ one time.” He laughed.
And Vikar laughed with him. It was a revelation hearing Karl talk about his background. He hardly ever talked about himself.
“Mostly our gifts were practical ones. Maybe a handknitted sweater or mittens or socks. Nuts, hard candies, and some fruit that was out-of-season for us, like nectarines, would be in our stockings, which we hung without fail over the fireplace.”
There are thirty fireplaces in this friggin’ castle, Vikar mused, and had a sudden horrifying image of stockings hanging from every one of them. Some of the younger vangels were often like children themselves and would sure as sin be wishing for gifts from the fat man in the red suit. Images of Armod, the sixteen-year-old vangel from Iceland, immediately came to mind. Armod fancied himself Michael Jackson reincarnated. (You do not want to see a Viking vampire moonwalking! Trust me!)
“Each of us only got one present,” Karl continued.
Over the holiday there could be as many as a hundred vangels in residence at the castle, especially if his brothers came with their contingents. Knowing Alex, she’d probably already issued invitations. Surely, he wouldn’t be expected to go gift shopping for all of them. Would he? Vikar shuddered with mall tremors.
His headache felt as if it were growing. Maybe he was developing a brain tumor. Good idea. That might be sufficient excuse for Alex to get the Christmas bug out of her…um, head.
“One gift only, but, man, it was always something special. I remember the year I got a BB gun.”
“And your parents didn’t worry that you would shoot your eye out?” Vikar asked, referring to the famous line from “The Christmas Story,” a movie some of his vangels loved.
“Nah! Growing up on a farm, we were used to hunting and stuff. I got to be a pretty good shot, too. That’s why I was recruited to be a sniper in the Army, and–” Karl’s words trailed off. He never spoke of his time in Vietnam, the time of his great sin. “Anyhow, there’s nothing for a kid like those weeks leading up to Christmas. The smells of evergreens in the house and the baking. Ma made a dozen different kind of cookies, and pies, even homemade fruit cake. And the Christmas dinner was a regular feast with turkey and stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, rutabaga and corn, string bean casserole, cranberry sauce, fresh fruit salad, and rolls warm from the oven dripping with butter.”
At the mention of all that baking and food preparation, their cook’s head shot up. Lizzie Borden had had been sitting at the far end of the counter skimming through a recipe book. He hadn’t realized they’d been speaking so loud. And, yes, it was that Lizzie Borden, who wielded her axe these days chopping vegetables and beef carcasses. Lizzie was the most sour-dispositioned woman Vikar had ever met. She exchanged a look with him that said loud and clear, “Don’t even think about it!”
Karl hadn’t noticed Lizzie’s expression. Instead, he was still lost in childhood memories. “The excitement, that’s what I remember most. The anticipation of Christmas was almost as special as Christmas itself.” He shrugged as if helpless to explain it all.
Actually, he’d done a pretty good job, not of convincing Vikar that he should go all out with Christmas madness as Alex’s plan would surely be, but showing a more simple view of the holiday. “Is the farm still there?”
Karl nodded. “I’ve not been permitted to make myself visible to any of my family, especially while Sally was still alive.” He bit his bottom lip for a long moment before going on. “Mom died a long time ago, but my Dad is still alive. Finally retired at eighty-nine. My little brother Erik works the land now. Quite a prosperous operation these days.” He laughed. “I say little, but Erik is fifty-eight now, and has not just grandchildren, but one great-granddaughter.”
Just then, Vikar heard the loud bang, bang, bang of little feet stomping down the uncarpeted back stairs. Laughing (Was there anything sweeter than the sound of a child laughing?), excited chatter (Do children know how to talk below a shout?), shrieking “I’m first, I’m first.”
Gunnora rushed through the doorway of the servant’s staircase, shoving her brother aside with a swing of her tiny hip. Her blonde braids were half undone and she had a dirt smudge on her freckled nose. “Papa, look what I found in the attic.” She was carrying a wooden soldier nutcracker almost a tall as she was. “Gimme a nut, Lizzie,” she ordered.
“I’ll give you a nut, you little tyrant,” Lizzie muttered and went back to reading her recipe book.
Close behind Nora was her twin Gunnar who carefully held a wooden stable inside of which Vikar could see what appeared to be painted wood Nativity figures. Gun put it on the floor and began to arrange the little statues of the Holy Family and animals. “I need some straw,” he said to himself. “Betcha that Amish man at the farmers’ market has some.”
And then there was Alex, his wife, who could still make his heart leap (and other body parts), despite their being married three years now. “Honey, wait ‘til you see what I found for you,” she said, placing a dust-covered box on the counter in front of him.
Uh-oh. There is that “honey” again. Best I raise my shield and prepare for battle.
Gun and Nora were jumping up and down with excitement. Open it, Papa. Open it.” And the gleam in Alex’s eyes was much like that of a Norseman just home from a long trip a-Viking, offering some treasure or other to a loved one. Maybe she was not asking another favor of him, but granting one. He would be open minded.
“Thank you, love,” he said graciously.
But then he saw what was inside and thought, Screw open-minded.
He said, “Holy shit!” before he could catch himself. Alex did not like him to use foul language in front of the children. But this required a “Holy shit!” if anything ever did. Inside the box, was a moth-holed, old-fashioned Santa suit, with a black leather belt, big boots, and a ridiculous peaked cap.
Just then, Nora let out a little squeal and set aside the nutcracker. Running over to the window facing the back courtyard, she said, “It’s snowing! It’s snowing!”
And Gun said, “Maybe we can make a snowman, just like Frosty.”
And Alex, who was tone deaf or close to it, burst out into song, “It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas.”
And Karl said, “I’m outta here.”
“Can I come with you?” Vikar asked.
“Hell, no, Mister Scrooge!”
Once Karl was gone and the children had gone off with a grumbling Lizzie to find some coal and carrots and a cap for Frosty, he and Alex were alone. He glanced pointedly at the open box and said, “Surely, you don’t expect me to…come on, Alex, sweetling…Santa with fangs? Ha, ha, ha.”
She didn’t laugh. Instead, she gave him that little secret Mona Lisa smile…and, yes, he had met the model for the Mona Lisa painting one time and knew exactly why she had been smiling. “Honey,” Alex purred.
Beware of women who purr. “No, no, no!” he said. And he continued to insist, “No, no, no,” until Alex yawned and mentioned taking a little nap. He did so enjoy afternoon “naps” with his wife.
Still, he protested, “A Viking Santa?”
Somehow Alex managed to hop up onto his lap, straddling his hips. With arms looped around his neck, she said, “Please?”
“I will be the laughingstock of Vikings throughout this world and the other,” he said on a groan of surrender.
Oddly, he found that he no longer cared.
Sandra Hill is a graduate of Penn State and worked for more than 10 years as a features writer and education editor for publications in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
Writing about serious issues taught her the merits of seeking the lighter side of even the darkest stories.
She is the wife of a stockbroker and the mother of four sons.
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