The Night Santa Went Crazy
He watched the elf in the shadows. Skittish; wide-eyed and panicky. Hiding behind the column. As if maybe, if he stayed there long enough, the night would end and all would be as it was.
The old man snorted. About time the elf was put in his place.
He reached for the plate. The half-eaten wrap oozed thick sauce over his white gloves, staining them the colour of his cloak. He waved the wrap in the general direction of the shadows. Wiped a chunk of meat from his beard.
"You can come out, Jangle. There's plenty of food."
The elf wrung his hands as he approached, as if a pin drop would make him scamper away. The old man waved a hand at the table. At the plates of food. At the empty chairs.
"Eat. You must be starving."
Jangle sat down, cautious, eyes flicking from the old man to the food. "T... thank you, my lord."
The elf reached for the closet plate, tentatively tasting the wrap. The old man reached for an ale.
"I didn't know you could cook, my lord," the elf said, taking another bite.
The old man shrugged.
"What is it?"
"A Donner kebab," the old man said, reaching for another ale. He watched the elf's chewing slow. Watched his eyes slide to the table, his gaze drifting down to the carving plate further down. Watched his eyes widen.
The colour slid from the elf's face. The old man took another bite as the elf slumped to the ground, stomach retching. Leant back in his chair and closed his eyes. He was tired. Tired of wearing the damn cloak. Tired of ... everything. He sighed. Almost done.
He tossed the kebab onto the table. Rested his elbows on the table. He had a headache. Wondered how long it would last.
The old man glanced up. The elf had finally stopped retching. "Hmm?"
He opened his mouth to respond. Paused. Realized what was happening. Shifted a touch to the left in his seat. "Do you really not know? Or are you just distract-"
The old man twisted aside in his seat as a crossbow bolt tore through the air beside him. He saw movement, reached out and caught the figure leaping at him from the shadows behind the table. Used their momentum and slammed them down onto the table. Smiled. Reached for a knife.
Drove the knife into the elf's chest.
Jangle cried out, scrambling backwards. The old man picked up a bone and threw it. Caught the elf in the back of the head. Sent him sprawling.
The old man sighed. Rose to his feet with creaking knees and straining back. Hefted the stained wood crossbow over his shoulder. Stepped up and over the table, ignoring the twitching body nailed to the wood.
He dropped to the floor. Bone crunched beneath his heavy step. His free hand stroked his long beard, specks of gore caught within the knotted white hair.
"I've always wondered," he murmured. Looked down at the cowering elf. Lowered the crossbow until the bolt rested on the tip of Jangle's nose. "What you would do if I was on the list."
He pulled the trigger. "I guess now we know."
Five bolts left. Should probably find something else. He went to reload the crossbow. Caught himself staring at his sleeves. Sauce and blood ran down his arms, staining the last white threads of the Once-White Cloak.
It was almost done.
The old man snorted. Kept the bolt in his hand and wandered out of the hall. The corridor was empty. Didn't matter.
He couldn't feel the cold outside. He could see it. Could see the snow, the wind. But the cloak kept his blood warm. He wondered how long that would last. Long enough to end it, probably.
A fire was burning outside. He tossed a few logs into the hall. Watched as the flames slowly crept along the wooden floorboards, spreading to the curtains and up into the rafters. Felt the heat on his back as he walked down the path towards the workshop. Heard someone start shouting, somewhere in the distance ahead of him.
He started humming. Loaded the crossbow.
Gonna find out Who's naughty and nice. Santa Claus is coming to town.
By Tom Wells. © 2013