Gasp! You don't really think I'd be so cruel as to kill off Schwarzwald Kurt, do you? *toothy maniacal grin* Guess you'll just have to read on...
Yes, that was very naughty of Wolverine, breaking Kurt's swords like that. Bet I can guess what Santa'll be leaving in his stocking! :p
And yes, it will be done by Christmas!
I'm going to my Grandma's house tomorrow, but I am definately planning to post the final chapter by Christmas morning. So, yeah! This story is my Christmas present to all of you! And letting me know you're enjoying it is your Christmas present to me! Awesome! Thanks guys!!!
And now, to find out what happened to Schwarzwald Kurt...!
Without his teeth, the gigantic Bumble was just that—a bumbling, small-brained mountain of matted fur. As the small group trudged their way towards Santa's Workshop through the deep snow, Hermie and Yukon Cornelius tried to cheer themselves up after the apparent loss of Schwarzwald Kurt by teaching the Bumble tricks. By the time the party reached the outskirts of the Christmas tree forest, the lumbering giant had learned to roll over, beg, and shake hands on command, all with the good-natured enthusiasm of an eager puppy. Jamie just couldn't understand it, but then he really was in no mood to try.
Clarisse and Mrs. Donner slowly worked their way back to consciousness over the course of the journey. Both woke to splitting headaches, but at the sight of Rudolph all their pain and worry was instantly forgotten. Jamie was pleased to see his friend so happy, but nothing could shake the pall that had settled over him once he realized that Schwarzwald Kurt was gone, not even the Christmas party the elves were throwing when they finally arrived at their destination.
"Jamie! Jamie!" a small, high-pitched voice squealed in his ear. Jamie looked up from his sulk to see an exuberantly happy female elf dressed all in pink practically hopping in place as she grinned at him. "Do you want to join our dance?"
Jamie sighed. "No, thanks. Go ask Hermie or someone."
The girl elf giggled, raising a hand to her heart. "Oooooh! Hermie!" she squealed. "Isn't he the bravest thing? Did you know I already made an appointment to meet with him? I'm going to be his seventh patient! All my friends are so jealous!"
Jamie blinked, his surprise temporarily managing to break through the gloom that enshrouded him. "You mean, you don't think he's a misfit anymore? I thought you guys chased him away for wanting to be a dentist."
The girl giggled, then shrugged. "Well, that was before we knew how talented he is! Do you know, he already found three cavities in our boss' mouth! And just look how he tamed the Abominable!"
Jamie rolled his eyes. He knew it was really Yukon who’d had the most to do with the taming of the Bumble, but he wasn't about to start an argument with one of Hermie's new fans. The girl went on in a dreamy kind of voice.
"He's not like all the other elves."
Jamie cocked his head. "Isn't that what made him so unpopular?"
The girl stared at him as if he had just sprouted another head. "No! That's what makes him so cute!"
Jamie could almost bring himself to chuckle at that. "Yeah, sure, Hermie's a great guy," he said. "I know. Now, please, if you don't mind I'd kind of like to be alone."
The girl blinked, then giggled brightly. "That's no way for a proper elf to spend Christmas, you know," she said with a playful pout. "Where's your Christmas spirit?"
"It vanished along with my friend, Schwarzwald Kurt," Jamie snapped, his voice coming out harsher than he'd intended. "He's out there in the wilderness somewhere with that Wolverine thing and I don't even know if he's alive or dead!"
The girl blinked again, her blue eyes wide. "Well, gee!" she said. "If you're going to be like that!"
With a huff, the pink elf flounced away only to link elbows with a line of cheerful dancers; completely forgetting about the sullen Jamie.
Jamie sighed deeply and turned back to his sparkling apple juice. Yukon was busy showing the Bumble off to a small group of cheering elves, his playful dogs racing around his feet, pouncing on anything that moved. Rudolph was standing in a corner, chatting happily with his parents and his girlfriend. Donner was still rather thin after his year of guilt, desperation, and worry, but his eyes now glowed with a joyful light that would have warmed Jamie's heart to see at any other time. Now, however, it just made him hunch down further in his chair.
At that moment, the brightly painted doors to the warm room burst open and Santa himself strode in. He was dressed in his classic Christmas gear, and his laugh was as jolly as his cheeks were rosy. Jamie sighed again and rested his chin on his elbow.
"Merry Christmas everyone!" Santa exclaimed exuberantly, his grin broad enough to split his bearded face in two. "Is my sleigh all packed?"
"That's a check, Santa," a large, almost spherical elf with a dark goatee said eagerly. "Just harness the reindeer and you're ready to go!"
Santa clapped his mittened hands. "Wonderful! Wonderful! That's what I like to hear. Now," he said, searching through the pockets of his red suit, "where did I put my list?"
"Look in your hat," a girl elf suggested. "That's where it was last year."
Pulling off his floppy hat, Santa peered inside with a chuckle. "Ah, and here it is!" he beamed. "Thank you very much!"
The girl elf flushed up to her pointed ears and scampered away to join her giggling friends.
KNOCK! KNOCK! KNOCK!
Santa glanced up at the front door in surprise. "Now, who could that possibly be?" he wondered, striding across the room and pulling the door open. A horde of curious elfish faces peered around him to catch a glimpse of the newcomers.
"Guten Abend, Herr Claus!" a familiar, accented voice spoke from the doorway. Jamie sat up so quickly he nearly toppled his goblet. Kurt was still talking. "My friend and I were wondering if—"
" Jamie screamed, bowling through the gathered elves in his rush to embrace his friend.
"Oopff!" the cloaked man grunted on impact, hoping the force wouldn't cause Jamie to multiply himself. "Why, hello, Jamie!" he smiled once he'd managed to regain the breath that had been knocked out of him. "Did you miss me?"
"Miss you!" Jamie exclaimed. "I thought you were dead! Your swords were trashed, and when I saw you fall off the cliff and vanish with that Wolverine, I thought—"
"You thought I'd skewered the blue fuzz-wad, didn't you, Squirt."
Jamie gasped and took a few steps back, bumping into Santa's soft belly in his shock.
"The Wolverine?" Kurt asked with a roguish grin. "Of course."
"But—but how?" Jamie stammered.
Kurt chuckled. "Ach, I'm afraid that is a long story, mein Junge. Much too long to tell while I'm standing out here in the cold. Do you mind if we come in?" He turned his golden gaze to Santa.
"Please do," Santa said with a sweeping gesture of welcome. "Help yourselves to some Christmas punch and cookies!"
The Wolverine made a sour face, but strode over to the refreshment table anyway. The elves literally scrambled over each other to get out of his way, which seemed to amuse the Wolverine greatly.
Schwarzwald Kurt lowered his hood and removed his mittens, stuffing them into a deep pocket. Santa blinked at his blue fur and tridactyl hands, but he was so used to pointed ears that he barely even noticed them.
"My, aren't you an unusual elf," he said with a warm smile. "What brings you here, this cold, Christmas Eve night?"
Kurt smiled in return. "I'm glad you asked that, mein Herr. You see, I have come here to ask a favor of you."
Santa raised a bushy, white eyebrow. "Oh? And what might that be, my friend?"
"Down the river some seventeen miles from here, there is a place known as the Island of the Misfits. It is a small, enchanted island, unknown to all except those few who live there, and most of them are children. It is for them that I would ask this favor."
Santa narrowed his eyes, his brow furrowed under his hat. "Strange that I have not heard of this island," he said. "But, if the children who live there have been good this year, I would be willing to grant their request. Please, tell me what it is."
"They wish only to have a real Christmas," Kurt said, "with real presents. You see, the enchantment makes it very dangerous for them to leave their island. Everything they have, they have had to make themselves from what little is available there. I am sure a few toys, and perhaps a few games would be enough to satisfy their wish."
Santa nodded thoughtfully, then peered at his list. Jamie, who was looking over his shoulder, gasped as a new row of names appeared as if by magic. Tiny checks appeared next to each of them. Santa re-read the new names, just to double-check, then he grinned, clapping Kurt on the shoulder.
"Well," he said, "it seems your friends will get their wish, Schwarzwald Kurt. This year, Christmas will come to the Island of the Misfits."
"Dankeschön, Herr Claus," Kurt said, his golden eyes alight with deep gratitude. "Vielen, vielen Dank! This will mean so much to them!"
"Hey, Fuzzy!" Wolverine's gruff voice butted in. "I'm set to send these Munchkins back to Oz if you don't get your tail over here and explain to them what I'm doin' here. 'Cause I'm not sure myself."
Schwarzwald Kurt excused himself politely and made his way over to the group of curious, though thoroughly intimidated elves that had gathered at what they felt was a safe distance from the Wolverine.
"It's really quite simple," Kurt explained. "After seven or eight teleports—I can't remember too clearly—both the Wolverine and I passed out from the strain. Fortunately, I awoke first and so was able to avoid his claws once he, too, opened his eyes. It turns out he was so impressed with my humble fencing skills that he decided it would be something of a waste to kill me—at least it would be until I was once again armed. So, we called a draw and came to an agreement. He agreed to accompany me and not to harm another living thing until I have managed to locate two new swords and we can have a rematch. If he breaks his word and kills me or someone else, he doesn't get his re-match and he must spend the rest of his long life alone and bored to tears." Kurt shrugged. "It's as simple as that."
"And you'll beat him next time, won't you Schwarzwald Kurt," Jamie stated with a grin.
"But of course!" Kurt grinned toothily, fixing the Wolverine with a look filled with confidence and challenge. The Wolverine just grunted and took a swig of sweet Christmas punch, swallowing it with obvious distaste.
Yukon blinked at the wild man. "You've agreed to all this just so you can have a re-match?" he asked, incredulous.
The Wolverine growled dangerously. "Hey, bub, why don't you try a year of total solitude with nothing to test your skill against but a couple of dried-up old squirrels. Then you can tell me if this deal looks any better to you."
"As much as I hate to break this up," Santa said, "it's time for me to get to work. Reindeer, take your places!"
Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner, and Blitzen paired up before Santa's freshly waxed sleigh. A small group of elves surrounded each reindeer, working quickly to get them strapped securely and comfortably into their bell-lined harnesses. Another group worked to open the large, garage-like double doors at the back of the room. A waft of freezing air swept the gathering, bringing with it an unexpected roll of dense fog.
All the chatter in the large room died at once. Santa stared in deep dismay at the gray swirls of rolling cloud tumbling about their feet. The fog blocked his view of the outside world rather better than a solid oak door.
"Oh, dear," he said, wringing his mittened hands in agitation. "There's no way we can take off in this soup. I—I'm afraid," he said with difficulty, "I'm afraid that if this fog doesn't lift in fifteen minutes, we'll have to cancel Christmas this year."
"Why?" Schwarzwald Kurt asked, genuinely confused.
Santa turned to him, incredulous. "Can't you see that fog? My reindeer can't be expected to fly in that!"
"They can if you put Rudolph at the head of the team," Schwarzwald Kurt pointed out with the air of someone who was stating the obvious.
"What?" Santa said, surprised.
"Who, me?" Rudolph asked in astonishment.
"Of course, you," Kurt grinned. "Show me one other reindeer in this room with a nose that can cut through this fog." He turned to Santa. "Herr Claus, Christmas won't have to be canceled as long as you have Rudolph to light your way. He's young, I know, but he has proved himself to be brave and trustworthy. You can depend on him to guide you right."
"I always did have a feeling about that young buck," Santa said thoughtfully. "All right. It's a plan. Rudolph!" he called.
"Yes, Santa?" the reindeer grinned excitedly.
"Take your place at the head of my team. We've got presents to deliver!"
"Yes, sir!" Rudolph beamed, his nose glowing with pride. Schwarzwald Kurt shot him a wink. Rudolph only beamed brighter.
As the elves hurried to get the young reindeer into a jingle-bell harness, Jamie noticed that the foggy room seemed to be wavering, as though he were looking at it through a glass of water. He blinked hard, then turned to Schwarzwald Kurt, who was rubbing at his glowing eyes and shaking his head. Just then, a strange sound began to hum in his ears, and an odd sensation of being pulled at by some invisible force caused his skin to tingle uncomfortably. He knew that feeling. It was the feeling he'd had just before he'd landed in the snow where he'd first met Rudolph. The uncomfortable tingle grew stronger and Jamie looked up to see a swirling vortex unfolding from the ceiling, opening wide to swallow him whole. He didn't even have time to cry out before the vortex yanked him out of Santa's Workshop and deposited him roughly on a carpeted floor. The last thing he saw before losing consciousness was a television set flickering to sudden life. Then, the world faded to black.
Next time: All is revealed as the story comes full circle.
Happy Eve of Christmas Eve!