Tearful partings, a daring rescue, a Bumble attack, and a fierce swordfight are all coming up! Not to mention more Kuroro. Did I mention more Kuroro? And there's two chapters still to go! Enjoy!
The coming of dawn brought a great commotion to the Island of the Misfits. The realization that Rudolph had run away in the night hit Kurt hard. He was filled with a powerful guilt, blaming himself for Rudolph's disappearance. Ororo tried to console him, but her efforts only made him more determined to leave as soon as possible.
"I am very sorry you cannot come with us," Kurt said sadly as the Misfits helped Yukon load his sleigh. His golden eyes were soft and Ororo found herself deeply relieved to realize he did not blame her for luring him away from his duties. "You and all the Misfits. I just know that if you and your Misfits all worked together, using your unique gifts to help others, we could make a positive difference in this weary world."
"Oh, Kurt," Ororo sighed. "I truly wish I could. But the time of the Misfits has not yet come. Until that day, whenever it may be, I must remain here to watch over the children and to guide them as they grow."
Kurt closed his eyes and lowered his head, trying to hide his disappointment. He felt his heart was being torn in two. "I would stay with you, Liebling," he said with difficulty, reaching out to take her hands in his, "and offer you what assistance I could--"
"Only your duty calls you," Ororo said with an equally painful smile. "And you must find your reindeer friend. I understand, Kurt." She stepped closer, spreading a slender hand over his chest, just over his heart. "And please believe, it is only my duty that keeps me here. If this were just a matter of the heart, I would find a way to go with you, enchantment or not."
Kurt took in a sharp breath, his eyes stinging. He tore off a mitten to wipe the collecting moisture from their corners, revealing a blue, fuzzy, three-fingered hand. Ororo didn't even blink in reaction. At that moment, Kurt knew if he stayed a second longer, he would never be able to bring himself to leave.
"If it weren't for the enchantment, I could visit...." he attempted, stopping himself before his voice faltered.
"You could anyway," she smiled kindly, brushing an errant curl from his forehead and tucking it securely under his hood. "No matter how old you become, you will always be welcome here with me, on the Island of the Misfits." Looking deeply into his eyes, she could feel her heart already starting to break. "Please, my friend," she whispered, "just do me one favor while you're out there protecting the innocent and fighting fiends."
"Anything, meine Liebe," Kurt assured her.
"Talk to Santa about us," she said. "Tell him how much it would mean to us to have a real Christmas, at least once. Don't let him skip over our island again."
"I promise," Kurt vowed solemnly, looking into her crystal eyes, which were now shining with unshed tears of their own. Reaching for her hand, he graced it with a soft kiss and a gentle squeeze that spoke more of his feelings than his words ever could.
"Fare well, meine Dame," he said softly, replacing his mitten on his tridactyl hand. "I will keep my promise to you. The children will have a real Christmas this year. If Santa won't come, I shall deliver their presents myself."
With that, Schwarzwald Kurt turned from her, but before he could teleport to where his friends were waiting, the Storm Mistress called him back.
Kurt spun around so quickly it was almost comical, striding back to her side.
“Yes, meine Liebe?”
She trailed off, her expression conflicted. Now he was there, Ororo suddenly realized she didn’t know what to say. She had never felt so unbalanced, so vulnerable and uncertain in her entire life. She knew it might be years before they met again—for him, at least, if not for her—and she couldn’t let him leave her without knowing how much he had come to mean to her in the few short hours they had shared.
Looking deeply into his glowing eyes, Ororo closed the distance between them, wrapping her arms around his bulky coat and finding his lips in the shadow of his hood. The kiss was tentative at first—just a brief peck—but after his initial surprise, Kurt responded with a passion that the Storm Mistress eagerly reciprocated. When it finally ended, they held their embrace for a few moments longer, an island of warmth amidst the frozen landscape.
“Go now,” Storm said softly, touching his fuzzy cheek with a small smile. “Find your reindeer friend. And, if ever you find your hope waning, remember that I love you.”
Kurt blinked hard against the tears stinging his eyes. Acting on sudden impulse, he pulled her back to him in a fierce embrace.
“I will remember,” he whispered against her snowy hair, his accented voice hoarse, but his eyes warm as he pulled away and took a step back. “Fare well, my love.”
And with that, he teleported from her side.
Ororo turned from the dissipating teleport smoke to cast one final glance at her departing hero, where he was already helping Hermie onto the loaded sleigh. The dogs were harnessed and everything was packed and ready to go.
Standing straight and tall, the regal Storm Mistress called her winds to her side and used them to rise into the air, trying to clear the pain of parting from her heart with the exhilarating rush of flight.
For Rudolph, it had been a year since he had left his friends at the Island of the Misfits. Another Christmas Eve was just around the corner. However, at this moment, Rudolph was having grave doubts that he would live to see another Christmas.
After several months of lonely wandering, Rudolph had tried to return home. When he got there, however, it was only to find that his sudden disappearance had sparked several terribly unforeseen reactions. Barely a week after he had run away, Clarisse and his mother had decided to go in search of him. No one had seen or heard of them since. It was with mounting horror that Rudolph learned all the other reindeer, and even Santa himself, had given them up for dead months ago. His father was now a sad, broken reindeer. When Rudolph had gone to him, he had not even been able to bring the older deer to break himself out of his misery long enough to believe his son had really returned, that he was not a ghost. It was with these painful memories burning his aching, guilt-ridden heart that Rudolph had run off again--this time in search of two of the people he held most dear.
And, after several weeks of stumbling through the heavy snow, he had found them. Rudolph, Mrs. Donner, and Clarisse had enjoyed a tearful reunion under the tall pines; however, their joy had not lasted long. Once again, Rudolph's glowing nose had attracted a monster, putting those closest to his heart in mortal peril.
The cave of the Abominable Snowman was dark, dank, and deep. As he hung upside-down, suspended by ice from the jagged ceiling, Rudolph was grateful for the freezing weather. If it had been any warmer, the piles of half- chewed corpses that littered the ground below would have been giving off a nauseating reek. Rudolph sighed as he dangled, turning his gaze to where his mother and the beautiful Clarisse were lying limp and unconscious, small trickles of blood streaming down their snowy faces like dark tears. His heart filled with an overwhelming shame accompanied by a debilitating sense of helplessness. It was his fault that they were here now. It was his fault the Abominable had caught them unawares. There was no one who could come to their rescue now. He had failed his friends more times than he cared to count and now, because of him, his mother and Clarisse would die once the Abominable returned to his cave.
Softly, the young buck began to weep.
"Are you sure he's in there?" Jamie asked, looking up towards the gaping mouth of the Abominable's cave.
"No," Yukon Cornelius replied. "But there were signs of a recent scuffle some distance back and the tracks led here. Kurt's gone up to check it out."
Jamie's eyes widened. "But what if the Abominable's in there?" he asked, his voice high with worry.
Hermie shrugged uncomfortably. "I just hope he'll use his swords this time," he said.
Jamie shivered and turned his gaze back up towards the cave, just praying that everything would turn out all right.
Rudolph opened his eyes slowly at the sound of soft footsteps somewhere below him. "Who's there?" he asked, his voice hoarse and his brain feeling stuffed up from crying upside-down.
"Rudolph?" a familiar, accented voice called out. "Is that you, mein Freund?"
"Schwarzwald Kurt!" Rudolph exclaimed in disbelief. "How did you ever find me?"
"With practiced skill and a great deal of dumb luck," Kurt grinned, stepping out of the shadows and into the dim light. "Let me get you down from there."
Unsheathing one of his swords, Schwarzwald Kurt teleported up to the icy ceiling of the cave and began carefully chipping away at the ice that was holding Rudolph's hooves fast. Once he could tell how deeply they were encased, he grabbed the young reindeer around the middle and teleported them both down to the ground.
"There," Kurt grinned, nearly winded from the exertion of teleporting a practically fully-grown reindeer. "Now, let's get you out of here."
"Wait!" Rudolph exclaimed. "My mother and Clarisse are in here too. The Abominable knocked them unconscious and they haven't woken up yet. We have to get them out too!"
Kurt leapt over a pile of frozen carcasses and pulled off his mittens, pressing a hand to the does' necks in search of a pulse.
"They're still alive," he said calmly, "but they won't be waking up any time soon. We need the others up here if we're to rescue them before the Abominable returns."
"Can't you just teleport them up here?" Rudolph asked anxiously.
"Yes, but I can't teleport the sleigh. How are we supposed to move them without it?"
Rudolph sighed and began to pace in agitation. "This is all my fault," he moaned. "If I hadn't gone looking for them, the Abominable never would have found them. It's all my nose's fault!"
Kurt glared at the boy, his golden eyes narrowed. "Stop that," he ordered, startling Rudolph out of his misery. "This is no time to indulge in useless self-pity. You found them. If you could, I'm sure the Abominable could without any help from you. It's not the fault of your nose or anything else."
Kurt stepped forward, his expression softening. "Now, your mother and Clarisse need help. They need you to be brave and to think with a clear head. Can you do that?"
Rudolph nodded sulkily, his antlers nearly brushing the ground. "I think so."
"Don't think so," Kurt snapped. "Be so. Now, come with me. We must get to Yukon and the others."
"They're here too?" Rudolph asked, amazed.
"Of course. Now, prepare yourself. This is going to be a difficult trip."
Wrapping his arms around the young reindeer's neck, Kurt teleported them down to where the others were waiting at the foot of the mountain.
"Easy!" Yukon shouted to Jamie and Hermie, who were struggling to hold the sleigh in place on the slightly slanted cliff just outside the cave. "Hold it steady. We're setting 'er down now."
Kurt and Yukon lowered Rudolph's unconscious mother on top of the loaded sleigh with a loud grunt of effort. Yukon sighed and ran a hand through his beard. Only the young doe was left and there was still no sign of the Abominable.
"Yukon!" Kurt called from the depths of the cave. "What are you doing out there?"
"Coming!" the hefty prospector called back, casting one last glance at the surrounding landscape before re-entering the dismal cave.
"I've got her head," Kurt said as the two of them bent to lift the heavy doe from where she rested. "On the count of drei, ready?"
The two men hefted the reindeer into the air and began stumbling their way out of the cave. Just before they reached the last pile of carcasses, their ears were met by an alarmed shout
"Kurt! Cornelius! It's the Abominable!" Rudolph gasped from his perch at the edge of the cliff. "He's come back! And he looks angry!"
"What do we do?" Hermie squeaked from behind the sleigh. "There's nowhere to hide!"
Kurt looked to Yukon. "Quick, it will take the monster some time to climb all the way up here. We must get this doe on the sleigh. Then, we can develop a plan."
Taking a deep breath, the two men shuffled to the sled as quickly as they could. No sooner had they lowered the young doe beside Rudolph's mother, than an ear-splitting roar split the silent, winter air. The Abominable had come home.
"I have an idea," Kurt said briskly. "I'll confuse him with multiple 'ports like I did before. While I've got him distracted, you get this sleigh down the mountain."
"But you're already tired," Yukon protested. "You can't hope to hold the Bumble off by yourself. I'll help you."
"Wait a minute!" Hermie exclaimed suddenly. "I just thought of something. What threat would the Abominable pose without his teeth?"
Kurt blinked. "Not much of one, I believe," he said, a small smile growing on his face. "That's it! Yukon and I will find a way to knock the monster out. Once he's down, Hermie will do his dentist thing and pull the Abominable's teeth out. Rudolph, you and Jamie concentrate on getting this sleigh to safety. Does everyone understand what we'll be doing?"
The friends nodded. "Yes!" they chorused, eyes shining and eager for the fight.
"Good," Kurt nodded, "because here he comes!"
In a flash, Kurt appeared crouched on the Abominable's shoulders. As Yukon rushed forward to meet the Bumble head on, Kurt wrapped his tail around the monster's thick neck and started squeezing as hard as he could.
In the meantime, Hermie pulled a frightening-looking dental instrument from one of the bags on Yukon's sleigh and helped Jamie and Rudolph guide the dogs to the edge of the slanting path that led down the mountain. With a brief exchange of well-wishes, the friends parted for what might be the last time.
The smell of meat was very close now. He must be near the scavenger's cave. The creature known only as the Wolverine sniffed the chill air, his empty stomach growling in anticipation at the thought of the frozen meat that awaited him. He would warm it just enough to get the juices flowing again. Then, while it was still rare and bleeding, he would bite into it, savoring the taste and the feel as the juices ran down his throat...
Suddenly, his pleasant daydreams were interrupted by a very familiar smell coming from the same direction as the rich scent of meat. It was the unique, musky smell of the man who had separated him from his dinner so long ago. They still had a score to settle, him and that Schwarzwald Kurt. The Wolverine was never one to forget a grudge.
Dropping to a feral crouch, the Wolverine increased his pace, racing for the Abominable's cave with all the speed his fierce lust for battle could lend him. He wouldn't need to use the winding path. He could scale the steep mountain with his claws. The Wolverine laughed in savage anticipation. Schwarzwald Kurt would never know what hit him.
Kurt's tail was starting to ache and the Abominable was still on its feet. Yukon's attacks served to keep the beast from swatting him away, but they had yet to cause any real damage to the Bumble's thick skin. Jamie and Rudolph were barely a third of the way down the mountain. At this rate, it was starting to appear doubtful that their plan would work.
At that moment, Kurt's pointed ears twitched under his hood at the sound of a low, predatory growl coming from somewhere just below him. Turning his gaze to the edge of the cliff, his golden eyes widened at the sight of a grinning Wolverine.
"Yukon!" he shouted, not expecting his friend to look up in the heat of battle. He just hoped his words would reach him over the Abominable's roars. "The Wolverine has returned! It's all or nothing now!"
Unsheathing his swords, Kurt leapt high into the air and teleported, landing hard on the Wolverine's broad back as the wild man completed his climb onto the cliff. The Wolverine grunted as the air was knocked from his lungs, flipping over onto his back and shoving the panting Schwarzwald Kurt away. Leaping to his feet, his long claws extended from his knuckles with a metallic SNIKT. Kurt took a few steps back, brandishing his swords and slipping into a defensive pose.
The Wolverine charged the hooded man with a savage roar. Kurt met his attack with a blinding flurry of steel, tangling his right sword in the Wolverine's claws and shoving him back with a sharp kick to the chest. Wolverine grunted in surprised pain, then a slow, terrifying smile crept across his rugged features.
"I'll skewer ya for that, bub," he growled, his flinty eyes glinting with deadly menace, "and then I'll finish what I started with your little reindeer friend. Only now, he ain't so little anymore, is he? Should last me for a couple days, then."
Schwarzwald Kurt refused to be baited. He continued to stand on guard, centered and calm, waiting for the Wolverine's next move. The Wolverine snarled, angry that his taunts were getting no response from his enemy. Letting loose with another savage yell, he launched himself at Kurt once again.
Hermie the Elf sat just over the cave's opening, watching the battles raging below and waiting for his chance to strike. Schwarzwald Kurt seemed to be holding his own against the savage Wolverine, but Yukon Cornelius was really struggling against the Abominable. Hermie knew if something didn't happen soon, Yukon would lose the fight. He looked around himself, desperate for to find anything he could use to help his friend--a rock, a branch, anything.
What he saw was a large boulder. Crawling cautiously over the icy snow, Hermie tested the giant stone with his foot. To his delight, it wobbled easily. If he could just get the Abominable to stand in the mouth of the cave, he could probably use this boulder to knock the beast unconscious.
"Yukon!" he called, waving his arms in a desperate attempt to grab his friend's attention. "Over here! Get him to come over here!"
Nodding his understanding, the indefatigable prospector shifted his attack, beating at the Abominable with the flat of his pick as he forced the monster to stumble backwards towards the cave.
Hermie waited for just the right moment. He didn't want the boulder to bounce off the Bumble's thick skull and land on Yukon by accident. Yukon, however, knew enough to move away before that could happen. He leapt through the Bumble's legs and rolled into the cave just as the elf managed to kick the heavy boulder free of the ice. The boulder hit the Abominable square on the head, causing his eyes to roll up and a strange, almost comical grin to cross his matted, furry face as he collapsed to the ground with a loud CRASH.
Hermie immediately climbed down to the cliff and began his task of pulling the Bumble's giant teeth. It was more difficult than he had expected. Yukon came up beside him and put a beefy hand on his shoulder.
"Want some help?" he offered.
With a grateful nod, Hermie handed his tool over to Cornelius, then set about instructing him on what to do.
The Wolverine's adamantium claws sliced clean through Kurt's left sword, severing the blade near the hilt. Kurt blinked at the remains of his treasured sword, losing precious seconds while the Wolverine prepared to come at him again. Tossing the useless hilt aside, Kurt brandished his remaining sword and met the Wolverine head on. Using his momentum to flip over the shorter man's scruffy head, Kurt began to mount an aggressive offensive attack, baring his sharp fangs and backing the Wolverine closer and closer to the edge of the precipice. A river rushed far below, eager to swallow whichever of the two combatants fell first. Schwarzwald Kurt was determined that it would not be him.
Kurt struggled to keep his center, channeling his anger and fear into focused energy that he used to come at the Wolverine again and again even though he was hovering at the point of physical exhaustion. Searching for days with little sleep, moving the two deer, fighting against the Abominable Snowman, and two strenuous teleports had tired him long before the Wolverine showed up. Now, it was nearly fifteen minutes into the fight and Kurt was beginning to wonder how much longer he could hold out before he felt those sharp claws rake his fuzzy skin.
"Made it!" Rudolph crowed, helping Jamie to hide the sleigh behind the cover of several evergreen bushes.
"How do you think the others are doing?" Jamie asked, looking anxiously up at the cliff where he could see little more than the sun glinting off the blade of Schwarzwald Kurt's sword.
"I don't know," the reindeer said anxiously. "I can hardly see a thing from down here."
"Do you think if maybe I climbed a tree I could see better?"
"I don't see how it could hurt," Rudolph said, turning his attention to the two unconscious does on the sleigh. "I'll stay here with them."
Jamie nodded, offering him a sympathetic glance before reaching out to grab the lowest branch of the nearest tree.
Jamie had thought he had been prepared to see the changes in his friend. Ever since Schwarzwald Kurt had told them of the enchantment that cursed/protected the Island of the Misfits, Jamie had known Rudolph would most likely have grown up quite a bit since the last time they were together. However, he hadn't been prepared for just how much.
Rudolph was no longer the young fawn with the stubby antlers Jamie had met sulking among the Christmas trees. His once downy coat was now a thick, dark brown and his antlers were as long as Jamie's forearm. He was taller, broader, thicker, his voice was deeper, and--Jamie sighed as he remembered the expression on the reindeer's face when he looked down at Clarisse--he was in love. As Jamie climbed higher, his hands covered in pine sap and dark smudges staining the knees of his blue elf pants, he reflected that if it hadn't been for the young reindeer's nose, he would have been hard pressed to recognize him at all.
When he had climbed so high that the trunk was no thicker than a branch itself, Jamie stopped and brushed aside a few errant twigs that blocked his view. He gasped at the sight that met his eyes, swaying slightly before he could manage to tighten his grip on the surrounding branches.
The Abominable was down for the count. Hermie and Yukon had nearly finished their (to Jamie's mind) gruesome task. A small pile of sharp teeth, each as long as Jamie's hand, had built up beside them. Jamie had to look away, but when he turned his gaze to Schwarzwald Kurt he nearly cried out in dismay.
Kurt was down to one sword, and even that was badly notched. The Wolverine seemed tireless as he swiped at the taller man with his gleaming claws, again and again and again. Kurt just managed to keep his skin intact as he skillfully dodged, twisted, and flipped through the air, managing to parry each of the Wolverine's savage blows. A fierce, resolute determination burned in his glowing, yellow eyes, but even Jamie could tell that he was nearing the end of his energy. It would only be a matter of time before--
With a guttural roar, the Wolverine slashed his claws through Kurt's remaining sword, the force of the blow scattering three, deadly pieces of the once proud blade over the side of the cliff. Jamie watched in horror as Kurt tottered and nearly fell, using his tail to recover his precarious balance just in time.
The Wolverine charged his slender opponent, his arms outstretched, his elbows bent, his deadly claws pointed straight at Kurt's chest.
"Kurt, LOOK OUT!!!!!
" Jamie screamed.
Kurt closed his bright eyes, using his sense of spatial perception to better time his final move. At the very last moment, Kurt let loose with a roar of his own as he grabbed onto the Wolverine's thick wrists and flipped over his head so he was sitting on his back, straddling the wild man's waist. It was an amazingly daring move, but it did little good. As Jamie watched in anguished horror, the Wolverine's momentum carried both men over the edge of the steep cliff. They plummeted towards the rushing river, spinning as they fell. However, before they had built up too much speed, the pair vanished in a puff of blue-black smoke.
Jamie breathed a sigh of deep relief and leaned back against the narrow trunk. Then his eyes popped open with the shock of a sudden, disturbing thought.
Schwarzwald Kurt had teleported himself and the Wolverine in time to save himself from a gruesome death. But, where had they gone? How could Kurt survive another attack without his swords?
Jamie was at the point of tears by the time he finally made it back to the ground. Suddenly, he found himself doubting whether he would ever see his friend again.
Could this be the end of Schwarzwald Kurt??? Stay tuned!