Krampus had his work cut out for him. It was December 5, and his list was finally complete. All the kids on it were categorized as naughty, naughtier, or naughtiest. While the naughty children were simply going to get beaten with birch rods, he would kidnap the rest and bring them to his lair in the Unseelie Court! This is what Krampus especially looked forward to. He loved kidnapping naughty children! He wished he could kidnap nice children, too, and force them to be naughty, for he hated good, sweet children even more than naughty ones! But that was not in his job description. Like most grown-ups nowadays, Krampus could think of nothing scarier than loosing his job.
As Krampus prepared himself for his yearly journey, he thought about what was to come. Once in his domain, the naughtier children would have to work as slaves until the following December. Then Santa, Krampus’ nemesis, would come to the fiery depths of the Unseelie Court and give them a chance to change their ways. If they chose to do so, they would go back with Santa and work for him with the elves before receiving their presents and returning home. The two naughtiest children, however, would be forced to spend an eternity working for Krampus and other demons! This was the part Krampus always looked forward to, gaining two eternal slaves! By contrast, he absolutely hated giving up the naughtier children who had chosen to be good. Last year more than half of these children did! If this kept up, the demons of the Unseelie Court could start deteriorating into nothing!
Krampus tried not to think about this as he gathered up his list and sack of birch rods, flew out of his lair, and assumed the form of a prim but sinister gentleman in a black suit. As he made his way to the first stop, Krampus heard a very strange sound. At first he thought it was Santa. Wasn’t he a little early? He wasn’t supposed to start delivering gifts until Christmas Eve, which was December 24. Come to think of it, he didn’t sound right either. He seemed to be laughing backwards.
“Oh, oh, oh!” the strange voice called. “Oh, oh, oh!” This did not sound like the insufferably jolly Santa Claus Krampus was familiar with. No, this voice sounded much more respectably evil. Finally out of curiosity, Krampus stopped and waited. He wrinkled his nose. A foul stench was coming from the same direction as this mysterious sound. As a demon he would not have minded or even noticed a smell like that, but as a gentleman he most certainly did.
Having heard and smelled this mysterious being, Krampus tried very hard to see him. He looked in the direction the sounds and smells were coming from, but saw nothing until suddenly, the sound grew louder and the stench grew stronger! He felt movement coming towards him and tried to get out of the way, but he was too late. Krampus found himself being mauled by a team of huge, muscular, vicious deer! They were all on top of him, so at first he couldn’t even see their eyes. When he finally got a glimpse, Krampus saw that they were blazing red-hot, much like his own eyes in demon form.
Krampus quickly took this form again, for as a gentleman, he had no defense against these creatures. Once in this form, Krampus rose from the deer depths! He saw the person leading them, and expected him to flee at the sight of him, for this was a thin, bald, delicate old man, who looked like a housefly could scare him. A
housefly maybe but not a demonic creature! As soon as this guy saw Krampus, he smiled and leered.
“Hello there!” he said. “I was expecting you!” As this man spoke, Krampus noticed the smell was coming from both this person’s breath, which smelled strongly of cigarette smoke, and one of two sacks he was carrying. Confused, but not frightened, Krampus tried hard to keep his cool. He was sure, however, that this man had made a mistake.
“Oh, really?” he asked. “Well, who do you think I am?”
“I know who you are,” answered the stranger. “You’re Krampus, the Christmas demon! I don’t suppose you know who I am?”
Krampus was silent. There was no way he would admit to this man that he had no idea who he was. Demons were supposed to know everything!
“I will give you one minute to answer,” continued the man. “If you haven’t spoken by then, I will know you are ignorant of my identity! Tick, tock, tick, tock!”
Krampus remained silent with what he hoped was a ponderous expression on his face. Suddenly, the mysterious man spoke again.
“Time’s up!” he said. “Well, what do you know! A mere human villain like me knows something a demon does not! Well, I guess devilish powers aren’t everything!”
“You’re a villain?” asked Krampus, his rage competing with newly-found curiosity.
“Why, of course!” answered the man. “Did you think a good guy would fly around with pain deer and a sack of trash?”
“So that’s what that smell is?” asked Krampus, though in his demonic form he could no longer smell it. He wasn’t at all surprised by what these sadistic deer were called, although he could not help acknowledging that he had never seen one before.
“Yes!” exclaimed the man. “I dump this trash in the homes of good little girls and boys! Would you like to see what’s in my other sack?”
“First tell me who you are!” challenged Krampus.
“Atnas of the South Pole,” he answered, offering his hand. Krampus refused it. “You’re a villain, I’m a demon,” he asserted. “I think you ought to bow!”
“I think not!” Atnas spat at him. “I am here to challenge you to a duel!”
“Oh, really?” asked Krampus, quickly forgetting his curiosity about the
other sack. “So, you want to become a demon?” He knew very well that challenging a demon to a duel was the only way a villain could reach demon status.
“I,” began Atnas, slimily, “would like to gain my rightful place as Santa’s arch nemesis!”
“YOUR rightful place?” spat Krampus. “Well, you’re a feisty one, aren’t you? Stealing the rightful place of a demon?”
“I ain’t stealing,” Atnas asserted. “Santa is MY brother, and after he gained the status of a Seelie Court being and confined me to the South Pole, I want to be a demon, so I can have the privilege of thwarting his goal to make little children happy!”
“How did he confine you to the South Pole?” asked Krampus.
“He isolated me,” Atnas replied. “Then he had all the good fairies, angels, and nature spirits cast a spell that made me unable to escape. The only way I could break that spell was by making a deal with the Devil to work as his slaves for several years! That’s why I couldn’t escape until now!”
Krampus was finally starting to respect this man. If he was willing to be a slave to the Devil for several years, maybe he was capable of becoming a demon. Krampus would be fine with that, for with all these naughty children reforming, more demons were needed in the Unseelie Court. He still needed to set things straight about who had the rightful place as Santa’s worst nightmare.
“I respect your willingness to work for the Devil,” he began. “Thus, I will help you become a demon. But only if you respect me and leave my status alone!”
“No, thank you!” spat Atnas. “I don’t want help from anybody who denies me MY rightful place!”
“Suit yourself,” said Krampus.
“I’d much rather fight you for it!” Atnas continued. “But I’m not ready yet. Give me one year. I’ll find someone to duel with who will help me gain my demonic status before the year is up. Then I’ll be ready!”
“Sure,” said Krampus. “I accept the challenge. Now will you shake on it?” “Yes,” said Atnas. “But first, show me how to get to the Unseelie Court.” “Alright,” said Krampus. “But promise not to fight me until you’ve reached
demonic status. You should know right away that the Devil only lets villains go demon if they play fair.” He wanted Atnas to think this was the only reason for that rule, while in reality, he did not want Atnas to sick his pain deer on him again. Secretly, Krampus believed that with a weapon like those deer, Atnas would have very little trouble becoming a demon.
After showing Atnas how to get to the Unseelie Court, Krampus went on his way, beating naughty children, collecting the naughtier ones, and carefully seeking out the naughtiest. Once he was finished, Krampus returned to the Unseelie Court, presented the naughtier and two naughtiest children to the Devil, and went back to his usual demonic deeds for the rest of the year. He saw very little of Atnas, and had no idea which demon had decided to help him or duel with him.
But then, one day in November, Krampus was approached by an unrecognizable demon. He had no idea who this was until he spoke.
“It is I, Atnas,” he said. “I am here to challenge you to a duel!”
Krampus was shocked. He could not believe the frail old man he had met almost a year ago had become a demon almost as terrifying as himself! But he recovered quickly enough to make the first move.
“Suit yourself, Atnas!” he said. “You don’t know whom you’re dealing with!” The two of them dueled for a long while. Krampus was impressed by the antics of someone who hadn’t even been a demon for a year. He wondered how long ago Atnas had gained the status. Finally, as he had initially believed he would, Krampus brought Atnas down. He thought he had won until he heard a whistle and the unmistakable trampling of pain deer hooves. He looked at Atnas, expecting him to get up and control his deer, but he didn’t. For a joyful moment, Krampus relished the fact that Atnas was too weak to get up, possibly even unconscious. But then he remembered the pain deer. Soon they came, and started trampling him right away. Down came their hooves, undoubtedly crushing some of his bones. They chomped on his flesh! Their spike-covered tails swept across his body, and their sharp antlers stabbed him! Krampus tried to fight them, but he could not. Atnas must have found someone who knew exactly how many pain deer he needed to overtake Krampus. For the first time in a long while, Krampus was afraid, but he didn’t stop his feeble attempts at stopping the pain deer until everything went black.
Krampus did not know how long he stayed unconscious. He didn’t even know he was unconscious until he woke up to a most unpleasant sight. Fairies, angels, and beautiful nature spirits were everywhere. Standing right in the middle of these goody- goodies was Mother Nature Herself. Krampus was sure he was dreaming. He blinked his eyes, rubbed them, then opened them again, but the good beings were still there. Seeing that he was in the Unseelie Court, Krampus wondered what they were doing there. Then he remembered Atnas. Forget the Seelie Court goody-goodies, where was the demon who had dared to overtake him? Krampus longed to get his hands on him and teach him a lesson, even if it meant facing the pain deer again! He looked in the direction where he had last seen Atnas, and sure enough, he was still there. He didn’t seem to have moved from that spot since Krampus had felled him. Ha, so there! Atnas wasn’t that strong! Krampus did not have long to relish his victory, for Mother Nature was approaching him.
“Freeze!” She said. Krampus did not even have to stand still, for these words out of Her mouth were enough to cover him in solid ice. He couldn’t move a muscle!
Noticing Her error, Mother Nature unfroze Krampus’ ears so he could listen. He wished She would unfreeze his mouth, too, so he could tell to her to get out of the Unseelie Court and leave the demons alone. He knew, however, that Mother Nature would only do this if She wanted to. He kept what he wanted to say to Her inside his head, and considering those thoughts, it was surprising what he heard out of Her mouth!
“You’ve done a very brave thing, Krampus,” She said. “You tried to defeat a terrible threat to me and my children. Unfortunately, you did not succeed. Atnas is still alive, and he now knows how to get out of his imprisonment in the South Pole. The most we can do is try to keep the Devil from helping him out of there again.”
Krampus was confused, and as with most demons, his confusion soon turned to rage. The rage heated his body and began to melt the ice. Seeing this, and knowing he was confused, Mother Nature re-froze him, but unfroze his mouth so he could ask questions. Krampus knew what this meant, and he began.
“What do you mean, ‘a very brave thing’?” he asked. “I’m one of the bad guys, remember? Why are you congratulating me? I didn’t do anything for you, Lady!” Mother Nature cringed at his rudeness, but tried very hard to contain Herself. She calmed down until She could smile again.
“You’re no enemy of mine!” she replied.
“I’m-I’m not?” asked Krampus, knowing better than to argue with Mother Nature, especially when She smiled.
“No, you’re not,” She said again, more gently this time. “You give naughty children what’s coming to them. Every time you beat them, I hope that motivates them to be better people in the coming year. As you know, when you bring naughtier children to the Unseelie Court, most of them are given the opportunity to help Santa and change their ways.”
“But that’s my least favorite part!” protested Krampus. “I hate sending those naughtier children to the North Pole! That’s a loss of valuable slave labor!”
“I know,” said Mother Nature, still very gently. “I am very sorry to hear that. I am also sorry to say that the two naughtiest children you take away each year are the least likely to change.” Mother Nature shook Her head sadly.
“Anyone’s capable of changing,” She continued. “That’s why I wish those children didn’t have to live in the Unseelie Court forever.” She sighed. “But if I hadn’t let you keep two slaves each year, you wouldn’t have accepted this job.”
“That’s right!” jeered Krampus defiantly.
“It’s a very important job,” She continued, ignoring him. “Maybe someday you’ll understand that the point of it is to improve the children of the world, not gain slave labor.”
“I wish I could say the same for Atnas’ job,” She continued, looking at Atnas for the first time since She approached Krampus. Krampus noticed that he had regained his old man form.
“Atnas doesn’t want to help the naughty children change their ways,” said Mother Nature. “On the contrary, he wants to help them further their naughtiness. Did you see what was in his other sack?”
“No,” admitted Krampus, suddenly remembering he had never looked in it.
“Here, I’ll show you,” said Mother Nature. With that, She took one of two sacks from the unconscious Atnas, opened it, and showed it to him. Krampus stared at its contents, shocked. What he saw in there were blindfolds, disguises, ropes, handcuffs, and other items naughty children need to create more naughtiness.
“That’s right,” said Mother Nature, clearly seeing Krampus’ shock. “Atnas’ wish is to give bullies, brats, and other naughty children anything they need to further their naughty deeds. He hopes that if enough nice children keep getting bullied and having trash dumped in their homes, they will stop believing in Santa, and Santa will stop trying to make them happy each year. Atnas hasn’t been able to do these evil deeds for years, and children certainly haven’t stopped believing in Santa, but if you don’t help us stop him, he just might succeed in both of those endeavors.” Mother Nature sighed and sadly shook Her head.
Krampus didn’t know what to say. He had never thought of his work as good before, but then again, this was the first time he met a mere villain with a goal worse than his!
“I will be leaving now,” said Mother Nature. “I will give you some time to think about it, for I can see you’re undecided. I sincerely hope you decide to help us, though. Come along, everybody.” With that, Mother Nature walked away, dragging the unconscious form of Atnas and followed by the other beings of the Seelie Court. Soon they all vanished, and the Unseelie Court was back to normal. Krampus was left with lots to think about, something demons are not accustomed to.
Alas, Krampus did not make up his mind in time. Atnas regained consciousness and escaped from the Seelie Court. Santa was able once again to confine him to the South Pole, and both he and Mother Nature are trying their best to keep him from making any more deals with the Devil. As a demon, though, he is still able to temporarily leave the South Pole, and every summer solstice, he manages to travel to each home around the world, dumping trash in the homes of good little children and giving naughty children equipment to further their deeds. The good beings of the Seelie Court have yet to stop him, and who knows if they ever will? So next summer solstice, you had best be careful if you are a good little girl or boy, or you’ll end up with a trashed house and bullies more powerful than you can imagine!