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The intruder eased the front door open and silently entered the house, taking care not to
wake the family sleeping upstairs. As he quietly closed the door a labrador appeared
from the kitchen and upon seeing the man began to bark. Quickly and effortlessly, he
silenced it.
Upstairs in her bed, a young girl awoke. She waited, holding her breath, listening
intently. It was faint, but she could hear someone moving downstairs, and eager to
investigate, she threw back the duvet and placed two tentative feet on the floor. She
held onto the cuffs of her pyjamas and tiptoed across her bedroom, carefully avoiding
the creaking floorboards with pinpoint accuracy. Her eyes darted towards her parents
room, as she eased her door open and slipped out across the landing; with sweaty
palms and heart racing she stood at the top of the stairs.
Her father had promised her that if she was perfectly behaved throughout the entire
year, Santa Claus would grant her one wish on the eve of Christmas. This year Carie
had made sure that she had been nothing short of an angel, and now she stood in
anticipation of receiving her Christmas wish. On this night there was no doubt in her mind,
she would have indisputable proof.
She cautiously made her way down the wooden staircase, the steps creaking softly
under her weight, and tiptoed across the small hallway towards the living room and the
source of the disturbance. She pressed her ear against the door and listened. She could
hear the rattling of baubles as they brushed against the branches of the Christmas tree,
and what sounded like presents being placed. Barely able to contain her excitement,
she reached out a hand and quietly pushed the door ajar and peered into the room.
Carie couldn’t believe what she was seeing. She rubbed her eyes, thinking that
perhaps she was still dreaming. Utterly lost for words she opened the door, and as the
hinges creaked it disturbed the creature in the living room. Something came at her from
behind, and in an instant stuffed a cloth in her mouth and thrust a bag over her head.

The only light in the cave came from bright embers burning in a pit of blackened stones.
A pot hung over the coals casting shadows that danced across the stone walls and the
flickering light revealed all manner of jars and vials resting on shelves. Two steel doors
stood at either end of the cave and as one creaked opened, Agate entered the
chamber shaking snow from his long ears.
Elve were the servants of Christmas: hideously disfigured unsightly creatures, with jet
black eyes set beneath shadowy features. Although considerably small, no bigger than
six inches, they had a ferocious nature, matched only by their strength and determination.
Moving through the dimness he retrieved an armful of logs from a pile in the corner of
the cave and kneeling down, he fed them to the dying fire. A pile of dirty rags lay on a
table next to the pit, and thinking it unusual for his master to leave a mess, he began
collecting the pieces of fabric strewn across the floor. The ragged heap on the table
stirred, startling Agate. He moved closer to investigate and realised to his horror that it
was his Master lying wounded under the pile. Without a second thought he hurried to the
shelves and collected a number of bottles, bandages and cloth, and set them down
next to his mentor.
The extent of her injuries were revealed as the apprentice began cutting the blood
soaked clothes from her body, and using a cloth dabbed with alcohol, he tenderly
cleaned her wounds in silence, his mind tormented with worry. Obsidian was his
guardian, she was like a mother to him, and all the knowledge he was proud to have
learnt had been taught by her.
As he removed the last of the shredded rags he saw that she had a scroll clasped in
her hand. He carefully prised it from her fingers and placed it on the table, curious as to
whether it could cast any light on her condition. She stirred from unconsciousness,
groaning. Agate offered a few words of comfort, resting his hand on her forehead for a
moment, before hurrying to retrieve a decanter of Calendula wine from the shelves. He
lifted her head and gently poured the remedy into her mouth, most of it spilling from her
Agate and Obsidian lived in a hollow on the side of the mountain, away from the
millions of other Elve that lived deep beneath the surface, in a city called Mokas.
Obsidian chose to live apart from the collective and was a most mysterious character,
rarely seen. Few trusted her, even fewer knew her name, and she preferred it that way.
Agate sat by his Master holding her hand, his eyes fixed on the scroll, eager to know
if it could answer any of the many questions swirling in his mind. Perhaps the answers
could be found in the scroll, but he had been warned before by Obsidian about reading
things that did not belong to him. Words were dangerous, she had once told her
Apprentice, especially if taken out of context. But he could not take his eyes from it, so
ensuring his Master was still unconscious, he reached out and picked up the parchment.
Changing his mind, he put it down, pacing in front of the fire, not knowing what to do.
Unable to resist the temptation any longer, he picked the scroll up once more and slowly
unravelled it, holding it closer to the light. He could not believe his eyes: this scroll that he
had never seen before unmistakably bore his signature.
“Agate! What are you doing?” came an unsteady voice.
“Forgive me Master. I found this with you and I feared... Master, it has my name on it!”
Obsidian coughed and wheezed as she struggled to sit up.
“Bring it to me - don’t look at it!”
She groaned, rising to her feet, and hobbled over to the pit in the centre of the room.
She tossed the scroll into the fire and watched as the corners of the parchment began to
curl, glowing red as a single flame silently erupted, consuming the paper. Agate
retrieved a staff and handed it to his Master, watching her nervously.
Obsidian had mastered the Artistry of Elve, and so despite the pain that tore at her
nerves, she could focus her thoughts, and without needing to unroll the scroll she had
deciphered its message.
“Didn’t you want to check it first, in case-”
“-In case of what, that I misread it?” snapped Obsidian, taking the staff.
“But you’re injured and-”
“-And nothing. I’m fine,” she said, as she limped back to the table.
He gazed at the smouldering remains in the fire, desperately wishing he could have
read it, disappointed that she did not trust him.
“What did it say?” he asked, only half expecting an answer.
“Fetch me a legion,” she commanded, hunching over the table for support.
Agate dutifully collected a metal box and placed it on the table beside her.
“Now go. Practice your exercises,” she ordered.
He bowed his head without uttering a word of discourse, turned and headed for the
The Legion flickered to life the moment she lifted the lid, flame spitting from the
opening, as if it was eager to be free of its prison. Legions were Flame-demons,
created by the Demon King Balaam in the fires of hell and though only a single flame,
they had the power to burn between dimensions, creating links of communication with
the Darkness.
Obsidian scooped the demon into her hand and in the next instant it began snaking
up her arm. Her face was expressionless as she pulled the demon away and held it in
her hand, her eyes closed.
“Legion of Balaam! I command you send word!” she called out. The flame erupted
from her grasp and fire engulfed her, rippling over her body in waves of blue, white and
yellow. The fire in the pit exploded, licking the blackened ceiling, and rising from deep
within the flames of the inferno came the Darkness: a beast half goat, half man. From his
head grew two crooked horns that curled into sharp points, and dark, coarse hairs
sprouted from his chin. Rings of metal hung from large holes in his ears that were
shabby and gnarled, and he wore various jewels around his neck. His eyes were fierce,
as unforgiving as the fires in hell, and yet his youthful face seemed more impudent than
Agate stood at the top of a staircase that spiralled down into a chamber below, the
steps barely illuminated by flickering candles. He was frustrated, unable to hear even the
slightest sound through the door, and cursing under his breath he kicked a small pebble
from the top of the stairs. Resigned, he descended into the chamber, and set about
gathering a number of vessels filled with various elements, and a book entitled:
Deceiving Atropos and bribing Lachesis, by C.Spinner.
Time passed slowly for Agate, and after what seemed like an age of staring at pages
that he could not absorb, he decided it was safe to investigate.
Upstairs, the embers had burned to a glow and most of the room was now hidden in
shadow, yet even in the darkness he could make out Obsidian’s body on the table,
apparently unconscious. He navigated the darkened cave with ease, quietly tidying up,
all the while looking for the legion.
“Looking for this?” came Obsidian’s croaky voice, as she held out the box. “I know
you are secretly studying the use of flame, Agate, but should you ever use any of my
legions, you will regret it. Do you understand?”
He moved towards her, hanging his head low, knowing she could read his thoughts,
and in an attempt to soften her mood, he quickly retrieved a pile of blankets from the
darkened recess.
“There’s no time for comfort, there is much to do,” she said in a strained voice, waving
away the blankets. He returned the pile to its place and turned to tend to the fire,
watching his Master as she sat quietly mumbling to herself. Agate poked the embers,
coaxing the flame to burn brighter, and as the wood began to spit, Obsidian came out of
her reverie.
“Prophecy is as much inspiring as it is an augury,” she muttered, her eyes distant.
“I don’t understand Master.”
Obsidian paused, while collecting her thoughts, deciding how much she should reveal
to her Apprentice.
“Such an Evil is upon us,” she said, as calm as she could.
Agate leapt up from the fire, and feeling a sudden surge of anxiety, he came to sit
beside her. She looked into his eyes and Agate could feel her pain, but then in a flash,
her eyes became piteous.
“Agate, my dear elver.”
She stroked his face, her eyes filled with emotion and shining with pride, yet her
expression was tainted with a deep sadness.
“Master, what is wrong?”
She looked exhausted, her breath laboured, as if she were struggling to stay with
“My dear elver, our time grows short. It seems you must complete the rest of your
training by yourself. No, look at me. You are ready.”
“Of course Master, whatever you say, but you have to fight, you-”
“-Don’t worry about me, I’ve been through enough scrapes, worse than this. But you
must listen now. It has fallen to you... now that I have failed.” She paused, trying to find
the courage. “Agate, you have to leave our kingdom. You must find help.”
“But that’s absurd! I would have to be banished.”
The full realisation hit him at once, and the tender regret that was evident on
Obsidian’s face did nothing to comfort him. In that split second he realised he would
never be able to return, he would never experience the collective mind that all Elve
shared, he would be alone forever.
“No! I won’t do it!” demanded Agate. “It’s not fair. I’m only ten years from initiation and
I’ve worked so hard. I will surely die on my own. Elve cannot leave the city. No I will not
do it.”
Obidian waited, finding the right words. “ My dear elver you will go. There are times
when the cause is much greater than our wants, even our needs.”
“But I am Elve, I cannot live away from the collective.”
“To do what is right is what it is to be Elve. To want is not. You question my
judgement, my orders and council, and I like that, it is why you were chosen. But
sometimes, my Apprentice, we are in danger of rebelling for the sake of rebellion.”
As always her voice was soothing when it needed to be, and her words of advice
defused the conflict inside him. With a renewed dedication to fulfilling his Master’s
request, he bowed his head.
“You must go to Mokas and enlist yourself as a house servant to Nicholas, he will
need our help. Life as we know it is about to turn on its head. Learn as much as you can
about this disruption, and when the time comes, you must commit the most
unspeakable act. Only then can you be banished.”
He looked into her eyes and knew exactly what she meant.
“How will I know the time is right?”
“You will know, my Apprentice.” She wavered, wanting to say more to comfort him,
but thought better of it. “Now go.”
Confused, he got up and Obsidian rolled over onto her side, closing her eyes. Agate
retrieved a number of books, his knife, a few ointments, a navigational device, and a
strange contraption similar to a microscope. As he put the items into a sac, he imagined
what it would have been like to have finally mastered the artistry of Elve, knowledge he
could never gain on his own. He would never take a wife or have elver of his own. And
what of his Master? He cautiously moved towards the table and reached out his hand to
touch her, but he withdrew it. Picking up his bag, and without looking back to his mentor,
he left the place that he had called home for nearly thirty years, never to return again.
Agate pushed through the snowstorm thinking of Obsidian, his only family. He still
had so much more to learn from her. Where had she been? How had she come to
sustain such terrible injuries?

Obsidian lay still on the table, listening to Agate’s footsteps as they disappeared into
the howling storm outside. She eased herself off the table, clutching her sides, and
hobbled across the chamber towards the pile of wood that was stacked in the corner of
the cave. She picked up a few logs, whilst gritting her teeth, and fed them to the fire that
was dwindling in the pit, then disappearing into a dark recess she retrieved a large,
spherical jar that was crammed full with various strands of hair. The parchment that Agate
had found had contained terrible news, and as Obsidian desperately sifted through the
jar, a fear that she had sent Agate to his doom clawed at her mind. After lifting one or two
hairs into the dim light she eventually uncovered a bright pink strand. Obsidian reached
underneath the table and opened a drawer, and from it she took a vial filled with a black
liquid. Removing the stopper, she dipped the hair into the oily concoction and, screwing
her face up at the pungent smell, she put the strand into her mouth. The taste was bitter,
and Obsidian had to force herself, but reluctantly she began to chew the hair. When she
could not manage any more of the foulness that now inundated her taste buds, she
turned to the pot that hung over the coals and began drinking the water inside, scooping
it up with her hands. The potion was fast acting and Obsidian could feel her mind
swaying. She staggered back onto the table to lie down, closing her eyes.
The chatter of her mind fell silent and her consciousness drifted around in the darkness
until the image of a mirror began to emerge. She watched from behind the glass as the
Easter Bunny began preparing himself to leave his home. He seemed irritated with his
appearance, tugging at his ears while grimacing into the mirror; he cursed his bright pink
fur. To conceal his garishly unnatural colour, he wore a black shirt and suit and, in an
attempt to diminish his cute appearance, he pulled his ears into a ponytail. Grunting a
sigh of frustration, he left the room.
Obsidian’s thoughts drifted through the many corridors of his burrow, outside and onto
a farm, to where the Bunny was standing, arms folded, his nostrils twitching with
repulsion as he looked out onto the fields; he could not detect the sweet scent of grass
and wild flowers that he would have preferred. Instead his nostrils were filled with the
sickly smell of cocoa and sugar, as rather than fruits and vegetables, the Easter Bunny
was forced to grow chocolate eggs and other confectionery needed to feed the festival
of Christmas and Easter. Large vines and trees blossomed as far as the eye could see,
but instead of baring fruits, they were laden with various chocolate treats - the Bunny had
grown tired of this life.
In times past, when he was considered a pagan symbol of fertility, he had dwelt in
wild springtime meadows, merrily dancing amongst the flora and fauna, natural and free.
Each morning the new-born sun would rise high above the horizon, relinquishing the
moon of its duties, and all would rejoice at its rising. It was a place he loved, a place
where he had felt safe.
After his induction into Christianity, the Bunny was forced to leave his home and settle
in an area where he could grow the chocolate treats that were demanded of him. Now,
tormented by his lot, the Bunny suffered cold, dark mornings and early sunsets, trapped
somewhere between winter and spring.
He hastily walked the small path that ran alongside his plantation, casting a scornful
eye towards the dull, overcast sky. The path meandered past fields of chocolate trees
growing on large twisted vines, ready to be hung on the branches of Christmas firs, and
past many fondant filled crops, that grew in countless lines as far as the eye could see,
ripe for indulging gluttonous stomachs. The lane continued until it merged with a dirt road
that bordered the edge of his land, it cut deep into the hillside through forests and
villages, over and beyond.
The Easter Bunny followed the dusty track to a crossroads that marked the meeting
point of four magical lands. The only building in sight was an old tavern - a rusting sign
declaring it to be The Corner Stone. Dark, heavy beams ran across the masonry of the
exterior, and an old thatch roof, aged by the elements, hung over the walls; smoke
poured from two ramshackle chimney stacks, each brick clinging to the other for support,
and perched above the doorway was a large crow, a silver ring shining between its
As the Bunny continued towards the entrance, unaware of Obsidian following, he shot
a nervous glance up at the crow as it flapped its wings, before pushing open the
tavern’s sturdy, wooden door.
The Corner Stone was a refuge for more sinister magical creatures: it’s dark nooks and
concealed booths shadowed all manner of secrets. The ceiling was low, the room
cramped and stuffy; flickering candles in rusted metal brackets highlighted the contours of
the rough, hewn walls. Cobwebs plastered the ceiling of the tavern, stretching across
windows that were buried beneath layers of grime; low beams laden with grotty
ornaments hung over the visitors, the mood was made darker still by the clientele.
Opposite the entrance, at the far end of the building, was the bar: carved from a
single blood red stone and crowned with an uneven oak surface, worn from the many
tankards and drunkards that had rested on it’s frame. From the beams that ran across the
ceiling above the bar hung innumerable glasses, each as diverse as the patrons that
The barkeeper added a goblet of carrot juice to his already laden tray and took it to a
table in the far corner where the Easter Bunny was sitting, half hidden in shadow. The
barman placed the drink on the table, and without offering a word of thanks, the Bunny
picked up the goblet and turned it in his hands. Every few minutes he cast a shifty glance
over the room: a group of beasts were huddled around one of the tables, their voices
low; the barman had returned to his post and was spitting into the bottom of a glass,
smearing the remnants inside with his filthy apron in a sorry attempt to clean it; eight of
the King’s Men sat in the farthest corner, avidly engaged in a drinking game, arguing and
laughing raucously, and the faint smell of stale beer and smoke from the fire that burned
at one end of the room wafted around the tavern - a relief from the stench that was
coming from the kitchen. As he looked back to the table of beasts, an eye looked up to
meet his gaze, and the Easter Bunny quickly diverted his attention back to his drink.
The door to the tavern swung open and a large man wearing a bright, red suit
entered. He stamped his boots, removing the build up of snow, and then lifted the
hood from his face, revealing his bright, bushy beard. Saint Nicholas looked around the
tavern and nearly missed the Easter Bunny sitting in the shadows. He walked over to
him, his heavy frame thudding on the stoney floor, while a number of tiny bells, tied to
the top of his boots, jingled in time with the beat. He removed his cape and took up a
seat opposite the Bunny and, forcing a smile, he greeted his friend.
The barkeeper appeared with more carrot juice and a fresh glass of sherry and placed
them down on the table, turning to Nicholas in a low voice, almost a whisper, he offered
to leave the bottle, but the Saint declined.
Obsidian watched as the pair discussed their Christian endeavours and it was not
long until the astute Bunny noticed that the Saint seemed rather uncomfortable. He
probed further and learnt of Nicholas’ frustration with his job. The Bunny was pleased
upon hearing this news, and though his apparent indifference gave little away to Nicholas
- who was too concerned with the problem to notice - Obsidian did not fail to see the
little glint of triumph in the Easter Bunny’s eyes.
“Oh, I’m sure things vill be all right,” said the bunny, looking over the rim of his goblet.
He spoke with a thick, German accent that was refined and assertive, yet much to his
discomfort, flawed by a subtle lisp. “But your job ist finished now. Let us celebrate that.
Cuttiford! I think ve vill have that bottle after all!” he called to the bar keeper.
The meeting continued long into the night as the Easter Bunny poured drink after drink,
pouring few for himself he made sure that Nicholas’ glass remained full - it was not long
until the empty bottles began to pile up on the table. The Bunny waited patiently,
watching Saint Nicholas change from tipsy to merry, then from merry to drunk, it was at
this moment he seized his opportunity.
“So then, mein freund, tell me. How ist it that you manage to deliver so many gifts in
von night?” he asked, after he had carefully led the discussion in the way of travel.
“Ho Ho Ho!” chortled Nicholas, coughing and spluttering, his speech was slurred and
his eyes were glazed. “Im aflaid old ferrow, I can’t tell you that.”
“Not even ein intsy vintsy inkling, not even von little clue fur such ein gut friend?”
Implored the Easter Bunny, leaning forward.
“Why of course, I travel by reindeer,” winked Nicholas.
“Mein freund. Ve hat known each utter since I started supplying zie chocolate treats fur
zie Chvistmas trees, you know you can trust me. Now, how about anutter drink?” he
“Mishter Oshter, I feel drunk!” slurred the Saint. “You’re making me telling you all my
“Mein freund, I am only intevested in your vork because of late you are looking very
tired, unt as mein very gut freund, I am concerned.”
“Well you know, its a very stressful business. Christmas eve... completely hectic,”
said the Saint, swaying in his chair. He grabbed a bottle, nearly knocking it to the floor,
and upon filling another glass for himself, he downed it in one.
“That can’t be ov any fun,” said the Bunny, feigning compassion.
“Urrrgh, it’s those children,” slurred Nicholas. “Greedy as they are. Day and night they
torments my brain. This and that, they want everything they do, without a thank you.”
The Easter Bunny consoled the Saint, pouring him yet another drink.
“But I have no choice... we have no choice! We lack the free will to change,” said
Nicholas, and he downed the sherry, his mood darkening.
The Easter Bunny leaned a little closer, and with a hushed voice, he suggested that
perhaps he knew of a loop hole that could be of help. The conditions placed on Santa
dictated that he must make the presents for the children himself, but how they were
delivered was not written in stone.
“Unt you haf changed your method of delivery befur, ja?” said the Bunny casually.
“So, if fur example, you hat somevon else deliver zie presents, then you vud haf more
time to make zie toys in your factory, unt not vaste your time viv deliveries.”
Nicholas hesitated, pointing a finger and then lowering it.
“Put simply mein freund. you are unter a lot of pressure. How long ist it until you are
making more mistakes in zie factory. You are not to blame. But you must move viv zie
times. Unt demand fur zie gifts at Chvistmas vill only get vorse.”
The saint slumped back into his chair. The Bunny was right. How much longer could
he go on living like this?
The Easter Bunny argued that the problem was that few children respected him as a
Saint, instead they saw him as a gift store, discounted at best. He went on to casually
suggest, that perhaps if his friend used the toy shops around the world to distribute his
gifts, it might help spread the season of goodwill further.
Lowering his voice, the Bunny leaned across the table, “Ve could use zie bishops to
distirbute your toys sru zie church, such as they do viv mein chocolate. They haf many
ties viv companies in zie solid vorld. Unt it ist still Chvistian.”
The Saint’s mind was swirling his vision a kaleidoscope of bunnies, as he tried to
comprehend the details of the offer. The Easter Bunny could sense his hesitation, so he
casually suggested that he should come and stay with the Saint, to ensure that
everything went smoothly. In his drunken state, Nicholas found his offer hard to refuse.
Smiling at his furry companion he leaned across the table to accept his offer, but
tumbled out his seat and onto the floor. Embarrassed, the Easter Bunny hauled his
friend to his feet, and straining from the weight he put Nicholas’ arm around his shoulder.
They swayed precariously, and for a moment it seemed they would fall over again,
much to the delight of some of the other patrons. Ruffling the bunny’s fur and breathing
sherry onto his face, Nicholas proclaimed,
“Dear friendsh, you come stay with me, nothing pleases me more.”
The Bunny wiped the spray from his face, his nose twitching with disgust as he
struggled to maintain their balance.
“Vell zie pleasure vill be all mine,” strained the bunny, looking longingly towards the
door. “Now, how about ve get you home... I think I should drive, you can give me zie
“Join me for a toast... reindeer will drive my home, while blind folded you,” stumbled

The scenery crumbled away from Obsidians view, and everything fell to black. She felt
herself drifting once more, impartial to the events she had witnessed, as if void of
character or thought. She became aware that she was flying, soaring at great speeds,
as all around her she saw flashes of colour and form. A bright light exploded in the
distance, and within its brilliance she could see a landscape cloaked in snow emerging
from the darkness.

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