Pina’s Holiday Adventure (free short fiction)

For fans of my Legends Walk series I wrote a fun short story (about 12k words).

Strange Omens (bk 2) is now on sale through Amazon for 1/11 release. Either of the 1st 2 books can be enjoyed as a stand alone, but this story helps introduce a few of the characters and what they are up to between Strange Tidings (bk 1) and Strange Omens. Pina is a forest sprite who lives in Ed’s house. She’s just plain fun in the main stories, so now has her own. Enjoy!

Read the beginning here or the whole story on my webpages at https://goo.gl/pko45u

 

Pina’s Holiday Adventure

Heavy steps padded down the hall and stopped just outside Pina’s door. She clutched the little black purse to her stomach. A dark shadow fell across the green Berber carpet beneath the door as the beast snuffled along the crevasse—searching for a way in. Snorts from the massive black snout sent out fine jets of snot in moist bursts.

“It’s open, silly.” Pina smoothed out her new blue-flowered dress. “Just push.”

She gave the door a little pull and nervously stepped back to stand by the small table next to her bed. It had taken forever to find a dress that fit her tiny frame. Humans didn’t tend to make cloths small enough for her people, but Ed’s sister Piper had been so patient. They’d finally found the cutest little outfit to replace the drab fibers that were her normal clothes. As the door swung open, she straightened the bowl and biscuits opposite her tea setting, petted her dress flat one last time, and held her breath.

The blocky head that pushed into the room ducked to look her in the eyes, liquid brown to her emerald green. She broke into giggles as the giant black dog ran that wet nose through her hair and into her right ear.

“Ew! None of that. This is a new dress, and you can’t drool on it. Sit!”

Obedient as ever Ed’s dog dropped his butt onto her bed. He cocked a look down at the neatly arranged table. But she’d worked hard on her outfit, so they were going to discuss that first. She smiled at the hopeful look he gave, and pirouetted in place.

“Do you like it? I thought green would be my color, but Piper helped me pick it out this lovely floral print.”

Max perked up at Piper’s name. He was a good boy, who knew all his commands and the name of everyone in the household. It was generous of Ed to share his home, but generosity from Kokopelli’s first born didn’t surprise her—even if the boy was half human. To be honest, she’d never actually been invited to stay. The little room at the end of the hall, with the clothing hung so neatly along poles to either side and the cute little diamond window overlooking the New Philadelphia suburbs, had called to her.

After she moved in, Ed had been nice enough to remove the clothes and bring in a sprite-sized bed that made the place so homey that she rarely missed her forests. One of her greatest pleasures was hosting sleep-overs with Maxie. Ed found the stray dog while trying to track down the Owl Witch, an evil being who’d killed Max’s prior owner. Ed said he was a mixed breed with a little lab, mastiff, and rhinoceros thrown in. All she knew was that Max was the cutest little love bug—well a love bug that weighed maybe four times as much as she did and stood a head taller.

His tongue lolled out from the side of his mouth as he took in her outfit, clearly approving, which brought a smile to her lips.

“Good boy, Max. You’re beautiful too. Let’s eat.”

She never had to say those words twice. Max dropped his snout to the bowl and slurped up the ground meat she’d cooked. She almost had to scold him for drooling, but the clever boy took a few laps of water from his other bowl, which took care of the problem. As she munched on a delightfully crispy human cookie, Max picked up one of the little bone-shaped biscuits and settled down on the bed to crunch it up.

They sat in companionable silence as the sun set. After a time, they snuggled under the blankets, content and with full tummies. A chill seeped through the window, feeling colder than the December air should. She’d heard the wild stories told by Ed’s parents, of how the old man dressed in red would break into houses this time of year. He’d steal cookies and leave gifts behind in some misguided attempt at recompense. Max burrowed deeper, pushing her to the very edge of the mattress. But sprites had good balance. She clung to his neck and drifted off.

Sharp wind whipped the diamond window, making it jitter and jump in its frame. Pina snapped awake, and Max flattened his ears as something went tic-tic-tic across the roof before scraping to a stop. Pina slipped an arm around Max’s furry shoulders and eyed the plate of neatly decorated little pine trees and flowers that Piper had so painstakingly sprinkled with green sugar and colorful candies. They both jumped at a metallic crash came from the kitchen downstairs.

“Come on.” Pina swung off the bed and headed for the stairs.

The doors to Ed’s and his sister Piper’s rooms were closed, but maybe one of his friends had left something during the evening jam session. The band was always forgetting things, especially Randy, the drummer. His pretty blonde hair was even longer than hers, but—as Ed said—he was such an airhead.

Sprites were master woodspeople, but moving quietly down the carpeted stairs made little difference with a hundred and fifty pounds of dog thumping behind her. The kitchen stood dark and silent, but the door to the pantry gaped wide. To Pina’s horror, the tins full of cookies that should have lined the middle shelf were missing. Even Maxie’s big box of treats was gone.

Scraping and rustling had them sneaking into the living room just in time to see a shadow dart into the cold fireplace. It must have been a trick of moonlight reflecting off snow drifts outside the big bay window, because when she flicked on the lights the hearth was empty. She and her friends had tried to climb up that chimney more than once. It was sealed tight against the cold Pennsylvania weather.

“Would you look at that?” Pina whispered.

Boxes wrapped in bright paper and bows were jammed under the festive pine tree the humans set up by the window. She looked to the mantle above where Ed had decided to hang giant red socks—honestly, who wore something that big and garish was beyond her. But what had been empty footwear earlier in the evening now bulged with miniature packages matching those under the tree.

The thing that wasn’t full, was the big porcelain plate Piper had set next to a glass of milk on the coffee table. At the time Pina worried Max might scarf the colorful cookies, but he had been perfectly content to head upstairs without giving them a second glance. All that remained now were a few crumbs and a finger of milk in the bottom of the glass.

“This just isn’t right,” Pina fumed.

Taking things without permission was stealing, plain and simple. Leaving so much behind to make up for the theft was the sign of a guilty conscience overcompensating. But nothing could replace all the hard work her friends had done baking and decorating.

The humans had been through so much this year, with the Dark Court sending the witch after them and Ed learning to control his music and magic. They didn’t deserve to have something like this happen. Pina resolved to put things right before anyone woke and discovered they’d been robbed.

“I need something from my room.”

Max cocked his head and followed her up back upstairs. Sprites didn’t often use magical artifacts because their own magic came naturally. She herself was skilled in illusion and a few other specialties, but her lord Kokopelli had given her a special necklace. It let her travel to places other than the woodlands and rivers of the forest sprites, and she had the feeling she would need it.

Amongst the paperclips, bits of paper, and coins—treasures pulled from behind the couch cushions—she found the bit of silver with its amber gem. Her smile of triumph slipped when she turned back to find her own plate of cookies now stood empty. Even Max’s dish had been licked clean. Cold wind blew across the empty dishes. Her diamond window stood ajar. Pina rushed over, scampered out onto the eaves, and turned back to Max.

“I’ll be right back.”

The roof was slick with snow and ice, but her inherent magic let her dance across it with ease. Footprints surrounded a wide area near the chimney—and thee were hoofprints! The prints were even smaller than hers, with a pointy toe and odd wavy ridges across the sole. The hoofprints were huge. Opposing teardrops formed pairs of inverted hearts that galloped along the rooftop, familiar tracks for anyone of the forest. But she shuddered at the thought of how big those deer must be.

The trail ended abruptly. Something heavy flattened furrows in the snow to either side of the prints, but both kinds of tracks disappeared just shy of the roof’s edge. They hadn’t simply jumped to the ground because the snow leading all the way to the neighbor’s yard was pristine.

“This is getting weird,” Pina said as she climbed back through the window. “We’re going to need help, and I know just the sprite for the job.”

Max watched her throw a few things into the tiny black purse that never seemed to get full, another little trick of her own design. She hated the idea of covering up her beautiful new dress, but it was cold out there! Luckily, Piper also had found her a sleek purple jacket with tons of zippers and pockets. She loved how it sparkled and jangled when she walked, and the hood came up into a sort of funnel that covered her face. Max’s tail thumped the floor as he picked up on her excitement. She frowned at the gentle giant.

“This might be a little scary.” She wrapped an arm around Max and hugged him tight.

Fast as thought the room disappear. They crouched in a snowy glen drenched in silver moonlight. Max let out a little yip, but his frantic breathing slowed when she kissed his head and told him how brave he’d been.

 

Read the rest of Pina’s adventure on my website at https://goo.gl/pko45u (The whole story seemed too long to put in a post)

About

Jim Stein retired from the Navy in 2014 and now writes Science Fiction and Fantasy. Strange Tidings (Legends Walk book 1) is his first published work. Book 2, Strange Omens, is in its second draft.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*