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Chapter 16: Eating Christmas

Posted by on Jan 29, 2016 in Vidar's Boot: Chapter 16 | 0 comments

– 1 –

Posted by on Jan 29, 2016 in Vidar's Boot: Chapter 16 | 0 comments

In theory, the evil prophet of space would have a scroll of evil prophecy. It would speak of the things that were, and are, and will be.

She would brandish it to make an end to her enemies in this world.

It was to be waiting for her, at Mount Ararat, when she came to Earth. It was not waiting for her.

She uses an umbrella, and rock-paper-scissors, instead.

Over the holidays she visits the Bloody Cardinal. He’d been one of Maria’s targets — back when. Now he is a vampire curled up within his crypt.

She dramatically unfurls her umbrella in his direction.


She meets with Heather Steverns on the bridge that arches over Borit Lake. The wind blows. Their footing shakes.

“A long time ago,” Lucy Souvante says, “there was a contract on your family.”

Heather nods.

“My sister —” says Lucy.

“The Fan Hoeng?” Heather asks.


“What happened?” Lucy says.

“She was a good woman,” says Heather Steverns. “She — oughtn’t have been in assassination.”

The wind rattles the bridge. The board that Lucy Souvante is standing on rips free and plummets. She hangs there, over the endless emptiness, using the power of evil prophesy.

“In the end,” says Heather, “I do not think that she could bring herself to kill my father Drake and me.”

“I see,” Lucy says. She starts to turn away.

Then she turns back.

“I want her,” Lucy Souvante says, and she is crying, “to have a record. Do you understand? I want people to look at her assassination record and say, ‘that was an awesome assassin, Maria. What a Fan Hoeng.’”

“Do not do this,” says Heather.

But Lucy is shaking her hand. She counts off one, two, three. She throws paper.

Heather has also thrown paper, but it does her no good.

She is no evil prophet, to hang in the air above Borit Lake without her feet under her. From the moment she has released one hand from the ropes to throw paper, she is lost.

The wind blows. She stumbles.

She falls and she is lost beneath the waters of Borit Lake.

“Paper beats humanity,” says Lucy Souvante.

She floats away.

There is an elephant — almost a mammoth, really. It is fond of its drink and fonder of human prey.

She nearly cannot bring herself to kill it, but she likes cash and its tusks are ivory.

She leaves it twitching and dead upon the ground.

When she sees a goat, of course, she kills it. Goats are dangerous and tricky creatures. But she has given up on finding a goat that is worthy of being her opponent.

That is what makes it so shocking when one day, she turns around, and there it is.

It is Christmas-time and the world is bright and magic. The wolf has broken free and there are festive Christmas scissors falling, now and then, through the air. The wolf-magnet has not quite activated —

Though it will have done, at any moment —

And she is nibbling on a candy cane as she walks.

Then bam.

An evil feeling!

Which is, of course, for an evil prophet of space, the best, most beautiful, most Christmas-y way to feel.

She turns, and she sees it.

On a certain floor, on a certain building, on a certain street, in Ipswich, there is a rock-paper-scissors playing goat.

– 2 –

Posted by on Jan 29, 2016 in Vidar's Boot: Chapter 16 | 0 comments

I’m going to jump around in time a bit here.

It’s Christmas!

– 3 –

Posted by on Jan 29, 2016 in Vidar's Boot: Chapter 16 | 0 comments

The snake is coming for Cheryl, of course.

It is drawing nearer and nearer to her, even as the wolf struggles to tear its way free.

It is hunting her, and in good time it will find her, it will weave its will past her and the School’s various obfuscating defenses and it will strike her down.

One day she wakes up and there’s the head of a goblin shark in her bed and she knows it’s almost upon her.

Seagulls plunge down and fowl the satellite reception right in the middle of the season finale of Voltron Eternal, the House of Dreams’ favorite show — the series to top all series, where they both pilot robot lions and dance ballet.

It is coming.

– 4 –

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As usual, it being almost Christmas, Martin puts Jane in a sack, drags her down to the basement, and shackles her to the wall.

“It’s so you don’t eat Santa!” he teases her, gaily.

He throws her homework and half a pizza in after her. Then he locks the door with seven locks!

“Spudgeflidgeon!” she rages. “Geffle-twonk! Glip! Glip!”

Martin leans against the door and sighs happily. Years of using invented curse words in her presence have finally paid off!

He straightens. He adjusts his goggles. He wanders about the house preparing for Christmas. Then he relaxes and he enjoys the marvelous silence of his home.

He reads a book.

He smokes a pipe. He spits out the pipe, hacking and coughing, and makes himself a big mug of the svart-drink instead.

After a while —

Since nobody’s watching —

He sneaks to his box of holding things. He plays with his classic Star Wars action figures. He cuts things that probably shouldn’t be cut with his cut-anything sword. If your power just went out I’m really sorry. That’s all Martin’s fault!

It’s not mine!

He takes out his stone. He puts in on his forehead. He traipses around as a billy goat, then as a small Godzilla, then as a number of other barnyard animals — tortoises, sheep, capybaras, and the like — and ultimately goes back to being a goat one more time.

It’s just so satisfying!

“Meh-eh,” he bleats.

Then it’s back to hanging up stockings and making the house more Christmas-y. He consults the scroll of evil prophecy to see if there’s anything else that must be done.

“Cinnamon!” he says. He bonks his forehead. He adds cinnamon to the apple cider that he’s brewing. He pours a little more along the edge of the window to keep out immortal and other, non-immortal, ants.

Then he sits back to think about presents.

“Time sheets,” he concludes. What little sister wouldn’t love the opportunity to sign in and sign out for chores around the house, scientific research, and high adventure? Plus, he’s been a little concerned that she might be indulging herself with a bit too much unauthorized overtime. Not under his roof she won’t!

He’s deep in the middle of the design — he’s a graphic designer —

When Lucy Souvante begins pounding at Jane and Martin’s door.

– 5 –

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Cheryl’s House drives her to distraction, of course. They are . . . not sensible people. But even so —

The camaraderie in the House of Dreams is the best thing that Cheryl has ever known.

When Amber’s experiments started changing her — when you couldn’t touch Amber, not any longer, without being flung about at right angles to your initial approach — it could have been sad and frightful, but instead Cheryl and Amber had gotten into a vigorous, all-night discussion of life, death, and angular momentum. They’d come up with more ideas for the boot in that shared brainstorm than either had come up with in at least three weeks on their own.

When Tom’s reanimated deer-owl — his first attempt at bringing something “back” to life that hadn’t died as just one thing to begin with — tore loose and hunted the House of Dreams through their own secured installation, instead of everyone panicking, it became almost like a game . . .

She wakes up one morning, crying over the hurt of the paper serpent, and she suddenly realizes it. It suddenly hammers down on her, like a boot falling from space.

It isn’t just her. Not just her and guns and nukes off of Little Ganilly.

Tom’s hat has refined her into one thing, unique and apart from every other, but —

She isn’t alone.

“I think,” she says, and they’re all gathered there, all they of the House of Dreams, “that I am wound into it. That I’m part of it, that it’s of me.”

“Ouch,” says Amber.

“I think I am myself,” she says, “my own worst enemy.”

“Point of order,” interrupts Tom, who has never actually read Robert’s Rules of Order. “Won’t the term ‘worst enemy’ become utterly useless if we can apply it even to ourselves?”


“E.g.,” says Tom. “Take a dog.”

Harold provides a dog. Tom blinks. The dog doesn’t vanish.

“That’s really disturbing, Harold,” Tom says.

Harold puts the dog away.

“What I mean is,” Tom says, recovering his equilibrium. “Take a dog conceptually. What is that dog’s worst enemy?”

“A cat?” Harold wonders, providing a cat.

“No!” says Tom, waving away the cat. “That very dog!”

“This is diverging from the core point of my presentation,” Cheryl says.

“No,” says Amber. “I get it! He’s totally right. Like, the dog can chase its own tail. But can it ever catch its own tail? It can’t! That’s not true for any other dog.”

“But if you shoot the dog,” Cheryl says, “because it has rabies —”

Everyone is looking at her.

She flails a hand.

Spoilers,” sniffs Harold.

“I didn’t,” says Cheryl. “What. I didn’t even say I was talking about a particular movie.”

“Now I probably won’t even watch The Sixth Sense,” observes Tom, because the camaraderie in the House of Dreams is also the worst thing Cheryl has ever known.

“You can’t really watch the Sixth Sense,” Harold says. “You can only intuit it.”

“In space!” says Amber.

“I don’t think,” says Tom, verging with an awful suddenness back onto a previous conversational thread, “that the gun counts as the dog’s worst enemy, no. Or even the rabies. If the gun had the rabies, it wouldn’t be the dog’s worst nightmare but rather its salvation; ergo.”

“I see,” says Amber. “So what you’re thinking is, we should reserve the term ‘worst enemy’ for ‘worst enemy that is not actually yourself!’”

“Exactly,” says Tom. “Like, my worst enemy: my malfunctioning toaster! Otherwise, it would almost certainly be Tom. And yours, Amber, and Cheryl’s Cheryl, and so forth.”

“Still Keith,” Harold says.

Keith high-fives him. They’re enemy-bros.

“. . . fine,” says Cheryl. “I will use the terminology ‘In some fashion, my own efforts to destroy the paper serpent are simultaneously folding it into being. It is Ouroboros: its ending is its beginning, and I am trapped in the middle, between.’”

She sighs. She rests her head momentarily on the table.

“Hm,” says Tom.

“Hm?” Her head comes up.

“Then let us kill it!”

Cheryl is staring at him in shock. Tom is blushing. He stammers. He looks away.

“I mean,” he says, “let us help. Help. Not, not do it. Just, help.”

“It’s my enemy,” says Cheryl, hugging herself possessively. “I was just going to ask you for advice.”

“That’s my advice!” says Tom, recovering his savoir-faire. “Let us help you! I can even,” he says, brushing down his pants leg, “press the final button myself.”

She looks at him like he’s eating Christmas.

But he —

But they — They’re all so hopeful. Their eyes are shining. They’re like puppies, she thinks. Like puppies who don’t know what they shouldn’t be doing. Who don’t know eating Christmas is bad.

Finally, with a slow, grave reluctance, she nods. She gives in.

For the sake of the paper serpent.

“Fine,” she says.

She’ll allow her friends to ‘help.’

– 6 –

Posted by on Jan 29, 2016 in Vidar's Boot: Chapter 16 | 0 comments

Sid and Max are facing off.

It’s old. It’s comfortable. It’s familiar. It’s new.

Sid scuffs the floor. It’s just a scuff, but he’s bought himself a pair of brand-new Nike Summoning Boots. They’re the best shoes in the world, if you want to scuff summoning circles with them.

One stroke across the floor, and his summoning circle is there, complete with a pentagram inside.

“Nice,” says Max.

Sid’s pentagram is glowing now. It’s shining with white lines springing up from the earth. There are all kinds of cool little details, including a little Sid logo. It’s the only logo that markets 100% Sid!

“Isn’t it?” Sid says. “I got a sponsorship.”

Max looks a little smug.

Max spreads his hands wide. Pillars of silver fire burst up from the ground and surround him. There’s a little angelic chorus, like there’s been a little angelic chorus, on their last few duels. It’s the joy of the substrate, resonating through the world, that it gets to see Max doing his stuff.

The world shivers all around him.

It pulses with light.

The song reaches its crescendo. It falls to silence. The other battles around them have gone still.

“Well played,” Sid admits. “Well played. But —”

Here he snidely uses psychological warfare:

“Not quite as loud as I’d expected, Max.”

Max laughs.

“Can’t bribe too many angels,” he says. “It’s a school night!”

He sweeps his longcoat dramatically. He spreads his arms: SNOWSTORM!

Clouds gather over his head. The snow fairy manifests. Snowflakes begin to fall all around Max. Max pushes at the air and the snowstorm flows over and dumps snow on Sid.

Sid shakes snow out of his hair.

Max intones, in the voice of a great summoner at work: “Snow — harder!”

But Sid is ready. He’s not going to be snowed out — tonight!

He draws a sword.

It’s a 21st century sword, and it’s made in Ipswich, so it isn’t really very good — but it is a sword. It’s sharp enough for this. He pokes it right into the cloud.

“Ow!” says the snow fairy.

The clouds swirl around. They’re just a little bit red.

Sid says: DON’T SNOW ON ME.

The snow fairy is now uncertain which magician to listen to. It attempts to hedge its bets.

“Perhaps you’re not familiar with the benefits of snow,” it says. “There are many! It’s cold and white and Christmasy!”

You can taste that Christmas spirit in the air!

“You might like snow,” the snow fairy proposes.

But Sid ignores this. He scuffs the floor again. There’s a dual summoning circle now.

He invokes Double Thing. DOUBLE THING!

It’s like a thing, but twice as much!

Half the double thing scrunges upwards from the earth. Half the double thing scrunges upwards from a different part of the earth. The double thing rumbles and shakes its double hands!

“That’s an . . . earth thing,” says Max, after staring at it for a bit.

“It’s four times the thing,” says Sid, proudly.

“I don’t want to fight,” protests the double thing.

“Ha ha!” laughs Sid. “But I want you to fight! You’re an ancillary in a magical duel. Now, stop that fairy from snowing on me harder, or we’ll both get chilly!”

The double thing doesn’t —

It doesn’t want to get chilly. So it oscillates until the fairy becomes confused.

“Is it one thing?” asks the fairy. “Is it two things?”

It becomes progressively dizzier as it tries to evaluate the situation. “No! One! Five! Seventeen! Eight!”

The fairy faints.

“That isn’t snowing harder,” says Max. After a moment, he adds, “That’s not even snowing smarter.

“It’s snowing lower,” the double thing points out.

Sod-all Steve, who’s notionally the highest-ranked summoner (ever since Eugenie went to have a second word with Lucy about her ape), attempts to launch a surprise attack on the pair. He steps into the circle. He summons two SOD SPEARS to spear through Sid and Max. They pass through the domain of the oscillation.

So much for Sod-all Steve and his participation! He’ll be vibrating and rattling for quite some time.

Sid glances at him. He smirks. Then he turns back Maxwards.

“Now, double thing!” says Sid.



It looks at Sid. It hesitates. Then it looks speculatively at Max.

“But, I don’t really want to fight him,” says the double thing. “Look at him! Maybe you two should resolve this peacefully.”

Max sneers.

“I don’t want a double thing’s pity,” he says. He draws back. He readies himself to invoke SCRUBBING BUBBLE. It’s the battle magic that doesn’t actually help!

“It’s not pity,” says the double thing in frustration. It spits out bits of sod spear. “It’s not having an actual stake in the conflict —”

But Max ignores the double thing. He even interrupts its sentence!


The wind screams down from the sky. The world flares up with red and purple light. Scrubbing bubbles bubble up from the earth, scrubbing ominous contrails through the air. Max shoves the magic with his hands. The bubbles scrub closer to Sid and the double thing.

It makes the floor so clean they can see their own reflections in it. It washes away Sod-All Steve and all his dreams. It removes the blood and dirt of ten thousand battles —

But it doesn’t help.

In fact, the double thing thinks, as it swarms towards Max and his summons, it’s probably the opposite of helping.

Sid is bloodied and tired when he wins at last. He is panting. He is gasping.

But he is, at last, the foremost of the summoners at the Lethal Magnet School for Wayward Youth. He has walked through fire and it has strengthened him. He has hardened his will in the gaol of the House of Torment and he has become something incredible.

He is laughing. He is hugging the tottering Max. His heart is dancing.

He alone will claim the Christmas Cup.

– 7 –

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Congratulations, Sid!


– 8 –

Posted by on Jan 29, 2016 in Vidar's Boot: Chapter 16 | 0 comments

It is coming. The snake is coming —

But they are ready.

The House of Dreams opens an artificial bay into Brentwood. They let in the sea.

The snake can feel her standing on a great kelp-strewn sea-wet wall.

She is standing there, proud and regal in her battlesuit.

It moves towards Cheryl. She stands there posed for a long moment. Then she clutches at the air like her hands are claws and then she rips her hands apart.

This activates the marvelous air-touch interface on her equally marvelous generic assembling and disassembling machine.

The serpent’s atoms are scattered. They are flung this way and that. They are dissolved into a mist that is spread across the world, and not the smallest portion remaining folded against itself.

It breathes and it is there again.

She stomps her foot. Ten million spikes of monofilament rear up from the waters, and three scattered spires of glass. They pierce the serpent. They raise it up like a conquered army, spiked through, torn up, impaled and held high.

It breathes and it is scattered across the world again.

It breathes and it is hanging in tatters from the spikes.

The spikes begin to bend under its weight. They begin to fold down. They are infected by the snake-wroth, the folding-wroth, the hatred-wroth that burns in it. Venom runs through the sea, pollutes it, begins to crawl as tentacles up onto the land.

“We’re getting it,” says Tom. “We’re getting it. But I want to push the button.”

“Shut up,” says Cheryl.

“You have to let me push the button,” he says. “You’re too attached to it!”

“Fine,” Cheryl says.

She sulks.

The snake breathes. It is scattered across the world.

It breathes. It reappears on the spikes.

She has timed it correctly. The snake reappears just as Bethany and the nithrid tumble by. Lightning flares through all the spikes; Bethany lands on one glass platform, slips, rises, tumbles to another, jumps, bats aside a bit of paper as she goes, and then the two are off again.

The serpent floats down, flash-fried to ashes, towards the sea.

Tom pushes the Anything-Ending Button —

And all is light.

“There,” he says smugly. “That’s science.”

She watches the waters.

“What are you — no,” he says. He denies it. “Don’t be ridiculous.”

She watches the waters.

She waits.

She can see it. She can feel it. There is something happening to the ocean. There is something happening to the air. It is subtle. It is weak. It is hurt past the point of any sensible thing’s endurance. The chaos in the air patterns and the movements of the water are corroding what little remains of it further.

But the snake-wroth is not gone.

“Please,” he says. “Come on. It’s dead. You’re wrong. It’s gone, girl.”

“No,” Cheryl says. She shakes her head.

He turns. He stares out.

“We killed it,” he says. “We have to have killed it. I used the button.”

“It’s not a thing,” she says. “It’s not an anything. It’s an ideal. And it hates me.”

The waters are still, then they are stirring. A few waves rise and fall; then they go still.

He touches her shoulder.

“It is the destiny of the House of Dreams to be hated,” he says softly. “Feared. Maligned. Scorned and spurned for our generosity. But it is all right.”

“It’s not all right.”

“It’s all right,” he says. “It doesn’t mean there’s any problem with you.”

He gives her his amazing tear-drying hand kerchief, but she just fills it with the snot that she had in her nose.

– 9 –

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Joffun looks up. Cheryl is staring at him through the bars of his prison.

She says, “I nuked it. I burned it. I impaled it. I electrocuted it. I broke it. And still, no matter what I do, no matter how hard I try, it keeps folding itself back into being. It is a snake-wroth in the air and sea, now. It is a thing of fire and water, now. I dream of it, it is coming for me, it will devour me and crack the earth and live forever in the pain that you svart-elves put it in, and we who long to live shall die and it that wants to die shall live forever. Why?

Joffun says quietly, “I don’t have to talk to you, you know. There’s gonna be a general amnesty soon. On account of Gotterdammerung is coming, and all.”

“I heard,” Cheryl says.

“Gonna get drafted,” says Joffun, “and then they’ll bring me that boy’s heart, so I can make weapons for ’em. And then, while nobody’s looking, it’s off down beneath the surfaces of things for me, and back to my wife and child.”

Cheryl blinks at him. Then she shakes it off.

“That’s fine,” she says. “You don’t have to talk to me. Talk to me anyway.”


She shrugs. “Can’t live with a cracked world, you know. I guess I’ve ruined it for you. That snake’ll fold its way down where the svart-elves live and I don’t think that you can stop it where I haven’t. If nothing else, cause it came to me, so long ago, knowing that I was the one to end it.”

Joffun stares at the tic-tac-toe boards on the walls. He points at one, thoughtfully. Cheryl’s won that one. He points at another. He frowns.

“How are you doing that?” he asks.

Cheryl looks blankly at him. “Doing what?”

He laughs. He laughs rather a lot. It almost pulls him off his seat. Then he says, “Fine. Guess I must like you, even if you’re as tall as two houses and have hair like a sun-bird’s spit. Show me a bit of this snake.”

She shrugs. She folds a paper crane into a miniature giant paper serpent and tosses it to him. It hisses. It snaps at him. He catches it, holds its jaw open, and peers down its throat. After a while, he shoves its tail in its mouth to distract it, flushes it down the toilet, and leans back on his bunk in thought.

That snake never causes trouble for anybody! Flushing living wicked miniature paper snakes down the toilet must be all right.

But don’t do it to a real snake!

“It’s not a snake,” he says. “It’s an idea, right?”


“So you can’t stop it by folding,” he says, “or even by cutting. You could try a really sharp goat, but —”


“Well, I wouldn’t count on it, is all. People who get involved with really sharp goats, they tend to end up cutting themselves.”

“I don’t want to do that,” concedes Cheryl. “I like myself in one piece!”

“Then,” says Joffun, sitting up again, “I think you’re gonna have to die.”

She pales.

“Look,” he says. “It’s an Ouroboros, right? Around and around and around it goes? And in its ending its beginning’s wove? Kill it and consign it to the sea and the splash another serpent weaves? That kind of thing?”

“Maybe,” she says.

“Some stuff,” he says, “you can’t put down, because you’re part of the problem. The harder you push, the rougher it goes. You’re its death but you’re its life, too, so if you’re there — I mean, I’m not saying that you cut your wrists and it’s all over, just, if you don’t die, I don’t think it’s gonna die either. It wouldn’t be proper smithing, if it’d done.”

“Oh,” she says.

She looks at her wrists. She looks at Joffun. “That’s not nice,” she says.

“Hey,” he says. “Least you get the chance to take a giant snake down with you. I’m probably going to die of cirrhosis.”

She squints at him. “Least,” she says, with black humor, “you’ll get to take the booze down with you, I expect.”

He stands up.

He holds his hand out through the bars.

“A strange game,” she says, and chokes back her fear, and she shakes his hand.

He nods.

“That’s life,” he says, and she lets him go.

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