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  • Jordan Keller

The Villain Who Saved Christmas

Updated: Apr 1

art by @illusioncanthurtme

Abigail Turner raced to the Round Table, her festive-themed costume making it difficult to climb the stairs to the Hero Relief Center’s meeting room. Her patrol shift ended over an hour ago, but she was still late for the Round Table Knights photoshoot for some new endorsement or advertisement or magazine cover. She hadn’t paid much attention to the email explaining the shoot or the need for the frilly costumes. The slippers lacked any sufficient grip, and she almost slipped on another step.

“Hey, Avy!” Lancelot greeted her as she slid into the Round Table.

Multi-colored string lights draped across the electronic wall sconces and stationed along the walls were several decorated trees. Abigail wasn’t sure if the endorser brought the props or if a staff member had decorated while she was on patrol. It was a much warmer feeling than the usual Britannia vibe the room gave off. She straightened her green elf dress and joined her team.

The other Round Table Knights also traded their normal hero wear for new holiday wardrobes. King Arthur was dressed like Saint Nick: red pantsuit, black boots, and matching belt. Merlin’s usual red dress was lined with white fur, and her drooping witch’s hat was replaced with an equally long Santa hat. Excalibur had been given a new suit of armor that made him look like a nutcracker, and Lancelot had the privilege of wearing a gingerbread man onesie. 

“You’re running a little late,” King Arthur commented. He didn’t make a very good Santa Claus. He was missing the beard and white hair. “Was everything alright?”

“Yeah,” Abigail answered. “You know hero work doesn’t end when the shift does.”

She had spent the better part of her shift helping untangle a pileup of cars on the freeway and putting out a fire at a nearby tree farm. Only three massive pines were destroyed, but people still lined up to buy the charred remains for an “Avalon Christmas Tree!”

King Arthur smiled in agreement. “Nicely said.”

“Come on,” Lancelot urged the Knights. “Let’s get this picture done and start the Christmas party! I’ve got the ugliest sweater competition in the bag.”

“If you keep wearing that, you’re sure to win,” Merlin said with a chuckle.

Lancelot puffed his chest out. The fabric icing on his onesie hung off him like it was melting. Abigail admired his good nature. Lancelot winked at her when he noticed her staring, and Abigail shifted to Excalibur so they could compare their toy swords. 

“I never liked rapiers,” Excalibur commented on Abigail’s candy-cane-striped weapon. “Always too flimsy in my hands. But you could pull it off.”

“Don’t get any ideas.” Abigail lifted the sword from her side and gave a practice swing. It was a far cry from the weapon she usually carried when in her hero identity. “I’ll choose my broadsword every day.”

Excalibur chuckled, and the Knights got into position as a photographer directed them in front of a cluster of trees. They took several posed shots, a couple of serious ones, and a few where the photographer asked them to fake laugh at each other. Abigail planned to grab whatever magazine the ad would be in and cut out the picture to hang in her office. She doubted any other outfit Public Relations forced the heroes to wear would top this one.

“That’s a wrap,” the photographer said, clicking through the images on her camera screen. “Thank you all.”

“Thank you,” King Arthur said, breaking away from the group. “Have a good holiday.”

“And a happy new year!” Lancelot shouted as an HRC staff member escorted the photographer from the room. He turned to the Knights. “Can we party now? I know Merlin made cookies.”

Merlin pointed to the table where a large Tupperware container filled with colorful cookies sat. Lancelot telekinetically pulled off the lid and floated over two sugar cookies. Abigail snatched one before they reached Lancelot. Merlin’s expertise in chemistry carried over to the kitchen in such wonderful ways it made Abigail believe she really was magical.

Abigail glanced around the room. The winter wonderland was missing a cardboard box of presents she’d brought from home that morning. She’d spent the last month procuring the perfect gift for each of her co-workers.

“Did someone bring up a box of gifts?” Abigail asked the room.

“Gifts?” Lancelot asked around a mouthful of sugar cookies.

“I didn’t see any,” Excalibur answered. “Where did you see them?”

“They were in my office,” Abigail explained. “I thought someone brought them since I was running late. They weren’t there when I was changing.”

The other Knights denied moving the presents. Abigail was about to go ask President Samuels, but the room flashed red with the emergency alert light. The music cut off, and a voice said over the intercom, “Code Red. HRC has been breached. Code Red.”

There was no time to change out of her elf dress. Armed with her plastic candy-cane rapier, Abigail ran out of the Round Table with her teammates to track down the threat. A hero’s work never ended.

“Avalon, Lancelot,” King Arthur commanded through their earpieces. “Fly to the ground level and check the perimeter. Merlin, ‘Xcal, you’re with me. We’re going floor by floor. Radio if you find something.”

“Let’s be heroes,” the Knights replied, agreeing to their instructions before separating.

Abigail and Lancelot ran up the last flight of stairs to the helipad and leaped off the side of the building. The cold tendrils of Lancelot’s telekinetic powers wrapped around Abigail and floated her to the snow-covered ground. Once on her feet, she ran down the side of the building searching for propped-open doors or broken windows.

Rounding the south side of the Hero Relief Center, she stumbled into the perpetrator. A masked cat burglar flipped out of a vent and landed gracefully in the snow. The heavy sack slung over his shoulders didn’t even shift in the fall.

“Stop!” Abigail demanded, embers sparing against her teeth.

The thief did not. He sprinted down the alley toward the next street.

Abigail chased after him, radioing her team with her new location and development. Her velvet elf slippers were difficult to run in and she summoned a burst of cherry-red flames around her ankles to burn them away. Her footsteps created tiny puddles as they melted the snow below. Out of habit, Abigail pulled her sword and bathed it in her Dragon’s Breath, but the flimsy material melted under the blue flame, and she dropped it into the snow where it smothered out.

The thief was faster than Abigail, and the distance between them was growing. The black sack over his shoulder taunted her. She had no proof, but she knew her gifts were inside. She needed to save their holiday party.

Abigail examined her surroundings. She knew San Arbor like she knew her flames. Neither held any secrets from her. Coming up on her left would be a smoothie shop that she and Excalibur ordered from when they needed a break from case files. She knew the shop had an awning over the door. An awning currently full of snow.

Taking a deep breath, Abigail spat a mouthful of blue fire at the awning. The beams disintegrated under the heat and the snow collapsed on the thief. Abigail pounced on him and restrained his arms behind his back.

“Go back inside, please.” She smiled at the smoothie shop employee, who poked her head outside the door. “Everything is under control.”

“Avy,” Lancelot said, landing beside her, “need any help?”

“Get the sack,” Abigail answered, pulling the thief to his feet, and directing him back toward the HRC.

Lancelot grabbed the sack off the ground and peered inside.

“I don’t know how he snuck into my office and stole the presents, but we caught him,” Abigail said to Lancelot and into her earpiece.

“These aren’t presents.” From inside the sack, Lancelot removed a metal lunchbox with the Knights stamped into it. “He robbed the gift shop.”

Excalibur groaned in their earpieces. “Not this guy again. He tries this every year.”

“You rob our gift shop every year?” Abigail asked the thief, bewildered at the very idea of it.

“I didn’t think anyone would be there,” the thief shrugged.

“Then where are the gifts?” she asked.

“Must have been another Scrooge,” Lancelot suggested. “Come on. Let’s get this guy back and we can go caroling instead.”

“Or increase HRC security,” Merlin’s suggestion was ignored.

“You sing?” Abigail asked Lancelot.

“Yes, and very well, I might add.”

Abigail smiled. “I’ll have to see this.”

After handing the thief to the San Arbor Police Department, The Round Table Knights returned to their party. Abigail popped into her office to check a second time for the gifts. She hoped in her haste to get to the photoshoot, she had overlooked them. As she flipped on the lights, Cinder froze beside her desk, a red present in his hands.

It used to scare Abigail when she found the flame villain of San Arbor lurking in her life, but now his presence warmed her.

“Hey doll,” Cinder finally said, finding his compressor and leaning against her desk. A candy cane hung halfway out of his mouth.

“You took the presents?” Abigail asked in disbelief, closing her office door and joining him at the desk.

“I’m returning them,” he corrected.

“Meaning you did take them.”

“I like your new costume.” Cinder tried changing the conversation. He flicked one of the red balls hanging off Abigail’s sleeve. “But I don’t think it says dragon slayer.”

“Why’d you take the presents?” Abigail asked, mostly immune to his charm.

He sighed. “I thought mine had fallen into the bag. I didn’t want you opening it without me.”

Abigail blushed. “I thought we said no presents?”

“I’m a bad guy. Do you really think I’d follow the rules?”

“You’re not a bad guy,” Abigail scolded. “Besides, I got something for you, too.”

“Naughty.” Cinder’s crooked smirk claimed his face.

“But you can’t have it until Christmas morning.” There were some rules she wouldn’t break for the villain.

“Truly evil.” Cinder pulled Abigail closer to him and kissed her. “I would’ve given you your gift now.”

“Why don’t you?” she teased.

“It’s only fair that you have to wait till Christmas, too.”

“I thought bad guys didn’t play fair?”

“Thought you said I wasn’t a bad guy.”

Abigail gave in with a sigh, wrapping her arms around Cinder to deepen their embrace. “You’re my villain who saved Christmas. Even if you stole the gifts first.”

“Just call me the Grinch,” Cinder chuckled. “Don’t you have a Christmas party to save?”

Abigail almost forgot about the party upstairs. She stepped out of his embrace and grabbed the cardboard box of presents. She wished she could hold Cinder’s hand and haul him up to the party instead, but that was… complicated.

“See you tonight?” she asked.

“I’ll be there,” he promised.

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1 Comment

Dec 19, 2023

Love this light hearted short story!

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