Glenn G. Thater
I crept in undetected. Trained by an old master in the arts of combat, stealth and tracking, I was the one man in the village who could enter unseen here and do what must be done. My heart was racing, the blood pounding in my ears. One false move, one kicked stone or a single crunched leaf and they’d hear me and I’d be done for. The foul demon spawn would be on me in an instant - rending and tearing with their vile unholy claws. No man deserves such a death, especially not an honest and god-fearing man as me. But I have to do this thing. I have to protect my village.
These horrors out of hell arrived nary one month ago though it seems an eternity. Where they came from - whether conjured by some mad wizard or sent as a vile curse against our small town - no man can say. Perhaps they burrowed up from some eerie subterranean depths or mayhaps they rode down upon a star cast from the heavens by the lord himself.
All we can say for sure is that one month ago they arrived and overran the foreboding hill beyond the old cemetery. Digging their warrens deep into the earth in the dark of night they hid from the eyes of man and god and the cleansing rays of blessed sunlight. They crafted some unholy laboratory within those unseen depths and hidden within they concocted some dark elixer, some plague of evil never before known in the world of man. These dark fiends sought not to do battle with us or to tempt us and steal our immortal souls as any honest demon would. Instead they strove to take us unawares by foul poison – a coward’s weapon. This evil I could not suffer, even if moving against them would cost me my very life.
Each morning, when the goodly townsfolk would emerge from their homes, they - one and all - whether owner of a rickety hovel on Broad Street or a mansion on Long Hill Way, they would find the same malefic meal neatly arranged on their doorstep. A silky brown poison created in some dark demoniac cauldron spread upon some alluring confection on each and every doorstep.
What could be their mind but for some hungry child to step out to play and snatch it up or some foolish adult to do the same. These fiends sought to slay us all on our very porches. To cloak their treachery, they formulated a devil's cake that did no harm to animals - for when family pets or a hungry squirrel or raccoon or other such creature partook of the deadly feast it did them no grievous harm.
I was not to be fooled though - for I knew the minds of these monsters of old. Legends stretching back to the farthest memories, to the most ancient tales of our people tell of these creatures of chaos skulking into homes at night and stealing babes from their cribs and replacing them with the malformed fruit of their own evil loins.
And so a warrior was needed to skulk about in the night and creep unseen into their unnatural tunnels beneath Cemetery Hill to mark these minions of chaos and put an end to their unholy reign of terror. That warrior is I! I will do this thing.
As I lay here in wait on a ledge overlooking their main cavern I watch them go about their evil deeds and hear them chattering with their high-pitched little voices. Within the cavern the hellions work all sorts of blasphemous machines spewing smoke and steam and making queer sounds. The heat within the place is oppressive as huge ovens all afire line one wall. No doubt within do they plan to cook us after we succumb to their poisonous treachery
I watched as they poured their demonic soupy mix onto big metal trays and slid them into huge ovens to be baked. They pulled other trays brimming with the finished products – cakes, cookies, and confections of all manner and description – from other ovens. Sprinkled within some were dark blots of their foul brown poison - which was a liquid when heated but quickly solidified to a hardened substance when cooled. The smell of their evil confections was pleasant and sweet. These demon treats had an allure to them - both to the eyes and the nose. They drew one in. But that was their evil magic, was it not?
From out of the shadows, stepped their leader. A bespeckled graybeard with a pointy hat. It directed its minions and urged on their madness whipping them into a demoniac frenzy. I knew then that it was time to make my move. Though it would mean my very life it would be worth it to safeguard all I hold dear. In days to come, my name would be remembered with honor and my tale would long be told.
I leaped down from ledge, sword in hand, and landed heavily before the demon king itself. The creature started and jumped back, a look of shock upon its face, before quickly composing itself.
“Hello!” it said, with a smile and pleasant tone that disarmed me and stayed my hand. “Have you come for more cookies? We’ve just finished a new batch. We’ve got chocolate chip and oatmeal raisin all still warm and chewy. I recommend the chocolate chip, but the oatmeal is excellent too.”
This fiend can’t fool me. “I've come to put this blasphemy to an end.” I raised my sword anew.
The monster looked confused. I saw from the corners of my eyes that its diminutive minions began to flood the chamber emerging from hidey holes in all directions. Many held strange weapons that at quick glance looked akin to forks and spatulas and rolling pins.
“Be calm, sir,” said the king. “Please lower your weapon. We’ll give you all the cookies you want. They are free to all goodly folk. No threats are needed. Please don’t hurt us.”
“I don’t want your stinking devil cookies! I want you gone from here. Leave our town and plague us no more. Swear it or I’ll cut you down where you stand.”
The old king cringed and cowered in fear. Tears formed in its eyes. “Please, please, sir. Do not hurt us. There are no foes for you to fight here. We are but simple bakers come to share our treats with the good folk of Keeblear Town.”
Just bakers? “You’re gnomes or elves or some such.”
“Yes, we’re elves, of course. We travel from town to town, baking cookies and cakes for human folk like you. That is what we do. Please, put down your sword,” he said, a tear streaming down his face.
I looked around. The other elves all looked concerned or frightened. Several were crying, as children. I lowered my sword and no sooner had I done so than around me the little elves took up a merry song and went on about their baking. The old elf king smiled and wiped away his tears.
“Good. Now that that’s settled, please sit with me. We’re all friends here, or I hope we can be.”
“Please sir, help yourself and be merry.” The old elf poured himself a cup of tea and sampled a cream puff.
I tried a shortbread cookie, but didn’t care much for it, only taking a small bite. I smiled politely so as to not insult the old elf. Next I tried a chocolate chip cookie as he called it. It was quite wonderful, in fact, perhaps the best cookie I had ever tasted. As I raised the teacup to my lips to wash down the cookie, strangely, my vision blurred, grew dark, and I felt myself falling.
I awoke flat on my back.
What happened? I blinked to clear my fuzzy vision. I feel so weak. I can’t move right. I feel…wet and hot?
“Ah, dear boy,” said the elf king. “You’ve decided to rejoin us at last. For a while I feared that you’d never awake. That wouldn’t do at all.”
“What happened?” I asked.
“You ate one of our cookies, dear boy, and fell asleep,” said the elf king, his voice caring and comforting.
“To sleep?” I said, my head still foggy.
“Yes, to sleep, of course,” said the elf king. “It would have been quite a bother to the get you on the tray had you not been fast asleep.”
“Tray? What do you mean?” I felt as if I were bound down, at chest, arms, wrists, and legs, and it felt as if the ground were moving.
“What are you doing!?” I cried, still trying to clear my head and vision. “What madness is this?”
“No madness, dear boy,” said the elf king. “We’re just rolling you to an oven for baking. We need more treats to munch on as we bake our next batch of cookies. We waited until you were awake, as is our custom. We do so want to hear you scream.”
What!? I blinked furiously until I could see straight and lifted my head. I looked about in horror and disbelief. Not far away, I saw old Thom the cobbler strapped down to a huge metal baking tray that sat atop a wheeled cart. They had him covered in their liquid chocolate. Thom’s face contorted in horror and poured with sweat. His mouth was moving, but only gibberish came out. A group of elves wheeled his cart up to a great oven, carefully opened the door, shielding themselves from the flames that briefly erupted outward, and with a concerted shove - slid Thom’s tray straight in - Thom screaming as they slammed the big metal door shut.
My cart came to halt, banging into an oven door. I felt the heat rolling off of it before they even opened the door. Oh, dear god, no! This can’t be happening. “Please, please don’t do this,” I begged. “Please don’t kill me.” They pulled open the oven door and heat beyond imagining poured over my feet.
The old elf king leaned over the cart. “Don’t forget to scream,” it said with an evil grin as they pushed my tray in.
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