By Jana Denardo
Author’s Note: This was written for the 12 days of fic mas 2017. It’s set in the Soldiers of the Sun series and you can find the longer works in this series here
The soft creaking set Temple’s teeth on edge. He could barely see anything past the edge of his dual flashlights, one clipped to his belt, the other he carried. It barely lit the byzantine roads weaving through Paris. Where were his brothers? Probably leaving him on his own. Teaching him a lesson.
Temple wiped a sweaty palm on the big red cross centered over his chest. All he needed was to lose his grip on his sword because his hands were sweating. Why were they sweating? Cold bit at him making him wonder where his gloves were. Why did he sweat? Nerves? Maybe. He was also after all. He didn’t see a single Knights Templar anywhere near him.
Temple blinked up at the street lights. Fat snowflakes tumbled from the sky. Why was he here alone? He didn’t remember why he’d been sent to patrol this sector of Paris, or even how he wandered here. Where were his gloves? He dug in his coat pocket, finding them. Temple tugged them on.
Another creak made Temple spin around. He couldn’t see anything moving in the snow. He wanted to go home. It was Christmas eve. He should be with his family, not looking for demons but that was his job as a Templar. He should be home before the fire. He was too old to put out shoes full of fruits and nuts for Pere Noel but he could dream of singing carols with his mother, getting ready for a Noel dinner of oysters and pate de foie gras. He could taste the richness of it even now. If only he could figure out what the creak was.
A strange rattle of chain joined the creaking. Temple gripped his sword’s pummel. He hated swords. He wished he could hunt demons with a gun, like the Soldiers of the Sun did, but no, the Templars were so mired in the past.
There, something moved in the distance, the falling snow obscuring his view. Most people would not be out on Christmas eve. He didn’t see the white and red of a Templar uniform, nor that of the police. He pulled his sword. If he survived this, he was taking himself to the cinema to see Jacques Feyder’s latest movie. Temple hoped he wasn’t drawing his sword on some innocent person out for a wintery stroll. He crept closer trying to see through the swirling snow. It was so thick it was nearly vertigo inducing.
Temple’s mouth dried, seeing the man wore robes not unlike a monk’s. Dark unkept hair and scraggly beard poked out of the cowl. A long chain clanked around his waist as the creature stalked through the snow, a wicker basket creaking on his back.
Pere Fouettard! The Whipping Father. Temple remembered threats of Pere Fouettard growing up, his father and grandfather especially holding it over his head and those of his brothers and sister. Be good or Pere Fouettard will get you, gut you, boil you into stew. At best Pere Fouettard will whip you raw. Naughty kids all met Pere Fouettard in the end.
God knew Temple had been naughty most of his life. There had been so many women, men too, this year just like the one before. He was a teen, too old for Pere Fouettard surely and yet there he stood. Temple steeled his jaw. He was a knight Templar. A wicked spirit like Pere Fouettard could not be suffered but could he be killed? Was he immortal? Temple didn’t know. The research aspect of demon hunting wasn’t his strength. He was better with action.
So why was his sword arm trembling?
He could see Pere Fouettard’s face now under the light of a street lamp. His lips parted showing yellowed teeth as he leered at Temple. Wasting no time, Temple charged, swinging his sword. His boot skidding on the icy bricks of the roadway. Over balanced, Temple sprawled, striking his head as he went down,
Stars joined the snowflakes dancing in the sky. Laughing, Pere Fouettard brought a whip down. Fire launched across his arm and side. Temple screamed. He scrabbled in the snow for his sword. Where was it? How could it had gotten so far from his side when he fell? Pere Fouettard’s whip swung fast and furious.
Temple shrieked under the onslaught, the smell of his blood heavy in the air. Where was his back up? His brothers still were absent. Not even his cries brought them running. His sword had vanished. All that existed was Pere Fouettard’s ferocious face and his flailing whip.
He snapped his head side to side trying to find the man calling for him. No one was there.
“Temple, wake up!”
Temple sat up, shivering in the cold. Only it wasn’t cold. He wasn’t lying in the snow, dying at the hands of a Noel monster. He sweated profusely, blankets pooling at his waist. Next to him, Li had his arms around him, shaking him gently.
“Temple, are you all right? You were screaming in your sleep.”
Temple scrubbed a rough hand over his face. “Pere Fouettard was killing me.”
Li’s brow wrinkled as his partner and lover stared at him in the dark room, lit only by a sliver of moonlight through the curtain that hadn’t been pulled shut entirely. “We beat Pere Fouettard last week, remember?”
Temple shook his head. What the hell…oh, right, they had literally fought Pere Fouettard in Ambridge and saved a bunch of kids from the evil Noel spirit. “God, it felt so real. I was in Paris, still a Templar.” He licked his lips, remembering his teenaged years before he ran away from the Templars to join the Soldiers of the Sun. “My brothers had deserted me.” That much was true. His family wanted nothing to do with him and vice versa.
“It was just a dream.” Li kissed him gently. “You’re here with me. Paris was a long time ago.”
And so it was. He was in Pittsburgh now which couldn’t compare with Paris for beauty but his found family lived here. He was happy here when he wasn’t dreaming about being beaten by Saint Nicholas’s wicked counterpart. “Felt so real. I was losing.” He pushed up the sleeve of his pajama top jsut to be sure he didn’t bear any whip marks.
“You beat him in the real world. Just remember that.” Li patted the mattress. “Try to go back to sleep. Lie down with me.”
Temple settled back, and Li pulled the covers up over them, encasing him in warmth, welcome in the chill room. Li tucked up against him and Temple closed his eyes.
“Thanks for being here.”
“Always, love. always.”
Temple found that the perfect thing to fall back to sleep thinking on.
Author Note #2- The novella where they fought Pere Fouettard is The Darkest Midnight in December and you can find it at the link in the first note.