The Belsnickle of Deutschtown
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
“Check down that way.” Caleb pointed toward a block of houses. He scowled as the wind picked up. The calls the Soldiers of the Sun had received from the people living in the City of Allegheny’s German community known as Deutschtown. They had gotten reports of a man dressed in furs chasing and hurting children. It was nearly Christmas, and they were running around freezing their backsides off because no one wanted let kids get hurt. Caleb knew this had to be bringing back bad memories for Temple in particular who had been traumatized a couple Christmases ago when they faced down Pere Fouettard, the Whipping Father. Li was with them then. This was the first Christmas with Temple’s new partner, Jo. She looked particularly unhappy to be out late night with frigid wind blowing up her skirt, even if she did wear pants under it.
“Did you see something?” she asked, drumming her fingers on the butt of her pistol.
“Maybe. The snow is making it pretty impossible to see anything,” Caleb replied. He hated feeling like he was leading the team blind.
“Do you really think it’s the Belsnickel?” Temple scowled, barely visible in the pale street light.
“From what we’ve been told and researched, it seems likely,” Caleb said, flexing his fingers. Even inside his gloves, they were cold and stiff, poorly suited to drawing his sword if need be.
Agni shuffled down the street, hunched up under his uniform jacket. “May I ask something, and I don’t mean to be critical of Christianity?”
“You put up with our questions about Hinduism,” Temple replied.
“Why are there so many evil spirits associated with Christmasn and why are all of them revolving around hurting children?” Agni skidded on the icy bricks. “You have Pere Fouettard whipping and killing children. This Belsnickle is just as bad, and then the Krampus looks like any demon in our reference library. I don’t understand why Christians want to set such monstrous creatures on their children.”
“Not all Christians,” Caleb replied. “We Welsh had the Mari Lwyd who engages in witty banter and then we party.”
“The Italian prefer to party as well, if you call the Esta dei Sette Pesci, the feast of seven fishes a party. Dinner lasts for hours all the way up to when we need to go to Midnight mass,” Jo said, peering between two houses. “We do have La Befana, the Christmas witch but she’s more like Santa Claus, not some crazed whipping demon who punishes kids for Santa.”
“All right, we French have Pere Fouettard as you know. The wicked Christmas spirits seem to be more in France and Germany and through the cold northern countries. I don’t know why,” Temple said. “You know how I am on research. Honestly, I think it all started as a way to get children to behave but you know how demons can be. If enough people invoke them, they’ll take the shape that is expected, the one called upon. And that leaves us freezing off our family jewels – forgive that, Jo – chasing down a Belsnickle days before Christmas.”
“Forgive what? If I had jewels, they’d be gone by now.” Jo grinned.
“I think I’m beyond annoyed as a large segment of Christian society at this point,” Agni huffed, rubbing his arms.
“There!” Temple leveled his Tommy gun at the unkempt looking man clothed in furs under a street lamp at the end of the block. “First one who gets him, gets the first cup of coffee when we get home.”
Caleb didn’t need to direct them to battle, and if Temple could be motivated by coffee – and he always could – Caleb had no complaints. Within in seconds, there was one less demon in the world, and they were in the car heading back to Oakland, another Christmas saved.