The Von Zinzer brothers had a genius plan! Or rather, Solomon had a genius plan, Temeluchus was waiting for it to crash and burn and the other 5 didn’t know about it yet. But when they found out, Solomon would be a good baby brother and let them take some of the credit. The youngest of the Von Zinzers knew that the best thing to get someone for Christmas was something they couldn’t or didn’t want to get on their own. Well, Ma wanted the road clear, and not even the 7 of them shoveling could do it fast enough to keep up with it this December . As soon as they finished one section, it had snowed enough to cover up all their work. But Solomon knew a way to do it! He just needed…
It was certainly a big snowball, Timmie would give him that. The amount of effort and time he’d spent with it up on top of Big Willy Hill1 made sure of that. If, as he claimed he would, he managed to actually get it rolling down the road, it would certainly pick up a lot of snow as it went, and even more on the choked road. It would probably slow down and then just be a big ball of snow halfway down the road, though, and he’d made sure to tell Solomon that. A lot.
“Doesn’t matter even if it does, Temeluchus .” Solomon had said. “Even if it does, then we can just set a fire and melt all of it at once!”
Every time that particular plan B had come up, Timmie (not Temeluchus, that was a stupid name and Mom needed to stop picking names out of books) had been blown off before he could explain that then they’d have a flooded road instead of a snowy one. He was twelve and Solomon was nine, so he was a proper big brother now, and had to act like it. At least that’s what Mom said.2
On Christmas Eve night, in the interest of being a proper big brother, Timmie tried one final time to convince Solomon it was a bad idea. It was at the very peak, his last dumb chance to stop his dumb little brother from doing something dumb.
Solomon was just about to do it! The Great Road-Clearing Snowball was ready! Soon the South Road would be clear all the way to town! And Ma could send Bruno to market with her wool weaving, and they could all have stamppot for New Year’s! Nothing could stop him now!
“ Solomon !”
Not even Temeluchus!
Temeluchus? Was his last thought before the brother three years his senior tackled him into the snow. Wrestling to avoid being pinned, Solomon gave as good as he got, throwing Temeluchus off a couple times and trying to return to his unholy creation. But Temeluchus always got up just in time to tackle him again and move him further away from his masterpiece. So Solomon decided to try Diplomacy...
Also known as Whining.
“Temeluchus, come onnnnnnn I put lotsa work into this!” he whined as he was finally pinned and picked up.
“I don’t care!” His brother replied. “I’m your big brother and that means I gotta look after you. That means keeping you from doing dumb stuff!”
Solomon’s face became mulish. “Mammon does dumb stuff all the time…” he muttered, “And you don’t tell him to stop.”
“Thats because Mam’ is older than me, so he won’t listen if I tell him he’s being dumb! And you're being dumb right now!”
“No I'm not! This is a great idea!” Solomon started wriggling out of Temeluchus’ iron grip. If he could just… reach… the ball…
Moloch heard the shouting first. He was out on the hillside looking for knightweasels3 that his mom could make into vests. But the raised voices towards the peak distracted him, and probably spooked every living thing on the slopes. The voices were recognizable as belonging to the two youngest doofuses in his family, so he started climbing the hill to hassle them for ruining his work. But as he did, a rumbling began to sound.
Before he could finish the exclamation his mother would thankfully not have heard anyway, he had been creamed by a snowball twice his size and left mashed into the ground. “-Ow.”
Solomon winced as his creation, hastily launched, plowed Moloch into the ground. He looked okay, just surprised. So that was good. Temeluchus, on the other hand…
He was watching in horror as the snowboulder hurtled down towards the road. Moloch getting flattened didn’t really register, that was just a fact of life. But the snowball was something he could have prevented, and failed to do so. He winced as the growing snowboulder picked up four squirrels, a few hens, several dove-turtles, and a pearbird, along with the Partridge’s Tree it was nesting in, before finally crashing through the fence at the end of the road and beginning its intended work, leaving behind a furrow of bare earth and road. It rolled and rolled, getting bigger as it went, before it finally rolled into the ravine at the the far end of the road
Timmie had to hand it to Solomon. He’d actually managed to clear the road. He’d also wrecked a chunk of hillside, busted the fence, possibly killed a few chickens, left somebody lying in the road, made a mess of Bruno’s snow angel, destroyed a perfectly good Partridge Tree…
Wait, someone laying in the road?
Serach von Zinzer, single mother and Europan Endurance Parenting Champion twenty years running4, was very tired. As a parent of seven boys, she could say with some certainty that that was normal. Her boys were off doing something ridiculous and foolish. Again, normal. It had been a quiet year, they were due for some nonsense. The road to Schleswig was blocked with snow, save for the most dedicated or desperate sleighdrivers. That, too, was normal.
What was not normal was seeing her two youngest looking so scared. It wasn’t new, but she sure as hell didn’t like it. The half frozen form between them wasn't great for her mood either.
It was really cold.
Sister Sophia said Father Christmas lived a long way north, and if you made sure to ask him, you might get your wish for Christmas.He had thought long and hard about what he wanted, but by the time he’d figured out how to say it, the last mail carriage had already left! But what he wanted- no, needed for Christmas was too important to wait another year. That would be forever! Father Christmas was old, he might be dead next year!
So, five days before Christmas, after Sister Eliza had snuffed out the candles, he’d gotten together his warmest clothes and some food, snuck past Sleepy Slim the Houndsman, and set off along the north road.
It hadn’t been so cold when he’d started.
After two days, the clouds had rolled in. After three, the snowflakes started falling. After four, the storm had picked up. On the fifth day, he’d fallen down, and didn’t feel like getting up.
It wasn’t so cold anymore. Had someone put a blanket over him?
He was just starting to fall asleep under the softest, coziest, heaviest blanket ever. It was Christmas Eve, right? He tried to count the days, but his head was all fuzzy. Maybe he’d made it, and this was a bed in Father Christmas’ house! Father Linden had said that Father Christmas lived so far north you couldn’t go north anymore. Well, he couldn’t go north anymore. So he must be there, right? With that comforting thought in mind, he settled down for a long winter’s nap. He could hear the rumbling and roaring of Father Christmas’ furnace now…
It was suddenly very cold again, and the blanket was ripped off of him. Someone was shouting. He tried to ask what was going on, but his teeth wouldn’t stop chattering. He was being picked up. He tried to look but his eyes wouldn’t open. Were these Father Christmas’ Gutehelfers? Oh yes, he’d love a cheesed rabbit, thank you very much...
It was suddenly warm again, and something sweet smelling was pressed to his lips. As he sipped at it, he started falling asleep again.
The kid couldn’t have been more than six years old. Temeluchus and Solomon had brought him in, almost froze to death, saying they’d found him under the snow on the road. With how cold he was to the touch, he’d been under a good long while. Ma, after getting him safe and warming up, asked the important question: “Who the hell is this?”
The Anderssens on the south road weren’t missing anyone, and neither were the Haupts further past them. Why he’d been out in the snow, no one knew, but whatever he was running from, it couldn’t have been good.
He woke up on Christmas morning, and Bruno was the one watching him. He’d developed a fever as he warmed back up, so someone had to make sure he sipped a spoonful of herbed water every now and then. They’d taken it in shifts, but Bruno usually stayed anyway. He was the oldest, he had a responsibility. Even if it was just some stray Timmie and Solomon brought in…
The kid wiggled a little, and groaned. Bruno snapped to awareness. Sticking his head out the door of Grandpa’s old den/trinket room, he hissed “He’s waking up!”
The kid started trying to push himself up, but Bruno put a hand on his chest. “Whoa, easy there, kid. You don’t want to push yourself too much right now. How do you feel?”
Everything about the man was big. Big black beard, big strong hands, and he was wearing a big fur coat. As the boy looked around the room, he saw an assortment of fun-looking gizmos and gadgets, and his eyes finally rested on a picture of an old, old, man with a bushy white beard. Just like Father Christmas! But why would this man be in Father Christmas’ workshop? Unless…
That line of thought was disrupted as two bigger kids fell through the door, both trying to be in the room first, jabbering that they each wanted to see him first.
(Not sure where to go from here- but the little nameless orphan boy gets a family for christmas after being cute at Mama Von Zinzer, and in Mama Von Zinzer fashion, picks him a name from a holy book: Esther.)
1So named because supposedly when William the Conqueror was making his way towards the English Channel, he climbed this hill and saw Albia of England from the top of it. This prompted him to decide he ought to conquer somewhere else. The enormous oblong rock on the hill's peak has NOTHING to do with the name, as generations of residents will rush to assure a visitor.
2Usually with a gimlet eye at Mammon and Gehenna, who had both reached peak maturity at about the age of sixteen and decided they would stay there.
3Created by a warlord looking to protect his favored pets, these naturally armored mammals (actually closer to minks than weasels) were famously resistant to injury. This, of course, led to their hunting for purposes of making light armor. The spark who created them was understandably dismayed to hear about this.
4Klaus Wulfenbach is ranked last in the EEP official rankings, with a rating of DNF (Did Not Father)