I said I wasn’t going to do a comic this year, and I meant that.
What I am going to do is a serial, published monthly.
Here they go again.
Volume One, Part One
Myck stood on the stairs and looked around the living room. The lights in the tree glowed softly, piles of brightly-wrapped presents catching the glimmers and reflecting them all about the room. Syd curled into her favorite corner on the couch, a cosy blanket wrapped around her legs. An open book rested on the sofa arm.
“I’m glad Dee is coming for the holiday,” Syd said. “I know dragons don’t like to travel, so this is a big deal.”
“It is,” Myck agreed. She cocked her head. “I just heard the garage door open.”
“Oooh, I hope they found a big enough ham,” Syd said. She shook her head. “I’d never really considered that birds are actually dinosaurs, which are related to dragons. Thank Sue that Dee told us before we got a turkey.”
Myck laughed and agreed. “It also makes me glad that I ordered that Sue the T-Rex t-shirt for her.”
“Murderbird!” Syd exclaimed. “Dee’s going to love it,” she added.
Jin appeared in the kitchen doorway, unwinding a very long scarf from around her neck and head. Behind her, Jeyn handed Eymi items to put in the refrigerator.
“How big a ham did you find?” Syd inquired.
“Huge!” Jin responded, having finally freed herself.
“20 pounds!” Eymi called from the kitchen. “Took some work, but we found one!”
“The holidays are going to be so much fun this year,” Syd said.
Jin came in and took a seat beside Syd on the couch. “Yeah, they are. And we’re at home, and not out running around on some weird quest.”
“You brought home the eggs that started it all,” Myck reminded the blonde.
“And bounced them,” Eymi added, having finished in the kitchen and joined her friends. She’d finally gotten the first part of the story out of Jin. Jeyn leaned against the kitchen door frame, arms crossed, waiting on the coffee she’d just started brewing.
Jin hmphed. “Well, we’re all home, and it’s the holidays. Nothing weird could possibly happen.”
Myck groaned and buried her head in her hands.
* * *
“Come on, Dee, you have to hand out the presents. That’s what they’re for,” Myck coaxed. She stood slightly to the side of the dragon, who had placed herself before the tree and the pile of shiny boxes beneath it.
“Why?” Deirdre demanded. “They’re all right here, neatly stacked. It’s a nice, tidy hoard. Why would you want to mess it up?”
“Because everyone owns a piece of this hoard,” Eymi said.
Dee frowned, and her eyes turned dark with annoyance. “I know that. I read up on your holiday customs when you invited me. I just don’t understand why you’d want to mess up such a nice, organized hoard.”
“So, each person wants to have their part in their own cave.”
“But why? It’s so lovely just like this.”
“It’s how holiday hoards work,” Eymi said. “And part of that hoard is yours.”
“Mine? Oh, that changes everything!” The dragon used her tail to haul wrapped gifts out from under the tree. “How do I know which ones are mine?”
“They have tags on them,” Syd said. “Just check the tag for the name, and hand them out.”
Jeyn came in with a tray of coffee mugs. Dee started calling names and handing out packages.
For a while, everyone was busy fixing coffee to their taste, ripping paper, and exclaiming over the presents. Syd whispered to Myck, “I told you she’d love that shirt.” They both grinned at the excited dragon as she modelled her gift.
The last of the packages were opened, and Dee clapped her hands. “I brought gifts, too! I told you I’d read up!” Her tail twitched, and she closed one eye, concentrating. A moment later, a stack of wrapped parcels appeared in her hands. They were similar in appearance, all being blocky and rectangular, but some were smaller than others, some were thicker, some were thinner. Dee handed one package to each girl. Paper ripped, and cries filled the room. Dee had given each girl a hand-bound, leather covered book, with a tooled cover.
“These are beautiful,” Syd said, running her fingers reverently over the title of her book, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.
Dee looked at the gathering. “So, these are acceptable for holiday celebrations?”
“These are amazing,” Myck assured the dragon.
“So amazing, I love mine,” Jin echoed the sentiment.
The dragon smiled and nodded, satisfied. “Now, I believe the next part of this holiday of yours involves delicious roast meats?”
The girls all laughed, and everyone hurried to the kitchen.
* * *
Syd laid the book gently on the bed while she twisted to plump up her copious pillows. She needed more support. The book was gorgeous, but the thick paper and worked leather covers made it rather heavier than the paperbacks she usually read.
Comfortable again, she picked up the book to continue reading. The house was quiet; Dee had returned to her cave, declining to spend the night. Everyone else was in their room, reading the lovely books they’d been given. Syd angled the book so that the light from her bedside lamp spilled evenly across the creamy pages. The room was dark, except for her lamp…and the light in the closet.
“Grrr,” she snarled softly, annoyed at herself. “Amethyst, get up and turn off that light.”
The cat blinked his purple eyes and her and purred, but refused to move from the pillow. “Fine,” Syd said. “Guess I’ll do it.” She slung her legs out of bed and stood up, still holding the book. She marched to the closet, opened the door and reached up for the dangling string. She gripped it with her free hand then realized the light wasn’t coming from the overhead bulb. It emanated from the back of the closet, shining around the frame of a door that had never been there.
She couldn’t stop the panicked shout. “Myck! Help! Jin! Jeyn! Eymi! Someone, come here!”
The sounds of feet thudded in the hall, and soon the closet was filled with jostling monster girls.
“What is that?”
The questions came so fast that Syd wasn’t sure who had asked what. She just replied to everyone. “It’s a door. In my closet. I’ve never seen it before.” She shrugged and looked over her shoulder at the girls crammed behind her. “My closet backs on the bathroom. This makes no sense at all.”
“So open it and see what it is,” Jeyn said, ever sensible. She leaned forward, nudging Jin out of the way, and clicked the handle. The door swung open on a sunny garden, the colors unnaturally vibrant.
“My closet backs on the bathroom,” Syd repeated. Her face had gone white. She clutched the book she’d been holding to her chest. “There shouldn’t even be a door here. And if there was a door, it should just show pipes.”
“No pipes. No wires,” Jeyn observed. She tucked her book under her arm, and leaned forward, peering past the frame. “No people. And it’s warm. Like summer.”
“Really? Just a garden?” Eymi stepped past Jeyn and looked. “I don’t see anyone, either. Huh.” She took another step forward and stood framed in the doorway.
“Eymi, don’t!” Jin cried.
Eymi half-turned and waved her free hand. “I’m not going in there,” she assured everyone. “I just want to see.”
The girls crowded closer, all them trying to get a look into the garden.
A wind gusted, swirling the plants, and tussling the girls’ hair. It blew in through the door, circled Syd’s room, then blasted back through the door – pushing the girls before it.
The door slammed shut.
“What was that?” Jin turned to see the closed door. “Oh no no no! No, don’t you dare!” She ran forward and grabbed for the handle. It didn’t click. The door stayed firmly shut.
She hammered on the door, kicked it, yelled, but it didn’t budge. Exhausted, she sank to the ground. “This is going to be another weird quest, isn’t it?”
“It’s the holidays. Nothing weird could possibly happen,” Eymi said, pitching her voice to a close approximation of Jin’s.
“Oh, so it’s my fault?” Jin said. She climbed to her feet and glared at her friends.
Myck nodded. “Yeah. It’s your fault.”
“Again,” Syd added.
~~To Be Continued…