Villager, 10

“Okay but they know you’re not really going to kill us,” said Odin, who really felt that the knife pressed against his neck could be pressed just a little bit less hard against his neck. Or actually that it could be pressed anywhere else, like against a piece of cheese. “Because once you do that then there’ll be literally nothing to stop them from coming in here and beating the shit out of you and they aren’t even going to care that you have backup, which you don’t, actually.”

“Shut up,” Crossbones said, jostling Odin a little, nicking him with the knife. “They care about their kids. They won’t want them to be hurt. Open the window and tell them not to come any closer.”

“Okay,” said the boy nearest the window, who Odin somehow remembered was called Bloodrune. “But, Crossbones…”

“There’s no but,” snapped Crossbones. “Just do it.”

“I will! But there’s a monster out there with them!”

Others, 41

Lionel was done pretending this was okay.

“There’s no time to summon Owen,” he said with a growl, leaning on the table. “Even if this letter gets through, by the time he arrives, it could be too late.”

Bandits had been plaguing Great Scar, his home, for the past few weeks now. They’d threatened harm if the townspeople tried to ask for help, and were too well armed to fight back against. Or at least they claimed to be—nobody had dared challenge them yet.

Villager, 3

Great Scar’s town hall was a long building the size of two houses that was across the town square from the mayor’s house. Usually people just gathered in the square, but because it was cold, the hall was filled up, crowded with everyone Odin knew.

Unfortunately, Odin’s family’s red hair was common in Great Scar, and none of them had dyed their hair like he had last year, which made it harder to spot them. “Odin!” said Pierre, emerging from nowhere to take Odin’s hand, which was strangely reassuring. “There you are. Are Murph and his family coming?”

“Yeah,” Odin said, looking over his shoulder as if to see them. “He went up to get his dads and said they’d be right behind me, so they’ll probably be here in just a minute.” As he said that, he saw them come in, Rodrigue and Lev in the front, Murph behind them with his other two dads. Odin waved like a loser, then felt even more like a loser when he remembered this might be a huge emergency.

“Do you know what’s going on?” he asked Pierre, to disguise what a loser he was by asking his favourite little brother about important town affairs.

Santa’s Gift

Christmas morning was loud in Owen’s family; his immediate family and all his cousins and aunts and uncles all gathered in his grandfather’s house in their pajamas to open gifts. Mostly it was for the kids, but even though Owen was basically an adult he was still categorized as one of those.

Which, hey, worked out for him because he got a good haul of presents on top of the frankly embarrassing number of gifts Gavin had given him last night at the dinner with his family.

Owen was a little slower opening his than the others just because at various points in the morning someone would come sit in his lap or get his opinion on a game or something they’d gotten and he’d get engrossed in that before opening the next gift.

So he wasn’t surprised when the last gift under the tree was his, a nice box wrapped in grey wrapping paper with stars on it, which none of the other gifts had been. “Where’d that come from?” Owen’s grandfather asked.

Dad and Uncle Otto and Aunt Liv shook their heads, and so did a few others. “Uh-oh,” Owen muttered.