CHEAPJACK PULP, Issue 1215
When a displaced half-Norn accepts an invitation to Christmas dinner with a handsome countryman she discovers more than she bargained for. Christmas cats and Yule Lads and romance, oh my!
Trostan answered the door, looking as Nordic as his name suggested. He was broad shouldered and fit, with a mane of dark blond hair that fell across his forehead. He was easily 6’4”. His piercing blue eyes met hers. There was a smile dancing around his lips, which migrated upwards.
Her Jotun heritage had mostly been bred out in the generations between the original Norns and today, but some of her frost giant ancestors could still be seen in her height. At 5’11”, she often towered over men. Not this one. Svana grinned.
“Come in,” he said and held the door open. She entered, stamping the accumulated snow off her boots on the entry mat in the hallway there for that purpose.
To her surprise there appeared to be nobody else in the living room. From the voices she had made out she expected to see several guests milling around, drinking hot chocolate, or stronger beverages.
“I thought I heard more people,” she said, taking a mug he handed her. Trostan, half a head taller than her, looked down with a twinkle in his eye. He had given her a glass of frothy ale she recognized as Jólabland, a mixture of fizzy orange soda and brown ale. Her eyes watered with unshed tears at the memory of home. She didn’t even like the taste of the beverage, but it was part of her culture. When you are three thousand miles away, these things take on greater importance.
“Kitchen,” he said, his eyes still sparkling.
She saw what looked like the figure of an enormous black cat in the window, its mouth around something. It pawed at the opening, leaving claw marks in the ice on the pane.
“Do you have a cat?” she asked, pointing at the window. “There was a meow a moment ago. I think it’s over there.” She pointed toward the frost covered panel.
The cat sat on the windowsill, dislodging the fine dusting of snow that had accumulated during the night. It was four times bigger than any housecat she had ever seen. There was only one creature this could be. But it couldn’t, shouldn’t be here in Vermont.