The Old man settled further into his chair and gazed down at his attentive listeners. They were silent, staring and still. They clutched mugs of cocoa as a twinkle danced across his cataract laden eyes. The fire glowed bright, shattering the quiet winter night with the occasional pop and ember laden crackle. He stroked his beard and began…
“I trust you all know of Santa Claus, yes? That portly, friendly old chap who visits you on this night of nights and brings you presents. Regardless of how you’ve behaved,lets be honest. Well, I can tell you that’s a crock of shit. At least… part of it is. You want to sit on the lap of a seasonally employed man in padding or support the Coca-Cola company, you believe in Santa all you want. But listen closely when I say: it’s not Ol’ Saint Nick you need to be watching for tonight.
And no, I don’t mean the Krampus either. That figure of the season has become so overplayed as of late, every American thinks they’re an expert on the old legend. But an even older legend, well that’s the story of Sinterdaan.
Never heard of him? Not surprised. He’s older than myself and I’m an old f**k. He’s influenced all the holiday figures and characters of these days. You won’t see him as a fat, red man. Just the contrary, he’s tall, slender. Some might say unnaturally so. He’s clad in a green cloak, for what better way to adhere yourself to the dryads, the ancient spirits of the woodland? Yes, he’s very in tune with nature is the Sinterdaan. Some say he even has the antlers of a great stag under that hooded cloak. But the beard yes, that is a constant.
What is his role on this night you ask? You see, he is, above all else, a hunter. He seeks this long, cold night when the thread between his realm and ours is as thin as grand hunter himself. He seeks out those who would serve him well, those with malice in their heart. You might say, he likes the naughty ones. Oh yes, he’ll visit you all tonight. This old man, I may not see very well but I can smell your sins. Quite robust young ones, oh yes. You can lock the door, bolt the windows, stoke the flames. None shall cease his visitation. For the Sinterdaan travels on the very wind itself. If there is but a speck or a hole anywhere in this home, you can bet he will slither his way in and reform at the base of this festive tree in a form most foul.
And there he’ll wait. He’ll eat these treats you’ve left him, oh yes. But still he’ll wait. So very still. Not stirring, not breathing.
He carries a sack, a small one that writhes with those he chooses. And he harvests with a two pronged copper blade, adorned with melodious bells. Why bells you ask? Well, the sound of a bell will repel the dark spirits that may haunt the night and he certainly doesn’t need any competition now does he?
So take heed: if tonight in your warm, soft bed, you hear something moving about in the dark… If you hear the sound of bells or the rustling of a visitor in the night…Take my advice: stay put. For if you come to see what Santa has left you, you’ll find HIM waiting. Tall, stately, sage and holly green. Standing silent, proud and patient. You won’t realize he and the tree are separate until he removes his hood and abducts your sanity and your soul.
And then, to the Sinterdaan you shall be indebted. You will emerge small, feathered, shrieking the voice of a corvid imp. And you’ll be cursed to fly at his side on his nightly hunts, seeking more wayward sprites that flit through the winter wind.
Stay put if you wish to have a pleasant holiday. And pray he does not grow impatient and come looking for you. For if you stay still and quiet, perhaps he will leave and visit the next home on his list. The next home filled with naughty children that he wishes to add to his cawing menagerie, oh yes.
So stuff the stockings, drink the eggnog, trim the tree. But beware he that rides the wind, he that casts a shadow with a two pronged blade.
For Santa is not coming, but the Old Grand Hunt Master, the Sinterdaan…. He just might.
Mind your manners, children. Do your chores. Spread joy and merriment. Only this will protect you from his will.”
With that, the storyteller stirred from his chair with a groan. His old bones had tired with age but he still had a few sparks in him, more embers indebted to the flames of legion. He scratched himself with his two tined fork and ran a ragged hand through his thinning hair, exposing the small nodes embedded in his scalp. He grinned, green moss glistening in his teeth and he turned and began to leave.
As the children nestled together in the tiny chamber, they began to itch and found it increasingly hard to hold their cups. Their quiet fascination began to devolve into frantic screaming as the feathers began to sprout and their lips began to merge into chitinous beaks.
The cawing echoed throughout the warm chamber and fire snuffed out, succumbing to the onslaught of the most bitter chill. The storyteller closed the door but not before one final message.
“Joyous Yule and a Merry Christmas, my naughty ones.”