Before you read this tale, I must take care of some legal and moral issues. First, I do not own Kim Possible or any of the characters shown in that cartoon series. This story is not intended for profit, merely enjoyment. Secondly, this story professes my interpretation of my own religious beliefs, based upon a story my parents told me long ago. If such expression of religious faith offends you, please accept my apologies and do not read the tale. It is not my intention to offend or force my beliefs upon anyone…I merely wish to entertain. Also, this is my entry into Whitem's 'Snow Daze Holiday Contest'. That said, please enjoy my offering….
Before you read this tale, I must take care of some legal and moral issues. First, I do not own Kim Possible or any of the characters shown in that cartoon series. This story is not intended for profit, merely enjoyment. Secondly, this story professes my interpretation of my own religious beliefs, based upon a story my parents told me long ago. If such expression of religious faith offends you, please accept my apologies and do not read the tale. It is not my intention to offend or force my beliefs upon anyone…I merely wish to entertain.
Also, this is my entry into Whitem's 'Snow Daze Holiday Contest'.
That said, please enjoy my offering….
Lord Montgomery Fiske shuddered, involuntarily, when a sudden gust of north wind struck the house's wall. He immediately chided himself for his reaction. While his current abode was hardly luxurious, it had withstood these horrid, winter winds for decades. It wasn't about to collapse for his benefit. Ironically, the icy wind was about to keep him warmer, having diverted his attention away from the ancient tome he was studying in time to realize that the fire in the woodburner was almost out.
Setting the tome aside, the fallen nobleman crossed the house's small main room and set a couple of large logs in the firebox. He waited for a few minutes, until the wood fully ignited, before closing off the draft and restricting the damper. Soon, waves of comforting heat radiated from the antique appliance. Studying the supply of firewood setting in a holder next to the stove, Fiske realized that he had enough wood for a couple of hours…at most. It was time to bring in enough to last the rest of the night. As the man known to international law enforcement as Monkeyfist donned his heavy boots and outer garments, he reflected how he came to this humble abode.
A few weeks ago he had been in South America, exploring yet another ancient ruin for the power he would need to become the Ultimate Monkey Master. His exhaustive research had determined the temple's probable location, prompting him to invest a great deal of his family wealth on the supplies needed to explore the area. Several days of searching had located the temple, followed by weeks of painstaking excavation, cataloging and translation. Yet, all of the hard work and privation was paying off. He had translated the identities of several monkey deities, as well as the ceremonies the ancients had used to placate them. Fiske had dug even deeper, struggling to piece together still more powerful knowledge when he experienced yet another of his standard practices…running afoul of Team Possible.
The nobleman didn't know how the blasted teens had tracked him to that sweltering corner of the jungle, which didn't even rate a spot on the map. He suspected that their abominably clever young assistant had somehow discovered his painstaking preparations and pieced together his plans. In the end, it truly didn't matter. He had been deep inside a crumbling temple, copying eroded hieroglyphs when one of his hired porters, who was supposed to be maintaining the camp, came rushing into Fiske's chamber, babbling some nonsense about demons in the jungle.
Fiske braced himself against the cold wind and opened the door, recalling how he had barely managed to keep the panicked local from setting off one of the traps the ancients had left in the abandoned temple. Following this, he had to restrain the man, otherwise he might have damaged the fragile inscriptions and carvings. Finally, Fiske managed to get some sort of story about an attack from the jungle. In his long, archeological career, both legal and otherwise, Fiske had dealt with bandits several times. Guessing that his hired assistants were being accosted by such unsavory characters; he seized a staff and made his way back to the temple's main entrance, determined to teach such assailants not to infringe upon his endeavors. He quickly found out he wasn't dealing with simple robbers.
Reaching the entrance, he was greeted with the sight of Kim Possible and the pretender rushing towards him. His hired hands, who had promised to stand with him, were scattering into the jungle. Fiske couldn't blame them; they were clearly not in Possible's league. He, on the other hand, was more than ready to unleash the fisticuffs. Since Possible was the closest to him, he attacked her. While she proved capable of dodging the strikes from his staff, she wasn't prepared for him to use his foot to throw a loose coil of rope at her. She was only entangled momentarily, but that was enough for Fiske to sweep her feet from underneath her and loop the rope around her legs several times. Unfortunately for Fiske, the pretender, whose belt had been entangled in a thorn bush, managed to break free before the nobleman could eliminate the redhead.
How maddening combat with the buffoonish blonde always played out! The master's best strikes always seemed to miss by mere inches as the dolt gibbered and babbled his terror. Was it skill, fate or luck that allowed the boy to trip Fiske, sending him sprawling onto his belly? While he quickly regained his feet, an excavating trowel (which he had tucked into his belt earlier that day) flipped free and cut the rope restraining Possible. Fiske quickly found himself outnumbered and cornered. Seeing that he simply couldn't win, Fiske threw mud at his opponents' faces, blinding them just long enough for him to retreat back into the temple. Deftly sidestepping the traps he had earlier located…and removing the markings he had placed to keep his porters from triggering them, he rushed back to the chamber he had been working in minutes earlier. Once there, he quickly scooped up his notes and other research materials before slithering through a tiny, back entrance. As he emerged into the jungle, he could hear stones shifting behind him, indicating that his pursuers had triggered the temple traps. Neither knowing nor caring if the traps had injured or even killed his pursuers, Fiske had fled into the jungle. It wouldn't be wise to linger in the area.
Certain that his mansion would be watched, Fiske took a circuitous route to his present location, a small abode on a ranch on the North American northern plains. He owned the surrounding acreage, through several intermediary companies and individuals, and leased it to a nearby rancher. This rancher received use of the land for a very good price…and the obligation to keep the house in good repair and available for Fiske's use. While Fiske had depleted his accounts, the income from his estate would counter that debt in a few months' time. Then, he could see about making use of the secrets he had unearthed. In the meantime, he simply had to make due.
This remote house was very good for making due and keeping a low profile. It was located rougly a kilometer from the nearest village; close enough to conveniently purchase supplies while far enough away to keep out of sight. The people who inhabited such a sparsely populated region were a strange lot. They were hard working, politely curious yet respectful of each other's desire for privacy. As such, once Fiske dropped a few hints that he didn't like to be disturbed, the locals stopped checking upon him. Fiske's biggest challenge was remembering to drive on the right-hand side of the road during his weekly foray into town for supplies.
The nobleman pushed such thoughts aside and concentrated on hauling firewood into his shelter. One of the drawbacks of his isolated den was that severe weather could disrupt the electricity…like it had tonight. While the house had a fuel oil furnace, the blower wouldn't work without electricity so Fiske was obliged to study his tomes by candlelight and keep a fire burning both for warmth and to keep his plumbing from freezing and bursting. Deciding that he didn't want to come outside again until morning, the rogue archeologist made several trips between the woodshed and the house. Stepping outside for the last time, he heard church bells from the village.
This was another curious aspect about his neighbors: most of them drank like fish when they had the opportunity and looked upon drunken brawling as both a wonderful participation sport and a performing art-form that rivaled ballet. Yet, they wouldn't think of missing church services on Sunday, even when sporting bloodshot eyes and missing teeth from the previous night's festivities. He shrugged his shoulders while making his way to the woodshed. Perhaps their religion provided them comfort for their hard lives…and Fiske had to admit that they tended to live very strenuous lives in this ranching community. As a young nobleman, his family had seen to his religious education…even if the lessons didn't seem to stay with him. No, the Christian Religion didn't offer him the power and domination that he craved. Still, he didn't scoff at his neighbors for their beliefs. He had spent much of his adult life pursuing forgotten deities, so he wasn't about to criticize anyone else's worship habits. Only slightly curious about why the bells would be sounding at this time of night, Fiske picked up another load of firewood and made his way back to the house. Startling a small herd of deer in the process.
Once inside, Fiske deposited his wood on the inside pile before removing his outer garments and sweeping up the snow he had tracked inside. After this, he checked a battered calendar near the door.
"Ah," he murmured. "It's Christmas Eve. The bells I heard must be calling the townsfolk to the evening services."
This was an aspect of the Christian Religion, and related religions, that Fiske had trouble comprehending. He had spent decades studying various simian gods and they all seemed to vie against each other by influencing mortals and demanding various ceremonies and observations. While most of them were actually quite benign, none of them had ever limited themselves by taking on mortal frailties. Why would the Christian God do such a thing? Shrugging his shoulders again, Fiske made his way to his chair, intent upon some more study before going to bed. Movement outside his window distracted him.
It was the deer he had startled earlier. While the yard was quite dark, Fiske could make out the shapes of perhaps a dozen of the creatures. For a moment, he wondered why they were so close to his buildings when they were clearly frightened of him. He finally decided that his buildings provided the only shelter from the chill winds on the relatively flat plain. Satisfied with his own explanation, he settled into his chair and picked up his tome. Minutes later, some half-remembered fact started to demand attention until he set the tome down and thought about it.
What was it that was bothering him? Something about the weather…something about the forecast. Ah, that was it! Shortly before the storm took out the electricity, he had heard the weather forecast over the radio. Tonight's blizzard was supposed to be truly harsh, dumping a great deal of snow onto the ground before clearing out and allowing a high pressure system, bringing dreadfully cold temperatures, to settle into the area. Shortly after this, Earl, his caretaker tenant and nearest neighbor, stopped by to warn him about how serious such storms could be. According to the aging rancher, the upcoming storm would likely deplete the local wildlife population, much less unprepared men. Fiske had assured the man that he was prepared to face whatever the storm could deliver.
Fiske was prepared, but what about the wretched deer, huddling in the meager shelter his home provided?
Fiske was not a sentimental man. In his unending drive for power, both man and beast had fallen to his hand. He had sacrificed his own, carefully trained monkey minions in his determined quest. Besides that, the deer were wild creatures; surely they had already weathered such storms that the Great Plains could unleash. There was no reason for Fiske to inconvenience himself on the creatures' behalf…except for the fact that some of his father's lessons still held sway. He was the lord of this small domain and was responsible for it. This responsibility included the wild deer just outside his door.
But what to do about them?
It didn't take Fiske long to think of the barn across the farmyard from the house. Earl kept it in excellent repair and stuffed with hay. Inside, the deer could find shelter from the wind, food and warm bedding. Certainly such assistance, meager though it seemed, would be enough to assure that the creatures could survive the building storm. Shaking his head at his own sentimentality, the nobleman once again set his tome aside and donned his heavy clothing. At least nobody was present to witness this moment of compassion. If Drakken or Killigan were to ever catch wind of this act, he would never live it down. Chuckling at his actions, he lit a lantern and went outside, into the building storm, once again.
On the way across the farmyard, he saw headlights on the gravel road that passed his current home. It was Earl and his wife, undoubtedly driving into town to attend services. Fiske shook his head again; Earl seemed such a practical man yet he was taking a tangible risk to reach the small church. While his neighbor would undoubtedly make it into town, he was risking being stranded in the small village or, even worse, being trapped on the roads when he returned his ranch. Fiske understood risk; he had spent his adult life risking life and limb. However, these risks promised a substantial reward…power. What gains did Earl hope to see by attending the simple service? Snorting at the absurdity, Fiske pulled open the barn's large doors and stepped aside to make room for the deer.
Yet the deer didn't approach the barn.
Monkeyfist decided that his presence disturbed the animals, so he returned to his house and once again took off his heavy, outer garments before settling in again to study his tome. The house shuddered again, prompting Monty to think about Earl. While Fiske had no obligation to see to the rancher's safety, that same rancher had gone out of his way to help the nobleman fit into the local scene, as well as warn him about the oncoming blizzard. Such actions, performed with no expectation of reward or praise, created an obligation all their own.
"He's made this trip dozens of times," Monty said, out loud. "He's an experienced plainsman with a four wheel drive pickup. Even if he runs into trouble, he'll simply summon assistance over his citizens band radio."
Still, Monty felt guilty.
"Ah!" He suddenly decided. "I read something about the church ringing bells and playing carols over loudspeakers when services conclude. I shall simply listen and when I hear them, I shall wait to see Earl's headlights. If he doesn't drive by within an hour, I shall call the church, if the telephone lines are still intact, and determine if his is still in the village."
Satisfied with his justification, Fiske returned his attention to his tome. Power…that's what life was about. Power came in so many forms…physical, spiritual and even financial. Economic power provided him with safety and shelter while the deer faced the elements. Physical power gave him the ability to take ancient tomes and scrolls from unworthy wardens. The tomes and scrolls gave him spiritual power, which allowed him to dominate monkey servants. These monkey servants, once he recruited and trained a new group, would give him the additional power to seize still more secrets, giving him the power to dominate the world!
Perhaps even compel hard working people to risk dangerous, winter blizzards or heave themselves out of bed, despite hangovers and injuries, to venerate him?
Fiske snorted at his own grandiose notions. He strongly doubted that the Mystical Monkey Power would ever give him that much power, but invincibility was a real possibility. One thing was certain, once he became the ultimate monkey master he would never embrace mortal frailties and uncertainties ever again.
Looking outside again, Fiske realized that the deer had still not gone into the barn's shelter. In fact, they looked even more miserable now, with snow beginning to pile on top of them. Realizing that he wouldn't be able to concentrate on his studies while the deer remained exposed to the elements, he once again left his comfortable chair, donned his heavy clothing and trudged back into the winter night.
Again, the deer scampered a short distance away when he emerged from his house. Thinking about his situation for a few minutes, Fiske came up with a course of action. Smirking at his own cleverness, he went into the barn and cut open several bales of hay. After covering a large section of the barn floor with the hay, he backed out of the barn, dropping hay in his wake. He made several trips until he had a trail of hay leading from the center of the farmyard to the pile inside the barn. Thinking ahead, the nobleman left his lantern outside his door, where it would illuminate the hay trail he had created.
"That should take care of it," he told himself, as he returned to his warm house. "The deer will encounter the hay and discover a trail leading them to food, shelter and warm bedding. Once they realize how comfortable they are inside the barn, I may have to chase them out after the storm."
Rather than returning to his tome, Fiske decided to brew himself a cup of tea. Whoever had built the house had foreseen power outages and equipped the domicile with a propane stove. Unfortunately, his pumps wouldn't draw water out of his well without electricity, so the nobleman opened the door and filled a large pot with snow to melt and boil. As he did so, he saw the deer already nibbling on the hay in the yard. Satisfied with himself, Fiske spent the next several minutes concentrating on brewing his tea. Finally, the warming beverage was ready, so he returned to his chair and settled in, sparing a glance outside to see how the deer were faring. He promptly returned to his feet and stared at the wild creatures, perplexed.
The deer were clearly hungry; they were just finishing up the feed he had set outside for them. However, they wouldn't go into the barn. Perhaps it was the scent of mankind and metal, perhaps they feared such enclosed spaces but for whatever reason, the deer wouldn't enter the shelter. Fiske watched the creatures for several minutes before deciding that he was going to have to do something else. Sighing with resignation, he set his tea aside and once again clad himself to brave the growing storm.
This time, Fiske decided to gently herd the creatures towards shelter. Keeping a wide berth, he worked his way around the herd until they were between him and the barn. Once in position, he slowly walked towards them and they slowly walked away from him, maintaining their distance. Approaching the barn, they edged to one side rather than entering the structure. Slowly, Fiske circled around, trying to force them back towards the open door. He managed to herd them back in front of the structure but when he once again attempted to get them to enter, they realized he was up to something. Instead of blithely entering the barn's shelter, the deer scampered around the corner. Once they were comfortable with the distance separating them from the nobleman, they stopped again and watched him.
Grinding his teeth in frustration, Fiske tried again. He backed well away from the deer and walked around the barn, to approach them from the side opposite the open door. Again, they spotted him and kept their distance, moving along the barn's wall and towards the side with the open door. Once they were clear of the wall, Fiske circled again, approaching them at a right angle from his earlier course. Again, they maintained their distance, walking along the barn's front wall until they stood adjacent to the opening. Fiske smiled again, certain that he was about to succeed. He backed away from the herd and circled yet again, placing the herd directly between himself and the opening. Again, slowly, he shuffled towards the deer…
…only to growl in frustration when the blasted creatures, once again, skittered away from the inviting opening and scampered around the building, ignoring the shelter and food to be found inside!
"What am I supposed to do!" He roared to the heavens. "How can I save these creatures? I'm aware of oncoming danger they cannot perceive…but what good is it if I cannot communicate their danger to them?"
"Even unable to communicate with them, I've tried to save them," he continued his rant. "I've tried everything! I opened the door, but they won't enter! I tried to coax them inside with food and comfort, but still they remain in the cold and snow! I tried to force them inside, but they resist me! How am I supposed to save them when they won't listen to me?"
Much to Fiske's annoyance, his methodical, archeologist's training kicked in, addressing the problem.
"The key is communication," he mused. "First, I would need to be able to speak with them. I could explain the danger they face why they must do something against their nature…like entering a building. Then, I suppose they would have to trust me. Such skittish creatures are very wary. Even if I could make them understand me, they would probably suspect a trap. They wouldn't trust a human, they would only trust another deer."
Monkeyfist started to laugh, picturing himself draped in a deerskin, trying to act like a deer, so that this herd would follow him to safety. Of course, even that wouldn't work. The deer would certainly detect someone simply playacting. He would have to actually become a deer, subject to the same dangers posed by predators, hunters, disease, lack of food or water…everything! Even if it were possible, it wouldn't be worth the effort. The whole thought was ludicrous!
"I give up," he announced, half to himself and half to the distant herd. "I will not even attempt to save these creatures. I am a man, and they are mere deer."
Fiske turned towards his house, thinking of a warm fire, hot tea and his mystic tome.
"What was I thinking?" He asked himself. "Why even bother? There are innumerable deer in the world…what does it really matter if they perish? What man…what sane being…would give up safety and comfort for the sake of creatures so far beneath him?"
At that moment, church bells and carols sounded from the distant village, celebrating a long-ago birth.
Suddenly understanding, Lord Montgomery Fiske dropped to his knees in the snow.
To everyone who reads this tale, please accept my fondest hopes that you have a joyous holiday season.
As always, my thanks to Joe Stoppinghem for his beta reading.