Last time on the Howard the Duck Holiday special extravaganza.... Old Howard, (that is to say, current timeline Howard, not the older version from the future) has embarked on a herculean mission to get Beverly an acceptable gift for Christmas. But as He would soon discover, some people are at their most naughty right before Christmas. And as Howard himself would say, there's no off season for loonies. Yes our feathery friend is in a bit of a sticky wicket. Can he save himself, and by extension, Christmas itself? Lets watch and see.
"For years the great red Clause has judged over us with his impossible standards of naughty and nice. For verily it says in the holy book" He pulled a small red book from somewhere in his robe. "You'd better watch out, you better not cry. You'd better not pout." He paused.
"Why?" The assembled asked in a practiced way. Howard realized Equix was reading aloud Christmas carols.
"I'm telling you why." Equix replied with solemn gravity that would have been funny under other circumstances. "Santa Clause is coming to town. The book tells us he has a list of everyone's deeds, and he checks it twice!" The other nuts cringed at this. "So malicious is the Clause that he double checks, looking for any possible misdeed he and his legion of demons elves may have missed. For his judgement's are severe, and his standards unbending."
As Equix talked on, Howard began to subtly work his hands free of his bonds. He had been bound to some sort of display, and this being a cult, of coursed they had a handy supply of chains and cuffs on hand.
He had been tied up more then once in the past, and had taken lessons in the art of escaping from a magician school. His bones were slightly more flexible then those of a human, and survival was a great motivator for working through some discomfort.
"And again the book tells us the Clause sees us when we're sleeping, and he knows when we're awake. What does this tell us brothers and sisters?"
"The Clause fears being seen?" One guy said. He wore a shirt from a different department store.
"Very good Brother Doug. The Clause exists by hiding in a lie. But if he is seen, then he can be detained, held, killed." Equix smiled. "Utilizing the magic of the ancients, we have laid the offering of milk and cookies. The titanium woven stocking with pressure lock cuffs are hung with care on the fake chimney, in the hope that the Clause will soon be here. Lastly, we have a white noise REM wave generator to shield our awake minds from the red one." Equix actually rubbed his hands together gleefully then, and Howard wondered briefly if he had somehow stumbled into some kind of Christmas special.
With one hand freed, he quickly began to work on his ankle restraints while everyone's attention was on Equix and the fake chimney. If he was quiet he would be able to sneak out unnoticed. maybe. "When have I ever had that kind of luck." Howard asked himself quietly. He didn't really care to dwell on the answer to that.
There was a strange moment then. Time didn't stop, but it felt slow. Like things should have been happening faster. Howard saw a pair of feet come impossibly down the fake chimney into the titanium stockings, which closed shut with a cold metallic snap. The cult members surged forward then to attack the red clothed man with cattle prods and blunt weapons as he was held partially upside down by the trap. "Naughty children." Santa roared in a rough throaty growl you would expect from a rottweiler, but not Kris Kringle.
The red suited figure tossed back the cultists with one arm, snapping its leg restraints with a series of metalic clinks. It stood up to reveal a face that was anything but rosy or merry as the songs suggested. The cheeks were pale and cracked from frostbite. The beard tangled and wind dried. His suit, Howard noticed, had several blotchy dark stains all over it.
"Trying to capture Santa is very naughty indeed. Krampus is here to deliver the gift of punishment. Hur hur hur." The figure grinned with misshapen yellow teeth. "You've all received enough coal over the years to warm this city, but have you done any good at all?" No one answered. Even Howard forgot about escape for a moment. "Perhaps shoveling coal into my furnace at the South pole for a year will teach you to be nice!" He grunted as he grabbed the first of the cultists and crammed him into his bag. The others followed in a quick like fashion.
Equix was the last to go, apparently too stunned to run when he had the chance. His girlish screams made Howard close his eyes and look away, almost in pity. He waited for the dark nightmare Santa to come for him. And waited. And waited.
When he looked again, standing in the room was not the fearsome vision of a Santa from a bad drug trip. In its place was a stocky man short man, hardly fat. Just maybe a little lax with exercise. His beard was not as big as in the pictures either. It was well trimmed, and neat. But otherwise Santa looked as one expected.
"You can't stay out of trouble, can you?" he asked Howard in a kind, jolly voice as he unlocked Howard's final restraint.
"It would have been a nice Christmas gift." Howard replied. Perhaps a bit roughly, but he was having a rough night.
Santa just shrugged. "I'm not God. I can only do so much." He smiled then with a twinkle in his eye. "Maybe this will make up for it."He reached into his bag and pulled out a small green box. "Beverly will love it. Trust me." He winked. "And for Howard who tried to be good this year." He handed Howard a bottle with a ribbon around the neck. "North Port rare malt. Aged 19 years." He smiled again, truly a jolly old soul. "Now I really must be on my way again. Many gifts to deliver. Care for a ride home? I could use the help."
"You gotta be kidding me." Howard groaned.