Welcome to my stop on the Jingle Bell Hop blog tour by JustRomance.me.

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It’s Winter in the Appalachain Mountains and the recent flu epidemic has claimed millions of human lives. The portals between Earth and the Otherworld are open and creatures thought of as purely imagination now swarm the woods. Ogres are hunting humans on orders from the cabal but also because human flesh is their favorite food.

Tessa is holed up in her family cabin to avoid the outbreak and hide from the world.  A family of fairies lives in the backyard and yesterday a small dragon moved into the barn. Let’s meet Rusty, a three foot tall goblin who shows up grateful to Tessa and the dragon for his freedom.

Contagion by Graylin Fox

Tessa woke early and walked onto the porch just in time to see Kyl hovering over a frightened goblin who picked up his meager belongings and put them into his tiny pack. The goblin moved hurriedly and didn’t see Kyl overhead. Tessa leaned against the back door and listened to their conversation. A small smile broke out on her face as she noted Kyl appeared unafraid, just curious.
“Good morning!” Kyl practically shouted from his vantage point on a high branch.
“What?” The goblin cowered.
“Why are you here?” Kyl asked as he flew down eye-to-eye with the goblin.
“I followed the trail of the dragon and the human,” the goblin said as he slowly rose to a standing position. “I came here to offer my services to the human. My name is Rusty.”
“And what services can a goblin offer a human?” Kyl asked with a smirk.
“I have been trained to cook and to clean,” Rusty stated as he puffed up his chest.
“And who exactly trained you to cook and to clean?”
“Ogres,” the little goblin answered and his chest deflated.
The fairy blinked in confusion. Rusty explained, “I escaped yesterday when the ogres who own me got burned by a dragon.”
Tessa noted his small three-foot stature would be no match physically for the ogres, but he had some sense. At least he was capable of an escape. Then again, ogres were stupid.
Rusty continued. “I’m very grateful to that dragon. I had planned to escape for weeks and with the ogres soothing their burnt hides in the river, I had a chance. It was hard to keep from laughing when the ogres tried to outrun the flames on their backs. ‘Get into the river!’ I yelled. While they were in the river, I grabbed the bedroll I’d stashed under leaves and took off.”
Rusty explained that he followed the ogres’ trail back to the place they were burned. Ogres are easy to track because they don’t move branches out of the way, but tear them off trees and toss them alongside their trail. His eyes lit up as he recalled the ogres on fire. He had continued his search around the edges of the clearing for the footsteps of the dragon. Surprised to find the dragon’s claw prints side-by-side in the snow with human footprints, Rusty began to walk in their direction. He thought any human that would take in a dragon just might take him in, and he could offer to cook and clean for them.
Kyl’s patience ran out. “And what makes you think knowing how to cook for ogres means you’ll be able to cook for a human?” Kyl asked sarcastically.
Rusty attempted to stick out his chin in defiance. At three feet tall, his skin was pale grey and fit his form loosely. He wore only a leather vest and jeans the ogres had stolen from a child. A few strands of stringy hair appeared randomly around his head. Dark brown in color, they looked like rivulets of dirt falling haphazardly. He shivered slightly in the cold, but Tessa was sure cold weather was not the worst thing this small goblin had suffered.

Happy Holidays and remember to follow the blog hop all the way through so you can win a Kindle Fire!