Month: September 2014
© Dominic Sceski 2014
“Ten minutes,” mutters Santa as he looks at his golden pocket watch. Ever since the messenger arrived with the news that General Frost’s men were attacking, Santa found himself checking how much time passed over and over again. He is in no way excited about the approach of Frost and his knights. He realizes that he might look like a person who is waiting for the arrival of an honored guest. But this is far from the case. The truth is, Santa isn’t entirely sure why he repeatedly looks at his watch. Perhaps he wants to know just how quickly Frost and his knights can move as a unified force. Or perhaps, just perhaps, he is afraid.
As calmly as he could, he ordered the dwarves to set up their weaponry and line up in orderly brigades. Now that they are in position, he isn’t sure what to do anymore. He has never been in this position before; a position in which his entire homeland is under siege. The silence is devastating. Any sudden noise makes the dwarves jump. They shouldn’t be this nervous.
Maybe Frost wants to wait them out and see if they’ll starve. Maybe he wants to provoke them into coming out. Or maybe he is waiting just for the fact that he knows he’s putting all of them on edge. The very thought that Frost might be trying to do just that, and that he is actually succeeding, angers Santa. Nevertheless, whatever the icy general is planning, Santa refuses to give in.
“Damn,” thinks Santa. Hoping that none of the dwarves have noticed that he yet again checked how much time passed, Santa looks towards the front of the hall where Silvege is waiting with the front line of dwarves. He notes that Silvege is peering back at him from where he stands on the dais, and they exchange a nod. For a brief moment, relief runs through Santa. It is good to have friends here, he thinks. Glancing at the group of archers around him, he gives a small smile of reassurance to them, as if to appear that he is totally in control of the situation and confident in the skill of all the dwarves present. They catch the meaning of his smile, and nod in return.
A loud thud sounds from just outside the gate. Every creature within the hall reacts in unison, jolting to attention and reaching for their weapons. Santa stares at the door with a fierce, expectant gaze. Are the knights here and are now trying to batter down the door? Everyone listens. Everyone pauses. The hall is completely still, but humming, vibrating, and completely alive with the anticipation of the dwarves. For what seems to be a period of twenty minutes, the dwarves remain staring at the door. Santa thinks that perhaps a chunk of snow fell from the rooftop right in front of the door. It’s not unlikely, since it happens all the time. Santa shares his theory with the other dwarves around him, and they shrug. Perhaps, they say.
Then a thought strikes Santa. Could twenty minutes really have passed? Santa checks his watch again.
Nothing precedes the explosion. There is no sound of dynamite slowly hissing before it ignites. There is no beep before the bomb detonates. Completely without warning, the wood of the gate bursts into flames and erupts simultaneously. Shards of lumber fly everywhere, some sliding home into the bodies of dwarves, like the wood is getting back at the carpenters in the form of giant splinters. About twenty or so dwarves fall with wounds. But Santa sees this is only the beginning. Without delay, long, stiff icicles begin firing rapidly through the smoke at the end of the hall. Several dwarves cry out. For what seems to be a horribly long moment of havoc and mayhem, the first line of dwarves seem to recoil and lose form.
Yet then Silvege is shouting something. He brings Santa back to his senses, and raising his hand, Father Christmas cries out, “Fire!”
Several dozen arrows emit from the center of the mass of dwarves. The arrows disappear through the smoke, and with a grim but determined expression, Santa presses a glowing red button on his large leather belt. A violent explosion shakes the whole room as the first round of exploding arrows detonate. Millions of pieces of ice shatter to the ground, tinkling like glass and wringing like wind chimes. Santa smiles.
His smile quickly disappears as about ten of the Ice Knights appear through the smoke. They are entirely made of ice, glowing in the firelight and clacking with every step. They are tall, taller than even men, so they literally dwarf the dwarves. The hands of the knights can change form, some wielding long pointed icicles on there hands, others firing their arms off at the shoulder, sending their limbs into the bodies of dwarves. What part of there arm is destroyed or released, it always grows back.
Santa’s voice booms, “First rank, attack!” Then he watches as his brave dwarves begin their counterattack. But something catches his eye; the bright blonde hair of Goldenrod
“Finally,” thinks Goldenrod, drawing her sword, which is almost as tall as her. She hated sitting there in the front line, between two tall dwarves that didn’t even notice her, just waiting to be struck by a flying icicle. She didn’t have any long-ranged weapons herself, so it was agonizing for her to just wait and watch until the order was given to attack. Now she can really start defending her home and the home of her family.
The Ice Knights are so tall they can’t even see her unless they look down. And Goldenrod is fast, a trait many dwarves don’t have, so she uses that to her advantage. Grunting with every swing, she shatters the knees of an Ice Knight. As it topples to the ground, she zips through the crowd of dwarves to another foe before the first even knows what hit him. Goldenrod realizes that, in her excitement, she is at the front of the dwarves, and they are noticing her. This could be bad; she might distract them, and they might waste their time trying to defend her.
“Whatever”, Goldenrod thinks with a determined grunt. She’ll just have to show them she’s not too little to defend herself.
With a cry, she slashes at one Ice Knight to her right, and then at another to her left. The both fall to the ground, but Goldenrod is already past them. She runs past one foe, shattering its shin, and then she jumps into the air and shouts, thrusting her sword into the center of another knight. It quivers for a moment, and then erupts into a million pieces. Goldenrod lands on her feet, sure that she has impressed the dwarves, when she realizes that for the first time the knights are acknowledging her. Three of them shoot off their right arms at her.
Goldenrod’s eyes widen, and she smashes two of them in the air. The third one sails over her head. Suddenly, Silvege is calling for the first line to fall back. Goldenrod obeys, counting the number of dead dwarves as she does. Eight.
Behind the retreating dwarves comes about fifty knights. They stomp after the dwarves, but then Santa cries out, “Bunnies! Fire!”
From the outer ranks of the dwarf army, nearly thirty stuffed bunnies rain down upon the knights. They are all cute and fluffy, dyed red and green and blue and many other colors. At first, the knights pause, as if unsure. Then they laugh, focus once more on the dwarves, and then start forward.
Only the bunnies are stuffed with bombs.
A huge explosion takes out nearly a hundred more knights, those in the hall and entering. Behind Goldenrod, amid the boom of the eruption, she hears Santa’s laugh, almost as loud and deep as the explosion. Goldenrod smiles. “This is going to be easy,” she thinks.
Just then, something whistles through the air, and Goldenrod raises her eyes. Exiting the cloud of smoke near the gate, a hundred icicles fly up into the air, and then begin to descend downwards. Goldenrod’s gut clenches. “Or is it?”
As I said before, I did not win the writing competition I had entered my book into. However, a few days after I received the bad news, I decided to ask the editor for a critique of “I Was Called”. It seemed like a reasonable thing to do. What exactly was my story lacking in? What did I need to improve on?
And here are the editor’s notes, answering the question of why my book didn’t win and what was wrong with it:
My dear followers…
I am sad to announce that I did not succeed in winning the competition I entered my book into. Thank you for all of your support, and I hope we may continue and persevere in this endeavor together. Nothing else needs to be said, I think.
© Dominic Sceski 2014
Santa Claus storms through the main gate of the North Pole. His boots thud loudly against the wooden floor made out of oaken planks, which are polished almost as fantastically as his boots. The warmth of the room aggravates his skin, a sudden change after racing through the frosted wilderness while being chased by the White Witch’s wolves. As the great, heavy oaken doors of the main entrance close behind him, Santa takes in his surroundings. About two hundred elves fill the large hall. They look up from their work of crafting weapons and armor and immediately seek out their leader, whom they know has just arrived. At such a time like this, the gate would only have opened for one person; and that would be the Big Man, old Father Christmas, Saint Nicholas himself. Santa notices the concern on the faces of his loyal elves, and he smiles sympathetically and reassuringly.
The elves don’t respond. Not a glimmer of the slightest expression flickers in their eyes. Santa feels no need to blame them; after all, the situation is dire. Ever since he left the North Pole to find the two son’s of Adam and the two daughter’s of Eve, the White Witch noticed that he left and moved in her troops on the North Pole. For a long time had she kept Santa at bay, but now she had taken the initiative to destroy Santa and his elves once and for all. Led by General Frost—Jack Frost, that is—, a huge army of Ice Knights was on the North Pole’s doorstep. When the White Witch gathered all evil to her, Santa was under no impression to assume that Jack Frost would be included, but included he was. Indeed, for centuries Santa had been keeping General Frost under control, but now the White Witch had given him the means to wreak havoc on Santa and his elves. General Frost’s power source, as far as the elven scouts can tell, comes from a large ice crystal in the center of their camp, guarded tirelessly by a squadron of skilled Ice Knights. The power and energy that comes from the ice crystal is neither good nor evil, but simply raw, great, and unpredictable.
Santa walks through the huge hall. The room has a fantastically high, vaulted ceiling. Bulky columns placed at regular intervals of twenty yards uphold the lofty roof, and each pillar is made of fine marble. At the end of the hall, upon a wooden dais with a short flight of steps leading up to it, a huge fire burns in a stone hearth. Arras and paintings, handcrafted by the elves themselves, hang along the walls above the platform, and seeing them always brings happiness to Santa’s heart. Making his way up the stairs onto the dais, Santa nods to the archers reading their bows and fashioning sticks into arrows. They nod back, some murmuring “Mr. Claus” and others “Father Christmas”.
Santa is helped by a few elves in removing his heavy outer coat. After thanking them, he stands tall, and approaches the edge of the platform, whereupon he calls out in a loud, booming voice, “My dear dwarves!”
The dwarves pause and look at Santa. Indeed, they are most certainly dwarves. Santa himself cannot comprehend how the humans began calling them “elves”, which is totally absurd. Obviously, elves are a different race. In fact, because of Santa, dwarves currently exist in Narnia, although he is terribly disturbed at the fact that they are aiding the White Witch. Never before has Santa felt so sad and discouraged. His own nation, his own family, aiding the White Witch? It is horrible to even think about.
Once all of the dwarves have ceased their work and turned their attention to Santa, the saint continued, “My friends, I have successfully given the gifts you yourselves made to the sons of Adam and the daughters of Eve. I have also managed to bring Christmas to some of the Narnians. But make no mistake, my brethren: the White Witch is powerful. Even now, as you know, General Frost and his army is ready to assail our front door. Such a preemptive attack, if anything, signifies that our enemy has great power and is in full confidence that he can walk through our main gate. But will we let that happen?”
The dwarves roar their dissent. They are ready for battle. For so long they have been on edge, waiting for the enemy to strike. And now they have come. Santa continues, “Then make ready! Gather all of our weapons! Prepare for battle! And pray to the One that we can hold our own against our enemy!”
The dwarves all grunt and return to their work, laboring with more enthusiasm and determination. Grim but satisfied, Santa turns to Silvege, his second-in-command, and begins to consult with him on battle plans. After a moment of conversation, Santa notices that Silvege’s cousin, Goldenrod, is intently watching him. Goldenrod is the only dwarf that Santa had ever seen with blonde hair. The girl is very nice, and very bold. She would, perhaps, make a great warrior one day. But she is too young for the battlefield, even to be watching. As Santa and Silvege continue formulating a gambit to overcome Frost’s forces, Silvege notices how Santa keeps on looking over at Goldenrod. At last, Silvege is obviously bothered by Santa’s lack of attention, and he says, “Santa, is something wrong?”
“Silvege,” Santa replies, “I do not think it is right to bring young Goldenrod to the battlefield.”
“She is as safe as she can be at my side, Nick,” says Silvege. Only Santa’s closest friends call him by his nickname, and indeed Silvege is one of them. Santa trusts him, but he still isn’t sure that his judgement is valid. “And anyway,” adds Silvege, “we have more pressing matters to attend to.”
“Very well,” says Santa. He returns to discussing the dwarves’ strategy.
Not five minutes pass when some sort of commotion breaks out by the gate. Santa turns his gaze to the giant door, seeing about twenty dwarves working together to pry open the main entrance of the North Pole. At first, Santa feels as if he should rebuke them. But he stops himself from doing such a thing; he trusts his dwarves. They would not act so foolishly in such a time as this. No, Santa assumes that they are opening the gate for a good reason.
And a good reason it is. A dwarf scout almost trips as he hurries through the opening made by the dwarves. He is covered in a light layer of snow, and his hair is wet from both perspiration and snow melting on his head. He wears a white coat, fashioned so that he might be able to blend in with the frosty terrain. Several dwarves have gathered around to help him up, fretfully asking if he is well, if he brings tidings about the Narnians, and most importantly, if the enemy has made any move to attack the outer wall. Santa hurries through the cluster of dwarves to reach the scout, and as he arrives at the thin, gray-bearded dwarf, he hears the scout cry out in a hoarse voice, “They are coming!”
Many of the dwarves gasp, and others grit their teeth and scowl. So the time has come. Santa stares down at the scout, who asks in a voice that seems to have been distorted by an icy, merciless touch, “What should we do, sir?”
Santa’s brow furrows, and he bows his head in thought. For a moment, everyone is silent. Then, he raises his head. “We will fight. We will fight until our enemy is defeated. Defeat is no option. Victory will be a choice, but it is the only choice. Nothing less. Our people will survive, and this enemy….this oppressor to the whole of the North Pole, Narnia, and the real world, shall be vanquished!”
The dwarves give a shout, crying out for the enemy to hear their readiness to fight—and to win. Santa nods his head with satisfaction as they return to their work. He turns around to return to the dais at the end of the hall, when his eye suddenly catches Goldenrod’s blonde hair. She is hastening to help a group of doors bring in metal to be made into swords. And Santa frowns, thinking, “Oh, the things that little one will have to see if she does not depart from the battlefield.”
Suddenly, Goldenrod looks up from her work and their eyes meet. Her gaze is fierce, and even more than that, it is intimidating, even to Santa. And her eyes speak clearly what her heart wishes to cry out, “I don’t care. I will fight…”
“…You can’t stop me…”
Hey everyone! Just wanted to say happy Labor Day to all my followers. Also, here are a few updates to keep you up to speed with TSOM:
1. This week I will hear from the contest I entered my book into…say a prayer.
2. I have begun work on The Littlest Christmas Elf which, if you haven’t already gotten excited, is really worth getting excited about. I’m determined to put some serious effort into the story and make it both silly and really intense. I have an interesting imagination, if you haven’t already found out.
3. I’m asking that people spread the word about TSOM, because it’s going to be a busy month, and perhaps a very fateful one. Even if I don’t win the contest, I’ll probably start seeking out agents for some big publishing houses…I’m thinking Random House. Consequently, the more people know about TSOM, the better chances are I can get “I Was Called” into a publisher’s hands. I thank you for your help in advance.
4. Once again, happy Labor Day!