© 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?”