Advent Shorts: Day 3 – Winter’s Fortress

Hello everyone!

Welcome to Day 3 of our Advent Calendar 🙂

I hope you’re enjoying these stories so far. Thank you to everyone who’s been following. I appreciate the time you take to indulge my little project! 🙂

Today’s story is quite a bit different from the others. A little more fantastical. A little more action-packed.

Enjoy!

Winter’s Fortress

Tamara surveyed her team.

It was a particularly pathetic bunch amassed before her. She had done enough battles in her day to know that they would be lucky to make it out of this alive.

“Alright troops.” She avoided gender-specific terms here. Men and women were in attendance, with the latter far outnumbering the former. “The mission we are charged with today is unlike any challenge you’ve faced before. Our enemy has rallied its entire force. They wait just beyond the walls of our fortress. If they breach our sanctuary, death in battle will be a mercy.”

She observed each in her command. Scared eyes met hers. Their bodies quivered in fearful anticipation. They were not ready to die, and yet Death would come for no less than half of them before the night was through.

Only one pair of eyes held her regard, unflinching, unafraid.

Tamara allowed herself the simple gesture of a wink. George nodded in turn. They had fought alongside each other for years now. They had cheated Death more times than she could count. They could do it again.

“Your King and Queen are threatened. Your families are in peril,” she continued, her face resuming its severe expression. “If you fail now, you fail them. If they break through our defenses, you sacrifice those you love to the most terrible end. Is that what you want?”

“No.”

It was a weak mumble that her soldiers returned with.

She glowered at them, at their weakness. “That is what you want?” she condemned them for their lack of conviction.

“No!” George’s voice was raised in a loud cry above the others, motivating them to match his fervour. They could not, though they tried.

Less than impressed, Tamara shook her head. “I pray for our souls. Arm yourselves! Quickly.”

They dispersed in an erratic pattern, forging a path to the line of weapons stacked against the opposite wall. George alone lingered in her line of vision, already armed, already prepared.

“You’ve frightened them.”

“Cowards are already afraid.”

“If they were cowards, they would not have agreed to join. Have more faith in them.”

“They have no confidence in themselves.”

“Tammy…” His voice tapered off under her steely gaze. “Commander, my apologies,” he corrected himself.

They had been friends for so long; she should not have begrudged him his slip as much as she had. But she could not risk the others hearing. She needed to be perceived as a figure of power.

Turning her back on George, she oversaw the others in their meager attempts to take up arms.

She was not coarse with them because she did not care. Her heart would break if she reflected too much on the number of lives that would be lost. Victory would not be achieved without a little tragedy.

….

Tamara stood at the fore of her troops upon the roof of the fortress overlooking the massive army below.

Behind her, the North Pole was covered in an atmosphere of panic and trepidation. The village had been evacuated; the inhabitants led into the Palace. She had left her best guards to defend the King Claus and his Queen, should she fail to prevent the enemy’s assault. At least, there was a chance that they would escape and find a way to start again.

Below her, she caught a glimpse of Zara, the leader of the dark forces that sought to overthrow the Claus dynasty and end Christmas for good. They had been friends, once upon a time, before the Fall.

George was at her side, then, his face stoic, accepting. “We are ready, Commander.”

“Are we, George?” she asked in a soft whisper, allowing herself just one last moment to be Tammy.

He looked into her eyes and the courage in them gave her the strength to draw her weapon. “Fire!”

A barrage of white light shot down from their sentry point, inflicting the enemy below. She saw men and women fall beneath the volley, but there was no triumph to be found in that moment.

A torrent of black streaks arched across the sky. Around her, her fellow elves fell with cries of pain, forever passing from this world to the next.

“Fire!” she ordered again as fear threatened to drive her troops to flight.

“Fire!” George echoed her call.

Despite their best efforts, the encroaching army continued to draw nearer to the fortress gates.

Tamara turned from her point and pushed back. “Continue your rain of fury. Infantry, with me!”

George pursued her with two dozen others away from the edge.

They descended to the ground floor and took up a flank before the doors. And waited.

The nervous energy was palpable. Her fellow soldiers quivered, the sounds of the battle echoing around them.

BANG!

A loud gasp escaped them all.

Something massive rammed into the doors. They quaked, but did not fall.

Tamara swallowed down her sense of panic, solidifying her foothold. She could not show fear before her troops. All would be lost if she could not keep her composure. There would be no—

BANG!

The second assault knocked one of the doors off its hinges. As it fell, a wave of enemy forces drove into the citadel.

With a loud cry, Tamara launched herself into the fray, sword brandished high above her head.

In the fray, she lost sight of George, but her mind was with him, consumed with a concern for his well-being.

Then, Zara appeared before her, and all other thoughts slipped away. If Zara perished, her army would lose its nerve. Without their leader, they would easily fall aside.

Their eyes connected across the room, both fueled by the same determination to fell the other.

Across fallen bodies, Tamara trod–some allies, some enemies. She tried hard not to look too closely, to avoid identifying those that she knew.

“Let us end this,” Zara declared as they drew within mere inches of each other.

“My idea exactly.”

Their blades lifted, and they prepared for their battle, knowing that one of them would have to die…

“Tammy!”

Tamara closed her eyes, frustration coursing through her body.

They opened again. Gone were the mangled bodies, the great fortress. Gone were the enemy hordes, the battered doors. Gone were everyone and everything.

She lowered her arm, and dropped her stick on the ground. Beside her, George did the same.

They poked their heads out of the snow fort they had built earlier in the day.

Her mother stood at the kitchen door. “Tammy, hot cocoa’s ready!”

“We were in the middle of a battle, Mom. Now Santa will surely be captured and no kids will ever get presents again.”

Her mother smiled sheepishly and nodded her head, pretending to understand. ‘Who was she kidding,’ Tammy thought to herself, ‘What adult could ever understand the world of a twelve-year old.’

“You’d better go, then. You’re Santa’s best hope, after all.  Just remember the hot cocoa’s ready for you when your return. If, you return,” she corrected with a wink. She retreated into their house.

“Yes, Mom.” Tammy looked to George and sighed with resignation. “Sorry about that. Guess there’s no going back to it now.”

“You kidding! We have to go back. Like you said, the Kingdom of the North Pole is doomed without us.”

“Okay, then,” Tammy agreed. She reached for her sword and raised it high above her head. “Let’s do it.”

FIN

May inspiration flow like ink upon your quill,

 

Faith  quill-ink

© 2015. Faith Rivens.

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4 thoughts on “Advent Shorts: Day 3 – Winter’s Fortress

  1. Each advent story is better than the last. I was getting so wrapped up in the story that I never saw the ending coming! It was a brilliant twist, made my heart skip a little with nostalgia from a time when innocence was an amazing thing! Thank you for writing such a beautiful described story! Bring on the next!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh, wow! So many twists in this short piece. From the where and who to the reality behind it. I started reading this two days ago, and came back to it a little at a time when I could find time, so for two days I came back to the fighting. And then just now when I finished it, it was like my mind just relaxed when I realized the reality. Nice piece!

    Liked by 1 person

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