His name was Ilmari-Pekka, and he had been in the service of Father Christmas since the fourth magi had left his companions on the road from
Here, the ice never melted. The snows always fell. And thought it was always cold, it was not a cold that chilled the bone. It was the cold of a winter's day with the sun shining; the sun of the Aarnivalkea, signaling to all that here was the realm of Christmas. It radiated a warmth of its own, that lifted the spirits and gave courage to all who looked upon it. And beneath it stretched Jouloutorni, the city of
Which is why Ilmari-Pekka’s heart had not quailed when the sentries on the uppermost towers had sounded the signal horns. They were never to be blown save in the case of an attack. And it had been nearly 80 years since the last goblin attack on the city. He had raced to the closest guard post, buckling on a sword which had hung on the wall for 80 years. As he ran, Karhu, the son of the Polar Bear who had fought alongside Ilmari-Pekka in the last goblin war, fell into stride beside him.
“Jump on my back,” Karhu had growled, and Ilmari-Pekka had clambered on. The bear put on speed, dodging around other elves who were racing through the corridors with weapons in hand.
Ilmari-Pekka jumped from Karhu’s back as they burst out into the open air on one of the city’s towers, facing to the East. His sharp eyes scanned the horizon, looking for the source of the attack.
“I see nothing,” he said to Karhu.
“I can smell them,” Karhu replied. “They are out on the Eastern wall…there is the smell of blood as well.”
Ilmari-Pekka was unsurprised by the bear’s sense of smell. Karhu’s kin were known to be able to scent blood for 100 miles. If he said there was blood out on the Eastern wall, then it was so.
“And I smell something else too,” Karhu said. “Black powder…small traces closer in…and further out…the Train is coming.”
And then his heart did quail.
A great, cracking rending noise filled the sky. As elf and bear watched, an explosion of ice rent the glass surface of the frozen lake between the citadel and the wall. Huge white boulders flew into the air, and the water, trapped so far beneath, surged up in spraying geysers. The crack grew, slowly, inevitably tearing a chasm toward the city…