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Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Episode 46: The Battle at the Pole, round 1

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 Bethlehem to travel into the northern wastes. His northward journey had brought him to what was now know as Finland, and there he had encountered the menninkäinen, the little people. They had been the ones who brought his journey from the snow wastes of to the branches of the Tree, and then to the Pohlja, the "North Lands", a dark and frozen world completely trapped in ice. It was here that the Aarnivalkea, the eternal flame of the Utter North burned. That flame reached to the heavens, pointing to the Pohjantähti, the North Star. Between those two points, the menninkäinen said the World Pillar stretched. And it was here that the mennikäinen, and their Lord Christmas, who they called Ukko after their own god of sky and thunder helped to maintain the balance of Order and Chaos. The Pohlja was a magic land; it could not be reached save by magic.

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 Christmas, not at all the candy cane realm of Western imagination, but rather a grand citadel built of ice and snow. Some of the ice was so old and so dark that it was a deep indigo, while others were bright blue or devoid of all color, like glass. All as immovable, as strong and as everlasting as stone.

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.”

“The Express?” Ilmari-Pekka wrinkled his forehead. The Train only came once a year…unless need dictated otherwise. Was that why the sentries had sounded the horns? No…it was the blood. They had seen something.

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…

2 comments:

Gotthammer said...

Now, before anyone goes accusing me of ripping off the Golden Compass, I'd like to remind everyone that I'm basing my North Pole on a combination of Tolkien-inspired elements. The first, and foremost is the "Father Christmas Letters" in which a Polar Bear appears as one of Father Christmas' servants. The second is the Finnish mythology Tolkien himself used as a guide for "The Silmarillion" and so by extension, the Middle Earth roleplaying supplement of the Far North, done by a scholar who studied Finnish language and mythology for the gaming source book. I ran a campaign that lasted several years, and culminated in those Northern lands. So there are elements of that here as well.

There's no doubt that Pullman's armored bears are kin to Karhu, but only because apparently both Pullman and Tolkien thought Polar Bears kicking ass would be cool. Wouldn't that piss Pullman off...

Anyhow, sorry to the readers for the wait. I'm renovating the basement in anticipation of our second baby as well as for the arrival of my parents for New Years, and it takes precedent. I also got hired as a sessional instructor to teach introductory English at King's University College, and I'm designing a syllabus. Add to that I'm administering and marking a Religious Studies final for the U of A, as well as putting the last 30 or so pages onto the first rough draft of my thesis. Oh yeah, and preaching and leading music at church for Advent. So I'm a busy little beaver.

That said, Magik Beans is always a wonderful diversion. And it's awesome to be writing this ending at Christmas time. Funny how the story wrote itself to end this way, at this time. So different than I'd imagined.

Phil said...

Grats on getting the job! I hope they don't stake you out as a heretic! I just love the idea of polar bears in action. My childhood dog, Bear, is a shortened name for Polar Bear. She's an Akbash, a turkish sheep dog, about 120lbs, white, and rather silly and dopey, but very fierce when facing coyotes.... ach, I digress.

I find myself having to explain to a lot of friends what the Golden Compass is about, having read it about three years ago. I find it amusing that the discussion is coming up again... the books been out there for ages. *Sigh* people are so knee-jerk these days.

I left a note on your facebook about Brandon Sanderson and his continuation of Wheel of Time. Have you read Mistborn?

Going through finals at the moment, so I totally understand the lack of time.

And double grats on the second child! This is the first time I think I heard about it.

I'll have to make it up to Edmonton sooner rather than later, I'd love to meet the ferocious Gunnar.