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Sun, July 21

The Stolen Heart of Christmas: Chapter 3

(EDITOR'S NOTE: This is Part 3 in a four-part Courier-exclusive story written by local comic book creator Dave Beaty. Watch dCourier.com for the continuing chapters and illustrations through the coming weeks of this holiday season.)• Click here to read chapter 1, Fallen Star• Click here to read chapter 2, Spirits and Shadows• Click here to read chapter 4, Castle of the Snow KingChapter 3: Trolls and SnowballsThe morning light is blinding on the snow as the spirit leads Karen, Jane and the elves out into the winter storm. They are all covered in warm fur and are linked together with a strong rope. Without it they would have been easily separated in the unending winter storm. The wind howls and blows chilling cold, yet as long as the spirit is close they do not freeze. After a long journey over ice and snow they come upon a great chasm in the ground."The Great Divide," said the spirit. "It separates the realm of the spirits and shadows.""What keeps people from simply crossing over - the fall?" Jane asked."Not the fall but the Great Wall of Fire.""I don't see any fire," Karen said.The spirit set down the large pack he had been carrying and reached inside. "That's because it's been extinguished somehow. But I have an idea of how we can get across." The spirit pulled a great pouch full of water out of the pack. He opened the pouch and flung water across the chasm. The water quickly froze as it crossed over until it formed an ice bridge. The winter storm quickly deposited more ice and snow onto the makeshift bridge until it appeared quite solid. "Let's get across. But first we'll need something to protect us," said the spirit as he reached into the bag again and pulled out helmets, shields and a swords for the elves. The elves quickly belted on the swords and donned their helmets, a routine they appeared to have done many times before."Frost lives just past the vast divide over that hill. That's where he staged the Great Revolt.""Revolt?" Jane asked."The Wall of Fire was placed here to separate the spirits and shadows after a deadly war had been fought. Frost had led the shadows into the Land of the Spirits. Many of our kind perished in the conflict."The spirit addressed Jane. "I have something special for you and the child." "I don't know anything about fighting with a sword," Jane said."Who said anything about a sword," said the spirit as he pulled out a large shield and a blue cloak covered in a snowflake pattern."This cloak," said the spirit, who placed it around Karen, "will make you invisible to the shadows. This shield," he said handing it to Jane, "can resist all magic. When we reach Frost's dwelling the elves will protect you. Use the shield and cloak to take back the Heart.""And what about you spirit?" Karen asked.The spirit pulled out a large ornate helmet and placed it on his head."You take back the Heart," he said as he removed a doubled-handed war hammer from the bag, "I will distract Frost."Armed with their weapons Karen, Jane, the spirit, and the elves made their way to the top of the snowy hill. They looked down to see a large valley covered in shadow. In the center of the valley was a large castle made of ice. Surrounding the castle was a moat flowing with wind and snow. Guarding the road leading to the castle were two large fur-covered creatures wielding immense swords made of enchanted ice. "That's new," one of the elves said quietly to the spirit."Looks like Frost fancies himself a king now," the spirit replied."Snow King," Karen whispered."We'll see about that," said the spirit."How are we going to get inside to get the Heart?" Karen asked.With a sly smile on her face Jane said, "Let's get down the hill to those large rocks. I have an idea."As Jane walked out from behind one of the two large rocks, which framed a natural path up the hill, she reminded herself that this was all real. Could she be dreaming?The elves, following Jane down the path, were not afraid, which unnerved Jane even more. As a Sheriff's deputy she had been in some tight situations before but nothing like this. She was shaking but she wasn't sure if it was fear or the cold. That's when the ice trolls noticed them. They let out a deep-throated blast of sound that Jane took to possibly mean, STOP.As the trolls approached Jane she placed her inverted shield upon the ground acting as a bowl, revealing that it was filled with snowballs. The ground shook as the Trolls came closer. She grabbed several of the snowballs, as did the elves. "Remember to make this quick," she said, speaking to the elves. They all nodded in agreement. She could see in the elves' crystal green eyes that they were not as calm as she had thought, which somewhat steadied her shaking. As if testing the intruders' resolve, the trolls stopped a short distance from where Jane and the elves stood. The larger of the two trolls let out a piercing roar. Jane took this as a challenge. With all the strength and courage she could muster, Jane launched a snowball at the large troll. With a soft smoosh sound it collided against the troll's face and did nothing. Silence fell over the snowy valley as all eyes were focused on the troll. That's when the second troll burst out in laughter - loud, thunderous laughter. He nudged his companion who wiped the snowball away and began to laugh as well. And for a brief moment forgetting the danger even Jane and the elves laughed before they all started throwing snowballs. The trolls dropped their swords and began picking up huge snowdrifts and packing them into large snowballs. Jane scooped up her shield and ran with the elves towards the rocks with the trolls in pursuit, giant snowballs in hand. Just as they crossed the two larger rocks Jane yelled, "Now!" Popping up from out of the snow was the spirit who reached down and gave a powerful tug on the snow-covered rope that was tied between the two larger rocks. Unable to stop in time, the trolls tripped over the outstretched rope and fell forward, crashing to the ground with a loud WHABOOM!They closed their eyes and did not get up. War hammer in hand, the spirit walked over to inspect the fallen trolls."I think they're unconscious. We must move quickly to the drawbridge."The elves made haste to untie the rope from the two large rocks and handed it to the spirit, who tied it onto the end of his war hammer.With the spirit in the lead this time, they charged out from behind the rocks. The elves, with swords drawn, were followed closely by Jane and Karen. As they approached the edge of the moat the spirit began to twirl the hammer above his head with the rope. Faster and faster he twirled until Karen had to grab onto her mom for fear she'd blow away. Then with a loud battle cry he flung the hammer at the drawbridge. It smashed into the top of the door. The spirit gave the rope a quick tug to test the hammer's grip on the drawbridge. It held fast. Stamping his large feet into the ground, he braced himself and with a mighty heave he began to pull the drawbridge down. Suddenly, tiny pointed ice shafts began to fly from over the wall. Quickly Jane held aloft the shield protecting her and Karen from the barrage of frozen darts. The elves hid behind the spirit whose natural warmth melted the shards before they could pierce his skin. Those that did not melt or smash against Jane's shield stuck into the ground. With a loud THOOM the drawbridge hit the edge of the moat.There was a hissing sound coming from inside the courtyard of the castle.
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