Short Fiction: The Captain’s Chase

The sleigh raced through the forest, snow kicked up by the reindeer blinding it’s passengers.  Hally gripped the rails tightly as another tree was dodged. She glanced at the armored back of the driver who was standing on bent legs urging the beasts on.  For a woman who dwells in the wild, this reckless race unnerved her.

She could hear their pursuers, the unnatural canines at their heels.  This place was unknown to her and she was thoroughly lost. There was the prayer that the Captain knew where they were going.  He seemed to have a destination in mind, but she had no idea how they could escape.

The trees fell away suddenly and the sleigh jerked briefly on a frozen lake before righting itself out of momentum.  Something was wrong, though. Halla knew animals well and she could tell that something was startling the reindeer, driving them on in desperation.

A sharp wind swept snow from the ice.  Looking back she could see the hellish creatures struggling to grip the ice with their claws.  The Captain began plucking spears from the rack beside him, carelessly flinging them over his shoulder.  The chance that they might hit any of their pursuers was impossible, but he seemed to have a purpose.  

Adjusting her grip, she peered over the rails to see what was happening.  The heavy spears were leaving spreading cracks in the ice, endangering all who were on the lake.  Then, she saw the movement.

Under the clear ice, a sign of movement became a certainty.  Amorphous shapes were undulating in the water. These tendrils were probing the cracks, pushing at them and seeking release.  Halla’s eyes widened in horror.

It had seemed that all of this took an eternity, but probably only a few seconds before tentacles, struggling into the shape of massive arms, began to smash through the ice behind them.  The screams of their adversaries as they were dragged into the depths was mixed with the howls of hellish creatures as they were all caught in the abominable appendages.

Turning back, she saw the Captain slipping his shield onto steel-clad feet.  He grabbed her, leapt the sleigh, and cut the reindeer’s harness. Losing the weight, the beasts shot forward in a terrified race.  Whatever was beneath the ice was smashing through behind them. Halla prayed to her gods that they would reach the far bank before suffering the fate of those that had chased them.

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