A blinding blizzard raged around them and dagger sharp snow pressed in from all sides. Yet
cocooned within a gentle red light, the man and his reindeers felt neither cold nor discomfort. Expertly he worked the reins guiding the animals without the need of anything so barbaric as a whip, for the creatures seemed to read his mind, responding instantly to the gentlest of tugs. Behind them they pulled a large wooden sledge, which normally held enough toys for every child in the world but tonight carried just one gift, a plain wooden box that could comfortable rest in the lap of an infant. The man would regularly steal attention away from his drive in order to glance at the box with the caring eyes of a doting father. Suddenly there was a break in the storm and the team found themselves in a bubble of silence, that in its own way was as deafening as the tempest.

Shapes appeared out of the lightless night and barred the sledge’s way forcing it to stop. The obstructions revealed themselves to be a pack of wolves. Twelve in number with even the smallest of them dwarfing the largest of the reindeers, they stalked towards the sledge their dark eyes reflecting the red light with a sinister gloss. Greater horror however lay behind the hungry pack. The black night condensed upon itself, solidifying into a giant wolf the size of a house that loomed over the lesser beasts like a demonic overlord. Its massive jaws creaked open revealing a mouth full of dagger like teeth and despite the absence of lips, the man was sure that it was grinning. As if responding to the wicked smile, the smaller wolves advanced upon the sledge at a leisurely pace as they lapped up their prey’s mounting terror.

A streak of yellow fell from the sky, landing between the pack and the sledge. Ice and snow exploded from the impact, hurling the wolves backwards to smash into their leader. Surprisingly the force of the explosion was directed solely at the pack, leaving the man and his sledge untouched. Slowly the cloud of snow and ice dispersed revealing a great dragon made of transparent golden light, on top of which stood a solitary figure. Despite the grandeur of his mount, the power of the man was obvious to all who beheld him and left no doubt to which of them was the master. The giant wolf growled deeply, making a sound like rolling thunder. The other wolves shot to their feet and charged the dragon, their fear of their leader greater than any that the new arrivals could elicit. The dragon exploded, sending a wall of golden scales slamming into the pack. All of them were thrown back into the darkness that had birthed them, disappearing as suddenly as they had appeared.

All of them that was, except the giant wolf whose jet black fur swallowed up the golden scales like a vortex, leaving the monster completely unscathed. With a feral snarl the beast pounced its jaws stretched wide, intending to devourer the man who had slayed his pack. With equal savagery the man roared and leapt to meet the attack head on. The wolf’s jaw snapped but found only air as the man shot past then came back down, crashing his palm into the beast’s forehead. The blow forced the creature’s head into its shoulders and sent it sprawling back. Yet the monster quickly regained its feet and glared back at its’ foe, eyes burning with hell fire. The man looked over his shoulder at the sledge driver and despite the distance between them his voice carried easily:

“You should be on your way.”

The driver obeyed and with a flick of his wrist once again carried on his journey, while behind him the epic battle between man and beast raged on.
The sound of fighting had long faded and once again the sledge was plunged into silence. Guilt gnawed at the driver’s heart and part of him wished he had stayed to help his saviour but common sense told him the foolishness of such thoughts. His talents although vast, lay far away from combat and his presence would have been nothing more than a hindrance. Even so the stigma of fleeing still hung heavily on him. He did not have long to dwell on his feelings for another threat soon fell on him. At first he thought it was a dark cloud floating in the sky but quickly realized his mistake as it started flying against the wind and towards him. Before long the black mass was circling above the team, like a flock of crows around a carcass. One of them broke away from the rest and dived down towards the sledge. The speed of its descent was astonishing and the man could soon make out the features of the creature.

A horrific hybrid of man and bat the monstrosity would have tested the courage of the bravest man. The driver gripped the reins ready to jerk the sledge away but there was no need. A shaft of silver flew across the sky striking the creature dead in the chest, sending it hurtling into the ground next to the sledge. The man snapped his head around and saw someone running across the snow towards him. Whoever it was, they were incredibly swift and were running beside the moving vehicle within a dozen heartbeats. Within the red halo of the sledge the driver could clearly make out the features of his new companion. His first thought was that it was a man, albeit a rather slim one but on closer inspection he saw that it was in fact an elf. However, unlike the jovial passive elves that shared his workshop this one was every inch the warrior. In his left hand was held a wooden bow, beautifully crafted with the intricate skill found only within the elder race. Strapped to his back was a quiver full of arrows as skilfully made as the bow.

More of the flying horrors swooped down and the elf’s right hand moved like quick silver, reaching into the quiver to retrieve arrows, then shooting them with blinding speed. Every shot hit its mark and not one of the creatures got within a dozen yards of the sledge. Despite the rapidity of his action the quiver remained full, yet their attackers seemed just as inexhaustible and no matter how many were slain more remained. The elf tugged on the man’s sleeve gaining his attention, then indicated to the left. The driver looked in that direction and saw a large cave mouth. Understanding his protector’s intention he moved the vehicle towards the natural sanctuary as the elf carved out a path with his never ending stream of arrows. Without slowing the sledge slid into the comforting shelter of the cave but it did so without the elf, who stayed at the entrance ensuring that their pursuers would not follow. The driver stopped his vehicle and looked back, reluctant to abandon another of his rescuers.

However, as he watched the man saw a look of childlike joy on the elf’s face and knew his worries were unfounded. With a whispered thanks he resumed his journey, now more determined than ever to deliver the gift.


Despite the considerable width and height of the cave, the driver felt a suffocating sense of claustrophobia. The red glow surrounding the sledge bounced off the rock in an eerie way, making the man weary of every passing shadow and adding urgency to his journey. His haste however was checked as he saw what was in front of him. Pulling the vehicle to a stop he stared indecisively at the split before him. Two tunnels stretched deep into the darkness and looked equally foreboding to his unsure eyes. His confusion however, was short lived for a series of loud crashing from behind drew his attention. Looking back he saw the ice lining the cave crack and split, creating huge uneven blocks. The frozen boulder started congregating as if the being gathered by an invisible giant. The pile of ice grew until it reached the top of the cave, then started morphing into a single shape.

Roughly human in proportion it was very crudely made, like something a child would make. The featureless golem reached out with what could generously be called its arms, with the intention of capturing the sledge. Contrary to its great size the creation moved with impressive speed and the driver knew he would never flee in time. Suddenly something flew passed his ear and struck the ice titan in its head. The missile was a little dagger no bigger than a man’s palm and was pitifully small when compared to its target. Yet it struck with so much force the it obliterated the massive head, causing the body to topple backwards and break back up into its component parts. The driver spun around and saw a man walking out of one of the tunnels. The stranger walked passed the sledge and retrieved his weapon from the rubble of ice. Wiping it clean he turned to the driver:

“The tunnel I came from will lead you out of here.”

Even as to spoke the broken ice was starting to gather once more. The driver nodded his thanks, then drove his sledge to the tunnel the man had come from, without looking back for fear of what new horror that might be forming.


Riding out of the cave the driver let out a relieved breath, happy to be in the open once more. For nearly an hour he road in peace and a seed of optimism took root as he dared to believe that the rest of his journey might proceed without further peril. The flower of hope was crushed as he saw the way ahead. A deep chasm spanned by a single bridge barely big enough of the sledge lay before him. His despair deepened as saw what was guarding the path. Stopping a few yards from the dark figure he saw that it was a tall man, whose broad shoulders and muscular frame were obvious even under the many layers of furs. In his right hand he held a massive sword, while the left gripped a wicked looking axe. Without a word the man rushed towards the sledge, moving with surprisingly speed for his bulk.

The driver gripped the reins preparing to flee but the man veered to the left and ran passed the sledge. Keeping his eyes on the man, the driver gasped as he saw what he was running towards. Dozens, perhaps hundreds of shadowy figures skulked along the slow moving so silently that they had got almost within touching distance of the sledge without him even noticing. The closest of them fell within the glow of the vehicle’s red light and the driver’s horror doubled as he made out their features. Made of maggot invested deadwood and slimy vines, they lumbered forward in a parody of the human walk, stretching out their decayed limbs as if to embrace the sledge. The warrior hit them like a storm, shattering their rotten bodies and scattering the splinters to the winds. More corrupt bodies pressed on from three sides and the man’s weapons became a ring of steel, destroying anything that dared to get too close.

The reindeers whinnied in fear bringing the driver back to himself. Knowing his presence would be a burden he spurred the mounts forward and race towards the bridge. As the back of the sledge slid onto the wooden planks, the driver looked over his shoulder. The warrior fought on, his duel weapons lashing out like a pair of thunderbolts. He had retreated to the bridgehead so limiting the number of enemies he had to face at once but his position was still perilous. Reluctantly the driver looked away and redoubled his efforts to cross the bridge so enabling the warrior to do the same. When he was half way across, the driver suddenly smiled as a comforting warm feeling started to grow in his ample belly. This was the sensation he always felt when the power of flight was about to stir and its presence now, told him that he was leaving the boundaries of this dark realm that had suppressed many of his powers.

His hopes were confirmed as the sledge started to fly. At first it just skated an inch above the bridge but as he drove the height rapidly increased until he was soaring in the sky, with a trail of stars in his wake. Looking back he saw the warrior steadily walking backwards across the bridge while his sword and axe continued felling the never ending wave of creatures. From his elevated position the driver could see that the side of bridge where he had come from, was completely covered by the monsters and knew that there were thousands not hundreds of them as he had first thought. The sledge stayed hovering in the air, until the warrior stepped of the bridge, then bringing both of his weapons up he brought them down on the ropes that tied the bridge to the cliff. The keenness of the blades coupled with his strength easily cut through the bindings, sending the bridge and the creatures upon it tumbling into the bottomless abyss.

Letting out a relieved breath the driver turned back around and headed upwards, safe in the knowledge that he would deliver his precious gift.


On top of a snow covered hill stood a lonely cabin. Golden light shone out from the windows, hinting at the warmth from within. Inside four men stood around a table staring intently at a sheet of blank paper. Together they let out a breath, then one of them left the table and walked towards a small fridge. Opening it Gu Long took two bottles of beer and tossed one to Robert E Howard, who deftly caught it. Jin Yong gave them a disapproving look but understood how they felt. Through their combined efforts they had saved the light and he could not begrudge his friends a moment of indulgent celebration. Reaching for the teapot beside him, he filled two cups and passed one to Tolkien to accept with a thankful nod. Picking up his own cup, Jin Yong took a sip and sighed contentedly.