Old Nick was sitting at his desk looking over a section of the list his secretary handed him.
The rumor was he checked it twice. In reality he checked it far more often, and he had the final call. The price of being the boss.
He sat there examining one of the names. The kid was on a bit of a bad streak lately but he was pretty good overall. He put a mark next to his name to give one last check before the final list was printed.
He’d have to be good for a few more days. It was close to game time as it was and the elves wanted the list earlier every year.
He kept going through the list and finally set it down and went back to the Polar Daily Brief his advisors wrote up for him every day.
The weather report was the most trouble. The North Pole was losing territory every year. Soon, he’d have to start fortifying the borders with magic or risk their operation being discovered.
I’d have to stop giving coal to naughty kids and switch it solar panels, he thought to himself.
The idea made him chuckle, but it also had a little merit. He’d run it by the Head of Meteorology.
He’d have to run it by the Ethics Committee too. He was to take no part in the affairs of the world, but sometimes there was a little wiggle room.
The was a knock at the door.
Gerald, his chief of staff, came through the doorway.
“Yes Gerald?” He loved Gerald but the old elf still refused call him by his first name.
“Sir, I have a rather delicate matter to discuss,” as he shut the door.
“It’s the Council sir, it’s a rather delicate matter.”
“Spit it out Gerald.”
“They know about Mrs. Claus.”
Oh god, he thought “Is it about the extra cookies?”
“The what sir?”
“Nothing. Nothing. Never mind. What do they know?”
“They know she’s pregnant.”
“Some members of the Council are making noise about it.”
“Why would they care?”
“They’re worried about passing down the title of King of Christmas. One of the members is saying you’re trying to create a dynasty.”
Nick stood up, “I earned that title. They bestowed it on me. I’ve had that title for a thousand years. Which one is making the fuss?”
Gerald was quiet.
“Is it the Easter Bunny again? That rabbit is such a pain. I told him a hundred times. It’s not my fault no one cares about Easter. He’s been trying to make moves on Christmas for a decade.”
“It’s not…not him.”
“Who is it?”
“It’s him. Isn’t it?” Nick said his eyes narrowing.
“Assemble the Council. I want everyone there. They have ten minutes. Anyone not there is declared an enemy of the North Pole.”
“I want the Elf Corps strapped up and on alert. If he wants to make a power move I’m going to be ready. If Frost shows up I’m going to rip him in half this time.”
“I’ll take care of it sir.”
Nick stood there rubbing the space between his eyes, “Thank you Gerald. Does Mrs. Claus know?”
“Not yet sir.”
“I’ll call her and let her know. I want Christmas Castle on lock down.”
“It’s already done sir.”
“Good man Gerald. I’ll be there in a moment.”
Old Nick tried to keep from flipping his desk over. He wished he could get a workout in to get rid of the nerves. People thought his famous girth came from the the millions of Christmas cookies, but in reality it was to help with his powerlifting. A few times he’d even competed in World’s Strongest Man under an assumed name. He meant it when he’d said he’d rip Jack Frost in two.
Old Nick walked in the Council room in his best red suit. Sometimes you have to keep up appearances.
The rest of the council was there too, the Easter Bunny, the April Fool, Cupid, all of them.
Baby New Year was there too. The baby always gave Nick the creeps. He looked like an infant but spoke with a rich, deep voice. It was rather unnerving.
“Mr. Claus,” the all said in unity.
“Take your seats.”
When everyone was seated, Nick started, “I called this meeting because I want to make some things clear.”
“As you may have heard, and believe me I will find out who leaked it, my wife is pregnant. Some of you have been wondering out loud what will happen to the King of Christmas title when my time comes. I will make this very clear. I WILL not be passing down my title to my son. When my time comes the Council will choose the next king just as it did a thousand years ago. I am not trying to build a dynasty of any sort…”
Nick stopped talking when he could see his breath.
“What if we didn’t want to wait?” a voice said from down the hall.
“Frost,” Nick said.
“In the flesh,” Jack Frost said as he walked into the council chamber.
“You want to share something with the Council?”
“I do. I don’t see why we have to wait. I think the Council should have another vote.”
“Only the King can bring a matter before the Council.”
“Then maybe it’s time for a new king,” Frost said raising his arms. A handful for Ice Giants appeared in the room.
Nick clenched his fists and felt the old magic flow through him. If need be he would end Frost right here and now.
“Careful what you say Frost.”
“Why should I? Under your lead belief in us is fading. Children lose their sense of magic earlier and earlier. You let technology steal our place old man. It’s time for a new king.”
“And if I don’t step aside?”
“You need me Claus. Without me the North Pole will go green. I’ll shut winter down completely.”
Nick raised his hand and the ice giants turned to snow, “I have more than enough magic Frost. I’ll keep winter going myself if I have to.”
The elf corps broke into the Council room dozens of them. Outside the building was surrounded by the Elf Cavalry, hundred of elves mounted on reindeer.
“I think it’s time to leave Frost.”
“I see how it is old man.”
Jack Frost snapped his fingers and disappeared.
Nick turned to the Council, “I’m declaring a state of emergency. Lock down the North Pole. Secure each of your individual realms. This means war.”
The next night, Old Nick sat at the head of the table in the situation room.
“What’s the latest report?” Nick asked.
“He’s moved far faster than we thought. He must have been planning this for a while.”
Nick scratched his massive white beard.
“I bet his little display last night was just a diversion to move his forces into position. He’s amassed quite an army,” the Elf Sergeant said.
“Ice giants?” Nick asked.
“Yes,” the Head of the Elf Corps said, “and Ice Demons as well as a troop of Abominable Snowmen.”
“How long will the border hold?” Nick asked.
“Not long sir,” an Elf analyst replied.
“It’s depleted rapidly. It was a smart move. With Christmas so close, most of the magic is focused on production. This is the weakest time of the year.”
“That doesn’t seem right. Why aren’t we compromised more often at this time?” Nick asked.
Everyone was silent.
“Ahhhh, I see. Because usually someone is stirring up winter storms to hide the North Pole and keep everyone away.”
The elves nodded.
“What if I fortified the border with my own magic?” Nick asked.
Gerald, his Chief of Staff, answered, “We’ve had our best people look into it sir. It would stretch your magic too far and it would put too great a strain especially with Christmas so close you’re using the maximum now.”
“Humbug,” Nick swore, “I should have dealt with Frost sooner. I knew he’d pull something like this. He’s wanted to be King of Christmas for a long time.”
“Probably because no one makes movies about him,” one of the analysts said getting a chuckle from the room.
Nick didn’t chuckle though. He was too busy staring out the window. His stare deep and focused in an unusual way. His eyes glowing a faint grey.
Even though he left most of the monitoring to the elves he still retained his ability to see anywhere. Normally, looking in on a member of the Council would be sacrilege but that changed when Frost rose in rebellion.
He saw Frost at the head of the army.
Frost, his mind reached out.
Nick? Jack thought.
End this madness Frost. You won’t win.
Even still old man. I must try.
Stop this Frost I beg you.
I can’t. Not now. Things have gone too far.
It’s not too late. Stand down and things can go back to normal.
Frost, I looked at you as a son once.
And in you I thought I had a father. You have your own son now.
Is that the root of this? End this now Frost and I’ll name you heir. You’ll be the next King of Christmas.
It’s the crown I want now. It’s King or nothing.
You can’t be serious Frost.
I’ll look for you on the field old man. And with that Jack Frost closed off his mind.
“Sir? Sir?” Gerald was asking Nick.
“Yes?” Nick answered.
“The staff was waiting for the next order.”
“Oh yes. Excuse me. Are the elves assembled?”
“Yes sir. But why?”
“Because I’m asking toymakers to become soldiers the least I can do is ask them in person.”
“You don’t need to ask sir. The elves will follow you anywhere.”
“Be that as it may Gerald, their obligation to the King of Christmas only extends to protecting the castle and preparing for Christmas.”
“We don’t follow a title sir. We follow you.”
Nick put his immense hand on the elf’s shoulder. “Thank you Gerald. Should something happen to me. You’re going to be running things. I’ve informed the Council that you will be Regent until they can select a new King.”
“Sir, if something happens to you I won’t be running anything. I’ll be laying in the snow next to you.”
“Gerald…You can’t. I need you here.”
“Sir, with all do respect I will be by your side or I’ll ride out to face Jack Frost right now. The Council can run things.”
“I thought you might say something to that effect,” Nick said “Allie bring them here.”
A young elf handed Nick a gingerbread man shaped badge. He then pinned it on Gerald’s chest.
“That is why I’m making you the First Knight of Christmas. One of Santa’s finest. You will be by my side.”
Gerald did his best to hide his tears, “Thank you sir.”
Nick nodded and walked to the atrium where the elves were waiting.
“Friends,” the large man said, “I’m sure you heard at this point that Jack Frost is out there doing his best to cross our border. I stand before you now with the Ice Prince at our door. This couldn’t have happened at a worse time. Christmas is days away and the enemy is here to take it all. We can’t let the world down now.
“Christmas must be saved.”
“Christmas will be saved,” he repeated in a gentler voice.
“And I see before me the people that are going to do it. I stand before you not as your king but as your friend. None of you have an obligation to go out there. No one will blame you if you choose to stay. I ask those who do to stand beside me to face the cold. To face Frost.
“I stand here for the North Pole.
“I stand here for you.
“Now who is with me?”
The entire crowd erupted in a cheer of “For Christmas!”
Not long after the elves assembled on the field in front of Christmas Castle. Thousands of elves massed ready to defend the kingdom. Some were fighters. The Elf Corps was there and armed, as a security force they were trained to defend the North Pole. The Elf Calvary was there too mounted on reindeer. The rest were armed with whatever they could manufacture.
Nick walked out the elves kneeling as he went by. He thought it wasn’t necessary but the elves liked ceremony. He traded his red suit for bright red armor with a giant antlered helm. He looked more a demon than St. Nick. But his red hat was also fitted over the helmet.
His sled was fortified and the reindeer armored, and he took his place at the front of the army.
They heard a massive crash as the border for the North Pole finally fell and Jack Frost and his army marched forward.
Nick held up his hand to keep his army from charging. He wanted to see what Jack would do.
Sure enough, Frost jumped to the front of the army and conjured a winter maelstrom and sent the humungous storm right at Nick’s forces.
Nick saw a flicker of fear in the elves. They were brave creatures but anyone would fear the storm coming at them.
Nick dismounted the sled. His eyes glowing a fiery white and his muscles clenched. He bent down and placed his hand on the snow. Jack Frost was a mighty wizard and the Prince of Ice and but Nick was the King of Christmas and it was high time he taught his old apprentice a lesson. Frost could do parlor tricks but Nick commanded magic far older.
A great wind emanated from his hand and burst across the field destroying Jack’s storm and smashing his forces taking out nearly a quarter of the Ice Prince’s army.
“For Christmas!” Nick yelled and he and the elves charged.
The war was on.
It was a sight to see.
One day they’d write stories about it.
The last charge of the elves.
Reindeer snorted and the fog emanated from their flared nostrils breathing hard as they sprinted towards the enemy. They carried armored elves with lances candy striped red and white. They were ready for maybe their final charge. They’d sworn an oath to protect the North Pole. They spread out hoping to overtake the flank of the Ice army.
The main force was mostly regular elves. Workers really. They made toys. They worked in logistics. There was an environmental division that made sure the North Pole remained under snow.
They were all there.
They answered the King of Christmas’ call. They would fight and die for him, even before his speech.
And there he was, at the head of the army. Nick, Kris, Santa, the King of Christmas went by many names, but now he wore a new title, commander. He traded in his red suit for red armor. And his hat for a great antlered helm.
He was a fearsome sight.
This was a not time for pleasing children. He had a war to win.
Nick’s breath spewed from the helmet in a ghostly haze.
He looked across the shrinking distance between he and Frost’s army. He couldn’t find the Ice sprite.
But he was there. Nick could feel it in his bones.
They would clash at any second.
That’s when Jack Frost revealed himself.
High above them Frost rode a massive ice dragon. The huge creature arched over Nick’s army and blasted it with an icy breath freezing scores of elves, taking out vast swathes of Nick’s army.
Nick knew what he had to do. He was the only one with flying reindeer at the moment, their only aerial defense.
His sleigh lifted towards the sky in pursuit of Jack Frost. He watched in horror as the elf army smashed into the army of Ice giants, frost demons, and abominable snowmen. The elf line wavered for a moment but then held. They were able to get a small push when Gerald and the Knights of Christmas smashed into the Ice army’s flank. There screams and cries as the two sides clashed.
For now, the battle for Christmas was even. Jack Frost wrought havoc with his ice dragon. Freezing dozens at a time.
But Frost stopped his attack when he saw the sleigh.
Nick maneuvered the sled so he was upside down over the Frost and the dragon’s back. A sword made of ice appeared in Jack’s hand. Nick grabbed the war hammer the elves made for him. It was made from Snowsteel, but shaped like a candy cane. They fought furiously while flying through the air, hammer against sword. Steel against ice.
Nick jumped from the sleigh and he and Jack fought while perched on the ice dragon’s back. They traded blows for a few beats.
Nick let Frost’s attack hit his armor while he continued to press his attack. The ice sprite dodged and parried Nick’s blows. Nick was ancient, but his blows were mighty. Each swing would have cleaved a boulder in two, but the ice sprite was fast and strong.
Finally, Nick knelt, appearing to need a break.
“You’re getting slow old man,” Frost.
Nick grabbed, one of the dragon’s spike, “Oh no Jack. I was just buying time.”
Jack spun in time to see Nick’s sleigh and nine armored reindeer smashed through the ice dragon’s head. They both held on while the massive creature fell from the sky.
They crashed in the middle of the battle.
It came to a halt as Nick and Frost regained their senses.
Nick stood. His ears were ringing and he couldn’t find his helmet.
Neither side advanced, waiting for a cue from their commanders.
“You ruined it,” Frost yelled, “You ruined everything. I was going to win old man, and you still couldn’t let me have the victory. And you brought the elves. What am I to do when I take over? How can I be the next King of Christmas? You robbed the whole world of joy old man.”
Nick picked up his hammer, “Are you so broken Frost that you can’t see you’re the cause of this? I didn’t bring the elves. They are not here out of obligation. They came willingly. My army isn’t bound to me like yours. I was chosen King because I wanted to lead, not because I wanted followers. You can’t force people to follow you Jack.”
Jack’s eyes glowed blue, and then his body lit up as well.
“Jack, stop it,” Nick said feeling the power coming from him.
“Too late old man,” Frost said his voice as cold as the ice he made. Frost turned and a great blue and white flash covered the elvish army.
When the mist cleared the world was silent. Nick finally said, “Oh Jack what did you do?”
Nick walked among the elves. His small friends were frozen. Stuck under a thick layer of ice. He found Gerald still atop his deer. He put his hand on his old friend’s shoulder.
He felt something he hadn’t felt in a long time.
A deep, cold hearted rage.
It grew and grew.
All the years of joy and laughter and children’s smiles. Frost had stolen it. For his own sense of glory.
His eyes glowed a harsh white light. He reached down and felt every bit of magic down to his bones. This would end here even if it ended him.
Jack made another sword and rushed Nick but Nick barely noticed him.
Frost’s sword disappeared and Nick tossed Frost aside. Nick’s voice roared with the fury of a hundred storm’s, “I’ll deal with you after.”
Nick looked upon Frost’s army. Hundreds, thousands of frost demons, ice giants and snowmen charged, and Nick swung his hammer with a swing so violent that when it hit the ground Earth shook.
There was a pulse of pure white light, mixed with snow, and fury causing Frost’s army to be no more.
He then turned to Frost.
The ice sprite attacked again, but each time he was beaten back. His swords were broken. His magic attacks halted. Nick swung his hammer several times, and Frost felt every blow.
Finally, Nick stopped and raised his hand, “You will no longer be a threat to Christmas.”
And with that, Frost disappeared into snow.
Nick turned to the elf army and raised his hand again unfreezing his friends, falling to his knees afterwards.
The elves rushed forward to grab their king.
They hugged him and tried to keep the now weary Nick awake.
Gerald fought through the elves and hugged Nick. “Sir, you’re okay.”
“You can just call me Nick, Gerald.”
Gerald thought a moment, “Doesn’t feel right sir.”
Nick laughed, “Fair enough.”
“Sir, I don’t want to bring this up, but…”
“It’s nearly Christmas Eve Gerald I know. Come let’s get back to the castle.”
Once back at the command center Nick addressed the elves.
Nick stood, “I’m proud of you all, but unfortunately we have work to do. We can rest after.”
And so they went back to work.
Nick was back in his office going over the list, but on the shelf there was a snow globe.
In the snow globe there was a very small Jack Frost stuck in the glass. Right where Nick could keep an eye on him.