A Winter Wedding

(Continued from "A Cold Night in July," Mar. 10, 2019)

The sled dogs were up earlier than usual, barking loud and waking up the entire village of Brisk Dale, including the staff members inside of King Vallenbar’s castle. Matthew Reilly, also part of the staff, sprang out of bed, rubbing his eyes, and quickly ran to the window to see what all the commotion was. And then he remembered something very important: the wedding! The day that Noelle Krystalson, daughter of King Vallenbar, would marry Nelldon of Northwood, Captain of The Northwood Knights.

It had been almost a year since Matthew entered the world of Terridia from upstate New York... on the eve of a great, big battle. He had stumbled into the cold, northern kingdom of Lonovsia, unaware of the danger he was in. But lucky for him, Noelle managed to get him to her father's Castle safely, and ever since then, he's been training to become a Sled Master, learning all the tricks of being an expert musher, as well as fighting like one. And many chores were part of his training— like feeding and grooming the dogs, as well as cleaning and maintaining the sleds. He disliked it at times, but he figured it was better than being in a war with Sogobs!

Fortunately, however, the war had recently ended after almost a year. And even though the Northwood Knights were successful in defeating the Snogob army, King Vallenbar knew the Yeti King of Frostworth wouldn’t rest for long, and would most likely plan another attack. But none of that mattered at the moment. A royal wedding was about to take place, and everyone’s mind was fixed on that.

Matthew gazed out the window, in awe at the sight of the Northwood Knights. They approached the castle with dignity, mounted on their large, white moose, waving their blue and white banners. And sliding alongside them, wearing shiny, ice helmets, and armed with ceremonial ice blades, were the elite members of the F.W.P., the Frost Warden Patrol, the brave snowmen police of Northern Terridia.

“You’re late!” said a man who barged into Matthew’s room. It was Gordon Blizzarbor, head Sled Master, in charge of the king’s private military, and all other military operations in the surrounding towns and villages. “You want to be a Sled Master, boy, yet you can’t even wake up on time!

“Sorry, sir,” said Matthew, yawning and stretching out his arms, then quickly standing at attention.. “I almost forgot it was the princess's wedding.”

“Forgot indeed!” The Sled Master glared at him. He was a round shaped bearded man, not very tall, garbed in fancy, gray leather armor, with a snowdog symbol etched on his chest. The common attire for highly ranked Sled Masters. “Well young pup, hurry up and get dressed," Gordon continued. "This is such an embarrassment! You should’ve been outside already to greet the visitors with your fellow pups!”

The “pups” as they were nicknamed, were all the young men in training to be Sled Masters, and though Matthew tried his best to please his teachers and peers, he was a bit tardy at times, and this drove the Sled Masters crazy, especially Gordon, who was responsible for him. But the Sled Master didn’t know what was going on in the boy’s heart; that he longed to be back home in NY with his family, an idea that seemed unlikely after being trapped there for so long...

***
The Brisk Dale Castle stood on a wide open field of snow, surrounded by an icy moat. But when the guests arrived for the wedding, the Castle Guards lowered the long, wooden drawbridge so they could enter with no problem. It was there, at the main entrance, where all the Sled Masters and pups were supposed to greet Nelldon and company. Matthew, late as usual, finally arrived, all dressed and ready, standing in line with his fellow pups.

He noticed many other guests making their way towards the castle. Most of them he didn’t recognize, of course, but the rich merchants from Snowport were easy to spot. They had large, fancy sleds, all decorated with intricate, sparkling, winter themed ornaments, and the reindeer that pulled their sleds were also garbed in fancy attire. It reminded him of Christmas time back home, and a feeling of sadness suddenly came over him, until he turned his attention back to the Knights and Snowmen, and recognized a familiar face: Wilfred Winterborn, whom he hadn’t seen in almost a month.

The two had become quite friendly over the past year, as Wilfred would visit the castle to check on him from time to time. Matthew had grown fond of the snowman, and it was pretty obvious that Wilfred took a liking to the boy as well, even though he was a little too macho to admit it! Nonetheless, their friendship was genuine, and Wilfred, as well as Noelle, were trying to figure out a way to get him back home.

“Wilfred!” shouted Matthew, as the snowman slid closer to the drawbridge. “Are you coming inside for breakfast before the wedding?” He departed from the other pups (after getting permission from the Sled Master of course) and rushed to greet the snowman.

“Oh brisky blizzards!” Wilfred shouted back. “What’s the matter with you, boy? Of course I’m coming inside, but not until the wedding ceremony.”

“How come?” asked Matthew. “I thought we’d catch up a bit before today’s events.”

“Boy, are you that thick headed?” Wilfred narrowed his beady, black eyes, then lowered his ice blade. “Look at me and tell me what you see.”

Matthew scratched his head. “Umm...a snowman?”

“Very good. Now look at my fellow Frost Wardens behind me, and tell me what you see.”

This time Matthew narrowed his eyes. “More snowmen?”

“Precisely!” said Wilfred, a hint of sarcasm in his tone. “I knew you had a brain lingering somewhere in that head of yours. Now tell me, how warm is it inside the castle right now?”

“Very warm actually. All the fireplaces are lit in just about every room, including the Great Hall where the wedding will take place.” Matthew seemed puzzled with all the questions. “Why do you ask?”

“Well,” continued Wilfred, “In case you hadn’t noticed, lad, fire and snow aren’t a good mix!” He shook his round head. “You want me and my companions to melt? Why do you think I make you come outside whenever I visit? And even on the RARE occasion that I do go inside, it’s always very brief in case you’ve forgotten.”

“Okay…I’m very sorry, Wilfred.”

“No worries.” Wilfred assured him. “I’ll certainly come inside for the ceremony, but if it’s too long, then I have to come back outside. Nelldon and Noelle will understand.” Wilfred glanced over at the pups and Sled Masters for a moment. “Anyway, lad, you best get back to old Gordon and the group. And when we have some more time, I’ll go over a few ideas I came up with to get you back home.”

“Sounds good!” said Matthew, a big grin etched on his face. “Oh, one more thing before I go.”

“Oh, brisky blizzards, lad! Make it quick.”

“I overheard the King and some of the Sled Masters the other morning. They were talking about some gigantic beast they saw.”

“The Yeti King?” Wilfred looked concerned for a moment.

“No, not him,” said Mathew. “Something else.”

“Something else?” asked Wilfred. “Oh, I know. They probably spotted one of them giant bears from the White Bear Mountains. Every so often they travel this way looking for more food, but I wouldn’t be too alarmed about it if I were you. They prefer reindeer over people if you get my drift.” He cracked a smile. “I’ll bet one of them wealthy nobles from Snowport made a big deal about it, though. The world would end for them if they lost one of their precious reindeer.” He started to chuckle.

“No,” said Matthew, “it wasn’t any bear that they were talking about.”

“Then what was it!” Wilfred snapped, impatiently. “Come on, lad, tell me already.”

“A dragon...I think.”

“A WHAT?” Wilfred nearly stumbled over himself.

“A dragon,” continued Matthew. “One of the Sled Masters went on a mission near the Esdalon Mountains. I think the mountains are about forty miles west of here, or maybe a little longer, depending on--”

“Enough with the geography!” Wilfred snapped again. “I know where the mountains are. What exactly did the Sled Master say? Be specific.”

“Well, he said the dragon was soaring above the mountains here in Lonovsia, then flew southward down the range until he couldn’t see it anymore. He sounded pretty shook up about it, and so did King Vallenbar. I’d love to see a dragon!”

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