It had snowed over the night, Brenden saw with glee. The
pristine snow glittered as it covered the castle courtyard like a dense, white
blanket. Best of all, no one had touched it yet; the sky to the east was just
beginning to turn the pink of dawn while the moon and stars still shone in the
sky above as the rest of the castle slumbered. Brenden grinned, his blue ears
twitching in anticipation. It was Saturday, and the whole day was open for building
an indestructible snow fort for snowball fights with the other castle children.
Best of all, he'd have the choice of spots to build his castle if he started right
The young blue Lupe hastily dressed as quietly
as possible. His sister's room was right next to his bedroom, and he didn't
want to wake her up. He loved his younger sister dearly, but Gwen would be more
of a hindrance than a help in building the ultimate snow fort.
Slipping out into the main living area of his
family's quarters, Brenden picked up the small shovel and the handle-less water
pail he'd placed by his bedroom door the night before. He then snuck a peek
into his parents' bedroom, just to make sure they were fast asleep and wouldn't
be sending Gwen out with him anytime soon. Father nearly obscured Brenden's
view of Mother simply by wrapping his arms around her, being nearly twice the
size of her small, steel grey pirate form, but they both looked like they would
sleep a bit longer. Smiling with glee, Brenden slipped out into the main castle
complex, and ran down the halls to the courtyard.
Giving the courtyard a good look, Brenden decided
that the best spot to build his castle was on the hill on the eastern side.
The castle wall behind him would keep anyone from throwing snowballs from that
direction, and the hill meant he could see higher, not that it made much of
a difference in a courtyard of this one's size. Flattening the snow at the top
of the hill of snow with his shovel, Brenden then started to pack his bucket
with snow to create blocks. He then placed his snow blocks out to for the base
of the walls and started building his fort, carefully caulking the spaces between
the blocks with loose snow.
Jaeny and Valen, the lord Sheriff's twins, soon
joined Brenden out in the court yard. They choose to make their fort closer
to the center of the court yard, easily within range of Brenden's fort. The
shadow Wocky and the blue Cybunny's extra pair of paws let them work faster;
Brenden would have to hurry, or else the twins would be pelting him with snowballs
before his own fort was finished.
The sun rose up further into the sky, chasing
the stars and moon away, and other castle children came to the court yard, building
forts of their own. Soon the courtyard started to resemble a small arctic city
made of snow. Brenden was so engrossed in his work; he didn't notice anyone
come up behind him until his visitor spoke. "Very impressive."
Brenden jumped, and then turned to his father.
"It would be even more impressive if you'd let me make a roof out of some of
the shields from the armory," he countered hopefully.
Father crossed his arms and leaned up against
the courtyards stone wall. "Sure; as long as you spend the rest of the year
polishing the rust off them."
The thought of how much work polishing that many
shields would entail made Brenden wince. "Maybe not," he amended.
Father chuckled. "Wise decision."
A small royal colored Lupess head poked out from
behind Father's leg. "Swow?" she lisped curiously. Her rose colored fur was
covered by a warm grey fleece coat, which gave her a roly-poly appearance. Plopping
down on the floor of Brenden's fort, Gwen started making snowballs, carefully
making sure each one was perfectly round. "Swow!" she said excitedly, holding
one of her snowballs out to Brenden.
Brenden grinned, an idea sprouting in the back
of his mind. "You make as many snowballs as you can for me, okay Gwen?"
"O-tay," she warbled happily, grabbing another
handful of snow.
Father grinned. "Are you two going to be okay
out here for awhile? Skarl wants your mother and me to have breakfast with him
before your Aunt and King Rolan gets here."
"We'll be fine," Brenden assured Father quickly;
the last thing he wanted was to be dragged into a breakfast with King Skarl,
having to answer to the name "Brandon" and listen to Skarl drone endlessly about
"When you two want breakfast, go see Grandma
Anna. And don't let Gwen get too cold," Father added, "or your Mother will skin
both of us alive."
Brenden nodded emphatically, one of the main
unspoken rules of the castle was "Don't cross Lady Mareian"; Mother was infamous
for her sharp tongue and short temper. Brenden thought it was funny how visitors
to the castle often worried about angering Father, yet Mother was far more dangerous.
They usually learned better very quickly.
Gwen's pile of snowballs grew larger as his fort
grew taller. Using his bucket, Brenden scurried down to a patch of unclaimed
snow and carried as many pailfuls as he could back up inside his own fort. You
needed a fresh supply of snow to make new snowballs.
Brenden froze as a snowball hit his fort on one
of his trips back for fresh snow. The lumpy projectile nearly brushed the tips
of his ears before it hit the frozen wall. Twin laugher rang out from Jaeny
and Valen's fort. With the first snowball thrown, the war was officially started.
Ducking inside his fort, Brenden grabbed a pair
of snowballs, then carefully peeked to find a good target. Spotting an unguarded
back, Brenden grinned and let loose his fire.
Brenden felt sorry for the cubs who'd gotten
a late start; the rules of the game in the castle meant that once your fort
fell, you were out. Usually he gave them time to scramble and finish their forts
while he concentrated on the cubs who were ready to play, but today the courtyard
was so full that it was impossible. Soon it was just down to his fort, and the
Sheriff's twin's fort. Four paws versus his two.
Jaeny and Valen grinned and stepped out of their
fort, they knew they had the advantage now. Brenden was a good shot, but little
Gwen wasn't much help at all. Gathering up as many snowballs as they could,
they brazenly walked out of their fort and started towards Brenden's.
"Uh oh," Brenden muttered. "How many snowballs
do we have left, Gwen?"
There was no reply. Turning back to where he'd
last seen his sister, Brenden saw only a pile of perfectly round snowballs,
and not a single royal Lupess in sight. The blue Lupe rolled his eyes, "Of course
she'll stay when I'm winning..."
Grabbing the snowballs Gwen had made, Brenden
threw them at the twins, though he knew he was only delaying the inevitable.
His fort would be knocked over and Jaeny and Valen would win.
Suddenly, half of the twins' castle fell over,
for no reason that Brenden could see. Hearing the falling wall, the Wocky and
the Cybunny stopped, and turned to stare at their fort in confusion. The other
part of the wall fell, to the sound of a young girl giggling ecstatically. There,
in the middle of Jaeny and Valen's former castle, stood Gwen. "All down!" she
chanted happily, clapping her hands. "Benden win!"
"That's not fair," Valen squeaked. "She wasn't
Gwen scowled, putting her small hands on her
fists. "An too. Swow-alls."
"She made the snowballs," Brenden clarified,
"while I built the fort." He cocked his head at the twins and grinned, "After
all, there's no rule saying two can't play together."
The twins looked at each other sheepishly, then
at the royal Lupess who was now making their former fort into a pile of snowballs.
Jaeny grinned at Brenden. "Next time, she's on our team."
Playing in the snow was nice, Brenden decided,
but coming into a nice warm kitchen warmed by big fireplaces was even better.
Especially when it meant cocoa.
"So how did the fight go this morning?" Grandmother
asked, helping Gwen out of her coat.
"Fun!" Gwen declared, trying to climb onto a
chair much too big for her.
"Who won?" the red Zafara asked.
Brenden gave his little sister a proud smile.