A platoon ascended a hill that hadn’t been walked over in some time. The prints in the snow were of the soldiers and their horses only. They were headed toward a castle that had been abandoned for hundreds of years now. But report after report stated that people had been missing and were taken to the old Cecil Keep, the last standing tower of the Oakland Castle. But they didn’t call it the Cecil Keep these days, it was known as…
“Hell Castle,” Watson whispered from the back of the squad.
“You don’t actually believe that, do ya?” his friend responded.
“Well somebody high up does. A hundred of us out here freezing our asses off on a few missing persons cases. We’re here for the Snow Devil.”
Watson’s friend scoffed. “Crazy mountain men, that’s all there is up here.”
The commander, perched atop his horse at the front of the pack, roared “Shut up back there. We’re here.”
The commander and first officer led on horses ahead of eighty soldiers. In rows of eight, sometimes seven, the soldiers, mostly frightened who were shivering in their boots, followed side-by-side with their newly acquired pistol swords. Watson and his friend were the last two to climb the hill and enter Hell Castle through the two twenty-foot tall pillars.
Within the castle, the men stood in awe at the medieval history surrounding them. As they faced the large Keep, the sculptures of demon heads, mutated animals, and monsters alike, on the ancient walls are what turned the few skeptics in the platoon to flat-out believers of The Snow Devil.
The men in charge dismounted and approached the entryway of the Keep. They, like the rest of the men, were knee-high in snow. “Ready yourselves, men,” the first officer roared. “Weapons up and remember to strike and strike only. No gunfire or we’ll have a hoard of wolves on our asses.”
The men halfway paid attention to their second-in-command. Those carvings—those weird, horrific, evil-like sculptures seemed to look back at the men as they gawked.
“Demons, don’t you see. The guardians of this place,” Watson whispered.
“Shut up about that, will ya? Stay focused.”
As the men waited for instruction while their Commander and First Officer entered the last tower, the ground moved.
“Uh, sir!” one of the men hollered.
Suddenly, the courtyard started to rise. The men, all eighty of them spread their arms out to balance themselves. But as the floor buckled and curled, the men slipped off and fell into the snow. The only four safe from the trouble were Watson and his friend, and the commander and first officer.
The Trouble? A giant in the snow, awakened by the boots of soldiers.
The Devil in the Snow. Watson side-stepped out of the view of the giant beast, leaving his skeptic friend in wonderment.
The Giant was as tall as the Keep with long black hair pulled into a ponytail. It looked human, with the two eyes, two ears, mouth and nose but that’s where the comparison stopped. It had scales all over its chest and arms and below the cloth that covered its midsection, its thick legs looked like tree logs. The Giant looked around the courtyard at the men picking themselves up out of the snow, and it roared.
Fitting for this place the way all Hell broke loose; against the First Officer’s wishes, the men fired shot after shot at the beast.
Watson saw his comrades get stomped, pounded, even snatched out of the snow and tossed down the hill. He made eye contact with his friend, who looked back with scared eyes, knowing he’d be next to be snatched and tossed. No point in running.
Watson saw that his friend made peace in that quick second before the beast snatched him out of the snow. But he wasn’t tossed. No, no, no, no, no. The beast ate him.
That brought the soldiers numbers down to about fifty, then Watson ran. He never claimed to be brave, wouldn’t act like it now. He found a hidden corner within the ancient walls while the rest of his brethren kept the beast busy. He hid, like a coward, until the noise stopped. Or maybe he’d find another way down the hill.
Out of sight now, Watson found a tunnel that would hopefully lead to his freedom. He dropped his pack and his weapon, then he knelt in the snow to crawl away from the horrors befalling his fellow men.
Once he looked down the tunnel, shallower than he thought, free of snow, he saw a young woman inside with no shoes, barely any clothing and bruises all over her arms and legs. She flinched back into the dead-end walls when he reached for her.
“It’s okay. It’s okay. I’m not gonna hurt you,” he said to the young woman. “What’s your name, heh?”
Another roar from the beast erupted from outside. This one shook the tunnel, dirt splashing on her head and face. She shook her head violently.
“It’s okay. You’re safe here, okay? You’re safe. My friends and I are here to help you.” And just like that, Watson felt something inside of him that he’d never felt before. A reason to fight. If not for himself, then for this poor young woman. “Stay here,” he said with a new tone in his voice. New to him, anyway. He bounced away from the tunnel, grabbed his weapon and pack, and marched back to the fight.
However, it was too late to showcase this new heroism. He entered the courtyard to a massacre, at least sixty of his comrades were scattered throughout the field. Most of them in pieces. He was relieved when he looked up. Twelve men, the last ones standing, were on the beast. On its arms, on its head, clinging on the scales of its belly. Part of the twelve were the Commander and first officer, and they were shooting and stabbing the Giant repeatedly. There was no fight left in the monster, but they kept on until it dropped. And when it did, it fell backwards into Cecil Keep and destroyed the last standing tower of the Oakland Castle.
Watson hustled over as fast as he could in the snow and around the blood of his countrymen. The Giant was down, dead, and he looked for survivors in the fall. Luckily, the twelve men climbed on the belly of the beast as Watson approached them.
“You killed the Devil, you bastards. You killed the Snow Devil.” Watson yelled and joined them as they celebrated, yelling and pounding their fists in the air.
The commander grunted in the way that halted that celebration. “The hell are you lot cheering about? We lost good men today.”
“But, sir—sir, we got the beast. We killed the Snow Devil,” one of the men said, giving another poke to the Giant’s chest.
“Snow Devil?” The commander grunted, again. Then he spat on the Giants belly. “This is not the Snow Devil, you imbeciles. This is her bodyguard.”
“Bodyguard?” one soldier asked.
“Her?” Watson questioned.
The victory was washed over with the commander’s disapproval. It fell silent. Then, a rustling in the snow behind them turned everyone around. Watson smiled and turned back to the Commander. “Oh, sir, yeah, I found a woman.”
Before he could see his commander’s reaction. He started after the young woman with smiles. The young woman standing in the snow with no shoes and only underwear.
“Private, stop!” The commander yelled from behind him.
Watson stopped, and turned to his commander, who marched with his weapon pointed at the young woman.
“No, commander. No—”
But too late, he shot at the poor young woman.
Watson turned, half-expecting to see the young woman lying bloody in the snow. But she stood there, same spot as before, with a hole through her chest. She looked down at it, touched the hole, licked the blood off her fingers, and looked back at Watson. Her lips curled into a smile, then her eyes turned black.
A chill attacked Watson so fast, so hard, that he couldn’t move a muscle. There may have been more shots, some screaming, but all he could see was this young woman…this beautiful young woman, covered in scars, clearly beaten, but just as clearly not human. The Snow Devil.
And just as he realized all the stories were true, the demon sculptures from the walls, must’ve been a hundred of them, came alive and finished off the men. The Snow Devil saved Watson for last. Stealing his soul with a kiss.