It was Christmas eve and their home was decorated for the holiday. HB sat in front of their TV watching a puppet show holding his own version of the puppet in his arms while Ariel combed her favorite dolls hair next to him. Ariel had been living with them since February of this year and was happy to be a part of a loving family.
"My son, will you turn off that wretched puppet?" Professor Broom said in an agitated voice. "Both of you need to brush your teeth."
"Don't call him a puppet." HB said in annoyance.
"I beg your pardon?" Broom said looking over to him from where he was putting up some books.
"Look, he's not a puppet Howdy Doody's real." HB said adamantly.
"Well…" Broom started.
"He's real." HB said.
"Mr. Deedee Doodoo will have to say goodnight." Broom said as he turned off the TV.
"Oh no." Red complained.
"And remember you both have to be asleep when he comes down the chimney." Broom said kneeling down in front of them.
"I can't wait." Ariel said happily bouncing were she sat as her tail swooped back and forth. This would be her first real Christmas and being part of a loving family. She hadn't even heard of Santa before Red told her all about him feeling her with wonder of the legendary figure.
"It's not even a chimney pop." HB said looking at their small wood furnace.
"Does it matter? Will he not come if we don't have one?" Ariel asked with worry thinking back to all the present-less Christmas's. Maybe that's why he'd never come before, but her new dad had said he would this time, he'd promised.
"He will come, he has his ways." Broom assured them, patting Ariel gently on her head making her smile and perk back up.
"Then I want to wait up. Watch him do it." HB said.
"Nonsense." Broom said.
"Okay." HB sighed. "I want a story then."
"Oh no, no stories tonight." Broom said shaking his head.
"Just one and then we'll go right to bed." HB said then turned to Ariel for support. "Right Ariel."
"Please papa." Ariel said with a hopeful smile as she clutched her Raggedy Ann doll close. "We'll brush out teeth and everything, we promise."
Broom smiled at them caving at their combined looks of hope then went fetching small trunk from which he took a book with a golden tree on the cover and started to read.
"It is said at the dawn of time man beast and all magical beings lived together under Ailign the Father Tree, but man had been created with a hole in his heart, a hole that no possession, power, or knowledge could fill and in his infinite greed man dreamt of expanding his dominion over the entire earth, there ensued a bitter war...
Silhouetted against a crimson sky, the shadows of thousands upon thousands of goblins, elves and fairies do battle with hordes of men.
"The blood of many an elf, orge, and goblin was spilled in their war with man and King Balor the one armed king of Elfland, watched the slaughter with dread and despair, but one day the master of the goblin blacksmiths offered to build the king a golden mechanical army, seventy times seventy soldiers that would never know hunger and could not be stopped. Prince Nuada begged his father to agree. 'Build me this army the king said.'"
Lit by the fires of a hundred furnaces, stoked by scores of goblins, a MECHANICAL ARMY is born. Metal plates and moving parts are hammered into shape on enormous anvils and bolted onto tall, ornate, golden figures. In perfect ranks, in eerie unison, the golden soldiers line up, filling the entire courtyard, awaiting the King's command.
"So a magical crown was forged that would allow those of royal blood to command the Golden Army unchallenged. 'I am King Balor, leader of the Golden Army. Is there anyone here who disputes my right?'" And in his throne room no one challenged his word."
In response- TCHANKKKKK! The new army raises its lances, hailing him.
"But wait, what if someone could challenge him?" HB asked interrupting the story. Ariel's tail switched back and forth in agitation at the interruption.
"Red." Ariel whined.
"Would they have a fight?" HB asked ignoring Ariel. He knew she hated interruptions, but he wanted to know.
"Well most likely." Broom said. "A challenge must be answered, but do you want to hear the end of this story or not?"
"Yes please." Red said as he started to brush again.
"Right, so the world was changed and the next time the humans marched, they felt the earth tremble beneath their feet and saw the sky darken with monstrous shapes."
As the humans make ready for battle, a tremor shakes the earth. They turn their gaze to the horizon, which bristles with the arms of the approaching troops. The fight is brutal. The mechanical soldiers mow down the humans by the hundreds, their swords replaced as needed by battle axes, bludgeons and lances.
"The Golden Army had no remorse, felt no loyalty or pain and King Balors heart grew heavy with regret."
At length, there is no sign of life in the human camp. The King surveys the carnage with deep regret. The mechanical soldiers stand in symmetrical ranks awaiting further instructions.
"So he called a truce and divided the crown in three pieces, one for the humans and two for himself. In exchange the surviving men would keep to their cities and we children of the Earth would dwell within the forests. This pact, he declared, would be honored by our sons and the sons of their sons until the end of time."
Listening to his father, Prince Nuada reacts with anguish.
"But Prince Nuada did not believe in the promises of men and it is said that he went into exile, vowing to return the day his people needed him most."
Prince Nuada walks away towards a dying sunset.
"So the golden army to lay dormant, locked inside the earth, waiting."
The goblins lock the golden army into a huge cavern, under the light of ten thousand flickering torches.
"And there it is to this day, awaiting the day the crown is made whole again, silent, still, and indestructible."
HB and Ariel were sitting up in their beds listening with rapt attention when Broom finished then closed the book.
"Wow." HB breathed out then looked confused. "What does it mean industrable?"
"Indestructible." Ariel corrected him. She was a much more avid reader than HB. "It means no one can destroy them, right dad?"
"That's right my dear." Broom said with a smile. "Now go to sleep, both of you."
"But it's just a story right pops?" HB asked holding his six shooter close to his chest.
"Is it now?" Broom questioned with a raised eyebrow.
"Yeah, come on." HB laughed. "Those guys, they can't be real."
"Of course they can't be, right?" Ariel asked clutching her doll close.
"Well my children, I'm sure you'll both find out." Broom said as he closed the curtain to their room. Ariel and Red smiled at each other at the possibility before snuggling into their covers and falling asleep.
"Night Red." Ariel said before slipping off to sleep.
"Night Ariel." Red replied as he yawned and soon they were both sleeping the night away.