“Just a bit more, Victor. Tomorrow’s bonfire must light up the entire sky. Positioning it on this hill will help to accomplish that goal. There will be no doubt at all in my brother’s mind of its purpose.” Alexander’s words could not be spoken with more passion. Over the centuries, his bitterness had grown so much so that he is now consumed by it. Even the piercing winds are not enough to distract him from his hatred. “Let us go and bring a bit more coal to fuel our fire. You have as much an interest in this celebration as do I, Victor. You were cast out by the others. Were you not?”

Victor sneers, “Yes, my master. They were not to be pleased. My work was never good enough. I will take extreme pleasure this night as we undo as much of their work as possible. But remember. All of the toy soldiers will be my own – not for the fire. And, one by one, I will disfigure them as I assign names to each one – the names of those which fashioned them.” At the top of the world it is constantly dark this time of year and the northern lights were dancing as never before; but they go unnoticed by the two figures plotting on the snowy hill.

“Rest your worries,” Alexander continues, “I may not be as proficient as my younger brother when it comes to covering ground. Father saw to that – just one of the many talents that he bestowed upon my dear Brother. But we will cover as much ground as we are able and we will erase some of his work.” The Kringles always were a strange lot; but Alexander was never able to discover why his father had passed the torch on to the younger brother. The castle, the workforce, all of the responsibility – all the prestige that Alexander had been robbed of. “Yes. We must never forget how Father, in his infinite wisdom, has determined our destiny. Come Victor. Let us take the sleigh back to the cave for one more batch of coal. We will use only the best – that which burns hottest. All the inferior coal will be reserved for us to barter with my brother. They can never forget us even though they disdain us. Their reliance upon us is a daily one if they are to stay warm. The cave that I am forced to inhabit is also the only leverage that I possess.”

As they board the sleigh, the lone reindeer instinctively begins to move forward. It, too, has a long night ahead. Many stops will be made. Many a toy and bobble will be removed from the homes of hopeful hearts on this night – this long night. This time tomorrow, the cold air will be filled with laughter. Perhaps the wind will carry its sound even to the castle door. After the laughter ceases, only the ashes will remain covered by the snow – until next year … when the process repeats, unending.