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Week #29: Creative Writing Challenge – Avalanche Love

August 10, 2021

An avalanche strands two mortal enemies together… and they start to fall in love.

The cacophony of fighting was a jolt to the senses, but now the silence was more deafening than anything Captain Millineau had ever experienced. The world was blindingly white, and Millineau felt like he had just been put in a barrel and sent spinning downriver. In fact, that’s exactly what had happened minus the barrel part, and substitute a wet river for a frozen one. As Millineau lay on his back in the snow looking up at the clear blue sky he said a prayer, for the palpable silence likely meant he was alone. There hadn’t been many of his comrades left after the final retreat into the mountains and the Bagrish army had followed them with plentiful artillery. It was likely the artillery that brought down the snow.

Millineau laughed. The Bagrish commander, Pelot, must be swearing in his grave about his men using heavy artillery in the pass. Millineau had respected the man. He knew how to position his forces, knew when to push and when to hold, knew when to use which manner of death machine the Bagrish had newly acquired. On the other hand, Millineau couldn’t stand the man. Pelot had an ego the size of Denmark and a mop of curly red hair to match. Red was the color of the Church of Bagrish, and in Millineau’s opinion, the color of the Devil.

In fact, the Bagrish’s attempt to convert Millineau’s Castineax people was what led to the chain of events that had culminated in outright war. Bagrish had been at odds with Castineax for the last century trying to forcibly woo people to the One True Religion. The Castineax people had started out with an “agree to disagree” attitude until Bagrish troops began invading villages across the region. Two options were presented then: convert or die. Many did convert, but the threat of violence also spurred an underground resistance that spread throughout the country. The Castineax Resistance Army started small by coordinating attacks on groups of Bagrish troops, but by the time Millineau came into existence there was a full-blown war between Castineax and Bagrish.

And now Millineau was the Captain of a non-existent army and likely a subjugated people, so he just lay there and stared at the sky in silence.


Pelot came into consciousness hoping that he’d just had a bad dream, but the view of snow around his head and the crushing pressure in his legs had him growling with realization. Luckily, he’d had enough sense to get an arm above his head and one in front of his face as the snow and ice enveloped him. Pelot spent a minute digging out a breathing space in front of his face. With the help of gravity, a little spit told Pelot that the arm above his head was in fact the up direction. He wiggled his fingers, which were free of snow. He was near enough to the surface that he might be able to free himself.

This would certainly be a tale to tell if he survived. After a 10 year campaign it would be a shame to die because one of his stupid infantry-men fired an artillery shell against orders and killed everyone in an avalanche. The ridiculousness of it made Pelot laugh under the snow. Pelot could imagine Millineau in front of the Castineax cabinet explaining how the Bagrish army exterminated itself under an avalanche. Millineau would say that it was all luck, never taking any credit for his strategic flight into the mountains. Pelot had only seen Millineau from afar. He knew the Castineax captain commanded unwavering respect from his men, but the Castineax cabinet walked all over him. Millineau could have crushed the Bagrish army five months ago in Remald, but he hadn’t pressed the plan with the cabinet who made all decisions regarding their precious Resistance Army.

And now it didn’t matter because he was stuck under the snow just like the rest of his army probably. But, not wanting to give Millineau the satisfaction of his death, Pelot used his free fingers to slowly start digging a hole from the surface to his head.


Millineau heard a faint sound, someone yelling in the common tongue. Millineau sat up and scanned the blinding horizon, but didn’t see anything. He struggled to his feet and followed the voice. As the voice got louder, Millineau could tell that it wasn’t one of his soldiers. The accent didn’t match. But Millineau didn’t care, he’d save anyone, if only so that he wasn’t alone in this godforsaken sea of white.


A shadow fell over Pelot’s head. Pelot looked up, but the contrast between the bright white snow and the shadow was too much for him to discern any features of his rescuer other than the vague outline of his face and short cropped dark hair.

“Ha, I should have known it would be you. You’re incapable of dying aren’t you?” The voice above said in a Castineax accent.

There was something vaguely familiar in the voice that nagged at the back of Pelot’s mind. He’d heard it before on the battlefield. Well, if he’d survived an avalanche only to die now, so be it. But instead of a blow coming, Pelot felt space begin to form around his arms and head and shoulders. The stranger was digging him out. As the stranger reached down into the the space around Pelot’s head there was a moment of recognition. It was Millineau, the Captain of the Castineax army, the man he’d been playing cat and mouse with for years.


Pelot’s curly red mop of hair had big globs of snow in it as Millineau helped pull him out of the hole. Pelot looked uninjured and set himself up in a defensive, yet clearly bedraggled, stance as soon as he was on two feet.

“Oh for heavens sake. I didn’t spend all that time digging you out just so I could kill you, although I must admit the thought crossed my mind when I recognized you.” Millineau said truthfully.

Pelot let a chuckle slip out and then fell ungracefully to his knees and put his head in his hands. Millineau studied him. All he knew about Pelot up to this point was the head of red hair and commanding voice that made him easy to spot across any battlefield. Millineau had never known that Pelot’s nose was slightly crooked or that he had a scar running down one cheek and through his lips. He’d never known that Pelot wore a family ring on a scarred right hand or that he was missing a finger on his left. It was easy to vilify an enemy enough so that killing them was easier, but knowing details about them was disconcerting to say the least.

“Pull yourself together. You’re alive. Now we search for others.” With that, Millineau walked away from Pelot.


The word “we” had surprised Pelot enough to get to his feet and follow Millineau as he walked away. Millineau wasn’t going to kill him, but what did he have to gain from saving him or keeping him alive. Maybe he was a prisoner, but Pelot thought he’d know for sure if that was the case.

Millineau started calling across the snow. Pelot did the same.

After two hours they’d found the remains of a Bagrish supply wagon that had been pulled up the pass, some of the foodstuffs still tied to the bed. At least they wouldn’t starve. They hadn’t found any survivors and they had walked far enough to know that they weren’t going to be able to descend through the pass safely for a good long while.

Pelot felt a weariness he’d never experienced before. Not just a physical weariness, but a spiritual one. This was what religious righteousness had caused. His soldiers, his friends, buried under snow and ice to die cold and lonely deaths. What was the purpose of spreading the One True Religion if there wasn’t anyone left to appreciate it. Pelot was sure in that moment that his god would not have wanted this.


As the sun was near to touching the mountains Millineau said, “We need to find shelter for the night. A cave on the edges of the flow might be our best bet.”

They’d scavenged the food from the supply wagon along with some heavy furs and had broken up some of the wagon to serve as fuel for a fire. Millineau had grown up in the outer provinces of Castineax that bordered the hinterlands. He was familiar with survival strategies in the cold. Millineau was almost certain they wouldn’t freeze overnight, even if they couldn’t get a fire going.


Pelot’s strength was waning. Being stuck in the ice had sapped all the energy from his muscles and he stumbled along after Millineau in the search for a sheltered cave. Pelot did not have the words to help or joke or even complain, so he stayed silent following Millineau’s lead.

Pelot thought that God must be looking out for them as Millineau came across a sheltered overhang in the rocks. It would be enough to shelter them from the wind and allow the smoke from a fire to dissipate before strangling them. Pelot dragged himself to the far wall and sank onto his haunches. He was asleep before he realized that his trust in Millineau ran deep.

Firelight danced on the rock next to Pelot’s head as he awoke. The smell of roasted something made Pelot’s mouth water, but he listened for Millineau’s movements before rolling over to assess the situation. Millineau sat with his back to Pelot slowly turning something over the fire.

“Did you have a good rest pretty boy?” Millineau spat. Okay so maybe he was a little sore about the lack of help.

“Do you really think I’m pretty?” Pelot responded, earning him a hostile look from Millineau as he turned around. “Okay okay. Sorry. Thank you for digging me out, but I was probably more help to you asleep than I would have been awake.”

Millineau was still gazing at him, flickers of shadow danced across his face. “Are you hurt?”


“Come eat then. If we’re going to make it out of the pass eventually we’ll need to keep up our strength.”


Over the next few days the men settled into a rhythm; eating, sleeping, scouring the snow for survivors or supplies. They worked well together. They didn’t talk much, but studied each other occasionally, as if searching for answers to unknown questions. There was a distance between them as they worked efficiently towards survival, but the distance became less and less each day.

Millineau was the first to bridge the gap. He’d been curious about Pelot since that mop of fiery red hair had taken over the Bagrish forces. There’d been gruesome rumors about what he’d done to make his way to the top, but the Pelot who sat on the other side of their makeshift shelter clearly wasn’t that man.

“Tell me about your family. They must be missing you.” Millineau said while tending a fire.

Pelot peered up through strands of copper. Millineau thought he caught a glimpse of sadness as Pelot said, “You know, just like everyone else in Castineax knows that we are chosen as boys for this life. We are taken to be molded, brain-washed, and made to fight.”

“I’m sorry. I’d heard rumors, but never thought they might be fully the truth.”

Pelot continued after a deep breath. “I was prized because of my hair. The color of the Bagrish church, you know. It meant I got extra rations, better bedding, actual medical care when I needed it. I shared what I could with the others, but the Bagrish are not kind to those who want to share.”

It was quiet for a long moment before Pelot continued. “You ask about my family. My family is buried beneath this snow. I hear their gasps for breath in my dreams, their screams for help. They were all I had.” Pelot bowed his head to hide the tears running down his cheeks.

Millineau’s heart wept in turn. He understood Pelot’s idea of family and had grown up just as lonely, but he’d been spared a military life until he was of age. Millineau got up from the fire and sat down next to Pelot. Millineau’s hand found Pelot’s shoulder in support as the mop of red hair shuddered with silent sobs.


The warm hand on his shoulder was like a light in the darkness; a support and understanding that Pelot didn’t know he’d been longing for or looking for. Pelot moved his hand to cover Millineau’s, eliciting a deep and comforting breath from Millineau. Neither man moved for a long time.


Millineau felt the warmth of Pelot’s hand on top of his and the strength of Pelot’s shoulder under his fingers. Millineau took a deep steadying breath. Some force had compelled him across the room and next to Pelot and now that he was there, Millineau didn’t think there was anywhere else he would want to be. It was a thought that surprised Millineau, but he’d learned to sit with his thoughts and leaned ever so slightly into Pelot’s side.

Pelot’s calluses gently scratched the back of Millineau’s hand as Pelot finally pulled away to look at him.

Millineau returned the gaze. There were a mix of emotions that washed across Pelot’s face and into his eyes. Millineau thought he recognized confusion, happiness, relief, and hope. He wondered if his face was telling the same story. But beyond all those emotions there was a question on Pelot’s face. A question that Millineau found he desperately wanted to answer.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Yael Kisel permalink
    August 14, 2021 5:21 am

    I love this one!

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