Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Dragonly Mischief - The Kidnapping of Santa

One of my dear friends, David Steven, wrote a Christmas story
as a piece of Fan-Fiction for me.
I hope you enjoy the adventure.

The last harness was buckled into place and the reindeer were anxious to depart. It was early December, not nearly Christmas, but Santa was taking the reindeer out on a very important delivery. The bells he would normally have attached to their tack were left hanging on their pegs. They were not needed on this trip.

The snow door swung open on the newly installed electric motors. Santa no longer had to call the elves to clear the snow built up on the outside with their green and red shovels. Now, stardust-powered-heaters, built into the door, melted that snow away.

He spoke to Rudolph, the lead reindeer, “We have a long way to go and we need to get there quickly.”

Rudolph’s red nose glowed brightly in anticipation. Santa patted him affectionately.

Anticipating a long journey, Santa checked to make sure his special hot chocolate and cookie machines were fully stocked. There could be no further delay. The time had arrived for them to launch the sleigh into the cold night air. Darkness would shroud their departure. When daylight took hold, the magic stardust he carried safely stored in the sleigh would make it totally invisible.

Santa knew that his sleigh could out run any of man’s machines. However, if absolutely necessary he could sprinkle a little of the Santa stardust, and he and the sleigh would vanish from sight for a short time.

He climbed aboard the sleigh. He looked into the storage compartment, or as he preferred to think of it the present box, behind his seat, and there, waiting, just as it should be, was the saddle.

You might think of a saddle as something made of leather and small, with straps and buckles to hold it in place, and with a seat on which a horse rider could sit. However, the saddle Santa was looking at was huge. In fact, it was too big for the present box to hold, but when Santa had too much in the present box, magic was used to shrink everything so it would all fit.

This saddle was not for a horse. It was a gift for a young red dragon and his owner. David, for that was the man’s name (not the dragons) was a personal friend of Santa’s. He liked and trusted David, who in the past had been of considerable help to Santa. Just before Christmas a couple of years ago, things had gone horribly wrong. This clever man and his dragon friends had helped save Christmas.

Santa was going to deliver this gift personally and perhaps even stay over and enjoy the secret birthday party David’s wife was preparing for him. Santa knew that dragons and their riders would soon be converging on the manor estate of David Stevens. If all went well the man would get a big surprise tomorrow night and Robert, his young red dragon, an even bigger one the next day.

With a last glance around Santa picked up the reins and gently flicked them. The reindeer had been getting bored. Once harnessed they liked to be off. This would be a special treat for them because normally they only flew when Santa was delivering all the good children’s Christmas presents. This trip they were heading for a place that existed, but not in the world of man. They were heading for the magical home of David Stevens and Vindec the ancient magician. They would be meeting up with mythical creatures from around the world. They, like Santa, would be a part of the birthday celebrations.

Rudolph stepped forward; the other harnessed reindeer followed him. They accelerated as one, each matching their steps perfectly. Shortly, they leapt upward bursting into the sky. Below them, the North Pole (an actual pole for those that do not know of it yet) flashed its guiding light. The doors closed behind them, making the entrance to their stable home once more invisible to any who might be inclined to search for Santa’s home.

They were off. The stars set high in the dark sky greeted them by twinkling. The sky above was crisp and clear. All was as it should be. Shortly, the sleigh and its cargo passed over the great ocean and still accelerated onward.

Rudolph, his nose glowing bright red, led the way. Clouds wafted by as land once again approached. The land was a small country called England. In its depths, hidden from sight to most by magic, there was a secret home. A special place where much that mankind thought of as legend lived.

Santa reached for his bag of stardust. Time to disappear. He removed a small pinch of the dust. He held it up and then cast it away. All around the sleigh brilliant pink lights flared like mini suns. Santa watched, satisfied that his dust was working as it should be.

From straight on in front of him two jet planes streaked toward him. These fighter craft had been sent out to investigate a radar detected object, as Santa was not expected at this time of the year. The military who detected the sleigh’s approach on radar launched the jets to intercept the ‘target.’

The dust made Santa vanish from sight and in the planes, their radar suddenly turned blank. It detected nothing, where seconds before had been a clear fast moving object.

The planes closed on the air space, but the pilots saw nothing. As the sleigh vanished, Santa accelerated it as well, all with a gentle flick of the reins. Invisible, he ducked his flying sleigh beneath the wings of the jets and zoomed away unseen.

Santa glanced back with a smile on his face. There was no harm done and he had remained undetected. All in all a good result.

The stunning white cliffs of Dover appeared before the sleigh. Santa lost a little height, but not a lot, because he loved to see the glowing white chalk that indicated he had arrived over England. The reindeer slowed returning to their normal steadier pace.

They looked forward and out beyond the sleigh as they watched for familiar sights that would guide them to David Stevens’ main gates. Where they were certain to be forced to land by the battle dwarves, who protected the manor from uninvited strangers.

Santa sat relaxed holding a large mug of hot chocolate in one hand and a chocolate chip cookie in the other. Soon they would arrive. Santa looked forward to presenting the surprise he brought for Robert, the young Red Dragon, and later join in the birthday celebrations. The thought warmed his gentle and giving heart.
Santa and the Sleigh Part Company…

“Oh my!” The cookie fell over the side of the sleigh from Santa’s hand as something snatched him out of his seat.

He felt himself lifted up and away from the sleigh. Below him now was nothing but a lot of air and then the ground, far, far below.

Wrapped around Santa’s waist was a very old looking, scaly, grey paw with wickedly sharp black claws. Above Santa’s head was a grey scaled body to match, and reaching out from that scaled body were a pair of huge steadily beating wings. 

A large neck stretched outward, and at that point the head turned around to face him. It was old and craggy with sharp horns on its crest, and when the mouth opened, a great cavern appeared to Santa. A cavern lined with five-inch long teeth that tapered to a point.

A dragon, an old dragon, held him in the air. He was trapped in its talons, and it was carrying him away from his sleigh. Santa was more puzzled than scared. He was not used to people, let alone dragons wanting to do him any harm. After all, he existed to bring joy and happiness to all the children of the world. So, he tried to relax, and wait, and see what was going to happen next.

The wings beat at the air and then spread out wide allowing the dragon to glide upon the rising thermals. Santa’s only real worry was that the reindeer and his sleigh would land safely. Without his magical presence, neither flew very well.

Rudolph felt a sudden change in the weight and flight of the sleigh he and his companions were hauling across the sky. He, as lead reindeer, took his responsibilities very seriously. He turned his antlered head and looked to his right, back toward where the sleigh and Santa should be. Instead of seeing the jovial man in his red and black suit he saw a huge, grey, ancient looking dragon. It was floating away from the sleigh, carrying Santa, clutched tightly in one of its mighty paws.

A reindeer can do little or nothing when faced with such a beast of old. Most dragons are friendly and helpful, and generally quite nice, though they did drink quite a lot if you let them have a party.

Rudolph knew all about most dragons because he had met with many a couple of years ago, when he and his companions were just too ill to fly on Christmas Eve and the dragons of the world came to Santa’s aid.

He also knew that a man, a magician, a mage, helped Santa keep from cancelling Christmas that year. It was to that man’s home they were currently heading. As such, all Rudolph could do was stay as level in flight as he could without Santa at the helm, and try to reach the home of David Stevens. Hopefully, he would be able to help Santa again. As for the dragon carrying Santa, it had flapped its wings and shot away at a great speed.

David Stevens’ manor house and lands were surrounded by a huge stone built wall with large metal gates. This wall was visible to anyone who looked, but the magic changed the view for anyone who did take the opportunity to gaze through the gates. To them it would appear as the front grounds of a house and nothing strange. However, to those who were invited inside those gates, they would be standing in a land of magical mystery. David’s home was a place with battle-dwarfs guarding the gates and perhaps a dragon flying across the distant woodlands. The manor house was a long way from those gates, which was the real house not the image that was projected for all to see.

In fact, the house as seen through the gates had been photographed on many occasions. Sometimes because the photographer liked the view, and at other times by people trying to prove that the magical lands did exist as the rumours insist they did.

Within that distant manor house people lived. David could be found sitting in a wheelchair writing stories to entertain his readers. His wife, ‘Her Ladyship,’ could be found running the day-to-day necessities of being the lady of the manor. The butler might be working away or perhaps sleeping, as he liked to sample the wines on offer. Cook was often shooing the resident young red dragon away from her kitchen window and the fridge.

In the garden part of the grounds, gardening fairies would be working hard to keep the blooms happy and flowering. Even the weather inside the grounds was different to that outside. Within, the rain only fell when it was needed to water the plants and grasses. The trees grew extra tall to provide home and sustenance for a multitude of wild creatures. Even the sheep found wandering the grass areas looked happier than other sheep that might be seen on farms around the country. Mostly because they were safe and would never be sold and certainly never eaten by the dragons.

All in all, the manor was a happy place. A place where the lost arts, the magic, the mystery of the past world, could, and usually did exist in peace. However, this morning was different than usual. The captain of the guard, an ancient and experienced axe carrying battle-dwarf, looked out over the gates and saw a sleigh careering toward him from out of the sky. Swift orders opened the gates allowing the sleigh to pass through with the thundering of reindeer hooves. Flying over the closed gates would not have allowed them to enter into the manor grounds. Only those who came through the open gates, or the space revealed above them when they swung back, could do so without special permission, such as the dragons had.

The sleigh hit the ground hard. It bounced and tilted, sliding on the snow-less ground on one runner. The reindeer slowed, trying to stop a disastrous crash. The sleigh toppled back onto two runners and slowed to a stop. The panting reindeer stood still, held in harness, but once again returned to the ground.

The captain approached. He recognised the sleigh and the reindeer. He expected to see the jovial face of Santa looking back at him. He was informed by ‘Her Ladyship,’ that Santa would be arriving in secret. He was not surprised at the sleigh’s appearance.

Instead, he discovered that Santa was not where he was supposed to be and that explained the rather bad landing he witnessed. He realised instantly, that something was very wrong. However, he could not fathom what. He would have to call for help. Clearly, things were not as they should be. He immediately rang the manor house.

“Sir, Santa’s sleigh has arrived, but Santa is not to be seen,” he reported to David.

“What???” David exclaimed in shock.

A short while later the boss arrived seated in his powered wheelchair.

“This will not do,” David said, as he looked over the sleigh. He turned to the reindeer. Unfortunately, the only person that could talk to them was Santa himself or the elves from the North Pole. David scratched his chin. “I need to put ‘learn to talk to reindeer’ at the top of my bucket list,” he said in a musing voice.

Something had to be done, and quickly David realised. He spun his chair around, and heading as fast as he could, he went back to the manor house and his office within…
A Call for Help!
David wheeled his chair up to the recess in his desk and reached out for the telephone. He pressed the red button. The phone bleeped twice indicating that it was switched to the magical network. This allowed him to ring the place he wished most urgently to contact. He pressed the autodial button and shortly heard the connection made. He waited as it rang and rang. David drummed his fingers on his desk. He knew it would be answered eventually, but he was in a hurry. He needed help fast.

Finally, a voice said, “Hello, Sir.” The voce was higher pitched than you might expect if you had not spoken to an elf before, but to David it was very familiar. He had visited the North Pole on several occasions.
“The sleigh and the reindeer have arrived at my home, but Santa is not with them!”

There was silence at the other end for a second or two, and then came a gasp filled with shock and concern, and finally there were words. There was no panic… no eeek… no, nothing like that. Only a cool simple response.

“I will dispatch our elves from this end. I trust you will be looking at yours.”

The phone clicked once as the line disconnected. Elves did not like talking to humans much if they could help it. They just made toys, and now apparently, they searched as well. David replaced the phone and sat back in his chair thinking.

He rang another number. This time it was in America. It was answered almost immediately.

“Yes,” an older sounding gent replied. The voice sounded jovial

David knew the man was elderly, so he took his time.

“Hello, James,” he said with curtsey.

James was the father of Theresa, the dragon mother. David needed to talk to her and fast, but he would not rush James.

“It is so good of you to call,” James said. “Always a pleasure to chat. How is Her Ladyship?”

“Fine, just fine. Thank you for asking,” David responded.

“And how is that young dragon of your, Rudolph, right?

“Robert,” David corrected politely. “He is doing well. I have a devil of a time keeping him out of the wine cellar.”

James laughed. “Tell him I said he is too young to be drinking.”

“I shall.” David shifted in his chair. He really needed to speak with Theresa. There was no telling what kind of trouble Santa was in.

“Can you tell me, is Theresa about?” asked David.

James hesitated and even though he was old and might be thinking, David suspected from his hesitancy that there was something else going on.

“She’s out at the moment,” James replied. “I can tell her you called.”

“It is a matter of great urgency that I speak with her.” David decided he should just get on with it. “Santa has disappeared!”

James coughed. “Oh my, than in that case I best tell you what is going on. Theresa left this morning riding Farloft headed to your home. She is intending to surprise you and be there to celebrate yours and Robert’s, birthday.”

If Theresa was riding Farloft, her mighty green dragon, she should arrive at any time. David smiled knowing that at least one problem had been solved. He would have another dragon and pair of eyes to help with the search for Santa.

“Thank you, James. I will keep an eye out for her,” David replied.

“But be sure to act surprised,” James warned. “She so wanted to surprise you and ‘Rudolph’.”

David grinned at James’ slip up on Robert’s name. “I will. Thank you again.”

“I hope you find Santa. I was really hoping for a new pair of house shoes for Christmas.” There was a pause. “Tell Her Ladyship I asked after her,” James said.

“Don’t worry. I am sure with everyone’s help we will locate him. You take care and we will talk again soon.”

Having said his good byes to James, and told him not to worry, he hung up. As soon as the connection was broken, he rang the battle-dwarf gatehouse and spoke to the Captain he saw earlier.

“Keep an eye out for Farloft and Theresa. They are due shortly.”

The dwarf choked. “They are on their way, Sir. They just passed over the gates.”

The Captain of the battle-dwarves put down his receiver and shook his head in wonder. How did the boss always seem to know? Was there anything that happened within the manor grounds that he didn’t know?
David looked up and out of his office window just in time to see a huge green dragon with a heavily bundled female riding it. They were in the process of landing on the purposely constructed landing pad. That pad was installed at the request of the gardening fairies. They had become disillusioned with repairing the grass every time Robert, Farloft, or any other dragon, had decided to come calling. 
David waved and headed out to meet Theresa, admiring her practicality when riding in winter.

“Theresa… Farloft… What a pleasant surprise!” he called.

She wrapped from head to toe in fur and leather against the cold. She sat astride Farloft when he arrived. Her dragon lowered his massive head in greeting as David wheeled into sight.

In the air high above was the silhouette of another dragon, this one David recognised easily. Farloft noticed where David was looking and stepped off the landing pad allowing the young Robert to descend fast and in a show-off way to back flap his wings prior to touching down and blast the air above with flame and smoke. 

“Robert, you young show off,” Farloft greeted as he threw a wing over the back of the smaller dragon in a show of affection.

The two dragons, one ancient, one very young, greeted each other with pure pleasure. There was a rumbling sound in the air, which David and Theresa knew was their purrs of delight in seeing each other.

Farloft broke into his happy dance whilst Robert blew yet more small puffs of smoke from his nostrils. These two were old friends and had shared some amazing adventures.

David wondered how Theresa managed to stay on Farloft’s back as he danced, but judging from the immense smile spread across her face she was both used to such situations and quite enjoying the dance.

The dancing ended, and Theresa looked down at David. She realised by the expression on his face that there was something wrong, very wrong. She tapped Farloft and he bowed low allowing her to slip easily from his broad green back, down an outstretched wing to the ground. She ran across the divide bending to kiss David before asking.

“What’s the matter?”

David looked up at her and simply said, “Santa has gone missing.”

Behind them two dragons looked up and across at David, their pleasure in meeting forgotten. They both heard what David said…
The dragon holding Santa stretched out its wings to catch the air as the ground closed. They glided easily down passing over the treetops.

Santa let go of the cup of hot chocolate he had been clutching since being snatched from his sleigh, and covered his eyes. He was used to flying, but not like this… dangling from the paw of a giant dragon.

The mug fell, but the hot chocolate within remained inside. It was designed to set until it was breathed into by the drinker, where instantly it magically warmed to the prefect temperature for drinking! The mug was distinctive - a bright red and white decorated pot mug, with ‘SANTA’ printed around it.

The mug tumbled towards the ground. Luckily, it snagged in a low branch of a new growing tree and it hung there, gently rocking as Santa and the ancient grey dragon continued down towards the ground and a huge cave that clearly was the dragon’s home.

The dragon flew into the massive opening. He flicked his paw releasing the rotund male to roll forward in the dust of the floor as the dragon made a perfect wing closed touchdown.

Santa rolled over three times before spreading his arms out to stop his wild tumble. He was flat on his back looking directly up into the open tooth lined mouth of his captor.

The dragon lowered its head and seemed to grin before uttering a single phrase. “Got you,” it said with satisfaction. “You won’t be causing any of your mischief here now, will you?”

Santa looked up not sure that he had heard the dragon correctly. “Mischief? Mischief?? I am Santa Claus. I will have you know, dragon, that I do not cause mischief!”

The dragon sat down on its massive haunches, his powerful wings folded tight to his body, his head was still studying the little red and black dressed fat man with the white beard.

Memories flooded into the dragon’s mind. Memories from long ago, ancient but powerful, and extremely upsetting memories, from the dragon’s childhood…
Note from the Teller of Tales

The next bit is very old and quite sad, but don’t worry it gets nicer again soon.

Dragon Memories
The young grey dragon had been living in the valley with its mother and two female siblings for nearly ten years. Their father vanished shortly after the young male dragon hatched from his egg. The youngsters missed the reassuring presence of their powerful father, but there was nothing they could do except wait and hope he would return. As the years passed that hope flickered, much like a candle, until eventually it died out. They came to accept that their father would never be returning to them.

The young male was angry. His believed he knew what happened to their father. It was the knights - the red robed knights with the black shields, which the older dragons warned of in their legends. The humans in their armour hunted dragons. When they found them, they killed them. The stories were common amongst the dragon clans and fear filled the meeting places when such tales were told.

The young male had sneaked close and heard some of the stories. He heard that the humans claimed they had to hunt the dragons because they kidnapped young maidens. Never in his life had the youngster ever heard of a dragon doing such a silly thing! In fact, dragons avoided contact with the humans whenever they could, but still, year by year the number of dragons decreased. The hunts carried on for centuries until the humans decided that all of the dragons were gone. They were not, but the humans did not know this.

The youngster wanted revenge, but his mother talked to him and told him that he was destined to be a great leader - a great and powerful dragon. Through him all dragons would feel safe. So, the years passed into centuries and the young dragon grew up. Always locked deep in his mind were the tales and stories, and the fear of sorts. Though he was not actually afraid of the knights, only of failing in what his mother called his destiny.

Eventually, the knights vanished. No horse mounted, armoured men rode across the lands. No dragon hunts took place. A peace, of sorts, ruled over the land.

That had been how life progressed through thousands of years. The dragons that remained lived in peace. Some even shared their lives with humans in this modern century.

The old grey was not so trusting. He lived in relative secrecy with few knowing that he was there - living and waiting in the magical realm where normal humans never appeared. Only the special ones existed within. People like his host and if a human could be called a friend then he was such, though there was little contact.

Other dragons lived nearby, but they were distant. They were concerned when they met the ancient old grey, mostly because he was so old, so wise, and so very big. Still friendships flourished in small ways.

It had been one of these friendships that forced him to act decisively. Robert, the young red dragon friend of the human who owned this land, was innocent and too young to recognize the threat of the human of the ‘Red Knight’ breed. The old grey had to protect Robert.

There would be no hunting of dragons in this peaceful land by this red and black dressed knight. He had seen to that. No dragons would be slain this day or in this place. He had fulfilled his mother’s belief in him and reached out to his destiny as protector of the dragon clans and for that he felt only pleasure. Though what he would do with this captive, this killer, this figment from a long and distant past, he did not know.

The meeting high in the air, that had led to the situation, happened by chance. The grey was floating amongst the clouds enjoying the freedom that flight gave him, when from the direction of the coast he spied a sleigh being pulled by reindeer of all creatures. Intrigued, he circled higher and closer until his keen eyesight detected the Red Knight. He recognised the creature and the threat it bore from the tales of his childhood. He knew he had to act. He circled once more allowing him to get behind the flying sleigh. Then when the time was right he had struck - grasping and lifting the enemy from his red bench seat and carrying him away. Now they faced each other… Both were puzzled but for totally different reasons. 
To the Rescue!
Behind Theresa, Farloft stepped closer and bent low as David looked at his dearest friends.

“Santa has disappeared?” the large green dragon repeated, as though saying so was absolutely necessary. There was a short period of silence as the words sank into all that heard them. Then with a deep resonating voice Farloft asked, “How? When? Where?”

“The reindeer arrived not half an hour ago. Santa was not with them.” David started to explain. “They can tell us nothing, but clearly, something has happened. It happened out there in the real world, not in ours. Which means that Santa is missing amidst the people and it is up to us to launch a search and rescue operation. It has to be done carefully or we will attract attention we might not want to ourselves and our home. We are going to need as many keen eyes as we can get to search. The area has to be scoured and that means dragons. You two.” He pointed at Robert and Farloft. “Go and seek out Royal. Wake him up if you have to, but fetch him here.”

“I am going to call a certain police woman and her daughter. They can help and as for everyone else,” he looked at Theresa and smiled meaning her, “my darling wife is inside with a fresh cup of tea I am sure. So, you better go in and see her whilst we wait for help to arrive.”

David turned his wheelchair around heading back again to his office to make some more phone calls. He intended to call everyone he knew in England that had a love for the magical side of life and ask them to help hunt for Santa.

Farloft turned to Robert and with a grin said, “Lead on youngster, let’s go and see the aged one!”

Waking up Royal, the oldest dragon still living on the planet, was not something to be taken lightly. Robert alone could not bring himself to do such a thing, but Farloft, being older and seeing the urgency of the situation, could and would.
The Dragon’s Lair
In the lair the dragon ordered the Red Knight to stand. Santa thought about trying to run for it, but firstly the grey dragon was between him and the outside world, and secondly Santa was not exactly built for sprinting, so instead he complied and stood still waiting. The dragon indicated a cavern deeper in the cave, it was small and had an even smaller doorway. Santa walked towards the place of his imprisonment reluctantly. He tried to talk to the dragon, but clearly that was not going to work as it just looked at him and snorted smoke. Santa entered, and the dragon rolled a boulder up against the entryway. Santa was trapped.

He heard the dragon saying, “That’s got him!”

Killing a person, even one of the Red Knights, was not something that the dragon liked, but what was he going to do with him? He could not keep him forever in the cave. Perhaps he ought to talk to David, tell him about the Red Knights and the threat they posed and see what he thought would be the best action to take. He would think about it some more before deciding. Meanwhile, the Red Knight was held securely captive and that gave the ancient grey a feeling of relief.

He scented the air. A distinctive smell was carried to his nostrils. There were dragons about, not one but two! He recognised the scents. He stepped out into the foreground of his cavern home. Spiralling down he saw the green shape of an older member of his species, it was being followed by a younger red member. He knew both by sight, so he waited, watching them approach and wondering why they were both visiting him despite him having made clear that he did not want visitors.

Robert circled once leaving the way clear for Farloft to land. Farloft swept in on mighty spread wings touching down with perfect control, something Robert admired very much. So many of the young dragon’s landings were far from controlled. He floated slowly down skimming over the treetops. Watching as Farloft greeted Royal with extended dragon curtsey. He touched down at a safe distance from both dragons, mostly because he did not want to get his landing wrong and barrel into them. He came to a stop having landed quite well, which was pleasing.

The dust settled where his claws had cut groves into the soft surface. Trees surrounded him. He looked about and that was when something odd caught his attention. He walked closer to one tree and looked at the item hanging from a high branch, level with his head if he stretched his neck slightly. He recognised the item. He could even read the letters printed on it because Her Ladyship had been teaching him to read. He read them out as she had taught him to. S…A…N…T…A… It said ‘Santa’! How had Santa’s mug become snagged in a tree, he wondered. How indeed? He glanced across at Royal who was now greeting Farloft.

Robert took the mug from the tree and walked over to join his companions. He dropped the mug so that it rolled across the ground and stopped neatly between them both. Royal looked down and then ignored the mug not realising what it signified. Farloft looked down and read the name and wondered. He nudged the mug breathing into it and watching as a river of hot chocolate poured across the dry ground. He realised this was no old trophy… it was a very new mug, recently arrived, and it could have only come from one place.

“Where did this come from?” Farloft demanded of Royal.

The reply was not forthcoming as Royal once again looked at the mug.

“That had to come from Santa!” exclaimed Robert, in shock.

“Where is he? What have you done with him?” Farloft asked with a raised brow.

Royal looked sheepishly at his companions and then with a nod of his head he indicated toward the interior of his home. He was beginning to wonder if he had done the right thing. He rolled the rock aside that blocked Santa in.

Santa recognized Farloft and hurried out to him. “Farloft, thank heavens.” He looked past Farloft to Robert, also a friendly dragon. He was saved. “Robert,” he waved at the young red. “Good to see you two friendly faces. I think there has been some sort of mistake here.”

“Indeed, there is,” Farloft snorted and smoke curled up from his nostrils. “What are you up to Royal? I know you are old, but this is unacceptable behaviour. Kidnapping Santa.” The old green dragon clicked his tongue in exasperation. “Why on earth would you do such a thing?”

“He is of the Red Knight breed,” Royal said in his defence. “I was only thinking of Robert. He has no experience dealing with such treacherous humans.”

Robert tilted his head to one side. “What’s he talking about Farloft?”

Farloft looked from Royal to Santa and back to Royal again. “You are getting old my friend,” he said with a sigh. All his anger evaporated. He had heard the old stories – the tales of dragon slaying knights in red and black. Farloft squinted his eyes and looked at Santa. Even with that said, he could not imagine Royal thinking Santa was one of that breed.

“He has come to slay the young one,” Royal insisted. “I have saved him.”

“What?” Robert and Santa said in unison.

“It’s alright, I know what has happened,” Farloft said. “In olden days, far before my time, but not before Royals, there were armoured knights who went about slaying dragons. They wore red and carried black shields.”

Santa looked down at himself. “He thought I was a dragon slayer?”

Farloft nodded and leaned down to whisper in Santa’s ear, “His eyesight is not what it used to be, but his intentions were good.”

Santa smiled. “Indeed.” He took a couple of steps toward Royal. “I am no knight, my friend. I am Santa and I bring only joy wherever I go. I would never hurt Robert, or any of you for that fact.”

Royal looked from his former captive to Farloft and Robert for confirmation. Both the old green and the young red grinned toothily at him.

“He tells the truth, my friend,” Farloft said. “He gave me a box of chocolates last year fit for a dragon.”

“And he let me help pull his sleigh even though the other dragons all said I was too small,” Robert confirmed.

“If I had known you were here,” Santa said, “I would have brought you something. Your magic must camouflage this place. I won’t miss you this year.” Santa was so bold he took a step closer and patted the old grey dragon on the leg.
Home Again
Three dragons circled above the manor house. Gardening fairies looked up and realised that something important was happening. The head gardening fairy flitted on gossamer wings across the lawn towards David’s office window. It was closed, so with a light tap to the glass with its fairy wand the window swung open. David was inside talking on the telephone when a fairy head poked through the now swung wide window calling to him.

“You have guests. You are needed outside urgently.”

Experience showed that when one of the fairies took the time to talk to him it was wise to do as they asked. So, David put the phone down and waved at the fairy. He spun his wheelchair around and for the second time he headed outside. This time calling all and sundry to follow him. Voices replied from within the kitchen area, the scrap of chairs being moved back accompanying the voices.

Soon they were all outside. David stopped and as indicated by the fairy he looked up just in time to see Farloft coming in to land. To his great pleasure, riding on the back of the great green dragon was the rotund figure of Santa! Looking as though there was nothing special happening.

Robert landed next. So, it was that Santa finally arrived at the manor house. The reindeer had sensed Santa’s arrival. They trotted up to greet him. He caressed each before turning to the humans in the group.

David’s wife, ‘Her Ladyship.’ stepped forward. “Welcome Santa. Come inside. I have tea and cakes ready. You can tell us about your adventure.” For she was sure it must be an adventure if dragons were involved – especially the ancient Royal.

Santa never turned down tea and cakes, for he knew that ‘Cook’ made wonderful cakes. And this was an offer he could not refuse.

Royal circled above. He seemed reluctant to land until it became clear that Farloft, interrupted by an over eager Robert, had explained what happened. The mighty grey dragon, the oldest of his kind, finally landed and he lowered his head tucking it beneath one of his powerful wings in shame at his mistake.

David rolled forward, and called to Royal. “All is well!”

Santa waved towards the shame filled dragon and then with Santa only style gave a thumb’s up sign whilst mouthing the single word ‘cake.’

So, it was that life returned to normal. Royal, over time, became a little more sociable - it was a benefit from the adventure that nobody expected, except perhaps Farloft.

The next day the surprise birthday party for David and the young Robert took place. The guest of honour, Santa, presented a new saddle especially designed to carry David and to fit Robert as he grew.

All around the grounds dragons shared jokes with people. Even the gardening fairies joined in and those battle-dwarves that were not on duty protecting the manor came along as well. A little girl and her very young dragon and her mum (a police woman) turned up and joined the party having been called to help by David.

Her Ladyship in conjunction with cook had seen to the creation of a wide range of foods. David opened his wine cellar and barrels of mead mixed with sweet honey were brought out to add to the festivities.

Vindec, the ancient mage, appeared and gave Robert a special cake he created before popping off again. He never stayed long. Apparently, he had too much to do to waste time on silly things. Robert, knowing this about Vindec, was touched that he had come at all, let alone with a gift.

There was everything that you could wish for at a birthday party and there was one thing extra, tucked in a corner as though accidentally left there, was a small barrel of sherry. David wondered if he would finally discover who had stolen the previous barrel when the dragons gathered last time. Only time would tell if the sherry drinker could be unmasked. David, of course, had a few thoughts and one big suspicion of who that might be, but so far, the barrel had remained untouched.

“Merry Christmas to one and all,” called out Santa raising his mug of hot chocolate.

“Merry Christmas to you Santa and Happy Birthday, David and Robert,” they all called out singing the traditional birthday song.
The End

 A Merry Christmas to you all out there in the real world.

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