The Christmas Dragon: Part 12

The Memory of Imagination

I made my way along the dark corridor, trying to retrace the route the trees carried me. I ran down one dark hallway after another, only to hit dead ends.

I’m never gonna find my way.

I heard my Pa’s voice from long ago when I first met Max. “You’ll learn together, you’ll learn how to take care of each other.” And once again, I knew I should follow my heart. I ran back to the main hall and listened.

Faint at first, then growing louder, I heard Max flapping his wings. Just like when he would disappear into the sky learning to fly, I heard him long before I saw him. I followed the sound, and it led me to the cave.

I crawled through the once hidden passage. “I’m back,” I shouted. Everyone ran to surround me.

Yukon Cornelius“We thought you were a goner,” El said.

“Yeah,” Cornelius added, “Bumbles and I thought it was curtains for you, and us.”

“Well, I’m not. Come on, we’re getting out of here.”

“How?” El asked.

“We’re going to walk out.”

They all looked at me like I was crazy.

“But how? What about Iris the Ice Queen?”

“She’s coming with us,” I said. By the looks on their face, they were sure I was nuts. I had to make them believe.

I moved to the center of the cave, staring at the ice wall, and waited.

Within moments the ice shattered. Frank, still disguised as a wolf, ran in. “They’re coming, are you ready?”

El stepped forward, followed by Cornelius and Bumbles. “Traitor,” she yelled, shaking her fist, “I’ll show you what we do to traitors.”

I moved in front of them. “Frank’s not a traitor, he’s a spy. A Christmas spy.” I spun around as the wolf faded away, replaced by a battered and bruised, but smiling, Frank.

“What?” El said. “He’s on our side?”

“I’ll explain later, the real show is about to start.”

The hole in the ice wall grew wider. The sound and fury of a raging wind flooded the cave. In a moment, Iris stood there glaring. The Elves and reindeer backed away. Max stood next to me. Frank held El and Cornelius back.

“This is for Joe and Max to do,” Frank said. “He has to do this alone.”

All around Iris stood her dead tree army. I took a step forward.

“Stay where you are or I’ll—”

“You’ll do nothing, Iris. You’re going to let us go and come with us to help with Santa and his deliveries.”

El2Iris let out a laugh, but the sound was different, hesitant, unsure. She kept watching me as I walked closer. I put out my hand.

Iris stared at me.

“Take my hand, Iris. I know you just want a friend.” As I said the words, her icy gray shade began to brighten. A rainbow of colors bubbled to the surface. The cold darkness in her heart fell away. The tree army turned back into a forest of green Christmas trees. The cave disappeared and stars filled the sky.

We were free.

Unicorn and QueenWhere once stood the Ice Queen, now stood Lady Iris and her unicorn.

Iris bowed. “How did you know? How did you know what to do?”

“I wasn’t sure at first, but when I said the word ‘believe’ in the cave, a rock broke free and fell. I knew then that powerful magic must have hidden what you truly were. I remember how my grandfather always told me to look for the good in everyone. No matter how hard it may be to see.”

I patted Max on the shoulder. “When I first met Max, I thought he didn’t like me. After some time together, that all changed. I realized you were all alone here and needed someone to see the good in you. So, I looked for it.”

Iris nodded. “Many years ago, a sorceress tried to make me take her to Santa’s hidden village. I refused. She cast a spell that could only be broken if I helped destroy Christmas or by someone who saw the good hidden inside me. Until now, I had lost any hope of ever being free, unless I did what she wanted.”

El stepped forward. “We better get going, it’s two days until Christmas, and we have a long journey ahead of us.”

“I can help with that,” Iris smiled and waved her hands. The unicorn rose into the air, flew a circle around the group, and lifted Cornelius, Bumbles, and the Elves. I climbed aboard Max, and the reindeer all lined up behind us with El on Rudy and Frank on Dasher.

As we took to the air, I saw the snow sparkle like diamonds and the lights from Santa’s Village brighten on the horizon.

Christmas was saved. I just hoped my mom hadn’t noticed I was gone.saving Christmas2

*****

“Joe,” my mom’s voice whispered in my ear. “wake up sleepy head it’s Christmas.”

I opened my eyes. I looked around the room, but Max was gone. “I, I, was flying on Max and we had to go to the North Pole.”

My mom smiled, “It was a dream, honey, just a dream. You were here all night. Now come on downstairs, we’re all waiting for you.”

A dream? Could it be it was just a dream? I looked around once more. Nothing had changed. No giant dragon sleeping in my room. No one staring at me from outside the window. I guess it was a dream…

*****

The Rest of the Story

“Dream lofty dreams, and as you dream so shall you become.”  James Allen

starry-night-1149815_960_720I gazed into the night sky, as I’d done all my long life, staring at the stars. Wondering, where does our time go?

A rustling of trees drew my attention. I saw nothing, at first, then I felt a warm breeze and heard the old familiar flutter of dragon wings.

Max settled in for a perfect landing. His colors still bright. His eyes still sparkling.

I struggled for words, “You’re real? It wasn’t a dream.”

Max smiled. “Of course, I am real. If you believe, anything is possible…and we all know you, more than most, believe.” A breeze picked up, swirling the newly fallen snow into the air. The sky was filled with Christmas Dragon teams.

El hovered in the midst, riding on Rudy. Cornelius and Frank sat astride their own reindeer. Bumbles sat atop the most massive dragon I’d ever imagined

Another dragon settled next to Max.

The familiar voice of my grandfather filled my ears and my heart. “I told you all you had to do was believe, Joe, didn’t I?”

“But how? How is this possible?” I asked. “I thought it was all just the memory of imagination.”

Pa smiled. “If one believes, one achieves. Even the impossible.”

Max bent his head down to me.

“Christmas lives in the hearts of children and the memories of all of us. We never left you. There was a time for you and me to be a team and a time for you to be on your own to raise your family. I knew, when the time was right, you would return to the world of your imagination and remember.”

Max handed me a small shiny diamond. “Hold the diamond tight in your hand.”

I squeezed my fingers together and felt the stone warming. I looked at Max. He nodded. Opening my fingers, I saw a small, wiggling dragon.

“What do I do now?”

“Now it is time for you to continue the legacy. Share the spirit of The Christmas Dragon. Then, in a couple of more years, you and I will fly off together just like we did all those years ago.”

I watched as the tiny dragon opened her eyes and flapped her tiny wings.

“Who’s that dragon you’re talking to, Grandpa?” The voice of my five-year-old granddaughter drew my attention. Max and the others faded, then vanished.

There was no fear in her eyes, just the innocent look of a child.

“You see him, Kelsey? Really see him?”

“I did,” she grinned, then pointed. “The dragon was right there. But now he’s gone.”

Glancing around to make sure no one else was around, I reached for her hand. “I have something for you…”Tiny dragon

 

 

 

(I hope you all enjoyed the story of The Christmas Dragon. May this, and every Christmas, create memories that never leave you and always make you smile.)

 

Remember, BELIEVE!

 

 

 

 

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The Christmas Dragon: Part 11

A Christmas Spy

The magic surrounding me faded. I found myself on the floor of a large room. The air was stinging cold, large icicles grew from ceiling to floor. Before me, Iris sat on a throne of ice, her eyes locked onto mine.

“Did you really think a little speech and a song could win over me?”

I forced myself to stand. I put my hands behind me so Iris couldn’t see them shaking. I was terrified but knew this was my time. If the things I said were to mean more than just words, the time was now.

I took a step forward. For a moment Iris’s eyes flashed uncertainty.

She doesn’t know what to do with me, and she’s afraid of something.

Another step.

Iris rose and let out a loud whistle. She glanced around the room and whistled again. “Where did that wolf get himself to?” She raised her hands as if to send another capture spell toward me.

I stood my ground, I understood now. Iris’s power over others came from fear. If I gave in, I would be at her mercy. If I faced my fear, no matter how scared I was, she had no power over me.

“I’m not afraid of you, Iris. You cannot stop Christmas. Not now, not ever.” I took another step.

She hesitated, then let out another whistle. The wolf was nowhere to be seen.

“When I get my hands on him… No matter, I can deal with a little boy myself.” Her hands came up once more, the flash of light grew in her hands then flew at me.

I stood my ground, shaking and terrified, but I held firm. I believed, and nothing would change that.

The light surrounded me, but I could still move. I took another step toward Iris. She stepped back, and the light disappeared. The look in her eyes said it all. I took away some of her power by standing up to her, by facing my fear.

She waved her hand once again. The room filled with her tree army. They grabbed my arms, pinning me down. I couldn’t move.

A smile crossed Iris’s face. “Let’s see how brave you are now. I think I need a bigger army. I’ll turn the Elves into my Ice Soldiers and use the reindeer to pull my Ice sled when I steal all the toys from Santa Claus.”

Her laugh sent chills through me. She spun and waved her hands, the wall behind her glowed then turned to clear ice. I could see into the cave. Max and the others gathered around the fading red rock. Their sad eyes told me they were losing the will to believe.

Iris raised her hands. Words of a language I didn’t understand screamed from her mouth. Inside the cave, I could see Elves starting to turn icy grey. Max tried to heat the rock again to warm them, but it wasn’t enough.

I pleaded for her to stop. She just laughed.

Out of the corner of my eye, I spotted the wolf creeping into the room. Silent and sneering. He looked at me, eyes burning with anger, then did the most remarkable thing. He winked at me.

wolf winkingThe wolf winked at me.

He took a few more steps, then pounced on the Ice Queen. Catching her by surprise and knocking her to the ground, Her spell was broken. The tree army released me and went to help her. The wolf ripped branches and tore at the trunks of the trees as he held Iris on the ground.

I stood frozen in place.

The wolf tossed a tree against the wall, then looked at me and shouted, “Joe, now would be a great time to get back to our friends. Get them to listen to you.”

“Frank?” I said, shocked by the words.

“Yeah, it’s me. No time to explain. I told you my job was to get you here. Now, it’s your turn to save our friends.”

The Ice Queen let out a yell and tossed Frank to the side. She turned toward me. Frank pounced again and yelled, “Now, Joe, now. I won’t be able to hold her here forever.”

I dashed toward the door, dodging branches trying to stop me, then ran down the hall. Just before I made it out, I turned back to see Frank, surrounded by trees, dragging Iris across the room. Backed into a wall, there was nowhere for him to go.

I hoped he’d be okay, but I had no time to think about it. I knew what I had to do.

 

TO BE CONTINUED

 

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The Christmas Dragon: Part 10

A Return to Elvish Magic

Max bounded off the wall, whacking his head on the roof of the cave in his excitement. He howled like a baby.

“Max, stop whining, we’ve got work to do.”

He rubbed his head and bent lower. I waved to the others. “Gather ‘round, I have an idea.”

They listened as I explained my plan.

“Will it work?” the old Elf asked.

“It will if we believe it can. But we have to face Iris.” I looked at all the Elves and reindeer. Some looked hopeful, others unsure. To pull this off, I had to make them all believe.

I whispered in Max’s ear. “I need light. Any ideas?”

Max glanced around, then a big smile crossed his face. He waddled through the crowd to a large boulder in the middle of the cave floor, swishing his tail to move the group back. Satisfied they were at a safe distance he reared up and shot a flame at the rock.

The heat turned the rock red hot. The glow illuminating the room. Max smiled, proud of himself and his fire. I climbed onto his back and looked at the group. The eerie red glow lit their anxious faces.

I wasn’t sure what to say, but I knew it mattered. Then, I heard my Pa’s voice echoing in my mind. “If you believe, you can achieve.” I took a deep breath and let the words come from my heart.

“Christmas is not about things you get or stuff you have. Christmas is about making others happy. The spirit of Christmas doesn’t come in a box or wrapped in shiny paper. Christmas is being loved and being with the ones you love.

“Christmas is not just one day, it is the days leading up to it, the days after it, and the days all year long until it comes again. Christmas isn’t a time or place. It is every time and place if we keep it in our hearts.”

I had their attention now.

“The Ice Queen thinks by keeping us away, by holding us here, she can stop Christmas. She’s wrong. As long as we have Christmas in our hearts, she can’t win. Santa flies around each year to remind us of this, but he wants us to feel the spirit of Christmas all the year.

“All of you do more than just play a part in Christmas. You are Christmas. Iris can never take that away.

“When my grandfather gave me Max, it wasn’t just because he knew this day would come. It was because he knew he was giving me the spirit of Christmas to hold in my heart always.”

Many of those looking at me nodded. The dull grey of the cave brightened a bit.

“To remember Pa and Nana and everyone who has been before us. To share those memories and hopes to all of those to follow. That is the spirit of Christmas.

“Max reminds me of who made me what I am. It’s not the power of the dragon that will rescue Christmas, all we need do is remember to believe. Never let the spirit fade no matter what others do.

“I, for one, will always believe.” I stood on Max’s back turning around in a circle to make sure they were all with me.

“Are you ready to believe? To keep the spirit of Christmas alive?”

Heads nodded. Reindeer pawed the icy ground. One Elf started to sing. Others joined in. With each passing moment, the cave grew brighter. Icicles melted. The red and green of the Elves clothes showed once again.

cave crack wallA shudder, like an earthquake, shook the cave. A loud crack echoed off the walls as a vast crevice opened. Iris and the wolf stormed into the cave.

“Thought it would be that easy, didn’t you?” Her hissing cold voice thundered off the walls. “We’ll see how long they believe after I finish with you.”

A blinding flash of light flew from her hands, surrounding me. I was lifted off Max’s back and into the air. I tried to struggle, but the magic was too strong. In a blink of an eye, Iris flew back through the crevice, dragging me along. The wall slammed shut behind me.

I was alone with the Ice Queen.

 

TO BE CONTINUED

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The Christmas Dragon: Part 9

Remembering to Believe

It was hard to think. Elves and reindeer stared at me. Max leaned against the wall, following me with his eyes as I paced the room. He had this look of anticipation on his face like any moment I would announce I knew how to escape.

No matter how much I paced back and forth, Max still had the look of certainty.

I, on the other hand, was filled with doubt. If we could fly, Max and I might blast our way out. His fire-breathing talents had toasted trees in the woods around my house, but we had never tested full power. The problem was in here, there was no room to fly.

One of the Elves came over to me. He appeared older than the others although it’s hard to tell with Elves, they all look mostly the same.

“Joe, can I ask you something?” he said, hands folded in front of him.

I stopped pacing and looked at him. “Sure, what is it?”

The Elf glanced around as the others gathered behind him. “We are here because, well, some of us started to wonder what happened to the spirit of Christmas. When the reindeer disappeared, we worried it meant the end of Christmas. It seemed that all over the world people had forgotten about us.”

A small tear trickled from his eye, zigzagging down the lines of his face. “The Ice Queen used that against us, and we ended up here. What I…” he waved his hand around, “what we all want to know is, how did she trick you here? Don’t you still believe in Christmas? Because if someone like you no longer believes, maybe the Ice Queen is right.”

I studied all the anxious faces. Each of them waiting for what I would say. Me, a ten-and-a-half-year-old boy. I thought for a moment. I knew whatever I said would affect how things worked out.

“Yes, I still believe. I came here because it’s what Max and I have practiced for, knowing this day would come. I came because we are a team and we must save Christmas. I came here because it is the right thing to do, no matter how scared I am of the Ice Queen. So yes, I believe.”

As the words came out of my mouth, a small piece of rock fell from the wall. No one saw it except Max and me.

dark caveMax stood and smiled. The cave brightened ever so slightly.

It was then I knew. I knew how we could save Christmas.

 

 

TO BE CONTINUED

 

 

 

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The Christmas Dragon: Part 8

Iris the Ice Queen

The darkness of the cave swallowed us. The light from outside faded. After a few minutes, I was tossed to the ground. An eerie pale glow surrounded me.  I looked for Max, but he wasn’t with me.

“So,” a cold voice hissed like air escaping a balloon, “this is who they choose to protect their precious Christmas? A mere boy?”

I spun around trying to find where it came from,  but could see nothing. Swirling wisps of snow rose from the ground, twisted like a tornado, then took shape before me.

I backed away, pressing against the chilled rocky wall of the cave. Gliding along the ground, the creature came closer, until it was right before me.

Ice queenI faced an angry looking, ice-covered, woman. She stroked the head of a wolf standing by her side, once Frank the fake Elf. He curled his lips at me, baring his teeth.

“Who…who…are you?” I said, my voice quivering. I fought against my fear.

“I am Iris, the Ice Queen.”

Her words came on gusts of frigid air, stinging my ears. “What do you want with me? Where’s Max?”

“You, my dear boy, and your sad little dragon are my guests. You’ll stay until the world knows Christmas is no more.”

“I want to see Max,” I took a step towards her. I could tell she didn’t expect this.

“Very well,” she began to fade, “but it will do you no good.” In a flash, she was gone. The wolf gave me one more flash of his teeth then ran off. Something odd about this. Why would she do what I asked?

After a few moments, the wall behind me gave way, light filtered through. I took a step closer, trying to see in. Another step. Then another. I squeezed through the narrow opening and stuck my head out. Max licked my face. He covered me with Dragon slime, but I didn’t care.

Max was okay. That was good. As to me, I wasn’t so sure.

I squeezed through and stopped dead in my tracks. dragon-dancing-animationMax danced in the middle of the giant cave, leaning over to lick my face when he got close, then bounced some more. All around him, looking pale and tired, were Santa’s reindeer team and the missing Elves.

While I tried to take this all in, the wall behind me slammed shut. We were sealed in a cave, no way out, deep in a mountain, guarded by a powerful magician, a snarling shape-shifting wolf, and surrounded by an army of dead trees.

I was alone and not sure what to do.

Then, Max slid his head between my legs and lifted me onto his back. He moved to the center of the room. The Elves and reindeer all gathered around us, looking at me.

“Tell’em what you’re gonna do, Joe,” Max said, smiling and bouncing on his feet. “Tell’em how we’re gonna save Christmas.”

I looked around at all the faces staring at me, a mixture of hope and fear shown in their eyes.

“I will,” I said, trying to sound confident, then whispered, “as soon as I think of it.”

TO BE CONTINUED

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The Christmas Dragon: Part 7

Mount Doubt

The journey to Mount Doubt was long and hard. We crossed frozen rivers, deep valleys, and steep mountains. As we drew closer to Mount Doubt, the colors faded from the land. The snow, once sparkling and shiny, lay dull and grey. Majestic evergreen Christmas trees turned brown and lost their needles.

treesThe land was frigid and barren.

Then, rising in front of us into the clouds like a giant beast, loomed Mount Doom.

Frank signaled for us to stop. As he climbed off the polar bear, it ran away. Whimpering and crying.

“What’s wrong with him?” I asked.

“No living creatures come here. The place is filled with nothing but doubt and gloom.”

I glanced at the others, then swallowed hard. El, Cornelius, and Bumbles all tried to pretend they weren’t scared, but I could tell they were.

“You’re sure the reindeer are here?” I asked Frank.

“As sure as I can be.”

“What does that mean?” El said, moving to stand in front of Frank.

“Yeah,” Cornelius added. “What does that mean? You said you found the reindeer.”

Frank pointed to the ground. “Look for yourself.”

We all looked and saw the hoof prints of reindeer, lots of them, all heading toward Mount Doom.

“Why would the reindeer walk here on their own?” I asked.

“I am guessing here, but it had to be powerful magic. The only one I know of with such magic is Iris the Ice Queen and she lives here.”

“Now what?” I asked. “Do we climb Mount Doom?”

Frank shook his head. “Not we, Joe, you. From here on it’s just you and Max.

At the sound of his name, Max sprung to his feet, pawing at the ground and stretching his wings.

“Well, at least one of us is excited,” I said.

El stepped in front of me. “No way, Frank. Wherever Joe goes, I go.”

“I am afraid that won’t be possible, El.” WolfIn the flash of an eye, Frank turned into a snarling wolf. All the dead trees began to close in around us. We scrambled for a way out. Even Bumbles wasn’t strong enough against all the trees.

A voice, screeching and cackling, rose out of the snowy mist. “There’ll be no saving Christmas now. Come along nicely and join your reindeer and Elf friends.”

The branches of the trees wrapped around us. I saw El manage to snap off a limb, but five more replaced the broken one. None of us could move.

I felt myself being lifted from the ground.

“No, stop. Put me down.” I screamed. I tried to break free. Max was lifted into the air as well. I could just see his face; the rest was covered in branches. He managed to wink and smile. I could hear his voice in my head.

“Don’t worry, Joe, I’m here with you. Just believe in what we have to do.”

As we started to move, a dark cave appeared before us. The trees carried us into the darkness, just before we headed further in, I turned to see my friends struggling to get free.

I wondered if I’d ever see them again.

 

 

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The Christmas Dragon: Part 6

The Mysterious Elf

The group, led by Cornelius on Bumble’s shoulder, made its way north. The wind howled, and Cornelius had a hard time finding his way.  He filled in Joe and El on the latest.

“Right after the reindeer vanished, Elves started to disappear. One minute they’d be hard at work, singing Elf songs and building toys and the next they’d fade away.” Cornelius shook his head.  “Santa says they stopped believing in Christmas.”

“How can an Elf stop believing in Christmas,” I asked. “I mean, they are Christmas.”

Bumbles stopped short. Cornelius patted him on the shoulder. “I know, buddy, I’ll explain it to him.”  He jumped down from his perch and waved me over.

mountain“Christmas lives on because we believe in it. The moment you stop believing, the spirit of Christmas fades a little. The fewer people who believe, the more it fades. Maybe those elves think we won’t be able to save Christmas. I don’t know. But we are going to try. Aren’t we?”

I looked at El, then back at Cornelius. “But I’m just a kid.”

“Yeah,” Cornelius gave out a laugh, “a kid with a giant Christmas Dragon.  I think you’ll do.”

El laughed, Max laughed, even Bumbles laughed which shook snow and fur all over us.

“Hi,” a voice said, interrupting the moment.  We all turned to the sound. There stood an Elf staring at us from the back of a polar bear.

El and Cornelius moved in front of me. “Who are you?” El said, her eyes narrowed as she studied the strange looking Elf.

With a slight bow of his head, he replied, “My name is Frank, Santa sent me to find you.  We have no time to waste. You have to follow me, I found the reindeer.”

El took a step toward the Elf. “What kind of name for an Elf is Frank? How come I’ve never seen you? I know all the Elves.”

Frank disappeared for a moment, then reappeared standing next to Max and me. El and Cornelius had to turn around to watch.

“Joe, I need you to trust me. You and Max are the only hope we have. I can get you close to Mount Doubt, but you’ll be on your own from there. Are you ready?”

El stepped between Frank and me. “Hold on there, pal. How can we trust you? I’m not sure this is a good idea.”

Frank leaned around El to look me in the eye. “Remember what your grandfather said, Joe? He said you must believe. Remember?”

I nodded, remembering Pa’s words when he first gave me the dragon. “I’ll go with you. I know it’s the right thing to do.”

“Not without us, you’re not,” Cornelius said. He and El stood with Bumbles behind them as reinforcement.

Frank nodded. “We can all go to the valley before Mount Doubt. But from there, it will be up to Joe to do the rest.”

“I don’t think so,” El said. “wherever he goes, I go.”

“And us too,” Cornelius added, “we are a team.”

Frank disappeared again and reappeared on the back of the bear. “I’ve no time to argue, follow along if you like, but you’re on your own.  My job is to guide Joe to the mountain. His job starts once we arrive.” He tapped with his right foot, and the bear turned and began to run. Looking over his shoulder, he said, “I will do what can to protect us all, but if I can’t the most important thing is Joe and Max, understand?”

El glanced at Cornelius. “We can take care of ourselves, Frank, I don’t need you to protect me.”

Frank shrugged, “up to you, let’s go.”

The group of five headed off into the raging blizzard and vanished in the snow. The shadow of Mount Doubt loomed in the distance.

TO BE CONTINUED

 

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