Star Of Royal Beauty Bright

            The star, now glowing faintly in Phred's hands, seemed to communicate, and led him in an unfamiliar direction.

            Noel followed Phred.  As they journeyed beyond the Christmas Tree Forest, the star began to twinkle more brightly, as if to urge them onward. Now enchanted, Phred could only follow the star.  Time passed, and the star grew in brilliance.  Following blindly now, for Phred had lost his vision, they traveled into the Starlight Forest.

***

            The Snow Dragon had roamed the forest for centuries.  Of course, she had a name, but no one knew what it was.  Legends flourished concerning the demise of her dazzling breath; it had burned out long ago, when she lost her most prized possession, a golden star.  For ages, she searched, but the Starlight Forest contained millions of stars, and her hunt had long been unrewarded.

            In ages past, she would occasionally venture out of the Starlight Forest, but after she lost her star, the Snow Dragon had remained in the forest, in hopes of finding it again. She had an impressive collection of stars, which she caressed and admired when she was feeling sad.  The stars lifted her spirits and gave her hope that, one day, the special star would return to her.

***

            And so, the Snow Dragon was wandering in the forest on the day that Phred came upon her. 

            "Rrrri, ri, rri," she purred.  "What have we here?"

            Phred was startled by the voice.  "Who goes there?"

            Noel moved closer to Phred who, due to his blindness, was unaware that he had entered the Starlight Forest.

            "Rrrri, I'll ask the questions here, for I rule this woodland." Smoke streamed from the Snow Dragon's nostrils. "Why are you here?"

            "I have lost my way," Phred said humbly. "Where am I?"

            "Rrrri, you are in the Starlight Forest.  I don't often get visitors."

            Phred had been so captivated by the star that until this very moment, he was unaware that he had lost his vision and his bearings.  Alarmed, he groped for Noel, who nuzzled his chin. "I don't know how I got here, "Phred sputtered. "I was working in the Christmas Tree Forest and, well I was almost finished.  All I know is here I am, and I can't see!"

            "Yes, rrrrri, that is a consequence of visiting here," the Snow Dragon said, unconcerned. "That's the reason I never have company -- that and the fact that the helpers at the North Pole fear me, rrrrrrri."

            Realization dawned on Phred.  Scared, he asked, "Are you the Snow Dragon?"

            "Rrrri, is that what they call me, rri?"

            "Isn't that your name?" Phred countered, trembling.

            "Rrrrrri, rii, NO that is NOT my name.  My name is not for you to know."

            Mustering his courage, Phred asked, "But, are you the dragon?"

            "That I am, rrrrri," she purred. "And now I must decide what to do with you and your little companion. Tell me of yourself so that I can determine what must be done.  Are you an elf?  I met an elf once."

            "Y-yes, I'm an elf."

            "Rrri, and from which part of the North Pole have you journeyed?"

            "Right now I'm staying at the Forest Cabin, which is --"

            "I know where it is," the Snow Dragon interrupted, smoke streaming as she spoke. "I am familiar with the Christmas Tree Forest. Rrrrrri, did we meet once?"

            Shaking his head, Phred murmured, "No, I'm certain I would remember such a meeting." He was beginning to relax, just a bit. "There is an elf who claims to have seen you in the Christmas Tree Forest, though. His name is Boog, but he lives in the village.  There are lots of stories about you."

            "Rrri, No doubt.  What do you know of me?"

            "I only know that you live in the Starlight Forest, and that you never leave.  And I know that you used to have firey breath, but not anymore.  I also know that I can't see, and I wonder if you're responsible?"

            "Nay, it is the brilliance of the forest that has caused your blindness.  It is an unfortunate result of visiting here.  Rrrri, it's too bad, for I would enjoy occasional company.  I have been sad for a long time."

            Phred lowered his head.  "I'm sad now.  I am lost, and I cannot see."

 

            "Rrrri, ri, I can lead you back to the Christmas Tree Forest, " she offered.

            "I'd appreciate that very much.  Once I'm back there, Noel can take me home."

            "Follow me, ri."

            Noel led Phred. Together they followed the dragon.  They walked in silence for a long time.

            Finally the dragon purred, "Rrrri, we are at the edge of the Starlight forest.  Can you make it from here?" She turned toward Phred, and, because it wasn't so bright here, she immediately saw it.

            "My Star!" She pounced on Phred.

            Phred was knocked off his feet by the dragon's joyful leap.  "What?" he said, rubbing his elbow   .

            "RRRRI, rrrrrrrriii, I've been searching for my star for decades, and you have it.  Where did you find it?  You must give it back!"

            Phred remembered the star that he and Noel had found.  "It was in the Christmas Tree Forest.  Of course, you may have it." He had no desire to tangle with the dragon, and he certainly didn't want the star.  He offered it to the dragon and she snatched it right out of his hand.

            Thrilled, she purred, RRRRRII, rrri, rrrrrri." A dazzling, sparkling rainbow breath flowed from her nostrils, replacing the gray smoke that had streamed forth for years.  The dragon danced with joy.  "RRRI, this is a fine day, indeed!  How can I repay you? Come, we must celebrate."

            "No need to thank me," Phred sighed. "I must be getting back.  Lead on, Noel."

            "Wait!" The Snow Dragon shouted. "I can help you! Rrri, I can help you regain your vision."

            Halting, Phred turned toward the direction of the dragon's voice. "You can?"

            "Of course. But you will have to come with me, rrri."

            "Where are we going?" Phred asked, still clinging to Noel, as she followed the dragon.

            "Back into the Starlight Forest. I shall take you to my most secret place, and there I will stay with you until you have recovered, rrrrri. This special place has great healing power."

            Phred wanted very much to regain his vision, so he allowed Noel to lead him.

 


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