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  The Legend of Rudolf.                                               Page 16 of 22
 

             Overnight, the massive winter storm bore down upon the north country.  By the morning, the landscape had been transformed.  A savage wind tore at the shutters on Santa’s home and raced through the upper reaches of the barn, howling all the while like a chorus of maddened beasts.  Grimly, the team set about its business in a morning that seemed as dark as night.  There would be no practice today:  it was the day before Christmas, when the magnificent sleigh had to be loaded.

            All day they fought the storm.  Snow swirled and buried things.  The wind sucked away their voices.  Heavy coverings were snatched from their moorings and ripped to tatters.  Voices seemed to ride the wind, voices high and shrill and crying of dangerous places.

            Even Rudolf helped now, dragging sleds of toys from storehouse to sleigh.  Light seemed to dance about him.  Santa could see it clearly now.  The little reindeer appeared to possess limitless strength:  even as the others were resting, catching their breath against the fury, his little form could be seen, a glimmer in the darkness, bobbing and dancing in the gloom, under Santa’s thoughtful gaze.

            Inside their home, Mrs. Claus waited anxiously.  This was by far the worst storm she had ever seen.  The house groaned.  Snow tried to force its way into every available crevice.  And they will go out in that, she thought despairingly:  They have no choice.

            The front door crashed open, and a blast of snowlaced cold air shoved Santa inside.  “By all the stars,” he roared, “what a storm this is!”

            Mrs. Claus tried to keep the worry from her voice.  “Is everything ready?” she asked.

            “Just about,” he replied.  “The team is very anxious, as you can imagine with that weather, although they try not to show it.  I tell you, this will be a night that will challenge us all!”

            “You don’t think –“ she struggled to find the words “—that this will be – your last Christmas?”

            “Last?” Santa puzzled.  “Why should it by our last?”  Then he understood.  “Now my dear,” he said quietly, “my magic will see us through.  It always does.”  He kissed her on the nose and thumped to the parlor window.  He peered outside.  A particularly harsh blast sent one of the work wagons sprawling, contents flying across the compound.  He winced.  There were other forces set loose in the world this evening, ancient, dark and savage.  And he was pitting the magic of a single sleigh and a single team of reindeer – even though the best – against these things.  Was that magic or madness?  Sometimes even he couldn’t tell.

            He felt her hand on his shoulder.  “Is there anything else that can be done?” she asked.

            And then, once more, he saw the little light winking through the void.  Suddenly, it was all clear:  the fates had joined, the purposes united.  He felt that the answer had always been there, but that only now was he given the sight to discover it.  “Yes,” he said softly.  “Yes, there is one more thing…”

***

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