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  The Legend of Rudolf.                                               Page 3 of 22

          -- Green gold.  Light splintered, filtered through needles of tall fir trees.  The light danced over the small form, the little reindeer nestled in a burrow of needles and green-blue lichen.  Wherever the light rested, it warmed the small creature, as though reminding it of its importance in the order of the wide world.  Sounds twined with the light:  the high thin cries of arctic birds, wind on trees, the tiny busy commerce of creatures rustling in the needles.  Sharpening and softening, the sounds wound around the light, soothing the sleepy little animal; then gradually becoming sharper, the light brightening and now failing to heat –

          -- until, with a start, the little reindeer awoke to a great leveling whiteness of snow, a thin cold whistling wind, the gentle nuzzling of a large muzzle and the warm roughness of a large tongue.  Snowflakes blinkered the little creature’s eyes, winking in and out of the immediate light.  Responding to his mother’s touch, the youngster struggled to his feet.  He sensed the need for movement now, to fight against the immensity of the great snowstorm that sought to freeze him where he lay.  He straightened his legs and shook himself, sending little showers of snow in all directions.  Then he followed his mother’s disappearing form.  The snow was falling even more quickly now, driven by a stronger and stronger wind.  It muffled all other sounds, even the grunts and calls of the reindeer herd that mother and son now joined – a large rumbling mass, moving like a grey ragged cloud against the whiteness of the northern plain.

          The storm surrounding the herd would later be remembered as one of the greatest storms of long ago times. Starting in the far north, it slowly wheeled south, a huge swirl of white wind.  The white wind blinded the herds of reindeer and other creatures that were wandering across the wide plains in search of food.  It buried the homes of the few brave farmers and herders who lived hard in the wide far north spaces.  It was the kind of storm that people of that age would say birthed snow trolls, fabled white reindeer, and other fantastic creatures.  And yet, for all its size and fury, this storm came early in the winter season.  How could the people in those lands, struggling against that great whiteness, know that it would soon be followed by another, and even greater storm?

          And how could the little reindeer, struggling to keep up with his mother, know that an early storm such as this might cover holes, cracks in the earth, and places where the ice, not yet frozen through, might be too weak to hold the weight of a large animal?  All he knew was that it was a time of ever-increasing cold, that finding food was becoming daily more difficult, and that the sun left the sky earlier and the darkness lasted much longer.  Even now, his mother’s back and legs were becoming more difficult to see in the gathering darkness, so that the little one began to rely even more on smells, sounds, the motion of large shapes, and those senses remembered only by animals, rather than on clear sight.  And though his mother sometimes turned around to nicker encouragement, he could tell that more and more she was having to focus on her own slow struggle through the deepening snow

          So they continued, mother and son, struggling through the gathering darkness.  It seemed to the little reindeer, that the rest of the herd had fallen away, vanishing into the arms of the storm, the rumbling of their flat hooves mingling with the icy growl of the wind.  Now it was just the two of them, small figures challenging this vast, indifferent fury.  On and on they went.  On and on.

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