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   The MagicalMythicalMagical Pomegranate


A Cristmas Story...............

In the land north of the North Pole stands the Magical Pomegranate Tree. It's a tall and beautiful tree, with branches arching over a wide meadow. The leaves sparkle in the sunlight; and the branches of the tree glisten in the moonlight.

More than one traveler has been dazzled and entranced by the splendor of the Magical Pomegranate Tree – and as he thus stood in the tree's spell, the Polar Dragon swooped down and cooked him to a crisp with his supremely hot breath!

The Polar Dragon was always intensely jealous of the Magical Pomegranate Tree, and he guarded it constantly. For the tree bears fruit, one solitary pomegranate, only once every thousand years. And the dragon always wanted to be certain the fruit would be HIS!

But all this was before Santa Claus.

Many, many centuries ago, Santa learned of the Magical Pomegranate Tree. It was said that the fruit would make one warm – one tiny seed from the pomegranate would make the eater warm for many years after.

Santa stroked his beard–and shivered under his coat– when he heard tell of the tree. "My, my," he said to Mrs. Santa, "Imagine never being cold up here again!"

Mrs. Santa smiled sadly as she heated bricks to put under the foot of their bed. "Don't even think it, Santa. It's only a dream."

But the idea of the Magical Pomegranate Tree preyed on Santa's mind, and every time he had a moment free from designing or making gifts, he thought of the pomegranate that was supposed to make a person warm.

"It's supposed to bear fruit right in the middle of our millennium," he said idly to Mrs. Santa one night. That's next year……."

Mrs. Santa shook her head. "Don't worry your head about it, dear. If the tree does exist, then I'm sure the Polar Dragon does too. And I'm not real anxious for you to go tromping around where dragons fly!"

Santa wasn't listening. He was too busy rubbing his half-frozen toes.

Christmas came and went, and Santa caught a terrific cold making his rounds. "It's the blasted wind-chill factor," he complained. "It gets me every year!"

The spring dawned. One morning Santa jumped out of bed and made an announcement: "I'm going after the magical pomegranate." Mrs. Santa tried to talk him out of it, but it was no use. His mind was made up.

The journey to the land north of the North Pole wasn't far, but it was hard. And with every step Santa took, he got colder and colder. He pulled his hood close around his cheeks. He put gloves over his gloves. He put insulated boots over his boots. And still he froze from the biting wind and heartless ice of the land north of the Norh Pole.

One day Santa topped a rise and looked down into a broad valley. There, glistening brightly in the very center of the valley, was a tall tree with reddish bark. "The Magical Pomegranate Tree!" he whispered. He stumbled down the hill and into the valley. "Warmth! Warmth!"

But just as he reached the valley floor he heard a tremendous roar above him. The sky darkened. The air crashed as with thunder. Santa put his hands on his ears and fell to the snowy ground. The Polar Dragon swooped down, claws outstretched–but at the last minute Santa rolled out of reach. The dragon growled deep in his throat, then smashed into the snow a few feet away. Then he turned and faced Santa. "Who are you that comes into my valley?"

Santa started to stutter out an answer, but he couldn't think. All he was aware of was those evil eyes, which held him in their spell. The dragon flicked out his long tongue, then growled again. "So you think you could come in here and steal my fruit, do you? I've been guarding it for 999 years now–and, as you might imagine, I'm very hungry!"

The dragon took a step forward, still holding Santa in his gaze. "You're pretty small," the dragon said, "but small is better than no dinner at all. I haven't had dinner for six years now."

Santa stared, eyes wide. The dragon took another step. He breathed down into Santa's face–and the stench of his breath broke the spell. Santa tore his eyes away and looked at the ground. "I didn't come to steal your fruit," Santa said. "I came to tell you of a great treasure I found. Not far from here."

The dragon stopped, interested. Everyone knows that dragons are fools for treasures and jewels, and Santa knew too.

"Why would you tell me about it?" the dragon asked, his voice suddenly soft. "Why not just keep it all for yourself–and not risk your life?":

Santa sighed, pretending to be very tired. "I couldn't carry much of it. And your back is so broad, and your wings so strong. I thought I'd give you most of it, if you would help me carry mine home."

"Well, now," the dragon said. "Well, now." He stopped and stared into the distance. "And where be this great treasure?"

Santa raised his head, and pointed to the south. "That way, where the sun meets the mountain. Under the stream tha falls. Between the two tallest trees."

The dragon chuckled slow and low. His belly rippled with the sound. "Yesssss," he said, his tongue darting out and his eyes half-closing. "Under the stream that falls. Well, we'll see about this." And with a jerk he was into the air and gone.

Santa stood and raced down the valley to where the tree stood. He knew he didn't have much time. The mountains were far away – but dragons can go very fast. Santa ran until his sides hurt. The breath pushed in and out of him with great heaving effort. Finally he reached the tree. It was too beautiful to touch. He stared at it, breathing hard, his eyes aching from the wonder of it all.

Then he remembered the dragon and quickley plucked the magical pomegranate from its stem on the tree. The tree seemed to stand up taller; its golden leaves blazed brighter in the sun.

In the same instant, the sky grew dark, and Santa heard a hoarse roar above him. "Humannnn!" the voice said, biting down to the very core of Santa's being. "Humannnnnn!"

Santa tucked the fruit inside his coat and began to run. He ran across the valley and back up the hill. The dragon ran behind him, laughing, toying with him as a cat would with a mouse. "You tricked me, my pretty," the dragon laughed. "But no matter! I'll still have you – AND the fruit!"

Santa ran as far as he could, then ran further. Finally, exhausted, he fell face-forward into the snow. THIS IS IT, he thought. I'VE LIVED SO LONG BUT NOW IT'S OVER. He lay still, waiting for the hot blast of flame that would surely issue from the dragon's foul mouth.

But it didn't come. He waited some more – and still it didn't come. Then he heard a quiet sobbing behind him. He sat up and turned around. The Polar Dragon sat back on his haunches, great tears streaming from his eyes. He looked down at Santa. "I tried to roast you," he said, his voice choking. "But you've stolen my magic. No fire would come out. "Watch!" And he belched forth at Santa. Only smoke and stink came out.

Santa smiled grimly up at the dragon. "So you've done your last dirty deed," he said. "Well, come along with me, and I'll take care of you. But no pomegranates! Then your fire will come back and I don't doubt for a minute that you'd cook me for supper!" So Santa took he magical pomegranate fruit home with him, and the Polar Dragon followed behind.

"Give me your word of honor that you won't eat any seeds, and I'll let you guard the pomegranate," Santa said to the dragon. He knew that once a dragon promises, he will always do what he says.

"I give my word of honor," the dragon said. But he didn't look very happy about it. Still, he had agreed. Now the dragon guards the magical pomegranate faithfully. And now Santa eats one seed of the fruit every fifty years, and Mrs. Santa takes one too. It makes them feel wonderful inside – and they haven't been cold since!

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