A most joyous of greetings to you all, merry mortals!

     Things have been rather relaxed in the lair these last few weeks. Once again Geldrin and I were able to share a Stuffing Day holiday with his family, and when we returned, we were met with a gaggle of harpies demanding to be given release for their annual celebration “The Screeching.” We don’t know where they all flew off to, but there’s been a raucous noise every evening in the nearby hills, so we have a guess.

     With the workers gone and our bellies still recovering from these food-filled holidays, we’ve been much too lazy to spend any time sending out storytimes. However, if I know my readers, and of courseI do, you’ve all been itching for more tales from your favorite ferocious fire-breather, thus here I am! You’re all incredibly welcome, I assure you.

     Today’s question comes from a tiny girl in a tiny village that may or may not exist within a snowflake. If you believe such a thing is possible.

     DON’T get me started on that self-righteous, pretentious, infuriating burglar! Of course I believe in him. I had the most terrible displeasure of meeting the hypocritical wizard. He’s an absurdly powerful, time-controlling, planes-hoping entity, containing a vast level of might only second to my own. What does the fool do with all of this magic? Nothing! At least nothing worthwhile. Does he bend the world to his will, ruling with an iron fist like all supreme beings should? No. Does he command legions of enslaved soldiers, conquering lands and stretching his borders ever further? Of course not.

     The pathetic mortal (if he can even still be called one) simply sits in his hidden stronghold all year, watching. Judging. Somehow able to spy on multitudes of world’s citizens all at once, viewing their actions and deeds. Their secrets and weaknesses. But what does he do with this forbidden knowledge? He keeps a blasted LIST! He simply sits there all year, somehow able to simultaneously spy on BILLIONS of sentient creatures, and all he does is judge their actions!

     Then, even more maddeningly, he exerts his incredible power once a year, somehow being at nearly every location at once, subverting locks, walls, barriers, and every method devised to keep intruders out, yet appearing where he should not be with impossible ease. And do I even need to ask you, dear reader, if he would use this fantastic power to do something USEFUL?! Of course not! What would delving into forgotten tombs of ancient liches, stealing their most powerful artifacts for himself do? The world-altering power contained in these mythical items is of no interest to him. Apparently, the bearded fool knows not how to take. For what does he do once he is in these most secure of locations?

     He leaves behind GARBAGE! Useless nicknacks, toys, and games are all left behind by the frosty fiend for those he deems worthy. Through all of this effort, he doesn’t even leave behind any sort of treasure! No gold, gems, or jewelry is ever found after he makes his irresolvable journey. Only rubbish.

     Why he does this, with all the power he must hold, no one can fathom. I would have asked him if I had heard the details of his escapades before meeting him. Unfortunately, the first time I met him was under the most aggravating of circumstances.

     I had moved to a new lair many years ago; this was only a few years before I met Geldrin. My hoard had grown incredibly immense, and I was beginning to develop the type of paranoia that dragons need to keep their treasure safe. In this lair I had set traps, both magical and mundane, filling the halls and passages with constructs and undead meant to foil any would be burglars, and even set the entrance high up on a sheer cliff behind an illusory wall. Contented with my efforts and feeling most secure, I nestled myself into my hoard for a long wintery slumber.

     Only hours had gone by when I thought I heard a distant voice echoing through the halls of my lair. I unburied myself just a bit and gave a listen. Only the padding footfalls of a stone golem I set to walk the corridors met my ears. I guessed it was only the remnants of my dreaming self rattling around my magnificent mind. Why I would be thinking of a man yelling “Ho!” over and over again, I knew not, but it was no matter. I had a slumber to get to!

     Moments later, I was startled awake by a loud and boisterous, “I SAID HO HO HO, DRAGON!”

     I shot out of the golden pile with a start. The voice was coming from inside the room. No alarms had been triggered. No noise of battle had ensued from my guarded halls. There was simply a loud, obnoxious voice. My eyes shot around the room as the echoes faded, but I saw no sign of an intruder. I blinked, calling forth the part of my mind that allowed me to see invisible beings, but still—nothing.

     I turned all around, upending treasure and porcelain vases, though any sentient being in the room should have already set off nearly a dozen mental alarms. This was MY lair after all. I was king there. My power was absolute. An unnoticed trespasser would have been simply impossible. My mind drifted to the possibility of madness—something that overtook quite a few dragons after they had lived sufficiently long lives. But no. I was not going crazy. Not me. I was Grendel! The most powerful, sane, wonderful dragon to ever live! There had to be an explanation. And turning around once more, I found it.

     The man stood only a few feet away from where I had been slumbering. He appeared to be a frail, old, bearded human man. In one hand he held a staff, and in the other he held a small, paper-wrapped box complete with a cloth bow on the top.

     My immediate reaction was to blast the man to cinders for his transgression, but something in his terribly rosy cheeks forced me to stay my fiery breath. I simply stared at the tiny human, and despite my amazing strength, he stared right back. Then, the fool had the audacity to speak to me in the most condescending of tones!

     “I don’t normally hand these things out directly, you know.”

     I looked at him and the stupid twinkle in his eye, then to the present in his hand, then back to his annoying bearded face. He was wearing one of those night stocking things that humans wear on their heads, like he just got out of bed. Like being here in this impossible situation had the same level of difficulty as putting the cat outside for the night.

     “Who…are you?” I found myself asking. My mind was racing with the possibilities, though nothing I could think of seemed likely.

     “Ah, yes, an introduction! Haven’t done that in some time! Ho ho ho!” He laughed with the most curious of bellows. Though maybe it wasn’t so odd—most humans were screaming when I met them. I knew very little of what their chuckles sounded like.

     “Some call me the Winter Wizard!” he continued. “Others, the Ghost of Joy, though passed on I am not! Still others refer to me as ‘he who delivers,’ though that one I’m not quite as fond of. Most folks simply refer to me as Santa. I know not where the name came from, but it’s stuck more than most of the other names I have been given over these long years.”

     He looked right up at me, yet somehow seemed like he was looking down at me all at once. Never before had I met a human stare at me with such a lack of fear. It was like he knew I couldn’t harm him, and judging by the situation thus far, I believe I couldn’t have. At least at that time. Now I could take him easily!

     Regardless, he continued with the same unworried expression on his ancient face. “I don’t care much what you call me, Grendel”I had no idea how he knew my name, or where he got the plate of cookies that were suddenly in his hand, but he stuffed his face while he spoke on through mouthfuls.

     “Nomawy, I don giff prefents ta dragonf,” he said, with a hefty gulp. “Your kind tends to have everything you’ve ever needed right under your claws—but my advisors thought I should make an exception for you. This here…” He held out the small box in his hand. “…is for you. Consider it a lesson to be learned. Though you’ve slain thousands, toppled kingdoms, and stolen millions of gold worth of undeserved wealth, someone somewhere is convinced that there’s good in you. That is, IF you can find it and act on it.”

He dropped the box at his feet and scooted it a bit closer with a booted toe. With his job complete, he gave me the most aggravating of winks and disappeared in a small flurry of snow. No alarms had ever been tripped in my lair. No traps had been sprung, and all of my guards continued in their monotonous pacing. Teleportation was the first thing I counterspelled at that time, so to this day I still have no clue how he arrived and exited my lair so freely.

In the box I found a note that read “Keep this in mind when you feel the temptations of cruelty urging you to continue on the path of wickedness. For even the hottest fires can be snuffed out in an instant.” Underneath the note was nothing more than a blasted lump of coal. COAL! What does a fire-breathing dragon need with coal?! And the worst part is that I can’t even get rid of the thing! Every time I’ve tried to turn it to ash, it absorbs my flame. I’ve tried to deposit it far away, and it always returns. Always there in my hoard. Always sitting righton top of everything else.

Why this wizard felt the need to personally hand-deliver me some enchanted curse-ridden coal I’ll never know, but he did and now I’m stuck with it.

Hopefully you, dear readers, wherever you are and whatever world you live in, don’t have to deal with the enigma known as this Santa. If you’re out there celebrating snow and candles and whatever have you, I hope for your sakes your holidays are completely devoid of this infuriating burglar.

But for now, continue to season your festive minds with knowledge! And if any ultra-powerful wizards out there want to rid the world of this winter wizard, I’ll pay you for your trouble! Until next time!