Green Dragon Publishing

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It's a new year in the forest!

Last night when Charcoal and Tess went for a midnight walk the moor was wrapped in a deep, deep chill. The moon was well on its way to waning but its light shone as brightly as if it was full. In the great, dark roof of the night sky, the stars beat out sharp, glittering pictures. Bears, goats, archers, ploughs, gods and dragons hovered above Tess and Charcoal's heads. Their feet crunched over the frost-bound earth and their warm breath blew ghostly shapes where it met the cold air.

This morning it was as if somebody had rolled back the roof to let the sunlight in. The forest was tingling with tiny spears of icy grass, crystal covered bracken and glistening heather. Charcoal lay down and rolled on the close-nibbled, frozen grass. It felt wonderful.

Ponies were basking in the day after the long, cold night. A few stood letting the sun warm their backs. Others were lying down, their heads nodding as they drifted off to sleep.

Most were still looking for food, ambling across the moor with their noses pressed against the ground. A chestnut foal took a brave bite at a gorse bush. She recoiled with a look of disgust, as if the bush had bitten back.

In the woods, a group of ponies stretched their necks to reach the best shoots of holly. The ponies pulled off long stems of prickly leaves and rolled them around in their mouths. Somehow they managed to swallow them and still look as if they had found a feast.

Ice was everywhere. It had frozen the floodwater, brushed patterns over the puddles and coated the mires. Charcoal tested the surface of a long, deep puddle with his front paws. The ice held. He made his way across, back paws sliding after front.
Tess followed happily, sliding in her wellies and humming a tune. It wasn't until she was about halfway across that she heard an eerie cracking sound. Charcoal stopped and looked back. Tess hesitated. Suddenly her feet were slipping in different directions. Her arms flailed about as she tried to balance. It was no good.

"Aaaaaaaar.....aaargh!" She landed on her bottom.
"Craaaa....aack!" went the ice. it shattered where she fell. Long, deep cracks spread across the whole puddle.

Charcoal ran back to her. She was sitting in the middle of a wet, icy mess. Her trousers were soaked and muddy and one of her boots had come off. Charcoal stood in front of her for a moment, unsure what to do. He sniffed at her face. It was wet with tears. Her body was shaking. He nudged her and sniffed again. She wasn't crying. She was making the sound he liked best in all the world. She was laughing. It must be a game! Fantastic!

Charcoal jumped into the puddle. Ice and water flew everywhere.

"Hey! Stop it Charkie!" yelled Tess, "The least you could do is help me up!" But he knew she didn't mean it. He just took a lick at her ear then grabbed the end of her scarf between his teeth and ran off with it. She was laughing too much to get up and chase him.

Back at the cottage, Tess put on clean clothes then sat on the garden bench while Charcoal dried off in the sun.
"Come on Charkie, let's see if there are any of those special Christmas biscuits left." said Tess.
Charcoal picked up the toy reindeer and wagged his tail, just to show her he knew what she meant.

This year he had two Christmas presents. A packet of biscuits, which tasted a bit strange compared to his usual ones, and the toy reindeer. He liked the reindeer best. Christmas presents were just another of those strange human habits he would never really understand. But it's nice to be included, he thought, even if he did prefer his normal biscuits!

Charcoal wishes you a VERY HAPPY NEW YEAR!