Zakariah followed the Star which was following Santos and the little men. When night fell the sky was unusually dark. There was no moon, no stars and not a cloud in the sky. But the Star shone brightly and only Zakariah could see it. From the air Zakariah watched the little caravan quietly huddle together outside a sleeping village surrounded by a wall. And nearby this village in the desert was an odd snow-covered pine forest. Santos stood on his sleigh, surrounded by his camels, and watched the little men climb over the village’s wall. He pulled out an eyepiece to have a closer look at the little men as they slipped down the chimneys of the large huts to pilfer the slumbering villagers. Santos drooled, closely watching the little men scurry across the rooftops with their bags of stolen goods. Zakariah saw his chance. He flew down and snuck between the legs of the camels to the sleigh bed. But Zakariah found it difficult to figure out which Bundle was his among the many bags in the sleigh. 

Santos turned to see Zakariah. “A-ha! Thieving Bird!” 

Zakariah grabbed the closest bag to him with his beak and ran back through the thicket of camel legs straight into the strange snow-covered forest. Santos called to the little men to give chase.

The pine trees in the powdery snow forest were so close together that Zakariah had no room to spread his wings and fly off with the Bundle. Santos and the little men were catching up to Zakariah as he raced through the snow covered covered branches. Zakariah broke through the thick woods and found himself in a wide white clearing with the largest pine tree he had ever seen smack dab in the center of it. 

 

Now there was plenty of room to flap his wings and take off with the Bundle and he flapped them harder than he ever had before because Santos and his little men were grabbing at his tail feathers. 

Zakariah shot up into the air at an impossibly steep angle hoping to avoid the giant pine tree in front of him. Just as he thought he had cleared the top of the giant pine tree, the bottom of the Bundle snagged on its tippy top and ripped open. Glittering jewels spilled from the torn bag, falling all over the snow-covered branches of the pine tree. But there was no Baby. Just necklaces of pearls, rings of sapphire, diamond earrings, ruby bracelets. It was not the Bundle after all. Just a King’s ransom... and one lone red hat, which fluttered down through the air and landed on the speechless Santos’ head, covering his eyes. He lifted the hat, peeked out with one eye and a never before seen star shimmered in the night sky before him.

The Star appeared as if it were perched directly on the top of the pine tree and its light reflected in the precious stones held in the branches. Awed by the beauty in the jeweled tree before him, Santos clasped his hands together and fell to his knees and bellowed, “Hallelujah!” 

 

Zakariah was already back at the sleigh bed, rummaging for the Bundle. “Got you!” he yelled when he found it. He could hear Santos calling out to him from the clearing, “Little Bird! Little Bird!” as he flew away with the Bundle toward the moving Star. Santos appeared at the sleigh huffing and puffing with the little men. “There he goes,” screamed the jubilant Santos, “Let him be an inspiration of goodwill to all! Now see here you naughty little men - from this day forth we will give, not steal! And you all shall make gifts and we will deliver them to the world!” The little men groaned and some of them ran off with sacks of loot.

 

With the Bundle tightly in his beak, Zakariah struggled to keep up with the Star. He knew that the Star had picked up the pace; he had lost lots of time chasing Santos to recover the Bundle. At this point Zakariah had lost track of how many suns the Six Storks had told him he was away from the Bundle’s destination. Me too.

When dawn broke on the horizon Zakariah could see a great sandstorm rolling towards him. He looked to his left, his right and then behind. The great sandstorm was closing in from all sides. Below he saw a man running to take shelter in a large crag of weathered rocks. Zakariah dived down, following the man, and found himself in a dark cave, safe from the storm’s cutting winds. As he shook the sand from the Bundle and his feathers, someone lit an oil lamp. It’s flickering light revealed a King in a royal cape and crown, his foot tapping impatiently. The King tossed a heavy coin that landed at Zakariah’s feet. Zakariah looked closely at the coin and saw that the face of the King before him was one and the same as the King’s face on the coin, but the face on the coin was smiling. Beneath it was stamped a name: “KING HEROD.” 

 

“Bring King Herod’s food here, Bird,” the King demanded. 

“King Herod, I have no food,” Zakariah explained. 

“King Herod will decide what is food,” said the King. 

“King Herod, may I wait out the storm in this fine castle of yours,” Zakariah asked. “This hovel?” Herod laughed, “Five suns ago my royal caravan was robbed of its jewels by a pack of vicious little men. The unruly lot of ill-tempered zealots even stole my favorite sleeping cap.