Milky eyes; missing teeth. White hair bleeding midnight mist.

The gap-toothed child held his lantern high, the silver jangle of bracelets his only companion at midnight's tide. He smiled and stillness ended: swirling gusts blew past, whistling through gnarled trees, forcing a thick river of cloud upon his path. He could see it not, but bare feet knew the way; he had crossed this bridge a thousand times, and a thousand times again.

The storm howled as the ship made ready to dock, her crew tired and restless. There would be no rousing the town this night; not on the very eve of Christmas. A hallowed and sacred night, it be, so with coordinated movements they unloaded themselves and their cargo, unafraid of clamoring noises for the ocean roared ever louder.

Boxes and barrels. Trunks and chests. Kegs and crates. Booty acquired over the course of a hundred journeys, brought home to hoard and hide.

A deckhand cursed the wind. With difficulty, he pried open the containers, salt spray making slick the dock beneath his feet. He glowered at his shipmates and made way for them to distribute the items along the pier, arranging them so the waterproof ones would face the brunt of the storm.

Pots. Pans. Dresses, blankets, trousers, and shoes. Useless junk to the likes of them, those dirty, thieving, scalawags; treasures priceless for their families, the women and children who thrived upon this island. Simple lives well-lived, they remained unaware of the nature of their husbands' and fathers' trade. Honest families of simple sailors, they were, or so they believed, patiently waiting for their menfolk to return as they always did this time of year.

The boy met them there, where wooden planks ended and worn, cobbled streets began. Lantern spitting embers of white and blue, he stood as he always did, lifting high his enchanted beacon. The boy turned his head to the side, pointed ears listening to the clamor. Sightless eyes stared.

"That be all?" he whispered in a voice of ages past.

"Aye," the captain replied, one hand holding his hat in place, the other trapping a pile of dresses. "It be up to ye now, Fog-Keeper."

The child smiled and passed the lantern to a surprised deckhand. The wind dropped and broke, shattered pieces swirling beneath the child's feet. Cracking his knuckles, he releasing his wings, transforming before their eyes into a great and mighty beast, the color of sea-born smoke, tinged blue with a crest of thundering waves. A mist dragon was he, and as scaled feet settled on protesting wood, the crew of cutthroats scrambled for cover, none wishing to remain beneath the young behemoth.

Claws sure and steady, the dragon gathered parcels and precious goods. Melding into his element, the thick blanket of fog carried him to every house, to every door. Leaving gifts according to those who breathed within, he returned to the pier, satisfied none had been missed.

He had done so for as long as he could remember, participating in this human tradition of gift-giving. A curious pastime which perpetuated within the heart of his territory, inside this little farming village in the cove by his cave. Generations had rolled by with nary a change; these men had learned from their fathers even as he had learned from his.

The pirates had long since retreated to their ship and lifted anchor while the night was calm, sailing again into open waters. The fog would lift by midmorning, and then they would drift in again, a Christmas Day surprise even bigger than the first.

But, as agreed, the pirates held one last chest above deck. Spilling over with gold and jewels, silver and chalices and crowns, the dragon tasted wealth and quality in the offering. Satisfied the humans had not cheated him of his tribute, he gathered his goods and bid farewell with a nod, dispersing along the mist with open wings. (One more child would remain at home, life paid in gold; this dragon required no flesh sacrifice when chests of treasure were brought in its stead.)

Dawn broke and the orange sun rose, rays piercing the low bank of clouds. Children screamed with rosy-cheeked glee as their mothers swept anxious eyes across the horizon, straining through illuminated mist.

A small boy sat within the mouth of a mountain, cross-legged in his considerably well-endowed cave. He smiled at the joyful sounds of the morn.

The boy shut the lantern. A ship rolled in to shore.