Editor's note: This part of a continuing, fictional holiday tale that is running daily through Christmas. Parents are encouraged to read along with their children.
As Old Floovenhopper gloated over his prisoners - Santa Claus, Mrs. Claus, and all the elves and reindeer at the North Pole - Santa spoke, silencing the furious chatter of the elves and reindeer.
"Despite what you may think," Santa said, "Christmas is not gone or forgotten. It always lives in the hearts of children, as long as they remember its true meaning."
Tuffy the elf, still watching from a basement window, felt his own heart warm at Santa's words.
But Old Floovenhopper laughed heartily. "Oh, Santa, how very, very foolish you are. As if children, mere children, can save your holiday now!"
He paced the floor, his dirty brown cloak sweeping the ground as he walked. "Once, children celebrated Floovenhopper Day," he said. "Every year, when baby sneezlebirds were just leaving their nests, people would hoist their Flooven Flags, pass around gropwich pies, sing Floovenhopper songs and dance the Hopper Dance."
Old Floovenhopper clasped his hands and looked dreamily off into the distance. "It was a glorious time," he sighed. "I would go from town to town, and the children would cheer. Everyone knew who I was. Everyone welcomed me. Glorious!"
He turned sharply and glared at Santa. "But do you know what happened then, Santa? Do you?"
"Why don't you tell me?" Santa suggested mildly.
"I will!" Old Floovenhopper shouted. "I'll tell you what happened! At first, the people stopped making gropwich pies. 'The children don't like them very much,' they said. Then, they stopped dancing the Hopper Dance. I asked them why, and they only shrugged. 'We have better things to do,' they said. One by one, the Flooven Flags disappeared, and soon, not a single person remembered the words to the Floovenhopper songs!"
Enraged, Old Floovenhopper waved his staff. "Everyone forgot Floovenhopper Day! I went from town to town, but the children ran away ... or worse, they threw rocks at me! I, who was once so welcomed."
"That must have been very hard for you," Santa Claus said sympathetically.
"It was!" Old Floovenhopper shouted. "But then it got worse! Do you know what happened then?"
"No," Santa replied.
"You came along! All of a sudden, people were putting up Christmas trees and holly," said Old Floovenhopper, his face turning red. "They put stockings up by the chimney and sang Christmas carols. And you - you brought presents for the children! Those children who used to laugh and cheer when they saw me now laughed and cheered for you!"
"I see," Santa said. "So you have decided to punish me by canceling Christmas?"
"Oh, I didn't just cancel Christmas," Old Floovenhopper said. "Haven't you been listening, Santa? Christmas doesn't exist anymore!"
Laughing gleefully at his own dastardly plot, Old Floovenhopper left his prisoners, slamming the door behind him.
There was a moment of silence after he left, then the elves began chattering all at once.
"What are we going to do?"
"Do you have a plan, Santa?"
"How are we going to get out of here?"
"Surely there's something we can do to bring back Christmas!"
Santa spoke. "It's up to the children now," he said, and a hush fell over the room. "Though if there are any elves who might have escaped capture, they might want to visit Warren, Ohio."
Santa looked up at the window where Tuffy was still watching. Tuffy's ears perked up. "Warren?" he whispered.
"There are some children in Warren who have figured out that something is wrong with Christmas," Santa continued. "An elf might want to help them come up with a way to save all of us."
Tuffy offered Santa a smart salute, and with the special magic that elves have, he snapped his fingers and disappeared.
For the next part of this story, read Tuesday's Tribune Chronicle.