The backstage of the Muppet Theater was crowded with Christmas trees, giant poinsettias, strings of lights, costumes, chickens talking and exchanging tips on eyeliner, rubber hammers, sequins, and the odd explosion or two. In other words, it was a normal night. Kermit studied his notes, shifting the order and adding reminders that Gonzo needed a gong and that the stage crew would need to clean up whipped cream after Fozzie's ask.
"Not now, Scooter. We've got ten minutes until the opening number."
"Yeah, I know. But there's something you really need to see."
"Well, unless it's a flock of hummingbirds singing The Anvil Chorus against the backdrop of a Picasso painting, it can wait," Kermit said irritably.
"Well, okay," Scooter said, "but it is awfully close."
"And my uncle-"
"Right. Your uncle." Kermit put down his pen without Scooter even finishing the sentence. "This had better be good."
"Oh, it is," Scooter said. "Come on. We need to go outside."
"Outside?" Kermit asked, glancing out the window at the swirling snow. "Sheesh!" But he threw a scarf around his neck and followed Scooter outside. To his surprise, someone was already standing by the dumpster.
"Fozzie, what are you doing out here?" Kermit demanded. "The show starts in ten minutes!"
"But look!" Scooter said, pointing to the sky.
Kermit looked up. The sky was full of the lights of the city, swirling snow, and a random pigeon. "It's beautiful," he said crossly. "Very seasonal." Then, "What am I supposed to be looking at?"
"You don't see it?" Fozzie said incredulously. "It's right there." He pointed up and Kermit followed the line of sight.
"It's a star," he said finally. "A really beautiful one, but what's so important about this star that I had to look at it now?"
"You don't… feel anything when you look at it?" Scooter asked.
"No. Should I?"
"I feel this warm feeling inside of me," Fozzie said excitedly. "Like a glow that starts here," he patted his stomach, "and radiates out."
"I told you not to have that salami and sauerkraut sandwich for lunch," Kermit sighed.
"No, I feel it, too," Scooter said excitedly. "And this strange… pull."
"Yeah, yeah, yeah," Fozzie agreed. "Like a… a… like a lasso!"
"A lasso?" Kermit asked. "Really?"
"Yeah. Like a cowboy," Scooter said.
"So… you're suggesting we follow that star?" Kermit looked from Scooter to Fozzie skeptically. "Just pick up and follow it?"
"Well, I could get some hot chocolate and some jerky first," Scooter suggested.
Kermit shook his head. "It's a star," he said. "A ball of gas. An astronomical body, light years away from us. And you want us to follow it, based on your lunch?"
Fozzie and Scooter looked at each other. "Sounds about right," Fozzie said.
"Sheesh," Kermit said, heading back towards the theater. "I'm going in. The show starts in-"
"Mee mee mee mee meemee me me…"
"Beaker, enough with the classical music," Kermit said, not in the mood to look behind him.
"Mee mee mee mee mee mee…" Beaker's rendition of 'Ode to Joy' was joined by several hundred other Beakers, and the sound was coming from above him, not behind him. Kermit stopped and looked up. Then rubbed his eyes. It didn't make the sight before him go away.
Spread across the sky, resplendent in white robes, harps, haloes, and wings, were what could only be called a host of Beakers, all singing, all with feeling.
Kermit's mouth opened, and he edged closer to Fozzie and Scooter.
The music was beautiful, and when it came to an end Kermit felt the loss sharply. But then, the angel began to speak.
"Mee mee mee mee, mee mee mee mee mee." The head angel gestured to the star. "Mee mee mee mee."
"See?" Fozzie said, punching Kermit in the arm, "we are supposed to follow that star!"
"Not sure how you got that from what I heard," Kermit muttered grumpily, "but okay."
"Mee meemee mee mee."
"Yeah, yeah," Kermit told the angel. "I'm going. Sheesh."
The star actually moved. Kermit wasn't expecting that. They trekked through the city and out into the countryside. Scooter was carrying a flask of hot chocolate, Fozzie a basket of meatloaf sandwiches, and somehow, Kermit had found a knapsack of Christmas cookies foisted off onto him.
"It's cold," Scooter said.
"It is," Fozzie agreed. "But not unbearably so. Ah? Ah? Get it?"
"We get it, Fozzie," Kermit said, shivering and looking around. "But we've been walking for hours. It sure would be nice to find a place to warm up."
"Well, what about that little hut over there?" Scooter said, pointing. "There's a light on."
"Good a place as any," Kermit agreed. They made their way up a winding path to the little hut.
"Does anyone else smell perfume?" Fozzie asked.
There was a slight scent of perfume, over a much less pleasant, more animal set. Kermit braced himself as Scooter knocked on the hut's door.
"If it's another angel, tell them to go away!" a voice from inside shouted. The three looked at each other, and then the door opened. Standing on the other side was a chicken. She cocked her head.
"It's a chicken," Scooter said unnecessarily.
The chicken nodded. "Bwuack?"
Kermit stepped forward. "Erm, we are travelers, and we have come a very long way. We were wondering if we could come in and warm up for a bit."
She might have been a chicken, but she was a very gracious one. She immediately stepped back and gestured with her wing for them to enter, clucking over them all the while. Kermit took his scarf off and looked around. As he did, his eyes widened. Rather than a humble hut, the place was draped with scarves and bells and deep pillows. It looked more like a harem than a farmer's home. But the most striking thing about the room was-
"Kermit," Fozzie whispered, "there must be fifty chickens in here!"
"Fifty beautiful chickens!" their host agreed, sitting up. He had been lying on the couch with his head in one chicken's lap and another chicken rubbing his feet. "I am Gonzo, Shepherd of the Chickens. What can I do for you, oh weary travelers?"
"Shepherd of the chickens?" Fozzie asked confusedly. "Don't shepherds heard sheep?"
Gonzo shrugged. "Well, sure, if you want to be colloquial. But why be hampered by tradition? Besides, Chickens are better kissers than sheep."
Fozzie blinked, then looked at Kermit. "We've found us a weirdo," he said.
They had, but after years in the theater Kermit had seen far weirder. "Camilla," Gonzo ordered the chicken who had answered the door, "fetch our guests food and nourishment!" He turned back to his guests. "Do you prefer chicken feed or bologna and cabbage sandwiches?"
"Erm, that's okay," Kermit said hastily. "We're not really hungry." The other two nodded fervently. "When we knocked," Kermit continued, "you said something about an angel? What did you mean by that?"
"Oh. An angel." Gonzo sat back down on his couch. Immediately, two chickens cuddled up next to him. "We were just coming in from a snowball fight-" his words aroused a round of clucking that sounded very much like the chickens arguing about who won- "when a bunch of angels appeared in the sky, singing." He sighed. "You know, I work and work and put together great acts, and no one ever notices me. One guy sings a song in all 'mee mee mee's and he gets to be an angel."
"'Mee mee mee's?" Fozzie said excitedly. "That sounds like the angel we saw!"
"You saw an angel, too?" Gonzo asked.
"Yes! And he told us to follow that star?"
"And you're doing it?" Gonzo looked at his chickens, and they all burst out laughing. "What a bunch of yokels!" he said over the din. "What a bunch of suckers! You're actually gonna follow that star?"
"What? You're not?" Scooter asked.
"Well, it's cold out there!" Gonzo complained. "Why do you think me and my chickens are in here?"
"He has a point," Kermit agreed.
"But when an angel appears in the sky and tells you to do something, you do it!" Fozzie complained. "That's how the story goes!"
Kermit turned to Fozzie. "Look. Maybe Gonzo is right. Why are we following this star anyway? What are we supposed to find?"
"Oh. We're supposed to find a baby," Gonzo said. "Didn't the angel tell you that?"
From somewhere outside, an ethereal "Mee mee!" was heard. It was very apologetic.
"A baby, huh?" Kermit mused reluctantly. "What would we want with a baby?"
"Got me," Gonzo said. "I think he's supposed to rule us all and in the darkness bind us." A chicken tugged on his sleeve and whispered something into Gonzo's ear. "Oh. That's from the allegory-" the chicken squawked loudly in protest. "Okay! Okay! Source material with Christian imagery. Does that make you happy?" She nodded and nestled down in her feathers. "Wrong prophecy," Gonzo said with a shrug. "But I think the ruling part is right. Or leading. Or guiding. Or something."
"Well, that's more than we knew before," Scooter said. "We'd better get going."
"Are you joking?" Gonzo said. "It's freezing out there and I'm not leaving my chickens!"
From out of nowhere, a bolt of lightning struck. It sent Gonzo flying across the room and into the wall, where he slid down to behind the couch. A crowd of anxious chickens bustled over and clucked. Gonzo emerged slowly, sooty and smoking.
"Okay," he agreed miserably. "Let's go."
They continued on their journey, now joined by a shepherd and one of his chickens. Kermit had the odd feeling that this had all happened before and was now happening again, but he dismissed it as the bologna and cabbage sandwich that he'd unwisely accepted from Gonzo before they left his hut. The star still burned brightly in front of them, and maybe it was the cabbage talking, but he was beginning to think it really was moving. But the terrain was becoming much more rugged. Kermit was also fairly certain it was becoming warmer.
"Do you think the baby will give me some courage?" Gonzo asked.
"I think your mixing up the stories," Kermit answered. He looked around and frowned. "But I'm pretty certain we're not in Kansas anymore."
"We were in Kansas in the first place?" Scooter asked.
Kermit's frown deepened. "I think we're lost."
"Maybe we should try Hare Krishna," Gonzo suggested.
"Wrong story for that running gag," Fozzie informed Gonzo.
"Oh. No yellow brick road, no Harry Krishna… guys… where are we?"
"You are in the lands of the Swedish King!"
"The Swedish King?" Scooter asked, peering into the darkness.
"Yes. The Swedish King. And we his guards. His fearsome guards who-"
"Fearsome guards? You ran away from that lion!"
"Well, he roared at me! I didn't notice you charging in with spear and trident."
The companions looked around, but no one was to be seen. "Um," Kermit began cautiously, "where are you?"
"Where are we? Where are we?" The speaker was indignant. "We're right here, buddy. Just look down."
"Huh?" They looked down.
Four rats stood in front of them, armed with swords, tridents, and shields.
"Could this night get any stranger?" Kermit asked rhetorically.
"Yeah, well, strange or not," the lead rat said, "the Swedish King demands to see you. Come on. This way."
The Swedish King was nothing like Kermit expected, but given how his night was going, he should have expected exactly what he got. They were received in the Royal Kitchen, where the King was poking around in some pots and singing gleefully.
"Bork bork bork!" Kermit ducked as a measuring cup and a meatball went flying by his head. The King noticed, and smiled as he came over to greet them.
"Ohr, de froggie er de bear an de… goffer." He clapped Scooter on the back, and then shoved mugs into each of their hands. It smelled like it was meant to be mulled cider, and might have been as well, if the cook hadn't thought that garlic was one of the herbs meant to go in the spice bag. "Offer see de baby!"
"Right. The baby." Kermit noticed Fozzie taking a cautious sip of the cider, and the promptly pouring it into a nearby potted plant. "Wait. You know about the baby?"
The King nodded and said something that Kermit didn't catch at all, but he seemed extremely pleased with himself and the news. "Right," Kermit agreed.
"What's so special about this baby, anyway?" the head guard rat, who'd been introduced as Rizzo, asked.
"Got me," Kermit said with a shrug.
"There's a prophecy," the rat clutching the trident (who was supposedly Chester) informed them. "This baby's supposed to bring balance to the Force."
"No no no," the King shook his head. He then said something that sounded like it had something to do with vanquishing a Dark Lord and marks and thrice defied, but Kermit was pretty sure it wasn't that.
The Kjng studied them (Fozzie and Scooter looked as politely baffled as Kermit felt) and then suddenly changed his mood entirely. He began babbling so fast that Kermit could barely keep up. There was a lot of laughter between the King and the rat guards, and for a moment, Kermit's blood ran cold. Well, colder, anyway.
"What's he saying?" Gonzo asked Rizzo.
"Oh, he's just saying that he wants you to find this baby and let him know where he is so he can go bring his own greetings," Rizzo translated.
"Well, we're going to see the baby now," Scooter said. "He's more than welcome to come with us."
"Are you kidding?" Rizzo demanded. "It's freezing out there!"
"That's what I said," Gonzo muttered.
However, the King continued to be nothing but generous and solicitous, loading them down with more cider and some sweet rolls that had dried prunes instead of raisins. The companions thanked the king, and then continued on his way.
"Gosh," Scooter said, "he sure was interested in that baby."
"Yeah," Fozzie agreed. "A little too interested. What do you think, Kermit?"
"He was a little suspicious," Kermit agreed. "And I'm pretty sure I heard something about 'frog legs' in there."
"Maybe he was just talking about what size stockings you wear."
"Come on," Kermit said. "Let's get moving. It's only getting colder out here."
It was getting colder, and the star kept moving. They were all shivering when suddenly a horn honked behind them.
"What the-" Kermit turned to see a bus pulling up.
"Hey, there, green stuff" the driver leaned out, flashing a golden smile. "Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem, at your service."
"What's a tour bus doing all the way out here?" Fozzie asked.
"Well, we heard that you all are looking for this baby," Dr. Teeth said.
Floyd stuck his head out of the window. "Yeah, and given that the Yuletide treat deadline is in less than three hours, we thought we'd help you speed this up a bit, you know? Christmas is coming, man!"
"CHRIST-MAS!" Animal growled from another window, and then panted.
"No, it's like, Yuletide," Janice corrected from yet another window. "Like, totally inclusive and mellow and peaceful-like."
"I don't know," Kermit said, uncertain after his encounter with the Swedish King.
"Come on, Chief," Scooter said. "It's a deux ex machina. Roll with it."
"Okay." Kermit shrugged. He, Scooter, Fozzie, Gonzo, and Camilla all piled on to the tour bus. It was messy and smelled like wet fur and burnt oregano, but it was warm, and that was an improvement over the outside.
"So," Janice said as Dr. Teeth started the bus up again, "like, what's so important about this baby anyway?"
"Yeah!" Floyd came to sit beside Janice, draping his arm around her shoulders. "Babies are a dime a dozen! What's the big deal about this one."
Fozzie shrugged. "Oh, see, we were visited by this angel-"
"Just cut to the chase," Kermit said. "They have a point about the Yuletide deadline."
"Right. There's a prophecy."
"Oh, wait! I heard about this kid!" Floyd said. "Is he the one that will enter the source and destroy the Matrix?"
"What is it with all these prophecies?" Kermit asked.
Before that question could be answered, however, the bus lurched to a stop. "We're here!" Dr. Teeth called out.
"Already?" Fozzie asked. "Seems like that was hardly any time at all."
"Yeah, well, we meant to find you earlier, but we got a little bit… occupied." Dr. Teeth chortled, and the rest of the band joined in.
"Well, thank you," Kermit said. "Hey, listen. Do you want to come and see this baby, since you took us this far?"
"No can do, froggie," Floyd said. "They're saying this kid is the next big thing. We ain't fit to stand before that."
"Yeah," Janice agreed. "Not without, like, a gift or something."
Animal perked up. "Play drum?" he offered.
"Now, that's a thought," Dr. Teeth began, but that was all the encouragement Animal needed. He grabbed his drumsticks and his set, and with more speed than Kermit could possibly credit, was out the tour bus. The din that followed- while certainly musical enough- was at a decibel level that left most of them with ringing ears.
"What is going on out here??"
Kermit finally got out of the tour bus. In front of him was a barn. It was old and musty looking, but inside a light was glowing. Outside stood a pig with blonde hair, her arms crossed as she glared at them.
"You woke the baby up," she informed Animal angrily. "What is wrong with you people? Drumming for a baby?"
"Play drum!" Animal insisted pitifully.
"I'm sorry, Miss," Kermit began. "We really didn't mean to disturb."
The pig's face changed entirely, from annoyed to sweet and light. "Oh, it's all right," she said in a voice Kermit suspected was meant to be flirtatous. "You didn't annoy me. Please come in, oh handsome and wise traveler from the East."
"Actually, I came from the swamp," Kermit volunteered. He glanced back at the others, gesturing for them to come. "And we don't really know why we're here, or even who you are."
"Oh, of course, how silly of moi. I," the pig paused for dramatic effect, "am Miss Piggy. With all that the 'Miss' implies."
"What does it imply?" Gonzo asked curiously.
Piggy wasted no courtesies on Gonzo. "Read your Bible, buzzard beak!" Then she turned back to Kermit. "This way," she said, all sweetness and light again.
They followed her into the barn, where a big blue eagle was sitting with crossed wings, glaring at a small frog that sat on a manger. (Not in a manger, on a manger.) "Welcome," Miss Piggy said. "This is my husband, Sam, and our son, Robin."
"Robin?" Fozzie asked. "I expected a more… prophetic name."
"Prophetic! Bah! Nothing but nonsense! 'Robin' is a good, strong American name," Sam insisted. "Good bird name."
"But he's a frog," Scooter pointed out. This was ignored.
The funny thing was, Kermit realized, there was something in the air. He couldn't define what, because it was a little frog who wasn't even really a baby and no, there was nothing great or lordlike about him. And yet, Kermit produced the knapsack of cookies he was carrying. "Here," he said to the tyke. "For you."
"Oh, how sweet of vous," Miss Piggy simpered. She turned to Fozzie. "What've you got?"
"I," Fozzie produced his basket, "have meatloaf sandwiches. Ah?"
"And I brought the hot chocolate!" Scooter said, hastening to produce his thermos. "Although I think it's probably cold by now."
"Hot chocolate, meatloaf sandwiches, and cookies," Miss Piggy mused. "Not the most traditional of gifts."
"But practical," Sam put in importantly. "Thank you. You are all… good weirdoes."
"Thank you!" Fozzie said, extremely pleased.
"That wasn't intended as a compliment."
Of course, with sandwiches, cookies, and hot chocolate, plus the Swedish King's cider and the music of the Electric Mayhem, the gathering quickly turned into a party. It was fun, and it was great, but Kermit found something still missing. He was standing to the side watching the others dance when Robin noticed.
"What is it, Uncle Kermit?"
"It's just… we never did figure out what was so special about this baby," Kermit said.
Piggy overheard. "He's a bird and I'm a pig and we had a frog baby," she pointed out. "That's not enough of a miracle for you?" Fortunately, she was spun away by Fozzie before Kermit had to answer.
"What do you mean, Uncle Kermit?" Robin asked.
"Well, no offense, because I'm one too, but you're a frog. And you're not going to rule the world or strike down the great evil one or be the dying leader who leads his people to the promised land or bring balance to the Force or… destroy the Matrix, whatever that is. You're a frog. What's so special about it?"
Suddenly, the angel appeared before them again. "Mee mee mee mee meemee," the angel explained. "Mee mee meemeemee mee mee mee."
"That's right, Uncle Kermit," Robin said. "It's not this baby, or that baby. It's every baby. Every new life has a chance to change the world and make it a better place. Even if it's just a little. Sometimes we forget that."
"Hmm. Yeah," Kermit agreed. "I guess we do." He looked at the cavorting crowd. "So what do we do?"
"We remember," Robin said simply. "We remember not what each person can do, but what we can do ourselves."
"And then we PARTY!" Gonzo shouted, diving in at them. "Come on, chickens! Bring it home to Papa!"
The music exploded and the dancing went even wilder. Kermit watched until Miss Piggy grabbed him and pulled him into the fray. The laughter and the friendship and the warmth and the joy radiated out into the winter night, beckoning to anyone who was around.