New Fairy Tale
Joshua Alan Sturgill
Awake in the World of Dreams
My dear brothers, we continue the story where we left it last night, with the fortunate meeting of our Princess with the young man she believed to be a wandering soldier. After revealing to each other their concerns for the wellbeing of the kingdom, they agreed they must work together to uncover the mystery of the King’s business in his Room of Inventions.
We would do well, my brothers to consider how simple is our life and how grace-filled, when once the land in which we dwell was so very troubled and out of balance. Never forget that peace and silence and balance are hard-won—they can be lost through neglect or taken through lack of vigilance.
The Princess dismissed the Chapel attendants, and left quickly with the Prince to make their way to the room where her young brother slept. It being late, the passages of the castle were deserted, and their journey took them from the Chapel past the heavy, dark door of the Inventing Room.
“Listen,” said the Princess, leaning close. Muffled by the thickness of the door, they heard strange, unnatural noises from within: the heavy dripping of viscous fluids, the harsh clang of metal against metal, and the unmistakable groan of a slow, rhythmic pump, drawing air in and out—of what, they could not imagine.
“It is always like that now,” said the Princess. “Even when the King is not in the room.His machines move by fire and steam and magic, and those sounds continue, unresting, with other noises besides.”
“Is the King there now?” asked the Prince.
The Princess listened for a moment. “I don’t think so. Earlier, I was told that the King is at the judgment hall tonight, and I hear only soulless, mechanical sounds behind the door.”
They continued through the castle until they came to the young prince’s nursery and quietly entered. The boy had been dosing, but woke when he heard the sound of his sister’s voice.
“Sister, I am frightened,” he said, even before they had asked him a question.
“Tell me what frightened you,” she replied. The older Prince noted the tender affection in the Princess’s voice and knew how devoted she was to her brother.
“Father came today, but I did not want to go with him. Yesterday, when we went to his room, he gave me something very sweet to eat, but afterward I did not feel well. And today, I told him I was sick, but he carried me out. He brought me into his Inventing Room, and gave me the sweet thing again. I didn’t want to eat it, but he said I must, and more than before. So I ate it, and then I couldn’t feel my arms or legs. Father said he needed to check my arm, and he brought a bowl and a knife and cut my skin.”
The Princess gasped, but the Prince knelt by the boy and gently said, “I am a friend of your sister’s, and though you don’t know me yet, I will ask for your friendship as well. I am here to help you.”
The two princes looked deeply at one another for a moment, and then the young prince smiled. “I think you will help me,” he said.
“Will you show us your arm?” asked the older Prince.
The boy slowly pulled his arm from under the bedclothes and lifted the sleeve of his nightgown. There, in the crook of his elbow were several deep cuts. They seemed fresh and tender, though some thick ointment which smelled of herbs had been smeared over them to stop the bleeding.
At that moment, the room echoed with a loud knock. Knowing that his presence would raise suspicion, the Prince stepped quickly behind a wardrobe as the Princess rose to open the door.
One of the king’s guard stood in the hallway. He bowed to Princess and inquired about the health of the young prince. “His illness will pass quickly,” she replied.
“I am happy to hear it,” said the guard, kindly. “I have come with a message from the throne room. A group of men posing as carpenters have been apprehended as they entered the village, and I have orders to summon the stranger who first told us of their plot. I have not been able to find him, and this matter seems urgent.”
“The stranger was with us for the evening Vespers,” said the Princess, “and I will send my attendant to find him and escort him to the King.”
“Very well,” the guard replied with a bow and left. The Prince stepped out from his hiding place, and he and the Princess discussed what they might do next.
It seemed to them that, for the moment, the young Prince was safe and that the older Prince must go to the throne room to meet the King there. “I will stay with my brother a little longer then I will come down to see what judgement the King will pass against the robbers,” said the Princess.
Leaving the Princess’s apartments, the older Prince considered that the King could see into the dreams of those in his realm and would already know the thieves—so why bring the Prince as a witness? It must be either for the sake of making a show of proper courtroom proceedings or for some other plan the King had in mind.
The Prince was wary as he entered the main hall of the castle where the King sat for judgement with his scribes and record-keepers around him. In the middle of the room, a group of men in iron chains was surrounded by armed soldiers. There was much shouting and pleading of innocence.
When the Prince entered, the King motioned for him to approach the judgment seat. “Are these the men you encountered in the forest, who planned to deceive my people?”
The Prince bowed and turned to consider the prisoners. “Your Majesty, in all honesty, I must remind you that I saw their faces only dimly in the firelight. But I saw four men—like these four—and indeed their voices as they discussed their plot were the same voices I heard just now as I entered the chamber. I believe these are the men who intended you harm.”
“You also told me that they had help from some of my own people,” said the King. “Is this true?”
“Yes, your Majesty,” said the Prince, “but they gave no names or information about their accomplices.”
“No matter,” replied the King. “The whole village now knows I have apprehended the robbers, and those who helped them will now fear for their lives. I have the power to find them by their fear, and they will all be discovered by morning.
“Hear me,” continued the King to all assembled, “and make it a proclamation to the whole realm. The days when my own people might deceive me are over. I will find everyone who defrauds me or breaks my law. My kingdom will be known far and wide as flawless and clean, as productive and scheduled as a well-tended machine.
“Everyone will have enough to eat; everyone will have work and leisure; everyone will do the part assigned to him to strengthen and extend my kingdom into the forests and beyond. Let my people both fear me and hope for the glory yet to come by serving me faithfully.
“But I will root out all the deceivers and the liars among my people, and I will begin this very night!” he concluded, with a horrible fierceness that made all the people tremble.
The King dismissed his recorders and ordered the soldiers to return the prisoners to their jail cells. As he stood, he said quietly to the Prince, “You are a stranger, but you have proved your honesty and goodwill toward my crown. I offer you a choice. You may leave tomorrow, richly rewarded, to return to your own people. Or, you may stay and serve me as one of my spies and guards.
“If you stay, know that you will soon be the general of a mighty empire. I have recently perfected a great Power which will allow me to conquer all those around me—the Power of Hope and Fear. Tonight the final piece is in place, and I will be ruler not only of kingdoms that can be seen, but kingdoms that cannot be seen. One final sacrifice, and I will possess that Power completely…”
The Prince shuddered. He knew what sacrifice the King was going to make.
Brothers, this tale is nearly finished. More secrets than the King dreamed of are yet to be revealed. The King mistakenly thought that “secret” was something to be solved like a puzzle or discovered and claimed, like an island. No, my brothers. The King was standing unaware before a great Mystery. And Mystery is not a thing or a fact that can be possessed. Mystery is something we enter. It is not simply known or unknown. Mystery is that which we can never come to the end of knowing.
Those who lack humility and gratitude will be swallowed up by the Mystery they think to grasp and control. Only through humility can we become great enough to enter the vast, sacred chamber of Mystery.
Until tomorrow, my dear ones. Forgive me.
To Be Continued…
All poetry and supplementary material: copyright 2020 by Joshua Alan Sturgill. All Rights Reserved.
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