The ancient door swung open, blinding Jewel with a radiant light from inside. She could not see anything beyond the whiteness. “Oh, what is it?” she gasped.
“Just a minute. Your eyes will get used to it.”
Slowly, the sharp whiteness faded into brilliant sparkles of every conceivable color. The light condensed into forms and shapes, until Jewel suddenly realized she was standing in an enormous treasury.
It was the biggest room she had ever set foot in. Giant gilded columns reached up into the heavens to bear the weight of the vast, arching ceiling. It was stretched high above her head like a canvas, and every inch of it was painted by a master artist. Captivating murals, depicting the life of the prince and his kingdom, looked down on her from above.
But Jewel’s eyes could not look up, not at first. Spread out before her, as far as her eyes could see, were riches. Miles of gems in every cut and color, precious metals, the finest sculptures and paintings, a sea of inky silks, and pearls from the far corners of the world were there to behold.
Jewel looked at the prince in wonder.
“I have a very wealthy father,” he said, by way of explanation.
“I…I have never…I didn’t even know…” She was absolutely stunned, and even a little terrified, by the opulence before her. She did not know such riches existed in all the world.
“This is what I’ve been waiting to show you!” the prince said, taking her hand and leading her on a winding path through the vault. “Because it’s yours. All of this—it’s yours.”
Jewel gasped and shook her head, recoiling at the very idea. It was overwhelming to her even to wear the flawless stone he had given her on their wedding day. She could not accept anything more. It was all too much.
“It’s true, Jewel! That’s what I’ve been trying to tell you, my love. Everything I have showed you in my kingdom, all of these riches, every beautiful thing of mine—it’s all yours.”
“No, no, no, this is not mine.” She remembered a time when the Enchanter had given her some small trinket, and how it had made her greedy and jealous and hungry for more. She remembered the way others had grabbed at it and hated her for it. Now she was standing in the middle of a sea of riches, and her trinket was but a drop. She could not imagine how now, she, the wretched Obscurity, could be the owner of such a fortune.
“You are my heir, Jewel. It is yours.”
“How can this be? You saw where I came from and this is just…this is beyond me!” Jewel looked around, almost frantic, for something familiar.
“That is not who you are now, remember? You are my chosen bride. You are now an heir of everything I have. This is what I rescued you for, Jewel! I wanted to share this with you!”
“I don’t understand. I thought you rescued me because you thought I would die.”
“I rescued you so you could live, Jewel.”
She stood in the midst of her husband’s riches and tried to comprehend it all. “But it is enough,” she stammered. “It is enough that you saved me. You do not need to do this for me.”
“No, Jewel, I do. This was my plan all along. It is not enough that you did not die, and it is not enough that you live. I want you to live richly!”
He could tell by the look on her face that she could not believe it.
“What kind of husband would I be if I brought you into my kingdom only to let you live poor?” He paused for a second so she could let the thought sink in. Then he added softly, “What would that say about me?”
Jewel knew what that would say about the prince, and she knew that it would be a lie. He was not the kind of prince who could withhold any good thing from any one of his people.
He was the kind of prince who would spend it all for them.
He was the kind of prince who would make a harlot his bride, an enemy his heir.