Day 3 of 31. Click on the image above to start at Day 1.
The savages who pressed against the gates of the prince’s kingdom did not know that only the prince could open the gate to his kingdom. They thought they could force their way in by means of their own strength and brute might.
They were wrong. If they wanted to get inside, they’d have to go through him. Only he wouldn’t open the doors for a banging, cursing mob. They would have to come one at at time, like invited guests, and knock.
Others had come, and the prince had always thrown open the doors and embraced the seeker so quickly and earnestly, he soon forgot any hesitation in the coming.
But there were still so many on the other side who counted the prince an enemy. If only they knew how much he longed to call them friends.
Every day, the prince looked out over that enemy kingdom and was filled with sorrow and a deep, unfathomable love for these people who had declared their allegiance to an imposter. He knew the truth about the beautiful Enchanter, and he knew that every member of that kingdom was marked for death.
So early in the morning, while most of his kingdom still slept, he put on beggar’s robes, mounted an old horse, and rode out the immense iron gates of the castle walls, seeking out a people to save.
That dangerous, dreadful land welcomed him greedily because it seemed to recognize that this prince had the power to undo it all. This prince had the power to break the Enchanter’s spell.
But the people’s eyes had become so accustomed to the beauty of their self-proclaimed sovereign, they could no longer recognize true royalty. Instead of running to embrace him, they received the prince with violence and scorn.
One day, the prince was returning to the castle, bearing on his body the marks of an excursion that had not gone well. The people he met had cursed him, thrown rocks and sticks at him, and tried to pull his horse down off the road. Blood oozed from a gash in his forehead and trickled down his cheek.
Wearily, he road for home just as the sky was beginning to brighten with the day. The early morning light made the road ahead hazy and more difficult to navigate than it was in the dead of the night.
Suddenly, something caught his eye.
The prince thought he saw a creature crawling in the mud along the side of the road. He looked more closely. It was only the waking shadows playing tricks on his eyes.
Or was it?
He guided the weary horse over, cautiously, to get a better look. It was a wounded animal, and it moaned and writhed in misery. The stench of sewage clung to the creature like the mud on its back.
“Poor animal,” the prince said, wondering how he was going to get a wounded, wild beast home on his already-nervous horse.
Just then, the creature looked up, and the prince found himself staring into knowing eyes.
This thing before him was not an animal at all, but a person.
For a moment, the prince could not move. His mind was stunned by the level of filth and depravity before him. No one in his kingdom lived like this. His temples pounded hot with anger against the powers of darkness that created this hell.
He got off his horse.
“What has happened to you?” he asked, squinting through the mud for signs of injury. All he saw was a fierce blackness staring back at him. Every feature of this person was so disguised by filth and misery, it was impossible to tell if the wretch was sick or injured, young or old, or even male or female.
“Please, I have come to help.” He took a step closer, close enough that the stench of rotten flesh rose up and gripped his nostrils. He felt a wrestling in his stomach and fought to subdue it.
Just as he advanced, the creature retreated further into the shadows.
“Come…” he offered, reaching his hand down into the vileness.
At the sight of his pure, clean flesh, this person, this inhabitant of the enemy kingdom, leaped out at him. Baring animal-like claws and half-rotten teeth, it cursed and shrieked and tore at him like the beast it resembled.
That’s when he knew. It was a woman.
*Join us tomorrow as the story continues. Day 4 is up next!