Day 14 of 31. For Day 1, click on the image above.
“Jewel!” the prince called from the courtyard. “Come with me! I have something I want you to see.”
Jewel sat at the window, looking out over the vast countryside. Over the past few weeks, the prince had taken her all over his kingdom. She saw the rolling green hills where shepherds watched over wooly, bleating flocks, and the sparkling rivers lined with willows. Docile cattle, thousands of them, lazy with sun, rested along the banks.
There were glorious, granite mountains that jutted up to the heavens, and lush, fragrant cedar forests, rich with wood enough to build a cathedral for every person in the kingdom.
Everywhere, abundance reigned, and beauty tamed.
Jewel was filled with the sense that she could not even begin to imagine all the wealth her prince held. If she spent her life thinking of the grandest request her mind could conceive of, she would not be able to outdo him. He could fulfill her wish without any pains at all, and then he would ask if there wasn’t anything else he could do for her besides?
It was such a shocking contrast to the meanness of her life before, when she groveled for bread and settled for crumbs when all along, a boundless feast was spread for any who would come to the prince’s table. How needlessly she had starved within sight of his castle. In fact, the only regret she still harbored in her heart was the fact that she had not been hungry enough to come sooner than she had.
Now, the prince stood below her window with a grin on his face, looking for all the world like a boy with a secret. “Come on!” he called. “I have something to show you!”
“I’ve been saving the very best thing for last,” he explained, grabbing her hand and leading her into the depths of his castle. She still didn’t know her way around very well, and within a few turns down the wandering corridor, she was completely lost.
“Where are we going?” Jewel asked.
The stone passages wound around and down and under the castle until Jewel was certain they were going to come upon the very center of the earth.
At last, they turned one last corner and the prince said, “We’re here!”
They stood before a giant door, heavy with wood. Great, hand-forged hinges gripped the grain, and the latch and lock were of pure gold. They gleamed mysteriously in the dim light of the corridor. Hushed and holy silence filled the hall.
“What is it?” Jewel whispered, half-afraid to speak.
“It’s my vault,” the prince answered. “Go ahead, open it.”
“I don’t have a key.”
“You don’t need one. It’s not locked.”
His simple answer set her at ease at once.
“I guess there’s no danger of anyone stealing anything. No one would be able to find the way!” Jewel said as she reached for the door.
“Oh, there’s a faster way. See that staircase there? It leads right up to the great hall. But where’s the fun in that?” the prince said with a laugh.
“I didn’t know you were so funny.”
“Jewel!” he said with surprise. “Laughter is one of my favorite things.”
She realized immediately that it was true. She had never seen anyone laugh as freely as he.
“Now go on,” he said, “open it!”
Jewel put her hand on the great golden latch and pushed. It swung open easily after a long protest from the hinges.
“Oh!” Jewel caught her breath. Never in all her life could she have imagined anything like what was behind that door.