The Legend of The King
Long before there were cities, long before there were cars or schools or clocks or diseases or even people, there were trees. The land stretched from endless deserts into rolling hills, cascaded from mighty mountains to the roar of the ocean. It wasn’t a quiet landscape, but the sounds were much different than today. The haunting call of the eagle echoing through the valleys or the rustling of sun kissed leaves swept off the ground by the whispering wind preceded the hum of automobile engines and the scurrying of millions of busy people afraid to just be still. Without the noise of human life, hummingbirds and the buzzing of bees filled the daytime hours while the scouting of nocturnal animals and cicadas dominated darkness. Behind the sounds of the living, natures’s symphony played: crystal clear water bubbling over pebbles in the creeks, rain pattering against granite mountaintop; the most violent occurrences were the roar of an occasional avalanche or the powerful eruption of a still active volcano.
Violence always changes things. There has always been violence. Human violence produces changes easily seen within decades while those wrought naturally emerge slowly, taking sometimes centuries to forever alter the landscape. Volcanoes, tornadoes, avalanches, hurricanes, tsunamis—they change the physical formation of the land, sometimes in an instance, sometimes years later. Natural changes are predictable, but human changes occur quickly, spontaneously, so quickly even that they unknowingly destroy things they have not yet seen. It’s senseless violence, the destruction of nature, of relationships, of time, of dreams—and its usually due to their determination to conquer what cannot truly be conquered, and borne of their need to control. In achieving control, they often forsake passion.
It is the loss of the undiscovered that is the most tragic.
Once, long ago, when the world was ruled by creative fairies, protected by tamed dragons and replenished by industrious mermaids, the ancient fairy King ruled. No one knew how many moons he’d seen, only that he outlived everyone and no one could recall a time when he wasn’t there. He was tender and kind, wise and funny. The young water nymphs found great pleasure in trying to douse him with sea droplets. He’d pretend he didn’t know they swam near the banks, shadowing his movements. He’d sit on the edge of the riverbank and dangle his toes in the crystal blue waters, muttering about the work that still needed to be done. Only at the last possible moment, just before the water nymphs could splash him unawares, would he kick his toes in the water, creating massive ripples that carried the laughing nymphs away from the shoreline. The charming, affable King led an enchanted life and no one remembered a time when he hadn’t been there. His wisdom was revered, as it was a by-product of vast experiences. Anyone who lives until numbers run out gains unmatched wisdom. The garden fairies and the dragon tamers and the kitchen fairies thought so; the well-tenders and the life-breathers thought so (and who could argue with the life-breathers? They were wellsprings of knowledge; they knew everything from how to count to when the seasons would change, from how to fix a broken wing to creative ideas for inventions). The King enjoyed both the respect and love of the kingdom. But, because no one had lived as long as he, the King held a memory none of the others shared. A memory he never shared, a memory that became a secret.
The King had a brother.
As a very young prince, he and his older brother were inseparable. The King adored Peter, looked up to him and followed him everywhere. Instead of annoying him, Peter found his brother’s adoration humbling and charming. Together , they flew through the kingdom, exploring the tips of the snow capped mountains and the farthest reaches of the oceans. A marvel at distance flying, Peter could outfly anyone. He was fast but, more so, he could go the farthest without stopping. Wings are in themselves a contradiction for they are strong and protective yet fragile and soft as the down feather. Depending on wind conditions, wings are intended to allow for two days’ worth of non-stop flying, or about four hundred miles. The trip from home to The Crossings was a strenuous, but enjoyable, journey, though not one for those unwell or the very young. The next stop, beyond The Crossings, was the Great Arc. Athletes trained for years to strengthen their wings before trying to fly nonstop from home to the Great Arc and, even so, there were only a handful of athletes who ever actually attempted it.
Only one ever succeeded.
When the King was still a boy, he caught Peter sneaking out at night, flying through the air, headed towards the Great Arc. He’d lie awake, waiting for his brother to return home, eager to question him about the journey, but his eyes would droop into sleep before dawn; he always missed seeing his brother return. By the time dawn stretched in purple and pink hues across the horizon, Peter always lay back in bed, his wings quivering, his face flushed. The King spent years imagining Peter flying to The Crossings and back. He never dreamed his brother soared solo through the starlit sky to the Great Arc, and home, every night. He wouldn’t have believed it even if Peter said so. Though he’d never been to the Great Arc, it made up legends, it was the warning tale from parents; he knew it was too far. Peter knew it was too far and too dangerous.
But Peter was not a dreamer like everyone else; Peter was a doer..
He failed to ever ask Peter about his nigh nightly pilgrimage. He wanted to, he imagined the question-and -answer session a million times in his head. Yet, when the streaks of a new day fell across his brother’s rounded face each morning, the King, as a boy, lay on his own bed, memorized by the flushed glow of true joy dancing across Peter’s features. As heir to the throne, Peter’s every hour was scheduled months, years, in advance, his food chosen for him, his friends scrutinized, sometimes even vetted, even his own thoughts weren’t his own. Every movement was choreographed; he was to become King and, as such, he did not belong to himself, he belonged to the kingdom. He never complained; he laughed and studied and was altogether perfect.
Yet, his face never glowed.
Not as it did in the early mornings, when he’d just returned from his nightly flight and hadn’t yet regained control of the rapid heartbeat that caused color to flood his cheeks and his wings to tremble. As much as he yearned to hear the stories of what it was like to fly among the stars, of knowing he could fly to The Crossings, and home, in one night while others could only barely survive the flight there, as much as he wanted to ask if the odd creatures detailed only by the long distance fliers were real, the King found he couldn’t. Fear of robbing Peter of the one thing that gave him true joy prevented the King from ever revealing to Peter that he knew his secret.
One morning, the sound of heavy rain pattering outside woke the King. The world outside wasn’t bathed in golden streams of light. The Earth’s colors weren’t vibrant. Instead, a heavy fog circled the land and large drops of rain made muddy puddles in the fields. The robin’s egg blue sky replaced with a gray, cloudy blanket. The King rubbed his eyes, blinked over at his brother’s empty bed. Suddenly awake, the King felt tendrils of fear pool in his stomach. He was always back by morning. Surely, Peter wouldn’t have flown in bad weather… he comforted himself by remembering how smart Peter was. He wasn’t home yet, he reasoned, because he was stranded at The Great Arc,, waiting for the weather to pass. That was good for him; extra time to rest before the epic flight; he’d be home by evening.
Except he wasn’t.
Never having made the journey to the Crossings,, let alone the Great Arc, the King dared not try in the perilous weather. His parents had sent the long distance fliers to search for him; they were better help than he would be getting lost. Time seemed to move too quickly; days went on. The whole kingdom searched for the throne’s heir. The King asked the long distance fliers to make the trip to the Great Arc. They returned with no news. Peter vanished. As days turned to weeks and weeks turned to months, the King’s own sense of adventure quieted, covered with fear of the unknown. He found a hand drawn map in Peter’s drawer; a map of getting to the Great Arc. He studied it; he made plans to travel the distance. He charted weather patterns, waiting on the perfect conditions. But he was now the heir apparent; he would need to lead the Kingdom. He couldn’t be foolish or a risk-taker; he had to think of the kingdom.
Months after his brother’s disappearance, the sea nymphs and fairies reported a dazzling array of colorful lights that would stretch across the horizon just before sunrise. The lights were warm, vibrant and they pulsated across the sky. Even stranger, those who stood in a certain spot in the northern most field, could hear the sounds of joy humming below the lights. Long distance fliers were banned from flying into the unknown; fear of further loss paralyzed the kingdom. Rules meant to protect were passed; the creative inventions were stifled because of the risk inherent in the process of changing things. Control provided safety. One by one the fairies and life-breathers and the water nymphs forgot Peter, and interest faded in the daily, natural light show. The King, however, grew more and more fascinated with it as the kingdom became less and less so. The memory of his brother’s face glowing looped in his mind. The exhaustion, the risks, the unknowns—all of this were risk it for Peter: his glowing face said so morning after morning. And maybe Peter didn’t return because he’s found something truly magical.
The twinkling stars in the black sky were the only witnesses when the silhouette of a royal youth flapped his wings, flying toward the dazzling lights. Lightning bugs were dispersed when the beating of wings caused waves. What he’d find, he couldn’t imagine. What he’d find, he’d never forget. What he’d find would require him to make a promise to never speak of Peter again. What he’d find would renew his passion, and ability to dream. What he’d find would destroy control and embrace creativity.. What he’d find would spark life in the kingdom—and in the King. What he’d find was who he was.
Beautiful, Tiffini! You are such an amazing writer and have such a creative spirit! I also read “Heart of Adventure” and really enjoyed it in the email I received, but when I tried to click on it to like it, it wasn’t there anymore, so I’m guessing you took it down. I haven’t had much time to spend with blogs lately, unfortunately — writing my own or reading others. I hope to spend more time in the coming weeks/months. Take care and best wishes to you and your daughters. I hope where y’all are it’s not as miserably hot as we are in the D-FW area, where it’s over 100 every day and we haven’t had rain for almost 50 days! 😦
Hi! Thank you! I really appreciate the kind words. Writing is very therapeutic. No idea what happened to “Heart of Adventure”—but I republished it! Life can be like that—gets busy on us real fast! We are in South Florida so it is humid and HOT! But we can pretty much set our clocks by the afternoon shower—can’t imagine a drought that long! I look forward to reading some of thoughts when you have time to write!