Part One: The Unhappy King (cont…)
There was much activity throughout the small castle halls to prepare for the king’s absence. The king’s younger brother was given charge over the kingdom, and an adviser was appointed to aid him. The king had no family of his own, as he was still little older than a youth, so the goodbyes were short and few.
The people of the kingdom were not told of the king’s departure, so it was easy for him to slip out with the merchant as the sun set. In little time, both king and merchant were settled for the evening in a simple shelter that the former had hastily built from various items in his cart. The cart itself served as a steady wall, which protected them from infrequent forest gusts.
The king rose to a sound he had not remembered hearing for many years- the sound of forest birds chatting and light leaves shaking on their limbs. It was pleasant.
It was not long before both merchant and king were stretching stiff limbs and packing their bags.
“We’ll be two more nights sleeping on the forest floor,” the merchant laid the last of the sacks to cover his cart. “Then a night spent under an old friend’s provision, and we’ll be near enough to my own home to smell a simple, warm breakfast and hot coffee again.” So the cart was ready. So the two made off.
The forest was a peaceful place. The trees were still, holding deep secrets of a dark past. The underbrush quietly hid the sole remnants of those same dark times- natural, simple facades with their flowery sprouts and soft, broad leaves. Covered were the articles of war, the broken armor and the rusted swords. Hidden were the bodies of the evil ones and the good and the indifferent. The forest was a peaceful place- now.
Each step the king took, each glance he cast into the endless rows of trees and brush, reminded him of the storybooks and histories that he had been read as a child and still as a youth. The mysteries and dangers of this forest began to flow back into his imagination, like an angry river of colors, shapes, words, emotions. The king was truly unhappy now.
“We’ll be resting for a moment,” the merchant set the wheels of his cart in place with some stones and then set himself onto the roots of a nearby oak.
“Is it safe?” the king uneasily settled down next to his companion. “Is this forest safe?”
“What you really want to know is if we are safe in this forest.” The merchant pulled his simple, dirty cap over his eyes. “Yes, we’re safe enough.”
A moment passed without further conversation, and just when it seemed that the merchant had slipped off into sleep, he spoke again.
“We’ll be under a roof tomorrow night, but you should learn to rest while there is none.”