Chapter 1

Part One: The Unhappy King

The king was unhappy.  His was a small kingdom- perhaps eight hundred men together. The men then had their families, then the dogs and the cats; then the mice and rats and the foxes and the deer.  But his were eight hundred men perhaps in all.

The jesters and sages and the court- perhaps twenty men together- came as if they were all destitute of knowledge, every last one.  None could answer the needs of the king and soon twenty (or so) became nineteen then fifteen and soon were none.

The kingdom spread from the Northern Mountains down to the Southern Sea.  Its sides ran deep into the Eastern Forest and across the Western Plains.  Tall stone towers marked the corners of the realm, but it was not very large, so each tower could be seen (if slightly) from its neighbor.

The land yielded good crops each year, the people were satisfied and commerce thrived.  Ships came up from the lands south of the Sea, and caravans brought fine goods from the cities west of the Plains.  The jails were vacant and the bellies were filled.

All would seem well, yet the king was unhappy still.

One day, a merchant came from the Eastern Wood.  No man ever came or went by the Eastern Wood, but one day, this merchant did.

The merchant came slowly, pulling his rugged old cart behind.  The cart was covered with rags and empty sacks, and it was evident that underneath them they hid very few goods.

The people of the town were all quite curious about the strange merchant, for no man ever came or went by the Eastern Wood, but this merchant did.  He dressed strangely- neither poor nor wealthy were his clothes.

“This town needs no thing from me,” the merchant declared.  “My few goods are of no value in this place, for you buy from merchants south of the Sea, and trade with the caravans that come from west of the Plains.  Your crops are healthy and your children laugh.  What then does this kingdom lack?”

At first the people were hesitant to respond, but one man finally spoke.

“The king is unhappy,” was all that the man said.

The people all waited for the merchant’s response.  What thing from east of the Wood could he have brought for their king?

They waited and not a noise was made.

Then, the merchant spoke. “The king is unhappy.  His kingdom is well, yet the king is unhappy.  What thing have I got that could bring such a dilemma to resolution?”

With that said, the merchant sat by his cart and began to ponder things which he hid in his silent mind.

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