Poppyseed and Sunflower
Author: Inventunus

Chapter 6
Prince Pride

            "Charlie, " Eze began, "aside from my beloved Prince, there is another prince whom you will meet before too long. His real name is Prince Pride though you'll find him called anything but that around these parts. The prince lived in a country north even of Northlands - a wonderful land of happiness, safety and beautiful blessings. In that land where my King reigns without opposition, everyone is a prince or princess though the King has one special Prince, my beloved Prince whose name is Prince Yeshua. He is the young man you saw in the cave story, Charlie. He is the Prince of princes whom the King loves best of all. I like him best too and we've had some great talks together here in my little home.

       Anyway, Prince Pride was given a corner of the kingdom near the Great Mountains to live and cultivate whatever crops he chose. But this prince  was a jealous prince and he always wanted more than what he had, even though he didn't look after what he already had.

     One day the king came to visit and discovered weeds everywhere and kindly asked Prince Pride if was having trouble and did he need any help. The prince of course needed help but he was far to proud to admit it, so he lied and said he'd been sick. The King was troubled but he didn't say anything and left.

     That night, Prince Pride, although he knew better, decided to leave the kingdom and start afresh somewhere else. During earlier walks into the foothills of the Great Mountains, he’d discovered an ancient path that wound up a precarious gorge. He hadn't gone very far before for two reasons: 1) the King had decreed the Mountains off limits; and 2) the path reached a very dangerous point and one slip and he'd have fallen down a huge cliff.

     But circumstances had changed. It was this or nothing. The ancient path might be the only way out of the King's land. So with courage (and foolishness) Prince Pride, with a packful of food on his back, left the King's secure land and headed south up the narrow path, a bow and arrows slung over his shoulder.

     In some ways he was sorry to be leaving the only land he'd ever known but in other ways he was glad of a little adventure. The ancient path narrowed, as he'd found before, to a mere foot in width. A ferocious river  fell away to his left. Yet freedom beyond. Clinging to the cliff face, his stubbornness pushed him on, despite the danger.

     Half way across, he slipped momentarily and fell to his knees, grasping a jagged rock at the last moment which held him from slipping further. The prince feared for his life. The rock sliced through the straps on his pack and it broke away from his shoulders and fell from him, somersaulting over and over before it hit the rocks far below, breaking into many pieces, its contents scattered far and wide. Free from this weight, the prince was able to crawl inch by inch along the narrow ledge, his heart racing in terror lest he fall too. Finally he collapsed on the wide path beyond and lay there for ages, thankful for being alive but determined as ever to cross the mountains. His bow and arrows at least were safe. He was going to need them more than ever now.

         He looked back. The path was now impassable, his fall having left loose rocks across the even narrower ledge. Even if he had wanted to, he couldn't return. The night was closing in quickly and since he didn't know where the path would go next, he decided to find shelter and sleep. A few corners on he discovered to his surprise that the path disappeared into a thick bush at the base of a tall mountain. For a moment he stood there   puzzled and wondered where the path had gone. Then, approaching the bush, he carefully drew the branches apart and looked in. There, to his amazement, was a huge tunnel. Parked just inside the entrance was a funny looking box on wheels sitting on what looked like a sort of railway track. It was getting too dark to see much more so Prince Pride lay down in the small wheeled box and fell into a deep sleep.

       The next morning, after dreaming all night that he was riding a mountain cart up and down hills, Prince Pride woke, rubbed his eyes and looked out of the boxed cart. He rubbed them again because the cart wasn’t where it had been when he’d got in it last night. True, he was at the entrance to a large tunnel but the box-car was facing out not in. Plus there was no sign of bush and the sun was in the wrong end of  the sky for morning. Where was he?

     He hopped out of the cart. No sooner had he done so than the box-car began moving back into the tunnel. He could hear it gaining speed until it disappeared from sight. He looked, listened and pondered all this. Perhaps he had been for a long ride inside the mountains after all. That would explain his dream. Yes, of course. That was why the sun was in the south east.

     Looking round, he found himself in a deep dusty round pit about twenty metres wide. Its walls were clay and reached up about eight metres. There was no apparent way out. Surely, he thought, a path wouldn’t just end in the middle of nowhere? But search as he might, he couldn’t find any sign of a ladder or steps up the steep vertical cliffs that surrounded him. So he went to the middle of the pit and sat down on the barren ground wondering what to do next.

    He didn’t have to wait long because suddenly the ground opened up beneath him and he found himself sliding down a long smooth glass tunnel. Surprisingly, it wasn’t dark and reminded him of water slides back home. In fact it was very light. The prince was just beginning to enjoy the ride when it came to a sudden end. He was cast out the side of a steep cliff and fell with a slimy splash into a pool of mud inside a pig’s pen.

    With disgust, Prince Pride attempted to leap out but he slipped …and slipped …and slipped again as the pigs watched him most curiously. They thought it was quite funny and began snorting and grunting in delight. This made the Prince angry but the angrier he got, the more he slipped, and the more he slipped the more the pigs snorted and grunted until there was a huge commotion in the pigpen. The pigs were almost splitting their sides laughing so much. They danced round and round like pigs at a ball!

                                                  

   The prince was just thinking in his anger  which pig he was going to have for dinner when he heard a whistle. Then another …and another. He crawled on all fours to the side of the pen. As he climbed up the fence, looking out, he saw a large gathering of small people heading in his direction.

    He was as surprised as they were. A village  full of  five-foot high  people surrounded him.     Questions shot through his head: Where was he? Who were these strangers? What were they going to do to him?

    Similar questions were going through their heads: Who was this strange looking man? Where was he from? What was he going to do to them?  A few of them thought that if he was a thief, he was doing a pretty poor job of thieving pigs!

    There was a long silence, broken only by the snorts of the pigs having one last chuckle. Then the prince climbed out, dripping from head to toe in slimy, smelly mud. He certainly looked and smelled a sight.

    The village chief stepped forward and asked, “hat’sW oury amen?”     The prince heard him speak but hadn’t a clue what he’d said.

    “Pardon?” he replied.

    The chief changed the question which confused him even more.  “hereW rea ouy romf?”

    Prince Pride thought fast. If he said too much either the villagers wouldn’t understand or they’d think he was crazy. He also decided there and then to change his name and abbreviate it to simply the prince. Beside him he discovered a long trough of clean water and to the shock of the onlookers jumped in, shook himself clean and leapt out. He walked up to the chief and said, “I’m the prince. You help me and I’ll help you.”

    The chief just looked at him. Obviously he couldn’t understand either. The chief then turned and it seemed he was giving instructions. A skinny  man with large thick rimmed glasses emerged from the crowd and stood beside the chief. With a nod from the chief this man said, “Stranger, your language is foreign but one which was once spoken here many suns ago. Your use of it is excellent though your accent strange. Who are you and where are you from?”

    The prince was caught in a quandary. If he answered these questions honestly, he feared the King might hear and send a search party to take him home. He decided to evade the questions and attempt to escape from here as soon as possible.

    “I’m from the lands to the east where the sun rises, searching for my lost horse, a beautiful steed.”  Having started this lie, the prince found it hard to stop. Before long he’d created in the minds of the villagers a whole civilisation they never knew existed. He continued proudly, “We are a strong and skilled people. We keep to ourselves and hunt with bow and arrow. We have mighty weapons to conquer the mightiest foes.”

    The interpreter translated these matters to the villagers bit by bit who were beginning to fear the prince.  Some of them wondered if the prince had others hiding and waiting to jump out and attack them. So they rushed at the prince.

    Prince Pride leapt backwards, speedily unleashed his bow and an arrow and aimed it at the chief.  “Wait,” he cried out. “Keep back or I fire!”  The villagers could understand this!

                                                                                                  

 The chief,  in his wisdom, decided to put the prince to a test and ordered that one of the pigs be brought out. A round unusual looking fruit was tied to the top of its head. The pig was tied to a stake with a long rope and it then ran round the stake squealing noisily because it was afraid of being shot for dinner.

    The chief pointed to the fruit and the Prince guessed that the test was to shoot it without harming the pig. (A pity, thought the prince. I’d love to have had this pig for dinner after laughing at me.) “ouY nlyo aveh neo hots,” said the chief (which the translator said meant “You only have one shot.”) After this the prince understood everything these people were saying. (Can you work it out too?)

    Prince Pride lined up his bow and arrow. The villagers scratched their heads thinking the prince was very game to try something that was unmistakably impossible. What they didn’t know was that the Prince was using one of the King’s arrows - and the King’s arrows never miss their target. Pretending to take careful aim, he fired off his one arrow. It whistled through the air. The pig saw it coming and flung his head down. The arrow dived accordingly and shot straight through the centre of the fruit, splitting it in half. The pig was stunned but then, recovering, gobbled up the two pieces in happy relief.

      The villagers were also stunned, awed even and there was a sudden hush in the village. Here indeed was a true prince.

     The chief rushed over and said (in his language) “Welcome, wonderful prince to our humble village. Forgive us for doubting you. If there’s anything you want, please ask. Would you like to stay and have dinner with us?”

      The prince wasn’t sure that he did want to stay for dinner but to be polite, agreed and they put on a huge banquet on his behalf. You’d never guess what they had for dinner. Many new foods to the prince: chicken’s  feet (which he thought tasted like rubbery jelly), snake soup (tasty but too bony), ant soup, fried maggots (he was enjoying these until someone told him what they were), snails and slugs coated in honey syrup (mouth watering!), mountain deer soufflé, roast chestnuts and tenderised wood pigeon.

    After dinner, the villagers sat round a roaring fire, sang songs and told stories to each other. The story-teller jumped onto the large central oak table so everyone could see him. The prince wasn’t sure if these stories were true or not - some were funny, some sad, some adventurous. Eventually the villagers asked the prince to tell a story. He was pretty reluctant but they insisted.  So he told them an adventure story about a wild ride through the depths of the Great Mountains. When he’d finished they all cheered and clapped and said he had great imagination. (Just as well he didn’t tell them it was all true.)

      It was almost midnight by the time he found his bed and drifted off quickly to sleep, his bow and arrow still hung around his neck lest any villagers decided to steal them during the night.  He remembered to pick up the arrow he’d fired earlier in case they found out they could shoot it just as well as he could!  His dreams that night were full of adventures with lots of pigs chuckling and grunting in the background.

     In the morning, he was given a royal farewell and directions to Eastville, the capital of Eastlands.  Here he should try to find the mayor who would look after him, though the mayor would probably find him, as the Chief had just sent a carrier pigeon (not the eating kind) with a message to expect him. And off the prince went, whistling happily.

     What he found in Eastville, I’m not sure, (said Eze) but he decided to head west because he got to hear about the flatter lands of Southland and he was getting sick of all the little hills in the east and also the terrible food.  He reckoned that the people in the East ate anything with legs!  At the turn-off to the 3rd bridge, he got lost and headed south west instead of  due west.  Here he came upon the funny people and this is how I come into the story.  You see I was out visiting friends in that neck of the wood - very good friends as I hope you will find out for yourselves soon - and along the road came the prince.  None of us knew who he was and we thought he looked a bit smug so we decided to do a few tricks on him. 

      I ran across the road right in front of him and pretended to accidentally bump into him, whereupon I fell over and pretended to be dead.  The prince turned, looked at me and would have walked on except that all my friends popped out from the side of the road and formed a circle around the prince and I.  Taking off  their funny hats and looking very sad, they started singing a silly song about hairy white hares hurtling hair-raisingly across heather roads hither and thither.  The prince didn’t know what to do, he was so surprised.  More so when they all put their hats on his head (so he looked really funny!), linked their hands with his and started dancing round and round in circles, singing the silly song.  The prince shuffled round when all of a sudden he noticed I’d gone.    

     His eyes popped out when he saw me sitting on the branch of a tree directly above his head, his bow in my left hand, his arrow in my right hand pointing at him.  He jumped back in fear.  “Don’t shoot rabbit!  That’s a very dangerous arrow!”  Indeed it was - if I had shot it, the arrow would have easily found its target.  But I had no intention of shooting it so I put it down, and the prince let out a huge sigh of relief.

     The funny people clapped and cheered and yelled out, “More games!  More games!”  Oh no, thought the prince.  I’m getting out of here fast.  “Ah, sorry for the intrusion, my friends,”  said the prince.  (Friends?  thought I.  I don’t think he’s a friend of ours.  I detect an enemy more likely.)  But I returned his bow and arrow for they were indeed his, not mine, though I was curious as to where they came from, for I saw on the back of the arrow and bow a small seal printed with a crown. A golden crown.  My dear friend, Charlie, there’s only one place you can get a set of arrows like that and that’s from the King himself but it doesn’t pay to ask too many questions of people you don’t trust.  He said he was trying to find the third bridge and so we directed him back the way he’d come, suggesting he turn left at the fork.  He hurried off as soon as I gave his things back.

      Little did the prince know that I am one of the King’s ambassadors and so as soon as he’d gone, I told the King about our unexpected visitor and asked him if he knew who he was.  Later the next day, a dove flew down to me, a message attached to its leg.  I opened the paper up and, seeing the seal of the King in the corner, immediately thanked the King for  this reply.  The King thanked me for contacting Him and simply said “Beware, Eze.  A son is footloose”.  I understood the gist of this.  The King usually sends obscure messages in case they get into the wrong hands.

     The funny people looked over my shoulder and laughed.  A son with a loose foot!  Ho ho! And they made up a silly song as usual.  But I tucked the message in my pocket, thanked my friends for their hospitality and skipped my way home, over the hills and dales via the old second bridge.  At home I kept my ears to the ground over the next few years and I saw that the prince made many friends in shady places and he became well known in Southland and bought much property.  I discovered that he told no-one who he really was and whenever anyone asked him where he came from, he always told different stories.

    The reason, I’m telling you all this, Charlie, (Eze concluded) is so that you be wary of the prince whose real name is Prince Pride and stay away from anyone who is his friend. 

    So Charlie went to bed and to sleep, and Eze went to bed and to have a talk with the King.

 

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