The Young King; Part One
Radiant rivers of long hair fell to the shoulders of the young monarch of Vale, cascaded down his back like dripping honey, shone like flaxseed. The young Kings winsome face held a gaze of longing as his emerald eyes gazed past the horizons in all directions over everything he owned and the lands he had inherited through his birth. The King rarely looked downward toward earthly matters, his coltish ways had his beautiful head tossing skyward toward the luxuriant ruminations of the clouds and the mystical environs of the skies. More than his vast Kingdom, his reach of incredible power, riches harvested and crafted from the earths minerals, animals and plants, his army of minions and admirers, the King desired with all of his brimming heart to build a palace of crystal on the moon.
The King sighed, emptying his lungs of hope, resigned, his head was often full of improbable and impossible dreams that rarely and mostly never reached fruition, despite the collected knowledge and expertise of his many gifted engineers and wizards.
Upon the silvery dusk that evening, the King wandered alone through one of his many vast gardens, absently twirling a lowly purple and white daisy between his finger and thumb, contemplating the impenetrable heavens. He envisioned a spun ladder of silk with the integrity and beauty of a spiders web,
and as far reaching as his estates. He saw it spiralling upwards and into the night sky, imagined his ascension heavenward upon such a marvellous construct.
This wonderful imaginary fantasising caused the King to neglect the cliff at the gardens end and therefore he tumbled and rolled headlong into a deep ravine, losing his crown, his dignity and his fancies in the terrible ordeal. He rolled and tumbled, tumbled and rolled until finally, a rock stopped him.
Laying on his back for a spell, he was confused, and wondered whether he was badly injured. After staring at the darkening sky, he eventually rose to his feet, after ascertaining that he wasn't injured. The sun had set and the King wandered through the cool of the dark, his feet navigating unfamiliar and brackish terrain, until eventually, the moonlight drew him to the mouth of a cave.
The cave was an Ogres lair, though it appeared innocent enough from the outside. A mellow lamp winked over the humble wooden door, which was graced by an arbour that bore lilies and vines.
The ogre had eaten the erstwhile hapless occupant three days previously and had taken occupancy in the comfortable cosy rooms of the cave.
The Ogre was blind and very old. He was therefore very clever, having adapted and survived without his sight after a vicious battle with the Dragon of Thebes. The Dragon had boiled his eyes until they popped and bubbled away, in defence of his lands, but the murderous Ogre was strong and evil and had slain the Dragon of Thebes anyway.
The late Dragon of Thebes, many many years earlier had been the constant companion to the daughter of the Kind of Deeds, who had grown into a fine warrior Princess. The Princess, upon suspecting the death of the Dragon of Thebes had sent a proclamation throughout all the lands. An unprecedented reward would be granted to whomever brought justice upon the murderer of the Dragon of Thebes.
The hapless King knew nothing of this, of course, as he rarely troubled himself with such inconsequential matters.
He knew nothing of danger and cared very little for the physical world, and therefore had no inkling that he had accidentally stumbled upon a possible fatal encounter.
Upon reaching the door of the cave, the King called out 'Friend,' for he was very polite, 'I am lost and hungry, wouldst thou offer shelter to a weary body for the night, I promise you shall be duly rewarded with riches from the Kingdom of Vale, you see, I am its King.'
The Ogre, still digesting a lost Tax Collector he had eaten the day before, had been drifting into a pleasant doze and was therefore, understandably annoyed at being jerked out of his revery. Having had his fill already however, he calmed himself, reasoning that he could shut the fool away and eat him the next day. The Ogre had no desire whatsoever for reward nor riches.
The Ogre squeezed his monstrous form into the darkest depths of the cave, after sweeping away the erstwhile Tax Collectors cleanly picked bones, so as not to frighten his new victim away. In a soft high voice he had mastered after luring wanton women to his lair, he cried, 'You may enter and take shelter from the night, my lord, but do not look upon me!' The Ogre cleared his cavernous throat with a low growl and continued, 'I am a beautiful young maiden who is betrothed to a tyrannical Prince. Years ago a curse was placed upon my head, any man who sets eyes upon me will instantly fall in love with me.' My betrothed is as jealous as he is violent, and murderous to anyone who even dares glance in my direction.'
The King curiosity was as driven wild as horseflies on a putrid wind, it took all of his muster to keep from throwing open the door and possessing the maiden for himself, as she was in his kingdom after all. The King was nothing if not polite, however, and he humbly mumbled, 'Yes, M'Lady,' and prepared to step over the threshold and through the door when the Ogre said, 'keep your eyes downcast when you enter. You will encounter some stairs to the right, climb down them and follow the passage to the end. Through another door you will find a warm bed and a table set with your supper waiting.'
Upon hearing nothing but silence for quite a time, the young King replied, 'Thank you dear Maiden, I will humbly obey your wishes to the letter.'
The King entered the cave quietly, feeling grateful but tormented by the mysterious vixen, but he kept his head bowed low as he walked past the Ogre and onward down the stairs. Upon reaching the stairs end, he could no longer contain his curiosity, and found that he really couldn't resist a quick glimpse of the beautiful maiden.
As he turned his head, the Ogre rushed out of the shadows and started down the stairs, he planned to shove the poor King into the room and drive the iron bolt home, locking him in for good.
The Kings lungs filled with an impending dread and the putrid stink of the entrails of the Ogres victims. His scream was so terrifying that even the old Ogre felt a shock of surprise, that echoed his awful hideous visage that the petrified King now saw. The Ogre stood twice the Kings height and five times his width. His skin was as ugly as a wrinkly old cadaver, his mangled hands and feet brandishing claws of scissors and knives. He was covered in red bristly hair which was festooned with filth and grime. A mouth leered out of the wrecked face like a ruined shark and though his eyes had been banished, the sockets were hollow and endless. The King, accustomed to beauty, could not have been more horrified and seeing the creature come closer lost his ability to scream at all, and barely able to breathe, bolted into the room and shut himself in.
The Ogres claws scraped along the cave walls until they found the iron bolt and he drove it home, satisfied, he heaved his gargantuan form up the stairs and crept back into his dreams.