Chapter 11: Humble Home
Out in the country side, far away from the King’s castle was a man named Eli, tending to his sheep. He did not have many. His home was small, nothing to be admired. Still, he was happy. What little livestock he owned belonged to him and his new bride, Sarai. Not far from them lived her parents with their own small home and livestock.
Eli and Sarai had known each other since they were children. They had lived through the best and worst of times together.
Eli lost both of his parents early in life due to a great war. They were killed in their home as Eli and Sarai hid together in a wine press. So Sarai’s parents took him in when he had no one else, and loved him as a son.
Not long after, a plague struck the land and claimed the lives of many, including all of Sarai’s siblings. Still, through all the death and darkness they always had each other. They were inseparable.
Sarai’s parents knew they had a special relationship and looked forward to the day of their daughter’s marriage to Eli. This was their silver lining, their last chance for hope, their last source of strength to carry them on for the rest of their days.
Eli and Sarai lived a simple life and they planned for many children, many whose names were already decided.
When Eli finished tending to his sheep, he started to prep his ox to plow. This was when a letter
“Good day, sir,” Eli greeted.
Without hesitation, the man gave his message.
“By order of our new king, all of your cattle shall be given over for his royal army,” he said as he handed him the decree.
“But, sir, I have only two. I need…”
“What you need, sir is to do right by your king. Need I remind you that you are only here on this land to tend to it? It is only allowable because he pities men such as yourself and, thus, allows your stay. This land belongs to him. You should be grateful, boy.”
Eli had no choice in the matter. The following morning his ox and cow were taken by two of the king’s royal guards. As the guards were loading the cattle, they both took notice of Sarai’s beauty.
Eli watched helplessly, powerless alongside Sarai as they took the cattle away.
“We’ll get through this one,” she said, “We have already faced the worst of it together. We’ll survive. We always do.”
“But what kind of husband am I? We have been married but two months and already we have less than what we started with.”
“Why, my husband, who said we have less?” Sarai then held him close, “Not long from now we will have one more mouth to feed, and I will give up two cattle for a child any day,” she said with a smile.
Upon hearing this, Eli was overjoyed. This was the first time he heard she was with child.
Their momentary troubles seemed bleak, but their future was exciting, and it could not come any sooner for them. Their lives were still ahead of them and having a child was only the beginning.
“We’ll make it work,” he said, “as long as we have each other we’ll always make it work.”
That same night, Eli went to bed with a great sense of urgency. He knew the moment he closed his eyes he would wake up one day closer to seeing their child born. It would be the happiest day of their lives.
The King of old, now a widower and father of Princess Elise, was awakened by a tickling sensation on his face. It had been eight years of struggle and torment. His will to fight, driven by his guilt, was gone. The wicked forest swallowed his spirit. He was a living lost soul, similar to the apparitions wandering about, and he was ready to join them in death.
His eyes were still heavy, exhausted. He was a broken man, but he was also surprised. He felt as though death was certain for him, yet, there he lay, still in the terrible forest, still alive.
He felt the sensation again on his face.
“Time to wake up, mighty King,” a voice spoke.
The King was able to shake his head and focus his eyes on to the trees surrounding him. Still, he could see no person there, only a rabbit by his head.
“Who said that?” the King asked as he surveyed the area.
“I did,” the rabbit responded just as their eyes met.
Although weak, the King had enough energy to distance himself from the rabbit out of fear.
“What are you? Am I dead? Did the witch send you to torment me some more? Are you here to finish me off?”
“No, your majesty, I am a messenger of Hope, but I must say, you do look as good as dead. I even thought you might have been if only for a moment,” the rabbit replied.
The King could not gather his wits.
“This is what I have been reduced to,” he said to himself, “I’ve gone mad. A sickness in my mind. I am now both victim and tormentor.”
“Your majesty, I assure you…”
“And yet it continues to speak, making a mockery of me. Be gone, rabbit! Can I not die in peace?”
The King threw a stone at the rabbit. It scurried off and was soon out of sight.
“At last, my time has come to…”
“Your majesty, if I may…” the rabbit interrupted him from behind, once again, giving him a fright.
“Ah! Instrument of torture, leave me be!” The King cried out, now rocking, clasping his head, and keeping his eyes shut tight.
“Now, now…there is no need for name calling. As I said before, I am a messenger of Hope. I am here to help you.”
“Hope?” the King replied, “There is no Hope.”
“There is always Hope. Unfortunately for you, you gave up long before your stay in this forest. Am I wrong in what I say?”
The King’s mind was too preoccupied to carry a conversation. It was at a fragile state having endured endless torment. He had a break down for some time and, therefore, could not comprehend what the rabbit was trying to tell him.
“The witch,” the King said as if he had a new idea, “she has kept me alive with these awful berries falling from the trees. Sometimes I confuse them with insects. It doesn’t matter. They taste the same. But rabbit! Ah, yes! I have not tasted rabbit for some time. Oh, how I’ve longed for a feast such as this!”
The King quickly looked around for a large stick to kill the rabbit. He settled for a hanging branch along the trunk of a tree. However, as he reached for it, the rabbit struck the back of the King’s head, kicking it into the nearby tree trunk and knocking him unconscious.
“Tomorrow will be a better day,” the rabbit said.
Locked away in her dark room, Princess Elise would stare up through a window eight feet high, looking to catch more of the world outside. She would stand and stare, looking up, for many hours at a time. The window allowed the sunlight to shine through to one single spot in the room. This is where she stood, out of the darkness.
Her favorite time of day was night because only then could she see the stars. She studied their movements helping her keep track of her days and the changing seasons. She grew very accustomed to learning the intricacies of the night sky within the confines of the window frame. More than anything else, she loved the sight of the moon.
On this particular night, she had the perfect vantage point to witness the full moon. It was a grand sight for her, as if she was its only audience. It was vast, blue, and it shined through her window, lighting up an otherwise dark room. It gave her a sense of much needed peace.
“Let your light shine, blue moon,” she would think to herself.
During her eight years under the care of the witch, the Princess was on a very strict diet to ensure she retained a healthy body. She ate three meals a day. The portions were not too much or too little, always the right amount and never with any traces of fat.
For exercise, the witch permitted the Princess time outside in a contained part of the trees. This was when she could see the animals of the forest. They were all beautiful to her. She imagined they were part of a larger family, loved and happy, unlike her.
She was secluded and inexperienced in life, but Princess Elise had a vivid imagination, which was mostly explored through her dreams. Unfortunately, these were not always welcome or pleasant. She had many recurring dreams about trying to escape her captivity, but they were frightening to her. They were dark, scary, and never ended well.
Even in her dreams she was trapped. She could never escape because she didn’t believe she could. Above all, she didn’t think she had a reason to. She lived in the only reality she knew to exist. She had no sense of purpose. She even had small sentiments for the witch. She was, after all, the only mother she had, for better or worse. The witch had successfully convinced her she was alone, unloved by her parents, orphaned and unwanted by anyone else.
There was another recurring dream she would have. Not like the others and not nearly as often. It would come once, the same time each year; the Princess recognized this through the alignment of the stars.
She never understood it, but in her dream she would see momentary pictures, quick flashes of a woman’s face. The face was never clear enough to see, rather, it was cloudy, but the face was always close and always bearing a smile, something she had only seen in this dream. The woman’s mouth would then move as if she was saying something to the Princess, but the words remained incoherent. The sounds would go in and out, jumbled, and nothing was ever clearly stated.
Nothing compared to the moment she would awake from this particular dream. It was a stronger sensation than the one given by the sight of the moon. She didn’t know what to call the feeling, but it felt good.