Chapter 14: Safe Place
Back in the forest, the King, once again, was surprised to open his eyes. He was able to look around, but he couldn’t move. He was tied to a tree.
“Am I not dead yet?” he started, “Oh…perhaps one of my enemies of old will happen by and release me from my misery!”
Out of the corner of his eye, he saw movement. He looked over, but could not catch a glimpse of who or what was moving about.
“Hello?” he asked suspiciously.
There was no answer, only what he heard to be feet running back and forth behind him.
“Are you such a coward you cannot face a dying man tied to a tree?” he shouted out.
Then he heard the sound of their laughter just before they ran within inches passed him. He saw two children, both very young. One wore a helmet much too large for his head. They did not take any notice of the King there tied to the tree. They just played.
“Children!” he called out, “This is not a safe place to play. You should go home now and never return!”
Again, they paid no attention to him. There was no reply, no acknowledgment of his existence.
“Perhaps this is another vision?” he asked himself, “So they are to suffer before me, to remind me of my sin.”
The King had no choice but to sit and watch.
He anticipated a horrible fate for them. He imagined their demise coming from a creature attacking them from the forest, or they would simply hurt themselves, severely, by accident. He waited. With every small sound, whether the wind or an animal passing through, he was on high alert. Yet, nothing happened.
They continued to play carefree with danger nowhere to be found. This went on long enough for the King to forget about his momentary troubles. Something changed in him. He stared as though he were in a trance, taken to another place by their innocence and joy. Soon, he found himself laughing along with them. He could not remember the last time he laughed with such happiness and peace.
Suddenly, without warning, they both looked up, over the King’s head, as if someone was calling them. They smiled, ear to ear, and started making their way back from where they had come. The older of the two picked up his pace and ran passed the King, while the younger, the one wearing the helmet, walked slowly. The child removed the large helmet from his head and held it in his hand as if it were fragile. When he was close to the King, he placed the helmet at his feet and smiled directly at him, just before running off to catch up to the older child.
“What is this?” he thought to himself, “Am I dead? Has this curse finally been lifted? Could this be…Hope?”
Immediately, the ropes loosened and the King was able to remove the restraints, freeing himself.
He stood up with the helmet in his hands. Nobody was in sight. All was quiet.
“Do you believe now?” said a familiar voice beside him, breaking the silence.
The King turned toward the voice. Looking down, he saw the rabbit from before.
“It is you again,” said the King, “how is it possible my troubles have escaped me?”
“Do not be misled, those troubles are still here and you will still need to face them.”
“How can I? I am but a shell of a man, unworthy of being a slave.”
“Consider the children for a moment: innocent, jovial, born trusting into the world. The mind of a child can be very fragile, easily manipulated, and impressionable. Still, they all begin the same. It is just a matter of time before they are exposed to darkness, to the corruption in this world they are born into. Their futures are never certain, for when a child is born, possibilities are endless. With every birth they bring light to the world, giving life to Hope.”
“How does this help me?”
“Look to the children if you want to overcome the darkness. You need to renew your mind, reawaken it. It has become depraved, swallowed up by fear and regret. You must believe and not doubt. You have been lost for some time, long before you were sentenced here, and you did it to yourself, you gave up.”
“I can barely remember anything before this. It all seemed like a dream. I don’t know what drives me anymore.”
“Your daughter awaits you. While her mind is being poisoned with doubt, there still remains a glimmer of Hope left in her.”
“What father am I? I am no father. I gave up that right long ago.”
“It is time for you to come back to your senses!” shouted the rabbit.
This surprised the King.
“Yes,” the rabbit continued, “at this particular moment you are a coward, undeserving because of your selfishness. Unfortunately, this doesn’t change the circumstances for your daughter. She is not any less your own simply because you wish to look away. You once fought for someone you loved. You must do it again. You must not give up!”
The King waited a moment. He thought about a future he once dreamed of with his Queen. He could see her face clearly in his thoughts. How he longed to hold her. It was in this moment he saw her apparition peer out from behind a tree ahead of him. He dropped to his knees and began to cry out to her.
“Please! I cannot bare the sight of her death before me. Not again!”
The King worried the forest would continue its torment over him by showing his Queen continually die horrible deaths. The light in the forest started to dim and a heavy fog materialized.
“You must not give up on Hope or it will defeat you!” the rabbit shouted to the King, “The forest is tempting you. It wants you to fail.”
“How? How can I overcome this?”
The air turned cold and leaves spun around by a strong gust of wind.
“Resist it!” again, the rabbit shouted, “You must deny your fears and your doubt.”
The King looked to the helmet and instinctively put it on his head. The ghostly image of the Queen glided towards him. When she was within arm’s reach, the King had become completely immersed in the fog. It was cold and wet, yet he felt a burning sensation. He thought the fog had brought him to his death.
He could not see anything else around him except for the face of the Queen, staring into his eyes. However, this was not like before. He wasn’t scared. She was different. Her face was sweet, a beautiful sight. He was, again, reminded of a life they had once dreamed together. He could see his life unfold as he looked into her eyes. They took him back to the moment he learned of her death. He could see himself holding her lifeless body. The moment was especially painful because it was too late for him to show her he could still be the man she married.
“It’s not too late,” she whispered to him.
Almost as quickly as the moment arrived, it ended. The fog faded, the light returned to the forest, and the Queen dissipated into the air. The King, in vain, tried to touch her, but she was gone.
“What must I do?” He asked the rabbit.
“Fight! You can expect a war coming to you, not long from now. The witch will likely sense your renewed strength and set her dark magic against you.”
“How can I face her?”
The rabbit smiled before answering,
“With Hope, of course.”