Chapter 15: Sparrow
The next morning, the witch entered Princess Elise’s room with the same greeting,
“Wake up, orphan, wake. Even those unloved must eat.”
The witch placed the food on a small table in the room. She would then wave her hand in front of Elise, untying the stitches and freeing her mouth.
“You must get your fill, you must. Tomorrow is the beginning, the end. Your purpose has required much patience, much from me. Still, better to be patient than take a city, much better.”
“Will I get to go outside?” the Princess asked just before she started to eat her food.
“Yes, of course. That is where you will be, as I.”
Elise ate her food in haste, she was eager to ask a question. She could not simply ask after having started on her meal. The witch was very strict about making sure she ate all of the food given to her. So much so, she waited in the room for her to finish.
“What is my purpose? You have not told me. I know I will die soon, but for what?” she asked immediately after taking her last bite.
“To destroy Hope,” the witch said with an evil grin. “Even if only for a little while, it will be enough, gone.”
“Who is Hope, your enemy?”
“He is all that stands in my way, all, keeping me confined to my trees. I have little influence, power outside. Without Hope, I can walk freely, do as I please, freely. Then I can bring darkness in all the land.”
“Why must you hate so?” the Princess asked with such displeasure.
“It is what I am!” the witch shouted as she waved her hand once again to reseal Elise’s mouth. Then she left her alone in her dark room.
“Why must it be me?” the Princess thought to herself, “If only death would come sooner.”
“There is no need to cry child,” an unfamiliar voice said.
Elise looked around her room frightened. She did not know where the voice had come from. Since she could not speak, she could not call out to the voice.
“I can hear your thoughts, speak to me,” the voice said.
The Princess suddenly became terrified. She could not see anyone speaking, so she assumed it was coming from her mind.
“No more words, none!” she cried out in her thoughts.
She clasped both of her hands to the sides of her head, afraid to lose control of her thoughts. They were all she had control over. It was all she had to bring her peace.
“I assure you, child, I am merely here to help you.”
“You mustn’t be in my head. It is all I have!”
“And it will continue to be yours, but you have much more than you realize.”
“Please, I beg you. This is my life and it will come soon to an end. I need my mind.”
“Child, listen closely. You will not bring about the death of Hope; rather, you will bring him to life for the rest of the world. Now please, look up toward your window.”
The Princess did. She saw a sparrow perched on the open frame.
“You are not from my mind?” she asked cautiously.
“No, child,” he simply replied.
“What a wonderful looking creature you are. What are you?”
“The creature you see before you is known as a sparrow. There are many creatures like myself, messengers of Hope. We carry his good news and help those who seek him or are in need of him.”
“So you are here to help me?”
“I am here to prepare you. I cannot simply help you escape, the witch will know. She is powerful here. You may need to suffer a little more, but only for a short while until your father, the King, comes.”
The news surprised her. This was the first time she heard her father was still alive. The witch told her stories about her parents, leading her to believe they had given her up, leaving her unloved and unwanted. She was also told they died horrible deaths, killing one another.
“My father is alive? Why would he come for me? He does not love me. He let me come here. He gave me to hurt, to die,” she told him as her eyes began to tear once more.
“The witch has tried to poison your mind. She took you from him. Since that day, your father has been in this terrible forest looking for you, surviving unimaginable horrors.”
“But the witch said…”
“She is a liar, the mother of all lies. Your mother, the Queen, bore you and died for you out of love. She did not know what your future held, but she had Hope. And it is out of love your father will fight for you, even in the face of death. He is ready to save you because he has Hope, and you now have him too.”
Always a Fool
During one of his favorite times of the day, King Greedy stood atop his castle to stare out at all he ruled. There were numerous monuments built in his honor. The land was full of despair, but he was incapable of having empathy. Instead, he considered how many more monuments he needed built throughout the lands. For him, there could never be enough.
It was in this moment he noticed a man, standing and staring up towards him. The man never moved. A fight broke out between two other men less than ten feet from where he stood and, yet, the man remained still, standing and staring.
“How curious,” King Greedy thought to himself. “Bring him up,” he told the dead soldier by his side.
The king was sitting on his throne when the man was brought in to see him. He looked like a broken man. His hair was wild. His clothing was poorly put together. His eyes were wide, staring off, never making eye contact. He was malnourished, frail, and sickly. As he stood before King Greedy, he mumbled silently to himself.
“Well now,” started the king, “you are in the presence of your lord, by all means, speak up man and tell me what it is you seek.”
The man did not flinch. He stared about, eyes fixing on different objects in the enormous room, still mumbling.
“Have you forgotten how to speak?” the king asked with a laugh, amused by the man’s suffering.
“Speak?” the man suddenly asked, starting to come to his senses. He finally made eye contact with the king before saying it again, “Speak…speak for those unable to speak for themselves. My family…gone. Murdered. Unjustly. Without pity. You have taken their voice. The sound of their laughter…gone forever. For what? So a Fool can feel important? Not a man, never a man, always a Fool! Certainly, not any king of mine!”
“Strike him!” King Greedy shouted in anger.
One of the dead soldiers hit the man on the back of the head, knocking him face first to the floor. King Greedy stood from his throne, sword in hand, and walked to the man as he lay down trying to regain his wits.
“A Fool…always a Fool,” the man struggled to say.
“A king,” Greedy Fool responded coldly.
“No…you only have power as long as the witch allows it. Someone will go to her, someone such as you, ready to make a deal for a black heart. We are all desperate enough. It is only a matter of time.” The man suddenly laughed hysterically as he continued to mock the king,
“A Fool, always a Fool, always a Fool…”
King Greedy pierced the man’s heart with his sword. He dropped it and wandered over to his balcony facing the forest. He stared at the trees and realized the man was right.
Into the Water
The maid servant walked for hours on the path of Hope. No messengers visited her and there were no signs for instruction. Still, the path was clear, with enough light to guide her.
From her vantage point, she could see the dark creatures of the forest moving about within the trees, roaming, as if looking for something to hunt. Every once in a while, a crow would fly onto the path in an attempt to frighten her off of it, but she knew how important it was to stay on. Should she falter off course, it could lead to her death.
Although she had taken this route before, it looked different. Something changed. There was a winding in the road ahead. This was unexpected and not as before. It struck her as odd. She wanted to question why she had never seen this before, but she convinced herself it was part of what Hope wanted for her. She didn’t understand, but she needed to trust.
After walking the curve, she noticed a small pond cutting off the way. In order to get to the other side, and stay on the path, she would need to go through the water.
The water was warm to the touch. Without question, she jumped in, eager to move forward.
She was completely immersed. This was unlike any other time she had gone for a swim. This was more than getting wet. Underneath the water, she saw a vision of herself struggling, drowning, pulled down by unseen forces, taken deeper and deeper into the abyss.
The maid servant made it, coming out of the water feeling renewed, refreshed, and hungry. Burning before her was a fire. Its warmth comforted her. Near the flames were two small fish and some bread ready to eat. Without question, she knew who prepared it. She sat, ate, and had her fill.
After her meal, she noticed just off to the side, sitting under a tree, was battle armor, complete with sword and shield. She was not skilled in weaponry, but she was determined to get in the fight.
She camped for the night. In the morning, she would venture into the forest, fully prepared, in search of Princess Elise.