The Dragon Throne
Don't turn out a person that can't distinguish wrong from right. Hsing Yun
His dark Highness, the black baron was enthroned high above him in his dark cloak. His boots gleamed. His face was masked by a knight's helmet, only two dead eyes stared at the prince through the slits. The throne was elevated by countless steps so that the lord of darkness was better able to humiliate his subjects and Aron was made to feel tiny as a mouse. Above Ozelot's head wiggled the most powerful snake while the two snakes on its right and left side looked no less impressive in malevolence. When the dark ruler perceived the deathly fear in the prince's eyes, he pretended courteous kindheartedness: "You needn't be afraid. The Seven Deadly One are my favorites. They are the beginning of all disaster." Ozelot (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) pointed at the monsters who were gesticulating wildly with their sabers at the prince.
"Because of them, human beings forget their virtues. Take SUPERBIA, for example, the primal root that nourishes the tree of evil. This tree germinates only highly poisonous flowers. Arrogance is the most beautiful of all flowers, the worst of all evils and therefore the darling of my darlings. Those of you among the Nubians who make the mistake of thinking themselves better than he is, will find that pride will one day be their downfall. Overweening pride leads to loss of respect which leads to loss of moderation and ultimately to self-deceit. How bad, for moderation brings order into human affairs. It enables you sunlanders to realize the good and reach your goals. But those who have lost all moderation, better yet, those who have lost the enduring inner order and take themselves for so important that they don't think even in their dreams of entering the skin of another and subsequently will commit the vilest transgressions. My dear, evil arrogance," scorned Ozelot. "Once Superbia (1) (2) (3) (4) gets a Nubian to look at another with arrogance that one won't shy away from any evil deed. Then his life has become worthless. I love SUPERBIA," raved Ozelot who couldn't stop praising all the poisonous fruits of arrogance. "Arrogance is pure pride. It loves stepping on the souls of others. It all begins with claims to knowing all. Arrogance fancies itself to be the ultimate and actually takes itself to be the Eternal. Superbia knows everything better, can do everything better, butts in everywhere, and considers herself peerless. Feeling for the other is alien to her. She is capable of doing anything that will advance her above all others as if she were sitting on top of a ladder. There she delights basking in the sun and considers herself to be the greatest. Wonderful. For up there only she is worth anything. She lacks any respect for what others hold sacred."
"To compare oneself to the Eternal without being the Eternal is the dumbest conceit and the most dangerous impudence," the thought crossed Aron's mind with regard to the terror bird. He too had forgotten how to see the world with different eyes. With the eyes of the fishes, the sea, and the land animals. Would that he had never attacked other species with such ruthlessness. But greed had extinguished the giant's inner light. Moderation was lost for all time.
The black baron was in his element and rattled on ceaselessly. "Gold princes like you, with a fluttering coat as the one you wear, are a thorn in Superbia's eyes. You are not one of us, (1) (2) you are much too small, and you hide your cat under your coat. How embarrassing. That's why you have to go."
Prince Aron was white as a sheet under his glittering cover and he pressed Miss Monti even closer against his body. With a trembling soft voice he tried to defend himself.
"Haven't you ever heard anything about a healthy pride, of self-consciousness and self-confidence, all the important building blocks that give my people a strong will? Nubian hearts look with pride on what they have achieved. And that really hasn't anything to do with arrogance."
The young prince has courage. How bravely he fights with the word and what an alert spirit he has, thought the black ruler with appreciation. Never before had anyone dared to speak like that with the black baron. Nevertheless, he was his enemy and he decided to be polite to gain his trust. Ozelot, the master of deceit, knew very well that trusting souls are easily wrapped around the little finger. He, therefore, put every effort into hiding his malice.
"You mean to make me believe that Superbia also has a good side? Forget about it. Self-confidence, readiness to take risks, and curiosity, which are presumed to give wings to your fondness for discoveries, should be savored with caution. Curious people are willing to try everything because they succumb to the secret of evil. Please, don't tell me such fairy tales. You escaped the devilish IRA only by a hair. You see, it's not particularly healthy to try out everything, really everything, at least not for you sunlanders."
Ozelot leaned slightly forward to get a better look of the prince.
"My eyes are weak. I want to see the one who dares place himself on the same level as I and enter into a dialogue."
Thereupon he gave a sign. "Fire!" ordered the lord of darkness with a movement of his hand pointing in Aron's direction. At this moment the snakes, who decorated the throne, awoke and spit fire from the terrible pit of their throats just as if they were dragons. Aron was almost knocked over. But he quickly caught himself. The snakes weren't out to get him. One by one, they were lighting circles of fire to brighten the throne room. The most powerful of the snakes above Ozelot's throne set off a circle of fire in the cupola, the one to the left, a circle of fire on the walls, and the one on the right, finally one on the floor.
Only now did Aron see that the throne room was round and that Kofur sat next to Ozelot on the throne, though at a measured distance. He was swinging back and forth on a pole which wasn't attached to anything. It seemed to the prince that nothing was as it should be anymore and that the ground beneath his feet was moving. He, nonetheless, observed his uncannily beautiful surrounding with keen interest. The green shimmering light, the many glittering snake scales on the walls, the dragon-snake-throne, the Seven Deadly Creatures, and three circles of fire shifted Aron's brain into a special state of extreme alertness. But Ozelot's depravity surpassed once more his power of imagination. A gigantic chalice, supported by three live hyenas, stood not too far from the steps to the throne. By the light of the circles of fire he made out the repulsive animals.
"Step a bit closer," Ozelot commanded him with thunderous voice. Prince Aron set his foot with trembling knees on the steps to the throne. But the lord of darkness had already changed his mind. He rose to meet him and snarled: "I need poison. So see that you get lost."
The sun prince almost fell as he ran back down the steps. From up above he was able to catch a glimpse of the hyena's chalice. What he saw was disgusting. A huge, green sea of live snakes were whirling around in the vessel. Arrived at the bottom, Aron turned around. Ozelot had meanwhile descended from his throne. He reached into the chalice and held a wriggling snake above his helmet, whereby he leaned his head back into the nape of his neck. Then he dropped it and snapped at it, though his face was hidden. Aron's face expressed pure horror. But Ozelot wasn't interested in that. He stuffed his pockets with snakes before he placed his arm fatherly on Aron's shoulders. Miss Monti smelled the animal and still nestled like a stone in Aron's arm under his cape. Now that he had swallowed the snake, Ozelot felt better. He pulled himself together and tried politeness. He wanted to accompany Aron back on the way from which he had come. But the prince was rooted to the spot. Not even seven horses could have moved him to take on the monsters once more. He'd rather disappear under the earth's surface like Rumplestilzkin. When Ozelot noticed that Aron's body felt as stiff as a stick, he pushed him forward with fatherly concern. "I can unleash, you can tame."
The prince gave Ozelot a skeptical look: "How's that?"
"Try it. Think of something," ordered the lord of darkness. In his distress and to his own surprise, Aron extended the pointer and little finger of his right hand forward and bent the middle and ring finger inward. In this position, he used his exposed fingers like a sword and directed them alternately at the Evil Seven. With each strike, he produced a "tjee, tjee, tjee" sound, which presumably meant tenere lontano, to ward off the evil spirits and prevent them from entering his soul. Prince Aron didn't know where this formula came from, all he knew was that he had to protect himself. And the impossible came to pass: Ozelot's darlings gave off a brief howl and then fell silent. The evil had been banished. The Deadly Seven no longer threatened the prince. They were no more than statues hewn of stone which kept the pillars company. next