The Green Elixir
You don't have to do something, that you don't want to.
To behave ethically doesn't need justification.
"But now to you. We've been expecting your arrival, Prince Aron. We are familiar with the reason for your journey to the Caligo land." Aron didn't mind. This way he could cut to the chase and demand the release of his parents. But Ozelot turned the conversation in a totally different direction.
Only I possess this magic tincture which will make you grow immediately. Come along," he commanded. The prince became weak in the knees. Of all people, his greatest enemy was ready to fulfill his heart's greatest desire. The wish which all others had left unfulfilled. Even the wish official was powerless in this matter. And now, along comes the lord of darkness to make this dream come true. Was it a ruse? But the prince's heart was jubilant: to grow, to grow, to grow at last! He heard and saw nothing else. Aron looked feverishly forward to the magic potion. He already had blown all good intentions to be vigilant to the wind. Ozelot had been crafty enough to uncover the prince's greatest passion. He touched him in his most vulnerable spot and the prince forgot himself and all caution. Ozelot had long brooded over how he could get at the prince for he had withstood Kofur's trials surprisingly well. He wasn't as easily mislead as Ozelot had thought. No, this prince had a stronger will than his parents. Kofur had sewn discord into the hearts of the king and queen.
They weren't strong, at least not strong enough to notice the changes. So the squabbles ate at their souls day after day until they were no longer able reach each other. Deliverance meant reconciliation. But they had long become blind to each other. Before they could agree on how to prevent the flight of their subjects, they had become themselves prisoners in the realm of darkness. Ozelot was very satisfied. He knew that parents and children belonged together. At least that's what Kofur had told his master about life among the people in the sunland. So if he didn't let the king and queen deteriorate into shadow spirits, but kept them only as prisoners, it would be only a matter of time before the prince thought of searching for his parents. Ozelot's calculations proved correct. Aron embarked on his journey and Ozelot sent out the demon Kofur to meet him.
But the steadfast prince wouldn't be mislead by the demon, leaving Ozelot no choice but to hit Prince Aron in his vanity. To grow had been the prince's desire for a long time. So Ozelot didn't even have to bother persuading him to look at the life elixir. The prince ran eagerly after Ozelot to take a look at the magic potion. The memory of his parents faded like ink on a dusty piece of paper. All the prince wanted was grow and that, as quickly as possible. Ozelot, with Kofur on his shoulders, ran down the stairs into the cellar. Widely dispersed torches made the thick wall appear even more massive. A moldy odor hit Monti's sensitive nose and she was glad to hide under her fur coat and Aron's cape from the damp-cool breath of the old walls. She would rather not be in her master's skin just then.
In one room was a cabinet as old and black as the castle. Kofur came flying in with the key and Ozelot opened one of the dust-covered doors. Ever so careful, he took out a little flask with a green gleaming liquid inside.
"That's it," said Ozelot. Aron took the flask and beheld the liquid with great interest.
"A tiny sip alone will make you grow," thundered Ozelot's deep voice through the cellar vault. Then he put the flask with the liquid back and locked it up. The little prince noted the exact spot where Kofur kept the key.
"We'll discuss the matter tomorrow. Until then, be my guest," said Ozelot before Kofur showed Prince Aron to his night quarters. Finally they were alone. Miss Monti trembled again with fear.
"But I'm with you, don't be afraid," Aron stroked the little cat though he was sick to the stomach himself.
"It's so dark and cold and this eerie silence reminds me that we are in the land of evil forces," the cat warned her master.
"Tomorrow we'll make sure to get away as quickly as possible. But before I'll take a sip from the magic potion. Ozelot needn't know about it. He'll rant and rave afterwards, but by then I'll be his equal in height. It's ingenious, isn't it?" Aron asked Miss Monti. "I took note of the exact place where Kofur keeps the key."
"I don't trust this peace. Remember the shield at the entrance portal. Besides we have to find your parents. Somewhere around here they are being held captive."
"What would I do without you, Monti? I almost forgot about my parents. That's impossible. I should have taken the official for good thoughts with me."
"You know very well that he has no power here. Here, it is only your own will that counts," answered Miss Monti.
"It's good to be in such wise company." Aron caressed Miss Monti little head. But the cat arched her back and tucked her tail between the hind paws. She too couldn't shake her fear.
"Once I'm big and strong it will be easy for me then to free my parents. That's why I absolutely have to get my hands on the elixir. But let's drop the subject. Sometimes walls have ears. We'd better get some rest."
The cat took her energy sphere from her knapsack and checked to see the degree of brightness with which it glowed in the dark. In the ominous darkness, the light made her feel safe. The prince and the cat bedded down to rest together. Aron waited until Miss Monti was asleep. Then he got up quietly, tiptoed through the cellar, took the key, and opened the cabinet. Ozelot and Kofur watched Aron's secret exploits from the throne room intently. Kofur was busy tightening the air to an image between his wings which showed the prince in the cellar vault. Ozelot, who was now transformed into a true ozelot, a cat of prey, sat attentively in front of the image. When he saw Aron holding the flask in his hands, he hissed and made a triumphant gesture with his paw.
"In a moment we'll have made it," said Kofur, who, by means of fanning the air, produced a clear picture of the cellar.
"I love your ideas. How about giving this dolt another surprise?" Ozelot asked the demon."Nothing easier than that, Master," said Kofur and turned his attention back to the fan image. (1)
"When I take the flask, I will finally grow," Aron told himself. And as if he had asked his parents for permission, he heard his father's voice, which the mischievous Kofur imitated. He moved both of his beaks and said with the king's voice: "Take a big gulp. The more you drink the taller you'll get. Ozelot won't let us go willingly. That's why you have to be able to stand up to him."
The prince was happy he wasn't doing anything wrong. Why else would his father be giving him permission? Just at the moment, when the evil was closing in on the prince, his angel appeared but without revealing himself. He was taller than Aron and held his protective hand over him. The entire room was bathed in light. Aron pricked his ears into the darkness for the unearthly beauty remained invisible to him. Was there something? he wondered. He was just about to stuff the flask into his pocket when he touched an object. Aron took it out. It was the energy sphere with his parents. The prince held the little flask with the elixir in one hand and the sphere with the connection to his parents in the other. The black baron sat mesmerized in front of the air draft which produced the prince's image. Which way would he take? He now needed wisdom more than anything in the world. The evil pulled, the angel did his best to reach Aron: "Conquer the evil in you." But Aron was only aware of his most fervent wish. He saw the flask: "To finally be big and strong."
Then he saw the energy sphere and heard his father's warning: "Don't come to this place. The black powers will defeat you." The prince was baffled. Just a while ago his father had encouraged him to take as big a gulp as possible of the magic potion. Was that perhaps foul play? Now the scales fell from Aron's eyes. He wanted to take his parents home and the potion was to make him big and strong for this task. As little as he was, he would never be a match for Ozelot. He didn't stand a chance. Again, the prince cast a leftward glance at the flask. He felt really too small and weak to challenge the lord of darkness to free his parents. The energy sphere warned to be vigilant. The elixir will help me to free you, he pondered. And again he had doubts: Should I or shouldn't I? I would be a thief. But I would use the elixir for a good purpose, the prince reassured himself. He glanced again at the flask and Ozelot hissed: "Yes, yes, take it already! You're the prince of the sunland, the guardian of the good-at-heart."
"Doing good I do too-but preferably for myself," Kofur's evil thoughts made fun of the noble ruler of Nubia. The black baron went on: "You never violated the rules. You wouldn't even draw outside the line if you could help it. I watched you at the castle pond imprinting the image of your parents on the canvas. No, you are an exemplar of uprightness, you always paint within the line. You are some kind of moderate," Ozelot shook his body.
"A real good guy this gold prince. Disgusting," Kofur too shuddered at the thought. "Not even the plain fun of trying something would make him scribble outside the line. Prince Aron of Nubia's decency is real cause for alarm," Kofur agreed with his master.
"And are you happy?" the darkling probed further even though he remained invisible to Aron. "No living soul wants to be just good all the time. Just for once it's okay, go ahead, steal something and run wild. Just for once you can break the rules of the High Order. Then you're lost. Then I've got you. Then I've got your country and your people. Then the power of the sun will be broken forever."
"Long live the world of darkness," croaked Kofur.
Just then, from far, far away, the voice of the angel came closer: "Make the right choice." Was there something, Aron pricked his ears to penetrate the silence. "Remain strong!" Did Aron sense the breath of a faint voice that tried to remind him of something important? The prince startled himself and only now was the angel able to enter his mind. Quickly, Aron put the flask back in its place. Through the jitter, a few drops of the elixir spilled on the floor and a rat eagerly licked it up. When Aron turned back once more toward the vaulted room, he saw the rat lying dead on the floor. Kofur's words came to his mind in which he spoke of the shadow spirits, all of whom used to be human beings who had broken the rules. Therefore, Ozelot was able, in the name of evil, to take them into the realm of shadows.
"I'm the ruler of the sunland. I'm a paragon. Ozelot won't draw me to the side of evil," Aron recognized himself.
Ozelot was furious: "Now, he's actually putting the bottle back into the poison cabinet. We almost had him trapped." Ozelot foamed with rage. He screamed and bared his saber teeth. But he didn't give up yet. Now that Aron had finally come to free his parents, now he, Ozelot, wasn't going to throw in the towel so quickly. He'd been waiting for this day far too long. The battle over the sunland was not decided yet.
The prince shook Miss Monti until she woke up. Then he told her about the life elixir which actually was a flask filled with poison.
"Ozelot has let the cat out of the sack."
"Nay," the cat yawned. "I'm still in here."
What Monti liked best was curl up in her knapsack which expanded easily and thereby provided more space. She felt safe inside.
"Besides I told you right away that anything goes here." Unfazed, Monti went right on sleeping. Cats can't be disturbed in their sleep, thought Aron. Then he too packed it in for some rest. Kofur's warning came to his mind: "You can bet your life on it." Overwhelmed with exhaustion, the prince's eyes fell shut.
Aron slept tight, woke up, didn't know where he was, and fell back into the lap of illusion. The thundering of hooves made him presume the coming of the dream god. For a long time he hadn't heard from him, but during this night the dream made the blood freeze in his veins. From the splendid purple cloak shone the fish heads of his parents. As the prince tried to move, their image vanished. Only clouds moved through the cloak. The magic mirror revealed one more time his destiny, but Aron was still unable to interpret it. Besides he wasn't interested anymore in finding out more about himself. All he wanted was his parents, nothing else. Phantasos rode thunderously through his brain and vanished, not without leaving behind a pounding headache a few seconds before Aron was waking up. The prince sat up straight and felt his head when suddenly the wall began to move. The wall opened like a door. The prince jumped from his cot in the belief that he was still dreaming. The headaches were forgotten. Driving by curiosity, he stepped through the opening in the wall. A long stairwell led even further down into the earth.
"I hope only for my own best sake that this is not the fissure to the world beyond and will lead me to Ozelot's ancestors," the prince shuddered. But his thirst for adventure won out over his common sense. Carefully, he placed one foot before the other. The stairs were firm. Now that he was already here, Aron wanted find out what awaited him at the other end of the stairwell. next