The Scholars of the High Order
You are your own boundery. Raise yourself above it. S.M. Hafes
But suddenly he halted his step. When he had come close enough to the throne chairs of his parents, he seemed to recoil from something odd. As usual, the peacocks had lined up. "We greet Prince Aron. You pursued a noble objective. Invincible as our sun, you return home." It wasn't the peacocks, whose countenances he remembered as a bit pale from all the studying, no it was the prince himself who now turned ashen. For from the peacock feathers, he saw human heads looking at him. They wore white powdered wigs and a delicate embroidered kerchief around the neck. Prince Aron fought to keep his composure. When the peacocks noticed is, the first one in line began to speak: "Didn't you know that we become turn ever more human with increasing learnedness?" Aron shook his head. He had a hard time gathering his wits about him. Seven pairs of human eyes had their gaze fixed on him out of seven peacock bodies. On their heads they still wore their feathery crowns.
"You were away for a long time. We used the time during your absence to study the High Order, just as we have always done. Now we have reached the highest level of maturity and overnight our peacock heads have become more human. This is for us the greatest reward."
The seven peacocks smiled mildly, as if to give their words more emphasis, and left behind a most learned impression. But Prince Aron had to get used to those strange hybrid creatures. At least he had regained his speech meanwhile: "But you've grown too."
"You should know all about that. With experience comes growth. While you were out saving the sun from eternal darkness, we traveled through the wonderful book of the High Order."
Then one after the other bowed down before the prince: "Pavo I," said the first one. "Pavo II," the next one and so on, until all seven peacocks had introduced themselves with their new names because before then peacocks were just peacocks and were called that. Now each one had his own name and was indeed exactly as tall as the prince.
"What a surprise," said the prince, who now for his part congratulated Nubia's scholars for attaining their high rank. He pressed the hand, pardon, the wing, of each and found no end marveling over them.
As the prince's gaze followed a butterfly all the way up into the cupola, he made another discovery. Two huge golden discs were hanging rigid, without being attached to anything, at some height above the throne chairs. They expended a lustrous warmth that gave the impression that the sun itself had descended from the heavens.
"Everything is so familiar and yet so different," the prince marveled.
"The truly greatest change, however, you can't know about. Please give us an opportunity to speak with you about it," requested Pavo I, who always spoke first. The king and queen nodded their agreement even though their time was limited on this first day back at the sun palace. Nevertheless, it was important to hear what the scholars had to say, for the king wanted to know in a timely manner what had been going on in his realm.
"During your majesties' absence we studied not only the High Order, but we pursued, at the same time, a scientific question." Now Pavo III, who was apparently the specialist on this subject, began to speak. "One day, as I was walking through the castle garden I could hardly trust my eyes. At the edge of the pool I spotted something gleaming. It looked like a gold coin, or something, and it occurred to me that the prince, who often kept company with the lilies, might have lost it. I scratched the ground with my beak, at that time I still had one, and low and behold I actually came upon a lump of gold. So it wasn't a lost piece of jewelry belonging to the prince. I immediately presented my finding to the other peacocks."
Pavo I butted in: "It was as impossible to find gold in this spot as it is for gold to grow on trees."
Pavo II, who didn't like being interrupted, took up the story again at this point: "We immediately examined the gold closely to determine its origin. For this we had to dissect the lump of gold into its minutest parts. When we finally achieved this, we were able to read the soul of the gold kernels. In the end they told us their entire story which sounded rather adventuresome . There actually are plants whose roots extract gold from the depth of the earth. (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6) ..A strenuous, protracted procedure, as the gold crumbs assured us, which we, of course, wanted to trace. Thus we found out that very specific plants have the ability to dissolve gold in order to make it flexible in the ground. A trace of gold is then sucked up by the plant's roots and pushed above ground. Right under the earth's surface, in the tangle of a tree's roots for example, the gold kernels are deposited and reconstituted into lumps."
The prince was reminded of a story the lilies once told him about how they transport tiny crumbs of the earth's wisdom via their long roots through their stems enabling them to participate inwardly in life without having to move. This was a fact that had been a constant thorn in the side of the air spirits. Aron also remembered that they had revealed this, their greatest secret, only to him. Could there be a connection between the lilies and the lump of gold? Therefore the prince asked Pavo III: "Did you find out which plants search for the gold in the earth in order to then place it at our feet?"
Pavo I was raring to tell their majesties about the result of the investigation. This triumph he would forego. "It's the lilies," he blurted out.
"What a surprise!" said the king and queen with one voice. Only the prince said nothing.
"Following our painstaking research, we determined that your majesties dispose of enormous gold resources in the castle garden. It is true that our lilies cannot produce gold but they certainly are veritable gold diggers. They fetch it from distant earth levels only to collect it for you." And with a twinkle in the eye, he added: "It is true that gold doesn't grow on trees, but it does in the ground like potatoes."
"But gold is a metal. It is much too sluggish to move. How can such delicate beings corrode an object as hard as this, carry it over long underground routes, lift it to the earth's surface, and reassemble the minute gold parts?"
"Why should they do this? There has to be a reason for this," said the prince to the learned birds.
"We asked ourselves the same question," Pavo I replied hastily. "We already conjured up a picture of lily growers all over the land furthering gold. That's why we asked an ordinary farmer to lay out a field of lilies in the hope of finding a rich gold deposits. But nothing happened. It's only the lilies in the castle garden which search for gold, gather it, so that you, Prince Aron, can find it."
"A gift for me?" Aron asked bewildered.
"They are your friends. The rest, you have to find out for yourself," suggested Pavo III.
Prince Aron, who knew nothing about any of this, was baffled: "This sounds pretty fantastic, doesn't it?"
The king spoke: "We shall examine the investigations of Nubia's scholars for its truth content. Immediately after the feast, the castle garden will be searched for the presence of gold. Such a discovery would be a great boon for the sunland. We, therefore, thank in advance our scholars, whose knowledge is alive like a library for us to rummage in to our heart's content. You have done us a great service." The king's recognition made the human eyes in the peacock bodies shine.
"Now to you, my son," said the king sternly. But he didn't mean it the way he said it. It was the aura of a king whose lips bore a trait of determination. When Aron saw his parents smile, he was reassured.
The prince's heart beat louder when his mother said: "Today you are to receive the present that has been for so long been your most fervent wish." Excited, Aron tried to figure out what it might be. His father took out an energy sphere from under his cape. His curiosity aroused, Aron took a step closer.
"Do you remember the Christmas when you wanted to know how to draw time?" the king asked his son.
"I remember it as clearly as if it was today," conceded Aron, who as little prince had wanted nothing more in the world than be allowed to spend time together with his parents. His wish was so great that he almost doubted his parents' love for him.
"This is our gift for you - time, which we shall pass together." The king extended his hand holding the energy sphere toward his son. Inside glowed a wonderful sundial whose rays were surrounded by an inscription in golden letters: TIME FOR PRINCE ARON. THE KING AND QUEEN. The prince's eyes gleamed. "The gift of time from you, how much I always wished for it and now my wish has been fulfilled," the prince could hardly believe his good fortune. "Time together with you, I can never get enough of. I thank you from the bottom of my heart."
The queen too had a surprise for her son: "There's one more ardent wish we would like to fulfill for you."
"You already did fulfill my greatest wish, anything else would be too much," the prince protested in modesty.
"We asked the wish official," the mother hinted, "but only with the treasury official had we gotten to the right address."
Prince Aron thought it over briefly until he remembered the third tower. His face lit up once again.
"Yes, you're on the right track. You will complete the construction of the third tower. And as a sign of your maturity it is to surpass all the other towers in height. Just as you always dreamt it to be."
Prince Aron hardly dared to look at his parents when he asked: "And what does the treasury official say to it all? I hope he won't get gray hair on my account."
Maybe the lilies have really been digging for gold, which would change everything, thought the prince. But he quickly regained the ground of reality, for he'd rather not count on such a miracle. And yet, the thought still tickled his fancy. The scholars really made a credible case for their research. However that may be, the prince was not able at this moment to think it all through.
"Don't worry," his mother tried to allay his concerns. "The sunlanders will be happy to contribute a few sun thaler for the tower of growth. And later on, they will show it to their children and talk to them about Prince Aron, the Steadfast, who saved his family and his country."
A sense of self-respect overcame the prince. With a newly gained self-respect and boundless joy in his heart, he stood there holding both energy spheres, which he handed to the ubiquitous official of good thoughts. Then he pulled his own sphere from his pocket. "And this is my gift for the two of you." He handed it to his mother with a furtive smile.
"Oh, how wonderful," exclaimed the queen flabbergasted. The king too looked at the sphere. Both recognized themselves as well as the horse, the sword, the book of fairy tales, the elves, fairies, and goblins.
"This is my dream of a good family, my gold dust." The king and queen looked at each other. They understood, even without words.
"You know something," the king suggested. "Let's go back out on the balcony and add our three energy spheres to the memory of the universe. What do you think?" asked the father. The prince became very excited and without answering he ran down the stairs and along the hallways of the palace toward the balcony.
"Not so fast," shouted his parents who could hardly keep up with him. Masses of people were still gathered before the balcony in the hope of catching a glance of the king, the queen, and the prince. As soon as the royal family appeared again, a surge of ear-shattering applause rose up all around. next