A Fateful Birthday
Fame and wealth without reason are an unstable possession.
Democritus, Greek Philosopher
Aron was unaware of how hard the jealous wind spirits pulled on the tender lilies. He was completely lost in thought as he ran back to the palace past splashing springs, gushing fountains, and narrow canals. Until he ascended the grand flight of stairs, his ears were filled only with the rushing, bubbling, splashing, and gurgling of the waters. The prince was eager to tell his favorite toy, a wooden dancing girl on a toy clock, what he had learned from the lilies, namely that somewhere there was an angel whose job it was to protect him and who might be able to free him from his melancholy. All this he wanted to tell her, for just like all children, the prince had a favorite toy and he loved his toy with all his heart. Ever since the time when the king and queen disappeared, he had been in the habit of opening his heart to the dancing girl because he often felt alone and forsaken. It then happened that the ballerina would dance for her prince and his painful thoughts would ease.
Aron could hardly wait for the evening when he would call for his angel and so, against his habit, he went to bed very early. The prince made sure to place the dancing girl on the dresser so that she would be able to see the angel when he appeared. There were no secrets between them. The prince tossed and turned restlessly trying to figure out the best way to call for the angel until his gaze came to rest on the toy clock with the dancing girl. He took down the toy to pass away the time until the angel would appear. He wound up the clock and made himself cozy-comfy between the pillows. The music played and the prince watched with fascination as the dainty, delicate ballerina began to dance. She was breathtaking in her long red bodice embroidered with shiny silver hearts. Her arms were covered with tulle lace and on her head she wore an adornment that resembled the rays of the evening sun. Suddenly it seemed to him that she detached herself from the toy clock and begin to take flight. The gentle, soft sounds of the harp soothed his soul and every time he looked at her, his heart began to sing. He held his breath and all he saw was the dancer in the evening glow of the setting sun. Then with the next gentle breeze of her ballet skirt, a thought, silky soft, swirled through his head as if to remind him that he knew his fairy from somewhere. But in a flash, the gentle veil of thought had vanished again and with it the memory. At this moment, he made a fervent wish for her to come to life. She stood erect in her ballet shoes, turning round and round, and through her short tulle skirt moved a breath of air. "Don't forget me," he heard her voice. Or did he imagine it? "How could I ever forget you?" Aron whispered. "You are a gift from my Mama."
He closed his eyes and saw his mother giving him the toy clock with the dancing girl on his ninth birthday. "I wish you a life filled with happiness. Always carry the dancing girl in your heart. She dances for you alone." The urgency with which his mother spoke filled Aron's heart with foreboding of something mysterious to come. The prince turned the wonderful toy over on all sides, then held it to his ear to listen to the music. Suddenly something strange happened. A regular, pulsing beat reached his ear. Startled, he returned the dancer to his mother with the words: "Mama, there's a living heart beating under the wooden bodice."
"I know, my son. I too have heard the heartbeat," she tried to calm him. The queen took the boy into her arms and told him why she had chosen this toy of all the toys in the world as his birthday present.
"Some time ago, I invited the toy woman to the palace for I wanted to select a very special gift for you. After all, the ninth birthday is a special day for a crown prince. The woman displayed a great variety of toys to choose from. The selection was bountiful and since I was undecided, she turned my attention to this toy clock and told me how the ballerina came to her. She found this toy one day, under unexplained circumstances, in front of her tent. Her curiosity aroused, she lifted it up in order to examine more closely this ballerina which radiated so much grace and beauty. Then she suddenly noticed the throbbing and knew that there had to be something peculiar about this beauty. She seemed to radiate a certain secret. None of the other toys had a throbbing heart, not the knights nor the horses, not the dolls nor the hobgoblins, and certainly not the drummer boy. I too heard the heart beat. And so I selected this toy for you because it held an inner secret," the queen ended her account. Then she gave her son a loving hug. "If you want to listen to the music, you have to turn this little wheel," the queen explained. Aron forgot all about the world around him so enchanted was he by the ballerina. He wound up the toy clock and followed with wide-open, astounded eyes the ballerina's dance to the gentle sounds of a harp. It was only when the harp was drowned out by the forceful blare of fanfares that Aron returned to reality.
Meanwhile, the fanfares had gathered on top of the first tower to proclaim to the world the official beginning of Prince Aron's birthday celebration. The wind, who as always had been lurking on the sideline, pumped himself up mightily and drove with his air spirits into the fanfares. They blared so loud and merrily, their clamoring was audible far beyond the borders of Nubia. The wind's chest swelled because he had caused the fanfares to boom. The gold hat officials had lined up and with them the entire court entourage. Now followed the most important part of the birthday festivities. Prince Aron wound his way to the throne room. He walked down the red carpet which led to the richly decorated sun throne. Suns of gold, pearls and gems smiled at him and seemed to congratulate him. The king placed a piece of pure gold jewelry on each of the crown prince's upper arms and wrists, representing an ancient, baroque (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6) (7) symbol of the sun.
"May the force of the sun be with you, my son," said the king. "This sun amulet will protect you and double the years of your life. It is fueled by energy from the sun. All descendants of the sun king (1) (2) (3) (4) receive this sign of their bond with the sun on their ninth birthday. Should you ever be in need, then clink the amulets on your wrists together and you will feel their protective power."
The sun prince bowed down before the king and then retreated with measured steps on the red carpet from the throne room. The fanfares blared for as long as the ceremony lasted. Then they fell silent. The wind spirits would have liked to continue their play in the musical instruments a while longer. They enjoyed causing such a racket. But as soon as the heavy door fell shut behind Prince Aron, the wind called back his spirits.
With lightening speed, the sun prince rushed down the long hallways to catch a glimpse of himself in the only mirror in the castle. This mirror was in his mother's dressing room. Aron placed himself in front of the mirror and what he saw was a boy whose skin was as if powdered with gold dust all over and whose comeliness was unsurpassed. A magnificent brocade shirt bedecked with gold-toned ornaments on a royal blue background endowed his small stature with dignity and elegance. The sun amulets glowed on his arms like the sunshine itself. The prince touched the jewelry pieces gently. They were very precious because they were a gift from his father and because they could prevent misfortune and prolong his life. He extended his arms to both sides. Then the prince danced exuberantly three times around and brimming with joy over his father's gift to him, he declared jubilantly: "I am the sun!"
Even the lilies surprised him with a birthday present so unusual that the prince had to show it on the spot to the ballerina.
"Do you know what the lilies said when I discovered the brass-colored compass at the pond?"- "So that you will always know two things: the straight path and where you are at home." At this moment, the ballerina turned with unusual vigor, the harp seemed to have sounded a wrong note and from under the bodice escaped a passionate sigh, making the prince feel very uneasy. He quickly ran back to the water garden of castle park. He had forgotten the most important thing. How scatterbrained he had been again, this little prince! (1) (2) (3) In all the excitement he had permitted the one word of courtesy to slip his mind. Breathless he sat down at the edge of the pool. He pulled the compass from his pocket and said: "Thank you." (1) (2) The lilies lowered their heads imperceivably and forgave him graciously for his neglectfulness.
The excitement lasted until the evening for the sunlanders too wanted to congratulate their prince. The prince stood with his parents in the dusk on the balcony of the sun palace. The Nubians cheered the young prince and launched into the sky hundreds of colorful lanterns decorated with little garlands of olive twigs. The life light inside the lanterns reflected the people's wish for the prince, who turned in a circle around the lanterns that bore the inscription: "A garland of love and light that will never wilt all your life long." The prince enthusiastically clapped his hands. The sunlanders too applauded as they launched more and more lanterns. What a sight - the swaying lanterns appended with olive garlands in the evening sky. Aron was very happy on that day.
But his happiness did not last forever. He heard his parents argue in the tower chamber. They fought often. And each time he felt a pain in his heart. Then the prince's heart screamed with all his might: "Please, love each other again!" But his parents' hearts were deaf. They fought each other filled with anger and remained inaccessible to the child's call for help. Even on that night, the battle became ever louder and more virulent. The prince tiptoed through the castle to the tower chamber. He wanted to know what their argument was about. He halted his steps in front of the door and took a peek through the key hole.
"You are the ruler of the sunland, so fight against Ozelot. We are losing more and more people to him!" yelled his mother.
"I won't think of it!" retorted his father. "He is the lord of darkness and has the dark forces and sinister thoughts on his side. The only way I can defeat him is through a ruse. . ."
"Then come up with something already. I can no longer stand by and watch our sunlanders being lured one by one into the realm of darkness. It's the seven plagues that eat at the Nubians' hearts. We must garner all our strength to return to the Seven Precious Values." Aron's mother was terribly agitated. She waved her hands so vigorously, her bracelets jingled.
"You know very well that these sunlanders do not respect our High Order. They willingly fall for Ozelot's sinister thoughts and all they want is experience the dark side," the king replied.
"I know there are some Nubians who are irresistibly drawn to the dark forces. That's why you have to do something about it before it's too late. Strengthen the rule of good thoughts, speak with the official in charge. He must seek to extend his influence in the sunland more widely," the queen tried to encourage her husband. But the king just saw her as an overbearing nag who always knew everything better. His tone became outright hostile: "I don't have to do anything. The sunlanders must come to believe in the good thoughts of themselves. Something like this cannot be decreed." The king's anger over what seemed a hopeless situation increased.
"Then sit on the fence and watch the lord of darkness lure one sunlander after another away from you. The day will come when only the king of the sunland is left and all the sunlanders are gone," the queen needled her husband with a sharp tongue. And because the king feared his wife's cleverness, he threatened her: "If you don't stop meddling, I'll bestow a castle in the countryside on you where you can stay with your son. And now I won't hear another word."
Aron knew very well that the king spoke from hurt pride and that a castle in the countryside wasn't a gift, but meant as banishment. This was the only way the king could keep the queen from interfering in government business. But he also knew that the queen was truly concerned about the sunland. She wasn't willing to simply give up the battle against the sinister forces of evil.
Aron had to stand helplessly by as what was a battle between the king of the sunland and Ozelot, the lord of darkness, turned into a battle between the king and queen. He thought: "If my parents separate, my heart will be broken for the rest of my life." He heard his mother address his father in a more conciliatory tone: "We should fight together for the good ideas instead of fighting each other." But it was already too late. Word followed upon word. His parents just couldn't get along anymore. The sun prince covered his ears and in his despair had only one desire: "Why don't you just be quiet. It's only going to get worse." At this moment, his father's head suddenly turned into the head of a fish. His mother started screaming: "Help!" But her head too took on the form of a fish head. Horror-struck, the two stared into each other's fish eyes. Their mouths opened, but no sound came over their lips. Fishes are mute. A shower of ice-cold goose pimples ran down Aron's back. He never forgot this sight. The horrified prince turned and ran away to get help.When he returned to the tower chamber with the official for good thoughts, his parents had disappeared. They looked for them in every corner. Then all the servants and officials joined the search throughout the castle. They looked in every nook and cranny. The next day the entire people of the sunland helped in the search for the king and queen. They scoured the meadows, the forests, the fields, and the rivers. But the ruling pair was gone without a trace. They were never found and never returned. Since then the prince had felt forsaken. He stared at the door for hours hoping to see his parents enter. But this remained a dream. Even the king's and queen's chests and closets were empty, just as if they had never existed. Only the ballerina and the sun amulets reminded the little prince of his happy ninth birthday, which ended in such tragedy. He never spoke about this day again, but it was always on his mind.
Aron opened his eyes. The toy clock had stopped. He put it back on the dresser. Darkness had fallen. The prince pulled the cover all the way up to his nose. Left alone in the dark, he was very afraid. In such a moment, he missed his parents more than ever. He missed them so much, he was seized by a great fear that he would never seeing them again. Now the prince remembered that he had actually wanted to summon his angel. He closed his eyes, following the lilies' advice. But in doing so, he fell into a deep slumber. next