Clop. Clop…Clop. Clop…walking his horse along slowly,
the sound of female laughter wafting through the forest
captures his rapt attention. He dismounts and moves quietly
through the undergrowth until he sees three ladies standing abreast,
thigh-deep in the crystal clear, flowing stream. The outside two,
wearing long chemises, are bathing the middle maiden who’s nude.
Her beauty entrances instantly. Never has he felt such feelings due
to any woman. He stands mesmerized, bewitched. Though his rude
spying bothers his chivalrous conscience, still he cannot turn away.
The afternoon is sunny, sultry. The bright sunlight strikes, glimmers
off the ripples as a sea of golden crystals surrounding her in a way
that highlights her fair skin and causes her raven hair to shimmer
with a radiant glow like a halo. He thinks, “If not an angel, surely
a goddess!” Suddenly, the sound of many hoof beats on the trail
draws their attention toward his direction. “A man!” Quickly,
the beauty turns away, and the sight strikes him weak and pale,
as though a bolt of ghostly lightning had passed him through.
He hurries away, arriving just in time to meet his retinue of
knights. “Away, to the village ahead,” he commands. His two
life-long guardians, seeing his state, “Sire, by the gods above,
you look as though you’ve seen an apparition.” “No ghost,
but the very woman fated by destiny to be my loving queen
have I encountered.” Inquiries in the village reveal a most
cruel twist of fate. The golden goddess that he has just seen
is to be wed on the morrow to the owner and lord of this land,
a most cruel, older man. Further inquiries reveal the cause -
she loves him not, but her family owes debts that they can
not pay. Debtor’s prison for all or marriage for her! This falls
heavy upon his heart. “This is one wedding we shall attend.”
The wedding is held in the village square at noon. Soon as the
ceremony begins, his fair maiden’s eyes glisten, then send
a stream of tears to wet her face. “This wedding must not be!”
our young prince boldly speaks. Attendants to the lord heading
toward him, his own men quickly step in front of him, hands
drawing swords. “Hold! Stand down! No need for blood shedding.
This lady’s love is meant for me. She can be no other man’s.”
Furious, the lord storms his way. “Sir, you speak as though you
have lain with this wench.” “ I know she has a birthmark, red
and heart-shaped in the small of her back.” At this, his two
guardians gasp, “The prophecy…” “My lord, you can be dead
or richer. I’ll pay thee her family’s debt ten-fold, for your forfeit
of all claims on this lady.” “Done! No wench is worth so grand
an amount to me.”…”My lady, it is our destiny. Do not fight it.
When I was a lad, the royal wizard decreed my queen must stand
this test. She would have a true heart for me both on the inside
and on the outside of her body, which she would reveal to me.”
“Sire, I love you not, and this feeling from you I cannot hide -
a marriage without love, to an old lord or to a young prince, I see
as a prison in which my caged spirit would wither and never soar.”
“ I’ll give you time to see if you can love me. Just come with me
to my father’s kingdom. We shall marry when you ask to, not before.”
Therefore, the maiden and her family go to his kingdom by the sea,
a place renowned for beauty and tranquility. On the day of travel’s end,
the young maiden is walking down a lonely, unfamiliar castle corridor,
lost in her thoughts - completely confused, somewhat scared - when,
“Welcome, my future queen.” An elderly man now bows deeply before
her. He is bedecked in flowing robe, topped with white beard and hair.
“How do you know me, sir?” "I am Gozar, grand wizard to the king.
Having foretold your future before your birth, I’d know you anywhere.
It is written in the stars that you and he will make each other’s heart sing.”
For weeks the prince courts and woos her with patient, loving tenderness.
Through walks in the gardens, with horseback riding through the meadow,
poetry readings by the fireside, and her watching his manner of gentleness
with his animals and subjects alike, she soon comes to recognize and know
the true nature of her prince. True love emerges as a bud, then fully blooms
within her heart, matched inside his heart by the bouquet of thornless roses.
By the time of their first sweet kiss, love in the heart of each totally consumes
all doubt, for theirs is love that fulfilled prophecy and from which legend arose.