Journeys of Peril

  With his lute brightly polished and a couple of encouraging new songs learned on the journey, the Rambling Man entered into the city.  Within the bars and taverns where he sang and played, he learned the sorrowful plight that had befallen the royal family--which is, as anyone can tell you, always the best place to learn the latest news of the city.


  The Princess succumb to great mourning, her and the Queen missing across the great, blue seas, and the King at his wit's end hiring strange, old witches to forecast nonsense!  What a dilemma this had become, indeed!


  The Rambling Man, after having so recently visited his own homestead, had given the matter much debate and consideration, talking about it in great detail to his lovely Sweetheart.  After many hours of meditation, he understood now that the fault was not his own, and he was able to cast aside the guilt he felt for his role in these unfortunate events.  But being a good man as he was, the plight of the Princess, and of the royal family as a whole, troubled his heart as much as it did any man.  Like those men around him, he wished deeply for their safe return one day.


  Unlike those men around him, however, he was quite able to do more than just sit at home and fret.


  During his third day within the city, still without word from the Queen or the young Princess, the Rambling Man went to visit the home of the old witch-woman who lived upon the hill.  Once there, he heard well the things she told him.


  A great distress had befallen the Princess, brought upon by the fiendish desires of one sinister man.  He had darkened the entire countryside, despoiling it for all with his actions before fleeing the land.  She predicted dark times ahead, with much unrest and turmoil, lest the Champion of whom she spoke should step forward and claim her hand.  Only in doing so could they avert the storm clouds come the devour the nation.


  When pressed about this Champion, who he was or where he stayed, the witch-woman kept silent, either not knowing or not telling.


  Seeing firsthand that part of her predictions had already proven true, the Rambling Man went to play in the royal court and saw the many down-turned faces of woe and sorrow.  Heavy-hearted, but never discouraged, the Rambling Man played for them as he sought a solution.


  Some time later, the Rambling Man tried to have an audience with the King, but was denied on the claims that the King would not see anyone that day.  A dark mood had befallen him and he refused to entertain visitors.  His servants, however, took pity upon the Rambling Man, for he had come far to lend his hand in assistance.  They offered him a great meal, and he accepted graciously.


  Feasting to his fill, the Rambling Man rose to find a wash room.  He went into the back corridors, wandering a bit aimlessly until he came to a room with a silver bowl filled with water.  Without knowing better, he began washing his hands and face in this bowl when the servants came upon him.


  They gasped at him in fright before rushing directly out of the room.  The Rambling Man was left looking back their direction in idle confusion.  He sought a towel to dry himself when the King himself entered to witness the scene, seeing the first of the witch-woman's predictions unfold.


  The Rambling Man was promptly given a carriage pulled by two pearly-white steeds in which to travel directly east, to the great sea, rushed away on a mission to recover the Queen and Princess.  With him were the remaining two jars, safely tucked away.


  Along the way, the Rambling Man learned rumors of a city, far beyond the waters of the sea, where the houses were built from gold, and diamonds lay like cobblestones across the street, and the entire palace was built from enormous gemstones, both beautiful and immense.


  Most believed it to be false: it was too fantastic to even imagine.  But the Rambling Man, knowing that the Queen had likely taken the Princess to see this great city of wonders just to brighten her mood, journeyed onward with renewed hope.


  By the King's order, a ship and crew were secured on the Rambling Man's behalf.  Driven on aboard their massive ship, with vast sails billowed out and full of momentum, the Rambling Man stared optimistically toward the east where they sailed to meet the unknown.  He had never crossed the sea before, though he heard many stories of its great wonders and deadly perils.


  And so, knowing all of this, the Rambling Man, anxious for great adventure and exploration, set forth across the great sea, not knowing what he might find but excited for it.  And what he would eventually discover would turn out to be nothing he ever could have imagined.


The End

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