©2004 Connard Wellingham
Once upon a time there lived a king who had three sons. Two of them were grown men but the third was only a boy although he was very handsome. Now, as inevitably happens to all mortals at some time in their life, the king fell ill. Being a wise man he knew his days were numbered and called his sons to him.
"My sons," he said in a weak voice, "I am dying."
"Father, you cannot die," cried the youngest.
The older sons, being more knowledgeable, said nothing but their expressions were grave.
"I'm afraid it comes to us all, one day," the old king smiled. "Be assured that I love you very much."
The young man wept and held his father's frail hand.
"We live in a small kingdom," the king continued. "I'm afraid there is not enough wealth to support all three of you. However there is enough to support two of you, so I have decided that you, my first-born sons, will have one half each. Whereas you," he ruffled his youngest son's hair, "will have one third of all my wealth."
"Father, I want nothing but for you to live for ever."
"That cannot be so you will have one third of my wealth. But as you are only a child your brothers will look after it until you are eighteen. Upon your eighteenth birthday, you will receive your inheritance and may set out to seek your fame and fortune. Is this understood? Do you all agree?"
With tears in their eyes, the sons agreed to carry out their father's wishes.
Shortly thereafter the king died and was buried with all due pomp and circumstance amid much mourning throughout the kingdom, for the king was truly loved by his people.
In due course, the older sons retired to their new lands; one to the west and one to the east. The youngest remained at the castle to complete his education.
Now the older brothers were not wicked men and they really did care for their handsome little brother. On the other hand they were not very clever men and had very definite ideas about how kings should behave.
The first brother thought that kings should be fine and grand and live in splendid castles and eat wonderful food and drink fine wine. It wasn't long before he had spent all his inheritance. He needed more money to pay for the feasts and the hunts and the castles. So he borrowed some money from his youngest brother. As the youngster was only young and unconcerned with financial matters, he didn't bother to mention that he'd borrowed some money - and anyway it wasn't very much.
The second brother thought his older sibling was very foolish with his fine clothes and grand airs. He thought that a king should improve things for his people. He built roads and bridges so his people could get from place to place more quickly. And he believed that the farmers should grow more food and the shepherds keep more sheep so he built dams and canals and walls. It wasn't long before he, too, had spent all his inheritance. He needed more money to pay for the walls and roads. So he borrowed some money from his youngest brother. As we was only young and unconcerned with financial matters, he didn't bother to mention that he'd borrowed some money - and anyway it was all for a very good cause.
The result was that when the youngest brother reached his eighteenth birthday and went to his brothers for his inheritance, there wasn't any left. His brothers were very sorry. They had only borrowed a little - just to tide them over, you understand. But, over the years, the little had becomes a lot and so the youngest brother got nothing.
At first he was very angry and went around slamming doors and shouting at people. After a while he realised this wasn't helping to get his wealth back and, besides, he was by nature a cheerful person. His brothers had spent all his inheritance and there was nothing he, or anyone else, could do to get it back. So, one fine morning, he saddled up his favourite horse, and set out to seek his fortune.
His heart was heavy as he paused to look back at the castle surrounded by its fields and villages. It had been his home for eighteen happy years and he was loath to leave it. But there was nothing left for him there, so he hardened his heart and pointed his face to the north.
He rode for many days. He rode over heath and heather, field and meadow, up hill and down dale, through lands alien to his eyes. And everywhere he went he asked the people he met if they knew where he could find fame and fortune. But the people just shook their heads and muttered that there wasn't much call for fame and fortune in these parts. They were peaceful people and not much given to such high and mighty things.
On and on he rode until, topping a hill one day, he saw stretched before him a vast and dark forest. He was a brave prince as well as handsome, so he was not afraid. With barely a shudder, he rode right into the sombre woods, the trees closing in around him and dimming the sunlight. After a while he came upon a pool set in a small glade. There he stopped to let his horse drink.
While his horse slaked his thirst in the limpid waters, a mist arose and covered the pool, and out of the mist appeared a beautiful witch.
"I see you are a brave young man in search of your fame and fortune," the witch said with a smile. "I can help you if you want. But you must pay me."
The prince looked at her sadly. "Then I'm afraid I must refuse your help," he said. "For I have nothing to pay you with."
The witch smiled even more. "Oh, it's not money I want but something you have in abundance, I think. Take the path to the right and keep to the right, no matter how thick the forest, and you'll come to a small cottage. If you behave properly, the owner will tell you what to do next."
"For this advice, I thank you," said the prince. "I will do as you suggest."
"And now you must pay me," said the witch.
"If the path leads to fame and fortune I will think any payment well spent," cried the prince.
"Well said," said the witch. "You must give some of your seed to the enchanted pool."
"My seed?" exclaimed the prince in surprise.
"Your seed," cried the witch. "Send it arcing high over the water."
The prince suddenly realised what the witch wanted and blushed bright red for he was a modest boy as well as brave and handsome."
The prince unfastened his breeches and reached inside. But he was all soft and not at all hard as he needed to be to make his seed fly out over the water.
"What can I do?" he cried to the witch.
"I will help," she said.
Very slowly she unfastened her gown and revealed herself to the prince. She was very, very beautiful with long black hair and milky white skin and ruby-red lips. She cupped her full breasts, offering the pointed red tips to the young prince. She smoothed carmine-tipped fingers down silken flanks and drew them up over her abundant black bush. The prince looked and looked and soon he was very hard indeed and soon after that he sent great jets of his seed high into the air and arching out over the enchanted pool. The witch was delighted. "You are indeed a true prince and you have repaid me many times over," she cried and sank back into the mist.
The Prince mounted his horse and just then he noticed the little path at the right of the pool that he had not seen before. He turned his horse onto the path, and the horse acting as if he knew the way, trotted along at a fine pace.
Well he rode on for a long time. It was very quiet in the dark forest, even the birds seemed strangely hushed. The sound of his horse's hoofs and the jingling of his harness sounded unnaturally loud. It was almost dark when he came upon a woman walking along the path. She was dressed all in black with a long black dress and a black shawl over her head and she was bent over nearly double by the large bundle of wood she was carrying.
The prince immediately stopped is horse and got off. "That's a very large bundle of wood you're carrying, mother," he said. "Do you have far to go?"
"Only another mile," the woman replied.
"Then let me carry the wood and you ride on my horse," the prince exclaimed.
"You can take my wood if you think you can carry it," the woman said. "but I shall walk for your horse is very big and I am afraid I might fall off."
"Then you shall lead my horse while I carry your wood," said the prince.
He took the wood from the woman and handed her the reins. But as he did so, the wood seemed to suddenly become very heavy indeed and the prince staggered under its weight.
"This is indeed a heavy load," he said.
But the woman had taken the reins of his horse and was walking briskly up the track. The prince hefted his load and set off after her. He did not want to lose her in the darkening forest. As they went along the wood seemed to get heavier and heavier and the woman seemed to walk faster and faster. The prince was very puzzled at this because he was a strong young man as well as being modest and brave and handsome but he struggled along after the woman as best he could.
At last they came to a small cottage set at the side of the track and the prince gratefully dropped the wood where the woman indicated.
"Whew," he gasped. "Is there any other way I can help you, mother?" he asked.
"You can draw some water from the well while I make supper," she said.
The prince went to the well and lowered the bucket which was attached to a long rope. The well seemed to have plenty of water in it but, try as he might, he could only get a thimbleful at a time into the bucket. It was very tiring, raising and lowering the bucket again and again but, at last, he managed to get a bucketful.
.... There is more of this story ...