A short easy-read novel. Maybe an hour’s read. Entertaining, neverthless! ( hopefully ;-)
Does true happiness even exist?
I don’t mean happiness that lasts for only a month…only a year…only a day…only a second…only a moment of your life….
But endless happiness….
Here’s some easy reading for you that will hopefully answer that question…
I hope this little story will show you that somewhere, in the dark hidden crevasses of your life, that there is indeed a way to true happiness…
Gloomy. Despairing. Weary. It was he who staggered through the medieval woods on that dark, somber October midnight to his home.
The gloomy castle rose forebodingly before Warisol Hanklon. In the bright moonlight, it cast a shadow that touched the tips of the forest tree giants.
The shadow also stretched to Milan, the nearest town two miles behind him. But it really didn’t. It was all an exaggerated imagination on the part of Warisol. Bitter sarcasm he took delight in making.
He at last reached the creaking castle gate and entered. His nervous touch and sunken face reflected an attitude of sadness. He paused to gaze in the broken glass and took in the face that looked back at him. The brown eyes glared red and held passionate longing.
He looked around.
Ah! That castle was a strange one. No crusade relics upon the walls. No guard standing erect at the door, waiting to say to Warisol, “Welcome!” No furniture to even brighten the dwelling.
Warisol groped further through the dark hall, noticing that at the end the small flicker of candlelight guiding him faltered and suddenly burnt out.
He finally made it into the hall whose dark walls rose around him. A woman perched on a small box knitting listlessly. Warisol heard her moaning continuously to herself about the little portion of light that she had to use on account of the tiny castle windows high up on the walls.
She hardly took notice. He sunk at her feet.
“What good is life if all I live for is this?”
To which she replied, “You told us you were having fun, didn’t you?”
Of course I was. Drank till the farmer down the road gave a challenge, and then we drank some more.”
She shot a look at him as if to say: and why did you ask me the question?
“It’s a wonder that you even made it home,” answered Venlin.
“Are you saying that you don’t want me to make it home?”
“I never said that,” said Venlin.
“Come on, you would think somebody would care! After Mother deserted us and Father ran off to the crusades. You who should care for me the most don’t even have a kind word for me—your own brother!”
To which Misal said, “We don’t hurt you. In fact, we let you live with us. We pile food on your plate. What more do you want?”
“I want to be happy, forever endlessly happy,” and he cupped his head in his hands.
“No human can give you happiness,” retorted Misal.
“Misal, you are crazy! Henry LaNaphine is so rich he could burn his mansion and have money to buy ten more, and he’s darn good happy!”
“Not to be a killjoy here but when he dies, his money will be inherited by his future children or grandchildren, who will then pay an awful estate tax,” Misal answered matter-of-factly. “And then what good does money do him?”
“I don’t want to hear about it. Lee the prince has fallen in love with Lady Sholtess, as you know, and he has never been so happy in all his life!”
“I hope you will recall how happy the saloon keeper of Milan was when he fell in love with the woman whom every guy in town had their eyes on,” said Venlin.
“They really made a handsome couple!” announced Misal.
“Yes,” agreed Venlin, then added. “But remember soon after he found her cheating and sleeping in the arms of her secret lover. That same afternoon she stepped carelessly backwards right into the waters of the Milan river, and was drowned. And what good was she to him then?”
“Okay, well then, what are you, a pessimist?”
“No!” Venlin defended herself. “I’m just saying what I know.”
“Just to let you know, when I find a job that I like and pursue my
profession, and then find a beautiful woman and fall in love with her, then I am going to be happy forever, regardless of what you say!”
Venlin only answered. “To have lasting happiness, then you must get it from something that lasts forever. And I don’t know of anything like that.”
“And you’re pretty weak in body as it is; you won’t last long,” said Misal, scanning him up and down. “You drink so much.”
Warisol jumped to his feet. Clearly offended.
“Oh, one of these days you’re gonna die,” she said carelessly.
He made a fist that showed his taut muscular arm. “ I suppose you won’t be sorry.”
“Can’t say that I will. We won’t have to bail you out of the Milan prison any more. We won’t have to deal with your drinking parties. We will inherit the castle according to the king’s new law. We won’t have to hear about any of this ‘happy’ business from you that we don’t have an answer for.”
Warisol backed away, his muscular shoulders taut with anger, his eyes blood-shot. “I may not get it from you, but one of these days, I will find happiness! And when I do, I will not share it with you.”
“Find her if you must,” said his sister, indifferently. “But if you can’t find her in your booze like you say you do, where else can she be?”
“Don’t be silly,” retorted Warisol. “It’s fun while it lasts!”
“Exactly. While it lasts. You’ll have a headache tomorrow morning.”
“SHUT UP!” He hollered, and turned and ran off.
Glittering. Shining. Gleaming. Flashing.
An opportunity lay beckoning him with shining enticement.
Before Warisol sat a chest. Filled with something he had always dreamed of, but never thought he could have.
He gaped as his sisters gazed, one on either side of him, in astonishment at the chest so full of promise for the future.
The young man suddenly seemed to be transported into something different than he was the night we first met him.
His brown eyes glistened with happiness.
His handsome face lit up; he really was good-looking.
“Who would have ever dreamed this!” He cried, clasping his hands together. He nudged his sisters on either side of him. “Just were you saying the other night about how no one could never win the king’s lottery?”
“We are lucky,” answered Misal.
“‘We!’ Oh no, none of this belongs to you, you hear? I told you not one of you could share my happiness.”
“You’re selfish,” said Venlin, with a tear in her eye.
“No, not selfish,” he retorted. “Just smart. You two will spend it all.”
He picked up the chest easily, the muscles on his arms tensing to reveal his muscular arm and the strength of his broad shoulders. He went off smiling, and then as he was climbing the stairs and gazing out of the small windows on the walls, he suddenly stopped.
Where should he hide it?
He couldn’t trust them. Who knows what they would do with it?
His face went tight with worry, and he thought hard.
Where to hide it? Where to hide it?
He smiled as he thought of how lucky he was.
Then the smile suddenly died when he realized he didn’t know where to hide it.
Where had his dad—even as Warisol cursed the memory—hid his money?
Oh yes! deep within the corridors of the castle basement, in the rock crevasse.
He checked to make sure none of his sisters were around, and cautiously made his way down the stairs.
He wedged the chest carefully into the crevasse. Fit perfectly. He chuckled, pleased. Stepped back to see. No one could see it. At all.
He strutted up the stairs, pleased with his success.
He was a lucky man. He had put the cards on the table, taken the chances and won. The cards were really working for him that night. He was now a wealthy man.
And he had managed a way to keep it from his sisters, who would surely spend it.
He patted his well-filled pocket and the gold inside clinked. He strode out the door, his head held high.
The sunshine flooded forth upon him. He smiled.
Where shall I spend it? Was his first thought.
He at last decided that the best place would be to spend it in a celebration party at the Milan saloon, where he would treat everybody—friend or foe—and he, who would now be the most popular person around, could drink to his heart’s content.
This is the life, he thought, as he sauntered down the road.
“Where is it? What have you done with it?”
“Stop shouting!” said Venlin, holding up under the loud voice of her brother without twitching a muscle.
“Oh, you have been drinking so much you cannot remember what you have and what you haven’t,” said Misal with a hidden smirk as she turned away.
“That is not true,” he said. “I have not used it like that. Now one of you confess to your theft this instant!”
“It was not theft,” Venlin defended herself and her sister. “We deserved to use some of your money.”
He sunk against the wall. First he was horrified. Then he was angry. Then he despaired.
“I was so happy,” he moaned. “How dare you take it from me?”
Misal cackled her little sarcastic laugh. “She sure can be killed easily!”
“Stop talking about happiness like it is a person. How dare you? If you were not my sisters, I would call the king’s guard and have you sent to the deepest dungeon.”
“Like they would believe you, Warisol,” Venlin said. “They would think ‘tis just another drunken tale.”
She had scored a hit in her logic. Warisol admitted to himself that it was true.
Nothing he could do. He gritted his teeth in rage. His sister met his eye, but did not shrink under the brown eyes that glittered at her in anger.
Afraid of him? Never!
Misal paused condescendingly before the figure hunched against the wall.
“You will never find lasting happiness through your gold, my brother. Gold comes and gold goes. And you can spend it so easily it slips through your fingers like sand or water. It leaves you, making you only want more. That, my brother, is what gold gives to you.”
“I do not want to hear it!” he cried, clapping his hands firmly over his ears.
Venlin shrugged her shoulders and looked at Misal. Neither replied. It wouldn’t have done any good if they had tried. He would not have listened to them.
Warisol whistled a merry tune as he tramped up the hill. Success in all her glory now rose up before him.
The sunshine, the smiles of his employers, and even his sisters beamed upon him. Even Misal, the harshest one of the two, once gave him a grateful look as he liberally bestowed money upon her for the groceries, with no hesitation whatsoever at the large sum she named.
For Warisol would eat, and would eat well.
Even Venlin grew sweeter by the day when he suggested that she furnish the castle rooms and hallways with furniture.
He was tired of the bleakness of his castle. He even wondered what happened to the furniture of the days of Knight Gerald, his father, and Lord Keagan, his grandfather. He had inherited the castle of them, but somebody had stripped it of its former glory, and he had never cared much about investing in it, until now.
Even the townspeople doffed their hats to him as he rode importantly into the village of Milan. He was respected as well-to-do and treated as such.
He now drank not to fill his time but as a social pastime. He worked hard six days a week and drank on the seventh with his fellow workers.
He sighed in happiness. His employers had just promised him that he was to be promoted to a rank few ever attained in their business, which would pay him gold unlimited. He would be given a title and possibly be presented to the king in person.
Happiness had sprung back up in his heart. The fiery zeal of ambition burned inside of him.
He would work to the top, and the top he would attain, no matter what he had to do to do it!
With these happy thoughts, the prosperous merchant youth entered the castle, pretending to amble casually into the kitchen, but poking among the goodies his sisters were busily racing about preparing. He was really snatching a sneaky bight here and there. At last in his investigation he reached Venlin and the tasty pork at her side.
At the same moment the chimes at the door sounded and sent Misal scrambling to admit their guest.
Warisol stretched himself to his fullest height, revealing a hulk of a chest and shoulders.
“I suppose it could be the King himself!” he teased Venlin, who stared inquiringly from the kitchen entry into the great hall.
“I say!” she chuckled back, reaching for a platter of dainty sweet breads to welcome her guests, whoever they might be.
“A gentleman for you, Warisol,” Misal, assuming an air of superiority, bounced into the kitchen.
“Indeed?” Warisol inquired. He strode easily into the great hall.
“Where is he?” he called, not finding him by the door. “Ah! You left him outside, Misal? Come in, come in, sir,” he invited, creaking wide open the door, and shifting his broad shoulders through.
A short man, sporting black hair and sharp-cut beard, opened his mouth to speak, but then silently shut it. He seemed unable to deliver his message aloud. Warisol watched him in puzzlement. Instead, a wrinkled paper was thrust into Warisol’s right hand, and the messenger nodded and disappeared from the door.
Puzzled. That was Warisol, alright. He broke the seal of his employers and slowly unrolled the letter, scanning the contents as he did so.
A moment later his sisters heard a distressing gasp escape from inside the hall where their brother stood. Quickly they glanced to each other and ran to his aid.
A paper lay unrolled on the floor beside him. Warisol had staggered against the wall to support himself.
“Oh, he is murdered!” Misal shrieked, grasping his elbow frantically.
“No. No!” Warisol said, pulling away from her grip with effort. “Not murdered. Only ruined.”
Both sisters instinctively drew away from him. The hard look suddenly broke forth in Misal’s brown eyes. Warisol’s heart sunk to the floor.
“You still have that job offer with the town butcher open?” Misal asked Venlin.
Venlin only stared at the floor.
“’Tis our only choice,” Misal said.
Venlin raised her eyes to Warisol.
“We were so happy!” she burst out.
The look on Misal’s face changed from dark to blackest midnight.
“How dare you bring that up, Venlin? Is that all you can think about, too?”
Her sister raged, throwing one of the platters on the floor and throwing another hulk of bread at Warisol.
But her sister knew that Misal’s rage was directed deep inside at herself, because she suddenly realized that she, too, had fallen for temporary happiness, and had experienced it.
Warisol’s brief hopefulness, so rudely snatched from him without warning, left him frustrated, abandoned, and depressed. Wretchedly he cast himself to the ground, hiding his face in one hand.
“If this is happiness, then I don’t want her,” he said, spitting at the name. “You wretched trickster! You like to play with me like a cat plays with a mouse!”
A wave of craving washed over him. He longed for someone to love him. Someone to truly care for him. Just to spend an hour with someone who could satisfy him.
He sat there, his broad shoulders hunched against the wall. The moonlight filtered through the tiny windows high above the wall above him and cast a glow on the crusade relic sitting on the table across from him.
Was it a whisper he heard? He shifted his head only a moment.
He turned his head even more to listen. Was it his imagination?
“Who are you?” he cried out.
“I am…” the voice faded away.
He sprung to his feet, creating a fist again with his muscular arm. “You are, are you? What and who are you anyways?”
Now at this time, there went forth a great beast from the uttermost ends of the earth. He blew fire from his nostrils, and his breath was like steam from a volcano. So great was he that no man dare lay sight on him, and he terrified the inhabitants of the land by his fierce wrath.
At the mere mention of his name, great men trembled, as feeble and pale as death. Women fainted. Children hid in the folds of their parents’ clothes, so great was their fear of him.
It also was that in this same month on a certain day the people gathered together to celebrate by feasting upon the Great Green of Milan. Young and old, big or little, feeble and strong: all congregated there to observe this long held tradition honored by their ancestors back four generations.
Warisol, still trying to recover from the blow that had staggered him the day he lost his job, did not want to commemorate this custom. But his sisters forced and prodded him to join in.
So reluctantly he plodded down the forest hill and followed the path to the Milan Green, where there were already at least twenty thousand people gathered. Already Warisol spied the valley expanse dotted by little white tents in which they would spend the festive week, campfires scattered among them, and the busy hum of thousands of voices conversing together all at the same time.
His own sisters, one on each side of him, chattered about their Milan friends they would meet there, the competitive races and games to occur that weekend, and just how and where they might conveniently set up the small canvas tent now slung on their brother’s back.
It was a perfect day. Despite his feelings, Warisol could see that. He looked up at the blue expanse above him. The fresh summer breeze gently blew his dark hair.
Once he saw to it that his sisters were satisified with their choice of ground for the little tent, and once he had taken care of a fight between his two sisters—
Your friends are far on the north side? (That was a Misal irritated at the news.)
They could not help it. The place where your friends set up is already taken. There was not room. (Of course Venlin defended them.)
I wanted to set up the tent by my friends! Misal insisted .
But I want to be by Laca, so we will just set it up by her. Venlin maintained. She was just as forward as her older sister.
But I do not want to walk all that way just to get to my friends! Misal retorted, stamping her foot on the ground.
No! Venlin snapped. Who says I want to walk that far too?
Fine then! You take one half of the tent and I will take the other!
Warisol was not happy with this solution, wondering where it would leave him.
“No!” he snapped.
They looked at him in surprise, while he explained to them what they would be doing.
They would set up the tent halfway between the two sets of friends. Then both would have to walk an equal distance. As for Warisol, he did not care who he was next to.
—once that was settled, Warisol took a walk. The sun reached the western sky while he caught up with the other young people, who were gradually congregating in a large crowd and shouting and laughing happily with each other.
A little cousin of the old king was there among them, a pretty fairy of a thing. She was charming and beautiful. Her golden curls cascaded in long tresses down her neck. She had the bluest eyes that looked straight through you into your very soul and spoke volumes, and she had the happiest little laugh. Everyone who saw her took an instant liking to her.
When Warisol first came upon her, his whole being suddenly quacked with sudden bashfulness. Her happy eyes pierced his soul. As he walked away he paused to turn back.
Why did he suddenly wonder what her name was?
Why did he suddenly want to be close to her, brush his shoulder against her?
Why did he suddenly want to touch that glorious hair?
Of course, a crowd always surrounded the wonderful little woman, her white dress fluttering in the breeze, her attractive hair pulled up carelessly off her neck, spreading goodness wherever she went.
He heard her happy little laugh at someone else’s joke as he walked away and pretended to ignore her.
He plucked a few flowers, then tossed them away into the breeze. What use was there in catching on the joy of that merry little woman?
Thinking hopelessly of his monotonous life, mingled with unconscious thoughts of blond-haired, blue-eyed ‘what-is-your-name?’, Warisol cast himself upon the grass. He pondered his situation while staring up into the sky, by now a haze of blues, pinks, and yellows in the setting sun.
A shocking roar that shook the earth beneath him sent Warisol springing terrified to his feet.
Out from the setting sun, it seemed, there arose a great dragon, stampeding towards the valley with all the wrath his voice could express. When he bellowed, the whole valley shook beneath him, till it seemed that the entire multitude was destined to be swallowed up by this dreadful, heinous monster.
The mirthful young people, now horrified, scattered in one direction.
All but the fair niece of the king.
Having been separated from the others by the beast as his victim, she was sprinting hither and thither desperately but in vain attempting to escape.
All Warisol’s manhood boiled within him at the sight. All the chivalry he had ever been taught rose up passionately within him.
He frantically looked about.
Next to him stood a knight gripping his lance and the reins of his horse, frozen in his tracks at the horrible scene.
Warisol snatched for the bridle.
“Here! Look here, man, hand me the reins!”
A thrill rippled through the stunned crowd at the sight of the youthful rescuer dashing forth to the screaming girl’s aid, his mantle streaming in the wind.
Warisol scarcely realized the stupidity of his attempt. All that rang in his ears were the roars of the great and terrible beast and the hysterical screams of the helpless maiden.
Shrieks from the distracted mother. Doleful wails from her frenzied younger sister. The awful stillness of the silence of thirty thousand gaping people. The powerless, grief-stricken gaze of the father, who suddenly appeared on the green.
And the hero of the Golden Valley bolted off into the glory of the setting sun.
At that mighty moment, the behemoth turned away from Warisol, and he hurled himself at the monster.
Infuriated, he catapulted the golden lance at the giant bosom and drove it through the flesh, piercing the heart.
RRRRRRRRRRRRRrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr. The beast roared with retaliating rage. But he was powerless.
Warisol’s frantic, repeated gashes burst the heart.
With a thud that shook the valley, the dragon collapsed to the earth, his final breath slowly heaving from his nostrils.
His eyes rolled upwards to heaven.
All was dreadfully still.
It was the dumbfounded silence of thirty thousand people.
Warisol turned his horse in a gallop around the dead beast to the maiden. In her hysteria, she had fainted.
He gently lifted the limp form in his arms.
The soft hair fell against the muscle of his arm.
He galloped back around the beast.
The dumbfounded silence continued. He made his way around the beast’s massive head.
Almost at once, the spectators gave way to hysterical cheers.
In a moment everyone was thronging about him. But Warisol pushed them aside.
“Stand aside! Stand aside!” he shouted, hoarsely.
He carried the maiden to her father, laying her beside him on the couch outside the Duke’s pavilion.
Her mother and aunt jumped forward, gathering their precious darling in their arms.
Her little, twelve-year-old sister was wringing her hands frantically and throwing herself around in convulsions.
Warisol pointed this out to one of the ladies-in-waiting, who immediately made her way over to her. The sister collected herself enough to sufficiently throw herself upon the king’s couch close by from sheer exhaustion.
Then Warisol noticed that Misal (the only one who seemed to have any brains about her) was cackling away to the queen and the girl’s mother, directing them in the restoration of the fainted girl.
He caught a glimpse of Venlin, who was still standing there in a daze. She shook herself out of it, shot an impressed glance at him, then walked away.
The crowds surged in their new-found hero’s direction, eager to shake hands with him or at least touch the hem of his garment, that they might live to tell their future descendants of the lionhearted act of their conquering Hero of the Golden Valley, and how they had the privilege of touching him.
And so, in one day, the previously little-known, obscure wretch suddenly became the nation’s most beloved hero.
Following her gallant rescue, the girl finally regained consciousness in the duke’s tent.
For an instant she was startled.
She looked at her mother. Her sister. Her aunt. They were all hanging lovingly over her.
Is he dead? She cried.
Yes, said her aunt soothingly. You do not have to fear him. The man—
She raised her eyes in wonder and said to her sister—who is he? Who is that man?
The man? Asked the girl, falling back against the pillow in exhaustion.
The one who saved you.
She raised herself again and cried out.
Where is he? Oh, where is he?
Her aunt looked across her mother, and said quietly, “I do not know.”
Later, when all the stars seemed to be winking and laughing at him, Warisol called at the duke’s tent. A great many of the campfires were extinguished and lights put out, but because of the extraordinary circumstances, the duke and his brother the king were still rejoicing with their family in the rescue of their darling.
Warisol, returning to his tent beneath the stars, held his broad shoulders high and strode with firm steps across the green, the perfect image of a hero. He discovered the brightly burning lantern lights flooding from the duke’s pavilion, and heard the songs of the minstrels drifting into the still, quiet night, so he turned aside there.
Hesitantly, he peeked into the plush marquee.
She lay there, alone on the couch, and caught sight of the flutter of the tent wall.
Who is there? She asked cautiously.
Her eyes grew wide as he brought his broad shoulders into the tent.
She gazed up at him, and a soft look fluttered in her eyes.
“Who are you?” she asked, slowly.
He looked at her.
“You are he,” she added, the conviction slowly growing upon her. “He, who was my deliverer?”
She gazed up at him, her eyes shining.
“How can I ever thank you enough? Is it possible?”
Warisol took another step forward on the soft rug.
“You have saved my life.”
Still he said nothing. Took another hesitant step, but did not speak.
“I will be forever grateful.”
She thought that he might have smiled, ever so slightly.
“It was so dreadful—I mean, he was coming right for me!”
He was close to her.
“I just wanted to…”
At that moment she forgot what it was she had wanted to tell him. She was gazing into brown eyes that looked into her own.
He reached out a hand and gently brushed her cheek with a finger.
The brown eyes that looked into hers suddenly glistened. His face broke into a lopsided smile.
She smiled back at him. Her shoulder brushed his ever so slightly as he knelt beside her.
The image of the beast, roaring towards her, suddenly came to her mind.
At the memory, she dropped her head onto his shoulder and her tussled hair fell against his arms. He dared to gently lay his hand on her head, and whispered.
“Do not worry. He cannot hurt you now.”
She raised her head and said again,
Warisol jumped at the deep, unexpected voice behind him. He shot to his feet, and at that moment the girl burst into merry laughter.
Warisol smiled sheepishly as he saw the Duke and his brother the King standing behind them.
The meaning in the voice filled Warisol’s heart. He eyed the Duke inquiringly, who then said in undertone to his brother.
“Aye brother, did we decide so?” To which the King nodded his approval.
Turning to Warisol, whose eyes the Duke caught at that moment shoot back from his daughter to him, continued,
“Edward and I both desire that you should be knighted. Your heroic conduct calls for it. To do otherwise would not be doing you justice.”
The King kept his promise. The next evening, Warisol was dubbed the Knight of the Golden Valley.
Warisol, it seemed, would now be the happiest man on the earth. His reputation of an iron hearted hero was firmly established. The very ground on which he tread was respected.
The people loved him and stood in awe of him.
The bashfulness that filled his heart when he first met the blue eyes of the girl he saved left him now in her presence. But as it left, a great longing began to fill it instead…a longing for him to know her as more than just her deliverer.
But he could not ask for that in return for the favor he had given her.
So he withdrew himself from her, and gradually all the misery that had gradually drained away in her presence began to seep back in.
The week of festivities ended, and she returned back to the Duke’s mansion on the north side of Milan, and he returned to his. He visited the Duke’s mansion once, but as soon as he caught sight of her, for some reason he said,
“Good day!” and left her standing there, wondering at his mood.
He shifted his feet miserably as he walked home that evening, keeping his eyes on the ground before him. He had kept his horse in the castle stable. He could glory in his misery when he was closer to the ground, so he had chosen to hike it out today. The sky was painted in a color of dark blues, pinks, and yellows, but he did not notice.
He kept his head bent for most of the way, until he could tell by the familiar bushes on the road that he was almost home.
With a sigh, he trudged forward.
As he raised his head to look up…
he caught sight of the flutter of a white dress.
He jerked his head up now.
And looked straight into the eyes of the one he was longing for.
She stared at him.
“Oh,” she said, soothingly, as she saw the look in his eyes.
Warisol took a step backward.
“Why are you avoiding me?” she asked.
He took another step backwards.
“What are you doing here?” he mumbled.
“Am I intruding, Sir Warisol?” she asked, gazing into his eyes.
He shook his head slowly, then caught himself and mouthed, “Yes.”
“I am very sorry. I shall take myself off at once,” she said, deliberately moving away.
He caught her arm before she could make it far away. “What are you doing here?”
She looked into his brown eyes, and soft warmth suddenly filled hers.
“What did you come to visit the Mansion for?”
He opened his mouth to speak, then suddenly stopped and slowly closed it.
She waited for his answer, the moon light flooding on her face.
“Nothing,” he muttered beneath his breath, his eyes fixed on her.
She gazed back at him.
“I am ‘nothing’ to you?” she asked, slowly, her eyes softening even more.
He shook his head ever so slightly that she hardly caught it.
She began to smile.
“Are you afraid of me?”
“No,” he mouthed, shaking his head, and raised his fingers to her cheek bathed in moonlight.
She took the hand that brushed her cheek and held it there against her.
“I see,” she answered, smiling, and closing her eyes.
Warisol stood looking at her, his distance gradually melting away at her soft touch.
“There is a moon out tonight,” she said, turning her eyes towards the light.
But she never saw it. Suddenly she felt something snatching for her passionately. She had been standing near the castle wall, but she was so surprised that her entire body was suddenly propelled back against the castle wall. Suddenly something warm brushed her cheek. Suddenly the great husky form of the hero was leaning over her, holding her tightly to himself.
It was the beginning of a wonderful love. The Duke and his wife, who had been waiting in the castle listening to a cackling Misal and a chattering Venlin, were thoroughly pleased with her choice. The Duke promised for a wedding gift the Golden Valley and the very Green on which Warisol had committed his heroic act and saved his future bride.
With all his fortunes and national acclaim, his good looks and the confident way he carried himself, his dream bride eagerly awaiting their marriage day, Warisol felt like he had at last reached his seventh heaven of happiness.
Still there were days he was unhappy. Things did not always go well. The Duke had found him a position with some merchant traders west of Milan, and he was forced to admit that his coworkers never seemed to go a day without some sort of a quibble.
Beatrice, the wonderful little woman to whom he poured forth his love, often wondered at the frequent changes of mood which he suffered himself to carry on. He was up one day on the pedestal of celestial glory, and down the next jaded in the pits of hell.
Yet she always managed to refresh him and raise his spirits, and brought out of him the best, while he in turn buried himself in pleasing her and making her happy. The honor she would bring him was incomparable. By his marriage, he would become the nephew of the aged king, cousin of the prince, and perhaps even the prince consort of the future queen herself!
One night they sat aboard the raft floating down the river to the songs of the troubadours, the gentle rocking of the waves, and the softly pleasant talk of his future relations, all beneath the twinkling stars and the quiet night.
“Bea,” he said.
Yes? A look of inquiry into his face, pale in the light of the lanterns throwing dark shadows on the water. “Are you happy, my dear?”
“It has not been all of a good day. Bea, what does life mean to you, darling?”
She flashed a question at him.
“Does it hold all that it does for me?”
“I think,” she answered, questioningly.
He drew back. “It does?” his voice echoed, blank and empty.
“Don’t be like that to me,” she said. “What are you thinking?”
“I just want to be forever happy. I despise temporary happiness.”
“Warisol,” she said, warmly, “I cannot give you that.”
“Yes, you can!” he said, suddenly, desperately, taking her in his arms.
“Nobody can give you that.”
He let go of her.
“Don’t say that. I want you to give me happiness forever.”
“Warisol, as much as I love you, I cannot do that. One day, in ten years, in thirty years, you may wake up and I will not be here.”
“Yes you will!” he said quickly.
“Warisol,” she said, smiling at his earnestness. “You will not be able to help it.”
“You cannot ever leave me,” he said. “You are the essence of my happiness. Before I met you…” he suddenly fell silent. “I had nothing…was nothing. You make me happy.”
“I know,” she said, nestling against him.
She saw he was tired, and withheld her tongue, but inwardly she suddenly became distressed exceedingly, for she saw that he was counting on her to forever bring him happiness. As much as she loved him, she saw that she would not always be there, and there were sometimes, when she would be human, and make him unhappy. What would happen then?
And then she saw that one day, death would come, and take her from him, and she could do nothing to keep that from happening.
Warisol settled back into a depressed silence.
Was it that same whisper he heard? He shifted his head only a moment.
“What?” he said, aloud, and Beatrice looked at him in surprise.
Was it his imagination?
“Yes?” this time he asked silently, because he saw a worried look in Bea’s eyes.
“The truth shall make you free…” the voice faded away.
He sunk back against the comfort of his seating.
“Free of what? What does the truth have to do with this anyway? Go away,” he said, laughing at himself for his imagination.
Then he was laughing heartily, for Beatrice was making a joke, and her father was kidding her for it. Her mother and aunt joined in the laughter.
It had not been a good day. Warisol was exasperated with his employer, whom he was sure was impossible to please. He had not seen Beatrice yesterday afternoon because she had been required by the King to attend a private luncheon with visiting dignitaries. That got on his nerves, that something like that could come between them, especially when all he needed was her love.
Exhausted, Warisol trudged up the hill to the dark castle he called home. The only thing he realized he had to look forward to was the prospect of laughing with his beloved on the river raft with her pleasant relations.
The thought of her face recreated itself in his mind and somehow his irritation and burdens gradually seemed to melt away.
He entered his dwelling, gingerly stepped into the great hall, and paused suddenly in surprise.
His sisters, usually chattering while busy with dinner preparations, instead sat upon the new couch.
Their cheeks were glistening with tears.
Their faces were sorrowful and terribly afraid.
Venlin started nervously at the heavy tread of his footsteps.
He gazed at them.
An apprehensive fear. Fear of the unknown. Swept over him.
At last Venlin raised her head.
She nudged Misal. “You tell him, sister. I cannot.” At that, she burst into tears and rushed away.
“Oh what?” he cried, with dread. “Misal! Venlin! Misal! Tell me! What has ruined me?”
Misal bit her lip.
“My brother,” she said, softly.
Warisol gazed at her, his heart hungry. He stepped forward and grabbed her roughly. “Just tell me, will you?”
At the name, Warisol sunk to his knees. “NO!” he breathed, all of his soul in his eyes.
Misal’s voice broke in a still, earnest whisper.
“Oh Warisol, I am so sorry.”
He was denying the truth inside, and she knew it. Was prepared for what was coming.
He tightened a muscular arm into a fist and thrust it in front of her face.
“You lie!” he cried.
She gazed steadily at him.
The fist lowered, gradually. He grabbed her arms.
“”Tis not true! Tell me ‘tis not true!” the grip of his muscular arms tightened.
The steady gaze of Misal continued.
Warisol broke. The wretched lover gave little heed as Misal brokenly tried to comfort him. His heart died within him and he sunk to the floor.
She was his last and only hope, and now she was gone.
His soul was crushed.
In the fog, he struggled to hear Misal’s voice.
“You two had a tiff a few days before. It is whispered across the land that you committed the crime.”
That was it.
Warisol threw himself against the wall in the agony of this double blow. He shook as his spirit writhed in the anguish of the tragic news.
“Oh Misal!” he said. “Why ought I to live any longer? You can try to comfort me, but you cannot understand how I feel. I had her, and now she is gone. And she was my happiness. She made me believe. She made me hope. And she is gone. And there is no point, in living this wretched life, struggling forever, and forever, and forever, like this. Why must I suffer any longer, when my one happiness is gone for eternity? I cannot take this. No point in carrying this burden around any longer.”
There was a deathful silence. Warisol was all alone, but his heart wailed for relief.
“Oh Love, you deceitful, treacherous liar. Where is there endless happiness in you? You say that ‘they all live happily forever after.’ Liar!”
He arose to his feet. How he made it past the gate he did not know. He sunk down onto the road.
Warisol settled back into a depressed silence.
Was it that same whisper he heard? Again he shifted his head.
“Stop calling me!” he cried in anguish.
“Come to me,” the voice faded away.
“Who are you?”
Happiness.” The voice faded away into the recesses of his soul.
He was angry. Enraged. He jumped to his feet and shouted his rage, and cursed all that he could curse.
He jumped. This time the voice sounded real.
It was a gentle voice behind him. A man’s voice.
Warisol turned slowly to look behind him.
“I am not running,” he said weakly, sinking back, expecting for a soldier from the King’s Guard to seize him roughly.
“Are you through with running?”
Warisol ventured to look back and saw the light that glistened and illuminated the man’s face.
“Who are you?” he asked.
The man gazed at him. Warisol saw the hand that reached out to him.
Warisol shrunk away.
“I already know the truth.”
“Do you?” the man asked patiently.
“She’s gone. Misal told me.”
“How can I be happy without her?”
“How can you ever be happy without me?”
Warisol turned to look at him, his brow creasing in puzzlement.
He was puzzled. The man talked so strangely. He could not understand this man. Could not understand him at all.
“Does it mean nothing to you? It is impossible for you to understand!” burst out Warisol, angry at the man’s presumption.
The man gestured, as if to someone else walking by, “Is it nothing to you, all ye that pass by? Behold, and see if there by any sorrow like unto My sorrow?”
Warisol gazed at him in amazement.
“Who are you?” he asked, finally.
“I am…” he answered, reaching forth his hand…
Warisol mouthed the words, but said nothing. He gazed at the castle wall for a long time. He ventured to look back.
Suddenly he was angry.
“I don’t want you! If you are such a merciful God, how could you let her die?”
“I do not promise to save you from living life. I promise to always be there for you. I promise that you will never walk alone. You will never have to wonder about a future.”
“I still don’t want you! What good does religion do me? Nothing else works.”
“I am not asking you to believe in religion. I am asking you to believe in Me.”
“What else do I have to do?”
“You must be born again. I am the resurrection and the life. He that believes in Me, though he were dead in sin, yet shall he live.”
“My mother prayed the rosary every day. She was hoping it would save her in the afterlife.”
“Prayer cannot save you.”
“No. I save you.”
Warisol gazed at him in deep concentration. His eyes flickered with emotion. “Save me from what?”
“That burden you carry around on your back. That bundle called sin. All that sin that causes so much unhappiness.”
“Unhappiness.” Warisol seemed to catch the words. “Unhappiness…” his voice was broken. “What are you? Do you give happiness?”
“All of those wrong things you have done. You have spent your nights in drinking, you have spent the hours cussing me, rejecting me, denying me. All the time I was there, watching,calling your name, wanting you to come to me.”
“I was trying to drown out my cares. I wanted some happiness.”
The man gazed at him.
“Did you have it?”
Warisol looked at him. “Come on now, I have tried to be good.”
“Being good does not work. You have to be perfect to enter My heaven when you die. And there is nobody good, none but God.”
“Then what good does it do to have a heaven in which you have to be perfect to enter?”
“Because I gave my perfect life for a sinful you so that you could live in My heaven.”
Warisol gazed at him.
The man reached forth his hand. “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
Warisol looked at hand that was held out steadily to him.
“You have tried everything, and nothing has worked. And there is coming a day when you will not have a chance to try anymore, for you will be standing in the brinks of a fiery, never-ending hell.”
“You would put me there?” Warisol’s eyes were glazed as he stared at the man through and through.
“No, I would not put you there. You would put yourself there. I gave my life on the cross so that you would not have to go there. And now I am giving you a chance not to go there. For whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die.
He that believeth on me, believeth not on me, but on Him that sent me.”
“Who sent you?” asked Warisol.
“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
Warisol lay on the ground, crushed and heartbroken, considering the words.
“Two thousand years ago, I came to walk upon this sinful earth and to heal the hurt of many like you. I was sentenced to die on the cross and took the sins of the world upon me, so that anyone who believes on me will have eternal life in heaven. On the third day, I rose again from the grave. In doing do, I cast all hell and death beneath my feet, for even death could not hold me.”
Warisol sunk down upon his knees.
Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
In the inner most recesses of his heart, he knew it was true. He could not deny it.
He crouched at the man’s feet. Whispering brokenly, he said
Dear Jesus, I believe…I know that I am a sinner. I believe that you died on the cross to save me from my sins. I am asking you, my God, to save me. Thank you for dying on the cross, O Lord, thank you for dying on the cross, for rising from the grave…
He broke down at the foot of the Savior.
Jesus reached forth his hand and Warisol grasped it with all of his might.
“You may not have anything else in this world…
but you will always have me.”
You may lose everything in this world…
but you will never lose me.
I the Almighty live within you.
And I never die.
I never forsake you.
I am your Shepherd, your Life, your Light.
Because I love you.
I did not destroy the crowd who yelled ‘Crucify Him!’, because I loved them.
I did not strike down the soldier who helped plaster a crown of thorns on My Head, because I loved him.
I did not take out the nails that held me to the cross, because I love you.”
“Warisol,” a familiar voice said.
Warisol looked around quickly.
“Misal!” he exclaimed.
“Oh, Warisol, I am so glad to have found you! Heaven help me, I was so worried about what you would do to yourself!” his sister approached him cautiously, looking him up and down as if to make sure he had done nothing to harm himself, seeming very unlike her usual sharp self.
He sprang to his feet, shaking with the news he had to offer her.
“Misal, I found happiness!”
“Do not be silly, Warisol! You just lost Bea. Do not kid yourself. She is not alive.”
Warisol’s eyes glazed over at the mention of his beloved.
“Yes, I lost her. My dear Bea. I lost her. There is no person on this earth who means more to me than she does. But I will always have Him.”
“Him?” asked Misal, puzzled, making a mental note to plead with the public asylum to take her brother in. ‘Has he gone crazy, or what?’ she thought.
“Jesus,” exclaimed Warisol.
“Jesus,” repeated Misal. “That is crazy!”
This was Warisol’s first remembrance after his salvation of the fact that not everyone found the news of the gospel exciting. He had been there, at one point in his life, so he understand her words.
“You would not say that,” he answered, “if you were at as peace as I am.”
She looked into the brown eyes of her brother and saw his features illuminate with a kind of hope that she had not seen before.
Misal was forced to take back her words over the next couple of days. Her brother grieved over the loss of his bride, but he seemed settled and grounded in something that she could not put her finger on.
“Maybe it is this Jesus,” she said to herself.
Venlin laughed, too, but she soon noticed the change in her brother’s life.
“Warisol doesn’t use his fists like he used to. On the whole, he is a much nicer person,” she commented to Misal.
“Huh,” said Misal, huffing because Venlin was becoming impressed with her brother’s changed behavior.
“Maybe Jesus did change him.”
“Oh, no one ever really changes,” Misal dismissed the thought with a wave of her hand.
This exchange prompted Venlin to inquire of Warisol.
“When Jesus came into your heart, does He make you change the things He wants changed?”
“He gave me a heart clean from sin and He sent me the Comforter from His Father, the Spirit of Truth, who will testify in my life of Himself.” Warisol answered her, after thinking carefully for some time. “He gave me a choice to obey Him and filled me with such an overflowing love for Him that I want to do it.”
Comparing these words with what she saw in Warisol’s life, she could not help but admit that he had changed.
But there is more to this tale. One more chapter. A chapter that you won’t want to miss.
Warisol sighed and laid aside his Bible so that he could patiently listen to his cackling sister.
“Here!” he replied.
“Where are you? What are you doing? Oh, reading that thing, I see!’
“The Word of my God,” he replied, raising his eyes.
“Stop reading and get out here! The Duke is standing at the door.”
The Duke? The father of the love of his life. For a moment Warisol’s heart stopped.
“What does he want?” he inquired. Faintly.
Misal raised her arms to her hips. “’Tis you who has afraid? I thought God was always with you.”
“He is.” Warisol began, hesitantly.
“Then go and see what he wants!” she almost pushed him off the chair.
Warisol entered the Great Hall with trembling heart. The Duke stood there alone, with his head bowed down.
The pacing stopped as Warisol entered.
“I have some news,” he began.
“I am sorry, sir. I will go with you and the King’s Guard.”
“You will stay right where you are.”
Warisol froze in his spot. “Yes, sir.”
The Duke spoke to him affectionately and good-naturedly, like he would to a son. “There is something I want you to know,” he continued. “God works in mysterious ways.”
Warisol’s face lit up, though he did not smile. “I believe that, sir.”
The Duke’s eyes searched Warisol’s face, and gave a hint of a smile.
“Good,” he said. “I am glad of that.”
Warisol’s eyes raised to his.
“Otherwise you will not believe the news that I have come to tell.”
Warisol’s head was buried, almost in his chest. His heart was heavy. Bea’s father reminded him so much of Bea.
“I am listening, sir,” he muttered.
“Raise your head, Warisol. You do not have any cause to mourn–,” then the Duke broke down and shouted, “Oh, come on in Bea, and show him your face, will you? I won’t ever be able to convince him!”
It was then that Warisol saw that the door was wide open, and that a figure clothed in a white dress was standing there.
An angel to Warisol’s wondering eyes.
“Nooooo!” he cried to himself. Then, “YEEEEEEEEES!” as the truth dawned on him.
He gazed at her. Whispered, “My angel, my darling.”
Still she did not move.
The Duke chuckled. They heard the clatter of his footsteps as he moved into the kitchen to greet Misal and Venlin.
Warisol gazed at her, from across the room.
She raised an eyebrow. “Do you believe Father now?” she asked, archly. Warisol’s face illuminated at the hint of teasing in his Bea’s voice.
Her face suddenly changed. The muscles around her mouth grew taut. Warisol wondered at the change in manner.
“Warisol, there is something I need to tell you about.”
Warisol noticed the change of tone and wondered what it was.
“You asked me once, what it does life mean for me?”
“Yes?” Warisol asked.
“I am not sure that life holds for me what it does for you.”
Warisol gazed steadily at her from across the room.
A sigh heaved from her lips, and she burst out bravely, “Life holds for me a God of hope, such an amazing God of hope. He has such a future promised for me in heaven because of what He did for me on the cross.”
“Does it?” asked Warisol, not removing his eyes from her face.
“He is my source of happiness, my joy, for He is always with me. I do not have to worry, for He is always right there beside me, despite the good and bad. His Holy Spirit is there to guide me. And when I die, I will go to live with Him forever in heaven.”
She sighed again, and went on bravely. “I fear that you do not have this hope. You, my dear, are on an empty road to a terrible place called hell, where you will spend the rest of your life in misery.”
Warisol’s eyes did not flinch, and she noticed that in surprise.
“And there is this wonderful place called heaven…why are you smiling…oh why are you smiling?” she suddenly broke off, miserable. “I knew you would laugh, oh I knew you would laugh,” and she swiftly turned to leave.
“Stop!” his quick word brought her suddenly to a halt.
“I am not laughing you. I am smiling because I am happy, so full of happiness that I cannot even tell you how happy I am.”
“Happy because you have me,” she continued, unsatisfied.
“You are only halfway right,” he answered. “Happy because I have Him, and now you.”
She gazed at him in dumbfounded astonishment. The tears came to her eyes.
“Are you sure?” she asked.
His face lit up. He did not even have to tell her. She took an uncertain step forward.
He opened his arms wide to her and she fell into them. He pulled her gently up against himself with both muscular arms, and he could feel the relief in the heart that beat against his own.
“For months, I have been praying for you!”
“Why did you not ever speak to me about it? I was wanting… searching for something like that.”
“I was afraid…oh I was afraid, of what you might think of me. What you might say. Afraid of what it might do to our relationship.”
“Oh, silly, that wouldn’t have been much of a marriage—me in the dumps all day, and you soaring on wings in the sunshine of the mountain heights.”
“Yes, I know! Never again will I have reason to fear. Millions are out there just waiting, and now I know I will tell them, no matter what it costs me.”
He heard a stifled sob behind him, and saw that Bea’s mother was wiping tears from her eyes.
“Don’t worry, I’m just happy!” she said, wiping her red nose, and everyone burst out laughing— including herself, The Duke, Bea’s sister, the King and the Queen, Misal and Venlin, and all of the servants and retinue—all who had gathered in the room to rejoice.
The next day the King announced to all the people that his future nephew was innocent of Bea’s accident. An envious young man who had hoped to lay his heart and hand at Bea’s feet, had, in the stinging jealously of his heart at Warisol’s good fortune and highly esteemed reputation, pushed the young woman into the water. Then he spread the false tale that he saw Warisol push her in a fit of anger.
Bea did not die. She was washed ashore after being carried downstream and was revived by an elderly couple, whom the King had liberally rewarded. The Duke, incredulous at the young villian’s story, after extensive searching, had found his daughter there in very capable hands, and begging to see Warisol.
Having heard the whole story and satisfied of Warisol’s innocence, he had sent his Guard after the evil villain, who was found attempting to flee the country and after being identified by Bea, was thrown into prison.
The people rejoiced at their admired hero’s innocence. The news of Bea’s death had shot far and wide across the country, both to the grief of the King’s subjects at his niece’s death—for everyone loved her—and the disbelief that Warisol would be guilty of committing such a heinous crime. Their delight and relief at receiving the news that Bea was still alive, was great.
Warisol did change Miss Bea’s name to Lady Warisol Hanklon. In time, Warisol convinced his sisters that he was truly a changed man.
One day Warisol’s heart bounded to hear Misal came to him, and say,
“I am tired of being miserable. How can I have Jesus in my heart?”
In time Lady Mary (formerly Misal) was taken away by the Prince who lived across the island from Milan.
Venlin also grew tired of living life on her own, and so she ventured to her brother.
“I am so lonely. Could you ask God to save me? Do you think He would do that for you?”
“No,” said Warisol.
Venlin shot him a scathing look. “If He can do it for you, and He can do it for Misal, then He can do it for me. “
“Then ask Him,” replied Warisol. “But you have to ask Him. I cannot ask Him for you. You have to ask Him.”
Lady Victoria (formerly Venlin) was one day visited by the young sovereign of another land who saw in her a beautiful picture of the woman he had always longed for.
“He is not a Christian,” she complained to Warisol.
“There’s something you can do about that,” he replied.
Lady Victoria, who was every bit as sweet as those around her claimed she was, shot him a second scathing look, and went into her bedroom to get down on her knees to pray about it.
It took a long year before Lady Victoria’s prayers were answered. She had talked to her liege Lord so many times in those three hundred sixty-five days, to the point where she felt like she was a nag.
“It is because I love you, and I have a God who loves you more,” she once told him.
“Do you realize that I pray for you every day?” she asked him, at one point in time.
“I know that, my dear, but your God is going to have to shake me up before He gets a hold of me.”
“Then I shall ask Him to make you desperate.”
One day he broke down, and realized that what she was saying was true.
Warisol’s castle become known as the Castle of Life, and many a poor weary sinner left there, not having one shadow of doubt that their bodies would die, but that their souls would live on in heaven, forever and ever, and ever.
There are so many fairy tales in this world…
but this is the only fairy tale to which it can truly be said, that…
They all lived happily forever, and ever, and ever, after.
Maybe you have some questions. Maybe this has left you thinking deeply. Write me (via ‘Dear M.E.’). I would love to talk to you.
With much love, M.E.
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