A Tale of Two Princes

This story is my attempt at a ‘fable’ of sorts.  I kept it short for just that reason, but tried to add as much detail as I could in the space I provided.  It’s a few years old, let me know if you enjoy it.

Many hundreds of years ago, while civilizations were young, there was no land bereft of war.  All manner of men were either conquering or fleeing from those who would conquer.  Certain men attempted to take advantage of this situation and annex the weakness and flurry of the land, capturing for themselves the wealth these areas had to offer.  During this time it happened that two countries lead by two young Princes, each on separate campaigns, finally came to an ultimate front.  And this is where our tale begins.

One Prince, Richter St. Vincent, a young monarch from France, was arrogant yet magnificent.  The other Prince, Al-Baled Jebel from Arabia, was a wise man but very weak physically.  Both men were capable rulers.

Their armies had met in the Northeast of the Syrian Desert in the dead of August.  Though each Prince were righteous and ambitious, both young men were sensible in their ways.  They had agreed that enough blood had been spilled between their separate crusades and since their armies were quite equal in size and standard, the Wise Prince thought they could settle it by each choosing their most proficient warrior and have them duel for victory.  The Arrogant Prince wiped his brow and spoke.

“For my own honour and protection of my men, I myself will fight.  And you, sensible Prince, would do the same if you were not a coward.”

The Wise Prince pondered this for a moment and despite his weak stature, he seemed convinced and agreed to face the other Prince the next morning.

During that evening, the Wise Prince retired to his tent and conferred these details to his General, explaining what had been agreed upon and the General seemed in low spirits from the news.  He was humbled by questioning his Lord’s authority, but the Wise Prince remained calm and assured his General he had a plan.

The Arrogant Prince, who was also a very suspicious man, retired to his tent and immediately contacted his Seer and bid him to search for omens, asking if he would defeat the other Prince in single combat.  The Seer read the sands and the sky and said that the moon agreed with the Arrogant Prince’s challenge, surely he would defeat the other Prince in single combat.

The next morning arrived, sun beating and dry and the Princes met in the open barren between their camps.  Before drawing their swords, the Wise Prince offered a challenge to the Arrogant Prince.  The Wise Prince had heard of the festive nature of European countries and their affinity for games and sports, so he challenged the Arrogant Prince to a hundred yard foot-race.  The Arrogant Prince appeared annoyed, but the Wise Prince assured him the sport had merit, as the loser would be handicapped to fight with one arm tied behind his back.  The Arrogant Prince nearly accepted outright, but decided he would need time to think and said he would answer at noon.  After consulting his Seer once more, the Arrogant Prince was told the sun was in his favor and he would win the race.

Come noontime, the Princes agreed upon the terms of the challenge and held the foot-race.  The Wise Prince was feeble in the midday sun and the Arrogant Prince won handedly.

As the Wise Prince was having his left hand bound behind his back, he said he had another proposition should the Arrogant Prince wish to hear it.

“I am all ears, jester,” the Arrogant Prince replied.

The Wise Prince offered another challenge, saying this time they would be tasked with catching a viper by its tail and the Prince to do so slowest, or fail altogether would have to fight with a dagger in place of a sword.  The Arrogant Prince thought about the proposition and wanted to refuse, having already won the previous challenge, but being of a competitive nature he simply could not.  He said he would answer in the morning.

Each Prince returned to their tent and was met with many questions.  The Wise Prince just smiled and told his General to wait for morning.  The Arrogant Prince asked his Seer if he should partake and the response was favorable.

At sunrise the two Princes met once again in the open between their camps and the Arrogant Prince agreed to partake in the continuing follies, while the viper was laid out.  The Wise Prince requested to go first.  Thinking he would be too weak and would get bitten, the Arrogant Prince consented and watched with glee.  But as is known, the wise Prince was a wise man, after all.  A bell was rung so as to indicate the time commencing and the Wise Prince stared deep into the viper’s eyes and moved not a muscle.  He began to tap his foot slightly and the viper rose erect, but then recoiled once again.  This appeared to have a calming effect on the reptile and it curled up and rested silent.  Met with great applause, the Prince bent over to retrieve the scaled creature, holding aloft the viper by its tail.

The Arrogant Prince glared at his Seer, but the Seer was steady.  The viper was roused once again and it was now the Arrogant Prince’s turn.  The bell was rung once more and the Arrogant Prince made a quick dash at the tail, but the viper coiled and snapped at the Prince’s ankles.  But much like the Wise Prince and his wits, the Arrogant Prince was as magnificent as he was impertinent.  He quickly grasped the tail of the creature and swung it around stunningly.  He sneered at the wise Prince and unsheathed his own dagger from his belt and tossed it to him. “Use mine,” he gloated.  “It is already polished.”

The Wise Prince once again had his left arm bound behind him and the Arrogant Prince unsheathed his sword in waiting.  The Wise Prince asked the Arrogant Prince if he was willing to humour him with one more challenge, perhaps to even the odds slightly.

“You have dug yourself into this ditch, you once-sensible Prince, but I do enjoy humiliating you in front of your followers.”

The Arrogant Prince would have been irritated had he not genuinely enjoyed these farces and his Seer advised him that he should listen to the proposal, so the Arrogant Prince complied.

The Wise Prince posed one last challenge and said the loser of this would be blindfolded for their duel.  This would be a considerable disadvantage, so the Arrogant Prince said he must ponder and would give his response following dinner that evening.

As both Princes retired to their tents, the Arrogant Prince consulted his Seer, to which he was given this response: “My liege, the omens have all been gracious.  You will not lose to this man in single contest or combat, no matter the challenge.”

The Arrogant Prince was greatly pleased by this and supped well that evening.  Following his meal, he met with the Wise Prince one last time.

“I will agree to this challenge,” he said.  “But it shall be our last.”

The Wise Prince said nothing, but nodded in agreement.  One of his servants brought out a long-bow.  “Your country is familiar with archery, I would imagine?”

The Arrogant Prince grabbed the bow.  “Do not be ignorant. What is the challenge?”

The Wise Prince explained they would be each given three shots and the Prince who could not complete these would be the loser.  And so the contest was agreed upon and they began.

The Arrogant Prince agreed it was fair that he began this challenge, since the Wise Prince had gone first for the viper.  For his first shot, he was to remove an apple from the head of a very short man from fifty yards away; a difficult shot for a tall Prince.  He pulled back the string to considerable tension and let fly.  The short man opened his eyes to see a far away grin on the Arrogant Prince’s face.

For the second shot, a captive boar was released a hundred yards away and the Prince had to shoot it dead before it was given time to escape.  As the cage was opened and the beast darted feverishly out into the barrens, the Prince quickly took a slight side-step, drew back and fired. The arrow lodged deep into the throat of the beast and it doubled over as its body lumped to a deadly halt.

The Arrogant Prince piped up.  “And now?”

For the final shot, the arrow was meant to cut through a cornel rope, tied to a tent’s support beam that hung a bucket of water above the ground.  The Arrogant Prince studied the small knot just above the bucket’s handle.  He drew back his arrow tightly and watched with both eyes open as he released the tension and viewed the bucket descend, splashing over the scorching sand below.

He bellowed loudly.  “Match that, opponent.”

The Wise Prince took the bow from his enemy and prepared for the first shot.  He succeeded without stress, for he was shorter than the Arrogant Prince and the apple was at his eye level.

The second shot was slightly more difficult, for he was not as strong, nor as quick as the Arrogant Prince.  Another boar was released from its cage, but the Prince faltered with his step and his shot barely caught the hind leg of the animal, rendering its getaway obsolete.  A servant had to put an end to its misery.

“Hardly done with finesse,” the Arrogant Prince remarked.

For the final shot, another bucket was hung next to the recently frayed rope of its predecessor, with damp sand below it.  The Wise Prince was proficient in archery, his accuracy almost unparalleled, but he was not the athlete that the Arrogant Prince was and did not have the physical prowess.  His shot flung from the bow, but only grazed the rope, not being powerful enough to snap it.  The rope frayed slightly, tilting the bucket, but not a drop fell.  The Wise Prince’s army gasped in horror.

“At dawn you shall meet your demise,” spat the Arrogant Prince, “unless of course you wish to humiliate yourself now and submit defeat.”

The Wise Prince was silent.

“Sunlight will not deter the blindfold” laughed the Arrogant Prince, his amusement joined by his troops.

“I will meet you at dawn,” replied the Wise Prince, “bound, blind-folded, with dagger in hand. This I promise.” And with that the two Princes returned to their separate tents.

The Arrogant Prince praised his good fortune and drank and feasted well into the night, with all his men rejoicing.  The Wise Prince did nothing of the sort; he sat in his quarters solemn and silent, pondering ever so slightly the hours as they passed.  His men were cautious of the imminent doom the morning would bring with it.  Meanwhile, the Arrogant Prince finished his festivities and was content to sleep.

Morning came quicker than expected and the Arrogant Prince was raised from bed by his Seer, who appeared to be most distressed.  The Arrogant Prince had no worries of the pending duel; even at full strength he felt he could better the weak and feeble Wise Prince and now with his impediments, the victor was surely obvious.  The Arrogant Prince traveled out to meet the Wise Prince in the field, but something was askew.  The Wise Prince’s army stood behind him, accompanied by many thousands of reinforcement troops and was thrice the size it had been days earlier.  The Wise Prince stood before his army, bound, blind-folded, with dagger in hand.

“I am here, as I had promised,” the Wise Prince began. “Though with thanks to your love of competition and undaunted arrogance, the relief army I had sent for upon first coming across you has managed to arrive just in time.”

The Arrogant Prince seared with anger at this and unsheathed his sword.  This act was followed by the thousands, just across from him in the open and the Arrogant Prince found himself looking at an insurmountable force in front of him.

“I think it best,” the Wise Prince said, removing his blind-fold, “that you humiliate yourself now and submit defeat.”

-B.W. Gladney

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