finger dragonfly jpeg

II. The Prince and the Light

He arrived in country as the sun was setting over the mountains in the west. Tattered, tired, but alert, he studied the new landscape around him. His eyes followed the contour noting the rise and fall of the geography, the colors, shapes, and varied fragrances carried on the wind. He listened to the evening sounds in that time between times as the daylight creatures settled down for the night and the creatures of the darkness began to stir. His senses were alert to danger or welcome, provision or lack. It was an old habit formed over the years of wandering, searching, seeking that for which he had yet to name. His journey had been long and had taught him many things but had yet to still the restlessness in his soul.

He had begun the quest full of ideals acquired from the stories passed down to him from the wise men of his people. He was young, full of vigor and confident in his ultimate success. As he now walked his once proud and powerful warhorse through the twilight he mused on the day he had set out. In his mind he saw the young, strong, grinning face of the boy so eager to begin. He was filled with the naive but pure faith that the stories were true. As he walked and remembered he ran his fingers through the whitening hair around his temples and massaged the knotted muscles of his neck. Were they true? “They must be true” he said to himself again for the uncounted number of times he repeated such things. He said again aloud “It must be true or nothing is true in this world.” He straightened his back, lifted his slumping shoulders, set his jaw firmly, and stepped resolutely once more into the unknown.

These moments and conversations with himself were familiar and really a part of a long established ritual he went through upon entering a new territory. Doubt, whatever small influence it may still hold over him had been long since dealt with. Long ago he had chosen to live as if his desires had an answer, a location, a face, a name. He may at times doubt people or circumstance or even himself. But he was and had been unwavering in the belief that there is reason and an ultimate destination for the wanderings of his heart. The cornerstone of his life is the foundational belief that one day the incomplete will be made whole.

He found a place to pass the night on the bank of a cool, clear, slow moving stream. He began to make his camp at the place where the stream emptied itself into the stillness of a wide lake nestled in a hidden valley. He built a fire, saw to the needs of his horse, and settled down to watch the last minutes of the sun’s dance down the mountains, below the hills, and finally over the far horizon. The yellows, reds, orange, and purples framed the shimmering shapes of the mountains and pines reflected in the mirror like stillness of the wider lake. His eyes surveyed the outlines of the shore as it made its way deeper into the valley. He had always liked the fresh air. And water in its many forms had become a source of solace for him. As he sat and rested against his saddle something drew his attention. He caught a flash out of the corner of his eye. He turned to see what seemed to be a bright sparking iridescent jewel skim the surface of the water, dance on the wind, and then plunge beneath and up in a most bizarre and beautiful ballet. The light moved steadily toward him through the growing shadows. As it neared he saw that the source of the light was a small winged creature moving now straight toward him. As the shadows deepened the creature seemed to glow silver to hot white, illuminating its path toward the wanderer. It flew past him, stopping just out of reach. It then made three slow sun-wise circuits around him and attended the wanderer as though measuring and evaluating him. The creature stopped after the last round and hovered level with the wanderer’s eyes. As they looked at one another a spark of recognition leaped between them. An icy chill flooded the wanderer as the blood drained from his face. The creature satisfied, hovered a few more seconds then turned and flew in the direction of the sunset, disappearing into the shadows.

It was long ago and it had been decades since he had felt the full force of those feelings. For the most part they had remained just out of conscious reach. He could not remember a time when he had been completely free of them and in a real sense they had motivated and provided the energy for his life until now. His many adventures had been secondary and serendipitous to the true purpose of his wandering. His search had been initiated and sustained by his dire need to find some resolution for the questions of his heart and reason for the haunting tapestry of feelings he carried deep within him. And the search had taken him into many exotic and undiscovered lands that till today many will never see.

The source of those feelings remained somewhat of a mystery. Over the years his search had provided some pieces of the puzzle that he began to form into a general outline. He had painstakingly assembled a set of thematic impressions of his narrative but most of the facts remained illusive. And through it all he had developed an acute sensibility to patterns and the ability to look forward and into the past at once. He had remarkable empathy with people and their patterns and could just as easily wage brutal war as he could provide healing and comfort to the down trodden. He much preferred tenderness and strengthening the weak for he knew first hand the evil done by hearts filled with terror, shame, hopelessness, and despair. He knew that place in his own heart and had fought to overcome it in others. When battles were waged and won. When hope and life would spring forth he would exult in the victory. And this ongoing battle had been the context within which his life was shaped. His knowledge and skills increased. He grew in stature and confidence until such a time that he feared nothing he had yet encountered in this world. But for all his searching he remained restless. For all his victories he felt unaccomplished. Restlessness remained, questions hung on his heart like a weight, unanswered. And yet through it all he persisted unwavering in his quest.

The encounter with the creature had stirred something in him. The mingled scents of the pine, the fresh water, and the smoke from the fire brought some comfort to him. He had always felt more at home in wild places than in the constructs of men. He leaned again into his saddle, nibbled some dried beef and contemplated the meaning of this seemingly chance meeting. Or was it? It was much out of the normal pattern yet there was some sense of familiarity which had summoned the terror. But it had also fanned a flicker of hope that somehow, just possibly, he had stumbled onto a path that would initiate the beginning of the end of his quest. He reached inside his tunic and ran his fingers across the surface of the medallion he had worn since he was a boy. He found the odd shape in the center and again wondered about its meaning. He believed that to solve this riddle would be the key somehow to unlocking and finally answering the questions of his soul.

He had come to recognize patterns intuitively. He trusted those in nature. And while the forces that moved the earth could cause harm they were never malicious and always acted within predictable parameters. Even the carnage and chaos of war was understandable because of its purposes and devices were clear. Groups of people he understood quite well because statistics had proven to be reliable. There were always exceptions but even they could be accounted for. And it is always the individuals who are the exceptions. He tended not to have many who knew him. He trusted rarely and then only so far. What he trusted was his ability. Whether in love or war he was confident in being able to figure out and do the needed thing. Not that he was always correct or even successful. He was not. He had failed as much as he had succeeded. But it was his confidence that allowed him to survive both winning and losing. He had a stoic optimism that made him buoyant in the face of defeat and realistic in victory. Neither finally answered the real questions. Nothing he had seen or done had satiated the hunger of his soul. He kept no trophy or record of defeat. He simply continued to move forward seeking that for which his soul longed.

Something had happened a long time ago. He was born the prince of a king but even before he could talk the seeds of betrayal had been sown. He had reconciled himself to the fact that he may never really know exactly what happened. But he remembered the terror. Even as he sat many years removed from those days the impact struck him like a blow. He remembered feeling utterly alone, abandoned, weak and without recourse. He remembered the laughing faces, the glances he did not understand the connections he was not a part of. He was fed and generally cared for, but something always seemed to hang over his head. He sensed that there was some secret knowledge, a loop he was not welcomed in. The terror, the shame, the sense of being betrayed and left to his own devices tormented him for a time. And his weakness shamed the royal blood flowing through his veins.

There came a day when a seemingly inconsequential occurrence changed his life forever. He spent most of his boyhood inside the walls of his fathers’ castle. He felt trapped, alone, and abandoned there. His soul was sick of all the secrets and the patronizing smiles on faces around him. He was on guard perpetually. Nights would pass at the speed of mountains growing. Time slowed and warped as he pleaded for the dawn. Sleep was fitful and shallow. Rest was illusive and generally unknown. But one evening just at dusk as the void of his day was ending and giving way to another uneasy night, he felt despair. And overcome he lay down and wept the tears of a motherless child. Clinging to and clutching a pillow from his bed, and between sobs, he raised his face toward the heavens with a pleading moan. As his eyes lifted he saw a glowing light pass through his open window, circle him, and pause hovering in the air. As the boy quieted himself, distracted from his misery, his eyes followed as the light turned and flew back through the window into the wilderness.

The whole event may have only lasted a few moments but its impact was eternal. From that moment on a new thought began to take shape in the mind of the boy. As his eyes followed the light across the room and out of the window it was if something beckoned him to follow. Out, outside, freedom, were images, concepts and impressions that like seeds were planted deeply in his young heart. Raising himself he climbed to the window ledge seeking the light. As he peered over and outside he was astonished to see a little creature glowing silver white and hovering just out of reach. He extended his hand as if to grasp the creature and quickly withdrew it for he felt a burning sensation at the end of his left index finger. He examined the cut and tasted blood as he sought to cool the burning between his lips and tongue. The creature then immediately turned and flew in the direction of the far mountains.

finger dragonfly jpeg

The traveler studied his finger. It had been many years since he had pondered that night. He appraised the scar he still carried and smiled as he placed it in his mouth as he had done that night so many years ago. He remembered a change beginning from that night on. It was not immediate but gradually a shift occurred in his soul from terror to hope, from despair to determination. He swore that one day he would be free of this place and would never return. To that end he began to shift his attention from his misery to its possible resolution. He lifted his head, opened his eyes and began to study the castle and the people around him. Over time he began to notice particular patterns in the day to day life of the place. He learned to gather information by watching what people did rather than put much stock in what they told him. He learned that the people around him fell into fairly predictable rhythms that were generally reliable. He learned to be alert if the patterns changed or if what they said did not match their actions. He studied the ancient lore searching through dusty books he found laying untouched and neglected in the inner recesses of the place. As he studied books, people, and his surroundings he found that it helped to quiet the restless anxiety in his heart. He also began to consider more seriously his eventual escape. One evening deep within the castle he poured over brittle manuscripts, the air filled with the ancient scents of earth and stone, he came across an obscure and cryptic text. He worked translating it for hours but it never quite made sense. The best he could guess was it said “The King holds the key” and another which was more confusing, “Follow – Dragon – Light – Fly”. He was not sure of the meaning or even how these words fit together but something in him resonated with them. Hope rose from his depths flooding and strengthening him He decided. He decided to decide. He would go and talk to the king.

He had not spoken to his father in many years. There was an occasional conversation, and a civility demanded by their rank was not uncommon. But they seldom if ever parted the veils which separated them. There was love there but whatever rupture had occurred had ripped them apart as well. He entered the hall afraid but resolute. His father watched him approach; saw the look in his eyes, and instantly knew why he had come. The king had dreaded and hoped for this day since the betrayal and the enchantment had settled over the kingdom. The boy said to his father “The King holds the key” in a question and statement at once. The king, visibly shaken, mixed emotions animating his countenance, took off his crown. He stepped down from his throne and removed a medallion from around his neck. With tears in his eyes he placed it on his son. He said “Yes son, the King holds the key. Now I give it to you.” The King beginning to weep said “I’m sorry son. I could not find the way out. You must find your own path. All I ever discovered was that finding the missing piece of the medallion would lead you to your heart’s desire.” The old man placed his hands on his son’s head and blessed him. He said “Perhaps it was only for me to have kept this for you. I sought answers but only found more questions. Go now. Rid yourself of this place. Find what was lost. Repair that which was broken.”

Origiinal Medallion

The young man turned from his father stunned. He had expected war and found blessing. He sought out a king and found a man. Understanding and empathy for the man washed over him. His father was now forgiven and the boy was freed from guilt. All this time, his father had known the beast and had himself wrestled with it. His father had done all he could and more for him and he had never known it until today. He now had something tangible to hold to. He had the medallion, a quest to complete it, his father’s blessing and instruction to go. But, go where? How? He searched his memory for an answer. Some clue, something. It’s a puzzle . . . There is a pattern . . . There must be . . . “Follow – Dragon – Light – Fly,” he said to himself. An idea flashed across the galaxy of his consciousness, a new star appeared. He turned quickly on his heal and sprinted back to his room.

Like in the old stories the answer was hidden in view. He still did not understand the inscrutable message “Follow – Dragon – Light – Fly” but it had to be. There had to be something . . . He followed the path the creature had taken as it flew back out the window. He looked to the window and found the creature, aglow and illuminating a small round indentation between the middle bars. The young prince instinctively removed the medallion from his neck and placed it face down aligning the patterns he saw there with those of his medallion. He had never noticed them before but now in the light cast by the creature they were apparent and a prefect mate for those on the medallion. He pushed down on the metal surface until he heard a click and watched as the bars swung silently open. The prince stared into the wild openness, heart racing, giddy with excitement. The buzzing of the creatures wings drew his attention. It rose into the air, looked again to the Prince and then flew away into the night. As the Prince watched the trail of light move away he repeated “Follow – Dragon – Light – Fly” as he stepped into the night.

That was a long time ago and tonight was the first time he had thought of it in many years. He smiled and repeated those words once again. “Follow – Dragon – Light – Fly”. He stood, gathered his belongings, extinguished the fire, saddled his horse, and headed west into the shadows, following the flying light.