A Tale For Young Children
The dewdrops sparkled like diamonds in the early morning sun. A busy little bee was up early, humming to himself as he flew from flower to flower. "It's such a beautiful forest," he said to himself, "especially since the princess has come to live here."
Under the shade of an old oak tree, a white rabbit was sitting, watching all the busy antics of the bee. A happy lark came flying by, singing his songs of praise and thanksgiving.
Then, a rustling of the leaves and from the bushes out came a young woman, wearing a crown of delicately woven flowers on her head. It was the princess. She walked down to the stream and looked deep into its crystal clear waters.
"Oh, water of life, window of the future, does my prince still live?"she asked softly as she knelt down by the flowing stream.
The waters stirred, and her reflection changed into that of her beloved prince.
"Ah, dear Prince," she sighed to herself,"how my heart aches for you. When will you return to take me to your kingdom?"
She heard a whisper in her heart, "My dearest one. I will come again soon. I will keep my promise to you." The reflection in the waters faded, and the princess once again beheld her image in the stream.
Closing her eyes, she remembered that day which now seemed an eternity ago, when he had left to prepare a beautiful new mansion for her, his betrothed, as a wedding present, promising to return as soon as he had finished.
But soon after he had left, the dark lord, Prince Volard, had come with his sweeping forces of darkness. His conquests had increased day by day, until his control had spread over the Earth. Yet still she could not bring herself to believe that her prince had forsaken her. Volard had demanded that she join with him, and that they rule together, but she had bravely refused and fled to avoid the wrath she knew would come. Finally, she had found this peaceful haven, a magical forest that shone with the light of love and peace. Here she was safe and happy, and ruled in peace over the animals of the forest.
A fluttering of wings interrupted her thoughts and brought her back to reality. "Hello, Brother Owl," she said, as the wise old owl perched himself beside her.
"Good morning, Princess," he replied. "I see you have been inquiring of the great stream of life again?"
"Yes, Brother Owl. I long so much for my Prince Valiant! Since that day I gave my heart to him, no other can satisfy. My heart is his and his alone. I look each day for his return, when he will take me to his kingdom of light. Sometimes I feel as if I've forgotten his smile, his sweet and gentle manner and his loving words. But then something stirs within, and I again feel his tender touch and hear his comforting words whispering to me.
"Each day Prince Volard's troops come closer. One day they will find this hidden place, and then ... oh, Owl, I could never join with him, for though he offers riches and power, I see the subjects of his kingdom, and they are dark and lost. Yet day by day, more and more turn to him. He charms the people with his words and would almost persuade me, if I had not the memories of my dear prince to strengthen me."
"Time is short, my Princess, and so I have called for a meeting of your subjects today. We all shall meet here at the old oak, for I hear that Volard's troops are near and may soon find our hidden retreat."
"Yes, thank you, dear Owl."
Old Owl flew off and disappeared into the dense forest. The princess sat and watched as he vanished among the treetops. Busy Bee came humming along.
"Oh, Princess, do not be sad, for I and all my brothers will protect you."
"Oh, sweet Bee, you are ever concerned and thoughtful." She blew him a kiss.
"Wow!" exclaimed the bee, as he blushed bright red and spun in circles, spiraling up and up. Then diving down, he shot off to tell his brother bees that the princess had blown him a kiss.
She sat and laughed as she watched the antics of dear Bee. She thought to herself, Yes, mine is a small kingdom, but one of love and of kindness, where love motivates every thought and action. She stood up and walked into the forest, when suddenly a small voice drew her attention to a bramble bush nearby.
"Help me! Please, help me!" came the small quivering voice. Looking deep into the brambles, the princess saw a poor rose, trapped and encircled with thorny brambles, which were choking her.
"Oh, dear Rose, of course I will help you." She reached her hand into the brambles. "Ouch!" she exclaimed as the thorns cut her hands.
"Wait, Princess!" said a deer, who moved swiftly toward her at her cry.
"Let me help you!" Father Deer pushed back the surrounding thorns with his antlers, making room for the princess to pull out the trapped Iona.
"Thank you, Father Deer! You are always so ready to help." Then prying free the rose, she said, "Your scent is sweet and fills the air with sweetness, dear Rose. You are a breath of heaven to my kingdom. Father Deer, would you take this dear Rose to my flower garden and plant her there?" The deer nodded, happy to be of service for his princess.
* * *
Soon it was time for the meeting, and all the subjects of the forest had gathered to hear the news. Big Oak stood strong in the center of the grove. He was said to have been the first tree planted in the forest, and all the inhabitants respected him. His large protruding roots made a nice chair for the princess to sit on. His branches covered her from the sun and sheltered her from the winds. Yes, dear Oak was, as always, doing his best for his princess.
"My beloved subjects," the princess began, "it seems that the evil Prince Volard has sent his troops to seek me out. They are at this moment entering the edge of our forest. Wise Owl has advised that it would be best for me to hide from his troops, and so dear Oak has offered me a place of safety. He knows of an old chestnut tree that grows in the depths of the forest. Its large roots hide the entrance to a cave where I can hide from Volard's troops."
A cheer went out from all to old, strong Oak. "I wish therefore to warn all of you to stay away from Volard's troops. They will not harm you, as it is me they seek. But it is best you avoid them. They bring only darkness and evil wherever they go."
And so the dear princess moved into the depths of the forest and took shelter in a cave. Within this cave was the source of the river of life that ran through her kingdom. It refreshed her and strengthened her with its life-giving waters. Brother Squirrel brought nuts, and Brother Rabbit, berries. Brother Bee brought lots of delicious honey, and even the birds of the air did bring their offerings to her to sustain their beautiful princess.
After some time had passed, Prince Volard's troops left the forest. They returned to fight wars for their prince of darkness, as trouble was erupting throughout his lands. During this time of reprieve, the princess was able to leave her safe nest and once more mingle with her subjects, until the day came that Volard's anger erupted again, and he himself led his troops back into the magical forest.
The princess once more returned to her hiding place, but unknown to all, a sneaky snake had entered the forest and discovered the place of her sanctuary. Leading his troops with the snake around his shoulders, Volard and his men pushed deeper and deeper into the dense forest.
Soon, the animals of the forest realized that Volard had discovered where the princess was hiding and mobilized into action. Brother Bee gathered his forces and attacked the invading troops with zeal and vigor.
Many of Volard's men fled in terror, chased by the hordes of bees. Brother Squirrel and the assorted birds waged war by throwing and dropping rocks and nuts upon the troops, while Brother Rabbit led them off in a chase into boggy* ground, where many of Volard's troops became stuck. But despite the brave defense of the animals of the forest, Volard's troops finally overwhelmed them and reached the hidden shelter.
As the troops poured into their forest hideout, all the deer in the forest surrounded the entrance to the cave, ready to die defending their beloved princess from Volard's evil clutches.
"Ha, ha!" laughed Volard. "Do you think you can stop my men who are trained in battle? Be gone, or die!"
The princess came out and stood bravely amidst her army of deer. Suddenly, a trumpet blew loud and clear, and all eyes turned. Emerging from the forest was Prince Valiant!
"So, Volard!" Valiant spoke, "you would try to take what is mine! You fare well against these weak ones, but look now and prepare to face the forces of light who do fight by my side." From behind him, scores of soldiers, armed and ready, poured into the glade.
The battle began and war was waged. It took all day, as they fought hard and long. But Volard was defeated, his forces vanquished, and he was taken off to the dark dungeons of Prince Valiant. The prince approached his princess and took her hand. The animals gathered round as the prince held up his hand and spoke.
"Dear subjects," he said, "You have been brave and fearless despite the great odds against you. You stood true and loyal to my princess. For this you will all be rewarded, and your forest will always be a place of magic and love, because your hearts were loving and kind. You will help me to rule my kingdom," said the prince. "Your love and your unity will be a sample to all and will reach far and wide."
Then the prince took his princess by the hand and led her under strong Oak. He pulled her gently to him and kissed her. The crowds cheered and sang, for the kingdom of darkness was finished and the new kingdom of light had arrived.