...Continued from Pt. V
After the boy's wild success in defeating the dragon that plagued Metropolis, he garnered the attention of the leader of a nearby kingdom. The boy was summoned to his palace, a place of exceeding beauty and opulent wealth. The boy felt small and unworthy as he entered between the two towering statues that guarded either side of the massive entrance to the palace. Surely the king would see how poor and simple he was and cast him out. The boy wished he had never decided to come at all.
The king proved to be a wise and generous man, however, not at all the aloof and intimidating force that the boy had expected.
"Welcome! Welcome to my kingdom," the king proclaimed. "Here you shall eat the finest food and drink the finest drinks. You shall have anything your heart desires."
The boy thought about how all he really wanted was to return home, to be with his brothers and mother and father. He couldn't say that, though, or else he would appear ungrateful for all the king was offering him.
"Thank you, your highness. But I need nothing in the world," the boy answered."
"But surely there is something you wish for, isn't there? Anything in the whole world I could give to you, young man. You need only tell me what it is."
The boy still had no answer for the king. "Really, there is nothing at all that I can think of that I would want, nothing more than I already have."
"Well," said the king, "I'll see if I can't do anything about that."
For the next few days, as the boy lay on sumptuous silken sheets in a huge bedroom attended by many beautiful women, he was tempted by the very best the king had to offer. On the first day, servants brought into the boy's room chests of gold and riches. "What good would all that be to me?" the boy asked. "It would only weigh me down, or get stolen anyhow. No, I don't think I want any treasure."
On the second day, the servants of the king brought Slate an atlas, a huge book bound in leather, gilded and jeweled and illuminated with the most beautiful illustrations he had ever seen. He was told to choose any of the lands in the atlas, which the king would make his if he so desired. "What good would land do to me?" the boy asked. "I have no servants to work the land, and I certainly don't need that much space for just myself. No, I don't think I want any land."
On the third day, the servants of the king brought to Slate a sparkling vessel of wine. The elixir was promised to have regenerative effects, to be able to suspend death and prolong life for anyone who should drink from it. "What good would eternal life do for me?" the boy asked. "I have no one to love in the world, and an eternity of solitude sounds to me like a hell. No, I don't think I want to drink from the elixir of life."
On the fourth day, a great army marched into the boy's chambers. There were bowmen with arrows made of silver, and hulking monsters in chains who looked strong enough to destroy whole forests. "What good would an army do for me?" the boy asked the leader of the army. "I don't have any land to protect, nor do I want to steal any from anybody else. No, I don't think I want power over this great army."
Finally, on the fifth day the king himself came into the boy's chamber. "Young man, you have proven to be wise in rejecting that which you were sent over the past few days. You were wise to reject worldly riches, as they would only weigh you down. You were wise to reject a gift of land, as stewardship is a great, taxing chore. You were wise to reject to elixir of life, as human life is as finite as our emotions are infinite. And you were wise to reject power, as the lust for destruction is the most dangerous passion of all. There is one last surprise, however."
"What is that?" the boy asked.
"The reason I have tested you thusly and sent so many temptations your way is because I wanted to make sure you were as pure of heart as you seemed. I, too, was a poor boy long ago, with nothing in the world. A wise king put me through the same tests as I have you, and it was my wise choices which told him to gift his kingdom to me upon his death. Young man, I give to you my scepter, and all the power of my kingdom."
"I'm sorry," said the boy,"but I have no desire to be the head of a kingdom. I only wish to return to my home and be again with my family."
"And the very last test, you have now passed," the king said with a wise smile. He raised his scepter and waved it about in the air, gathering behind it a trail of sparks and bright, tiny explosions. Soon the whole palace was a whirlwind around the boy, a howling gray tornado, and bits and pieces of the building became dislodged and were sucked up into the vortex in the sky.
And then suddenly, all of the chaos stopped and the boy was back outside his childhood home. It was still fallen, and he could still see it crawling with hideous spiders, but the boy was home, and that was all he really wanted. Now, he had to face the spider queen and finally reclaim his place.
TO BE CONTINUED...