Reflecting Upon Reflections

September 15, 2010
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“I bet I can run faster than you!” said one boy playfully to his younger brother,
“Not with your short legs, you can’t!” Ignotus taunted,
“Then race you to the tree beside that hill.” As soon Devoveo had said that, he broke into a fast run,
“No, WAIT! That cliff is too steep, you could fall off!” Ignotus warned him, but to no result; his brother kept running, and Ignotus himself couldn’t resist but doing the same. Devoveo reached the edge with barely a centimeter to spare from falling to his death. His brother, unfortunately, had gained too much speed in his desire to reach the edge first, too fast to stop in such a short distance. Inevitably he bumped into his brother, causing him to fall off the side. His brother caught in time the protruding branches that came out of the side of the cliff, obviously belonging to the tree.
“Ignotus, help me!” cried the young boy in fear,
“What can I do?” he was just as terrified and scared as his brother,
“Pull me up! I can’t hold on much longer!” tears were running down his cheeks,
“I can’t reach you, my arms are too short! “
Suddenly the branch broke, and Ignotus watched in shock as his brother fell down the steep hill into the blue waters of the river and his body was swept away. He sat on the side of the cliff crying profusely, not knowing what to do. His first thought was jumping after his brother, but luckily didn’t do it. He thought about what his father and mother, royal sovereigns of this kingdom, would do when they find out that their children had snuck out of the castle and that he had killed his brother.
He was too deep in thought to notice a young beautiful girl in a white satin dress standing in the middle of the field, looking at him. He didn’t know when or where she came from, but he irrationally felt compelled to speak to her. He got off the cliff reluctantly, casting a teary glance towards the river and then ran languidly in the girl’s direction. He stopped just a meter away from her.
“I know what you did.” She said solemnly, “You killed your brother,”
“It was an accident, I didn’t mean to do it,” Prince Ignotus tried desperately to convince himself, and the little girl.
“Here, take this,” she unhooked a necklace from her neck and placed it in his palm, Ignotus examined it the weakening rays of the setting sun; it had the shape of a heart, and it was broken in half. He could barely make out the words “Con” on one half, and “Fidere” on the other.
“Good bye.”
“Wait! Who are you? What’s your name?”
But the girl had inexplicably disappeared.
The prince went home to find the king and queen in agony of not finding two of their sons in bed, and if the general mood wasn’t bad enough, he had to tell them the truth.
Night came. The King, Queen and Prince sat round the fireplace. The Queen was holding a handkerchief to dry her tears, the King was pondering into the fireplace, and the Prince watched them both.
Suddenly the doors swung with a bellowing wind, and an eerie bone-chilling laugh. And there at the threshold appeared an evil witch with dark skin and yellow eyes. Prince Ignotus clutched the side of his chair and stared in horror at the witch, his heart beating ferociously against his chest; she looked directly at him, and addressed only him:
“Well, well, well. A prince murdering his own brother?” She mocked in derisiveness, then her tone turned portentous and grave, “You, Prince Ignotus from the kingdom of Pax Cor, shall be cursed for your deed in return. You will not be able to see your reflection until you balance one rescued with one lost.” Then she disappeared into nothingness, leaving only her ominous laugh echoing in his ear. He looked at the king and Queen; they sat in complete quiescence, and made no indication of noticing the intrusion. He never talked about it with them.
Years passed, and the prince still had the innate vulnerability of never being able to see his reflection. Nonetheless was next in line for the crown, therefore, ever since his childhood, his father has been setting him up to take the thrown. Prince Ignotus felt immensely pressured to be the perfect king, so he learned, among other things, how to fight on horseback, how to duel with swords, and how to use a bow and arrow-though he never found a worthy opponent-, all to fulfill the military obligation he owed to his kingdom. He was also educated at the finest schools along with other royal students from far kingdoms, which offered no competition, because he was the finest student there, and received honorary badges for every year he spent at school. All this while living in utmost opulence and luxury; as all princes do, and being the envy of others. But despite all this, it never felt quite enough. For the curse deeply troubled him. He knew it seemed insignificant, but it still rocked the base of his confidence. What was most unnerving is that his parents can see his reflection normally.
On Prince Ignotus’s 21st birthday, the king ordered his servants to summon him to his royal chamber. He entered and kneeled before his father and mother; she was by his side.
The king, lying in bed, ordered the servants to leave the room, and motioned for his son to come closer. Prince Ignotus sat in an arm chair by his father for, which he will soon find out, the last time. As he looked at his father, he saw the terrible inflictions of diseases and maladies on his father’s face and in his eyes, and something heavy fell like bricks in his stomach. The king coughed wearily. Prince Ignotus looked at his mother as she dried her tears with a handkerchief and reached out for her husband’s hands, she had wrinkles on her face that weren’t there until recently, and her eyes were red and bloated and seemed desperate to lunge out of their sockets.
“My son…” the king started, his voice was grouchy and filled with fatigue, and every now and then he paused to take his breath, “The king is old, and … [cough]… cannot fulfill his duties … as he ought to… [cough]… you will have to take my place.”
Prince Ignotus’ eyes began to swell with tears. Though he did not wish to admit it, the time has finally come, and he, from his own personal view, was ill-prepared.
“Don’t say that father, your kingdom loves you, and your family loves you. You have to get well for them.”
“My son…I’m tired and old… [Cough] … and I have dedicated…my life for the kingdom…. It’s now up to you to do the same.” The king reached for his son’s hand, “It’s important … [Cough] … to not let your faults hinder your stride for… greatness…. I know you can…you are my son…”
Suddenly the king’s hand felt heavy in his, and the world started spinning, he looked at his father in shock, his face was peaceful and his eyes were shut, and he himself became oblivious to the world around him, and to his mother who was crying vehemently and shouting “NO! NO! NO!” in disbelief. He came to awareness when the servants and guards entered, to whom he asked reproachfully what there were doing in there, and, when no reply came, ordered them in shouts to get out immediately.
Days, along with the coronation, passed. The new king locked himself in his Royal Chamber, and never got out. He didn’t eat, didn’t sleep, and didn’t so much as lift a finger to rule his kingdom. He felt he fell inadequate of ruling his kingdom.
The kingdom was quickly falling apart, so his mother arranged for him to marry a beautiful princess with ties to his own family, and she was so beautiful inside and out, that it was said that Aphrodite envied her, and that even Helen of Troy was no match to her. He didn’t mind the marriage, nor did he welcome it.
On the day of her arrival, dismal news came to the Royal Palace. The king heard some disturbance coming from the gate, so normally he went to see what the cause of it was. He saw guards preventing a poor old man with torn dirty clothes from entering; he immediately told them to let him through. The man hurried to talk to the king without even bowing,
“Your majesty, I’m afraid I carry bad news. I am the Royal Princess’s carriage driver, and the witch has kidnapped her and taken her to her castle.” Then showed him a royal letter addressed to the prince himself that was from the Princess’s Royal parents, and a torn piece from the princess’s dress that was ripped off when the witch snatched her. “I tried to stop her, but she lit the carriage on fire with her wand.” The king fell silent, then addressed the man, “Thank you kind sir, I will make sure that you get rewarded for your gallantry and loyalty.” He turned and addressed the maids, “Make sure he gets a bath and clean clothes, and serve him whatever he wishes from the royal kitchen. Then tell my mother I’ve gone to save the Princess.”
But before setting off, he went to get his shiny armor and blade, not to forget his noble steed. Now he had to brave the storm that had just broke, not to mention the hard obstacles that will soon meet his way.
Galloping through the night, it never occurred to him how he had known where the witch lived; all he cared was that he did. Twenty minutes passed under the raging storm, suddenly he saw the back of a dark hooded figure standing in front of him which was not there before, and it was dimly silhouetted for a split-second by lightening. The horse came to a halting stop, and reared on its hind legs; a sign of restlessness.
“Excuse me, noble man, why are you standing beneath the rain?”
The dark figure did not stir. The prince dismounted the horse and approached the figure tentatively, carefully.
“Are you alright?”
The figure turned around, and what the prince saw next he could not believe. It was his father.
“My son, you don’t know what you’re getting yourself into. Turn around and go home.”
“This is devil’s work. It can’t be! My father is dead.”
He grabbed the prince, and neared his face to his, and the prince looked into his eyes, there was something wicked in them.”
“You must go back! The witch is furious tonight.”
He forced aside his hands and asked, “How would you know if the witch is furious?!”
Suddenly his father turned into a horrid creature, with black skin and yellow eyes, and a high-pitched screech had irrupted from its mouth. The prince was knocked aback, and saw his horse running away. He looked back and saw that the creature had disappeared. He got up and took a few steps forward, when the entire world turned pitch black. He could not see his hand if he held it upright in front of his face. Determined, he pressed on. A few kilometers forward, He could hear ominous and nefarious sounds around him, like sharks around a prey, plotting how to catch it. He thought he heard something behind him, he stopped and strained his ear trying to listen, but it must have been the rain. He started walking again, slowly, when he heard the sound again, this time louder and right behind him. With one swift move, he pulled his sword and swung it behind him, the result was hearing an agonizing sound of something in torture. What it was, he did not know, but he hoped it had no friends. The prince summoned his courage and continued forward. At last he came out of the blinding darkness to find himself in front of the witch’s castle’s doors. Strangely, the door was ajar. He entered into a large hall, lit by a fire place and torches that hung on the wall. He saw one table in the middle, and beyond it, a strong metal gate. He approached the table and examined what lay upon it; a scroll, and five keys, each one different in material; iron, bronze, silver, gold and diamond. He unbound the scroll and opened it. It read:
“Surrender your heart
To the always-hungry monster, that sets you and your clue apart.”
“’The always-hungry monster’, but what could that be?” he thought to himself, “Of course, FIRE!”
He walked over to the fireplace, and took out the heart-shaped necklace from his pouch, considered his actions for a moment, then threw it in the fire. The fire roared vociferously and turned flamboyant blue, then was suddenly put off. The prince crouched by the fireplace and looked inside, he could vaguely make out a word etched in the stone wall. “Aurum…” he mouthed, “That means gold,” He stepped in front of the table and picked up the golden key. Instantaneously, all the other keys turned into dust. With determination, he walked over to door and inserted the key, the lock clicked.
Suddenly the door swung forward, throwing dust all over the place, and revealing a stairwell. He climbed up the stairs hastily, taking two at a time. Upon reaching the highest of the castle’s towers, he found the Princess lying unconsciously in bed, with the witch muttering cryptic malediction over her.
“You’ve come too late…” she said in an eerie voice,
“It’s never too late.”
The witch gave a bone-chilling screech and reached under her cloak. The prince saw this and at once and lunged aside while pulling a dagger from his side and throwing it at the witch. It hit her heart squarely, but even this didn’t kill her; it merely made her fall on her knees. The prince walked over to her and said: “I’m not afraid of you, not anymore.” Which was of even bigger effect to the witch than the dagger, and she dissolved into a pool of dark water there and seeped through the stone. At the same time, the Princess woke up with a sudden draw of breath. The King sat down beside her and held her hands. He looked into her eyes and saw himself looking back.
“Is it over?”
“Yes, it’s over.”
“Then you better wake up.”
He found himself resting his head on his father’s death bed, and his mother waking him up.
He got up, not at all shocked by what had happened, and looked at himself in the mirror,
“Mother, I’m ready to rule my kingdom.”

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