Once upon a time a betrothed prince and princess were given a kingdom by the prince’s father. He gave the prince a small golden tree and declared that whoever cared for the tree would rule the kingdom. To care for the tree meant to never pull fruit from its branches or damage it in anyway. Now as the king had given the prince complete control of the kingdom, every citizen in the land obeyed him. In this kingdom all citizens had every thing they could ever want or imagine. They never knew hunger, cold or pain. They never felt sadness or boredom and their faces had never been scowled by anger. They grew beautiful flowers and ate the tastiest of fruits. The prince and princess planned to marry and raise a family here in their peaceful kingdom.
Little did they know that there was a spy in their company, a covert agent from a malicious enemy of their father.
This spy disguised himself as a wise and benevolent traveler who began to visit the royal children daily. He told them fantastic tales of the places he had been and the wonders he had seen. Often when he left them for the day they felt small and sheltered. They began to wonder what lay beyond their kingdom. Once they had only dreamed of raising their family, of tending the royal gardens they had inherited, but now they talked of strange creatures and far away places, of grand palaces and brave deeds. They came to trust the traveler and longed for his company.
Sometimes the traveler said “little” things about the prince’s father that the prince knew were not true, but he brushed these small slurs aside and ignored them because he was so enthralled with the traveler’s words, and what smooth words they were! There was just something about this wise man that compelled the youths to listen to him. One day, after he had visited them many times, he said, “Why is it that your father never lets you go beyond what is here? Why does he not want you to know what is in the world?”
The princess spoke first of her beloved father-in-law to be, “He tells us that there is death beyond this place. He does not wish us to die.”
“Is that so?” asked the traveler. “Does he not tell you of the wonders, the beauty, the knowledge I have seen? He keeps part of the truth from you.”
The prince thought on the stranger’s words. He loved his father. Surely what this man said was not true, but then again, he was so young. He had never been out of this kingdom. How could he be sure this man spoke a lie. What if his father did not really know everything? What if he was mistaken himself? Could that be possible?
“I tell you what,” the traveler said. “I will show you all the things you wish to see, all the wonders you have heard me speak of, but I will need it to be fair. I will trade you a trip into the world for…” he looked around as if searching for some random object for which to trade. However, he had planned this trade from the moment he laid eyes on the couple. “For a piece of that golden fruit. You must give me a piece of it.”
The princess, who was much more inquisitive and talkative than the young man, spoke again, “Oh, no. We can’t give you that.”
“Why not? It’s only fruit,” the man said.
And without thinking any further the princess plucked a piece of fruit from the tree and handed to the stranger, but the trade had not officially been made because the fruit and the tree actually belonged to the prince, since he was the one the king had given it to originally. The stranger looked to the prince who took the fruit and without one word, handed it back to the traveler.
Immediately, the stranger changed from a handsome, kind and wise traveler into a menacing creature from another world, a being of dark magic, and with but a wave of his hand, he left the royal couple naked, destitute and shackled in chains. The creature laughed and proclaimed himself their new master. Everything he had told them had been lies and twisted facts. Too late, they realized they had been deceived, that they had lost everything. They had traded their future, their children’s future and the well-being of their entire kingdom for empty promises.
They drug their shackled feet through the garden and hid, knowing they could not escape their fate. They tried to cover their nakedness, their sudden extreme poverty, with some dirty old rags.
When the king came back to visit his son in the kingdom, he found him cowering in fear, hiding, dressed in rags and weeping with despair. The king was heart-broken because the son had believed the lies of a cunning stranger, but being the good father he was, he laid down a plan to one day free the couple and their future off-springs from slavery; however, because he had given the son control of the kingdom and the son had traded his kingdom for a look into “mysterious things”, he could not go back on his word that whoever controlled the tree, controlled the kingdom. Deliverance would have to wait until the father’s plan could be unfolded and executed.
In time, just as the stranger had disguised himself as a citizen of the kingdom, the king’s other son, disguised himself as a commoner and came to live in the land of despair now controlled by the cunning traveler. The traveler had gained control of the kingdom by tricking the royal couple into giving away the seeds to the golden tree. Knowing he could not stoop to deceit, the second prince offered to purchase the kingdom back and being the son of the king, he offered a price so magnificent that the traveler could not refuse his offer. The price he offered was his life. He revealed his identity as the king’s other son. The traveler hated the king above all else and thought he had outdone himself when he agreed to the second prince’s terms and had him sacrificed on the very tree that he had stolen from the first prince. The traveler had no intention of returning the kingdom to the first prince’s or his off-springs. He merely planned to murder the king’s son and retain control of the kingdom. Again, he planned to deceive and lie to the royal family. What he did not know was that the second prince possessed powers greater than his own and that death was not permanent for him, because unlike his older brother, he was not mortal.
So, the traveler stood by and watched as the prince was murdered, as he was cut open and as he bled to death. He then had a party to celebrate the fact that he was still ruler of the kingdom and that the king’s off-springs were bound in slavery forever. However, just as the party in his palace was really taking off, the entire building shook and the prince he had murdered blew the palace doors open with a blast from his hand. He sent the guards the their knees with a look, then marched right up to the traveler and yanked the spectre from his hand and the crown from his head. The traveler used his dark magic on the prince, trying to render him naked and in leave him in shackles, but the prince’s power was so much greater that he blew the shackles into a million pieces and wove himself a tunic of light. He then picked up the traveler and carried him to the edge of the kingdom and tossed him from a high mountain.
Finally, he found his brother and his wife, still bound in chains. With his bare hands he ripped the chains from them and declared them free. He then sent a decree into all corners of the kingdom that the traveler was no longer in charge and that no one should have to live under his cruel rule anymore. However, many did not believe the message when they heard it and are still living as if though the traveler is still their king. Others, believed the message and now live as free citizens, realizing they are no longer slaves.