TITLE: The Crystal Rose
By Ann Wilds
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Mary was the youngest princess in the land of Horeb. She had two older siblings; Michael, who would some day be king, and Susan, who was two years older than she. She also had a little brother,Nathan, who was three. The kingdom was a peaceful one and the people loved her father. He was a good king; fair and gentle. Although the King and Queen had four children, if truth be told, Mary was just a little extra special to them. When she was just a baby, she caught the measles and the royal doctor had little hope that she would survive. Her parents sat by her crib day and night until she recovered. Yet even though she held a special place in their hearts, neither parent ever showed any favoritism to her over her siblings. They were both fair and loving. All of the royal princes and princesses felt special. All were free to visit the King at any time. No meeting was too important that time couldnít be taken to listen to the children share their exciting news of the day. As much as the King and Queen loved the children so did the citizens of the kingdom. They loved to get a glimpse of them in the yearly grand parade and to pass along stories of their latest exploits which were shared by the head chef at the castle or the head master at the childrenís school. As the children grew, they were each given duties regarding the kingdom. Their parents wanted all of them to know the responsibility and privilege of leading a peaceful realm.
One day, when Mary was sixteen, the king sent her along with two of his advisors to the Kingdom of Mariak. She was to spend two months with them as a good will ambassador on behalf of the royal family. The trip would take over a month of travel to get there. They would have to cross the Azure Sea to the far side. Mary had never traveled outside of the Kingdom of Horeb alone and certainly never as far as Mariak. She was excited about the adventure and proud that her parents trusted her with such important work.
As Mary was packing her last case, her parents came in to say their private good-byes. There would be a formal sendoff later but this was a chance for them to simply be a family. Queen Miriam hugged her daughter tight, telling her how much she loved her and how proud she was of the young woman Mary had become. King Robert then gave Mary a gift from her parents. It was a necklace. The chain was made from the finest silver, braided tightly in a delicate but strong link. The pendant hanging from it was a brilliant crystal intricately carved into a small rose, the symbol of Horeb Kingdom. In the morning sun, the small rose flashed with brilliant light. Daughter, the King said to Mary, Your mother and I give you this to wear on your voyage so that you never forget who you are. No matter how far your travels take you from home, you are always a princess of Horeb. In Mariak you will find many customs that differ from ours. Be respectful of their differences yet always honor our ways. You may face struggle and temptation in such a strange land; yet stay true to the Horeb princess you are. We love you dearly and look forward to your safe return. Mary hugged both her parents hard. As she did, all three had tears in their eyes.
The next morning, the ship set sail beneath banners held by well-wishers of the kingdom. The royal trumpets blew as the ship slipped from the bay into the open sea. Everyone looked forward to the ships safe return. Six days into the journey, a sudden storm rocked their boat. At first the crew was not concerned as summer storms on the Azure Sea were never dangerous. But before long the storm was not acting like a summer storm, quickly blowing out. This one grew steadily stronger, wild winds stirred up the once pristine sea creating waves as high as the foothills of Mount Gerizim. Then one enormous wave crashed over the hull of the ship, cracking the mainsail and tearing with it part of the shipís deck and the captainís wheel. Without them to guide the ship, they were tossed by the waves like a leaf in the wind. The storm then forced the ship against a reef where it began to break apart. Chaos was rampant as everyone was cast overboard. Mary was able to grab on to a broken door from the ship and tie herself to it with her dress sash. She held on for dear life. She lost track of the time, not knowing how long she had been in the stormy water. Then just as suddenly as the storm had started, it stopped. The passengers and crew found themselves adrift at sea just off the coast of a small island. The captain instructed everyone to swim towards it.
It was eight weeks later that word reached King Robert that Maryís ship had not reached Mariak. He immediately sent out the fastest ships of the country to search for any sign of the failed venture. Queen Miriam was so racked with grief that her ladies in waiting had to force her to even eat. The entire castle was as silent as a tomb as everyone waited for the search ships to return. Three weeks went by before the first returning ship was spotted by the tower guard. The entire royal family ran to the top of the outer walls as the king shouted to the guards- What of the flag? The captains of the search ships had been told to fly a black flag if the news was bad and a yellow flag if the news was good. At first the ship was too far away to even see a flag but soon the flag came into view. When it did, the guard shouted out in cheer. Not only was there a yellow flag, the entire ship was covered in yellow banners. A loud cheer broke out from the entire castle as the news quickly traveled. The king fell to his knees and gave thanks to God.
Watching from the deck of the first returning ship, Princess Mary was filled with joy as she heard the welcoming cries from the city. As she saw all of her family eagerly waiting on the wall, tears filled her eyes. She was home; with people who loved her dearly. At her side was the captain. As the ship slipped into the bay, he placed his hand on her shoulder and told her that although they had not made it to Mariak for her to serve formally as ambassador of Horeb she had been one none-the-less. During their many weeks on the island Mary had worked as hard as everyone to gather food and build shelter, yet she had never complained or asked for preferential treatment as Princess. In fact, she had insisted that she be treated equally. When it rained for a week and tempers flared, she never once said a mean word. When nearly everyone grew sick, she was kind and compassionate serving them meals and wiping their brows. You were a true ambassador, said the captain, demonstrating through your actions the values of your kingdom. You have earned the lifelong loyalty of everyone on the ship. Mary smiled at the captain while her hand went to the crystal rose around her neck. She knew that she would always remember who she was no matter where she was or what her circumstances were. She would forever be a princess of Horeb, her fatherís daughter, a much-loved child of the king.
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