His boots echoed off the stone flooring. The storm cloud that accompanied him scattered servants in all directions. They knew better than to approach the lord and master of the hall when he was in this foul of a mood. He threw his soaked cape to the floor as he passed through the doorway into his inner chamber. A young girl darted from the shadows, snatched the cape just before it hit the floor and disappeared down a long hallway.
A tall youth appeared at the door. “Sire?”
The voice rivaled the thunder that circled around outside the stone walls. “Enter.”
“Sire,” the young man entered. “We received word from the messenger at the battlefront.”
“Well, spit it out, boy.” The man stared out the window, watching the lighting split the sky in half.
The boy tried to stand without shaking, but the parchment in his hand gave him away as he read. “Sire, the enemy has agreed to return the prince’s betrothed, in exchange for the bride price and all attacks will stop and they will declare a peace between the two lands.” He took a ragged breath.
He turned and faced the young man, “Is that all?”
Shaking his head, he continued, “The price must be delivered by the prince himself.”
The king sighed. “We must do what must be done. Summon my son to me at once.”
”Yes, sire.” The young man bowed and left.
He looked at the leather-covered chest sitting in the shadowed corner of his chamber. It contained precious treasures to be given to the bride’s family on the day of the wedding feast. But unless the bride was returned, there would be no wedding. If his son were killed in the delivering of the chest, the same fate would still befall the families.
He waited for the arrival of his son. He wished he could do this himself, but he knew that only his son could carry this burden. There had been war between the two kingdoms for as long as trees had been growing and rivers flowing. His kingdom, while prosperous in gold, gold would not keep his people safe if it stayed within the walls of the castle. He had to protect his people at all cost, even if it meant giving every last piece of treasure in the land. And that treasure included his son.
He heard the steady steps of his son coming down the tapestry-lined hall. He watched his son enter, head held high, eyes calm and clear.
“Father, what is your will?”
“Welcome, my son.” He grasped his son’s arm in greeting and indicated for him to sit. They talked quietly, as they formed the plan.
* * *
That night after the storm had passed, the prince left the kingdom. He stared out his window toward the horizon, watching the sunset. The rest of the kingdom cheered their hero as he left on the quest to save his bride, but the king couldn’t watch him leave.
The prince arrived at the battlefront held by the enemy. He called out, “I am here. I have brought the bride price. Bring my bride to me.”
The enemy swarmed out of their tents, and surrounded the prince and his companions. His men scattered, but the prince stood firm.
”Where is my bride?”
The leader stepped forward and laughed, “First, show us the treasure.”
The prince lifted the heavy chest from the wagon. Just as he put it down, he was hit on the back of the head. The world went dark.
* * *
He woke tied to a pole in the dark. As his eyes adjusted, he could see a small fire in the distance. “Where is my bride?” he called out into the dark.
A laugh greeted him. “Are you sure you want her?” Two silhouettes came closer, outlined by the fire.
He squinted to clear his vision. He could see a dark man holding on to his bride’s forearm. “Yes.” He could see past the torn and dirty dress and the cuts and bruises to see his love.
“Then take her.” He shoved her to the ground at the feet of the prince. “I have no use for her anymore. I got what I came for.” The dark man left, the leather-covered chest on his wagon.
The bride untied her prince, and caught him as he fell to one knee. “I came with riches, and I return the richest man in the world.”
“Peace be within thy walls, and prosperity within thy palaces.” Psalm 122:70
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