The Journey and the Jewels
|Fiction by Robert Greene|
|An excerpt from The Gay Icon Fables of the World
In the days when Europe fell into the dark ages and as the world blossomed in the Middleast, there lived a young Arabian prince named Asfar. Prince Asfar was a happy young child who played with his young servant Ahmed.
As the young prince grew older so did his fondness for his obedient servant. Others, in the palace, saw this fondness between the young servant and the prince. Soon palace officials felt that this fondness was becoming a forbidden one.
When word got to the King of this forbidden relationship, the King quickly disapproved, and silently banished Ahmed from his Kingdom. Ahmed and his family, fearing death, had to flee Arabia during a cold, winter night. The young prince was not told of his servant's hasty departure nor of his father's displeasure. It just wasn't mentioned.
Young Prince Asfar soon came into manhood. As he grew, his forbidden affections grew from his longing for his childhood servant Ahmed to other men. Prince Asfar kept this secret to himself, for the laws of Koran forbade these affections. The Prince's heart lay empty for it was longing for Ahmed.
His father, preparing Asfar to take his throne, burdened the young prince with scholarly tutors, physical exercises, and hunting lessons. It was during a hunting exhibition that the young prince won top prize by bravely capturing a fierce snake single-handedly. The King, so proud of his son and how he was growing into such a brave and dashing figure, awarded him with a castle.
"With this castle, you will build your harem" said the King. The prince thanked his father and bowed his head low in the king's honor but the bow was to hide the tears that crept from the young prince's eyes. The prince knew that a harem could not fill his empty heart.
One day, when Prince Asfar felt he could bear the pain no more, the young prince confided in an old tutor. He told him of his longing for his childhood servant Ahmed. The old tutor was wise and had traveled many miles in his years, teaching several young princes and princesses in far away lands. He knew that the young Prince spoke of love and he had heard of this love before, from another prince in a far away land.
The wise old tutor told the young prince that love knows no boundaries. He said he knew of another prince like Prince Asfar, in a kingdom across the great desert, over the mountains, on the other side of the sea.
Prince Asfar's longing for love was so great that he quickly sold all his worldly possessions, including his palace, to buy provisions for the long journey that lay before him. The prince also bought three of the finest jewels in all of Arabia - an emerald, a diamond, and a ruby. "With these jewels, I will pledge my love to this foreign prince." said Prince Asfar.
The Prince was to join a caravan making the long journey across the desert. It was departing from a neighboring town only a days journey from the Palace. Prince Asfar was within 3 hours reach of the caravan when he came upon a peasant woman lying in the sand in grave pain. The peasant woman realized it was the great Arabian prince and called out for his help. "Help me great prince. I have been so loyal to your father and his kingdom."
The Prince pondered whether to help her now or send for someone from town. He knew if he stopped to help her, he would miss his caravan. He also knew that should he send someone from town it would be many hours before the old peasant woman would be reached and she might die.
The compassionate prince got off his camel and carried the old woman to a doctor on the outskirts of town. But the doctor was too busy to aide the ailing peasant woman. "Leave her to die for she is just a peasant, and cannot pay me for her life" said the doctor.
The prince quickly reached into his pocket and offered the doctor a ruby for payment. The doctor eagerly took the ruby and attended to the peasant woman. Prince Asfar stayed by her side, and missing his caravan. He kept her company for many days while she recovered. He even confided in her about his great journey. When she was well enough, she told the prince that she knew of a better route through the desert, and drew it for him in appreciation for all that he had done.
Luckily for the prince, he came upon the peasant woman when he did. Had he been with the caravan he would have perished with them in a great sand storm. The route suggested by the old peasant woman was difficult, and the prince traveled tirelessly day and night, with very little sleep. The treacherous journey took him across the great desert, over the mountain, to the other side of the sea within three months time.
As Prince Asfar impatiently entered the great gates of the foreign kingdom, he came upon a guard beating and dragging a poor young lad to a noose that hung nearby. Prince Asfar looked closely at the lad and realized it was his former childhood servant Ahmed. The Prince grabbed the guard and demanded an explanation for such punishment. The guard said that Ahmed was a thief and was to be put to death.
Prince Asfar turned to the quivering accused and asked if it was true. Ahmed said that the accusation was false and explained that the guard was a jealous lover. As the prince looked into Ahmed's eyes, he knew that Ahmed was not lying.
The prince ordered Ahmed to be free, but the guard refused. So Prince Asfar reached into his pocket and offered the guard the emerald for Ahmed's freedom. Greedily, the guard took the emerald and tossed poor Ahmed at the prince's feet. So grateful was Ahmed that he pledged his life, once again, to serving the prince.
Overwrought from his long journey, the prince became ill and collapsed. He would have surely died had it not been for the care and treatment by his faithful servant Ahmed. Whilst under Ahmed's care, Prince Asfar and he spoke of their wonderful childhood together, with Ahmed entertaining the prince with jokes and games.
It was months before Prince Asfar had enough strength to present himself to the foreign prince. He found the foreign prince to be far more beautiful than he had imagined. When Prince Asfar told the foreign prince of the nature of his journey, the vain and egotistical prince gloried to hear of Prince Asfar's great wish for a lifelong companionship with each other.
"I welcome you into my arms" said the fine-looking foreign prince "for you will be the hundredth man in my court. I shall receive your love every hundredth day and sleep with you every hundredth night.
Upon hearing such vanity, Prince Asfar quickly stormed out the palace and lay at the gates of the kingdom and wept. Soon, Ahmed rushed to his side to console him. It was then that Prince Asfar turned to Ahmed, took him into his arms and said. "It is to you Ahmed that I will pledge my love, for you have served me as I will serve you forever."
Whereupon Prince Asfar reached into his pocket and presented Ahmed with the last jewel. The Diamond.
Robert J. Greene is a freelance fiction writer who splits his time between Orlando Florida and Toronto, Ontario.
LETTERS From CAMP Rehoboth, Vol. 16, No. 1 February 10, 2006