Musings and Misadventures

The Beautiful Country: Part I

There was once a free and beautiful land. The people were led by a benevolent king who did as the people suggested. 

The people worked hard. They grew magnificent crops and built huge buildings and clever machines. They worshipped a god of love and loved one another. They worked together and they played together and they worshipped together. They believed in being dutiful to their god and their country and their family. They thought of honor, and they thought of country.

Evil began to rise in far off lands and the beautiful country sent its army and navy to protect the world. A young man sailed with the navy. The  young man fought valiantly against the forces of evil. The war raged for years and it seemed as if the forces of evil would triumph when, in a final exhausted effort, the people of the beautiful land and their allies staged a final invasion and were victorious.

The young man returned home a hero. Years past. The beautiful country mourned its dead then settled into the serious business of raising children and growing the economy. Eventually, the people asked the young man to be their king. His beautiful wife became queen and his children became princes and princesses.

The young man was a good king and beloved by the people of the beautiful country. Alas, the evil forces from the war had been defeated but not destroyed. They seeped into the beautiful country unnoticed and intent upon revenge for their defeat. They lurked in the shadows and paraded in plain sight in disguise. When the young king threatened to expose them, they murdered him. The people wept and the music died with the king in the beautiful land.

His queen stood in defiance with her small children beside her, but they were swept aside. One small prince in short pants looked on soulfully as his father was laid to rest. It was a terrible time.

But that time passed and that prince grew to manhood. He understood the monster that had stolen his father and he began to poke at it, provoking the awful beast his father had once defeated, but not destroyed. He threatened to reveal it and called its name, promising to defeat it. He underestimated the power the beast held. 

One summer day, the Evil Ones tried to strike the young son down. His father’s generals rescued the prince saving his life. The generals convinced the young man the danger was so great that he must pretend to have died in the attempt. They disguised the young man and his beautiful bride and hid them among the good people of the beautiful land.

The prince became a bard. For nineteen years, he wondered across the beautiful land hidden as a poet. He was forced to watch from the shadows as the Evil Ones grew in power and destroyed the beautiful land. They grew toxic crops in the fields. They mocked the god of love and encouraged worship to a god of hate. They taught the people it was wrong to love their country and they destroyed the families. Honor was forgotten and duty was disgraced. The people replaced thought with hate. They became fat and indolent. 

The Evil Ones attacked the people of the beautiful land and laid blame on other nations to anger the people and cause them to attack other lands. Many people died. The Evil Ones sold weapons and reaped endless spoils of war.

The Poet Prince was saddened. One day he met a friend from his youth; a wealthy merchant’s son, who knew him through his disguise. As boys, they had known each other’s hearts; as men nothing could hide them from each other.

The Poet Prince told the merchant’s son he must become king and lead the beautiful country from its destress.

“But the people despise me!” said the merchant’s son.

“No matter.” said the Poet Prince.

“My father’s generals will stand behind you. And more people will love you than will hate you.”

“But if we are to save the beautiful country, I have to reclaim all the people, not just some.”

“Trust my plan,” said the Poet Prince.

In due time, true to the Poet Prince’s word, the murdered king’s generals elevated the merchant’s son to the throne. He proved to be a good king, even though many of the people despised him.

The Poet Prince knew the Evil Ones had lied to the people so often that nothing was left in their life they believed that was true. They were full of hate and lies and boredom. He knew his friend, the new king, could never lead them in this state. He had to change them. He had to teach them to think for themselves again, to love again and some how he had to show them everything they believed about their lives was a lie.

The Poet Prince began to change the people of the beautiful country with poetry. He hid secret messages for them. The messages were not ordinary poetry. They were riddles.

The people slowly became obsessed with the word puzzles the Poet Prince hid for them because they were great fun to solve. They poked fun at prominent people and hinted at foreknowledge of great events to come. They spoke encouragingly of a bright future full of unity and love.

To solve the riddles, the people had to work together. They could not gain fame, even if they were very good at solving the riddles, because everyone had to contribute anonymously. To understand the messages, the people had to be pure of heart. They also had to scurry about the beautiful country collecting clues. The clues they collected showed them the truth about the beautiful country and the sober truth about the lies they had been told. Some were very good at interpreting the riddles, some were horrible at the game, but together with each person contributing a little, and all relying on each other, they could decode the messages.

The Poet Prince left the people an inscribed bell from his father’s ship so the people could recognize each other by reciting the inscription. He gave them other ways to know each other as well. This empowered them because they felt special with this knowledge and were driven to learn more. In fact, the more the people understood about the riddles, the harder they worked to discover the next clue, and the more united they became.

The Poet Prince used poetic mystery to  restore the hearts of the people while the merchant son king worked to drive out the Evil Ones, who had gained power by their sheer willingness to commit evil acts, but were in fact fairly stupid people. 

The king and the Poet Prince contrived to convince the people to watch evil driven from the beautiful country as if it were a play performed on stage before them. This way the people would not be harmed as the battle between Good and Evil raged all around them.

The music that had died with the Poet Prince’s father began to drift back to the people:

Don’t let it be forgot

That once there was a spot

For one brief shining moment that was known as…

 

But the rest of the song would not come to them. Who had they been? What had they forgot?

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