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Gifts and Curses

by Joel Gn

Long time ago, there lived a young king, who fell in love with a fair maiden. She was tall and graceful in form, and he longed for her to be his wife. Thus he sought the counself of the wise sage, with the hope of receiving divine blessings.

“Nay, my lord,” replied the sage, “for she is born of the fox. Love you for a while she will, but when her heart wanders so will her body, and she will return to you no more.”

The king, on hearing the grim omen, was furious, and he had the sage beheaded. He ordered his officials to bring the maiden into the palace, and she returned in kind to his proposal. She became his queen, and he was happy.

It was during those days that the kingdom flourished, and the king took more lands under his domain. He became the ruler of a hundred nations, and he gave beautiful cities and villas for his subjects. For her he made a palace, high up in the mountains of snow, where the peach blossoms always shower their petals and the white lotus dance to music of the wind. He called it the Jade kingdom, for it was a beautiful place for as long as she dwelt there.

Years passed and the king was at war, and he no longer went to the Jade kingdom, and the maiden’s heart grew lonely and cold. She sobbed softly in the cold winter nights, and even the songs of the beautiful nightingale, the beautiful princess of lore, could not lift her spirits. The curse had been planted, and her heart wandered deep into the forest, crying out for love. It was there her soul met a young grey wolf, a creature of her kind, handsome and strong.

“Come with me,” said he, “and you can run wild and free.”

Thus she gave up her human form, and became a fox again, but she thought of the king, and remembered his love. She made a statue of herself and placed it on the her bed, in return for his kindness to her. So she left the beautiful palace, never once looking back.

Days passed and the king finally returned to his kingdoom in victory. He desired to see his beloved, for she was in his thoughts day and night. But alas, when he went to her chamber, he only saw her statue sitting on the bed. He asked his servants where she had gone, and not one of them could give him an answer. He sent emisssaries to the four corners of the empire, but still they brought no tidings of her whereabouts. When all was lost he remembered, the words the wise sage said to him, and he wept bitterly before the statue all his days.

The king neither ate nor slept, for throughout his rule on the land he stared at the graven image of the maiden, whose eyes never closed, whose face never stopped smiling. Only she welcomed him and listened to him, but she could not reply to his pleas, for she was made of stone, without life nor soul.

One night, as he knelt in front of her, it seemed for a while that the breath of life was upon the statue. She got up and comforted him in his sorrow. The king begged her to stay, but it was her spirit that returned, and on the rising of the sun she would have to leave.

“Do not grieve my lord, for I must go now. Find yourself another wife, and live long in the land Heaven has given you. Judge wisely, and your people will be happy.” she told him., and her spirit departed from the statue, never to return again.

The king had become weak, shirveled and insane. He abandoned his throne, and his empire and all that he built withered away like the dry leaves that fall during the cold autmmn. No one knows where he went, some say he was taken in by benevolent monks, others claim he became a vagabond, wandering the desolate streets till the day he died.

But that, all of the people would say... is just the beginning of another story.

Copyright © 2005 by Bewildering Stories on behalf of the author

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