Once upon a time, in a kingdom renowned for great works of art,
there lived a comely Prince, wise in mind and brave in heart.
By-and-by there came a time for him to go and venture on a quest,
to prove his merit and courage to gods and mortals in a test.
His father, the king, proud and eager, marks the days with great endurance,
his mother, the queen, worried and sombre, only prays for guidance.
Excitement and apprehension play equal parts in everyone’s heart and mind,
for quests are heavy and grave trials and not at all meant to be kind.
Tradition has long been established that for three days and three nights,
a quester must fast and mediate patiently upon the gods’ advice.
Since only the gods can determine such things as the nature of a quest,
otherwise it’d be simply a mortal affair and of no great interest.
Thus the Prince reverently obeys the solemn old tradition,
and stays alone in his room in perfect isolation.
He mediates with pure heart in the dark hours of the night,
and fasts stoutly during the hours of day’s light.
On the third night the quest is revealed in a terrifying vision of a fiery light,
and a great Lion that leaps out of that fire to stand before his sight.
The Prince is to recover the Star Diamond and go where mortals never been,
but the Lion is there as guide to show him what can never be seen.
The sun has barely touched the sky and the moon is still bright,
when the Prince ventures outside to speak of the sight.
The king and the queen rush to their beloved son having no rest,
eager to hear everything he has to say about the quest.
‘The Star diamond,’ the Prince utters. ‘I am to recover it.’
The king winces in disappointment. ‘The Star Diamond?’
The fabled jewel is known to everyone, but no one pays any mind to it,
for it is a myth, a legend, just a story about a gem that fell into a pit.
This quest, the king considers, won’t prove his son’s bravery in the least.
He should have been sent to slay a ferocious giant or a rare beast.
Surely that would have been a great exploit and worthy of much praise,
for such was his own quest when he killed a red dragon in a maze.
Seeing his father’s displeasure, the Prince holds his tongue on the Lion,
for his father would surely have the Lion put in a cage of iron.
The queen doesn’t know what to make of it all but smiles just the same,
as she’s happy her son doesn’t have to fight a beast in a game.
On the day of his departure the sky is bleak as the sun goes into hiding,
and dark clouds come to mark the day with a coldness that’s biting.
Everyone’s quiet and a hush has fallen over the palace enshrined in fog,
but the brave Prince is quite excited as he says goodbye to his dog.
Mounting his horse, the Prince bids his parents farewell with warmest words,
just as thunder and lightning come to dominate the sky as warrior lords.
Now the future Sovereign rides towards a destiny filled with many discoveries,
and learning how true legends are made in the cause of great recoveries.
For six days he travels on a road he perceives as a wrong direction,
but hopes the Lion would soon appear to make a correction.
At daybreak on the seventh day the Prince’s standing beside a lake,
when the Lion comes to guide him which road he must take.
Henceforth, where the Lion goes, the Prince follows without doubt.
though the terrains grow more dangerous along the route.
Then there are so many bandits coming out of every hole and crack,
howling and brandishing their swords as they run to attack.
But none can match the fighting skill of the brave and wise Prince,
or the power of the Lion as he mauls their flesh into mince.
The Prince and the Lion clear so many passages of these knaves,
setting free so many poor villagers that they took as slaves.
Next comes an abandoned and battered Temple that sits at a distance,
belonging to a god or goddess now in no one’s remembrance.
What misfortune caused its destruction, it cannot tell with any words,
only with broken statues, fallen columns and shattered boards.
The Prince looks for somewhere to rest for the night without any worry,
and the Temple yawns to him when the night comes in a hurry.
He gathers much brushwood for a fire to roast an unfortunate fat lizard,
whose only sin was to run across his path and it was no wizard.
Having finished his meal, the Prince lies down by the side of the warm fire,
not knowing that that very spot was once the seat of a divine lyre.
The fire shivers and flutters, making a great dance in the Lion’s amber eyes,
as he gets ready to go on a hunt for a meal that would suit his size.
The Prince is about to close his eyes and submit his weary body to slumber,
when his gaze alights for a moment on something with a lustre.
It is at a distance so he hurries to his feet and soon stands by his great find,
to see a round silver shield of workmanship that’s quite refined.
The Prince is of two minds: should he take it or should he leave it?
For he doesn’t want to offend the deity who once owned it.
But the shield could’ve easily belonged to a warrior now long dead,
in which case it’s harmless to remove it from its resting bed.
Thus the Prince picks up the shield, but then notices an inscription on it.
Bravery is not enough to defeat the fire of dragons.
The writing is not of a tongue that anyone now employs as speech,
for it belongs to a people so remote history could not reach.
It is with great ease, though, the Prince reads the inscription on the shield,
for his tutor, a great man of letters, was an expert in linguistic field.
The eminent old scholar taught him every tongue, dialect, argot and rhyme,
ever spoken by a mortal or immortal both present and past in time.
The Prince sleeps soundly that night with the new shield by his side,
and at dawn he’s ready for his journey on a road that’s wide.
For seven months and seven days the Prince follows the Lion fast,
until they reach a huge wall that does not let them get past.
The Prince dismounts his horse to see if there is any way he can climb,
but the surface is too smooth and worn out by passage of time.
The Lion roars and paces about in agitation as if he is ready for a fight,
before suddenly leaping into the wall and vanishing from sight.
The Prince is stupefied by the Lion disappearing as if through a gap,
when clearly there are no gaps, so he suspects a heinous trap.
The Prince pushes his hands against the wall to figure out the trick,
when he falls on the other side of the wall like a slap of brick.
Obviously not a real wall but a wicked illusion to fool mortal eyes,
so the awful horrors beyond can remain forever in disguise.
The Prince gasps in disbelief at what he sees in this place of doom,
and the Lion roars to express what he observes as a tomb.
The sky is belching fire which reminds the Prince of his vision,
thus he knows that he is at the right place for his mission.
The foul air is scorching hot and the land a desert vast and dry,
a perfect furnace created to make even a grown man cry.
In the distance a foreboding dark Tower rises high above the desert sands,
guarded by six fire-breathing dragons that fly around in two bands.
The Prince is certain that the Star Diamond must be hidden in that Tower,
for why else these awful beasts keep watch over it hour after hour.
The Prince steps through the illusory wall to retrieve his sword and shield,
for he must go to war and kill the dragons or die a soldier in the field.
With his sword and shield, the Prince marches rapidly towards the Tower,
and the Lion marches alongside him with heart pumping with power.
The dragons spot the Prince from afar and signal to one another to form a line,
for they must quickly go and kill the Prince without wasting any time.
The Prince draws his sword and charges forward to meet their unholy attack,
and the Lion, filled with wrath, is ready to devour the fearsome pack.
As soon as the dragons come near to within a short striking distance,
the Prince runs to drive his sword into them with confidence.
But the game changes fast when the terrible beasts began to spit fire,
and the Prince must find a way to turn a situation that’s dire
The inscription on the shield rushes to his mind for a quick moment,
and the Prince decides to trust his shield in his hour of torment.
As the blasts of fire rush to engulf him and wipe him from existence,
the brave and wise Prince holds up his shield in firm resistance.
The shield deflects the fire and reflects it back to set the dragons alight.
turning them into a pile of bones that desert’s nature is to delight.
The Prince marvels at his silver shield and regards it with much mystery,
and the Lion roars in satisfaction at the sight of such great victory.
Now the Prince and the Lion can advance towards the dark Tower,
with no further threats that will make either of them cower.
The Tower is a tall stone structure with a narrow door for entrance,
but the Prince and the Lion go through it with no hindrance.
It’s a long climb to the top with stairs that’re treacherously narrow,
and the only light comes from the entrance to ease the sorrow.
There is an eerie silence and a stench of death that can’t be stirred.
and both speak of long-ago atrocities in a story yet to be heard.
It takes the Prince and the Lion many long hours to reach the Tower’s crest,
only to enter a corridor and see a door that is set in a serpents’ nest.
Hissing, slithering and flaring their great necks, the serpents move to strike,
but meet their doom when the Prince cuts off their heads in dislike.
Now the door is the only barrier standing between the Prince and his prize,
but the door is bolted shut and that the Prince finds it not a surprise.
With his shield the Prince slams himself against the door and breaks it down,
to enter a room and see a creature whose head boasts a golden crown.
The Prince is aghast by the creature and turns his face away in disgust,
but readily recovers his ease and faces the creature for he must.
The creature’s in tattered grey clothes and yet sits upon a golden throne,
no doubt stolen long ago from a noble king he had overthrown.
The Prince lifts his gaze to see the Star Diamond that’s held by the creature,
which is fixed by four spikes upon a rod with no discernible feature.
The Star Diamond is truly in the shape of a star and blazes just as brightly,
illuminating a room that has no right to light for it is most unsightly.
The creature’s eyes spit fire and venom drips from his mouth when he speaks,
but the Prince is hardly impressed and views them as mere theatrics.
‘Oh! A visitor! Should I clap my hands and say bravo and hail you as a hero?’
‘I’m here to remove the Star Diamond, not to play a game with a weirdo.’
‘But you have to slay me first. So how will you accomplish such a deed?’
‘The same way that I slew your dragons and serpents. So take heed.’
‘But that was child’s play. I’m a sorcerer over whom no mortal can prevail.’
‘Oh, rest assured, I will prevail. I’m mortal but by no means I’m frail.’
The sorcerer casts his fiery gaze upon the Lion and laughs cruelly.
‘That useless Lion won’t be of help to you and I say this truly.’
‘The Lion’s none of your concern, give me the Star Diamond now,
or I will surely run you through with my sword and that I vow.’
‘Strike me then!’ says the sorcerer with eyes spitting fire in every direction.
And the Prince throws his sword at his chest without hesitation.
The Prince is astonished when the sorcerer pulls the sword out of his chest,
as if it was nothing but a simple parlor trick done purely for jest.
‘No mortal blade can injure me, but I can injure you with a single thought.’
‘I have no fear of you, for all your evil efforts will come to naught.’
The sorcerer jerks his head and sends the Prince crashing against the wall,
then turns his eyes to the Lion and throws him up in the air like a ball.
‘Where is that might of yours, Prince, now that you lie at my feet in a heap?
Speak, boy! No, don’t speak! For I would much rather see you weep.’
‘You haven’t yet won this battle!’ the Prince retorts as he gets up to his feet.
‘But I have, for you’ll never leave here with your heart still in its seat.’
‘We shall see,’ the Prince says resolutely, holding firmly to his shield.
‘Hiding behind your shield won’t save you from getting killed.’
The Prince must either put his trust in a shield that fills him with wonder,
or be defeated by the sorcerer to whom his life he must surrender.
Thus the choice is clear and the Prince hurls his shield at him like a dart,
to see it slice through him and cut in half the sorcerer’s dark heart.
Liquid fire oozes out of the deep wound to turn the corpse into grey ash,
only to be dispersed by a wind that comes out of nowhere in a dash.
Suddenly the earth quakes and the dark Tower crumbles stone by stone,
to be sucked into a vortex that comes to grind them like a millstone.
The fiery sky falls away and the sun once again shines its cheerful light,
and the desert becomes a city whose marble structures glow white.
Now the Prince finds himself in a magnificent palace made of marble,
and everywhere he looks he sees gardens he can’t help but marvel.
The Prince is amazed by all the wonders taking place before his eyes,
but soon he’s even more amazed by another one that’s on the rise.
The Lion turns into a majestic king wearing the crown the sorcerer had worn,
and the Star Diamond becomes a maiden with beauty only gods can adorn.
‘I am King Leo the Third of a kingdom that once upon a time was widely famed,
and this is my daughter Princess Meissa whom after a shining star I named.’
The awestruck Prince bows his head politely to the King and the Princess both,
and introduces himself as Prince Felix the son of King Felix of the North.
King Leo smiles and tells the brave Prince that he already knows him quite well,
for in fact it was he who chose him for this quest and he has a story to tell.
‘Long ago,’ King Leo begins, ‘this splendid city was my kingdom in the South,
till I was betrayed by a man who swore loyalty to me with his own mouth.
The sorcerer was once my Grand Vizier and closer to me than a blood brother,
but his wicked ambitions took over and he began to see me a big bother.
‘I never knew that he looked upon my crown with jealousy and greed,
as he had a rich life full of honours I gave him for every deed.
He couldn’t openly replace me, so he devised to marry my daughter first,
but when he was rejected, he realised his plan was not the best.
‘It was then that my Grand Vizier lost his mind and gave himself to Dark Magic,
and through impious sorcery he created a drama that was truly tragic.
He turned me into a lion which he said was most befitting of my station as king,
and to hurt my daughter he tied her hands together with an iron ring.
‘He wanted to rule my realm by sitting upon my throne and wearing my crown,
but soon learnt he couldn’t rule a people who shunned him with a frown.
Thus he turned my city into a desert and my people into pebbles as punishment,
and my palace into a dark tower and hid everything with an enchantment.
‘Then he turned his attention to my beloved daughter whom he wanted to own,
and brought upon her a grim fate that no one could’ve ever known.
He wanted to punish her for rejecting him as husband and for her rare beauty,
so he turned her into a diamond set in a rod that he held like a duty.
‘Though a diamond, my daughter was still alive and would not be spared death,
thus she could feel the sorcerer’s every single touch and every foul breath.
And he increased the number of my days to match his own so I would never die,
because he wanted to see forever my suffering and hear my mournful cry.
‘Just one person managed to run away and escape the sorcerer’s rage,
and he recorded the history of our people and their fate on page.
But no one believed him and we were forgotten by the time he died.
only the fable of the Star Diamond, peeled of its facts, survived.
‘I was fortunate that the gods heard my cries and answered my pleas,
but to recover everything that I had lost was not to be a breeze.
They decreed that only a worthy Prince could free me from this bind,
thus they gave me the power to search for him with my mind.
‘In the meantime, the gods didn’t sit idle and forget about my terrible case,
for a shield was made to protect the prince from the evil he’d face.
And when I sensed you with my mind some short years after you were born,
I knew I had found my worthy prince and I would no longer mourn.
‘Now I give you my daughter in marriage, for I am proud to call you son,
and when you become king, join our two people and make them one,
for I want you to rule both people as one great nation after I am gone.’
Thus King Leo spoke and thus Prince Felix obeyed with all his heart.