Once upon a time, in a kingdom renowned for wealth and might,
there lived a fair Prince, brave in heart and wise in mind.
By and by there came a time for him to go and venture on a quest,
to prove his worth and mettle 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 upon the will of the gods.
For 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 tradition,
and remains in his room in perfect seclusion.
He mediates with pure heart in the dark hours of the night,
and fasts during the bright 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 dare,
but the Lion is there to guide him where mortal eyes are sure to fail.
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 approach their beloved son with quick steps,
eager to hear everything that 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 with no facts behind it.
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 with a mace.
Seeing his father’s displeasure, the Prince holds his tongue on the Lion.
His father would rather have him kill the Lion than follow the Lion.
The queen doesn’t know what to make of the quest but smiles just the same,
for she’s relieved that 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 get ready to dominate the sky as 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 which he perceives as a wrong direction,
but hopes that the Lion would soon appear and make a correction.
At daybreak on the seventh day the Prince is pondering by the side of a lake,
when the lion appears and guides him which road he should take.
Henceforth, where the Lion goes, the Prince will follow without doubt.
even though the terrains grow more dangerous along the route.
And then there are so many bandits coming out of every hole and crack,
shouting and waving their clubs and swords as they run to attack.
But none can match the fighting skill of the brave and wise Prince,
nor the power of the Lion as he mauls their flesh into mince.
The Prince and the Lion clear so many passages of these knaves,
freeing many places and villages from their constant raids.
Now comes an abandoned and crumbling 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 shattered statues, fallen columns, and broken doors.
The exhausted Prince is looking for somewhere to rest his weary body,
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.
By the side of the warm fire, having finished his meal, rests the Royal Prince,
not knowing that that very spot was once reserved for the high priest.
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 tasty 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 half buried and half visible to the eye.
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 have easily belonged to a warrior now long dead,
in which case he sees no harm removing it from its place of rest.
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 that history could not reach.
But it is with great ease that 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 style,
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 is ready for his journey on a road that is wide.
For seven months and seven days the Prince follows the Lion fast,
until they reach a huge wall that doesn’t permit them to pass.
The Prince dismounts his horse to see if there is any way he can climb,
but the surface is too smooth and the Prince has no wings for flight.
The Lion is agitated, growling, and pacing about as if he’s ready for a fight,
before suddenly taking a leap into the wall and vanishing from sight.
The Prince is stupefied by the Lion vanishing and leaving no track,
and wonders what evil magic was responsible for that trap.
The Prince leans against the wall with his hands to figure out the trick,
when he falls on the other side of the wall like a tone of brick.
Obviously not a real wall but a wicked illusion to fool mortal eyes,
so no one can see the awful horrors that the portal hides.
The Prince gasps in disbelief at what he sees in this strange world,
and the Lion roars to express what he cannot say with words.
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 is 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 such dreadful beasts as dragons would guard the Tower!
The Prince steps through the false 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 dragons began to spit fire,
and the Prince looks to a new strategy to turn a situation that’s dire.
The inscription on his 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 advance towards the dark Tower,
with no further threat that can make either of them cower.
The Tower is a tall stone structure with a narrow door for entrance,
through which the Prince and the Lion enter with no hindrance.
It is a long climb to the top with stairs that are treacherously narrow,
and the only light comes from the entrance to ease the sorrow.
There’s an eerie silence and a decaying stench that could only be of death,
and both speak of deeds committed long ago 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 them down with all his might.
Now the door is the only thing that separates the Prince from his prize,
but the door is bolted shut which 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 upon whose head rests a golden crown.
The Prince is aghast by the creature and turns his face away in disgust,
but quickly recovers his ease and faces the creature with no regard.
The vile creature is in tattered grey clothes and yet sits upon a golden throne,
no doubt stolen long ago from a noble king whom he had overthrown.
The Prince lifts his gaze to see the Star Diamond that is held by the creature,
which is fixed by four spikes upon a rod that has 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?’
‘Do what you like. I am here to remove the Star Diamond from your view.’
‘But you have to slay me first. So how will you accomplish such a feat?’
‘The same way that I slew your dragons and serpents. So take heed.’
‘But that was child’s play. I am a sorcerer over whom no mortal can prevail.’
‘Oh, rest assured, I will prevail. I am mortal but by no means I am 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 is none of your concern. Give me the Star Diamond now,
or I will 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 parlour 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 my resolve is greater than your might.’
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! 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 solemnly, 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 quite clear and the Prince hurls his shield at him hard,
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 dark Tower crumbles stone by stone and brick by brick,
to be sucked into a vortex that comes to grind them back into grit.
The fiery sky falls away and the sun once again shines its bright 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 that are happening before his eyes,
but soon he is even more amazed by another wonder that is on the rise.
The Lion turns into a majestic king wearing the crown the sorcerer had worn,
and the Star Diamond becomes a most resplendent maiden in the world.
‘I am King Leo the Third,’ the majestic King says, offering the Prince his hand,
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 grand city was my kingdom in the South,
until I was betrayed by a man whose loyalty I had no reason to doubt.
The sorcerer was once my Grand Vizier and closer to me than any brother,
but his grand ambitions took over and he began to see me as a bother.
I never knew that he looked upon my crown with jealousy and greed,
as he had a rich life full of honours that I gave him for every deed.
He couldn’t openly replace me, so he planned to marry my daughter first,
but when he was rejected, he realised that his plan was not the best.
It was then that my Grand Vizier lost his mind and gave himself to Dark Magic,
and through sorcery and madness 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 punish my daughter he had her hands tied 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 horrific fate that no one could have 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 an iron rod that he held like a duty.
Though a diamond, my daughter was still alive with a heart filled with dread.
for 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 despairing sigh.
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 remained in everyone’s mind.
I was fortunate that the gods heard my cries and answered my pleas,
but to recover what I had lost was beyond ordinary means.
It was decided that only a worthy prince will be suited for such a fight,
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 would face.
And when I sensed you with my mind some short years after you were born,
I knew that I had found my worthy prince and I would no longer mourn.
Now I give you my daughter’s hand 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 on earth after I am gone.’
Thus King Leo spoke and thus Prince Felix obeyed with all his heart.