I whirled to face my father.
He timidly put his hand on my shoulder. "I am sorry that I have not been able to make you happy, Son. I have tried. Lord I have tried." He looked into my eyes searching for some kind of recognition, but I gave him none.
"It's just that since your mother died," he continued, "I have been a bit lost, as you probably know, and raising you has been difficult for me, I just don't know how to do it. I am sorry. I love you more than anything."
I slowly, and deliberately, removed his old hand from my shoulder.
He drew a deep breath and let it out slowly, looking down. "I wish you could have known her. She was a lot like you," he said, lost in memories for a moment.
"At any rate," he continued, "I have known the blacksmith for many years now, too, and he is a good man, son. He has always been honorable and truth telling, putting everybody's welfare before his own. He knew that he was risking his life, coming here like this, and he did it out of love for you and concern about your unhappiness, not for the cart of gold. You must believe me. You must not do this to him?"
My father had proved to be completely inept at raising his only child, and he was trying my patience once more. Other than my eyebrows rising almost imperceptibly, my face remained expressionless. "You question my decision, father?" I replied, staring at him.
"Please," he said, "the blacksmith's wife is with child, and you know well enough that visitors are never permitted in the dungeons. He will never know his son or daughter, and it will be impossible for his wife to make ends meet without him."
He was pleading. He was such a weak man. I slowly turned away, smiling to myself because I knew what would make me happy; when my father was dead and I was king! He stood behind me for a moment longer, and then slowly walked back to his chambers to do whatever bungling fathers and decrepit old monarchs do.
I went to bed as usual that night, quickly falling asleep in my mammoth four-poster feather bed in the midst of delicious thoughts of how I controlled my father once more. A little after midnight, however, I was abruptly awakened. Something was sitting on my footboard!
I hurriedly lit a candle, my hands shaking, because nothing could have made it past my dedicated guards. And my windows, two-hundred feet high on the ramparts, were unapproachable.
The candle exposed a smiling face surrounded by blackness. Tall and skinny, with bony hands and a sharp chin, he was wearing a black robe and wide-brimmed, pointy hat adorned with stars and a crescent moon that danced in a pitch-black sky. It was a sorcerer, an old one, and one that I had never seen before.
"Heh, heh, heh," was all that he muttered.
" What the hell are you doing in my room? Guards, guards! I yelled, jumping out of bed and running for my sword.
"Heh, heh, heh," again.
Where were my guards? I drew my sword and put it against his neck. It went right through as if nothing was there!
"Please," he said, "sit down. Your guards aren't coming, and your sword is useless."
I sat down.
"My dear prince," he began, "you have everything your heart desires, except for what you truly crave. You see, only one thing will in fact make you happy, and I can grant that one thing,"
"Kill my father?" I said jokingly. As self-centered as I was, I couldn't have my own father killed, even though he was standing between my destiny and me.
The sorcerer only smiled.
I rubbed my eyes to make sure this wasn't just a dream; but the sorcerer was still there, and he was indeed impressive. Then I threatened him, as I had threatened others, "Don't you realize that if you fail to make me happy, you will die in the dungeons?" But this time the threat came out like a whimper, subdued and cautious and not typically strident as my threats had always been.
He began to laugh, louder and louder, his eerie voice echoing throughout the spire and shaking the room, until I had to grab a bedpost to keep from falling to the floor. He looked at me with coal-black eyes that blazed like fire, "You don't understand, young man, no dungeon will ever hold me. But you - you are a different story! You are incarcerated in your prison of desires and I am your only hope."
As if he had said too much, the sorcerer quickly regained his composure and became quiet for a moment. Then, in a soothing, persuasive tone, he continued, "I could have your father killed, and it would look like an accident. But I can do far better than that."
I looked closely at this cunning individual. He was powerful, but could I trust him? Did I have a choice?
"You are not ready to take over the kingdom," he declared. "You have not proven yourself to your subjects, and as a matter of fact, they hate you. Soon, you would be betrayed. But I can turn common sand into endless rooms of gold for you, more than you could ever imagine, and with this enormous amount of gold, you could equip and train the most powerful army ever assembled. Then, you could lead this great army to victory by conquering every kingdom in the land, and when you finally conquer the last kingdom, your subjects will love and revere you, and you will finally have the one and only thing that will truly make you happy. Power!"