Prince Charming, the tear-begotten - (pages 3-4)
On the late afternoon of the third day, as it fell, the club crashed fearfully against a copper gate. The gate was smashed and the young man entered. The moon had risen behind the mountains and was mirrored in a large clear lake, as clear as a cloudless sky. So clear was in that you could see the golden sand at the bottom. In the middle of the lake stood an emerald island, overgrown with green leafy trees; a fine castle rose among the trees, built of gleaming white marble, so smooth that woodland and pastures, lake and shores were reflected in the marble walls as in a silver mirror. A gilded barge lay afloat on the clear waters by the gate. Noble serene songs came from the palace floating in the pure evening air. The Prince stepped into the barge and rowed to the marble steps of the castle. Going inside he saw huge chandeliers with hundreds of branches in the vaulted roof of the stairs, a fiery star burning in each branch. He walked into the hall. The hall was lofty, the roof supported by pillars and arches of gold. A stately table stood in the middle covered with a white cloth, laid with plates carved out of a single large pearl. The lords in golden attire sitting round that table upon chairs of red velvet were as handsome as in the days of their youth and as happy as the songs of joy. One in particular, his head adorned by gold studded with diamonds, his body clad in splendid attire, was as handsome as the moon on a summer night. Yet, the Prince was even more handsome.
«Welcome, fair Prince!» the Emperor said; «I have heard of you, but never seen you.»
«Good day, Your Highness, although I fear that it won’t go well for you; I have come to fight you since you have long been plotting against my father.»
«I have not plotted against your father, but always fought an honorable fight. However, you I will not fight. Let us instead ask the fiddlers to play and the cup-bearers to fill the cups and let us be sworn brothers as long as we live.»
So these sons of noble blood embraced, the lord wishing them well, and they drink the wine and talked things over.The Emperor asked the Prince:
«Who is it that you fear most in the world?»
«No one, except God. What about you?»
«None except God and the forest hag, an old hideous witch who walks my lands bringing whirlwind and disaster upon the empire. The face of the land turns barren, the villages disperse, and the towns fall into ruin wherever she goes. I summoned my hosts and fought her but I achieved nothing. She would have destroyed my whole kingdom so I was forced to bargain with her, agreeing to deliver every tenth child of my subjects as a tribute. She’ll be here today to fetch her due.»
As midnight struck, the faces of the guests fell. The crazy witch came howling through the foul air, astride upon the midnight, with gusty wings spread out, her face corroded like some porous rock corroded by water, a forest standing upon her head in lieu of hair. Her eyes were two murky nights; her mouth was a gaping chasm, her teeth, and long rows of millstones. Roaring she came; the Prince seized her by the waist and flung her into a large stony grinding mill pot, as deep as he possibly could; he rolled a piece of rock on top of it, fixing it on all sides with seven iron chains. Shackled, the hag blew and strained like the winds of the heavens confined, but to no avail.
The Prince went back to the banquet. Suddenly, through the arches, in the moonlight, they saw two large waves. What was it? Unable to tear herself free, the forest-hag was riding ever the waters, gulling-mill and all, dividing the surface of the waters into two ridges. She never stopped running, a very devil of a rock, crashing her way through the forests, marking the ground with a long trail until she vanished in the deep of night.
The Prince ate his meal, then shouldering his club, followed the trail of the stony grinding mill pot until he came to a white pleasant-looking house shining in the moonlight, in a flower garden. The flower-beds were green and the flowers were gleaming blue, dark-red, and white; light butterflies, shimmering like golden stars, swarmed among them. The house and garden were bathed in scent and in soft, sweet, endless music by the swarming butterflies and bees. Two large water-tanks stood by the porch and on the porch, a lovely girl sat spinning.
Her long white dress looked like a cloud of light and shadow, her golden hair was plaited and hung down her back, a wreath of lilies-of-the-valley sat upon her smooth head. In the moonlight, she seemed to float in a golden aura.