DROP BY DROP


Long ago in one country, king of the land was killed in battle.At that time his heir,
Prince Harold, was born.The boys mother, greatly grieved by the loss of her
husband, worried very much about the future of her son.In order to soothe
the queen, the sorcerer Silvester was summoned by the kings brother, guardian
of the little prince.

The nobles of the land surrounded the sorcerer as the boys uncle asked,
Can you predict the future for our prince? Will he be happy?
After a moment of thought, the sorcerer spoke softly. Prince Harold will be strong,
brave, and wise. But, soon as he attains his majority at the age of eighteen, he
will suddenly die in violent convulsions.

You lie, old scoundrel! the guardian shouted in fury. In a fit of rage, he drew
his sword and chopped the sorcerers head in half.

The queen burst into tears. Grief and despair reigned in the kingdom.Nothing
remained to the queen and her subject but to pray to God for the young princes
safety. Each year on Harolds birthday, the royal priests organized a special
ceremony of worship to protect their prince from danger.

The years flew by, one after one. Prince Harold reached the age of seventeen
without incident. But, according to the sorcerers prediction, he was to live
just one year more.

One day, the prince went to his uncle. I am tired of waiting for death.
Sooner or later it must happen to everyone. Let me go for a hunt, Harold pleaded.

The princes uncle, hoping to protect the boy, reminded him of the peril involved.
But,Harold remained stubborn in his desire to hunt. He mounted his horse and
rode off.

As Prince Harold rode over the land, a strange deer came to him. The beast lured him
into the dark forest, and then vanished.Harold found himself alone and afraid. He
began to despair of finding his way back to the castle. Suddenly, the prince heard
the crunching of branches underfoot, as if someone were stealing upon him. Harold
spun around and saw a beautiful young girl, clothed in leaves and flowers
of the forest.

The trembling prince sprang to attention and asked in a thin voice, Where am I?
Who are you?

Do not be afraid! the girl replied. My fathers hut is just ten minutes walk from
here. My name is Mavka. I am a daughter of the sorcerer Silvester.

Silvester? He was the one who predicted I would die at the age of eighteen! Harold
exclaimed. But, witnesses saw him killed by my uncle many years ago.

You are wrong, objected Mavka. My father has never predicted the future for anyone.
He is a very skillful fake. That is why the people consider him to be a sorcerer. Let
us go to my fathers hut, and you will be satisfied that your suspicions are unfound.

The house where the sorcerer Silvester lived was filled with various dried herbs.
Prince Harold found the old man leaning over a large book.

I am Prince Harold, he announced, by way of introduction.

I know of your grief, young prince, said the sorcerer. A scoundrel used my name
to frighten your mother and relatives.But, why?

Prince Herald rejoiced, The prediction was farce! I will not come to harm on
my birthday!

"Do not be hasty, the sorcerer admonished. Perhaps the one who brought the prophet
will try to realize his prophesy.

That sorcerer was led by my uncle. I trust him implicitly! the prince exclaimed.

Still waters run deep, Silvester advised. I shell help you with your troubles.
Here is a poison that a royal servant recently asked for. I believe that if the
opportunity presents itself, they will offer you a cup with just the same poison.
None will be suspicious because all will accept it as a stroke of fate, predicted
long ago.

Tell me, please, what I should do to save my life? the prince implored.

The birds teach their young to fly against the wind, so that they may be able to
travel great distances to the South.Take this bottle of poison. A special quality
of this poison is that it is own antidote. Today, take one drop. Tomorrow,take two
drops,and so on. In this way, each day you will add one drop more without harming
yourself. Your body will learn to resist the poison, just as strong birds wings
learn to cut through the air to make their way.

Carefully, the prince took the bottle of poison from Silvester. Following the
sorcerers advice, drop by drop he accustomed himself to the lethal poison. At
last,Prince Harold attained his majority. According to the law of the land, he should
ascend the throne on that day.

Long live King Harold! the nobles shouted.

The palace was crowded for people had come from throughout the land to see if what
was to be would be.

At the front of the throne stood the princes uncle, a cup of wine in his hand.

Take this cup, Harold, in your honor! the uncle said.

The young king hesitated for a moment, then swallowed his fear. Slowly, he began
to sip the wine.

This wonderful wine has been prepared by my uncle. Thank you,
dear Uncle! Harold returned the half-empty cup to his guardian. The uncle looked
strangely at the cup.It puzzled him that the wine had produced no effect.

Perhaps the cup was never poisoned, he thought to himself, and he tasted
the wine to be sure. Suddenly,a horrible scream echoed throughout the castle hall.
The uncle fell dead.

The poison he had prepared for me has brought his own end! the young king
explained to his guests.

The following day King Harold departed in search of the sorcerer Silvester in order
to ask his daughters hand.Harold and Mavka fell deeply in love and married, ruling
the land together as the kindest and fairest of royalty.

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