A Friend Indeed
Once there was a man named Arthur who ventured out into the world to seek fame and fortune. Arthur was a strong believer in the mysterious and uncommon but he always felt some reluctance to pursue these. He had heard too many stories where their pursuit usually resulted in upset and disappointment. In his adventures Arthur was more prone to meander around aimlessly until he stumbled upon an opportunity to amuse himself. On one occasion he came across an abandoned castle so he set up housekeeping. He fancied himself as Lord of the Manor and, for a time, engaged in all types of fantasies about his own self-importance. On another occasion, Arthur found a derelict sailing vessel, lying just off the shore of a great lake. Here, he became a great seafaring captain who discovered new worlds and had many adventures on the high seas. Arthur had no end of amusing himself with such illusions, because wherever he went opportunities seemed to abound.
One day, while Arthur was meandering about, he came upon a young princess who appeared to be lost. Arthur inquired as to who she was. She explained that she came from a distant village that had been overrun by a band of warriors. This invasion had left her family dead and her home destroyed. Her name was Amber. She was lost and alone and did not know what she would do with herself. Arthur shared some of his own history and his propensity for fantasizing when opportunities presented themselves. He invited her to join him in these wanderings if she so wished. She agreed to do so for a time, since she could see no other options for the present.
One night, while the two of them were resting, a great commotion was heard coming from somewhere nearby. From their position, behind some large rocks, they could see that this activity was taking place at a camp whose fire was now visible. Arthur decided to go over and see what was happening. He advised his princess friend to stay behind. She agreed to remain hidden among the rocks. A few hours later Arthur returned, exhausted and ragged, looking very much the worse for wear. He was panting heavily, trying to put words together to explain what had happened to him. It seems the group he approached was in fact a small band of warriors who were part of the raid on her village. They were celebrating their victory and dividing up some of the spoils. Amber was distressed by this news. She had no idea those robbers and murderers would be so close at hand. She was immediately afraid for her safety. She shared this with Arthur, recalling that, during the attack on her village, they had sworn to kill all in their path and not leave any witnesses.
As Amber related this to Arthur, he nodded that he understood and then continued with the remainder of what he had overheard. It seemed the group was not completely satisfied with the results of their so-called victory because one of the villagers had gotten away. And it was their sworn duty to their leader that no one should escape the massacre. The great commotion Amber and Arthur had overheard earlier had to do with this unfinished business. Some members of the group wanted to return to their homes while others wanted to pursue the escapee. When Arthur walked into their camp, they immediately pounced upon him thinking he was their missing victim. But soon they realized their error, because they were looking for a woman, and set him free. Arthur, still trembling from his ordeal, wondered out loud what he and Amber should do next.
An intense discussion on the matter proceeded between Amber and Arthur. Amber reminded Arthur that he was not responsible for her and perhaps she should just turn herself over to the warriors. Arthur would have none of this.
“Isn’t it enough that they have destroyed your village and murdered its citizens, let alone that you should be sacrificed too?” he stated. “You have suffered enough at the hands of these heathen warriors. They should not have the best prize of all, a princess from the very village they have just ransacked. We must formulate a plan.”
Amber was clearly too weary to argue. She concluded that if Arthur wanted to help her, she should accept his offer graciously. Perhaps he had been sent by the Gods to help her out of this predicament. “But then again,” she thought, “What could one man do?” Too tired to protest she decided to go along with any plans he came up with.
Early the next day Arthur arose to find that the company of warriors had already left. He noticed also that Amber was nowhere around. His immediate fear was that she had surrendered herself to them. But, much to his delight, he saw her returning to the camp with a bucket of water.
“Just some water with which we can wash ourselves before we journey on,” she stated.
“Arthur, greatly relieved, took advantage, and splashed water on his face. Amber did the same, and soon they were both ready to travel.
Suddenly they found themselves surrounded by the warriors from the previous night. They had not really left, as Arthur had thought, but had circled about this area in search of their missing victim. Now Arthur was really frightened, as was Amber. She gasped when she saw them and didn’t move, her mind racing with thoughts of what could happen next. “There is no escape now.” she thought. “Surely we will both die.”
Just then Arthur began to sing and dance and prance around the campsite. He howled and hooted, making a variety of bizarre gestures and sounds, all to the curious amusement of the surrounding warriors. Amber sat on the ground and watched in disbelief. Had her new found friend totally lost his mind or was this some kind of trick? One of the warriors stepped forward and asked him what he was doing.
“Oh, I am just performing the dance of the ‘praying mantises’ so my wife can have her baby boy.”
The soldier stepped back in disbelief. “This man is a fool,” he shouted. “We are wasting out time here. “Obviously his poor wife has her hands full with this one.”
Amber had now stepped into the scene to try and calm her “ailing husband.” “Yes,” she began, “he behaves this way periodically. Too much sun I guess. What can I say? The Gods have saddled me with this one. It is my lot to serve such a fool.”
“What a pity,” the soldier responded. “We will leave you to your tasks. We have a princess to hunt, and no time to waste with a fool and his wife.”
And off the warriors went, to the North now, as fast as their horses would carry them.
Arthur and Amber were alone once again, barely able to contain their laughter and their great sense of relief.
“You see,” Arthur stated, “sometimes fantasies can really bring riches. In this case, my meandering mind likely saved our lives.”
“Quite so,” Amber agreed. “I had no idea, initially, what you hoped to accomplish with all that howling and prancing. But, given the gravity of the situation, I felt I had no choice but to follow your lead.”
“And well you did,” Arthur went on, “for without your participation we would both surely be dead at this moment.”
“So, now what?” Amber asked. “What do we do now?”
“Well, Arthur began, “if you have nothing better to do, then perhaps you will consider continuing with me on my travels.”
“And play in your fantasies?” she added.
“Yes, and join me in my whimsical adventures. You have nowhere else to go that I can see, and I am lonely. Perhaps we can offer each other some company and amuse ourselves in the bargain.”
With mutual agreement, Arthur and Amber proceeded on their way. South seemed like a good direction now, for they were certain they wanted to be as far away from that horde of warriors as possible. So, with whimsy in their hearts and adventure in the air, they strode off together in search of Life.