Prince of Exile, 9

We crested a rise and dropped into a tiny, high cirque, sheltered from the wind, south facing, and filled with grass and flowers. There we found another Holy Man. He sat beside the road, winding a necklace of roses, carefully breaking off each thorn. His clothing was finely spun wool, woven in a clever pattern, that strained to cover his bountiful girth. He had no hut, but had planted bushes to enclose a space of sweet grass for his sleeping.

The Prince leaned down from his mount and studied the Holy Man. Sweet fragrance rose up around him. He said, “I am a traveler from a far, strange place. Who are you?”

“One who lives fully,” the Holy Man replied.

The Prince asked, “What is the ultimate truth?”

The Holy Man replied without hesitation, “No true story ever ends.”

The Prince paid the man for his wisdom with a flask of sweet wine. We moved on, only a little enlightened.

*****

We came into a high meadow. There beside the road was a small house of native stone, cunningly built, strong against the harsh winters of that place. There was a man in the yard, scraping the skin of some hairy beast with a knife. His face was familiar, but we had not seen sweat on it until now. He looked up from his work, stretched, and walked over to the low fence that separated his land from the wild lands around him. The Prince saluted him politely and smiled. The man smiled back and said, “I see questions in your face. You have seen my two brothers, of course?”

“Many times, in many places,” the Prince replied.

The man sighed and said, “No doubt.”

“Are you a Holy Man?”

The man answered, “Those who say they are, are not. Those who say they are not, frequently are. I’ll just say, ‘Not particularly’.”

The Prince smiled widely and asked further, “What is the ultimate truth?”

The man replied, “Every true story ends in death, yet no true story ever ends. Both statements are correct, and all wisdom lies in trying to reconcile them. If there is more Truth than that, I have not discovered it.”

There was silence for a space as the autumn wind blew through the yard. The man went on, “Prince, for I see who you are, will you step down and break bread with me?”

The Prince shook his head a little sadly. “Would that I could, but my duties are many and my time is not my own. You do not need me.”

“Not needing you, I would welcome your company all the more.”

“And I yours. But it is not to be.”

We moved on, with our spirits a little lightened. more tomorrow

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