In a land far away, in a time long ago, there lived a king with a heart of stone. It had not always been this way. Once upon a time, his heart had beat freely, flowing with love and kindness. But he had loved and felt the pain of loss. Fear of having his heart-broken all over again had taught him to harden his heart. And so, it had turned to stone.
To keep his heart from breaking apart, he had built a wall of gold around it, telling himself the more he had, the better he would feel.
The people of his kingdom bore the brunt of his desire to acquire wealth and riches. Whatever they produced, whatever they had, went to feed the king’s need for more and more gold, until worn out and tired, they quit caring for the land and taking care of their crops and animals and one another. Over time, the lands grew fallow and the crops failed. Cows quit giving milk and the hearts of everyone in the kingdom also turned to stone.
The king became angry. His people had nothing to give and his coffers grew bare. His heart grew harder and harder as the fear that he would run out of gold and riches took hold of his mind.
He ordered his minions to scour the land for every drop of gold, every ounce of grain, and every piece of wealth they could find.
And his kingdom grew darker and darker.
One day, one of his knights came to him and told him the story he had heard of a young girl with a heart of gold who lived in a land far away.
“Find me this girl,” he ordered his knight. “Bring her to me and remove her heart and do not fail or I will take out your heart.” For the king believed that with a heart of gold, he would have all the riches in the world and would never know fear again.
The knight gathered up six men and rode for days to the town where he had heard of the girl with the heart of gold. Not knowing his intentions, when he asked the townsfolk about the girl, they happily told him how to find her home.
He hadn’t needed to ask. It was easy to tell which house was hers. All around it flowers bloomed in a riot of colour and pattern. Birds sang in the trees and a brook burbled as it merrily flowed along at the edge of her property.
In the garden, a young woman sang and worked. She had long blond hair and her skin was smooth and white. Her hands were buried deep into the rich soil of her garden and when she turned to greet the knight and his men, her blue eyes sparkled and danced and her smile warmed their hearts.
Blinded for a moment by the beauty of her smile, the knight forgot why he had come. “What is your name?” he asked her hesitantly.
“Carrena,” she replied, standing up and brushing the dirt from her hands. She walk towards him and held out her hands to take his in both of hers. She was so nature al and kind the knight could not refuse. Shlooked deeply into his dark eyes and asked, “And what is your name?”
Surprised at her question, commoners never asked knights their name in the land where he came from, and they definitely didn’t hold their hands, the knight abruptly removed his hands from hers and scolded her loudly. “Do not be impertinent. My name is not of your concern. My king has ordered me to find you and bring you to him. You will come with me now.”
Carrena smiled at the knight gently. “You must love your king greatly to do his bidding with such fierceness.”
“Love my king?” the knight said. “I do not love my king. I fear him and I do his bidding. It is what I must do.”
“I do not know your king,” Carrena said. “It is sad that you fear him and that he has ordered you to take me to him because I cannot go. My home is here and I do not want to leave it.”
“You have no choice,” said the knight. “It is my king’s wish.”
Carrena smiled at the knight, and took his hands again in hers and looked deeply into his eyes. “Please thank your king for the invitation and give him my best wishes. I will not go with you.”
Angered by her refusal, and confused by the sudden warm beating of his heart from the touch of her hands, the knight pulled his hands away and ordered his men to grab the girl.
They were too fast for her and suddenly, she found herself wrapped inside a blanket and tied to the back of the knight’s horse.
They rode fast and furious and as they rode back towards the king’s castle, the lands around them grew darker and darker. They barely stopped to eat and drink yet no matter how tired she became, the young woman sang softly to herself.
Her song frightened the knight even more than the king’s demands. “Stop singing,” he ordered her.
“I will not,” Carrena told him. “Singing calms my fears and reminds me that love is always greater than fear.”
And so she sang and as she sang, the knight felt his heart melt more and more and he grew more and more confused. He could not tell her what the king intended for her. It would be too painful a truth to reveal. And so, he remained silent.
When they arrived at the king’s castle, the knight carried the young woman into the cold, dark palace and up into a chamber high in a turret. He ordered the servants to bring her food and water and told her she must stay there until the king demanded her presence.
To be continued tomorrow….
The Whole story.