It sat in the green fields of home. The stars in the sky were bright and the grass smelled clean and lush under the blue sky of childhood.
I was a warrior, I rode a valiant steed. His tack was new and the fittings polished. From my belt hanged a broad sword. It was heavy and sharp it came from the scabbard at a whim and the blade reflected the sun.
The time came and I mounted the hill. There I looked back at the little city. It was clean and white. The castle was crisp, the gilding shone like a promise on the deep green sea of the fields of plenty. The subjects were fat, but the coffers were full. This was no place for a young man to make his mark, nor his fortune.
Time marched on as time is apt to do and this warrior grew older. Once quick hands of youth were now slow from battle wounds and crushing blows. The sword grew heavy and it cleared the scabbard slowly.
This old warrior, aching wounds, and bones that hurt, lay under the stars, my head on a rock and dreamed of my home. I dreamed of clearing the hill and smelling the green grass of the open fields and to see, again, the gilded castle. I would ride in to cheers, the colorful flags flapping in the breeze, and walk into the castle. I would cast before the king a part of my prize and the king would see what I had become.
My sword would rest by the fire side. My horse, at last would run free, unencumbered by battle dress. I would find peace. At last, I would find acceptance.
One day I mounted my old horse, cinched up the worn saddle and let him run as he had wanted to do for so long to the north. The trip was hard, but he was determined. He, too remembered the green fields, the open sky, the beauty of our “Valhalla”.
At last we mounted that hill and looked down upon Salem. The fields were barren, salted and dry. The gilding had been stripped from the castle and the walls were broken and falling. The guards were gone. There was nothing to guard. The merchants were gone from the square, the commerce broken.
I entered the great hall through an open door and a shaft of light fell to the floor from a hole in the roof far above. Only the jesters remained of the court, turning cartwheels and somersaults before the great throne.
There, in the throne sat the king. His eyes were clouded like those of a dead man. He read from the scroll the laws one after another in his faltering voice, but there was no one to hear but the pigeons, who flew up to the rafters as the jesters ran and jumped, their little bells jingling from worn out clothes.
I cast my prize before him and he looked down at it and, with a hand waved me aside. A thief sneaked from behind, dagger in hand, to take the crown, but he gave it to him. He took out a broken sword and knighted him as he motioned me to leave.
The merchants who remained now hoarded pennies, left by the plunderers as too heavy for their worth. They coveted them and held them, stealing from each other and trading them for things dear. They would hide in the night and count, their gleeful laughs ringing out of the broken doorways and echoing down the great hall, out into the streets of a city once paved with gold.