The Five Trials of Peru: Trial 3 Part 1

Looking at the sun the prince gauged the men were facing north. Heading west they traveled for several days before coming across a small lagoon. Emerald green trees and bright pink flowers grew around the water’s edge, enticing them with pleasant fragrances and the promise of cool relief. Striping of cloth the men waded into the water, grateful for a place to wash and refresh themselves. 

As the others chatted the prince hung back against the shore, lost in thought. Several months had passed since he left his homeland, possibly a whole year. He had planned on arriving in Asia by now to meet his would-be wife, Florette. Lothar, captain of the men, now looked to him for guidance, a mere seventeen year old. Peru held confidence but pressure weighted so heavily his shoulders sagged beneath the water. Survive and find a way off the island, that was most important now. But the prince could not escape the sound of bells haunting his dreams.    

An eerie silence settled over the men as a sound like harps filled the air. The water itself parted ways before the beautiful women rising from the depths of the pond, singing a beautiful melody. Awe-struck the men could only gaze as the slim figures coyly circled, continuing to sing until their song reached a fever pitch.

Astonished Prince Peru watched the women in awe until, from his distance, he noticed their legs were not two but one. They were mermaids who, like sirens, seek wayward men to ensnare in their song to drown and eat. Fewer in number the women gravitated to a select few, embracing the all too eager men in their arms. Reality stricken Peru called out to his men, warning them of the true nature of the predators. Some did not hear, already in the arms of the mermaids and lost in their magic. The men who had not been chosen by the woman, hearing Peru’s cries, swam towards shore panic stricken of a watery grave. Moving from the bank Peru swam opposite, prying the hypnotized men away from the sirens. But try as he might no sooner did he break the bond did the men hurry back to their maidens only as a pair to sink below the water out of sight. Peru felt arms wrap around him, promising everything he ever wanted and more. Refusing to listen Peru struggled until he broke free from the creature’s grasp and made his way to shore. Once safely on land he turned to see many men missing, never to be seen again.  

“Prince Peru,” Lothar spoke. “Once more I saw you risk your life to save others. The men remaining and I are eternally indebted to you and are your slaves for life, if you will take us.”        

“There is no need for such commitment,” the prince replied. “Help me reach my goal and your debt is paid.”

The Five Trials of Peru: Trial 2

The two survivors crawled onto shore and collapsed from exhaustion and hunger. When he awoke the prince found himself in a cave, dim and damp, locked in a cage built into the wall with his crewman. Looking to his right he saw several other men locked up in similar fashion. To his left was a pen housing sheep and piles of various treasures. Peru called out to the other men, asking the who’s and what’s.

A man from the next cage answered. “My name is Lothar, captain of a ship sailing east. This is my crew, or what remains of them. Months ago we wrecked upon this island where a terrible cyclops captured us. He keeps us as slaves and food, picking whichever pikes his tastes to roast over a fire at random. He sustains himself on sheep all other times. There is no hope for us; many have tried escaping but none have succeeded.”    

Just then the cyclops returned; walking through the entrance of the cave he blocked out the light with his mass. Five stories high and four wide his single eye fell upon his newest hostages. The prince heard a low chuckle as the cyclops went about his business, stoking a roaring fire in the middle of the cave before approaching the cages. Looking Peru up and down he found him lacking much substance so moved to the other, the prince’s one remaining countryman, who he found to be more fatted around the middle. Taking him from the cage he gave one great heave and slammed the man against a nearby rock, cracking his skull. Cooking and eating the human the cyclops threw the scraps to the sheep and rolled over, falling into a deep slumber.

“See?” Lothar whispered to Peru. “There is no escape or hope.”

The prince was wroth with wrath at the death of his man and swore vengeance against the giant. The next morn the cyclops released the men and herded them to a nearby field full of crop, indicating they should tend the field. Peru followed the other men’s lead and set to work, knowing it best. Many months passed in such fashion.

Gradually Peru befriended the other prisoners and told them of his unfortunate account. One bitter night when the giant felt particularly hungry and ate two men Lothar bargained with him: “Should you kill the beast and free my men I swear to do all in my power to help you reach your destination.” 

Pleased with such a proposal the prince thought of ways to kill the cyclops. A week later night fell and the men were led back to the cave from a hard day in the fields. A sheep was on the menu and after eating his fill the cyclops rolled over and fell to sleep.

Once assured the monster slept the prince brought out a sharp rock he picked up when the cyclops had his back to him and began sawing the ropes binding his cage door shut. Gradually the ropes broke and the cage door swung open. Inching his way out, begging the others looking on to remain silent, he crept to the pile of treasure, the pillage of any ship wrecked upon the island shore, hoping to find what once belonged to him before the giant enslaved him. At last he happened upon his sword, a gift from his father for the journey across the ocean. Creeping back the prince raised the blade and stabbed the cyclops in the eye, blinding him.

Roaring awake the giant raged about the cave, grabbing for the prince. But swift of feet the boy dashed left and right, slashing at his ankles until the cyclops collapsed to the ground in despair for his life. In one fell swoop the prince took his head clean off.

The men cheered, praising the prince for his strength and bravery. He quickly untied the others and they rejoiced in their freedom. Exploring the cave and treasure the giant had hoarded the men took back what was theirs. After some they left the cave behind and set about exploring the island, wishing to walk from one end to the other in hopes of finding some means by which to sail on the sea once more.

The Five Trials of Peru: Trial 1 Part 2

Peru’s heart swelled at the thought of what little time remained separating him from the girl he loved. True, that little time was measured in months, but every breath he took shortened those months to moments; he could only view the coming days as a time he would look back on as a split second in his life.

With the sky clear and the wind at their backs the crew worked the ship in a pleasant mood. None would admit it, but secretly they were all hopeless romantics. Leaving their homes and families behind felt burdensome, but to see such a strong desire in the prince to gain what they already had left them feeling eager to see his heart fulfill its greatest desire.   

A few days into the journey dark clouds gathered on the horizon and a storm swept the seas in a turbulent riot. The men fought hard to steady the ship but with one great gust the boat overturned and all were cast into the sea. The storm raged on for many more hours and only those God saw fit survived, catching hold of debris to cling to for survival. Peru was one so lucky, and save two more all others perished. Staying close to each other the men drifted at sea for many days, hunger and thirst biting at their throats.

“We are all going to die,” one man called to the two others, seated on a plank of wood from the ship. “We will perish and it is because of the young prince and his foolish whimsies.”

“Bite your tongue.” The other man said. “The cause of our demise is the sea and nothing more. Do not blame a hapless boy for fate.”

“Because of you,” the sailor said to the prince. “I will never see my wife and children again. I will die and they will become beggars on the streets eating rats from the gutters to survive!” He continued  raving until all sense fled him and he fell into the sea in a fit, drowning.

The remaining crew member floated hopelessly across from the prince, who felt the sailor’s words deeply and could not shake the debt he felt he now owed. Impossibly the picture of Florette survived the wreck but was smudged by dampness. Peru took it from his pocket to dry and swore by her to honor the men who had perished and their families should he survive.

The next morning the pair washed ashore an island, green and wild.    

The Five Trials of Peru: Trial 1 Part 1

There once was a king who took for himself a suitable wife of desirable heritage and traits. They lived happily for some time before bearing a single son, Peru, who resembled a full moon in temperament and appearance. They reared him with the finest tutoring until he was well versed in all academics and swordsmanship. Intellectual, kind, and courageous his peers paled in comparison. On a day in his fifteenth year he sat painting with his teacher in the garden.

He teacher bade him, “Fetch my folder from beside the pear tree. Leaf through and find the drawing of a sparrow.” Standing from his seat prince Peru walked to the tree and brought back what was asked, flipping through page after page of artwork before happening upon a drawing of a young girl as beautiful as the sunset.    

“Who is this?” Peru asked in awe.

“Months ago I toured Asia. While there the wife of a high ranking noble commissioned me to draw multiple portraits of her sole daughter, Florette. That is an flawed copy I chose to keep.”

“She is perfect.”

“Gentle and kind in every way. I remember she wore a small bell in her left ear, so every time she moved the air filled with music.” His teacher mused.

“How could such a thing of grace be imperfect?” Peru wondered.

“The wife ordered twenty copies to be sent to different kingdoms, encouraging the many princes of the land to court her daughter’s hand in marriage.”

“Consider her hand won.” Peru determined. “Tell me where this city is so I many leave immediately for travel.”     

The teacher laughed at his young student. “Prince Peru, you are smart and bold but still a young boy. You cannot expect to travel across the world and be certain of success, or even survival. By the time you arrive she will most likely already be married to another. Rid yourself of this foolishness and find my sparrow.”

But Peru would not be dissuaded. Keeping the imperfect drawing he gazed at it long hours that night, sleeping little. The next morning he found audience with his father, the king, and asked him permission to make the journey. He father, like his teacher, scoffed at his ideals. “Wait a few more years and I will find a girl from one of our allies suitable for marriage, not one halfway across the globe. Now, grieve me no more with your fantasies.”   

Denied permission the prince lost all motivation to continue with daily life. Locking himself in his room he sore lamented over the drawing, knowing future happiness could only be found by the side of Florette.

Seeing his son suffer so moved the heart of the king. Consulting his officers as well as Peru’s tutor, the artist, the king called his son. “I give you permission to make this journey. Twelve men have volunteered as crew. Go now and return quickly.”   

Pleased beyond belief the prince thanked his father many times, blessing him as he kissed the hem of his robes. The rest of the day was spent in preparation and with the prayers of the kingdom behind him the prince set sail, the drawing of his lovely Florette tucked safely in his pocket to serve as guide. 

Aside

Starting this week and continuing for the next couple of months I’m going to publish a short story, “The Five Trials of Peru”. It is something I’ve worked on for quite a while and am very excited to show. The story follows Prince Peru, a young boy who falls in love with a drawing of a young girl. Unable to move past the picture’s beauty he sets out on a journey to find the girl and win her hand in marriage. Along the way he faces many terrible challenges and must decide for himself how much a possibility is worth fighting for.    

Each challenge, or trial, is broken into a varying number of parts which I will publish weekly. The story was originally inspired by “One Thousand and One Nights”, so expect something along those lines in terms of narration.

Part 1 will go up shortly after I publish this. Please show a lot of love and support for the project!