A tear of sadness fell from the king's eye. The cold morning light was harsh, and the king shielded its glare with his out-stretched gauntlet. He hid his sad eyes, and looked down through the valley, to where the hot breath of life steamed out from the vanquished and the victorious into the morning air. He drew a heavy breath as he gazed upon his fallen knights and their brave horses. It was more than any mortal could embrace with a clear eye. Now the valiant conqueror drew away any glory that may have lingered. The scene left him desolate and empty. Strewn across the battlefield before him, lay the broken bodies of both armies, cast down into the mire, complete with pennant, mount and lance. Many had perished.
The large bloodstained sword dropped from the king's grip, falling to the mud beneath his horse, with a dull thud.
"No!" he shouted across the battlefield, "No more I say, for if God is my witness, I vow to you all! To the known and the unknown, to the living and the unseen: to the multitude cast down, and to the spirits that dwell above. That I, King Richard of the Twin Shores, ruler of these Middle Lands say, - no more!'
"Sire, are you harmed?" called a voice.
The king swung his large frame upon the golden saddle to face the approaching rider. He shook his head free of the burden of his combat helmet, and pushed back his long black hair.
"Ah!" exclaimed the King, shaken from his solemnity. "Come forward, for I perceive you are no furtive enemy."
"My lord, what ails you?"
"Only my heavy heart Calor, old friend." The King watched with crystal blue eyes as his bodyguard came to his side. The familiar face was somehow reassuring, "Tell me but one thing - the casket - you carry it still?"
"Aye my lord, it is my life's honour to do otherwise than you have commanded. The Middle Lands jewel is a constant companion, and the burden of my office. The royal jewel, the symbol of our people, is here - safe."
With deft movements Calor produced a small wooden casket from within the folds of his vestment. The morning breeze caught his long black tunic, which billowed out, and the carved casket was revealed. Reverently Calor opened the casket, and withdrew the jewel.
Golden light flattered and caressed the fabulous jewel, as it swung slowly back and forth in the rising light. The gold and sapphire jewel sparkled upon its heavy golden chain and became possessed with a life and a power of its own, a life force for hope and continuity. An aura of magic danced across the face of the jewel.
"The Middle-Lands jewel, it is safe, and so is your kingdom," said Calor holding out the jewel, "... the Jewel holds well my lord." As he spoke, his mount snorted and shivered its glistening flanks.
"Calor, my old friend, I must ask of you to discharge a grievous duty; release your charge. That wretched burden!" said the king, pointing at the jewel. "Take that, the symbol of state, and cast it down, down into the blood and the mire!"
"Heed me! Cast it well, for my trusty arm wearies of battle - the cutting and the hacking! I fear that if I dwell upon the matter, the power of the Jewel may yet tremble me!"
"My liege! Surely no! The jewel - it holds your realm," said Calor pulling the jewel to his breastplate. "Here within its depths rest the spirits of your fore-fathers, the heart of the people. I beg you no! For it is the long battle alone that has laboured you."
"Counsel me no further! My mind is set upon the matter. Cast it here! Here, amongst the brave that lay fallen, for are they not also the people, my people? Bring before me knights that have given more! The keep of the Jewel is earned by those that lay befallen here!"
The king looked to the loyal cohorts lined along the hilltop, and then to the grim carnage. The enemy had been routed, but a high price had been paid. Valour had been dispensed in great measure on both sides. Great columns of flashing swords and cracking lance that had painted the day red lay abandoned.
"Enough of victory - it is blood-cursed! The symbol of state is too a high a price, glory alone will not repay us for our losses, and honour is but a sorry reward. So I command you dispense your task truly, and yield to my name this sad day. Cast the Jewel hence, it does offend me. Let it rest forever at this place, for here is born the future. Quickly then, so that we may withdraw from this fearful place."
The Jewel was cast down into the mud, amid the mass of broken bodies and scattered armour. As it fell, it caught the light, and sparkled briefly, before it slid beneath the black mud. Forgotten centuries would wash over the war-torn battlefield, like the turn of the tide, before the Jewel would sparkle again. The only witness to its passing was a wind torn oak sapling, bravely reaching for the sky.
Polly and Emma were sisters, not of kin but of mischief. They were simply the very best of friends. They shared everything, their hopes, their dreams, and fears. They found the Jewel under an oak tree root, on land that once nourished a forest of great oaks, slain long ago for mighty sailing ships that had been the vexation of Spain. Now all that remained of the forest, was an open expanse of common land, studded with gorse and rustling bracken, and a wonderland for young imaginings.
The two young girls ran their quick hands eagerly over the soil-caked Jewel. Their imaginations soared. The weight of their find escaped them, for here was something truly important, here was magic! Images of sorcerers and castles filled their agile minds. Fantastic characters of the imagination were in desperate and hurried pursuit upon horses of fire!
"This will turn us into princesses!" squealed Polly.
"Oh, yes! It must- and we shall have to ride away on beautiful horses, to escape the wicked wizard!"
"Wee! On the wind! It must be on the wind - high in the clouds."
"Yes, up high, very high over the wall of the great silver castle," replied Emma, and she danced around and around in sheer delight.
"On the wind, on the wind!"
Emma galloped herself into a frenzy, then came to a sudden halt, and her face flushed fully like an autumn apple. A smiling, laughing face in a cloud of summer dust.
"Emm, you do look funny!"
Emma pulled at her hand-knitted cardigan, and peered through the veil of dust.
"Do you think there is much magic ... in the necklace I mean?"
"Ooh!" cried Polly, as she dangled the tarnished lump between her fingers.
"It must be, I'm sure of it! If only we knew the magic spell," she sighed. "We could make it turn into gold."
"Yes, yes of course," and Emma viewed the grubby lump, and wondered at the power of their find.
"Yes," continued Polly, " it will be our secret." She dropped the jewel slowly back into its hiding place, within the black earth. "Emm, you mustn't tell anyone of our secret, not even nice Mr. Etherington, the green-grocer."
"We shall have to return to this place with our children, to collect the treasure - we shall be so rich!" cried Polly.
"Will we really have to have children? " asked Emma, playing with her hair.
"But Emm, it wouldn't work if we didn't."
"But how many?"
"Lots and lots!" shrieked Polly.
The sisters of mischief broke into howls of shrill laughter, and ran off hand-in-hand, headlong into their waiting lives.
Polly and Emma would both be married, and enjoy the riches of children, and grandchildren, but they would never return to claim their treasure.
The long arms of time gathered in the many years that the Jewel waited patiently and silently, for that rare human touch. In the endless realms of space, time has nowhere to hide, and the spirits of eternity, the kindred spirits, are free to roam - forever.