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December 04, 2023

The Lost Treasure

By Dan Mulhollen

Once upon a time, there lived a princess, who, in a moment of weakness, allowed a prized possession to be taken from her. Upon hearing this, her father, the King, was very upset. As punishment, he ordered her to travel throughout the land to restore her lost possession and learn how to prevent this from ever happening again.

Being scornful of arduous tasks, she decided not to stray far from the palace. In fact, she decided that, as dungeons are renowned for holding great treasures, the palace dungeon would be the best place to begin her search.

The dungeon keeper, a spindly and somewhat greasy old coot, greeted her at the dungeon gate. "How may I help you?" he asked.

"I seek to learn how to retain one's valuables," she replied.

"You've lost something of importance to you?" he scoffed. "And yet you seem to be without any remorse. To hold on to a treasure means to appreciate its worth."

"How might I gain that understanding?" "You need to learn discipline. You've done wrong and need to be punished."

This confused the princess greatly. She'd always had servant girls there to take her punishments. "Can you show me how this is done?" she asked.

He led her over to the wall, which had arm and leg irons attached. "You shall be bound here until morning. As you stand there, think about what you've lost."

She complied with his wishes and spent that night chained to the dungeon wall. After a while, though, she began thinking the entire thing was silly and extremely dull. She soon found that if she leaned up against the wall at just the right angle, she could fall asleep. So when she was released that morning, she'd awakened reasonably well rested.

Next, despite it being an hour's walk, she considered the convent. The nuns were known to have some precious artifacts in their possession. Perhaps advice given there might be of help.

The Mother Superior, along with several other nuns, listened to her story with greater interest. This was particularly true concerning the details of how she lost the treasure. "You remember nothing after that fifth glass of wine?" the Mother superior asked.

"I'm sorry, but no." Then she reconsidered. "Well, maybe traces of some parts. But no," she said, blushing.

Several of the younger nuns giggled. This was met with a scornful glance from the Mother Superior, who continued, "It would seem your problem is due to your lack of understanding the world and its ways."

"I'll have you know I'm fluent in both Greek and Latin," the Princess protested.

"Are you now?" the Mother Superior asked. "In our library we have several books of ancient Greek poetry written by the students of an academy for adolescent women. Sadly no one here knows enough Greek to translate them. Do you think you could?"

"Why yes," the princess said. "I'm quite good at poetry myself, so I'm sure I can do a good job of showing the meanings of the poems."

This made the nuns smile. They took her to the scriptorium and sat her down with the ancient texts, along with the pens, ink, and parchment on which to write her translations. They all watched as she turned the oddly shaped Greek letters, first into words, and then whole sentences they could understand. Sometimes the princess would come across a passage that made her sit back and ponder dreamily which words would work best. Sometimes the nuns would be so overwhelmed by the beauty of her translation that they'd stroke her shoulder or softly kiss her forehead.

Upon finishing the translations, she felt both thrilled and fatigued by the experience. The nuns who'd been watching her shared in her rush of exaltation. They all congratulated her, hugging her most warmly. Yet she left the convent feeling tired and that she'd yet to accomplish anything that would satisfy her father.

On her way back to the palace, she met an old and renowned warrior --a man who'd led her father's army to countless victories. She remembered even as a little girl being in awe of him.

"'Tis a long walk," he said. "I'd gladly dismount and let you ride. If you wouldn't mind a ride in an old man's saddle, that is."

"I'm sure my father would disapprove. I'm hardly attired to straddle such a manly piece of leather."

"Aye, that is true. Yet there are times we must act for the moment, unafraid of consequence."

"I am terribly tired."

The warrior dismounted his horse and helped the Princess into the saddle. She briefly considered feigning modesty at her exposed legs, but it seemed pointless -- the old man obviously enjoyed the sight and she was not offended by his pleasure.

She dismounted the horse just outside the palace gate. She thanked the warrior and then went inside. As she walked inside, she thought about her experiences and suddenly remembered the whole of the night she lost her treasure.

"So," her father said, upon her arrival, "have you regained any of your lost treasure?"

"No," she replied, "for once taken, some treasures cannot be regained."

"That may be true," he said. "Then have you learned how to retain possession of any new treasures you might attain?"

"Again no. However I have learned something of even greater importance."

"And what is that?"

"There are things we consider valuable -- even precious -- which are in truth trifles. I now realize that the treasure I'd guarded for so long had been such a trifle. I also realize that when one loses such a thing, it is best to just lay back and enjoy it."

The King slumped back in his seat, realizing he'd made a mistake by sending the princess off on her quest. He was still a bit disappointed that she'd lost her treasure so carelessly. But if the truth be known, he was surprised she'd held on to it for so long.

Article © Dan Mulhollen. All rights reserved.
Published on 2016-03-28
Image(s) are public domain.
1 Reader Comments
08:23:11 AM
More than a bit sexist, but none-the-less well told
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