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For The Strength of Youth

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    Ch. 44 The Wisdom of the Wise
 
Submitted by Dave Free on 6 December 2006 - 4:52pm.

With the bright, early-morning sun on their cheeks, the two travelers quickly made their way through the city gates and out onto the Plateau of Lofty Thoughts. To Jess, the tall grass blowing in the breeze looked more like the waves of an ocean than a high mountain meadow. She thought it would be nice to be grass right now, blowing care-free in the breeze, completely unaware of the surrounding danger. To help her keep her mind off the dangers she began to make up sons as she walked along in her jeans and pink shirt (even princesses don't wear gowns all the time). On her back she carried her purple backpack filled with her extra clothes and a package of candy she had saved for the trip home.

Jacob had eaten his last piece of candy within minutes of receiving it, but right now he didn't care about candy. He was busy running his stick horse, Spot, up and down the road chasing butterflies and rabbits and anything else that would move. With every swing of his bad he slew a Warrior of Contention. He was so busy imagining that he almost fell off the edge of the meadow.

"Jake! Jake! Look out, you'll fall! Jessica quickly ran to his side and they both gasped as they looked out at the sight before them. The plateau of lofty thoughts ended abruptly in a shear cliff that dropped away almost three hundred feet to the forest below. From their vantage point, they could see the deep green of the pine trees of Sharewood forest and beyond the forest the gray fog that always covers the swamp of selfishness. If they really squinted, the could just make out the spires of their father's kingdom far off to the east.

"The forest is beautiful." Whispered Jessica.

"The swamp looks gross." murmured Jake.

"Look, there's our kingdom," replied Jessica with a little more excitement in her voice. "Come on, let's hurry down to the forest and find the ambassador."

Spot wasn't so sure about the narrow trail that crisscrossed down the steep face of the cliff, but with a little coaxing, and a blindfold tied over his eyes, they finally got him over the edge.

At the bottom of the cliff the travelers found themselves in the most beautiful forest in all of the kingdoms. You see, Sharewood forest got its name because all of the creatures that live there--even the three year olds--share freely with each other. Because every creature shares, every creature is happy. And everyone knows that a happy creature is always more beautiful than a miserable creature.

At the time, Princess Jessica and Sir Jacob weren't thinking about why the forest was so beautiful or their troubles, they were too overcome with the beauty of the forest to think at all. In fact, Jake forgot to take the blindfold off Spot until they were well into the forest which, as you might imagine, didn't make Spot very happy. But Spot soon forgot his unhappiness in the greenest, juiciest, freshest grass you have ever seen--the kind you like to walk through barefoot--that grew along the side of the forest trail.

While Spot was happily munching the grass, Jessica merrily hummed her way from flower to flower in the little meadow that the path meandered through. For a time she completely forgot about the dangers ahead and the "proper" way to act as a princess. She was thoroughly enjoying the beauty of the meadow. At each flower she would bend over and sniff to smell the perfume, then she would skip on to the next flower humming as loud as her lungs would let her. If you had been there listening, it would have sounded like this: humm-humm-humm-snifffff-ahhhhh-humm-humm-humm-snifffff-ahhhhhh. She always sniffed twice at the pink flowers, so sometimes there were two sniffs and two ahs between the hums.

Jacob might have heard Jessica humming, sniffing and ahhing, but for the gurgle of the little stream which he was standing in up to his knees. He hadn't planned to get wet, but the little twig boat he launched ran aground on a big moss-covered rock in the middle of the stream and he had no other option but to go in after it. the smooth pebbles of the stream bed and the cool water felt wonderful on his hot, tired feet and he almost forgot about the Warriors of Contention and the Swamp of Selfishness. He retrieved his boat and turned to climb out of the stream. As he turned, he looked up to see where his sister's humming had taken her and gasped at what he saw.

Out from under the tall pine trees that border the meadow--like a fence borders your backyard--a huge bear had appeared and was lumbering straight for his sister. Jessica, still humming her way from flower to flower, had not yet noticed the bear with the massive jaws running towards her.

For and instant Jake was frozen in terror. He was closer to Jessica than the bear, but he was downhill from her and the bear was closing fast. To make matters worse, Jake's trusty bat was right where he had left it: on the trail--he wished now he had listened when his mom told him to take better care of his things. Spot wasn't much help either, he was still munching grass, oblivious--that means he didn't notice--to the whole situation. Of course horses made out of fake fur don't have very good senses anyway.

Though it seemed like forever to Jake, all of these thoughts went through his head in a split second and then he did what any brave little brother would do in the situation. He quickly scooped up a handful of rocks, then, waving his arms like a clock gone crazy, he let out his best indian-war-hoop yell and ran straight for his sister.

Still unaware that a huge bear with its mouth wide open was running straight for her, Jess continued to hum for all she was worth. She thought she heard Jake yell, but he yelled so often she figured he must be enjoying himself in the stream.

Jake was fast but he was running uphill and his bare feet slipped often on the moist green grass. The bear, of course, had bare feet too--a bear would look mighty funny with any other kind of feet--but the bear was running downhill and his big claws kept him from slipping.

Before he was half way to this sister, Jake could tell the bear was going to get to her before he could. As he ran, he prayed in his heart and mind that she would survive until he got there.

The bear was now within two steps of Jess and stood up on its hind legs with its arms spread wide to grab her. Jess must have finally heard the commotion because she straightened up and turned around just in time to let out one girl-type scream before her face was buried in the thick fur of the bear's chest.

Jake couldn't stand to see what happened next so he concentrated on the grass in front of him as he ran the final twenty feet to the battle. Though he tried to block it out, he could hear his sister's muffled calls for help. Without hesitating for an instance, Jake, The Knight of the Great Smile, dropped the stones from his hand and dove straight onto the bear's back. He wrapped his arms around its neck and squeezed for all he was worth.

The squeezing must have distracted the bear enough for Jessica to break free because for the first time Jake could clearly hear his sister's calls for help, "Jake, Jake stop! Your're hurting him! STOP!"

"Stop?" he thought, "She must be crazy! This bear was trying to kill her and she wanted him to stop. She must have a bump on her head!"

The bear was now staggering around on his hind legs pawing the air with his huge paws. The knight bravely clung to his neck, riding him like a cowboy rides a bull. Jessica was running in and out trying to get close enough to grab Jake's legs without being run over by the huge bear paws.

To Spot, who had finally looked up from his grass, it looked like the three of them were dancing some kind of wonderful dance in the beautiful meadow and he went back to eating his grass. Now before you judge that silly horse and call him a fool for thinking they were dancing, remember that his eyes were glued on his head. Chances are you wouldn't see very well if your eyes were glued on either.

Jessica, Jake, and the bear might have danced all afternoon but the bear slipped on the wet stones that Jake had brought from the stream and they all went down in a pile with Jake at the bottom. He quickly rolled free and was ready to jump back into the foray, when Jess stepped in front of him and yelled, "No Jake, No!" It's our uncle's ambassador. He gave me a bear hug! Remember? The messenger said the ambassador would greet us with a bear hug."



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