• The Dandelion King

    tab “Sit, children,” said the old man, bent as he was with the burden of years while he reclined comfortably next to the hearth. The firelight cast sparkles and shadows in his long, silver-hued beard and the emerald he wore on one finger. “The day grows old and I shall tell you a tale to pass the time before slumber takes you. It is a story of our beautiful kingdom’s roots…”

    tab When the world was young, they say that the gods often walked among the mortal races. Perhaps that is true, and perhaps also the story that a golden-haired youth was born on the night the first star fell to the long grassed plains.

    tab Sprightly he grew up, cocky and confident as he carried himself proudly. There were often times that he caused mischief, especially when he borrowed a neighbor’s horse and rode it through the night to simply stand in the green or gold sea of grass, depending on the season, his face upturned to the wide map of constellations above. They fascinated him with their sparkling, and he fancied that they stared down at him as he did so upwards, appraising him in a distantly cold manner. The moon seemed a large eye watching him, as well.

    tab Despite that, he had the makings of a great leader. Many seers conceded that point to the boy’s mother who brought him there in eagerness. In his clear blue eyes they saw the promise of wonderful things to come, yet also a terrible curse to be set upon him, and plague few in his future generations with misunderstanding, hesitation, and short-lived luck. His mother, a stubborn woman, shook her head. She too was confident, and knew in her heart that such a thing would be triumphed over if it came to pass.

    tab So with those words floating gently to the back of his mind, the boy grew up in love and friendship, working hard to become proficient in all of his skills: Riding, archery, hunting, tracking, and training with a lance. The golden hair upon his head was always cut short, naturally spiked at the back and many longer strands, intentionally left to grow, drawn into a ponytail. His skin tanned in the bright sun, his muscles became lean and powerful, and his bright eyes carried mirth in their depths. Many young maidens turned their sights on him as he passed on errands, and he was glad of the attention as all young men are. Courtship to him was a harmless game, quick and fleeting as the field hawk swoops over the ground. Until one found who they were looking for, what hurt could there be in jesting?

    tab Aside from the flowers eager to gain his heart, he harbored a secret love for a different sort of flower. It grew at the base of the plains-grass, overlooked by its prettier cousins above. In time, we would call it a weed with only a pretty appearance. But the little plant captured his heart, and there was always a dandelion tucked behind one ear. In a way, he also resembled the flower: tall and garbed in green with his hair bright in the sun.

    tab The years passed slowly and peacefully, much more so than our days now. But battles where not a foreign concept and that was yet another way that the youth proved his worth. Wielding a wonderfully carved lance, a weapon that was held as curious in the village, he stood among the best fighters. Victory seemed to always be on their side, although with the minimal losses that all battles bring about.

    tab Then it came to the time that a strange stirring began in this youth’s heart. An urging like no other often made him pause in his work and think of the wide world outside of his home and aging parents. What adventures awaited him if he were to only step on the other side of his knowledge of the land familiar to him from birth?

    tab On the eve of his coming-of-age, he decided then and there, his eyes reflected in the other villagers’, that he’d do what had been fantasized by many of the elders, to create something that would carry the legacy of his proud people throughout the ages. He would found a kingdom.

    tab The next morning he left as they cheered him on, useful gifts and mementos packed lightly on a golden palomino steed that held its head high as its master did. A dandelion peeked out from behind his ear that day as it did every day, the same flower that adorns our banners and which is immortalized as our knights’ emblems. A girl that had caught his fancy kissed him once before he left and quickly hid her tears as his figure disappeared down the trodden path. Although she loved him much, she wished that no other woman, elf or human as she was, would tug at his heart as she did.

    tab Although his soul yearned for hers, he marched on proudly. His journey was not all riding and nights under the sky, and it was indeed perilous for a strong man such as himself. The grasses became shorter as he passed over them, giving way to forests filled with enchantment. There he met elves before moving on, a fierce light burning in his breast. To the mountains he went, facing new dangers along the road, and spoke with dwarves and dragons, who at that time were more friendly to the other races.

    tab Many seasons passed with the lively spring, warm summer, cool fall, and cold winter greeting the youth-turned-man. His smile did not diminish in neither the rain nor the snow that he trudged through. The habit of wearing a dandelion did not wear away, either, and it seemed he always found one on the side of the road to pick. As his life reached its prime and his reputation grew to the point that strangers recounted stories of his travels, a great threat arose in the land. The peacekeeper dragon, Eon’byurainskarda who was granted the power to help mold the world as the gods wished, turned his back on the world. Righteous fury filled the man when he learned of this, and resolved to help the goodly races vanquish he who had wiped the name of the world from the very fabric of existence.

    tab At the side of his own race he fought the evil forces that had aligned itself with the dragon as did the elves, dwarves, centaurs, and far too many others to name. He was there when three of the world’s gods appeared, and he was the one that the great white wolf we call “Snowfur” rushed by to plunge the long-forgotten and famous spear into Eon’s breast. The man was blinded by the light that ensued from the strike, and upon looking at the spot where the black dragon had been, found no trace of either it or the wolf.

    tab Much rejoicing rose up in the clear and rough voices of all the fighters, glad of the long war’s end and mournful at their own losses. The man himself stood still, lance pointed down at his side. A wide grin stretched across his face and in his blue eyes the vision of a wonderful kingdom shone.

    tab “Here,” he said. “Here is where my kingdom will lie.”

    tab And so it did. Built on the--at first steep then slow rising--slope that overlooked the site of the dragon’s fall was a white-gray stoned castle. Journeying back to his home village, the man lead his people to the castle, and a town sprung up around it. In time, walls enclosed the bright city. The kingdom was deemed from that day in the true name of the dandelion he wore, Taraxacum. The girl he’d left all those years before fell into his arms, faithful to him as he had been to her in his absence.

    tab They lived out their years as king and queen in the new kingdom, loved by all their subjects and revered very highly. However, the curse that the seers had seen afflicted itself upon him near the end of his life. In our history, some rulers have turned to the darker side. But despair not for the man’s mother was also true in her reasoning of it passing!

    tab Here, the old man stopped at last with a sigh and leaned back farther into his chair. The children sitting ringed around his feet had an awed look in their eyes despite their sleepiness. One of them, a golden-yellow haired boy, raised his hand.

    tab “Sir, how did that one part in the song go again?”

    tab The old man sat silent for a moment. Then he began to hum slowly, and sing under his breath as one by one the children dozed off.

    “Over the grass, and the gladden fields we go,
    Under the sky, and by the fiery glow.
    The world is ever different, the wind changes in the sun.
    My love, my love, forever in my heart you will run.
    My soul wanders far but always returns from seeking,
    So says I, Garreth, the Dandelion King.”