“Oh sir, wait!” a little girl cried out, broke away from the murmuring crowd, and ran to stand in front of the stranger. “You can’t just go up there as you are – do you know what that is? That is the home of the Great King!”
“That is precisely why I must go up there. Now, excuse me,” the young man said calmly, and with a strain of sadness on his face.
“But sir,” the girl persisted, “the Great King only speaks to important and special people, worthy nobility.” With a skeptical expression, she put her hands on her hips. “Are you a worthy noble?”
“I- I don’t think so,” the lad hesitated. “But honestly, I don’t know who I am.”
“You don’t know who you are! How very sad! That is no good at all. To see the King, you must know who you are, and you must take a very great gift – and hope it is good enough to earn his favor.”
“But- I had hoped he could tell me who I am. The elves said he could.”
“The elves? How do you know the elves? Are they lovely, magical creatures?” the girl sighed and squirmed with delighted curiosity.
The rusty-haired lad realized she was not going to let him pass until she was satisfied, so he eased down to sit on the cobblestone, and rested his tired body against a wall. “They are indeed lovely and magical,” he responded. “They rescued me when I was a baby and raised me. I learned their language and their songs. And though they loved me as their own, I knew my destiny was not the same as theirs. Their songs give life to them, but not to me. I am weak, and am getting weaker. I need to know who I am, why I am weak, how I can be strong, and what was I created to do. The elves said that the Great King is the only one who can help me, but they didn’t tell me I had to bring a gift. I have traveled so far and have nothing of value to give.”
The girl was still enchanted by the thought of elves. “You know their language? And their songs? Play one for me, please!”
So he did. He drew a whistle out of his pocket and placed his long skinny fingers along the holes. He took in a slow, deep breath and blew gently, and a clear, high note rang out. It dipped and rose and flew and twirled in a magical way that made the little girl feel beautiful and powerful. When the song ended she sighed dreamily and then bounced to her feet with a sudden idea: “Play that song for Him!”
“Him? Who? The King?” the lad asked as he replaced his instrument.
“Yes, He will love it, I am sure! And then he will accept you!” She clapped her hands, giggled, and helped the boy to his feet. Her excitement made him smile a crooked grin and renewed just enough of his hope to get him moving in his rhythmic hobble again.
“Good-bye, Rusty!” she said. “I will call you Rusty because of your funny hair. My name is Legalia, and my daddy is the most successful businessman in the village, so that makes me special. I hope I’ll get to talk to you again. I’ve always wondered what the Great King is like! Maybe you can tell me when you return.”
“You mean you’ve never met him? But He is so close! And I thought you said you were special?”
She straightened her back in defiance. “I am special! He just… doesn’t know it yet. But I keep making him chocolate pies, and one day he will realize I am a great chef, and then He will love me. Good-bye, Rusty.”
“Good-bye, Legalia,” he responded as she ran back into the crowd of villagers.