Waking up


The end of the 17th chapter

Rhoda opened her eyes, confused, and asked loudly “What do you want?” but then she noticed that she was not on the island but on Belshazzar’s back, and saw that he was starting to lose height and getting ready to land in the garden of her palace, and she breathed with relief.

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The ring


The third part of the 17th chapter

Rhoda came to a bank of one of the little brooks and sat down with her legs dipped in the clear water. The feeling of the water on her feet made her peaceful, and she stared into it, forgetting herself and the entire world. At a certain moment she felt that for some time her eyes were fixed on something shiny that was stuck between the stones at the bottom of the brook. She woke herself from her trance and looked at the shining spot. It wasn’t a ripple on the water’s surface. There really was something in the water. Rhoda went into the water, shivering from the chill, and bent to get the thing that was there. After some effort she managed to free it. It was a simple gold ring, without any ornaments. It came, doubtlessly, from one of the pirates treasures and had fallen on the way to their hiding place, without them noticing its loss. The pirates were very meticulous in everything that they had robbed, treating it like a heirloom which passed in their family for generations. Rhoda decided, with a strong feeling of rebellion, that she will keep this ring for herself. The big problem was – how could she hide it? It was clear that she couldn’t wear it on her finger, where it will be seen immediately. She had to find another way. Rhoda thought for a while. The garment she wore was worn and without pockets. It was mended so many times, as best she could, just so that she will be able to remain dressed. It was clear to her that for as long as the pirates didn’t take her to be sold, they will not give her any proper clothes. The solution was clear – she will sew the ring to the inside of her sleeve. That way no one will know the ring is in her possession. Rhoda hurried towards the pirate camp in order to follow her plan, holding the ring in her tightly closed fist.

When she got near the camp, Rhoda saw that some of the pirates had already woken up and were gathered around the table, eating, drinking and cursing. She didn’t want them to notice her, so she sneaked around to get to the room the pirates had given her. She was about to go in, when one of them saw her and called “Come here you prinzesa! My pitcher is empty!” With great haste she dropped the ring into a thorny bush that grew near the entrance to her room and hurried to fill his pitcher. A nervous pirate, at an early morning hour, after a wild night of drinking and cursing was not something you could ignore.

When Rhoda got to the breakfast table every one of the pirates made demands of her, and the following hours passed while she was brushing shoes, combing mustaches, serving food and drink and cursing (in her heart) each and every one of the pirates she took care of, with the most aggressive curses she could think of.

When the blond pirate woke up too, and grabbed her shoulder to make her turn to him and give him the pitcher, Rhoda woke up from her sleep, probably because she slept a little to the right, and her shoulder hit the side of the seat.

How to preper to life?


Another part of the 17th chapter

This morning Rhoda could allow herself to wander and think. She already discovered that the island was far from any other place. She had an opportunity once, to circle the island, on one of the times the pirates were gone for almost three days. During her whole trip around the island Rhoda kept watching the sea carefully to see if they are coming back, and whether there are other islands neighboring this one. She saw no island, and no ship was seen for as far as the furthest horizon.

Rhoda tried to study and get to know the inner parts of the island, and thought more than once, how lucky she was that she had to learn to recognize the strangest and oddest plants and their uses, when she was still at her parents’ home. Otherwise she would have probably starved, or would have to eat the sickening food of the pirates.

Every time she remembered her parents’ home, a bitter smile came to her lips. Yes, they definitely prepared her for the life that awaited her. She could be the servant that you pride yourself on, in front of guests. The kind whose education testifies to its owners’ good taste. In their wildest dreams about what her future held for her – they never thought about this option.

On the pirates’ island


Another part of the 17th chapter


Rhoda wandered along the coast of the pirate’s island, very early in the morning. She already cleaned all their night pots, and had time to go around the forest for a while and eat the fruit that grew in it. The night before, the pirates drank and behaved savagely until very late, and when they fell asleep it was, as usual, because of their drunkenness and not because of their tiredness. Her experience taught her that after a night like yesterday, the pirates will sleep until a very late hour of the day, and will wake up, the lot of them, irritable like wasps and ready to fight over every small thing. After nights like this, she made sure that anything they might connect to her, will be in the right state. And even things that weren’t necessarily connected to her. Whatever needed washing – was washed, and whatever needed to be put in its right place – was in its right place. The food leftovers – arranged in an attractive way on the table, so they will be able to start eating as soon as they wake up, and pitchers full of beer – so they will be able to start drinking, even before they started looking for her. She learned that this is the way things must be, as a result of quite a few very unpleasant incidents that she had gone through.

At first, when she was certain that in no time a ship will come to free her; she didn’t tend to cooperate with the pirates’ orders at all. She was angry and threatened them. They simply laughed in her face. When they ordered her to clean the night pots the first time, she said proudly “Me? What are you thinking to yourselves?” As a response, they simply emptied the night pots on her head, while saying, one after the other “This is what happens to anyone who disobeys us!” while she stood there, screaming and vomiting with disgust in all the scum. That was the last time Rhoda refused to clean the night pots. She learned the rest of her duties in a similar way, until she realized that no one is going to come and save her.

On the same day that Rhoda understood that no one is going to save her, she started to plan options of escape. She used the pirates’ hours of drunkenness and their days of absence, when they sailed their ship, to better know the island. At first, some of the pirates wanted to take her along on their voyages, because they wanted to have someone to sport with on the way. But the blond said – No. He thought that she had to be kept in a good condition for them to be able to get a good price for her. During their raids on ships, she might have been damaged in the heat of battle, and then her cost would drop dreadfully. Her body had to be kept whole. That gave her a lot of quiet and lonely hours, promised that she will not be beaten too hard, and kept them from doing her anything that will leave marks on her body. The rest of the girls that were with her, were sold long ago in the slave markets. For her the pirates hoped to earn a fortune, and that’s why they intended to take her to the largest city in the richest country, and to offer her privately to the most important people there. They knew that most of the city’s people will not be interested in the place where she came from, only her looks and education counted. Since they reached that town only rarely, selling her was delayed for now.

Back in the palace


The beginnig of the 17th chapter:


“How long will it take until we get back to the palace?” asked Rhoda as soon as Belshazzar was steady on the route that Mee has showed him.

“I think that a short while after noon we will be there, your majesty.” Said Mee.

“And do you think that there will be someone there that I can ask to make me the parrot?” asked Rhoda. At least for the meantime, she didn’t want to think about anything serious. Mee’s story about King Solomon made her feel deeply uncomfortable. That is, Rhoda wanted to feel that she can trust Mee with her eyes closed, and it seemed that there was a good reason that made her able to really trust her. But she would have liked the reason to be that she, Rhoda, was a beloved queen, and not because the option that the demons will not be able to live normally – was worse. She thought about this a few minutes, trying to understand what really made her feel so bad about what Mee has told her. What in the things Mee said made her feel so uncertain? At first Rhoda couldn’t think of any reasonable explanation. But then she grasped that, actually, what Mee said to her suggests that if someone will come, and the demons will think that he will be more cooperative with them than her, and will allow them to do tricks again, maybe they will switch him for her. Rhoda decided that she will not take the ring off her finger, just in case.

“Of course there will be someone there who will do it, your majesty.” Said Mee.

For a minute Rhoda didn’t understand what was Mee talking about. She was so absorbed in her thoughts that she thought Mee was saying that of course there will be someone who will replace her as queen of the demons. But then she remembered their talk of the parrot and nodded. Rhoda had the impression that Mee didn’t suspect the kind of feelings her story had aroused in Rhoda. It seemed as if she didn’t even remember the thing they had spoken of not so long ago. Rhoda thought that it was better that way, and decided to change the subject of their discussion.

“I want you to teach me the names and uses of other trees and plants that we will see.” She told Mee, and Mee pointed, from time to time, at a tree or a bush that they hadn’t seen yet, and told Rhoda its name and the things that could be done with it.

They kept on flying until the sun stood at the top of the sky and it hurt Rhoda’s eyes to look outside of the canopy. She told Mee that she wanted to sleep, closed her eyes and fell asleep almost immediately.

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Can she trust them?


The end of the 16th chapter

“So, the punishment he gave you is that you can’t rule yourself?” asked Rhoda. It seemed to her to be a very reasonable punishment for their theft of the kingship from King Solomon, and didn’t think there was anything problematic with it.

“It is only a small part of the punishment, your majesty.” answered Mee. “The really despicable part of the punishment is that we have to have someone, a human being, to rule over us in order for us to be able to really live.”

“But you did go on living, and you could have gone on following the ring, so in what sense did you not live?”

“There are so many things that we couldn’t do as long as the ring hasn’t come to your finger, your majesty, that there is no point even trying to start telling you about them.” said Mee. “It resembles living with plaster all over your body, in your bed, when you are sick. You are presumably alive, but what kind of a life is that? You can imagine how glad someone will be, who can at last be free of his plaster, and can start going around again.”

“And how can I know that none of you is setting me the same trap that you set to King Solomon?” asked Rhoda. “How can I trust you?”

Mee smiled understandingly.

“You just have to remember that you have the ring, your majesty. Since it was not such great fun to be encased in plaster, you can be sure we will not cause ourselves such harm anew, and we won’t make you lose your rule over us. We prefer that you, and after you all of your descendants, will rule over us, than the ring rolling in the world again. That is our insurance against the plaster…”

“Oh” said Rhoda, though she wasn’t sure that the explanation felt satisfactory to her. But she couldn’t explain to herself what exactly she didn’t like in the explanation.

She sat, sunk deeply in thought for a few minutes, and then the smell of hot food getting cold on her plate reminded Rhoda how hungry she was. She was so hungry, that she immediately turned to eat, and until she finished eating, Rhoda didn’t even think about what she heard from Mee. After finishing, Mee served her with a steaming glass, full to its brim with a fragrant drink. Rhoda drank the glass to its end, and when she finished, felt certain tiredness. She told Mee “I want to get going, I want us to manage to get back today.”

“Your will shall be done, your majesty.” Said Mee with a smile, turned her face, and in no time all the things were back on Belshazzar’s back, Rhoda was sitting comfortably in the canopy, and Belshazzar was flying through the sky at a comfortable height to watch from.

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King Solomon and the demons


The beginning of chapter 16


When Rhoda woke up in the morning, there was a blazing fire, and on it pots that ejected the most enticing smells. During the night she woke up a few times with a feeling that there was something important that she had to ask. But with the sun and the morning hunger, she didn’t find anything more important than breakfast, and any remnants of thought were dumbfounded by the smell of food.

“I’ll jump into the water to wash myself and then I will eat. I don’t know what is it that you are making there, but it smells great!” Rhoda told Mee as she went out of the tent.

Mee turned her head towards Rhoda and nodded.

Rhoda went down to the crick. Today she could see the different kinds of trees and bushes that grew near the water, and there was enough light for her to feel safe enough to swim for some time in the little pool that formed there. She lay on her back in the water, letting the sun rays that filtered through the high branches, color her closed eyelids with sun specks. After floating this way for a few minutes, the question that disturbed her at night rose again. Why? She turned to her stomach and swam to the bank. She climbed quickly, and after drying herself, went back to the tent.

“Why did kind Solomon lock you in the ring?” she asked Mee even before getting near her.

Mee looked surprised. Maybe she hadn’t thought that Rhoda would ask such a question, so early in the morning. She finished laying the food on the table before answering “This is a very good question, your majesty. In our opinion it was done without any real reason, of course. After all, we didn’t do anything exceptional to him. But he was really furious when he came back!”

“What had you done to King Solomon?” Wondered Rhoda.

“King Solomon wanted to go and learn a little about people without being protected all the time because of his position, your majesty.” started Mee. “He decided to wear the costume of a simple wanderer, and take to the road. Of course a king can’t do such a thing without telling at least one of his men, otherwise there might be anarchy in the country until he will come back, so he told his plan to his trustee. His trustees’ job was to conceal the fact that King Solomon was missing for a few months. One of my people was at the time at a nearby place and heard the plan. He hurried to our king to tell him about this, of course, and our king took advantage of this knowledge and jumped at the opportunity. On the day King Solomon took to the road, our king disguised himself as King Solomon and took his place. When King Solomon’s trustee arrived in the morning and saw him in the king’s hall he was very surprised, of course, but our king explained to him that he had reconsidered his wish and decided it will be foolish and irresponsible to leave his country without its monarch, and that is why he stayed. King Solomon himself knew nothing of it, of course, and went on a long tour. His tour took longer than he planned. He planned to come back after a few months, but reoccurring unexpected delays kept him from coming back. He suspected, indeed, that his mishaps were done by our people, but he thought that it was done as a game and that’s why he didn’t worry. We knew that every one of us, who had the opportunity to jinx King Solomon’s plans to come back, should try and delay him on his way.”

“How long did it take until King Solomon managed to come back?” asked Rhoda. This story made her feel uncomfortable indeed.

“Twenty two years, your majesty.” answered Mee, with a shred of pride in her voice.

“Twenty two years?” Rhoda was horrified. “And not one of his family members noticed anything? None of his servants? None of his guards? How can that be?”

“When you are a king, your majesty,” answered Mee patiently “you are a very busy person. King Solomon had a large kingdom to take care of. He also had many wives and servants and other people who worked around him. Our king always explained to Solomon’s wives who asked him why doesn’t he come to them, that he is very busy with the kingdoms affairs. To the other people around him he told various excuses. Any one who showed any suspicion was sent by the king on a long mission in a far away country. That way our king managed to rule as King Solomon for twenty two years.”

“And how did King Solomon manage to come back?” asked Rhoda. She didn’t know how he succeeded in punishing them, but it seemed to her that there was real justice in his punishment. Mee’s saying, that it was trifle in the demons opinion, made her think that there is something very wrong with the demons’ priorities, and in their grasp of what deed is good and what deed is bad!

“King Solomon knew how to speak with animals and birds, your majesty. When he understood that all the mishaps that happened were not coincidental, he called the condor, which is the biggest bird there is. He made himself a carrier, sat in it, and told the condor to take him home. This was also overheard, of course, by a demon who heard King Solomon’s plans and he hurried and warned our king. Our king told the palace service people that he plans to go for a short tour. To his trustee he explained that he decided to take his disguised tour now and that he will come back in a few days. He knew he will not be able to go on with the deception, so he took off.” Mee stopped for a moment and took a deep breath. “When King Solomon came back, and his trustee told him about what happened in the last few days, He asked him about what happened in the years that passed. The trustee was surprised. He told King Solomon that if he wants it, the person in charge of the chronicles can be summoned. He asked him what was it that he wanted to be reminded of. King Solomon asked him – for how long does he think he was absent. You can imagine how the trustee felt when he said – a week – and the king told him – twenty two years!”

Rhoda nodded, feeling sick of the thought of how king Solomon must have felt, and how did his trustee feel when he understood he was so wrong and for such a long time.

Mee went on. “After King Solomon understood that all these years someone else sat in his chair, it didn’t take him long to know who it was that ruled in his place. He decided that it is forbidden to let us be free, and he made this ring. It has some kind of wisdom in it that we don’t know, and that is why we can’t remove his curse from us. You see, King Solomon was not only the wisest of all mankind; he was also wiser than all of the demons put together. He used a kind of wisdom that even now, after so many years, we haven’t managed to learn. And it’s not that we didn’t try.”

Mee finished her explanation and breathed deeply.

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