Faith & Inspiration
By Charles Towne
Many years ago, and very far away, two slaves were given a challenge by their king.
Now, you should know that this was not just your ordinary, run of the mill challenge. Oh no. Not one of those mediocre, “Go out and slay a fire breathing dragon and save a fair damsel” sort of challenges. No sir’ree Bob. They were summoned before the king and ordered to walk a thousand miles!
“Walk a thousand miles!” You say. “Why, I would rather fight a fire breathing dragon and save a fair damsel any day than walk a thousand miles!”
But that is what they were ordered to do, and when the king tells you to do something, you do what he says, after all, he is the king.
The king decreed that each of them could select his own route and destination. And they could go anyplace they desired, as long as they walked the required thousand miles and returned within one year.
The first slave, we will call him Clyde, had been born and raised in the royal city and he feared the task, for ‘the great beyond’ frightened him. After all, there were unknown dangers out there. But he also knew and feared his king, for he knew that the law provided quick punishment for those that displeased his highness, so he dared not refuse the challenge.
Clyde also feared that if he set as his destination a far city, he might not be able to return within the allotted time, if at all, and thus the king’s great wrath would fall upon his head.
It seems that fear was a very real thing in Clyde’s life.
Have you noticed that when fear is allowed to rule one’s life, that fear grows and takes on the semblance of a fire-breathing dragon, whereas, if it was attacked in its egg form, it would make a nice omelet?
And so, being somewhat a clever slave, on the appointed day, Clyde began to walk around the city, never out of sight of the castle, never out of sight of the royal city, but, as the king had ordered, he was determined to walk the thousand miles.
Let us leave clever Clyde for a while and check in on the second slave.
John, the second slave, was also raised within the walls of the royal city. He, too, understood that the king was a hard man and not one to be trifled with. But on the appointed day, John overcame his fear of the unknown and determined to set forth and see far places.
Exactly one year later, to the day, Clyde walked back into his king’s presence.
Clyde was in excellent condition. Due to being so close to home, he had slept in his own bed every night, and not only that, but he had eaten his mother’s cooking. And his mother, boy could she cook! Yes, Clyde had walked the thousand miles without ever leaving sight of the city walls and, being clever, he had lived an easy life, so easy in fact, that he was somewhat more corpulent than when he had set out a year earlier.
The second slave, John, on the other hand was a completely different story.
He came stumbling into the king’s presence at the end of that long year, a mere shadow of his former self. His clothing hung from his emaciated form and his body bore the scars of battle, some so fresh they had hardly had a chance to heal.
The king sat upon his throne and gazed down with scowling countenance upon his two slaves.
The minutes passed slowly and the tension mounted as Clyde and John stood there, waiting for their king to speak.
Clyde, as we have already noted, was a clever fellow and being clever he had dressed in his finest; after all, he was going to be standing in the presence of the king. He looked upon his brother slave with disdain. How dare the fool come before the king in such a shabby condition.
More minutes passed before the king finally spoke, and when he did, it was to the cautious slave, Clyde, the slave who had deemed it wise to stay within sight of the royal city.
“Tell me slave, tell me of the wondrous sights that you have seen, tell me of your adventures.”
Clyde began to speak but soon faltered, his resolution fading. This was not at all what he expected.
How could he tell his king of his ease, of those endless, monotonous trips around the city walls? How could he tell his king of sleeping in his own bed, of eating his mother’s delicious food each and every day?
This was surely not what the king wanted to hear.
Thinking quickly, he spoke in a timid voice, “Oh mighty and august king, my journey has truly been long, a thousand miles I have walked as you commanded.”
The king smiled at these words and, noting the smile, Clyde was encouraged.
With a bit more enthusiasm Clyde continued. “Yes, my king, I walked one thousand miles for you. But my journey took me not to far away places. For the last year, I have been studying the royal city and the surrounding countryside, and I now know it better than any other man!”
Hey, didn’t I tell you that Clyde was a clever fellow?
The king sat for a few moments in silence. Though stern, he was wise and well informed, and he knew the ease in which his slave had spent the previous year.
At last he spoke. “And so, you have done this for me? And you say that you know the land around the city better than any man?” the king said, repeating his slave’s words. “What reward should I give you? Great wealth? Ahhh no, surely a clever fellow such as yourself would disdain such a gift!”
The king sat there pondering the great gift he would bestow upon Clyde.
“Oh, I know just the thing, a reward fitting your enterprising nature. I am going to give you subjects, two thousand subjects that you can oversee and care for!”
So saying, the king summoned a scribe and the king whispered into the scribe’s ear, and the scribe wrote down everything that he was told, and it became law. For such are the words of the king.
When the scribe finished writing, the king sealed the scroll with his personal seal and he handed the scroll to Clyde, the clever slave. Wow, he could barely contain himself, he was so excited!
The king then told Clyde to present himself to a certain dignitary of the court, at which time, he would be informed of his monarch’s decision and receive his reward.
And thus, was Clyde ushered from the presence of his king.
All this time, John, the ragged, dirty, unkempt slave just stood there dripping mud and blood on the king’s royal carpet. From his appearance and sorry condition, he obviously had encountered that fire-breathing dragon and had come off second best.
“Well, what do you have to say for yourself, slave? To come before your king in such beggarly condition.” This the king said in a very firm voice.
As already stated, the king was well informed. He had been told of just some of his slave’s thousand mile saga, but not all, not by a long shot.
Clapping his hands, the king summoned several of his personal servants. At this, John was sure that he was about to be put to death, and was somewhat surprised when he heard the king order the servants to bathe him, dress his wounds, and dress him in princely garments.
As John was led from the king’s presence, he was also handed a scroll. But this scroll was different than the scroll that Clyde had received for it was not sealed, which meant that he could read it.
One of the things that John had learned during his year-long journey was patience. No longer was he the captive of immediate gratification. Thus it was, that as he was being ministered to, he laid the scroll aside.
Later, feeling better than he had in many days, he read the scroll.
It read as follows:
Regarding my faithful servant John, when he is well rested, we would consider it an honor to entertain him as a royal guest. We have a desire to learn of our servant’s adventures that he experienced while journeying to the far and distant lands. Signed, REX REX
And, beneath the king’s signature, was his great seal pressed into the wax with the king’s own ring.
As John read the scroll, he was somewhat taken aback. “At my own convenience! Well now, that was not at all like the king. After all, nobody kept the king waiting.”
Unsure just what to expect, he requested an audience with the king, and was again surprised when he was told that he would not have to wait. In fact, the king was awaiting his appearance at that very moment.
Unaccustomed to such royal treatment, John was half expecting the other shoe to fall, and fall hard.
Well, whatever happened he would somehow survive. Had he not escaped from the slavers, several times he fought his way clear of robber bands, and once he had been conscripted into an army of raiders, only being allowed to leave when he challenged their champion to a duel, and wounding the man severely in the ensuing fight. As their custom was, those warriors invariably killed the vanquished, and the winner became the new leader. But John instead, not caring to lead an army of bloodthirsty mercenaries, stood over the wounded man, guarded him, protected him from his own men, until he had fully recovered. And that warrior chieftain repaid John with his freedom, parting as brothers. The warrior went on to fight other battles, while John returned to his king, to whom he owed his allegiance.
Yes, John had worked his way out of more than one tight spot and, if need be, he could do it again.
Death didn’t bother John, for it is given unto all men to die once. What was important to John was not how he died, but how he lived.
Well, whatever was to befall him, it was best to not keep the king waiting.
This time, John appeared before the king a different man. Well-rested, confident, and prepared to meet his destiny, whatever it might be.
Upon entering his king’s presence, John was surprised when the king strode up to him and stood before him.
“Come,” said the king, “sit at my side and tell me of your adventures!”
And thus it began.
John told the king of deprivation, hunger, and great danger. He spoke of being captured by the slavers, and of his escape. He told the king of how he had become a warrior, a student and a merchant. And he shared with the king unknown trade routes.
After several days had passed in this manner, the king handed John, the slave, another scroll, but this scroll was sealed. John was ordered to present the sealed scroll to the king’s counselors immediately.
When the scroll was opened, John the slave was informed that he was a slave no longer, he had been granted his freedom by his king.
He was also granted, by royal decree, the position of the king’s emissary, with all the accompanying rights and honors. He was also given the king’s own ring to wear as a symbol of his authority, and he was to always have immediate access to his friend, the king.
One of John’s duties was to travel to faraway places and open up new trade routes for his king. For this, he was given a his own contingent of the king’s own soldiers to ease his way… but these he declined for, he said, they would make him soft and ineffective.
On his first journey from the royal city, he was surprised to meet that other slave outside the city walls. And he was all the more surprised to note that this man was still yet a slave.
“But,” you might wonder, “I thought this slave had been given subjects to rule over, two thousand subjects was what the king had said.”
And yes, you are right, he was given two thousand subjects — two thousand swine! Yes, he was the lowliest type of slave, tending his frustrating charges within the shadow of the city walls, the land that he knew better than any other man.
But John, now, he was a different matter altogether! He went forth to new adventures, opened up new trade routes, contributed much wealth to the royal treasury, and he was the king’s friend.
Thus our story begins.
Yes, you heard me correctly. This is where our story begins… because now you must start your journey, your journey from slavery to freedom. But your journey is not to be of a thousand miles, oh no! It is a journey of a lifetime.
Go! Live! For tomorrow you will have to stand before your king. What task will you be given? That of herding swine, or adventuring for your king?
Charles Towne is first and foremost a Christian. An octogenarian, author, journalist, wildlife photographer, naturalist, caregiver, and survivor, his life has been and continues to be, a never-ending adventure filled with possibilities never imagined. He has adopted the philosophy that to Live fully, laugh uproariously, love passionately, and learn like there is no tomorrow, is a formula for a long and joy-filled life.