With the energy sphere in his hand, Aron ran into the room, Miss Monti at his heels. She felt something big was going down and absolutely wanted to be a part of it.
“I'm setting out this very day in search of my parents. Let's pack just the most necessary.”
Miss Monti was enthused. “That sounds like an adventure. I absolutely want to come along,” begged the cat. The prince sank into the big upholstered chair and took a good long look at her.
“You're a lady and used to a pampered life. There may be dangers ahead and unpleasant things might happen. Do you really want to go with me on this uncertain journey?” the prince asked the cat very seriously.
Miss Monti got to her feet and placed her paws akimbo. She was all cat of her master. “Now, listen to me. We've gotten so used to each other that I'm likely to die from fear for you. And you would be lonely without a friend in a strange land. It's agreed then. We are going on this journey together.”
“She never ceases to reveal new sides,” thought Aron who had always regarded her unjustly as a scaredy-cat. A smile appeared noticeably on his lips.
“I'm glad, my beautiful Persian,” he said and extended his arms. With a single leap, she landed on his lap and they hugged each other.
“Since we've clarified this, I'm still looking for a trusted companion. The journey is far. My horse doesn't know the way to the realm of darkness, and my boots, or better my feet, I'd rather not burden them with the long march. Whom do you recommend?”
The cat jumped onto the rocking horse, placed her head on her paws and ponderously rocked for the right idea to come.
“What do you think of a unicorn?” she asked. “It's said to have magic powers.”
“Very good idea,” rejoiced Aron. “But they are reputed to be very shy.”
“What do you have a wish official for? He'll catch such a unicorn for us.” Miss Monti sure knew a way.
“Very good. In addition, we need useful items, for example, a blanket, water and bread, a knife and, of course, a compass.”
“What for?” asked Miss Monti. “The force of your officials is with you.”
“It ends at the borders of Nubia. What lies beyond, I don't know. I've never been to another country. Therefore, we have to think through all important matters.” Just then, his gaze fell on the dancing girl on the heavy oak dresser. “I won't go without my ballerina. I can't forget my favorite toy.”
“I want you always with me,” the prince whispered in the dancer's ear. Again he felt the breeze of a silky-soft thought from a submerged memory which still eluded him. The heart on the bodice sparkled. To show her gratitude, she turned once to the sound of the harp, then the sun prince stashed her into the pocket of his breeches. Meanwhile, the cat went to get her red and black striped knapsack and ran back with lightening speed, landed with one leap on the toy chest and positioned herself with crossed legs and erect upper body in front of the prince.
“You look ready to roll,” the prince noted.
“Not quite,” the cat said quickly with determined mien. “Gold dust, which we all love, is packed away in an energy sphere. Did I get this right?” Monti ran her paw twice over her ear. She was very excited.
“Perfect. I couldn't have put it better myself.”
“Right, just more complicated,” nagged the cat. “There's something I love more than anything, something that you love too and, in common with us, all human beings, something that we hold dear and without which we cannot live. It is the jewel we all treasure, our life.”
Aron was all ears. “You really know how to stir my interest. Now, don't leave me twisting in the wind any longer,” the prince pleaded.
“It is the sun.”
“Of course, all human beings love the sun. And the smartest cat lives with me,” Aron rejoiced. “But what does the sun have to do with the energy spheres?”
The cat ran her paw over her ear again, then she licked the paw with her tongue. “Just think about it. We are traveling into the realm of eternal darkness. That's why it's important to always remember the sun, for me at least.”
“I understand that very well,” said the prince, who took his cat seriously. But then he started to make fun of her again. “And what do you think about most when you think of the sun? Perhaps lying in the warm grass and lolling around for hours?”
Miss Monti pouted her little snout. “You said that every creature has its own gold dust that is worth preserving. The sun is my gold dust, my treasure. I'd like to carry the light into the darkness,” insisted the cat.
“It's all right, it's all right,” the prince make nice again. A truly big wish for a little cat. “Really impressive the ideas she comes up with,” thought Aron and asked the wish official to make the cat's wish come true. A trifling matter for the official. Miss Monti held the little sphere with the orange-yellow gleaming sun ball in her paws. Taking special care, she placed the energy sphere in her knapsack with a prayer for an invincible sun in the battle against the darkness.
Prince Aron then called the officials together and announced he was going on a journey to rescue his parents. For the first time, his loyal retainers were speechless. Never had they seen so much courage and determination in their prince. Despite being sad, they applauded. The news spread like wildfire through the entire land. The inhabitants were proud of their prince who was about to venture out to save his family. The wish official fulfilled Aron's last wish and caught a silver unicorn for him whose mane was braided with the golden rays of the sun. It gleamed as bright as the moon in the sky. The cat and the prince both dropped their jaw in awe.
“The unicorn is much too precious for us to ride on its back,” whispered Miss Monti. The prince said nothing more. The silvery mythical creature intensified his excitement. He put the two amber saddle bags, bearing the blanket, water, bread, knife, and compass, on the unicorn and then said good-bye to the wish official, who had fulfilled his every wish. Now he was ready to venture out into the world to fulfill his dream of having a good family all by himself. Aron looked forward to what was to come with great anticipation. At the last moment, he remembered his flowers. “They will miss their conversation partner. I can't leave them in the dark,” he said by himself and ran for the last time into the castle garden. When the flowers saw the prince coming, they blushed, glad that he hadn't forgotten them.
“We heard it from the wind,” they called out from afar. “We'll wait for you and your parents, then you'll tell us about the daring rescue,” the flower elves peeked out from the chalices. “Until then we'll make sure that the flowers bloom and pray for your safe return.” Then they bounced around from one chalice to the next, light and tender, making the drops of the morning dew tremble.
“I won't forget you, my Madonnas,” the prince called out as he waved and ran away, for he was in a great hurry. He turned around one more time and the flower chalices swayed good-bye, making the sun prince feel all light at heart. But as soon as Prince Aron had disappeared, the lilies let their heads droop. The elves had their hands full cheering them up.
The unicorn and Miss Monti were awaiting the prince.
“Are you sure you didn't forget anything?” asked the cat. The prince felt his pockets, on the left the dancer, on the right the energy sphere with his parents. The golden crown, he had left behind in the palace. Nobody should recognize him. He wanted to be an ordinary boy in search of his parents. The crown would only weigh down on his thoughts. He wanted to feel light and be free.
Aron mounted the silver unicorn with the amber saddle bags. “Now all that's missing is you,” he told the cat. “Then we're all set.” In a single bound and as light as a feather, Miss Monti jumped straight into his arms.
“Off to the realm of darkness,” commanded the prince, stroking the unicorn's neck.
“I'll take you wherever you want to go. I know all the highways and byways of this world,” replied the unicorn as its welcome.
“I know,” said the prince. “You're something very special. That's why I chose you.”
The wind started to make his presence known. “I'm always too late,” he said irked. “As a general rule, he greets the flowers first, and now he's enthralled with this unicorn.” He couldn't rid himself of the feeling that he was condemned to always be second class.
“I know the route too,” the wind grumbled.
“Ah, the world traveler,” Aron said with good cheer. “Someone who steadily blows around the corner, surely must know every thoroughfare in the world. I can well imagine. But unfortunately we can't ride on your undulating back. That's why we're traveling with the unicorn. I would be honored though if you would accompany our small party.” With this the wind was pacified. The wind spirits whirled joyfully through the air until a little storm arose.
“Hold it,” pleaded the little prince who was pressing Miss Monti against his chest. “I know how much strength you can muster.”
“Forgive me, my air spirits got a bit out of control. I'll gladly accompany you. It's also an honor for me,” said the wind with a perfect bow.
The officials stood ready for the good-bye. They lifted their golden hats and bowed down deeply while calling out: “Long live Prince Aron!” The seven peacocks, too, presented themselves. The prince hadn't seen them for a long time. Since the king's and queen's disappearance, their attention had been exclusively focused on their work in the library. The peacocks looked pale and weary as they said good-bye. However, the prince didn't fail to notice the gleam in their eyes. From the palace towers blasted the trumpets. The air spirits would have liked nothing better than to crawl around inside the instruments to create a mighty noise, but the wind gathered his windy ones around him. Finally, he had been invited to accompany the prince on his adventurous journey and none of the spirits should be missing. Miss Monti quickly mumbled a prayer for a safe journey and off they went.
The unicorn set its wings in motion. The sun made the prince's gem amulet sparkle and accompanied, together with the wind, the prince along his route. A pomegranate orchard enticed Aron to pick a fruit which he hid in his treasure chamber, his pants pockets. One never knew if it didn't come in handy some day. Miss Monti was in an upbeat mood. “Such a journey is something else for a change, better than living in the palace,” she babbled.
“That's what I say,” the wind drew the attention to himself. “Everything is in motion. Everything is new and exciting. The lilies would never understand this,” sighed the wind. “Not even once have I seen the lilies taking off. With angelic impatience, they remain always in the same spot. How boring! I wouldn't be able to bear such a life.”
“Don't worry about it,” the prince calmed the wind. “Some move their legs, and others the mind. The most memorable wanderings are a gift from our fantasy. Inside. The wide world in the head, that is movement without budging. That's the lilies' principle of life. They live an interior life and they are unable to go beyond themselves. That's why I don't try to make them into something that they're not. They're flowers. It's their lot to remain in the place where the gardener has planted them. They don't miss out on anything.”
“Well, I don't know,” the wind interrupted the prince. “I would at least have tried it once. All the flowers have to do is pull their feet out of the ground, knock off the dirt, and start walking. Then they'll see something else for a change.”
Miss Monti laughed. “Some ideas you have!” The cat shook her head. “Then, according to your thinking, trees (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6) (7) (8) (9) and flowers could amble about to see the world? You can't be serious, or?”
The prince exchanged a derisive look with Miss Monti.
“Why not? A fresh breeze about the nose of the rooted of this world would do them good for a change (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6) (7). Don't you ever have this urge? Wouldn't you at times like to change your entire life from one minute to the next?” The air spirits flew through his fluttering coat and puffed it up considerably.
“Imagine the flowers greeting each other like completely normal people,” the wind embellished his ideas further. “'How are you, Miss Mirth', the graceful jasmine might ask. ‘Thank you, very well. I'm expected for an audience with the powerful emperor's crown.” The air spirits jumped with joy. They had the prince all to themselves at last and didn't have to share him with scent-stems. Prince Aron looked into the shining eyes of the wind and smiled.
“Look, there ahead. A cat. If she isn't planted in the ground.” Again the prince and Miss Monti exchanged a derisive look.
The wind opened his curious eyes wide. All he saw was a mangy cat, locked up in a cage near a farm house. Somewhat uncertain, he said: “Cats cannot be planted. They love their freedom much too much. Just as I do.”
“That's what I mean. Flowers don't want to travel. They would wilt from homesickness.”
“Oh, it's no use,” the airy one gave in, noticing that he was getting the short end of the stick. “It's not that I want to uproot trees. It seems to me that all things have their proper place. I don't mean to mix things up,” said the wind with a grin. He no longer wanted to show the flowers the world. So he had all the time in the world to storm after the prince. And who knows what else he will get to hear and see.
Just then, the blue bells changed the meadows into a sea of blue. Aron seemed all enchanted by the blue that gleamed like his princely cloak. Only Monti didn't have an eye for this sort of beauty. “See there, a velvety gold bird,” she whispered and asked Aron to carefully put her down. When she felt the ground under her feet, the cat drew in her tail and stealthily went on the prowl. She was just about to quickly jump up, light as a feather, to fetch the bird from the tree branch when the wind once again felt his oats: “Birds (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6) (7) (8) (9) (10) (11) (12) (13) that live in arbors are pure show-offs,” he said and chased away the bird with his noisy windpipe, leaving the cat empty-handed. “Their favorite pastime is beautifying the arbors to impress the females. Sounds like the swaggering of a Nubian, doesn't it? Sometimes they even hoard treasures to draw attention to themselves.”
“But you aren't a braggart, right? Couldn't you play the smart aleck some other time? I wasn't interested in the living habits of this woodpecker. I just wanted to devour him,” Monti gave the wind a dirty look from her ample eyes.
“At any rate, his fabulous plumes did impress you. So he's a show-off after all,” puffed the wind.
“A bird has colorful feathers to attract other birds,” said Aron.
“Too bad, I really liked the gold neck. Your loud chatter warned him. Now the roast has flown the coop.” Monti sulked over having to forego such a delicacy. “Babbler,” she snorted at the wind.
While the prince was preoccupied with his own thoughts, the cat was mad as hell. Just then the colors of the meadows began to change. The unicorn led them now over a bright yellow dandelion carpet. As far as the eye could see the sun was unrolling a golden fleece (1) (2) (3) (4) before the prince and his companions. But there was something else even more splendid and whose excess was to impress him far more than anything he had seen until now.
“My crimson,” he mumbled stunned. But it wasn't the dream coat of Phantasos which he had at times imagined to be wearing. No. It was a fiery red poppy field. The wind opened his curious eyes wide and forgot that he had supposedly seen everything. At least that's what he claimed sometimes. A long “oooh” made the poppy field sway like a red sea.
“A good place for a rest,” suggested Monti who had discovered a little brook (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6) (7) (8) (9) at the edge of the poppy field. Her anger over the failed bird hunt quickly dissolved at the sight of the cool water. The unicorn needed no prodding. It drank immediately from the cool water and the cat followed suit.
“That was wonderfully refreshing.” Monti dabbed her little nose, sat down next to the unicorn, and began cleaning herself.