Upon the long and crooked road that journeys from one end of the kingdom to the other, there walked a prince. He was tall and handsome in his fine clothes and flush with the wonder of youth. His eyes were large, blue and piercing, and somewhat gentle if not a little sad, as if they hungered for beauty, but there was no soft setting in that cruel landscape that could inspire his heart to joy; no swaying woodland rhythm or sweet fruit to taste. And on seeing the holy man beneath the boughs of eternal knowledge, the prince gave a sigh and spoke:
'The garden trembles... it unwraps and folds all into its cheerless Eden, where I am thus carried'. And the prince rested beneath the lush blossom of the tree.
'The road is full of many things', said the holy man, 'things that jump and crawl and sing... tell me: which are you?' and the holy man, without so much as openong his eyes, plucked upon his bones through a hole in his side.
'I am a prince by birth sir and a poet by heart' answered the young prince.
'Beauty's song is rare here in this foul stomach. Do you not see the stream of sorrow flow into the river of despair and joineth the sea of woe?'
'I see, yet I do not see, for there is words in sadness sir' said the prince, gazing upon a small worm that he had plucked from the soil and placed in his snow-white handsighed upon, and returned safely to the ground again. And the prince came closer to the holy man and knelt before him, looking into his ancient face of wisdom, deeply lined.
'Tell me', asked the prince, 'what is your name and why do you sit beside the road beneath this beautiful tree? Dost thou keep the gate's vigil for his majesty?'
'I am called Sudanenka by the many and I am of no name to the few. I sit beside the road for it passes where I sit. The tree, with its cruel roots that wrinkle my bed, also shelters me, and thus the tree hath long been at my side', replied the holy man.
'Then thou art truly an immortal star sir', said the prince with a grand sweeping gesture of his arm and a splendid bow, his nose almost meeting the ground.
The little worm on seeing this, naturally assumed the bow was directed towards him, and so he gave a little bow in return, as if to casually say 'how do you do?' But it went unnoticed. And Sudanenka remained silent.
The light streamed across Sudanenka's stern face of concentration, and the prince fixed his gaze upon a single bead of sweat contemplating the leap between nose and chin, and thence to neck.
'Does not the palace and its loathsome filth disturb thy trance?' enquired the prince.
'I see all', said Sudanenka, 'for I hath seen with my own ears, and heard with my own eyes, and I hath seen and heard eternity'.
'And what is eternity?' questioned the young prince, feigning a puzzled look.
'More than now', replied Sudanenka in his soft voice, opening his eyes and looking upon the prince for the first time. And the prince talked of many things. He recounted his journey through the City of the Shades of What Were, in his search for the City of the Shades of What Are, which he knows to be somewhere before the City of the Shades of What Will Be. And the prince learnt much from the holy man; of his many thousands of years in the shadow of the palace of the abyss, for a thousand years is but a sigh here, and many more thousands of years passed as they talked. After a very long pause, the prince asked:
'Which came first: man or tree?' And Sudanenka was a long time in answering, until eventually he lifted up his hand and spoke:
'The tree of Sanctuary is also the tree of Restriction, and this is the egg of Reason, and this ye must know, for the hardness of the shell is the softness of the yolk. The tree is the perfection of thought and beauty, for by its roots does it take nourishment from the soil: this it concealeth! And the fruit that springs forth is an act of love: this it revealeth! Each bud is an extension of its will and the infinite beauty thereof. This robe upon me is but the circumfrence of a star that shineth as a sun unto the universe. Let the foolish reflect upon its outward shape and appearance, for to the fool, all things are one, and this is their comedy, for it is light in darkness. And let the wise reflect upon its inner light, for to the wise, all things are many, and this is their tragedy, for it is darkness in light'.
And the prince was fallen upon the ground, struck by what had been said. And he remained so for several thousands of years, until he woke from his deep sleep and said:
'I cannot tell what mystery hath been revealed, even though I have thought hard and long upon the question'.
'I asked no question', said Sudanenka.
'But one was inferred', returned the prince.
Sudanenka was silent and several centuries passed before he spoke, during which time neither moved so much as a hair in that astronomical pause.
In the intermission, two figures approached upon the road, so deep in conversation that they failed to notice Sudanenka and the prince beneath the tree. They were on their way to the palace:
'A door has shut in the house of moons', said the first gentleman.
'Methinks thou art a jester sir: hast thou swallowed the pill of madness?' said the other.
'Aye, if love be a kind of madness?'
'Thou hast been here before sir?'
'Aye, in merrier days, perhaps'. And they were gone.
'It is comforting to know', said Sudanenka, 'that foolishness springs in the eternal'. And the prince replied, without hesitation, 'my sentiments entirely sir', forgetting what the question was and not wanting to appear dim-witted. And so having exhausted all forms of conversation, the prince's thoughts turned to his stomach.
'I find words give me an appetite sir', and the prince stretched out his arm to pick an apple from the tree.
'You must not rob the tree of its fruit; their journey hath only begun!' cried Sudanenka.
'But I am hungry and what harm is there?'
'It is not the will of the tree for the apple to be taken; it is the will of the tree for the apple to fall'.
'But many apples have fallen, and all go untouched and come to rot. Do you yourself not eat of them?' said a bemused prince.
'Only those which fall within my reach do I eat. It is of no consequence, their burden is over, for the body is a palace of Light, and all that passeth that way is of the Light and sacred unto the Light; and so shall it extend outwards from the heart of every man, woman and child. And in silence there is mystery, for it is the inactive form of speech'. And Sudanenka began to draw upon the earth about him, with a fallen twig.