Diamonds Like Teardrops Fall

by Michele Elaine Wilson 1997

Sean had finished the preparations for the evening's business. All the glasses were shining, the bar was stocked, and the floor and tables were clean. He came over to the doorway and watched the children playing in the yard. In spite of his massive size, none of the children were afraid of him and they rushed over when they saw him standing there.

"A story! A story! Oh please, Sean, tell us a story." The children clamored around him begging him for one of his stories.

"Well, why not," Sean said. "Ye have all been playing so nicely that I think ye have earned yourselves a story." He led the way over to the old oak tree and sat down leaning against the trunk while the children ranged themselves in a semicircle around him. With a smile for the children he began.

"Now this be a story about recognizing the worth of what ye got and not always looking elsewhere to accumulate more."

 

The story starts in the land called Altamira. Now Altamira were different from the other lands that surrounded it, for one thing it didn't have a king. They had a council made up of all the adults in the land and decisions were made in a democratic fashion. Every adult citizen had a voice. Of course, being a small land, they could do this. The people all worked at their various jobs and everyone had access to what they needed to live a decent life. The farmers provided the food, the hunters provided fresh meat, the tailors provided the clothes, etc. Everyone worked at the job they were best at and everyone shared the fruits of everyone else's labor. It were a good system and worked very well. The Altamirans, as they called themselves, were a hard working but happy people.

One day, when some of the people were clearing a new field in preparation for farming the land, one of the digger's shovel hit something very hard. Figuring it was another large rock he cleared the space and pulled out a large dirt encrusted sphere. It didn't look like a normal rock and it aroused his curiosity. Taking it over to a stream he washed off the dirt and discovered one of the largest diamonds he had ever seen. The diamond had been expertly cut into a large multi-faceted sphere. At his exclamation, the other men came running over to look at the gem and they all started talking at once.

What no one knew, was that this jewel had been around for thousands of years and had a history of blood trailing it from people who wanted it and were willing to kill to posses it. If ever a jewel were cursed it were this one.

Gerard, the man who found the gem, was arguing that the stone was his because he found it. Humphrey, the foreman in charge of clearing the field, argued that the gem belonged to everyone since the land was part of Altamira and the gem was found there. He had learned his lessons well at the feet of his Mum, Granny Halston. Harold argued that the gem belonged to the Farmer's Guild since the stone was found on farmland and, therefore, became their property. Finally after much arguing they all agreed, some rather grudgingly, to take the gem to the town hall and discuss it at the next town meeting.

Gerard, for one, was not happy with the idea. He had fallen under the spell of the jewel and wanted it for his own. During the night he snuck up on the guard who was assigned to protect the jewel and killed him. Grabbing the jewel he fled only to be caught and killed by another guard. In the week that followed, seven people died trying to take the stone. Among the dead was Harold from the Farmer's Guild.

The evening of the town meeting found the hall packed with people. The week had seen more tempers being lost as the people argued among themselves about whom the gem really belong to and what should be done with it. The tension in the Hall was great and there was mutterings from the little groups that the Altamirans had gathered into. Finally Granny Halston called the meeting to order. As the oldest person living, she inherited the duty of running the town meetings.

"Now it seems to me that there has been a lot of arguing about this here stone. We have had serious bloodshed and loss of life for the first time in our history. But I ask you what good is this jewel? We can't eat it. We can't wear it. We can't live in it. It is pretty to look at but that's all. Some have suggested selling it but why? We have everything we need. Why shouldn't we just get rid of the blasted thing." Granny Halston were a very practical woman.

She listened to the various arguments from the different factions with increasing impatience. The noise from the groups was really getting out of hand and she wished that they would all just shut up, but she was a fair woman and allowed everyone to have their say, no matter how stupid she personally thought they were being.

Meanwhile on a hill overlooking the town hall, a troop of trolls were crouching. This was one of the greediest groups of trolls that had ever been born, and believe me trolls are very greedy creatures. Somehow they had heard about the diamond that the Altamirans had found and they were determined to make that diamond their own. After watching for an hour they decided that the guards were not paying any attention to their guard duties but were busy trying to hear what was going on inside the meeting hall. Quietly the trolls crept down from their hiding spot and took the guards by surprise. Quickly over coming the guards they burst into the hall and grabbed whoever was closest to the door and held weapons to their throats.

"We want the jewel!" the leader of the trolls demanded. "Hand it over or these people die."

There was a hush inside of the room as the Altamirans stared in horror at the trolls and the frightened faces of their victims.

Granny Halston calmly looked up at the trolls. "All right the jewel is yours." She went over to where the jewel was and picked it up. "I will walk with you to the edge of town. There you will let the hostages go and I will hand over the jewel." The tiny little old lady walked right past the astonished trolls and went outside and headed towards the edge of town with the trolls following her with their hostages.

At the edge of town, the trolls let their hostages go as Granny turned over the jewel to them. The Altamirans watched until the trolls were out of sight. Back at the hall some of the men were urging that an army be formed to go after the trolls and recover the jewel that had been taken from them.

Granny came in and with a stern look silenced them. "All right that is that. The jewel has been nothing but a problem since it was found. It has caused loss of life, dissension among friends and has upset our whole way of life. Frankly the blasted thing isn't worth it. We will NOT be going after it. The trolls can have it and may it bring them as much grief as it has caused us."

No one dared to argue with her. And so the Altamirans leave this story a sadder but wiser people.

 

Now many years later, in a distant land, there lived an old king by the name of King Lars. Now he was a good king and was fair and just and his people loved him very much. He had one child, a son named Siegfried. His beloved Queen Althea died when the lad was five years old and the King never remarried.

The kindly old King doted on his only child and spoiled him shamelessly. The Prince had the best of tutors to train both his mind and his body and he grew up to be a strong and healthy lad. Prince Siegfried was a good lad but he was more interested in swords and fighting and all that heroic stuff then in the day to day business of running a kingdom. As he grew older, he became more and more interested in heroic quests. If someone needed rescuing, then he was your man, but if your neighbor's cow got in your fields and you wanted to know who was at fault for the fence being broken, well that just bored him to tears.

As time passed the King kept hoping that his son would take more interest in the business of the kingdom but the boy never lost his lust for adventure and quests. If there was a treasure to be found or monster to be slain, Siegfried was right in the thick of things. His reputation for bravery grew and soon the neighboring kingdoms were calling for his help whenever they had a dangerous problem to be solved. Prince Siegfried gathered around him a band of followers that shared in the wealth and glory.

King Lars continued to rule his kingdom and handle all the problems by himself as his son was absent more and more on his quests. He hoped that when it came his son's turn to rule, that Siegfried would finally come to realize that there was more to being a king than quests and glory. In the meantime, the King felt that the best thing he could do for his subjects would be to gather around him the best advisors he could find and to make sure that his kingdom was always in good shape. Under King Lars's leadership the kingdom continued to flourish and prosper and his subjects were content. Peace reigned in the land.

Now it happened that on one of his quests, Prince Siegfried saved a distant kingdom from a particularly nasty invasion of Orcs. The King of that far off land was so grateful that he gave Prince Siegfried his youngest daughter's hand in marriage. So it came to pass that Princess Jade came to live in the castle, far from her home, with her new husband and his father.

Princess Jade was a tiny, exotic looking beauty. In a land full of tall, blue eyed blondes, her jet black hair and almond shaped brown eyes stood out and marked her as foreign to those parts. With her finely sculptured face and milk white complexion, she looked very delicate and fragile. Her voice was soft and musical and although her command of her husband's language was excellent, the musical tones of her voice gave her speech an exotic flavor that fascinated her husband's subjects.

King Lars had high hopes that with a bride at his side, his son would soon settle down and take a serious interest in the running of his kingdom. But alas that was not to be. Prince Siegfried continued to go out on his quests and attaching even more fame and fortune to his name.

King Lars soon found that even if his son was not enthusiastic about the day to day running of his kingdom, his new bride was. Princess Jade had always taken her responsibilities at home very seriously and she was determined to do the same in her new home. She traveled around the kingdom meeting the subjects and soon the people were very much in love with her. Princess Jade had studied the healing arts of her people and was able to introduce the use of herbs and natural healing to her new home. Her efforts helped to save the lives of many people and the Healers of the land flocked to her to study the ways of her people.

Prince Siegfried seemed to be the only person who was not enthusiastic about his wife. He loved her but he loved adventure more. He did stay home long enough to get her with child and then he was off again on another adventure. He was gone when his son and heir, Prince Tristan, was born.

King Lars was thrilled at the birth of his first grandchild and his advisors and subjects gladly put up with his constant flow of stories about the lad. They figured it was a small price to pay, listening to the proud ramblings of a grandfather, in order to see the old man so happy. Prince Tristan showed every sign of being quite different from his father. He was a quiet child but very alert. In looks he favored his dark haired mother and in temperament he was as placid as she was and showed the same intelligence. He had the coordination of his father although he didn't have the interest in weapons that his father did. He adored his father though and would follow him around whenever Prince Siegfried happened to spend a little time at home.

When Prince Tristan was three years old, his mother started bringing him to the weekly sessions that his grandfather held for his subjects to bring their concerns and problems to him. Everyone was amazed at how well behaved the young prince was. Sometimes the child would ask questions that were very amusing but sometimes he would ask questions that showed a remarkable intelligence and maturity in one so young.

Princess Jade had been attending the sessions ever since she came to the palace and King Lars was constantly amazed at her insights into the problems. She often proposed solutions that he had never thought of and he came to value her opinions, as did his subjects. King Lars was thrilled to realize that his grandson showed the same insights into human nature that his mother did.

When Prince Tristan was five years old his mother became pregnant with her second child. She knew that this one would be a daughter and she and the King were very happy. Her husband was indifferent to the thought of a girl child and was heard to say that the next one would have to be another son. He was dismayed at how sensitive his oldest son was and was hoping to have another son that was more like himself. Princess Jade tried hard to hide the hurt she felt at her husband's insensitivity but King Lars could sense her pain. It led to an angry argument with his son, who stormed off the following day in an ill humor. He had heard about a rare treasure and decided that the trolls who currently possessed it would just have to turn it over to him instead. It was the diamond that had been taken from the Altamirans.

The Prince and his band of followers traveled to the mountains where the trolls made their home. The band camped at the edge of a forest and carefully explored the surrounding hills for a way into the trolls underground lair. There appeared to be a back entrance that was not as well guarded and they decided to wait until dark and try to sneak in that way.

It were not a very good plan. If they had paid more attention to their studies they would have realized that trolls are nocturnal and the best way to catch them off guard is to attack during daylight hours. Needless to say their plan backfired.

The Prince and his companions snuck around the hill to the back entrance. The way looked clear. Figuring the trolls were asleep, they crept down the corridor towards a dimly lit room. Sneaking a peek, Siegfried saw the glow where the Jewel of Altamira was lying on an altar. No one was in sight. For a few minutes he could not tear his stare away from the jewel's glow. Finally he turned to his men and spoke, "I can see the gem and I will take the lead. There is no one in sight. You follow closely behind me and keep your eyes open. This should be a piece of cake."

Prince Siegfried crept forward towards the altar and his men followed behind him. They got half way into the room when suddenly the trolls leapt forward with loud whoops. Since they looked so much like stones, they had stood against the wall without moving a muscle and became "invisible." The trolls were use to the dim light and fought furiously to save their precious jewel from these thieves. During the fighting Prince Siegfried got separated from his companions.

The fight was a furious one and several of the Prince's men were injured. Fortunately for them the trolls were more interested in staying near their jewel and when the Prince's companions turned to flee they did not follow.

When the companions regrouped at the edge of the forest they realized that their leader was missing. There followed a heated discussion on whether they should try to go back or not. Finally the Prince's companions felt that it was too dangerous to try and save him and they fled to their homes and all of the treasure that they had earned by following the Prince. They had amassed a huge fortune for themselves during the years that they had been with the Prince and figured they had enough to last them to the end of their days. Besides, they figured the Prince was probably dead any way. They were wrong.

 

Back at the castle of King Lars, many weeks went by and no one heard from the Prince. Princess Jade was often seen brushing away tears and it saddened everyone to see her so upset.

One day there came to the castle a wanderer who was well known to the old King. It had been many years since the man had come that way and King Lars rejoiced at seeing him again. He proudly introduced his daughter-in-law and grandson. The man were a Bard and in the evenings he entertained the court with stories and songs from many different lands. Little Prince Tristan listened to the man's stories with huge eyes and begged him for more every time he paused.

During the day the man often walked and talked with King Lars or Princess Jade. He had some small healing skills himself and he and the Princess discussed the various herbs and their healing properties. The man were honorable and made sure that he was never alone with the Princess for he wanted no one to think ill of her or to have her reputation questioned in any way.

After the man had been there for a couple of weeks word finally came around that Prince Siegfried had been captured by the trolls he was trying to rob. This caused great dismay in the court. An unwary traveler happened to stumble into some trolls and quickly abandoning his luggage he raced away. He heard the trolls laughing and joking about their royal prisoner as he ran and came to court to let the King know what he had heard.

 

King Lars sat in his throne room surrounded by his advisors. A pale Princess Jade sat by his side. "We might be able to find these trolls but I don't know if our army can fight that type of battle," the king said. "They reportedly live in a vast cave system and we have never done battle that way. The few wars we have had to fight in our history have always been above ground and on flat terrain. How are we going to rescue my son?"

The advisors had thought of maybe ransoming the Prince but information they received from those who had dealt with these trolls before had indicated that this group of trolls never ransomed anybody. Humans rarely had anything that they wanted, and if they did, they just took it from them.

The man listened to the discussions and finally realized that these people really had no way of rescuing Prince Siegfried. He knew that the only hope of getting the Prince back was if someone with experience in dealing with trolls went in and did the rescuing. Unfortunately for him, he was the only one who had ever dealt with trolls.

"Your majesty, I'll go in and get him," the man said.

King Lars looked up at the man in amazement. "But you don't have an army. I could lend you mine I suppose. Make you a General or something. I'm sure the men would follow you."

"No Sire, I'll go by meself," the man replied. "They would be expecting an army. One man they won't expect. After all a man would have to be crazy to go into their lair by himself."

The King looked at him carefully. "Crazy like a fox eh? You might just get away with it but if anything were to happen to you I would never forgive myself. What would I say to your father?"

The man laughed. "Well ye can always say to him that ye had just as much control over me actions as he does. Don't worry about me. I can take care of meself and, if at all possible, I'll get your boy back for ye."

The King ordered that the man be given any provisions that he needed. It was decided that he would start out early the next morning.

The man stood leaning against the wall high up on the castle looking over the land in the bright moonlight. He needed little in the way of provisions, just a little food. He had his own sword and refused offers of armor or a horse. They would only weigh him down. As he stood there he heard a footstep behind him. He could tell that it was Princess Jade. He turned to her and said, "Don't ye fret Princess, I'll do my best to bring him home safely to ye."

Princess Jade came around and stood next to the man looking out over what was now her home. "There is more to you then anyone realizes isn't there?"

"I'm not sure what ye mean, my lady," the man replied.

"In my home there are legends of men that have magical powers, including the power to turn themselves into animals," the Princess said.

"Are these men feared?" he asked.

"Some are," she replied.

"And what makes ye think that I might be one of those type of men?" he asked.

"I can see the aura of magic about you. You glow with the light of many animals," she said.

"I see. Are ye afraid of me?" he asked softly.

Princess Jade turned and looked at the man. He was tall and muscular and the moonlight on his hair made it glow like fire. "I should be but I'm not. I do not sense any evil in you."

"It is said that all men have the capacity for both good and evil and to know good ye must know evil," the man said.

"Isn't there a difference between knowing evil and doing evil?" the Princess asked.

The man turned and looked at her. She barely came up to mid-chest on him. "I would hope so. How is it that this Prince of yours went off looking for treasure and didn't realize that the greatest treasure lay within these castle walls?"

"I guess he was bored with what was in the Treasury and wanted more," she replied.

The man said nothing.

 

At dawn the man left and his long legs took him away from the castle at a fairly good rate. He walked for about two hours and entered the forest where he made his way towards the center. Another hour more brought him to an opening where he stopped to rest and take a bite of food. He was alone except for the animals. After eating he brought out his small harp and played on it while he thought about how to proceed next. As his fingers flew over the strings, images formed in the air in front of him. He had heard of the treasure of the trolls. If Prince Siegfried had listened to the stories and songs carefully he would never have gone after that treasure.

The Jewel of Altamira, as it was now known, was considered to be among the most beautiful gems in the known multiverse but it was also one of the most dangerous. It had caused many deaths since it was found. Altamira was almost destroyed by people wanting to possess it until a wise woman finally managed to talk some sense into her people. She finally convinced them that the amount of blood being spilled was not worth the price of the jewel. When the trolls had raided the town and made off with the jewel, she made the people realize that they were better off without it.

As the man played the image of the jewel came before him. He could see it resting on an altar that was deep underground. By looking at the formation of the cave surrounding it, he was able to determine where the jewel was.

"How many more deaths will ye cause?" he asked softly.

Knowing where his destination was the man put his harp away and with a sigh got up. "I guess the best way to get there is to fly."

The man stood and stretched his muscles. Closing his eyes he took some deep breathes and slowly his body started to change. His clothes became feathers and his body changed into that of a huge eagle. When the change was complete, he launched himself into the air.

For some minutes the bird enjoyed the freedom of flight, swooping and diving and shooting high into the clouds. He had always loved flying and this eagle form was one of his favorites. Soon, however, he knew that he had to be on his way and climbing high into the sky he looked around with his keen eagle eyes and spotted the distant mountain range that he needed to go towards. With powerful strokes of his wings, he turned and started out on his long journey.

On the evening of the third day of his trip, the man stopped and reverted back to his normal form. He had spotted an Inn that he knew was frequented by the companions of Prince Siegfried, according to the information he had gathered. The companions had made the Inn their headquarters and it was there that the man found them.

"Greetings. You would be the men that followed Prince Siegfried would ye not?" The man came and sat down at their table. The companions were nervous around this stranger and wanted him to be gone.

Jacques, the new leader of the group, looked over and smiled. "I'm afraid you are mistaken stranger. We are retired army officers and have no idea who this Siegfried is that you speak of."

The man knew he was lying. "I see. I don't suppose that ye have heard of the Jewel of Altamira then?"

Jacques knew better then to deny that. It was one of the most famous legends of all. The story was frequently told of how the town of Altamira decided to give up their famed jewel without a fight. "Of course, who doesn't. Frankly I could never figure out why they would want to give up something like that to a bunch of trolls."

"Rumor has it that the trolls that took the jewel aren't too many days ride from here," the man said. "Ye look like adventuring men, care to come with me to try and get that jewel?"

The companions looked at each other nervously. Mutters of "no" were heard from all of them. Some of them were still nursing wounds from their last encounter with the trolls.

The man looked at them with disgust. "I thought not. Ye give off the stink of cowardice. Well your Prince is still alive and I intend to try and rescue him from the trolls."

It soon became obvious that the Prince's companions were not going to be of any help. The man strode out of the Inn and continued on his journey.

He changed back to his eagle form as soon as he was out of sight. It took several days for the eagle to reach the mountains where the trolls made their home. The eagle landed some distance away and returned to his human form. From the edge of the woods he studied the mountain slopes looking for the entrance to the troll's kingdom. He decided to make camp close to where he was and keep watch. During the daylight hours he knew that he would be safe for the trolls were nocturnal creatures. He knew that the trolls had a hidden entrance that would lead into the back ways of their lair. He searched for the opening to the underground caverns during the day and on his second day there he finally found where it was hidden. Back at his camp he went through his pack and decided what was needed to attempt the rescue. He wound the rope around his waist and strapped his huge sword on his back. The only other thing he took was his small Healer's pouch, just in case the Prince was injured.

The sun was high in the sky when he made his way to the far entrance. He had to grow wings to get there but quickly absorbed them when he got to the entrance since they would be in the way in close quarters. He quietly made his way through the bushes hiding the entrance. It lead to a long narrow rock corridor. There were bones of animals, and some that looked human, scattered around on the floor. The man waited until his eyes adjusted to the dim light and crept along until he came to where the tunnel intersected several others. The man stopped and looked down each of the tunnels. There was nothing to indicate which branch he should take.

"Oh bloody 'ell," he muttered. Around his neck he wore a green crystal suspended from a fine silver chain. He pulled the crystal from out of his tunic and cradled it in his palms. The man slowed his breathing and concentrated on the jewel that was softly pulsing with an inner light. He held the crystal up and pointed it towards the far right tunnel. A picture formed of a large cavern piled high with foodstuff and weapons. The next tunnel over showed an even larger cavern with thousands of sleeping trolls. "Gads they're ugly. Sure glad I don't have to be in there, the stench would gag anyone."

The middle chamber was dominated by a large altar. The man could see blood stains on the altar and a collection of evil looking knives that were used for the sacrifices that the trolls made to their blood thirsty god. In the center of the altar was the Jewel of Altamira. It rested on what looked like a fur robe. "Ah so that is what they have guarding it. Clever."

The next tunnel showed promise. At the end there was a good size room that had doors in the sides which appeared to be where they locked up prisoners. The man put the jewel back inside his tunic and quietly entered that tunnel. He managed to get all the way down the tunnel without being spotted. Standing in the shadows, near the head of the tunnel, he looked out towards the room. There were two guards engaged in playing cards and both were heavily armed.

The man pulled back further into the dark tunnel. Carefully he extended his senses towards the four locked doors. Only one of the cells was occupied. The prisoner's wrists and legs were manacled and a heavy chain, which passed through both the manacles, was fastened to the wall. His clothes were torn and dirty and hung on him. He had lost a lot of weight. The prisoner huddled on the floor cradling his left arm. The arm was swollen and discolored and gave evidence of a break in the bone that had set crooked. He was barely recognizable as Prince Siegfried.

The man waited and watched the guards. The guards were bored with their duty and paid more attention to their cards then they did their prisoner. The man picked up a fist size stone and threw it against the door opposite of where the guards were sitting. The guards were startled and jumped up glaring at the door.

"Quiet in there or we'll stomp on you some more," one of the guards yelled.

"Yeah if we have to disturb our sleep then we will disturb you," the other guard added.

The guards were too busy taunting their prisoner to notice the man creeping up behind them. He grabbed them both and slammed their heads together. Both guards slumped down to the ground. The man quickly found the keys and unlocked the door.

Prince Siegfried looked up in alarm at the man standing there. The man leapt across the room and clamped his hand over the Prince's mouth. "Hush. I'm here to rescue you. I come from your father. Now if I remove my hand will ye be quiet?"

The Prince nodded yes. The man removed his hand and started trying the keys in an effort to unlock the manacles.

"How did you get in?" the Prince whispered.

"There is a hidden entrance that goes by way of the cliff towards the back. Evidently they use it for dumping garbage," the man replied.

"But how did you get in? There is no way up that cliff face. I know we checked," the Prince asked.

"I cheated now hush up before someone hears us," the man ordered. "We don't have much time before they start to stir. I want to be away from here before the sun sets."

The man finally found the right keys and unlocked the Prince's manacles. Signaling him to follow he crept towards the door and checked to see that the coast was clear. "All right ye follow close behind me. And try to be quiet."

The man led the way across the floor to the corridor and plunged into the darkness. The Prince followed right behind. They were halfway down the corridor when they heard the sound of a gong being struck and the stomping of troll feet. The man and the Prince flattened themselves against the wall.

"Now what?" Prince Siegfried cried.

"Stay put and let me check. Here takes this." The man handed the Prince a large dagger that had been hiding up his sleeve. He slipped away and crept back to the tunnel overlooking where they had come from. He could see the guards sitting there rubbing their heads as more guards were running around checking the other tunnels into the room. Quickly he sped back towards the Prince.

"They appear to have forgotten the back way. We will have to hurry." The man grabbed the Prince by the arm and ran towards the intersection where the tunnels converged. The Prince had been considerably weakened during his captivity and had trouble keeping up, but the man did not slow his pace. The Prince half ran and was half drug along by the man. When they got to the intersection they stopped. The man put his finger to his lips and pantomimed that the Prince was to stay put and keep quiet while he explored further ahead. The Prince nodded in agreement and slumped against the wall in exhaustion.

Creeping along the tunnel the man was able to get to the secret entrance. No one was there. He waited for several moments to be sure that no one was coming and then made his way back towards where he left the Prince. The Prince was gone.

The man didn't dare call to him for fear of alerting the trolls to his presence. Silently cursing to himself he extended his senses trying to find the Prince. He located him creeping down the tunnel towards the cavern that held the Jewel of Altamira.

The man was furious and raced down the tunnel after the Prince. The fool was going to get them both killed if he wasn't careful.

Meanwhile the Prince had entered the cavern and was creeping up towards the altar. His eyes were focused on the jewel. He had never seen anything like it in his life. It was the largest and most perfect diamond he had ever seen. The craftsman who had cut it had turned it into a masterpiece. He wanted that jewel like he had never wanted anything else before.

The man reached the cavern just as the Prince reached up and took hold of the jewel. "Don't!" the man cried but it was too late. The Prince picked up the jewel and a loud piercing scream echoed around the cavern. The fur, that the jewel had been resting against, changed into a fierce looking animal with sharp claws and teeth. The Guard Beast of Torrance was one of the fiercest animals known. The face was screaming as the claws slashed out towards the Prince.

The man grabbed the Prince and spun him around. "You fool! Put it back and let's get out of here before the Guardian brings all of the trolls down on top of us."

The Prince pulled away from the man, cradling the jewel in his left arm. His right held the dagger and he slashed out at the man with it. "This is mine and it goes with me. I'll not leave without it."

"We can't get out of here with it. Listen they are coming. We have to leave now. That thing isn't worth losing your life over," the man said.

The Prince wasn't listening and before the man could go towards him the room started to fill up with enraged trolls. The man quickly drew his huge sword and jumped in front of the Prince and faced the trolls. "Get going. I'll try to hold them off."

The trolls rushed towards the man and soon he was fighting for his life. The huge sword swung and thrust as he used all of his skills to try and keep the trolls away from him. At first the trolls attacked wildly thinking that shear numbers would wear the man down, but with his lightening reflexes and swordsmanship he was able to stop the first rush. Soon the man had a pile of dead and dying trolls between him and the next group of soldiers. The trolls hesitated in their charges towards him.

Warily the man stepped back a few paces. He had managed to keep the trolls from getting behind him and blocking the exit. Suddenly he stumbled against something and almost fell. Looking down he could see Prince Siegfried lying in a pool of blood. A large troll dagger was protruding from his back. He still clung to the Jewel. The man reached down with his empty hand and placed it along the Prince's neck. He could feel a faint pulse.

The trolls were starting to creep forward when the man grabbed the Jewel and threw it towards them. The trolls screamed and fought each other trying to get to the jewel. During the commotion, the man picked up the Prince and slung him over his shoulder and ran towards the exit. The trolls were too busy fighting among themselves to notice the man's escape.

At the entrance the man took the coil of rope and tied the Prince to his back . He quickly made a shapeshift into the eagle form and launched himself from the ledge. The weight of the Prince was a bit of a hindrance but he finally managed to get back to where his camp was.

Changing back to human form he untied the Prince and laid him down on a blanket. Carefully he removed the troll blade from the Prince's back. He recognized the green color on the blade as a virulent poison. The man did everything he could but the poison had rapidly worked its way through the Prince's body. The poison, the loss of blood, and the ill treatment at the hands of the trolls took their toll and the Prince died without ever regaining consciousness.

The man sat back and wearily leaned against a tree trunk.

"Why did ye have to go back for the blasted thing?" the man asked, "I could have gotten ye out safely. "

He buried the Prince in the glen underneath a tall oak.

 

The man made his way back to the castle and asked to see the King and the Princess privately. King Lars and Princess Jade listened to the tale the man told.

"You did your best. I think I knew that he wasn't going to come home alive from this." King Lars took the man's hands into his own. "Thank you for trying."

The man shook his head. "I can't understand why he had to go back for the jewel. Did he really think it was worth his life?"

Later that evening the man stood on top of the castle wall and looked out towards the mountains. Princess Jade came quietly up to him and they stood side by side watching the stars. She reached over and put her tiny hand on his.

The man looked over and saw the tears streaming down her face and gently held her against him. After a while the tears stopped.

"At least I have the children and his father for comfort," she said. "I will try to raise Tristan to be a good king."

The man looked down and smiled at her. "He will be I'm sure and your daughter will make someone a fine queen."

Princess Jade went back inside to care for her young son. The man sadly watched her go. His hand brushed the fur on his cloak where her tears had fallen. The drops looked like diamonds in the chill air.

 

"So ye see children, Prince Siegfried had always looked elsewhere for treasures and never stopped to see the treasures he had at home. He had the love of a wonderful woman, he had a father that loved him dearly, and he had a son that worshipped him."

Sean got up and walked back towards the Inn. It would soon be time to open for business. As he reached the doorway he paused and took out a small leather pouch. Opening the pouch he poured the contents in his hand. The pouch contained tiny diamonds shaped like teardrops. He sadly shook his head as he returned them to their pouch and went inside.

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