ACT I: GOING AWAY
This story is about a boy named Sol, who was the son of the King of a great kingdom called Colos. Sol grew up in the king’s castle with his father, who loved him more than anything. The king took care of him and taught him all the ways of the world, including all the fairy tales that were common in those days. They were tales of knights and dragons and castles — all the standard stuff. But Prince Sol’s favorite fairy tale of all was one of a still, glassy pool that was in the middle of a dark wood beyond the mountains to the west, and when gazed into, the water would reveal who you truly were. Most nights he would beg his father to tell him of that story, again and again, and when the king would forget a part, the prince would remind him, and the king would smile and tell the story the way Sol liked it.
There were few things that excited Sol as much as this story. He talked about it with his teachers and with his servants and cooks and butlers, and in his spare time he dreamed of what the glassy pool would show him when he looked into it. He dreamed of the pool so often, in fact, that he began to fall behind in his classes and show up late to meals. He stopped asking his father to tell him stories, and even began to avoid the king altogether. He would rather be by himself in the world of his own imagination.
When Sol turned ten, he decided he was old enough to go out on his own and find the pool, so he went to his father to ask for permission.
“Father,” Sol said to his father, the King, “I want to go away for a while; I want to find the glassy pool in the woods beyond the mountains. I want to know who I truly am.”
“Why, are you not my son, the Prince of Colos, heir to the throne?”
“I know that, father, but is that all I am? What if I don’t want to be king someday? Surely there is more to life than inheriting the throne. I’d like to go out and experience what’s outside of these castle walls. Will you give me your blessing?”
“It seems to me your mind won’t be assuaged until you accomplish what you’ve set your heart on, so go and be free, but I warn you, perhaps what you search for cannot be found in the glassy pool.”
Nevertheless, his mind was made up and so with a hug Prince Sol left home and began his travels. He needed a quick mode of transport and he knew of an old woman who lived in the desert outside the city and flew a hot air balloon when she was lonely, and he hoped he could borrow it. He knocked on her door.
“Why hello young prince, whatever are you doing here in my desert?”
“I am going on an adventure, madam, and would request the use of your hot air balloon for transport,” said Sol.
“Why, anything for you, my prince! Come in for a moment and tell me your quest before you depart, if you wish.”
She lived in a large house with many rooms and ornate decorations. Sol walked in the woman’s house and marveled at the beauty of her home.
“I say, madam, you have just the loveliest of houses!”
Sol wandered around through the halls, following distantly behind the host, who had run off to some corner of the house to get the balloon and the helium and all the different things you need for a hot air balloon adventure; and oh, what amazing pictures there were, framed and hung on her walls! There were pictures of exotic birds in exotic forests, there were pictures of famous people and trophies, there were pictures of mountains and rivers, and there was no end to the pictures of hot air balloons.
“Madam, you must have lived the most full life, these pictures are magical!” Sol said, though he doubted she heard him at all, for she was nowhere to be seen.
“Ah, yes, a most full life indeed,” she shouted from some other room nearby, “but I’ve forgotten it all by now, for some days I look at those pictures and wonder how they ever could have happened to me. Ah, I’m old and my memory fails me, but all I know is that I’m quite lonely and wish I would’ve slowed down a bit more and appreciated what’s right in front of me.”
There were some loud clatters that came from the room the old woman was in before she appeared in the hall, carrying this piece and that thing and those whatchamacallems.
“So, my dear prince, what is your quest?”
“I am searching for the glassy pool in the woods beyond the mountains that tells you who you are” said Sol.
“Ah, yes, I’ve heard the tales.”
“Have you ever searched for it?” Sol asked.
“Once, when I was a young woman, but since then I’ve learned who I am. I’m a wanderer, a nomad, a lonely and isolated woman destined to remain sad and die alone.
Sol thought this was a most somber response and he half expected her to cry, but she remained resolute.
“So you gave up the search for the pool?”
“Yes, but, oh dear, I can’t seem to remember much about those days.”
“When I find it, I’ll come back and tell you all about it. I promise.”
“Well, I hope you find what you’re looking for, but heed this advice: the things you want to escape from the most are often the very things that reveal the most about who you are.”
After a few seconds of rather uncomfortable silence, the old woman grabbed Sol’s hand and led him to her front yard, where she spent the next several minutes assembling and preparing her hot air balloon. After she showed him how everything worked, she sent him off into the sky and they waved goodbye to each other.
Sol looked around and thought it was all beautiful. The deep blue sky met the cracked desert floor in jarring fashion, and beyond the desert to the west, he could see in the distance a river meandering its way through grassy foothills to the base of a wide mountain range. He didn’t look back.
A few miles away, gazing out the castle window, stood the King, watching the colorful balloon rise into the air. Yellow and red and green patches of the balloon popped against deep blue sky, and though the King thought it was beautiful, he couldn’t help but feel sad.
Oh my son,
My dearly loved son,
Will you find what you seek
Apart from me?
ACT II: BEYOND THE MOUNTAINS
The wind felt refreshing on Sol’s face and hair, and he closed his eyes and breathed deep. It felt good to be alone, free from judgment, free from criticism. As the king’s son, he was used to being in the public eye and it felt good to not worry about any of that right now. He felt a tinge of loneliness and homesickness but he shoved that down, telling himself that he had to leave his comfort zone if he wanted to learn about himself. The words of the old woman rang in his ears, and he wondered if what she said was true. “What am I escaping from?” But all his life he’d listened to old people telling him what to do and how to think and it was high time he learned some things on his own.
After a few hours, Sol passed over the mountain range. From above, they looked like the spine of a great beast that had been slain in ages past. On the other side of the ridge, heavy clouds lingered just below him and he had to fall through them to see what lay beneath. Sure enough, a vast and dark forest covered the ground as far as the eye could see. He continued to descend, looking for an opening in the canopy large enough to land the balloon. It was now late in the day and the sun was almost set and the temperature was dropping quickly, and Sol was beginning to feel afraid. At last, with a few precious minutes of daylight left, he found a clearing in the woods and landed the balloon
Darkness was upon him. Sol pulled on his coat and sat down beside the balloon to eat his dinner, which he had packed before leaving. After finishing his food, and feeling both exhausted and scared, he curled up in his blanket and placed his head on his pack, and fell asleep.
Suddenly it was morning and the air was hot and humid and the brightness burned in his eyes. He sat up, yawned, and shook his head sleepily. He had been asleep for hours but it felt like moments. He felt awfully hungry right away and so he reached for his pack to grab the breakfast he had prepared for this morning, but it was not there! His pack, which he had used as a pillow, was missing and in its place was a large, squishy mushroom! He looked all around him, shocked and suddenly more awake than before. Then he realized his blanket was missing too, and then — he nearly screamed in alarm, for high above him, flying up up and away, was the hot air balloon!
“Oh blast it, blast it all, blast everything!” Sol yelled and began to cry. He had been taught not to use this kind of language, but nobody was around to hear. Except…
“Well, I see someone woke up on the wrong side of the grass! Har har har.”
Sol looked up and around. Who said that? There was no one around!
“Hello? Who said that?” Sol shouted.
“It was just me! Over here, on the tree, right in front of you!”
And indeed, stuck to the side of the beech tree and camouflaged perfectly was a gecko. It held out one of its front paws and waved slightly.
“You’re a… gecko? And you talk!” Sol said, astonished.
“Why, of course I talk, and what’s wrong with geckos?”
“Well, nothing I’m sure, it’s just that… well, forgive me, but I’ve never heard a creature talk before!”
“I guess that’s a fair point, you look like a city boy to be sure. Is it your first time in nature?” The gecko said as it speedily scrambled down the trunk of the tree, across the grass toward Sol and stopped near his left foot.
“Yes, I’ve lived my whole life in the city,” Sol responded.
“What brings you out here?” The gecko scrambled up the prince’s shoe and stopped there, looking eagerly at the boy. He licked his eyeballs.
“Well I’m looking for the glassy pool that’s fabled to be hidden in the wood beyond the mountains in the west, and I’ve come here on that balloon—“ he pointed up at the balloon that was even farther away than a moment before— “and I’m afraid I’ve been negligent and somehow it’s floated away and I’m stranded here forever.” Sol barely squeaked out the words before his tears sprung violently on him once more and he continued his cry.
“Well have peace, little human, for it’s not your fault the balloon has escaped you. I’ve seen it all, for I’ve been watching you since dawn and just before you stirred, a giant — those mischievous little drats — came and stole your pack, replaced it with a mushroom, and loosed the sandbags that held the balloon to the ground. It’s in their nature to steal and disrupt, and you shouldn’t blame yourself for its stupidity.
“So giants are real?” Sol said, wiping his tears and rubbing his nose, “I’ve heard many tales of giants, but I would have expected them to be tall and mighty and respectable, not mischievous and— and— well, evil!”
“Humans often get things wrong about this country, for they have a poor memory and it has been ages and ages since humans and creatures existed together in harmony,” said the gecko.
Just then there was a loud sound from above and behind Sol and there at the base of a wide oak tree plopped a very small person, much like a dwarf, with a long beard and fat belly, and it was wearing Sol’s blanket and clutching his pack tightly in its arms! It looked wide-eyed at Sol for a split second before scrambling to its feet and running away, but when it did, it ran square into another tree and fell over.
“Hey! You, dwarf! Come back here!” Shouted Sol, who had jumped to his feet when he saw the dwarf fall out of the tree.
“Oy, I’m not a dwarf!” Said the dwarf in a very deep voice, and very slowly too.
“Well, whatever you are, you stole my stuff and I want it back!“
“I’m a giant, I am, and I won’t be disrespected by being called a dwarf!”
“A giant? You’re not a giant, you’re barely four feet tall!”
“Oy, I say, I’ve never been more insulted in all my life. Oy, why don’t ye just come and fight me already!”
At this point, the gecko decided to step in, for he figured that if he didn’t, things might go sideways very quickly and he didn’t want to see any human child fight a giant (for it really was a giant).
“Calm yourselves!” Yelled the gecko in as loud a voice as he could muster. “Giant, give back the boy’s possessions! You know they aren’t yours, and shame on you for cutting the ropes of his nice balloon. Now he doesn’t have a way out of this forest, so I hope you’re ready to say sorry and help him in his quest. You owe him that!
“You mean to say he really is a giant? This small, little—“ began Sol before stopping himself, not wanting to anger the giant further.
“Yes, this really is a giant, and a rather large one at that!”
“Oy, I’m sorry, li’l human,” said the giant, beginning to cry, “I knew I shouldn’t have stolen yer stuff and cut the ropes, but, oy, Doug made me do it!”
“I say, don’t ye go on blaming me for your mischief!” shouted a different voice from somewhere else in the trees, and as it spoke, down plopped another giant, supposedly Doug, and the two of them got into a heated argument that led to a rather awkward and clumsy, yet passionate fist fight.
“Look,” shouted Sol, “it doesn’t matter who is responsible! Just return my blanket and pack, and kindly hear me out and see if you can help me in my quest.”
With many more loquacious apologies and excuses, the two giants gave back Sol’s things and promised to help him in his quest, which Sol told them all about.
“I say, I’ve just remembered,” said Doug, “I heard Sterling talking about a mysterious pool the other day!”
“Sterling! Oy, what a guy, a real gentlegiant,” said the other giant, whose name was Patrick.
“He is quite a lovely guy, ain’t he?”
“Oy, I don’t know anyone who speak ill o’ him, and that is a rare thing for a giant, ain’t it?”
“Okay, well can you take me to Sterling?” asked Sol, who was fed up with the giants’ banter.
“Oy, we owe ye that, don’t we?”
And so they started off into the woods at a painfully slow pace, the two giants leading the way, always bickering, and behind them came Sol with the gecko perched on his left shoulder. After hiking for nearly an hour, they came to a cave in the woods and Patrick and Doug led them straight in. The cave was long and narrow at first, but opened up into a large chamber which was lit by torches all the way round and was filled with the bustling of hundreds of giants. As Patrick and Doug led Sol through the masses, he heard many loud and obnoxious comments about him, and very many “oy’s” and “I say’s”. The little giants all gawked and stared and pointed, and he felt uncomfortable, but at last they came to a portion of the cave which was a tad smaller and after a few minutes of banter between the giants, Sol was introduced to Sterling. He was a soft-spoken giant with gentle eyes and a smile that spanned both sides of his wide face.
“Oy, tell ‘im about the pool ye’re looking for,” shouted Patrick.
“I say, he’s looking for a pool that tells ye secrets,” said Doug.
“Let the boy talk,” said Sterling.
“Well, I’ve heard tales of a glassy pool somewhere in these woods, that will show me who I am when I look into it, and these giants said you know where it is, and I was hoping you could lead the way,” said Sol.
“I’ve just stumbled upon this pool a few days ago myself. It’s not too far from here, but it’s hidden pretty well. I hope I can remember the way, but if I can, I’ll gladly take ye there!” said Sterling.
ACT III: A CHANGE OF HEART
They began at once, and I’ll spare you the details of their journey there, for it was uneventful. They walked slowly and Sol was anxious about what the pool might reveal, and Doug just kept talking, but eventually they made it to a very thick part of the woods, which they had to scrape and crawl through in order to get into a small glade with only beautifully green grass and a few flowers scattered around, and in the exact center of the opening was a small pool. Sol hesitated to approach it, and the giants and gecko knew better than to go with him, for they could sense the uneasiness in his face and demeanor, so they stayed at the edge of the glade while Sol walked up alone.
His heart beat fast. Step by step, he drew closer to the pool. His mind wandered to all the things he might see in the water but finally he reached the edge and looked down into it.
There in the water, staring up at him, was a young boy, small and scared, and as he gazed, he began to cry. They were soft and gentle tears that escaped his eyes, almost peaceful and less sad than you would expect. After a moment of crying, he stopped suddenly and raised his chin, wiped his tears, and smiled generously. He looked very princely and noble and you could tell he was a very content boy, and he looked older and wiser than he actually was, and there was a peace about him that really made you feel safe in his presence. And after that, the boy was gone and the pool was still, and Sol saw no reflection.
The whole experience lasted only moments, but it was obviously a magical moment and was a thing he expected he would remember for a long time.
Immediately after looking into the pool, and lasting the entire journey back to the giants’ cave, Prince Sol felt a deep and terrible homesickness, something like he’d never felt before. He longed to be back at the castle and to hug his father and even to focus on his studies and do his chores. He felt scared that the world he had once known had forgotten about him already, for it felt as though he had been away for a very long time. He hoped his father wouldn’t be angry that he had left, and it occurred to him that he had never once considered his fathers’ feelings before his adventure. He realized he had been selfish and inconsiderate, and he felt grief in his heart.
Patrick, Doug and the gecko could sense that Sol was feeling down, and they were unusually quiet on the long walk back to the cave. And once they arrived, Patrick offered his services to the building of a new hot air balloon, and of course Doug announced to the entire tribe of giants what they were doing, and they all helped out in their own way. Some of the faster giants went out and gathered materials while the crafty and less clumsy ones set about to putting the pieces together and weaving the basket and sewing the fabric. Doug and Patrick directed and yelled orders (and bickered between themselves a fair bit too), and before too long, they had built an odd-looking, yet fully functioning hot air balloon. To be quite honest with you, I have no idea how they did it (I’m a writer, not an inventor) but in the end, Sol climbed in the basket and after saying goodbye to everyone, lifted up into the sky and off to the east.
Sol returned the same way he came, over the mountains, across the expanse and into the desert, where he dropped the balloon off at the old woman’s house (even though her old balloon had been lost, she accepted this new balloon in exchange, and they had many laughs together about it), and after telling his tale to her, he went running back to the castle in the city. He was so excited to see his father the king but as he drew nearer, he felt more shame for ever leaving and thought his father might not receive him back into the castle, or might treat him differently from then on.
His fear was unnecessary, however, for his father the king had made a habit of watching for his son every morning, looking out the castle window, and he had seen Sol’s balloon in the desert beyond the city, and his heart was filled with joy. And so the king was waiting for his son as he walked up to the castle, and he gave him a hug and smiled warmly and invited him to tell his tale from start to finish, and that’s exactly what he did.
Now made true
He listens gently,
He smiles fondly,
For in his arms
He holds you