A king on his deathbed called John, his faithful servant and gave a few instructions for his son. One of which was that he should not disturb a building on the palace grounds. ‘Great trouble shall arise out of it.’ he said. He died a moments later.
As soon as his son ascended the throne Faithful John narrated the last talk he had with his father. The young king wondered. He was stumped and he asked his council of ministers, ’What is the mystery behind the house?’ One said he had been in charge of the building in question.He was certain it was built with asbestos. ‘ Break it up; it is a health hazard.’
The second minister suggested he knew as the late king’s interior minister that some dreaded terrorists were locked up for interrogation there at one time. ‘It may be a secret passage to terrible place where torture is the way of life” one hazarded.
The third minister said he had taken part in some negotiations with a neighboring kingdom and the building held a magic portrait.
Magic portrait! How ?’ the young king wondered. The third minister explained that the portrait of the woman was beautiful and any eyes for which it was not meant looked at it would become stone. The king thought of the witch and he was all the more determined to leave the building intact.
Then they discussed other things. King Burnt Oaks wanted to organize a marauding party to the North. The king and his warriors burned several colonies of Vikings who had settled in that remote part of the kingdom. Faithful John pillaged the fort where the chief lived. He abducted a princess and brought her to the king. Her name was Rowena. He said she was from a noble race, excellent fighters.’ He urged him to marry the princess. The king agreed. He won the girl’s heart and he said he would take her to his kingdom. The king and his bride to be set sailed in a ship with all the dowry of the princess. The king had asked Faithful John to follow him in another ship. Faithful John felt something was not right. He hesitated saying he should not leave him alone, ‘I gave word to your father. If anything happened to you or broke my oath to him I shall be eternally damned and never know a moment’s peace’.
While Faithful John took to sea three ravens were flying over head. One raven said, ‘the prince is blessed because he has Faithful John to serve him.’Another raven said,’Just the same Faithful John is going to be a wanderer in eternal damnation. The third raven said the only way he could save was to break into the building in the palace grounds.
Faithful John thought over this conversation and wondered,’If I break into the building I would be breaking the holy oath to the king. Faithful John thought of avoiding the awful doom by leaving the king in the lurch. He banged his forehead with his fist in disgust,’If I leave him I am leaving my king to uncertain future. Faithful John commanded the captain of the ship to increase the speed so he could catch the royal ship in sight. By the time he caught up with the king the ship was almost going down after hitting a rock. Faithful John was on hand to rescue the king and his bride to be.
As they reached their kingdom the three ravens were once again hovering about them. One raven said,’The king shall certainly come to sorrow if Faithful John does not take decision concerning himself.’
As soon as the king’s party reached his palace he arranged the date for a feast to follow with the royal wedding.
Faithful John was a lot troubled by the words of the raven. In the end he decided to take matters into his hand. At night he sneaked towards the building resolved to solve the mystery. He was sure the oath that he gave the late king was only with regards to the prince. He would break into the building. He broke it open. He struck a match and lit a candle to investigate. He found some statues and they were all in stone. Faithful John shuddered. The curse regarding the portrait was true after all. Faithful John had gone far into his deed. ‘It is too late,’ he said and went in and stood in front of the portrait.
His blood curdled. The portrait was Rowena alright. He waited to be punished for breaking the curfew. Nothing happened.
He went to the king and told him what he saw. The king went pale. Faithful John said he would be responsible for the consequences. He took his master to the building and showed the portrait. At that exact moment the king screamed,’Rowena’ he saw the curtains part and a hideous woman rush towards them. Faithful John stepped forward to cover the king. He drew his knife and struck her. She died in a pool of blood. In death she took the form of beautiful but treacherous Rowena.
No more the three ravens were seen.(From Brothers Grimm)
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