The Steadfast Soldier©
The emperor of Magnanima wanted his only child to stop playing with dolls. ‘Dolls are for girls and toys are for boys.’ so his old nurse had dinned into his ears. The emperor tried to get him interested in toys that were miniature army that the emperor had garrisoned in the palace grounds. But the Most Exalted Prince Enigma loved dressing up his dolls himself. He had an album of designs that he had collected himself. How lovingly he cut fabrics out of velvet,muslin and chintz and his collection with time could not be kept in his leather box. So he set them all on a large table. Every morning the first thing he did was to inspect them. Before he went to sleep he looked at each doll,- shepherds,milkmaids, dwarfs, pages duchesses, gentlewomen to bid adieu for the night. In between he would have dressed them up from a shelf full of accessories. Watching all this his sire was a little concerned. ‘Dolls are for girl; soldiers are for boys.’the emperor would whisper into his ears. Prince Enigma could not believe it. ‘Some get their fun out of soldiers and I am content in creating a make-believe world.’ In his childish imagination every shepherd girl was as winsome as a duchess.
The little emperor continued with his pastime even as years went by.
The emperor consulted with a troll, his First Minister who said that it would be prudent not to interfere too much with childhood that was fleeting. But before the emperor could find more about it he died. And the little emperor took charge of the empire.
On the first day after the mourning period was over Emperor Enigma consulted the troll who said,’You departed sire didn’t get a chance to see you play with soldiers. We need to do something about it’.
The little emperor thought over it. With a little prodding from Troll Bergensen the emperor hit upon a plan. He would fill his entire empire with his toys. ‘A living doll house!’ he exclaimed.
He passed an order declaring his wish. Each subject was commanded to dress in a particular style. Soldiers were fitted out like chocolate soldiers more for parade ground than for actual fighting. The troll accompanied the emperor throughout the empire
and parades were pure spectacle that took everyone’s breath away.
Thus the little emperor arrived at one lonely outpost of his empire. He set a date for reviewing his army quartered in that part. The locals in their finery converged into the parade ground. The emperor was present with his ministers and generals to watch the parade of soldiers from the barracks. While the soldiers marched past the grandstand the emperor noted all were dressed in regulation outfit except one. He called the troll and asked him to find out why such insubordination was tolerated. The first Minister called the commandant who in turn called for the soldier who came in civvies. The man said he was no soldier but a stand in. ‘Sigmund is my friend.’ He explained that he obliged his friend since he could not be present. He said that the soldier would not however let him wear his uniform.
‘Why?’ the commandant asked. The man could not answer. The commandant took down his particulars and gave to the troll. Troll Bergensen ordered to take him to the soldier who was named Sigmund.
They tracked Sigmund down and they found he had spent the night in a house of ill repute. It was noon. Quietly they climbed up the stairs and into the house that was silent. It was obvious the inmates worked only at night. Various women slept in their booths and the madam of the establishment slept in another part. The troll and the commandant knocked at the door of her room and she came to the door. She was surprised to see strangers at that time of day.
Troll Bergensen asked her not to make a sound but show where Sigmund slept.
‘He is not to be disturbed.’
The troll told who his companion was. She shivered in fright and pointed to the booth at the end of the hall. The two strode directly and found Sigmund the soldier in the arms of a woman. They were asleep.
The troll watched the commandant draw the soldier by his scruff and shout,’How dare you disobey my command?’
Sigmund said,’Love made me lose count of time.’
Commandant was about to explode in anger but the troll quietly nudged him to stop.
The troll woke up his companion. He picked bed linen from the floor and asked the girl to cover herself. Then he addressed the soldier,’What is love?’
‘Love for woman?’
The troll nodded. “Love is such that I do not feel regret to lay aside this gorgeous uniform.’
The troll was beginning to understand, He queried,’Is that why your stand-in didn’t get your uniform?’
The soldier was sure, ‘ I would not lend it to another. Because it is a mark of love of the little emperor. He did give to me. Didn’t he?’
‘But the little emperor has issued it to all soldiers?’
‘It may be.’ the soldier answered,’ but when I put it on I can only think he has personally thought of me.’
The troll nodded and called the commandant aside to say the love of such a soldier was exceptional. The troll went back and asked the woman why she didn’t wear the gorgeous dress the little emperor had designed for her.
She retorted in ill temper that the little emperor himself could have given it .’It would have made me think it was something special.’
The troll controlling himself asked what love meant to her.
‘A little fire to warm myself, a loaf of bread and some lard to dip it in. Of course a bed and the money I can make.’
The troll commanded her to shut up and called the soldier to report at his hunting lodge that night . Giving the address he called the commandant to wait till late in the evening.
‘You shall hear from me.; Saying this the troll left.
That night the troll brought Sigmund before the little emperor and narrated the incident in the house of shame. He also whispered,’He is so devoted to you,sire.’ . The eye of the little emperor glistened. He said,’ Such steadfastness must be properly rewarded’. Emperor Enigma turned to Sigmund to say,’I shall decorate you with medals of honor I have designed myself if you prove yourself worthy.’
Thus Sigmund was shipped out with battalions of soldiers overseas. They were to fight wars. They went through high water and hell. Once he was captured by pirates the dreaded members of Water rats of Green Gate and another time he took a direct hit. His foot developed gangrene and had to be amputated.
After peace was declared Sigmund came home on a wheel chair. He found Troll Bergensen at the harbor and he took him directly to his house. After a week’s rest he was presented to the emperor.
On the way to the palace the troll asked if he still loved the little emperor as before.
He nodded and hesitated. The troll probed him further and he said he regretted that the uniform didn’t fit him anymore.’War made me hate it in fact.’
He advised the soldier to be cautious how he talked with the little emperor.
The little emperor received Sigmund fondly. He addressed him as his steadfast soldier,’What is your fondest dream?’
‘Go on serving you,sire’, replied the soldier who had become worldly wise. He said things to please the little emperor him and as a result the he came away a rich man.
At the end of the interview the troll wanted to know what he was going to do. ‘Stay in Imperial court and serve?’
‘Devil take it!’ he answered. He added quietly,’Go back to the same girl in whose arms you first found me’.
‘Is that wise?’ the troll asked.
‘Was that wise to ask such things I do not know myself?’ With a laugh he took leave of the troll.