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Once upon a time--in a far away land of craggy rocks, dull sand, and dark caves—there lived a king. But nobody called him king. He had no throne, no palace. He didn’t even have a crown. But he did have three very close friends who treated him like a king.
The first friend had a face like the desert stones, hard and expressionless. He had a deep and mighty voice and carried a massive spear.
The second friend was thin but strong, with long hair and crinkly eyes that come from much laughing. A long smile always seemed to stretch across his face. A sword that was two hands wide hung across his back.
The third friend was thick and powerful, with broad legs and shoulders. One eye was covered with a patch and half his face was hidden behind a beard the color of rust.
King-Who-Was-Not-Yet-King had been at war for a long time. He had been fighting with the Sea People—ruthless, angry invaders from the coast who fought hard and took what they wanted. They were encamped in a valley nearby, and also in the town where King-Who-Was-Not-Yet-King had been raised. On cool evenings, when the wind blew just right, he could faintly hear their laughter and coarse singing.
It troubled the young man to be so close to his home and not be able to go there. He had grown tired of the bland food they regularly ate, and even the water was beginning to taste stale. King-Who-Was-Not-Yet-King longed for the sweet, rich well water from his hometown. He could almost taste its coolness on his dry tongue.
“Oh, if only there were a way to get a drink from that well,” he said aloud to no one in particular. “How wonderful that would be.”
But the well was heavily guarded by the Sea People, who also recognized good water. As a matter of fact, all the town was well guarded. The Sea People had taken over, and to get in or out without permission was a monumental task.
This did not stop the three friends of King-Who-Was-Not-Yet-King. They gathered around the crackling fire one night and whispered to one another.
“I have a plan to get the water from the well. It is dangerous, but I think it worth a try,” said Stone Face with the massive spear.
“For King-Who-Was-Not-Yet-King, I will do anything,” said the thin one with the mischievous grin. “I owe him much and would gladly offer my help.”
“And the same goes for me,” replied Rustbeard, his one good eye glinting in the firelight. “Let’s hear your plan, and may God grant us success.”
And so the three friends, under cover of darkness, slipped past the Sea People. They clung to the shadows, moving ghostlike past the drowsy guards, into the town, and to the well. They lowered the bucket until they heard a hollow splash, then drew it up again and filled their container with the sparkling water. Then just as quietly the three friends returned to King-Who-Was-Not-Yet-King, bearing their precious gift.
When the young man saw what they had done—and heard how they had risked their lives for the water—he was amazed. He held the container of water in his hands, a symbol of his friends’ love and dedication. But King-Who-Was-Not-Yet-King did not drink the water. He did not even taste its cool sweetness. Instead, he knelt on one knee in the dirt and carefully turned the container
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