The Black Prince and the Island of Women

Once it came to the ears of the Black Prince that there was an island governed by women, where all lived in peace and harmony and did not practice the arts of war. He was much pleased by this and gave the priest who brought this news a purse of silver, that he might continue his work and persuade other nations to also lay down their swords.

He said to his men, "Let us go to this wondrous place where weapons are few. We can take the gold from the churches and the grain and beasts from the farms.

"As well, there will be the women. We can sell the ugly, the stupid, and the untamable and keep those that are young and pretty and amenable as slaves. The most intelligent and skilled, some may even wish to take as wives."

And so they prepared the Black Princeís long black ships with stores for a lengthy voyage. The ships were black because the Prince had painted them with tar to preserve them from rot and the marine worm. When he discovered that this made his fleet much feared, he accepted that as a bonus.

Likewise his dress. He had originally taken to wearing black onboard ship because the tar fouled the bright robes he had previously favored. When he began to be known and feared as the Black Prince, he took to wearing it always, black and silver.

That these purely practical things came to add so much to his reputation and ability showed that he was much loved by a god, perhaps Thor or Woden or even the Christ

After a long but easy journey they came in sight of the island. The Black Prince, being cunning in the practice of war, first sent spies in his least warlike ship, posing as peaceful traders.

Only after they returned, reporting that they had been received with great hospitality, traded with fairly, and observed no sign of an army beyond a modest city guard, did he bring his main fleet in sight of the island.

They landed upon a gentle beach without opposition, observed by a large number of women who stood upon a low hill some little way back.

His men, on seeing so many young and fair women in the crowd became greatly excited, their male members growing until they impeded their movement and use of weapons. Any other army would have rushed the women as a single body, but the Black Princeís soldiers were trained in discipline as none had been since the Roman armies of ancient times. Still, he held them back.

Also, he had used yet another stratagem of the Romans, he had posted lookouts in his shipsí masts as the Romans did on hills, so that they could look down upon the battlefield and warn him of hidden forces. Only when they shouted down that all was as it appeared did he allow an advance and even then, only slowly and in good order.

When he came within a long bowshot of the women he became suspicious for they were neither trying to escape, nor preparing for armed resistance. Nor even did they attempt to parley for mercy. Rather, the younger and fairer were flaunting themselves in light and brief robes, as though trying to draw the men closer.

When the Black Prince observed this he bade his men halt. Now many of his countrymen disdained weapons that struck at a distance, considering anything but sword and axe unmanly. Not so the Black Prince.

He had with him some few of the yellow horsemen from beyond the East, who are unequalled in skill with their curved bows of horn and steel. These warriors came from near the place where his strange, curved sword, Soul Eater, and his magic armor had been crafted from god-metal that had fallen from Vulcanís forge in the sky. How he came by them all is another story, except to say that he valued them greatly.

Now he ordered them to kill some older women of obvious authority who were standing a little way forward of the others.

No sooner had his intent become apparent, than the whole, seeming mob of women, flowed into formation as quickly and prettily as any kingís personal guard, the priestesses, for that they plainly now were, spaced evenly in front of the others.

Before even his men could loose an arrow, the oldest, a formidable, tall, thin, straight figure, opened her mouth, and in a voice at once both calm and as loud as the krakenís roar, intoned the terrible words of power.

"Listen to me who is as your mother."

"You are sons of mothers; brothers of sisters; husbands of wives; fathers of daughters. You have a sacred commitment of care to them and through them, to all women.

"Through the power and justice of God, I bind you to that commitment to them, to us."

The others took up the chant as if they were a single voice and mind. Words and magic rolled forward like a great drowning wave.

"Commitment to Women, Commitment, Commitment."

The menís minds filled with images of kitchens, children and lovingly tended fields; of whole lives spent thus. A terrible, despairing dread filled their hearts.

"Commitment, Commitment, Commitment."

Their members withered like raisins while the strength left their muscles and the will their minds. More horrible yet, they began to look upon their weapons with distaste.

Except, that is, for the Black Prince. All his life he had avoided commitment with skill and courage and the slipperiness of an eel. He was a shining light for all men to follow. So, having no loving relationship with a woman, a resolute soul and knowledge of magic, he was able to resist the foul enchantment.

Still, all would have been lost but for two things, both of which flowed from the Black Princeís cunning and his favor with the gods. First, he had sprung the trap before truly in its maw. Second, unlike the fashion nowadays, he had not driven his ships heedlessly onto the beach bow first. Rather, he had carefully brought them in stern first, and onto a beach where the wind blew from the shore to the sea and while the tide was rising.

Thus, when he broke the evil spell with the signal to withdraw, his men, even in their weakness and confusion, were able to stagger back to their ships and launch them with great speed and little effort. You see, it was the Black Princeís special magic that when the time came for great deeds, the making of legends and heroic deaths, he could leave so quickly and quietly that many had trouble remembering that he had ever been.

All that morning they rowed, the ships fairly flying over the water, no one raising sail but rather preferring to sweat the obscene magic from their bodies with honest toil. At last, when the island had quite disappeared over the rim of the world, a halt was called and sails raised.

All could see that this escape was a great favor from some god and there was much debate over which god had delivered them. Therefore, they stopped to give thanks on a small island where they found three young shepherds and their flock.

As it was obvious that they had been left there as a sign and for some holy purpose, the Black Prince would not let his men use the boys as they were wont. When he found they each wore the cross of the Christ, as well as being three in number and shepherds, it was plain that it was the Three Gods Who Are One who had protected him.

Therefore, in accordance with the Christís commandment and in his memory, they sacrificed the shepherds and feasted on their sheep.

Never again did they return to the terrible island of women.

From The Book of the Black Prince
Editor Stephen Heyer
Copyright Stephen Heyer

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