The King's Garden
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There’s an old, old folktale, a version of which exists in almost all known civilizations. The details change in every iteration, but the gist of it is this.

A long, long time ago, when the world was new and humanity was just starting to build civilizations, there was a king, or an emperor, or any kind of male figure in a position of power. The king had a big castle, full of people, from esteemed advisors to clever wizards to his loved wives and husbands to brave soldiers and guards to loyal servants to lowly slaves. The king had treasuries, wizards’ laboratoriums, gardens and libraries filled with riches, research, exotic plants and rare books. Whatever you could think of, the king had, or would find to add to his collection.

But what the king did not have, was a gentle heart or mercy. He was known for his quick temper and for being cruel and ruthless to people he saw as lesser than himself. When the king would punish a slave or a servant he thought had wronged him, the punishment usually was far more grave than the offence. But the rest of the court could do nothing about it in fear of attracting the king’s ire to themselves instead.

In the cruel king’s court, there was a slave. He had an inquisition to the acquisition of the arcane practises, unending thirst for knowledge or yearning for freedom, most often all of them. So he had a habit of sneaking to the king’s laboratoriums to learn spells, or to the libraries to read books, or to the court’s gardens to wander. All of these activities were forbidden from slaves.

In the laboratoriums, the slave learned the basics of magic and many spells, like healing magic and conjuration. In the libraries, he learned about all sorts of subjects, like history, mathematics and the skill of healing. He greatly enjoyed all of these, even if he had to sneak around guards to do it.

But the slave most enjoyed his walks in the gardens, because while wandering between the trees and flowers, he often met with a woman with snow-white hair and shining violet eyes (some versions replace her with a magical violet flower or a white tiger that could talk). She was the most beautiful and clever person the slave had ever met. They often spent hours and hours talking, about the slave’s secret studies or anything under the sun. Sometimes the woman would give him advice on his studies, sometimes the slave would show off what he had learned.

The slave and the woman grew close and eventually fell in love.

But like all things, this too had to come to an end. One day, the slave was caught red-handed while in the middle of his studies. The king was enraged and dragged the slave to the gardens for public punishment. Despite the slave begging for his life, the cruel king cut his arm off with a sword and tore his leg off with a spell. As the slave screamed in pain, the cruel king laughed at the pathetic sight and left the slave to bleed to death. All the people who had gathered to watch also left the garden, unwilling to help the poor slave.

The slave was left alone and he cried and wailed. He tried healing himself, but the excruciating pain from the spell clouded his control on his magic. He lamented his misfortune, begging for help from anyone who heard him. The slave begged and pleaded to any force of heaven, hell or a force from the folds of reality.

Would you believe it, the slave wasn’t crying out to an empty garden. Someone had been listening to him. The woman the slave had fallen in love with appeared from between the trees.

”Oh, my love, what happened to you?” The woman asked.

"The cruel king caught me while studying and he cut off my arm and tore my leg off," the slave replied.

The woman's eyes flashed in anger and she revealed her true form. All along, the woman had been a fae, a djinn or other such magical creature.

"The king!" The fae hissed, poison dripping from the mere word. "That wretched human! First, he ravaged my forest and plants, built a pitiful garden on it and now he injured the man I love! I will make him regret ever choosing to become so cruel!"

"I, too, want the king to be brought to justice," the slave said, "But I fear I am weak and growing weaker as we speak."

The fae held her hand out to the slave. "Join me. I can give you the power to bring him his punishment. I can give you the freedom he stole from you," she said, "for a price."

The slave, feeling his life escape him, took the offered hand and replied: "I agree."

The fae smiled and sealed the contract with a kiss.

Vines started growing from the ground, wrapping around the slave's remaining leg and arm. Flowers bloomed and covered the slave's whole body. Soon he was completely hidden.

In this cocoon, the slave slept. He slept for three days and three nights.

On the fourth day, the slave woke up. His black hair was now grey and adorned with purple flowers. He was now clad in a bright blue cloth. His arms and legs were now wooden and covered in bark.

The slave was a slave no more. He was now one with the fae's magic. He was now a free warlock.

The man who had been a slave and was now a free warlock felt the power in him. He knew he could end the king's cruelty now.

So the free warlock walked into the cruel king's castle, flowers trailing behind him.

Soldiers tried to stop him, but he made flowers grow out of their eyes.

Guards tried to stop him, but he made flowers grow out of their mouths.

Wizards tried to stop him, but he made flowers grow out of their noses.

The free warlock made his way to the king's throne room, where the king was waiting for him.

The king gave the free warlock one disdainful look before he spoke. "I thought I killed you," he simply said.

"I've come to deliver your comeuppance," the free warlock said.

The cruel king laughed. "And what do you, a lowly slave with no army, no wizards, nor power, plan to do?"

"I do not need an army nor wizards," the free warlock replied.

The cruel king laughed again. Then he drew his sword and lunged at the free warlock.

The free warlock merely stepped aside and cast a spell.

The king stumbled and fell onto his knees. He started to cough and choke. He started to cry, and his tears were flower petals. Flowers started to pour out of his ears and nostrils.

"What did you do to me?!" The cruel king howled.

"Your cruel deeds are now being repaid on to you," the man merely answered.

The king roared and lunges at the free warlock again, but he collapsed after a few steps, coughing and choking. A tree started growing out of his mouth and soon there was a full-grown tree in the middle of the throne room. The cruel king was dead.

With sudden horror, the free warlock realized what he had done. He ran. He ran back to the garden, where he had met the fae and demanded her to appear again.

"What is the problem, my dear? I thought you wanted revenge," the fae asked.

"I merely wanted justice, I never wanted to kill him!" the free warlock shouted, "What have you done to me?!"

"I saved you. I gave you the power you needed."

"What was the price you took from me?!"

The fae regarded the free warlock before she spoke: “I took your human heart. I gave you the power to cross over the boundaries of your humanity and become immortal like me. You can be a fae like me.”

From there, an argument ensued. The free warlock accused the fae of making him a monster, the fae said she did it out of love to save him from the inevitable grasp of death. Harsh words were exchanged and the story ends when the free warlock walked off and left the fae in the garden.

No one knows what became of the fae or the cruel king’s castle and courts. Maybe the esteemed advisors, clever wizards, loved wives and husbands, brave soldiers and guards, loyal servants and lowly slaves left the castle because there was no one to serve anymore. Maybe the fae reclaimed the area and chased them out.

No one knows if the fae misses the free warlock. No one knows if she regrets what she did. No one knows if the warlock ever thinks about going back to the fae. No one knows if he still loves her.

Some versions say that the warlock is still walking the earth, wandering from country to country and telling his story and learning about magic and other cultures, maybe to someday return to the fae.

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An artist's interpretation of the events. Note the curious choice to depict the slave with vitiligo.
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