Chapter 18: In Which Madison is Proud

Madison woke up to see Westley lying on his back looking at the sky. The sun had moved out of the clearing, and Madison’s stomach felt like an empty, echoing cave.

“What happened?” she asked.

“You won the duel of wits.”

“Yes, I remember that. But after that.”

“You just sat down and fell asleep. You slept a few hours and I watched the clouds. You must be exhausted.”

Madison nodded. She was exhausted. But as she wiped the sleep from her eyes, she began to feel a kind of courage and pride build inside her. Madison thought about the duel as she accepted some bread and cheese that Westley had offered her. She was so hungry she did not even notice the bread had become a little bit dry. Westley allowed her to eat in silence as he continued to watch the clouds.

When she had eaten her fill, Westley helped her to her feet. They gathered their meager belongings, and began to walk out of the clearing toward the edge of the wood.

Finally, Madison spoke.

“They actually let us go, Westley.”

“Are you surprised?”

“Well, they did set a trap to try and hurt us.”

“That’s very true. But you won the duel of wits.”

“I did,” Madison said, biting her lip.

“Are you proud of yourself?” he asked. She nodded. “Well, you should be very proud. How did you think of such a riddle?”

“I don’t know,” she shrugged. “I just kind of thought of it.”

“Well, I think it’s clever,” Westley said. “‘It is full of hope, but has no dreams’ is a great way of describing a journal. But the second part, ‘It tells no truths, but has no lies,’ is really clever. I’m very impressed.

Madison blushed and smiled at the ground.

“But what does the third part mean, ‘You’ve never read it, but you know it well?’”

“That was the hardest part,” Madison explained. “The answer to the riddle is ‘nothing.’ So, none of us have ever read nothing, right? If we aren’t reading, it isn’t like we are reading nothing—we are just not reading. But when we are reading, we are always reading something.”

“Oh, so they never read nothing…” Westley stopped, and repeated the phrase, making sure he got it right. Madison could tell that he still didn’t understand.

“It was actually a joke my Dad used to tell,” she said. “When I was bored, he used to come out of his office and say to me, ‘What are you doing?’ And I would say, ‘Nothing.’ And then he would say, ‘Oh, is that hard to do?’ Then I would laugh, and all his servants would laugh. It was his way of getting me to do something instead of just sitting around bored.

“But what does, ‘you know it well’ mean?” he asked.

“Well, we all know what ‘nothing’ feels like.”

Westley smiled proudly and nodded at the Princess. But then his face turned serious again.

“But you said the book was important and powerful. Isn’t it just a bunch of empty pages? Did you tell the truth?”

“Well, yes and no,” Madison explained. “I was very careful to try to tell the truth. It is just empty pages, but all books we read are powerful, right?” The Knight nodded. “But which books can we trust, and which ones are not trustworthy?”

The Sort-of Knight cocked his head to the side, puzzled.

“We have to read it, and decide for ourselves,” he answered.

“Exactly,” Madison said. “So the power really is in us to decide, not so much in the book. And if that’s true, then a journal where we can put our own ideas is a most powerful book, don’t you think?”

Madison waited as Sir Westley thought about what she said. Finally, a great smile shone through his mask.

“You are brilliant, Little One. Did you know that?”

Madison felt warm inside as they walked along. Soon they forgot about the great danger of the duel of wits, and talked and laughed about the strange witches they had battles. They practiced making the gargled woman’s voice and the screechy man’s voice. The trees began to thin, and the sun turned in the sky, shining golden in the trees as the afternoon disappeared.

It was about an hour before dusk when they broke through edge of the woods. They looked ahead of them. A large mountain loomed at the bottom of a long, steep, grassy hill.

“It looks just like the picture,” Madison said.

“What picture?”

“The picture in the stained glass window that you broke through.”

“Ah,” Westley said, slowly rubbing his arm where the glass had cut him.

“These must be the Imaginary Nocturnal Mountains,” Madison said.

“I thought they were imaginary,” Westley said.

“So did I,” Madison responded. She took a deep breath, stepped away from the woods, and began walking down into the valley.

Email me at princessmadisonjayne@gmail.com and tell me what you thought of Princess Madison’s riddle and I will put the next chapter on your website!

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Published in: on October 4, 2010 at 7:51 pm  Leave a Comment  

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