I found myself walking into a grand palace, guards dressed in regal attire proudly stationed at each corner and entrance of the building. The magnificent front steps, broad and deep, led up to the ornately decorated front gate. At the edge of each stair, both on the right and the left, stood marble lions, each in a different pose, each exuding glory and majesty.
The guard smiled and opened the door for me when I arrived at the gate: I was an expected guest of the elderly king. The door closed behind me as I walked down the main hallway which was decorated with tapestries displaying scenes of enemies being conquered. Each tapestry represented battles for which I am too young to remember for peace has reigned over the land my whole life: the king’s might long since destroying all usurpers.
The long hallway opened into a large opulent room filled with chattering people, food, and fine service made of gold and silver. There were cups and goblets, plates and trays, and ornate chairs covered in expensive silk sitting around the edge of the room next to plinths holding many fine marble and ivory statues. A gentle breeze filled the room coming through the large open windows to my right and left. In the center of the room stood many large silk covered tables holding plates laden many types of fruit, cheeses, bread, and meats. The many guests were mingling about the room in small groups, snacking and talking in reverent but exultant tones.
Many of the conversations focused on the greatness of the kingdom, the exploits of the king, his conquering of enemies, and the acquisition of wealth. During the many years of the king’s life, not only the king, but the kingdom grew wealthy and contented beyond imagination.
At the far end of the room stood another door, smaller than the front gate, but still imposing in size and adornment. Next to it stood another doorman who beckoned to me. The crowd grew silent as it parted and I walked through the richly dressed guests to the other side of the room. The door opened and I was ushered in to find myself in a hallway of bare stone with a single light at the end of its length. I was told to go forward just as the door closed behind me leaving me alone.
It took a minute to build up my courage for I had never met the king, and in fact I don’t know anyone who had, but eventually I haltingly moved toward the light. The stories or his reign were legendary, his power overwhelming, his wealth beyond measure, and yet there I was about to enter his presence.
When I crossed the threshold I found myself in a sparsely decorated room. There was a small bed in the corner, two chairs next to it, and an alcove across from me holding what I assumed to be his toiletries. There were two small doors on either side of the room, both of which were closed, and in the middle of the room was a small wooden stand upon which sat a plain book and before which I found the king kneeling. There was silence.
I don’t know how long I stood there before the king, using the edges of the table to right himself, slowly rose and turned to me. He smiled and walked ever so slowly to one of the plain chairs next to his bed. He sat down and motioned me to sit next to him. I closed the gap between us quickly and gently sat, not knowing if the frail chair would hold my weight. He smiled again and spoke:
“You must be wondering why I asked for you in these last hours of my life.” He didn’t wait for my reply before saying, “I asked for you because I want someone to tell the people about my most valuable treasure. It is hidden in this room and it is the only thing I posses that will last forever.”
My heart leapt and my mouth grew dry as I tried to speak. He touched my arm as if to quiet me before saying, “The Lord has granted me every desire of my heart: wealth, victory, glory, and long life. I don’t know why, but I think he did this, not to make my life wonderful, but to show me that it all fades: wealth tarnishes, victories are forgotten, glory fades, and life ends. But…” He closed his eyes and smiled contentedly. “But, the joy of his presence is eternal. His mercies are new every morning. He is an unending blessing.”
He paused again and looked to the book in the middle of the room before speaking again. “If in my youth I had only known the true desire of my heart was him, I wouldn’t have asked for the other things. But he is good, and he gave me all the other things, I think, so I could know now that only he eternally satisfies.”
He looked at me one last time then said, “that is my greatest treasure. Tell the people.” With that he smiled and closed his eyes, his head bobbing a bit before finally settling on his chest. He would speak no more.