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King Franz and Queen Marigold were devastated by John’s loss. Their grief was so great that even their dreams stopped. They spared to expense to free John from his entombment, and sent knight after honorable knight on quests to find the cure. The merest whispering of some mystical power was investigated thoroughly, and even the most far-fetched remedies were attempted. But they were all to no avail. The royal couple finally placed him in a place of honor in their quarters. There, Marigold and Franz continued to talk to John to share their joys, their woes, their dreams, and their memories with their beloved friend. It was in this frozen state that Franz told John of the reconciliation with King Midas, the flourishing economy from trade, and finally the birth of their twin boys: Stefan and John.
“This is your Opa John”, Franz told his sons from their infancy. “He loved your Opa Stefan, and me, and will surely love you as well.” Marigold would smile a sad smile and kiss her three boys on the forehead.
“Yes, John is a good man. We will find a way to bring him back.”
Years passed, but still John remained in his stony state.
The twins grew up to love John, though they knew him only through stories and dreams.
“Mama, Papa!” Little Stefan and John would say. “Opa John says he loves us, and will be with us again. He says he can’t wait to meet us!”
“Oh, Stefan. Oh, John” Their Mother would say. “That is a beautiful dream. What sweet imaginations you have.”
“But it’s true Mama! It’s true! Opa John says we will all be a family again.”
Franz would pat his boys’ heads with tears in his eyes and leave the room.
The boys’ dreams about Opa John became more frequent as they grew. Each time they met John in their dreams, they would share the news with their parents:
“Opa John says he still loves you, Papa.” “Opa John says you’re the daughter he never had, Mama.” “Opa John says he can’t wait to hold us.”
Marigold and Franz listened to their boy’s fantastical tales of the man they never met, until the tales became too bittersweet. Somehow, the boys began to share memories about old John that they couldn’t possibly know.
“I never told them about the first time I saw your portrait.” Franz confided to his wife, pacing in their bedroom. “I told John about my dreams that night, the dreams I had about the beautiful Princess locked away in a golden cage. I told John, but I never told the boys.” He stopped in his tracks. “You don’t think? No, it can’t be. But maybe, their dreams about John?”
“Franz, my love. They are your sons, and mine too. I haven’t had a dream since that day, but it could be…”
“No, Mari. I dare not hope. I cannot let myself believe it. Only to have it not work again.” Franz let out a dry sob.
That night neither the King or Queen slept. But little John and Stefan had a final dream.
“My boys! My dearest little cubs, I can finally meet you at least.” John greeted the boys fondly with arms outstretched.
“Opa John, is it true? Will we finally get to meet you in honest?!” The boys cried, rushing toward the older man’s embrace.
“Yes, yes. It is true. We will all be together at last. But I will need help from you. Will you my help, my boys?”
“Yes, Opa John! We will! We will!”
And so John told the boys the secret to set him free.
The next morning was the 5th anniversary of John’s entombment. Franz woke at dawn and went to the nursery to wake his sons to lay flowers at John’s stone feet. Heart heavy with mourning, Franz openied the nursery door to find two empty beds. After a quick search of the bedroom, Franz went to the dinning hall to break his fast. He thought he might find the boys there. To his surprise, they weren’t there either.
Fighting what he knew to be irrational panic, Franz sped back to the royal apartments. ‘Not my boys!’ He thought. ‘And not today. Anything but that.’ By the time he reached the rooms, he was in a dead run. Pushing through the heavy doors, his heart roared in his ears. There were his boys, standing before John’s statue, holding his sword.
“Stefan! John! What are you doing!” Franz raced across the room to confiscate his blade.
“Papa, No!” The boys cried, wrestling their father for the weapon. “We need it. We have to do it to free Opa John!”
“No!” Franz finally pulled the sword free and held it over his head. “I can’t allow it. I won’t lose you too.” He threw it across the room and fell to the floor, pulling his boys into his arms.
Startled by their father’s tears, they allowed him to hold them for a moment before explaining.
“Papa, Opa John told us how to bring him back.” Little Stefan started.
“But we need the sword to do it.” Little John continued.
“Boys, Opa John is gone. He couldn’t have told you that. He couldn’t have told you anything.”
“He did Papa. He did. In our dream.”
“Boys…” Franz began, but the twin interrupted his protests.
“Really Papa, he told us lots of things in our dreams.”
“He came to us all the time.”
“He said it’s time now Papa.”
“He said it’s time for us to be a family again.”
Franz paused and looked the boys in the eyes, the eyes that just looked his wife’s. The wife he met through dreams. Dreams, like the ones their boy’s were describing.
“Alight…” he said reluctantly. “What do we need to do?”
“Just trust us Papa. Opa John said you have to have faith in us or the spell won’t work.”
Franz stood slowly, retrieved his sword, and handed it to his boys with a shaking hand. “I trust you. I believe in you.” He swallowed hard. “Bring your Opa home.”
The boys kissed their father’s cheeks, and whipped away his tears before they turned back to John. In turn, they sliced their little hands on the blade. They each took one of John’s frozen hands, then each other’s to form a little circle.
It was silent and still for the space of a heartbeat. No one spoke. No one moved, No one even breathed. They only loved each other and the man they wished to revive.
Warm hands encircled the boys’ little fingers. Then a pair of arms. The boys’ hands were suddenly uncut and unblemished as they clutched at their Opa John.
“John?” Marigold stood in the doorway, eyes wide in disbelief as her husband stood as frozen as John had been for the last five years. Her voice seemed to break Franz from his trance.
“John! Oh John, I can’t believe it. We are so sorry. Oh John!” Marigold and Franz staggered toward their family, stammering out their feelings of regrets, relief, happiness, and love.
John smiled and opened his arms wider to admit Franz and Marigold into the family embrace.
“My children and my little cubs.” John held them all, crying as much as they were. “Do not apologize, for I chose my fate. I have watched over you and loved you these 5 years.” John broke their embrace so he could look at each of their faces. “I couldn’t have come back if you didn’t love me as much as I love you. That was what broke the spell; the love of family.”
John’s return was celebrated with a great festival. He was a friend, advisor, father, and grandfather all in one. He lived the remainder of his long life surrounded by his loving family, and was mourned deeply upon his passing. There was little protest when he was buried in the royal mausoleum next to King Stefan, for he was already heralded as “The King’s Beloved John”, a legend of his times, and the guardian of the royal family.