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Once upon a time in a far away country there lived an old King named Dadon. He had been a mighty warrior in his younger days, but now he was very fat and very lazy. He liked to spend his time feasting and taking long naps on his huge feather bed. He loved his feather bed.
Very often he wandered down to the enormous palace kitchens. He enjoyed watching the cooks prepare delicious foods for his festive board. And what a busy kitchen it was! There were great processions of maids and knaves carrying pies and roasts. Jolly fat cooks stirred mixtures in huge bowls, while ducks and pigs were turning on the spit. Out of the great big ovens there came delicious cakes all decorated with sugar roses and other wonderful goodies.
If it had not been for the evil ruler of the Dark Mountains, which lay beyond his Kingdom, old Dadon would have been very happy. This ruler was really a wicked Magician who could not bear to see anyone happy.
He lived in a dark, cold cave, and night after night, by the light of a million fireflies, he studied old books. He was always hoping to find more and more ways of making people unhappy.
The old King's jolly, carefree life made him very angry. So the wicked Magician gathered his armies together from all the darkest corners of the Dark Mountains and sent them forth to attack the peaceful realm of King Dadon.
And then the poor old King had a dreadful time! No sooner did he send an army to the North, than the Magician's armies would attack from the South. And when Dadon sent his warriors to the East, the enemy would surely come from the West. So the King's armies never got a chance to fight the mysterious foe.
All these troubles kept the King from taking his nice long naps in the huge feather bed, and he didn't like this at all! So he called a meeting of his wise men, the boyars. He was sure they could tell him from which direction the enemy would come.
The boyars sat before the King and thought day and night over this mighty problem. After many days and many nights, they finally decided that the only one who could help the King was the fortune teller. So old Dadon commanded that the fortune teller come quickly. But the boyars shook their heads at this order, and then the eldest and wisest arose with great dignity. He stroked his long, grey beard and said, "But, mighty Dadon, the fortune teller has been dead for many, many years."
This bad news made the King very unhappy. Then all the wise men began to talk at once.
"If our fortune teller were alive," said one of them, "he could save our kingdom with his magic mixture of beans, cooked in a large iron pot with a strange and secret herb."
"Beans!" said another boyar. "Pooh! Who ever heard such nonsense! Now I heard of a witch who could foretell the future with grains of sand."
"Sand!" screeched another boyar. "How silly! By the stars alone can one tell the future."
Soon the royal halls fairly shook with "Beans" - "Sand" - "Piffle" - "Stars" "Nonsense!" as each boyar shouted as loudly as he could.
The King by this time was almost weeping with rage and disappointment. "Enough!" he shouted, pounding his sceptre on the floor, "Away with all of you! You have brought me no help in my hour of need."
The boyars had never before seen jolly old Dadon in such a temper. They looked at each other in surprise. They were deeply hurt at his ungratefulness. Were they not the wisest men in the kingdom? And had they not thought and thought for days and days to help him?
Just when all seemed black with despair, there suddenly appeared an old, old man, carrying a bundle under his arm. He approached the throne, bowed deeply before the King and said, "Hail, O mighty King! I knew well your great-great-grandfather, and his grandfather before him. Tales of your great distress have reached my ears and I have brought you a gift."
He reached in the bundle and brought forth a Golden Cockerel. "Take this bird, O Majesty!" he said, "Place him on a spire atop one of the turrets of your castle. He will watch over your kingdom. If all is well, he will sit peaceful and quiet. But if there be a sign of danger, of enemies advancing to destroy and pillage your lands, then this Golden Cockerel will begin to crow:
Awake! Arise! The foe's at hand!
Seize your arms! Defend your land!
and he will flap his wings and turn to whence the danger is coming."
Excerpted from The Golden Cockerel by Elaine Pogány, Willy Pogány. Copyright © 2013 Dover Publications, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of Dover Publications, Inc..
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