It was once said that if you find The Golden Rose, you get one wish. The Golden Rose was believed to be the flower from the seed fallen from paradise to earth. Some would go mad trying to find it and some went missing, never to be heard from again. Legions of people for centuries, some say millennia, have travelled far to the Northern Forest to find it. Kings and knights alike have failed. Empires have risen and fallen. Time passed and the story continued to pass from lips to lips, from the old to the young. But the story of The Rose still went on so people assumed that it was still there, perched somewhere, untouched, and blooming in the pale moonlight for many millennia… Until one day…
A small farm boy from the nearby village in The Kingdom ventured into the woods, searching for a game for supper. Famine and drought had ravaged the land for years and killed most of the villagers. He was on his own. Armed with just a single dull and rusty knife, he walked on the dry forest soil scattered with dry dead leaves from what once was a lush and abundant forest. Most of the trees were dead and the few remaining were dying.
He was thirsty… and hungry… He only had a handful of insects left in his small bag, which can only last a few days. He knew he had ventured too far, but he didn’t care. There’s nothing left for me in that godforsaken place anyway… He thought to himself. His lips parched dry and bloody. His right foot was slightly limping from a fight over a cup of dirt water.
Night was approaching. He didn’t realize that it was getting dark. A wolf howled in the distance. He could feel goosebumps in the back of his neck; he didn’t want to be the prey… Not today anyway. He continued to walk anyway.
When it was getting too late and his strength wavered, he realized that he needed to find shelter quickly. But the hunger and thirst took over, the world suddenly spun and his feet gave ways beneath him. Darkness enveloped him…
Suddenly, a burning stench filled his nostrils. He woke up to a burning campfire beside him. His head was resting on a stack of hay and he was covered in someone’s old and tattered cloak. He was inside a cave. There are many cave drawings painted on the walls. There was a man boiling something over the fire. “Hello, young ‘un.” The man said with a gravelly voice.
The farm boy sat up suddenly and stars swam in front of his eyes. “Who are you?” The farm boy said.
“‘Who are you?’ Is that how you greet one another these days? Not even a ‘Hello’?” The old man said. His face unreadable.
The farm boy stood up and pointed his knife at the man.
“What? You’re going to kill me?” The man said without even flinching.
“Aren’t you scared?” The farm boy said, still pointing the knife at the man. His hand started to tremble from the lack of strength.
“Go ahead. Kill me.” The old man said. “No one is going to stop you… Then again… no one is going to help you.” The boy noticed that the old man was unusually clean. The farm boy stood for a second, a lump was forming in his throat out of nervousness. Something is not right… But all thoughts vanished from his head as he saw a bottle glinting near the campfire. Immediately he dropped his knife and ran straight toward it. He drank the content of the water without hesitation.
The old man chuckled. His grin exposing a rotten set of sharp teeth.
“Thank you.” The farm boy said after a long swig from the bottle.
The man grunt in response. He was looking down at something inside his cloak that resembled an old wooden box. Something shone from the inside of the box which sparked the boy’s interest.
“What’s that?” The farm boy said.
“None of your concern.” The man said as he slipped the box back inside his cloak.
“Is that food?” The boy said, hope rising inside him. He inched slowly toward the man.
“No.” The man said firmly.
The farm boy suddenly lunged forward toward the old man. His hunger for food took over and he pinned the old man to the ground and wrapped his hands around the man’s throat. The old man suddenly smirked. “What a foolish boy.” He said.
“What do you mean— Arrrgh!” Suddenly there was a burning pain on his side. The old man kicked the boy as he stood up. The boy writhed on the ground clutching a knife protruding at his side.
“If you put aside your own greed, we could have shared the wolf.” The man spit out the words like venom. “Pity. You reminded me of my own son at some angles.” The man crouched down and forcefully pulled out the rusty blade from his side.
The pain was unbearable. The farm boy could feel the blood pouring out the wound and pooling underneath him. “Why…”
“That’s no way to gain trust from other people, my dear boy.” The old man pulled out the old wooden box from inside his cloak. “Do you really want to see what’s inside? Hmmm?” The old man chuckled.
Tears poured out of the boy’s eyes. He was in agony…
“Do you remember that old tale? What is it? Oh, yeah. ‘The Golden Rose.’” The old man opened the latch of the box and took out what looked like a shining flower. The color glowed like molten metal as it reflect the glowing ember of the campfire. “It turns out there’s always a catch inside every miracle.”
The boy could no longer speak as his vision fades slowly… He could no longer feel the pain. He could only watch and wait…
“Huh… you’re dying. I forgot what mortality feels like.” The tone of the old man’s voice was no longer gravelly. His posture was no longer hunched. Was he acting earlier?
“You see? What I gain from wishing for immortality is that’s just it: Immortality. No more. No less. It’s merely diminishing my worry of the ultimate end. I no longer even care about the time! However, I still feel pain. I still feel sadness. I still feel alone. I still feel thirst. I still feel… hunger. I can’t even let go of the godforsaken thing or I’ll turn to dust.” He looked at the boy who was now staring at him with a blank face. “You’re…” The man touched the side of the boy’s neck for pulse. “…dead.” He closed the boys eyes shut. “Huh…” The campfire’s glow now cast an eerie shadow on the cave wall. The silence made the man stumbled backward. He stared at the boy’s lifeless body for a long while, his eyes showing no emotions.
“Well, it’s been years since I’ve had a human for supper.”
There was another ancient tale. The tale of an old traveler. Some believed him to be one of the missing kings who had searched for the Rose. It was said that he found it. This tale was also about a liar who had spread the rumor of The Golden Rose from paradise to lure people into trap to kill them, some say even eat them. The traveler cannot let go of the flower for all of its power are received from his proximity to the flower. The potency would diminish whenever another touch the flower. In truth, the origin the tale of the Golden Rose was derived from another legend: The Lucifer’s Lotus.