The Fool scarcely noticed as a gentle paw scraped his leg. He strode happily onwards thinking that perhaps his coat had caught on a bush. A torn jacket or stocking was neither here nor there when, just across the valley, there were mountains to climb and a castle shimmered in the distance. Then, instead of the familiar sound of tearing cloth, he sensed increasing pressure and found he could no longer move forward. The pressure became pain as needle-like teeth sunk into his flesh, causing him to scream in agony, lose his balance and land face down staring over the edge of a cliff, one leg still held firmly in the jaws of his assailant.
The view below and the enormity of the drop so took his breath away that screaming was no longer an option. The creature let go, but the damage was done. As he tried to pull himself upright piercing agony gave way to throbbing pain and the Fool’s eyes filled with tears.
He did not curse the animal, nor did he realise that, left to his own devices, he might have walked straight over the edge and fallen into the valley below. Instead, finding himself unable to get up, he rolled over and lay on his back to work out his next step. The animal gave two small growls, spat, settled itself nearby and looked at the Fool expectantly.
The pain was quite excruciating. Never before had he experienced bodily injury of this intensity. The years on the road had been kind to him, for people are generally willing to help a fool. He considered himself wealthy, for he always had money in his pocket - though this was a single coin which he had never had the desire, or opportunity, to spend. He was in many ways an outcast, yet it was not in his nature to wonder how he differed from other people or to question their perception of him. As he travelled the land he encountered other travellers, head down, laden with baggage, struggling slowly up hills and across rivers. Yet he walked easily, since he carried only a small bag. He knew that he must never lose this bag, or even put it down, for it contained something of value which, he knew not why, was irreplaceable
Now, immobilized and unable to entertain himself by further explorations of the world, he slipped into a reverie. This was easy for him because, when he chose to use it, he had a fine memory. He recalled an experience of long ago. The day was sunny with a gentle breeze, and he had come across a small boat, anchored to the bank, rising and falling in response to the scarcely perceptible sway of the current. The sights and sounds of the ordinary world grew fainter as this memory replaced them. The rope which held him to the present was loosened by an invisible hand and he began to move down-stream through his life.
Through immeasurable time the reverie continued until some thought disturbed his pleasure and brought a frown to his face. With a start he opened his eyes and immediately became aware of his painful leg. Ignoring it, he tried to understand what it was that had caused him so much concern. The effort made him tired and sad, a sure indication that a problem was at hand.
He had a way of dealing with problems. Whenever he was aware of one, he simply placed it in his bag. It did not strike him as curious that no matter how many problems were placed within, the bag seemed as light as ever, for he knew that the contents were mainly hot air.
Without further ado the elusive shadow was assigned to the bag. And no sooner had he done this than the sun shone more brightly, the grass became greener, and across the valley the town, the castle and the mountain beckoned like magnets.
Unknown time had passed. It was hot, and the Fool felt thirsty. It was time to move on, but where? Before he could make up his mind something extraordinary occurred. The dog, which had been waiting patiently nearby, trotted up to him in a friendly manner. It sniffed him carefully, then moved away, looking back over its shoulder as if beckoning him to follow. Had he been accustomed to deciding, the Fool might have chosen to stay well away from those needle-sharp teeth. Instead, he was struck by the sense that a significant adventure was about to unfold. So he rose carefully to his feet and found he could now walk, though with some difficulty.
The animal bounded away at speed, down a hill that led to the nearby town, then stopped and waited for the Fool to follow. "Why not?" thought the Fool, and as he limped along the distant sounds of the busy market town were carried to his ears by the perfumed breeze of a perfect summer’s day.