The king and the tern

Once there was a king who lived near the sea. He liked to walk along the beach in the mornings, where he especially enjoyed watching the shorebirds in flight. The way they swooped and dove and rode the wind thrilled him, and he often found himself wishing he could soar as they did.

In time the king befriended one particular tern who regularly glided along beside him on his walks. The two became close companions, and the king invited the tern to come live with him in his palace. The tern agreed, being very fond of the king. The castle was spacious and lovely but not very conducive to flying, and the king no longer went walking on the beach, with his friend so close at hand.

Years passed. Recalling one day how inspiring it had been to see the tern in flight, the king suggested that it accompany him on the beach as when they first knew one another. To his surprise, the stiff sea breeze tossed the tern like a leaf, bouncing it off rocks and slamming it into the sand. Rescuing the battered bird, he asked it what was wrong.

“I’ve been too long away from the sea,” explained the tern. “My wings aren’t used to riding the winds as they once did.”

Dismayed at this discovery, the two friends sat on a large piece of driftwood and talked. They decided the tern could regain some or all of its flying prowess, but not if it returned with him to the palace. The king didn’t want to be parted from his dear companion, but he could not rule his kingdom from the beach.

Together they sat at the water’s edge, listening to the pounding of the surf and considering the possibilities.

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