The warm room was full of laughter. Two little children, a boy and a girl,
lay on their stomachs on a rug, giggling. Their mother held a baby on her
lap, a 10-month-old darling who was just beginning to say his first words-
"llama" and "dance". The father of the family was telling a funny story. A
much younger man who was more like a boy was relaxing in his favorite
"And so, here he is, " the man said. "Emperor Kuzco, the new and improved
"Mmmm, hm, and don't you ever forget it." Kuzco looked at Pacha. "Well,
that was a great story. Besides the fact that it's about me."
"Tell us another one, Dad!" Tipo and Chaca squealed. "Tell us another!"
Pacha sighed. "My voice is getting tired." He looked over at Kuzco. "Why
don't you tell them one?"
"Me?" Kuzco looked rather surprised. "Ahhh, they wouldn't want to hear one
of my stories."
"Yes we do! Yes we do!" The kids jumped onto his lap and climbed all over
him. Kuzco writhed around trying to catch them before they fell off his
"Hey, hey, take it easy, were you both monkeys in your past lives or
something?" They calmed down and sat on his lap. "Okay, now, you're going
to have to be quiet."
"Okay." The two of them sat like they were in prayer and closed their eyes
"This story is kind of hard to tell for me, but I'm going to do it anyway."
Kuzco's eyes were slightly moist. "It takes place when I was between your
ages, kids." He wiped his eyes and began...

7 year old Kuzco popped out of bed. It was finally here! His most favorite
day in the world! 7 years ago today, the future ruler of a whole country
(him) was born!
He ran out of his room, yelling, "It's my birthday! It's my birthday!" to
anyone who would listen, and to a few who wouldn't. A couple of servants
covered their ears and smiled as he tore by them.
Even better than his birthday, his mom and dad were coming home today. They
had been on a 6-month anniversary tour, celebrating 10 years of union.
Every village showered them with gifts. There were big parties, and feasts,
and parades, and music.... Kuzco wasn't old enough to come this year, but
maybe next year, Mama had said. But it was still okay, because they would
be bringing him lots of presents. Kuzco wondered what it would be this
year. Last year, he got a red ball that bounced up to the highest ceiling,
a stuffed llama, and a beautiful red blanket, among other things.
"Yay! Yay!" He was running so fast he didn't watch where he was going, and
smashed right into Yzma. "Oops." he said.
Yzma had a happy look on her face, which quickly changed to sad. "What's
wrong, Yzma?"
"Your highness, I have some terrible news for you." Yzma looked down at him
with false pity.
"Whaddaya mean, your highness? Don't be silly, that's what you're supposed
to call Mommy and Daddy. I'm just their kid."
"No, I mean you." Yzma kneeled down until she was about at Kuzco's eye
level. "There was...a small..accident. A bridge gave out on the way back.
Your parents were pulled out of the river, but they didn't...
Kuzco's eyes widened with tears and fear. "On my...they..." He ran away
into his room, screaming. The same servants who had smiled at him now
watched him leave with confused looks on their faces.

Kuzco sobbed on his bed. He couldn't believe it. Of all the days. And they
were gone.
No more kisses from Mommy.
No more rides from Daddy.
No more.
He blew his nose in the sheets. How could the gods have let this happen?
How could they have taken away his parents at such a time? Why?
"Hey, Kuzco?" A young boy walked in. He held a tray of dinner. "You didn't
come to the table, so I thought-"
"Get lost!" The boy was rather surprised, but did as he was told, leaving
the tray on the table. Kuzco looked up, then eyed the tray. He picked it up
and smashed it to the floor. Sobbing even more, he hugged his sheet, which
had fallen on the ground, and fell asleep.

He remembered a story his mom had told him, about a man who had made a deal
with the gods that if his sister would get well, he would offer his life to
them. The gods agreed, and the man climbed to the top of the highest
mountain, and- but then she stopped, because she had to go to court to
sentence the latest batch of prisoners. She never picked up from that point
Kuzco wondered what had happened. Had he really done it? Or had he
chickened out? He must have really loved his sister. And that was another
thing. Did she live? Or was it a cruel joke the gods played on him?
Kuzco thought long and hard. And he knew what he had to do.

The tallest point on the palace was the grain chute. The crops had been
good this year, but the palace still rationed grain in case of a drought.
Long lines of peasants, old and young, male and female, usually crowded the
roads, carrying anything that would hold grain. Today there was only one,
due to the heavy rain; a youth carrying a large grey sack. His hat drooped
down over his face and gave him a rather odd look.
Kuzco stared down at the ground. He didn't see the young man. All he saw
was the height, which made him shiver. "I have to do this. Be brave," he
tried to convince himself. He looked up at the dark rainy sky. "If I
sacrifice myself, please bring back my mom and dad." A thunderclap sounded.
He took that as his answer, closed his eyes, and jumped off the top.
The fall seemed to go by in slow motion. His hair whipped in the wind, and
he let out a small cry. He gritted his teeth and waited for the impact.
Instead, he hit something soft and warm. It was the sack. He fumbled around
in it, trying to get out, and heard a voice say, "That doesn't sound like
Kuzco peeked cautiously out of the bag and saw the young man smiling at
him. "What are you doing in here?" he asked.
Kuzco climbed out of the bag, and brushed himself off, then sat down,
crossing his arms and pouting. "You wouldn't understand."
"How can you be so sure?"
"I just know, okay?"
The man looked at him a little closer. "Say, aren't you-?"
"Yes, I'm Kuzco. What's it to you?"
"Nothing." The man crouched down to his eye level. "So, you can tell me.
What happened?"
"I tried to sacrifice myself to the gods. I thought maybe they'd give me my
parents back."
The man got an astonished but kind look on his face. "I heard what
happened. News travels fast around here. What made you think that they
would do that?"
Kuzco told him the story.
"I've heard that one myself. Did she ever tell you how it ended?"
"Well, he came so close to jumping, but when he tried, he wound up falling
in a river, and was washed to shore. The gods told him that because he was
willing to do that, that was all it took. But the next day, when his sister
was well from her sickness, she got bitten by a snake and died."
Kuzco looked at him. "Pretty stupid, if you ask me. What's the point?"
"The point is, none of us knows how long we will live, and so we should
live every day like it's our last. Not because it might be, but because
there is so much to do. The country needs you, Kuzco. We all are mourning
your parents. They were very good people. You need to be strong for the
empire, our leader. It's a big job, but if you work hard, there is no end
to the things you can do. It's a lot to ask for a kid, but I believe in
Kuzco just stared at him longer. "I miss them."
"It's all right. It'll get easier with time." The young man got up. "Now,
tell you what. Go in there and cheer up."
Kuzco sniffled a little. "Hey, thanks for saving me."
"Tell ya what," Kuzco said, "how's about I make a deal with you? You tell
no one what I almost did, and your family gets free grain, all the days of
your life, okay?"
The man was startled. "I don't know what to say."
Kuzco extended his chubby little hand. "Just say yes."
The young man reached for it, but then stopped. "Only.... if you promise
never to try this again."
"It's a deal."
And so it was done.
The man walked away a little, then turned around. He had an odd look on
his face. "You know, I have the funny feeling that we'll meet again
"Don't count on it," Kuzco called as he walked away into the palace.

"And as you can probably guess, I never did. Otherwise, I wouldn't be
sitting here now."
"Yay! I liked the part when you fell in the grain sack!" Tipo said. He
"Me too!" his sister squealed. She yawned, too.
"Well, looks like 2 little kids are ready for bed." Chica smiled. "Come
along. Which spare room was it again, Kuzco?"
"Room 23B, check the floor plan." Chica walked out of the room, the
sleepyheads in tow.
"So, I guess I really can spin a yarn. eh?" Kuzco said. "Your little
critics gave me two thumbs up."
"See? I told you. I'm right about a lot of things." Pacha gazed around the
room. "That story is a familiar one to me."
"Oh, really?" Kuzco yawned. "See what I meant? Some guys you just can't
trust. I told him not to tell anybody, and look what he does. I can't
believe the nerve he must have had.............."
While Kuzco was still going on, Pacha ignored his chatter. "I thank you
every day for that gift, you know. It meant a lot to me then and still does
".........and you know, I never asked him his name. Oh, well, your kids
know now, so it won't be a secret much longer, if it ever was, and-OH!" His
jaw dropped to the floor. "Are you saying what I think you're........Oh!"
"I told you we'd meet again. didn't I?" Pacha smiled. "And aren't I usually