The moon is climbing up the sky, flooding the castle with brilliant silver light. The first ray is shyly looking into one of the chambers through the window, but the moon quickly hides behind a cloud, and only a faint echo of the silver light makes it into the room. Even the moon is avoiding king Haggard.
The king is asleep. He is restless in his sleep, as if he could not find peace even in dreaming. An eternal wanderer who has forgotten what he is looking for, but he cannot turn back, for he has forgotten the way home.
A shadow of the moon ray touches the king's closed eyes, feather-lightly, hesitantly, frightened by a sudden flutter of the eyelids. But before the silver shadow manages to escape, it accidentally looks under the sleeping king's eyelids and freezes, startled by a reflection of a dream it spots in the king's eyes.
In the king's dream the glow of moonlight turns into the radiant silhouette of lady Amalthea. But the forest in her eyes is visible no more; her eyes have become like mirrors, reflecting only the moonlight. In a blink of an eye everything melts into this reflected light.
The brightness thins and trickles away, and suddenly the king is in his ballroom as it was many years ago. When he was called another name, a one he does no longer remember.
The ballroom is full of music, laughter and dancing, but it no longer can bring the king joy. For as long as he can remember, nothing can make him happy for more than a while, So the young king leaves his merry court and goes out onto the balcony, to watch the sea. Nothing can catch his eyes for more than a moment, nothing but the sea.
The king's magician, Mabruk, is watching the dark silhouette, outlined by the starry sky. He has already tried many things, but nothing can make the king happy. Yet Mabruk is an ambitious wizard and he will not give up that easily. The king will for sure reward him greatly when he finally succeeds.
The king, watching the sea, does not now that his magician is planning to try out his last, most powerful spell. That, unnoticed by anyone, secretly leaves the castle and wanders the forests for weeks, in searching. When he returns, no one asks him why and where has he been away, because he is a magician, and so has a right to keep his secrets. Besides, it does not interest the king anyway.
Weeks pass, but for the king they merge into one: a swirl of singing and music, passing by, like a tiny stream – the king can cross it, but it cannot sweep him. The king passes along it all and watches the sea.
One such day, when he goes out onto the balcony of his tower to watch the sea, his gaze falls upon the way leading up to the castle, and the king freezes. For a moment it seems to him a moon ray has fallen down onto earth, and now is heading towards his castle. The king, though his steps are always measured and dignified, runs down the stairs towards the gate, then stops halfway and turns back, to his throne room. He cannot forget he is a king, after all.
The magician leads the guest into the chamber, and the king freezes again. His guest is not a moon ray, but the woman Mabruk is leading towards the throne is almost as radiant. When the king looks into her eyes, for a while he sees a forest, so alive he can almost hear the whisper of leaves and little feet of squirrels, trotting along the branches. The moment passes, and the forest is no longer there, replaced by the reflection of the king. And Mabruk the magician can barely hide his amazement when a smile, first since many, many years, slowly appears onto the king's lips.
The king accompanies his guest all the time and so he does not know his magician is content because of his king's joy. Yet days and weeks pass, and the satisfaction fades away from Mabruk's face, because the king has forgotten his existence, and Mabruk will have none of his gold or titles. So the magician takes refuge into his tower and makes up a plan. He will never again allow the king to forget him, for when his plan is complete, the king will need his magic for each single day for the rest of his life.
The king does not know anything of it, for he spends every day with the luminous lady, whom fate has brought into his castle. He, who has never smiled for years, now learned to laugh again. For years no ball has gave him joy, and now he dances all night long with his beautiful guest. For years music could not move him, and now the tunes once indifferent to him now touch his heart. For years he has known no joy, and now it is enough to see his reflection in the luminous lady's eyes, and a smile appears on his face. And the king discovers he is, finally, happy.
Mabruk the magician watches everything and smiles gloomily. He will win back what he has lost, with one single spell. His plan is simple. Mabruk knows all he needs is to take away the king's happiness. But for now, he is waiting.
Months pass, and it downs on the king that his beautiful guest will not stay in his castle forever. The king would not bear if the luminous lady left, so one day he gather up his courage, offers her a ring and asks for her hand in marriage. The luminous lady weeps, for no apparent reason, but the tears quickly dry away on her cheeks, and she agrees.
And Mabruk the magician is waiting. He is patient.
Three days later the luminous lady becomes the king's wife and queen, and the kingdom blooms with hope everything will be different from now on. And the king is happy.
For Mabruk, the waiting if over. Only a week passes since the royal wedding, when the king's wife disappears. The king is searching for her in the whole castle, whole town, and then his whole kingdom, but he cannot find her anywhere. He is asking everyone he meets on his way, but no one has seen his luminous lady. As if she never existed.
Mabruk the magician is sitting in his tower, laughing triumphantly.
Weeks, months and years the king searches for his wife, to no avail. At last, the way lead him into an old, magic forest. He does remember, but he has seen a similar forest once in the eyes of his luminous lady. He stops near a pond, to rest, and it is there he notices two unicorns, and feels a strange sting in his heart. It takes him quite some time to figure out it is joy he is feeling. The king does not know what moves him so much, maybe it is because the unicorns are beautiful and luminous as-... the king does not remember. He knows only he has to keep them, all. Because only unicorns can wake something in him, something of which he has been thinking died long ago.
Deciding this, the king return to his castle. On his way back, riding through a town, the king spots a little boys, sleeping on the doorstep of one of the houses. The boy wakes and stares at the king with fear and then with hope, and reaches out his tiny arms towards him, and the king understands suddenly the boy has no home. Following an intangible impulse, he takes the boy with him. And when they are riding towards the castle, the boy trustfully asleep in the king's arms, a long dead feeling wakes back into life in the king's heart one that has died with the disappearance of his wife.
The king does not know that this, too, will pass, because Mabruk has become a truly powerful magician, able to destroy everything which stands in his way to wealth and power. But for now the king does not know, and for a while he is happy again when his little prince Lir calls him father.
When many years later the king sees lady Amalthea, approaching his castle, he has a feeling he lost something very important to his life, something the sight of her reminds him of, something he should have never ceased looking for. But the king cannot remember what it was.
King Haggard wakes up from his luminous dream, and the chamber around is dark and gloomy, and empty. The moonlight is long gone, because even the light is afraid of king Haggard. Only the single lost shadow of moonlight stays under the king's eyelids, to search for something next night. To search for a place in the king's memory which now is almost empty and where the king now sees only his own, still young reflection, and it fills him with sorrow.
The king does no longer remember he has once seen this same reflection in the luminous lady's eyes, and he will never know of it again. He will never know why lady Amalthea's presence hurts him, like a thorn, and he will never know again what lost Grail she reminds him of, and why the sight of unicorns can still move him. And why, though he now has all of them in his castle and in his power, he still cannot keep joy for longer than just a while.
The king does not know he will never again find his luminous lady, whom he does no longer remember, he can remember nothing but a blurred silver glow. He does not know his luminous lady will never return, because she became a mortal woman, and even when the magician turned her back into her true form, she remained mortal. He does not know his light is gone forever, because his luminous lady, lost and lonely, died of grief, for the reflection of the king's smile was no longer in her eyes.
And the king will never know Lir really is his son.
Author's note: king Haggard, Amalthea and Lir are creations of Peter S. Beagle.