The King’s Entryway

Two Chapter Preview

 © 2012 Bill Zukoski


Chapter One:


Charis is very much like the country you are familiar with, but like most stories of this sort, it lies far, far away.

Nestled in a valley at the foot of the Royal Mountains in the Province of Rohi is a small town named Lamb’s Meadow.

Every small town has an annual event that puts them on the map, and for Lamb’s Meadow, Festival is it. The week prior to Festival, everyone in Lamb’s Meadow comes together to make it happen.

You and I might call Festival a small state fair. It’s a weekend of barn raisings, quilting bees, furniture making, pottery making, arts and crafts demonstrations, athletic contests and of course, food. Farmers from all over Lamb’s Meadow bring the best of their best for the judging, and when the judgin’s done, the eatin’ begins. There are more food pavilions than there are stars in the sky. All the food is free, and when the last bite is eaten what’s left over is donated to the poor throughout the Province.

Locals say Festival started 50 years ago when the farmers in Lamb’s Meadow were just finishing planting their spring crops. Word came to them during the night that a neighboring farmer took ill and his family was going to lose the entire crop without help. Well, the only transportation most of them had were bicycles, so early the next morning every farmer in the valley rode over to their neighbor’s farm and helped finish the planting. After the planting was done, all the families in Lamb’s Meadow gathered at the town square for a big celebration, and, well, things just took off from there. It’s become an annual event and each year it keeps getting bigger and bigger.

The high-light of Festival is the Lamb’s Meadow 50 or “The Fifty” as the locals call it. The Fifty is one of the most unique biking events you’ll ever be a part of, drawing cyclists from all over Charis and a few neighboring countries.

If you’ve ever experienced a chili cook-off, then you’ll understand what I mean when I say The Fifty is kind of like a chili cook-off on wheels. There’s a competition bracket for serious riders, and then a not-so-serious competition including Father-Son, Father-Daughter, Mother-Son, Mother-Daughter, and the Generation Relay for families of three or more generations. But most who participate in The Fifty ride in the recreational bracket. The Family Fun Ride is popular for families with kids on “trikes to bikes.”

There are prizes for the best-decorated bike, best costume in individual and group category; prizes for the oldest bike, ugliest bike, most creative bike, and most ingenious bike. So whether you come for the competition or a relaxed ride through the farm land and foothills of the Royal Mountains, you come for the fun and the food.

Now if you happen to be traveling west on Highway 316 J toward Lamb’s Meadow, you’ll pass Matthew Street, which is the west border of what locals call “The Rock Pile” or just “The Pile.” And if you turn right onto Matthew Street and go about 1/2 of a mile, you’ll come to a small white house on the right—number 714. That’s Farmer’s home.

Farmer is a “Piler”—what locals call those who farm on The Pile. It’s a hard life and leaves little time for leisure. But when Farmer has the chance, he takes his bike out on the road and rides through the foothills of the Royal Mountains.

Farmer rides perhaps why many of us do. Out on the roads above the valley and away from The Pile he can smell the wild flowers that grow along the roadside, and the honeysuckle that covers the fences. He can hear the silence that is broken only by the song of a meadowlark and feels the breeze as he rides through the clean mountain air. And sometimes, there seems to be this still, quiet voice whispering something to him, but he can’t understand what’s being said.

The morning of this year’s Lamb’s Meadow 50 arrived.

It was a glorious morning, the kind of day you don’t mind getting up out of bed for. The dew on the ground sparkled in the bright sunlight. The smell of cedar and pine hung in the air.

The route begins at the town square and makes its way east through the town on Main Street. Once out of Lamb’s Meadow proper, Main Street becomes Highway 316 J and meanders through the farm land, and then turns north and heads up into the foothills of the Royal Mountains. At the half-way point, the route heads west, following West Ridge Rd. that runs above the valley along King’s Ridge. The route then turns southeast and heads back toward town. It’s about 50 miles—give or take a mile—but no one particularly cares, even those riding in the competition bracket.

What makes The Fifty unique is what happens along the route. Farmers from all over Lamb’s Meadow set up stands along the course. You can get fresh squeezed lemonade along “Lemonade Lane;” Watermelon along “Melon Mile;” and Fresh roasted peanuts at “The Peanut Party.” And at the half-way point, most everybody stops at the “Water Hole,” for some cold water and encouraging words from a local farmer named Fred.

Farmer rode his bike from number 714 Matthew Street through the center of town, toward the sounds and smells of The Fifty.

Matthew Street is a wide, well-traveled road—it’s flat and straight and easy to ride on. It didn’t take him too long before he came to the Festival grounds, where riders were enjoying a farm-fresh breakfast of biscuits and gravy, scrambled eggs, bacon, and fresh juices, courtesy of a group of local farmer’s daughters who call themselves “The Ram’s Lambs.”

It was 20 minutes before the start of The Fifty. As the bikers were mingling about, Farmer found himself sandwiched between two competition racers discussing the virtues of being aero (aerodynamically efficient). Their discussion was a little too intense for him, and as he maneuvered away from them, he came up alongside a man straddling a bike that could only be described as “unique.”

The man spoke first, extending his hand. “Hi! I’m Josh.”

Farmer was aware Josh had said something, but he could only focus on Josh’s bike. He had never seen one like it. It appeared to be made of some kind of wood, although not like any tree he had seen in the Province, and the wood was all nicked up, like it had been through some kind of a battle. No fancy derailleurs or twist shifters; no hand-brakes.  Just a very simple bike, much like the kind you had when you were young and just had the training wheels taken off. Farmer also noticed a wicker basket attached to the handlebars of the bike. Farmer figured Josh’s bike must be extremely heavy and awkward. How was he going to get up hills on that thing?

Farmer finally took Josh’s hand. “Excuse me,” Farmer started in, “I couldn’t help but notice your bike. It’s—ah—it’s unusual.”

“I’ve gotta agree with you there,” replied Josh, smiling.  “But it does start a lot of conversations. I’m a craftsman, among other things. I mostly work with wood, and stone, and jewels. I built this bike for a very special event, but I ride it every now and then for an occasional cycling event—like today.”

“It looks heavy. Isn’t it kind of difficult to ride— especially climbing hills?”

“It’s difficult sometimes, but it gets the job done. Lots of adventures on this bike.”

“What are all those nicks on your bike from?”

“From those adventures. If I may ask…are you riding with anyone today?”

“Um…no,” Farmer replied hesitantly.

“Are you a local?”

Farmer stood up straight from leaning over his handle bars, swelling with pride. “Yeah, fourth generation.”

“Well then, how about riding with me today? Or at least part-way. I’d like to hear about the area.”

“Why not?” Farmer agreed, happy that someone had taken an interest in him, and unaware he was grinning like a kid in a candy store.



The riders were arranged in order. The competition riders were positioned in the first group, their titanium alloy bikes glistening in the sun, heads down, gear shifters at the ready—poised for the starter’s gun. Next group was the parade of club riders: The Farmers’ Daughters, The Biking Vikings, a group of traveling salesmen calling themselves the Peddler’s Pedalers, and three blind riders known as the Three Blind Mice. Next was the recreation bracket, followed by the Family Fun Ride that circles the town square until the kids—or the parents—get tired.

After the Charis National Anthem and a prayer, the report of the starter’s gun cracked through the still morning air, and The Spring Festival Lamb’s Meadow 50 was on! Once out of town, the riders spread out along the course, and Farmer and Josh established an easy pace which allowed them to enjoy the ride and talk easily.

“So what brought you to Lamb’s Meadow today?” Farmer asked.

“You did.”

“I did!? I gotta tell you Josh—what you just said kinda creeps me out! You don’t even know me!” Farmer was creeped out but also a little intrigued.

“I suppose that did sound a bit creepy, but I mean that sincerely. You asked me what brought me to Lamb’s Meadow today and I told you — you did. I ride for the adventure. And for me, adventure is found within relationships.  I think I can best tell you what I mean through a story.

Once there was a young prince who lived in a palace. Like all princes, he had everything money could buy. But like most princes, he was lonely. What the prince wanted most of all was to play with the town kids his own age. So when his tutor wasn’t teaching him how to sword fight or sail ships, or ride horses or learn one of five languages spoken in the kingdom, he would get on his bike and ride for hours around the countryside and through the town surrounding the palace grounds.

“Now, this was no ordinary bike—it was made of precious metals and jewels that sparkled in the sunlight.  The handlebars had holes placed into them with an opening on the top near the end, so that while he rode, the breeze created went through the opening and out came music, kind of like how a flute sounds. And so the prince learned to play tunes as he rode along.

“The village kids could hear the prince coming down the street, and they would run out to see his bike, much like you and I sprint after the ice cream truck when we hear it coming down the street in the summertime. The prince enjoyed being with all the kids, and he would let them all have a turn riding his magical, musical bike.

“One day, the prince decided to invite all the kids in the kingdom to the palace to play. He had cake and ice cream and had planned out all sorts of games to play. But when the kids arrived, all they wanted to do was ride his bike. In fact, no one even talked to the prince. The prince politely allowed every child there to have a turn on the bike. And after the last guest left, he closed the palace gates and cried.

“You see, it wasn’t the prince they wanted to see, it was his bike they wanted.”

When Josh had finished his story, he looked at Farmer and said, “You know, most of us are like the kids in the kingdom. The prince wanted someone he could hang out with and talk with and play with; someone with whom he could share all of his riches and treasures. What the kids didn’t stop to think about was that the riches and treasures were within the prince, not the bike.

“Sometimes, I think about what I would have done if I had been one of the kids at the party. Would I have wanted the prince, or would I have wanted what I could get from him?

“I’ve ridden in a lot of these tours, Farmer, and the one thing I value over everything else are the relationships I’ve built over the years with people I ride with and who ride with me. I’ve found that the adventure is within the relationships. So, I’m here today because of you.”



As the course led them out of town and into the farmlands they rode on for a bit, not saying much.  Farmer was thinking about the story Josh had just told him about the prince and his magical bike. Soon, Farmer pointed to the left and said, “That’s my house over there and this is my farm we’re riding past. Comes right up to the road we’re on.  That big acacia tree line over there is the north border.  This small road we’re comin’ up to runs north into the foothills.  It’s the east border.  When the route takes us along the ridge above the valley we’ll be able to see the whole thing.”

“Tell me about this part of the valley, Farmer.”

Farmer found himself enjoying the ride with his new friend. At least that’s how Farmer felt about Josh. Josh seemed genuinely interested in what he had to say and Farmer liked that.

“This part of the valley is called The Rock Pile ‘cause the soil is so rocky. Not many things grow too well in this kind of soil except olives and barley—that’s mostly what I grow. I’ve lived here all my life, just like my daddy and grand-daddy and great-grand-daddy did. I’m the fourth generation to farm this land.

“It’s hard work, farmin’ on The Pile. And we’ve had this drought goin’ on for ‘bout a year now that’s made things real bad. Lately, what with this drought and all, I’ve been thinkin’ about whether this is all life has to offer—sweat…hard work… and then what? Seems like there ought to be more to it.

“Another thing about The Pile—it’s kind of lonely out here. There’s not too many folks from other parts of town come over this way. I guess I’m kinda like that prince in your story. Not many friends growin’ up. Don’t have many now.”

After a moment, Farmer realized that he had been doing all the talking. He looked at Josh apologetically and said, “Guess I had a lot on my mind ‘cause it just all kinda came out. Sorry if I bored you.”

“Oh I’m not bored at all. I’m glad you told me about your life on The Pile. I told you I was interested in the area, and I’m interested in you. I know a lot of guys who farm for a living. I know a farmer who went to plant his field,” Josh said, launching into another story, “and as he scattered the seeds across his field, some of them fell on soil that was shallow and rocky, like yours here on The Pile. The plants sprang up quickly, but the roots had no nourishment in that shallow soil, and the crop soon died. But some of the seeds fell on good, rich soil and produced a crop that was thirty, sixty, and even a hundred times as much as had been planted.”

“Man—I’d like to have me some of that 30-60-100 harvest,” said Farmer.

“I’d like for you to have some of that too,” said Josh.  “You can, if you’re interested.”

“You figure out a way for that to happen and I’m all ears.”

“Let’s talk about it later.” Josh grinned, “I just wanted to plant a seed.”

After a couple more minutes of riding, Farmer said, “Comin’ up now is what we call Prince’s Field. There’s a legend about this field—you ever hear of it?”

“I’m all ears,” said Josh smiling.

“Well, a long time ago, there was a King in Rohi whose castle was way up in these Royal Mountains. He was a good king and was kind to all his people. One day he looked out from the castle and saw sheep grazing in the valley, and named the valley Lamb’s Meadow.

“Story goes that there was a river that flowed from a fountain in the King’s castle down into Lamb’s Meadow. The water in that river made sick people well and the cattle and sheep that drank that water were the biggest and strongest around. And the land by that river was the best in Rohi.

“The King had a son and he planted a vineyard by the river in honor of his son, and named it Prince’s Field. He hired some local farmers to take care of the vineyard, and Prince’s Field produced the biggest and best grapes in the country. Still does.

“One day, the King went away to visit his land on the other side of the mountains. While he was away, it came time for harvestin.’ But one farmer took some of the harvest and sold ’em for himself rather than give to the King what was rightfully his.

“Like I said, the King was good and kind, but the farmer broke the law and had to pay for his crime. In those days, the penalty for stealing from the King meant death.

“When the Prince heard about what happened he went to his dad and said, “I know what this man did, but it’s too big a debt for him to pay. I’ll die in his place,” for he was good, like His Father, and he loved the people.

“Well, the law was the law and couldn’t be broken, so the King sadly accepted his son’s offer, ‘cause he knew how much the prince loved his people. So the prince ended up dyin’ for the thief.

“After the prince was dead, the King took his body back to his palace and put the prince’s body into that fountain.  Bathed in the fountain’s waters, the prince came back to life.  After that the King stopped the river from flowing into the valley to remind the people of what the prince had done for the thief.  You’ll see the dried up river bed when we get up onto the ridge. Accordin’ to the legend, the prince is still alive and the fountain still flows within the palace. And anyone the prince invites to live with him in his palace can drink the water from the fountain, and if he does he’ll live forever.”

“Who gets invited?” asked Josh.

“He who walks across with me, will with me forever be.  Not sure what it means, but that’s the way the story goes.”

“Sounds like a pretty good deal to me,” Josh said.

“Like I said, it’s just a story. Most people don’t believe it.”

“What do you believe?” Josh asked.

“I don’t know. Some people say they’ve met the prince, but I don’t know if there’s any truth to it. It’s never been proven and don’t know if there’ll ever be any proof—unless the guy just walked into town. And even then, how would you know? You’d just have to take his word for it.”

“But, what if the legend is true—that there really is a prince?

“Yeah, I suppose it could be true, but like I said, no one’s ever found anythin’ that proves it. I think it’s just a story.”

“Is that bike you’re riding real?”

Farmer looked at Josh. “Course its real!”

“Well, what if 100 years from now, your great-great great grandkids heard stories about you riding in the Lamb’s Meadow 50, but there were no pictures or official race results they could find—just hearsay. How would they know the story is true?”

“There would probably be some people still livin’ then that would remember seein’ me there and would tell ‘em!  Folks live a long time ‘round here!”

“Well then…what if it was 1,000 years later? Would that make it any less true?” asked Josh.

“No—guess not. But it’s a whole lot easier to believe I was in a bike race than some story ‘bout a prince livin’ and comin’ back to life.”

“Well…there’s the field. And the dried up riverbed. And someone planted that vineyard. And some do believe.”

“Well…I’d have to see proof before I’d believe,” said Farmer.

“That vineyard you mentioned. Are the grapes really good?”

“Yeah—like I said—the best! You gotta get some before you leave. Where you from anyway?”

“Not too far away—a little beyond those hills,” Josh said, nodding his head toward the north.


Buy “The Kings Entryway” to Continue the Adventure with Farmer and Josh

Si te gustaría conocer más sobre Josh,
cerra y haz clic en “Conoce a Josh.”