Long ago, when the lands were still ruled by kings, a boy was born in a poor peasant’s hovel. His parents knew they had little to give him, but they raised him as best they could. However, when the child was but eight years of age, his parents passed away and he was left alone.
No one would take him in. It was a hostile town, and not one person had a cent to spare. The boy’s name, which mattered now to nobody, was Arshank, and he lived as a rat. He slept under bushed as ate the trash of the people.
When autumn came, he knew ha must find a place of warmth, and so he set out upon the road to find a city of more wealth and charity than his own. Perhaps there, he thought, someone would provide for him.
The road was long and hard, and on foot he could not get far. But fortune smiled upon him one day, and Arshank came upon a small grey horse that had been cut loose, or escaped his master, and was wandering by the path. Arshank spent the day with the horse, stroking and soothing her until the two of them were quite at home with each other.
As they curled up to sleep that night, Arshank found a word upon the beast’s reins. “Fidelity,” he whispered. “Is that your name, girl?”
The horse blew air at him, and he smiled.
The next afternoon, Arshank and Fidelity rode into a town. It seemed no more rich than the last, and the two travelling companions wandered down the streets dejectedly.
At night they slept along a wall, soothing each other with their warmth.
As they set out again the next day, Arshank heard a finely dressed man speaking to a crowd. The boy and the horse halted to listen.
The man was a priest, and he was saying, “In the west of our days, if we have been virtuous and true, we shall find paradise. There, all of our needs and wants will be taken care of.”
He was speaking of death, but of course Arshank and Fidelity ahd no knowledge of that. In excitement, they turned their course west.
By the morn of the next day they had entered a terrible desert, and were parched and hungry, for they had no supplies. Yet Arshank pressed on, sure that paradise was within his reach. Fidelity patiently bore him where he wished to go.
At the end of their second day in the desert, Fidelity collapsed. Arshank realized she could no longer bear his weight, slight as it was. They slept where...