My wonderful friend Jane gave me the gift of two squirrel decorations. Today is the epiphany, but please find here the story of two very different kings inspired by Jane's lovely gift.
Once in a beautiful forest there lived a gentle, russet queen and a fiery sunset king. The kingdom was delighted when the king and queen gave birth to twin sons, who would inherit the kingdom and rule together as the squirrel kings.
Sadly, the king and queen returned to the earth very soon and the young twins rose to the throne as growing squirrels.
The elder king grew handsome and brave; he used his cunning and power to act out new schemes each day to gain more wealth, he plotted to marry the grey squirrel princess from the woods on the other side of the river and unite their two kingdoms in his greed.
The younger king was also handsome, blessed with many gifts he used his kind heart and gentle nature to help his citizens. Soon he was beloved by all and became known as the King of Hearts.
The two kings grew older - and as all squirrels and men do - they became more like themselves as the years passed and the seasons changed the leaves from green to gold many times over.
The cold king became reclusive and raised taxes, he dwelt in the highest tree in the forest with the grey squirrel princess, hoarding their wealth. Their hearts were like stone and they soon forgot all about the kind twin and their people.
The king of hearts had no worldly possessions and lived amongst the poor grey squirrels in the barest part of the woods where many young families struggled together to store nuts for the impending winter.
So it happened that the winter came, the harshest any squirrel could remember and each squirrel from the richest to the poorest struggled to eat and find warmth and shelter.
The king of hearts and his followers spent their days foraging, making blankets of dry autumn leaves and distributing food to the most vulnerable squirrels while the cold king remained in his aerie.
The king of hearts decided to visit his brother, the cold king, to beseech him to show mercy to his fellow squirrels and travelled for a day and a night to reach the tallest tree.
Weak with hunger and exhaustion he climbed every snow covered branch until he reached the hollow at the top. The gentle king was horrified by what he saw.
The cold king had made no provisions for the winter and every servant had soon abandoned him. Instead of nuts all the cold king had was jewels: rubies, sapphires, emeralds - a myriad of precious stones surrounded him and the grey princess as they slowly starved and froze to death.
The king of hearts gave what little food he has to his brother and the princess and raced as fast as he could back to the woods.
The king and his followers packed up as much food as they could carry into bundles of dry leaves and returned to the tallest tree.
The kind king of hearts nursed his brother and the princess through the winter, going without food himself while feeding them the finest hazelnut broth until they were well again. Soon the first sparkling light of spring crept between the barren boughs of the tallest tree.
Spring came and the cold king grew strong again. Disgusted by his former avarice the once greedy king became as generous as his brother. They ruled the two kingdoms with love and generosity and soon they became known as the kings of hearts.