Amidst a trumpet blast and fanfare, Helot Thrall labored through the crowd of royal subjects gathered in the great hall, who parted as he neared them, allowing him passage to the throne just beyond him. He was dressed in the humility of serfdom, having been enslaved his entire life. The ball and chain shackled to his feet grinded across the cobble stone floor as he toiled to plead his case before the king. Two of the king’s royal guards escorted the man holding long spears that bore the ceremonial standard of the kingdom.
As he neared the throne, he caught a glimpse of the king who was dressed in purple robes and seated from a vantage that allowed him to oversee his subjects. The final yards of his journey weakened him so that a court appointed servant embraced Helot by lifting him from under his arms and reinforcing his strength. Together, the two men knelt before the king and awaited his benevolence.
The king, who astutely observed the struggle, spoke kindly to him. “Who brings a grievance to my throne?” His great voice overwhelmed the idle conversations in the background, causing all to turn and politely view the ceremony.
“It is I, Sire.” He spoke with great consternation. “My name is Helot Thrall.”
The king evaluated Helot as if inspecting his royal knights. “Why have you come to me?”
Without lifting his head, he spoke with grave respect. “I have come to you from beyond the valley and from the land of shadows. My journey has been great and I’ve come to seek your favor.”
“And what do you seek from me?”
“I seek your pardon. I seek your mercy.” As he spoke, tears filled his eyes and his voice faltered.
“What have you done, Helot Thrall, that requires my pardon?”
“Your majesty, I was not born in your kingdom, but from beyond your borders. My parents were both your subjects, but I left them and I journeyed beyond the valley, where I have been enslaved.”
“And where are your parents?”
“Alas, Sire, they have died in your service. I am all that is left of my family.”
The king considered the wretch that knelt before him. His clothes were typical of a slave, and his mannerisms displayed the respect he had for the monarch before him. “I will grant you an audience. You may state your case.” With those words, the armed escort bowed graciously and retreated beyond the crowd.
Helot, overwhelmed with humility, began to sob openly. “Your Majesty, I received your invitation to submit to your kingly rule, and I have come to subject myself to your authority. I have abandoned my old master and I now throw myself at your feet, lest I become your footstool. I was not born of your kingdom, but I desire greatly to be counted amongst your ranks. I have nothing to offer you but myself. I can’t bring you any gifts that would cause you to take notice of me or consider my misery. If you refuse to grant me relief, then I will surrender my life to death.”
The king regarded Helot’s plea and proudly proclaimed, “Today, I grant you pardon. All that you have transgressed in the past will be forgotten. I now offer you a place in my kingdom, where you will serve me as a bond servant.”
Overwhelmed with relief, Helot collapsed where he knelt and cried out, “Thank you, Great Master. I vow before you my life. You may use it as you please. I will serve you with gladness and I will be faithful to you from this moment forward. I have forsaken all others and seek only your will.”
“Then I will treat you as my brother. The riches of my kingdom are available to you. I will provide all you will ever need.” The king paused and looked upon him with favor. “I welcome you home.”
A burst of applause echoed through the hall as the king’s subjects relished in the joy of surrender, having all of them surrendered in like fashion at one point or another. Immediately, a royal servant unlocked the shackles that bore witness of Helot’s slavery and freed him for the first time in his life. Helot then rose to his feet and took his first step as a free man. Elated at his ability to walk effortlessly, he began to spring and bounce as joy filled his soul. He ran across the hall, demonstrating his newly discovered freedom and then ran immediately to the throne. “Thank you, Sire. The taste of liberty is sweet, and I’ll savor it for my remaining days.” When he finished speaking, the royal servants led Helot from the hall into a small room where he was bathed and groomed. As years of slavery were washed away from him, he couldn’t help but excitedly chatter to the men who attended him. Grateful to serve, the men laughed with him and graciously smiled to see him experience independence for the first time in his life. Once his transformation was complete, the head attendant placed a bundle of clothing on a stool. “These clothes will replace the ones we destroyed. You may get dressed. When you are clothed, you need to leave this area and return to the great hall, where the king will host a banquet in your honor. We have killed the fatted calf, and prepared the choicest of meals for you. Please don’t hesitate to join us quickly.” He turned to leave and then faced Helot with grave sincerity. “Oh, one last thing. Don’t tarry long. There are many who would offer you great rewards and meaningless glory, but the cost is equally great. Be extra vigilant to seek the king’s grace before committing to others.”
Helot smiled warmly. “Thank you, brother. I’ll join you shortly.” With those words, the attendants left the room, extending privacy to him. As he dried himself from his bath, a door in the back of the room opened and a man dressed in dark lavender robes cautiously approached him.
“Helot Thrall? I’ve been sent by the king to offer you some clothing that will set you apart from all the others. Do you see my robes?” As he spoke, he modeled the clothes and turned for him to view. “These are the choicest of fabrics and are imported from the traders beyond the valley. They are purple, just like the king’s own clothes.” He then pointed to the clothes left by the royal attendant. “You don’t want to wear these drab old rags. If you like, I will provide a complete set of these beautiful robes for you.”
Mystified by the offer, Helot examined the clothes. “This material is so soft and clean, are you certain the king wants me to have these? Who am I to merit such comforts?”
The man nodded eagerly. “Oh, the king insists that you have nothing but the best. And look, you will be given golden chains to wear.”
He produced a toothy smile. “Nothing but the best to symbolize your service to the king. When you wear these chains, you will be immediately recognized as a bond servant of his majesty.”
Helot paused in confusion. “But, I thought that….” His voice tailed off.
The man smiled again. “You thought that no one wears chains in the king’s service?” He laughed with a friendly chuckle. “Oh, what you can’t see, is that underneath everyone’s robe, is a set of chains. We are all slaves of the king, and we all proudly wear his shackles. The best thing about these chains is they are golden.”
Helot examined the chains closely. “They are beautiful.”
“And expensive. Many of the subjects still wear the iron chains around their legs, but I know you will appreciate the freedom you’ve found in the king, and you only want to sport the best chains possible.”
Helot frowned in thought. “But, I thought we were free from shackles.”
“Shackles?” the man repeated with disdain. “Perish the thought. No, these are golden chains that symbolize service, not the harsh, biting, rusting chains of a slave. Rather, these will demonstrate to all that you’ve committed your course to the kingdom.”
“How then will people recognize the symbolism if they can’t see the chains from underneath my robes?”
“Ah, a very discerning question, indeed. The gesture is symbolic only to you. It is your personal regard for the king. You should keep it private, for you don’t want to boast in front of those who weren’t given golden chains. Do you understand?”
Helot frowned again. “I’m not certain that I do.”
The man shrugged. “Well, it means nothing to me. I wanted to extend the king’s gift to you, but if you choose to reject his first gift, I’ll let you explain it to him yourself. Thank you.” He turned to walk away.
“Wait! I didn’t realize that the chains were a gift from the king himself. I’ll gladly wear them if it means so much to him.”
“Very well. Now, keep this to yourself. We don’t want to cause jealousy among the subjects, do we?”
“Uh, I suppose not.” With those words, Helot places the shackles around his legs and donned the deep lavender robes provided by the stranger. He was satisfied that no one would be able to see the chains from underneath his clothing. For a fleeting moment, he considered the stack of modest clothes left by the royal attendant, but paused to consider the beautiful clothes on his back. “This is better,” he said to himself. “And I only want the best for the king.” He then lifted his burden to hurry from the room and into the great hall, where a feast was being prepared in his honor. The stinging metal only irritated his legs a little, but it was a small sacrifice if it brought pleasure to the king.