In Search of the Magic Lake
FIVE HUNDRED YEARS AGO near Cuzco, capital of the Incas, there lived a girl named Ampata with her parents and two older brothers. Her family was poor and farmed the land as best they could to serve their emperor, the Sun King.
Alarmed, they learned that the health of the prince, who had been not well since birth, had worsened. The Sun King feared for the very life of his only son.
"Our only hope, sire," said the court magician, "is for your son to drink the water from the Magic Lake at the end of the earth. That is where the sky dips so low that it touches the lake's water and charges it with a magical healing power."
The Sun King announced that whoever could bring him water from the Magic Lake at the end of the earth would be richly rewarded. To the Incan people, gold and jewels were so abundant they had no more value than a barrel of corn; it was land, and the honor of joining the royal Inca family, that was a far greater treasure.
But to Ampata's two older brothers, it was the opportunity to serve their Sun King that inspired them to beg their parents to allow them to go. "We know we can find the Magic Lake," they insisted.
"The end of the earth is too far," said the father, crossing his arms. The mother agreed, adding, "Panthers, boa constrictors, falls from rocky ledges - who knows the dangers that could befall you!"
"But our prince will die without the water from the Magic Lake!" they cried. "We must try!"
Eventually the parents relented, and Ampata's brothers embarked on the journey. They traveled for months, trekking through endless mountain ranges, each time thinking the mountain they were climbing on must be the very last one on earth and beyond it they would reach the Magic Lake. But this did not happen.
One day, after climbing yet another mountain they had hoped was the last one on earth, only to discover at its summit dozens more peaks in the distance, one of the brothers said, discouraged, "We're not going to find the Magic Lake.