Demophon was taught in poetry, literature and the visual arts, and furthermore in all types of battle and warfare. Only through knowledge of the beautiful and the good could he learn how to use his powers, so his teachers said, and for some years they united to show him the fullness of the world. But the boy was impatient and wanted to apply his knowledge at once, even though his teachers assured him that too little knowledge is more dangerous than too much patience. Demophon said: How can I know what I need when I need nothing? How can I show my skills when I have no enemies?
His teachers answered: A man is seldom in want of enemies, the thing is to make friends. Want will find you at some point too, the thing is not to want for much.
But the wise king Darius heard his words and said: Let the boy leave the safe gates, although there is still much he cannot know. After all, there is no one here that can make him understand what he needs when he thinks he needs something else but cannot know what that is. For everyone, man and woman alike, it is true that life in this world consists of hardship and prosperity, their own and that of others. One must know those and not fear them. I have already lost one son, I shall not lose the son of my brother also, nor shall I prepare him so poorly for his life in the world that he shall be defenceless or that his ignorance carries the seed of cruelty within it. I wish only for my son Shtenno to accompany him, so that they can support each other when that is necessary.
Then he had the boys dressed in simple attire, gave them money and weapons and sent them along.
The young men traveled to the surrounding cities and from there to the forests that lay behind. In the cities they spoke during the day to wise women and during the night they sat in inns and played bets with other men. Wheresoever they came, people admired their beauty and the generosity of their bodies.
But one night they were surrounded by twelve men whose lives took place in the shadows. They were accustomed to taking whatever they desired and they took everything by force. They had seen how the boys were treated and how they seemed to have enough money to make their way through this world unencumbered. They had seen how keen the people were to be their friends, and although they knew that courtesy cannot be forced and that love and friendship are not available on request, they desired what Demophon and Shtenno seemed to receive in abundance. So it happened that they addressed both princes and sought confrontation. They spoke of their money but what they wanted was their blood.
Demophon and Shtenno stood back to back and pulled their swords. Demophon said: What you seek cannot be obtained through violence, but what you can find is abundantly present. Those who do not grant us peace shall learn that we have more to offer than kindness. And Shtenno spoke: My father sent me with this man as his shield and his sword. His is like a brother to me and those who make an enemy of him shall also find an enemy in me.
The eldest of the men looked at them and said: See the men who stand here. They have lived lives where poverty was the bitter dish served night after night. Everything they have, they have captured with their own hands. They fought in the armies of kings and murderers, they have seen their own blood flow and they have never wavered. Why would they turn back now? You are still young, not much is lost with your lives. Even though your attire is simple, it is clear that you are of good breeding and it is that breeding we despise. For centuries your fathers have exploited us, they have forced us to bow for them; after they had murdered our sons they took our daughters as reward for their misdeeds. Presently we are but few, but soon there shall be many of us. Tell me your names, so that we can send your heads to your fathers.
The moon suddenly showed down on the party, as if by a signal, and by this bright light the men raised their weapons.
But by the light of the moon Demophon saw the goddess in the guise of a woodpecker, her flight so rapid that only her shadow was visible. Then Demophon spoke again, his eyes did not shine, his demeanour was cool and composed and his voice did not sound angry: It is clear that injustice has been done and that you can blame it on us. We are the sons of kings and our lives have not been hard, while the lives of so many have been so very hard. You can blame us because we have not made this world more just than it is, that is appropriate. But will our deaths contribute to a more righteous world or will they cause more injustice? If we fight, blood will be spilled, that much is certain. You are many, but we are not to be underestimated. What the outcome will be is hardly important, it is certain that pain will cause greater pain. Anger will lead to greater anger, sadness will be everyone’s lot, and when the evening has come the world will have become a worse place for all.
Thereupon he put the sword back in its sheath and gestured for Shtenno to do the same. So they stood opposite the twelve, seemingly defenceless.
Now the leader of the twelve also lowered his sword, as he spoke: Your words are prudent, but this changes nothing of the world in which we live. How will you support us through your actions?
And Demophon said: By seeking wisdom we will make ourselves known to the world. By not fighting when a fight can be avoided, we have performed the first act. And I tell you: wherever I go, I will call no property mine, but I will determine rules for its use. No man shall be subjugated, but I will determine rules for everyone’s compensation. When a man has become old or ill, there will be care; we will not let the dead bodies rot away in the earth but liberate them in a bonfire. The children shall not go hungry even if their parents are poor, and we shall concern ourselves with the poverty of the parents. No man shall be alone other than by his own choice. And if you ask me for my actions: I am young still, but I promise you that I shall act when I can and you will know me by my actions.
Thereupon the twelve put down their weapons and the men greeted each other in parting.