In a golden land, long ago, there were three great treasures guarded by three great kings. The first of these treasures was the Golden Steed, a prince of horses with coat of amber champagne and speed unmatched by any other mount. He and his sires had long been guarded by the house of King Alan, an old and noble line whose horsemanship was legendary throughout the golden land.
The second of these golden treasures was the great Golden Bird whose song was sweeter than the nightingale and whose beauty never ceased to enthrall. King Mael watched over this immortal avian, granting it safe haven from the avarice of the world within the confines of his ancient seat.
And the third, the greatest of all these treasures, was the Golden Tree, a magnificent apple which bore the golden fruit of the gods, once guarded by the Hesperides and Ladon, now guarded by King Valter and his three sons.
But King Valter was grown old, though he had yet to choose his successor from among his sons. And so it came to pass that when the theft of the golden apples was discovered, the King charged his two eldest sons to unmask and capture the larcenist. His youngest son the King forbade take part in this potentially dangerous endeavor.
When the two elder princes failed in espying the thief not once, nor twice, but thrice, the good King relented and allowed his youngest son to participate in the capture of the midnighter. And so it came to pass that when the two elder princes fell to slumber, the youngest alone caught sight of the raider – the Golden Bird.
It glided in upon a passing breeze, elegant and wonderful, and alighted upon a gnarled branch of the Golden Tree, blessing the crooked limb with is beauteous presence. The youngest prince could only watch in awe as the graceful bird folded its wings, each delicate feather perfect in form, the faint sighing of metal upon metal melodic in the breathless silence of the night. But as the glorious bird extended its swanlike neck towards an aureate fruit, the youngest prince was reminded of his duty and so rudely chased the magnificent creature away, startling the Golden Bird into departing sans a single tail feather.
The very next day, the youngest prince presented the gilt feather to his father as proof of his vigilance. King Valter was so taken by the beauty of the pinion that he declared then and there that whosoever of his sons brought back the Golden Bird would become king.
The first to set forth was Mark, the eldest prince, and he rode out to much fanfare and anticipation of swift success. However, after nine months had passed with no sign of the eldest's return, the second son, Edric, set forth to recover the Golden Bird and his missing brother. When yet another nine months had passed with no sign of either elder prince, the King reluctantly allowed his youngest son, Prince John, to go questing for his brothers' fates. The Golden Bird the King forbade his sole remaining heir to seek.
And so it came to pass that two years after the theft of the first golden apple, Prince John set forth from his father's castle with every intention of retrieving the Golden Bird.