To continue my story, the mage went on:
“Harpagus the soldier finally confessed to the king when pressed to tell the truth. By this time, the king was loathe to kill his grandson, so instead he punished the poor soldier. One day, Emperor Astyages invited Harpagus to a feast and he asked the soldier to send his young son in the morning so that he could spend some time with the other noble children before the feast. Harpagus was delighted to have been invited, and he decided that the king must have reconsidered his dire act and realized that it was better to have a noble grandson like young Cyrus.
“All of the nobles were served by porters who came and set various meats and other delightful foods on their dishes. Harpagus ate heartily of the tender meat while laughing and telling stories of his exploits along with the other men. Toward the end of the great feast, Emperor Astyages called for order. He announced that Harpagus was the guest of honor and was therefore, the only one who would partake of the last wonderful dish. The steward brought a great covered dish out before him and opened it. Harpagus’ grin turned into a rictus of terror when he saw the head of his son surrounded by his severed feet, hands, and genitals in a gaily- decorated arrangement.
‘Do you know where the fine meat that you have eaten so heartily came from?’ asked Emperor Astyages.
“For a moment, Harpagus was too stunned and grief stricken to speak, then fearing for the lives of his other family members, he said, “Yes, my Lord. I understand.” He took the remains home for the death rituals and wept bitterly for his lost favorite son.
Harpagus feared for his family after that time, but he continued to act as Astyages’ faithful and apt soldier. He would bide his time.