The dawn wind stirred the grass on the foothills. And, when a blade of dew-damp grass brushed across his cheek, Roland wakened from his light sleep. Sitting up and stretching, he surveyed the cows and sheep who were already up and grazing. He had woken may times through the light to check on them by the light of the moon. Now he breathed a sigh of relief and gratitude as the day brightened and his creatures ended their months of hunger.
Now Galen whinnied and turned to face the mountains. Roland turned too, curious about what Galen had seen. In the distance, a horse with a rider trotted toward them across the hillside. Roland waved and the rider returned his greeting. Soon it was clear that the rider was Sir Andrew.
“Greetings, dear friend,” said Roland looking up at the rider who appeared to be shining in the golden light of the sunrise.
“And good morning to you, dear friend, on this fine day,” replied Sir Andrew. After dismounting, he continued, “How are you faring? And what news have you of Mirabel and Galen? I told their father that I would bring back a report.”
“I am well, as are the two strong young people,” said Roland. “I am grateful to leave barn hill in their care.”
“Ricard will be so happy to hear they are well,” said Sir Andrew.
“The reason I had to wait for their help was that Giselle was tired after a challenging birth. She must rest to regain her strength. Meanwhile the children will walk the calf everyday.”
“The sheep and cows look good, though thin,” said Sir Andrew.
“They ate the grass at barn hill to a low stubble. I can’t hurry them now that they can eat their fill. We will slowly make our way across the hillside to the hill stable today and tomorrow. Roland paused as a small bird claimed his attention when it landed near his feet. Then, turning back to Sir Andrew, he asked, “And how are you, my friend?”
“I’m tired, but well,” said Sir Andrew. “Yesterday I rowed back to the village thinking I’d stay there, but, when Lars heard about the extra plows, he suggested we bring many more workers for planting. He convinced me to bring a second boat load of workers to the foothills right away. We arrived in darkness and made our way to the stable by lantern light. The hill stable is a merry place full with the villagers and the farmers from the Mountain Kingdom.”
“The children told me how Princess Eleanor arrived with workers and extra plows,” said Roland.
“We are blessed to have such friends,” said Sir Andrew. “Today I will make two, perhaps even three, boat trips to the village to bring back workers to plant right behind the plows. We don’t have any time to spare, but I think we will be able to plant enough for a good harvest and a winter without hunger. As relieved as I am, I suspect the King and Queen are beset by worry over the planting. Perhaps they are imagining a winter of scarcity after a very small harvest. I wish we had a way to tell them about the kindness of the Mountain Kingdom.”
“I too have been thinking about how the King and Queen usually know everything that is happening in the kingdom,” said Roland. “But now, the village, the people in the foothills and the children at barn hill all know more than the King and Queen know.”
“Have you heard of messenger pigeons?” asked Sir Andrew.
“I have not heard of them,” said Roland. “Do they talk?”
Sir Andrew laughed. “I wish they could,” he said. “Some kingdoms raise homing pigeons to carry messages back to the King and Queen. Wherever you take them, they fly back to their homes. If we had raised homing pigeons and taken some with us when we left the castle, we could have sent messages back to the castle with them by attaching tiny paper messages to their legs,” said Sir Andrew.
“I like that idea,” said Roland.
“Once we no longer have difficulties due to the flood, I will recommend that we build a dovecote at the castle to house pigeons,” said Sir Andrew. But, for now, the only way to tell the King and Queen about our good fortune is to find a way to travel to the castle across the fields of dangerous mud.”
Roland looked thoughtful. Then he appeared to be muttering to himself for a moment. “I don’t tell many people this,” he said. “But sometimes I get spirit messages from my sister Agnes. And she gets spirit messages from me. I will try to send her a message to tell her that all is well in the foothills and that the Mountain Kingdom has sent help.”
*** an idea for parents and teachers. You might have an interesting conversation with children about the ways in which communication has traveled through time. This story shows messages sent by fire and this chapter mentions carrier pigeon. Here is more information about carrier pigeons https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homing_pigeon
What changes in communication technology have happened over your lifetime? Over the lifetime of your child?
Note: I’m thinking about making The Secret Prince into a book series. Carrier pigeons will appear in the second book if I decide to continue the story. Are you interested in a second book? I’d love to hear your thoughts in comments here or on The Secret Prince Story Community page on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/groups/640925113394726/about