When Mirabel rolled over in the dark, her face landed on a clump of prickly, pokey, stick-up straw. She brushed it all away from her face, but when she tried to settle again, a lone piece of straw poked at her cheek. Now, opening her eyes, she looked over the edge of the loft toward the door which was now outlined by a pale light. She sat up and stretched and discovered that Rowan had already risen. It had been his turn to use Roland’s cloth-covered sack of straw, a more comfortable bed than a heap of straw with no cover. “My turn tonight,” she thought.
Mirabel climbed down the ladder and checked on Giselle and her calf. She saw that Rowan had already filled their food bucket and that the calf was hungrily nursing.
“I’m hungry too,” she thought, imagining butter and jam on a big slice of the bread Rowan had baked.
Pushing open the heavy kitchen door, and calling out “Good Morning!” Mirabel was surprised to find Rowan already at work.
“We’ll never be able to eat all that bread,” she said, amazed by the great number of big clumps of dough lined up on the long table.
“It’s not for us,” relied Rowan. “I’m going to bring it to the workers at the stable in the foothills. I’ll go tomorrow. You can come with me if you want to. I figure that we can leave Giselle and her calf in the barn for the day and be back by nightfall.”
Mirabel thought for a moment. “I would love to go with you,” she said, “but I think I should stay here to exercise the calf and Giselle. I don’t like the idea of leaving them inside all day.”
“But how will you carry all this bread?” asked Mirabel. “Looks like you’re making 20 loaves.”
“I figure I can use Roland’s sleeping sack as a big bag. You can use it tonight, and then bring it to me in the morning after you dump the straw out. We don’t have a big oven here, so I’m baking in batches today. I’ll be ready to load the big sack first thing in the morning. But, right now let’s eat! We have bread and butter and jam!”
Ronduin sat on the grass in the courtyard under the pear tree. He looked up and spotted a ripe pear. A cat, curled up on his lap, purred as he stroked her head. He thought about taking the cat off his lap so he could pick the pear. Then, in the distance, he heard his mother’s voice calling, “Ronduin, Ronduin, where are you?”
Next he heard his father calling, “Ronduin….. Ronduin….. Ronduin.” He didn’t answer his mother or his father and he did not get up to pick the pear. Ronduin just kept petting the cat.
We all do strange things in dreams and they don’t seem strange at all while we are still asleep. It did not occur to the dreaming Ronduin that he should answer his parents’ calls.
Then the voices became louder, and Ronduin woke up on a hard board feeling damp. He remembered he was stuck in the middle of the courtyard where he had fallen asleep on a board in a vast expanse of mud. For a second, he remembered the courtyard as it had once been, as it was in the dream, green and beautiful with no mud in sight.
Ronduin stood up, being careful to keep his feet on the board. He realized that the voices calling him were both in the dream and they were real.
“I’m here,” he called out. “I’m in the courtyard and I’m stuck!”
Ronduin’s mother appeared on the balcony where the chickens had lived. She called down to him. “Oh Ronduin, we were so worried about you! We’ll be right there!”
The Queen arrived first and said, “Your father is bringing boards. It looks like you needed wings to get out there.”
“Actually I just kept sliding one board over the next. Sort of like a moving bridge. But then that one got stuck,” he said pointing to the lighter colored board. Then he stepped onto it and walked as far as he could back toward the path. A gap the length of two boards kept him from reaching his mother.
As they waited for his father, Ronduin wondered whether his parents would be upset with him. And, when his father arrived and said nothing at all, but just went to work, Ronduin guessed the King was upset indeed.
First the King set one board in the mud, then he stepped onto the that board with a second board under his arm.
“I figured out that it works to slide the top board over the bottom board,” said Ronduin.
“Good idea,” said his father, smiling. The King slid the top board over the bottom one and soon, it filled the muddy gap. Now there were four boards in a row that made a bridge back to the path. The King walked to the stone path and Ronduin followed.
“I’m so sorry,” said Ronduin. “I made some silly mistakes and got stuck.”
His father lifted Ronduin into his arms, something he had not done since Ronduin had been the sickly Prince.
“We were so worried about you,” he said. “We called and called and could but find you. But here you are, safe and sound.”
“So you are not upset about my silly mistake?” asked Ronduin.
“Actually, I’m glad to see you working at solving the problem of crossing the muddy fields. You have figured out a good method that needs some changes to make it safe.”
“You must be hungry, ” said his mother.
“Come along to the kitchen,” said his father. “Porridge first. “Then we can talk about how to create a safe moving bridge.”
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