Watch this video to see skiing on mud https://youtu.be/SFk8uBznRT4
Ronduin walked into the kitchen to find Cook Agnes in her usual position, bent over the fire, stirring a pot.
“Prince Ronduin, I missed you at the midday meal,” she said. “The King said you would eat later, but you never arrived.”
“I was the field practicing with my mud skis,” said Ronduin. “I brought bread with me, so I wouldn’t have to come inside for the midday meal. Mother said I could go out by the front gate and practice on the field as long as I stayed near the castle. She watched me from the sitting room. She was worried that I would fall in the mud and get stuck and she would need to rescue me. But I didn’t fall, not once.”
“So you like skiing on mud?” asked Cook Agnes. “Almost as much as running,” said Ronduin. ” I’m getting fast, almost as fast as Mother. Soon we will use the skis to travel to barn hill. That will be an exciting journey, the farthest I have been from the castle in a long time.”
Cook Agnes had been bent low to stir the cooking pot on the fire. Now she straightened herself to her full height, which was not much taller than Ronduin. She looked directly at him and said in a thoughtful voice. “Then you will see Mirabel and Rowan.”
He knew what she was thinking. He was quiet for a moment and then he said, “I don’t know what I will say and I don’t know what they will say.”
He looked down at the floor and in a softer voice said, “The second they look at me they will realize that their old friend, Ronduin, is the Prince and not a farm boy. I’m afraid they will be angry with me for not telling the truth.”
“I’ve been thinking about this,” said Cook Agnes, speaking slowly and thoughtfully. “Mirabel and Rowan are probably concerned about the royal family. They wave at all of us in the castle every evening. And they know we have been stuck here for a long time. They don’t know whether we have run out of food, or had some other difficulty. They will be happy to see that you are well. And they will be glad that you and your parents found a way to join all the people of the village in the foothills.”
Now, Cook Agnes turned back the fire and bent low to stir the pot.
When she turned back to Ronduin she said, “Did I ever tell you that my brother Roland and I have the ability to detect each other’s feelings even when we are apart?”
“How do you do that?” asked Ronduin.
“I don’t know,” said Cook Agnes.”It’s been happening since we were very young. We discovered it one day when we were both younger than you are. Roland was out in the field and was stung by a wasp. I was here in the kitchen peeling onions. I felt his distress and told Mother we must go to him. I put the onion that was in my hand into my apron pocket and we ran out of the castle. As soon as we stepped outside, we could hear his cry and we ran to him as fast as we could. When we reached him and saw the swollen sting, Mother said, “I can use mud to soothe the pain, but an onion would work faster. I handed her the onion from my pocket and she bit off a piece and placed it on the red area on his arm. Roland was soon smiling.”
“Can you detect feelings only from Roland?” asked Ronduin.
“Well, I thought so. But, now I sense that I’m picking up feelings from Mirabel and Rowan. So many years of sensing barn hill has made me tune in to anyone who lives there. I can sense Mirabel more than Rowan. In fact I can sense her as well as I can sense Roland.”
“Is she well?” asked Ronduin?
“She is strong and happy,” said Cook Agnes. “And, since I can sense her so easily, just like Roland, I think that she can sense me too, just like Roland can. And she can probably sense everyone else in the castle. If that is the case, then she has probably detected that her old friend Ronduin is in the castle.”
“So you are saying that she might not be that surprised when she learns that her old friend is a secretly a prince?” asked Ronduin.
Cook Agnes looked thoughtful and then said, “I have a hunch that she will be more surprised that she somehow sensed your presence in the castle even before she knew it to be a fact.”
Cook Agnes began ladling stew into bowls.
“Should I carry these to the table?” asked Ronduin.
“Please do,” answered Cook Agnes.
The Queen entered the kitchen just as Prince Ronduin placed the last bowl on the table.”The King will be late,” she said. “He’s working in the food storage room and will start bringing food all the food that’s left down here for Cook Agnes tonight.”
“I can help,” said Ronduin as the sat down at the table.
“He mentioned that he would like your help after we wave to the children on barn hill,” said the Queen. “It is good that three of us are leaving the castle soon, because food is getting low. It will last much longer when feeding only one person.”
They bowed their heads and the Queen said a blessing. Then they ate in silence for a few moments.
Finally, the Queen spoke, “Ronduin, I’ve been thinking about your friends from school who do not know that you are the Prince. “
“I’m thinking about them too,” said Ronduin. “I think that when they find out I am the Prince and not a farm boy, they may be mad at me because I lied to them. Cook Agnes thinks that maybe Mirabel won’t be angry. Maybe she’s right. By the rest of the children I know from school may be upset because I deceived them. And perhaps they won’t want to be my friends when they find out.”
“I have an idea about that,” said the Queen.
Both Ronduin and Cook Agnes looked at her with great interest.
The Queen continued, “Mirabel and Rowan will learn that you are the Prince,” she said. “When you arrive with us at barn hill, that will be obvious. But, if Mirabel and Rowan keep your secret, the rest of the people of the village don’t have to know that you are the Prince.”
“When I arrive with the King and Queen at the stable in the foothills, it will be obvious to everyone,” said Ronduin.
“But what if you don’t arrive with us?” said the Queen.”What if we tell everyone that the sickly prince is too tired to come all the way to the stable and will rest at barn hill until we return to the castle. And what if you stay with with Mirabel and Rowan for a few days and then travel along the low path to the river. What if we send Sir Andrew to meet you there? What if, when you arrive with Sir Andrew at the stable, he says that he brought you from town in the green boat?”
“So, then I could go back to school and, as long as Mirabel and Rowan keep the secret, I could still pretend to be a farm boy?”
At that moment, he King’s footsteps were heard in the hallway.
“Yes,” said the Queen. “Just think about this idea, dear. You can continue to be a Secret Prince, or you can let everyone know your true identity. It’s your decision.”
Climbing the stairs in the turret just before sunset, Ronduin felt confused. He thought about the idea of walking along the low path to meet Sir Andrew at the river. He imagined himself joining the villagers at the stable where nobody would be surprised to see him, where he would find many old friends and enjoy their company. He also thought about a different plan where he would walk to the stable with his parents as the no-longer-secret- and-not-at-all-sickly Prince.
Standing on the turret with his parents and Cook Agnes as the sky turned pink watching for Mirabel and Rowan to step out of the barn, he did not know yet which plan he would choose. But he did know that soon Mirabel and Rowan would know his true identity. They would know that he lives in a castle, not a on a farm. They would realize that someday he will be King.
Mirabel was first to step out of the barn. She waved wildly and Ronduin returned her greeting. Then Rowan stepped out of the barn leading Giselle and her calf.
“I am glad that Mirabel will know I am the Prince,” he thought, “because I want her to know the truth.”
We have been taking a long journey together! I’m eager to hear who is still with us on this journey. The blog stats shows me how many people access each chapter through clicking on a blog post. But I have no way of knowing who reads each chapter through an email subscription to the blog. If you read The Secret Prince by email, please leave a comment. And, no matter how you access the story, please share a comment about the age of children listing to the story and how they are relating to it. Do they find parallels with their pandemic experience?
Let’s have a conversation about how things are going in various regions and nations. Are your children at home, at school or doing some of each? Is your region or nation approaching a post-Covid normalcy?
Blessings on all of you as you care for your children during these unique times.