Storytime Friday: East of the Sun and West of the Moon, Part 10
The horse wouldn’t stop running. She knew this wasn’t right; horses couldn’t run this fast for long. At such a hard gallop a horse would need to rest every now or then or its heart would burst. This horse didn’t seem to tire, even as it moved at a rate that faster than any horse she had ever seen. She accepted it. What could you except from the horse of a woman who lived miles from anyone and played with golden apples?
The horse did not slow as the sun set. As the stars came out she fell asleep while holding on to its neck. She woke several times during the night, and each time she woke the horse was galloping as fast as it ever was. Her muscles were sore, her bones felt out of joint, and her stomach growled with hunger, but she clung to the horse as hard as she could. The horse seemed to be aiming for a mountain in the distance.
Around noon, as they climbed rocky slopes in the mountain’s foothills, she spotted a cabin. A woman sat on the porch with a bag of wool beside her. She was combing it clean with golden carding comb. The horse brought her to front of the cabin and came to a halt. She practically fell off the side of it. Then, remembering the last woman’s words, she hit the horse as hard as she could behind its left ear. The horse bolted back the way it came as fast as it had come. The old woman gave her a quizzical look.
“Well that was my neighbor’s horse allright, but you don’t look like my neighbor. What are you doing here girl? This is no place for a little thing like you.”
“I’m…I’m looking for a castle that’s east of the sun and west of the moon. I need to find it before the prince there gets married to a horrible troll.”
“How d’you know about that? Oh wait a minute, wait a minute! Are you the one he was supposed to have instead?” She nodded. The old woman clicked her tongue. “Oh it’s a hard blow you done him girl. You were his last hope!”
“What do you mean? How do you know all about this?”
“Settle down there. I can see you’ve come a long way so I’ll get you something to eat. Just wait right there.” The old woman walked inside the cabin, and returned with a cast iron pan full of hot fish. It tasted delicious.
“Well let’s see. It’s a long story child, but I don’t know it all anyway so I think I can make it short. The prince lived with his father, and then his poor mother died, and then his father got entranced with a beautiful woman who he married right away but turned out to be nothing but a mean old troll in disguise, not that he knew it anyway since she kept her bad side hid till’ the “But…why did she—?”
“No time to chat dear. I can see now that you’re not going to give up on your prince there, which I most approve of, lucky for you! Now I’m afraid to say I don’t know where the castle is precisely, but my neighbor knows more of the tale than I do and she might have heard of its whereabouts. Take my horse here, he’ll get you there right quick. When you get there just give a tap behind his left ear and he’ll come back to me.” Before she could react another horse had made its way to her from behind the cabin, and the old woman was helping her onto its back. “Go on, go on, before I think better of it. Oh, and here, you must take my carding comb. It may come in handy! Or not, you never know. Either way you’ll get the castle late or early, I can feel it in my ligaments.”
“Wait, I’m not sure—”
“There you go! Hup hup!” With that the old woman struck the horse’s rump and sent it galloping off towards the horizon.
End of Part 10