Sorry it has been so quiet around here lately. A certain little baby girl hasn't slept well for a few weeks and it has slowed my writing down just a bit. But I do have more of the story to share with you. I am including all of the segments for letters G through W. The pictures and booklist are still in progress but I hope to get those up very soon!
Russell couldn’t believe his eyes. He had expected the world inside the mountain to be dark and dreary, but instead, he found a world sparkling in ice and jewels. And as soon as he had closed the door behind him, he was greeted by the guardian of this sparkling world, a gentle white horse.
“Welcome,” said the horse. “We have been expecting you.”
“You have?” said Russell in a puzzled tone.
“Yes. The people of this mountain have heard that a boy, strong and brave and kind-hearted, will pass through their land. They have also heard that he will need shelter and rest before he continues on his journey. Is that true?”
“Oh, yes, it is,” replied Russell. “I have come a long way already and I am tired.”
“Then come with me,” nodded the horse.
Russell followed the horse through winding passageways shining with ice and jewels until they came to a ledge. Far below, Russell could see a village. A shining, sparkling village. They paused only for a moment and the horse led him on, down the winding, glittery path to the village.
When they arrived, the people of the village surrounded him. With smiling faces, they welcomed him. “We are so glad you are here,” they cheered. “Welcome! Welcome!” Russell did not know what to say. He was so overjoyed at the comfort he felt in this place.
After some time of greeting the villagers, the horse turned to Russell and said, “You must be very tired. Come with me to my home. There you can rest.”
“Thank you,” said Russell. “You are very kind.”
So Russell, again, followed the horse and in a short time, they stood before the door of a domed house made of ice.
“Welcome to my igloo,” said the horse. “I hope you will find it warm and comfortable.”
“I am sure that I will,” said Russell as he ducked his head and went inside.
An igloo seemed like a strange home for a horse, but once inside, Russell could see exactly why the horse liked it so much. It was warm and bright and very spacious. Russell looked around taking in all the sights of this new place. And there, seated beside a table made of ice, was a goose. A golden goose. The horse saw that Russell had noticed the goose.
“This is my friend, the golden goose. She came to our village after being chased by a greedy man who wanted her eggs. He had almost caught her when she found the door to our village and came inside, just like you. And she has lived here ever since.”
“Oh, that is wonderful,” said Russell.
Just then, Russell noticed that one of the goose’s eggs had rolled out of her nest. Carefully, he picked it up expecting it to be delicate and fragile, but instead, what he held in his hands felt like a stone. It was heavy and glowing gold. It was a golden egg! Russell had heard of golden eggs but had never held one in his own hands. It was beautiful. Now he understood why the greedy man had wanted her eggs, but Russell was not like the greedy man at all. He placed the egg back in the nest and turned back to the horse.
“What do you do with all the eggs,” Russell asked.
The horse looked at Russell with a smile and said, “We gather them together and once there are enough, we take them into the village below the mountain and buy food and clothes for the people there who are in need.”
“What a blessing!” exclaimed Russell. “When my journey is done, I would love to help you with this good work that you do.”
“Certainly,” replied the horse. “We would love for you to accompany us.”
Suddenly, Russell yawned.
“You must be tired,” said the horse. He led Russell to a little room to the back of the igloo that was warmed by an oil lamp. Upon the floor was a soft mound of hides, and atop that was a pile of blankets woven from the softest, warmest sheep’s wool. Russell climbed upon the bed and rubbed his sleepy eyes, but sleep would not come, for the day’s adventures had been very exciting.
“May I tell you a story to help you settle in?” asked the horse in a soothing voice.
“That would be lovely,” replied Russell.
And so the horse began….”Once upon a time…..” (Tell the story of Mother Holle. You may want to read this through first and then share it in your own words.)
When Russell woke in the morning, he was delighted to see the horse again. He had so enjoyed the story of Mother Holle, and he was happy to have the horse as company during breakfast.
“My dear friend,” said the horse as they finished eating. “I know you still have a long journey ahead of you. As soon as you are ready I will lead you from our village to the top of the mountain and show you the path you must take.”
“Thank you,” replied Russell. “You have been so kind to me.”
As soon as Russell had readied himself, he and the horse left the sparkling ice village and followed the tunnels that led to the top of the mountain. From their view, they could see far and wide. They could see how the mountain peaks rose high and how the valleys bowed low. They could see, off at a great distance, a castle, not the one from which Russell had left, but the castle of another king, who was also kind and generous.
“You must make it to that castle before the sun sets on this day,” explained the horse. “There you will find a safe place to rest for the night.”
“I do not know how to repay you for your kindness,” said Russell.
“Your thanks is enough. Now, go, the journey is long and the day is short.”
With that, Russell waved good bye and set his feet upon the path. Up and down the mountain peaks he went all the while keeping his eyes on the sun. He wanted to make sure that he reached the castle in time. He did not want to spend the night in the woods on this mountain.
He stopped to rest only for a short time and to refresh himself with some water and food from his pouch. Still, the sun seemed to travel across the sky faster than he could travel the path to the castle. But as the sun melted beyond the horizon in the painted sky of dusk, Russell knocked upon the tall door of the castle.
Immediately, it swung open and he was greeted by the court jester! He was such a happy sight as Russell’s fears of the day melted away with the sun.
The jester bounced and sang, “Welcome! Welcome!”
“Thank you,” said Russell smiling. “I am so happy to be here!”
“Come with me and I will take you to the king.”
Russell followed the cart-wheeling jester right to the door of king’s throne room. There, the jester stopped his boisterous behavior and quietly opened the door. Russell, too, quieted himself as he stepped inside. There, to the side of the room, knelt a lady, dressed in beautiful robes. And at the front of the room was the king.
At once, the king stood and stretched out his hand to greet Russell. Still without saying a word, Russell shook the king’s hand and smiled. The lady continued to kneel as if she were a statue.
The king motioned for Russell to follow him to the next room. As they entered, Russell found a large table full of delicious foods. The king pulled out a chair for Russell and the two sat down to eat.
“Please, excuse my wife for not greeting you,” said the king. “She has been praying day and night for the princess.”
“I understand,” said Russell. “And I thank you for welcoming me here. I will sleep safely and continue on my journey as soon as the sun returns in the morning.”
“That is well,” said the king. “Please enjoy your meal and then I will show you to your sleeping chamber.”
And so, Russell and the king ate a quiet meal together, until at last, Russell yawned. The king led him to a beautiful room where Russell could sleep undisturbed. Thanking the king, Russell politely said good night and closed the door. His tired could not stay open any longer, and so Russell climbed into bed and fell fast asleep.
Russell was startled from his sleep by a knock at the door. Sleepily, he opened the door. There stood the praying lady, the queen, but this time she was wearing her crown.
“The king told me of your arrival,” said the queen. “And I wanted to thank you myself for taking this journey.”
“You are welcome,” said Russell. “And I thank you for your constant prayer for the princess.”
“Oh, I do not only pray for the princess, but for you as well. For your safety and for the keeper of healing, that he may give you the best remedy for the girl’s recovery.” As she spoke, she noticed that Russell’s pouch hanging on the chair beside the door. It was torn and one of the golden keys lay on the floor.
“Oh, Russell! Your golden key! Your pouch!”
Russell looked down and his eyes grew wide. He knew he could not complete his journey without the golden keys.
“I will fix it for you,” said the queen, and she ran down the hallway.
In just a moment, she returned with a needle and thread, and at once, she set to work repairing the pouch. As she did so, Russell readied himself for the day’s journey. He knew it would be another long day and he worried that he would lose his way.
Sensing his worry, the queen asked, “What troubles you, my dear boy?”
“I am afraid I will lose my way. I have never been this far from home,” he said.
“Remember,” said the queen. “Your angel is with you always.”
“Yes, you are right,” said Russell. “I sometimes forget.”
Just then, they heard footsteps in the hall. Russell looked at the queen.
“It is my son, the prince,” she said reassuringly. “He would like to accompany you on your journey today.”
“Hello,” said the prince.
“Hello,” replied Russell. “I am honored that you will be joining me today.”
“It is my honor,” said the prince. “And I know this part of the way very well.”
“Then, it is an answer to my prayer!” exclaimed Russell.
The queen smiled and handed the mended pouch to Russell.
“Let us leave at once,” said the prince.
And so, Russell and the prince said goodbye to the queen and left castle just as the sun floated up into the eastern sky.
Again, Russell, this time along with the prince, traveled as quickly as he could. And again, the sun seemed to move even more quickly across the sky. At last, the sun set in the western sky and Russell and the prince made camp for the night.
The darkness made Russell uneasy and when an owl sang out its hooting call, he jumped.
“Let us call to our angels,” suggested the prince.
“You have an angel, too?” asked Russell.
“Yes. Each and every person has an angel to guide and guard.”
Russell smiled and he and the prince began to sing, “Angel, Angel, spread your wings right here. Angel, Angel send away my fear.”
As they sang, the darkness seemed to lighten and beside them came the angels with wings spread wide like a shelter from the night.
“We are here,” the angels said together. “And we have brought for you, Russell, another golden key.”
“Thank you,” he said as he held it in his hands. By the fire’s light, he could see the letter O engraved upon it.
“I will keep it safe with the others,” he said placing the key in his pouch.
“Now, sleep,” said the angels. “We will guard you as you rest.”
With those words, Russell and the prince fell fast asleep.
In the morning, Russell and the prince woke to the sound of the breeze dancing through the leaves of the trees. It was a beautiful morning.
“It is such a beautiful morning,” said Russell smiling.
“Yes, it is,” replied the prince. “It is unfortunate that I cannot continue on with you, for it will be a splendid day. But I gave Mother my word that I would return on the second day.”
“Then you must go,” said Russell. “I thank you for your guidance this far.”
“Before I go, I want to show you one more thing.”
Russell and the prince climbed to the top of a small knoll. From there, they could see far and wide, and to Russell’s surprise, they could see a river winding its way through the land.
Immediately, Russell began to worry. He could not swim very well and there was no other way to get to the keeper of healing, except across the river.
The prince noticed the fearful look on Russell’s face.
“What is it, my friend?” he asked.
“The river. I do not know how I will cross it. I can only swim but a little bit and the river is wide,” he explained.
“Do not fear,” said the prince. “That is why I brought you here. Do you see that beautiful tree with the shimmering leaves? That one right down by the water’s edge?”
The prince pointed and Russell’s gaze followed until he saw the tree and its shimmering leaves. In his fear, he had not seen it at first.
“There,” continued the prince, “lives a swan. Find her and she will help you across the river.”
“Thank you,” said Russell with a sigh of relief.
“You are welcome. Now I must be going. Safe travels, my friend,” replied the prince.
“And to you,” said Russell.
With that the two parted ways, headed on in their own journeys. Russell traveled through the day until he came to the tree where the swan was said to rest, but she was not there. Russell decided to sit and wait for her. He waited and waited but the swan did not come. He began to worry again. What if she did not come? What if he could not continue on his journey? What if he could not bring back the remedy to heal the princess?
As he sat beneath the tree thinking these thoughts, his eyes began to grow heavy. He was so tired from his long journey so far. His eyelids fluttered closed and Russell began to dream….. He dreamed of the little girl and the star money, just like the story his father used to tell him at bedtime….. (Tell “The Star Money”)
The dream was lovely. So lovely, that as Russell began to awaken, he felt as though he were floating. He felt warm from his head to his toes, and he felt something soft and smooth beneath his fingertips. He opened his eyes, expecting to see the shimmering leaves of the tree up above him, but instead he saw the afternoon sun and water all around him. He sat up with a gasp. Then, just as suddenly, he sighed relief. He was floating across the water in the warmth of the sun on the back of the swan. She had seen him asleep beneath the tree and had known right away that he was the boy on the journey for the king. And so, she scooped him up upon her back and glided into the water.
When they reached the other side of the river, Russell slid off the swan’s back onto the shore.
“Thank you,” said Russell. “I could not have continued on my journey without your help.”
“You are welcome,” said the swan. “Blessings to you as you continue on.”
With those simple words, Russell smiled and walked on.
Russell had walked and walked without much happening or much to see when all of a sudden he slipped. Down, down, down he fell! Tumbling past the trees and rocks along the path. And just when he thought his tumbling would end, he fell into a hole, a dark, dark hole. He was so afraid! Fortunately, he did not fall much further. He landed in a heap and quickly felt around to make sure he still had his pouch. With relief, he felt it by his side and heard the four keys jingling inside.
Now, his thoughts turned to how he would get out of this hole. Up ahead, he saw a faint light. He crawled toward it. It shone brighter and brighter until finally, Russell looked up and saw the blue sky and sun overhead. This hole had been nothing but a small tunnel under the earth. Russell climbed up and out of the tunnel.
“Phew! That was a close one,” chuckled Russell to himself.
“Yes, it was!” responded a voice.
Russell was startled. He looked around and didn’t see anyone.
“Who’s there?” he asked hesitantly. From behind a tree, shyly stepped a unicorn.
“It is I,” said the unicorn. “My name is Ursula.”
“It is a pleasure to meet you, Ursula. I am Russell.”
Sensing that Russell was a kind boy, Ursula stepped further into the sunlight. Russell saw that this unicorn was beautiful but she looked sad. And then he noticed that her horn had a cut right down the middle.
“What happened to your horn?” asked Russell.
“I cut it when I was helping a little girl climb up the mountain. A large rock, came tumbling down and I protected the girl with my body. We were fortunate that the rock rolled past us, but it made other smaller rocks slide down the mountain. One of them slid right down and cut my horn just like you see it.”
“Oh, that is terrible,” said Russell.
“What is worse is that until it is healed, I cannot fly,” said Ursula.
“You must come with me to the keeper of healing,” said Russell. “He will surely be able to help you.”
“That would be wonderful,” said Ursula. “Let us go together.”
And so, the two new friends traveled on. They made their way into the valley and up the other side until they came to a lake. As they stood on the shore, the wind began to blow and swirl around them making large waves in the lake. Russell and Ursula were frightened.
“What shall we do,” asked Ursula. Without even answering, Russell began to sing.
“Angel, Angel, spread your wings right here. Angel, Angel send away my fear.”
And there, like always, appeared Russell’s guardian angel.
“I am here, Russell. How can I help you?”
“We need to cross this lake, but the waves and the wind make it too dangerous,” explained Russell.
“Then you must rest here tonight,” said the angel.
“Very well,” Russell agreed, and he turned to Ursula. “Is that well with you?”
“Yes,” said Ursula. “I am weary and a rest will do us both some good.”
And so, Ursula and Russell made themselves comfortable for the night and fell fast asleep.
In the morning, they woke to find themselves on the other side of the lake and a golden key lay beside Russell. It had a U engraved on it. Russell placed it in the pouch with the other four keys and smiled. He now had all five keys. Then he looked up and even though he could not see his angel, he said,
“Thank you! For everything!”