Sabrina Becken Reed
Copyright © 2014 Flip Side Fairy Tales, LLC
IBSN Softcover 978-1-63366-005-2
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Being tall, strong and handsome might make a young man vain.
Being called dumb and smelly definitely prevented it.
Todd was the youngest, but the biggest in his family. He quit school to earn money for his two brothers to become important men with advanced training. Now, though, all the students from the King’s School for Peasants thought book-learning was just too hard for him, and they called him Dumb Todd. He worked hard from dawn to dusk, and his brothers were grateful for his help, but being brothers, they always teased him about his body odor.
Todd’s smelliness and his ignorance were actually small problems. He had three great secrets that made up for all of the teasing. First, he was a great acrobat, but it was always when he was alone. Second, the world’s most beautiful princess thought of him as a friend – he even had a note to prove it. Third, he spent half of each day training the most magnificent horse in the entire world.
Cuprum was copper-colored, huge and powerful, with a long, glossy mane and tail. He was so strong; he had to be trained carrying a person wearing a full set of copper armor in a heavy copper saddle to provide extra weight. It was a lucky thing Todd had grown so tall because he fit into the armor just perfectly. Training Cuprum took up half of the work day – and it was always the half he liked best.
One morning, Todd woke in a whole new way.
“Out of bed, dunderhead!” a voice in the barn barked.
He rolled from his blankets near the hearth, groaning. He looked all around, wondering who could be talking to him.
“Where are you?”
“Who are you?”
“How can you be at home and still talking to me?”
“You get up too late. The king wants you on schedule. Look on the hook by the door.”
Father, Jeff and Bill were already gone for the day.
Todd found a copper ball hanging from a leather thong near the kitchen door. It had gold and silver designs. The irritated voice of Zanzibar who lived in the land above the clouds came from this ball.
“I will speak to you only once a day. Now, get to work.”
Todd had so many questions to ask, but no matter what he said, he couldn’t get Zanzibar to speak again. So, he shrugged, put the lanyard around his neck and ran to the black glass barn where Cuprum lived.
Cuprum belonged to the king of the land in the clouds, but Todd took care of him while he was stranded down below in Fairland.
That morning, wolves surprised Todd and Cuprum. The entire pack rushed to attack the horse, drooling in anticipation of a kill.
Todd lost the reins and had to hang on to Cuprum’s mane. The copper colored horse easily outran the wolves, but even when they were left behind, Cuprum didn’t slow down a bit.
Todd yelled “Woah!” over and over.
He pulled on Cuprum’s mane.
Nothing worked to slow the panicked animal.
Cuprum rushed straight for home -- the black glass barn out in the middle of nowhere. He showed no sign of slowing down. The barn doors were closed, and Todd knew Cuprum would either turn sharply or stop suddenly. He braced himself for something awful to happen. He squeezed his eyes tightly shut.
He prepared to die.
Cuprum reared back and climbed straight up the slanted side of the barn as powerfully as if he ran on level ground.
Todd opened his eyes when Cuprum was halfway up the side of the barn. He saw the reins trailing from Cuprum’s bridle at an angle that would have made them easy to grab. Just as he reached for the reins, though, the horse reached the flat roof of the barn, and raced across it. The reins dangled downward again. At the other edge, the horse didn’t stop.
Cuprum leapt forward as if he wanted to fly.
Todd gritted his teeth.
This would probably be the moment where he came out of the saddle and broke his neck.
Instead, Cuprum simply ran down the other side of the barn.
Todd had to lean back so far in the saddle, he banged his helmeted head against Cuprum’s rump with each stride.
The horse reached level ground and kept running as if nothing unusual had just happened.
They ran, in fact, all the way to Princess Evelyn’s white glass hill.
Todd yelled the whole way.
He still couldn’t calm the horse. At least, on this hill, he would get another chance to grab the reins. Sure enough, on the way up the glass hill, the reins trailed backward from Cuprum’s bridle and he was able to catch them. At the top of the hill, he slowed Cuprum to a trot. Instead of galloping down the far side, they went down at a reasonable walk.
It would take a while before Todd’s heart slowed down.
He flipped the latch that let him climb out of the copper armor and got off Cuprum’s back, but forgot to take his helmet off.
“What in the world are you doing to that horse?”
The irritated voice of Zanzibar came from the ball Todd wore around his neck.
“Doing to him? What’s he done to me, you should ask.”
“Just stop shouting. You almost caused an international incident with all that racket,” Zanzibar said testily.
“Why didn’t you tell me Cuprum could climb up a glass hill?”
“Well, he can.”
“Why didn’t you answer when I had more questions this morning?”
“You shake the ball to work it. You’re not allowed to do that, though. It’s a wake-up call only.”
“That’s not . . .” Todd would have said, “fair,” but Zanzibar interrupted him.
“Hang the ball on the hook where I left it. Now be quiet.”
Todd shook the ball in frustration and yelled, “He could have killed me!”
Zanzibar’s voice never came back, no matter how Todd shook it.
Eventually, his breathing slowed down. He saw that Cuprum was also more calm, chewing on weeds at the base of the white glass hill.
Todd had always been curious about this hill. He wanted chance to climb it. He saw Princess Evelyn do it once. He walked along the edge of it, looking for an easy route.
Princess Evelyn’s hill was enormous – taller than the tree tops. Like the black glass barn, this hill had eight sides slanting so steeply upward that it looked like a giant-sized housewife had lost her thimble. The top was flat and had plenty of room for the times when the princess went there to cry. The sides were completely smooth. How the princess climbed up was one of the great questions in Todd’s life.
Todd licked his palms, and threw himself at the hill. He slid down with a funny squeaking noise. He landed on his seat, and didn’t know that a seam in the back started to give way.
This would never do. Todd was a great acrobat. He could climb a tree while upside down, or flip over the backs of three cows at milking time. If a tiny princess could climb it . . . surely Todd could.
Todd circled the hill again. Only one place along the entire surface showed any difference. A heart-shaped ridge no bigger than his palm about as far off the ground as his waist made him pause and look more closely.
He bent over to trace the design with his finger and see if there was any other marking. There, just in the center, a glimmer made him bend to where his nose was only a few inches from the glass. That’s when a voice startled him.
“It’s a key hole.”
Todd straightened up so quickly he heard a rip in his britches. Just then, he felt a cool breeze where before there should have been none.