In Winged Town, a tiny rustic place near the edge of Crooked Kingdom, there lived a young girl named Cara. Cara lived with her mother and five sisters on a tiny farm. As the oldest child, Cara saw herself as the provider of the family. So, at a young age, Cara started helping her mother in the fields. By age 12, Cara could work the fields alone, sowing and harvesting as the seasons passed. On one particularly good harvest season, Cara had enough money left over to buy a horse. When she brought the little thing home, her mother, too kind to say anything about the condition of the horse, smiled and told Cara that with love anything could grow. Cara, familiar with making things grow, loved and cared for her horse so much, always feeding it bits of leftover corn and apples, that eventually it grew to be a strong stallion.
With a strong stallion, Cara learned how to ride, and ride she did. Every week, Cara would mount her horse and ride through town, stretching her stallion’s legs. She’d ride and ride past the town and into the valleys. Sometimes she’d stop at other small towns and bring home lemon scones or tiny orange flavored biscuits. With every passing week, Cara had a new adventure story to tell. How she’d battled 3 ogres to get her sisters delicious desserts, or how she’d seen the prince and he’d said hello to her. How she’d jumped over ravines and river creeks. How she’d rescued young maidens from the hands of filthy robbers. Her sisters and mother would love to hear her stories. They’d sit and laugh and eat the pretty scones and breads Cara would bring back for them but they all knew Cara’s stories were just stories. The biscuits she brought back weren’t from the Golden City and the stories Cara told were only fibs. But still, they all loved Cara, and Cara knew she loved them.
One day, after coming home from a ride with strawberry twists in her bag, Cara saw a crowd gather around her house. Women congregated near her door, talking amongst themselves. When Cara rode up to see what was going on, the women around her grew silent. Cara felt her heart clench.
“What is going on here?” she said, dismounting from her horse. “What has happened?”
A woman to Cara’s right spoke first, her words coming out as a tiny whisper. “Your mother…” she began, before her voice fell into mumbles.
Another woman to Cara’s left raised her chin and continued, “She was out in the field. Out in the field doing men’s work when a terrible fit came over her. She fell to the ground. It took the butcher and the smith to get her inside your home.”
After hearing this, Cara ran inside. Her mother lay on her bed, looking paler and whiter than Cara had ever seen her before. Her sisters all looked up to Cara with pleading eyes. Jane, the second-oldest child, told Cara how the witch doctor had stopped by. “It was terrible Cara!” she sobbed. “Mother won’t wake up. The witch lady said only the medicine of the Gold City can wake her up.”
“It’s alright Jane,” Cara said, trying to keep her sisters calm. “We’ll figure something out.”
The next day, after taking turns watching over their sick mother, Cara and her sisters heard a knock on the door. Cara stood and walked over to open the door. “Hello,” she said, when she saw the blacksmith at her door.
“Good morning, m’am. How is your ill mother?”
“Better, I think,” Cara replied, though she wasn’t sure at all if her mother had gotten better or worse.
“I’m sorry to bring this up at a time like this miss, but I was wondering if I could talk to you about your sister Jane.”
“Jane?” Cara said, perplexed at the blacksmith’s request.
“Well, I was wondering if you would let me marry her, seeing as how she’s unmarried and all.”
“Pardon!?” Cara exclaimed, looking at the blacksmith with wide eyes. “Jane is only 15. She will not be getting married.” Cara could not believe the blacksmith’s request. What on Earth was he thinking? Jane was at least 30 years younger than he!
“Come now Cara,” the smith said, his cheeks and chest growing plump. “I’ll give you a good lot for her. Do ya really think you can care for her and all them girls when ya mother’s gone? Whose to care for those girls when you go off on yer rides? If you give me Jane you can rest assured she’ll be taken care of.”
“I will not give you my sister,” Cara snapped. “Leave!”
“Suit yourself,” the blacksmith sneered. “But know Cara, who will take care of yer sisters when ya gone? If ya fall off your horse? If somethin’ happen to happen to ya? Who’ll protect them when ya gone?” The blacksmith turned away and whistled a tune that shook Cara to her core. She slammed the door shut, for the first time in her life, deathly afraid. Who would care for her family if she was gone? How could she care for them if her mother died? What the blacksmith had said was true. Her sisters, though she loved them, were not made for the work her mother and Cara lived by. They only stitched and cooked. They’d never needed to work.
Worried and sick Cara laid down, unsure of what to do. Her whole life, she dreamed of adventures that would elevate her to greatness, she wished for them. Yet, now that the world had presented her with a real problem, a problem she could grasp in her hand, Cara felt weak. Her stomach churned and her forehead ached with sweat. She mustn’t fail. She mustn’t fail…but how? How? Afraid and lost, not knowing what to do, Cara fell into an uneasy sleep. She dreamed of a ship that was setting sail, leaving her behind. She ran down a never-ending dock, screaming and waving her hands behind the ship, but no one heard her cries. The ship moved on past her and Cara ran after it, always trailing behind.
The next morning, Cara’s younger sister, Tiny shook her awake. “Cara, Cara!” Tiny squeaked, her tiny fingers digging into Cara’s arms.
“What?” Cara murmured, struggling to open her eyes.
“Jane is gone.”
“What?!” Cara jumped awake. “What happened?”
“She went to the Gold City to try and find medicine for mom.”
Cara couldn’t believe it. Jane, her younger sister of 15, had gone off by herself. “Why would she go by herself?” Cara asked to the room, not expecting an answer, but then Tiny replied.
“Because she knew you’d never go.”
Cara turned around and stared at Tiny, the color draining from her face. “What?”
Tiny, stammering her words and fidgeting with her dress continued. “We know why you always come back after your rides Cara, we can see it in your eyes. We know you’re scared.”
Cara turned away, she couldn’t let Tiny see her cry. Her eyes welled with tears. Tiny was right. The reason why Cara only talked about the fictional adventures she’d had during her rides was because she was scared of having a real adventure of her own. She was scared of what the world had in store for her, and as much as she wanted to travel the world and reach every corner of the kingdom, her fear was too large to tame. Yet Jane, gorgeous little Jane, had gone off by herself. Now Cara knew what she had to do.
“I need to find Jane,” Cara said, finding courage she had never felt before. “I need to go to Gold City and find her and bring back medicine for mother.” She laced up her riding boots and grabbed her riding cape. The last thing she did before she walked out the door was look to her sisters and smile. “I’ll be brave for you,” she whispered, almost to herself. Then she turned to the door and walked out into the great unknown, with hope that her journey would be an adventure she could tell.