A young peasant girl and her brother kneeled in the smooth gray stones on the edge of the river, filling wooden buckets with water for their master.
"What if we built a raft," the girl asked, "and sailed down the river?"
"Ho!" the boy said. "What would we find?"
"That the river winds round and round—"
"And up and down—"
"—until it reaches the Castle Corona, it does!"
This was a familiar game for the pair, and they would have gone on longer, speculating about the white horses and the golden goblets and the jewels that they would find in the castle, but they were interrupted by a fierce pounding of the earth: horses coming fast along the path behind them.
Through the trees they saw a black horse, ridden by a black-cloaked rider. The rider's whip slapped with hard thwacks against the horse's side. A few minutes later, more horses followed, ridden by the King's Men, their golden medallions shimmering on their red cloaks. "Halt! Thief!" one rider shouted. "Halt, in the name of the King!"
"Ooh!" whispered the boy. "A thief?"
"And if they catch him—"
"They will slice off his head—"
"—and chop him to bits!"
The pair snatched their buckets and hurried up the bank, crossing the path which the riders had taken. They had just entered the woods beyond when the girl said, "Look—in the leaves."
There, amid last autumn's brown leaves, was a leather pouch with the King's seal on it.
"Dare we?" whispered the boy.
"Here, back in here," the girl said, snatching the pouch and leading her brother into a thicket, where they paused and listened. All was quiet.
Excerpted from The Castle Corona by Sharon Creech Copyright © 2007 by Sharon Creech. Excerpted by permission.
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