There atop the mountain high
The storm will rage, the moon shall cry;
Yet if the curse, you wish to break,
You must work through the trying shake.
Evangeline repeated the ancient lines in her mind as she opened her weary eyes. She studied her arms; the snow coated them like dust. She couldn’t even remember collapsing. As the sky darkened, however, she did remember that she still had the final stretch of the journey ahead of her. Willing her legs to find the strength to stand, she resumed her trek along the broken mountain path.
It had been ten years since she was cursed to silence. The Dragon of the Western Wood had come to her village, demanding the life of every child under the age of twelve. Evangeline had known his ancient story remarkably well. She approached the fearsome creature, shouting, “By the blood of the Redeemer King, stay our execution! I invoke the Riddler’s Challenge; you must allow me to ask you one question. Should you not know the answer, you must leave us alone.”
The beast’s eyes had widened as he snorted, “Foolish child...I have lived for hundreds of years, and never lost a single challenge. Do you believe that you could defeat me? Ask your question. If I cannot answer, your people will be safe.”
A slight smile had come over her face, and she hid her hand behind her back. “Sir Dragon, answer me this: how many fingers am I holding up?”
One look at the beast, and all could tell that he had been stumped. His nostrils flared, and a terrible roar sailed across the sky. “Curse you, girl, for the mockery you have made of me! Your village is safe; but for the wit of your tongue today, you shall lose your ability to speak, save you climb to the top of the Mountain of Toil at the tenth year of the curse.” At that the loathsome creature had blown upon her a smoky dusk, and she fainted. When she had awakened, her voice was gone.
And so here she was today. She had begun her journey a month ago, and was now nearing the peak of the mountain. It had been difficult, but though her body was worn and broken, her spirit remained steady. God had blessed her and helped her work her way this far; He would continue to guide her the rest of the way as well.
Hours passed, and it wasn’t much longer before she had reached her goal. Overwhelmed with fatigue, she fell to her knees. Evangeline noticed something strange upon looking up: the sky had turned from midnight blue to black, and the only light remaining immobile was that of the pale moon. The stars that had been there all the other nights of her journey now seemed to glisten against the moon like tears, and it occurred to her then that they were raining down upon the mountain. In her mind she cried out to God, “My Redeemer King, please help your servant now. Allow me to make it survive this.” With that she braced herself for the oncoming storm.
The stars fell with extreme force. The mountain shook as though it might crumble to the ground. She prayed with all her might, however, that her hard work would not be for nothing, and that the curse would break at the end of this nightmare. For the next hour, the mountain shook violently as the stars crashed down, and she prayed without ceasing. Finally, the last star fell upon Evangeline herself. It brought with it pain such as she had never known, and a tingle shot through her entire body. Darkness took her, and she fell to the ground unconscious.
Time passed. One morning, when the daylight came, Evangeline rose with it. She found herself in an unfamiliar cabin at a town near the base of the mountain.
“Good morning,” a woman said, carrying a loaf of bread with her. “My husband found you at the base of the mountain three days ago. You were pretty beaten up. He brought you back here, and we’ve been fixing you up. It brings such warmth to my heart to see you awake, and I’m dying to hear what happened to you. What’s your name, dear child?”
She blinked, and with the light of new hope arising in her heart, replied aloud to the woman. “My name...is Evangeline.”
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