Two sisters, Rose and Eira, were bored at the moment. They lived together with their mother and father in a cabin in the woods, surrounded by trees and a little, winding creek. Though their lives were filled with magic, both from their father’s spells and their mother’s fantastical artworks, their days were often dull and repetitive. While their father was away in town selling his fish, the girls decided to play by the creek, stripping off their boots and slipping their feet into the water.
“Woah, Eira, look at this!” Rosalind reached into the water and pulled out a shiny silver goblet covered in ornate carvings and precious gemstones. “It’s beautiful.”
“Who do you think it belongs to?” Eira asked, grasping the goblet with both hands. “Do you think we could keep it?”
“I don’t see why not,” Rosalind said. “After all, we didn’t steal it. It just washed up our side of the creek.”
“Oh my goodness!” A tiny bearded man in a green tunic and a red hat raced up to them, out of breath. “You found my goblet!”
Rose and Eira glanced at each other.
“Oh! This is yours?” Eira reluctantly handed the goblet over to the little elfin creature.
“Yes, and I’ve been looking for it for days! Say, what’s your name?”
“I’m Eira, and this is my sister Rose. She’s four years older than me.” Eira shook the man’s hand. “What’s your name?”
“My name is Rumplestiltskin.” He bowed politely. “At your service.”
Eira and Rose giggled and curtsied.
“But actually,” Rumplestiltskin said, pausing for a moment, “I was wondering if you might perform a service for me.”
“What do you need?” Rose asked.
“I’ve lost all sorts of treasure up and down this river. See, I keep all my money and important things in a cave separate from my house, and sometimes thieves like to try and steal it. The thing is, since the treasure is enchanted, any burglars…disappear.” He grinned rather proudly, and, in Rose’s opinion, almost wickedly.
“You mean they die?” Eira asked in a hushed voice.
“No, of course not!” Rumplestiltskin looked offended, but Rose couldn’t tell if he was mocking Eira or not. “The thieves vanish. It’s a trick I learned when I was young. Making things simply disappear. Such as myself.” He waved his hand in the air and the girls shrieked when he snapped, vanished, and reappeared behind them. He tapped Rose on the shoulder. “Unfortunately, I’m the only thing I can bring back. So… the thieves are gone. But the treasure floats downriver, or rolls away, and sometimes I’ve had treasure fly away. It just grows wings and…whoosh!” He made wings with his hands and imitated wings flapping.
“So what exactly is the favor you need?” Rose asked.
“Would you two mind terribly helping me find my treasure? I’ll even lift the curse so you two can touch it without disappearing. Only, we have to do it quickly, because an evil prince thinks it’s his. He tried to kill me, you know. Except I cannot die. So… if you two see him, tell him I’m not dead, and I am out for revenge.” Ginning wickedly, he stroked the goblet.
“We’ll help you if we can,” Eira eagerly agreed. Her kind heart felt sympathy for this shrewd creature, believing his tale.
The next day, after breakfast, the girls were playing by the creek again when a huge Bear wandered into the clearing.
“Good morning!” said the Bear, utterly oblivious to the two girl’s shock. “Don’t the birds sound lovely today?”
“Uh--uh, y-yes,” Rose stammered, unable to properly form her thoughts into words. The only distinguishable idea in her head was A bear. I’m talking to a bear. A really big bear.
“Where are you girls from?” the Bear asked politely, its great head moving back and forth as it scanned for fish in the river.
“We live upstream from here,” Rose said, her eyes trained on a spot in the sandbank that glittered. While Eira asked the Bear questions like what its name was or how it got to their forest, Rose pulled out the piece of treasure from the sand: a small, ornately carved silver spoon with an intricate ‘R’ on the handle. She slipped it into her sleeve.
“Come,” the Bear said. “You haven’t lived until you’ve eaten fresh-caught fish cooked over an open fire. Impeccable, I tell you.”
The girls glanced at each other. Rose shrugged, Eira smiled, and they followed the Bear to a small cooking spot in the woods. He carefully arranged the fish over the dying embers of a fire. When they were cooked, the Bear handed each girl a fish.
“Careful, they’re hot,” he warned them.
“Delicious!” Eira declared when she finished. “It’s like I’m eating the wild!”
Rose laughed. “You can’t eat the wild, Eira-- what’s wrong?” she asked the Bear hurriedly, noticing his expression, filled with sorrow and a hint of anger.
“A year ago,” he told them, “an elf cursed me by turning me into a bear, then stole everything of value from my castle and enchanted it so that anyone who tried to steal it would vanish from this world. I can smell him nearby….”
Rose shuddered; she knew exactly who the Bear was talking about, and from the sound of it, there were two sides to this story. She just had to figure out where the pieces fell.
“What was your name again?” she asked the Bear.
“Rowan Wilde,” he answered.
Her eyes widened. R. “Is this yours, then?” She pulled the spoon out from her sleeve a bit sheepishly.
“Yes, actually. Where did you find it?”
“On the riverbank.” She pointed. “There was something else too, shimmering in the water. I could get it for you.”
“How can you touch the treasure?” Rowan asked, his eyes narrowing.
“We told the elf who cursed it that we would help him steal the treasure, so he lifted the curse for us. Of course we won’t, now that we know it’s yours,” Eira explained hurriedly.
Rose carefully stepped into the stream and retrieved a glass mirror, the edge of which was surrounded by gold.
“It’s so pretty,” Eira said.
“It’s my mother’s,” Rowan said angrily. “How dare that no-good, rotten, backstabbing-- Well, I have it back now. I suppose that’s all that matters. Thank you, girls. But what will you tell Rumplestiltskin?” He paused thoughtfully. His eyes brightened and he exclaimed, “Oh, I have an idea. Pretend I forced you into giving it to me. Tell him you were so terrified by my beastly bear body that after you handed over the treasure, you fled for your lives!” He roared, then laughed, and any bear knows that trying to roar ferociously and laugh at the same time is impossible, so the two girls pretended to fall over with fear for his efforts.
“I’m sure it will work,” Rose gasped out, holding her side. Her cheeks hurt from smiling. “That is, if Eira stops laughing sometime this year.”
Eira immediately stopped. She turned her head and whispered, “Hide! I hear someone coming.”
Rose jumped up and pulled Eira behind a tree. Rowan slapped his paw over the fire and the remains of the fish and embers tumbled into the river. He stuck his nose in the river and tried to act as though he was just an ordinary bear, not a prince.
Thankfully it was only the girls’ mother and father, out looking for them.
“Rose! Eira! Where--oh dear!” their mother said, backing away slowly as she took in the bear’s massive size. Rowan turned his head toward the girls and padded calmly back to the woods.
“Well, in all my life, I have never seen such a passive bear.” their father said. “Now where are those doggone children of mine?”
“Right here, father!” Rose said, stepping out from behind the tree with Eira. “We were only hiding until the bear left.”
“That was smart of you, Rose. Thank you,” their mother said kindly.
Eira glanced back at the trees. “I wonder where he was going.”
“Probably back to his bear home.” Their father ruffled Eira’s hair. “Let’s head home.”
After supper, the girls headed to bed, but Rose couldn’t sleep. She kept hearing Rumplestiltskin and Prince Rowan describe the other as evil and a thief. How could she know who was telling the truth? Maybe she would ask her mother. She would know what to do.
Quietly, Rose padded over to her parent’s room and knocked on the door. Her mother answered.
“Which of my lovely girls is it?” she asked. Rose could tell she was smiling.
“It’s Rose,” Rose said. “May I come in?”
Rose pushed open the door and found her mother wide awake, her pencil moving quickly across yellowed paper. Her mother was an artist, and Rose thought she was the best in the world. Rose sat at the table for a moment, watching her mother draw. Her father was fast asleep.
“Mother,” she finally said, “I have a question for you. If you knew two people, and one was an elf who said his money was stolen by an evil prince, and the other was a prince who said his money was stolen by an evil elf, what would you do?”
Her mother glanced up at her. “That’s an odd question. Hmm…. Oh! Have I ever told you about King Solomon?”
“Well, he was a wise king who lived a very long time ago in a faraway place called Egypt. Once, two women came to him. Now one woman had a baby with her and claimed it was hers. The other woman, who was the baby’s true mother, told Solomon that the first woman had stolen her baby in the night, which was the truth. The first woman argued the same thing but about the baby’s real mother.
Solomon looked at the two women and said ‘Cut the baby in half, and give half to the first woman, and half to the second.’”
Rose gasped. “He didn’t, did he?”
“No, of course not. The baby’s mother cried, ‘No! Give her the baby!’ and that was how Solomon knew she was the truth-teller.”
“But what if you didn’t have something that was important enough to both of the people?”
“Well… I would ask each of them what the most important thing to them is.”
“And if it’s not the same?”
“So many questions! Maybe I would offer them something of great value and tell them that it belongs to the rightful owner.”
Rose thought for a moment. “That’s an idea… and I think I know… thank you, mother!” she said, giving her mother a hug and carefully tiptoeing back to her room. When she got there, Eira was still asleep, so Rose shook her awake.
“Eira! Wake up! I have an idea, but it will only work with the two of us.”
“Hm? Rose, it’s time to sleep.”
“Come on, Eira! Oh!” She ran back to her mother’s room and knocked on the door again. “May I borrow a piece of paper and a pencil? Oh, and some tape?”
“Thank you!” Rose interrupted, gathering the materials. She ran back to her room, shut the door, and turned on the light. On the paper, she wrote, R--Meet us by the part of the river nearest our house. From, Rose & Eira.
The ‘R’ was so that Rowan would think it was for him and Rumplestiltskin would as well.
She crept outside, taped the message to a tree, and went back inside to fall asleep.
The next day, Rose and Eira found both Rowan and Rumplestiltskin waiting, each looking as grumpy as possible and arguing with each other.
“You’re both a bit early,” Rose said. “I have an idea, but I need both of you to sit down and not move. Thank you,” she said when they reluctantly obliged. “Now. Eira, will you stay with these two gentlemen while I gather some things?”
Rose spent the next hour gathering all the treasure she could find up and down the river. Then she found a nice, wide ditch, and dumped it all in the hole. Then she got a match and walked back to her sister.
“I have here a match. When lit, the fire consumes everything it touches.” Rose wasn’t lying. Her father had created the fire in his younger days as an amature wizard.
“And this is relevant because?” Rumplestiltskin said impatiently.
“Because, I gathered all the treasure I could find and put it in a pit, and I’m planning to light it on fire.” She led them to the ditch and held the match over the gold.
“Wait! You can’t do that! That’s my treasure!” Rumplestiltskin cried, attempting to push Rose over. However, Rowan swiped at Rumplestiltskin with his paw and pinned him to the ground.
“Don’t hurt her. Don’t touch either of them,’ he growled. “You can have the treasure, but unless you want to die yourself, don’t lay a finger on these girls.” The menace in Rowan’s voice was truly frightening.
Rose blew out the match and smiled. “Prince Rowan,” she said, curtsying. “I believe all of this belongs to you.” Eira curtsied as well, smiling broadly.
“That was brilliant, Rose!” she said excitedly.
“Thank you, Eira. I can’t take the credit, the idea was King Solomon’s.”
Eira’s eyebrows lifted questioningly. Rose explained her mother’s story of cunning, which had led Rose to devise this plan.
As soon as Rowan touched a piece of the treasure, he seemed to glow for a moment, then transformed into a human teenage boy wrapped in a fur blanket.
Rumplestiltskin fled the moment he saw the prince return to his human form.
“Let him go. He won’t harm us. His pride is too wounded.” Rowan smiled. “I’m eternally grateful to you, Rose and Eira. In exchange for your kindness and cleverness, I would like it very much if your family would come live in the castle with me and my family.”
“Really?” Eira squealed. “I’m sure our parents would be thrilled. But perhaps you’d better get some clothes on first.”
“Our father probably has some clothes that will fit you,” Rose said. “I hope you like magician’s robes.”
“Your father is a wizard?” Rowan asked. “That’s interesting, because our castle wizard just ran out on us before I left. The timing was unfortunate because our musician and artist had just moved to another town nearby. Our castle has been dull and lifeless without their creativity.”
“Our mother is an artist!” Eira said excitedly. “Maybe she could work for you, and father, too! I’ve always wanted to be a musician!”
“Well, that works out wonderfully,” Rowan said. “As long as your parents think it’s alright. Could I meet them at once?”
Rose led the way down the leaf-strewn path towards their cottage. Eira skipped the whole way, and questioned Rowan about the details of castle life. Her enthusiasm bubbled up and brought a rosy hue to her cheeks. Rose smiled as they entered through the wooden door to her home. She found her mother sitting near the fire with a cup of steaming hot tea. Her father was in the kitchen swirling his wand over his cup of tea. The girls exuberantly related the details of their adventures with Rowan and Rumplestiltskin to their wide-eyed parents, who marveled at the girls’ ingenuity. Their father, after offering the prince a spare set of clothing, thanked Rowan for escorting the girls home safely. When Rowan proposed his idea for the family to move into the castle, their parents joyfully accepted.
Soon they all settled into the royal house of King Crispin, Rowan’s father. Life in the castle was magical once again. Eira became one of the world’s most renowned musicians, perfecting the piano and delighting audiences with her inspiring notes. Rose and Rowan fell in love and eventually ruled together as king and queen, beloved by all their subjects. Moved to instill her love of music in the next generation, Eira gave free music lessons to all who wished to learn weekly. Rose graciously taught everyone in the castle who was illiterate how to read. Rose and Eira discovered that giving to others brought real magic into their lives.