“No land, no house, for second sons,” Sholto’s older brother said when their father died. “And if you want a wife you look for one in the golden city where they say the girls bring a dowry of their weight in gold.”
His brother laughed when Sholto picked up his few possessions and turned his face to the east, and his back to his old home. After many days of walking, he reached the edge of the moors and gazed across the mist-filled gulf to the purple mountains. There, in the distance, the golden city flashed and glittered. Only then did his resolve falter. It looked so far away. He sat down wearily and took out his last piece of bread.
“When this is gone, I will surely starve,” he said aloud.
“Share your bread with me and I will show you where to get more,” said a soft voice behind him.
“Who are you?” he asked the girl with golden hair and bare feet.
“Hungry,” she said and grinned.
Sholto grinned back and broke the bread in half.
When they had finished he asked the girl how she proposed finding their next meal.
“Like this,” she said, and dropped a round stone into her bag. “Look.” She put in her hand and pulled out a fresh round loaf.
Sholto’s eyes opened wide in astonishment. As they ate the fresh loaf of bread, he told the girl how his brother had sent him to the golden city to look for a wife. The girl held out her hand.
“Will you have me?”
“Gladly,” he said, “But my brother won’t let me back home except as his servant, and I have no money.”
“Never mind,” the girl said with a laugh. “In the golden city we will never want as long as I have this magic bag, and there is work and happiness in plenty for men and women with willing hands and loving hearts.
So Sholto took the girl’s hand, and together they walked across the valley of mists and climbed the purple mountain to the city that glittered golden in the sun.