And off the companions went. After a short while, the road became steep and rough, but the Young Prince wasn’t worried. He turned to Toby and asked if they were getting closer. Toby was so nervous that he couldn’t talk, but instead he nodded vigorously and pointed straight ahead. Looming in front of them was what looked like a wall of steps, hundreds upon hundreds of them, one on top of the other. The Young Prince gasped in surprise, but he was a very brave little Prince. He moved forward boldly without missing a step, and after what seemed like seconds later, he approached the Path of a Thousand Steps.
With a shake and a shudder, Toby looked to the prince and gulped. “Any chance you might change your mind?” he implored.
“Of course not, Toby!” the Young Prince exclaimed. “You walk on all fours all the time, so this should be easy for you! Anyhow, crawling on all fours is much easier than walking for me, so this is won’t even be a challenge.”
And for a while, the Young Prince was right. They traversed the steps without complaint until the air began to thin. “Toby,” the Young Prince said, “Is it becoming harder to breathe?”
Toby hadn’t noticed, but he had traveled this path many times before. Suddenly, he remembered his gift to the prince. “Young Prince,” he cried, “Put on the Frog Cape!”
“How silly of me!” said the prince. He draped the Cape over himself and took a deep breath, like a weight had been lifted off his chest. “Wow, Toby! This really works!”
And like that, they were back on their way. Up, up, up the path they climbed until they finally reached the landing at the top!
“Hurray! We made it safe and sound, Toby! See? It’s not so bad,” said the prince with a grin.
Toby simply shook his head and quivered, for no sooner than the Young Prince had spoken, the air became warm and heavy. Within a few moments, the Burning Fog had fallen over them, so thick the Young Prince and Toby couldn’t see each other. Fortunately, Toby knew the way through the fog, but first they had to find one another.
But the Young Prince was very clever. He called out for Toby: “Toby! Stand still and start talking – I’m going to follow your voice to find you!”
So Toby called for the prince until he felt his hand on his shoulder. Toby, with a wag of his tail, said, “Good idea, Prince. Now keep hold of my shoulder so we don’t lose each other again.” And again, they were off, making their way through the hot clouds of steam.
Then they heard something. Singing! They were getting closer and the Young Prince knew it. But it was getting hotter and hotter by the minute! The hotter it got, though, the louder the singing grew! The Young Prince could feel Toby shaking, but scratched his shoulder to let him know he would be okay.
And then.. SMACK! They hit a wall.. The Great Glass Wall! They were there! But how would they get past it?
The Young Prince let go of Toby, pressing close to him to make sure they didn’t lose each other. He ran his hand across the wall, but without warning, he was stuck! He pulled and pulled his hand, but it clung to the wall. He thought, “Well, if I use my other hand to push off of the wall, I’ll be able to pull my hand away.” So he pressed his other hand to the wall, pushing against it to pull away the side that was stuck. At least it made sense in his mind.
However, he hadn’t counted on his other hand sticking, too! And there he was, both hands stuck to the Great Glass Wall. He struggled, pulling and pulling, Toby (tail tucked securely between his legs) pulling at his shirt to help, but it just wouldn’t work! He realized that the Frog Cape had made his hands sticky like a tree frog! He panicked, wondering if his hands would ever come free, shaking his whole body in desperation. Then, with a jerk he slipped to the side, but something extraordinary happened… or at least he thought something happened. When the Young Prince fell to the side, he could have sworn he felt the wall move with him!
He tugged and tugged, but this time to the side, and he was right! The wall was sliding out of the way! And then, when it couldn’t slide anymore, his hands came free!
But before he could celebrate, he felt hands under his arms, lifting him up, up, into the air, one hand pulling off his cape! As the water cut through the fog, he could see exactly where he was, and before he could say a word, he felt the rains drop, drop, dropping on him.
He saw his mother’s face smiling at him as she laughed, “Sweet Young Prince, you clever thing! You got up the stairs all by yourself! Did you want a shower, too? Why, you even brought your froggy towel!”
And with a smile, the Young Prince nodded, looking around and laughing. The Great Rains were really just the shower the whole time! He couldn’t see it because of the fog, but he knew this place well! He laughed and splashed, calling out for Toby: “Toby! It’s only the shower! It’s nothing to be afraid of! It makes you clean and it’s very fun! Come in and splash around with me!”
“But Young Prince,” Toby whimpered, “The giants are big and tall and strong, and I’m so small! I’m afraid I’ll be rinsed away!”
The prince laughed, and said to Toby, “You’ll be just fine! I can hold your hand if it would make you feel better!”
Reluctantly, Toby agreed. He clambered into the shower, and as soon as he felt the water on his back, he didn’t even need to reach for the Young Prince’s hand. He danced, sang and played under the warm water, happy his brave friend had shown him that he had nothing to be afraid of.