CHAPTER 3 - THE STORY
Very well,” said the man in the mask, “but before I go any further, there’s something you should know. This story is not something I’ve made up in my head. It actually happened.”
Axor nodded and the stranger continued, “A thousand years ago on a lonely planet at the other side of the galaxy, there lived a king. This king was much like your majesty, except he was married and had two daughters, who were said to be the most beautiful women in all creation.”
The stranger paused and looked around at the guests. A few of them were whispering to each other instead of listening. This would have irritated most storytellers, but not him. He had been telling stories for a very long time and had ways of getting people’s attention. He reached inside his cloak and pulled out a small metal box. Then, he pressed a switch on the side of this box and held it up in front of him.
For a moment, nothing happened. Then, the room was lit up by a blinding light. When the light faded, a perfectly formed image of a planet hung in the air above the metal box. The planet was so detailed that Axor and his guests could almost believe it was in the room with them.
“Behold the planet,” said the storyteller loudly, “and behold the king with his two daughters.” The planet vanished and another image appeared in its place. This time it was of an elderly king and two young ladies. The two ladies were so similar that you could almost have believed they were the same person. Both had waist-length dark hair and both had emerald coloured eyes. The only difference was one was dressed in blue and the other in red. As with the planet, the figures were so detailed it seemed to the guests at the party that they were actually in the room. It was impossible to say for sure, because there was no sound, but by the looks of things, the two women were having an argument, while the king tried to calm them down.
“As you may have guessed, the king’s daughters were twins,” said the storyteller. “Like many twins they were identical in appearance, but their personalities were completely different. Sky, who always wore blue, was gentle and kind. Scarlet, who liked to dress in red, was mean and cruel.
“Sky did her best to get on with Scarlet, but it wasn’t easy, because Scarlet hated her. It was obvious Scarlet hated her, because Scarlet was always telling people how much she wished she had been an only child.”
The storyteller paused as the image above the metal box changed to an image of Scarlet talking to some friends. These changes would continue for the entire story, bringing the storyteller’s words vividly to life.
“Scarlet became so resentful of her sister that she decided to get rid of her,” the storyteller continued. “The only question was how to do it. She didn’t hate Sky so much that she wanted her dead, but she did want to make sure she never saw her again.
“After much thought, a plan began to form in Scarlet’s head. This plan involved a strange alien race called the Fairfolk. It was her understanding that the Fairfolk wanted to find the most beautiful human in the universe for their zoo. Surely, if she took Sky to see them, they would decide Sky was the one they were looking for and take her away with them. There was only one problem. Her own beauty was every bit as great as her sister’s. If the Fairfolk realised this, they might decide to put both of them in the zoo. The best way Scarlet could think of to stop this from happening was to wear a disguise when she met them.
“Arranging a meeting with the Fairfolk was easier than Scarlet expected. As soon as she called them on her communicator and told them about her beautiful sister, they agreed to come and see the girl for themselves. They even decided to send one of their princes.
“The day of the meeting arrived and Scarlet got up early to make sure everything was ready. The first thing she needed to do was disguise herself.
“Most disguises involve make-up of some sort, but Scarlet had something even better - something given to her by her father, which could completely change the way she looked. It looked like a mirror, but was actually an advanced projector. It was circular in shape with coloured buttons around the edge. When she had used it to disguise herself in the past, it had worked so well that her own family had been unable to recognize her. She had even managed to fool Sky, which she found slightly surprising, as Sky had an identical projector of her own and should have been able to see through the illusion.
“Scarlet took out the projector from a wooden box under her bed. She studied her reflection in the mirrored surface and pressed two of the buttons. Slowly, but surely, the change began. First, her hair turned grey, then, her skin became cracked and wrinkled. When it was over, she looked like an old woman. The strange thing was she felt no different. It was only her appearance that had changed. Scarlet threw back her head and laughed loudly.
“Next, she went to a vast attic at the top of the palace, where there were some bags of clothes. She found something suitable for an old woman and put it on. The outfit was stained and torn, but she knew if she didn’t wear it, it would damage her chances of fooling the Fairfolk. The only good thing about the clothes was that they were scarlet, which was her colour of choice.
“When Scarlet was happy with the way she looked, she went to find Sky. She had already decided what she was going to say to get her sister to go with her. Sky was always trying to help those less fortunate than herself. If Scarlet told her she was an old woman from a nearby village whose dying grandson wanted to meet a princess, Sky was sure to feel sorry for her and offer to help.
“The plan worked perfectly. Sky had no idea the old woman at her door was really her sister and immediately agreed to go with her. As they walked, she asked Scarlet many questions about her imaginary grandson. Scarlet hadn’t really expected this, but did her best to come up with convincing answers.
“It didn’t take long to reach the place where Scarlet had arranged to meet the Fairfolk. This was a large field just outside the city. As they arrived, the sky darkened. Sky looked up nervously. She asked her companion if she knew what was happening, but the disguised Scarlet simply shrugged her shoulders.
“There was no time for further discussion, because at that moment a gigantic spaceship emerged from the clouds and came towards them. The spaceship was circular. It was made of crystal and had a large hole in the middle, which was filled with dazzling blue light. Its humming engines caused a mighty wind as it descended into the field.
“Scarlet and Sky looked at the ship in wonder. They had seen spaceships many times before, but never one made of crystal. Scarlet knew it belonged to the Fairfolk prince, but to Sky it was a mystery.
“The spaceship landed and Scarlet pulled her sister towards it, ignoring her protests. A door opened in the side of the ship and the Fairfolk prince appeared above them.
“The prince was like nobody the sisters had ever seen before. He was half their height, with green skin and a short pointed beard. His eyes were silver and he had a pair of see-through wings, which were folded neatly away on his back.
“‘I am Prince Savi of the Fairfolk,’ he said loudly. ‘Are you the Princess Sky?’ He pointed at Sky.
“Sky nodded timidly.
“‘Good,’ said Prince Savi, signalling to someone inside the spaceship. There was a flash of light and the girl abruptly vanished. “‘You were right,’ the prince told Scarlet. ‘She is the most beautiful human in the universe. Thank you for bringing her to our attention. We have a reward for you.’ He signalled a second time and a large bag filled with diamonds appeared in Scarlet’s hand.
“Scarlet was speechless. There were enough diamonds in the bag to buy her own planet. ‘Fresh from our mines,’ said the prince, moving back into the spaceship. The door closed and the ship rose into the air.
“Scarlet leant her head back and watched as it picked up speed and disappeared into the distance. She couldn’t believe how smoothly her plan had gone. Now all she had to do was tell her parents that Sky was never coming back. The explanation she had decided to give for this was very different to the truth.
“Scarlet hid the bag of diamonds inside her clothes. Then, she returned to the palace. When she got there, she sneaked up to her room, took off her rags and changed her appearance back to normal. It felt good to be young and beautiful again.
“Scarlet took a deep breath and went to see her parents. What followed was a very emotional scene, in which she pretended Sky had been attacked and killed by a wolf in the nearby forest. Her mother cried and her father shouted at her for letting Sky go into the forest alone, but they believed her. They had no reason not to.
“Meanwhile on the spaceship, things had taken an unexpected turn. Prince Savi of the Fairfolk had fallen in love. Not with one of his own kind, but with the captured princess. Her long hair and bright eyes were all he could think about. It was ridiculous, but he couldn’t help it.
“Sky knew nothing of the prince’s feelings. She had been locked in a plain white room with nobody to talk to. Love was the last thing on her mind. All she wanted to do was go home. She screamed and banged on the door until she wore herself out, but nobody came. Then, she fell fast asleep.
“It was at this point that the Fairfolk ship was attacked. It rocked backwards and forwards as it was hit again and again by enemy laser fire. Prince Savi was sure he could win the fight, but he didn’t want his lovely princess being hurt, so he decided to get her to safety.
“The best way he could think of to do this was with one of the ship’s escape pods. He would launch the pod into space and come back later to collect it. It didn’t matter how long it took, because the escape pod was powered by starlight and its flight computer would automatically change course if there was any danger of it crashing into anything.
“The prince’s only worry was that Sky might try and use the pod to return home. Luckily, there was a way of dealing with this. Since an ejected escape pod might drift in space for years before it was found, there was a device on board to put the passengers into hibernation. Prince Savi meant to use this device on Sky. Once he had done this, she would fall into a deep sleep and be unable to interfere with the controls.
“The prince’s plan had to be carried out quickly, because his ship was still under attack. Two Fairfolk soldiers brought Sky to one of the escape pods, which like the ship itself, were made of crystal. Prince Savi took her inside and forced her into a hibernation tube. Then, he pressed some buttons on the controls. There was a low buzzing as the hibernation process began. He watched closely as Sky drifted off to sleep. She looked more beautiful than ever.
“To make sure nobody could wake the princess before his return, Prince Savi decided to lock the hibernation tube’s controls with a sound key. This key was chosen from the many sounds stored in the escape pod’s computer. Only when the sound was correctly identified and played over the speakers, would the controls begin to work again. It seemed only right that the most beautiful lady in the universe should be woken by the most beautiful sound in the universe, so this was the sound Prince Savi chose.
“Suddenly, the prince felt a jolt as his ship took another hit from its attacker. He quickly finished programming the escape pod and fired it off into space. Then, he turned his attention to his enemy.
“Prince Savi did not win the battle. Prince Savi did not even survive the battle. His ship was blown into a million pieces and him with it.
“The crew of the enemy spaceship should have spotted the escape pod, but they didn’t. It drifted off into space, never to be seen again.
“As far as we know, the escape pod is still out there, but nobody has ever been able to find it. Even if they did, they would need to know the most beautiful sound in the universe to wake the princess. So she sleeps on, this lovely and charming lady, in her crystal ship.