The Magical Mirrors
“The Magical Mirrors” was written and translated from German to English by Nadja Losbohm.
The story was edited by Kris Holt. (http://4thousandwords.blogspot.de/p/editorial-services.html)
The cover picture you can see above is by “sciencefreak” and can be found here: https://pixabay.com/de/schloss-wolken-m%C3%A4rchen-traum-658042/
The Magical Mirrors
Once upon a time, there were two kingdoms above the clouds, which weren’t far apart. Each realm was unique. One was completely built of white marble. Great towers reached high into the sky and shone brightly in the sunlight. The so-called White Kingdom was beautiful and sparkled like a precious jewel. Yellow, red and purple butterflies, which belonged to the Queen and only listened to her, flew around the spires. Between the white buildings there were small streets, home of numerous shops, where you could buy the weirdest stuff. Have you ever heard of a cap that cuts your hair, when you put it on your head? You must be really careful, because if you wear it too long – whoosh! – all your hair is gone! And do you know the nose tub? This is a funny little thing. You can choose from different colors – depending on your preference. If you have a cold, you stick it under your nose. Actually, that’s quite useful. You don’t need handkerchiefs anymore. But when I think about it, I would rather not walk around with a red and green spotted nose tub, in which ends up all the…yeah, well. In these shops, people could buy everything.
There were also lots of magnificent gardens in the White Kingdom, where you could rest for a while after you had had a look around the shops. The best thing about these gardens weren’t the trees with their white trunks and red leaves, which weren’t really leaves, but the Queen’s red butterflies, who just liked to sit on the white branches. After all, butterflies can’t fly around the whole day. That’s far too strenuous! No, the best thing about the gardens was the glass floors, which had been fitted in the ground and through which you could look at the clouds the White Kingdom stood upon. Some of the tired shoppers stood there for hours, marveling at the beautiful clouds and only when these changed color, people realised it was evening and time to go home. You must know the clouds changed their color depending on the time of day. In the morning, they were white. At lunchtime, they were yellow. In the afternoon, they were orange and in the evening, they were lilac. Sometimes, the clouds were grey or dark blue. Then, people said: “Look. The clouds are moody. That’s why they’re grey today.” Or they said: “Oh no! The clouds are sad, so now they’re dark blue.” When they were lilac and everybody knew it was time to go home, a clear ringing of silver bells could be heard, coming from the highest tower. That’s how the White Kingdom bid good night among themselves, but also to the clouds, the stars and the other kingdom.
Oh right. The second kingdom. I almost forgot to tell you about it. What is it like, the other realm? To say it differed from the White Kingdom like day from night or bitter black tea from sweet chocolate milk would have been an understatement. In the second kingdom, all buildings were made of wood, even the Royal Palace with its pointed towers. But there was also plenty of green to see amongst the brown. Everywhere there were large trees with dark and bright green leaves. Green foliage wound itself around the small and large towers, seeming to swallow the buildings. Because of all the leaves, you didn’t know where they ended and where the towers began. What a wild green chaos! But that’s not all. The mess continued on the ground. Where there were clean ways in the White Kingdom with white glittering sand, the Green Kingdom had dark, earthly paths. Leaves gently fell down upon them. When you stepped over them you could hear a rustling sound, as if you were going for an autumn walk. Probably, you have done that before, haven’t you? Well, I love that sound and always drag my feet on purpose to make the leaves rustle even more. Oh, this is so beautiful! Actually, you would think the paths would soon brim over with all the leaves. But they didn’t, as the leaves went back to the branches of the trees with each change of the color of the clouds, which you could see in the Green Kingdom as well, of course. Then, the leaves fell down again until it was time for the next change of color.
You couldn’t watch the clouds through glass floors here. Instead, there was a kind of wells at every crossroad. These wells carried no water, but offered a free view onto the clouds for everybody. It must be said, there was a test of courage amongst the bravest or most stupid young people. During the test of courage, you tied one end of a rope around yourself and the other end around a nearby tree. Then you climbed into the well and let yourself down to feel the clouds. I understand the curiosity and enthusiasm for it. Can you understand it, too? If you fly in a plane, the clouds always look so soft. It makes you want to jump into them. It probably feels like a field of cotton. But let’s not try that, okay? It’s far too dangerous, just like the test of courage in the clouds. What made the test even more exciting – apart from the thin rope, the wind and the uncertainty about what lurked beneath the cloud cover – were the King’s birds. These birds looked very much like our blue tit. Have you ever seen it, its blue crown, its blue wings, the blue tail and the yellow chest? It’s a very nice small bird. In the Green Kingdom, these birds were twice as large as our blue tit and had some kind of crest on their head, which tapered off and bent upward. Most of the day, the birds flew around the Palace’s spires. But sometimes they flew through the streets or whizzed right through the clouds and flew below the Green Kingdom, where they almost crashed into the brave and stupid people who hung out from the lower opening of the wells. The birds seemed to enjoy the excitement, because every time they chirped, sounding like laughter. However, the brave-stupid ones screamed with horror and trembled all over. After such an encounter, they never wanted to go inside the cloud’s wells again.
Now, you know what it looks like in the two kingdoms. You and I know more about them than the White Kingdom does about the Green one and the Green one about the White Kingdom, because the people have never visited or seen each other. All they know about each other was that their kingdoms varied very much. All they had seen of each other’s worlds were the outer walls and the Queen’s butterflies and the King’s birds, and all they had heard of each other were the evening greetings of silver bells and a horn, with which the Green Kingdom answered. Though the citizens of the White Kingdom wondered what it was like to live over there and what the people looked like, nobody tried to find out more about these things. It was the same with the Green Kingdom. People there were curious about the strange world, too, but nobody did something to find out more.
I wonder – and maybe you wonder, too – why. Maybe people were just too drowsy and lazy to deal with finding out how you could clear the hurdle of the distance between the two kingdoms and the cloud cover. But if you are surrounded by such beautiful things as colorful butterflies, color-changing clouds AND nose tubs you are close to saying, “I’m fully satisfied. I don’t need more.” But one day it happened, that in both kingdoms, two children at the same time – you could also say they were in the right place at the right time – found something, something that would change their lives and the lives of all people in the two kingdoms.
The White Kingdom was ruled by King Raigund and his wife Queen Mathild. They had a lovely daughter aged thirteen. Rosalina, that’s the name of the Princess, had golden hair like her mother and was full of grace just like her. But she had her father’s brown eyes and his cheerfulness. Nothing could spoil her day, especially when she played hide-and-seek with the servants of the Royal Palace. That was Rosalina’s favorite game and she was a true master in it. She always had the best hiding places, where no one could find her and she won each time. This way, she had discovered the Palace in an astonishing way like no one had ever done before. She had found secret doors under beds, corridors behind murals and stairs that seemed to lead downwards but left anyone who used them at the top of the tallest tower in the Palace.
While playing another round of hide-and-seek, Rosalina came across an unknown room. Well, actually it wasn’t a new one. As it was so dirty, dusty and stuffy, I should rather call it old. There were many strange things in that room which made Rosalina forget about her game: glass balls filled with sand, which whirled around and formed into figures, towers and even castles. There were flowers with petals in all the colors of the rainbow. These flowers blossomed only for a very short amount of time and in the blink of an eye they wilted, only to grow again. Rosalina found wooden boxes, which told you the weather forecast and books, many books. Some of them read their content out loud as soon as you opened them. Others offended you if they thought you weren’t smart enough to understand what was written inside of them. Some had constantly changing page numbers, so you couldn’t flip from page 121 to 122. No, that would be too easy. Anybody can do that. If you were at the end of page 120, you had to jump back to page 37. Or if you were on page 15, you had to go to page 253 to know how the story continued. But as the book was quite friendly, it told you where to continue reading. How generous.
One book was very congenial. It didn’t butt in. It didn’t grouse and also didn’t bite your finger when you forgot to say Please! before touching it. This congenial book lay on an old dusty table in the middle of the room. The binding was made of brown fabric and was embroidered with green, red, yellow and light brown yarn that made the shapes of rhombs, squares, rectangles, circles, stars and lines. It was a really wonderful copy. But what was even more wonderful was its content, because it had lots of empty pages.
“Wait a minute. Empty pages? What’s so wonderful about that?” you ask.
Yes, I admit empty pages are a bit boring and of no interest. I was only joking. I’m sorry. I just wanted to see whether you’re following the story carefully. You passed the test. Well done! Now, I’ll tell you the truth. Between the covers there was a magical mirror. Its surface was silver and very smooth. It probably was the cleanest thing in the whole dirty room. Well, Rosalina was there, too. Okay, the mirror was the second cleanest thing in the room. Under the magical mirror stood, written in black ink – stop! I will tell you later. First, let’s travel to the Green Kingdom, where a young prince also found a book at the same time, which looked like a twin of Rosalina’s book.
Prince Arian, the firstborn child and only son to King Drobert, was his father’s pride and joy. Arian had brown eyes that looked at you in such an innocent way, like a fawn does, brown tousled hair – the hair cutting cap from the White Kingdom would help here, probably – and a sincere smile, that made all girls hearts melt, a fact Arian didn’t realize, of course. Girls? Ugh! They go on his nerves, were terribly silly and constantly giggled like his three little sisters: Liridona, Edonita and Drusilla. For his age of fourteen years, the Prince was quite tall and surprisingly strong. When it came to arm wrestling, he could easily take on his father, who was an experienced and skilled swordsman. Arian’s strength came from climbing trees and his speed came from running away from his teachers. The Prince was more interested in these things than in girls. Quite often you could hear King Drobert call from his throne: “I wished he would be as fast at learning as he is at climbing trees.” Yes, Drobert, excuse me, King Drobert was very proud of his son. So, it was an ordinary day in the Green Kingdom when Arian again didn’t feel like listening to his teachers’ boring and soporific speeches. Instead, he wanted to go outside. At lightning speed, he rushed out of the studying room, ran through the Palace’s corridors and went down the stairs by doing somersaults like an acrobat instead of walking on his two legs. All of that was accompanied by the desperate calls of his four teachers, whose high, thin voices could be heard everywhere: “Your Royal Highness, your Royal Highness. Please wait! That’s not considered proper. If the King finds out about you not fulfilling your studies, he will deprive you of your privileges!” Let me translate that for you: “Stay here, you spoilt rascal! If our boss finds out what a big show you put on here, you just watch your step!”
Well, I think the fine gentlemen were more worried about themselves than about the spoilt, erm, dear Prince.
Arian managed to get away from them easily. The servants were very supportive, standing at the doors and opening them for him when he left the Palace, still doing somersaults. They couldn’t deny his wishes as they liked Prince Arian so much, especially when he secretly brought them some of the delicious cakes and candy from the Royal table to thank them for their help. When he was finally outside, standing in the court, Arian felt pretty dizzy. It’s no wonder, my dear friend, when you act as if you’re the drum of a washing machine. It took a while for the world to stop spinning, but then Arian asked himself: “What do I do now?” He had barely spoken the words as he headed for the trees, which were right outside the castle walls. And – one, two, three! – he held onto a tree trunk, pulled himself up onto the branches and jumped around between them as if he was a squirrel. In the treetop of a huge old oak he sat on a branch and dangled his legs. Satisfied with himself and happy about having outwitted those smart adults, he whistled to himself, waggled his head and swayed to the rhythm.
He’s a bit careless, if you ask me. Well, it’s none of my business. And in the end, the carelessness made him find the hole in the tree trunk. If he hadn’t have thrashed around, he wouldn’t have noticed the hole at all. But now he saw it and almost fell off the branch with astonishment. With great difficulty, he grabbed hold of the tree just in time. But now he was curious. “A hole in a tree - I have never seen such a thing before. What if there’s something inside?” he wondered, sitting on the branch like it was the back of a horse and moving further towards the trunk. He leaned around a bit so he could see the hole better, put his hand inside the hole and groped around. How brave of him to put his hand inside a dark hole without knowing what or who is inside it. Hats off! But of course, princes are very bold and fearless and not such scaredy-cats as authors, who sit in their small rooms, writing down insane stories like me. Erm, yeah, well. Please keep that to yourself, okay?
Arian was really lucky that there was no rabid sparrow or bloodthirsty owl inside the hole. No, it was nothing like that. All he could find was a book. That’s pretty disappointing, he thought, when he pulled it out and held it in his hands. But then he opened the book and found a magical mirror. He read the words, which were written in black ink underneath the mirror:
“My heart, it longs so much for you.
Once, twice, three times, it’s true.
Come, my friend, from afar!
I love you more than chocolate bars.”
Suddenly, Arian didn’t see himself in the silver surface of the mirror anymore, but a girl. And what a beauty she was! Well, there was dirt on her cheeks and nose and she had cobwebs in her hair. Her pink dress had seen better times, too. But apart from that she was quite nice to look at it. It was more than that. Arian was completely enchanted by the cutie in the mirror.
Princess Rosalina was no different. She had read the magical words at the same time and now she saw the prettiest boy above the clouds.
“Greetings, fair maiden.” Usually, Arian didn’t speak like that: so formal and cultivated. What was wrong with him? It must be because of Rosalina. “I’m Prince Arian. Who are you?”
Suddenly becoming shy, Rosalina cast down her eyes and breathed, “Greetings, Prince Arian. I’m Princess Rosalina.”
“R-o-s-a-l-i-n-a,” Arian sighed. Her name melted in his mouth like the wafer-thin chocolates made by the chocolatiers at the Royal Court. “I can see you and you can see me.” What a great realization, Arian. Very clever. “How’s that possible? What a strange magic,” he said.
Rosalina shrugged. “I don’t know. I found a book by chance…”
“Me too!” Arian exclaimed. Oh dear! It’s pretty rude to interrupt a lady, Arian. But Rosalina forgave him and nodded. “I opened it and there were these words under the mirror.” She told him what had happened from her point of view.
Arian laughed. “I did the same. That’s really remarkable. I have never heard of something like that before.”
“Me too, though Magic In The Clouds – now and then is my favorite lesson,” the Princess said, smiling. Pretty and smart – a great combination!
“I wonder whether it works a second time,” Arian thought loudly. Did he want to leave so soon?
Rosalina looked at his mirror image wide-eyed. “What if it doesn’t work? Then we may never see each other again,” she said, disappointed.
“We won’t find out, if we don’t try,” Arian answered. When he saw how sad the Princess was, he added: “I really hope to see you again.” Mischievously, he winked at her. He was flirting! At the same time, he wanted to persuade us, that he doesn’t want anything to do with girls. Of course!
At least, Rosalina was happy about his words and blushed. “I hope so, too. Do you have any idea what we have to do to end the spell?” she asked.
“Maybe we just need to shut the book,” he suggested.
Rosalina nodded. “Okay. We’ll give it a try. At three – one, two, three.”
Bang! The books were shut. Once again, Rosalina counted to three, then she opened the book and – indeed! – it worked. Arian was gone. Hooray! Oh no! It’s the wrong time for joy. “I will read the spell again and then Arian will be back. Well, I hope so,” she sighed.
“My heart, it longs so much for you.
Once, twice, three times, it’s true.
Come, my friend, from afar!
I love you more than chocolate bars.”
Bang! Arian’s face was in the mirror again. Now was the right time for cheering.
“Rosalina!” the Prince cried. “I’m so glad to see you. It worked. Isn’t that great?”
The Princess nodded so violently, the cobwebs in her hair jumped up and down. “Now that we have found each other, Rosalina, don’t you want to tell me more about yourself?”
With that the questions began. Rosalina told him everything he wanted to know. When she had finished, she bombarded Arian with questions. They found out how old they were, what they liked to eat, what they liked to do and what they didn’t like to do. They also found out where they lived. This topic made them both very sad.
“If you live in the White Kingdom and I live in the Green Kingdom, we can’t visit each other,” Arian said, grimacing.
“That’s really too bad,” Rosalina said. “What do we do now?”
Arian also didn’t like that fact, but he was a master at shaking off things and worrying about them later. Maybe, his maxim was: enjoy the moment. “We will find a way. But for now, let’s just enjoy, that we found each other,” he said.
Rosalina nodded. “I agree.”
“Fantastic!” Arian cried, almost falling off his branch. “Would you like to talk tomorrow?”
“Oh yes! That would be wonderful,” Rosalina said, beaming with joy. She was quite taken by him. She was a bit head-over-heels in love with him, right?
“When the clouds change their color to lilac, I’ll see you again, charming Rosalina,” Arian murmured.
And so it was that the two saw each other in the magical mirrors and spoke every evening that followed. They got to know each other, spoke about everything, what made them happy and what made them sad. They shared their sorrows and secrets. But one day, the ardent desire to see each other in real life got so great, it became unbearable.
“I really must see you, Rosalina,” Arian urged.
“I want to meet you, too, but you know it’s impossible,” Rosalina said, sighing.
“There must be a way to cross the clouds. We hold magical mirrors in our hands. So, there must be a chance to solve the problem with the clouds!” the Prince shouted under his blanket, under which he sat with the magical mirror book. The fervor with which he had spoken frightened not only Rosalina but also Arian. Quickly, he took a look to check whether any of the servants had heard him. But Arian was very lucky, as no one was to be seen or heard.
“I don’t know what to do, Arian,” Rosalina said sadly. Her brown eyes filled with tears as she looked at the Prince in the mirror. When he saw the Princess cry, it broke Arian’s heart, but it also revived his ambition. Challenges like that mostly spurred Arian on to try harder. It was the same with trees which had grown in an odd way, making it almost impossible to climb them. But Arian wanted to climb these trees and so far he had always made it. Okay, okay. You cannot compare apples to oranges and certainly not trees to magical mirrors, but Arian could be very strong-willed if he wanted to. “Listen, Rosalina. Here’s what we’ll do: you search the room, where you found the mirror. You turn every sheet of parchment, every cobweb and every dead rat…”
“Ugh!” the Princess said.
“…and look for a spell, a formula, a clue to how we can cross the clouds.”
“Are you going to touch dead animals to help us, too?” Rosalina teased him.
“I will do something far more dangerous,” Arian replied. Rosalina looked at him, wide-eyed. “I will talk to my teachers and question them.” Of course, the Prince exaggerated. To question his teachers definitely wasn’t more dangerous than touching smelly rats. However, you’ve got to have the right feel for it. Too many questions, too much curiosity and – bam! - you had drawn suspicion. Arian had to be very clever if he didn’t want his teachers to ask awkward questions. So, he made plans and waited for two days until it was time for another lesson about Green History – material about the Green Kingdom’s past and mentioned his question in passing: “Has there ever been someone trying to get from the Green Kingdom to the White one and to cross the cloud cover?”
Very well done, Arian!
Master Haselbuff, who was secretly called Master Red-nose by everyone, as he had such a beautiful red nose, said: “Hundreds and hundreds of years ago, someone tried it, yes.” He nodded, straightening his glasses. “The people over there came up with all sorts of ridiculous things like the nose tub. Imagine that, your Royal Highness. That’s crazy, isn’t it?” Arian smiled and nodded. He thought it would be better to simply agree. “But I’m digressing. Please, forgive me, your Royal Highness. Where was I? Oh yes: the silly inventions. Well, one of them was the so-called rubber band. It’s similar to a rope, but it’s softer, more flexible and expansible. They tightened it between two stone columns, then ten men pulled it back, as a volunteer more or less sat on the pulled back rubber band. Finally, they let go of it and the test subject flew to the sun, above the clouds and towards our realm.”
So, that’s the first journey by air?
“It worked?” Arian asked, beaming with joy and full of hope. He already saw himself sitting on the legendary rubber band, flying through the air.
“That’s what it was supposed to look like in theory. In fact, the test pilot flew about ten steps, crashed into the White Kingdom’s walls and burst like a red grape.”
“That’s terrible!” Arian said. He felt really awful. All his wonderful dreams about visiting Rosalina disappeared into thin air.
Speaking of Rosalina - what was she doing in the meantime? She rummaged through the thick layers of dust in the mysterious room, looking for something, which could help her. She let rude books insult her and turned over a dozen dead spiders. There were no rats. But that was the only way in which she was lucky. All the crawling, rummaging and turning were no use. There was nothing telling her how they could cross the clouds. But she had learnt how to make your nose look nicer or disfigure it in twenty-six different ways, so nobody could recognize you. It was also very helpful, if you wanted to get a sick note should you not feel like going to work or to school. It was great and useful, of course, but it didn’t help her and Arian at all.
“It’s enough to drive you crazy!” she complained, emerging from behind the large flower bowl in the tea room that stood right in front of the entrance to the room with the magical books.
Rosalina had just straightened the flower bowl out when she heard someone clearing his throat. Slowly, the Princess turned around, raised her eyebrows, folded her hands in front of her chest, looking as innocently and graceful as it was possible to be with black streaks on her dress and her face and with cobwebs in her hair. “I would really like to take a bath,” she stated naturally, as if nothing had happened.
The servant nodded, bowed and left the room without turning his back to her and without looking at her once more. It was Silenzius. A good man, whose name said everything it needed to: don’t speak, don’t hear, don’t see anything.
On the next day, Rosalina waited for the evening to come, so she could talk to Arian again. She spent lots of time walking in the heavenly gardens. The sun shone brightly, a mild breeze blew, it wasn’t too hot – it would have been perfect, if there wasn’t the problem with the clouds and how to overcome them. Lost in thoughts, she walked around the trees, sat on one of the glass floors and watched the passing clouds, which were now yellow. Where else could she look for help? Who else could she ask? She couldn’t find answers to all these questions. It was enough to drive you mad! Rosalina sighed, stood up and smoothed out her dress.
“I’ve never seen you so lost in thoughts, my daughter.”
Rosalina was startled. She looked up and immediately curtsied to her mother, the Queen, like courtly conventions called for. “Good day, mother. Please, forgive me. I did not notice you,” she replied.
Queen Mathild smiled. “I’m aware of it,” she said in a gentle way. “But my dear child, what’s bothering you so much, that deep sorrow lines are on your forehead, just like on your father’s? Something is tormenting you. I can see it.”
Oh yes. Good mothers sense everything. Rosalina hesitated. Where should she start? I mean, how would you react if someone would tell you: ‘I found a magical mirror, read a weird spell and – boom! – there was a handsome guy, a prince, in the mirror’? You would surely think that the person was nuts, that they had a screw loose somewhere – just crazy. But Rosalina was very unhappy about not having found a solution to her problem. She was at a loss. She felt like bursting any moment if she couldn’t speak out loud her thoughts and sorrows. So, she took a deep breath and then the words came spluttering out.
While Rosalina talked and the Queen listened, they walked through the gardens side by side. Her mother heard all sorts of strange things which scared, confused and surprised her. Books with magical mirrors? Charms that showed people from the other kingdom? But there were some things which gladdened the Queen’s heart. When her daughter said: ‘He is so handsome. He is so beautiful and cute,’ Queen Mathild already saw her daughter in her wedding dress. Much time passed before the Princess finished and sat down on a wooden bench, sighing. That’s just what she had needed: to unburden herself.
“So, you’re looking for a way to cross the clouds?” the Queen asked, sitting down next to her daughter.
Rosalina nodded. “Do you have any advice for us?” she asked.
Queen Mathild shook her head. “I’m sorry, dear. I can’t help you. I have never heard of such mirrors, though someone tried it before to get from here to there.” Rosalina’s eyes lit up with joy, but then her mother told her the same story, Arian had heard from his teacher and the Princess got very sad. That wasn’t what she wanted for Arian: to fly against a wall and burst like one of the big brown peas growing in the Royal vegetable beds. Rosalina wept bitterly. Her situation seemed to be hopeless. Arian should not be smashed into pieces when flying against a wall! But there seemed to be no other way.
“Oh, please don’t cry, my darling,” the Queen said, moving closer to her daughter and patting her arm. “You will meet another nice, good-looking boy, who will be within easy reach.”
Rosalina replied with what everybody says, when they’re in love for the first time. “I want no other! There’s no second Arian. It’s either him or nobody.”
Worried, the Queen looked at her daughter. It hurt to see the Princess like that. If only she could help her. She tried to think about how to get to the Green Kingdom. Maybe they should try it again with the rubber band? Who would volunteer? Probably no one, not after what had happened centuries ago. No, she rejected this idea. What now? At the same moment, something quite amazing happened. The Queen’s red, yellow and purple butterflies, which sat on the branches of the white trees in the gardens, soared up and flew to Rosalina. The Princes and the Queen were frightened when suddenly a butterfly sat on Rosalina’s head, went to the tip of her nose and finally settled on her knees. It was very odd behavior because the butterflies usually flew around happily, sat on their favorite trees and enjoyed their butterfly-life. If the Queen ordered them to do tricks in the air, they did tricks. Then they literally painted pictures above the White Kingdom and you could see the portrait of her spouse or something easier like a fruit basket or a chandelier. But what they were doing now, Queen Mathild hadn’t told them to do. Or maybe she did? With all of her heart, she had wished to help her daughter. Maybe the smart and gifted butterflies had felt her great desire and as they couldn’t speak, they had to attract attention in a different way. So, one of the younger butterflies, a very playful one, sat on Rosalina’s knees, tickled her with its wings, making her laugh. Now, the daring butterfly sat on her lap, jumping from here to there and back again and spun around. It seemed to dance, proud having done a good job. When the Queen and Rosalina felt dizzy because of its pirouettes, the butterfly flew to the ground and joined another butterfly. And then Rosalina and her mother saw another butterfly and another one. There were probably thousands of butterflies, which lined up, forming a colorful ribbon that rose from the ground and into the air, reaching to one of the white trees. This way, a connection was made for crossing something. Crossing what? Clouds maybe? Rosalina held her breath. Could it really be that her mother’s butterflies had showed her the right answer? Should she be able to visit Arian with the help of the butterflies?
Rosalina jumped up and went over to the beautiful animals. She brought her face close to them and admired the butterflies. She had never seen them up close, but now she saw every fine line, every scale on the red, yellow and purple wings and could even see the hair on their antennae. The Princess clapped her hands, cheerfully. “Look, mother. Your butterflies know what to do,” she said.
Queen Mathild rose to her feet and went to her loyal and wondrous flock. “Do you really think, dear, that this is the answer to cross the clouds? These animals are so delicate.” She held her hands above the constantly beating wings, feeling their gentle touch against her fingertips. “How can they carry a human being?”
“I don’t know. But I firmly believe that this is no accident. They want to tell me something. Maybe it’s time to have faith,” Rosalina said. When she had finished, the cheeky butterfly which had sat on her lap flew to her, excited, and danced in front of her face as if it wanted to say, “Yes, that’s it!” And to confirm what the Princess was saying, it flew over the bridge that the other butterflies had built, showing Rosalina the way she had to go. Smiling, the Princess pointed at the butterfly and said: “Look! I’m right. They want to help. Oh mother, I’m so happy. I am going to visit Arian.” Rosalina walked around the butterfly-bridge, ran to her mother and hugged her. Queen Mathild held her tight, patting her head. “I’m happy for you…for both of you.”
That evening, Rosalina told Arian everything about the butterflies and explained that they would finally be able to visit each other.
“That’s fantastic news! How wonderful! Oh, very well done, Rosalina. You’re the best,” the Prince said. Then a sentence slipped out of him that he had never said to a girl before and which Rosalina had never heard a boy say to her. “I love you, Rosalina.”
Yes, young people are often ill-considered when it comes to love.
Rosalina’s eyes widened, surprised. When the Prince saw her reaction, he cleared his throat and looked to the ground. He’s so quiet now. Why?
“I love you, too, Arian.” It was just a whisper, very careful and timid, like a warm, gentle breeze coming through the window in the morning.
Arian lifted his head and looked at the Princess again, saw her red cheeks and her smile. There he had to laugh, too, and he sighed. “I’m so happy about everything, Rosalina, my love. I’m happy about your discovery, about the butterflies. But mostly I’m happy about your love,” Arian said, running his fingers through his hair.
If you tell someone you love him for the first time, it’s not easy. But I think he did a really good job, right?
“I’m also happy about your words, my love. It’s so wonderful to be sure. For a very long time, I wondered whether you felt the same.”
“I thought you noticed how much I love you.”
“No, I wished for you to feel the same. But I didn’t notice or know it.”
“I wanted to tell you before, but I didn’t dare to.”
“Yes, me too.”
“Now, I’m glad and happy.”
Stop! Well, this sloppy sentimentality is quite nice, but let’s not forget the bridge-building butterflies and the clouds that need to be crossed.
The sentimentality went on for a while. At some point, the two spoke about what’s most important.
“So, when do we give it a try?” Rosalina asked.
“Tomorrow evening, when our both realms say good night to each other. Give me a little more time, so I can prepare my parents.”
It’s really not much time to let the King into the secret, is it? He would confront his father with a fait accompli. Well, I see. One day, Arian will be a great and resolute monarch.
“What will your parents say?” the Princess asked.
Arian shrugged. “I hope they’re going to be happy. But I fear my father is going to be angry, yelling: You’re a really naughty rascal! Who told you to learn such things and to talk to strange girls? And I will answer: You, father. You wanted me to learn something about our ancestors in Green History – material about the Green Kingdom’s past. You also wanted me to learn something about Green Fantasies. Apart from that, you said it’s time for me to find a bride. I just did what you wanted, oh great King! I worked on magic and history and looked for a bride. Then, my father will probably box my ears.”
And in fact, all that Arian had told Rosalina happened. But there was even more shouting, raving and running around the palace in the Green Kingdom because of the Prince’s brazenness. It all ended when Arian hid behind his mother, Queen Greta, clutching at her dress. He just didn’t know what to do. Apart from that, he was completely out of breath and didn’t feel like sliding down bannisters or laundry chutes, ending on top of piles of dirty sheets. Even if it sounds funny, it’s very, very strenuous and boring after the third time.
“It’s enough! You both act like some wild donkeys!” the Queen scolded, holding back her husband with one hand and pulling out her son from between the inverted pleats of her dress.
“Excuse me, please! I am the King!” the monarch of the Green Kingdom said with his deep, rich voice, arms akimbo, glowering at his wife.
“At the moment, I cannot say you are the King,” Queen Greta replied.
Arian laughed out loud, quickly ducking, as his father leapt forward, foaming with rage.
“Wait till I get hold of you,” King Drobert threatened.
“Stop it!” the Queen shouted. “Arian is right.”. The Prince and his father looked at her confused. “He just did what you said. He learnt and sought, understood and found. There’s no need for you to complain about anything. So, Arian,” she said, turning to her son, “you and the young lady agreed to cross the clouds tonight.”
Arian nodded, still totally amazed the Queen had said he was right and not his father. “Now,” his mother said, clapping her hands, “we should prepare. You should wash yourself thoroughly and put on your prettiest clothes. Some flowers would do no harm,” she said, winking at her son.
The Prince nodded, beaming with joy. His mother was such a wise woman. Arian hugged her, whispering Thank you into her ear. Then he let go of her and ran off towards his room, making sure not to go near his father.
The position of horn blower is a very respectable one and has belonged to the same family for generations. Interestingly, and it’s really, really, really pure chance, the family’s name was “Blowhard”. Indeed, in the eyes of their fellow human beings the Blowhards were heroes when it came to breathing. You might think that they would revere their heroes. However, as you’ll see, that isn’t always the case. Why? Well, I will tell you in a bit. First things first.
That night, about fifteen minutes before it was time to say good night to the White Kingdom, a few meters away from the town wall a door opened. Eribert Blowhard came out, the current holder of the official horn blower in the Green Kingdom. Eribert was thirty-four years old and wasn’t married. What a great scandal! I can tell you that. The average Green-Kingdom citizen usually gets married at the age of fifteen or sixteen. Only members of the royal family were allowed to get married at an earlier age. So, Eribert was strange, as he was so old and still single. But his age wasn’t the reason why he couldn’t find the right woman. It also wasn’t his looks. Oh no! Eribert looked exceptionally good. He had long blond hair that he looked after very well, brushing it 178 times every morning just like his mother had taught him. Eribert had bright green eyes with long dark eyelashes. He had a straight delicate nose, beautiful lips and dazzling white teeth. He had a very thorough skin care regime – he regularly used cucumber slices to protect himself from wrinkles and rings under his eyes. He also used a self-made skin ointment every day, made of milk, eggs, flour and – hold onto your seat! – rabbit’s excrement. So, now you probably understand why many people in the Green Kingdom said that he was an oddball. Eribert didn’t care. He thought he did the right thing and looked good. And that was the problem: Eribert knew he looked good, a fact that made him strut about like a peacock and patronize other people. And so he couldn’t find a woman who wanted to marry him. As he had no manners, nobody wanted to help him when he stepped out of his house, dressed in a pair of ultramarine trousers with matching jacket, white shirt and black boots, dragging the gigantic horn behind him. The horn was made of wood, painted in white and light brown. The silver mouthpiece was engraved with the initials of the horn blower: E. B. – Eribert Blowhard. Basically, the horn resembled a snail shell, except that there was a hole in the middle of it. When Eribert had closed the door, he stepped into this hole, lifted the horn and was now literally wrapped in it. He looked like he had hoops around his hips. For such a slim, almost skinny person, it was a pretty heavy load. Horn blowers aren’t famous for their muscular arms, but for their healthy, strong lungs. With the horn around him, Eribert had a hard time moving through the crowd, which had assembled in front of his house and on the square in front of the town wall. All the time, he cried: “Get out of my way! Here comes the horn! Make way for the horn!” Every night, it was the same annoying and exhausting procedure and like every night, after lots of pushing, shoving and cursing, he came to the stairs, which led up the wall. There, Eribert stopped, put down the horn for a moment and mopped his brow with a handkerchief from his trouser pocket. Then he put the handkerchief back again, took a deep breath, lifted the horn and climbed the stairs with it. One step, two steps, three steps. He took a break, looked up the stairs, shook his head and walked on. There were only a few more steps left, when he said to himself: “I can’t.” Then, his knees gave way and he rolled down the stairs along with the horn. He and his nice clean suit, which wasn’t so nice and clean anymore, ended up in the dust. With his legs outstretched, his arms stuck under the horn and his head peeping out of the hole in the middle, he laid on his back and looked into curious faces above him.
“You don’t need to help me!” Eribert screamed, his high, squeaky voice full with anger. After all, the shouting made people help him to hoist the horn up the wall.
The same spectacle happened every night. Pushing, jostling, climbing, falling, scolding, climbing. Eribert thought they did it on purpose and secretly looked forward to seeing him fall. Well, maybe he was right, maybe not. But when they had carried the horn and the horn blower up the stairs, the annoyance vanished the moment they looked over the wall, seeing the White Kingdom. Its wonderful sight really made up for all the strains. You could hear lots of enraptured Oohs! and Aahs! among the people who stood there with Eribert. Their mouths opened with amazement and some even had tears in their eyes when they saw the shining walls with their pointed towers. Unfortunately, they didn’t have enough time to enjoy the view. A flourish of trumpets could be heard, announcing the Royal Family’s arrival. Eribert’s helpers quickly left the wall. After all, you cannot be in a king’s way. Men bowed, women curtsied, when the monarch walked past them. King Drobert and Queen Greta reached the stairs first and went up. Then came Arian, their oldest child, followed by his three sisters. All of them were dressed very stylishly. Actually, they spruced themselves up every night and wore the finest materials and sparkling jewels. But tonight it seemed they looked prettier than ever. Even Prince Arian, who usually disliked that splendor, wore a silk shirt, a pair of silk trousers and black polished boots and –oh, my goodness! – he even had combed his hair!
“Something very special must be going on,” people whispered, when they watched the Royal Family going up the stairs and taking their stand on the wall.
“Eribert, did you roll down the stairs again?” King Drobert asked, smirking. He looked the horn blower up and down and gave him a pat on the back.
“Yes, your Royal Highness.” Eribert tried hard to remain friendly, as it was the same nerve-wracking small talk they had every night. He forced a smile.
“A speech, we want a speech!” somebody from the crowd shouted and lots of others agreed.
King Drobert looked down at his subjects, smiling, and reduced them to silence with one wave of his hand. “My dear Fellow-Green-People, my friends.”
What a great speaker he is, the king. I like that! By the way, the people of the Green Kingdom liked it very much, too. They cheered and were really happy about the king calling them his friends. They put their hands into the sky and waved at him. “Long live the king. Long live Drobert!” they shouted. The king had to silence them once more. Then, he spoke again. “I’m very happy about you all being here. Like every night, we’re gathered here to say good night to our neighbors in the White Kingdom. These are always special moments, when the clear ringing of their bells sound and then Eribert’s horn answers.”
“Cheers for Eribert. May his lungs always be strong,” the people yelled, applauding. Eribert blushed because of these wonderful wishes. Maybe people liked him after all?
The king smiled and waited for the crowd to be silent again. “Today, my friends, it is a much, much more important evening than ever. Today, the White and the Green Kingdom won’t just say goodnight to each other acoustically. Today, they will shake hands for the first time.” His voice got louder with each word until he was screaming. But this time people didn’t cheer. On the contrary, they looked at their king, wide-eyed, frowning and whispering.
“What did he say?”
“Did you hear the same as me?”
“Maybe the crown is too heavy for his head?”
“Shh! Be quiet! You shouldn’t say things like that!”
When King Drobert noticed the silence and saw everyone staring at him, he turned to his family, as if he wanted to ask, “Well, well. What happened?”
You already know that King Drobert has the gift of the gab. Usually, he didn’t need somebody else to help him with his speeches. But sometimes, even a king is at a loss. Don’t worry. People didn’t throw rotten tomatoes or apples full of maggots at him, and nobody booed. No, we’re not in the middle ages, but in the civilized world of the clouds. So, I’m glad to tell you, that Arian helped his father, telling people everything he had told his parents. When he had finished, enthusiasm and joy returned and people shouted: “Cheers for Prince Arian. Hooray, hooray, hooray! May he learn much more about Green History and Green Fantasies and bring us more miracles!”
At these words, Arian had to grin. The king had to suppress a smile, too, trying not to show too much joy and pride for his son. The cheering of the people didn’t diminish for a long time and the king had to ask them to be silent one final time. Otherwise, they would miss the wonderful moment when the White Kingdom’s bells and the Green Kingdom’s horn said goodnight. They might even miss the butterfly-bridge! Oh no! Please, I don’t want to miss the butterfly-bridge. What about you? So, let’s be quiet now.
King Drobert and his family turned around and looked over the wall. The crowd gazed back at them, fascinated and holding their breaths. The people down on the square couldn’t see what the Royal Family saw. So, they waited, carefully watching for any emotion from the Royal Family. Finally, they heard the bright and pure sound of the bells. People put their hands into the sky, opened their mouths and cheered. They laughed, whooped with joy and roared. Some jumped high into the sky, hugged strange people and some men effusively kissed women whom they had never seen before, just because they were so happy. They barely noticed the king waving his hands. At some point, somebody made Shh! Shh! noises and others imitated him. Then, everybody shut their mouths, stopped jumping around and suddenly let go of the women they had kissed, so they fell to the ground, landing on their bottoms. What a great mess! For the people, it was a great feat to be quiet and not to dance around euphorically, when Eribert Blowhard put the horn to his lips, answering the bells.
And what did it look like in the White Kingdom? Were people beside themselves, too? Well, there things were well-mannered and orderly: people applauded when they heard the horn.
“They are a bit cool, aren’t they?” you ask. I call it good upbringing.
The horn died away and Queen Mathild turned to the white wall, looking up at the towers. There, all of her red, yellow and purple butterflies had gathered, waiting for a sign of their mistress. Calmly, the Queen said: “Fly, my loyal and brave butterflies. Fly and connect our worlds.” Well, she needs to practice making speeches. But it was enough to make the butterflies take off. These great animals had a remarkable sense of hearing, so they could hear everything, even it was just a whisper. They could hear everything, but did they listen to everything what was said? It depended on their form on the day. But what was important was that they listened to Queen Mathild and so the butterflies flew out of the small round windows in the towers, excited about building their bridge.
When the people in the White Kingdom saw the colorful flying spectacle, they murmured and also couldn’t sit still anymore. People jumped, spun round in circles, danced and did somersaults. Rosalina, her mother, the Queen, and her father, King Raigund, were astonished about people’s behavior. They hadn’t seen them like that very often before. The last time they were besides themselves was when Rosalina was born and when the king got married or when the first nose tub came onto the market. By the way, that day is still a public holiday in the White Kingdom. Even if so much joy was unusual for the realm, the Royal family was very happy about it. While the commotion went on, the butterflies flew high above people’s heads, getting ready to connect the White Kingdom with the Green Kingdom. They lined up: wing on wing, antennae on antennae.
“That’s so beautiful!” Rosalina and her mother said when they saw it. And indeed, it was an enchanting and breathtaking view, when the purple, red and yellow butterflies arranged in an arch above the lilac clouds and that in front of an orange and yellow sky. What a feast for the eyes!
But what was that? The butterfly-bridge ended midway! Though there were thousands of animals, they weren’t enough to overcome the distance between the two realms. Oh no! I don’t believe it.
Helpless, Rosalina looked at her mother, tears in her eyes. Queen Mathild really wanted to help her daughter, but she didn’t know what to do.
But hey! We are in a great world with wondrous things like nose tubs and magical mirrors in books. So, there was someone who knew what to do. It was the birds of the Green realm’s king, who were there and helped their winged mates finish their work. So, the bridge was completed and Rosalina and Arian could finally see each other face to face.
A happy ending - I love happy endings.
Of course, it wasn’t that easy. I mean, it needs a lot of courage to step onto the delicate wings of butterflies and birds while they glide. I wouldn’t do that, as I’m afraid of heights. So, that’s why I take my yellow straw hat with a blue flower on it off to the Princess and the Prince. But the two of them were so much braver than me, overcame their fears, crossed the bridge and finally could embrace each other.
No, wait! Let me tell you that from this day on, the birds and the butterflies got together periodically to connect the two kingdoms. Of course, they couldn’t do that every day. They were indeed strong butterflies and birds, but they are animals after all, boy, even if they are magical ones. Anyway, they agreed to build the bridge twice a week. On the first day, White visited Green. The next time, it was Green visiting White. Then, people celebrated and laughed, danced and talked and showed each other the newest inventions like the piggy bank, which really took care of your savings. It bit your hand if you tried to take money out of it. Queen Greta really liked the piggy bank. She was the first to buy one for her husband, who often liked to spend money from the treasure vault to buy shoes. Yes, he was into shoes very much. That’s very, very unusual for a man. Queen and King disagreed, when it came to the question: “Do you really need thirty pairs of shoes with little bells in different sizes and colors, ringing in varying pitches?” But when it came to the costs of Rosalina’s and Arian’s wedding, they agreed for once. This celebration really would be splendid, pretentious and showy.
So, the connection and the friendship between the two realms was sealed forever. And they all lived happily – well, you know how that sentence ends.
Now, it’s really the end. Good night.
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