THE PROPHECY, Part 1 of the Starry Eyes series
An imaginative start to a fantasy adventure
Twin princesses Armada and Elena were separated at birth. To prevent a terrible prophecy from coming true, they must not meet for the first 13 years of their lives. The girls have lived their lives independently, without the other – Armada with the royal family in the kingdom of Tähtilinna and Elena far away in a country called Finland, in the village of Pernainen, with her grandmother. When Armada hears the truth, she waits until she is alone in the castle and then invites Elena for a visit, completely ignoring the ridiculous prophesy.
The twins may look similar, but they are totally different, yet manage to find the common ground. A castle without adult supervision offers the girls the playground of their dreams, and Elena meets the various amusing residents of the castle: the Mini-Giants, the Eekies, the Ello-Rollies, the Heggo-Heggoes, the Tsondies and others. Some of these would be best avoided in the dark! With the girls’ 13th birthday rapidly approaching, the happy co-existence soon turns menacing … What is the source of that scary rumbling noise underneath the castle?
”The Prophecy is a fine opening and a strong base for the series.” Savon Sanomat
”Hanna van der Steen’s first book is a fast-paced gem of fantasy literature. The novel is full of curious creatures: tsondies, ello-rollies, two-headed knights and mini-giants. The language is every bit as colourful, with tsondy Tikkilikki’s speech resembling fireworks - - “ Helsingin Sanomat 29.7.2011, Vesa Sisättö
“The Prophecy is written in fluent and lively language, and it contains a lot of detail that will fascinate young readers.” Onnimanni 3/2011, Merja Leppälahti
The Prophecy, is a tonic for Finnish children’s fantasy literature.” Karjalainen 20.7.2011, Savon Sanomat 25.7.2011, Etelä-Suomen Sanomat 2.7.2011, Maria Loikkanenl
in which Armada receives some exceptionally good news
Armada looked out of the tower window onto the courtyard of the castle.
Mini-giants, two delve-lengths tall, were playing “ten peglegs on a board” down below. They scampered after the agile peglegs, cheering whenever they managed to lift one of them onto the board.
Farther away, a two-headed knight was teaching some fuzzbellies and other would-be-dancers the steps of a line dance. The line kept growing longer and longer, with at least twenty participants already.
Ticklick, the castle’s chamberdelve, gallivanted there among the others, doing first summersaults and then wintersaults.
Armada grimaced. Why were all the other inhabitants of the castle having such fun; after all, she had been sulking for almost three hundred days.
She took a few brisk steps forward, pressing the weather button on the wall of the room a few times. Suddenly, it was raining hailstones outside, and everyone was sprinting for the castle.
Armada sniffed. Served them right. It was just a shame that the royal couple had not been outside. They would have deserved a big rain of paint hail, the kind that would have turned them black from head to toe.
Armada was angry with her parents because they had done something horribly cruel and stupid, something that no mother or father who really cared about their children would ever do.
On top of everything else, she had learned about it by accident. Her parents had definitely not told her the truth themselves. On the morning of her 12th birthday, Armada had rushed into her mother’s rooms, catching her there by surprise standing in front of a mirror. In the mirror had been the image of a girl that Armada had at first thought to be herself, until she had noticed that the girl was wearing odd clothes: blue pants and a white hooded shirt.
Queen Eleonora had been mortified when she had realized Armada had seen the girl. Still shaken, she had told Armada the shocking truth.
Armada squeezed her hands into fists. Thinking about what had happened, she was always overcome by emotion. She had throughout her life felt lonely and different in Star Castle, being the only human child living there. And all this time she could have been sharing her life, her sorrows, and her joys with another child. At least had her parents not been so superstitious.
Meanwhile, the other creatures of the castle and the kingdom did not have a care in the world. They seemed cheerful and happy. Even the circus ghosts, who had gradually stopped trying to scare others, were these days laughing instead of wailing.
At precisely that moment, a small circus ghost peeked out of Armada’s walk-in closet. What a scamp! Armada had forbidden the circus ghosts from entering her room. The Princess decided to tell off the ghost, and was just about to step into her enormous closet when she heard a knock on the door of the room.
Armada, annoyed at the interruption, went to open the door.
Behind the door stood the King, looking nervously at his daughter.
“Listen,” he started, leaning on the doorframe in what he felt was a relaxed manner. Right then, his hand slipped, and he fell onto his face on the floor.
Armada watched her father expectantly. He got up, rubbing his arm with a frown.
After thinking for a moment, he remembered what he had come to see her about.
“Dear daughter. Would you take a turn with me by the royal ornamental pond?” He asked majestically.
The royal ornamental pond was a charming fish pond on the autumn side of Star Castle. Ten or so dafteels lived in the pool: pretty, snake-like creatures, whose scales painted the air over a foot around them in the colours of the rainbow. The multi-coloured glow of the dafteels hung over the pool, visible in the dark all the way to the rooms in the castle towers.
Armada figured that her father probably had something important to tell her, as he was not in the habit of taking walks for the fun of it. The King occupied his scanty free time with more extreme pursuits: for example, he liked to jump from the back of a flying unicorn with a flexible rope tied around him. (In the name of fairness, the unicorn occasionally wanted to climb onto the King’s back and jump down as well. And that was definitely extreme.)
So something was clearly afoot. Maybe he had finally come to his senses.
Armada pressed the weather button a few times, so that the weather out in the front yard of the castle became nicer. Then she grabbed her cloak, throwing it over her shoulders, and left with her father.
The Queen was waiting for them by the entrance to the castle. She had twined her thick hair into broad braids, and pulled a broad-brimmed hat over her head, to protect her from sunstroke. The long train of her dress trailed after her on little wheels.
Armada stared at her in wonder, as the Queen was also not in the habit of taking walks. She preferred to spend her time with the circus ghost babies, teaching them all the best tricks, unless she was making tiny little chains for them or other equally cute accessories.
The King offered his wife a nod so deep that it made his little goatee and his mass of curly hair wobble. The Queen curtsied in an equally formal manner. Then the three of them walked toward the fish pond.
Armada walked alongside her parents, dressed in a copper coloured taffeta dress. She looked exactly like a princess was probably supposed to look, except she occasionally walked backwards, sometimes sideways, making faces at the crawlies, stinksnakes, and other little creatures on the way. She did so to irritate her parents, who took her activities in stride with unusual serenity.
After they had walked in silence for a long while, King Frederik frowned ponderously, stating:
“I think you’re still angry at us?”
Armada looked at her father, trying to put on a calm smile for him.
“Not at all,” she said, kicking a large stone lying by the side of the road.
The stone turned out to be a rockturtle, which waved its fist at the blushing Princess.
The King fortunately did not notice what had happened, as he was busy staring at the sky. A few bright violet pigs were flying up there. Judging by the colour of the pigs, it would be an interesting morning. Of course, the King could have told that much even without seeing the pigs.
“How nice that you’re not going to hold a grudge,” the King answered Armada a little absent-mindedly. “I actually thought that you still hadn’t forgiven us. But I suppose you understood after all that Eleonora and I have only been doing what’s best for everyone all these years.”
The Queen nodded sombrely, patting her husband on the shoulder. He gently kissed his wife on the hand.
Armada turned her gaze away.
The King continued in a serious tone:
“We were also upset that you found out about the secret in such an unpleasant way. But just like you overheard, the power of the prophecy only lasts until your and your sister's thirteenth birthday. After that, everything will be different."
Armada huffed, shaking her head. She could not understand why her parents had acted and continued to act in such a stupid manner. Nothing could put right what she had had to go through over the years, and definitely not that at some point in the distant future things would supposedly be fixed.
“So wait a little and this, hmm, problem will be put right... Though every minute feels like torture,” the King added, his voice breaking on the last few words.
The Queen patted him comfortingly on the back.
Armada rolled her eyes, feeling not a smidgeon of sympathy for her father. The King was as empty-headed as the dafteels swimming around in the ornamental pool. A little wait would certainly not solve this problem, at least not fast enough. But Armada would. All she had to do was to somehow find a way to take care of it without her parents being able to stop her.
The Queen shot Armada a searching look, handing her a fishing rod that had been propped up against the side of the ornamental pool.
With practiced ease, Armada slipped a pink pearl onto the hook, taking it from the piles and piles of pearls in the treasure chest by the pool. Then she dipped the pearl into the water, letting it dangling there from the silver fishing line.
“As you know, your father and I have until now stood at your side at every moment. However, you are now almost thirteen,” the Queen said in a soft voice, looking thoughtfully at her daughter as she fished.
Armada shot a questioning look at her parents.
“Your mother and I must soon leave for Heathertown to take care of some urgent business,” the King muttered, casting his own hook into the water.
Armada stared in surprise at her parents.
“You must of course continue your studies, so unfortunately you cannot come with us. So what we were wondering was whether you would be able to manage here, while we were away? We would be gone for a few weeks at most,” the King said quickly, staring tensely at the fishing float in the water, which was twitching.
Armada’s eyes lit up, as she cried out excitedly:
“Oh yes, I’ll manage!”
The Queen shot Armada a questioning stare. The King, meanwhile, tried to shush her, pointing at his float, which promptly stopped twitching.
“I mean I would try hard to,” Armada added, determined to appear less happy. Right then, she lifted up a fine eel, shining in the colours of the rainbow, which muttered:
“Oh no, I fell for it again.”
The Princess pried the eel off the hook, letting it back into the water. Then she looked carefully at her parents.
The Queen continued in a serious tone:
“Armada, you do understand that you would be acting as the representative of the royal family during our visit? That is a big responsibility for a girl of your age. Of course, we would leave the decisions to the royal advisor, but you would still be playing an important role. You alone would have to serve as an example for all the inhabitants of the castle.”
Armada affected a yawn, dropping the hook back into the water.
“So are you sure you’re fine with staying behind at Star Castle?" The King asked, frowning. “We would be leaving already in a few weeks.”
“Don’t worry. I’ll manage,” Armada answered with a cheerful smile.
The King’s lure still got no bites, but Armada’s float started to twitch once more. She lifted a dafteel sparkling with vivid colours that looked very much like the one she had caught only moments before.
“Oh no, I fell for it again,” the eel repeated mournfully.
Armada released the beautiful creature back into the water, replacing her fishing rod. After news like these, she was quite unable to concentrate on fishing.
“We would only be willing to leave you behind in the castle on one condition,” the Queen said in a stern voice. “You must promise that you will never, not in any way, defy the prophecy.”
Armada crossed her fingers behind her back, quickly answering:
“Of course not, mother. I wouldn’t even dream of doing such a thing.”
The King and Queen smiled, looking at their daughter in relief.
(more chapters available on demand)
Translation by Arttu Ahava.