In a small cottage lived a cobbler. He had two daughters, whose personalities were as different as their names. At seventeen, Cyan was the elder and the most reserved of the daughters who liked to hide away in her bedroom and read. Younger by eleven months, Magenta was more vibrant and outgoing. Magenta shared Cyan’s deep yearning to escape, though not through books.
Magenta longed to explore the forbidden world beyond their home and the surrounding forest, to the furthest edge of the field. What most intrigued her was the Crystal Castle that loomed beyond the lavender-filled meadow.
She longed to meet the young prince that lived there with the King and Queen, who were just as strict with their son as they were with their subjects, and as the cobbler was with his daughters.
Magenta’s birth had resulted in his wife’s death and since that time the widowed cobbler had feared the loss of his treasured daughters too. And knowing what lurked beneath the lake, forbade his daughters from ever crossing it.
“Not one toe will you set in that lake,” he often warned, but as always, his words fell on deaf ears. That day was no different, as he left the cottage for another day of work. This time Magenta would not go alone.
It was an unusually warm and sunny day, when she pulled a reluctant Cyan out of her comfortable quarters and the book she’d been reading, luring her with the promise of an afternoon of reading together under a tree. They set off together on their adventure to the edge of that forbidden meadow.
Behind Magenta, who gathered purple flowers from beside the path as she skipped along, Cyan, with her book in her arm, lagged.
“How far now?” Cyan asked. “There’s a lovely tree ahead. Perhaps we can sit awhile in the shade.”
“What tree?” asked Magenta, who had been too busy inhaling the scent of flowers to notice the willow ahead. It sat half concealed in the lavender sea, barely visible by the bank of the lake, but for its umbrella of drooping leaves.
“Ooh!” Magenta exclaimed. “What a magical little hide-away. We could have it all to ourselves.”
Her interest in the tree however, was short-lived, for on the bank of the lake was a small jetty that stretched a short distance to an old wooden rowboat tied to a post.
“Oh, how quaint!” she exclaimed, already hatching a new plan.
“No!” Cyan called, following her sister’s gaze. She knew what Magenta was thinking. “You know what father told us about the lake!”
“Oh, but we wouldn’t be in the water, exactly…” Magenta said. “We’d be in the boat.”
“Hmmm…” Cyan thought. Though she wasn’t convinced, she saw Magenta’s point.
“Don’t you ever wonder about the Crystal Castle?” Magenta pressed. “Don’t you want to see it up close?”
The glare from sunlight hit the tall shards of the castle walls and bounced over the lake and all around in rays, adding to the already blinding bright day. Even Cyan couldn’t tear her eyes away from the bedazzling sight.
She could hear their father’s warning in her mind, and sensed the prospect of spending time under the willow with her beautiful book, slowly slipping away.
“You promised we’d sit and read together, not go looking for trouble,” she complained.
“Who said anything about trouble?” Magenta countered, as she skipped even further ahead of Cyan. “I just want an adventure.”
“There’s plenty of adventure in here!” Cyan held her book up to Magenta as she finally caught up.
Because they shared a stubborn streak, Magenta knew that to avoid the stalemate they were approaching, she needed to think quickly.
“Dear sister, I have a proposition for you that I think we will both enjoy,” she began. Cyan was already rolling her eyes, but Magenta was not ready to give up on her last attempt to sway her sister. She nodded towards the tree. “We’ll sit for a spell. You can read to me from your book, but please, please, please will you come with me in the little boat to see the castle?”
She fixed her large eyes and pleading smile on Cyan, which Cyan had always found impossible to resist.
“Fine,” Cyan agreed, “But if father finds out, I’ll tell him it was your idea.”
“Of course. He won’t find out,” Magenta assured here, “But okay.”
Together, they sat under the willow, Magenta drifting away in another daydream, as Cyan read aloud a story about a fairy and a goblin who lived in a garden.
Magenta’s imagination returned to Crystal Castle, with its particularly mesmerising shimmer in today’s sunlight. As always, she wondered about what the castle would look like up close. She thought about the people who lived there with the King and the Queen. Would they welcome Magenta and Cyan? Would she meet the Prince? Would he take one look at her and fall in love? Would he invite her to stay? As much as she knew how her mind was carrying her away, she didn’t care.
Cyan finished the final page of her story-book and sighed. When Magenta didn’t react, she finally spoke. “It was a lovely story; don’t you think? I’m glad the goblin got to stay in the fairy kingdom.”
Cyan’s voice and questioning look snapped Magenta out of her reverie. “Sure, it was good…” she said. “Can we go now?”
“Fine,” Cyan sighed, always one to honour her promises.
They gathered the book and the now enormous bouquet of Magenta’s lavender and made their way down the jetty to the boat. It rocked as Magenta climbed in, almost tipping her out. Holding the post, she steadied it so that Cyan could board, before untying the rope. Each sat on a rotting wooden bench seat, which only Cyan had noticed and the oblivious Magenta took up the oars.
Soon they were on their way across the lake and while Cyan cringed at every lurch and creak, Magenta marvelled at her own skills. Rowing, the thought, seemed easier than she’d ever expected, despite the effort it took, and as she rowed her excitement grew. Cyan, however fixed her eyes on the surface of the water, noting how eerily dark the lake was. She was relaxing a little, though she could not help remembering what her father said lurked underneath. With that thought, she gripped the bench and pieces of wood fell away. As they reached the middle of the lake, its colour deepened, from purple to black, and her sense of dread grew. Danger felt closer than ever.
“The water is so pretty.” Magenta was as oblivious as Cyan was alert. “It must be magic, the way it changes,” she marvelled as the colour again changed back to purple and then faded to almost lavender as ripples formed on the surface.
“That’s not water, we’re seeing!” Cyan exclaimed, and froze as a large scaly head broke through the lake’s surface and glared at them through yellow eyes.
Both girls screamed as the monster continued to extend its neck, high above them, until it was above the forest, and its neck was rounder than the trunk of its thickest trees. Spikes lined its neck from the top of its head all the way to the water and along its equally scaly back. More of its body surfaced, revealing fin-like wings.
“That’s a dragon!” Cyan shrieked. “I’ve read about those. Father was right to warn us!” Magenta rowed frantically but the boat seemed unable to move fast enough.
The dragon lowered his head, his neck forming an arch until his eyes were level with the boat.
“It’s going to eat us!” Magenta cried, realising for the first time the real danger they were in. Tears began to form in both sets of violet eyes.
Cyan whispered. “At least we will go together.”
“Oh, I don’t want to imagine our poor father!” Magenta sobbed, closing her eyes, as she braced herself for their fate.
Neither expected to hear the dragon speak. “Please don’t be afraid!” came a deep soft voice. Two sets of eyes snapped open. “I promise I will not harm you,” it continued.
Fear mingled with wonder as they took in the now less threatening-looking creature. “I’m Prince Sebastian, of the Crystal Castle. I need your help.”
The girls listened as Sebastian explained how his younger brother, Prince Anthony had sought a witch to cast the spell on Sebastian that turned him into a sea-dragon.
“You’re a Prince, who’s a sea-dragon,” Magenta began,
“Stuck in a lake?” Cyan finished. Sebastian nodded his broad head.
“But I thought Anthony was the only prince?” Magenta exclaimed.
“He is now, and he’s the heir to the throne, unless you can help me,” Sebastian said plaintively. “I need you to tell the King and Queen I am alive, so they can find the witch who cast the spell and try her before the Royal Court. She needs to undo the spell.”
“But, couldn’t you fly there, yourself, and tell them?”
“If only it were that simple,” he explained. “The spell binds me to the lake, in this hideous form for all eternity.”
Both girls agreed they needed to help the poor sea-dragon Prince.
Sebastian submerged again and Magenta resumed rowing the rest of the way across the lake.
The closer they came to the castle, the slower the boat seemed to go, until Cyan realised an awestruck Magenta had stopped rowing. She took the oars from her sister, who barely blinked, and took over.
Before they knew it, they had approached a large dock attached to the castle steps, leaving Cyan to tie the boat to the post, Magenta raced out of the boat and up the steps, stopping only to tilt her head back to take in the crystal towers of the Castle. The tops of the clear quartz turrets disappeared above the rainbow beams that shot outwards over the land, sending Magenta into a trance.
“Amazing…” she murmured.
Cyan knew she too could succumb to unnatural beauty of the castle that had taken hold of Magenta. She fixed her eyes on Magenta instead.
“Come on!” Cyan hooked her arm through her sister’s and hauled her the rest of the way up the steps, where two turquoise-coated guards waited, they stood so still they almost blended into the doors. It was only their white pants, boots and matching fuzzy hats that revealed their presence.
“State your business?” they demanded in unison, remaining as still as statues.
“We’re here to see the King and Queen of the Crystal Castle,” A trembling Magenta whispered, suddenly snapping out of her trance.
“We have important information for them about Prince Sebastian,” Cyan added.
“Nonsense!” the guard on their right exclaimed. “His Royal Highness has been dead for almost five years!”
“Although, he has never been found,” the second guard interjected.
“Until today! Dead, he is most certainly not. He is in the lake,” Magenta explained, “He’s under a spell.”
As the guards turned to open the doors, Cyan caught a glimmer of hope crossing their faces. They waved the sisters inside. “You will need to wait for an audience with His and Her Majesty in the Throne Room,” ordered one guard, as he led them through the agate-blue courtyard.
They halted, briefly, as six maids, wearing matching long white dresses and aprons, crossed the agate-flecked stone path carrying white porcelain plates and saucers and pearl-handled silverware. Two by two, they disappeared through a set of jade doors.
“It’s a busy day,” the guard explained. “They’re preparing for His-Royal-Highness Prince Anthony’s ball.”
“A ball?” Magenta’s eyes lit up. “I’ve never been to a ball!”
Cyan watched with admiration, as her sister confidently conversed with the guard. Several gardeners busied themselves, pruning the paths’ edges close the centre of the courtyard where they had to pass. None of them acknowledged the party making their way through to a pair of ruby doors beyond the edge of the courtyard.
Two red-coated guards met them at the ruby doors and led them into a crimson carpeted-room. “You will need to wait here,” one of them said, indicating a point in front of the dais where two mahogany thrones with matching red velvet upholstery stood side by side. Then the guards withdrew, vanishing through another set of ruby doors.
“This is where I must also leave you,” the turquoise-coated guard said, and turning he strode purposefully across the room and back through the doors from which they’d entered.
The girls waited for what seemed like an eternity. Magenta’s eyes darted all around the throne room, taking in each and every detail, every shadowed corner, each quartz pillar and every inch of the red velvet window drapes and the portraits of past Kings and Queens mounted on walls hung with red silk. All of them appeared to peer down on Magenta and a still trembling Cyan with hope in their eyes.
The guards reappeared and announced the arrival of the king and queen. Cyan stood respectfully, while Magenta gaped, as she fixed her eyes on the open red doors.
“Close your mouth, Magenta!” Cyan whispered, nudging her sister. “You don’t want to appear rude.” Magenta complied. “And don’t forget to curtsy,” she continued, thankful for all the stories she’d read about characters of royalty in her books.
Yet she almost forgot her own instructions as the king and queen entered and made their way to their thrones. Magenta, however remembered and unlike Cyan’s clumsy attempt, was as graceful as if she’d been practicing all her life for this moment. Cyan wondered if indeed she had.
“Your majesties,” Magenta greeted them confidently.
“Young ladies!” the king greeted them. “State your names.”
“I am Magenta, Your Majesty, and this is my sister Cyan.”
“Welcome!” the king responded.
“Has the cat got your sister’s tongue?” the queen sneered.
Cyan tried to speak, but could utter no sound. All she could do was stare at the royal couple, as if under the spell of their vibrant purple velvet robes and jewelled crowns. Magenta nudged her, but Cyan remained mesmerised, by the different coloured stones among the clusters of jewels.
“She’s shy,” Magenta finally apologised, on Cyan’s behalf.
“There’s no need, my dear.” The king smiled, but the queen remained stern. “Tell us, to what do we owe the pleasure of your company?”
“We come with news about the prince,” Magenta answered.
“Anthony?” he asked. “What’s he done?”
“No, not Anthony, exactly, but he has done something most despicable –.” The guards closed in, around Magenta, as she spoke.
“You dare accuse Prince Anthony?” the queen spat.
“Let the girl speak,” the King said. “Of what crime is Prince Anthony guilty?”
Magenta was faltering, but she continued, “His Royal Highness, Prince Sebastian is alive, but he is under a spell.”
“Lies!” the queen shouted, but the king shushed her.
His eyes misted, as he urged Magenta to continue.
“He is in the lake, stuck in the body of a sea dragon. He said that Anthony instructed a witch to turn him, so that he could be the next King,” Magenta explained.
“That’s a wild accusation!” the queen cried. “I ought to try the both of you for treason!”
“It’s true!” Cyan finally spoke. Her voice was shaky but full of conviction.
“She does speak!” the Queen scoffed. “Why should we believe you?”
“If you don’t believe us, you should accompany us to the lake and see for yourself!” Cyan’s heart pounded as she spoke.
They both rose from their thrones as the king announced, “We shall accompany you. This had better be the truth!”
With the guards a step behind them, Magenta and Cyan led the king and queen out of the castle, past the turquoise coated guards and down the steps to the dock where the boat was still tied up. There, Magenta called for Sebastian to surface.
When the sea dragon rose out of the water, the king gasped and the queen screamed.
“That hideous thing is not my son!” she cried. The guards seized the girls, on the king’s instructions.
Just as they were about to haul them away to the dungeons, the dragon’s voice boomed. “Stop! It’s true. Father, Mother, it is me, Sebastian!”
“Sebastian?” The King’s eyes widened as he studied the creature, who nodded reassuringly.
“My son!” The Queen’s stony face was no more as tears fell. “But how?”
“A witch cast a spell on me, so that you would think I was dead and Anthony would inherit the throne.”
“You’ve been right here all this time!” she said.
He nodded again. “All this time Mother.”
“Anthony will be severely dealt with,” the King promised, “But first, Magenta and Cyan will need to help us find the witch.”
That moment a loud harsh laugh filled the air and they all turned to face the black cloaked figure that had appeared on the steps. Her long black hair lifted off her shoulders on a wild wind that started to blow, revealing large silver hooped earrings. “I am Mortanna, why did you summon me?” she asked.
“You save us from a quest!” the King answered. “Now remove this spell at once!”
The witch laughed again. “It’s not that simple! No spell can reverse it. Only the true love of a princess and her kiss can break it,” she intoned.
“How are we going to find a princess brave enough?” the King asked, echoing every self-loathing thought that had entered Sebastian’s head. “Don’t worry, my boy. We will not give up until you are back to yourself.”
“Maybe I could try!” Magenta suggested.
“You?” the Queen asked. “You are not a princess.”
“But she is a girl. We have to consider the possibility,” the King said. “After all, these girls are the reason we are standing here.”
The witch raised her arm, pointing a willow wand towards Magenta. “Not so fast! Why should you be given the chance to reverse the spell?”
“Because if you try to stop her, you will burn for your crime.” The King’s bellowed words sent a shock through the witch’s body, forcing her to drop her wand. It rolled away, into the water.
“Nooo!” she screamed, and disappeared.
Magenta stepped confidently towards the sea dragon. His head was lowered in hopeful anticipation. Everyone held their breath, as she closed her eyes and leaned towards him and placed her lips on his snout.
“Why didn’t it work?” she asked, pulling back after a minute. In her eyes were tears, which she tried to blink away, but defiantly they fell.
“Like I said, foolish girl, you are not a princess,” the queen said.
“You are a brave girl for trying,” the king said, “But it’s no use. The Queen is right.”
“Maybe Cyan should try first before we send word out over the land,” Sebastian suggested.
“Me?” Cyan whispered, “But I too am just a cobbler’s daughter. I’m certainly no princess.”
“Though it is appreciated, this is not the time to be humble, dear girl,” the King said. “Go ahead. What harm could it do?”
“We are wasting so much time, perhaps we should wait for the ball,” the Queen said.
“She’s right,” Cyan agreed.
“Well at least try,” the King pleaded. “Please?”
Without further argument, Cyan stepped forward ignoring the heavy weight in her chest. What if her kiss released the spell? What would that mean? Would she have to live in the castle? What would she tell her father?
“Hurry up, girl! We haven’t all day!” the queen shouted, hiding the hope stirred up in her. She couldn’t bear the disappointment should the story be found untrue.
Fearing the queen’s wrath, Cyan closed her eyes and placed her lips on the dragon’s snout and was suddenly overcome with a mixture of joy and desperation and everything else in between, emotions she’d only ever read about.
“Oh my,” everyone exclaimed, but Cyan, caught up in the moment, did not hear them.
When she opened her eyes, the dragon had disappeared. In his place was the young prince back in his human form. His golden hair flowed and there were tears in his violet eyes. “Thank you for breaking the spell,” he whispered, pulling out of the kiss.
Cyan blushed and looked around, noticing the shocked faces. The king began to smile, the queen started crying and Magenta’s face appeared dark with jealousy behind a small smile. “I’m sorry, Magenta.” Cyan said.
“You’re his true love,” Magenta replied. Her face brightened again. She stepped forward and threw her arms around her sister.
“Well then, we shall celebrate tonight at the ball,” the Queen said. “You will both attend.”
“We’re going to the ball!” Magenta didn’t bother to hide her excitement.
“We’re going to the ball,” Cyan said, taking the hand of her prince. “Together.”
“And tomorrow, upon his arrest, Anthony will learn of his fate,” the King said, “but that can wait. Guards, you must send knights to summon the girls’ father. He must join us. Let all the people of the land know, today is a happy day. The prince and rightful heir has returned.”
They all returned to the castle to resume preparations for the ball and to fit Cyan, and Magenta with gowns suitable for the future queen and her sister.