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How the Stars Came to Be

How the Stars Came to Be

Long ago and once upon a time, there lived a princess. Her name was Oriana, and her entire court loved her. She always helped those in need and had a smile for everyone. Oriana wasn’t vain, although she had every reason to be. She had wavy, raven hair that fell past her knees; pure, olive skin; and a face that was perfectly oval. Her real beauty, however, lay in her eyes. Whenever Oriana felt an emotion strongly, they changed from their usual ebony to true gold.

It seemed that nothing could make her angry; but alas, it was not so. Her aunt ruled the kingdom while Oriana’s father was away tending to his people’s needs. Aunt Desdemona was selfish, petty, and cruel. She was proud of her immortal beauty and didn’t hesitate to show it. The people hated and feared her.

Jealous of the way the court adored her niece but detested her, Desdemona devised a plan. If she were to send Oriana on a quest to find the lost crown . . . yes, that would work. The crown was the key to the realm’s power. It had been taken away by an immortal centuries ago, and the kingdom had been having difficulties ever since. Only someone of royal blood could touch the crown, so that fact gave Desdemona a legitimate reason for sending Oriana to reclaim it. Oriana’s father wouldn’t be able to argue with such a decision.

Smiling a smile that didn’t reach her ice-blue eyes, Desdemona called her niece to her chambers. She proceeded to explain that the king needed the crown if they were to save the kingdom from ruin. “And don’t come back until you’ve got the crown.”

Oriana sighed and nodded. No matter what her aunt thought, she wasn’t stupid. She knew that Desdemona just wanted to get rid of her. Where on earth was she supposed to find the crown? They had been looking for centuries and no one had ever found it! And at night, alone, she was liable to get killed. There was nothing in night’s sky to light her way, and Oriana couldn’t possibly carry enough oil for a lantern.

“The sky is so frightful at night. During the day it is pretty, with the sun, but at night it is solid black . . .” Lost in her thoughts, Oriana didn’t realize that she had already exited the castle grounds. Then a thought popped into her mind so suddenly that she gasped.

“Maybe no one has found the crown on earth, because it isn’t on earth anymore! But where could it be?” Then her mind snapped everything into place, like pieces of a puzzle. If the immortal that stole the crown had wings, maybe it had hidden the crown in the sky. Oriana groaned. This just presented another problem: How was she supposed to search the sky?

Abruptly, an immortal’s voice echoed in her head. “Well done, Mortal. You are the first of your kind to get this far. The rest will not be easy. In a few moments it will be dark. I will place you in the sky. You have tonight, and tonight only, to solve my riddle and locate the crown. If you lose, you must stay in the sky forever. Are we agreed?”

About to say, “Yes,” Oriana was stopped by a chuckle. “I can hear your thoughts, Mortal. Be prepared to lose!”

The sun started to dip below the horizon. The rest of the sky was already dark, and the last red glow reminded Oriana of blood. Red turned to black, and then the world was below her. It was time to begin the search. The immortal spoke again, “Here is my riddle:

Near yet far,

Conquer the dark,

Is it needed by the czar?

Make your mark.

End of the day,

As the light fades away,

Remember this—

Nothing gold can forever stay.

Oriana almost started to walk before she realized that she would be lost in pitch blackness. Thinking desperately of how to light her path, she looked down. Her necklace, made of shiny beads, was glowing brightly. Breaking the clasp, she started to move. Every few seconds she dropped a bead.

She wandered all over the sky, trying to solve the riddle. It didn’t make any sense. Oriana went left, right, east, west, diagonally, all directions everywhere—occasionally, she dropped one of the sapphires or rubies from her necklace as well.

Finally, Oriana reached the round silver stone in the middle of her necklace. She had only half of her light source left and wasn’t any closer to finding the crown. Tossing the silver ball into the inky darkness, she continued.

Just as dawn was about to grace the sky, Oriana realized two things. The beads crisscrossed in every direction; some had been kicked into funny-looking clusters. And the crown? It was still lost. She remembered the last line of the riddle: “Nothing gold can forever stay.” The crown was made of gold! Did it mean that they didn’t need the crown?

“Well, have you found the crown yet, Mortal?” the immortal’s voice slammed through her head. Taking a deep breath before remembering that she didn’t have to speak, Oriana silently explained her theory about the riddle’s last line.

“You are correct, unfortunately. The crown is only a symbol of power and of greed.” The immortal sighed, “I cannot give you the crown. It was destroyed long ago. However, I can give you this.”

He handed her a golden flame. It didn’t burn or radiate heat; it just glowed. The flame tickled and was too bright to stare at for very long.

“It is the Flame of Guilt. Give it to someone who has unjustly wronged you, and watch the flame. Use it quickly, for like everything else gold, it will not last long.”

The voice had been getting softer and softer. Oriana’s last conscious thought before falling asleep was, “I’m home in my bed.”

Desdemona was furious when a maid came running to her room, shrieking that the princess was home. It didn’t help that her plan to be the center of attention had failed. She had thought that with Oriana out of the way, the entire court would love her. On the contrary, the people hated her even more because there was no one to cheer them as Oriana had.

Stalking angrily to her throne, Desdemona waited for her niece to bring her the crown. At least with the crown she would be extremely powerful and could perhaps get rid of the little brat once and for all. She continued to think in this vein for some time and didn’t realize that Oriana was in the room until a courtier announced her.

Oriana stood quietly for a moment, studying her aunt. Then she opened her left hand. The golden flame twined round her fingers and blazed in her palm, lighting the entire gathering. The court watched breathlessly as she began to speak. “I did not find the crown. It was destroyed long ago. The immortal who stole it, however, gave me this as a reward for using his clues to solve the mystery.” She gestured at the flame. “I would like to give it to my aunt as a gift, for being so kind as to trust me with this quest.” Oriana’s musical voice paused, and she added, “Please, Aunt, accept my gift.”

Desdemona was suspicious, but her greedy nature took command. “Yes, my dear,” her face showing disgust as she said it, “I will accept your flame.”

“There is a condition, my aunt. Only one who is pure of heart may hold the Flame of Guilt. If someone unworthy touches it, she will spend the rest of her life as a servant in the Faerie Court.” Oriana searched her aunt’s face.

Desdemona was horrified. If she refused to take it, the court would think she had done something evil. If she took it, the entire court would know she had done evil. She said, “Of course, you know you are putting me into a rather awkward position, dear Oriana. I shall need to consult with my personal psychic prior to accepting your gift; but rest assured,” she continued, an evil gleam in her eye, “justice will prevail.”

Desdemona summoned the court psychic and huddled with him as everyone looked on with great anticipation. A terrible frown overcame her face, and she screamed, “Get out! You know nothing!” Then she approached Oriana, and, resigning herself to a life waiting on picky, irritating little faeries, she took the flame.

Desdemona began to fade and, with one last look of disgust at Oriana, disappeared, never to be seen again.

That night, a blissfully happy princess looked out her window, expecting to see the usual suffocating blackness. Instead, she saw that the silver stone at the center of her necklace and all of the other beads and gems were gleaming in the sky. It was beautiful.

That is the tale of how Oriana conquered the night,

How the stars came to shine so bright.

How she planted the moon and stars as beads,

And revealed Desdemona’s evil deeds.

原版评语:Sixth-grade student Laura wrote this fantasy in which the “storybook” voice sets the tone appropriately.


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